Banned Books #37 The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

banned books

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month, Beth and I read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

The Kite Runner

First published: 2003
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.

Synopsis:

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: This book was first published in 2003, which is fourteen years ago (I can hardly believe it!) but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think attitudes have changed that much in that time. I am however interested as to why it took five years to appear on the banned books list (2008) if it was published five years earlier and some people obviously had a problem with it. Hmm…interesting. If anyone has any ideas I’d be intrigued to know! So let’s start to talk about some of the reasons why it has been challenged/banned. Firstly, offensive language. Well, I’m not too easily offended but I can’t really remember any instance of foul language in this novel – if there was, I have clearly forgotten. It certainly wasn’t over-run with expletives in any way, shape or form, I would have remembered that!

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I can’t believe this book was published almost fifteen years ago. I don’t really understand why it was banned several years after it was published. That’s a bit odd to me. To be honest, when we were thinking of the books for the challenge this year, I wanted to read this one to work out why it made the banned/challenged list. I’m still a bit stumped. The language wasn’t that offensive. I guess the sexual content could be a bit much for some, but I don’t think this book is necessarily aimed at younger readers.

How about now?

BETH: In my opinion, there is no reason on earth why this book should be challenged or banned in 2017. When I read our banned books, I tend not to look at the reasons they were banned until I come to write these answers, I like to try and figure it out myself while I’m reading the story. When I was reading it, I was struggling to be honest and the only thing I could come up with was the ONE sexual scene which is not overly graphic (but is still quite horrific, I have to admit) and then I thought, perhaps there was a bit of a problem with the religious aspects? This isn’t my view, I hasten to add. Reading the last reason though has me completely stumped. Unsuited for age group?? I’ve been struggling with trying to research this on the web but I don’t think this book is actually aimed at younger readers anyway. The violence and sex scene may be inappropriate for youngsters but I think older teenagers would get a lot from a book like this. 

CHRISSI: I really don’t think it should be challenged or banned in 2017. There is definitely a lot more explicit content out there. I think Young Adults could gain a lot from this book. I think it’s incredibly educative and something that shouldn’t be challenged at all. I certainly think it has a place in a high school/college library, with just a recommendation that their is some sensitive content within the story (some violence/sex scene).

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’ve actually read this book before and have written a longer review of it on my blog. I gave it five stars when I read it three years ago and I give it five stars today. It’s a hugely important and emotional story about friendship, family and war that taught me a lot when I first read it and reminded me of a lot of things I had forgotten when I read it for a second time. Everyone should read it!

CHRISSI: This isn’t the first time I’ve read this book. It was interesting to read it back once more. I initially gave this book five stars, but I would say it’s a strong four for me as a reread. I think it’s so beautifully written and an incredibly emotional, moving read. I think it’s such an important book!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events #2)

The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #2)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Bad Beginning

Synopsis:

Dear Reader,

If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I’m afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. The story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don’t be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.

In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the appearance of a person they’d hoped never to see again.

I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

Thoughts:

I enjoyed the first book in the series, which was much darker than I had anticipated. I was looking forward to reading the next book. So many people rave about this series! I can see why. It’s a short read and it’s engaging at the same time. Reading it as an adult, some things about it frustrate me, however, I know I’d have loved it when I was younger.

In The Reptile Room we catch up with the Baudelaire children. They have been moved away from Count Olaf who we know is completely crazy. They’re now staying with a very distant relative who is obsessed with reptiles. He even has a reptile room. Just as the narrator reminds you, something awful will happen to the children… and it does!

I’m really enjoying this series. I’m hooked by the story and want to know what’s going to happen to the children. I’ve certainly been trapped by the story even if a lot of it frustrates me.

As an adult, I get frustrated with the lack of communication and support the children are receiving. I realise that’s me thinking from an adult perspective, but I can’t help being annoyed by it! As with the first book, I’m not completely sold on the constant defining of words. I understand why the narration is like this, but it still grates on me.

Despite my reservations, I’d still highly recommend this series as there’s so much to enjoy! It’s engaging, fast-paced and so easy to read.

For Beth’s wonderful review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge (August):
Fortunately, The Milk- Neil Gaiman

Talking About ‘Miss You’ with Bibliobeth

Miss You

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven’t met properly yet. And perhaps they never will . . .

Today is the first day of the rest of your life is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can’t get it out of her head, even though she’s in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever – but not in the way she expects.

Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be.

For one day, the paths of an eighteen-year-old girl and boy criss-cross before they each return to England.

Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and fate, there’s no way the two of them are ever going to meet each other properly . . . or is there?

CHRISSI: Did you judge this book by its cover? I can imagine it’s one you wouldn’t pick up if you saw it in the shop!

BETH: Do you think just because you’re my sister you know me? Haha, of course you’re right, I have to be honest. This cover would immediately make me scrunch up my face in the way that you know so well and I wouldn’t necessarily pick it up because of that. I’m not the biggest romance fan in the world and it has to be told in just the right sort of way to touch this cold, cold heart. No cheesiness here please! But, as you know, I have been completely wrong about covers in the past… Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is a classic example!

BETH: How do you think that this book compares with others in the genre?

CHRISSI: Interesting question! As you know, I have read quite a lot of this genre, so I feel like I’m well informed to answer this question. I think it fits nicely into the genre, but it’s not necessarily a book that I think stands out. Don’t get me wrong, it was easy to read and I enjoyed it, but it’s not one that will stay with me for a long time.

CHRISSI: Both Tess and Gus experience bereavement in this novel. Discuss how the different characters deal with this situation.

BETH: Both Tess and Gus have lost someone important in their lives. With Tess, it is her mother who died of cancer and with Gus it is his older brother who died in a horrific skiing accident on holiday. They both deal with their loss in very different ways and I think a lot of that is bound up with how close they were with their respective loved one. With Tess, it’s her mother so of course she feels the loss keenly but has to get on with things as she has a younger sister, Hope to bring up and look after. This completely ruins any plans she had for university but she is incredibly strong as a character and just gets through it. Gus on the other hand, feels constantly guilty for the loss of his brother, Ross. He feels he is in some way to blame for the accident as he “let” Ross go off on his own down a dangerous slope. Coupled with this is the fact that Ross has constantly bullied and belittled him throughout their lives prior to the accident so they didn’t have the best or most loving relationship which he also feels some residual guilt for.

BETH: Which character’s point of view did you enjoy reading about the most?

CHRISSI: My answer would have to be Tess. I really enjoyed reading about her story. I think the main reason for this is the relationship Tess has with her younger sister. I called Asperger’s before it mentioned it in the story. I have children with both low functioning autism and high functioning autism (Asperger’s) in my class and I could recognise the traits immediately. I loved how, even though Tess struggled with not following her dreams, she was there for her sister. I was rooting for Tess from the start and hoping she found some happiness for herself.

CHRISSI: Discuss how Kate Eberlen structured this novel.

BETH: I really enjoyed the structure of this novel. It’s told in dual perspectives so one chapter is Tess’ point of view and the next is from Gus. It also starts in the late nineties when they are both eighteen years old and ends in the present day. I really enjoyed this as I am a similar age to the characters and enjoyed the nostalgic feel that the author brought when talking about certain things in the nineties that I remember very clearly! I also loved how we got hints of the “tall man,” or “tall woman,” aka Gus/Tess when they almost met so many times during the narrative.

BETH: Do you believe that some things are just meant to be or is everything just chance?

CHRISSI: That’s a hard one for me to answer. I’d like to think that things happen for a reason, but then sometimes awful things happen and I can’t justify that with ‘things happen for a reason.’ So to answer, I think I believe in coincidences. But who knows? Ooh, look at you with such a tricksy question!

CHRISSI: Did your initial impressions of this book change by the ending?

BETH: I’m afraid it did and I’m sad to say, not in a good way 😞. I did love that what I expected to happen did happen which pleased me for the characters sake but unfortunately, it did feel slightly cheesy by the end and they were way too quick to say the “three magic words,” which made me believe in them and their relationship a little less. Apart from that though, I was really enjoying their story up to that point!

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I think I would. I did enjoy reading it and it didn’t take me long to read at all.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Yes! 3.5 stars

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

 

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Prime Minister’s Brain (The Demon Headmaster #2)

The Prime Minister's Brain (Demon Headmaster, #2)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Demon Headmaster

Synopsis:

Everyone at school is playing the new computer game, Octopus Dare – but only Dinah is good enough to beat it. As it begins to take hold, Dinah realizes that the game is trying to control her. But why is it happening, and how is the Demon Headmaster involved?

Thoughts:

I absolutely loved The Demon Headmaster when I was younger and reread it many times. I enjoyed re-reading it last year. I remember not being as fond of The Prime Minister’s Brain, but couldn’t quite remember why. Having read it this week, I totally remember why I wasn’t as keen on it.

The story centres around Dinah, her brothers and some school friends. Everyone at school is obsessed with playing the new game Octopus Dare at school. Only Dinah is good enough to beat the game. The game seems to be pulling Dinah in and attempting to control her. Before long, Dinah finds out that the Demon Headmaster is involved in the game. They need to find out why, what his motive is and how on Earth they’ll stop him again…

I do find Gillian Cross easy to read, but the story didn’t excite me as much as its predecessor did. It may be because I’m not that interested by computers. I just wasn’t as gripped by it as I wanted to be. I remember that I never read the following books in the series and I think that’s down to my impressions of this book. I didn’t feel compelled to read on. Being controlled by computers would seem incredibly modern when this book was first released (1987). However, reading it currently makes it not seem as fresh as it was back then. I do think this means this book can date really easily and not seem as relevant.

For Beth’s wonderful review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge (July):
The Reptile Room (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #2) by Lemony Snicket

Banned Books #36 Saga: Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

banned books

Welcome to the 36th Banned Books post which means we’ve been reading Banned Books for 3 years now! Awoohoo! Go us! Celebrations aside, this month we took on Saga: Volume 2 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

Saga, Vol. 2 (Saga, #2)

First published: 2013
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)
Reasons: anti-family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: As a relatively recent release my answers for this and the next question are going to be pretty much the same. This month, like last month we’re looking at a book where the focus is mainly on illustrations with few words in comparison. UNLIKE last month, this graphic novel is very, very different. Let me get this straight. I don’t agree with banning or challenging books on any level. I love to get angry about why books are challenged/banned especially when the reasons for doing so are just damn stupid but you know when you read something and you can kind of see why some people might have had issues or been offended? This is the wonderful world of Saga. It doesn’t offend me at all (I’m not easily offended!) but I have been slightly taken aback at some of the images, although I must insist that the art is absolutely stunning and something I can look at for a long time (erm…perhaps unless it’s a very naked, quite terrifying giant monster).

CHRISSI: I actually laughed out loud at Beth’s comment about the naked, giant monster as I nearly took a picture of it to send to her as I was reading it. I agree that it’s easy to see why Saga is challenged. There’s some quite graphic pictures and some very strong language. I don’t think you’d expect that when you pick it up, if you go into it not knowing the controversy surrounding it. I’d totally agree that it has some beautiful images though. The illustrations are stunning… it’s just not for the easily offended (or children!)

How about now?

BETH: Most of the reasons for challenging Saga are completely correct, I hate to admit. Yes, it has explicit sexual content, nudity and offensive language. However, I don’t really agree with the anti-family message. Our two main characters have a small baby, Hazel and are very much together even though they are all “on the run.” Plus in this volume, the grandparents come into play which does show quite a strong family unit, especially when I consider the role of the grandfather in this volume. Also, unsuited for age group. Hmm. Well, it just depends where you make this graphic novel available to be perfectly honest! If it’s in the primary school library that’s a different kettle of fish entirely and completely inappropriate I agree. But if it’s in the local library adult section for teenagers to find for themselves I don’t think that’s too terrible.

CHRISSI: I understand why it’s challenged. I do. I don’t like admitting that, but I do understand why it is offensive to many. I think there should be the opportunity for it to be found in the right places. Like Beth said, a local library would be fine but in a education setting…not so much!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: We looked at the first volume of Saga in our Banned Books for 2016 – please find our post HERE. It had been a while since I read the first six chapters so I did re-read them before embarking on Volume Two and I remembered just why I enjoyed it the last time. As I mentioned before, the art is simply gorgeous and really intricate but the story is also intriguing and makes me want to keep on reading. I’ll certainly be continuing the series and am looking forward to Volume Three!

CHRISSI: Unlike Beth, I didn’t reread the first volume. I went into it cold and luckily remembered a lot from the previous volume. I really enjoyed this volume, possibly more than the first. The artwork is beautiful and I’m intrigued by the story. I can totally see why so many readers are lapping up this series of graphic novels.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Talking About ‘I See You’ by Clare Mackintosh

I See You

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

You do the same thing every day.

You know exactly where you’re going.

You’re not alone.

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation: just a website, a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

CHRISSI: What were your initial thoughts before reading this book?

BETH: I was excited! We reviewed Claire’s debut novel I Let You Go as part of our “Talking About” feature and we both really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to reading this one. Particularly when I read the synopsis which sounded so intriguing that I had high expectations for the novel as a whole. Plus I received a copy recently from the lovely Book And A Brew subscription box people and I was trying to make room and time to read it so when it appeared on the Richard and Judy bookclub list (which we follow almost religiously) I was very pleased as I would finally have a chance to get to it.

BETH: What did you make of Zoe’s relationship with her ex-husband Matt compared to her current relationship with Simon?

CHRISSI: A good question! I actually found Zoe’s relationship with Simon to be a little bit too good to be true. I didn’t like Simon much as a character. He grated on me, for some reason! He was jealous of Matt which made things awkward for Zoe. I thought that Zoe got on remarkably well with her ex-husband. She seemed to rely on him a little bit compared to Simon. I guess when you have children together there’s going to be a connection there still, especially if it ends amicably.

CHRISSI: Did you find this book predictable at all?

BETH: No, not really to be honest. Now I’m wondering if you did? I didn’t really see anything coming, from the start of the book and the reason why women’s photographs were being used in the paper to the end of the novel and the “final reveal” where the perp is unmasked. I always appreciate it when I can’t see things coming and the author manages to surprise me.

BETH: The character of Kelly, a policewoman, is a bit of a “loose cannon,” did you enjoy reading about her story?

CHRISSI: I really enjoyed reading Kelly’s story. I actually liked Kelly. She was a well meaning character even if she was a little bit of a ‘loose cannon’. She was incredibly eager. Her heart was always in her actions and you can’t ask for more than that!

CHRISSI: Zoe is a very ordinary woman – do you think a central character in a thriller needs to be relatable to make the story work?

BETH: Great question! Hmmm, yes I do think they do but I never thought about it in that way before. A normal, relatable character like Zoe who is incredibly ordinary and has the same worries, pressures and flaws as the rest of us made me instantly like her and connect to her story more than I would have done if the character had been entirely alien to me. It made me sympathise with her predicament a lot more and root for her and her family.

BETH: Were you shocked by the final page at all? (no spoilers!)

CHRISSI: TOTALLY! This answers your earlier question to me about predictability. No, I did not see that coming at all. I can imagine that I looked like a cartoon character with their eyes popping out. Yes, that was totally me when reading that final page. I love it when author’s can shock me and Clare totally did that.

CHRISSI: Does this book live up to Clare’s debut?

BETH: Oh gosh. This is where it’s going to get tough. I Let You Go was such a brilliant read that I think it was going to be very difficult to live up to. When I first started I See You, I have to admit to being slightly concerned as it read very slow for me at the start and I kind of wondered when the action would start to kick in. About two-thirds of the way through however, I did become much more invested in the story and, as I mentioned, in Zoe’s character although I did find the ending slightly rushed. Is it as good as her debut? Not quite but it’s still a solid thriller that I’d recommend.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would. Even though I felt like this book was a little slow to start, I was captivated before long and the plot twists really got me. That ending as well… superb! Clare Mackintosh is a great writer for this genre and I wouldn’t think twice about picking up her next book!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit-The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #2)

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Lightning Thief

Synopsis:

The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Rick Riordan’s amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a “half blood” whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan’s series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results in true page-turners that get better with each installment. In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book’s drama and setting the stage for more thrills to come.

Thoughts:

Starting a sequel to a series is always a risk. I’m always worried that the book isn’t going to work for me. However, Sea Of Monsters did work for me. It was a decent follow up to The Lightning Thief. It has left me very intrigued for the next book in the series. It was so easy to read. I’m sure if I had more time when reading it, I could have finished it in one sitting.

I felt like Sea Of Monsters seemed more focused than its predecessor. I felt like the story had been established and it was really starting to develop. It’s certainly a quick read, full of action. I didn’t feel bored at any point, or felt like there were any ‘filler’ chapters. It all seemed incredibly relevant to the story. I loved revisiting old characters, like Percy and Annabeth. I love it when new characters are introduced though. With this book, I really enjoyed Tyson! I’m certainly intrigued by the new character that was sprung on the reader at the end of this book.

I find it incredibly easy to read Rick Riordan’s writing. It flows beautifully and it’s wonderfully funny in parts. I immediately connected to the story and couldn’t help but turn the pages.

For Beth’s wonderful review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid Lit Challenge (June):
The Prime Minister’s Brain- Gillian Cross