Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Wide Window (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #3)

The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #3)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Bad Beginning
The Reptile Room

Synopsis:

Dear Reader,

If you have not read anything about the Baudelaire orphans, then before you read even one more sentence, you should know this: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are kindhearted and quick-witted; but their lives, I am sorry to say, are filled with bad luck and misery. All of the stories about these three children are unhappy and wretched, and this one may be the worst of them all. If you haven’t got the stomach for a story that includes a hurricane, a signalling device, hungry leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny, then this book will probably fill you with despair. I will continue to record these tragic tales, for that is what I do. You, however, should decide for yourself whether you can possibly endure this miserable story.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

Thoughts:

We have been visiting A Series of Unfortunate Events as part of our kid-lit challenge for the past 2 years. It was a given that the third book would be on the list for this year. I really enjoyed this one. Beth and I didn’t read these books growing up and I’m sad that we didn’t. I totally think we would’ve loved them. I know my nephew enjoys the Netflix show and I’m somewhat intrigued to watch it… but I always feel I should read the books first. I know, I know… I’m weird.

I loved following the Baudelaire siblings tale in this latest instalment. It’s as dark and as sinister as the other two books. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are taken to live with another relative that they hadn’t met before. They come across the terrible Count Olaf once more…in disguise. It is a completely strange story which I’m absolutely captivated by. It’s so over the top but so wonderful at the same time.

The adult characters in this book seem to make awful decisions but I think that’s almost the beauty of the book? It shows children that adults don’t always make the right choices. They can be scared and unsure too.

In the previous two books, the constant defining of words within the narration bugged me, but it wasn’t really in this book. However the meaning of what Sunny babbled was suggested by the author. This didn’t grate on me as much as the defining did, but reading from an adult’s eyes, it does come across as a little repetitive. This is my only complaint really about the story, which otherwise I think is a delightful reading experience!

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 Face On The Milk Carton- Caroline B.Cooney

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Banned Books #47 – Blood and Chocolate

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause.

Blood and Chocolate

First published: 1997
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2001 (source)
Reasons: 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:  With most Banned Books we discuss on this feature I normally get quite cross about a reason for challenging/banning it as I don’t agree with banning books generally. Monitoring them for certain age groups sure but an outright ban? No. Or if they did, they should come up with MUCH better reasons than the ones above. When this book was originally published in 1997, I was a teenager and things weren’t that much different than nowadays (apart from the lack of social media/full use of the internet). As a result, I think the reasons that this book was challenged are ludicrous. I wouldn’t say it was sexually explicit at all. There’s no lurid sex scenes or even sexual descriptions. It’s far more suggestive than that. The characters talk about sex and want to have sex but then again, what teenager isn’t curious about that with hormones going wild? I cringed quite a bit when reading this book, I’m afraid to say, especially when certain kisses were described and there were a lot of “throaty chuckles,” and “head tilts,” which did make me feel slightly ill. However I wouldn’t say any of these incidents were explicit in the slightest.

CHRISSI: I had to chuckle a little bit when I read Beth’s answer to this question. Ha! It certainly wasn’t a “throaty chuckle” though. As for whether I agree with the reason for this being banned/challenged? No. I don’t. I think there’s much worse out there and this book is quite tame compared to some teenagers can come across. Do I think it should be read by teenagers? Not really… and that’s because I believe there’s much stronger literature out there for them to read now. I don’t mean stronger/more intense content. I mean stronger storylines… ‘

How about now?

BETH: As I mentioned, I don’t think attitudes have changed that much in the last twenty years, to be honest with the internet and explosion of social media, if anything these days I’m seeing an increase in teenage sexuality. They have access to much more detailed information than kids in the eighties/early nineties and have learned to channel their attractiveness to the opposite/same sex through “selfies.” Is this novel inappropriate for the age group concerned? No, I don’t think so. It appears to be marketed as a young adult story and that’s exactly what it is. There’s a bit of swearing, some violence and issues with relationships but nothing I would denounce as inappropriate.

CHRISSI:  I definitely don’t think this book should be challenged. It totally wasn’t for me, so I don’t feel as passionately about it as I have done other books in this feature. It was a total cringefest for me as a reader. However, if this book floats teenagers/young adults boat then they should totally be given the chance to read it. There’s nothing ‘shocking’ in there, in my opinion…so why not?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  Oh dear. I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy this book at all. I was actually glad it was a relatively quick read as by the time I realised I didn’t like it, I was just wishing for it to be over. I don’t think it helps when you despise a main character as much as I did our female lead, Vivian. Now I like unlikeable characters, of course. But I think you have to dislike them for the right reasons. When there’s a female character that’s supposed to be our heroine and you can’t stand her, well…..me and the book just aren’t going to get on I’m afraid. I couldn’t relate to her either as my adult self or my teenage self, her arrogance knew no bounds and sometimes, the way she treated other characters in the novel was despicable. As for other characters, we really didn’t have much to choose from, they all felt flat and one-dimensional and intensely unbelievable in my opinion. As for the plot, it was predictable, I didn’t see the point of some decisions the author made and that ending…..just WHY?

CHRISSI: I went into this book with low expectations after reading some of Beth’s texts and tweets. I really did try to give this book a decent go, but I was infuriated by Vivian and her mother quite early on in the book. Vivian was such an unlikeable character, but it was no surprise really considering what her mother was like. I’m not one to be put off by an unlikeable character, but Vivian really grated on me. She was arrogant from the very beginning and I didn’t see any character development. Arrogant until the end of the story. Meh. I did not enjoy this book.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- I was infuriated by the main character and couldn’t get past that.

Talking About ‘The Wildflowers’ with Bibliobeth!

The Wildflowers

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Tony and Althea Wilde. Glamorous, argumentative … adulterous to the core.

They were my parents, actors known by everyone. They gave our lives love and colour in a house by the sea – the house that sheltered my orphaned father when he was a boy.

But the summer Mads arrived changed everything. She too had been abandoned and my father understood why. We Wildflowers took her in.

My father was my hero, he gave us a golden childhood, but the past was always going to catch up with him … it comes for us all, sooner or later.

This is my story. I am Cordelia Wilde. A singer without a voice. A daughter without a father. Let me take you inside.

CHRISSI: What were your initial impressions when you looked at the cover of this book?

BETH: I thought it was pretty, I liked the night sky and the hint of wild flowers (which are mentioned quite a lot in the novel as well as being the surname of the family). However, I don’t think it gave you much idea of what the story within contained. Sometimes this can be a good thing and you are pleasantly surprised by what you find but generally speaking, I like my covers to have a tiny hint of connection with the narrative.

BETH: This novel is told from multiple perspectives. How did you find this worked for the story?

CHRISSI: I have to admit that I often struggle with multiple perspectives. It can be really hard for a writer to engage every reader with every perspective. I did find it hard to enjoy one particular perspective. I do think this somewhat hampered my enjoyment of the book, because I found myself skimming the parts of the perspective that I didn’t enjoy that much. That’s not a reflection on the author’s writing, it’s just that one perspective didn’t work for me… tricky! However, I do think it worked to have multiple perspectives for this story to really delve into the plot.

BETH: What did you make of Madeline’s relationship with the Wilde children, Ben and Cordelia?

CHRISSI: Ooh, I thought Madeline’s relationship with them was fascinating. Madeline made such an impact in their lives right from the get go. I thought her relationship was particularly obsessive, bordering on stalker-like. It was interesting to read her diary entries to see just how much she picked up on about Ben and Cordelia. It did leave me feeling a little uneasy though. I feel like we really got to know who Madeline really was through her diary entries.

CHRISSI: To be born with exceptional talent can be a blessing and a curse. How are the characters in The Wildflowers affected and afflicted by theirs?

BETH: Good question. The Wildes are an infamous family in the small town on the Dorset coast where they have a country home. Both Tony and Althea, the mother and father in the equation are both actors. Tony, at first is the most popular and incredibly sought after for work in London but Althea comes into her own during the story. The daughter, Cordelia is at times, transfixed by her parents success and in the end, she becomes a famous singer and the brother, Ben a respected director. For all parties concerned, their fame and fortune has a detrimental effect on family life, their health, their relationships with each other and with people outside the family circle and leads to multiple secrets and betrayals.

BETH: There are unlikeable characters in this novel. How did you enjoy reading about them?

CHRISSI: Some unlikeable characters are awesome to read about. I love it when I hate an unlikeable character. It means the author has really got under my skin and I think that’s quite a talent. I wasn’t a fan of Ben and Cordelia’s parents. I thought they were incredibly self-obsessed. This is one of those stories though, that as it progresses, you begin to somewhat understand why the characters have behaved in the way that they did. Madeline, however obsessed she was, fascinated me!

CHRISSI: If Aunt Dinah’s letter had been found when it was written, how would it have impacted Tony’s life? Which events might have played out differently? And why?

BETH: It would have completely turned Tony’s life upside down – in a good way. Unfortunately it is not found until a long time later when Tony is unable to do anything about what Aunt Dinah says in the letter. By then, he has made countless mistakes, wrecked his close relationships which has led to certain members of the family becoming estranged. He would have been comforted by what he found in the letter I think and his whole life, including his relationship with his wife would have been very, very different.

CHRISSI: Did this book surprise you in any way?

BETH:  A little bit, yes. I anticipated some big twists and turns and there were certainly plenty of those. Unfortunately, I did have a little inkling of what was to come so I wasn’t completely surprised with one of the big reveals. My biggest surprise was probably an incident with Tony as a young man and his Aunt Dinah’s friend Daphne. I couldn’t quite work out why this event was in the novel and I wondered if it was entirely necessary?

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I have read a few books by Harriet Evans before and I would do again in the future. I used to be quite the fan but my reading tastes have changed over time. It was nice to go back to her writing after quite a break from it!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH:  Yes! 3.5 stars

CHRISSI: Yes!

Banned Books #46- Saga Volume 3

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Saga, Volume 3 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

Saga, Vol. 3 (Saga, #3)

First published: 2014
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: Saga is one of the very few times when we have a book in our Banned Books feature where I can actually see where *some* of the challenges are coming from. To be perfectly honest, I did find that there were more potentially shocking images/text in Volume One and Two (which we’ve also covered here on BB), but there were still incidents in Volume Three that could be quite controversial, depending on your sensibilities. One thing I really don’t agree on, and I think I might have mentioned it before, is the “anti-family” reason behind banning this graphic novel. I can’t see where this has come from and if anything, I think Saga actually promotes family i.e. the loving parents of baby Hazel, the sadness of Marko losing a parent and finally, the way his mother steps up to support her son and his partner Alana, despite her reservations about the relationship.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I can see why this book has been challenged. It’s quite explicit in places and the language is a bit…colourful! It doesn’t offend me at all. As for the age group thing, that confuses me. I don’t know who Saga is aimed at, but to me it’s for the higher range of YA and adults. I don’t think this book is aimed at children, so I don’t get that challenge at all.

How about now?

BETH: As a relatively new release with volumes still being released there hasn’t been time for any change/shift in attitudes regarding Saga. I would say if you’re easily offended, this probably isn’t the series for you. It DOES have offensive language with a few mentions of the “c” word (which I know my sister is going to cringe over!) and at points, it is quite sexually explicit both in images and in language. I didn’t find it as explicit as the other volumes in the series but there are still things that are a bit risque and perhaps not entirely appropriate for younger readers. If I was going to suggest an age range, I would tentatively say 16+? I don’t really agree with saying it’s inappropriate for the age group as to be fair to it, I don’t think it’s marketed for youngsters! It’s definitely an adult read.

CHRISSI: Yes you’re right, Beth. I did cringe. I can’t stand that word! I don’t think the attitudes towards this book will change for a while. It’s still going to offend some, some will absolutely lap it up at the same time. The language in this book does offend me, but I don’t think it’s out of place in the story. It’s the sort of story where language like that does fit. It’s not bad language for bad language’s sake.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’m starting to enjoy this series more and more. In Volume One, I enjoyed it but was still a little bit confused as to what was going on. By Volume Two I had got my head round what was happening a lot more and by Volume Three I’m now fully invested in the story and am eager to see what happens next with the characters. I still think there’s some shocks and surprises in store for the reader but I’m pleased with the direction it’s taking so far.

CHRISSI: It’s a quick read and definitely captures my attention when I am reading it. I’m enjoying seeing where the series is going but I wouldn’t say that it was one of my favourite graphic novels. However, the illustrations are beautiful and well worth pouring over.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course! (with caution for the sensitive!)

CHRISSI: Yes!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kit Lit- Ratburger

Ratburger

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

“Meet Zoe. She’s got a lot of things to be unhappy about:
* Her stepmother Sheila is so lazy she asks Zoe to pick her nose for her.
* The school bully Tina Trotts makes her life a misery – mainly by flobbing on her head.
* And on top of it all, the dastardly Burt has terrible plans for her pet rat.

I can’t tell you what those plans are, but there’s a clue in the title of this book…”

Thoughts:

I really enjoy David Walliams’ writing, so I try to ensure we have one on our reading list for the kid-lit challenge. Being a primary school teacher, I love reading current children’s literature to find perfect, modern stories for them. As much as they love Roald Dahl, they adore David Walliams too. He really is the closest thing to Roald Dahl than the man himself.

Ratburger tells the story of a girl called Zoe. She’s having a tough time at school. She comes from a poor background, she’s small and an instant target for bullies. Zoe lives with her father and her awful stepmother, Sheila. Zoe’s dad has lost his job and spends most of the time in the pub. Zoe is left at home, with the lazy stepmother, living in a leaning tower block of flats. Zoe’s hamster has just died. She was convinced that she was going to find fame with her hamster as she had spent some time training it. When Zoe comes across a baby rat, she knows she won’t have to give up on her dreams. However, Zoe has to keep Armitage (the rat) away from her terrible stepmother and Burt an evil burger van driver which gives the story a much darker twist.

I felt like Ratburger had some amazing characters in the story. Zoe was wonderful and a fantastic character to follow. Burt and Sheila are so awful that it’s fun to read about them. I always love Raj, the newsagent, who appears in so many of David’s books. I also loved the school teacher, Miss Midge. I love how David Walliams wrote her character. God knows I love a terrible teacher in a story!

I love David Walliams’ books because there are moments that really make you smile or laugh out loud. I also love how there’s something in there for the adults that are reading the book to a child. I’ve noticed with David’s books that some comments can be a bit risque but only if you know the meaning behind it. It goes over most children’s heads.

The reason why I love David Walliams’ books is that they can encourage the most reluctant of readers. They’re genuinely a joy to read out to children. I could easily see myself reading this to a class and it is a definite contender for a class book come September. David’s books also give me inspiration for teaching. There’s so much that can be done with this book if you’re reading it as a class read! 🙂 It made this teacher very happy.

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 (May):
The Wide Window (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #3)-Lemony Snicket

Talking About ‘Close To Home’ with Bibliobeth!

Close to Home (DI Adam Fawley, #1)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Someone took Daisy Mason. Someone YOU KNOW.

Last night, 8-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from her parents’ summer party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows that nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying. And that Daisy’s time is running out…

Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives, CLOSE TO HOME is a pulse-pounding race against time and a penetrating examination of what happens to a community when a shocking crime is committed by one of its own.

CHRISSI: Did you have any preconceptions about this book before you started it?

BETH: I really try not to have preconceptions about any book before I read it but I think it’s human nature, you do make a snap judgement depending on how the book looks and what you’ve heard about it. Luckily, I had heard only good things and if anything, the preconceptions were basically high expectations based on the number of positive reviews I’ve read and the fact it was picked for the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club list this year. Always a good sign! However, we do know there have been books that have been chosen that we haven’t particularly loved – would this be one of them? No chance. I adored this book and believe it’s the start of a hugely promising crime series that I’m now desperate to follow.

BETH: Our lead detective, DI Adam Fawley is reported in this novel as also experiencing tragedy in his life. Were you as eager as me to know his back story?

CHRISSI: So very desperate. I loved how it was teased throughout. That sounds like I mean that I was happy he experienced tragedy, not at all, I just loved the way the details were drip fed to us. Anticipation. I really wanted to know what had happened to DI Adam Fawley. I was intrigued throughout and wanted to know what had happened to him. I grew to love him as a character and felt like I could feel his pain through the pages of the book. He’s not real, Chrissi, he’s not real!

CHRISSI: What does this novel say about children and the world they’re growing up in now?

BETH: Interesting and very tough question! And I’m going to try and do this without spoilers….One of the things that I enjoyed most about this book was the use of different media to tell the story. For example, we have Twitter feeds, news articles, interview transcripts etc. and not only did this give an alternative look at the story from a number of points of view, it broke up the narrative in a really fun-to-read way. However, I think it illustrated perfectly how powerful and dangerous social media can be in distorting views, inciting hatred, giving false information and potentially endangering lives. We already know from the very start of the novel that Daisy has disappeared with someone “close to home,” and it makes you wonder if you can really trust anyone – a terrifying thought.

BETH: Who do you think is a better parent to Daisy, Barry or Sharon?

CHRISSI: Well this is an evil question, Beth! They both have their flaws. Definitely. I have to say that I doubted them all the way through at different points in the story. Cara Hunter is awesome at keeping you guessing, I have to say. If I had to choose it would be Barry. I think. Argh! I don’t know. I don’t like this question, Beth. I don’t know if I’m picking Barry because I intensely disliked Sharon!

CHRISSI: Cara Hunter sets her novel in Oxford, a place that’s been portrayed many times in crime fiction. What do you think of her version of the city?

BETH: I’ve visited Oxford a couple of times now (once with you fairly recently!) and I loved Cara’s version of this beloved and well-known city. I enjoyed that we got to hear about a few staples of the city, like the spires but it generally felt much more focused on an ordinary street with very ordinary people living there but where an extraordinary and very traumatic thing has occurred. I liked how the author focused on the community around the Mason family, what they saw, how they connected with the Masons and how they reacted to the event.

BETH: Without spoilers, did you see this ending coming and what did you think of it?

CHRISSI: That ending! Oh my goodness. I don’t want to spoil it at all, so I’m going to be very careful around discussing it. It deserves to be read without knowing what’s going to happen. If you manage to get it without spoilers (like I did!) then your mouth might drop open…a bit like mine did. I definitely didn’t see it coming. As I mentioned before, Cara Hunter totally kept me guessing. The ending that happened never, ever crossed my mind. Mind blown.

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in the (heavily) populated genre?

BETH: It’s up there with the best in my opinion. As I mentioned, I loved the way in which Cara Hunter styled this novel and used a vast array of other media to tell this tale. It felt unique, different and was a clever little break from a cliffhanger in the narrative that just made you want to read as fast as you could to get back to the main crux of the novel and find out what happened next! These parts were ever so important however as they brought vital information into the case of Daisy Mason that you wouldn’t want to miss by glossing over these sections. There was not only a stellar plot (and THAT ending) but I absolutely adored all the characters, even those you love to hate. They were frank, authentic, fully formed and I felt just as interested in them as I did in what happened to Daisy. Can’t say enough good things, it was brilliant.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes, yes I would. I have automatically downloaded the next book in the series on NetGalley, which I’m super excited about. I tend to find crime fiction a bit overpopulated and a little bit samey, but I’m happy to say that I found Cara Hunter’s book to be incredibly unique and well worth reading. It kept me captivated throughout. I’m excited to see where this series goes.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Without a doubt!
CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Girl of Ink and Stars

The Girl of Ink and Stars

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

Thoughts:

I was really excited when this book was picked as part of our kid-lit challenge. It has been on my radar for quite some time now and this challenge gave me an opportunity to get around to it. For me, this is a solid middle grade read. I started off really loving it, but my enthusiasm waned after a while.

It centres around Isabella who is a cartographer’s daughter. Isabella dreams of lands that her father once mapped. It takes her close friend disappearing for her to begin to explore the world outside of her island. Isabella wants to guide the search. She has knowledge of ink maps and wants to help find her dear friend. The world beyond the island isn’t what she expected at all. Isabella soon encounters things that she thought were just myths are really true.

I loved reading about Isabella’s adventures. I enjoyed the old stories involved within this story. I felt like this made the story very unique. However, I found it really hard to connect to Isabella as a character. There wasn’t anything wrong with her, a perfectly nice character, I just didn’t find myself rooting for her. I actually preferred Lupe, who I found to be incredibly quirky.

I did enjoy how this book was centred around friendship and family. I love books that have friendship at the heart of it. I found Isabella and Lupe’s friendship to be genuine. It was up and down which is totally relatable. As I’ve mentioned before on my blog, I really like books that have strong female characters, especially in middle grade. I think a lot of the time books have male characters as the heroes and we need a better balance!

I thought Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s writing was easy to read and imaginative. I can certainly see why it won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Awards. There’s so much for children to get stuck into and enjoy.

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

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (End of April):
Ratburger- David Walliams