Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Saffy’s Angel

Saffy's Angel (Casson Family, #1)

How did I get it?
I bought it!

Synopsis:

The four Casson children, whose mother, Eve, is a fine-arts painter, have all been given the names of paint colors. Cadmium (Caddy), is the eldest; then Saffron (Saffy); Indigo, the only boy; and Rose, the youngest. When Saffy discovers quite by accident that she has been adopted, she is deeply upset, though the others assure her that it makes no difference at all. Saffy is the daughter of Eve’s twin sister, who lived in Siena, Italy, and died in a car crash. Grandad brought Saffy, as a very small child, back from Siena. 

At Grandad’s death he leaves something to each of the children. To Saffy, it is “her angel,” although no one knows its identity. How Saffy discovers what her angel is, with the help of an energetic new friend, lies at the heart of this enchanting story. Unforgettable characters come alive in often deeply humorous and always absorbing events to be treasured for a long, long time.

Thoughts:

I hadn’t heard of Saffy’s Angel before it was picked for our kid-lit challenge. I don’t know what I was expecting really, as I didn’t read anything about the book prior to reading it. I just jumped into it. I found a quintessentially British children’s book.

Saffy’s Angel is about an eccentric family. It’s about a family of four children whose mother named her children after paint colours. The mother in the story is a painter. The father is absent for most of the story! The four children are close to one another and get up to much mischief! Saffron finds out about her younger years which leads to her stowing away to Italy in search for Saffron’s inheritance, a missing stone angel.

I thought this was such a charming little story. I found it incredibly easy to read. It felt like a very British book! It really warmed my heart. I could imagine myself loving this book if I had read it when I was younger. My favourite part of the book was the adorable sibling relationships. Even when Saffy found out about her past, the family still stuck together. I felt sorry for the mother, who had the difficult task of looking after four children practically on her own. The father frustrated me a little bit. I found him to be quite selfish!

The only reason why I haven’t rated this book any higher is because I don’t feel compelled to read the next one. I mean, I would read it… but I’m not running to get a copy.

For Beth’s wonderful review, check her blog here!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit challenge (October):
Black Hearts in Battersea- Joan Aiken

Advertisements

Banned Books #39 In A Dark, Dark Room And Other Scary Stories

banned books

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post. This week we read In A Dark, Dark Wood and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz.

Image result for in a dark dark wood and other scary photos

Synopsis:

Creak…
Crash…
BOO!

Shivering skeletons, ghostly pirates, chattering corpses, and haunted graveyards…all to chill your bones! Share these seven spine-tingling stories in a dark, dark room.

First published: 1984
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2006 (source)
Reasons: insensitivity, occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence.

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

BETH: We haven’t had an older release on our Banned Books challenge for a little while and I was intrigued to see how a children’s book published in the 1980’s could have had so much against it. Even though it was published over thirty years ago, I don’t believe attitudes have changed that much in the last three decades or so and I don’t really agree for the book being challenged. I hadn’t actually realised that I read this book as a younger reader (possibly when I was about seven or even younger?) and I was surprised by how vividly I remembered the stories. I did find it a little frightening, I have to admit but never in a way that gave me nightmares or seriously troubled me afterwards. I was one of those readers that went out looking for scary stories to read and found them thrilling so perhaps caution should be advised with more sensitive youngsters? However, I think if children want to read a scary story they are going to seek them out, like myself.

CHRISSI: This book is older than me! I was totally intrigued by this book. I remember Beth text me a while ago insistent that we had read it when we were younger. I wasn’t totally convinced, but then when I read it I totally recalled it! So, did it damage me? Clearly not, if I don’t remember the story! They are pretty creepy, but so readable. Not all children will enjoy this because it is scary, but others will absolutely lap it up!

How about now?

BETH: I think nowadays you probably see a lot scarier stuff on television before the watershed (for example, some episodes of Doctor Who I find much scarier than this!). I don’t think it is insensitive or promotes the occult or Satanism in the slightest, it’s just some good old fashioned scary stories that are exciting to read and I just loved the illustrations which bring something extra to Alvin Schwartz’s words. There’s a lot of death mentioned – that’s a given really, death is scary right? However, some of the stories could be looked on as humorous, if told in the right way by a responsible adult, letting children know it’s just a story and there’s nothing to be frightened of.

CHRISSI: I had to laugh at the occult and Satanism reasons behind the banning of this book. Yes, I can get how some people might think that, but really there’s much more out there that promotes occult and Satanism. This simply is a children’s scary story. Much like Goosebumps and Point Horror for slightly older readers. All books should be thought about especially for young children. I’d recommend that you don’t give a sensitive child this book. Surely you’d know if your child could handle it? It should be down to personal preference and adult discretion!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This book was super nostalgic for me and so quick and easy to read I finished it in about ten minutes. There are a couple of stories that when I read them I was instantly transported back to how I felt as a child reading them, particularly the first one about the men with the very long teeth and the girl who wears a green ribbon around her neck (the reason why I remember being horrified but kind of delighted with as a child!). This book was probably my first introduction into scary stories and led to me reading Point Horror as a teenager and then of course, Stephen King as an adult. It’s perfect for young horror fans and the illustrations compliment the stories perfectly without being “too” scary.

CHRISSI: The one that brought back memories was the story about a girl with a green ribbon around her neck. That one still give me chills. Ha! Such a wimp…I loved the illustrations too. Creepy but not overly terrifying and I’ve always had an overactive imagination!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Talking About ‘The Betrayals’ with Bibliobeth!

The Betrayals

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

When Rosie Rankin’s best friend has an affair with her husband, the consequences reverberate down through the lives of two families.

Relationships are torn apart. Friendships shattered. And childish innocence destroyed.

Her daughter Daisy’s fragile hold on reality begins to unravel when a letter arrives that opens up all the old wounds. Rosie’s teenage son Max blames himself for everything which happened that long hot summer. And her brittle ex-husband Nick has his own version of events.

As long-repressed memories bubble to the surface, the past has never seemed more present and the truth more murky.

Sometimes there are four sides to every story.

Who do you believe?

Told through the eyes of four members of the same family, The Betrayals takes an unflinching look at contemporary family life, explores the nature of memory and desire and asks whether some things can ever be forgiven.

 

CHRISSI: Had you heard of the author before reading this book?

BETH: I have to be honest and say no, I hadn’t. Looking at the author’s back-list of books however, the cover of The Good Girl does ring a few bells so perhaps I had seen it around when it was released. I’m really pleased that Richard and Judy picked this book for their book club here in the UK as it’s definitely brought an author to my attention that I wasn’t really aware of before.

BETH: Were you aware while reading that some characters’ narratives were unreliable? If so, at what point did you start to realise this? Why do you think people mis-remember significant events?

CHRISSI: It took me a while to realise this. I think it was about half way through when I started to question every character. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when I thought ‘Hmmm…’ but I started to become uncomfortable with some of the characters throughout the novel and as the intensity built. I think it’s interesting that people do mis-remember significant events. Perhaps we build things up in our memory or remember the parts of it that we want to, meaning that sometimes we mis-remember the parts we don’t want to remember fondly! Memory is such a strange thing to me. I can’t explain it!

CHRISSI: This is part thriller, part family drama. Explore the family relationships in the novel.

BETH: I loved the mixture of thriller and drama in this novel. Throughout it all, there’s this element of mystery and unreliable narrators (which I always adore!). The relationships are particularly fraught in this story for a variety of reasons but mainly due to the divorce between Rosie and Nick which affect both their children, Daisy and Max in different ways. Daisy and Max blame their father for what has happened and this affects their relationship with him in the present time and especially with his new fiancee, Lisa. There are so many other relationships to be explored in this novel though. We also have the relationship of Lisa with her children and her ex husband Barney which is very fragile and the relationship between the siblings and step-siblings which is difficult because of Daisy’s OCD and events that have happened between the four children in the past when Rosie and Nick were still a couple.

BETH: The strongest bond in this novel is the bond between Daisy and Max rather than between the children and their parents. Why do you think this is?

CHRISSI: I think Daisy and Max are always there for each other from their childhood. They had such a strong bond. Daisy became reliant on Max when she was completing her OCD rituals. Daisy and Max stick together despite their parent’s relationship falling apart around them. I saw Daisy and Max as a team, despite Max being frustrated by Daisy’s OCD. Max felt guilt for something he had done to Daisy and I think his guilt made him want to be there for her in later years.

CHRISSI: Discuss the portrayal of Daisy’s OCD in the novel.

BETH: It’s great to see any portrayal of mental health in novels and making sufferers feel that they are not alone is so vitally important. I am not a sufferer myself but I thought the OCD was portrayed really well and quite sensitively and it certainly made me feel more sympathetic to those people that have no choice but to live with the condition. It also taught me things I hadn’t been previously aware of like its effect on other people around the sufferer and how it can have knock on effects on health, memory etc.

BETH: Who betrays who in this novel? In your opinion which is the worst betrayal?

CHRISSI: Goodness, it’s more like who doesn’t betray in this novel! I’m actually torn between the worst betrayal. I hate when best friend’s betray, I hate when partner’s betray… basically none of it sits right with me. I actually found Nick’s betrayal to be the most heartbreaking. He lets down his wife and his children. 😦 Bad times!

CHRISSI: I found myself disappointed by the ending. Without spoilers, what did you make of the ending?

BETH: I think I texted you ARRRGH at the time of reading it? Yes, that’s exactly how I felt. I had thoroughly enjoyed the story from the very first page and perhaps my expectations were a bit high but I wasn’t entirely happy with how open ended and unresolved the ending felt to me. I understand that maybe the author wanted us to make up our own minds about what happens next and sometimes I love this in novels but in this story, it felt frustrating and I was desperate to know what happened next.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! Even though I was SUPER frustrated by the ending. It had gripped me from the start and then I was annoyed by the unresolved, open ending. Others I’m sure would love it though!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Fortunately, The Milk

Fortunately, the Milk...

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is DON’T FORGET TO GET THE MILK. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back.

Featuring: Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and a perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.

Thoughts:

I have read some Neil Gaiman before, so I was expecting something a little unique. I certainly got that with Fortunately, The Milk. First off… what an amazing title, hey? I love the title. So odd. It totally sets the tone for the rest of the story. Fortunately, The Milk is a quirky little story, perfect for a pick me up for an adult or a crazy read for a child!

The story centres around a dad who goes to get milk for his kids to put on their cereal. Whilst out for the milk, he ends up on an adventure. The children are wondering where on Earth their father has gone. In fact…their dad was not on Earth at all. He was kidnapped by aliens, encountered a time-travelling dinosaur and experienced so much more that I don’t want to spoil. It was an incredibly unbelievable reading experience but so bloomin’ wonderful at the same time.

I love the illustrations from Chris Riddell. They perfectly complemented the story. They fit well with Neil Gaiman’s wonderfully quirky writing style. I loved the characters and enjoyed following their journey. Neil Gaiman really is a terrific writer and I’m looking forward to reading more from him.

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 (September):
Saffy’s Angel – Hilary McKay

Banned Books #38 Thirteen Reasons Why

banned books

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post! This month, we read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Thirteen Reasons Why

Synopsis:

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. 

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

First published: 2007
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2012 (source)
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, 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: I always think of this book as a really recent release (maybe because of the series released on Netflix?) so I was really surprised when I saw that it had been originally published in 2007. Ten years is really not much time for attitudes to change in such a drastic way so my answers to this and the next question are going to be the same but I will go into some of the reasons why this book has been challenged/banned. Obviously, the drugs/alcohol/smoking thing does happen in the book but it’s never portrayed in a particularly “things to do that are cool,” way  and, to be honest, I think you’re going to be hard pressed to find a young adult book that doesn’t have an element of that lifestyle. Occasionally, I think it’s almost like a rite of passage that (some) teenagers have to go through to experiment/push boundaries and then decide that these things really aren’t for them. I certainly don’t see why this would be a good reason to challenge/ban the book.

CHRISSI: I read this book back in 2014, several years after it had been released. I had heard all of the hype around it and seen so many reviews of it around the blogosphere. So I knew before I read it that I was getting into quite a contentious read. I can understand why this book would be challenged as it has some particularly sensitive subject matter. However, should it be banned? In my opinion, no. There are television programmes that are contain much worse subject matter. Nearly every book for young adults contain ‘bad’ things as these are things that young people experience. I do understand that this book could be potentially triggering to some, but I believe it is a book that should be available. We should trust young people to make their own choices when it comes to reading a book like this. If literature is out there like this it starts a conversation. We need those conversations and young people to be able to feel like they can be heard and understood.

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! I also feel the same way with the “sexually explicit” reason. There are a couple of horrific moments in the novel that make for uncomfortable reading and may pose a few trigger warnings for anybody particularly sensitive to those topics but again, it really isn’t done in a gratuitous fashion and isn’t really heavy on the intimate details so again, not a great reason for banning the book outright – perhaps a gentle warning on the cover would suffice? Finally there is the element of suicide which is the main and probably most shocking element of the novel. To be honest, I’m not sure what to say about this. It’s never going to be easy reading about a young person killing themselves and all the reasons why they did it but I don’t think this book in any way glamorises suicide. In fact, it may encourage suicidal teenagers to talk about how they are feeling with someone before they try to harm themselves if used in the right way.

CHRISSI: I feel the same way. This book does centre around suicide and I know that’s not a nice thing to read about. It does make for uncomfortable reading. The sexually explicit content is also uncomfortable to read, but it’s not something that I think authors should avoid. As I said before, conversations need to be had. I personally don’t think that the author glamorised suicide.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really enjoyed this book. I had already heard mixed opinions about it from my sister and when I read the novel I could completely see where she was coming from. Hannah’s voice didn’t come across in the best way at times and I really wasn’t sure about her method of using tapes to tell people why she killed herself. However, then Chrissi watched the Netflix series and urged me to do the same. I watched the first episode earlier and thought it was pretty great (I understand there’s been a lot of controversy around this series too but as I said, I’ve only watched the first episode so far!). I think it’s like most hard-hitting books really. In the hands of more sensitive people who have issues with the topics discussed it might not be advisable but in the right hands, I think it could also help a lot of people too.

CHRISSI: I actually enjoyed this book more the second time reading it. I remember having some issues with Hannah’s voice when I read it the first time. She frustrated me a lot and I wanted her to do more for herself. I still had the same issue with Hannah’s voice, but I felt I could understand Hannah more this time around. I think over time I have come to understand mental health more. I think the Netflix series is absolutely fantastic. I know they changed some parts of the book, but I really appreciated how it was handled. It was uncomfortable viewing, just like the book is uncomfortable reading. As I’ve mentioned throughout this post though, both the book and the TV series are encouraging conversations and that’s what is vitally important to me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Talking About ‘Cartes Postales From Greece’ with Bibliobeth

Cartes Postales from Greece

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Week after week, the postcards arrive, addressed to a name Ellie does not know, with no return address, each signed with an initial: A.

With their bright skies, blue seas and alluring images of Greece, these cartes postales brighten her life. After six months, to her disappointment, they cease. But the montage she has created on the wall of her flat has cast a spell. She must see this country for herself.

On the morning Ellie leaves for Athens, a notebook arrives. Its pages tell the story of a man’s odyssey through Greece. Moving, surprising and sometimes dark, A’s tale unfolds with the discovery not only of a culture but also of a desire to live life to the full once more.

CHRISSI: Discuss the structure that Victoria Hislop uses to tell her story.

BETH: I loved the way in which this story was structured. First of all, the author uses photographs of places/people in Greece to illustrate a particular point in the narrative (and I always enjoy seeing something a bit different in a book – illustrations/photographs/emails/letters always welcome!). Not only this but as our male character A is travelling through Greece he comes across a host of different people along the way, all of whom tell him a little story as he passes through. Each of these stories is reproduced like a short story through the novel. This was a great reading experience as you could read it as a whole or read it in little portions i.e. one short story at a time.

BETH: Do you think the inclusion of photographs in a work of fiction changes your reading experience?

CHRISSI: I think the inclusion of photographs does change your reading experience. Having a photograph or a picture of some sort gives you an exact picture of what the author is portraying. Without photographs, it’s left to your imagination which can be very different. Photographs are specific and allow the author to show the reader what they really want them to see.

CHRISSI: How do we learn about A’s character through the notebook?

BETH: To be honest, I don’t think we got to learn a huge amount about A’s character through the novel. We do see the growth he goes through as a person after experiencing heart-break but I think we learn more about Greece as a country and the people that live there rather than about A directly. That was just my personal opinion of it and I felt a bit detached from him as a character because of this.

BETH: How do you think Ellie changed as a person through reading A’s postcards/journal?

CHRISSI: I think Ellie really changed as a person throughout her experience of A’s postcards/journal. She is inspired by his postcards to travel to Greece on her own. The postcards encouraged Ellie to travel and become independent. I believe they changed the direction her life was going and gave her confidence to change her path in life!

CHRISSI: You enjoy reading short stories. What did you make of Victoria Hislop’s inclusion of short stories within this book?
BETH: I certainly do and I loved the addition of short stories in this novel. It made it something quite unique and enjoyable and I loved how each short story stood on its own. Some were a little darker than others, some had a moral tale to tell but I thought it gave a beautiful picture of what Greece was like and it really made me want to visit!

BETH: Which short story stood out the most for you in this novel and why?

CHRISSI: I can’t say one in particular stood out for me. I liked how all of the stories had a message they brought with them. I read them as individual stories and appreciated them for what they were. I’m not the biggest fan of short stories, but I enjoyed these because I felt they let me get to know Greece a little bit more as someone who has never visited (but wants to!) I enjoyed reading about Greek culture, religion and lots more besides through the stories.

CHRISSI: We’ve both read a few of Victoria Hislop’s books now. Was this book what you expected from Victoria?

BETH: Yes, I think so! If I had to compare it with one of my favourite books of hers, The Thread (which I read in my pre blogging days) I have to say I think I prefer The Thread but I still think that its a quick and enjoyable read. I’m still thinking about a couple of the short stories today so they must have had an effect on me! My only criticism is that I don’t think the characters were as well developed as I would have liked. Saying this though, the short stories were brilliant and they made up for any flaws or lack of connection I felt with the characters

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would. I enjoy Victoria Hislop’s writing when I read it but sometimes I find her books a little heavy going.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

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!