Banned Books #56- Northern Lights/The Golden Compass

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Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Northern Lights/The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials, #1)

First published: 1995
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)
Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, violence.

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

BETH: Of course not. I’m one of those people who never experienced reading the His Dark Materials series as a child so I only came to it with an adult mentality. Either way, I think I would have had the same opinion. There is no reason on earth why this book should be challenged or banned, ESPECIALLY for the reasons mentioned. As always, I tried to guess the reasons why this book, the first in the series, might have been difficult for some people to stomach and once again, I was completely wrong. I assumed that the fantasy/magical aspect might have offended a few people (even though children clearly love a good, imaginative narrative that doesn’t necessary have to be believable!).

CHRISSI: I have to say no. It’s a load of poppycock. I have no idea why this book was challenged. Like Beth, I thought it might be about the fantasy elements, I know some of the parents of children at my school don’t like fantasy because of religious reasons and I wondered whether that could be it. No. Political viewpoint? Religious viewpoint? This confuses me.

How about now?

BETH: Northern Lights was challenged over ten years after it was published and to be honest, I’m struggling to see why if there were challenges from concerned readers, they didn’t appear prior to 2008? If anyone has any ideas, please do enlighten me! Additionally, it really does irritate me when the reasons for challenging a book point towards a political or religious viewpoint. Now, I’m not a particularly political or religious individual BUT I do like to learn about different attitudes/cultures and viewpoints and I very much enjoy it when there’s a difference of opinion to my own in a novel, unless I feel like I’m being preached to. Saying that however, I really didn’t think there was a strong viewpoint either political or religious in Northern Lights and I’m a bit confused as to where this reasoning has come from?

CHRISSI: I am utterly confused by the reasons for challenging this book. I didn’t think it had a particularly strong political or religious viewpoint. Even if it did, why does it matter? Why should it be banned? Shouldn’t we be allowed to make our own minds up? Shouldn’t we open our minds a little to other’s views?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really love His Dark Materials as a series but particularly this first novel, Northern Lights. Lyra is a wonderfully rich character who never fails to make me laugh, the world-building is imaginative and thought-provoking and I adored the adventure aspect of the entire novel. Plus, I absolutely love the idea of having a daemon companion as a unique part of your personality. I’d love to know what yours would be in the comment below if you’ve read this book? Mine would be a ring-tailed lemur!

CHRISSI: Ooh. This is a toughie. Whilst I appreciate that Philip Pullman is a talented writer and that this story is fabulously creative… there’s something about it that I don’t connect with. I have a disconnect with it and I can’t tell why. I usually like fantasy/magical reads but this one leaves me quite cold. I know I am in the minority with that. I certainly wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading it! Oh and my daemon would definitely be a lop eared rabbit!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

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Magic Under Stone (Magic Under #2)

Magic Under Stone (Magic Under, #2)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Magic Under Glass

Synopsis:

For star-crossed lovers Nimira and Erris, there can be no happily ever after until Erris is freed from the clockwork form in which his soul is trapped. And so they go in search of the sorcerer Ordorio Valdana, hoping he will know how to grant Erris real life again. When they learn that Valdana has mysteriously vanished, it’s not long before Nimira decides to take matters into her own hands—and begins to study the sorcerer’s spell books in secret. Yet even as she begins to understand the power and limitations of sorcery, it becomes clear that freeing Erris will bring danger—if not out-and-out war—as factions within the faerie world are prepared to stop at nothing to prevent him from regaining the throne. 

Thoughts:

Oh my goodness! I have been meaning to read this book for years. Literal years. No hyperbole. I read the first book in 2013. 2013!!!! It’s ridiculous that this book has been on my shelves for so long. I certainly think it’s a lesson to myself- don’t leave books too long. However, stepping into this story, it didn’t feel like it had been as long. I was super happy to return to Nimira, Erris and the world that Jaclyn Dolamore created.

Erris is trapped in clockwork form. He goes with Nimira to find the great sorcerer Ordorio Valdana, hoping that he will be able to give Erris a real life. They soon found out that Valdana has vanished. Nimira starts to study Valdana’s books in secret, but she realises that freeing Erris brings danger and possible war between the worlds…

It’s always hard to read a sequel of a book that you loved so dearly. Whilst this book didn’t quite capture my heart as much as its predecessor, it was still such an easy to read book.

The characters are incredibly complex, although I’m sad to say some of them did grate on me a little towards the middle of this book. I felt that their actions somewhat brought the book to a slower pace and I just wanted them to get on with saving Erris. I did really enjoy the inclusion of Ifra, a new character to this duology. He was a very interesting character and added something exciting to the story that’s for sure.

I’m not sure that I was overly satisfied with the ending. It felt a little rushed for my liking. I felt like I had a lot of unanswered questions. Whilst I wasn’t disappointed by this book, it lacked some magic of the first.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

I’m thrilled that I finally got around to reading this book. It didn’t quite match the first, but I’m pleased I managed to read it!

How To Hang A Witch

How to Hang a Witch

How did I get it?:
Received from Walker Books, in exchange for an honest review!

Synopsis:

After Sam’s father is hospitalised, she has to move from New York to Salem with her stepmother, Vivian. Unfortunately, Sam is related to Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for the Salem Witch Trials, and to say she feels unwelcome in Salem is an understatement… She is particularly unnerved by The Descendants, a mysterious and tight-knit group of girls related to those persecuted in the Trials. At the same time, she must deal with Elijah, the handsome but angry ghost who has appeared in her house, and her new neighbour Jaxon only complicates things further.

Thoughts:

I’m not going to lie, I do love a good witch-y read. Quite often though, they make me cringe. I had heard good things about How To Hang A Witch so when I had the opportunity to read it, I quickly snapped it up. I really enjoyed reading this book. It didn’t take me long to read it at all. I thought Adriana Mather had a very addictive writing style. Her writing is incredibly easy to read. I loved how it was a little bit paranormal but also had element of historical fiction.

How To Hang A Witch is set in Salem. We all know Salem as the place where the infamous witch trials took place. Our main character is Sam who is related to Cotton Mather, a man who practically encouraged witch-fearing. Salem is pretty proud of its history. The town is not happy about Sam’s arrival. Right from her first day she suffers bullying and harassment, especially from a group of girls called The Descendants who are descendants of the convicted witches. Sam also had to deal with a spirit who has appeared in her house and then there’s Jaxon, another complication.

I absolutely adore historical fiction, so the element of the story that involved the witch trials really captured my attention. I loved the descriptions of Salem. A place that fascinates me. It came across as so eerie which I adored! I also loved that the author was a Mather. It gave a personal feel to the story for me that I really enjoyed.

I liked Sam as a character. I didn’t enjoy the relationship with her stepmother though. I found their arguments a little tedious to read. I found Sam’s attitude quite frustrating at times but I liked her determination. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the romance element of this book. It felt to me like the author was trying to make a love triangle happen. I’m not a fan of love triangles at all. It actually turned me off the story a little.

I’m interested to read the next book in the series. Adriana Mather has me intrigued!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I’m intrigued to see where this series goes next!

The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club (The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club #1)

The Polar Bear Explorers' Club

How did I get it?:
I received a copy from Faber and I’ve purchased a copy!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

It sounded like a respectable and worthy enough death for an explorer – tumbling from an ice bridge to be impaled upon a mammoth tusk – but Stella really, really didn’t want that to happen, just the same.

Join Stella Starflake Pearl and her three fellow explorers as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages . . .

When Stella and three other junior explorers get separated from their expedition can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale?

Thoughts:

I have loved Alex Bell’s adult and YA books. Seriously, if you haven’t checked out The Ninth Circle and Jasmyn please give them a go. They’re amazing and so underrated, in my opinion. I was super excited to pick up The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club. It’s such an exciting story that I believe will pull children in and keep them engaged throughout the story.

Its plot is fast paced and so easy to read. The reader follows a group of young explorers on a quest to find the coldest part of the Icelands as they are separated from their parents. It’s such a fun read. I couldn’t help turning the pages. I practically binge read this book, completely captivated by the story.

The main characters Stella, Shay, Beanie and Ethan were so well written. I immediately liked them, especially Stella. What a wonderful protagonist! I loved how she was such a strong female character. We need more of those in middle grade literature. I also appreciated how she was allowed to go on the adventure after it being notoriously males only. Her relationship with Felix (who she saw as a father) was heart-warming. I absolutely adored the character of Beanie. Such a sweet character that took everything literally. It reminded me of a few children that I teach!

Talking about teaching, I think this book would be perfect for Key Stage 2 children. There’s so much to get stuck into. I loved how descriptive the story was. This book really is jam packed with content. It’s both fairy tale-esque and adventurous. There are penguins, pygmy dinosaurs, cabbages…and more. I think Alex Bell has created such a wonderful world that I can see developing well as a the series continues (I assume it’s a series!)

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A gorgeous middle grade adventure!

Coraline (Graphic Novel Review)

Coraline (Illustrated/Graphic Novel Edition)

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

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

When Coraline steps through a door in her family’s new house, she finds another house, strangely similar to her own (only better). At first, things seem marvelous. The food is better than at home, and the toy box is filled with fluttering wind-up angels and dinosaur skulls that crawl and rattle their teeth.

But there’s another mother there and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go. Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and all the tools she can find if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

Thoughts:

Perhaps I’m not the best person to review this graphic novel or the original book. I haven’t seen the movie yet either. But do you know what? Based on this graphic novel, I’m going to read the original and watch the movie. I liked the graphic novel that much!

It centres around Coraline who steps through a door in her family’s house to find another house which is incredibly similar to hers… only slightly better. Every single thing seems better in the other house. The toys, the food… Coraline thinks she’s got it good! There’s another mother and another father there though. They look like her actual parents, but they aren’t. They want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They’re determined to change her, but Coraline is fighting back. She wants to be with her true family and return to her normal life.

I enjoyed the illustrations from P. Craig Russell. I thought it was beautifully drawn. The other mother in particular really freaked me out. She really was an unforgettable character. I can still see those black button eyes when I close my eyes!

I thought this graphic novel was super creepy. I hear that the original is too, so I’m excited to read that as soon as I can fit it in.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel and will be checking out the original for sure!

Heartless

Heartless

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Thoughts:

I am a big fan of the Lunar Chronicles series, so I was super excited when I heard that Marissa Meyer was bringing out a book that centred around Alice In Wonderland. I love a reimagining. Then reviews started to come out and I was feeling a little anxious about reading it! They were so mixed. So, I stepped back from the hype for a while and decided to read it when the hype died down.

Heartless is inspired by the Queen of Hearts made famous by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland. It centres around Catherine, who is the daughter of a Marquess. She is expected to marry well and live the life of a lady. Catherine is a dreamer and wants to own a bakery and create delicious recipes for the people of Hearts. Catherine has been dreaming about a man and finds herself meeting him… he’s the new court Joker, Jest. Catherine is completely drawn to him even though he’s not what her family want more for her. Catherine is being courted by the King. He wants to marry her. Her family don’t give Catherine a choice. She must marry the king or lose her place in the family.

I liked so many things about this book, especially the characters. I really enjoyed Catherine as a character and loved that she wanted to do her own thing. I also loved reading the descriptions about the yummy goodness that she was baking. I adored her friendship with her maid Mary Ann and I was rooting for them to open their bakery together. I also really liked the character of Jest. I thought he was fabulous, although I didn’t really get on board with their romance. It was a little too instalove for my liking. I thought Cheshire was amazing too. The setting was fantastic and I could picture it easily in my mind.

I do think that this book suffered from being a little slow paced. I wanted a bit more action, much like the Lunar Chronicles. It being a standalone, I expected it to be incredibly action packed but it wasn’t. I was disappointed by the instalove too. Cath and Jest instantly connected and were infatuated and I couldn’t really understand why!

I’m glad that I gave this book a go! It didn’t blow me away but it was still a decent read.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

This book is a good example of why you shouldn’t let mixed review sway you!

Blog Tour- Illusionary Review

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I am thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Illusionary by Desiree Williams.

Illusionary

How did I get it?:
I received a copy from the author for the blog tour.

Synopsis:

Dorothy got sucked into a tornado.
Alice fell down a hole.
Wendy flew to Neverland.
Kamryn? She tripped down the stairs.
Now, Kamryn Kensington finds herself in a strange new world. Within minutes of her arrival, she dodges an archer’s arrow and avoids getting sliced up by a cosplay reject holding a dagger to her throat. And that’s before the storyteller’s breath brings stories to life.
Home is the mission—to return to her family and pursue her life’s dream of art and travel. Yet the longer she’s in the Land of Ur, the harder it is not to feel for the people she meets. Even her artistic side can’t help but breathe in the beautiful wonder and magic of this new world. So when the Oracle hands her a different quest, she takes it on the condition he sends her home afterward.
No one thought to warn her of a jealous queen and her dragon minions. Or that, by helping her, the cute storyteller would go crazy. Or that her heart would rip in two when she left. Those would’ve been great facts to know ahead of time.
Considering that nothing in Ur is what it seems, the mission proves to be more than she ever imagined. But more than her own future will be in jeopardy if Kamryn doesn’t succeed.
  

Thoughts:

I was asked if I’d be interesting in joining the blog tour for this book. As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew that I wanted to read this book. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I absolutely adore fairy tales and all things magical realism. Illusionary certainly fits that bill.

Kamryn is our main character. She’s an adult, but she’s struggling with adapting to all things adult. Don’t we all? Kamryn’s dreams are taking her in different directions which makes her older sister despair. Her older sister wants the best for Kamryn but Kamryn wants to pursue her passion. Kamryn and her sister fight resulting in Kamryn tripping and finding herself at the bottom of the stairs. When Kamryn comes around, she’s in the land of Ur. She has some questions to ask but answers are not given. She is given a mission to carry out with Reese, a storyteller in Ur. They’re hoping to rescue the Maker of Ur so he can send her home. Of course, it’s not as easy as Kamryn wants and they end up everywhere…

I enjoyed reading this story, which didn’t take long for me to read! I was intrigued by the adventure. I really enjoyed reading the nods to other famous books e.g. The Wizard Of Oz. It’s a bookworm’s dream to read such a bookish story. I also enjoyed the romance in this story. It wasn’t cheesy or overdone. It was just right.

The only reason I didn’t rate this book any higher was because I didn’t enjoy the character of the evil queen as much as I wanted to. I would have enjoyed it more if the character was more fleshed out, but that’s my personal opinion and I think many people would still enjoy the character!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Desiree is kindly offering a giveaway for this blog tour. email): a “Make everyday an adventure” pillow, “Don’t Grow Up! It’s a Trap!” metal sign, book cozy, signed paperback of Illusionary, notebook with pens, sketch book with colored pencils, and a “Eat Cake for Breakfast” travel cup. 

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