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!

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Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Matilda

Matilda

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

Thoughts:

I have so much love for the book Matilda. It has to be one of my most favourite Roald Dahl books, if not my favourite. Argh. I just love it so much. I have reread it recently, because I read it to my first ever class. I do intend to read it to my current class too, after our current class book.

If you don’t know the story of Matilda (where have you been?) it’s about a exceptionally gifted girl. Her parents think she’s the most irritating child ever. Matilda is desperate to go to school and learn. She doesn’t expect to be facing an awful headmistress who takes an immediate disliking to her. The Trunchbull is an awful headmistress. She thrives on punishing and hurting children. Matilda wants to teach her a lesson once and for all.

I remember having such fond memories of reading Matilda when I was younger. I can’t even recall how many times I reread it. Going back to it, even after reading it fairly recently was such a lovely, heart-warming experience for me. This book just fills me with joy even though there are bloomin’ terrible characters. I love to hate Mr and Mrs Wormwood and the evil Miss Trunchbull.

I was struck by how things are a little different in the film. Mrs Wormwood in the book is rather a curvy lady but she isn’t as much in the film. There’s also more play on Matilda’s powers, which I can imagine does make the film that little bit more magical. It is just as dark though. I hated the way Matilda was spoken to. Evil parents! I thought that Miss Honey’s back story was much more fleshed out and upsetting in the book. I can’t believe Roald Dahl got away with writing such dark stuff for children, but it certainly didn’t do me any harm.

I really do believe there is no writer like Roald Dahl. His books make me so happy. I would love to reread more in the future as part of this feature!

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

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

Next up in Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge (March):
The Girl Of Ink And Stars- Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Banned Books #44- Twilight

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

Twilight (Twilight, #1)

First published: 2005
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2009 (source)
Reasons: religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

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

BETH: Ahhh, Twilight, what a blast from the past! I read it when it first came out to see what all the fuss was about but was interested to see what my thoughts would be over ten years afterwards. Now, I never look at the reasons why it was banned until I’m writing the post, I like to try and figure out the reasons for myself and once again, with this one I was completely wrong. Let’s start with religious viewpoint. Er, where was that exactly? Are they talking about the pagan practices of vampires or something else? Because seriously, I have a bit of an issue when religion is forced down my throat but I like to learn about other religions generally and I can’t recall a single incidence where religion is pushed. This certainly didn’t offend me. Let’s also remember that we were a fairly enlightened race in 2005 and there was no need (especially this reason!) for this book to be banned/challenged.

CHRISSI: Twilight! The book many bloggers hate to admit that they read. I’m not ashamed that I read it. When I did I was totally intrigued by the hype. I was in my teens. I don’t understand why it’s challenged on the sexually explicit and unsuited to age group reason. Huh? I mean, seriously! There’s nothing sexually explicit in Twilight. Attraction, sure, but no sexy times. Unless they mean later on in the series? But still… teenagers/young adults read and see worse in the media. As for religious viewpoint, I’ve been thinking about this one. Does it mean that it might offend some religions that don’t agree with the practice of vampires? I’m a bit flummoxed.

How about now?

BETH: It’s been over ten years and attitudes haven’t changed this much but again no, no, no. When I first thought about the reasons why someone might challenge this book, I immediately thought vampires in the same way that people are against Roald Dahl’s The Witches and Harry Potter for the whole witchy/wizardy aspect. If religious viewpoint DOES mean this, it’s still ridiculous in my opinion. For goodness sake, it’s just fantasy…it’s called “using your imagination,” and last time I checked on my childhood, that’s ALL I used to do! Also, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group? Don’t make me laugh! Okay, so Bella and Edward occasionally touch lips and brush faces (a lot!) and shock horror, sleep in the same bed where nothing sexual happens! This is saucy stuff, right?! Wrong. I read a hell of a lot worse as a teenager. I would actually say it’s perfect for the intended age group, which is probably teenage girls apart from the minor issues I have about Bella and Edward’s relationship.

CHRISSI: I honestly don’t see why this book is challenged when it’s really a supernatural love story. You don’t need to believe in anything to read this. You use your imagination. The only issue I have about it is Edward being a bit of a tool. I can’t believe that so many swoon over him. He’s possessive and controlling. No thank you!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Okay, this book is in no way literary genius and as I mentioned, I do have a few issues with the main relationship as an adult. I believe he’s far too possessive and a bit controlling which isn’t the healthiest type of relationship to portray to a vulnerable teenager. However, for the target age market, I think it’s probably an exciting, romantic story that young girls would enjoy. I can remember being a teenager and would have adored a boy to be that in love with me like Edward is with Bella. Therefore, I think if they understand that it’s just fantasy and a good relationship is always two people on an equal footing, there’s no harm in it. It was a very interesting experience re-reading it and trying to see why some may have issues with it.

CHRISSI: Twilight is incredibly addictive and so easy to read. I can appreciate it’s not the best writing ever. I don’t think it needs to be though. There’s definitely room in the market for books like Twilight. So many enjoy it and why shouldn’t we enjoy what we read, even if it is a bit of fluff?

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Talking About ‘The Child’ With Bibliobeth

The Child: The Must-Read Richard and Judy Book Club Pick 2018

How did I get it?:
It was a gift!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Widow

Synopsis:

When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.

For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.

And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

The Child’s story will be told.

CHRISSI: How do you feel this book compares to Fiona’s debut, The Widow?

BETH: I really enjoyed The Widow when we “talked about” it in 2016 and gave it four stars so I was expecting to enjoy The Child too, however I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy it so much more! It was truly gripping, I loved the style of writing, narrative set-up, the whole mystery behind who “the child” was and of course, THAT surprise.

BETH: Emma says, “People say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger….But it doesn’t. It breaks your bones, leaving everything splintered and held together with grubby bandages and yellowing sticky tape…Sometimes you wish it had killed you.” Do you agree with this? Without spoilers, how does this relate to Emma?

CHRISSI: Interesting question. I’ve always wondered about that saying. It’s nice to find comfort in it and know that experiencing something and living through it does improve your character. However, sometimes simply terrible things happen to people and I’m not sure how that saying is comforting. It’s hard to discuss it in relation to Emma without spoiling the story. Let’s just say, Emma’s character is incredibly fragile. In regards to that saying, Emma’s not a strong person because of what has happened to her. She may be strong deep down to be living through it but on the outside, she’s totally broken.

CHRISSI: How does Fiona Barton present mothers and motherhood in The Child? How does each character’s experience of motherhood change them?

BETH: We hear from a number of very different mothers in The Child. We have mother’s who lost their children in very tragic and horrific circumstances and then there is Emma’s mother Jude, who is trying her best to be a good mother to Emma but I’m afraid she kind of fails miserably. As a result, Emma has a very fractured and fragile relationship with her and the two often come to arguments. As a result, Emma is a wary, anxious person whilst Jude can never seem to do or say the right thing and makes some VERY awful decisions as a mother. With Angela, the loss of her child has irrevocably changed her as a person, even though she has two other children as she craves the answers she has never had.

BETH: The Child is told through different points of view. How did this structure affect your reading experience?

CHRISSI: Different points of view don’t always work for me in a story because I often find myself enjoying one over the other. However, this wasn’t the case with The Child. I thought Fiona Barton portrayed the different voices fabulously. Using different points of view definitely kept me turning the pages as I wanted to see how the different characters were dealing with what was going on!

CHRISSI: In The Child, Harry comments: ‘What gives them the right to meddle in people’s lives like this? How is this news? This is a personal tragedy, not some story for everyone to gawp at.’ What do you think makes a story newsworthy? Are reporters like Kate right to investigate these kinds of ‘human interest’ stories?

BETH: I’m afraid to say in my opinion Harry is right. Although I really loved Kate as a character, her job as a journalist, especially with this very emotive case, sometimes made my stomach churn as she chased down the perfect story. I understand that she was just doing her job and she was very good at it and obviously sympathetic to the women she talked to but I can also understand from the women’s point of view where it is not just a “story,” it is their life. Sorry, got a bit deep there!

BETH: Did you have a favourite character in this novel? Give reasons for your choice.

CHRISSI: I liked quite a few characters in this novel. I think if I had to pick, I would probably say Angela. I deeply felt for her and her family after what they went through. I desperately wanted Angela to find closure. Her story touched my heart!

CHRISSI: Did you find this book predictable in anyway?

BETH: I have to admit, I thought it was going to be. I’m not sure how you felt but I was completely wrong and did not expect what is revealed to us as the reader very slowly and methodically. It’s one of those books where I was glad I wasn’t reading the end in public because I kind of gasped out loud. If a book can make me do that, I’m going to sing its praises to the heavens.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I definitely would. I really enjoy Fiona Barton’s writing style. Whilst I did prefer The Widow, I thought this was a fabulous book and anything that she writes in the future I would gladly pick up! 🙂

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars!

Talking About ‘How To Stop Time’ with Bibliobeth!

How to Stop Time

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.

So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher–the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.

How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.

CHRISSI: We have now read a few of Matt Haig’s books. What did you make of this one compared to this others?

BETH: We certainly have. Previously I’ve read The Radleys, The Humans, Echo Boy and his amazing non fiction Reasons To Stay Alive. I think apart from the latter book I mentioned, which really effected me emotionally, How To Stop Time has to be my favourite thing he has ever written. It’s beautifully poignant, I love the characters, especially our main protagonist Tom Hazard and in almost every paragraph, there was a sentence I wanted to fix in my mind forever.

BETH: I fell in love almost immediately with the character of Tom. How well do you think he was drawn by the author?

CHRISSI: I absolutely loved the character of Tom. I think Matt Haig has done an exceptional job of writing his story and creating such an ever so lovable character. I immediately loved Tom and wanted the best for him. I thought he was such a thoughtful, insightful character who was desperate to find that love he once had, even though he’s governed by the rules by those that look out for him. Truly, Matt Haig has created a stunning character.

CHRISSI: Is Tom Hazard’s condition a blessing or a curse? Is a long life always a good life?

BETH: Great question! I think a lot of people would definitely see Tom’s condition as a blessing. He’s got to see some amazing periods of history and meet some fascinating people, William Shakespeare and Captain Cook to name a few. However, as soon as he joins the secret society for others like him, his life becomes even more restricted in a way. He can only spend eight years in a particular place, he has to carry out an assignment for the society after this time and he can never, ever get too close to people or fall in love. I don’t think long life is always a good life, especially if you’re suffering because of it.

BETH: How did Tom’s relationship with Rose suffer because of his condition?

CHRISSI: Tom’s relationship with Rose was my favourite relationship in this story. I think it suffered because Tom knew inevitably that Rose would pass on and he would have to live life without her. *sob* Tom was caught up on the romance with Rose as he wasn’t supposed to fall in love as per the rules of the Albatross Society. Rose was special to him because of their daughter.

CHRISSI: Matt Haig has said that this book was partly inspired by his own experiences of mental illness. In what way has this shaped the novel? What are the consequences for Tom of having a condition that is invisible to the outside world?

BETH: That’s very interesting and I’m such a strong advocate of speaking out about mental illness. Matt opened up and put so much personal stuff in his non-fiction book Reasons To Stay Alive that it must have been quite a difficult writing process and it was nice to see hints of mental turmoil in How To Stop Time. One of the trickiest things for our character Tom is that he is forbidden to get close enough to people to share what he is going through for fear of what people might do to him and indeed, who would ever believe him? At the same time, he has a horrendous time trying to cope, feeling completely out on his own without anyone to talk to and having to move on regularly to prevent people making comments on his lack of ageing.

BETH: The novel is set amidst multiple time periods, did you have a preference for Tom’s story in the past or the present?

CHRISSI: I don’t know what it was about it, but I preferred reading about Tom’s story in the present. I wanted to see what life was like for Tom now. I also loved him being a teacher, being a teacher myself, I always like to read about teachers. His wealth of knowledge as a history teacher must’ve been incredible! I’m envious! 😉

CHRISSI: What made this book stand out for you?

BETH: It was a lot of things I think. It was the gorgeous writing, the beautiful character development and how Matt Haig made me feel so much for Tom and for his situation. Then there’s the way it was set out as different chapters jumped around hundreds of years in Tom’s life where we get a real sense of how much he has seen and how much he has suffered.

BETH: How would you describe this book to a friend? Would you say this was a historical novel, science fiction, literary fiction or something else?

CHRISSI: Oh my goodness, that’s such a hard question because it really is a mixture of all of those things. It’s historical because of the elements of history within its pages. It’s also science fiction, again, because of some of the content. It certainly reads like literary fiction as well (and literary fiction) is not my thing. The something else? Just Matt Haig. Can he be a genre? No? Well, what I mean is that it’s just so lyrically written and so utterly quotable. It’s moving, unique and makes you think deeply about your own life. Written by a true master of his craft!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Without a doubt!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

Banned Books 2018…REVEALED

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Here are 2018’s books that Beth and I will be reading for our Banned Books feature that has been running since July 2014!

JANUARY: Summer Of My German SoldierBette Greene
FEBRUARY: TwilightStephenie Meyer
MARCH: Fallen AngelsWalter Dean Myers
APRIL: Saga Volume 3Brian K.Vaughan and Fiona Staples
MAY: Blood And ChocolateAnnette Curtis Klause
JUNE: Brave New WorldAldous Huxley
JULY: Julie Of The WolvesJean Craighead George
AUGUST: I Am JazzJessica Herthel
SEPTEMBER: Taming The Star RunnerS.E. Hinton
OCTOBER: BelovedToni Morrison
NOVEMBER: King & KingLinda de Haan
DECEMBER: Flashcards Of My LifeCharise Mericle Harper
I’m looking forward to seeing if I agree with the reasons for these books being banned. If you want to have a look at the previous books (42 of them!) that Beth and I have read for this feature, check out the page for Banned Books here on my blog!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Finding Jennifer Jones

Finding Jennifer Jones

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

Kate Rickman seems just like any other nineteen-year-old girl. She goes to university, she dates nice, normal boys and she works in her local tourist office at the weekend. But Kate’s not really normal at all. ‘Kate’ is in fact a carefully constructed facade for a girl called Jennifer Jones – and it’s a facade that’s crumbling fast. Jennifer has spent the last nine years frantically trying to escape from her horrifying past. Increasingly desperate, Jennifer decides to do something drastic. She contacts the only other girl who might understand what she’s dealing with, breaking every rule of her parole along the way. Lucy Bussell is the last person Jennifer expects any sympathy from, but she’s also the last person she has left.

Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Looking For JJ when we read it last year, so I was intrigued to read the sequel. Looking For JJ was a dark and intriguing read. I wondered whether the sequel could possibly match it. I wasn’t disappointed though, even though for me, it didn’t quite match its predecessor!

The story takes place some time after Looking For JJ. JJ is living as Kate and attending University. She lives off campus, has a job and is attempting a normal life after the terrible events that have happened to her. However, Kate is not happy. She’s trying to move on with her life but things keep getting in the way. Nearby, a girl is found after drowning in the sea. Kate has a past and there are things that connect her to the suspected murder. Kate also reaches out to a childhood friend, Lucy, who was also involved in Kate’s past.

I loved reading about the difficulties Kate suffered. That sentence sounds wrong. I don’t like reading about misfortunes, but I appreciate when characters go through hardships after experiencing something awful as that’s real.

Finding Jennifer Jones tied up some loose ends and left me satisfied with how life was going to continue for our main character. I grew to love this character, despite some awful choices that she made. I really enjoy Anne Cassidy’s writing!

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

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Come back to Chrissi Reads on 2nd January 2018 to see the Kid Lit choices for 2018!