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!

Shelfie By Shelfie #2

I decided to complete another one of my book shelves for Beth’s Shelfie by Shelfie book tag.

The idea of the tag is that you share a picture (‘shelfie’) of one of your shelves and then answer some questions about them.

1.) Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

It’s a bit of a random one but it does have some reasoning behind it. My Harry Potter books and Fantastic Beasts are on this shelf. On this shelf are:

  • Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone
  • Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire
  • Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows
  • The Tales of Beedle The Bard
  • Harry Potter and The Cursed Child
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them- Magical Movie Handbook

Then there’s some random ones

  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  • Paradiso
  • Grimm Tales
  • Roald Dahl Whizzpopping Joke Book
  • Vegetarian recipes (!!!)

2.) Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you i.e. how you got it/ a memory associated with it etc.

These books are pretty special but I’ll talk about the first 4 Harry Potter books. My mum bought the box set to read to my cousin when he was in hospital with a brain injury. She brought the books back with her when he was better and gave them to me. This started my Harry Potter love.

3.) Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

Vegetarian recipes! Ha. I don’t even know why that’s there. I am a vegetarian and know quite a few good recipes now.

4.) Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

Ooh tough. I’d love to save Harry Potter, but I guess that’s easily replaceable. Most are. I do love my Hugo Cabret book though and don’t want to go lugging that around if I had to replace it. So I’d save that one because it’s a stunning read.

5.) Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

The first 4 Harry Potter books.

6.) Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

7.) Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. I’m re-reading it soon as part of a Harry Potter re-read.

8.) If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

Also on the shelf are Roald Dahl postcards. I sent my current class a postcard to their home address before they started with me in September. The painting is from a child, that I taught during my first teaching placement (in Year 4- 8-9 years old) as a trainee teacher. After my 6 week placement, she handed me the painting as a leaving gift. She was so quiet and went under the radar, but I clearly made an impact. This painting means a lot to me!

9.) What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

That I like Harry Potter?

10.) Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

There’s so many that I’d like to tag, so I’d just say if you want to do it, please do and leave me a link if you do! 🙂

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!

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- 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