Banned Books #63- The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

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For October’s Banned Books (late again!), we read The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
First published: 1884
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2002 (source)
Reasons: offensive language

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

BETH: I can probably speak for my sister right now and confirm that Huckleberry Finn was a bit of a tricky book for us both to read and analyse. Full disclosure right now – I didn’t manage to finish it so this post is being written without having read to the end. I can only report back on the small portion that I did manage to read. Personally, I think that the reasoning for challenging or banning should be a little more specific – in my opinion, “offensive language” is slightly vague and does not get to the real heart of the matter that this book covers. After a little internet searching and my limited experience of the book, I found it was mainly the racist terms/attitudes and the dialect used by the main character that were most offensive. As someone who finds these kind of things abhorrent obviously I don’t agree with it but I can also understand that this book is probably a product of its time. Not that it makes it acceptable, it doesn’t! However, I think we still need to read about the past to appreciate where we need to be in the future.

CHRISSI: This was a struggle to read and finish. Like Beth, I didn’t manage to finish this book and found myself skim reading. For me, I found the racist attitudes hard to read and it made me uncomfortable. Therefore from that side of things, I do understand why this book might be challenged. Although I think it’s more likely to be challenged nowadays when the type of language isn’t seen as acceptable.

How about now?

BETH: This novel was challenged/banned as recently as 2002 which makes me believe that some readers are quite rightly upset by its contents – particularly the language that is used. As a white person, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to fully appreciate how upsetting that might be but I can acknowledge why people would be offended. From my point of view, I think if a book is presented in the right way i.e. taught that this kind of language is no longer acceptable then those studying it can always learn something from it to build a better future without racism or discrimination. I think everyone should have access to all literature – no matter what the issue, purely for the chance to learn. If things are hidden away or restricted, understanding abhorrent attitudes will be slightly more difficult.

CHRISSI: I can totally understand why this book has been challenged in recent times. The language used is completely offensive. However, I agree with Beth, if this book is used to examine how things used to be- then I can totally see its worth. I know many people have enjoyed this book, so there’s surely something about it!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately as mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, I didn’t get on with Huckleberry Finn. It wasn’t that I was offended by the language – although some of the attitudes did make me cross but I found it slow and difficult to read. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters or feel invested in the plot.

CHRISSI: I wasn’t a fan of it. I didn’t finish it because I found it difficult to read. It hasn’t been the first time I’ve tried to read this book. I see so many people loving this book and it’s really not for me. I just can’t get into the plot, no matter how hard I try!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Not sure.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

Banned Books #62- The Hunger Games

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Welcome to a very late September post for Banned Books. In September, we read The Hunger Games. 

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
First published: 2008
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2010 (source)
Reasons: sexually explicit, 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: It’s strange to think that it’s been over ten years since The Hunger Games was first published. I still count it as a relatively recent release but it’s crazy to see how the time has flown and how much has changed in the world since it first came out. The Hunger Games is an interesting one when it comes to banning books. One on hand, you can see why some people might have a problem with it – the theme of multiple teenagers fighting to the death in an arena with one survivor might not be to everyone’s taste. I have to agree that there is violence and of course, quite a few nasty deaths but when it was challenged in 2010 I don’t think this was anything remarkable or unique from what readers could find elsewhere, especially with the advent of the internet and social media.

CHRISSI: I can’t believe it’s been so long since it was released! This is one of those books where I can sort of understand why it’s banned. However, this book was never marketed as a child’s book. It’s in the Young Adult genre and I’m pretty sure that most young adults can deal with the content in The Hunger Games and much more besides. Sometimes real life can feel just as scary (although hopefully nowhere near as violent!)

How about now?

BETH: For the most part, I don’t think there’s any need to challenge The Hunger Games for the reasons that it is sexually explicit or unsuited to the age group. Firstly, Katniss lies down with Peeta (to keep warm I hasten to add!) and has a bit of a kiss and a cuddle. I really don’t see anything terrible about that. Particularly as this IS a young adult novel and a large proportion of that audience hanker after a bit of romance and a sympathetic male lead. Whilst we’re on the topic of young adult fiction I don’t see why it’s inappropriate for the age group. I agree the story is incredibly brutal and horrific in points but when are we going to stop wrapping kids in cotton wool and shielding them from all the bad stuff in the world? No, The Hunger Games isn’t a part of real life (thank goodness!) but that’s precisely my point. It’s a fantastical world that we can escape from whenever we like – we just have to put down the book or never pick it up in the first place. No one is forcing anyone to read it, it’s personal choice. It may be unsuitable for younger readers, that’s true but that’s exactly why it’s labelled as YOUNG ADULT FICTION.

CHRISSI: I think there are far more violent games, stories and films on the internet. Yes, the subject matter is intense and it’s not exactly ‘nice’. Yet I can guarantee that every young adult that reads this book will know it’s not real life and will be able to handle a bit of escapism. I mean, come on! In my opinion, although it’s not fluffy content and it is tough and violent, it’s fiction and people know that!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I loved The Hunger Games when I first read it and I still love it every time I crack it open again. It’s not just a tale about fighting, violence and terrible deaths. It’s a coming of age story about loyalty, love, friendship, family and justice and the lengths someone will go to in order to protect everything they hold dear. It looks at a regime that has frightening echoes of things happening right now across our own world and it’s about real people who go above and beyond in the bravery to try and survive. I’ll always be a fan.

CHRISSI: I really enjoy this book every time I revisit it. I love the story line and think the characters are awesome. It’s a story I can take something from each time. I’d highly recommend it, if you haven’t had the chance to read it yet.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Royal Rabbits Of London (Royal Rabbits of London #1)

The Royal Rabbits Of London

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Life is an adventure. Anything in the world is possible – by will and by luck, with a moist carrot, a wet nose and a slice of mad courage!

Shylo has always been the runt of the litter, the weakest and queitest of all of his family, his siblings spend their days making fun of him for not being like the rest of them. But when Shylo stumbles across a band of ratzis and overhears their evil plan to take a photo of the Queen in her nightie, it’s up to this unlikely hero to travel to London and inform the Royal Rabbits of London about the diabolicial plot! The Royal Rabbits of London have a proud history of protecting the royal family and now the secret society need to leap into action to stop the ratzis… But can a rabbit as feeble and shy as Shylo convince them that Queen is in danger?

Thoughts:

Oh my goodness, this is such a cute book! So cute that I immediately took it into my classroom library ready for my class to enjoy this coming school year.

It centres around rabbits (which are my favourite animals!). Our main character is Shylo, a pretty weak member of his family. His siblings spend most of their time making fun of him for not being as strong as them. Shylo comes across a band of ratzis who are determined to take a photo of the Queen in her nightie. How scandalous! It is up to Shylo, to travel to London to make the Royal Rabbits of London aware of this terrible plot. The Royal Rabbits of London protect the royal family and they need to come up with a plan to protect the Queen… if they believe a meek rabbit like Shylo!

Shylo is such an adorable character and a wonderful role model for young children. Even though he is constantly mocked, he rises above and finds inner strength to save the Queen from a terrible plot. I loved the illustrations, the story line and the perfect balance of adventure and humour. I think it’s one that can be enjoyed by adults and by children. I thought it was utterly adorable.

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 (September):
I Capture The Castle- Dodie Smith

Banned Books #60- Arming America: The Origin Of A National Gun Culture

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Welcome to the 60th edition of Banned Books! Wow. 60! This month we read Arming America: The Origin Of A National Gun Culture.

Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture

First published: 2000
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2003 (source)
Reasons: inaccuracy

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

BETH: Full disclosure time – I haven’t had a chance to finish this book. To be perfectly honest, I did give it a shot and found it so dry and difficult to read. Additionally, even if I was reading this off my own back and not for our Banned Books Challenge I would have still DNF’d it halfway through the first chapter. I have however done a little bit of research on this book as I was still intrigued to find out why exactly it was banned. Like all of our banned books I go into it blind without finding out the reasons for challenging but you always have preconceptions about these kinds of things and initially I was certain it was going to be because of the mention of guns and potentially, violence.

Once again I was completely wrong – the actual reason is inaccuracy which has to be one of the most curious arguments I’ve heard yet for challenging a book and definitely made me want to find out more! Of course, inaccuracy in a work of non-fiction is never a good thing, especially when you’re writing information for your reader that they presume to be entirely factual. As I’m not an expert on this field though, I’d hesitate to offer my opinion on the matter.

CHRISSI: I have to admit, like Beth did, I didn’t read all of this book. It was a beast of a book at over 600 pages long. I was really confused to find out the reason why it was banned was inaccuracy? What? I thought it would be because it was violent subject matter. Very confusing. If you’ve read this book all the way through, please tell us if there’s something that we’re missing?

How about now?

BETH: The uproar behind the publication of this book appears to centre around parts of the author’s research being completely fabricated. It certainly has one of the lowest readings I’ve ever seen on Goodreads – 2.89 which made me slightly concerned to read it before I had even begun, I have to admit. It seems that the original Bancroft Prize which was awarded to this book was taken away, the first time in the prize’s history that it has been revoked and Bellesiles had to resign from his post at Emory University after “blistering criticism by a blue-ribbon panel.” The edition of Arming America I read had a new introduction by the author where he offered explanations behind his research in the original edition and that he had made changes in this edition where necessary. As I mentioned before, I’m not an expert in this field so can’t possibly comment on what he did or didn’t do wrong but I could understand readers becoming angry if they felt they were misled or in receipt of false information. For further information, I found this article quite interesting: http://hnn.us/articles/1185.html

CHRISSI: I can understand why this book has been banned if there was stuff in it that is fabricated and that could cause more damage. I doubt anyone wants untruths out there in a work of non-fiction. So although I don’t think inaccuracies is a good enough reason to ban a book, I can see why they did?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’m afraid this book just wasn’t for me. I have quite strong opinions on guns anyway as a pacifist, but do respect other people’s points of view if they differ from my own. I’m a fan of non-fiction generally but sitting down with this book unfortunately felt like a chore rather than a pleasure. It’s a shame to say that I was quite relieved to make the decision to DNF it.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, this book wasn’t for me. I wasn’t impressed with the writing and it didn’t grip me like I wanted it to. The size of the book was intimidating and I found the writing was rather dry for my liking.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

Banned Books #58- We All Fall Down

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Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier.

We All Fall Down

We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
First published: 1991
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2003 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, sexual content.

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

BETH: I never usually understand any reason for a book being challenged/banned, no matter what year it was raised in. I can think of occasional books where access should perhaps be restricted in a school library setting for very young children but generally, I think people should be free to read whatever they like, particularly if there’s not a solid reason for the challenging or banning. This book was published in the early nineties and although it’s slightly dated, I feel that it could still be read right now without any difficulty. As always, I get a bit dumbfounded about the issues that were raised. I think this is meant to be a work of young adult fiction, so for the age group it’s aimed at, I do think there shouldn’t be too many problems. I don’t think there’s too many incidences of offensive language – certainly nothing I found offensive anyway but I do appreciate that people are different and may be more sensitive to those aspects.

CHRISSI: I didn’t think the language in this book was overly offensive. When it’s aimed at young adults, we really need to stop thinking that they can’t handle offensive language. I’m pretty sure most young adults use offensive language. It’s everywhere! Film, TV, books, family members and peers… why should we challenge a book due to offensive language? I do think there are some moments in the book that is quite heavy going, so I think if this book was in a school library, it should have an age range on it. It’s really down to individual discretion, I think and guidance from teachers/librarians if it’s in a school.

How about now?

BETH: The fact that this book was still on the list for 2003 blows my mind a little bit. There is a bit of sexual content (although it isn’t graphic) but could still upset readers so they should perhaps be aware of that. I find it very strange though that I always try and guess the reasons for challenging a book and more often than not, I’m usually wrong. I anticipated that people would have problems with the level of violence that is used in this novel and that isn’t mentioned at all. However, I do stand by what I said in my previous answer – it’s meant to be young adult fiction and I think it is probably okay to be read by that particular age group.

CHRISSI: I have definitely read more explicit books in the YA genre than this. Like Beth, I thought the violence would be a bit of an issue, but it’s not mentioned in the reasons for challenging this book. I don’t see why it was challenged in 2003. There’s definitely more to be worried about than a book like this. As I mentioned in my previous answer, it should be restricted access to the YA age range.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This book left me a bit surprised, to be honest. It’s only 200 pages so didn’t take me that long to read and I fairly flew through it as it was quite action-packed. I was intrigued by the story-line, the devastation that a family go through after their property is violated, leaving one of their daughters in hospital. I was also curious about the part of the plot that involved The Avenger and how that ended up being resolved, which was very much “heart in the mouth,” kind of stuff. I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did!

CHRISSI: I flew through this book. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. It does seem a little bit dated having being published in the 90s, but it was still highly enjoyable and so easy to read. There was a great amount of intrigue that kept me turning the pages!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Daisy Jones & The Six *Buddy review with Bibliobeth*

Daisy Jones and The Six

How did I get it?:

I bought it!

Synopsis:

For a while, Daisy Jones & The Six were everywhere. Their albums were on every turntable, they sold out arenas from coast to coast, their sound defined an era. And then, on 12 July 1979, they split. Nobody ever knew why. Until now. They were lovers and friends and brothers and rivals. They couldn’t believe their luck, until it ran out. This is their story of the early days and the wild nights, but everyone remembers the truth differently. The only thing they all know for sure is that from the moment Daisy Jones walked barefoot onstage at the Whisky, their lives were irrevocably changed. Making music is never just about the music. And sometimes it can be hard to tell where the sound stops and the feelings begin.

Thoughts:

When I recently got a copy of Daisy Jones & The Six Beth suggested that we buddy read it. We usually don’t buddy read, but I thought I’d go for it this time, especially as it was during my 2 week break. I had time to commit to reading which is just fabulous. I enjoyed my buddy reading experience. Whilst I don’t think I could read our books like this all the time (hoorah for Talking About, Kid-Lit and Banned Books- our other features!) buddy reading will be happening again.

We wanted something different to differentiate this review from the others that we do. Beth came up with the idea to describe the book using the first letters of Daisy Jones… I thought that sounded fun and unique, so here it is!

Drug dabbling- (look at that alliteration!)- This book is based in an era where drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were definitely a think. Be prepared to read about a lot of drug use.

Absorbing- the way in which the story is told completely pulls you in. It’s very unique.

Immortal- I feel like Daisy felt she was immortal. The music of the band will always keep them alive, but I always felt like she was dabbling with her mortality with every drug binge.

Savage- Without spoilers, I felt like some of the characters’ actions were savage although sometimes necessary… Ooh intriguing!

Young- I felt for Daisy all through the book. I think the lack of love she had from a young age contributed to her troubles.

Jealous- Initially, I thought there might be a lot of jealousy in the story. I think there’s elements of jealousy, but I was surprised at how accommodating some of the characters were… No spoilers 😉 Sorry!

Obvious- Beth and I were texting at various stop points and although we partly guessed what might happen, we didn’t fully get it right. I like that the story isn’t that obvious. I think because there was such a twist on Evelyn Hugo we expected the unexpected?

Notable- This book felt like it was real. It did feel like this band existed and were reading an expose.

Effortless- Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing seems effortless, (even though I’m sure she puts lots of effort into writing beautifully!) it’s just so seamless and easy to devour.

Satisfying- I’ve ended both Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & The Six feeling very satisfied. I’m now sure I want to read more from this author!

Please go and check Beth’s take on this book by visiting her blog, HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

Without a doubt!

Talking About ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ with Bibliobeth!

Nine Perfect Strangers

How did I get it?:

I bought it!

Synopsis:

One house. Nine strangers. Ten days that will change everything . . .

The retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation.

Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages.

Miles from anywhere, without cars or phones, they have no way to reach the outside world. Just time to think about themselves, and get to know each other.

Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission. But quite a different one from any the guests might have imagined.

For behind the retreat’s glamorous facade lies a dark agenda.

These nine perfect strangers have no idea what’s about to hit them . . .

CHRISSI: There’s been mixed reviews of this book. Did that affect your opinion going into the story?

BETH: I hadn’t actually realised there had been mixed reviews until you told me – haha! I’m a huge fan of Liane Moriarty although I’ve only managed to read a couple of her books – the incredible Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret (although I have Truly Madly Guilty on my shelves). I have to be honest and say that because of that, I probably look at the author’s work through rose-tinted glasses and was determined to keep an open mind, ignore the haters and try and make up my own mind about the novel as I read my way through.

BETH: I found Moriarty’s dry wit brought something a bit more interesting to this story. Do you agree?

CHRISSI: Interesting question. I think without dry wit this book would have puzzled me even more. I think it made the story more cold? If that makes sense. It wasn’t a heart-warming story. It was almost clinical for me. I hope that makes sense, I know what I mean. I felt like the way in which the book was written, didn’t really make you feel for the characters. It was almost like Liane Moriarty was making fun of her own characters.

CHRISSI: Why do you think the author chose to tell this story through multiple perspectives? How would it have changed your view of each of the characters if the story had been told through just one voice?

BETH: I always love a story told through multiple perspectives. You get a much more rounded view of the situation as it happens and a true view of each individual personality. I think if it had been told through one voice, you would have that individual bias of how just one character saw a situation and other people around them. It does make it more exciting too – especially if you’re not a fan of a particular individual but you’re keen to get back to another one’s point of view.

BETH: Who was your favourite character in Nine Perfect Strangers and why?

CHRISSI: Oh wow. This is a tough question because like I said in my previous answer to your question, I felt like I didn’t feel for any of the characters. That disengagement meant that I didn’t have a favourite character. I guess, if I had to pick I would pick Yao because I found him the most intriguing.

CHRISSI: Discuss the pros and cons of the retreat’s ban on technology and social media. What do you think the author is saying about the effects they have on society?

BETH: I’m not sure about the author’s personal views on social media and technology but I find it crazy sometimes how much they take over our lives. Obviously having blogs, we probably spend a good deal of our free time on social media. I know I post a lot on Instagram, try to blog hop every day and re-tweet other bloggers posts every day but I can also remember a time when we didn’t have the internet and I got my kicks by watching Top Of The Pops on a weekday night and recording the TOP 40 off the radio on Sunday afternoons! In a way, the fact that we have constant access to information (and funny animal videos which I have a particular fondness for!!) has isolated us slightly from those around us and I do try to restrict the time I spend on my phone and have normal, face to face conversations too. From the point of view of Nine Perfect Strangers though, it is fascinating to watch how individuals cope when these things we now take for granted are taken away from them.

BETH: I sympathise with your struggle to give this book a rating. Why do you think you’re torn in this way?

CHRISSI: I think it’s because I wanted to love it. I love Liane Moriarty’s writing and I know she is highly thought of. I also really enjoy reading her ideas. I just felt for me this book was too ridiculous and unbelievable. Not every book has to be believable, but something like this got too far fetched for me. I wanted to love it, I didn’t hate it…so I’m somewhere in-between. I think if I could have connected with the characters, then it might have been completely different.

CHRISSI: Would you ever go on a retreat like Tranquillum House? Why/Why not?

BETH: Maybe not EXACTLY like Tranquillum House haha. However, I could see myself doing something like this. I love the idea of getting away from the world and learning new techniques to relax. As long as I had a big pile of books to accompany me, I think I would quite enjoy a retreat like this. For now, I’ll take pleasure in my reading holidays to Malta with you my sister! 🙂

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes! I do like her writing and I’m not put off at all.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Yes! 3.5 stars!

CHRISSI: Yes?