Banned Books #37 The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

banned books

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month, Beth and I read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

The Kite Runner

First published: 2003
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.

Synopsis:

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

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

BETH: This book was first published in 2003, which is fourteen years ago (I can hardly believe it!) but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think attitudes have changed that much in that time. I am however interested as to why it took five years to appear on the banned books list (2008) if it was published five years earlier and some people obviously had a problem with it. Hmm…interesting. If anyone has any ideas I’d be intrigued to know! So let’s start to talk about some of the reasons why it has been challenged/banned. Firstly, offensive language. Well, I’m not too easily offended but I can’t really remember any instance of foul language in this novel – if there was, I have clearly forgotten. It certainly wasn’t over-run with expletives in any way, shape or form, I would have remembered that!

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I can’t believe this book was published almost fifteen years ago. I don’t really understand why it was banned several years after it was published. That’s a bit odd to me. To be honest, when we were thinking of the books for the challenge this year, I wanted to read this one to work out why it made the banned/challenged list. I’m still a bit stumped. The language wasn’t that offensive. I guess the sexual content could be a bit much for some, but I don’t think this book is necessarily aimed at younger readers.

How about now?

BETH: In my opinion, there is no reason on earth why this book should be challenged or banned in 2017. When I read our banned books, I tend not to look at the reasons they were banned until I come to write these answers, I like to try and figure it out myself while I’m reading the story. When I was reading it, I was struggling to be honest and the only thing I could come up with was the ONE sexual scene which is not overly graphic (but is still quite horrific, I have to admit) and then I thought, perhaps there was a bit of a problem with the religious aspects? This isn’t my view, I hasten to add. Reading the last reason though has me completely stumped. Unsuited for age group?? I’ve been struggling with trying to research this on the web but I don’t think this book is actually aimed at younger readers anyway. The violence and sex scene may be inappropriate for youngsters but I think older teenagers would get a lot from a book like this. 

CHRISSI: I really don’t think it should be challenged or banned in 2017. There is definitely a lot more explicit content out there. I think Young Adults could gain a lot from this book. I think it’s incredibly educative and something that shouldn’t be challenged at all. I certainly think it has a place in a high school/college library, with just a recommendation that their is some sensitive content within the story (some violence/sex scene).

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’ve actually read this book before and have written a longer review of it on my blog. I gave it five stars when I read it three years ago and I give it five stars today. It’s a hugely important and emotional story about friendship, family and war that taught me a lot when I first read it and reminded me of a lot of things I had forgotten when I read it for a second time. Everyone should read it!

CHRISSI: This isn’t the first time I’ve read this book. It was interesting to read it back once more. I initially gave this book five stars, but I would say it’s a strong four for me as a reread. I think it’s so beautifully written and an incredibly emotional, moving read. I think it’s such an important book!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

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Blog Tour- The Witchfinder’s Sister

The Witchfinder's Sister

How did I get it?:
I received it from the publisher for the blog tour! Thank you to Penguin Random House

Synopsis:

The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

Thoughts:

I didn’t know much about this book before I was asked to be a part of the blog tour. I really liked the sound of it though. I absolutely love historical fiction and this one looked like it was going to be great.

This book is set in 1645, it centres around Alice Hopkins who returns to Manningtree, Essex when her husband dies. Alice’s brother Matthew still lives there. It used to be a safe place for Alice and her family, but Matthew has changed. There’s rumours of witchcraft in the local area and Alice finds out that Matthew is collecting women’s names in a book. Names of women he believes are using witchcraft. Alice finds herself at the heart of Matthew’s obsession.

I really enjoyed the first part of the book which I found to be incredibly intriguing. I immediately wanted to know more about the characters and to find out what was going to happen next. I was turning the pages completely sucked in by the setting. I found it fascinating to think that Matthew actually existed. That’s what really added to the story, in my opinion. It equally creeped me out at the same time! I love when books are based around fact.

I liked the way that Beth Underdown approached this story. She particularly delved into the character of Alice, exploring Alice’s struggles in her life so far. It was interesting to read her interpretation of what Matthew’s sister may have been like (if he had a sister, I’m not sure!) I thought that The Witchfinder’s Sister was a good read which explores a well known part of history in an engaging way.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A fantastic debut novel with some great characters!

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Margot & Me

Margot & Me

How did I get it?:
I received a copy from Hot Key Books/Bonnier- big thanks to them!

Synopsis:

Sometimes love has to cross all kinds of barriers . . .

Fliss is on the way to visit her grandmother in Wales – the grandmother who she doesn’t get on with – with her mother who is recuperating from chemotherapy. But her mum is getting better, that’s the main thing, so Fliss can concentrate on being grouchy and not looking forward to meeting her grandmother Margot, who is so cold and always so unforgiving of Fliss’s every mistake . . . But when the six months is up, Fliss consoles herself, she and her mum will go back to London and back to Real Life!

In the meantime Fliss needs to get used to her new school, not upset the scary girls, and just keep her head down (whilst still making sure that everybody knows she is from London, of course). Then Fliss discovers a diary at the back of her bookcase. It is from the 1940s and is set in World War II, and, Fliss realises, is actually Margot’s diary from when she was a young woman during the Blitz. Intrigued, Fliss begins to read. There she discovers a whole new side to Margot, a wartime romance and also Margot’s deepest, most buried secret. And it is then that Fliss discovers something terrible in her own life that she is going to have to come to terms with…

Previously reviewed by Juno Dawson (under James Dawson):
Hollow Pike
Cruel Summer
Say Her Name
This Book Is Gay
Under My Skin
All Of The Above
Mind Your Head

Thoughts:

I’m a big fan of Juno’s writing, so I was happy to get a copy of her new book! Margot & Me feels slightly different to the author’s previous books, but it’s wonderful all the same. I always know I’m getting a decent read when I pick up a Juno book and this book didn’t let me down.

It centres around Fliss who lives in London. Fliss and her mother move to her grandmother Margot’s farm in Wales for some rest. Fliss hates the country life but her mother needs some time to recuperate as she is in remission from cancer. Life is very dull until Fliss finds a wartime journal. It belongs to her grandmother. Fliss finds herself getting to know her grandmother in a way that she never expected. Margot used to live in London but was evacuated to Wales after the Blitz. Fliss is desperate to find something incriminating in the journal, but she finds herself bonding with the young Margot.  The journal excites Fliss. There’s so much intrigue, friendship, mystery and romance, made even more intense by the war going on at the time. Fliss is engrossed and really immerses herself in her grandmother’s past.

I absolutely loved this book because it had an incredible amount of depth. There was some humour as well which was much needed in a very emotional story. I loved the detail to the eras, especially the mention of some ’90s gems. I felt like I got a great sense of young Margot’s era as well due to the journal entries which were a fabulous addition to the story.

Margot & Me really touched me. It had such lovely moments throughout and it didn’t take me long to devour. Yay for Juno Dawson, I say!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Another fantastic book by Juno Dawson! Highly recommended. 

Early One Morning

Early One Morning

How did I get it?
It was a gift purchased as part of a reading year from Mr B’s Emporium.

Synopsis:

Chiara Ravello is about to flee occupied Rome when she locks eyes with a woman being herded on to a truck with her family.

Claiming the woman’s son, Daniele, as her own nephew, Chiara demands his return; only as the trucks depart does she realize what she has done. She is twenty-seven, with a sister who needs her constant care, a hazardous journey ahead, and now a child in her charge.

Several decades later, Chiara lives alone in Rome, a self-contained woman working as a translator. Always in the background is the shadow of Daniele, whose absence and the havoc he wrought on Chiara’s world haunt her. Then she receives a phone call from a teenager claiming to be his daughter, and Chiara knows it is time to face up to the past.

Thoughts:

This book was the first choice in my Mr B’s Reading Year subscription. I don’t think it’s a book I would have necessarily picked up by myself, but I’m thrilled that Emma, my bibliotherapist did. I thought it was an incredibly well written book which I devoured in next to no time.

I absolutely loved the beginning, where my heart was captured right from the start. It involves two women who have never come across each other before and a silent agreement. One of the women takes the others young boy. The book is set in 1943, where the Nazi’s were rounding up the Jews in Italy. Young Daniele Levi’s mother gives her son away in order to save them. He gives them to Chiara, a woman who is part of the resistance movement. I thought this book was going to be more about the Nazi/Jews but it really wasn’t. It was about a wonderful character.

The story continues and follows Daniele and Chiara’s life. Daniele is not an easy child. Firstly, he doesn’t speak and then in his teenage life he gives her a hard time. As an adult, Daniele struggles with drug addiction.

Chiara is a fantastic character and this story really is all about her life. We see her care for her ill sister and then experience her struggles with Daniele and the mess his drug addiction puts her in. It also involves a character called Maria, who finds out that Daniele is her biological father. Chiara and Maria connect whilst Maria tries to work out who she is.

This book surprised me. It gripped me from the start and made me feel for the characters. It’s a story about strength, identity, forgiveness and love. I couldn’t put it down!.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderful story. Highly recommended!

The Girl In The Blue Coat

The Girl in the Blue Coat

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Stray

Synopsis:

An unforgettable story of bravery, grief, and love in impossible times

The missing girl is Jewish. I need you to find her before the Nazis do.

Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person–a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.

Thoughts:

There’s something about World War II books that really intrigue me. I find them so desperately sad, but at the same time I love to read about that time period, especially when delivered in a sensitive yet believable manner. These books always tug at my heart-strings and this book really was no exception.

The Girl In The Blue Coat follows our protagonist Hanneke. Hanneke has experienced great loss as she has lost her boyfriend who was a soldier during the German invasion of Amsterdam. Hanneke feels guilty because she convinced him to enlist. Hanneke feels empty without her first love so she throws herself into supporting her family. Hanneke begins to work in the black market, getting items for her neighbours and selling them on. As the story progresses, Hanneke becomes a part of the Resistance, beginning to help others and alongside this Hanneke begins a search for a girl in the blue coat (a young Jewish girl that a neightbour was hiding!)

Hanneke is such a great character. I loved reading about her because she was so headstrong. I really liked that there wasn’t anything stand out about Hanneke. She could easily have been anyone. That’s what makes her such a special character. She’s ordinary, yet does incredibly brave things for others. There are fascinating characters throughout which makes The Girl In The Blue Coat a pleasure to read.

Monica Hesse has clearly done her research when it comes to subject matter. Everything was so realistic and I feel like she captured the time period perfectly.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A well researched, thought out YA historical read!

V is for Violet

V for Violet

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Hot Key Books

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Quietness
The Madness
The Beloved

Synopsis:

Battersea, 1961. London is just beginning to enter the swinging sixties. The world is changing – but not for sixteen-year-old Violet. She was born at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced Victory in Europe – an auspicious start, but now she’s just stuck in her family’s fish and chip shop dreaming of greatness. And it doesn’t look like fame and fortune are going to come calling anytime soon. Then she meets Beau. Beau’s a rocker – a motorcycle boy who arrives in an explosion of passion and rebellion. He blows up Violet’s grey little life, and she can’t believe her luck. But things don’t go her way for long. Joseph, her long-lost brother, comes home. Then young girls start going missing, and turning up murdered. And then Violet’s best friend disappears too. Suddenly life is horrifyingly much more interesting. Violet can’t believe its coincidence that Joseph turns up just as girls start getting murdered. He’s weird, and she feels sure he’s hiding something. He’s got a secret, and Violet’s got a dreadful feeling it might be the worst kind of secret of all…

Thoughts:

I am unashamedly a massive fan of Alison Rattle’s writing. Seriously. I can’t get enough. I devour (and love) everything that she has come out with. When I first heard about V is for Violet, I didn’t even need to read the synopsis, if I’m totally honest. It was a no brainer. She’s an autobuy author. I just NEED to read her books and love when I get the opportunity to read them before they’re released. Fangirling aside, I shall try and put some coherent thoughts down for you.

V is for Violet is set in Battersea in the 1960s.  It’s quite a bleak time for Violet and her family. Violet’s family lost their first born son when he went missing during the war. Violet has just left school and instead of following her friend, Jackie into a career at a sugar factory, Violet is made to work in the family fish and chip shop. Not the most exciting job. Violet feels like she’s losing Jackie. Jackie is growing up and doing things that she always promised she’d do with Violet. Jackie’s becoming really popular and Violet believes she’s lagging behind. Then girls of around Violet’s age begin to go missing and then their bodies turn up. There’s a murderer out on the loose and when Violet’s brother, Joseph, returns to the family home, Violet begins to suspect something.

As always with Alison Rattle books I absolutely adored the characters. Violet is such a brilliant protagonist. I imeediately liked her, warmed to her and wanted the best for her. I felt for her as she tried to create an identity that was much more than the dutiful daughter who would work in the family business. She didn’t want to be like her sister Norma. Norma seemed too old for her age and was married to an incredibly boring man. I adored the introduction of Beau who was a complete contrast to Violet. He was a biker bad boy and so different to Violet. He really spiced up her seemingly dull life. There are elements of mystery within this book which I absolutely adored. It was never clear cut who the murderer was, which I really appreciated. Twists and turns aplenty. I like!

Again, with Alison Rattle’s writing, you can guarantee that there will be great atmosphere and build up. I seriously don’t know how she does it. She’s a genius, but I always feel like I’m IN the book watching the story unfold. Her books may be marketed at Young Adult, but I truly believe you can enjoy Alison’s writing no matter what age you are. She has a way with words and really should be read more!

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

Another gem from one of my favourite writers. READ IT!

Always Emily

Always Emily

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Luna’s Little Library

Synopsis:

Emily and Charlotte Brontë are about as opposite as two sisters can be. Charlotte is practical and cautious; Emily is headstrong and imaginative. But they do have one thing in common: a love of writing. This shared passion will lead them to be two of the first published female novelists and authors of several enduring works of classic literature. But they’re not there yet. First, they have to figure out if there is a connection between a string of local burglaries, rumors that a neighbor’s death may not have been accidental, and the appearance on the moors of a mysterious and handsome stranger. The girls have a lot of knots to untangle—before someone else gets killed.

Thoughts:

I have to admit that it is purely the synopsis that drew me to this book. Am I a bad bookworm if I also admit that I’m not a massive fan of the Brontë sisters? I try to read classics, but they just don’t work for me! I’m sorry! I did find Always Emily fascinating though. It’s even making me wonder if I should give these classics another try. I think Michaela MacColl has written a brilliant book which is still an interesting read for those that aren’t hardcore Brontë fans.

Always Emily centres around Charlotte and Emily. Charlotte and Emily have lost their older sisters. Charlotte now is the oldest sister and really tries to control her sister. Charlotte is responsible, practical and cautious. Emily couldn’t be more different. She’s imaginative, wild and stubborn. The two sisters care for one another, but their differing personalities mean they clash quite frequently. A series of events brings the sisters together as they try to solve a mystery…

I thought the mystery element of the book was good and gripping, but it wasn’t overly memorable or the best part of the book. I much more enjoyed reading about the relationship between the siblings. I think the best part is how Charlotte and Emily have come to life in this story. Almost Emily is well researched and beautifully written.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

A book that can be enjoyed whether you’re a die hard fan of the Brontë sisters or not!