I Let Him Go- From The Mother Of James Bulger

I Let Him Go: From the mother of James Bulger

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

On 12th February 1993, Denise Fergus’ life changed forever. As she was running errands at New Strand Shopping Centre, she let go of her two-year-old son’s hand for a few seconds to take out her purse. Denise never saw her son again.

For the first time since that moment 25 years ago, Denise tells her extraordinary story in this heart-wrenching book, an unflinching account of that terrible day. What if she had never taken James shopping? What if she had turned right coming out of the butcher’s, instead of left? Denise’s initial hope after seeing her son on CCTV with other children quickly turned to devastation when, two days later, James’ body was found.

His death reverberated around the world and his killers became the youngest ever convicted murderers in UK legal history. Four minutes is all it took for them to lead James away from his mother to his death. Denise took up a tortuous legal battle for James, and it was her astonishing strength and love for her son that ultimately helped to change the way the law treats victims of crime.

This is a mother’s tale of finding a way through the despair to remember the happiness and wonderful memories that James brought his family. Above all, Denise doesn’t want her son to be remembered as a murdered child, and with this beautifully written book, she does just that.

Thoughts:

This was an incredibly tough book to read. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a book on such a sad subject, but I decided to give it go after reading some wonderful reviews. I Let Him Go is all about how Denise and her family coped after the brutal murder of her son, James Bulger. I’m not a mother, but this book completely broke my heart. I can’t even imagine the pain Denise and her family went through. It’s terrifying. It seriously is one of the most horrific crimes against a child in U.K history.

As you read Denise’s thoughts you realise that she doesn’t ever try to analyse the whys of the terrible crime. She never asks herself why the killers did what they did. Instead she focuses on what James was like in the short time he was in her life. She discusses her family and how they dealt with the terrible tragedy. I was blown away by her strength especially through her dealings with the legal system.

I haven’t read much about Denise before this book, but as I understand it a lot of false claims have been made about her. I liked reading her point of view on what happened. After all, Denise was there when James was taken away. I don’t think she’ll ever forgive herself for letting go of his hand but I love how she’s determined to keep his memory alive. The James she knew and loved. She didn’t concern herself with details about his murder.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!- Obviously, this a tough read with very sad subject matter. It may not be for everyone.

A heart-breaking read!

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Honor Girl

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir

How did I get it?:
I received it from Walker Books, many thanks to them!

Synopsis:

Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.

Thoughts:

I have really got into graphic novels over the past year or so. When I had the opportunity to get my hands on a copy of this book from Walker Books, I jumped at the chance. I was especially intrigued because it was a memoir. That’s another one of my favourite things in a book. It didn’t take me long to read this book at all and I really appreciated that it wasn’t a happily ever after ending.

Honor Girl is all about summer camp and crushes. It’s totally adorable. I really enjoyed following Maggie’s story. It feels odd to say that when this is actually Maggie’s memoir. The graphic memoir pinpoints a moment at summer camp when Maggie had just realised she’s gay and she’s got a major crush on a camp counsellor called Erin. Maggie is trying to work through her feelings and spend some time with Erin at the same time. It’s ever so cute and a little frustrating at points. One of those moments when you just want to force two characters (people?) together. I liked that Maggie had a supportive friend that teased but supported her at the same time. The friendship was adorable and relatable.

Honor Girl is as funny as it is heart-warming. I finished it wondering what Maggie would get up to next!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Whilst this book didn’t blow me away, it didn’t take long to read and will really appeal to many readers!

Banned Books #33- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to March’s edition of Banned Books (a little late, sorry!) where Beth and I have read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
First published: 2006
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: violence and other (“graphic images”)

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

BETH:  This is one of those books where I don’t necessarily agree with the reason for challenging/banning it but I can understand why someone may have had problems. I don’t think a book should ever be banned outright and people should always have access to it but in some cases, it might not be suitable for younger readers. There is however one reason I’d like to point out as I’m confused about it – the violence part. Now I’ve just finished this graphic novel/memoir and I really am racking my brain to remember any specific incidence of violence. There is a couple of slight incidents at the beginning where Alison’s father hits her or her brothers but it isn’t portrayed terribly graphically which I was a little relieved about as that would hit a bit too close to the bone for me.

CHRISSI: I can somewhat understand why this book has had some issues. There’s some er… rather risque moments that I can imagine would be a bit difficult to handle in the classroom. That’s not to say that I don’t think it should be challenged and banned completely, but from a teaching perspective… I wouldn’t dream of having this in the library unlike some of the other books that we’ve read for this feature.

How about now?

BETH: This book is now over ten years old and still reads as very contemporary so I don’t think attitudes would have changed too much in that short period of time. I was surprised at the graphic sexual imagery that there is, I wasn’t really expecting that and although I wasn’t personally offended by it it might be a bit too much for very young readers. It shows a lesbian scene and I was quite pleased that this kind of thing is being included in graphic novels. The other graphic image is of a naked male corpse which again I wasn’t perturbed by but might frighten those of a more sensitive disposition. 

CHRISSI: I’d have to agree with Beth, there are some images that might be a bit too much for some. I’m happy that it’s an LGBT graphic novel/memoir, but the male corpse was a little bit too much for me!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately I was really disappointed by this book. I thought Alison Bechdel certainly led an interesting life, being brought up in a funeral home with a gay father and coming out as homosexual herself later in life made for a fascinating read. However, I didn’t really get on with the story as a whole, the literary references to Proust and Fitzgerald seemed a bit over the top and unnecessary at times and I would have enjoyed it more if she had specifically focused on the relationship between herself and her late father.

CHRISSI: Beth asked me what I thought of it before she started it and I didn’t want to spoil her reading experience. However, I really didn’t like this book. I thought it was going to be really interesting, it certainly has potential to be a fantastic read but I felt the story as a whole didn’t gel well for me. I was bored at points which isn’t what you want from a book.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.
CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- This book didn’t capture my attention.

Furiously Happy

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”

“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”

Jenny’s first book, LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

Thoughts:

Furiously Happy had been doing the rounds on the blogosphere for a while and I was intrigued. I decided to pick up a copy and read it as soon as I could. I always feel slightly iffy going into reading a book that I know is about mental health. I’ve had a long term battle with anxiety and often feel books don’t represent it as well as they could. So what better than a memoir/non fiction book? Yes. Furiously Happy is fantastic. It’s funny. I really appreciate that. Anxiety isn’t always doom and gloom and there are definitely funny things that have happened to me due to my anxiety that I may not feel like laughing at during the time, but often look back and laugh or roll my eyes.

I was really impressed with how Jenny Lawson wrote about mental illness. She really portrays her anxieties wonderfully. I imagine that people that haven’t experienced it themselves or experienced a close family member with anxiety might think her thoughts and stories are far fetched. However, Jenny makes each and every one of her stories relatable, especially to those with a similar mindset. There may be a little bit of hyperbole but I think that makes it even more believable.

I don’t want to spoil this book too much. I just implore you to read it. It is a random book. It is a little strange. It is a little weird, but it’s a good weird. I promise.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course! 4.5 stars

A fantastic read about mental illness!

Banned Books #28 The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books, where this month Beth and I have read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

The Glass Castle

First published: 2005
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2012 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit

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

BETH: As one of the more fairly recent releases for our banned books list this year, answers for the first two questions are going to be similar as I don’t think attitudes have changed that much in the last ten or so years. There are a few profanities in the text with one mention of the “c” word which I know some people may not take too kindly to. However, I feel that no matter where you go or what you try to avoid, you cannot help but hear bad language, whether it’s in the street or on the television. If you’re offended by bad language, fair enough that’s your own personal right and you can choose to read this book or not. In my opinion, it’s not completely littered with profanity so I was perfectly happy whilst reading it.

CHRISSI: It does have some offensive language, I know the ‘c’ word certainly offends me, but when used in this book it didn’t bother me so much because it was the reality of the situation. It didn’t prevent me from reading this book, it just made me cringe a little. That’s fine. That’s real. I can see that its heavy subject matter might be too much for teenagers but moving into YA and adult, I don’t think it’s something that should be necessarily banned. As Beth says, you can hear much worse on TV, around friends and with music.

How about now?

BETH: See first answer! This book is not marketed as a young adult novel. In fact, it is on the “adult” category of GoodReads. This may be down to the occasional bad language, sexual references or some of the more adult content that it contains. The subject matter that this novel deals with is difficult and was, at times, hard to read for me but I’m incredibly glad that I did because I found it a wonderful, highly emotional piece of writing. I can’t really think of any hard and fast reasons why it should be challenged/banned and think a memoir of this standard deserves to be read.

CHRISSI:  Like Beth, I don’t think it should be necessarily challenged or banned as I think it’s a highly important read. Perhaps, if in a high school/college library it should have a notice for explicit content, but an outright ban? No I wouldn’t agree with that.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I thought it was a brilliant read! The fact that it is a memoir just made Jeanette’s difficult upbringing with her family all the more poignant and a little chilling in places if I’m honest. I felt so sorry for Jeanette and her brother and sisters being brought up in such an environment, moving from place to place, sleeping in cars and rooting through rubbish bins just to find something to eat. It’s a life that no child should have to experience and really made me think about people that are less fortunate and don’t have the blessing of a stable home/family.

CHRISSI: I was utterly gripped by this book. I couldn’t put it down, but at the same time, I wanted to because it was such an intense read. It was tough to read about what Jeannette and her siblings went through. It made me realise how lucky I was to have the upbringing that I did. It certainly kept me thinking and I imagine this book will stay with me for a long time.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Banned Books #22 A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to our Banned Books feature where this month we’ve read A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard.

A Stolen Life

Synopsis:

In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen.
For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse.

For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation.

On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived.

A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.

banned books

First published: 2011
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, 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: Not really, no. Because this book is a memoir of something terrible that actually happened to an eleven year old child I think it’s a really important read that more people should be aware of. I was slightly surprised (and quite horrified) at how explicit the book was in points and that’s the only reason why I would hesitate for it to be used in a classroom environment with younger children. For older teenagers – definitely yes, it should be available and recommended by a librarian or a teacher.

CHRISSI:  Yes and no. In a classroom environment with young teenagers- yes. I understand. I know it’s something that shouldn’t be shied away from, it really happened and it does happen, but I worry that it’s too sensitive an issue to discuss in a classroom. However, if a teacher did want to take it on then I would have the utmost respect for them as I think it’s a book that should be explored. I definitely think it should be recommended to older teenagers. It’s important that it’s read and discussed as it contains so many sensitive subjects that need to be identified in a safe environment.

How about now?

BETH: This is a fairly recent release (2011) so I don’t believe things have changed much in the past five years. One of the reasons given for challenging the book i.e. that it contains drugs/alcohol/smoking I feel is quite ridiculous as I don’t think teenagers should be sheltered from things that clearly happen in the outside world and may give them vital information that they can learn from to help them make informed choices about such things.

CHRISSI: I think the only reason why I have doubts about this book is because it is such a harrowing read and could potentially trigger individuals that have experienced similar things. For being banned for drugs/alcohol and smoking- I totally disagree. Teenagers and young adults experience these things in every day life. Why hide from it?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’d hesitate to say I “enjoyed” it as at points it was quite a harrowing read – especially when Jaycee was first kidnapped. The length of time she was held, the childhood she lost and the sexual abuse that she had to suffer was truly terrifying. It was interesting to read her journal entries and try to figure out the mind-set of her kidnapper who was obviously mentally disturbed in quite a few ways. It’s a hugely important read that I think teenagers should be exposed to and I commend the bravery of the author in speaking out about her traumatic experience.

CHRISSI: I can’t say that I ‘enjoyed’ it, like Beth says. It was hard to read at times. It was incredibly explicit. I hated reading about the way she was treated and how her childhood was stolen. However, it is such an important read!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!

 

I Don’t Want To Be Crazy

I Don't Want To Be Crazy

How did I get it?
I bought it!

Synopsis:

This is a true story of growing up, breaking down, and coming to grips with a psychological disorder. When Samantha Schutz first left home for college, she was excited by the possibilities — freedom from parents, freedom from a boyfriend who was reckless with her affections, freedom from the person she was supposed to be. At first, she revelled in the independence … but as pressures increased , she began to suffer anxiety attacks that would leave her mentally shaken and physically incapacitated. Thus began a hard road of discovery and coping, powerfully rendered in this poetry memoir.

Thoughts:

I have been meaning to get around to this book for quite some time now. I feel like I have a bit of a connection with it as I personally suffer from anxiety. Having such a connection can really affect my opinion of a book, especially if mental health isn’t presented in a ‘real’ way. I wasn’t worried about this as Samantha Schutz’s story is a true story.

Reading I Don’t Want To Be Crazy feels like you’re creeping in on someone’s personal diary. Samantha writes with raw honesty. You really feel as a reader that you’re experiencing what it is like to suffer with anxiety. The descriptions are really relatable and true to those that suffer with anxiety.

This book is written in verse and I think it’s really interesting to read it in this way. I don’t think the verse really showed how powerful words can be, but at the same time, it came across as incredibly honest and to the point. That’s what you want. As a reader I want the mental health stigma to ease and for mental health to be recognised and understood more. This is why I appreciated the book!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

It won’t be for everyone, but I think this is a really honest look at mental health.