11 November 2011

Review 50: Grace by Morris Gleitzman

“In the beginning there was me and Mum and Dad and the twins. And good luck was upon us and things were great and we were bountiful. But it came to pass that I started doing sins. And lo, that’s when all our problems began…”

Story: Thought provoking and modern which provides teenage readers with plenty of food for thought.
Protagonist: Incredibly charming.

Writing: Gleitzman is a master at created easy to read stories with real depth.

9 November 2011

Review 49: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I'm going to struggle to structure this review into anymore than a stream of superlatives...

"In 1886, a mysterious travelling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, Le Cirque des Reves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire. Although there are acrobats, fortune-tellers and contortionists, the Circus of Dreams is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionados, who call themselves the reveurs - the dreamers. At the heart of the story is the tangled relationship betwen two young magicians, Celia, the enchanter's daughter, and Marco, the sorcerer's apprentice. At the behest of their shadowy masters, hey find themselves locked in a deadly contest, forced to test the very limisof the imagination and of their love..."

One thing's for sure, that blurb doesn't do it justice.

Story: Magical, whimsical and unique
Characters: Hugely appealing from the two main characters to the wide array of secondaries.
Writing: Crazy good.

7 November 2011

The Red House Children's Book Award

The shortlist for this prize has been announced and I think looks like the best for a few years...

- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - you can read my glowing review here
- My Sister Lives on the Mantepiece by Anabel Pitcher - my very positive review is here
- Grace by Morris Gleitzman which I haven't read yet but should be appearing very soon.

Edit: Review for Grace is now up here.

My favourite has to be A Monster Calls but I think this is a very strong shortlist and whilst I think Ness is in a class of its own, I wouldn't be to angry if any of them won.

4 November 2011

Review 48: An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

I'm trying a new format for my reviews so they're not so wordy and impenetrable and it's easier to see what I thought and jump to or avoid bits of the review that interest you or don't. It's actually ended up longer but hopefully is easier to read, so let me know what you think or if you prefer the more traditional format...

"It is 1948. Japan is rebuilding her cities after the calamity of World War II, her people putting defeat behind them and looking to the future. The celebrated painter Masuji Ono fills his days attending to his garden, his house repairs, his two grown daughters and his grandson, and his evenings drinking with old associates in quiet lantern-lit bars. His should be a tranquil retirement. But as his memories continually return to the past - to a life and a career deeply touched by the rise of Japanese militarism - a dark shadow begins to grow over his serenity."

Story: As meandering and confusing as I have to expect, and love, from Ishiguro.
Protagonist: Not as empathetic as some of his other protagonists, Ishiguro leaves us guessing as to Ono's real motives.
Writing: Beautiful and unique but very much in the Ishiguro style.

1 November 2011

Review 47: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

"Everyone has something to hide - especially High school juniors Spencer, Aria, Emily and Hanna. Spencer covets her sister's boyfriend. Aria's fantasising about her English teacher. Emily has a crush on the new girl at school. And Hanna is using some ugly tricks to stay beautiful. But they've all kept an even bigger secret since their friend Alison vanished. How do I know? Because I know everything about the bad girls they were and the naughty girl they are now. And guess what? I'm telling."

My public-stated reason for reading this was that it's popular at school so I need to know what the fuss is about. The real reason for reading this is that I love the TV series that is based on it and I wanted to see what the source material was like. Often with books, a whole series is based around one book but this book covers basically what happens in the first episode of the series. It's quite a brave choice by Shepard as the book basically sets up the main characters and the story without huge developments in plot. The end of the book is when the action really kicks off.

Review 46: Buttercup Mash by Joanna Nadin

"Do you ever feel like your life's going a bit crazy? That you're not in control of anything... at all? At times like these, what's a girl to do? Shopping? Cinema? Hanging out with friends? Or singing rock ballads and dancing like a demented giraffe on a sugar rush? It may not sound very cool - and definitely isn't very calming - but it's glee club and thats exactly where Buttercup Jones is heading..."

Buttercup Mash is an enjoyable teenage comedy, very much in the style of Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson series. Whilst it does not quite match up to the humour levels in Rennison's series, it is still a well written and appealing novel and Buttercup is a more likeable heroine than Georgia although similarily quirky. It holds up well in the teenage girl market even if it is not groundbreaking stuff.
Buttercup Jones is our titular heroine and the book is her diary to Dr. Sven, an online psychiatrist. However Buttercup does not have the £500 necessary to actually send her outpourings to 'Dr. Sven' and receive a reply. The novel follows the exploits of Buttercup, her unorthodox family and her string of bizarre and bitchy schoolmates as well as her best friend Stan. The plot revolves around the formation of a glee club at Buttercup's school, which Buttercup is forced to join by her best friend (she was forced to sign a contract to this effect) the melodramaic Imogen who has a crush on Blake, the coolest boy in school and newest member of Glee Club (in turn at the behest of his bitchy girlfriend Sunday). Meanwhile Buttercup is trying to find out who her dad is and dealing with her first experiences of a crush of her own.

Review 45: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

"One genuine Turnpike Tollbooth. If not pefectly satisfied, your wasted time will be refunded. When Milo receives a mysterious an intriguing package through the post, all his previous feelings of boredom are banished. Having nothing better to do, he points his pedal car towards the strange land beyond the Tollbooth, and quicker than a flash he's entered the Kingdom of Wisdom, where everything is unexpected..."

I read this when I was really young and really enjoyed remembering how awesome this book is. It's a wonderful book for children but possibly even better for adult who can appreciate more of the wordplay and probably find the sentimets even more touching.

Milo is a boy who is bored by everything. "Wherever he was he wished he was somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he'd bothered." I'm sure everyone can relate to this sentiment which is what makes it such a wonderful opening to the book and is also somewhat reminiscent of Max from Where the Wild Things Are - boys escaping what they see to be un unsatisfactory reality for an adventure that teaches them the worth and potential of their everyday lives.