31 March 2012

Carnegie Shortlist 2012

On Tuesday, the 2012 Carnegie shortlist (and the Kate Greenaway shortlist for illustration) was announced. The Carnegie is pretty much the most prestigious award for children's fiction in the UK so it's always exciting to see who is on the shortlist. I'm going to be shadowing this with my students in the run up to the announcement of the winner in June. The shortlist is:
- My Name is Mina David Almond
- Small Change for Stuart Lissa Evans
- The Midnight Zoo Sonya Hartnett
- Everybody Jam Ali Lewis
- Trash Andy Mulligan
- A Monster Calls Patrick Ness (My review)
- My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece Annabel Pitcher (My review)
- Between Shades of Grey Ruta Sepetys

I adored A Monster Calls and really liked My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece a lot (also, I've been lucky enough to meet both of the authors and they are both lovely). They are both super popular with my students as well. I think that Small Change for Stuart looks really quirky and interesting, I love the hardback cover (not pictured here) and whilst it probably has the lowest reading age, I am looking forward to this one the most from those I haven't already read. I don't know much about The Midnight Zoo and Everybody Jam so will hold off on those for now. Trash and Between Shades of Grey are both heavy-hitters, about a boy who scavenges from rubbish dumps and a Lithuanian girl sent to a prison camp respectively. I'm not generally a fan of David Almond but will be giving this a go as I will read the whole shortlist but I'm not a big fan of Skellig. I'll be reading them all over the next few months, interspersed with other reading, and posting reviews.

16 March 2012

Review 24: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

"In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought."

Despite have similarities to many popular books at the moment, Daughter of Smoke and Bone manages to be a really unique and unusual book. The brilliant heroine and break away from vampires and werewolves to more unfamiliar and imaginative characters and worlds makes this stand apart from its supernatural romance counterparts. Not necessarily an all time favourite, but a really solid, well written, and highly enjoyable read with a twist that I didn't work out for a satisfyingly long portion of the book.

First Line: 'Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day.'

14 March 2012

Review 23: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

"Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theatre, who is just starting to return her affection. So she's not too pleased when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new friends, including the handsome Etienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he's taken - and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she's been waiting for?"

I had really high hopes for this as Stephanie Perkins has an excellent reputation in the YA market and I had seen positive reviews of this and her newer novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door, on a fair few American YA blogs. Unfortunately I found it rather average and Anna herself can be somewhat annoying. It was enjoyable enough to read a few chapters every so often but I found myself reading a more substantial novel at the same time. Its strength is the way that Perkins manages to genuinely connect to her readers and therefore I am really in favour of this book as anything that gets teenagers enthusiastic about books and reading is fine by me.

First Line: 'Here is everything I know about France: Madeline and Amelie and Moulin Rouge.'

Review 22: Planetary Vol. 1 - All Over the World and Other Stories by Warren Ellis

"This first collection stars a team of super-powered mystery archaeologists who have uncovered evidence of super-human activity that spans the centuries. The team includes the ancient and enigmatic Elijah Snow, hot-tempered Jakita Wagner, and the insane techno-expert Drummer, as they deal with a World War II supercomputer that can access other universes, a spectral spirit of vengeance, and more." 

I didn't love this first volume of Planetary but it intrigued me enough to seek out Volume 2 and see where the story goes. Apparently the artwork is considered exemplary but I'm not really a connoisseur and am wildly unqualified to comment. I found the story a little slow to get starter but the second half got moving and manages to combine what feel like fairly common graphic novel tropes in a relatively unique way.

First Line: 'Coffee tastes like your dog took a leak in it.'

12 March 2012

Review 21: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

"Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs for now. Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault. Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy everyone leaves behind."

Oh my goodness, this book is amazing. I apologise in advance for a review that exists mainly as a long stream of gushing compliments that can in no way successfully show how much I loved this. I will try and form some sensible, well-thought out opinions about why I loved it but I can't make any promises. A cancer book, but not a 'cancer book', so get any thoughts of Nicholas Sparks style tosh out of your head and find yourself a copy of this book as quickly as you humanly can.

First Line: 'Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.'

1 March 2012

Review 20: Chimichanga by Eric Powell

"When Wrinkle's Travelling Circus's adorable little bearded girl trades a lock of her magic hair for a witch's strange egg, she stumbles upon what could be the saving grace for her ailing freak show - the savoury-named beast Chimichanga!"

A curiously charming graphic novel that children will love. Lula, the bearded girl, is a superb heroine who is determined and funny. The artwork is brillant and I completely fell for this quirky and cute graphic novel and it is my favourite on the Stan Lee Excelsior Award shortlist.

First Line: 'Expect clear skies for the rest of the week, not a glimpse of rain in sight.'