Archive for March, 2012

Starters

Lissa Price

First, Callie lost her parents.
Then she lost her home.
And, finally, she lost her body.
But she will stop at nothing to get it back…

When I read the blurb for this story I was really curious, after all how can you lose your own body, let alone try and get it back? In this dystopian future it would seem it’s not too difficult! I will fill in a little background to whet your appetites, much of the basics come out in the first chapter and are then built on through the story. America has been at war and this included the dropping of spore bombs. As only the most vulnerable in society were immunised, there is no one left between teenagers (Starters) and octogenarians plus (Enders). The Starters are now at the mercy of the Enders, they either need to be ‘claimed’, or they are put in institutions and needless to say these are horrible. Callie has been on the run for a year, along with her much younger brother Tyler. Tyler is ill and Callie is desperate to find them a safe home and medicine. For this she needs money and she has found a way to get it. An illegal organisation is paying youngsters to rent out their bodies to the Enders, who pay highly to have fun in a young body again. But for Callie the process doesn’t go according to plan and she begins an action packed journey to save herself, and others.

I was sucked in from page one, as Lissa starts off with Callie’s visit to Prime Destinations to find out about renting out her body, it feels tense from the beginning. Callie herself feels the danger of what she is doing and as a reader it is easy to feel her vulnerability in this situation. In the descriptions of what will happen to Callie and her body I couldn’t help but think of The Matrix films and losing yourself to the computer. Although it has to be said that is the people who are the villains in this story not the computer. But the whole idea is so plausible and it was so easy to picture this happening.

From this premise Callie’s world begins to fall apart as she wakes up in mid rental and finds that her renter wants to use her body to commit murder. From here on the action is fast paced and full of twists and turns. There is a sprinkle of romance and a little bit of a love triangle, but the focus of the tale is Callie’s ever growing awareness of what is happening to her and around her, alongside her desire to intervene in what she sees and experiences. I found that it was possible to predict some parts of what was going to happen, but other things were a complete surprise, I like books that include the unexpected.

As is so often the case these days, the novel finishes on a cliff- hanger, so much happens in the last couple of chapters, some ends are tied up (thankfully) and some are left open, or half tied! There are also big hints that some ideas that have been set up are about to be turned on their heads. There is much that sets us up for the next book, but for me the final development felt like a step too far, it was the only point that I felt that things were getting a little silly and maybe it wouldn’t all hang together. I would happily have read the next one without this hint of what might come. However the good points in the story absolutely outweigh this more negative one. Hopefully Lissa will maintain her ability to make fantasy feel like reality in the next instalment.

I really enjoyed this, for me not quite in the league of The Hunger Games, but I am waiting impatiently for the next instalment and to see where the story goes next.

Verdict: A great debut novel, if you like YA futuristic stories I am sure you’ll enjoy this. I will definitely be looking out for more by Lissa.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: March 2012
Format: ARC
Pages: 336
Genre: Dystopian, Sci=Fi
Age: YA
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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The Tiger Who Came To Tea

Judith Kerr

The doorbell rings just as Sophie and her Mummy are sitting down to tea. Who could it possibly be? What they certainly don’t expect to see at the door is a big furry, stripy tiger!

This brilliant children’s book is a timeless classic! The drawings, if perhaps a little old style, are beautiful and capture the storyline perfectly. It is well written and provides humour throughout. We love the fact that although the tiger is so hungry he doesn’t want to eat Sophie and her Mummy, just all the food in the house! Sophie acts lovingly towards the Tiger as though it’s an every day occurrence and provides him with as much food as they have. Sophie’s Daddy is a great character at the end – he comes home to find no dinner and no beer left and instead of being cross takes them all out for dinner!

Verdict: A funny and lovely traditional book that should definitely be given a place on any child’s bookshelf!

Reviewed by Jane

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Publication Date: 2006 (new ed.)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Picture Books, Early Readers
Reviewer: Jane
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards

Across the country children and school librarians are waited with bated breath.  Tuesday the 27th of March marks the day of the release of the shortlists for the annual Carnegie and Greenaway Awards.  These awards are among the top awards for children’s literature in the country and thousands of students will begin to ‘shadow’ the awards when the shortlists are announced.

As a school librarian this is always an exciting time for me.  The awards help to start a real reading buzz around the school and help to get the students reading books they otherwise would not have picked up.  The sense of achievement they feel at reading a number of books within a time frame is massive.  And then there are always the discussions in which they disagree with the judge’s chosen winner….

Over the next 8 weeks we’ll be looking at the shortlists of both awards.  The winners will be announced on 14th June.

The Carnegie Award recognises authors who write books for children.  The intended age range can be anything from 7 to 14.  The winners are chosen by a panel of children’s librarians.  Winners in the recent past include Patrick Ness and Neil Gaiman.  This year’s shortlist includes
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 Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece- Annabel Pitcher
Between Shades of Grey- Rita Sepetys

The Greenaway Award recognises the illustrator of picture books.  It looks at how pictures tell stories and what they can add to the words.  As such it’s the illustrator that receives the award rather than the author.  This year’s shortlist includes

Wolf Won’t Bite- Emily Gravett
Puffin Peter- Petr Horacek
A Monster Calls- Jim Kay (illustrator), Patrick Ness
Slog’s Dad- Dave Mckean (illustrator), David Almond
Solomon Crocodile- Catherine Rayner
The Gift- Rob Ryan (illustrator), Carol Ann Duffy
There Are No Cats in this Book- Viviane Schwarz
Can We Save the Tiger- Vicky White (illustrator), Martin Jenkins

Check back to see what we think of the books and see who we think should win!

Post by Alison

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Forgiven

Jana Oliver

Riley Blackthorne. Kicking hell’s ass one demon at a time…
Riley has made a bargain with Heaven, and now they’ve come to collect.
Lucifer’s finest are ruling the streets and it seems that Armageddon might be even closer than Riley imagined. But with her soul and her heart in play it’s all she can do to keep herself alive, let alone save the world. Riley’s not afraid of kicking some major demon butt, but when it comes to a battle between Heaven and Hell, she might need a little help…

This is the third book in Jana Oliver’s ‘Demon Trappers’ series. There will be no spoilers for this book but there may be for the previous two. Life isn’t great for Riley Blackthorne. Her ex-boyfriend wasn’t who she thought he was, her Dad has been reanimated and really isn’t himself and to top it off she has found herself owing a favour to both Heaven and Hell. ‘Forgiven’ picks up exactly where ‘Forsaken’ left off.

I had been looking forward to the release of this book since I read the last one in August. On the face of it this series is just another one of those teen supernatural books that can be found anywhere at the moment, but in reality this is so much more. ‘Forgiven’ follows Riley, the main protagonist, but also at times switches the viewpoint to Denver Beck, known to most as simply ‘Beck’. Riley is a teen apprentice Demon Trapper, the first girl the guild has ever allowed into its ranks. Beck is a Journeyman Trapper, ex army from a very troubled background. Riley’s Dad took Beck into their family and mentored him in the ‘trapping’ profession. It is this relationship that has really captured my interest. It’s not about instant love but about friendship and how love can grow and is handled in a much more mature way than relationships in books for teens generally are and this is a real strength of the book. I can hold my hands up and say that I absolutely adore Beck. Not instantly likeable, his character has developed over the three books in a way that makes you understand where he is coming from. Life has not been easy for him, and that with the way he cares for Riley makes you love him all the more. Whilst reading ‘Forgiven’ I actually looked forward more to the sections written from his point of view than I did Riley’s. Jana Oliver has created two characters that you can really care about.

The only problem with the book is the cliff hanger ending. Do I really have to wait till August for the next one?

Verdict: A well written teen urban fantasy book with amazing characterisation. Exciting, absorbing and will leave you begging for more.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication Date: March 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 416
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Supernatural
Age: YA
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Harry and The Dinosaurs: Romp In The Swamp

Ian Whybrow

Harry is not happy. Today he has to go to Charlie’s house and he doesn’t want her to play with his dinosaurs. But when Charlie builds a primordial swamp, Harry gets drawn into an exciting adventure. Together they must rescue Tyrannosaurus from the giant swamp snake!

This is another great ‘Harry’ book. Not to be confused with the great Mr Potter, this Harry is busy learning about life with his favourite dinosaur toys. I really enjoyed reading Harry and the Dinosaurs with my daughter and this one continues the pleasure. In the first story Harry discovers a bucketful of dinosaurs and is astonished when they come to life, running away from him and getting up to mischief. I love the fact that (as an adult at least) you can see that this could be Harry’s imagination as he plays with his toys and sees them as real and alive when in fact they are not.

In this story Harry has to deal with visiting a place he is not sure about and possibly having to share his beloved dinosaurs. This is so resonant of conversations we have had at home about both visiting and sharing and the concerns that children can have about it. It is great that Harry overcomes his reservations through imaginative play with his dinosaurs and his friend.

All the books we have read in this series show how the dinosaurs help Harry with various situations he finds himself in, coupled with the colourful and attractive drawings they make lovely books to just read, or to talk about.

Verdict: An enjoyable story to make your little one think without even thinking about it!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Puffin
Publication Date: August 2003
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Early Readers
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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Author Interview: Barry Hutchison

Here at Big Book Little Book we are delighted to welcome Barry Hutchison, author of The 13th Horseman (read Jack’s review here). Barry took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some of Jack’s questions.


In a darkly funny, action-packed adventure, fourteen year old Drake is surprised to discover the Horsemen of the Apocalypse hanging out in his garden shed. He’s even more surprised when they ask him to join them. The team is missing a Horseman, having gone through several Deaths, and they think Drake is the boy for the job.

What inspired you to write The 13th Horseman?

I grew up reading funny books, and although I loved writing my Invisible Fiends horror series, I had a real urge to write funny stuff. I’ve had the idea for The 13th Horseman since I was about 18 years old (I’m 34 now!). I thought if the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse had been created at the beginning of time, with the sole purpose of kicking off Judgement Day at the end of time, then what would they be doing in between times? I was sharing a flat with three REALLY annoying people at the time, and I thought that being one of the Four Horsemen would be a bit like that – the others would be getting on your nerves all the time, and you’d always be looking for things to do in order to make time pass more quickly. That’s why they’re always playing board games, just to try to stave off the boredom and stop themselves going mad like most of their Deaths have.

What is your favourite book (not the ones that you’ve written)?

That’s tricky. I read a lot of books, and my favourite changes almost every day. I love most of Neil Gaiman’s books – American Gods is a good one for adults, or The Graveyard Book is great for both adults and children. Growing up I read a lot of American comics – Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, The Incredible Hulk – all that stuff. I still love reading comics, and some of my favourite stories are in graphic novel format.
A favourite book when I was young was The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea. It’s a fantasy story set in Ireland, and although I’ve never been a big fan of fantasy books, I absolutely loved it and read it probably half a dozen times in the space of a few years. It’s quite a long book, but well worth reading. Every time I finished it I remember feeling sad because the story was over.

What is your favourite food?

Easy – seafood. Prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, scallops – pretty much anything that comes out of the sea, really. If a giant sea monster rose up out of the ocean tomorrow I’d be after it with a fork and a slice of lemon. Seriously, if Godzilla ever emerges from the deeps, he’d better watch his back.

What is your favourite book that you’ve written?

My favourite is The 13th Horseman, although I’ll always have a soft spot for the Invisible Fiends series, with them being my first published books. I had a lot more freedom in Horseman to do anything I liked, and I loved setting my imagination loose. The Fiends books are very story driven, so you’re always racing from one thing to the next. It was nice to be able to slow down a bit and sometimes include scenes or conversations that don’t really matter much to the plot. For example, some of my favourite bits in Horseman come when they’re in Limbo. I like the Alfred Randall X-perience, and even made myself laugh writing the conversation between Drake and the wardrobe he thought contained the Deathblade.
That said, writing is like anything else you do – the more you practice, the better you get – so hopefully my next books will be even better!

What type of music do you like to listen to?

I listen to a huge range of music, from classical stuff like Chopin, to Lady Gaga. My iPod has got a real mix of stuff on it – Bruno Mars, Led Zepplin, Elvis, Mumford & Sons, Oasis, The Smiths, and lots more. I’m not sure I have a favourite band or favourite type of music, because it depends on what mood I’m in. Sometimes I listen to music while I’m writing. When I was writing the Invisible Fiends book, “Doc Mortis” for example, I listened to a lot of creepy horror music and some really old recordings of nursery rhymes. They helped set the scene and get me in the mood for writing really scary scenes.

If you could be any other author, who would it be and why?

What an interesting question. Sadly, the answer’s going to be quite boring. I don’t think I’d want to be any author other than me. I feel really lucky to be able to write the books I want to write, and we’re all really lucky that there are so many brilliant authors out there who are also writing the books they want to write. It means we have more books to choose from than we’ll ever be able to read, and I love reading almost as much as I love writing. If I was writing Terry Pratchett’s books, let’s say, then I would be robbed of the pleasure of reading them.

I wouldn’t say no to all his money, mind you…

The 13th Horseman is published by Harper Collins Children’s Books and is available to buy now.

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The Space Between Us

Thrity Umrigar

Set in contemporary Bombay, ‘The Space Between Us’ tells the story of Sera Dubash, an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife and Bhima, the woman who works as a domestic servant in her home. Despite their class differences, the two women are bound by the bonds of gender and shared life experiences – both had marriages that started out with great romantic love and promise, but ended up as crushing disappointments. Ultimately, Sera Dubash faces a decision that will force her to choose between loyalty to gender and friendship or loyalty to her social position and class.

This story does a great job of tackling some of the issues in Indian society head on. There is no trying to tidy away the grim side of the poverty and inequality suffered by many and particularly by women in India.

The women in this story jump off the page and pull you into their world with all its tensions and difficulties. Bhima and Sera are so real and so intriguing in both their similarities and their differences. We find out about their histories through flashbacks, these show what has happened to bring the women where they are today. Both women have very difficult moments to look back on and horrible things that have happened to people in their families. However both of them have remarkable courage and resilience in the face of adversity.

This grimness maybe off putting to some, and there are some incredibly poignant moments in the story, but it does meant that we get a full picture of the relationships between friends, husbands and wives and mothers and children. The events of the story, such as dealing with the AIDS epidemic in India, makes it about real people and not just something happening in a country a long way away. The story also highlights the changes India is coming to terms with as the new generations move away from the values held by their parents and grandparents.

Thrity Umrigar also writes beautiful prose, she has the ability to create memorable and realistic pictures with her words. I particularly enjoyed the way she could incorporate Indian words and terms into her writing, and yet it remains so understandable and accessible.

Ultimately the relationship between these two women is put to the test. Sera has to decide whether her friendship with Bhima, who is so much lower than her, is more important than her status and wealth. The outcome may not surprise but I found it really interesting that the author actually leaves quite a few ends untied and in part the story stops rather than ends. This is not to say that Thrity doesn’t round it off, and the ending is cleverly done, but there is still plenty left to think about and decide for yourself.

Verdict: A brilliant depiction of life in a totally different culture to our own, and yet so many issues that are simply part of the human condition. A great read.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: February 2007
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Family Sage, Indian Culture
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Frugal Fiction: Supermarket Bargains

While visiting my local Tesco superstore today I noticed some fantastic offers on their YA Books. Unable to help myself I picked up these little beauties!

A hardcover of Tempest by Julie Cross for £4.99(RRP £9.99).
A two book pack of Knife and Swift by R.J Anderson for £4( RRP £12.98).
The Hunger Games: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion for £6.47 (RRP £12.99).

While I was there I also noticed but didn’t purchase:

 Fallen In Love by Lauren Kate buy the Hardback and get a free paperback copy of Passion.

Paperback copies of Everneath by Brodi Ashton and A Witch In Winter by Ruth Warburton for £4 each.

Happy book buying!
Caroline x

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Tadpole’s Promise

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross (illustrator)

The award-winning, unpredictable picture book from this best-selling author/artist team is now available for the first time in paperback. Tadpole loves his rainbow friend, the caterpillar, and she tells him she loves everything about him. “Promise that you will never change,” she says. But as the seasons pass and he matures, his legs grow, and then his armsand what happens to his beautiful rainbow friend? As he sits on his lily pad, digesting a butterfly, Tadpole little realizes that now he will never know! Follow the predictable changes of a tadpole and a caterpillar to their natural conclusion in this award winning picture book.

A rainbow and a pearl fell in love. The rainbow requested her beloved pearl, to promise to never change. Unfortunately Pearl was destined to break his promise, as he was a tadpole and his love Rainbow, a caterpillar.

Obviously not a fan of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 (“…Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds…” ) Rainbow becomes increasingly distressed and peeved at the physical changes she observes in her beau each time they meet. Pearl begs forgiveness wanting only to be with his love.

Eventually her disappointment is such that Rainbow has to take herself away to nurse her disappointment, and cries herself to sleep.

Awaking from her sleep a changed caterpillar (literally, as she is now a butterfly), she decides to forgive Pearl and give their love another chance. Fluttering down to the water’s edge she spots a lone frog…. and the fickle insect gets her comeuppance!

While you could say that this book is educational about transformation in nature and the food chain – I simply love this book for its black humour and I can’t help but smile every time I read it!

My four year old, like many of her peers, went through a phase where she was fascinated with the idea of death. We had to watch a particular scene in The Lion King over and over again, answer questions about her grandmothers passing and had many meal time conversations about how farmyard favourites make it on to her dinner plate. Tadpoles Promise helped to satisfy some of this morbid curiosity.

Verdict:If your child has a taste for the macabre that The Old Woman Who Swallowed A Fly just can’t satisfy then this is the book for you.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Andersen Press
Publication Date: March 2005
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book, life cycles
Age: Picture Books, Early Readers
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Hanging Hill

Mo Hayder

One morning in picture-perfect Bath, England, a teenage girl’s body is found on the towpath of a canal: Lorne Woods – beautiful, popular, and apparently the victim of a disturbingly brutal murder. Zoe Benedict – Harley-riding police detective, independent to a fault – is convinced the department head needs to look beyond the usual domestic motives to solve the case. Meanwhile, Zoe’s sister, Sally – recently divorced and in dire financial straits – has begun working as a housekeeper for a rich entrepreneur who quickly begins to seem possibly dangerous. When Zoe’s investigation turns up evidence that Lorne’s attempts to break into modeling had delivered her into the world of webcam girls and amateur porn, a crippling secret from Zoe’s past seems determined to emerge

Oh how I love Mo Hayder. She’s one of those authors where if I see that she’s released a new book, I’ll instantly purchase / borrow the book without even bothering to read the synopsis as I just know I’ll enjoy it!

For those of you who have not yet found Mo’s literary charms but like crime thrillers then a word of warning. Mo’s stories are pretty dark and disturbing and she is one of the few writers that actually made me so scared when reading her earlier works, ‘The Birdman’ and, ‘The Treatment’ I actually debated whether to skip a few pages as I was struggling to cope with the intensity of the action and the grim realisation that Mo has absolutely no qualms about favoured characters or vulnerable innocents suffering unspeakable horrors.

It was then, a few chapters into reading ‘Hanging Hill’, that I got that sense of foreboding that I was once again being invited into a very dark world. This time it involves adolescent young girls who are usually forced into the sex industry and get involved with some very nasty characters indeed who operate both in the UK and abroad.

The story focuses on two estranged sisters in their 30’s. Zoë, is the beautiful police officer with Amazonian attributes. She’s a fighter but emotionally stunted and self abusive when she needs to regain control. Sally is the stereotypical well to do housewife who has become overly reliant on her husband, that is, until he leaves her and starts a new family. She then has to learn the hard way that her carefree ways don’t necessarily serve her well when she has a teenage daughter to look after and ever increasing bills and repairs to pay.

Separately, these women become involved in the tangled web that occurs after a local schoolgirl is brutally and sadistically murdered. They each have to make dangerous decisions and work together to try and keep themselves and those that they love, safe from harm.

Verdict: Probably not as dark and intense as some of Mo’s earlier works but still a very intriguing (I shouldn’t say enjoyable should I….?) read and I was very pleased with the final, ‘plot twist finale’ even if I will be forever wondering, ‘What happened next?!’

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: April 2011
Format: Hardback
Pages: 432
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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