Stuart Horten – ten years old and small for his age – moves to the dreary town of Beeton, far away from all his friends. And then he meets his new next-door neighbours, the unbearable Kingley triplets, and things get even worse.
But in Beeton begins the strangest adventure of Stuart’s life as he is swept up in quest to find his great-uncle’s lost workshop – a workshop stuffed with trickery and magic. There are clues to follow and puzzles to solve, but what starts as fun ends up as danger, and Stuart begins to realize that he can’t finish the task by himself . . .
Stuart Horten is a very short boy with very tall parents who has just moved far away to the place where his father grew up. There he finds that his family have a long history. His great-uncle, the fabulous magician Teeny Tiny Tony Horton and his glamorous assistant Lily disappeared years ago and Stuart is convinced there was something mysterious about their vanishing. He becomes convinced that finding his great-uncles long lost workshop holds the key and starts on adventure, joined by his ten year old neighbour and a blind elderly woman, to find it.
This is a truly lovely book. It’s perfect for children of Junior School age, but there is also an innocence to it that should charm adults. Lissa Evans has done a fantastic job at getting into the head of a ten year old boy who feels slightly outside of the world of ‘normal’ ten year olds because he is small and has slightly odd parents. Stuart has a naiveté that should appeal to both adults and children. The story enters the realm of magic and fantasy based in the normal human world, but is never totally unbelievable. More you get swept along with the story and want to believe when you reach the only part of the story that delves into the fantastical.
This is a fairly short book at 288 pages, unsurprising given who it is aimed at. It’s written in such a way that makes it an incredibly easy read and I finished it in less than two hours. It is very definitely a children’s book, but it’s the kind of book that you want to be able to read to your children, just so you are able to share in the magic too. Still not my favourite Carnegie shortlisted book so far, that remains ‘Between Shades of Grey’, ‘Small Change for Stuart’ currently comes in as a very close second.
Verdict: Innocent and charming, a book that will take both children and adults on a magical adventure.
Reviewed by Alison
You’d think being a privileged Prince in a vast intergalactic Empire would be about as good as it gets. But it isn’t as great as it sounds. For one thing, Princes are always in danger. Their greatest threat? Other Princes. Khemri discovers that the moment he is proclaimed a Prince.
He also discovers mysteries within the hidden workings of the Empire. Dispatched on a secret mission, Khemri comes across the ruins of a space battle. In the midst of it all he meets a young woman named Raine, who will challenge his view of the Empire, of Princes, and of himself
This book is Khemri’s personal account of when, at the age of 17, he becomes a fully fledged ‘Prince’, ready to connect with the ‘Imperial Mind’. Taken from his human parents at the age of 1 he spent the following 16yrs being tweaked into a ‘superhuman’. He shares typical ‘Prince’ characteristics of being arrogant and self absorbed with little regard to anyone else as he assumes them inferior to his almightiness. He feels that he is destined to become the next emperor and in the meantime, can jolly along in his own rather fancy ship exploring the galaxy. He gets a bit of a shock then when he finds out there are actually 10million Princes who don’t believe in the adage of, ‘The more the merrier’ as they’re competing with each other to gain favour from the Emperor.
To help the Princes complete the Empires bidding and to try and keep them alive, they are assigned ‘Priests’ who enable the Princes to psychically link up to the ‘Imperial Mind’. These Priests ascribe to specialised vocations including the very influential ‘assassins’, so great if you have lots looking after you, not so great if you bump into another Prince who has more and doesn’t want to be pen pals anytime soon.
Once the formalities of understanding Khemri’s universe were out of the way, the action speeds up as Khemri ultimately wants to be chosen by the Imperial Mind to be 1 of the 1000 Princes selected to compete against each other to become the next ‘Emporer’. During his generic training he battles alien attacks and avoids assassination attempts. It also becomes apparent that Khemri seems to be secretly favoured more than the other Princes.
We then see Khemri commence training for a secret vocation where he has to be stripped of his ‘super powers’ including his ability to connect with the ‘Imperial Mind’, traverse through simulated environments and then, for his final test before the selections, he is placed in a situation where a real human colony are in great danger of being wiped out. All whilst this is going on, the arrogant Khemri’s heavily ingrained ideology and belief that being a ‘Prince’ is the ultimate way to live is challenged.
Verdict: Slow to get into, at least for an occasional reader of Sci Fi like myself but well worth the initial effort as the action gets intense and relentless. I really hope that Garth Nix isn’t finished with this universe he’s created!
Reviewed by Karen
What: Book talk and Signing
Who: C J Daughterty
Charing Cross Rd
When:Thursday 3rd of May 2012
Why: The First of Foyles new Creative Voices events, showcasing the work of fabulous YA authors.
C.J. Daugherty‘s debut Night School is the first book in her new YA mystery series:
Allie Sheridan’s world is falling apart. She hates her school. Her brother has run away from home. And she’s just been arrested.This time her parents have finally had enough. They cut her off from her friends and send her away to a boarding school for problem teenagers.But Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school. Its rules are strangely archaic. It allows no computers or phones. Its students are an odd mixture of the gifted, the tough and the privileged. And then there’s the secretive Night School, whose activities other students are forbidden even to watch. When Allie is attacked one night the incident sets off a chain of events leading to the violent death of a girl at the summer ball. As the school begins to seem like a very dangerous place, Allie must learn who she can trust. And what’s really going on at Cimmeria Academy.
Opening with the orgy that isn’t Sarah Grant Dark Parties certainly captures the attention:
Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield “protects” them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there’s nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says… Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a “dark party” to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she’s ever known, including the people she loves the most
Until I Die is the second instalment in Amy Plum‘s Revenants trilogy and the follow up to her awesome 2011 debut Die For Me:
Kate and Vincent have overcome the odds and at last they are together in Paris, the city of lights and love.As their romance deepens there’s one question they can’t ignore: How are they supposed to be together if Vincent can’t resist sacrificing himself to save others? Although Vincent promises that he’ll do whatever it takes to lead a normal life with Kate, will that mean letting innocent people die? When a new and surprising enemy reveals itself, Kate realizes that even more may be at stake—and that Vincent’s immortality is in jeopardy.
In Die for Me, Amy Plum created a captivating paranormal mythology with immortal revenants and a lush Paris setting. Until I Die is poised to thrill readers with more heart-pounding suspense, spellbinding romance, and a cliff-hanger ending that will leave them desperate for the third and final novel in the series
This 2012 debut from Ruth Warburton had me hiding behind my pillow.
Anna Winterson doesn’t know she’s a witch and would probably mock you for believing in magic, but after moving to the small town of Winter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power. When Anna meets Seth, she is smitten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwittingly amplifies a deadly conflict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her – but if it is her magic that’s controlling his passion, then she is as monstrous as the witch clan who are trying to use her amazing powers for their own gain.
If you follow book blogs you will have some idea of the epic nature of most book bloggers “To Be Read” (TBR) piles. My husband honestly believes that I have a problem and doesn’t understand why I would need more than one unread book, let alone a whole shelf of them! bless him 🙂 If you happen to be on my side of the compulsive book buyers spectrum you will understand that while I had only read Amy Plum’s 2011 debut I did in fact own, albeit unread, the three other debuts featured here.
I must confess to a great deal of squealing and excitement as I booked myself on to this inaugural Creative Voices event.
My non-book obsessed friends politely nodded, as I bounced in my chair exclaiming that there would be not one, not two but four awesome YA authors, four of them, FOUR! These un-bookish friends are awesome, but can generally only tolerate about five minutes of book talk before their eyes glaze over. Fear not, I know exactly where to turn in situations such as these, where to find my people, I logged on to twitter!
There my excitement turned to delight as I realised that not only was I going to meet, FOUR fabulous YA authors, I was also going to meet up with some amazing bloggers and catch up with some twitter friends “in the real world”.
|C.J.Daugherty and Ruth Warburton|
Being the eager beavers that we are, Laura (Sister Spooky: Book Fangirl ) Leanne (District YA), Casey (Dark Readers),Vivienne (Serendipity Viv), Lucy (Choose YA), Raimy (Readaraptor) and myself arrived early for the event. A combination of book chat, M&M taste testing and author seat warming ensured that the hour flew by and before we knew it, we were all fawning from the front row!
Each of the authors read excerpts from their books before answering the audiences questions. The discussion included the inspiration behind their works, their personal paths to publication, the writing processes and whether writing put food on their tables and roofs over their heads. It was interesting to learn that all of the authors wrote their debuts while holding down “normal” jobs and that Ruth Warburton and Sarah Grant continue to maintain careers (part time) in addition to their writing.
You can read Amy Plum’s account of the evening here!
Following the group discussion everyone had the opportunity to meet with each of the authors and have their books signed.
Verdict: The event was as brilliant as I had anticipated. I caught up with like minded friends and met some amazing women who’s passion for writing and enthusiasm for YA shone bright and clear.
I have subsequently rearranged my TBR pile, prioritising all of this signed gorgeousness to the top of my personal book mountain.
If you enjoy reading our Love Books Will Travel event reports you really should check out some of these awesome events for yourself. Click here to view Foyles upcoming events and here to see what Waterstone’s has to offer in your area. Don’t forget to check with your library for local bookish events.
Post by Caroline
They told him his uncle died in a car accident. Fourteen-year-old Alex knows that’s a lie, and the bullet holes in his uncle’s windshield confirm his suspicions. But nothing prepares him for the news that the uncle he always thought he knew was really a spy for MI6–Britain’s top secret intelligence agency. Recruited to find his uncle’s killers and complete his final mission, Alex suddenly finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse.
Having heard lots of good things about Anthony Horowitz I thought I’d check out his work. Stormbreaker seemed a good place to start; and it was!
The story gets going quickly and maintains a fast pace throughout. It is easy to read and well written. The chapters are about the right length, especially for the target audience (pre-teens and early teenagers). I also think that although this is probably more aimed at boys, a lot of girls would enjoy the adventurers of Alex Rider.
So to the story! This is a gripping yarn, a spy story after the heart of James Bond. As Alex is recruited into MI6 and trained in an army style for his mission he has to learn to survive in a tough adult environment where he is certainly not liked by everyone. He is then presented with his very own set of teenage boy spy gadgets, including metal melting zit cream (I love it) and sent off to spy on Herod Sayle who has made the country an offer that seems too good to be true. Alex has a few days to find out what is going on, and he does get to use his gadgets too!
Alex is a great character, he manages to seem like a normal teenage boy in the way he looks at many things, girls for example! And yet he is so obviously extraordinary as he begins to question what has happened to his Uncle and grow into a whole new role that he is more or less forced into. He proves to be quick thinking, quick on his feet and courageous. His escape from the Breakers Yard is truly remarkable, and this is only the first of many excitements and tight situations. It also seems that his Uncle has been preparing him for his future as Alex has learned many languages, can drive a car and do Karate, among many other things.
In addition to all this there is a fantastic tongue in cheek humour running through the book, Horowitz does send up the spy genre and plays on the villains in particular. Mr Grin is a brilliant example of this with his scar for a smile and inability to speak properly.
In case you are wondering if this is suitable for your child I will add that there is some violence, none of it graphic, but guns are used and Alex does shoot someone (even though he is specifically not trained to do this). If you, or your child haven’t read this kind of book before you might want to read it first, but unless your child is particularly sensitive or younger than the target audience then I think you are likely to find they love it and want the next one.
Verdict: It does seem to be the perfect book for any kid that dreams of being a spy and having amazing adventures!
Reviewed by Helen
Take your seat in the front row and watch in wonder as three cheeky little circus pigs make a wild wolf jump through hoops (literally), endure feats of astounding derring-do, and even withstand perilous games of dress-up. Safe in the thought that “Wolf Won’t Bite!” they even put their heads between his jaws…but can you push a wolf too far? Sure to strike a chord with anyone who has both a pet and a young child, this is a very funny and playful story with a snappy ending!
Some pigs from a circus seem to have managed to get hold of a wolf, watch them tame the wolf in their circus act. Because of course Wolf Won’t Bite…Will it?
This is a picture book perfect in it’s simplicity. The illustrations are set against a stark white background using a colour scheme of black, pink and red. The colours that you may well associate with the circus. This makes the pictures very clear and they tell the story alone.
This is a picture book where the words are there to add to the pictures rather than the other way round. Child or adult you know how the story will end but you still want to carry on to see just how far the pigs can push the wolf. Its simplicity means that this could be read to a fairly young child and they could understand and enjoy it, but it’s also perfect for children a bit older too, the repetition of lines within the story should appeal to them. his is another one that will be coming home to read to the four year old when shadowing is finished.
Verdict: Simple yet stunning.
Reviewed by Alison
“I don’t think that I could have made it through Candor initiation, though.”She Shakes her head. “There, instead of simulations, you get lie detector tests. All day, every day. And the final test…” She wrinkles her nose. “They give you this stuff they call truth serum and sit you in front of everyone and ask you a load of really personal questions. The Theory is that if you spill all your secrets, you’ll have no desire to lie about anything, ever again. Like the worst about you is already in the open, so why not just be honest?” Divergent, Veronica Roth
Nothing has the ability to loosen the tongue, not to mention inhibitions, and dislodge a few secrets like a dose or two of Candor Black and White Truth Serum.
Warning: High consumption of truth serum has been know to lead to dauntless like behaviour. In the spirit of the Candor emblem we request that you partake in the serums in moderation.
In to a shot glass pour:
2/3 of a Measure of Tia Maria.
Carefully place a teaspoon in to the glass so that the edge is just touching the Tia Maria and the back of the spoon is upper most.
Carefully pour the Baileys in to the glass over the back of the spoon.
The Whole Truth
The sophisticated one!
In to a cocktail shaker add:
1 espresso or 1expresso sized measure of strong coffee,
1x measure of Tia Maria,
1x measure of Vodka.
Shake well and strain in to a Martini glass.
Using the back of a spoon float double cream on top of the coffee mixture.
Finish with a light grating of plain chocolate.
Nothing But The Truth
The long one
In to a blender place:
3x Oreo cookies(broken)
2x Scoops of good quality vanilla ice cream
1x measure of Tia Maria
1x measure of Vodka
2x measure of Baileys
3x espresso cups of Milk
Blend until smooth.
Serve in a tall glass with a straw
While it is unlikely that you will have an overwhelming desire to spill all of your deepest darkest secrets, these little beauties will certainly keep your taste buds busy!
Iced Coffee with Vanilla Ice cream
Take a cup of strong freshly brewed coffee, place in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well.
Strain the now chilled coffee in to a latte glass over fresh ice.
Add a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Allowing the ice cream to melt creates a yummy creamy iced vanilla latte.
A Coke FloatFill a glass 4/5 full with Coke ( The full fat variety creates the best foam)
Add a large scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream.
Serve with a couple of straws
This post is part of the Team #CANDORUK campaign for #INSURGENTUK.
Post by Caroline
War looms in sixteen-year-old Tris’s dark dystopian world as disputes between the factions grow. Tris must now fight against all odds to discover the truth that can save her and the people she loves. Sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge – and the choices she makes will have devastating and unexpected consequences.
If you have read Divergent (and if you haven’t look away! and check out our review) you will know that Tris, at age 16, went through the choosing ceremony and made a choice to leave her own faction of Abnegation and join Dauntless. Then later on we find out that her simulation results indicated that she had an aptitude for 3 factions and could have chosen any one of them – that she was in fact Divergent. That choice has led her on a roller coaster of an adventure, as she went through the violent Dauntless initiation process, was picked on for her size and quickly learnt who her enemies were. She also begins to realise that all is not well between the five factions and that in fact a war is coming.
Insurgent takes up where Divergent left off, with Tris and Tobias heading for the safety of Amity after the horrific Erudite attack. There is no recapping so it may be an idea to have a re-read of Divergent first to remind yourself of where the story is up to. Insurgent is fast paced and keeps you gripped. I have to keep reminding myself that Tris is just a mere 16 years old, one who has lost her parents and whose life is at risk for her Divergent qualities.
Divergent introduces us to the five factions; Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite. In Insurgent we get to know each faction better. Although each has their own particular set of beliefs and morals, there is a consequence for holding those ideals so highly. For example, Candor values honesty, but yet they value it so highly that they have no thought to the damage that it might cause. Dauntless are free and value bravery but their chaotic way of life and complete recklessness leads to much unnecessary damage and death.
There is much fighting and loss and Tris is truly on a journey as she battles, not only to find out the ‘truth’ and what the significance of the ‘Divergent’ is, but also to battle her inner demons as she comes to terms with all that has happened. She seems increasingly reckless and finds it hard to make the right choice as her guilt and grief threaten to overwhelm her and at times I admit to getting frustrated with her and wanting to shout at her!
Tris and Tobias (Four) seem more apart than they are together for a lot of the book as they battle their demons separately and find it hard to trust and completely let go and be honest with each other about what they are each dealing with. Yet their underlying commitment to each other despite everything is very touching but it’s heart breaking at times as Tris is so conflicted as she wants to reach out and touch Tobias and be close to him, yet constantly holds back because of her pain and confusion. There is a lot of emotion going on that sweeps you right up with it. Phew!
The last few chapters are pretty relentless and I even confess to getting a wee bit confused and having to go back and re-read a few pages there is so much going on! There is a twist in the end… not completely unpredictable but it’s left me musing over society and its ills and how easily society could get to this place. Scary stuff!
Verdict: This is a fast paced and very gripping sequel to Divergent. I completely loved Divergent and still love it a little more than Insurgent, but am hooked on the story as a whole and cannot wait for the final part of the Trilogy to make its appearance next year.
This post is part of the Team #CANDORUK campaign for #INSURGENTUK
Reviewed by Lesley
Three flying birds…
One for each member of the family I left behind.
Sixteen-year-old Tris is forced to make a terrible choice.
In a divided society where everyone must conform, Tris doesn’t fit. So she ventures out alone, determined to discover where she truly belongs. Shocked by her brutal new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her.
The hardest choice lies ahead.
If the over excitement of over 70 UK bloggers, falling over themselves to promote its sequel, isn’t enough to convince you of the fabulousness of this novel then, I doubt there is anything I can write to convince you, but what the hey, I’ll give it a go!
Futuristic Chicago is divided in to five distinct factions. At its core, each faction exists to preserve and promote the values it feels are most important for a peaceful society and eradicate those personality traits deem undesirable and dangerous.
Valuing Selflessness about all else, Abnegation would climb twenty flights of stairs in order to give their space in a lift to another person. They fade in to the back ground in their matching grey clothing and utilitarian hair styles, believing to be truly selfless they cannot be self aware.
Amity, who value kindness and despise aggression, are the caretakers and peacemakers in society.
With a hate of duplicity, Candor values honesty above all else. Their inhabitants are trained to spot lies from a young age. Candor do not believe in white or kind lies, they would always tell the truth even at the expense of someone’s feelings.
The protection of society falls to Dauntless whose manifesto is to eliminate cowardice and promote bravery.
Erudite, the teachers and researchers blame ignorance for the failings of society and constantly strive to obtain more knowledge.
Tris, has never felt good enough, never felt completely at ease in the selfless faction in to which she was born. Instead she feels inexplicably draw to the pierced, monument climbing, train surfing teens of Dauntless. Tris has the power to change her entire existence. Along with her peers she is about to make the most important decision of her life; Choosing the faction that will not only define the way she will behave for the remainder of her life, but will determine where she lives, her career options, what food she eats and even how to dress. Before these sixteen year olds make their decision, society will conduct an aptitude test, to guide them to the faction they are inherently suited to.
A fast paced, coming of age story, Divergent is as pumped full of adrenaline as the black clad faction Tris aspires to join. Tris is a girl, separated from her family for the first time, struggling to find herself and her place in the world. Simultaneously connecting with a part of herself which has been previously denied, and for the first time truly appreciating her upbringing and the faction she grew up in.
Initially written off by her peers due to her birth faction and her slight stature, Tris show strength of character, mind and intellect long before the physical training begins to yield results. Unfortunately for Tris, this improved physicality doesn’t come soon enough to prevent her receiving a beating or two at the hand of her dauntless peers and her training certainly doesn’t make her invincible.
In Divergent if you get punched and kicked, you bleed and you hurt, and you’re probably not getting up again anytime soon (at least not without a limp). There are no magic formulas or fantastical technologies to heal your injuries or anaesthetise the pain. At times this gritty realism makes for an uncomfortable read but ultimately it creates a believable and relatable “every woman” caught up in extraordinary circumstances.
No YA tale is complete (at least not for me!) without a swoon worthy male lead to confuse and complicate our protagonists life a little further. Four comes from my favourite breed of love interest; tough, life hardened exterior hiding a super sweet but bruised centre, which only our feisty heroine can uncover. Not that I’m implying that he is a gingerbread male lead, trust me, Four is very much his own man.
Verdict: When you do decide to pick up Divergent I recommend that you block out some time in your diary and stock the fridge (at the very least apologies to your family in advance), because once you start reading it you are not going to want to put it down until the final page is turned, and then you are going to go right ahead and start reading Insurgent!
Reviewed by Caroline
A boy’s passion for music unlocks a painful secret — and draws his family together — in a multilayered tale by an outstanding author-illustrator pair.
Like any young boy, Paolo becomes obsessed with what he can’t have — in his case, a violin. Hidden away in his parents’ room, it beckons the boy to release the music inside it. The music leads Paolo to a family secret, a story of World War II that changed the course of his parents’ lives. But once the truth is told, the family is reunited in a way no one had thought possible. From Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman comes a story about sharing the joy of music from one generation to the next and about music’s power to transform and heal.
Just three weeks in to her fledgling career, cub reporter Lesley is handed the opportunity of a lifetime. Stepping in at the last minute for her hospitalised boss, Lesley is whisked away to Venice to interview world famous Violinist Paolo Levi. She has strict instructions to focus on the music and avoid asking the private musician any personal questions and under no circumstances should she ask the Mozart question. The only problem is that Lesley has no idea what the Mozart question is.
Twenty four hours later, sat drinking mint tea in the virtuoso’s sparse living quarters, Lesley discovers that Paolo has other ideas. For over forty years he has kept a promise and protected his family’s story, but now the time has come to tell the truth.
Filled with the compulsion to make music, one boy discovers his great gift when holding his fathers abandoned Violin for the first time. Exploring his new found passion leads to the discovery of his parent’s history, exposing the raw wounds of their holocaust experiences and the exploitation of the musical talent that was the key to their survival.
While undoubtedly emotive, Morpurgo handled the subject matter beautifully. Providing enough detail to educate and evoke emotion, but not too much as to overwhelm young readers. I sat reading this account with watery eyes, and at one point I felt a shiver of cold revulsion spread down my spine. Despite the horror of this bleak period in our history and mans ability to harm his fellow man, The Mozart Question, ultimately left me feeling uplifted. I was able to turn the final page with a small smile on my face, as in counterbalance to mans cruelty, Morpurgo shows us the beauty of mans love.
Michael Foreman’s illustrations fit the story perfectly. The use of muted colours conveys the seriousness of the subject matter, while the softness of the water colours allow the illustrations to sit within the text without distracting from the story, that is until afforded a full or half page. The artist’s talents are revealed in these larger images, capturing the mood and essence of the iconic images of the holocaust, that as adults have already had some exposure to.
This is the first and only Michael Morpurgo book I’ve read. I know, I know, where have I been?!(Hangs head in shame). I plan to amend this oversight by checking out other Morpurgo titles and sharing them with my children when they are old enough to appreciate them.
Verdict: At just eighty pages this small book packs a large emotional punch.
Reviewed by Caroline