Whitbread/Costa prize winner

All posts in the Whitbread/Costa prize winner category

The Ask And The Answer (Chaos Walking #2) – Patrick Ness

Published November 28, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

We were in the square, in the square where I’d run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her – But there weren’t no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men…

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…

“The Ask and the Answer” is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second title in the “Chaos Walking” trilogy.

What did I think?:

Patrick Ness is, without a doubt, one of my new favourite authors and after the fantastic Knife Of Never Letting Go which I read a little while ago, it was high time that I read this, the second in the series. Ness leaves us at the end of the first book with an unbelievable cliff-hanger and I’m going to try and make this review as spoiler free as possible but if you’ve not read the first book, I highly recommend you do and then come back and read this review! I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that Todd and Viola have walked right into terrible danger, in the form of Mayor Prentiss, a terrific fanatical villain who has plans for a new world order, one in which he is the President and rules by manipulating the “noise,” of his citizens.

Almost immediately, Todd and Viola are separated and for most of this novel, we see the story from both of their points of view as Viola is placed in the care of a group of healers with all the women and Todd is left with the Mayor (sorry, PRESIDENT) and the men. He is forced to take charge of the Spackle, strange and mute alien beings who were actually the native species of this planet before the humans arrived and, as is often the case, took over everything. President Prentiss has plans for the Spackles – not nice ones I’m afraid to say and by using an eerie form of mind control, torture, threats and his son Davey, he forces Todd to do things he is not proud of which brings back bad memories of what he has done in the past. He becomes desperate to find Viola and make everything right again, even if this means war and over-throwing Prentiss.

Meanwhile, Viola is adapting to life amongst the healers where tensions and bad feeling against Prentiss are slowly beginning to rise, master-minded by the lead healer, Mistress Coyle. Eventually, she heads up a group of women known as “The Answer,” to stand against the President in a war that makes Viola question everything she believes in. These are dangerous times, especially when another group also rises to fight which could mean the end of the world as they know it. Who is right and who is wrong? Which side should Todd and Viola choose? Is war ever justified? These questions and so many more are just begging to be answered as we head towards the final book in this thought-provoking and action packed trilogy. There’s one thing I know for sure, it’s going to be one hell of a finale.

For me, the second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy was even better than the first and I didn’t think that was going to be possible. I absolutely love Todd and Viola as characters (although I did miss a certain dog…) and it was great to see our heroine’s point of view a little more in this novel. What makes them so great? It’s a mixture of things, Todd’s unique voice and the way he uses grammar is a real bonus for me and I love the way he’s so imperfect. Yes, he makes mistakes, he struggles, he doesn’t always make the right decisions but he’s still a young lad trying to find his feet in a dangerous world facing things we can only imagine – he’s allowed to mess up! Viola is a perfect compliment to his character, providing peace and inner strength, allowing him to make his own way and then helping him to be a better person. Then we have Prentiss, a phenomenal villain who could definitely benefit from some psychiatric help but truly believes he is doing the right thing for the world. Well, they do say psychopaths believe their own hype, right?

This story is so jam packed full of action, just when I thought it couldn’t get any more frenetic, Ness ramped it up just one more notch. This is certainly a book I couldn’t put down and one that stayed with me for a while as I considered exactly what the author was trying to say about war, violence, friendship, fascism and indeed, racism. Throughout the novel I was moved, angered, repelled and excited (sometimes all at the same time) and it has paved the way for an extraordinary series ending. If you haven’t started or finished the series yet, please do yourself a favour and DO IT! You won’t be disappointed.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Image from http://www.ohthebooks.com/bookish-reunion-the-ask-and-the-answer-by-patrick-ness/

 

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Eve Green – Susan Fletcher

Published March 14, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Pregnant with her first child, Eve Green recalls her mother’s death when she was eight years old and her struggle to make sense of her parents’ mysterious romantic past. Eve is sent to live with her grandparents in rural Wales, where she finds comfort in friendships with Daniel, a quiet farmhand, and Billy, a disabled, reclusive friend of her mother’s. When a ravishing local girl disappears, one of Eve’s friends comes under suspicion. Eve will do everything she can to protect him, but at the risk of complicity in a matter she barely understands. This is a timeless and beautifully told story about family secrets and unresolved liaisons.

What did I think?:

I am a big fan of Susan Fletcher’s second novel The Oystercatchers (which I actually read before reading this) so I couldn’t wait to start this, especially as it was a Whitbread/Costa award winner. The story is mainly set around a specific period of Eve’s life, when she was eight years old, although the story flits back and forwards between this and the present day Eve who is expecting a baby. There are a multitude of issues explored, including her coming to terms with her mothers death, wanting to know more about her father, her relationship with her grandparents and the two men in her life Billy and Daniel, and the story of a missing girl. There is a danger because of this that the novel can appear quite busy, but I didn’t find this at all. In fact, it was pleasant to have so many themes and ideas and I think the author pulled it off well.

The writing is wonderful and almost like a stream of consciousness, but the descriptive kind that you can curl up with and just let the language flow over you. I found it incredibly easy to read, and although I preferred Oystercatchers as a novel, I appreciated the quiet brilliance of this debut which seemed effortless.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars