Costa Children’s Book Award

All posts tagged Costa Children’s Book Award

The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

Published February 27, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy – a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder – or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.

What did I think?:

The Lie Tree has been on my radar for the longest time, ever since it won the Costa Book Award back in 2015 and I was delighted when the lovely booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath recommended it as one of the books I simply had to read on a reading spa I went to with my sister Chrissi Reads. Now, they picked some outstanding books perfectly tailored for my reading tastes but this book was one of their more intuitive choices and one that had me jumping up and down about it within just a few pages. I think I was merely twenty pages through when I had the urge to tweet gushing all about it and I had barely begun! You know when you start reading a book and everything slots into place? The lyrical writing, the atmospheric setting, the mystery of the characters, the magical elements? They were all spectacular and I knew it was a book destined to make it to my all-time favourites book shelf.

This is the story of Faith and her family who are fleeing England after a scandal involving her father’s work as a natural scientist. They encamp themselves upon a small island where they believe at first the rumours haven’t followed them and the Reverend can continue his rather secretive work in relative peace. Faith is an intelligent, determined girl who takes great interest in her father’s studies although the fact that she is a woman in 19th century England does not bode well for her future intellectual development i.e. she is not expected to pursue anything else other than marrying well. However, when her father meets an untimely end under suspicious circumstances, Faith is desperate to peruse his current research, in search for answers about his mysterious death, his very strange behaviour and his often rattled demeanour in order to uncover the secrets behind a very special plant, The Lie Tree. It is only when she discovers what The Lie Tree can potentially provide that Faith begins to realise she may have opened a bigger can of worms than she ever could have expected.

This gorgeous novel was so much more than I anticipated and I thank Frances Hardinge from the bottom of my heart for every word of it. The language used is sumptuous and glorious and I loved the combination of the historical setting with the fantastical element of the Lie Tree mixed with subtle hints of feminist undertones. Each character and their intricate relationships was developed so beautifully that they felt completely authentic, especially with the addition of flaws that only served to increase my belief in each one of them. I have to talk briefly about Faith’s relationship with both her parents, which broke my heart at times. I clocked her mother, Myrtle immediately as being disinterested, two-faced and not in the slightest maternal but it was Faith’s relationship with her father that really floored me and at one point, almost had me in tears.

There’s a particular scene with Faith and the Reverend just prior to his death where he tells her exactly what he and the rest of the world expects of her as a female and it’s just a horrific, passionate exchange that was upsetting yet very illuminating to read. Faith is herself as I alluded to, flawed and becomes enamoured with the power provided to her by The Lie Tree. She makes some really terrible decisions, suffers for her bravery and hurts a few people in the process but at the end of the day, I couldn’t help but admire her for her tenacity and dogged determination to ensure that her father’s death was avenged. Basically, I can’t gush enough about the magnificent nature of this novel, it is a very worthy Costa Award winner and for me, proof that a book can still capture my heart within twenty pages.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge was the sixteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

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/