Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Patrick Ness”

sevenstories’ #CBR4 Reviews #53 – 60: YA Fiction

53. My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick

My Swordhand is Singing

I’m a big fan of Marcus’ books, I’ve read most of his novels for teenagers and this is probably my third favourite (second is below and first is
Midwinterblood which I reviewed properly on my blog here.) This is a wintery, fast-paced story of family, myth and vampires (the scary, not sparkly, kind). Peter is a very engaging hero and his relationship with his father incredibly moving, especially at the end. There are plenty of twists and turns and some wonderful supporting characters. Marcus also directed a superb theatre experience of a section of Swordhand for the Pop Up Festival in London this year which was phenomenal – there’s a video of bits of it on his website.

Blood Red, Snow White54. Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

As I said, this is my second favourite of Marcus’ books and another wintery setting – this time in Russia. This is the semi-true story of the author Arthur Ransome and is an intricate and moving fairy tale within a fairy tale as Ransome’s stories and his own story wind around each other and around communist Russia, politics, spies and romance. I really enjoyed the way Marcus plays with the stories within stories and found it refreshingly different for a YA novel. Marcus has visited my school a few times now and also helped me out with my dissertation but I’m pretty sure I would still have loved this if I had never met him!

55. Jimmy Coates: Killer by Joe Craig

Jimmy Coates

This is the action packed first book in the series about Jimmy Coates, a kind of teenage Bourne. It’s engaging from the very start, with lots of action and suspense and is insanely popular with my students at school – particularly Y7 & 8 boys. The final action sequence is very unputdownable with some unexpected twists and lots of conflicting loyalties. Jimmy is an incredibly likeable hero – he was chosen by one boy as his literary best friend in a recent Book Club activity where we picked our literary family trees (which was so much fun). Again, Joe has visited my school and did a wonderful session for my Y7s where he asked them for ideas for stories and wove them all together in front of them, and had them in stitches whilst doing so.

A Monster Calls56. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This was a re-read and I reviewed it properly when it first came out last year here. Since that review, A Monster Calls has won a whole heap of awards over here in the UK including the Red House Children’s Book Award and the Carnegie Medal, both of which I was lucky enough to be invited to take some students to. Red House is a wonderful award because it is voted for by the children and they get to be a big part of the process and also the ceremony day. We got to go to London and have lunch with all the nominated authors and illustrators and have photos taken etc. and the two Y8 girls I took had an amazing day, so thank you Red House. Carnegie is a lot more industry-y with not many children invited, which made it awesome for us to get tickets, and there were amazing canapes, but it was also a bit less child-friendly and bit more networky. It’s such a prestigious award though that me and the four students I took were just super excited to be there, we got to see the winner announced and hear Patrick’s speech and get photos with him afterwards as well as meeting the shortlisted authors who were all lovely and happy to sign books for my students (and me!).

57. Just In Case by Meg RosoffJust In Case

I’m a big fan of How I Live Now, Meg’s first novel, but thought that The Bride’s Farewell was a bit too Hardy-esque and melancholy for it’s intended audience (I reviewed it here). Whilst I didn’t love this as much as How I Live Now (even though this one won the Carnegie in 2007), I thought it was intelligent, thought-provoking and engaging. Our hero decides that Fate is wreaking havoc in his life after his baby brother nearly falls out of a window and decides to change his name and complete personality to try and give Fate the slip. Meg’s writing is wonderful in this, we here from the perspectives of several characters including his baby brother in a particularly clever and emotive way. This is a serious book that doesn’t patronise teenage readers and I imagine will really connect to their struggles in deciding who they really are.

What I Was58. What I Was by Meg Rosoff

I did like this story of friendship and first love and I always find Meg’s writing beautiful but I just wasn’t as engaged emotionally as I wanted to be. It does capture wonderfully the wistful longing and constant second guessing you get when you meet someone  and the exploration of growing up and gender is clever and subtle. It’s basically the story of a boy who goes to a stern coastal boarding school and meets Finn who lives in a cottage by the sea. It’s a lovely study of memory and freedom and self and I struggle to articulate why it didn’t quite connect with me the same way How I Live Now and Just In Case did. A key element of the story is that we don’t know a great deal about Finn because we see through our protagonist’s eyes but between that and not actually getting that much about our protagonist beyond his opinions about Finn I think I just lacking a bit of engagement with the central relationship. But the quality of Meg’s writing is undeniable and I would recommend it to fans of hers.

59. The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen PetersThe Secret Hen House Theatre

This is a perfectly serviceable family story for younger readers about a girl who dreams of writing and starring in plays whilst also dealing with the death of her mother and her family’s farm running out of money. If it had been a bit shorter I would probably be a lot more positive about it but it’s just too long for a simple story with a bit too much faffing around in the first half of the book. But, I imagine it will be enjoyed by girls between about 8 – 12, particularly those with a love of animals or drama. There’s a good balance of family drama and adventure but probably could have done without a subplot to do with some boys at school which didn’t add much. A pleasant but flawed read.

Billy Dean60. The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond

Definitely my favourite on this list; David is a phenomenal writer and Billy Dean is no exception. The story is written in very short chapters from the perspective of Billy and as Billy can’t read or write well, it is written semi-phonetically which does take a while to get used to but creates such a powerful voice for Billy. The basic plot is that Billy was born during the bombing of his town and that has allowed him to hidden away as he is the secret child of his mother and the corrupt town priest. The first third of the story is before Billy is introduced to the world and is heart breakingly beautiful as he negotiates the occasional visit from his father and wrestles with what life is all about. The rest is when he is brought back into the bomb-ruined town and forced to work for the medium contacting the dead for the bereaved. The story is incredibly powerful and jaw droppingly beautiful and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is intricate, careful and wonderful.  It’s currently on the Carnegie longlist for 2013 and I hope to see it on the shortlist.

” I am entransd. I am enchanted by the byuty of the world. I wark throu lejons of the lovely living things. I wander in the relms of lite.”

sevenstories’ 2012 Carnegie Summary

Sorry to hijack for something that is not strictly Cannonball but I’ve been reading the eight books on the Carnegie Medal shortlist over the last six weeks or so and have reviewed them all as part of Cannonball.

I’ve just posted a summary of the shortlist on my blog with the books in my personal order with a few thoughts on which will win which I’m linking to here. So please have a look if you’re interested in children’s/YA fiction or the Carnegie medal.

I’m beside myself with excitement that I managed to get some tickets to the ceremony tomorrow in London so I’ll be tweeting about it @acaseforbooks (it’s protected, sorry, but I work in a school and use it for personal things as well but I accept anyone except students!) and will hopefully do a blog post as well, particularly if I manage to get some good photos.

Normal reviews will now continue…

Pinky’s CBRIV Book#6: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness based on an idea from Siobhan Dowd

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 15: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

Where do I start? Well, I guess right off the bat I’ll say that I was disappointed. I expected great things, both because everyone seems to love this AND because I usually fall hard for dystopian YA. Coming off of The Hunger Games and hearing all the buzz around this series, I was ready to accept a new obsession into my life. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Chaos Walking trilogy will fill my void.

The rest is going behind a cut because there will be SPOILERS and because I want to invite everyone who has read this and loves it to prove me wrong and tell me why I should pick up the next book.

Read more…

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review#11 The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking: Book 1)

Todd Hewett is about to become a man on a planet where other men can hear what you are thinking. It is called Noise, and is a side effect of a war with the original inhabitants of New World, called the Spackle. In the last days of the war the Spackle released a virus that killed all the women, gave all the animals the ability to speak, and unleashed Noise on the men. Todd lives in the only town left on New World, called Prentisstown, and he is the last of the town to turn 13 and – as is the custom of the town – become a man. While out in the swamp that surrounds the town, Todd and his dog, Manchee, comes across a strange pocket of silence. He runs home to tell his guardians, Ben and Cillian, what he found but the discovery slips out of his Noise while passing through the town to his farm. In order to protect him from the secret of the town, Ben and Cillian send Todd and Manchee away with a map and his mother’s journal to a town beyond the swamp that Todd never knew existed. What becomes quickly apparent is that just about everything Todd has ever been told is a lie. The first major revelation is when he comes across the source of the silence in the swamp, a young girl named Viola.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in the trilogy series Chaos Walking. It is a JA book, but continuing in the footsteps of the JA series The Hunger Games, it is an incredibly bleak and harsh book. Todd makes for a difficult protagonist to like. Because he is nearly 13 he can be incredibly stubborn and strong willed when he really should just think things through. Over and over again he finds out he is wrong about something yet at the next opportunity he reacts without thinking.

Todd narrates the story in his own voice, so occasionally there are passages meant to show what it is like to live with Noise. These pages are just filled with words all jumbled together. Some descriptive, some half formed thoughts, but all disorienting and difficult to parse meaning from. The book is essentially one long chase. Todd, Manchee, and Viola race across the land trying to reach the city of Haven while the Mayor of Prentisstown chases them with an ever growing army.

At times this book reminded me of the tv show LOST. There are multiple times where someone is about to reveal a piece of the mystery to Todd, only to be interrupted by an outside event which forces more running. Todd travels with his mother’s diary that she kept when Todd was born, but Todd is ashamed he can’t read it. Even though he knows Viola can read he doesn’t give it to her to read it to him until the book is almost over. If you are looking for answers you won’t find many, and the ones you do get don’t come until the book reaches its finale. There are times where the events unfold much like a video game, with brief lulls in the action for exposition until Todd and Viola are off and running again only to stop a few pages letter for another set piece scene.

I knew this was a trilogy going in to it, but the abrupt ending was unexpected. Also it is an incredibly mean book. For a JA, the only thing saving it from being classified as an adult book is that Todd likes to say the word “effing” rather than “fucking”. Although Viola does say “fucking” at one point which I think was just missed in the edit to tell the truth. The book is loaded with mature situations, including implied rape, stabbings, shootings, and terror. It is not a happy book by any stretch of the imagination so if you are interested because of the JA label, be advised this is much more along the lines of The Hunger Games series or The Book Thief, than Harry Potter.

As frustrating as the book can be at times, Ness is a compelling writer and puts you in to Todd’s head well. He can be frustrating, but by the end of it (as happens in most coming of age series) you understand his actions and can grant him some respect. Just don’t expect all the answers. To be honest, I don’t even know if they are from Earth, on a future/past Earth, or what. I’m just guessing based on the context, but at no point does the word “Earth” come in to play. There is much of the story left to infer on your own. With the cliffhanger ending I’m hoping the second book starts to fill in the blanks because I have a few hundred questions and unlike Todd I don’t mind asking them.

The Chaos Walking trilogy:

1) The Knife of Never Letting Go
2) The Ask and the Answer
3) Monsters of Men

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #11: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness


Cannonball Read IV: Book #11/52
Published: 2009
Pages: 603
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian

**This is the third novel in the Chaos Walking Trilogy. There are spoilers regarding the first two books in the series, The Knife of Never Letting Goand The Ask and the Answer.

This final book in Patrick Ness’s trilogy ties up the journey of Todd and Viola in New World. In the end of the last book, we were left with another cliffhanger as New World’s natives, the Spackle, join the war against the already divided humans. This book jumps right into the action as a huge battle breaks out.

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #10: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness


Cannonball Read IV: Book #10/52
Published: 2009
Pages: 519
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian

**This is the second novel in the Chaos Walking Trilogy. There are spoilers regarding the first book in the series, The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Todd and Viola are separated as Mayor Prentiss (now President Prentiss) overtakes Haven (now known as “New Prentisstown”). Todd is taken prisoner by Mayor/President Prentiss, while Viola is sent off to a healing house due to her gunshot wound from the end of the last novel. The healing house women (and Viola) eventually run off and form The Answer, who are opposed to President Prentiss and his tyranny.

Todd and Viola spend the entire book apart and this time half the book is written from Viola’s perspective (the first novel was written just by Todd’s). I liked that separating the two allowed us to see both opposing sides of the coming war. They are also each heavily swayed by both sides and the reader is never sure which side they may choose. Like the first book, I was never sure what was going to happen next.


Read the rest of my review in my blog!

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #9: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness


Cannonball Read IV: Book #9/52
Published: 2008
Pages: 496
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy. It’s gotten rave reviews, so I decided to check it out. I’m so glad I gave it a chance because I loved it!

Todd Hewitt lives in a town called Prentisstown in New World. In New World, only men are left after a disease killed all the women and caused everyone to be able to read everyone else’s thoughts (or “noise”). Or so Todd is taught. He’s the youngest male left in Prentisstown and his mother left him a book with the truth in it. A month before Todd becomes a man (his 13th birthday), his two caretakers send him out of town with a map and his mother’s book to learn the truth.


Read the rest of the review in my blog!

Even Stevens’s #CBR4 review #4: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The author’s note explains that this a book originally conceived, and started, by author Siobhan Dowd. Unfortunately, Ms. Dowd passed away before she could get past the basic outline of the story, and Patrick Ness was approached to finish her book. I was really intrigued by this aspect of it, adopting someone else’s story as your own – being passed the baton, as Ness describes it. I have not read Ness’ highly-praised Walking Chaos trilogy (which I will be rectifying immediately), so this is my first introduction to his work. What a spectacular introduction it was.

At 12:07 each night, Conor O’Malley awakens from a nightmare, only to find another sort of nightmare right outside his window: a giant yew tree that has come for him. The yew is ancient and matter-of-fact, it has a mission and it will complete it. On the surface, this is a good old-fashioned monster tale, but thanks to Ness’ incredibly talented writing, there is so much more going on underneath. Conor’s daytime life is even more complicated, his mother has cancer and her most recent treatments haven’t been working, his dad has moved from England to America and has a new family, and Conor faces bullies and other obstacles at school.

The book is laced from the beginning with a sort of dark humor, mostly coming from Conor, a 13-year-old who is both wise beyond his years and still a typical kid. Conor cooks his own meals, does the wash and takes out the trash – he has taken on an adult’s weight of responsibility but still yearns for the normal things that adolescents do, even if he won’t admit it to himself. The characterization is one of many great things about this novel; each one has a very distinct personality and voice, and even the smaller players are given depth and dimension.

What is really great about this book is the contrast between fantasy and reality. When I was reading it, I often thought about the movie Pan’s Labryinth and writer Neil Gaiman. This is not to say the author is derivate, but rather that his writing evoked much of the same tone and feeling. His story is deceptively simple, but he uses Conor’s fantasy world to contrast the burden of fear, grief, loneliness, responsibility, etc. Is Conor really seeing a monster, or is he using it to channel his fears? Fear is a big player here. Fear of abandonment, of being invisible, of helplessness, of growing up. Our fears can be crippling, but learning to move past them can be the most freeing thing of all. All of these things are significant to Conor’s story, but they are all things we, the readers, can relate to as well, and that is the sign of a truly great story.

The absolutely wonderful illustrations also deserve a mention. All black and white sketches, they start out simple enough, and as the story grows more complex, so do the sketches. They complement the story perfectly and some of them were just downright gorgeous.

Ness has an amazing eye for detail as well. There are many things introduced in the beginning that stand well on their own, but as the story progresses, you realize they had a bigger purpose the whole time. For instance: why the monster comes at 12:07 exactly, why it takes the form of a yew tree, and the significance of the stories the monster tells Conor. The stories the monster tells are my favorite part. They are morality tales, but they don’t necessarily end the way you would expect. Conor complains that they’re terrible stories because they don’t have happy endings, but these stories, to me, are captivating because they, A) establish that not all stories have happy endings, B) present a moral ambiguity that seems very true to real life, and C) highlight the complex, often contradictory nature of people (one that is paralleled in Conor’s story).

This book is beautiful, poignant, and affecting, but most of all it transcends genre to the point that it is really just a great story to read. You can have great ideas or great plot points, but you need a skilled writer to bring it all together, and Ness has done that flawlessly. The book has a timeless feel to it, in the way that if someone were to pick this up fifty or one hundred years from now, they could still relate, and that right there is something special. I absolutely cannot recommend this book enough – I would give it a hundred stars if I could. If you’re a fan of good writing and entertaining stories, I urge you to read this book. Right now!

Jen K’s #CBR4 Review #1: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

The last novel in the Chaos Walking Trilogy – don’t you hate it when the rest of the series isn’t as good as the first novel?  Read the review here.

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