Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nina of the Dark by Ken Catran

Children's Fantasy approx 9-12

Nina is raised as a slave, but her special abilities mean that she is the only person capable of saving the world.

Yes, as you can probably tell by the opening paragraph -- this book is full of thinly disguised cliché fantasy stereotypes, so if that's what you're after, you'll probably love it. I didn't, and unusually it wasn't the writing that put me off -- it was the characters. Not only were they shallow, but they acted like puppets to be directed by nothing more than the plot, and often heavily directed by author devices like "the balance of the world," and the completely new "thumb hurting."

The action is episodic, a little bit like a random Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Now, that's not entirely a bad thing, and the action was mostly fun, except when, for no reason at all, important fight scenes are skipped and then revisited in retrospect. And the reason for this seemed to be that the book wasn't written around the action, so much as things being explained to Nina. Those one-way dialogues are the big turning points of the story. This having stuff explained, and having objects and events fall into Nina's lap in my view are plot flaws, and trumpeting them undermines her character, the decisions she makes, and how she fights for them. If only more emphasis had been put on those moments, instead of the jiggery-pokery behind the scenes stuff, the story might have worked.

My overall impression was simply that the author did not have respect for his audience, and if that is the case, I suggest he turns his very able pen toward the adult market.

Review by Alicia Ponder

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Very Very Late Rona Gallery Awards for 2008

Children's Awards

Best Children's Book:

Verdigris Deep by Francis Hardinge - Macmillan Children's Books

Simply the most satisfying, well written book I think I've ever read.

The children's children award for best children's adventure: The Roar by Emma Clayton - The Chicken House

The Roar is nothing more than an aeroplane read for children nevertheless it was the fastest devoured children's book I know of - with five readers finishing the book in as many days.

Crossover Book Awards

Best Adult Teen Crossover: The Nostradamus Prophecy by Theresa Breslin --Doubleday

Best Book for Adults Disguised as a Book for Children: The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E L. Koningsburg - Ginee Seo Books

Adult's Book Awards

And the winner is...
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - The Dial Press

I can't count the number of people who raved about this book. Absolutely delightful, you'll wish it would never end.

Best Produced book : CK Stead Collected Poems - Auckland University Press

Best Non fiction - Outliers: the story of success
by Malcom G
ladwell -Penguin.

Best Aeroplane Read, sheer fast-paced, leave your brain at the door fun:
A Prisoner of Birth by Jefrey Archer - St. Martin's Press

The Reformed Vampire's Support Club by Catherine Jinks

The perfect antidote to Twilight, funny, undeniably original, and there's a plot!

So you think being a Vampire is cool? Think again. Nina has been cooped up in her room, barely able to go out -- except to her vampire support group.
When one of her fellow vampires is killed they are all terrified a mis-informed vampire-killer is on the loose. Something has to be done - but it means risking everything. And it's dangerous, just think about it, for a vampire sunlight is deadly!

Catherine Jinks is always a great read, so there were a few arguments about who would read this book first -- and second -- and third...

Review by Alicia Ponder


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