mrs lloyd-smith’s reviews

Thanks, Mrs L-S! – Admin

Bone Sparrow
I was a bit anxious about reading this book, knowing that it was based around a young boy growing up in an immigration detention centre, with all the hardships that entails. The author didn’t flinch from the stark reality of life in the camp – from the appalling living conditions to the brutality of the guards, but I thought the issues were dealt with sensitively and with an appropriate level of detail. Naturally parts of the book were upsetting, but there was also humour and hope in the relationship that formed between Subhi, in the camp and Jimmie outside of it. I think the central image of the ‘bone sparrow’ was important to give a connection outside of the centre and help us understand the history of the displaced families, but there were also some magical elements about this that didn’t really work for me.
Overall this was a well written and interesting book but not a Carnegie winner for me: 7/10

Wolf Hollow
This book showed such promise at the beginning – the setting had an olde-world charm and there were hints of the dramatic story that was to unfold. However, I found the characters unbelievable, particularly the central family that seemed too good to be true and the relationship between Annabelle and Toby to be uncomfortable. Although not a bad book, I found myself looking at how much I had left to read – not a good sign!
Overall, not badly written but not an enjoyable read: 4/10

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth
The author, Frank Cottrell Boyce is very popular and I’m wondering whether it was this, rather than the book itself that led to it being shortlisted this year, as for me it was a mish-mash of serious and unbelievable. What didn’t work for me was that Prez sees Sputnik as an alien, whereas everyone else sees him as a dog. I was happy to run with this being a literary device as Prez is in need of a friend, but the magic was unbelievable and I couldn’t really see where the book was going. That said, the writing style would make it suitable for young readers and I thought the book dealt sensitively with his grandfather’s dementia and the impact it had on both him and Prez.
Felt this was quite a weak book overall: 2/10

The Stars at Oktober Bend
Fabulous – this gets my vote for winner of the award this year. I think the story is well paced, with enough plot turns to add depth and interest. The writing style is innovative and seems to perfectly reflect the ‘voices’ of Alice and Manny that develop during the book. All characters are very credibly drawn and change over time making them seem very real.
Excellent characters, plot and writing style: 10/10

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