Book Club Pick: October 2019

I am Change

Title: I Am Change

Author: Suzy Zail

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Australia

Publisher: Black Dog Books

First Published: 2019

Pages: 352

Publisher Description:

Lilian has learned to shrink herself to fit other people’s ideas of what a girl is.

In Lilian’s village a girl is not meant to be smarter than her brother. A girl is not meant to go to school or enjoy her body or decide who to marry. Especially if she is poor.

Inspired by the true accounts of young Uganda women, I Am Change is the tragic but empowering story of how a girl finds her voice and the strength to fight for change.

Review:

I am Change follows Lilian, a young woman from a rural village in Uganda, who dreams of writing stories and has ambitions of becoming a teacher.

Unfortunately for Lilian in her village young women are often pressured into marriages arranged by their parents. It is expected that the young woman’s focus will be producing sons and caring for her husband’s needs. Many young women do not complete their education as these arranged marriages will occur when they are a teenager.

I understand the importance of Own Voices literature so I had my reservations reading a novel about a young impoverished Uganda woman written by a white Australian former solicitor.

It is not my place to say whether it is Zail’s place to tell this story. It is clear that she has done her research and treats the subject matter with respect.

In 2015, Zail met Nakamya Lilian, a 29-year-old woman from Uganda, who was visiting Australia. She told Zail her story of growing up in an improvised rural village and her ambitions and struggles to get an education.

Zail flew to Uganda and interviewed thirty young girls, and their stories are the basis for the novel. One of those young women Namukasa Nusula Sarah read each draft and wrote the foreword for the book.

The novel tackles some strong issues around women’s rights, such as a patriarchal education system, female circumcision, arranged marriages, prostitution, sexual assault, and domestic violence.

Although I am Change is confronting and challenging at times it is optimistic and hopeful, and inspires and advocates for change.

 

Links:

Suzy Zail Official Website

Suzy Zail on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

 

 

Book Club Pick: September 2019

LeahOnTheOffbeatCover

Title: Leah on the Offbeat

Author: Becky Albertalli

Series: Direct sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Balzar & Bray

First Published: 2018

Pages: 368

Publisher Description:

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually right on the beat – but real life is a little harder to manage. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends she’s bisexual, not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friendship group starts to fracture. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high, and its hard for Leah when the people she loves are fighting – especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended…

Becky Albertalli returns to the world of her acclaimed debut novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, in this warm and humorous story of first love and senior-year angst.

Review:

We were first introduced to Leah Burke in Becky Albertalli’s 2015 debut novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

In this novel Simon takes a back seat as his best friend Leah narrates her senior year. Leah is not necessarily the most likeable protagonist. She can be very abrasive and judgemental. I actually found it refreshing to have a voice that is vulnerable and flawed – she is still figuring things out.

Leah identifies as bisexual, but she is only out to her mom – has been since middle school.

The story follows Leah as she develops a crush on one of her friends, as well as dealing with the usual pressures of senior year – prom, preparing for college, graduation and saying farewell to your high school friends.

It is positive to see a young bisexual woman who is comfortable with her own body and diverse POC representation.

There have been some criticisms of the novel. One criticism is that there were no hints to Leah’s sexuality in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, as a result some readers have felt that the novel is more of a fan fiction of Albertalli’s earlier work. Some readers have also been critical Leah policed another character’s identity when she came out as ‘low key bi’, and did not apologise for this judgement.

Leah on the Offbeat is not as good as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and I don’t think it had a chance to live up to Simon vs. I think it would have worked better as its own story with a new set of characters – that being said it was nice to see Simon and Bram again.

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Click here to read my review of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Click here to read my review of the film Love, Simon

Links:

Becky Albertalli Official Website

Becky Albertalli on Facebook

Becky Albertalli on Twitter

Becky Albertalli on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

This month’s book club pick is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by Jack Thorne. Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne.

Last month I was in Melbourne so I took the opportunity to see both Part One and Two at the Princess Theatre.

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I saw both parts on the same day. If you are planning to see both parts, and I can’t imagine why you would only see one, then for the experience I recommended seeing them on the same day. The alternative is to see it consecutively across two nights.

The only other time I have seen both parts of a two part play on the same day was when I saw Angels in America – Part One: Millennium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika, which was also an amazing experience.

So if you are up for a five-hour theatre experience, go for it. The matinee was at 2pm and the evening performance at 7.30pm. Part One is approximately 2 hours, 40 minutes (including a 20 minute interval) and Part Two is approximately 2 hours, 35 minutes (including a 20 minute interval).

I started my morning at The Store of Requirement (6 Smith St, Collingwood), which is a store selling Harry Potter merchandise. It is a 15 minute to 20 minute walk from the Princess Theatre. Click here to read by post on The Store of Requirement.

I picked up my tickets before lunch and browsed the small shop in Princess Theatre selling Cursed Child merchandise. I’m glad I did this then considering how busy it was at showtime.

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Fridge magnets

The Princess Theatre is an amazing venue for live theatre. The theatre first opened in 1854 as the Astley’s Amphitheatre. It was renovated and renamed the Princess Theatre and Opera House. It was rebuilt in 1886 as the theatre it is today.

I have been here twice before for Matilda the Musical (2016) and The King and I (2014).

The Princess Theatre received a much needed $6.5 million renovation prior to the Cursed Child moving in. The theatre’s last major renovation was in 1989.

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Matilda the Musical at Princess Theatre (2016)

When the audience left the theatre they handed out #KeepTheSecrets badges. I will keep this review spoiler free.

The play’s cast is made up predominately of Australian and New Zealand actors. Majority of the cast do a solid job. William McKenna was my favourite as Scorpius Malfoy with his awkward, goofy, nervous charm.

The production uses many traditional elements of theatre staging, such as wires, trapdoors, and quick costume changes to bring the magic alive.

Personally I don’t think the plot was worth two full-length plays and would have liked a tighter singular standalone play. Despite this the two plays are full of nostalgia for Potterheads and is a fun theatrical experience.

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The Store of Requirement has Australia’s largest range of officially licensed Harry Potter merchandise.

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The Store of Requirement opened in Stamford, Queensland on Harry Potter’s birthday July 31st in 2017. A year later they opened the Melbourne store in the inner-city suburb of Collingwood.

Collingwood is one of the oldest suburbs in Melbourne and is approximately 3 kilometres north-east of the CBD.

Expect the store to be busy with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child currently playing at the Princess Theatre.

There are Hogwarts acceptance envelopes lining the floor as you enter the store. The ground floor of this old heritage building is home to an array of merchandise from the Harry Potter book and film series and the Fantastic Beasts series.

Upstairs they serve a selection of Harry Potter inspired cupcakes and their Butterscotch Brew (served hot or cold, with or without cream). The Butterscotch Brew is brewed locally at Craft & Co. up the road.

The Store of Requirement is at 6 Smith Street, Collingwood (next to the McDonalds on the corner of Smith Street and Victoria Parade).

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Mandrake cupcake and Butterscotch Brew

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Book Club Pick: August 2019

HarryPotterCursedChild

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two: The Official Playscript of the Original West End Production

Author: Play by Jack Thorne. Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Series: Playscript – Harry Potter series

Country: Great Britain

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

First Published: 2016

Pages: 343 pages

Publisher Description:

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later…

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a new play by Jack Thorne. It is the eighth Harry Potter story and the first to be officially presented on stage. This Special Rehearsal Edition of the script brings the continued journey of Harry Potter and his friends and family to readers everywhere, immediately following the play’s world premiere in London’s West End on 30 July 2016.

Review:

Nineteen years have passed since the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Draco are now adults with children of their own.

In the first Act we learn that Harry is now the Head of Magical Law Enforcement and married to Ginny, who edits the sports pages for the The Daily Prophet. Hermione is Minister of Magic and married to Ron, who runs the joke shop, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.

The plays focuses on Harry Potter’s youngest son Albus Severus as he is about to attend Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Albus makes a friendship with Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Harry’s childhood school nemesis Draco. Albus breaks the Potter family tradition of being sorted into Gryffindor and is sorted into Slytherin alongside Scorpius.

Unlike Harry, Hogwarts is not a magical place for Albus. He is miserable there. Both Albus and Scorpius are bullied by their fellow students. Scorpius because of the rumours that he is the son of Lord Voldemort and Albus because of his family’s legacy that he cannot live up to.

The rift between Albus and Harry continues to grow as Albus struggles to grow up in the shadow of his father. This leads Albus to make many choices, which are the basis for the events that follow.

I do not think the story warrants a two-part play. It could have been condensed into a tighter standalone play.

There is nostalgia a plenty with many elements from the Harry Potter series peppered throughout including Marauder’s Map, Harry’s invisibility cloak, Polyjuice potion, time-turners, and many more.

The book is written in playscript format. I have read and studied playscripts in high school and at University level, so I had no problem adjusting to reading a playscript, but some for some readers this may make take some getting use to.

It is also important to realise that this script is written by Jack Thorne based on an idea by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. Tiffany is the show’s director. I understand promoting and marketing it as the eighth story but I think of it similar to the Harry Potter film franchise. It has Rowling’s seal of approval and involvement but it as separate text.

Stay tuned for my experience of seeing the show live in Melbourne.

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Check out my other Harry Potter related posts:

FILM REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Experiencing the world of Harry Potter

BOOK vs. FILM: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

FILM REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – illustrated edition

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (Book Club Pick July 2018)

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling (Book Club Pick November 2016)

 

Links:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Global Website

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: July 2019

MoreThanHappyNot

Title: More Happy Than Not

Author: Adam Silvera

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Soho Teen

First Published: 2015

Pages: 300 pages

Publisher Description:

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend, Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future. As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threatens to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?

Review:

16-year-old Puerto Rican Aaron Soto is living in a one-bedroom Bronx apartment with this mother and older brother Eric.

Aaron’s father has committed suicide in the family’s bathtub, and Aaron has attempted suicide himself. Not only is he wracked with guilt over his father’s death, but he is also struggling with an attraction to other boys.

This is where the Leteo Institute comes in, a private medical centre where clients can pay to have their painful and traumatic memories erased. Can the Leteo Institute make him straight?

More Happy Than Not is a science-fiction story that explores issues of memory, race, class and sexual identity.

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Links:

Adam Silvera Official Website

Adam Silvera on Twitter

Adam Silvera on Tumblr

Adam Silvera on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: June 2019

Ten-things-i-hate-about-me

Title: Ten things I hate about me

Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Australia

Publisher: Pan by Pan Macmillan

First Published: 2006

Pages: 278 pages

Publisher Description:

There are a lot of things Jamie hates about her life: her dark hair, her dad’s Stone Age Charter of Curfew Rights, her real name – Jamilah Towfeek.

For the past three years Jamie has hidden her Lebanese background from everyone at school. It’s only with her email friend John that she can really be herself. But now life is getting more complicated. The most popular boy in school is interested in her, but there’s no way he would be if he knew the truth. Then there’s Timothy, the school loner, who for some reason Jamie just can’t stop thinking about. As for John, he seems to have a pretty big secret of his own…

To top it all off, Jamie’s school formal is coming up. The only way she’ll be allowed to attend is by revealing her true identity. But who is she…Jamie or Jamilah?

Review:

The novel follows sixteen-year-old Australian-Lebanese-Muslim high school student Jamilah Towfeek living in the western suburbs of Sydney. Jamiliah for the past three years has hidden her Lebanese-Muslim identity from her high school peers by dying her hair blonde, wearing blue contact lenses, and going by the name Jamie.

Unfortunately at her school bullying and ethnic discrimination exists. So it is understandable why Jamilah is hiding her identity.

At home Jamilah feels oppressed by her overly protective father’s strict rules. He is the breadwinner and disciplinarian after her mother’s passing. Jamilah is frustrated by her older brother Bilal’s freedom, he doesn’t have the same rules and can go out to parties and date because he is a boy. She is also embarrassed by sister Shereen’s Muslim activism.

Jamilah hasn’t completely denied her Lebanese-Muslim heritage she enjoys attending madrasa, an Arabic school, where she plays the drums in a band.

There are also three boys in Jamilah’s life.

At school Jamie attracts the attention of Peter, one of the most popular boys in school, but also one of the school bullies.

Jamie is also partnered on class assignment with Timothy, a loner in school who is comfortable in his own skin and isn’t bothered by what his classmates think of him.

Then there is John, a boy who she communicates with via email (her email is Ten_Things_I_hate_About_Me@hotmail.com). John is the only person she can be herself with because they have never met.

As one will expect the novel explores Jamilah’s struggles to accept her true identity.

In 2017 I attended All Day YA at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, where Randa Abdel-Fattah was on a panel about diversity in YA Fiction. 

Links:

Randa Abdel-Fattah Official Website

Randa Abdel-Fattah on Twitter

Randa Abdel-Fattah on Facebook

 

Source: I purchased this book second hand.