My book club pick for last month was Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. A film adaptation directed by Stella Meghie was released in 2017.

The film focuses on seventeen-year-old Madeline ‘Maddy’ Whittier (Amandla Stenberg, ‘Hunger Games’, ‘The Hate U Give’), who is being treated for rare disease called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SKID).

Maddy lives her life inside a sterile environment never leaving her house – hence why SKID is often referred to as ‘bubble disease’. Her only company is her doctor mother Pauline (Anika Noni Rose, ‘Dreamgirls’), her day nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera) and the occasional visit from Carla’s daughter Rosa (Danube Hermosillo).

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Amandla Stenberg (Maddy)

 

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Carla (Ana de la Reguera)

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Pauline (Anika Noni Rose) and Maddy (Amandla Stenberg)

Maddy’s attention is caught when Olly (Nick Robinson,‘Love, Simon’, ‘Jurassic World‘), a cute floppy haired, all dressed in black, skater boy who moves next door with his father, mother and sister.

The boy-next-door Olly befriends Maddy and the two first begin communicating from their bedroom windows and later online, and eventually with the help of Carla are able to meet in person – behind her mother’s back.

The text, email and instant message chat conversations from the book are played out onscreen in imagined life size versions of the architectural models that Maddy creates. This was a clever technique of allowing the audience to see the two characters interacting.

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Olly (Nick Robinson)

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One of Maddy’s architectural models

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Maddy and Olly

Stenberg and Robinson have good chemistry onscreen together, and it is positive to see an interracial relationship presented on onscreen just as it is. The character of Maddy is biracial in the book (African-American and 3rd generation Japanese-American) this mixed heritage representation is unfortunately lost in the film.

Overall the film keeps to the spirit of the novel, and fans of the novel will hopefully be satisfied. But as a film it does fall short.

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Book Club Pick: April 2019

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Title: 1914: Riding into war

Author: Susan Brocker

Series: Kiwis at war series, book 1

Country: New Zealand

Publisher: Scholastic New Zealand

First Published: 2014

Pages: 215

Publisher Description:

Billy may have been fresh off the farm, but he was a good rider and an even better shot. When the world went to war in 1914, Kiwis rushed to enlist. For Billy and his best mate, Jack, joining the Mounted Rifles Regiment held the promise of adventure – little did they know that half the battle would lie in keeping their horses alive aboard the troopship as the journeyed halfway around the world.

Review:

Seventeen-year-old Billy Bowman, nicknamed Billy the Kid because of his youthful looks, is excited to enlist when war is declared in August 1914 and leave his farm job in small town New Zealand for an exciting adventure.

Billy lies about his age and he and his friend Jack Thompson and their two horses Tui and Spirit join the Mountain Rifles Regiment.

The story follows Billy and Jack’s training at Awapuni, their trip by sea to Egypt, and more training before they are sent to fight at Gallipoli without their horses.

The horses are also important characters and the boys’ relationships with their horses are an integral part of the story. Sadly we often overlook the number of horses that were killed in war.

Brocker is passionate about horses. She lives on a small farm with horses and many pets. She has written several books about horses, including Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses, a true story of Bess, one of only four horses to return from war.

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The book also features a map of the ‘Journey of the NZ Expeditionary Force, October-December 1914’; timeline, glossary and bibliography for readers to learn more.

This was the first in a five book series ‘Kiwis at War’ released to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. The series was scheduled to be release one a year to coincide with the 100 years commemorations (2014 – 2018).

Characters will appear across several books to connect the stories. Although each book in the series can be read as a standalone novel.

I have read the next three books in the series – 1915: Wounds of War by Diana Menefy, 1916: Dig for Victory by David Hair, and 1917: Machines of War by Brian Falkner. I’m still waiting to read 1918: Broken Poppies by Des Hunt.

Brocker portrays the reality of war realistically without the novel being too graphic in its depiction of the horrors of war.

Links:

Susan Brocker Official Website

Susan Brocker on Facebook

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: March 2019

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Title: Everything, everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

First Published: 2015

Pages: 310

Publisher Description:

Live life is a bubble?
Or risk everything for live?

Maddy is allergic to the world.
She hasn’t left her house in seventeen years.

Olly is the boy next door.
He’s determined to find a way to reach her.

Everything, Everything is about the crazy risks we take for love.

Review:

The novel follows Madeline ‘Maddy’ Whittier, a biracial teenager (African-American and 3rd generation Japanese-American) who is being treated for rare disease called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SKID).

Maddy lives her life inside a sterile environment never leaving her house – hence why SKID is often referred to as ‘bubble disease’. Her only company is her doctor mother, her day nurse Carla, and the occasional tutor.

Shortly after her 18th birthday she watches from her window as the Bright family move in next door – mom, dad, son, and daughter. Maddy is drawn to the son: ‘tall, lean, and wearing all black: black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers and black knit cap that covers his hair completely’. He practices parkour, is mysterious, and her bedroom looks directly into his.

The boy-next-door Olly befriends Maddy and the two first begin communicating by mime from their bedroom windows and later online, and eventually with the help of Carla are able to meet in person – behind her mother’s back.

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Maddy and Ollie communicate via email

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and instant messaging

Maddy knows that her and Olly will never be able to have a normal relationship, and the novel explores this dilemma.

The book features numerous illustrations throughout by Nicola’s husband David (his debut novel Frankly in Love is due out September 2019).

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Illustration by David Yoon

In 2007 a film adaptation was released with Amandla Stenberg as Maddy and Nick Robinson as Olly

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Links:

Nicola Yoon Official Website

Nicola Yoon on Facebook

Nicola Yoon on Twitter

Nicola Yoon on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: February 2019

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Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Author: John Green and David Levithan

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

First Published: 2010

Pages: 310

Publisher Description:

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

Review:

The novel is told from the perspective of two Illinois teenagers that share the same name – Will Grayson.

The odd numbered chapters are narrated by heterosexual Chicago high school teenager Will Grayson. He is the only male heterosexual-identifying member of his school’s Gay Straight Alliance. He is living in the shadow (literally) of his best friend Tiny Cooper, an ironic name considering his size and personality. Tiny is larger-than-life, flamboyant, openly gay and much to Will’s distain writing an autobiographical musical, which features a character loosely (obviously) based on Will.

The even number chapters are told from the perspective of Will Grayson, an angry and depressed closeted gay teenager from Naperville, Illinois. He is taking medication for his depression. The only light in his life is Issac, a boy he chats with online.

John Green wrote all the odd-numbered chapters (capitalised Will Grayson), while David Levithan wrote all the even-numbered chapters (lowercase will grayson). Green’s chapters are written with correct punctuation, while Levithan’s chapters use lowercase letters and the language is more vulgar. This is a simple way of clearly distinguishing the two characters.

While the characters stories start off separately they each become interwoven when the two Will Graysons meet in a porn store.

The novel was the first LGBT-themed novel on the New York Times children’s best seller list.

Links:

John Green Official Website

John Green on Facebook

John Green on Twitter

John Green on Instagram

Vlogbrothers YouTube Channel (with brother Hank Green)

 

David Levithan Official Website

David Levithan on Facebook

David Levithan on Twitter

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

My book club pick for August 2018 was Wendelin Van Draanen’s 2001 novel Flipped. As it was the long weekend I had the chance to sit down and rewatch the film version. I had seen the film back in 2011, so it was interesting to revisit it after reading the book.

The film adaption of Flipped was released in 2010. It was directed by Rob Reiner (The Princess Bride, When Harry Meet Sally, A Few Good MenMisery). Reiner also co-wrote the script with Andrew Scheinman.

The film opens in the summer of 1957 when seven-year-old Bryce Loski (Ryan Ketzner) and his family moving in across the street from Juli Baker (Morgan Lily, also young Raven in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past).

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Young Bryce (Ryan Ketzner) and Young Juli (Morgan Lily)

Juli knows that Bryce will be her first kiss, but Bryce isn’t so sure and does his best to avoid Juli.

Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe play Juli and Bryce as the film moves to 1961 and follows them through their sixth to eighth grades.

Juli and Bryce views of each other begin to change. Bryce begins to look at Juli in a different way and realises she is not what he initially thought. Unfortunately for Bryce Juli’s view is also changing – she is beginning to realise that Bryce is not the boy she thought he was.

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Juli (Madeline Caroll)

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Bryce (Callan McAuliffe)

As I mentioned Reiner changed Van Draanen’s contemporary setting to the early 1960s, a few years later than his earlier adolescent themed work Stand by Me, which was set in 1959. It possible that Reiner chose to change the time period as that was when he grew up. The nostalgic feel of small town America in the 1960s suits the story.

One of the key features of the novel is its he-said-she-said narrative with Bryce and Julie alternating chapters each giving their perspective. I pointed out in my review of the book that this can be risky for an author to do because it can slow down the pace of the novel with characters retelling the same points of plot. Van Draanen did a good job at offering two different perspectives in an entertaining and often amusing way.

Reiner kept with dual perspective with Carroll and McAuliffe each providing voice over for their characters perspectives. This received some criticism from critics that argued the scenes weren’t different enough to justify showing the same scenes from opposing points of view. I would have to agree with this assessment.

The adult cast was made up of a group of experienced actors. Penelope Ann Miller and Aidan Quinn as Juli’s parents, Rebecca De Mornay and Anthony Edwards as Bryce’s parents. The late John Mahoney portrayed Bryce’s grandfather and Kevin Weisman plays Juli’s intellectually disabled uncle.

Flipped doesn’t have the same magic as Reiner’s classic film Stand by Me, but it is still a sweet movie and is faithful to the spirit of the book.

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This post continues on from my series to review the film adaptations of some of my past club picks.

My June 2018 book club pick was Gayle Forman‘s 2009 novel If I StayA film version directed by R.J. Cutler was released in 2014.

Chloë Grace Moretz portrays Mia Hall, a gifted seventeen-year-old cellist with ambitions to study at Julliard School of Music in New York City.

She lives in Oregon with hip parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard), and little brother Teddy (Jakob Davies). She is also in a relationship with Adam (Jamie Blackley), who is older and in a local indie band.

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Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

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Adam (Jamie Blackley) and Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

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Teddy (Jakob Davies) and Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

One snowy day while on the road to visit family friends a truck hits the car she and her family are travelling in. Mia wakes up on the side of the road and sees her unconscious body.

 

The film follows Mia as she wonders the halls of the hospital watching her family and friends interactions with each other, as she is trapped somewhere between life and death.

Chloë Grace Moretz delivers a capable performance as expected, but it is not her best work. A large part of the subplot is the relationship between Mia and Adam, unfortunately there is spark lacking between the two.

It is Stacy Keach who provides the strongest performance as Mia’s grandfather, especially with one particularly tearful monologue.

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Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

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Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

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Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz), Gramps (Stacy Keach), Teddy (Jakob Davies)

As I pointed out in my review of the book the narrative is quite predictable. Viewers that haven’t read the book should be able to pick the direction the film is going on.

 

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As it is a long pubic holiday weekend I thought that I would take the opportunity to review a few film adaptations of past book club picks.

First up is J.K. Rowling‘s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001), which was my book club pick for November 2016.

I first saw Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them while on holiday in Kolkata, India. An interesting viewing experience. The film was in English with English subtitles and there was an intermission where staff brought around food that had been preordered.

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Rowling wrote the book Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, along with Quidditch Through the Ages, as a supplement to the Harry Potter series. Profits from both books benefited the charity Comic Relief.

The book was designed to be a reproduction of the textbook written by magizoologist Newt Scamander owned Harry Potter, and first mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The film written by J.K. Rowling, and released in 2016, features Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, who in 1926 arrives in New York City from England en route to Arizona with a suitcase full of magical creatures.

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Newt (Eddie Redmayne)

Within hours of arriving Newt accidentally switches suitcases with Jacob Kowalsi (Dan Fogler), a No-Maj (the American term for a Muggle). Inevitably several of the magical creatures escape and begin to cause havoc on New York City.

Stuart Craig, production designer on all eight Harry Potter films, creates a dark and gothic 1920s Manhattan. The set design is one of my favourite elements in the film.

Newt also attracts the attention of Porpentina ‘Tina’ Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a disgraced demoted Auror for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), who sees him as a threat to magical society.

We are also introduced to Tina’s sister and roommate Queenie (Alison Sudol), who is a Legilimens, which is a magical person with the ability to read feelings and memories from another person’s mind.

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Newt (Eddie Redmayne) and Jacob (Dan Fogler)

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Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Newt (Eddie Redmayne)

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Queenie (Alison Sudol)

While Newt is searching for his magical creatures the wizards of MACUSA have their owns concerns about the infamous dark wizard, Grindelwald – one of the most dangerous dark wizards of all time, second only to Voldermort.

Director of Magical Security Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) accuses Newt of conspiring with Grindelwald.

There is also the threat of exposure from Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton), who believes there are witches and wizards in New York City. Graves is working in secret with Mary Lou’s eldest abused adoptive son Credence (Ezra Miller) to find an Obscurus, a parasite that develops inside children if they suppress their magical abilities.

The real stars of the film are the magical creatures. I can’t decide if my favourite is the mischievous Niffler, or the tree-stem sized lock-picking Bowtruckle named Pickett.

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Mary Lou (Samantha Morton) and Credence (Ezra Miller)

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Credence (Ezra Miller) and Graves (Colin Farrell)

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Niffler

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Pickett

The film is directed by David Yates, who directed the final four films in the Harry Potter series. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them also stars Johnny Depp, Carmen Ejogo, Ron Pearlman, and John Voight.

A sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was released in November 2018. Another three films are expected in the Fantastic Beasts series with the third film scheduled for release in November 2020.