Book Club Pick: February 2017

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Book Details:

Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Series: Maze Runner series

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Delcorte Press

First Published: 2009

Pages: 371

Publisher’s Description:

When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas can remember is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade, an encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible maze.

Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there, or what’s happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything to find out.

Review:

The Maze Runner is the first novel in a series set in a dark post-apocalyptic world.

Our central character is sixteen-year-old Thomas. When he wakes inside an metal elevator car, he has no memory of how he got there or who he is, except for his name.

Thomas learns that he is part of community of around 50 teenage boys known as the ‘Gladers’. The boys live in an artificially created environment that is managed by an unseen and unknown group simply known as the Creators, that communicate through deliveries via the elevator car.

The ultimate goal of the community is to solve a maze built beyond huge grey stone walls that are over a hundred feet high. Each night the entrance to the maze closes protecting the boys from the Grievers, a horrific monster that is a mix of metal and flesh that can bite, sting and kill.

Each boy in the community has his own role that he does in order to keep the society functioning. The Runners run through the maze mapping it out. A position Thomas feels himself drawn to.

Everything changes on Thomas’ second day when a mysterious girl, Teresa, arrives in the elevator car. The Gladers were not expecting another delivery for another month – the pattern in the Glade. Teresa is the first girl to arrive and she will be the last delivery – no more Gladers, food or supplies.

Thomas also feels that he has connection to her. Teresa and Thomas are somehow connected to the mystery of the Glade. Will they be able to work with the other boys and help everyone escape the maze?

The novel is written in third person, but the narrative strongly favours Thomas’ point of view.

The Maze Runner is followed by The Scorch Trials (2010) and The Death Cure (2011), and two prequel novels The Kill Order (2012) and The Fever Code (2016).

A feature film was released in 2014, directed by Wes Ball and starring Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, and Patricia Clarkson.

The Maze Runner series will be popular with readers of dystopian fiction.

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Links:

James Dashner Official Website

James Dashner on Facebook

James Dashner on Twitter

James Dashner on Instagram

 

 Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library

Book Club Pick: January 2017

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Book Details:

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie

Illustrator: Ellen Forney

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

First Published: 2007

Pages: 230

Publisher’s Description:

Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. Born with a variety of medical problems, he is picked on by everyone but his best friend. Determined to receive a good education, Junior leaves the rez to attend an all-white school in the neighboring farm town where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Despite being condemned as a traitor to his people and enduring great tragedies, Junior attacks life with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside of himself that he never knew existed.

Inspired by his own experiences growing up, award-wining author Sherman Alexie chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one unlucky boy trying to rise above the life everyone expects him to live.

Review:

As the title suggests The Diary of a Part-Time Indian is written in a first person episodic diary format. The novel follows fourteen-year-old Native American Arnold Spirit Jr., known as Junior, over his first year in high school.

Junior is growing up on a Spokane Indian Reservation near Wellpinit, Washington. He was born with Hydrocephalus (a medical condition in which there is an build-up of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain). As a result Junior is small for his age, suffers from seizures, has poor eyesight, a lisp and a stutter. The poor guy is picked on by practically everyone on the reservation – his only friend is Rowdy, who is abused at home.

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After receiving encouragement from one of his teachers Junior decides to leave the reservation and attend Reardon High School, an all-white school where the only other Indian ironically is the school’s mascot. The downside he looses his only friend Rowdy, who sees the move as a betrayal.

At his new school he befriends a bright student Gordy and develops a crush on Penelope, the most popular girl in school. Through his interactions with Gordy, Penelope and other students at the school Junior learns both more about their culture and his own.

Junior is an aspiring artist and the novel features 65 of his comic illustrations. These illustrations by artist Ellen Forney add humour and reveal more about how Junior sees the world.

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This is the debut young adult novel by Sherman Alexie, who had previously written for adults. The novel is semi-autobiographical and is inspired by events from Alexie’s own childhood.

The novel tackles some topical issues including race, poverty, alcoholism, eating disorders, violence, bullying and loss of a loved one. Due to its content and language the book has been challenged and banned in some schools.

 

Links:

Sherman Alexie Official Website

Sherman Alexie on Facebook

Sherman Alexie on Twitter

 

Ellen Forney Official Website

Ellen Forney on Facebook

Ellen Forney on Twitter

Ellen Forney on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library

 

Book Club Pick: December 2016

Let it Snow

Book Details:

Title: Let it Snow

Author: Maureen Johnson, John Green, Lauren Myracle

Series: Stand alone compilation novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Penguin Books

First Published: 2008

Pages: 354

Publisher’s Description:

The worst blizzard for fifty years. Three wintry love stories. One magical night.

It’s Christmas Eve and Gracetown has been buried by snow. But the weather is more than just an inconvenience. When one girl unexpectedly steps off a stranded train, she sets off a series of life-changing events.

Soon fourteen pumped-up cheerleaders will descend on the local Waffle House, the Duke’s DVD night will be rudely interrupted for a Twister mission, and a lovesick barista will determine the fate of a single teacup pig . . .

As the three stories collide, strangers will cross paths and romance blossoms with heart-warming consequences.

Review:

It’s December and the festive season is upon us! As I live in New Zealand I have never experienced a White Christmas, so this month I selected a book set over the holiday season in the Northern Hemisphere. Let it Snow features three holiday romances by three authors – The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson, A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green, and The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle.

The three short stories are stand alone by they intertwine with each other with setting and characters appearing throughout all three stories.

A few characters from the previous story appear in the next story but it is not until the end until the all meet up.

In Maureen Johnson’s The Jubilee Express, sixteen-year-old Jubilee meets Stuart when her train breaks down during a snow storm in the town of Gracetown on Christmas Eve, the setting for all three stories. Stuart invites Jubilee back to his family home and tries to convince Jubilee that she needs a boyfriend who will treat her better.

John Green’s A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle follows Tobin and his friends Duke (a tomboy) and JP as they make their way through the snow with a game of Twister to meet 14 stranded cheerleaders at a Korean Waffle House.

The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle is about Addie, who has just broken up with her boyfriend and her search for a teacup piglet. This story finishes with the main characters of all three stories meeting up.

Wherever you are have a safe and happy holiday season!

Let it snow

 

Links:

Maureen Johnson

Maureen Johnson Official Website

Maureen Johnson on Facebook

Maureen Johnson on Twitter

Maureen Johnson on Instagram

John Green

John Green Official Website

John Green on Facebook

John Green on Twitter

John Green on Instagram

Vlogbrothers YouTube Channel (with brother Hank Green)

Lauren Myracle

Lauren Myracle Official Website

Lauren Myracle on Twitter

Lauren Myracle on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library

Book Club Pick: November 2016

fantastic-beasts-cover

Book Details:

Title: Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

Author: J.K. Rowling

Series: Accompaniment to the Harry Potter series

Country: Great Britain

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

First Published: 2001

Pages: 88

Publisher’s Description:

A copy of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them resides in almost every wizarding household in the country. Now Muggles too have the chance to discover where the Quintaped lives, what the Puffskein eats and why it is best not to leave milk out for a Knarl.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Comic Relief, which means the pounds and Galleons you exchange for it will do magic beyond the powers of any wizard. If you feel that this is insufficient reason to part with your money, I can only hope that passing wizards feel more charitable if they see you being attacked by a Manticore.

Albus Dumbledore

Review:

Coming out later this month is the fantasy feature film Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them directed by David Yates, who directed the last four films in the Harry Potter film series.

The film is the debut screenplay by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. It is inspired by her book Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, so in celebration of the release of the upcoming film it is a fitting choice for this month’s book club pick.

Rowling wrote 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.

It is designed to be a reproduction of the textbook owned Harry Potter, first mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It includes several handwritten notes and doodles by Harry, Ron and Hermione.

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The textbook is written by magizoologist Newt Scamander. Rowling originally published the book under the pseudonym Newt Scamander without her name on the cover. Later additions were published under her name though.

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The book is set out like a traditional academic textbook with a foreword, introductory notes and scholarly footnotes. The main part of the book is written similar to an encyclopaedia and features in alphabetical order 85 magical creatures from Acromantula to Yeti.

The foreword is written by Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

The only downside is the book is not illustrated. It would have been interesting to have seen illustrations of the various magical creatures but I guess you will just have to use your imagination.

The upcoming film, the first in a series of five films, stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander. Carmen EjogoColin FarrellDan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Samantha MortonRon Perlman, Alison SudolJon Voight, and Katherine Waterston also star.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-eddie-redmayne

 

Links:

J.K. Rowling Official Website

J.K. Rowling on Facebook

J.K. Rowling on Twitter

Pottermore

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Official Movie Website

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie on Facebook

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie on Twitter

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library.

Today, November 1st, marks the two year anniversary of my book blog. Here is to another year, cheers!

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Full List of Past Book Club Picks:

October 2016: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

September 2016: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

August 2016: A Work in Progress by Connor Franta

July 2016: Crank by Ellen Hopkins

June 2016: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

May 2016: Gone by Michael Grant

April 2016: A Rose for the ANZAC Boys by Jackie French

March 2016: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

February 2016: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

January 2016: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

December 2015: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

November 2015: Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

October 2015: I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan

September 2015: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

August 2015: The Giver by Lois Lowry

July 2015: Monster by Walter Dean Myers

June 2015: Paper Towns by John Green

May 2015: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

April 2015: The Boy in the Burning House by Tim Wynne-Jones

March 2015: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

February 2015: Beth & Bruno by William Taylor

January 2015: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

December 2014: Cloaked by Alex Flinn

November 2014: The Recruit by Robert Muchamore

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This month’s book club pick is Ransom Riggs‘ 2011 novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. A film adaptation directed by Tim Burton (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland) was released last month.

When I heard that Tim Burton was directing Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children I was pretty excited as the gothic fantasy world is Burton’s speciality.

Eva Green, who appeared in Burton’s Dark Shadows portrays the titular character Miss Peregrine brilliantly. Green does not appear in the film until around the 30 minute mark so the audience follows the journey of the awkwardly shy, wide-eyed sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman, played by Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, Hugo, Ender’s Game).

Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and Jacob (Asa Butterfield)

Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and Jacob (Asa Butterfield)

Jacob’s grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp), a World War II veteran and Jewish refugee, would tell him stories from his own childhood featuring flesh eating monsters and children with the most peculiar abilities.

Following his grandfather’s mysterious death Jacob finds a letter postmarked from Cairnholm Island addressed to his grandfather from Miss Peregrine.

Jacob convinces his parents (Chris O’Dowd and Kim Dickens) to let him go to Cairnholm Island, off the coast of Wales, for the summer. Jacob’s psychiatrist Dr. Golan (Allison Janney) approves of the idea, so Jacob and his father set off. While there Jacob explores the island and searches for answers about his grandfather’s past.

Samuel J. Jackson portrays the villain of the piece – Barron, the leader of the Wights and Hollows. He too has a peculiar ability.

British stage and screen legends Dame Judi Dench (Miss Esmeralda Avocet) and Rupert Everett (John Lemmon) also co-star.

Barron (Samuel L. Jackson)

Barron (Samuel L. Jackson)

Miss Avocat (Judi Dench)

Miss Avocet (Judi Dench)

The screenplay is by Jane Goldman (co-writer Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Kingsman: The Secret Service).

Overall it is a faithful to the essence of the novel. There are some changes like most book to film adaptations. The one change that has had some fans up in arms is the decision to switch Emma (Ella Purnell) and Olive’s (Lauren McCrostie) abilities. In the book Emma is pyrokinetic; in that she is able to manipulate fire. In the film Emma has Olive’s special ability of weightlessness; she floats.

Emma (Ella Purnell)

Emma (Ella Purnell)

Olive (Lauren McCrostie)

Olive (Lauren McCrostie)

Another character change is Dr. Golan. In the book the character is male for the film the character is portrayed by Emmy award winning actress Allison Janney. Personally I can overlook this change as I am a fan of Janney and I think the change works for the film.

The first half of the film is reasonably faithful to the book. The later act has been changed this is probably for pacing reasons. The novel is part of a trilogy whereas Goldman and Burton have designed the film to be a stand alone story. Although Burton leaves enough mystery for the possibility of a sequel.

Olive (Lauren McCrostie), Bronwyn (Pixie Davies), Millard (Cameron King), Twins (Joseph and Thomas Odwell), Emma (Ella Purnell)

Olive (Lauren McCrostie), Bronwyn (Pixie Davies), Millard (Cameron King), Twins (Joseph and Thomas Odwell), Emma (Ella Purnell)

Book Club Pick: October 2016

missperegrines

Book Details:

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs

Series: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series, followed by Hollow City (2014), Library of Souls (2015)

Country: United States

Publisher: Quirk Books

First Published: 2011

Pages: 352

Publisher’s Description:

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its decaying bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine’s children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

Review:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is told from the point-of-view of sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman.

As a child Jacob’s grandfather Abe, a World War II veteran and Jewish refugee, would tell him stories from his own childhood featuring flesh eating monsters and children with the most peculiar abilities.

Jacob as he grows older becomes sceptical of his grandfather’s childhood tales. Even though Abe shows his grandson a cigar box fill of old photographs as proof Jacob challenges Abe that his stories are fiction. Abe chooses never to mention the stories again.

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After Jacob finds his grandfather dying with chest wounds from a mysterious attack, Abe tells Jacob ‘Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man’s grave. September third, 1940’. What does this mysterious message mean? Even more did Jacob really just glimpse one of the monsters from his grandfather’s stories in the moonlight?

Following his grandfather’s death Jacob finds a letter postmarked from Cairnholm Island addressed to his grandfather from Ms Alma LeFay Peregrine.

Jacob tries to convince his parents to let him go to Cairnholm Island, off the coast of Wales, for the summer. Jacob’s psychiatrist Dr. Golan approves of the idea, so Jacob and his father set off. While there Jacob explores the island and searches for answers about his grandfather’s past.

Riggs initially envisioned his debut novel as a picture book. He was encouraged by his editor to use the photographs to guide the narrative and it really works. Each picture is perfectly selected and adds to the story.

The vintage black and white photographs are quirky photos the author collected and from the collection of other collectors.

The novel has been followed by two sequels Hollow City (2014) and Library of Souls (2015).

A film version directed by Tim Burton opened last month. It includes a stellar cast including Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Alison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson.

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Links:

Ransom Riggs Official Website

Ransom Riggs on Twitter

Ransom Riggs on Instagram

Ransom Riggs on Tumblr

Ransom Riggs on Facebook

Ransom Riggs on YouTube

 

Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library.