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This month’s book club pick is J.K. Rowling‘s 1997 novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In 2001 a film adaptation written by Steve Kloves (The Fabulous Baker Boys) and directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New YorkMrs. Doubtfire) was released.

The Philosopher’s Stone, which was the highest grossing film of 2001, kicked off a franchise of eight films (book seven Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was split into two parts) across 10 years.

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Harry (Daniel Radcliffe)

The film opens with Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris), Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith), and Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) delivering orphan infant Harry Potter to his mother’s sister’s family home.

On his eleventh birthday Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) learns that his Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths) and Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw) have been hiding the truth about his past. He is of wizard heritage. His parents, who were wizards, did not die in a car crash like he was told but were killed by an evil and powerful wizard, Lord Voldemort.

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Harry (Daniel Radcliffe)

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The Dursleys: Dudley (Harry Melling), Vernon (Richard Griffiths), Petunia (Fiona Shaw)

Harry survived Voldemort’s murderous attack and was left with a lightening bolt shaped scar on his forehead. Following the attack Voldemort’s powers were weakened and he went into hiding making Harry, ‘the boy who lived’, a celebrity in the wizarding world.

The film follows Harry’s journey as a first-year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At Hogwarts he meets and forms a friendship with fellow first years Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson).

The adventure slash mystery plot is based around a mysterious object that is being hidden on the third floor at Hogwarts that students’ are forbidden from entering. Harry believes that someone is trying to steal this object and it involves Lord Voldemort. So with the help of Ron and Hermione, Harry sets out the solve the mystery of the philosopher’s stone.

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Hermione (Emma Watson), Neville (Matthew Lewis), Ron (Rupert Grint), Harry (Daniel Radcliffe)

An array of experienced British actors fill the adult roles including John Cleese (Nearly Headless Nick), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore), Ian Hart (Professor Quirrell), John Hurt (Mr. Ollivander), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Maggie Smith (Minerva Dursley), Julie Walters (Molly Weasley), and Zoë Wanamaker (Madam Hooch).

They help guide the lesser experienced child actors through this film. There are some good performances particularly from Coltrane, Rickman and Smith.

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Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane)

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Snape (Alan Rickman)

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McGonagall (Maggie Smith)

Stuart Craig’s production design is amazing, particularly the scenes set at Hogwarts. He has really captured the magic of Rowling’s wizarding world.

The film comes in at over two and a half hours and is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the book with a few minor tweaks for pace.

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This month’s book club pick is J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone first published 21 years ago in 1997. Click here to read my post.

A beautiful, hardcover, full-colour illustrated edition was released in 2015. Kate Greenway Medal winning illustrator Jim Kay has captured Rowling’s magic world in over 100 gorgeous, detailed illustrations.

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At 267 x 226 it is a large book, so not one for reading on the bus or train. It also has a red ribbon to use as a bookmark.

Kay’s illustrated editions of Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban are sitting on my bedroom floor waiting to be devoured.

Check out this video of Jim Kay discussing his process illustrating Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Book Club Pick: July 2018

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Book Details:

Title: Harry Book and the Philosopher’s Stone

Author: J.K. Rowling

Series: Book 1 – Harry Potter series

Country: Great Britain

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

First Published: 1997

Pages: 223

Publisher Description:

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy – until he is rescued by an owl, taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason: HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD!

Review:

Last month, June 26th, was the 21st anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – the first book in the seven book series.

I don’t remember the first time reading the Philosopher’s Stone. I remember reading Chamber of Secrets (book 2) in one day while on a school French trip to Nouméa, New Caledonia. I haven’t picked up the Philosopher’s Stone since I first read it, so it was interesting to go back and read it again.

As an adult I enjoyed all the foreshadowing and tiny details that come to fruition in some way later in the series.

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Harry Potter books on a bookshelf in my parent’s house

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Slightly worn copy from my childhood

Harry Potter is a orphaned boy who lives with the Dursleys, his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley.  He is not treated well by the Dursleys. He lives in a cupboard under the stairs despite there being a second bedroom upstairs, wears Dudley’s old clothes and is bullied mercilessly by Dudley.

On his eleventh birthday Harry learns that the Dursleys have been hiding the truth about his past. He is of wizard heritage. His parents, who were wizards, did not die in a car crash like he was told but were killed by an evil and powerful wizard, Lord Voldemort.

Harry survived Voldemort’s murderous attack and was left with a lightening bolt shaped scar on his forehead. Following the attack Voldemort’s powers were weakened and he went into hiding making Harry, ‘the boy who lived’, a celebrity in the wizarding world.

At age eleven Harry is accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

It is at Hogwarts that students learn Potions, Charms, Transfiguration, History of Magic, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy, Herbology and broomstick flying lessons. Harry is a natural on a broomstick and is invited to join his house’s Quidditch team.

There is a mysterious object that is being hidden on the third floor at Hogwarts that students’ are forbidden from entering. Harry believes that someone is trying to steal this object and it involves Lord Voldemort. So with the help of his new friends, fellow first years, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, he sets out the solve the mystery of the philosopher’s stone.

Links:

J.K. Rowling Official Website

J.K. Rowling on Facebook

J.K. Rowling on Twitter

Pottermore

 

Source: I own a copy of this book.

Book Club Pick: June 2018

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Book Details:

Title: If I Stay

Author: Gayle Forman

Series: Sequel – Where She Went (2011)

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Dutton Book

First Published: 2009

Pages: 210

Publisher Description:

Life can change in an instant.

A cold February morning
A snowy road…
And suddenly all of Mia’s choices are gone.

Except one.

As alone as she’ll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all.

Review:

17-year-old Oregon teenager Mia Hall is a gifted cellist, who has ambitions to move to New York City and study at the Juilliard School of Music.

One snowy day while on the road to visit family friends a truck hits the car she and her family are travelling in. Mia’s parents die at the scene, while Mia and her younger brother Teddy are transported to hospital in a critical condition.

Mia has an out-of-body experience, somewhere between life and death, where she watches over her body as the doctor’s perform surgery to save her life.

The chapters alternate between Mia telling the reader what is happening in the hospital and flashbacks to memories of her family life, her friendship with best friend Kim, and her budding romance with guitarist Adam.

Music plays are large part of the novel. The edition I was reading included a Behind the Music section at the end of the book, in which Forman discusses some of the songs referenced in the novel.

At just over 200 pages it is a relatively quick read. Although I felt that narrative is quite predictable it is still a rewarding and heartfelt journey for the reader.

In 2011 Where She Went, a sequel was released. It takes place several years after the conclusion to If I Stay, and is told from Adam’s perspective.

In 2014 a feature film directed by R.J. Cutler and starring Chloë Grace Moretz as Mia was released.

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Links:

Gayle Forman Official Website

Gayle Forman on Twitter

Gayle Forman on Facebook

Gayle Forman on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

This past weekend I attended a talk STILL LIVES: A.S. King as part of the Auckland Writers Festival.

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I have read five of Amy Sarig King’s novels: Please Ignore Vera Dietz (2010), Ask the Passengers (2012), Reality Boy (2013), Glory O’Brien’s History of Future (2014) and I Crawl Through It (2015). You can read my review of Ask the Passengers here – this month’s book pick.

The Saturday afternoon talk was led by New Zealand author Kate De Goldi in the Heartland Festival Room in Aotea Square.

Audiences may better know the Heartland Festival Room as the Pacific Crystal Palace, a lavish festival pop-up venue designed in the style of European ‘mirror tents’ of the past with a red tent top roof, stained-glass windows, wood panelling, ornate lighting and mirrors.

During their one hour talk King and De Goldi had to compete against outside forces, as the rain hammered down on tent and a Palestine protest took place outside.

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On discussing her beginnings as a writer King said when she was fourteen she wrote that she wanted to be a writer, so she could help teenagers understand adults, and adults understand teenagers.

But she never thought that she was writing young adult fiction. She was not really aware of YA literature. When living in Ireland she said there wasn’t a young adult shelf – there was a Harry Potter shelf, shelves with picture books and adult works.

Her first book was published when a publisher rang her agent and asked ‘have you got anything weird?’

King challenged the notion that teenagers only want to read books about teenagers. She argued that adults completely control teenagers lives, ‘so why aren’t we putting them in their books?’ King said that when publishing Please Ignore Vera Dietz she had several interested publishers want her to remove the father’s narrative (the novel has four perspectives) because supposedly teenagers only want to read about teenagers.

King’s books often feature elements of surrealism. She joked that she prefers the term surrealism to magical realism as that term is for ‘post colonial writers, and I’m pretty white.’ I Crawled Through It is probably her most surreal piece of work, one that she is most proud of. She had decided to give up writing and was planning to get her library degree, but only lasted two days. And as a response wrote I Crawled Through It.

The idea of Reality Boy came to King while she was in the shower. She thought about society’s high child abuse rate and asked could this be happening on reality television for our entertainment.

In discussing the recent Santa Fe shooting that happened while King was here in New Zealand she talked about a phone conversation with her fifteen-year-old daughter who said in relation to it happening at her school ‘it’s not if, but when’.

On America’s current political climate King said that she would ‘take George W. Bush in a heartbeat, and I never thought I would hear those words come out of my mouth.’

This is only a snapshot of some of things that King and De Goldi discussed during the hour. De Goldi had carefully, thought out questions, and King delivered insightful responses.

 

Links:

A.S. King Official Website

A.S. King on Twitter

A.S. King on Facebook

A.S. King on Instagram

Book Club Pick: May 2018

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Book Details:

Title: Ask the Passengers

Author: A.S. King

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

First Published: 2012

Pages: 293

Publisher Description:

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her that they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching the airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions…like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl.
As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can’t share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don’t even realize she’s there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers’ lives – and her own – for the better.
In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society’s definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything – and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.

Review:

After Astrid Jones’s grandmother passes away she is buried in the small Pennsylvania town of Unity Valley, where she grew up. Following her grandmother’s funeral Astrid’s parents purchase her grandmother’s family home.

So at 10-years-old Astrid and her nine year-old sister Ellis and their parents pack up and leave New York City for Unity Valley.

When the novel opens Astrid is a seventeen-year-old high school senior. She does not have the best relationship with her parents. Her family is rather dysfunctional. Her father is getting stoned in the garage and her mother is taking her underage sister out for mother-daughter nights that involve drinking. Astrid’s mother is also very critical and judgemental when it comes to Astrid.

The town of Unity Valley is presented as being a small-minded and conservative town that is fueled by rumour and gossip.

Astrid’s best friends are Kristina and Justin, who are the high school’s power couple; most likely to be crowned Homecoming King and Queen. Except their relationship is a cover. Kristina is secretly dating Donna and Justin is dating Chad.

Astrid is also in a secret relationship. She is dating Dee, a co-worker at her part-time catering job. Despite knowing that her two friends are gay she is not ready to share her secret. She is also not comfortable with the label of gay. Astrid likes Dee but is reluctant to define herself as gay – yes she likes a girl but she cannot rule out dating a guy.

As Astrid feels she does not have the support of her family and friends she spends much of her spare time lying on the picnic table in her backyard. She looks up into the sky sending her love and thoughts to passengers flying aboard airplanes above.

The novel cleverly juxtaposes Astrid’s first-person narrative with short scenes about love and relationships from a passenger aboard the plane. These short scenes are stand-alone and in each scene we are introduced to a new character.

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King also weaves philosophy throughout the narrative, such as the teachings of Plato, Socrates, and Zeno. Astrid even renames Socrates Frank and communicates with him (sort of an imaginary philosophical friend).

Ask the Passengers is a coming-of-age, coming-out story about love and discovering one’s self.

Links:

A.S. King Official Website

A.S. King on Twitter

A.S. King on Facebook

A.S. King on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: April 2018

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Book Details:

Title: Breathing Underwater

Author: Alex Flinn

Series: Sequel – Diva (2006)

Country: United States of America

Publisher: HarperCollins

First Published: 2001

Pages: 263

Publisher Description:

To his friends, popular and handsome sixteen-year-old Nick Andreas has led a charmed life. But the guys in Nick’s anger management class know differently. So does his ex-girlfriend Caitlin. Now it looks like the only person who doesn’t realize just how from perfect Nick’s life has become is Nick himself.

Review:

Sixteen-year-old Miami high school honour student Nick Andreas is in court following an assault on his former girlfriend Caitlin McCourt.

The judge grants a request for restraining order and orders Nick to attend six months counselling, classes on family violence and dealing with anger. She also orders Nick to keep a journal writing five hundred words each week detailing what happened between him and Caitlin from the first time he saw her until his day in court.

The novel follows Nick in present day as he attends a family violence class, returns to school where he ostracised by fellow students, and his home life with his father. It is also interspersed with Nick’s journal entries about his past relationship with Caitlin.

It is interesting that the novel is written as a first person narrative from the perpetrator’s point-of-view rather than the victim.

Nick’s own father is abusive both physically and psychologically. In this the novel is addressing the idea about the idea of circle of domestic violence. Nick is a victim of his father’s abuse, and while at times Flinn offers a sympathetic portrayal of Nick it is clear that he is responsible for his own actions.

It also explores of how difficult it can be to leave an abusive and controlling relationship. Although Caitlin does eventually remove herself from the situation and seek help.

A tragic event leads Nick to understand and accept his behaviour and make attempts to seriously seek help to change.

There are a few moments that don’t ring quite true. For example, the interaction between Judge Lehman and Nick is cliche.

This was Flinn’s debut novel. She has gone onto write many other realistic fiction novels, but she is probably better known for her modern fairytale retellings, including Beastly (2007, ‘Beauty and the Beast’), A Kiss in Time (2009, ‘Sleeping Beauty’), and Towering (2012, ‘Rapunzel’).

Click here to read my review on Cloaked, a mash up / modern retelling of The Frog Prince, The Elves and the ShoemakerThe Six SwansThe Golden BirdThe Valiant TailorThe Salad, and The Fisherman and His Wife.

In 2006 Flinn released a sequel Diva, which followed Caitlin as she puts her relationship with Nick behind her.

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Links:

Alex Flinn Official Website

Alex Flinn on Twitter

Alex Flinn on Facebook

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.