Books into Film

Heartfelt Book Review of A Monster Calls

lt91o1jl2pnflThere is something really special about this Patrick Ness novel, a passion project he picked up after the death of Siobhan Dowd, an author he admired.  The concept of the novel is entirely hers, the execution his.

At the centre of the novel is a young boy called Connor.  Connor’s mother is battling cancer and he is doing what he can to look after himself and keep life together. His father is largely out of the picture and his only other relative, his grandmother, is strange and distant.

One night he is visited by a Monster.  It doesn’t look too scary – after all, it has taken the form of a Yew Tree, but it does tell some unsettling stories.  In fact, it promises Connor three stories in exchange for Connor telling him one true one. If the story Connor tells is not true – he will eat him.

The stories are unsettling and difficult for Connor to understand, but each helps him deal with his situation and release the feelings he has been holding inside.

There is a thoughtful beauty about the whole concept – imagined by Dowd during her own terminal illness.  Quite a good read for young adults too.

Book Review of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

AsYouWishInconceivableTalesFromTheMakingOfThePrincessBrideFeatured.jpgLike many other people with any kind of sense of humour, I count The Princess Bride amongst my favourite films.  You laugh, you cry, you fall in love with gentle giants and swashbuckling pirates.  Hours and hours and hours of my childhood were devoted to watching and re-watching it, until I could quote all those memorable lines as readily as many of the actors themselves.

For some reason though, I held off reading this book – Cary Elwes’ behind the scenes look at making the film.  Why?  Perhaps because I did not want to be disappointed.  I didn’t want the book to bore me or reveal tension between my most beloved of characters.  But, after a nudge from a friend who is also a fan, I thought maybe it was time.  (And let’s face it – who doesn’t respond to the nudges of tall, dark and handsome men?)

But As You Wish did not disappoint.  Every moment is a delight, reaffirming how special The Princess Bride really is – even to those who starred in it.  Elwes talks about every aspect of making the film – from his initial meeting with the director Rob Reiner to discuss the part, to meeting all the other actors and how he related to each of them.  Robin Wright is apparently every bit as beautiful and charming in person, and much of the book is really a dedication to Andre the Giant – who sadly passed away in his forties.  There is some suggestion of tension – I’m guessing maybe Mandy Patinkin was a little intense to work with. But even this is dealt with respectfully – with full credit to Patinkin’s professionalism as an actor (and perfectionism as a swordsman).

There are stories of takes gone wrong,  injuries, nights out, in jokes – everything you would want to make you feel like you were part of the story.  It seemed to be as magical for them as the film was for us – and this is a great way to feel a part of that.

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Book Review of The Infinite Sea

51c+wRUGMvL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_I moved quickly onto this second instalment of Rick Yancey’s series, which began with The Fifth Wave. It was such a thought-provoking premise that I needed to read the follow up to satisfy my curiosity.

This second novel is quite different from the first.  Instead of Ben and Cassie, it is the enigmatic Ringer who narrates much of the novel.  This is interesting as Ringer cannot understand the alien’s intentions as communicated to Ben and Cassie by Evan and Vosch.  And in fact, Yancey uses this to turn the whole premise of the novels on it’s head.  What if the story being told to the survivors wasn’t true?  What if none of it as real?

I could see why people would have mixed reactions to this. Not as much action occurs – although there are more combat scenes on a smaller scale. Also, the plot twists are difficult to follow, although leave you wanting the third and final novel for real clarity. Unfortunately it isn’t released for several months, so I will just have to wait.

Book Review of The Fifth Wave

16101128Be prepared to have your mind blown and your spine tingled as Rick Yancey imagines the arrival of hostile aliens on Earth.

The mothership arrives and simply waits at first.  But then the waves of attacks begin.  The first waves ‘lights out’, an electromagnetic pulse that takes out electricity and technology.  The second wave is a massive tsunami that wipes out every major coastal city across the seven continents.  The third wave is pestilence – a disease that carries off much that is left of humanity.  And the fourth wave – the fourth wave is the hidden aliens inserted into human bodies, living here and waiting to play their role in our destruction.

These aliens know us, they know how humanity works and how to break and manipulate us.

Despite being YA lit, this is a thought-provoking piece that has to make you ask – what if they were already here?

The novel – soon to be released as a film – follows two teenagers –  Cassie Sullivan and Ben Parrish, who are amongst the few human survivors.  Each narrator’s experiences brings understanding to the audience of the fourth and fifth waves of the alien attacks.  Each is more devastating and manipulative than the last.

I have no doubt this will soon be the very next series everyone will be reading.

Book Review of Shane Maloney’s Stiff

stiffI am very much overdue in writing this review, having finished the book more than a week ago. My reading has been very interrupted recently as the need to read for the 2016 text list at school has kind of trumped any personal reading. This book sat right in the middle of that process – one I was considering for school, but eventually finished even after I went in a different directon.

Stiff has a lot of things going for it. I enjoyed reading a book set in Melbourne for a start – and it does have a terrific sense of place and local flair. And not many writers can make the world of politics interesting – although pretty much everything the main character Murray Whelan does is interesting. Smart but somehow still a disaster-area, Whelan turns every situation into a black comedy.

Whelan is an ALP member and right-hand man of a sitting member. Somehow, he gets embroiled in the death of a factory worker, which leads him into the path of union corruption and migrant gangs. A few brushes with death later, and he can’t imagine what has happened to his life. Although he would probably prefer all of this to a visit from his estranged wife.

A solid read, particularly for young men who will find much to relate to in Whelan’s character.

Book Review of To Kill a Mockingbird

to-kill-a-mockingbirdAs a teenager, I read this and found it dry and dull. Now, after really enjoying Go Set A Watchman, I felt I owed it to Harper Lee to take another look at this classic.

The most memorable thing about this book is the court case – where Atticus takes a stand and defends a black man against the charge or raping a white girl. To a modern audience, the accused man is clearly not guilty – but the course of the case shows exactly how far we have come in terms of civil rights in the last century.

This is powerful stuff – and I think the reason why this book initially frustrated me so, is that is it actually a very small part of the text. This is a story about family and growing up in the South. Scout lives through several significant moments in the book which are sure to shape her character – the character that was so evident in Go Set A Watchman.

I still think – perhaps controversially – that this isn’t a perfect novel. It’s too long – there are too many meandering stories of Jem and Scout’s childhood adventures. But it is an important story that the follow up novel makes us review. Atticus is still a great man – but it really doesn’t say anywhere in To Kill a Mockingbird that his defence of Tom Robinson is motivated by the Civil Rights movement. It’s motivated by justice. Atticus does what he thinks is right – he’s just “colour-blind” enough to do it for a black man too.

These remain a terrific pair of texts and I certainly have deeper respect for To Kill A Mockingbird as an adult. But I loved the grown up Scout in Go Set A Watchman too. Definitely have a read.

Book Review of The Girl With All the Gifts

The_Girl_with_All_the_GiftsMelanie sits in her cell waiting for the soldiers to come and strap her into her chair.  Then they will take her to class.  She loves class – especially when it is a Miss Justineau day.  She reads the children stories and myths – about Pandora and the titans and pale beautiful women.  Melanie’s skin is pale too, so maybe that means she will be beautiful.

With these kinds of details. M.R. Carey slowly builds this very clever dystopian fiction that is like no other zombie novel you will ever read.

In a remote facility in the English countryside a group of survivors study some remarkable children that may hold the key to curing the terrible zombie virus that has wiped out most of the Earth’s population. But none of those children are more remarkable than Melanie.  Throughout the course of the story Melanie will change more than just the people she encounters – she will change the world.

Although in places this lacked focus, this was often an intriguing story that left me wanting more – in the best way.  The characters are all interesting and develop through the story into even more interesting personas.  Carey shows some restraint in revealing the details about his strangely familiar world, although at times I felt he may have showed his hand a little early and could have built the suspense a little bit more.

I bought this on audio on impulse, and I would also encourage you to read it without reading too much more about it.  There is much to enjoy here, and the mystery of it all is part of it’s magic.  There are definitely a lot of people talking about this book, and there are certain to be even more as the year further unfolds…