Convergence by Marita Smith

An ancient secret… A genetic key… A planet in peril…

For scientist Robyn Greene, her laboratory is a second home. Here she searches for the ancient gene that is supposed to enable humans to communicate with animals. After years of failure, she’s beginning to wonder if the gene is a myth. But when she stumbles across a strange genetic mutation, Robyn’s world turns upside down. In a race against time, Robyn must track down the individuals with this rare gene before the wrong people seize control as this ancient cycle is designed to keep the Earth in balance – in the wrong hands, it could be chaos.

I really enjoyed this book as I found it brought science/chemistry to life in the form of fantasy fiction but I wouldn’t call it Sci-Fi as it appears to be more than that (well to me anyway). This isn’t like anything I have read before. The premise and plot twists were so cleverly executed throughout this book and I found the characters interesting. What was also interesting was how I found myself anxiously following the plot to determine what happens next and in between the story, we learn about well-defined characters and their own inner struggles which did have a relevance to the storyline. Great world building and character development, the story moved along at a brisk pace and the structure kept me turning the page to the end.

A story about an ancient secret, a genetic key, betrayal and paradigm shifting discovery that could either make or break this world.

I highly recommend this book to fans of YA Fantasy – especially those who are seeking a unique read.

Special thanks to Harbour Publishing House for sending me an Advance Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This book took me through a variety of emotions, one minute I’m laughing and another minute I’m angry and then sad. It’s a powerful and highly relevant read that explores prejudice, racism, coming of age and identity in the modern day through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Starr. This book highlights the complexity of race and identity, police profiling of African Americans and systemic racism experienced by African Americans. This book is deep, it goes to the heart of the issue, it explores gang culture and why it thrives. This book helps build empathy and is educative to those who don’t know much about the Black Lives Matter movement as well as a frank examination of different types of prejudices that exist today. The plot is fast-paced and storytelling is humorous and heartfelt with lots of pop culture references and relatable fangirl loves.

– NJ

Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

 

One by Sarah Crossan

This is a must read for YA fans… I read this book in one sitting!!!

A moving and beautifully crafted story about identity, sisterhood and a love that ultimately asks one question: what does it mean to want and have a soulmate?

“One” is a story about Grace and Tippi, who are twins – conjoined twins and it follows their lives in high school as they have to decide whether or not to have the operation which will physical separate them.

I have always struggled to enjoy poetry but this book did the impossible. It made me love the poetry style with which this story is told. This story, and the poetry prose through which it was told, was a raw, personal story which had me feeling every emotion.

I loved this book and could not stop hugging this book after I finished the story.
-Amanda

 

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

A story that will stick with you forever

A heart wrenching story that asks huge questions like how do you say goodbye to the one person who was everything in your life?

Told from the perspective of a young boy, Joe, Joe is from a dysfunctional family and has had to face the cold, harsh reality of dealing with his brother being on death row. An incredible story that gives insightful detail on a situation we never really think about – how does an adolescent deal with not only being misloved by his own mother but losing his brother to prison for a crime he may or may not have committed and then facing a dreaded possibility of his brother’s execution? How do you deal with a dysfunctional family, dealing with a brother on death row and the convoluded justice system that may or may not prevail justice. The story really demonstrates the domino effect this has on a family and those around them.

Told in short verse, it is definitely a book I wont forget in a hurry. Never have I felt so wrapped into a story. I’m not normally someone who has an emotional reaction to fiction but this one really takes the cake and when you have a reaction like that, you know it’s a fantastic read. I found this book really put me in Joe’s mind. It was thought provoking – so many questions running through my head at the time – how!? why!? what!? It definitely is a heart wrenching read..

Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Annie

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness + Exclusive Q&A with Patrick Ness

At 12:07am, A monster shows up.. As they do..

A monster that is wild, ancient.. different.. not one you would expect..

Connor O’Mally is the central focus of this monster and he wants the most dangerous thing of all.. Connor’s truth.

Author Patrick Ness has released a few epic novels – titles you may recall: ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go” and “Release” however “A Monster Calls” is the first of his novels to hit the box office!!!

Thoughts on the book:
I flew through this book in a matter of days, it was an amazing story one I believe is suitable for all ages. It has a strong element of truth to the storyline with the added magical twist that makes it work so very well. I found it very fast paced and enjoyable. What was also very notable was the words of wisdom that is intertwined with this fantastical story – the truth will always set you free no matter how bad you believe the truth is. I highly recommend readers of all ages to pick this one up before watching the movie.

Thoughts on the movie:
Patrick Ness not only wrote the book “A Monster Calls” he also wrote the screen play for the movie adaptation. I had the pleasure of attending a private screening courtesy of Walker Books Publishers and I have to say, having often felt the deflation of watching a film adaptation that goes against a favourite book, I found the movie did the book justice. It’s a family movie that has everything – a visual feast, humour.. even a tear jerker – though I must admit, some scenes may be scary for younger viewers. The cast all delivered their parts extremely well – I was engrossed in the film from start to finish.

“A Monster Calls” kicks off in cinemas around Australia on 27 July 2017. For a sneak peek of this awesome movie, here’s the trailer!!

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of “A Monster Calls” and for inviting me to a private screening of the movie adaptation.

Exclusive Q&A with Patrick Ness:

How did you feel when you found out that the book was going to be turned into a film?
Well, it was great, but I am always skeptical. I’m skeptical about everything, even my books – I never believe they’re going to exist until they do, with a film even more so. So much had to be in place that was completely out of my hands. I was optimistic: there were really great creative partners, who knew what they were doing and really wanted to make this happen. But I thought, movies don’t happen to people like me! So I didn’t ever count my chickens – I’m still not counting my chickens!

You have written several screenplays. What did you find interesting about adapting your own book into a screenplay? How different a writing experience was it?
I’d been very protective of the material right the way through so I held off from selling it for a very long time. Then I thought I’d actually like to write the screenplay because I thought I knew how the story works and how it could be changed. You don’t always know that something’s going to work; you just hope.

I’ll always consider myself a novelist because in a novel, for good or ill, all the choices are yours. You’re in charge of it and it’s one hundred per cent an expression of you. That’s a great freedom and a great responsibility and a great challenge – the tyranny of all that choice! It’s hard, but really rewarding, and I love it.

Screenplays, on the other hand, are kind of like puzzles: a movie at best if a long short story, so how do you take the essence of your story and communicate everything in it in a shorter space? That kind of creative challenge can spur you on. I’ve always found limitations can be a great spurt to creativity.

What needed to change in the story? How did you feel about altering things from the book? Was there a strand from the book that you wanted to be emphasized in the film?
The bullies get emphasized in the film because they’re Conor’s connection to the outside world and, given Conor’s world is so interior (he’s always in his home, or his grandmother’s house, or in the tales), it’s important to have this visual link to the outside world in his film. We need to know what the outside looks like, and how the world regards him, and how small his world has shrunk.

There were some changed Director J.A. Bayona wanted – the director always brings things. He was very interested in the idea of legacy and what a parent leaves behind. So he had the idea that Conor loves drawing because his mother is an artist, and this works perfectly visually because it links right into the tales, which erupt from his drawings. It comes together just gorgeously at the end. Throughout the whole film there’s been a locked room in Conor’s grandmother’s house. At the end we discover that the grandmother has been making it into a room for Conor and it’s full of all his artworks and all his mother’s old drawing pads. The final shot shows him opening one up and finding a drawing of the monster on his mother’s shoulder, so she has clearly seen the monster herself, probably when she lost her father. So the monster had come for her as well and they share that. It’s a beautiful addition.

Were you involved in the casting process for the film? What do the individual actors bring to your characters?
Casting is half desperate desire and half chance. You make lists of actors you want and they’re just ridiculous because, if you were to get them all, the salaries alone would be $300 million. Liam Neeson is so perfect for the role it’s almost slightly obvious, but we thought, let’s try him anyway. And he turned out to love the book, and he’s a truly lovely man so getting him involved felt like a bit of a blessing.

As for Sigourney Weaver, I don’t think we thought she’d be available, but then Bayona called me one day and said, “We’ve got Sigourney Weaver,” and I thought, whoa! And she’s perfect – she is physically perfect and her manner is perfect.

Bayona and the producer Belén Atienza suggested Felicity Jones and got her before The Theory of Everything – before she was too busy! So that was a great bit of timing. I once talked to a director who said casting is important but, in some ways, if you get good people, the film will sort of shape itself to fit them. But still, how amazing to get Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver for a film that didn’t have a huge budget! And among all the kids who were auditioned, Lewis MacDougall just stood out. He’s auditioned for three things in his life and he’s got all three, so that says it all really.

Did you spend much time on set? What did you enjoy most about the film-making process?
I was involved in the process all the way through. The director, J.A. Bayona, and the producer, Belén Atienza, were very generous and very collaborative. There were lots of script meetings in Barcelona where we’d talk and talk about scripts, scenes and order. We hashed it out until we were all happy. I was on set about ten or twelves times. It was a fairly lengthy shoot because they had a juvenile lead, so could only shoot a certain amount of hours a day. Throughout the whole process they would send me scenes. They would always ask me about additions to the dialogue – every single line of dialogue they were thinking of adding in. Sometimes actors suggest things on set, and some of it’s just fantastic and needs to be woven in.

The first two weeks were spent with Liam Neeson in a suit doing motion capture for the CGI monster. Because the monster is created using CGI, they had a big model of the monster’s head on set to give Lewis something to act to. And the final tale, which is set in a graveyard, was filmed in an abandoned hospital-studio on the outskirts of Barcelona, with a huge construction of a graveyard. It looked half impressive and half not there, but then in the film it looks amazing.

A Monster Calls is a very emotional novel. How difficult was it to translate into motion onto the screen?
I think we’re a good match, me and Bayona (Director J.A. Bayona). He’s very outwardly emotional and passionate, like a lot of directors are, and I’m very reserved (which doesn’t mean unemotional, just privately emotional). So I thought between us we could probably get to a really good central point which neither of us could get to on our own. I would always want to make sure the emotion is really true. I want ugly crying, not pretty crying. I don’t want any easy outs (not that Bayona would have gone for easy outs), and he probably instinctively distrusts lack of expression in emotion. So, together, we find the right path that most people are going to fall into.

In a movie it’s the performances that are going to do it, and all the actors understood that it’s not a movie about grief, but about sadness and anger. 

Both film and illustration are activities that transform a writer’s words into images. What do you feel about that visual process?
I’m not an artist, and I’m not a film director, so I felt a huge curiosity about how Jim Kay, the book’s illustrator, and Bayona would respond to my work. Jim is so talented! Some of the stuff he drew I could never have thought of and some of the stuff Bayona shot I could ever have thought of. That’s what you wish for – somebody who knows different things than you know and brings those to the work. The important thing for me always is to keep learning. I never want to be complacent – that’s why I wanted to do the screenplay myself. Even if I failed I wanted at least to try.

-Annie

Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer

“What is really important in this life?”

A wonderful page turner… A story of hope among family, friendship with a hint of romance…
You will laugh, sigh and shed a
tear.. or two..

A story of three best friends who embark on a luxury cruise and long-held secrets that spill in the confines of a cruise ship

 

Release Date: September 2017

Before I read this novel, I read that this is the first time the author had written something that was not a rural romance as it is set in the city and on the coast so I was interested in giving this a go as I’m sure writing this story would have taken the author out of her comfort zone. I also don’t normally read adult contemporary fiction so this book really was a nice change of pace for me.. and I was not disappointed.

This story follows besties Abbie, Jess and Ricki who are about to set sail on a cruise ship as they did when they were still in school and without meaning to, their secrets are exposed while they’re on their voyage. As the story flows, it explores such deep issues that I didn’t expect to see in a story – issues that are common among adults that everyone seems to take for granted – things like domestic violence, terminal illness or on a smaller scale, how adults feel when they are stuck in ruts whether in their jobs or social spheres.

Set in Australia, the story was so beautifully written and for someone who doesn’t normally cry whilst reading fiction, this story felt real – it felt like I was listening to a conversation among my girlfriends. I would recommend this to readers of adult contemporary fiction and if you are a Fiona Palmer fan and are used to her normal style of writing, I am sure you would enjoy this one too.

Special thanks to Hachette Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy + the cute novelty beach chair in exchange for my honest review!

-Annie

 

Release by Patrick Ness

A book of one day in the life of Adam Thorn, aged 17 and it’s a big day… Things go wrong, it’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches..

Annie and Bert team up for a “Release” read along!!!

I thoroughly enjoyed the read along I did with my friend, Bert.. a unique story in the sense that there were 2 storylines, one that follows Adam who is struggling to be true to himself due to his family’s beliefs and the other of a ghost – yet I’m not quite sure of the connection between the two, my theory is it’s somehow a metaphor for Adam’s inner struggle.. I found the book to be very conversational which contributed to how quick I read this book. There are parts of this story that make you laugh and cringe at the same time. I felt mixed emotions for the characters – you know it’s a good book when you have that sort of emotional reaction!!!
-Annie

I am oh so happy to have read this book! I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and really didn’t like it, I just didn’t get the appeal of it. After having read that I thought that Mr. Ness and his books had no place in my life, this book however, was beautiful. Adam Thorn is one of the most interesting male characters I’ve read in a long time, usually I find books with a male lead character to be tiresome as I like reading books with females as the centre but Adam was really quite charming… Oh and Linus was completely GORGE with his “dancer butt.” The parts dealing with the ghost really confused me, while they are beautifully written I found them to be a little too vague, I don’t really know how they connect to the story of Adam. For me the book has redeemed Patrick Ness as a storyteller, I just might try some of his other books now. A great story, beautifully told that is reminiscent of some of the great 80s teen movies. Shout out to my friend Annie for giving me the reading copy and suggesting we do a read-a-long… Fun fun fun!!!
-Bert

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending us an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for our Honest Reviews.