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

 

The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye

fantastic sequel that was just as epic as its debut!!!

“When two imperfect people come together, they make a perfect whole…”

“Nothing is more remote than yesterday, nothing is closer than tomorrow..”

In a nut shell.. I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!

This story continues from where we left off in the The Crown’s Game and we return to the characters I love so much.. Vika, Nikola and Pasha.. For those who read the first book, you remember what happened to these guys? (Really don’t want to give any spoilers here) Like book 1, book 2 kept me on the edge of my seat however I found this story to have even more mystery, intrigue and action!! The Crown’s Game focused on the building of alternate Russia and gave us insight into how The Crown’s Game worked – where enchanters entered into a competitive battle to win the position of Imperial Enchanter. However, now.. we look at the burning question – what happens when it’s not about fighting for the position of Imperial Enchanter anymore? It’s a fight for the throne…

Written so incredibly well, the story flowed amazingly even with various storylines. I absolutely loved the accurate referencing to Russian history within a fantasy story of magic set in alternate Russia. It’s definitely one of those books you can tell the author put a lot of thought, plan and research into it. I can officially say this book is another 2017 favourite!!

Special thanks to Harper Collins Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

The first book from a groundbreaking new YA voice: An Utterly Compelling Thriller.

When Gwendolyn Bloom realizes that her father has been kidnapped, she has to take matters into her own hands. She traces him from New York City across the dark underbelly of Europe, taking on a new identity to survive in a world of brutal criminal masterminds. As she slowly leaves behind her schoolgirl self, she realizes that she must learn the terrifying truth about herself. To overcome the cruelty she encounters, she must also embrace it.
(Synopsis from Goodreads)

The Cruelty hooked me from the first chapter. This spy based crime/thriller novel will have you needing to know what happens next. I am not a big fan of crime and/or thriller stories, but The Cruelty proved that a good book can transcend reader preferences. The character development in this novel is what makes it stand apart from other stories in its genre. Watching Gwen learn about the harsh realities of her world was turbulent and sad The Cruelty has moments that are horrifying because they hold a mirror to our world despite its spy action-packed premise.

The question is, do you standby and let the horrors unfold…or fight for what you think is right?

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Amanda

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

Welcome to a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked

Imagine a world where EVERYTHING you said was subject to Copyright or Trademark.

Where even your own name is subject to a price and for parents who can’t afford to pay for a decent name for their child are obligated to settle for a “half name”

A world where generations later, families are penalised for an illegal download or words their great grandparents committed sending current generations into crippling debt..

The moment one turns fifteen and enters into adulthood, they must pay for every word they speak (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), every nod ($0.99/sec), every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection has a price.

The protagonist is “Speth” who was due to give a speech on her Last Day prior to her transition into adulthood yet she decided to take a stand and zip her lips – symbolising her vow of silence for the rest of her life. An act of defiance and a vow that costs the copyrighters – her silence isn’t paying for words that could be said and paid for. Speth does this on the day she was due to give her speech which was the same day her friend commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt. Speth’s unexpected act of silent defiance sparks a media frenzy which inspired many others to follow in her footsteps.. the start of a revolution.

This was such what a unique concept and I really liked how the author told this story from Speth’s perspective. How does a protagonist who vows a life of silence interact with those around her when an ounce of communication will break her vow and cost her? How does Speth get her life on track when Copyrighters are out to get her for her act of defiance? How can one tell a story without words? How does one face questions without being able to answer? The author did very well in flowing a story that was told by a silent protagonist. It was very easy to follow, a real page turner and I found I was able to really get into the head of the character.

Special thanks to Harlequin Teen Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

This book is due for release by the end of August 2017.
-Annie

Wreck by Fleur Ferris

“Truth without fear”
“Truth is far more potent than lies. It’s as forceful, constant and as indomitable as gravity.. Truthful news may not always be good news, but it’s vital…”

Release Date: July 2017
Published By: Penguin Random House, Australia

Fast paced, action packed and suspenseful, this would have to be the YA thriller of 2017!!Once again, my friend Fleur Ferris is back with her third novel, “Wreck” and once again…
She does not disappoint!!!

This book was simply “unputdownable” and if I didn’t have to work full time I would have finished this book much sooner!! From page one this book really was a page turner, such a suspenseful story!!! “Wreck” is a fantastic story where 2 worlds collide over a 5 year old mystery and a battle for the truth to finally set one free begins. Written in 2 perspectives, Tamara and William, what I loved about this book (besides how well it’s written) was how both voices are very distinguished and each character’s story was set in a different time. One is told in the present and the other’s was set 5 years prior.

In the present day, Tamara is interning at the local paper and is supposed to be celebrating O-Week to start her first year in uni, yet she finds herself roped into a situation where her home was ransacked, her world has just been turned upside and her life is in danger. All this because Tamara randomly found a note – a note that somebody is desperately trying to hide and will kill for. Now on the run and not knowing who to trust (not even the police) Tamara is trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle that seems to be getting bigger and bigger at every turn.

Even with both perspectives and backstory, the big mystery kept unravelling which raised more questions than answers and made me formulate theories as I went along, what a wild ride that was!! At some parts I was frustrated with the characters but then again, put yourself in their shoes – would we have reacted the same way or would we have known better?

Special thanks to Fleur Ferris for sending me an Advanced Review Copy, can’t believe this is the third novel I have read by Fleur and each time I am left stunned..
GREAT JOB!!

-Annie

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

“It’s easy to poke fun at the world and think yourself clever but it’s much harder to stand silent and endure…”

This story is about Henrietta Howel… The first female sorcerer… The prophesied one… Or is she?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her and as Henrietta “Nettie” discovers the secrets hiding behind the sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s truly the prophesied one.

A magical story of identity and wielding some awesome magic through the elements.

I Loved this read and I recommend this to fans of Harry Potter, magic and fantasy fiction.

Told in first person by the protagonist, “Nettie”, what I liked most about this book was the use of magic to control the elements in a world where magical talent wasn’t just with the wave of a wand (or stave)characters could wield power of the elements through your palms. What I also liked was the journey Nettie has had to take to discover herself and her talent, meanwhile learning of her true heritage and a prophecy that can set her on the trajectory to save the world – or destroy her. I really cannot wait for the sequel now as I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the character development, world building, style of writing and the storyline with twists and turns!!

-Annie