Screen Version Saturday

The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger tells the story of Henry and Clare. Henry has a genetic condition that causes him to spontaneously and uncontrollably time travel. Clare is Henry’s wife who is left to worry about him and his frequent absences. Due to his time travelling, Clare first meets Henry when she is 6 years old, and he is 43. Henry, on the other hand, first meets Clare when he is 28 years old and she is 20. The book alternates between the first-person perspectives of these two characters, and due to the jumps in time (and ages) it can be, at first, a bit of an effort to follow and comprehend. While the book divided critics, I absolutely loved it. It was an original premise and made for an intriguing and unconventional love story. This is one of those books that I have re-read multiple times over the years. When I first heard it was being made into a movie, I was a bit worried because I loved the book so much, and the movies are NEVER as good as the books.

The 2009 film of the same name stars Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams as Henry and Clare. Much as the book did, the film also divided critics, but I actually really enjoyed it. It was a very close adaptation of the novel, and one of the better book-to-film movies I have seen. All the major and important scenes from the book are present in the film, and very few are changed or adjusted in any way for the big screen. The only major difference between the book and film is the very final scene, and while it is different, it still does the same job that the scene in the book accomplished. Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana do a fantastic job at portraying the characters of Henry and Clare, and look eerily similar to how I pictured them in my head while reading the book. Regardless of whether you have read the book or not, you will need to have tissues handy for the end of the film. I first saw this movie with two friends, one of whom had read the book, and by the end of the film all three of us were in tears. All in all, this movie is great chick flick that has emotional depth and an engaging storyline. That being said, if you are not a fan of the book, you may not be a fan of the film.

 

Rating: Book screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-1-24-14-pm/ Movie screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-1-24-14-pm

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Book Reviews

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

 

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I know that there are a lot of young adult (YA) books around at the moment that delve into the themes of a hierarchical and unfair society, and rising up against oppression.

So, when one of our publishing reps at work gave me an uncorrected proof for Red Queen, I was sceptical. I fully expected it to be going to be just another YA book that conformed to the current dystopian fad – nothing special, and basically a carbon copy of something already out there.

But Victoria Aveyard’s debut novel (the first in a planned trilogy) has certainly raised the bar for dystopian genre YA novels.

Mare Barrow lives in a world where everyone is divided by the colour of his or her blood – you are either Silver or Red. The life of a Red is not one that is coveted, and it is one that is lived shortly, and in misery. Silvers, on the other hand, live in wealth and luxury, and have different abilities that give them power and position over the Reds – the ability to read minds, the ability to control a particular element, or even the ability to control nature. For the Silvers it is all about power and control.

Mare is a 17-year-old Red and spends her days thieving and pick pocketing to help her family to survive. Reds must have an apprenticeship by 18 years of age, otherwise they are conscripted to the kingdom’s long running war with the neighbouring Lakelanders. This weighs heavily on Mare’s mind, as she is almost 18-years-old with no apprenticeship or job prospects. The war has already taken her three brothers away from her family, and she hates the Silvers for it.

A twist of fate intervenes, and Mare finds herself working at the summer palace for the Silver royal family of her region, and she soon discovers that she possesses a mysterious power of her own. In an attempt to cover up this genetic anomaly, the king forces Mare to pretend to be a lost Silver noble, and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she must decide whether to follow her head or her heart, knowing that one wrong move will lead to her death.

I got totally absorbed in this book. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about what had just happened, and what I thought was going to happen next. It hooked me right in! I will admit that there are elements of the book that reek with familiarity, but the more you read, the more you start thinking that it is actually quite different.

I am a sucker for a strong, downtrodden female protagonist, so I loved the character of Mare – strong, independent, but still flawed and unsure of herself. I also love that there is an element of romance in the book, but it takes a back seat to the overall storyline, which is refreshing in this genre. And the ending! Not at all what I was expecting, which is fantastic! The book has moments of suspense throughout, but the ending takes the cake – not at all what you think is going to happen.

I really did love this book, and considering Universal Pictures acquired the film rights before Aveyard even finished writing it, I’m obviously not the only one who thinks it great! A great read for teens aged 14+, and for adults who enjoy a good dystopian novel.

Rating: 9/10

Book Reviews

Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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I have said it before, I do love a good crime/thriller novel, and in a genre that always seems flooded with authors and new books, it can be difficult to find a really good one.

When I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, I knew I was on to a winner (read my review here). So, I thought I’d give one of Flynn’s other books a go to see if I would enjoy it just as much.

Libby Day is seven years old when her family is massacred. Her fifteen-year-old brother Ben is convicted of the crime, and it was Libby’s testimony that put him in gaol. Twenty-four years on and Libby has been drifting through life ever since that fateful day. She barely functions day to day, instead spending most of her time wallowing in self-pity and trying to fend of thoughts of that night – which she names the ‘Darkplace’.

With her trust fund money almost gone, and with no hope (or desire) of getting a job, Libby doesn’t know what she is going to do. So when Lyle Wirth contacts her, offering her money to come and be a guest speaker at his club’s convention, she says yes. The Kill Club fixate on unsolved and poorly handled crimes, and The Day Massacre is Lyle’s topic of expertise. However, the club believes that Ben Day is innocent and Libby is forced to confront not just her own memories of that night, but also one key question – did Ben really kill the rest of their family?

The Kill Club offer to pay Libby to investigate the massacre, and she agrees purely for the financial incentive. But as Libby begins to investigate, she comes to realise that there were a lot of events that took place that day in the lead up to the massacre – a lot of secrets that have been kept by a lot of people.

With Dark Places Flynn once again makes her mark with another psychological thriller. The overriding question of ‘who killed the Day family?’ gives the novel more of a ‘whodunit’ feel than that of Gone Girl. I also think Dark Places feels more like a crime novel, and therefore fits better into the crime genre than Gone Girl did. Also, much like Gone Girl, this book is also “spectacularly messed up”, as one of my customers put it.

Although the novel is interspersed with chapters showing Mumma Day’s and Ben Day’s points of view from the day of the massacre, Libby Day is the main female protagonist. I don’t know if it is just me, but I found the character of Libby instantly annoying. I know, I know, she suffered through a traumatic event as a child, but I seriously just wanted to shake her by the shoulders and yell at her to get her act together! Despite this, it is interesting to see how Libby justifies each of her actions and choices, and how, despite being a loner, she is able to read and understand people in a way that others cannot.

Interestingly, even though Dark Places was written and published before Gone Girl, many people aren’t aware that Flynn actually does have more novels. But they should be! Dark Places is just as creepy, intense and suspenseful as Gone Girl. One difference though, I actually thought Dark Places had a good ending! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Gone Girl, or anyone who likes a good psychological thriller.

Rating: 8/10

EDIT: Looks like Dark Places is going to be released as a movie sometime in 2015! Read more here.

Book Reviews

Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

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Dystopian/post-apocalyptic/rise-against-oppression novels are back in vogue again folks (as if you didn’t know!).

And across all genres as well! – young adult, general fiction, and fantasy, as well as the traditional science fiction.

Once upon a time, a dystopian novel where the hero wants to challenge the status quo would only have been picked up by the true, die-hard Sci-Fi fanatics. Nowadays, we have thankfully broken out of that stereotype, and with so many quality and engaging books that deal with these themes, it’s easy to see why we have!

And Red Rising certainly falls into the category of a quality and engaging book.

Red Rising, the first book in Pierce Brown’s debut trilogy, introduces us to Darrow.

Darrow is a Red and a Helldiver; one of many who are part of the lower echelons of a hierarchical/caste system that is designated by colours. He lives his life below the surface of Mars, mining elements that they are told will make the surface of Mars habitable for future generations because Earth is dying – they are the only hope humanity has for it’s survival.

However, an awful and traumatic series of events leads Darrow to find out that everything they were told was a lie to subdue and control. Mars has long been inhabited by the Golds – the top tier of society. With the help of an underground group of rebels that are determined to bring down the system from the inside, Darrow goes undercover as a Gold and enlists in one of their prestigious command schools. But Darrow soon finds himself right in the middle of an elaborate battlefield, fighting it out with all the other students for the top spot – only for Darrow, this is about more than just a prestigious offer of apprenticeship at the end of the game. This is about justice. This is about revenge.

This book is The Hunger Games for adults. It is so skilfully written, with so many intricate details and clever nuances. The writing is some of the best I have read in this genre, which is no mean feat normally, but then take into account that Pierce Brown is only 26! The amount of detail at times made me forget that this imagined society doesn’t actually exist. Brown cleverly uses self-made language and jargon to distinguish between the upper and lower colour classes. This jargon makes this fictional society more authentic, but it also serves to show that this version of humanity and society is something that is very different to what we know – but one that is not necessarily that implausible.

All the characters in this book are extremely well crafted and clearly defined. They really are the driving force of the entire novel. Despite their brutal natures and shocking acts, I actually really loved the characterisation of many of them, however I won’t reveal which ones were my favourites for fear of spoiling the book for everyone! My only criticism is that, at times, the story did drag on a bit, especially since the first part of the book moved quite quickly. However, Brown does pick up the pace again towards the final stages of the novel, and it is well worth the wait.

This book is definitely one I would recommend for lovers of the Sci-Fi genre, as well as those who may not have thought or wanted to delve into it before. This book is not what you would expect from a book in this category, and I can see it becoming a movie at some point in the future! And if the quality of the storyline, the writing, and the characters weren’t enough to get you to give this book a go, the author isn’t all that terrible looking either! Check out this rather humorous take on Pierce Brown here.

Golden Son, the second book in the trilogy, is due out in Australia on 13th January 2015, so make sure Red Rising is on your wishlist this Christmas!

Rating: 9/10

Edit: Looks like my prediction was right! Despite the book only being released at the start of 2014, Brown has already written and sold the screenplay for Red Rising to Universal pictures for a tidy sum. Find out more here.

Book Reviews

Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

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Up until about a week ago, I had never read one of Liane Moriarty’s books, which is rather surprising considering she is a local author in my area, and I am a huge supporter and advocate for Australian authors.

I had also been hearing almost all of my colleagues at work rave about her novels, so I thought I would give her latest one a whirl, though I was a bit worried that I may not enjoy the book. I will admit I am not normally one to read a book about the lives of fictional suburban mothers and their families. Quite frankly, I find the notion of reading a book about daily trials of mothers and their kids rather dull and unexciting.

That is, until I picked up Liane Moriarty’s latest book.

Big Little Lies takes place in the fictional Sydney suburb of Pirriwee and revolves around a group of kindergarten parents and their respective children who attend the local public school. The whole novel revolves around one key event – Pirriwee Public’s annual school trivia night. Why? Because a parent is dead.

The three central characters are Madeline, a highly extroverted, bubbly force to be reckoned with, Celeste, an effortlessly gorgeous, wealthy mother of twin boys and close friend of Madeline’s, and Jane, the young single mum who is new in town. This trio form the foundation of the story we are told, and all have their own worries and trials to deal with in their personal lives.

The majority of the novel takes places over the months leading up to the ill-fated trivia night, and delves into the cliquey world of helicopter parents and playground politics. At times, you almost forget that one of the characters you are reading about is in fact dead, but Moriarty very cleverly keeps you on track – at the end of every chapter there are excerpts of witness statements and background information being given by the schools parents and teachers. In this way, Moriarty also cleverly keeps you guessing as to who exactly the deceased person is.

As sombre as the overall storyline sounds, Moriarty’s latest novel is actually quite funny, while at the same time heartbreaking. She really knows how to get you emotionally invested in her characters, and to love and loathe them in equal measure. This is one of the best examples I have seen of really well written, well-defined characters. You know exactly who they are and how they will most likely react to certain situations, even though they are works of fiction.

I also love that Moriarty hasn’t compromised herself as an author just to appeal to the American mass market. The book is rife with ‘Australian-isms’ – including a brief discussion of ‘mum’ vs. ‘mom’ spelling, greetings of ‘gidday’, and particular aspects of the first year of school that evoked nostalgic memories of my own kindergarten days. I was able to relate to many things in this novel, despite not being in the target reader demographic.

I can’t wait to pick up another Liane Moriarty novel sometime soon.

Rating: 9/10

Edit: It is exciting to see both Nicole Kidman’s and Reese Witherspoon’s respective production companies option the screen rights to Big Little Lies! Read more here.

Book Reviews

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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Being the only staff member in my book store to have not read one of the most hyped up book-to-movie adaptations of the year, I thought I had better jump on the bandwagon and give it a go.

I do love a good crime/thriller novel, and it had been a while since I had read a really good one, so I was more than ready to give this book a go.

“Who are you? What have we done to each other?”

The tag line for this book, Nick’s philosophising lamentation at both the start and the end of the novel, nicely sums up both the overt simplicity and underlying complexity of this story.

The story revolves around the two central characters of Nick and Amy Dunne, and how, on the day of their five-year wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing. As the police begin to investigate, evidence starts turning up which points the finger squarely at Nick being responsible. Told from two points of view, Nick’s first hand account and Amy’s diary entries, this story very soon becomes a case of trying to decipher who is telling the truth, who is lying, and which version of shared events between Amy and Nick is the more accurate account. This book keeps you guessing as to what is going on, what the bigger picture is, and what will happen next, right up until the final page.

As I got further and further into the book, I began to formulate two potential endings, both of which I thought would fit in with the psychological overtones of the novel. However, while I was ready to accept neither of my imagined endings taking place, I was not ready to accept the ending that Flynn decided upon. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I really disliked, and possibly even *gasp* hated, the ending of the book. I would just like to note though, that the ending has indeed divided all the staff in my book store – half of us hate the ending, while the other half think it was brilliant, so it really does come down to personal opinion and preferences.

This novel really is a page-turner because you desperately want to know what the hell is going on the whole way through, and as you get towards the end, you want to see whether certain characters get what they deserve. Aside from the clear-cut story and plot line of the book, this novel also deals with issues and topics on other levels as well. There is a definite psychological element to the book, and everything in the story ultimately comes down to the reader asking themselves, how well do you really know the other person you are sharing the rest of your life with?

I did actually really enjoy this book, despite feeling like the author’s choice of conclusion let the story down in the end. I would definitely recommend reading it before seeing the film (which was excellently done, by the way).

Rating: 7/10