A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

 

monster callsConor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don’t seem to be working.

But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there is a visitor at his window. It’s ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Having recently read (and absolutely loved) ‘More Than This’ by Patrick Ness I was thrilled to find this beautiful copy of ‘A Monster Calls’ for a mere £1.99 in an underrated UK shop called ‘The Works’. First of all I should mention this absolutely amazing front cover with the most beautiful typography I have seen on a book for a long time. Yes I know you shouldn’t choose a book by it’s cover but just look at it!! Although written by Patrick Ness, the idea for this book came from the late Siobhan Dowd. In his author’s note Patrick explains I felt – and feel – as if I’ve been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has handed me her story and said, “Go. Run with it. Make trouble.” So that’s what I tried to do.’
 
‘A Monster Calls’ is the heartbreaking tale of Conor, a thirteen-year-old schoolboy whose father has left for America with his new family and whose mother is dying of cancer. Because of this, Conor has had to grow up fast and be the man of the house, ‘I’m here because thirteen-year-old boys shouldn’t be wiping down counters without being asked to first.’ One night, Conor is woken from his usual nightmare by a monster at his window. The monster visits Conor at the same time every night and comes with a mission – to tell Conor three stories and, when those stories are told, to listen to a final fourth tale that will be told by Conor himself.
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‘You will tell me the fourth tale. You will tell me the truth. (If you don’t) then I will eat you alive!’
 
It becomes clear to the reader that the monster has come to help Conor through a particularly difficult time in his life. Each time the monster calls, Conor slowly comes to terms with the devestating demise of his mother. Patrick Ness’ skill as a writer is to make the reader empathise, wholeheartedly, with Conor as we gain an insight into the aggression, fear and confusion he has bottled up inside him. The characterisation of Conor throughout the story is completely believable and is what makes this book so heartbreakingly powerful!
‘A Monster Calls’ has one of the most heart wrenching endings I have read and will stay with me for a long time to come. The ending was neither shocking nor unexpected but it was real. Patrick Ness has succeeded in combining painful truths with hope and the courage it takes to survive the difficulties we so often face in life.

 

‘This is why I came walking, to tell you this so that you may heal. You must listen. You do not write your life with words, you write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.’

 

I recently attended the YA Literary Convention at the London Film & Comic Con where I got to hear from Patrick Ness himself talking about the upcoming film release of ‘A Monster Calls’. Previewing in October and hitting all cinemas in the New Year, I cannot wait to see one of my favourite books of all time come to life on the big screen. I urge you to take a minute to watch the trailer – the soundtrack, the voice of Liam Neeson, the emotion – is real!

Rating: 5/5

Harry Potter at the House of Minalima 

harry potter 1This week I visited the ‘House of Minalima’ in Soho which is currently holding a pop-up Harry Potter exhibition featuring graphic designs from the films  by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima. Floors 2 & 3 of the house showcase distinctive designs from the films including packaging from ‘Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes’ and issues of ‘The Daily Prophet’.

Although small in size, this exhibition is a feast for the eyes for any Harry Potter fan and definitely worth a visit. Many of the featured props and prints would have been seen on screen for a fraction of a second, yet it is clear that hours of imagination, creativity and hard work have gone into their design.  Wandering the top floors of this immersive exhibition, I found myself fawning over the gold foil details in many of the prints. Believe me, it took an awful lot of restraint not to come away with hundreds of pounds worth of Harry Potter memorabilia.

One word of warning before you visit: beware of the stairs. They are tiny and winding and when some f***er stops to look at the surrounding Harry Potter themed wallpaper you will be stuck on those darn things forever!

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The Giver by Lois Lowry

the giver front coverIntelligence. Integrity. Courage. Wisdom.

These are the qualities a Receiver of Memory must have. And one more, but not described. The Capacity to See Beyond.

Jonas lives safely within the community, a place where there is no war, no hunger and no pain. But when he is selected as the Receiver of Memory, he starts to discover dark secrets that lie beneath the surface of his perfect world. Secrets that will lead him to undertake an incredible journey…

 

 

I recieved this book from the publishers for an open and honest review.

This book was first published in the US in 1993 and is now taught in many schools across the globe. Unfortunately the old book covers have always put me off reading this story (although you should never judge a book by it’s cover) but to my delight Harper Collins recently decided to republish this fantastic novel with a more reader friendly, adult style design and kindly sent me a copy to review.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is much like marmite. Some people love it. Some people hate it. I have fallen into the first category but agree with many others that the ending of this book really lets it down. The Giver is set in a Utopian society where everyone conforms to strict rules and regulations in order to keep them ‘safe’. Life in this community seems almost robotic with stilted conversations and lack of feeling between inhabitants. Adults are required to take pills to rid them of any such feeling and to suppress sexuality. Families are put together by the government and children (no more than two per family) are presented at the yearly Ceremony of One.

The story is centered around the character Jonas and starts around the dinner table as the family discuss their dreams. It becomes clear that this community is different to any other and if inhabitants don’t fit they will be ‘released’.

‘For a contributing citizen to be released from the community was a final decision, a terrible punishment, an overwhelming statement of failure.’

An endless list of rules ensure that all members of the community fit the mould of ‘sameness’. Announcements are made through speakers to the community to remind them of these rules – ‘Attention. This is a reminderto all females under nine that hair ribbons are to be neatly tied at all times.’

At the dinner table the reader learns of Jonas’s fear of the upcoming Ceremony of Twelve; the day when all twelve-year-old children will receive the job they are to carry out for the rest of their adult working life. This ceremony was very reminiscent of Harry Potter’s sorting hat with children hoping and praying to receive their first choice. It is at this ceremony that Jonas receives the job of Receiver of Memory and it is here that the story takes a different turn.

‘Then he heard the gasp – the sudden intake of breath, drawn sharply in astonishment, by each of the seated citizens. He saw their faces; the eyes widened in awe. And still he did not understand.’

Throughout the next few chapters both Jonas and the reader find out about life outside the community. What was life like before the sameness? Slowly, Jonas discovers that life has not always been this way. He learns about snow, sun, colours and love and realises that there is a whole world out there that has been hidden from the people of his community. A whole world they have never experienced and will never experience unless he does something about it.

This story deals brilliantly with the concept of conformity and explores the ideas that too many rules and regulations can trap us, robbing us of life’s riches. It is clear from Jonas’s story that individuality and choice are such an important right that we should continue to fight for across the globe.

This story was delightfully creepy and a great dystopic read.

Rating: 4/5

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The Happiness Project

do more of what you love

There is no greater feeling in life than walking into a bookstore and perusing the endless shelves of crisp, unread books. Everyone knows I am a massive advocate (and fan) of YA fiction but I have recently developed an increasing interest in wellbeing and self help books. No I’m not depressed. No I’m not having a midlife crisis. But even seemingly ‘happy’ people can gain enlightenment from such literature. I recently spent three days staying with a friend in London and had some welcome free time to read a recent purchase of mine entitled ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchin Rubin. I have read a fair few happiness books but this one, I feel, is truely life changing. To the detriment of normal human conversation, I have been quoting lines from this book for the last three days and feel the time has come for me to blog about it rather than boring my friends and family with endless quotes and titbits.

So here goes…

Do More of What you Love

As Gretchin Rubin explains, happiness increases when people accept their own true likes instead of trying to decide what they ought to like, or by parroting the likes of others.

I am a strong believer in doing what you love, regardless of what other people may think about your choices. Our society is extremely judgmental and unfortunately people will always hold a view, no matter what you decide to do. Who is to decide what makes someone ‘cool’? Do I have to attend festivals and listen to House music to be defined as cool? I hate festivals. I went to Wireless once, got crushed in a tent, and resolved never to pretend to enjoy festivals again.

As Michel de Montaigne explains, the best occupations are the least forced. What you choose to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon without effort or force is a reflection of your true self. I took some time to think about what I truley like, regardless of who may be judging me. I already know I’m cool so judge away.

Things I Love

Reading (books not the place)
Reading has been my passion since childhood, which started with an unhealthy obsession with Animal Ark and Babysitter’s Club. My reading habits haven’t changed much since and I still thoroughly enjoy reading Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction. Everyone should have the right to read what they like, no matter the predetermined audience. (Related post here)

Cinema/Film
I am the proud owner of a Cineworld card meaning I can go to as many films as I like for the grand total of £17.50 a month. My film taste is rather eclectic, for example this weekend I saw ‘Pete’s Dragon’ followed by ‘The Purge 3’. Related to my earlier point of not giving a **** what people think about you, I have no qualms with going to the cinema on my own if I have a spare hour or two.

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Since working at Legoland when I was at university to earn some extra cash, Lego has become one of my most loved hobbies. Now this is a hard one to try and make sound cool but achievable, I feel, in picture form. I recently added this to my collection. Now who’s jealous?

Harry Potter
No explanation needed here. Harry Potter is life!

Visiting Cities
Unfortunately, I don’t do this one often enough and need to make a conscious effort to plan in more trips and vists to new cities, even if it’s just in and around the UK. I have found watching YouTube vlogs a good way of discovering new places I wouldn’t have otherwise thought of going. Some of my favourite cities so far have been Barcelona, Berlin and Rome and, although an expensive one, hobbies like this leave you with fond memories that last a lifetime.

West End Theatre
Again, I probably don’t do this as often as I should but tickets for West End shows are just so darn expensive. I grew up dancing and my mum used to take my sister and I to theatre shows all the time. I don’t have the greatest long term memory but I remember each and every show I have ever been to. My brain knows what information it needs to keep and ‘Musicals History’ seems to be top of the list. Some of my upcoming events include: Sister Act cinema with a live gospel choir, E.T.in concert, Harry Potter in concert and… wait for it… Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There’s no greater feeling than combining two of you interests together – Harry Potter and Theatre – magic!

 

Overwhelmed by my coolness? I thought you might be.

Do What You Love.

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Cell 7 by Kerry Drewery

CqeVntcWgAARwQ2Death is Justice is the only reality TV show where the power to save the innocent and execute the guilty lies in your hands. For seven days the accused must wait to learn their fate as the votes are counted. Until Day 7, Cell 7, when the wait is over, and the decision is announced on live television: do they live, or do they die?

For the first time a teenager is in Cell 7. An adored celebrity TV presenter has been killed and sixteen-year-old Martha was found holding a gun, standing over the body. Now the public must decide whether she is innocent or guilty. Martha has admitted to the crime. But did she pull the trigger? Or is it that sometimes reality is more complicated than the images we are shown on TV?

I received this copy from the publishers for an open and honest review.

When this new title by Kerry Drewery dropped through my letterbox I  was instantly intrigued by the dystopic premise. I am a huge fan of stories that, through minor tweaks to our current society, paint a terrifying picture of a future Earth. Many of these dystopian tales have recently made the transition from page to screen with the likes of ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’ feeding my appetite for bleak, imagined realities. ‘Cell 7’ by Kerry Drewery does just that. By exploring prisoners on death row, ‘Cell 7’ highlights the increasing flaws in our own judicial systems. Is any dystopian novel really an insight into a future society or is it merely an imagined metaphor of our current society? Having recently watched Netflix’s ‘Making a Murderer’, it is clear that Kerry Drewery’s imagined world isn’t too far off from our own.

‘Cell 7’ tells the story of Martha, a teenage girl, who has been sentenced to death for a killing she wholeheartedly admits. However, through the multiple POVs (including Martha’s counsellor and boyfriend), it becomes clear that all is not as it seems. Why would Martha admit to a crime she did not commit? In this future world, all death row cases play out live on TV – a chilling extension of our current ‘Big Brother’ culture. Members of the public are encouraged to call in to vote as to whether the accused should live or die. However, being dystopic fiction, the system is inevitably corrupt and only the rich can afford to vote. Are the phone lines being rigged? Martha has seven days, and seven cells, to discover her fate.

Woven throughout the story are hints of a secret, a secret Martha will share on the day of her death. Although Kerry Drewery attempted to drop in subtle  references to this ‘secret’, this made the middle section of the novel drag. There was no doubt in my mind that Martha was innocent so just cut to the chase already! Although I wasn’t a major fan of Kerry Drewery’s writing style, there is no denying that the story line is fantastic and would make a great movie. The last few chapters are page-turningly addictive and I found myself racing through to discover Martha’s fate. Playing out like a film-script, the ending definitely made up for the mediocre middle and I was glad I stuck it out. Filled with tension and suspense, this novel prompts the reader to ask questions about the world around them and is a must read for fans of dystopian YA.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published: September 2016

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