Posted in adaptations, discussion

What I Look For In Adaptations

More and more we’re starting to see adaptations dominating the new releases at cinemas. It’s starting to feel like almost every day there’s an announcement of another book – primarily Young Adult – that’s been picked up by a film company. This is a good thing on many levels because it feels like Young Adult content is starting to be taken seriously. Fancasting is a common thing in the book community and many of us openly say we would love to see our favourite story in a visual format (I personally cannot wait for the A Darker Shade of Magic TV show). A phrase that’s batted around a lot is “the book is always better than the film.” I am the absolute worst for watching an adaptation with someone and going “you know in this book…”

In my final year of my undergraduate degree I took a module titled “Film and Literature” where, you guessed it, we read a book and watched its subsequent adaptations then discussed them in classes and essays. In my exam, the highest marked question was “All good books make bad adaptations. All bad books make good adaptations. Discuss.” I remember starting at the paper in horror. How was I expected to write a minimum of three pages about how this is entirely subjective? (I tried and failed miserably I still don’t know how I passed the module at all)

I still firmly believe that this is subjective: what may be someone’s favourite adaptation may be the worst thing ever to someone else. So I put the question to various people on social media sites to see what they thought. I was surprised that a lot of the responses I got focused on the feel of it: people seemed rather happy to have the adaptation veer off from the original material as long as it was true to the story. Capturing the real essence of the world and characters was naturally the overwhelming response I received. After all, how can you enjoy it if the meaning of the tale is lost? Naturally another common response I got was about accuracy: as long as everything is exactly as it happens in the book, it’s sure to be good. But with a need to streamline stories, a lot of seemingly unimportant stuff gets cut. For example, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series but the shortest film out of the franchise. (Come on, did you really not expect me to slip Harry Potter in somewhere?

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I am the traditional reader who will pick up the book before going to see the movie. Mainly because I like to imagine everything for myself before that is permanently tainted by someone else’s interpretation of the same story. When I watch the adaptation, I am one of those people who lives for accuracy; even the smallest change can completely take me out of the world. It’s a curse.

So to turn these thoughts I have into something a bit less hypothetical (and probably make this post much longer than it needs to be) I’m going to share two adaptations I really enjoyed and two that are better left forgotten out.
Allegiant (2016) 

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I absolutely adore the Divergent series and the final book is my favourite. I was amazed at how well done the first two films were and often find myself re-watching them. But watching Allegiant felt like being trapped on a train that had derailed over a bridge. Not one once of this adaptation reflects the source material. Nothing was really explained and it felt like the real message Veronica Roth was trying to get across had been muddled in all the changes that were made for the sake of more action scenes. I did a full spoiler review of it on my channel which you can find here if you want to hear me rant.

The Fault In Our Stars (2014) 

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It’s only writing this that I noticed I have coincidentally used two examples where Shailene Woodley is the main actress but I had to talk about this film.  I’m sure everyone has heard about this book regardless of whether they’ve read it or not. I remember sitting in the cinema as the credits rolled, tears rolling down my cheeks while I breathed a sigh of relief. This one of few adaptations to me that really got it right; so much so that I didn’t mind the minor changes. Everything about this is perfect, from the  soundtrack to the aesthetic, to the acting. As I said in the introduction, keeping the message is important and you really do feel it in this film.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)

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My tolerance for horror and anything creepy is almost non-existent which makes it odd that Tim Burton is one of my favourite directors. So when I heard that he had signed on to work on a story about peculiar children and there was a book… you can see where I’m going with this. I ended up loving the overall series more than I ever thought I might as it is out of my comfort zone ins some respects. The adaptation is very mixed more me as I really didn’t like some of the actors, and for the life of me can’t understand why the roles and names of Emma and Olive were swapped for the film, but it has some redeeming element to it; mainly the aesthetic. I feel like enough of the world is there and that information is presented in a way that makes it easy to follow (whereas Ransom Riggs’ prose gets difficult to follow at times) but I think it did the right thing in changing the ending as I don’t think it did well enough to work on Hollow City. 

The Book Thief (2013)

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If you watch at least one adaptation in your life, please make it this one. The book is a very dark, haunting read. (What could you expect from a book narrated by death?) With such a strong narrative voice, I felt this might be lost once it was changed for screen and in a lot of ways it is but the acting is absolutely beautiful. I think it’s impossible to watch this film and not feel with every ounce of your being for these characters and the unfortunate situation they’re having to endure. The message is clear, visually it’s gorgeous and while a very slow burn, it’s so worth it for the re-evaluating of your life you’ll definitely do after.

And there you have it. You’ll notice that I didn’t use Harry Potter and that’s for a good reason: I plan to do a whole separate post about the franchise. Stay tuned for that!

What do you look for in adaptations?
What are some of your favourite adaptations and why?

Posted in contemporary, review, young adult

Another Place – Matthew Crow

“I wrote my goal for the summer. A goal I would only share with those whose involvement helped my mission. The last secret between me and my friend I had known only at night. That summer I would find Sarah Banks.”

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Blurb: “Sixteen-year-old Claudette Flint is coming home from hospital after an escalating depression left her unable to cope. Released into the care of her dad, she faces the daunting task of piecing herself back together. She may look unchanged; but everything’s different. The same could be said about her seaside hometown: this close-knit community seems to be unspooling in the wake of the sudden disappearance of one of her schoolmates, Sarah.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The story follows a teenage girl called Claudette who returns home after a hospital stay for her mental illness and learns that her fellow classmate, Sarah, has gone missing. As part of her recovery, Claudette’s therapist has instructed her to set herself goals, no matter how small. Claudette decides her goal for the summer is to find Sarah.

Another Place fell very short for me. I expected it to be a great mystery novel but it was packed full of characters and subplots that I didn’t really care about, which made it hard to connect to anything. The way that Claudette talks about Sarah made it seem like they were best friends but in fact they were minor acquaintances. It fell quickly into “John Green manic pixie dream girl” territory and that just pulled me out of the story even more.

The book does have some redeeming factor and one of those is handling of mental illness. Claudette has a wonderful father who does his best to stand up and support his daughter which encourages Claudette to open up. Even when unsure of how to act upon her return, he doesn’t shut himself off from her and it was a perfect example of a supportive relationship that may encourage those struggling to open up to their own family members.

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Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Favourite Opening Lines

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the importance of opening lines. After all, once you get past the blurb and the cover, it’s those precious first few sentences that can captive your attention and encourage you to delve further into the story. So I’ve decided to share some of my favourite opening lines with no summaries of what the stories are about. Quite simply just the opening lines.

 

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 

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My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. I give Pirrip as my father’s family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister – Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

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First the colours.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things. 
Or at least, how I try. 

Here is a small fact: you are going to die. 
The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie

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All Children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful,  for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this forever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end. 

I Capture A Castle by Dodie Smith

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I write this sitting in the kitchen ink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.

Twilight  by Stephenie Meyer 

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I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly pleasantly back at me. Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

 

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I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman. 

 

What are some of your favourite opening lines?

 

 

Posted in children's fiction, review

There’s A Monster In Your Book – Tom Fletcher

“Oh no! There’s a monster in your book! Let’s try to get him out.”

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Blurb: “Bestselling author of The Christmasuarus, Tom Fletcher, has written a brand new picture book perfect for bedtime, where a mischievous monster has invaded the pages of your child’s book!”

There’s A Monster In Your Book was the first project that Tom Fletcher decided to work on. Unfortunately this was pushed to the side when an idea for a series of picture books about a pooping dinosaur blossomed and then a Christmas dinosaur got its own full-length novel. Now Fletcher makes his return to picture books with this latest release.

This book is self-explanatory: there’s a monster trapped in the book and the aim is to help set it free. To achieve this, the reader I encouraged to spin, tilt, shake and even shout at the book. It really is something that anyone can enjoy.

Tom Fletcher continues to add creativity and excitement to his books and There’s A Monster In Your Book is another fantastic addition to his written works.

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Posted in discussion

Nineteen Years Later

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*spoilers for the series*

The first of September rolled around and, leading up to 11am, I was sat on twitter. As usual, I was tweeting about how I had arrived too early to get the Hogwarts Express and so was sitting in my regular carriage with way too many chocolate frogs for the journey. I was not the only one tweeting about the upcoming departure of a train to magic school (many hashtags about the significance of the date were trending) and received may responses from people asking if there was room for a Ravenclaw in my cabin. I replied with “of course! I have some Fizzing Whizbees if you want to share.”

To the milder or non-Harry Potter fans, this turn of events will seem completely bizarre. After all, the Wizarding World is not real (hard to digest, I know!) and, rather than being docked out in Hufflepuff robes on a train stationed at a secret platform, really I was sitting in bed in my Harry Potter themed PJs pretending that I was. Also, even in an alternate world where Hogwarts did exist, I would be way to old to attend. But to me, these scenarios remind me of what it feels like to be home.

My adventures with Harry Potter began when the Scholastic Book Fair came to my primary school and we were allowed time out of class to go and buy something if we had the money. Armed with the funds my mother had supplied, I went on my way and came across a book called Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I don’t remember what it was that struck me about it but I bought it and read it; not realising it was actually the second book in the series. By the time I had caught up with the ones that were already out, there was a brand new one waiting for me. My first read-through of the books was 2-3-1-4-7.

I used to have two light switches in my room: one by the door and a pull string above my bunk bed. It would drive my mother bonkers when she’d get up in the night to find my bedroom light on and me tucked up in bed reading very late on a school night. When my mother too got into the books we had one copy of Order of the Phoenix  which I would be allowed to read one chapter of each night before mother would come and take it off me to ensure I slept. She would then take the book downstairs and read it herself. Both this book and Half Blood Prince used to have two bookmarks in indicating where we were. To this day, my most prominent memory of Harry Potter was reading period in school, during Year 4, when my teacher said that the hour had begun and we must remain silent. I was in a class of 30 children and every single one of us had a copy of Order of the Phoenix. Even the teacher. I think that was the first moment that I really got a sense of how Harry Potter was so much bigger than my sole experience with it. To say I’ve grown up with this world and these characters is too much of an obvious statement to make, and frankly it frustrates me that I can never full put into words why this particular series has had such a impact on me when other series I read around the same time (for example The Chronicles of Narnia) are forgotten memories. It’s the kind of thing where only other extreme Harry Potter fans can share a look and say “I know exactly what you mean.”

Harry Potter has remained a constant in my life. No matter the situation, it’s always been there when I’ve needed it and it always feels like being greeted by old friends.

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1st September 2017 held more importance than the previous years. This year in the Harry Potter timeline, marks the epilogue. This year marks nineteen years later. As I write this post, we have officially passed the Harry Potter timeline. (Don’t talk to me about Cursed Child)

As the hosts of Mugglecast joked on their podcast (Episode 334: Back to Hogwarts?), “how many more endings to Harry Potter are we going to get?!” While easy to laugh at, it’s true. There have been many endings to Harry Potter. The books ended and a few years later so did the film adaptations. Then Cursed Child (*shudder*) and in a few more years the Fantastic Beasts films will end. When I read that iconic last line in Deathly Hallows I cried for two weeks. Having been lucky enough to go to Orlando and visit the theme park, along with going to the studio tour several times (I’m going for the fourth time next month for my birthday. Eek!) it never really felt like the definitive end. Until now.

As I said earlier, I grew up with Harry Potter and aged alongside him. Even with my adult perspective now when I read the books I still get that all consuming feeling that I honestly cannot explain. I can pinpoint who I was and where I was when each book came out and list all of the places I read them.

Officially passing the timeline for the books has stirred a feeling in me and it’s not a pleasant one. In a strange way, it’s like I’ve been reminded of my own morality; that I will continue to age while the characters that were so present in my formative years do not. I am trying not to be sad about it and instead distract myself with happier Harry Potter memories. But it’s not without its struggles.

For the first time it really feels like this is goodbye.

Posted in contemporary, poetry, review, young adult

Moonrise – Sarah Crossan

“People are gonna be telling you all kinds of
Lies.
I need you to know the truth.”

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Blurb: “Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row. But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Joe’s life was turned upside down when he received a phone call revealing that his brother, Ed, was going to prison on a murder charge. The family happens to live in a state where the death penalty is a punishment and when Ed’s execution date is confirmed, Joe struggles even more.

Sticking to her usual unique style, Moonrise is another free verse novel from Sarah Crossan. The use of this format to tell the story creates a simplicity that really hits you in the gut. The story doesn’t rely on fancy metaphors or deep imagery to make the reader feel something (though I want to express that using metaphors/imagery is not a bad thing either). It just further highlights Crossan’s talents.

The story is told through snapshots in time. The reader gets an insight into Joe’s childhood and memories with his brother as the execution fate draws closer. This, along with the writing format, makes it impossible not to feel something.

This is a heart-wrenching read tackling the idea of how to cope with losing a loved one.

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Hufflepuff Edition) – J.K.Rowling

“He’ll be famous – a legend – I wouldn’t be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter day in the future – there will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name!”

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Blurb: “Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

As part of the Potter generation, it only seems fitting that I re-read at least one book from the series every year and as this year marks the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, it only felt more prevalent. There are not enough words to fully convey what this this world and its characters mean to me but I’m sure any potterhead out there will be able to relate.

I try to avoid buying different copies of the same book unless it’s a rare occasion and this was certainly one of them: as part of the celebrations, brand new editions were rolled out, both in hardback or paperback, styled specifically for each of the four Hogwarts houses. Being an unapologetic Hufflepuff, it’s obvious which one I went for. Unlike other anniversary editions I’ve purchased, this one was definitely worth the money. There’s addition material from Rowling talking about the history of the Hufflepuff house, information that the common room along with the house ghost, head of house and noteable Hufflepuff characters from the universe.

To those unaware, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the first book in a seven-part series following an orphan boy called Harry who learns that he is wizard. He is taken away from his evil aunt and uncle to a magic school called Hogwarts where he quickly learns that he is famous.

The wonderful thing about this series is that, no matter how many times I read it, I always come back to it and discover something new or I’m reminded of things I’ve forgotten. I fall head-over-heels in love with this book every time I read it. While not my favourite out of the whole series, it’s impossible to deny the creativity and craft that went into this book and it paved the way for a growth of characters and a worldwide phenomenon.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a truly magical story that continues to teach the importance of making your own choices and the value of friendship. A lesson everyone can benefit from.

I may need to launch into an entire series re-read now.

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Posted in book event, discussion, poetry

Poetry Event | Neil Hilborn

“I saw the future, I did,
and in it,
I was alive.”

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I never used to really be into poetry. Despite having a degree partly in English Literature, having to constantly analyse poems made it really hard to love them outside of a classroom. A friend of mine is a poet and, when I shared these concerns, introduced me to a channel called Button Poetry and his favourite performance poet Neil Hilborn whose main focuses are around mental health as he has OCD. When the announcement of a UK tour was made, it seemed wrong to pass up on it so me and a couple of friends – who all love his poetry – decided to make it a small friend reunion.

I try to pretend that my anxiety disorder is not as crippling it is because sometimes it makes me worry about completely unnecessary things but it’s been a just over a year since I passed my driving test and driving places I’ve never been before still fills me with a sense of dread. But I knew I needed to push myself and one of my friends had driven to Birmingham before so was able to help me navigate along with a sat nav. I am so ridiculously proud of myself for forcing myself to do it; even if my muscles were clenched for the whole journey. We met up with my other friend who’d got her train to Birmingham to meet us and we had dinner to catch up and explored the city. Of course, we took a trip to Waterstones and I was quick to pick up a copy of the newly released Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo.

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We then indulged in more food and made our way over to The Glee Club which was the venue for the performance. The capacity was 420 people and the event was sold out. I’ve been to poetry nights before but never solely to see one poet so I had no idea what to expect.

It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to experience something. Especially when it’s visual. Neil Hilborn’s poetry is so deep, intricate, and complex. To watch him on that stage, pausing as he looked at the floor and taking a deep breath before putting all of his heart and soul into getting those feelings across in his performances felt almost like we’d stumbled into something that was meant to be private.  He even broke away halfway through poems to joke about some of the lines he’s written which just added a little extra humour and a more human element to it. But honestly, I forgot that I was in a tiny room in a comedy club in Birmingham. Listening to these poems with the actual poet in front of me felt like being in a different world.

Surprisingly, after his show had finished, there was the opportunity to meet him. I felt bad not having a copy of his book (I read it on Kindle) and no cash to buy any that were available at the merch table so when I finally did get to meet him I started off by pointing this out and how I felt terrible. He shook my hand and I told him about my anxiety and how listening to his poem The Future helps me when I get into a state where doing every day things becomes difficult. The irony of the situation was that I was on the brink of having a panic attack while thanking him for helping me… not have panic attacks. But I mean, one of the greatest modern poets was sitting in front of me, staring at me and listening to what I was saying. After that, he signed a little card for me and we got a photo.

We then said goodbye to the friend who’d gotten the train and got back in my car where I had to do the whole awful journey in reverse; which turned out to be very eventful as the junction I needed to get off the motorway was closed so we ended up with a lengthy detour.

I feel so honoured to have this experience and getting to meet the man behind all the words and videos I’ve consumed over the past few years. I often find it’s too easy to see people through a screen and forget that they are just that: people.

I’m going to end this post with Neil Hilborn’s performance of The Future which I hope will encourage you to look further into his poetry.