Books-to-Movies : Fall 2017

I always anticipate movie adaptations of books I’ve read with equal measures of excitement and dread. Will the movie capture the spirit of the book, or bear little resemblance to the source material? Stephen King fans felt both ways this year with the well-received remake of the King classic It and the widely panned adaptation of  The Gunslinger from the Dark Tower series.

I usually like to read a book before I see the movie it’s based on, and there’s some kind of book-to-movie adaptation hitting theaters almost every week this fall. Here are the release dates for 10 of them – my reading list just got longer!

October 6

October 13

  • The Chinaman (movie title, The Foreigner) by Stephen Leather

October 20

October 27

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November 10

November 17

November 24

Reliability is Overrated – 10 Books With Unreliable Narrators

Recently, I was discussing two of my favorite television series’ of the past year, “Mr. Robot“, and “Legion“, when it occurred to me what I found compelling about both of them – they are both told by unreliable narrators. The narrative characters in each show have major difficulties perceiving reality, which means the viewer sees the story through their skewed lens, often having to puzzle out what is real and what is not.

It’s a challenging concept, relatively uncommon in television, but more often used in literature. In the literary device of the Unreliable Narrator, the character who leads the reader through the story cannot be taken at face value. The reason could be because this character is lying, insane, or simply seeing events from a very limited viewpoint. In every case, though, it leads the reader to form conclusions beyond what is being disclosed in the narrative. A puzzle of sorts, where questioning what everything really means becomes part of the reading experience.

As I thought about it, I realized that many of the novels that have stayed with me long after reading them have had some kind of unreliable narrator. I remember finishing some of these books, and immediately starting them over again, looking for the “tells” that would have clued me in to the real truth of the tale if I had recognized them the first time. Here, with as few spoilers as possible, are some of my favorite unreliable narrators, (and a few whose heads I could not wait to get out of):

1. Silver Linings Playbook – When we meet the  point-of-view character Pat,  he’s being released from a mental facility into the care of his parents. That’s the first indication that situations in the story may not be exactly as they seem. As Pat’s repressed memories start to come forward, we’re able to piece together exactly why Pat was institutionalized in the first place.

2. Flowers for Algernon –  Charlie Gordon is a learning disabled man who undergoes an experimental operation to increase his intelligence. The novel is told through entries in Charlie’s journal, and the reader is able to see the improvements in self-awareness and intelligence through those entries. Then, too, we witness his deterioration as the long-term effects of the operation make themselves known. Bring a hankie.

3. Life of Pi – A fantastical tale of a boy set adrift after a shipwreck, with a tiger sharing his life raft. It’s a beautiful and uplifting story, until it is revealed that it may be what the narrator’s chosen to believe rather than what actually occurred.

4. Room Told from the very limited point of view of a five-year-old boy, Jack,  who has spent his entire life in an 11-square-foot soundproofed room with Ma, his mother. When Ma devises a plan for Jack to escape, we experience the exhilaration and confusion the world for the first time along with him.

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – The engaging narrator of this book is an autistic teen, so we perceive the events in the story the way he would. When he comes across a neighbor’s dog stabbed with a fork, his obsession with Sherlock Holmes takes over to help him solve the mystery.

6. Fight Club – Whether you’ve seen the movie or read the book, the twist that’s revealed about the identities of characters in this story packs a real punch (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

7. Shutter Island – In this gripping psychological thriller, nothing is quite what it seems. It starts out as an investigation into the escape of a mental patient, and well,  to say more  would be too spoiler-y.

8. Lolita – A compelling and beautifully written book told by a pedophile who is as charming as he is perverse. His justifications and attempts to win the reader’s sympathy are as fascinating to read as they are icky.

9 & 10.  The Girl on the Train  & Gone Girl – I’ve lumped both of these together even though they both contain different types of unreliable narrators (a blackout drunk and just plain liar) because they came out close together, are both murder mysteries, and if you’ve read one, you’ve probably read the other. I couldn’t wait to close the covers on both of them, though, the characters were just too unlikable for me to want to spend much time with.

Graphic Novels That are Not Kid’s Stuff

Do you think you’ve outgrown comic books? Then you haven’t explored today’s Graphic Novels. Mature themes, a wide variety of subject matter, and barely a superhero to be found. There’s a Graphic Novel for every type of reader.

The Memoir Reader: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. This cult favorite comic artist offers a darkly funny family portrait that details her relationship with her father–a funeral home director, high school English teacher, and closeted homosexual.

The Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fan: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan. When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to raise their child in a dangerous world.

The Foodie: Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley.  This recipe-complemented memoir describes the author’s food-enriched youth as the daughter of a chef and a gourmet, key memories that were marked by special meals and the ways in which cooking has imparted valuable life lessons.

The Humor Reader: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. Blogger Allie Brosh showcases her unique voice, leaping wit, and her ability to capture complex emotions with deceptively simple illustrations.

The “I’d Rather Watch TV” Guy: The Walking Dead series by Robert Kirkman. Unless you ARE a member of the walking dead, you probably already know the premise.  An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months society has crumbled: no government, no industry, and very few survivors.  In a world ruled by the dead, the survivors are forced to find ways to start over in this terrifying new world.

The Sequel-ist: Fight Club 2: The Tranquility Gambit by Chuck Palahniuk.  Ten years after starting Project Mayhem, Sebastian lives a mundane life, but it won’t last long, the wife has seen to that, soon he’s back where he started, but this go-round he’s got more at stake than his own life.

The Film Noir Buff: The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. An epic graphic novel of Hollywood in the early days of the Blacklist, The Fade Out tracks the murder of an up-and-coming starlet from studio backlots to the gutters of downtown LosAngeles, as shell-shocked front man Charlie Parish is caught between his own dying sense of morality and his best friend’s righteous sense of justice.

The Big Book Reader: Ode to Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka. It may or may not be contagious. There seems to be no cure for it. Yet, Monmow Disease, a life-threatening condition that transforms a person into a dog-like beast, is not the only villain in this shocking triumph of a medical thriller by manga-god Osamu Tezuka.

The “Stranger Things” Fan: Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan. Supernatural mysteries and suburban drama collide in the early hours after the Halloween of 1988 for four twelve-year-old newspaper delivery girls.

The Samurai Warrior: Vagabond series by Takehiko Inoue. Adventure abounds in this fictionalized account of the life of Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, based on Eiji Yoshikawa’s novel Musashi.

 

10 Books on the Small Screen in 2017

Adapting a novel for the big screen can be a tricky business, but novels adapted for small screen are expanding in popularity. Game of Thrones has been wildly successful at it. So has Outlander.  No longer confined to a two-hour movie-length,  popular books can be adapted more faithfully as a television series, without the best bits getting cut for time.

2017 is seeing a boom in book-to-television adaptations, and we can’t wait to see some of our favorites brought to life on the small screen. If you’re a read-it-before-you-watch-it person, add these to your TBR list:

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (Netflix)

1After the sudden death of their parents, the three Baudelaire children must depend on each other and their wits when it turns out that a distant relative  is determined to use any means necessary to get their fortune.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Netflix)

9When Clay Jenkins receives a box containing thirteen cassette tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah, who committed suicide, he spends the night crisscrossing their town, listening to Hannah’s voice recounting the events leading up to her death.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (Netflix)8

Anne, an eleven-year-old orphan, is sent by mistake to live with a lonely, middle-aged brother and sister on a Prince Edward Island farm.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Hulu)4

In a dystopian future, women are no longer allowed to read and are valued only as long as they are viable for reproduction.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (Starz)

3Just released from prison, Shadow encounters Mr. Wednesday, an enigmatic stranger who seems to know a lot about him, and when Mr. Wednesday offers him a job as his bodyguard, Shadow accepts and is plunged into a dark and perilous world.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (HBO)

2An annual school Trivia Night ends in a disastrous riot leaving one parent dead in what appears to be a tragic accident, but evidence shows it might have been premeditated.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (HBO)

6Returning to her hometown after a long absence to investigate the murders of two girls, reporter Camille Preaker is reunited with her neurotic mother and enigmatic, thirteen-year-old half-sister as she works to uncover the truth about the killings.

The Cormoran Strike series by J.K. Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith (BBC/HBO)tumblr_olhnnlisda1rmidh1o2_r1_1280

This three part series follows Cormoran Strike, a wounded war veteran-turned-private detective struggling to get by in Central London.

The Midnight, Texas series by Charlaine Harris (NBC)

5Midnight, Texas, a dried-up, one traffic light town, gets shook up when a mysterious new resident, Manfred Bernardo, moves in.

 

The Terror by Dan Simmons (AMC)

7Captain Crozier must find a way for his crew to survive the deadly attacks of a sea monster, in this novel loosely based on the mid-nineteenth-century Arctic expedition led by Sir John Franklin.

 

Tales of Three Chrises

befunky-collage-5-11While looking at upcoming films, I watched the newest trailer for the Wonder Woman movie (due June 2, 2017, and it looks fantastic), and was surprised to see actor Chris Pine in the role of Steve Trevor – I had no idea he was in the film. I like Chris Pine, he’s a worthy actor, and I think he’ll do a wonderful job in the role. But I can’t help but notice, he’s been cropping up in an awful lot of films lately.

Sometimes Hollywood gets hooked on a new actor and they become “hot” – in high demand because they seem to pull in audiences and thus make a lot of money, worthy or not. They may hang around a while, then fade off into obscurity when it’s realized they have no real talent, only to reappear on a C-grade cable network show pushing designer socks. Sometimes actors let their popularity run for a few years, make their money, and then get out altogether, to pursue directing, theater, music, or sometimes even a college degree.

But lately the name Chris seems to be the favorite in Hollywood – Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, and the other blockbuster, Chris Hemsworth. All are fine actors who have taken on roles that shot them to stardom, yet all have solid resumes of good films behind them even if you’ve never heard of them.

mv5bmtm4otq4ntu3nv5bml5banbnxkftztcwnjewndu0oq-_v1_ux214_cr00214317_al_Chris Pine comes from an acting family – his dad was Robert Pine, Sgt. Getraer from CHiPs, and he’s one of those well-rounded actors with actual talent. Although currently best known for taking on the iconic role of Captain James Kirk in the Star Trek reboot, he’s done an array of very worthy films, from action hero in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, to wine maker in Bottleshock (a very underrated movie with an excellent cast), to Coast Guard skipper in The Finest Hours. If you doubt his acting talent, listen to his singing voice as he belts out the tune “Agony” in Into the Woods. If he runs out of films, he can  switch easily to Broadway. If you’re of a certain age, or have daughters of a different age, you may remember him from Princess Diaries 2.  He’s not just taking on any role to make a buck.

On the other end, you have Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, who gained thirty8e289e037001b64b43665c8be542d3f9 pounds of pure muscle to take on the role of powerful comic book hero Thor in the multitude of Marvel films. But Hemsworth is not just eyecandy. His latest film was a comic role in the Ghostbusters reboot (okay, not exactly a great film, but not Thor either), but he’s popped up regularly in Snow White and the Huntsman, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, chasing Moby Dick in In The Heart of the Sea, racing cars in Rush, and escaping computer espionage in Black Hat, a worthwhile thriller though not of the same caliber of a Marvel film. He may look like he fell off the cover of a romance novel, but you can’t say he’s allowed himself to be typecast. He, too, was in the Star Trek reboot, as George Kirk, James T.’s father – a role he will be reprising in the next Star Trek film, which has not yet entered production (even though he’s three years younger than Chris Pine). If you really want entertainment, listen to him speak with his native Australian accent – you realize just how impressive his American accent is.

chris_pratt_-_guardians_of_the_galaxy_premiere_-_july_2014_croppedChris Pratt landed two franchises – starring in the latest Jurassic Park flick, Jurassic World, as well as the lead of Peter Quill in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (and the upcoming GG2, due out May 5 of 2017, and the next Jurassic, in pre-production, and reprising his Peter Quill role in the Avengers Infinity War, currently filming – talk about busy!). AND he starred with Jennifer Lawrence in December’s new release, Passengers. Before taking over the action-hero trade, he appeared in such varied films as Zero Dark Thirty, Moneyball, and the recent star-studded western, The Magnificent Seven. Of the three, he’s also done extensive television, with recurring roles on Parks and Recreation, The O.C., and Everwood.  He’s earned the right to be exhausted!

So while the weather is less than delightful, make it a weekend of high entertainment and Chris-cross some of these films off your list. No matter what your style of movie – westerns, intrigue, racing, science fiction, comic heroes, fairy tales, covert wars, musicals or more, one of these men has the perfect film for you.