Sometimes, Frances needs a break. Sometimes, Frances has read a lot of jargony non-fiction and wants something relaxing and right in her comfort zone. This is when Frances turns to a YA fantasy romance novel. The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty does not disappoint. While it is not perfect, the book doesn’t succumb to many of the genre’s pitfalls. The heroine, Sage Fowler, is stereotypically “different,” and defies the country’s common practice of matchmaking. But lacking options as a young woman, she stumbles into an apprenticeship with the high matchmaker. There she learns how to observe people and hide in plain sight. These skills come in handy when a secret plot boils to the surface, and she becomes embroiled in the young army captain Alex Quinn’s resistance. Sage’s intelligence and wit is an important part of the plot, as well as her character, and this makes her much less annoying than many YA fantasy romance heroines. The love interest is also fleshed out enough that he seems more than just a trope. The romance has a good slow burn, which I’m a sucker for, and their love feels earned through fun banter and the obligatory (yet juicy) awkward accidental touching. While there are some writing hiccups here and there, overall it is an enjoyable read. Definitely don’t judge this book by its cover – or title. Yeah, it’s not the most elegant tale. But it hit the sweet spot for me. And really that’s all I could ask from it.
“Tonight a man found Dad’s pants in a tree lit with Christmas lights.”
That is the opening line of Rachel Khong’s debut novel, “Goodbye, Vitamin.” 30 year old Ruth is at a crossroads in her life. She makes the decision to move home, where the situation is much more complicated than she thought. Her father is battling early onset Alzheimer’s, and her mother’s behavior is erratic as she tries to manage it all. This is a novel that somehow manages to be devastating and joyful at the same time, and it gave me the feels in all of the right ways. I laughed, I cried, and as I closed the book I felt sad to leave this quirky family behind.
I cannot recommend this novel enough. There’s no doubt it will end up on my “best of” list for 2017.
“Goodbye, Vitamin” is in stores now. (Henry Holt & Company, $26.00, ISBN 1250109167).
10 Books That Made Great Movies!
Almost everyone who knows me knows that I’m fond of encouraging customers to get the book first and then see the movie. I am the biggest fan of telling everyone how Hollyweird messes things up spectacularly (Example: the concept of reality television), and I hate to think that people rave on and on about a movie that was adapted from literature, and most of the time they don’t give the original source a chance. As in all things, the reverse can also be true. Here are some examples of that.
1. American Psycho– Bret Easton Ellis. This shocking 1991 novel was adapted into a 2000 black comedy film starring the dynamic Christian Bale as the disturbed Patrick Bateman, and included a stellar supporting cast including Willem Dafoe, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto, and Samantha Mathis. It’s one of those rare instances where the movie may have eclipsed the book.
2. Wonder Boys– Michael Chabon. The 1995 story of a bumbling professor trying to recapture lightning in a bottle with a new novel while embarking on a series of adventures with the new author boy wonder was a funny, heartwarming novel. The movie, released in 2000, brought us Grady Tripp in the form of veteran actor Michael Douglas, with Tobey Maguire as the new big thing author James Leer, along with a great supporting cast including Robert Downey Jr, Katie Holmes, and Frances McDormand. It should be mentioned as a fan of music that the soundtrack is fantastic, as well.
3. Gone With The Wind– Margaret Mitchell. This 1936 classic revolving from the viewpoint of young Scarlett O’Hara, a spoiled Southern child who has to learn how to run the plantation known as Tara, after General Sherman’s destructive “March To the Sea”. Slavery, the old South, unrequited love, friendship, and one of literature’s greatest love stories (with Rhett Butler) are central themes of the story, and mark it as a generational classic. Did they mess it up when it went into film? Happily, not the case. It was adapted into a movie in 1939, with Vivian Leigh playing the petulant Scarlet, Clark Gable as the dashing and misunderstood Rhett Butler, and Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland as Ashley and Melanie Wilkes. It was a smash hit and didn’t ruin the book that generations have come to love.
4. Hidden Figures– Margot Lee Shetterly. This one is somewhat of an exception. This is a New York Times bestseller, released in 2016, about African American women who worked as computers to solve problems for engineers and people working at NASA. The movie borrows some from the book, but the author herself has been quoted as saying there are differences between her text and the movie version. Either way, what a fascinating story! The movie that followed, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, to name a few, was a critical smash. There were changes, but the movie really did go a long way toward putting faces to the names in the book.
5. The Help– Kathryn Stockett. A smash NYT bestseller released in 2009, this book spent more than 100 weeks on the bestseller list. It was also chosen as an Oprah book club pick and made into a movie in 2011. It captured 4 Academy Award nominations and won Octavia Spencer the Best Supporting Actress statue. The story of African American women working in white households in the early 60’s in Mississippi is a great book, and the movie only brought it more to life in the mind’s eye.
6. The Martian– Andy Weir. The 2011 science fiction novel was something I had to check out after many customers sang its praises. I was happily surprised by its quirkiness and the heart beating beneath the story being told. Then I heard it was being turned into a movie, and I was concerned Hollyweird was going to do a number on it. Happily, they did a great job with the film, with Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney, a great supporting cast, and the able-minded direction of director Ridley Scott. I really think Matt Damon is the only guy who could have played Watney.
7. High Fidelity– Nick Hornby. I did this one in reverse; I saw the movie first, and then went back and read the book. Not often do I commit this crime. I didn’t mind, though, because the book AND the movie were great. The book came out in 1995; the movie in 2000. The story of a London record shop owner newly dumped by his girlfriend Laura, Rob Fleming spends his days at work arguing the merits of vinyl through the years, while reliving his previous relationships trying to figure out where it all went wrong. A funny, poignant look at vinyl and love that resonates with all ages. John Cusack’s portrayal of Rob Fleming was spot-on, Jack Black and the supporting cast were ace, and the soundtrack was killer. A fine job of bringing a great book to life!
8. Beautiful Mind– Sylvia Nasar. The story of the brilliant but highly troubled mathematician John Nash. On the precipice of a discovery that would change everything, his career is put through the ringer by crippling schizophrenia that changes everything for him and his wife Sylvia. The book, released in 1998, was a New York Times bestseller, along with winning the 1998 National Book Critics Award for biography and being nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for biography. The movie, directed by Ron Howard and starring Russell Crowe as Nash and Jennifer Connelly as Sylvia, was released in 2001 to critical acclaim, and went on to win four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Some parts of the biography were not brought to the silver screen, but for the most part, this inspirational biography was carried through very well in the cinema.
9. Harry Potter franchise- J.K. Rowling. To isolate one out of the franchise is just too difficult, people. I loved all of the books, and when you commit to a series like this and love the books to a level most fangirls only dream of, there’s NO way Hollywood is going to be able to capture that magic and hold it over all of the films. Except- except- it did! The team of directors and movie makers who brought this series to such vivid form really delievered the goods. And really- after seeing them, can you re-read those books now without visualizing Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint as Harry, Hermione, and Ron? I can’t. Well done, Hollywood.
10. The Lord of the Rings trilogy- J.R.R. Tolkien. A given for anyone who loves a great fantasy trilogy. This was the precedent for all other fantasy series to follow suit on. Originally written as a sequel to 1937’s The Hobbit, it grew to a life of its own through the years. The film franchise side of this began with the release of The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, The Two Towers in 2002, and The Return of the King in 2003. Directed and produced by well-known producer Peter Jackson, the cinematic franchise took on a whole life of its own, with all the films opening to and exceeding initial expectations. Not an easy thing to accomplish transferring a beloved series to film, but they did it in a spectacular fashion.
Quincy Carpenter is a “Final Girl”, a term the press dubbed for survivors of horrific crimes. She’s moved on to some semblance of a normal life; until the first “Final Girl” turns up dead in a bathtub and the second shows up at her front door, raising all sorts of questions and throwing Quincy into a topsy-turvy cycle of terror. Nothing is quite as it seems, and the backstory of each of these girls, tied in with the new occurences that terrify her to no end, will have you on the edge of your seat questioning everything. I read this back in January and it scared the bejesus out of me. It’s not a book you’ll want to read before you go to bed! Fans of Karin Slaughter’s “Pretty Girls” and “Helter Skelter” by Vincent Bugliosli will find themselves captivated anew.
“Final Girls” is out in hardcover on Tuesday, 7/11. (Dutton Books, $26.00, ISBN 1101985364)
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee is a strange mix of intense romance novel, mystery, swashbuckler adventure and all the way to the science fiction wonders of alchemy. Henry Montague gets kicked out of school and is given one last chance by his father to do a Grand Tour with his life long friend (and who he happens to be madly in love with) Percy and his pain in the neck sister Felicity. His father views this as a last chance to get his act together, Henry hopes he can romp around with Percy before they go their separate ways. Things don’t go smoothly when Henry ruins a visit to Versailles by running away naked with a stolen, seemingly innocent, trinket except that trinket holds not only a secret but has them on the run for their lives. The Gentleman’s Guide really takes you for a ride through what it was like to be gay in the 1700s, a woman interested in science, and views on race and pirates.
Spoonbenders follows the Telemachus family-Teddy, Maureen, Irene, Frankie, and Buddy. Known as The Amazing Telemachus Family, they perform feats across the country, until one night tragedy leaves the family shattered. Both hilarious and heartwarming, Spoonbenders is one novel you don’t want to miss.
Seven Stones to Stand or Fall
Are you eagerly awaiting the next Outlander novel? Let this collection help you pass the time. Seven Stones to Stand or Fall contains seven short stories expanding the Outlander universe. With two original novellas, this must-have collection features the characters Jamie Fraser, Lord John Grey, and more.
This novel centers on the Jha family, a middle-class family in India whose life is uprooted when they come into a large sum of money. With their son going to school in America, Mr. and Mrs. Jha move from their housing complex in East Delhi to the wealthy side of town, where Mr. Jha becomes eager to fit in. Their move will set off a chain of events, causing the Jha family to look at what really matters.