Tag Archives: fiction

Movie vs. Book: Wonder

Auggie Pullman is a wonder. The fact that he’s made it to his tenth birthday is a wonder. The fact that he agrees to go school starting in fifth grade is a wonder. That’s because Auggie was born with a number of different medical conditions, resulting in severe deformities in his face. Countless surgeries have helped improve the way he hears, sees, eats and looks, but his face still looks unlike most other 10-year-olds. Until now, he’s been homeschooled by his mom, and he is brilliant. But ultimately his parents decide it’s time to acclimate him to other kids his age, so they enroll him in private school.

The transition is anything but easy. The children claim he has “The Plague” and avoid touching him. They compare him to movie characters who have had their faces badly burned in fires. He is bullied and frankly, psychologically tormented. But because of an orientation that introduces him to a few kids, he finds a friend in Jack Will. Jack Will and a girl named Summer become his two friends in a sea of bullies, until he overhears something one day that makes him think it’s all been a lie.

The book varies in narrators, going back and forth between Auggie, Auggie’s older sister Via, Jack Will, Summer and several others. Each of them are going through a tough time, mostly because of the drama that comes with being close to Auggie. But they love him despite it all. That loves forces them to stand up for him to everyone else.

Wonder is a beautiful young adult novel about friendship, love, kindness, and character over looks, and the movie follows the story closely bringing along with it the emotional impact that book left on my heart. Yes, both the book and movie are tearjerkers. And yes, as per usual, the movie eliminates some things. It cuts out one of Via’s friends entirely. It also decreases the number of narrators (the book has a few sections narrated by some tertiary characters as well) and removes the book’s epilogue. But none of these changes affect the story in any way or the intention behind any of the characters and their actions.

While reading the book, I wondered (see what I did there??) how the movie would pull it off. After all, the book revolves around mostly 10-year-old boys and girls. Would casting agents be able to find as many young actors as was needed for this story? But they did! Jacob Tremblay plays the perfect Auggie and with Julie Roberts and Owen Wilson playing his parents, there’s a good balance of emotion and humor.

It’s also fair to say both the book and movie should not be read and seen by just children or young adults, but by adults too. After all, we could also use a good lesson in how wondrous kindness can be.

Get Wonder in hardcover for $10.19. 

Or get it on your Kindle for $9.99.

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‘Pretty Little Liars’ Author To Debut First Adult Fiction Novel

the-elizas-9781501162770_hrShe’s already published dozens of books, had them adapted for television and became a huge bestseller, but now Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game author Sara Shepard is set to release her first adult fiction novel.

According to Entertainment Weekly, The Elizas is about a debut novelist (sound familiar?) named Eliza who claims she was pushed when she was found at the bottom of a hotel pool. Her family assumes it was just another failed suicide attempt. In an effort to prove them wrong, Eliza begins to investigate her own death and find that her life and character’s life are intertwining. Memory loss from the accident doesn’t help either.

Creepy, huh? Shepard knows a thing or two about creepy thrillers.

The Elizas is set to be released on April 17th. EW has an exclusive available excerpt now.

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Review: Damned Good

51cm3a39uul-_sx311_bo1204203200_Recap: The Rookie has one goal and one goal only: to be the best at poker. He studies. He practices. He takes good care of himself. He sleeps. He eats right. He wants to crush the best of the best at their own game. He does it until he doesn’t. This poker novella follows the Rookie and his friend the Kid as he takes down other players and finally crumbles in a massive loss.

Analysis: But the story is about much more than just poker. It becomes clear through layered writing and metaphors that the Rookie is using his poker to find himself, to perfect himself as not just a player but as a person. That’s all well and good until he ultimately crashes, which lends himself to feeling like a failure in every respect.

The writing of Damned Good is pretty damned good itself. With flowery details, the words give off an almost sonic poetic vibe, as though you can hear the novella being read to you. While it does incorporate a good amount of poker jargon, it’s remains easy to follow even for those unfamiliar with the game.

The fact of the matter is the book is relatable to anyone who’s been through something intense, dramatic and shift-causing.

MVP: The Rookie. As much as he’s able to keep it together is as much as he’s unable to do so. The Rookie is all of us at our core — hard on ourselves and striving for the best.

Get Damned Good now for free on Amazon

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Review: The Bookworm

51mmaglqrll-_sx329_bo1204203200_Recap: She’s lovingly called “The Bookworm” by her friends, but Lara Klimt is more than just a nerdy bookworm. She’s a Russian historian and former Soviet chess champion who suddenly finds herself attempting to solve a mystery that landed in her lap — a mystery dating back to the 1940’s during the rise of Adolf Hitler. She must listen to six recordings from a then-famous actor and playwright who — unbeknownst to her and…well…most people — was secretly a British agent reporting to Winston Churchill. All this coincides with her being asked to interview the U.S. President live on Russian television.

If something smells funky, it most likely is. Lara works to unravel the mystery of these tapes, trying to figure out how it connects to today while also trying to keep her distance from the man who sought her out for the Presidential interview.

AnalysisThe Bookworm packs a punch similar to that of a Dan Brown novel. Similarly it uses a quasi-historical fiction plot mixed with thriller that sees our heroine attempt to solve a mystery by using her mind more than her actions. Combine that with the back-and-forth between the 1940’s and present day and The Bookworm has all ingredients in the recipe for my favorite kind of books. It held up until the last third of the book. Maybe it was my own personal lack of knowledge of Britain’s role in WWII or maybe it was the abundance of foreign character names, but eventually I got some of the storylines crossed and was confused as to the intent of some of the characters.

The end seemed to wrap up rather quickly and the reconciliation between Lara and her ex seemed far-fetched, especially after the novel made it clear from the beginning that he was never kind to her. I would have preferred to hear more from the WWII-era tapes to better understand how everything came together.

MVP: Lara. Her brilliance still shines throughout the novel — albeit maybe not in the romance department. Even when she seems unsure of how to crack the historical case, she realizes what she needs to do to achieve a breakthrough. Her mind is steady and her bookworminess pays off.

Get The Bookworm  in hardcover for $17.07. 

Or get it on your Kindle for $12.99.

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Lara’s Top Picks of 2017

booksWelcome to my seventh edition of “Top Picks!” Easily one of my favorite blog posts of the year, this is where I explain which were my ten favorite books I read this year. Again, this has nothing to do with what year they came out. In fact, I’m pretty sure none of the books I read this year were published in 2017. For a list of the best books published this year, check out The New York Times annual Notable Books list. For now, here are the best books I read this year (followed by the complete list of all the books I read this year).

10. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. With the hype over the TV series, it was finally time to read the bestselling YA novel that had been on my “to-read” list for a couple of years, and the book is much better than the series. It is more streamlined, focusing on a girl who — before she commits suicide — records audiotapes on which she describes why and who led her to the decision of taking her own life. It is haunting, but telling in the way it discusses depression, high school, human interactions, and how one seemingly small act can have big impacts. Buy it now.

9. Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda. This Gone Girl-esque story about a man trying to kill his wife is chilling, but the format is what makes it stand out from other similar novels. Written completely from the husband’s perspective until the epilogue, the book has a scary way of showing how a sociopath is one kind of person on the outside and a completely different person on the inside.  Buy it now.

8. When the Future Comes Too Soon by Selina Siak Chin Yoke. This WWII-era novel shows the war from a viewpoint we don’t usually get in novels: that of a Malayan woman whose town has been bombed. The story is one of heartbreaking family drama and female power, detailing how the war affects her husband’s health, her marriage, and the new relationships she forms. Buy it now.

7. All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg. This powerful story about four women from the same family is all about relationships. Going back and forth between character and time period, it shows that no matter the age or era, we are all struggling to find answers and understand each other. Buy it now.

6. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick. In this hilarious memoir, Anna Kendrick gives us an honest glimpse into her awkward and yet, extremely successful career. She’s only 32 years old, but she reminds us just how much she’s accomplished in those years and why a memoir for such a young actress is warranted. She’s got the stories to back it all up. Buy it now.

5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. The book — and the HBO series — are worth the hype. This female-driven novel is more than just women’s fiction. It’s a murder mystery. It’s an honest portrayal of domestic abuse. It’s a solid representation of fierce women building each other up instead of taking each other down. Buy it now. 

4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This book and Hulu series are also worth the hype. (Gosh, looks like there’s a running theme here…) This bestselling novel has won a plethora of awards for a reason. The feminist novel is set in a dystopian future in which the world population has decreased because of problems with reproduction. The handmaids are essentially trapped in a men-run world, forced into rape and abuse. But with every incident comes more incentive to try and get out. Buy it now. 

3. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The ultimate classic tale of what happens when a bunch of kids are trapped on a deserted island is as relevant as ever. The only thing better than the plot and characters are the layers and layers of metaphor and symbolism. The book explains pretty much all we know and understand about the roots of evil and human nature. Buy it now.

2. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It hurts me to make this #2 because it just as easily could have been my number one pick for the year. This memoir penned by a dying doctor in his 30’s is the most honest portrayal of death and the search for the meaning of life that I have ever come across. This book will make you cry, but it will also make you think. I finished it two weeks ago, and I already want to re-read it with a highlighter so I can save my favorite quotes. Thank you, Paul, for leaving this beautiful piece of work for us before you left our world. Buy it now

1. A Race Like No Other by Liz Robbins. You don’t have to be a runner, nor do you need to be a New York to appreciate this nonfiction book about the magic that is the New York City Marathon. Year after year, it is one of the most challenging feats for anyone to overcome. It is painful. It is crazy. But it is awe-inspiring and stunning. It is captured beautifully by this sports journalist who follows the elite athletes who run it to win, the addicts who run it to prove something to themselves and their families, the sick who run it to show they are still strong and the charitable to run it for the greater good. Nothing will change your life like a marathon, and this book explains why. Buy it now.

BOOKS I’VE READ 2017

Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick

The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

Walk Into Silence – Susan McBride

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari

All the Best People – Sonja Yoerg

True Colors – Kristin Hannah

The Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Fame Junkies – Jake Halpern

Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susann

Can’t Buy Forever – Susan Laffoon

When the Future Comes Too Soon – Selina Siak Chin Yoke

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

That Crazy Perfect Someday – Michael Mazza

A Race Like No Other – Liz Robbins

Best Day Ever – Kaira Rouda

And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau – Mathias B. Freese

Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

The Bookworm – Mitch Silver

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Show vs. Book: The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has gone down in history as one of the most feminist novels of all time, earning the author several literary awards in the 1980’s when it was first published. But its debut this summer as a streaming series on Hulu has made the story shockingly relative in Trump’s America. Its themes about a male-dominated misogynist society are eye-opening as every other week it seems more Harvey Weinstein’s and Kevin Spacey’s are coming out of the woodwork.

The book tells the story of Offred, a handmaid who, in a dystopian future, has been forced to serve a family as little more than a mechanism for reproduction after widespread sterility has caused the world population to drop. Essentially raped monthly in the hopes of becoming pregnant, Offred does all she can to not only stay alive but stay sane as she wonders whatever happened to her husband and daughter. The story takes us through flashbacks of her former life as she works to find a way out of this chilling world.

Haunting is the best way to describe Offred’s tale, and that is upheld in the television series. Everything from its cold lighting and cinematography to the many close-ups of Offred’s (Elizabeth Moss’s) face as she is raped, locked in her room, or given opportunities to leave her Commander’s home exemplify the bitterness of this lonely, foreign world.

Turning the 300+ page novel into ten episodes of television allows for more detail and more story, and that’s exactly what the series offers. We learn Offred’s name “from before,” which is a detail never revealed in the novel. We learn exactly what happens to some of Offred’s other handmaid friends, including Ofglen, which — because the book is written strictly from Offred’s perspective is — is also not part of the book. The series also added meetings the Offred’s Commander has with Mexican government officials about adopting the same policies to boost reproduction. There is also an entire episode that shows us where Offred’s husband from her “former life” is now and how he got there.

Where I’m normally upset with how much liberty a show or film takes with a novel, it feels okay here. Maybe it’s because the detail given in the novel is so sparse, it’s simply a given that story would have to be added. Maybe it’s because the show matches the book so well in tone that all feels right with this adaptation. Or maybe it’s because the show is just so well executed with its writing, directing and acting. Whatever the case, the show does an excellent job of using the book as a jumping off point, season one ending exactly where the novel does. The rest of the series moving forward will now be entirely new, unread story and I’m okay with that, as I’m sure Margaret Atwood would be as well.

Get The Handmaid’s Tale in paperback now for $9.99.

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‘Glee”s Chris Colfer Lands New Book Deal

chris-colfer-talks-new-book-stranger-than-fanfiction-at-ew-popfest-04As the Fox TV hit show “Glee” was winding down, star Chris Colfer was already working on his next project, a book series for children called The Land of Stories. 

Fast forward four years, and according to Entertainment Weekly, Colfer’s books have spent 48 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. So it should be no surprise that he’s landed yet another book deal. He’s writing an insider’s guide to The Land of Stories as well as two books in a new series.

The insider’s guide is set to be released next fall. The new series is set to be published in 2019.

This comes after Colfer partnered with Twentieth Century Fox and Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps to adapt The Land of Series into films. The first film, The Wishing Spell, will mark Colfer’s directorial debut.

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