From Page to Screen: Fall Releases

The storylines of this season’s blockbusters may seem vaguely familiar. Hollywood is drawing inspiration from the book world once again with a slew of streaming shows and movies based on books. From war epics to vampires, fall into the plot of a great book before you see it on the big screen. Here are a few highlights from this season’s upcoming releases.

September

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

The legend of Marilyn Monroe–aka Norma Jeane Baker–comes provocatively alive in this powerful tale of Hollywood myth and heartbreaking reality. Marilyn Monroe lives–reborn to tell her untold history; her story of a star created to shine brightest in the Hollywood firmament before her fall to earth. Blonde is a dazzling fictional portrait of the intricate inner life of the idolized and desired movie star as only the inimitable Joyce Carol Oates could paint it.

Coming to Netflix on September 28.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Abby and Gretchen have been BFFs since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different.

And as the strange coincidences and bizarre occurrences begin to pile up, Abby realizes there is only one possible explanation- Her best friend Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not going to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend.

Coming to Amazon Prime Video on September 30.

October

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

It is autumn 1981 when inconceivable horror comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenager is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last–revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door–a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night.

Coming to Showtime on October 7.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . . This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . .  if only he can come out of the war alive.

Coming to Netflix on October 28.

November

My Policeman by Bethan Roberts

It is in 1950’s Brighton that Marion first catches sight of Tom. He teaches her to swim, gently guiding her through the water in the shadow of the city’s famous pier and Marion is smitten–determined her love alone will be enough for them both.

A few years later near the Brighton Museum, Patrick meets Tom. Patrick is besotted, and opens Tom’s eyes to a glamorous, sophisticated new world of art, travel, and beauty. Tom is their policeman, and in this age it is safer for him to marry Marion and meet Patrick in secret. The two lovers must share him, until one of them breaks and three lives are destroyed.
 Coming to Amazon Prime Video on November 4.

She Said by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey

For many years, reporters had tried to get to the truth about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women. Rumors of wrongdoing had long circulated. But in 2017, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey began their investigation into the prominent Hollywood producer for the New York Times, his name was still synonymous with power.

During months of confidential interviews with top actresses, former Weinstein employees, and other sources, many disturbing and long-buried allegations were unearthed, and a web of onerous secret payouts and nondisclosure agreements was revealed.

Coming to theaters on November 18.

-Melinda

A Suspenseful Summer Read

The It Girl
by Ruth Ware

When Hannah Jones heads to Oxford to study literature, she expects her world to change. What she doesn’t expect is to be paired with a roommate like April Coutts-Cliveden. April has it all -she’s rich, beautiful, has an adoring fan club of young men and seemingly never has to study.

When April is found murdered in their common room, Hannah names Oxford employee John Neville as the man she saw leaving the crime scene. Neville is convicted for April’s murder, and traumatized and hounded by journalists, Hannah never returns to school.   

Ten years later, Hannah is now pregnant and married to one of April’s exes and living in Edinburgh. When she receives news that John Neville has died in jail, instead of feeling relief, she begins questioning whether or not she was responsible for convicting an innocent man. If Neville didn’t kill April, who did?

This fast-paced novel is the perfect academic mystery to sink your teeth into. It’s suspenseful, dark, clever and has excellent character development and an ending that this reader didn’t see coming. If you are looking for a perfect psychological thriller this summer, pick up The It Girl by Ruth Ware.  

-Carol

Read the Book First

Doesn’t it seem like every time you read a book you love, it is made into a film or TV show? Well, here is your head’s up -it is happening again.

The Wonder, a 2016 novel by Emma Donoghue, will be out sometime this year on Netflix and will star Florence Pugh. Why not read it first?

This historical novel takes place in the Irish Midlands in 1859, shortly after the end of the potato famine in Ireland. There, eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell has become a sensation. Anna has stopped eating, yet continues to live and appears healthy regardless. The girl’s actions create a stir. All who hear of her assume this must be a miracle and flock to witness it. Nightingale-trained Nurse Lib Wright is sent from England to investigate whether Anna is a fraud. Lib is sure she is there to expose a hoax, but as she spends more time with Anna, she begins to soften her feelings about the girl and question her own lack of belief.

Pick up this atmospheric, psychological thriller of a novel, based on real historical accounts of European and North American cases of ‘fasting girls’ from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries. And then, feel free to watch the film.

-Carol

New Historical Fiction

This is a dual timeline novel. One-part centers around the Tennessee Centennial Exposition (May 1 – October 31, 1897) in Nashville. The main character is twenty-five-year-old Priscilla Nichols. Her wealthy railroad investor family has spent lots of time and money on the celebration. Her father hires Luca Moretti to guide the family around the city and his sister Gia is hired to be Priscilla’s lady’s maid. Priscilla’s parents expect her to marry, the sooner the better, within their social class. In spite of that, Priscilla falls in love with Luca, and Gia mysteriously disappears.

The second part of the novel takes place in 1961. Audrey Whitfield, daughter of the Maxwell Hotel’s manager, leaves college after her mother dies. Her father needs help at the hotel and help with her special needs’ brother Emmett. By 1961, the Maxwell Hotel has become a residence mostly for elderly people. When a longtime resident suffers a stroke, Audrey along with the help of civil rights lawyer-in-training Jason Sumner pack up her belongings. They discover a fascinating scrapbook with souvenirs from the 1897 Exposition along with postcards never sent.

In the novel and in history, the Maxwell Hotel was destroyed by fire on Christmas night in 1961. People escaped with the just the clothes on their backs. Fortunately, Audrey was able to save the scrapbook and eventually connect the history behind it, Priscilla Nichols, and 1961.

~Emma

Check Out a New Mystery Debut

Pay Dirt Road
by
Samantha Jayne Allen

After graduating college, Annie McIntyre returns to her small hometown of Garnett, Texas –a place, she thinks, where nothing much ever happens. She begins working as a waitress while trying to figure out her next step when two murders happen on the same day. Sadly, one of the victims is her coworker Victoria, a newly single mother, who Annie had cancelled plans with just hours before her death. Annie is racked with guilt and the feeling that she could have prevented this tragedy. She gets a chance to redeem herself when Leroy, her grandfather and former town sheriff asks her to assist at his private investigation firm. Before she knows it, Annie dives head-first into the world of crime solving, even as her lack of experience gets her into hot water with locals who would prefer she look the other way.

Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen won the 2019 Tony Hillerman Prize, which is awarded to a previously unpublished author for a first mystery novel set in the Southwest. This slow-burning mystery is a solid debut with a surprise ending and refreshing and relatable characters, especially Annie, who bungles her way into dangerous situations as she learns the ropes of investigative work. Crime fiction fans in need of something new have just hit pay dirt, and this reader is hoping it will be the first in a new series.

-Carol

What we’re reading now, spring edition…

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Two soldiers on opposing sides of a war throughout time begin to fall in love via the letters they exchange. While it’s a short read, the book is dense with meaning and subtext, and readers will enjoy the romance and intrigue of this intergalactic Romeo and Juliet story. Shannon

Black Cloud Rising by David Wright Faladé

Tells the story of the African Brigade, a unit of former slaves tasked with rooting out pockets of Confederate guerilla fighters in the Tidewater region of Virginia and in North Carolina’s Outer Banks through the eyes of formerly enslaved Sergeant Richard Etheridge of the African Brigade. Dori

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

It’s 1937 when Mila Pavlichenko a young history student, mother, and sharpshooter joins the Russian army. Her rifle skills are soon apparent and she becomes a sniper. She rises through the ranks and is put in charge of a platoon. Her job is to train others and to kill Nazis. Mila is very successful at her job. Americans are very curious about this lady sniper when she comes to Washington D.C.  as a guest of the White House. Is she for real? Emma

A Night at the Sweet Gum Head by Marty Padgett

A deep look at 1970’s gay Atlanta through the lens of the Drag scene, political activists, and the bars that brought them all together. Deeply researched and well written, this non-fiction gives detailed insight into how a community of people who just wanted to live their lives had to become leaders and inspiration in order to exist. Christine

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

Set in 1920’s Georgia, this vivid horror story asks the question: What if the Klu Klux Klan was led by actual demons? Stray dog eating, multi-eyed, otherworldly demons. Three Black female demon hunters, led by Maryse, who gets her guidance from ethereal Gullah Aunties, must destroy the Klu Kluxes to stop the spread of White Supremacy. A beautiful and gory blend of historic events with a horror twist. Christine

Goodnight, Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

A thriller that does not hide the inspiration it takes from King’s Misery. As a newlywed couple tries to put down roots in a small town, tragedy strikes when the husband comes up missing and his wife has to beg the authorities to care all while it becomes more and more apparent that he has been lying to her this whole time. As he fights for his life through the only way he knows how, his wife has to reconcile the man she loves with the man she has uncovered. Christine

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

A touchingly funny book about a small bookstore in Minnesota run by a group of Native American women during the pandemic, and the community of unusual, crazy, genuine people whose lives are touched by this place and by each other.  It’s one of those books where you truly fall in love with the characters and more than anything, want them to find peace and happiness in their lives.  Sara

Dive into a Sea of Tranquility

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

In 1912, English immigrant Edwin St. Andrew wanders into a forest on Vancouver Island and unwittingly witnesses a fragment of time occurring at an Oklahoma City Airship Terminal in the year 2172 –a phenomenon also witnessed in the same spot and caught on film by Vincent, a teenage girl in the 1990s.

Gaspery-Jacques Roberts grew up in Night City on the moon’s Colony Two. In 2401, he is hired by the Time Institute to investigate this recurring blip in time, a scene which has also been written into a pandemic novel by Night City novelist Olive Llewellyn. Gaspery travels throughout time to investigate the anomaly and meets with Llewellyn in a chapter titled “Last Book Tour on Earth,” set just as a pandemic is about to hit. The connections Gaspery makes with the people who witnessed this time blip only seem to increase his questions about reality, life, and humanity.

I devoured Sea of Tranquility in a single sitting and while its plot is tricky to describe, it is the perfect post-quarantine novel. It subtly asks big questions about the human experience, while taking you on a magical journey through time that reminded me how good making connections with people (even through time and space) feels. While Sea of Tranquility can be read independently, fans of Mandel’s most recent novels, The Glass Hotel (2020) and the recently adapted for television Station Eleven (2014) will especially enjoy how Mandel continues to build on the multiverse of characters that span across her novels.

-Carol

Spring into a Crime Fiction Series

Hideout
by Louisa Luna

Zeb Williams, a one-time college football player went into hiding after he sabotaged his own team’s chance at a huge win. Thirty years later, California-based private investigator Alice Vega, a missing persons specialist, is hired to find him. On the outs with her partner, ex-cop Max “Cap” Caplan, Vega heads alone to the small town of Ilona, Oregon – the last place Zeb had been seen. There, she ends up uncovering a white supremacist gang who are terrorizing their neighbors. Vega won’t let that stand and interjects herself, getting badly beaten in the process. She heals, but then learns that Cap’s daughter is being harassed on the other side of the country. Readers will almost feel sorry for the revenge Vega has planned for this group, whose members include the son of a town bigwig. Is Vega over her head? And how does this connect to the disappearance of the infamous Zeb Williams?

Hideout is an adrenaline filled entry in the Alice Vega series by Louisa Luna, and fans of the first two books will appreciate the character and relationship development and surprises in this installment. Alice Vega is a tough as nails, fearless yet complex P.I., a champion for the helpless and downtrodden who is not afraid of hurting those who hurt others. Readers of Lee Child, action-packed gritty crime fiction, and strong female leads should pick up Hideout or, better yet, the series’ starter Two Girls Down.

-Carol

Classic Film Fest at Home

I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain
What a glorious feeling I’m happy again
I’m laughing at clouds so dark up above
The sun’s in my heart and I’m ready for love

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Singin’ in the Rain starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor. Only 18 and having no dance experience, Reynolds sought the help of Fred Astaire in order to impress taskmaster and perfectionist Kelly for her role in the musical; Reynolds’ feet bleed after shooting the film’s “Good Morning” routine over the course of 15 hours, and Kelly endured 3 days of filming the “Singin’ in the Rain” number while having a high fever. Other films are also celebrating big milestones this year. Woman of the Year, Casablanca, and The Man Who Came to Dinner are all turning 80. Judy Garland would have turned 100 this summer, and the TCM Classic Film Festival is back in person this spring to celebrate dozens of movies, The Wizard of Oz included, that have made us laugh and cry. Find your comfiest sweats, pop some popcorn, and host your own classic movie fest with some of my favorite films below.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): Three World War II veterans, two of them traumatized or disabled, return home to the American Midwest to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed. Directed by William Wyler, the film stars Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, and Harold Russell. It is the winner of 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. You can even watch the film on Kanopy here.

Rebecca (1940): A self-conscious woman juggles adjusting to her new role as an aristocrat’s wife and avoiding being intimidated by his first wife’s spectral presence. Based off of the novel by Daphne Du Maurier and directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, Rebecca stars Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. Judith Anderson’s portrayal as Mrs. Danvers will give you chills. It won Best Picture and Best Cinematography at the 13th Academy Awards.

How Green Was My Valley (1941): At the turn of the century in a Welsh mining village, the Morgans raise coal-mining sons and hope their youngest will find a better life. How Green Was My Valley stars Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, and Roddy McDowall, and it was based off the best-selling novel by Richard Llewellyn. The film famously beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture.

Adam’s Rib (1949): Starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, domestic and professional tensions mount when a husband and wife work as opposing lawyers in a case involving a woman who shot her husband. Katharine Hepburn is my favorite actress and I highly recommend taking a day to binge watch her films, including The Philadelphia Story, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Desk Set (a librarian favorite!), and Little Women.

Sunset Boulevard (1950): A screenwriter develops a dangerous relationship with a faded film star determined to make a triumphant return. Directed by Billy Wilder, the film stars William Holden and Gloria Swanson. It was among the first group of films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962): An aging former child star torments her paraplegic sister in their decaying Hollywood mansion. The intensely bitter rivalry between the film’s stars, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, is legendary, but it made the film a success and even revitalized their careers.

The Thin Man (1934): Starring William Powell as former detective Nick Charles and Myrna Loy as wealthy heiress Nora, The Thin Man follows the flirty and charismatic couple as they investigate a murder for fun. The chemistry between Powell and Loy was so palpable and the film was so entertaining that five sequels were created between 1936 and 1947.

The Nun’s Story (1959): After leaving a prominent and wealthy Belgian family to become a nun, Sister Luke struggles with her devotion to her vows during crisis, disappointment, and World War II. The film is based off of the novel of the same name by Kathryn Hulme about Belgian nun Marie Louise Habets. Habets and the film’s star Audrey Hepburn became incredibly close during production, both having Belgian roots and having lost family members during World War II.

It Happened One Night (1934): I would be remiss if I didn’t include a Clark Gable film. A runaway heiress, Ellie Andrews, tries to get out from under her father’s thumb and falls in love with a renegade reporter, Peter Warne. Several actresses turned down the role of Ellie before Claudette Colbert reluctantly accepted – with the condition that the film be completed in just four weeks. Clark Gable was lent to Columbia Pictures for the film from MGM. Both actors were so dissatisfied with the script that director Frank Capra had it rewritten during production; the final film bears little resemblance to the original script.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): Atticus Finch, a widowed lawyer in Depression-era Alabama, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his children against prejudice. Jimmy Stewart and Rock Hudson were considered for the role of Atticus before it went to Gregory Peck.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947): In 1900, a young widow finds her seaside cottage is haunted and forms a unique relationship with the ghost. The film stars Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison, and inspired a variety of adaptations, including a 1960s TV series and 2005 musical.

For Me and My Gal (1942): Two vaudeville performers fall in love, but find their relationship tested by the arrival of World War I. Having only performed on Broadway, For Me and My Gal was the first film role for Gene Kelly and it marked the first “adult” role for Judy Garland, who up until the movie had played juvenile parts and was typically paired with Mickey Rooney. Garland pushed for Kelly to get the part and the pair got along so well that they starred in two other films together, The Pirate and Summer Stock.