Top Five Friday: Books That Should Be Movies

I’ve been thinking this week about movies based on books. I think it has something to do with all the adaptations that are either out now or coming soon – The Fault in Our Stars, Mockingjay, The Giver, etc.

I’m sure most people have at least one book that they feel deserves to be a movie. Plus, it’s always fun to think about which actors you would cast for the characters if you got to make the important decisions. So for today’s Top Five Friday, here is my list of books that deserve movie adaptations.

 

pavilions The Far Pavilions, by M.M. Kaye. Okay, I know this book already has a TV mini-series adaptation, but it’s from 1984, and I really think it deserves its own movie. The story is set in India in the late 1800s. A young boy named Ash who doesn’t know that he is British (makes sense when you read the book) and the Indian princess Anjuli are playmates when they are young. The book spans two decades, so you see Ash and Anjuli’s relationship develop as the people of India endure the Sepoy rebellion, British retaliation, and the Second Afghan War. Kaye’s historical and cultural details are so rich, and the story is really immersive.
 pink carnation The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, by Lauren Willig. Since this is one of my favorite book series, naturally I’d love to see it picked up for movie adaptations. It’s a dual timeline story; in modern London, an American grad student named Eloise is trying desperately to find source material for her dissertation on British spies in France during the Napoleonic Wars. She’s hoping her research on the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian will lead her to the identity of the highly effective and still unmasked spy, the Pink Carnation. In 1803, Amy Balcourt and her cousin Jane Wooliston sail to France to visit Amy’s brother, but Amy has an ulterior motive for the trip – to find the elusive British spy, the Purple Gentian, and establish herself as his second in command. Lots of swashbuckling, secret assignations, and snatching French aristocrats out from under the nose of the Chief of Police. I think the frame story format would make for a great movie.
 king The King Must Die, by Mary Renault. Movies based on myth tend to do pretty well – I’m thinking of Troy and Clash of the Titans, and there’s the new Hercules movie coming out in a few weeks. This is the story of the Greek hero Theseus coming into his own as a king, and it’s the story of the labyrinth and the Minotaur. Renault’s version is great! Political intrigue, revolution, romance, and mythology all packed together so that a story that feels familiar is also original and exciting. Also, I think Luke Evans would make a great Theseus. Just saying.
 chased the moon The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen. I think this story would go over well with people who like magical movies like Big Fish or southern movies like Steel Magnolias. Emily Benedict is in high school when her mother dies, and she moves to Mullaby, NC to live with her grandfather. It’s a small town, and Emily learns quickly that whatever scandalous past her mother had here (which somehow involved the prominent Coffey family) has caused the people of Mullaby to treat Emily with caution. Although she feels she has been singled out, Emily is hardly the only oddity in Mullaby – her grandfather is over eight feet tall, the wallpaper in her bedroom changes color to suit her mood, and mysterious lights dance in her backyard at night. Also, her neighbor Julia bakes cakes as an outlet for expressing her feelings and hopes that they can somehow bridge the gap between her and someone she used to love. It’s a story about second chances and about embracing the quirky things about yourself that make you who you are.
 cinder Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. So if I write a list like this again in a month, this book might not make the cut. But I just finished reading it last week, so it’s on my mind. This is a really interesting futuristic sci-fi take on the Cinderella fairytale. I can’t think of an adequate description at the moment, so here is what the book jacket says: “Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl…  Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.” I feel like all the world building that Meyer does in this novel would make for a pretty awesome summer blockbuster.

There are so many other books I want to see made into movies. What about you?

Happy Friday, and Happy Fourth of July!

A Twist in the Usual Top Five Friday

On Monday of this week, author and editor William Giraldi wrote an article for the New Republic, and he decided to spend his time and energy slamming women who read romance novels. He judges all romance novel readers by the standard of Fifty Shades of Grey, and he proceeds to spend his entire article explaining exactly why that makes us all stupid, pathetic, middle class white women with disappointing sex lives and overweight husbands. I’m not kidding. He really does say that. Twice.

I have never read Fifty Shades of Grey. I probably won’t, because it doesn’t really appeal to me. But I have at least twenty friends who have read it, and I think Giraldi would be shocked (and probably a bit disappointed) to know that they are all intelligent, productive members of their community. They also read other books. Lots of them. Painting all romance readers with the same brush and implying that we’re all brainless morons who have decided to use Fifty Shades as a self-help book is a truly shocking display of ignorance.

Here are some other gems from Giraldi’s article that really stood out to me:

  1. “[R]omance novels, like racists, tend to be the same wherever you turn.”  Not all romance novels are alike.  Romance Writers of America lists seven romance subgenres on its website, and GoodReads has a staggering 186 pages of lists devoted to different types of romance novels.  This is a genre that contains everything from Jane Austen to Diana Gabaldon.  Also, that’s a pretty offensive metaphor, Mr. Giraldi.
  1. “Romance novels… teach a scurvy lesson: enslavement of the passions is a ticket to happiness.”  I think Elizabeth Bennett and Scarlet O’Hara would both be very surprised to hear that the point of their novels is to teach women that the only way to be happy is to have sex. Actually, now that I think about it, Elizabeth would probably have a terrible fit of the giggles, and Scarlet would just scratch Giraldi’s eyes out.
  1. At least people are reading. You’ve no doubt heard that before. But we don’t say of the diabetic obese, At least people are eating.” Just wow. Giraldi really has a fixation about fat people. Also, is he seriously comparing the effects of reading romance novels to a disease? That’s how I read it. I don’t think I’m wrong.

So what advice does Giraldi have for us, the sad, sappy, unintelligent readers of romance novels? Read Clarissa. Again, I am not kidding. If you haven’t read it, Clarissa is a story about a naive girl who thinks she has found the man of her dreams, but he tricks her into running away with him to live in a brothel. She dies. This, my friends, is what Giraldi thinks will be good for our souls, which are so clearly crying out to be educated about what happens to women who have the audacity to follow their heart.

Mr. Giraldi, I don’t know what your goal was for this article or what your motiviation is.  I don’t know if a romance novel reader ran over your dog with her car, or if a hardback copy of Gone with the Wind fell on your toe one day, or if you believe that your brand of shaming will turn people into avid readers of your novels rather than romances. All I do know is that you are entitled to have any opinion you like about the romance genre – it won’t change my mind, and it probably won’t change the minds of thousands of women who, as you point out in your article, buy 46% of all mass-market paperbacks sold in the USA.

In honor of the romance novels that I have unapologetically loved for years and that have enriched my reading life, here are my top five favorite romance novels. They fall into all sorts of other categories as well – they are historical fiction, mystery, and magical realism. But they are romance novels, and I am not embarrassed to say that I love them or to recommend them to you whole-heartedly, because they are entirely worthwhile.

pavilions 1. The Far Pavilions, by M.M. Kaye.
From the book jacket: When The Far Pavilions was first published nineteen years ago, it moved the critic Edmund Fuller to write this: “Were Miss Kaye to produce no other book, The Far Pavilions might stand as a lasting accomplishment in a single work comparable to Margaret Mitchell’s achievement in Gone With the Wind.”From its beginning in the foothills of the towering Himalayas, M.M. Kaye’s masterwork is a vast, rich and vibrant tapestry of love and war that ranks with the greatest panoramic sagas of modern fiction.The Far Pavilions is itself a Himalayan achievement, a book we hate to see come to an end. it is a passionate, triumphant story that excites us, fills us with joy, move us to tears, satisfies us deeply, and helps us remember just what it is we want most from a novel.
 winter sea  2. The Winter Sea, by Susanna Kearsley.
From the book jacket: History has all but forgotten…In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…
 masque  3. The Masque of the Black Tulip, by Lauren Willig.
From the book jacket: “The Masque of the Black Tulip opens with the murder of a courier from the London War Office, his confidential dispatch for the Pink Carnation stolen. Meanwhile, the Black Tulip, France’s deadliest spy, is in England with instructions to track down and kill the Pink Carnation. Only Henrietta Selwick and Miles Dorrington know where the Pink Carnation is stationed. Using a secret code book, Henrietta has deciphered a message detailing the threat of the Black Tulip. Meanwhile, the War Office has enlisted Miles to track down the notorious French spy before he (or she) can finish the deadly mission. But what Henrietta and Miles don’t know is that while they are trying to find the Black Tulip (and possibly falling in love), the Black Tulip is watching them.”
 spear  4. A Spear of Summer Grass, by Deanna Raybourn.
From the book jacket: Paris, 1923
The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even among Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather’s savanna manor house until gossip subsides.
Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.
Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming—yet fleeting and often cheap.
Amidst the wonders—and dangers—of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for—and what she can no longer live without.
 girl  5. The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen.
From the book jacket: Emily Benedict has come to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, not only wishing to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also dreaming of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

 

Never let anyone make you feel ashamed to read what you love. Happy Friday.