Category Archives: Fiction

Posts about novels and other fiction titles

Books that have come to life on the small screen

Which is better, the book, the mini series or the movie?

It’s an ongoing debate that pops up each time a story makes the transition from our bookshelves onto our screens. The beauty of books is that readers get to exercise their imagination beyond the descriptions of characters and settings created by the author. It’s when directors and actors add their own ‘twist’ to the characters in our heads that the debate begins.

There are a number of new adaptations that are being made and have either just launched, or will be gracing our screens in coming months. Today we’re having a look at some of the wonderful stories that either just have, or will be, coming to life. 

Be sure to share in the comments below which has been your favourite book-to-movie (or mini series) transition. 

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Starring Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy, Luke Evans, Samara Weaving, and Manny Jacinto, a great cast is coming together to bring Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers to our screens.

One house. Nine strangers. Ten days that will change everything. The retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation.

Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages.

Miles from anywhere, without cars or phones, they have no way to reach the outside world. Just time to think about themselves, and get to know each other.

Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission. But quite a different one from any the guests might have imagined. For behind the retreat’s glamorous facade lies a dark agenda. These nine perfect strangers have no idea what’s about to hit them. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere has been made into a tv series staring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, both of whom also executive produced the show, alongside Liz Tigelaar, Lauren Neustadter, and Pilar Savone. 

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down. In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned, from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren, an enigmatic artist and single mother,  who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants.  All four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family, and Mia’s. 

The Outsider by Stephen King

The Outsider is an American horror crime drama mini series based on the novel by Stephen King. It stars Ben Mendelsohn, Bill Camp, Paddy Considine, Julianne Nicholson, Jason Bateman (who also happened to direct the first two episodes) and Cynthia Erivo.

When an eleven year old boy is found murdered in a town park, reliable eyewitnesses undeniably point to the town’s popular Little League coach, Terry Maitland, as the culprit. DNA evidence and fingerprints confirm the crime was committed by this well-loved family man. Horrified by the brutal killing, Detective Ralph Anderson, whose own son was once coached by Maitland, orders the suspect to be arrested in a public spectacle. But Maitland has an alibi. And further research confirms he was indeed out of town that day. As Anderson and the District Attorney trace the clues, the investigation expands from Ohio to Texas. And as horrifying answers begin to emerge, so King’s propulsive story of almost unbearable suspense kicks into high gear. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy but there is one rock-hard fact, as unassailable as gravity: a man cannot be in two places at the same time. Can he?

Survive by Alex Morel 

Love is a force of nature. What makes you fight to stay alive? The movie version of Survive stars Sophie Turner and is a gripping adventure story that will have you on the edge of your seat from the first chapter. Jane is running away from everything. From the facility she’s been living in, from her pain, from her guilt, from life. She boards a plane to Montclair, New Jersey, though her destination does not matter she doesn’t plan to be alive when the plane lands. Jane has planned the perfect suicide. She’ll fall asleep on the plane and never wake up. But as she’s reaching for her pills in the tiny bathroom, the plane hits turbulence. Another jolt, the engine’s down. The plane crashes into the cold, remote mountains of Montana, and Jane and a boy named Paul are the only two survivors. It took a brush with death to make Jane realise that she didn’t want to die. But now there is snow, mountains, cliffs, little food and no water standing between life and death. And suddenly it’s not just Jane. There is another person in the equation and she needs to get them both to safety. She needs them both to survive.

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery star in the mini series version of this gripping story by Willian Landay.

When a teenaged boy is discovered stabbed to death in the woods adjoining the local high school, a wave of shock ripples through the suburban community of Newton, outside of Boston. Assistant district attorney Andy Barber is used to dealing with murder and its after efffects, but with his own son, Jacob, also a student at the school, he too is anxious for a swift arrest and conviction. But as the kids appear to be stonewalling the cops and the investigation stalls, evidence emerges that ties Jacob to the crime and suddenly Andy faces a very different challenge: preventing his son from being convicted of murder. Together with his wife, Laurie, the family closes ranks in the midst of an increasingly hostile community as Andy prepares for the trial of his life, the one trial he cannot afford to lose. Especially when the emergence of his own dark family secrets threatens to undermine Jacob’s defence. And as the drama reaches its climax, Andy and Laurie have to face every parent’s toughest questions: how well do you really know your own child, and how far would you go to save them?

I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

Around the world, millions of readers have been captivated by Wally Lamb’s incredible talent in representing the lost and the lonely. It’s the story of Dominick Birdsey, whose entire life has been shaped by anger and fear, by the paranoid schizophrenic twin brother that he deeply loves and resents. The two brothers share a family history that includes an adoptive father, Ray, and a long-suffering mother, Concettina, a timid woman with a harelip and a huge desire to protect her troubled son, Thomas, as the demons of his schizophrenia become increasingly apparent. But as Thomas commits an act which sends him to strict confinement for the mentally ill, Dominick’s life spins even further out of control. He attempts to come to terms with the desire to rescue his brother and fears about his own psychological health and his inability to love. Dominick’s journey is illuminated, and further complicated, by a fable-like account of his grandfather Domenico Onofrio Tempesta’s life. As Dominick continues to face the pain of loss, he must rebuild himself in the shadow of his twin, and come to grips with his anger in order to forgive. 

On screen you’ll see Mark Ruffalo play both Dominick and his brother Thomas in the mini series adaptation. 

Of course, there is one other new addition to our screens, which has been eagerly awaited in our household…The Babysitters Club. The Babysitters Club books have been treasured stories for many generations and have undergone adaptations to graphic novels (you can check those out here) along with launching on Netflix in the past few weeks. 


Enjoy!

Goodreads Choice Awards Winners

Do you use Goodreads?  Goodreads is popular book recommendations and cataloguing website. It’s a great place to find book reviews and recommendations, and you can also use it to keep track of books you have read, owned, or want to read.
Goodreads also runs the annual Goodreads Choice Awards, one of the biggest popularly-voted book prizes around.  There are 20 different categories, and winners are chosen in November each year.  For your reading inspiration, here’s a selection of the winners from last year:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Winner for Fiction)

Margaret Atwood was inspired to write this sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale when its TV adaptation resonated so strongly with audiences around the world. The Testaments is set 15 years after the events in Handmaid’s Tale, and is ostensibly the story of how Aunt Lydia – the highest ranking female oppressor in Gilead – joined the Establishment. In doing so, Margaret Atwood has created a tense and riveting novel that challenges us to question the truth and value of testimony. Besides the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction, The Testaments was also a joint-winner of last year’s Booker Prize.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Winner for Mystery and thriller)

The Silent Patient of the title is Alicia, a famous painter married to Gabriel, an in-demand fashion photographer.  Alicia adores Gabriel, and their lives seem perfect, until the day she shoots him and then stops speaking.  Six years later, Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist, seeks out Alicia because he is fascinated by Alicia’s crime.  He is determined to make her talk, and thus unravel the mystery surrounding her case.  Alex Michaelides has cleverly built a modern psychological thriller around the ancient Greek tragedy of Alcestis, and his own extensive knowledge of psychotherapy.  In tight, uncluttered prose, he slowly peels back the layers of Alicia’s past, skilfully building tension until the novel’s shocking denouement.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (Winner for Fantasy)

Leigh Bardugo, beloved YA author of the Grishaverse, has extended her range with Ninth House, her first adult fiction book. She brings her immersive world-building into an urban fantasy setting, creating an alternate-Yale that marries the mystique of normal-life social privilege and traditions, with mysterious secret societies that practise powerful magic.  Ninth House skilfully weaves together many elements, including noir, criminal procedural thriller, fish-out-of-water otherness, and personal growth, into a grungy, sinister and alluring story. Compulsively readable.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (Winner for Romance, and best Debut Novel)

Casey McQuiston won both the Best Debut and Best Romance awards for her funny, upbeat romantic comedy, Red White & Royal Blue. Set in an alternate reality, it applies the classic enemies-to-lovers trope to a secret romance between the Prince of Wales and the First Son of the United States.  Full of pop cultural references and a sweet optimism, its popularity exploded by word-of-mouth. Red White & Royal Blue is a great example of queer rom-coms that is adding fresh, diverse fun to the Romance genre.  You can catch Casey McQuiston at this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival Online, later in August.

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets and Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong (Winner for Humour)

Dear Girls is structured as a set of letters to Ali Wong’s daughters, but is definitely not for kids!  Her writing is a direct extension of her raunchy, uncompromising comedy shows, and if you’re already familiar with her work, you’ll be hearing this book in her voice.  Ali Wong uses her sharp, self-deprecating humour to tell wide-ranging, intimate stories about her life, from her sexual experimentation, failed gigs, drug experiences, her heartbreaking miscarriage and the impact of her father’s death.  Dear Girls is also surprisingly inspirational – time and again, Ali Wong turns failure and vulnerability into personal strength and motivation for betterment.

Girl, Stop Apologizing: a Shame-free Plan for Embracing and Achieving your Goals by Rachel Hollis (Winner for Non-fiction)

There’s something about Rachel Hollis’ pithy, down-to-earth, just-between-us-girls voice that is both quote-worthy and has the urgency of a siren.  She is inspirational yet totally relatable – a successful working mom of four who tells it like it is, is full of positivity and isn’t afraid to be vulnerable or to admit failure. Girl, Stop Apologizing is her clarion call to women to stop apologising for their desires, hopes, and dreams, and instead to go after them with passion and confidence. She argues that women are brought up to prioritise the needs of other people, and provide useful strategies to help change this mindset and start prioritising and investing in ourselves.

The 2020 International Booker Prize Shortlist

This July, Booko has been highlighting award-winning literature of the last 12 months.  This week, we’ll take a look at the shortlist for this year’s International Booker Prize, whose winner will be announced shortly (in August).  The International Booker Prize is awarded annually for a single book, translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. It celebrates the craft of translation as well as of writing – with its substantial prize money to be equally divided between author and translator.  The prestige of the Booker brand is further supporting the growth of “in translation” works – bringing additional richness and diversity into English-language publishing.

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar; translated from the Farsi by Anonymous

Set in Iran in the decade following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree views the chaos of the post-revolution era through the eyes of a family of intellectuals.  Using a magical realism reminiscent of traditional Persian storytelling, it is a powerful and moving story that speaks of the power of imagination when confronted with cruelty.

Shokoofeh Azar is an Iranian journalist, artist and writer, who fled Iran as a political refugee, eventually settling in Australia.  The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is banned in Iran, and is her first novel translated into English.  It has already been honoured in the shortlist of the Stella Prize, and the University of Queensland Fiction Book Award.  The translator is remaining Anonymous due to possible political repercussions.

The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezon Camara; translated from the Spanish by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh

The Adventures of China Iron is a daring, playful story of a young woman in pursuit of a freer life.  China Iron, the child bride of Martin Fierro, escapes an environment with entrenched violence against women. China and Liz, a Scottish adventurer, travel through the Pampas in an ox-drawn wagon.  There are loving descriptions of the Argentine landscape, as well as thoughtful reflections on the effects of Gaucho culture, Argentinian nation-building and British colonisation on indigenous communities.  The women (now lovers) eventually find refuge and a peaceful future in a utopian indigenous community.

Gabriela Cabezón Cámara has taken the epic poem Martín Fierro – an integral part of Argentine national identity – and rewritten it from a feminist, LGBT, postcolonial point of view.  The result is joyous, thoughtful and sophisticated.

Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann; translated from the German by Ross Benjamin

Daniel Kehlmann takes the folkloric character of Till Eulenspiegel –  a trickster and bringer of chaos – and recasts him as Tyll Ulenspiegel, a man who becomes a successful court jester during the bloody and incredibly destructive Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). As Tyll and his troupe travels through the war-torn European countryside, he becomes a darker, more cynical version of Forrest Gump, interacting with various historical characters – ruler, nobles, clergy – telling them truths they do not want to hear.  Tyll is a magical realist historical novel, a rollicking story that mocks the absurdity of rules and hierarchies, and slyly reveals how memory and self-interest obscures the truth of history.

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor; translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes

The first thing that hits you in Hurricane Season is Fernanda Melchior’s distinctive language. There’s very little punctuation – each of the chapters are one paragraph long, and each of these paragraphs are made of long, often multi-page sentences.  The effect is a rush of oral storytelling by characters who might be long-winded (and perhaps unreliable), but won’t be interrupted.  The characters are sharing rumours and memories of a local Witch, whose murdered body was discovered in her village in Mexico. The chapters reveal a violent environment full of drug abuse, poverty, alcoholism, corruption, homophobia, and misogyny. What’s most horrifying is that the pervasive violence and plentiful foul language perfectly mirror the reality in many parts of Latin America – borne of a depravity that happens when upward mobility is not an option.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa; translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

In The Memory Police, our unnamed narrator lives on an island whose authoritarian government routinely disappears concepts and their associated objects, words, and memories – such as toaster, bird and fruit.  The Memory Police then sweep in and ensure that no traces of these remain.  People who somehow manage to retain memories of disappeared things, are at risk of being disappeared too.  In the hands of Yoko Ogawa, this chilling scenario becomes an elegant and enigmatic and surprising story about art, loss, beauty, love, memory, and old age. The political undertones of The Memory Police are remarkably prescient, 25 years after its original publication – resonating with our current issues of authoritarianism, cancel culture and our internet-centric society. 

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld; translated from the Dutch by Michele Hutchison

Still only 29, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld is a rising star of Dutch Literature – their debut novel became a bestseller upon release, and has now become the first Dutch novel to be shortlisted for the International Booker Prize.  Set on a dairy farm, The Discomfort of Evening tells the story of Jas, a 10-year-old girl who grapples with grief and a loss of religious faith after her older brother dies in an ice skating accident. The family unit, and each individual member, slowly falls apart; the story is bleak and confronting, yet strangely lyrical due to the vivid imagination of its young narrator.  Rijneveld, who is non-binary, has been praised for giving new perspectives on themes explored regularly in Dutch literature by older, gender-conforming writers.

Best Books for Aspiring Playwrights

Playwriting is a special kind of storytelling that requires different skills to other forms of writing.  When you are just starting out, it might seem hard to find advice and support, compared to the bigger and more visible communities of prose and poetry writers.    Here’s how Team Booko can help: if you have stories to tell, and want to tell them within the visual, visceral medium of performance, here are some resources to inspire and support your efforts.


Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman is fundamentally important to American culture because it is a gritty, poignant tragedy about the failure to attain the American Dream. During the final day of his life, Willy Loman (the Salesman of the title) came to the despairing conclusion that he will never achieve the success and recognition he desires.
Death of a Salesman explores themes of mental health, anti-capitalism, expectations  and self-worth – themes that are as relevant and relatable as ever, in our world with its ever-growing wealth gap, and impending economic turmoil.


A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

A Raisin in the Sun has special significance in the canon of American plays – it was the first play written by an African-American (and a young woman to boot) to appear on Broadway; and it depicted the emotional life of an African-American family in a gritty, realistic way.  It is often considered one of the best American plays ever.  It paved the way for more African-Americans to participate in Broadway, as playwrights, directors and even simply as audience members.  This story of the aspirations and struggles of an African-American family foretold the civil rights and feminist movements of the ‘60s, and in the shadow of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, A Raisin in the Sun still feels immediate  and relevant today. 


The RSC William Shakespeare: the Complete Works by William Shakespeare, and edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen

William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the most important writer and dramatist in the history of the English language. Remarkably, his plays are still performed regularly, and the influence of his work is still evident in contemporary writing. He broke new ground in terms of characterisation, plot development and language use, and he was highly skilful in the mixing of genres – for example, inserting comic characters into tragic plots.  The emotions and behaviours explored in his work are still considered relevant, and indeed timeless.  Let Shakespeare be an ongoing source of inspiration, by investing in this beautiful edition of the complete works of Shakespeare, which includes notes and photographs from performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company.   


Comedy Writing Secrets: the Best-selling Guide to Writing Funny and Getting Paid for It (3rd Edition) by Mark Shatz with Mel Helitzer

Funny Fact 1: neither Mark Shatz nor Mel Helitzer are comedians.  Instead they are both academics  – one in psychology, the other in journalism – who have both used, and successfully taught, humour writing for decades. 
Funny Fact 2: this is literally the textbook in comedy writing, having been the set text for many university-level humour writing courses in America.
Comedy Writing Secrets shows you that humour is a communication skill that can be learnt – that people who are not Born Funny can still develop the skills to become a professional humourist.  It offers a comprehensive survey on comedy and humour-writing, from theory, to the major techniques, to how to apply them to different situations.  Throughout the book there are plenty of tips and examples, as well as writing prompts to help you practise. This may be the only comedy handbook you will need!


Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make it Great by William M. Akers

Let’s face it – professional Readers (editors, agents, producers) usually have too many unsolicited scripts, and not enough time to read through them all.  They are really just reading until they see a convenient excuse to stop… it can be a small thing like spelling mistakes, or a bigger issue like an unappealing character.  William M. Akers – respected screenwriter, professional critic, and teacher of screenwriting – is here to help you avoid those mistakes and keep your readers interested.  What started as a simple checklist has grown into this guidebook with 100 tips to perfect your screenplay.  There are many funny examples and anecdotes to make the book more engaging. Even experienced writers will learn from this book.  Use it to help you start that next draft (and William M. Akers is sure that it needs another draft).  


The Idea: the Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction by Erik Bork

The Idea refers to the core of your story – “a great idea [is] well executed, that grabs [the audience] emotionally, holds their attention, and entertains them”.  Unlike other writing manuals that often focus on the structure and mechanics of writing, Erik focusses on how to develop and polish that Idea, so that it will succeed with your customers (agents, producers or readers). He argues that an idea will success if it contains seven essential elements: punishing, relatable, original, believable, life-altering, entertaining, and meaningful.  As a winner of multiple Emmys and Golden Globe awards, Erik Bork is an experienced screenwriter who has worked with and for some of the biggest names in the industry.  His advice goes to the heart of effective storytelling, and will apply equally powerfully across many types of writing.

Download of the Day: David Walliams free audio books.

We have found a hilarious way to spend the evening with your children: listening and laughing along while David Walliams reads Bad Dad for free! If you want your own copy to read along with you can find it here.


Book of the Alphabet: T (and U, V, W, X, Y and Z)

On Monday we start a new daily book post (hint: they’ll help you in the kitchen) so today’s your chance to share your favourite book beginning with either T, U, V, W, X, Y or Z.

We have one that starts with T? It’s Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino.

We hope you have enjoyed playing along. Let us know what you’d like us to showcase next in the comments below.