Orphan TrainChristine Baker Kline captured a beautiful story about a search for family, but also sheds light on a forgotten chapter in American history. In the time period between 1854 and 1929, aptly named, orphan trains traveled from cities on the East coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of children who had been abandoned. The question of their fate depended on whether they were adopted by a loving family or whether they were chosen by a family who expected hard labor and servitude from them. One such child was a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly, who was sent by rail from New York City to face an uncertain future.

Later in her life, Vivian returned to the East to the coast of Maine, where she leads a quiet existence and where only blurred evidence of her past secretly creeps into her thoughts. She has stored away evidence of that time in trunks in the attic. Only when seventeen year old Molly Ayer accepts a community service job helping an elderly widow clean out her attic ( the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall ) will it be discovered that she and Vivian are not so different. In going through Vivian’s keepsakes and possessions, she sees that they have both moved in and out of foster homes, and were raised by strangers. They both have unanswered questions about their past.

The story takes the reader between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota. “Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship”.

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The Hundred-Foot JourneyRichard Morais is a former Forbes magazine correspondent turned author, when he wrote his first novel, The Hundred Foot Journey. An American who was raised in Switzerland, Morais has spent most of his life overseas, giving him an international perspective in his work. He now resides in New York City.

The Hundred Foot Journey began as the main character, Hassan, leaves India after tragedy strikes. He takes his family with him as they begin a long trip to find their niche in the world of culinary service. Eventually, they end up settling in a small village in the French Alps. In this village, they open an inexpensive restaurant infusing the sleepy little town with the spices of India. By doing this they incite a culinary war with the town’s famous French Chef. Eventually, she agrees to mentor Hassan, which leads him to Paris and the opening of his own restaurant. The Hundred Foot Journey refers to the distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one that represents the gulf between different cultures and desires.

The novel has been adapted to film and was released in August 2014. The director for the film is Lasse Hallstrom for DreamWorks Pictures (and others). The cast includes Helen Mirren and Manish Dayal as the French Chef, Madame Mallory, and the Indian chef, Hassan.

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Left BehindThe Left Behind novels are a series of 16 novels written by authors, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The subject of their books is the Christian viewpoint about the end of the world. Two primary forces clash…….the Tribulation Force against the Global Community. The Tribulaton Force is led by character Nicolae Carpathia….. the Antichrist.

The book is an interpretation of the prophecies in the Books of Revelation, Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel. During that time, many have been taken by the Rapture, leaving behind some loved ones in a very chaotic world. Carpathia, a Romanian politician, rises to the level of Secretary-General of the United Nations. He promises to restore peace and stability to all the nations, but what the world does not realize at the time is that Carpathia is in fact the Antichrist. A group of born-again Christians form the Tribulation Force to save lost souls and prepare for God’s Judgement which will last seven days.

Left Behind: The End Begins, debuts as a new movie on October 3, 2014. Director, Vic Armstrong will lead an impressive cast in interpreting the Left Behind novel. Cast members (mostly representing the Tribulation Force) are: Nicholas Cage, Chad Michael, Nicky Whelan, Cassi Thomson, Lea Thompson, Jordan Sparks, and others.

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Terror and Triumphs in the….”Wild”, by Cheryl Strayed

by Emily Roberts on September 28, 2014

The Best of MeThe non-fiction novel by Cheryl Strayed, “Wild”, was voted best non-fiction book of 2012 by several review outlets. The personal story she relates is from her experience in making an impulsive decision to hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. The route originated in the Mojave Desert and continued through California, Oregon, and ended in Washington State. The most harrowing part of the impulsive decision…she did it alone.

When just twenty-two years of age, Cheryl felt that she had lost everything in her young life. Her mother passed away, which prompted the family to scatter to other places leaving her alone. And, if that weren’t enough trauma, her own marriage fell apart. It was then that she made the commitment to begin her journey.

Wild is a powerful narrative of a young woman who feels desperation and the need to connect with nature on her own terms. The novel captures all the terror and triumphs of one young woman who forged ahead on her journey against all odds. The experience was maddening, but also resulted in giving her strength and healing.

The film adaptation of “Wild” is due to be released on December 5, 2014. The movie will give justification to the motto of the book…”From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.” The movie will star Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, with cast members Laura Dern (as Strayed’s mother), Toby Hoffman, Thomas Sadoski, Michiel Huisman, and Kevin Rankin. Director for the project is Jean-Marc Vallee’, distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

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The Maze RunnerAuthor James Dashner’s novel The Maze Runner is the first in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic, young adult, science fiction novels. Before this first of the trilogy stories, Dashner also wrote a prequel entitled The Kill Order.

The novel follows a group of boys who have been deposited after the apocalypse, at a place known as the Glade. It is the epitome of science fiction with mechanical creatures called Grievers, who roam the Maze at night. The Gladers, as the boys are known, have made a community in which each Glader has an assigned job to perform. The Maze is outside of the Glade which is protected by huge doors surrounding it that close every night to give protection from the creatures.

The main character, Thomas, learns more and more about the Glade, and gets the feeling that he has been there before. He befriends fellow Gladers named Chuck ad Newt, and feels strangely connected to the only girl ever deposited at the Glade, named Teresa. The whole plot revolves around the three Gladers performing as runners who explore the Maze and bring back information, all the time avoiding getting stung by the Grievers. Dashner’s original motivation for the novel came from an idea he had where, as quoted directly from the author……..”a bunch of teenagers living inside an unsolvable maze full of hideous creatures, in the future, in a dark dystopian world. It would be an experiment to study their minds……Until the victims turn everything on its head.” And so goes Maze Runner.

The novel has been adapted for film and is due to be released today! The director is Wes Bell with a cast of Dylan O’Brien as Thomas, Blake Cooper as Chuck, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt, and Kaya Scodelario as Teresa.

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Gone GirlAmerican author Gillian Flynn wrote the novel, Gone Girl, based on the suspense created by suspicion of the main character, Nick Dunne and whether he murdered his wife.

Nick and Amy had a less than perfect marriage for several reasons. He lost his job as a journalist and relocates them from New York City to Carthage, Missouri which was Nick’s small hometown. Amy was not happy to leave New York…….she was a city girl. All phases of their marriage were becoming more and more dysfunctional.

Amy disappears on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. The suspicion and suspense begins. In this novel, Flynn tries to depict the ultimate commitment…marriage. According to author Flynn, marriage turns into the ultimate he said-she said mystery.

The novel has been adapted for film by Reese Witherspoon’s film production company and 20th Century Fox. They reportedly paid $1.5 million for the screen rights. The director is David Fincher with cast members being Ben Afflek as Nick, Rosamund Pike in the role of Amy, joined by Neil Patrick Harris, Emily Ratazko, and Tyler Perry.

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The Best of MeIn 2011 the author of the hugely popular novel, The Notebook, published his next novel, The Best of Me. Nicholas Sparks is an American novelist, screenwriter, and producer who has published seventeen books. Eight of the novels have been adapted to film.

In quoting the book: “Everyone wanted to believe that endless love was possible. She believed in it once too, back when she was eighteen”. High school students, Amanda Collier and Dawson Cole were very much in love, even though they were from opposite sides of the tracks. But high school teen love somehow defies reality in a small North Carolina town. As so often happens, unforeseen events tore the young couple apart, sending them on very divergent paths.

As the novel progresses, it is twenty-five years later and they meet once again, when they return to the small town for a funeral. In one week-end they will discover undeniable truths about what has happened in the last twenty-five years and will be forced to answer the question …………”Can love truly rewrite the past”?

In October 2014, director Michael Hoffman’s movie adaptation of the novel will be released. The cast includes: Liana Liberato as the young Amanda Collier; Michelle Mongahan as Amanda Collier; James Marsden as Dawson Cole; Luke Bracey, young Dawson. As a side story, Paul Walker was cast as the lead role, but passed away and was replaced by James Marsden.

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If I Stay“Author, Gayle Forman wrote a fictional novel “If I Stay” which was published in 2009. It is the story of a seventeen year old named Mia Hall, as she is caught in the trauma of a catastrophic car accident. She slips into a coma and eventually has an out-of-body experience. She watches as her family and friends come to the hospital to wait on news of her condition. She has the experience of memories flashing through her mind, and begins to wonder if she should wake up to a much more difficult life after the accident. She also considers just slipping away into death.

The story takes the reader through all emotions as Mia weighs her choices. Those choices present themselves through being tugged in different directions concerning family dynamics, love, bonds between friends, and even her passion for music.

The film adaptation of “If I Stay” by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Brothers Pictures opens today. After two other directors left the project, R.J. Cutler ended up being director of the film. The actor chosen to play main character Mia is Chloe Grace Moretz, with supporting actors Dakota Fanning and Emily Browning.

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Historic Thriller…”The Sisterhood”, by Helen Bryan

by Emily Roberts on August 16, 2014

The Sisterhood“The Sisterhood is the second novel by author Helen Bryan. She ingeniously intertwined two stories in one novel. The main character Menina Walker was born into a wealthy family in South America, but after the devastation of a hurricane when she was a toddler, she was adopted by an American family and taken to a new life. Her only possession was a swallow medal she took with her.

As the novel follows her path of growth, she became a beautiful and intelligent nineteen year old that had everything and was excited about her future. Then another traumatic event crushed her dreams. After even more trauma, her path crosses with that of historical drama involving five orphan girls. From the Spanish Inquisition to the New World, Menina’s medal seems to link it all together. It is a love story and a historic thriller that takes the reader across continents and centuries.

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A Home At The End of The WorldPulitzer prize-winning, American author Michael Cunningham wrote “A Home at The End of the World”. The book is written with narrating by different characters for each chapter. The story is a very complicated one, with themes of living in a drug using, dysfunctional family where a central character, Bobby, loses everyone who is close to him. Their demise came through excess partying and drug use in the 1960s and 1970’s in suburban Cleveland, Ohio.

Bobby becomes friends with Jonathan, whose family took him in after Bobby’s family all died. They are physically attracted to each other, but through various reasons, they eventually part ways. In 1980s New York, they meet up again when they are in their 20s. By then, Jonathan has a roommate Clare who is eccentric to say the least. The three of them become an unusual family, causing them to question the definition of traditional family and love. A question made even more complicated by their love triangle.

Director, Michael Mayer adapted Cunningham’s novel and screenplay into a movie by the same name. The main three characters are played by: Bobby, Colin Farrell; Jonathan, Dallas Roberts; Clare, Robin Wright.

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