Literary Event: The Sun Devil's Writing Network

Are you a student writer at Arizona State University who is seeking out a small, but growing, community of writers who are as passionate about writing as you are? A place devoted to helping you further your craft and generate ideas? Then look no further than The Sun Devil’s Writing Network, an online creative writing workshop that meets online using Zoom on the second and fourth Monday of every month. The Sun Devil’s Writing Network seeks to develop member’s craft through peer review, honing their eye as critical readers, and fostering a sense of community.


Date: The 2nd and 4th Monday of every month, starting January 27th
Time: 3:00-4:30 p.m.
Location: Online using Zoom meeting code 802-685-7310 or by clicking this link.
Cost: Free

For more information about the Sun Devil’s Writing Network, click here.

Sharp Objects: Book-to-Miniseries

Book

Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Broadway Books
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Pages: 272
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Like any lover of books and cinema, I’m always excited to watch a film adaptation of a book I’ve finished reading. Most recently, I’ve been interested in the literary miniseries trend, where producers transform a book into several television episodes, often adding complexity to the story with additional characters and storylines. The HBO miniseries Sharp Objects, based on the book by Gillian Flynn, does exactly this.

Both the book and miniseries follow Camille Preaker, a mediocre reporter who is sent on an assignment to cover the murders of two preteen girls in her tiny hometown, Wind Gap. Camille’s editor, Curry, senses a compelling story is waiting to be uncovered in the southern town, but he also believes sending Camille to her hometown could be healing for her since she recently had a brief stay at a psych hospital after self-harming. Once in Wind Gap, Camille receives a chilling, unwelcoming greeting from her mother, meets her half-sister for the first time, and struggles to find any information on the case from townsfolk, the police, or the dapper detective from out of town. Amidst her own troublesome memory and trauma, Camille feels she must unravel the story of her town and her own past to make sense of this mystery.

While I think the miniseries was excellently cast, I think actress Patricia Clarkson (as Adora, Camille’s mother) was particularly accurate. From her appearance, to her mannerisms, costume, voice, and acting, Clarkson’s portrayal of Adora felt spot on. Clarkson captured the Adora I had imagined while reading the book, and it was amazing to see her acting on screen in this series.

While there were several changes made in the miniseries—including an additional storyline about Camille’s rehab roommate, a scene about Calhoun Day that created a toxic Southern Gothic atmosphere, and more town drama in general—I think the most substantial change between book and television was the removal of the first person narrator.

In Gillian Flynn’s novel, we receive all of our information through the mouth of Camille Preaker. On the other hand, in the HBO series, we lack this narration and are not limited to one perspective. I think this cinematic choice made Camille’s alcohol abuse much more apparent in the story. While there were certainly murmurs of alcoholism in the novel, the first person narration did not emphasize this self-medication issue as seriously as the miniseries did.

The choice to remove the first person narrator also makes it harder for the viewer to access Camille’s complex mental states. In the book, the reader gets to see Camille’s thoughts and trauma unveiled—or, at least, as unveiled as Camille is willing to let her thoughts be. In the miniseries, the viewer must rely on fairly chaotic flashbacks to Camille’s haunting memories to understand her mind instead. This reliance on flashbacks to explain Camille’s mind seems to downplay Camille’s sexual trauma, which was more apparent in the book. It also makes Camille’s mental illness more mysterious since the viewer is left to fill in his or her own conclusions.

Of course, most obviously, the miniseries’ removal of the first person narrator also allows the viewer more information to which Camille is not privy. For example, the miniseries provides much more insight into the out-of-town detective and Camille’s editor, making them both more likable characters.

Another (albeit less significant but still interesting) change was the miniseries’ inclusion of music. The soundtrack is entirely diegetic, so whenever a song is featured, it’s because a character turned on a radio, pulled out an old iPod, or started a record. In order to accomplish this feat and avoid creating a dull soundscape, the miniseries gave Alan (Adora’s husband and Camille’s stepfather) a strange obsession with music. In much of the series, the viewer finds Alan tinkering with his stereo system, turning a blind eye—and ear—to the more sinister things happening around him. The miniseries also gave Camille a cracked iPod, which belonged to her old roommate from her stay in the psychiatric hospital. These two additional items provide most of the soundtrack for the series.

In large part, I think the television series and original novel both use their literary and cinematic advantages to highlight the dangers of denial. Throughout this suspenseful story, we see both young and grown characters deny traumatic memories of rape, abuse, and bullying. We see Camille struggling to accept herself and denying vulnerability, pain, love, healing, and truth. We see a townswoman named Jackie who denies a horrible truth she has uncovered about a lifelong friend that she refuses to reveal. And we see the town denying the reality of the two murders as they place more importance on maintaining their own social reputation and standing.

I usually say the book is better than the film adaptation, but I think this HBO miniseries gave Sharp Objects a run for its money. All the same, I recommend starting with the book so you have the opportunity to see dreary, ominous Wind Gap through Camille’s own eyes first.

Miniseries

Network: HBO
No. of episodes: 8
Rating: TV–MA
Main actors: Amy Adams (as Camille Preaker), Patricia Clarkson (as Adora Crellin), Eliza Scanlen (as Amma Crellin)

Winter Reading Program for Adults

Each year, Arizona’s Maricopa County Library District kicks off the summer with a reading program designed to encourage literacy in young students with reading challenges and prizes.

This winter, the library district has created its very own reading program just for adults! Targeted at helping foster a lifelong habit of reading daily, the library challenges adults to log at least 20 minutes of reading daily through February 16.

By meeting reading goals and logging reading time online, adult readers can earn points, unlock badges, and win prizes. And, if you log at least 60 minutes each week , you have a chance to win an awesome weekly prize. Or, if you log at least 500 minutes before February 16, you have a chance to win tickets and a suite for a Spring Training game at Camelback Ranch-Glendale or a Maricopa County Parks Annual Day-Use Pass.

The reading program also offers a selection of unique reading challenges to earn reading points, like the Audiobook challenge, Books to Film in 2020 challenge, and the New Year, “New” Book Challenge.

To register for the reading program, visit your local Maricopa County Library, or click here.

Participating Locations:

Aguila Library
Central Express Library
Ed Robson Library
El Mirage Library
Fairway Library
Fountain Hills Library
Gila Bend Library
Goodyear Library
Guadalupe Library
Hollyhock Library
Litchfield Park Library
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport
North Valley Regional Library
Northwest Regional Library
Perry Library
Queen Creek Library
Southeast Regional Library
Sun City Library
White Tank Library

Edward's Favorite TV Shows Based off of Books

For as long as stories have been being told on our screens, novels have been mined as source material. While often the product is far from the original text, adaptations can breathe new life into a story and illuminate a new aspects of some of our favorite fictional worlds. With the advent of popular streaming services and ever increasing production budgets, now more than ever books are being turned into films. Here are some of my favorite television shows based on books.


Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke. This book has it all—intricate history told against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars, political intrigue, battle scenes, magicians, fairies, and books—so it is no surprise that it would be adapted into a stellar TV show. This seven episode mini-series produced by BBC One boasts an impressive cast with actors Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan in the titular roles. Of all of the adaptations on this list, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell stays as close to the story portrayed by the book as it can.   


Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin. It seems like a given that Game of Thrones would be on this list. HBO’s mega-hit series has changed everything I thought possible when it comes to creating a TV show—especially a fantasy TV show. While the response to the last few seasons of this show was not as enthusiastic as when it was originally released, there is no denying the cultural impact it has had. This show is full of slow burning plot lines, unexpected twists, and makes for an experience that cannot be described as anything less than entertaining.   


Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin. In 2019 Netflix released a star studded revival of Armistead Maupin’s popular series Tales from the City. This miniseries is a continuation of three previous miniseries based on Maupin’s work and features some of the same characters. This incarnation of the show goes even further by way of diversity and inclusion and gives a voice to many characters who are extremely underrepresented by the media. All the while, a riveting and emotional mystery unfolds that will have viewers hooked until the end.  


The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood. In 1985 when Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale, there was no way of knowing that the story would draw so many parallels to the coming world. In 2017 when season one premiered, it seemed as if there was no show that the world needed more. The Handmaid’s Tale shows just how fine the line is between freedom and a strict totalitarian regime. It emphasizes the danger of discrimination and valuing one type of human life over another. Most importantly, in my opinion, this show highlights the danger that some women face every day simply for existing.


The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson. I started this list with an adaption that stayed fairly true to its source material, and so it feels only natural that I end it with something that deviates from the original in a big way. Like so many adaptions of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, the 2018 Netflix show is a far cry from the novel. This fresh take on the Hill House, however, is one of those cases where the story is given new life. As terrifying as it is compelling, this show will suck you in until its final episode. I only have two pieces of advice about how best to watch it: with the lights on and not alone!    

Book Review

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Publisher: Algonquin Books, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Time Length: 7 hours, 2 minutes
Narrated by Scott Brick
Buy Book
My Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary

With pitiful book sales, the theft of his most prized rare book, and the loss of his beloved wife, irritable A.J. Fikry begins to dread his life as the sole bookstore owner of Alice Island.

Soon though, a mysterious woman leaves a toddler in Fikry’s bookstore with a simple note: “I want Maya to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about such kinds of things. I love her very much, but I can no longer take care of her.”

As A.J. searches for Maya’s mother, befriends a local cop, and reaches out for childcare help, Fikry begins a journey of transformation that catches the attention of his local book readers as well as the eccentric Knightley Press sale rep, Amelia Loman.

Thoughts

I picked up an audiobook version of this novel after a good friend from our Spellbinding team recommended it to me. (Thank you, Payton, our lovely Managing Editor!)

Listening to this audiobook during my long commutes made me excited to drive to and from school. If you are not a local reader, I can assure you that traffic in the Phoenix area isn’t exactly a pleasant experience. Side effects include grumpiness, checking the time incessantly, boredom, and annoyance. While I might be dramatizing the state of Phoenix’s rush hour traffic, claiming that The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry made my commute enjoyable is, without a doubt, some high literary praise.

Aside from the immediate entertainment value, I adored this book for its narrator’s unabashed quirkiness and love for books. I felt as if I could befriend both A.J. and the book’s narrator, and I could see them fitting in well with the college and literary community here in Phoenix. There were murmurs of bookish preferences throughout the entire novel, from small praises of authors like Flannery O’Connor to an abrupt and hilarious quip about a well-known thriller author using a ghostwriter. Zevin is even comfortable and masterful enough to playfully poke fun at her story’s own intentional cliches.

On top of winning me over for its clear focus on books and the reading life, I easily fell in love with the novel’s main characters. When lovable characters were in pain, my heart sank; and when they triumphed, my heart soared.

I will say, some of the plot was fairly predictable, but certainly not in a disappointing way. It was more a mark of good craftsmanship, as Fikry might suggest.

This book is absolutely perfect for any bookworm with a hunger for literary references and a good story. Any book lover will feel right at home in the cozy bookstore of A.J. Fikry with its stacks of ARCs, Moby Dick-themed restaurant, and both disastrous and successful literary events.


And since I can only imagine A.J. Fikry himself would be appalled at my choice to include an audiobook (Heavens! At least I didn’t include information for an ebook!), I’ll include a link to a locally-sold paperback as well.

Favorite Staff Reads of 2019

It’s hard to believe how quickly this year has flown by! Before we head out to celebrate the new year and make those New Year’s resolutions, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on 2019 and the gorgeous reads we’ve discovered. Each of our bloggers and editors have reflected on all the books—both old and new—they’ve read in the last 12 months and have chosen one book to highlight that impacted them most this 2019 calendar year. We hope this list inspires you to pick up a new book for your 2020 TBR list. Until then, The Spellbinding Shelf wishes you all another fantastic year filled with happy memories, adventures, time with family and friends, and—of course—lots of good books!


Staff Writer Roxanne Bingham

 Harlan Coben’s Run Away follows Simon Greene as he tries to find his eldest daughter, Paige, who has become addicted to drugs and her terrible boyfriend. When her boyfriend winds up dead, Simon and his wife team up to find Paige and encounter danger along the way. With two other stories interwoven, the mystery complicates and leads the reader to wonder why Paige spiraled and how the characters are all connected. As the mystery unravels, so does Simon’s life as he knows it, with secrets about his wife coming to the surface. 

I love everything Coben writes, but I really enjoyed this one because it highlights familial love and what one is willing to do to save their child. We receive clues as the characters do, making it a real page turner to get to the heart of the mystery. For any crime novel or mystery lovers, I definitely recommend Run Away!


Staff Writer Abhilasha Mandal

Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 is about two people in Japan, Tengo and Aomame, who are pulled into a dystopian world parallel to the year 1984, where a series of inexplicable events envelops them and they are left wondering if time itself isn’t a loop in the world they nickname 1Q84.

It is so rare to find a book written for an adult audience that employs elements of fantasy that I recoiled in surprise when I first reached the page that revealed the supernatural theme of the novel.

The story is so captivating and unpredictable that for two whole chapters I found myself questioning which of the two worlds was “real.” This is a must-read for fans of fantastical thrillers.


Staff Writer Brandi Martinez

Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous presents a letter to a mother who might never read the message’s contents because she cannot read English. This makes the outpouring of Vuong’s heart even more poignant. In this exposed and emotional account of the author’s life growing up with a single mother, he examines their relationship and how these experiences have shaped his view of the world. The author knows that he may never receive answers to the many open-ended questions which he asks his mother throughout the work, but his need to voice these questions is laced through the memories which he recounts. 

Vuong utilizes the beauty of the poetic language to weave together the pieces of his youth. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is at once urgent in its need to find meaning in the memories, and languid in its wandering quality which relishes the moments for their own unique beauty. I was entranced by both the beauty of Vuong’s words as well as the sincerity and openness of his self-perspective. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to swim in a sea of haunting beauty and fearlessness.


Staff Writer Jade Stanton

Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time provides an summative explanation of the history and theories behind our current understanding of the universe. Hawking’s aim was to create a book to explain complex theories that could be understood by anyone with an eighth grade understanding of math and physics.

Hawking’s book, although published in 1988, is my staff pick for the year mainly because of the advancements made in our understanding of the universe in recent times, specifically the first photographed picture of a black hole taken on April 10th of this year. It is these advancements that show just how important it is for all people to have a basic understanding of the theories and concepts at work, so that they can better understand the importance of the discoveries being made today. Although Hawking has since passed, his work in the field (and in our lives) has remained extremely relevant, and we owe him so much for our current understanding of the world around us.


Staff Writer Edward Dolehanty

Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir, In the Dream House, explores Machado’s experience in a same-sex relationship that featured domestic abuse as well as the cannon of domestic abuse in lesbian relationships. Full of emotional depth and imaginatively told, this story attempts to show an aspect of the underbelly of modern queer culture through Machado’s personal story, literary and film criticism, and through the dissection of pop-culture.  

I love this book because like Machado’s previous work, Her Body and Other Parties, it is unlike anything that I have read before. As soon as I was finished reading it I wanted to start reading it again. The world which Machado creates and so elaborately and seamlessly weaves together is equally impressive and immersive. While the story comes from her distinctly queer perspective, that is not to say that there is not something in this book for everyone as it shines light upon the emotional traumas that unfold in our everyday lives.


Communications Coordinator Makenna Knighton

Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward follows a girl named Spensa who wants nothing more than to be a pilot and clear her father’s name. However, she almost misses the test to get into flight school because she finds M-Bot, an abandoned starship, while exploring—and Spensa’s challenges only get more difficult from there. While juggling escapes with M-Bot, tensions with her classmates, and her own impulsiveness, Spensa discovers important truths about herself and her surroundings, making it through to the surprising future after an engaging journey.

I love how this novel blends the science fiction and young adult genres, like Ender’s Game and How to Train Your Dragon combined at Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy. With perfect pacing through the pleasantly long and thought-provoking narrative, you won’t want to miss Spensa’s riveting adventure—and the sequel, Starsight, released last month!


Managing Editor Payton Kline

Wendy Webb’s Daughters of the Lake begins when a perfectly-preserved body washes up on the beach near Kate Granger’s childhood home along the North Shore of Lakes Superior—but, the body has been dead for nearly 100 years, and Kate’s family had something to do with it. Through a series of dreams and stories told through Kate and the murdered woman, Addie’s, eyes readers see this chilling story unfold in the most unexpected and deliciously uncanny ways.

For those of you who have read the blog before, you know that I adore the Minnesotan author Wendy Webb—so it will come as no surprise that my absolute favorite read of 2019 was her newest book, Daughters of the Lake. With characters that still cross my mind to this day, a setting so gorgeous yet so ominous, and a plot so compelling that I often read into the early morning hours, I cannot sing high enough praises for this newest novel from the queen of Northern Gothic herself. For those of you looking for an entertaining, yet thought-provoking book to kick off the new year, look no further than Daughters of the Lake.


Editor-in-Chief Rachel Hagerman

Tara Westover’s Educated traces Westover’s journey from living with a survivalist family in the states without any formal education to earning a PhD from Cambridge University. This memoir reflects on Tara’s childhood working alongside six siblings in a dangerous scrapyard managed by her domineering father and learning from her talented healer and midwife mother. From here, it follows her departure from home into the seemingly secular world for education at BYU followed by Cambridge.

I heard numerous wonderful things about this popular memoir while I waited until it was finally available for pickup at my local library. I have to admit that I was suspicious that the book wouldn’t live up to the hype, but I was pleasantly proven wrong. I absolutely loved Westover’s writing style and reflection. I appreciated her brutal honesty about her mental states and her reactions to defining moments in her coming-of-age story. I found her educational journey inspiring and her relationship to faith, and the people who abuse faith, heart-wrenching.


The artwork featured on our blog post above was provided by local artist Bruce Black. You can view more artwork from Black at bruceblackart.com or on Instagram @bruceblackart.

An Unsettled Flying Sea: Reflection on a Poem by Frank O’Hara

In the late days of Tucson summer on a Sunday afternoon, I found myself overwhelmed by an excess of simultaneity. Calendars for work and school and my personal life needed further adjusting; a cross-town trip to find new eyeglass frames loomed; and I felt eager and anxious to start writing the weekly newsletter for my introductory English course section. I consulted my volume of Frank O’Hara’s poems for advice. Flipping the sturdy hardcover open, “Ode (to Joseph Leseur) on the Arrow that Flieth by Day” appeared.

As you’ll find in his poem, O’Hara’s agile and rapid mind departs from a quotidian Sunday radio broadcast described via an unlikely simile—“like dying after a party”—and arrives at the poem’s earth or sea cleaving conclusion a little over two dozen lines later. In between, we’re treated to an absurdist Mother’s Day greeting for Russia in the second stanza, what feels like an excerpt from an advertisement  (“Win a Dream Trip”) in the fifth stanza, the novelist Andre Gide’s name being dropped, and approval of a visit to listen to Aaron Copland’s Piano Fantasy (1957). I call this O’Hara’s cultured, joyous, caring grind—which isn’t a grind at all; it’s a slender-yet-sumptuous slice of the life of Frank O’Hara. Or in the life of any of us if we had the verbal skill and delighted in vulnerability as he did; I could only be pleased to write a poem or memoir or email that exuded such liveliness.

I considered “Ode (to Joseph Leseur) on the Arrow that Flieth by Day” in terms of departure and arrival, making this choice because the poem resembles a travelogue. O’Hara tells us very briefly what he’s experienced and the individuals he encountered along the way. No one can say how much of the voyage that is the “Ode” occurred in O’Hara’s mind alone, and the poem feels that much more confidential because of that. On reading it, I felt like he’d been kind enough to share some amusing and insightful asides with me, encouraging me to consider my to-do list as something other than a burden. 

Upon further musing, I realize O’Hara’s “Ode” transports me to the barely-breezy summer days when I began writing this reflective post, when there was less to coordinate and complete, if only because the temperature was often above 100 degrees. I picture myself after setting down the hardback volume of poems, feeling encouraged and comfortable with the uncertainties ahead, I walk outside. There, I lounge in the summer air next to the cacti and the cars, just beneath the sun. The four cats I live with are intrigued by me, ridiculous in my pink sandals, bemused by my exposed torso under the cactus sun, my eyeglasses already ready. 

I lounge and consider the heaviness that hangs over “Ode” like the sun hanging over me. That heaviness resides in the poem’s title, which comes from Psalm 91:5, where it is part of a memento mori—a reminder to remember your death. Death, if we can follow with O’Hara—if I can follow his joyous, caring grind so well—is the last thing among those contained by summer days. It can be touched without resistance, with a gentleness like saying “summer” or “our sea” or “hello.”


We would like to thank Nick Mueller for this guest blogger reflection.

Book Review

Ghosts of You by Cathy Ulrich

Publisher: Okay Donkey Press  
Genre: Flash Fiction  
Pages: 176 pages   
Format: Paperback 
My Rating: 3/5  
Buy Local 

Summary

In this flash fiction collection a myriad of victims come alive and show themselves beyond the circumstances they find themselves in. Each piece is set in motion by another murdered woman—including a girl, teacher, mermaid, and others—but there is more to each story than just the inciting tragedy. These stories are laden with grief, intrigue, occasional mystery, and ruminations of what might have been. These are stories of murdered women, but there is more here than meets the eye.   

Thoughts

This collection was thought provoking through and through. It is not often that we see something that seems so familiar, in this case the victim, given new life and dimension. Yet that is exactly what Ulrich has done, she has given a compelling voice to characters who in the past would have been hard to cast as anything but flat. Each story, no matter its length, feels both diverse and dynamic and these pieces are in heavy conversation with one another.

While this collection was overall both interesting and innovate, there were times when it felt too repetitive. When reading one story after the next they start to bleed together and the murdered mermaid becomes hard to tell apart from the murdered babysitter and the murdered girlfriend. That is not to say that there is no joy to be had from reading this collection, but it is perhaps a read best done over an extended period of time.


I would like to thank TNBBC Publicity for providing this ARC
in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Let it Snow: Book-to-Movie Adaptation

I remember falling in love with the novel Let it Snow during the peak of my John Green phase, at least 8 years ago. So, when I heard it was being made into a Netflix Original film, I actually screamed in excitement. I adore Christmas stories, so what could be better than three Christmas stories that are intertwined? Absolutely nothing. As with any book to movie adaptation, I was a bit nervous; however, despite minor differences, the film did not disappoint.


Let it Snow follows three different main stories, each one written by a different author; John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson. Each story is separate yet still connected at the same time, making it one of my favorite elements of the story.

The basic structure of the story consists of three different Christmas love stories, each at a different stage. One pair has been best friends for years, the other just met on the train, and the last is getting over a breakup. They are all trying to muddle through the world around them the best they can, and even with all the chaos around them, they may just find love.

With any book to movie adaptation, there were some changes implemented. I’m sure we can all agree that, generally speaking, this is our least favorite part about these projects. However, most of these changes were small, and the two major changes made the story even better. What changes? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Change 1: The first of these changes comes from the story of Julie and Stuart, known in the book as Jubilee and Stuart.


In the written version, Jubilee is on the train headed to Florida, but it gets stuck in Gracetown. She meets Stuart on the train and they spend the day together. Most of this stays consistent in the movie, except that Jubilee’s name becomes Julie, she is not headed to Florida, and Stuart is a famous musician.


Personally, I think this change allowed their story to come to life even more. Julie’s family plays a larger role in the movie and her character is more dynamic in some ways, and that makes her story with Stuart even more sweet.
She ends up on the train because she is trying to find a gift for her mother, not because she is being sent to Florida.
This was one of my favorite sub-stories in the novel and the changes they made in the movie made me love it even more.

Change 2: The other major change in the film is more notable and had a much larger impact on the plot. I mentioned that the novel follows three love stories, but the movie decided to add a fourth.

This one follows Addie’s best friend, Dorrie. Addie’s story follows her dealing with the hard part of a relationship—a breakup, or potential breakup in her case. This breakup is paralleled with the novel, but Dorrie’s story is not. She was given her own spotlight, as she struggles trying to figure out if the girl she likes reciprocates her feelings. This is an important adaption for a number of reasons.

The new representation of the LGBTQ+ community gives the film more nuance. Unlike the novel, the film also incorporates an initial stage of relationships that I am sure we are all familiar with: the “do they like me back” battle we have internally. Dorrie’s new storyline was funny, adorable, and wholesome—which is everything I loved about the book to begin with. I am not generally a fan of major changes in book-to-movie adaptations, but this is one I can most definitely get behind.

I can honestly say that I have watched the movie three times since it was released, and plan to keep re-watching.


You can find the movie on Netflix by searching “Let it Snow.” If you are interested in purchasing the book, you can buy it from Changing Hands’ website here. I hope you love them both as much as I do!

5 Highly Anticipated Reads of 2020

As the year is now winding down to a close, we enter a time of reflection of the joys 2019 held and begin to look forward to the future—a perfect time to look for new reads to brighten our 2020! Whether you are searching for new books to add to your TBR pile or a fun new book to gift to a friend or loved one, this list is guaranteed to fill your 2020 with delightful new reads. Some of these selections are beloved and long-awaited sequels, while others are relative newcomers to the bookish world, but all of them have something special to offer to every kind of reader.


The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu. While Marie Lu is no stranger to the world of YA fiction, The Kingdom of Back is Lu’s first work of historical YA fantasy. This novel is centered around the two Mozart siblings, Nannerl and Wolfgang, and their love of music. Both siblings have a prodigious talent for playing and composing, but Nannerl’s ambition is hindered by the societal constructs of 18th century Europe that forbid women from composing. Wolfgang’s talents continue to grow and Nannerl’s hope dims further and further until a mysterious stranger appears offering her a deal that could cost her everything, or give her everything she’s ever wanted. This book tells a story of music, magic, and the unyielding bond between siblings.

Release Date: March 3, 2020


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins. This selection holds a special place in my heart, as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy was central to my literary journey as a middle school student. As of now, we don’t know much about what Collins has planned for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, but the novel will be a prequel to the trilogy, taking place sixty four years earlier than the events of The Hunger Games during the Tenth Annual Hunger Games. Although this novel will not include Katniss or Peeta (for obvious reasons) here’s to hoping that we might see some cameos of older characters from the original trilogy! This book is set to be released in May, giving us just enough time to reread the original books first.

Release Date: May 19, 2020


You Are Not Alone – Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Hendricks and Pekkanen are already a highly-acclaimed writing duo, known for their top ten bestsellers The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl. Their latest novel, You Are Not Alone, is centered around Shay Miller, a woman without a job, apartment, or a love life. Her eyes are opened when she witnesses an average woman make the decision to end her life by jumping in front of a subway train and realizes that she could see herself traveling down the same spiral. She soon meets a group of glamorous, put-together women offering to take her in with the promise, “You are not alone.” As Shay becomes more involved with the enviable Moore sisters, she finds her life getting better and better, but at a terribly high price. As the stakes continue to grow higher and higher, Shay finds herself wondering if “You are not alone” is a promise, or a threat. This psychological thriller is sure to shock and fascinate all varieties of readers.

Release Date: March 3, 2020


Imagine Me – Tahereh Mafi. Imagine Me is the sixth and final book in the explosive Shatter Me series. Try as I might, there are no words to accurately capture the beauty of this series. The series is set in a dystopian future and is centered around protagonist Juliette Ferrars. Juliette possesses a singular ability that makes her both powerful and feared: anyone who touches her feels immense pain and can be fatally wounded. Juliette uses her abilities to try and overthrow the tyrannical Reestablishment destroying her world. The prose of this series is especially noteworthy, as some lines and passages are crossed out to reflect Juliette’s train of thought. The Shatter Me series tells a story centered around love, resilience, and triumph over adversity. For those who have already read the other books in the series, I’m glad you can empathize with my bubbling excitement; for those that haven’t, you have almost four months to get caught up before the final book is released!

Release Date: March 31, 2020


The Authenticity Project – Clare Pooley. “Everybody lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth?” This is the question that aging artist Julian Jessop wrote in a green notebook labeled “The Authenticity Project” before leaving it in a local cafe. When Monica stumbles upon Julian’s notebook, she adds her own story and aims to find a way to make Julian feel less alone. Soon, a whole cast of characters have added their stories to the green notebook, and even begin to meet in real life, where they’ll subject themselves to the terrifying ordeal of being known. The Authenticity Project promises to be a lighthearted and quirky yet candid and outspoken narrative on the nature of honesty and love. This book is highly recommended for those looking for a book about the human condition and who want to change the way they think.

Release Date:February 4, 2020