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Nicola Dove
Kenneth Branagh stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

SALT LAKE CITY — With a host of books showing up on the big screen this fall, we've highlighted five that are (relatively) family-friendly. After all, there isn't much that beats the satisfied feeling of being able to say at a party, "Oh, sure, the film was good, but the book was better."

The book reviews are listed in chronological order of their corresponding films' release dates, starting with the most recent.

'Victoria & Abdul'

Film release date: Oct. 6

MPAA rating: PG-13

"Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant," by Shrabani Basu, Vintage, 334 pages (nf)

The story of Queen Victoria's favored Indian serving man sounds like it's going to be a little sexier than it is. "Victoria & Abdul" by Shrabani Basu summarizes the relationship between Abdul Karim and the queen during the last dozen or so years of her life from when he's gifted to her for her Golden Jubilee until her death in 1901. Karim is often referred to as the queen's replacement for the Scottish John Brown, her close confidant following the death of her husband Prince Albert. Four years after Brown's death, Karim enters the queen's life and begins teaching her Urdu, quickly becoming a treasured favorite to the dismay of the rest of Queen Victoria's household. The book then devolves into a play-by-play of the queen's other servants trying to get rid of this upstart nobody from India. This prideful squabbling bogs down the narrative, and unfortunately, there is little about the personal relationship between the queen and Karim — possibly because King Edward, after his mother's death, had most of their correspondence burned. It's definitely a loss for anyone who was hoping to get juicy details out of this rather disappointing book.

Content advisory: There is nothing objectionable in "Victoria & Abdul."

— Michelle Bulsiewicz

'Only the Brave'

Film release date: Oct. 20

MPAA rating: PG-13

"Granite Mountain: The Firsthand Account of a Tragic Wildfire, Its Lone Survivor, and the Firefighters Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice," by Brendan McDonough with Stephan Talty, Hachette, 278 pages (nf)

This firsthand account of the life of Brendan McDonough, the lone survivor of the Granite Mountain hotshot/wildfire firefighters, takes readers from his childhood, to his drug-addicted adolescence and finally through his experiences following the terrible tragedy in 2013 that claimed the lives of 19 of his co-workers. McDonough is a sincere narrator, and his message of redemption and faith is uplifting, although not without controversy. Some of the families of the Granite Mountain hotshots believed there was a conspiracy, blaming McDonough for the loss of their loved ones. While there are times when McDonough sounds as though he is trying to justify himself, his story is captivating and the book has an explosive finish as hot as the fires McDonough fights. This book provides a riveting and certainly harsh look into the lives of wildfire firefighters and will likely make its readers more grateful for those that put their lives on the line for everyone’s safety.

Content advisory: "Granite Mountain" contains drug references, strong language, a few sexual references and descriptions of burnt bodies.

— Matt Anderson


Film release date: Oct. 20

MPAA rating: PG

"Wonderstruck," by Brian Selznick, Scholastic, 640 pages (f)

Illustrator and writer Brian Selznick hit upon a unique blend of pictures and text with his 2008 Caldecott award-winning book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" but for my money, he perfected the form with "Wonderstruck," his parallel tales of adventure and, well, wonder. Inspired by his exposure to the deaf community, Selznick's two main characters, Ben and Rose, both suffer from hearing loss. And although their stories take place 50 years apart, there are little clues throughout the book that will keep readers guessing as to how their stories will finally intertwine. Selznick has a gift for making his readers care about the things he loves and in "Wonderstruck," he beautifully highlights two real-life treasures: the wildlife dioramas in New York City's American Museum of Natural History and the Panorama of the City of New York, a huge model built for the 1962 World's Fair that is now housed at the Queens Museum. If that isn't enough to get you running to the library, Utahns will want to read the book before they see local young actress Millicent Simmonds in her debut role as young Rose (Julian Moore plays the older Rose) in the film adaptation.

Content advisory: While there are some intense moments, "Wonderstruck" contains nothing violent or scary for young readers.

— Cristy Meiners

'Murder on the Orient Express'

Film release date: Nov. 10

MPAA rating: Not yet rated

"Murder on the Orient Express," by Agatha Christie, William Morrow Paperbacks, 288 pages (f)

"Murder on the Orient Express" is perhaps Agatha Christie's most famous title — and definitely her best-known Poirot story. The book opens with Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (almost indistinguishable now from actor David Suchet, who played him for 24 years in the PBS/BBC show) traveling on board the Orient Express from Istanbul to London in the thick of winter. As so often befalls these detective types, one of the passengers is murdered, and Poirot is called on to investigate. In 2017, when cities like Aleppo, Belgrade, "Stamoul" and even Paris are increasingly associated with terrorism, war and tragedy, Christie writes about them as the West used to think of them: far off and exotic stops on the storied Orient Express. And that old-world glamour is exactly the novel's charm, with characters that include a Russian grande dame, a British colonel who served in the Raj, a valet, a lady's maid — even a count and countess — that put readers in the middle of a bygone world that seems as much a fantasy as Hogwarts. While the murder reveal at the end is a bit of a stretch, Christie cleverly uses the tight enclosed space of the train to keep the tension between the characters high, entertaining her readers to the final page.

Content advisory: "Murder on the Orient Express" does feature a murder, but not graphically.

— Cristy Meiners


Film release date: Nov. 17

MPAA rating: PG

"Wonder," by R.J. Palacio, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 320 pages (f)

If you're one of the few who has somehow managed to not read this charming story of acceptance and friendship, you have a little over a month to gulp it down before the big-budget screen adaptation with Julia Roberts imprints itself on your imagination. It is with good reason that "Wonder" became a national best-seller and a staple for classrooms and book clubs. The story opens with 10-year-old August Pullman who, because of a facial deformity and resulting surgeries, is starting school for the first time after years of being home-schooled. Author R.J. Palacio managed to make Auggie, as he is called, relatable and human, happily steering clear of the overly heartwarming clichés that could easily have sunk the novel. Young people and adults alike will be entertained and inspired by Auggie's courage, and I dare readers to not wipe away a tear at the book's finale.

Content advisory: "Wonder" contains some bullying and cruel language, but the book is acceptable for readers of all ages.