Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Firebirds Rising

A while ago I did a ramble on a short story collection called Firebirds that I totally fell in love with.  Imagine my happiness when I found out that there was a...I guess you could call it a sequal?...collection called Firebirds Rising: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Sharyn November.  I loved this collection of YA targeted stories at least as much as the previous collection and am seriously having a hard time picking my favorites.  I will do my best and give you a bit of a taste of the amazing flavor that is this varied and phenomenal collection.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Huntress by Tamora Pierce - We start of the collection with one of my favorite authors who smacks us right in the face with a eerie and empowering story.  We have our loner girl who falls in with the popular crowd...who turn out to be very different from what we first think.  What starts out as an elite group of high school runners turns out to actually be a vigilante group that uses their speed and prowess to "cleanse" the area of undesirables...always an ethical conundrum.  The addition of an ancient goddess, murder, and Central Park all combine to make this a thrilling start to the collection.

Unwrapping by Nina Kiriki Hoffman - This is one of the stories in this collection that always sticks in my head long after I have read it.  This is a story of friendship between two unlikely friends, Brenna, who is shy and quiet and Nadia who is the life of the party.  This particular day happens to be Halloween and Nadia has a very special costume in mind.  Turns out Nadia is actually an alien with a bizarre flame like appearance and has befriended Brenna 'cause of her accepting nature.  After her initial shock Brenna helps her friend be herself.  I'm not sure what it is about this story, but I love it.

The Real Thing by Alison Goodman - Stories like this are one of the reasons I love a great short story collection.  In just a few pages the author has introduced me to a world and a writing style that makes me want to read more!  In this case, the story is set in a world the author has full length novels in and deals with the future and an alien race that can "link" with certain humans.  We follow our human partner as she tries to cope with some sort of social life all while contending with a partner who always wants to be in her head.  I am now scouring my book stores for books from this author.

In the House of the Seven Librarians by Ellen Klages - This is what short stories are meant to be.  In this tale we have a full story, beginning to end that creates a world, characters and story in complete perfection.  Of course that fact that this story is about a girl who grows up in an abandon library with seven librarians for guardians may also be part of its appeal.  To me this story is pure magic and one of the reasons I started reading in the first place.  I love how complete and coherent this story is, I love how magical this story feels and I love how much I love this story.

Jack o' Lantern by Patricia McKillip - Another story of pure magic.  I love this author in paticular when I want to totally escape from life and enter a world of utter fantasy.  This short story did not disappoint and had the added advantage of being a quick in between life's chaotic moments read.  The author includes art, myth, youth and imagination all combined to create a story that is also a work of art.  Sigh...so happy.
These are just a tiny sample of the awesome and amazing variety of stories in this collection.  I really enjoyed that it was a mix of Sci Fi and Fantasy.  I liked that each story was original and complete to themselves.  I liked...well I really pretty much just liked everything about it.  Usually in collections like this it is hit or miss.  I tend to like about half the stories and love just a few, but in this case I seriously enjoyed every story and fell in love with several of them.  AND the best part?!?!  There is a third collection!!!!!  Yep this is overall a trilogy of short story collections.  It is now sitting on my shelf and I am so excited to read it!  I give this collection 9 out of 10 phoenix feathers and recommend it to pretty much everybody!  Happy Reading Everybody!

Monday, January 30, 2017

So Helpful...

I once again have a sever case of writers block.  Because of that I asked my usually smart and savvy Hubbin for some suggestions for today's post.  Here is what he came up with.

Ancient Aliens and how they time travel and further their agenda by setting up things for the future so people would know and not know.

Rouge Aliens that fly around and precipitate "sightings".

Pyramids...built by aliens.

Things you can only see from the sky.

Pictures of people talking on cell phones long before they were invented.

Decoding alien codes so we can communicate with future self aliens.

Stupid Endgame

Needless to say, my darling spouse is not being to helpful right now.  Also I should probably limit his Netflix account...and maybe hide his H.P. Lovecraft books...Anyways I'm gonna go read for a while and hope I am inspired to write a more coherent
and book oriented post next time.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Are You A Claudia Or A Mary Anne?

I was watching my nephews today and had a very weird, yet very pleasant flashback to my early middle school days and my obsession with The Baby-Sitters Club series.  This is one of those series that was pivotal both in my reading growing up, but in my real life as well.  My friends and I (all avid readers of this popular series) actually put together our own abbreviated version of the club.  We all went to this tiny private school, and several of our parents were staff at the school, forcing us to spend many hours together at the school building waiting for them to finish.  Along the same lines, many families in this tiny school had little ones of their own.  As us 10-12 year old's were all obsessed with baby's and small children we were the perfect group to get baby-sitters from, especially when they just needed watching while the parents were actually on site at the school.  Anyways we took our job as kid watchers very seriously and used the Baby-Sitters Club books as manuals and guidebooks in our quest for perfect child care.  When we were not actually baby-sitting, we were busy reading the books, watching the tv show/movie, and trying to decide who was a Claudia and who was a Mary Anne.  Flash forward more years then I care to admit later and even now, when I take care of the shorties, I still think about these books.  Now I kind of want to grab one and read it real quick...Happy Reading Everybody!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Too Odious For Words

Hola readers!  How is everybody?  I've had an insanely busy, yet highly satisfying week (aside from a massive sick day that is).  I am now ready to give one of those ramblings I have been promising for way to long :-)  Today let's ramble about Infandous by Elana Arnold.  This is a book I had heard some interesting things about, bought for my Nook and then promptly forgot about it (this happens a lot lol).  I had finished a different book on my Nook and this one caught my attention when I was looking for the next one...so...here we go.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
One of the definitions of the word Infandous is "too odious for words"  or "too horrible to mention", knowing this ahead of time may give you a clue to some of the things that happen in this book.  This is Sephora Golding's story and she is the one to tell it. The book is divided into several parts and each one is prefaced by a faiy tale or myth, mostly dealing with either rape, incest or some combination there of.   Sephora is the 16/17ish year old daughter of Rebecca Golding, a charismatic stunning beauty who had to give up her modeling career when she got pregnant with Sephora (called Seph by most) at the tender age of 17. Rebecca gave birth and raised Sephora completely on her own, not even telling Sephora who her father is.   Sephora loves her mother...in fact at several points in the book you may even say she is a bit obsessed with her mother...but more on that later.  Seph and her mother live in a crappy little one bedroom apartment in Venice Beach.  Seph is pretty much left to her own devices while her mother works and goes to school.  With this free time Seph spends much of her time in her little studio, working on her art.  She also surfs with her buddy Marissa and bums free drinks off her various friends who work in various places.  We learn that Seph is upset about something, something very not ok happened and this had to do with a guy named Felix.  See Seph is a wee bit obsessed with sexuality, hers, her mothers, her friends...anyways one day when she was around 15/16ish she meets this guy Felix while she is surfing.  Despite the fact that he is in his mid 30's, she decides that she wants him, tells him her name is Annie and that she is 19 and they go out to dinner.  Later that night she and Felix have sex, and though not Sephora's first time, she finds herself responding to Felix and enjoying the sex in a completely new way.  From what we read, it seems Seph enjoys herself and yet this is where her main angst lies.    We go with Sephora as she navigates other issues of teenagehood.  She struggles as her mother dates a younger man and later helps her deal with the aftermath of the breakup.  She goes to spend some time with her rich aunt and cousins, while trying to decide if she will take them up on the offer to send her to a private school, then college.  She continues to work on her art, deal with her friends and continue to obsess over what ever happened with Felix.  Felix is constantly trying to contact Seph, but she never responds.  Eventually Seph gets a job with Jordan, the guy her mom was seeing, at a surf shop where she takes care of customers and cleans the shop.  One day she takes a picture of a sculptor she created and labeled it Infandous.  She creates stickers of the work and these are seen by Jordan, who wants to put them on the surfboards he creates.  the boards are a hit and Seph is able to get her art out to the public and make a little dough.  She continues to obsess over the "bad thing" that she did, or that happened to her or something.  Anyways, we eventually get a flash back where she discovers a picture of her mother...and...Felix.  From this and the fairy tales we are supposed to infer that Felix was her father...ew.  So yeah, that revelation happened.  One day while Seph is working, Felix comes into the shop.  He is happy to finally talk to "Annie", but Seph tells him who she really is and who her mother is.  Felix realizes that he probably slept with his daughter...again...ew...and understandably freaks then leaves.  The book ends with an original fairy tale about a wolf and mermaid, an attempt by Sephora to put everything what happened into context.
World Building - The world building may be my favorite part of this book.  Most of our time is set in Venice Beach, both in the touristy parts and the more unsavory, lower income places.  The author did a fantastic job of making the reader actually feel as if you were there.  I have been to Venice Beach many times and feel that the atmosphere the author portrayed was spot on.  The author also did an amazing job describing the aunt's residence and surrounding places in Atlanta (another place I've been to multiple times) and then contrasting it with Venice Beach.  This is the type of writing that sticks with me long after the book is over.  It added a lot to this book, and as I said before is, for me at least the best part of the book.

Story - Hmmm...what to say about the story...the story was...well hmmm.  Ok.  So the story was a weird mix of meandery, rote, and weirdly engaging on occasion.  Some parts made me want to keep reading, some parts made me roll my eyes and some parts made say "Are you f(*& kidding me" out loud...which was probably not cool since I was with my young nephews.  Anyways.  For my personal taste I found the overall story to be a bit overly angsty and at times over the top.  There were bits and pieces that I found compelling, at least enough to finish the book fairly quickly...but overall I felt it to be over wrought and not always to the point.

Character - Characters were fairly well done for a YA book.  Sephora is fairly rounded and not perfect in any way, shape or form, which is refreshing...again though, a bit obsessed with sex...but we will get to that in a minute.   Rebecca (Seph's mom) is pretty interesting as we see how between her beauty and charisma she can control a room and yet is still living in pretty shitty circumstances...and yet is trying to make it better...I appreciate the fact that we are shown that beauty and charisma can be helpful, but only get you so far.  The rest of the characters are ok, a bit one note, but not to stock characterish...if that makes any sense.

Editing - For the most part the editing isn't too bad.  The book flowed, nothing was too confusing, everything got wrapped up or answered.  Not really a whole lot to say.  It was very readable, so well done editing.

Sex - Let's just get right to it shall we?  This book was chock full of sex.  Not as in graphic, porn like sex, but in the idea's, innuendo's and just overall feel.  Most of the book I felt like any character was about to get it on at any given moment.  Seph especially felt like she was obsessed with the idea of sex.  She obviously had sex more then once, but it seemed like more then that.  The artwork she encountered, the feeling of the town, the parties, her mother, everything seemed to lead back to some sort of sexual something.  This had me torn.  In some ways, I get it.  She is a teenage girl, living in a very open and relaxed household.  Her mother is a sexual creature and let's face it sex is a bit part of life in general.  I personally really really love sex, like a lot a lot....that being said, even when I was Sephora's age, I wasn't quit as obsessed as she seems to be.  My sex obsession was mostly about myself, as most teenagers obsessions are, and maybe on occasion other people popped into my horny brain, but mostly as curiosity, or how it related to me.  I think what was a bit...I don't know...weird...uncomfortable...was her obsession with her mother's sexuality.  Now me and my Mamma are bestest friends and always have been.  I probably know more about her sex life then I ever wanted, that being said, I don't ever remember dwelling on it the Seph does.  I also found it unsettling at how much she knowing enjoyed having sex with a much much older man.  Not just a couple years older, not just eyebrow raising older, but legally and mentally so not ok older.  Can we say Daddy issues?  Ok, enough about sex lol.

Mamma's - As weird as Sephora's obsession with her mom at some points was, I have to admit I identify to some degree.  I am one of those lucky girls who's mom is also her legit best friend.  I have been super tight with her since birth and I have loved every moment with her.  Every time I get to read about a kid having a decent, and even better, a wonderful relationship with a parent it makes me so happy, especially since this isn't always the trend.  My Mamma was also a single mother for a time, my Mamma also made sure her kids knew they were loved, wanted and strong, my Mamma also knows how to draw people to her with her charisma...and let's face it... my Mamma is pretty hot.  I am always proud and happy when people tell me I'm just like my Mamma, 'cause their is no one on Earth I would rather be compared to.  So reading about a character who is also in complete vibe with her mamma, even when they disagree, she knows it will be ok, this speaks to me.

Fairy Tales/Myths - Can I make a confession?  I'm getting a little tired of authors thinking they are so clever and original when they "discover" the non-Disney version of fairy tales.  This theme of re-discovery and re-telling of fairy tales, while still valid, and on occasion still well done, is no longer new or original.  I have been reading for a really long time, and while these versions may not have been the height of popularity for a time, they have been making a significant resurgence for years.  This is not to say that they are not relevent, or good, or even awesome.  I'm just sick of authors passing it off as if it's this new original thing that they are so cutting edge to do so.  Ok rant over.  The tales that were added were at least on point to the message the author was trying to get across, so that was good.  And to be honest I am never gonna turn down a myth or fairy tale, 'cause those be my faves.

Overall I keep going back and forth in my feelings on this book.  One one hand I really enjoyed the atmosphere the author created.  I also appreciated some of the characters and I can't resist a good fairy tale.  On the flip side, there were just a few too many times where I was rolling my eyes or telling myself "are you seriously for real serious (love my lack of vocab today lol) THAT would never happen in a million years".  Apparently I'm not the only one having trouble with this book.  The reviews I've read are split into three categories.  1)  Loved this book, dealt with the tough issues nobody wants to talk about.  2) ew ew ew ew ew she slept with her DAD! ew ew ew ew  3)  I'm confused I really enjoyed/really disliked this book all at the same time.  I think I fall into the last category.  There were some things I thought were really well done, yet at the same time there were some things I was just like...um....no.  I give this book I don't know...maybe a 6 out of 10 penny mermaids and recommend it to anybody who wants some atmosphere and doesn't mind some werirdness.  So reading through this I realize my articulation skill are almost nihl, so I will stop here.  Let me know your thoughts on books like this.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Read Reading Read

You guys!!!!  I am on a roll...well kind of...I mean a little bit.  Anyways I have finally gotten some legit reading time in and have either finished, or am in the middle of or close to finishing a bunch of really thought provoking books.  I have at least one I LOVE, one I, not quite hated, but definitely did not like, I have one that has me on the fence and a whole pile to go!  So here is my problem...which one do I ramble about first?  Which one is more important, which one inspires me?  Do you want to hear me rant, or ramble?  And the most important question of all...do I want to quit reading to take the time to write some really great rambles?!?   Seriously though, this is one of the downfalls of writing this blog.  I have all these amazing books (both good, bad and unknown) that are being read, or waiting to be read.  I finish these wonders and then my head gets all excited about the rambling...then I pick up the next book in the stack and POOF all thoughts of stopping to write a post just go away.  Later though when I'm thinking about it, I wish I had written the post sooner...and now I am probably making less sense then usual...anyways just know that there are some ramblings coming just as soon as I can make myself put the books down...and the chaos incarnate that is my life gives me a moment to breath. What I really need is somebody to listen to me verbally go nuts about these books, then write a coherent post about them lol.   Happy Reading Everybody!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Groceries And Books

Hola readers, how is everybody today?  I am absolutley exhausted.  Just got off a 52 hour shift at the fire house where I got to remember how much I love being an EMT.  Before getting to go to sleep, Hubbin reminded me that we probably should hit the grocery store so that I would have some food and wine when I woke up.  You want to know the best thing about grocery shopping?  It's right next to a Barnes and Nobles...one that has coffee in it!  So pretty much every time we go grocery shopping, we stop for coffee first.
 And since we are already in a book store...yeah.  This has the wonderful effect of making the mundane chore of grocery shopping into a rewarding book and coffee acquiring trip.  Not so great on my bank account, awesome for my bookshelves!  Hope you all have a place to pick up books while doing mundane errands.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cat Girl In The Basement

Who's ready for a rambling?  Yay, me too!  Today I will ramble about a book that has been on my radar and on my bookshelf for a while.  It has been part of my backpack of bookness  for and I was in the mood for a random book, so I put my hand into the backpack, pulled out this book and read it in two days.  The book is Serafina and the Black Cloak, a young adult novel by Robert Beatty.  Was it as awesome as the best seller list said it was?  I'll let you know, but first as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
 Serafina is a pre-teen girl who has spent her whole life hidden with her father in the basement of the famous Biltmore Estate in the 1890's.  Serafina spends most of her time napping during the day and using her unusual talents to catch rats in the extensive house.  She is no sure why her father hides hers away so carefully, but figures it has something to do with her strange coloring and the way her bones seemed to be just a bit malformed.  She has spent her whole life skulking around and observing the life that she can never have.  Her father has also warned her away from the forests that surround the estate, telling her that they are very dangerous.  One night while catching rats, Serafina runs into a horrible, rotting apparition that is clothed in a mysterious black cloak.  The worst part however is that he has kidnapped a young girl and when Serafina tries to help, the cloak envelopes the girl and she disappears with a scream.  The man in the black cloaks see's Serafina and chases her, but she manages to hid using her ability to fit into tiny spaces.  She goes up and spies on the house the next morning and learns one of the guests little girls is missing.  She tries to explain to her father, but he tells her she has read to many books and must have imagined it.  Sera goes exploring on her own and meets up with Braeden, the orphaned nephew of the Vanderbilts, the  owners/builders of the Biltmore Estate.  The two of them become friends and start to investigate the missing children, as they have come to find out that there were other's missing.  Sera tries again to talk to her father and finally learns the truth of her birth.  Years ago he had been out in the woods and came across some sort of wild animal.  He heard what sounded like cries and when he followed the sound, he came upon a small creature that resembled a human girl.  He took her home and eventually got a job at the Biltmore Estate, first as a construction worker, then as a maintenance man, all the while living and hiding himself and his adopted daughter in the house.  Much investigation and adventures follow with Sera and Braeden becoming tight friends.  Sera starts to suspect a Mr. Thorn, a guest of the Biltmore Estate who seems to mysteriously obtain a new talant every time a child disappears. Sera is chased into the woods and she after running through a mysterious, body less cemetery in an abandoned village she ends up in a green area with a mysterious angel holding a sharp sword.  There is also a mountain lion den, which holds a pair of lion cubs that Sera bonds with.  She is almost killed when the cubs lion mamma comes back and finds her.  More stuff and Sera lures Mr. Thorn away into the glade and gets the lioness to shred him.  She takes the cloak and learns it's evil history and how it was responsible for the town being abandon.  It tempts her to take it for her self, but she uses the sword to destroy it.  Once the cloak is destroyed, all the spirits that were taken are released, including the missing children.  Turns out the cloak would absorb the spirits and bestow the life and talent upon the wearer of the cloak.  One of the released people is Serafina's mother...actually it's the human half of a being known as a catamount, which is essentially a human/ mountain lion shape shifter.  This is where Sera get's her interesting oddness from.  The kid's are taken back to their grateful parents with a story of being lost in the woods, as nobody would really believe that they were trapped in a cloak.  The Vanderbilts have finally learned of Sera's existence and allow her and her father to continue to live in the basement.  Sera and Braeden remain fast friends and the next adventure starts in the next book.

World Building - The book is set in a historical location, but with a fantasy twist.  I don't know, the world was really well built...but I had a very hard time reconciling the fake fantasy world with it's non existent elements aka the abandon village and such, with what is a well known and well documented local historical landmark, but more on that later.  That being said, the world was well wrought and easy to navigate, especially the nooks and crannies of the big house and some of the cemetery aspects added to the overall story.

Story - This felt like a middle grade story, if that makes sense.  This is not a bad thing, sometimes I feel that authors try and get to clever, or to adult when it comes to this age group and this story really feels like it is written for the 9-12 club and in that sense it makes me very happy.  I however am not a 9-12 year old and felt that the book over all read a little young.  Again not a bad thing for the target group.  For the most part the story was complete and engaging.  The biggest complaint I had about the story (besides the historical aspect, which will get it's own area) was that I felt like it was trying to do a little to much.  We had so many elements to the story, and not all of them were tied together as well as I thought they could be.  So I guess overall the story was ok, but needed some work.

Character - This book had an interesting mix of historical figures and fictional characters which for me personally worked with mixed results.  As far as individuals go, I found Serafina to be a pretty good character, especially for the target age group.  She is feisty, self-sufficient, and not overly confident.  She has a lot of angst over her unknown past and reacts as most  9-12 year olds would to the event's that transpire.  Everybody else is fairly stock or background so yeah.

Editing - The flow of the book was pretty well done, I was able to follow everything with out too much trouble so that was good.  Again, as I mentioned, I felt like there were just too many elements.  We had the mysterious girl with all the weird physical stuff, we have the historic estate, we have a mystery involving missing children and a soul eating cloak, we have a mysterious origin story, we have an abandon village, we have a sword wielding stone angel, we have shape shifting cats...we have SO MUCH GOING ON!  I feel like I would have preferred if the author just focused on a couple of these elements at a time, especially since it is going to be a series.  Also a few things got tossed in with no explanation which always drives me nuts.

History/Fantasy - Ok, so here is where personal opinion comes in...so just remember that...this is just my bloggy opinion.  I find that the mixing of history and fantasy is hit or miss.  When it is done well, it can be awesome.  However more often then not, it just bugs the heck out of me.  This book is one of those that bugs me and here is why.  We know the entire history of the Biltmore Estate.  We know how and when it was built and by who and their whole personal history.  Nowhere ever is their an orphaned nephew, nowhere ever is their an abandoned village....in fact the forest around the estate was planted by the builders.  There are no local legends of catamounts so pretty much the author just appropriated the setting and a couple of real life people then totally went his own merry way with the rest.  I would have much preferred if the author, inspired by the Biltmore Estates, had come up with his own setting and characters...even if they were a homage to the originals.  I found it very distracting the liberties the author took with the history of this place and it's builders.

Family - One thing I did very much enjoy about this book was the portrayal of family.  We get to see every single type of family imaginable.  We see mom, dad and kid, we see family adopting on of their own, we see single parents, we see a gruff guy becoming an amazing dad by happenstance.  A shape shifting mountain lion being a mother from afar.  To me it just reaffirms the fact that anybody can be family if they are willing to put the effort in.  I always love it when a book shows us that a family can be more then just the traditional nuclear family and that as long as you try to love each other, all family is good family.

Bucket List - For all of my whining about the mix of history and fantasy, the Biltmore Estate has now gone on my Literary Bucket List.  I only live about 6-8 hours away from this place and it looks amazing.  I would love to do my best to fanagle my way into seeing some of the awesome places described in the book.  This one is very doable so keep an eye out for a post about it.

Overall Impression - I did not find this book to be my personal cup of tea...that being said, I totally get the appeal of this book, especially in the middle grade crowd that it is targeted for.  I will probably grab the second book at some point, but am not chomping at the bit for it.  I recommend it to anybody who wants to get their kid to read more and needs a good page turner.  I give it 6 out of 10 frayed rope belts.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Busboys And Poets

One of my fire station book club girls of awesome recommended this place to me...thought I might like it for some reason lol.  Hubbin being the wise man that he is took the suggestion and me and my girl L out for dinner last night.

The place is Busboys and Poets and is essentially a bookstore inside of an awesome restaurant.  There is all kinds of books, poetry, artwork and originality inside each different place.  If you ever get the chance you should stop in.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Book Of Imagination

Been getting a lot of reading time in with the nephews lately, I love how it expands their imagination.
Book of Imagination
I really don't think there is anything better we can do for the young ones then encourage a love of reading.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Warm Up With A Mug

It's that time of year again, the time of year that we all want to snuggle up in a blanket and read.  Of course to complete this pretty picture you need a big old mug of something hot.  It can be anything, coffee, tea, cider, cocoa, any number of delicious things that come in a mug.  Here are some perfect mugs to use to warm up with on our snuggly reading day.
Accio Coffee
If only it was this easy to refill my coffee!
Lord of the Rings Mug
Only true lovers of the Lord of the Rings will get this mug :-)
Disappearing Cheshire Cat Mug
Besides being an awesome original illustration, the cat disappears when you pour in a hot drink SO AWESOME!

Narnia Mug
Sigh...I still look in every closet I come across.
Game of Thrones Mug
Exactly what one needs after a night that is dark and full of terrors.

So for real though, anybody who sends me any of these will forever be on my favorite person list and get so much awesome reading vibes!!!!  I can't wait to go curl up with a hot brew and a good book.  Happy Reading Everybody!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

As You Wish Behind The Scenes

Happy New Years!  What better way to start of this fresh and shiny new year then to finish a brand new book?  How about three books?!?  Yep, I finally actually took my days off to read instead of picking up shifts lol.  So get ready for some ramblings my friends.  Let's start with...As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden.  Since it is more of a non-fiction book the rambling may be a bit different then normal, but let's give it a go shall we?
In essence this is a behind the scenes/memoir of the making, releasing and results of one of the best movies ever The Princess Bride which is based on the book The Princess Bride by William Goldman who also wrote the screenplay.  I love the book, I love the movie, I love Cary Elwes (Westley) so pretty much happiness all the way around.  The book is written from Mr. Elwes point of view and we follow him from the beginning.  We hear about his audition, how nervous he was and how wonderful Rob Reiner  (Director) was/is (we hear this about 1000 times so it must be true :-) )  He moves on to the intense and insane amount of training he and Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya)  had to go through, not only initially, but in between every take during filming to be ready for their epic fencing scene.  It is described as the best in the book so therefore the two were expected to be up to snuff.  We are with him when he meets the beautiful and enigmatic Robin Wright (Buttercup) and the two hit it off in perfect movie chemistry.  Wallace Shawn (Vizzini) apparently is terrified of heights and failing in his role.  Christopher Guest (Count Tyrone) and Chris Sarandon (Prince Humperdink) add there two cent's about playing the villain's in this amazing show.  Billy Crystal (Mad Max) and Carol Kane (Valerie) kept the cast in stitches during their brief days of improvised filming.  I think though it's the stories of Andre the Giant (Fezzik) and his astounding gentleness that will really get to people who read this book.  Through out the filming we learn on how Cary Elwes was injured twice...once because of his own questionable choice of hopping on an ATV, and once when he insisted on having Christopher Guest actually hit him on the head with a sword...not really understanding how heavy it actually was.  Cary tells us about the dinners that they all shared in each others rooms, and even more about how great Rob was.  We get stories from on set, especially the stunts required for the Fire Swamp scenes.  All of this is supplemented with little blurbs from other cast and crew members tucked in through out the book.  The book ends as most of the casts gets together for the 25th anniversary amazed and thrilled at how much a part of peoples life their movie has become.
World Building - Obviously this is non-fiction, so what we are looking at is how well the author conveyed his environment, and our friend did a great job at that.  At any given time I could tell where and even when we were in the process of the film.  I think sometimes it is harder to convey a real place then an imaginary one because you can't take near as many liberties with your descriptions.

Story - It was pretty cool to see a person who was pretty much in almost every scene of the movie tell us what actually went on.  Mr. Ewles gave us all of it from audition through the 25th anniversary so no time was left out.  That being said I felt that there was a lot of repetitiveness overall and that things were reiterated ad nausea.  This was reinforced by the blurbs of the others that should have added to the story, but instead felt like a borderline word for word repetition of what the author had already said.

Character - Mr. Ewles gave us a lot of insight into the crew and cast of the film.  I felt like I got to know the people behind one of my favorite films better.  Billy Crystals parts were hilarious and made me love him even more.  I have always heard stories of Andre's gentleness, but getting to know his history and his struggles added even more of a glow to this guy.  The only real thing I found lacking was the effusive praise that went on in the book.  Everybody loved everybody so much, no body irritated each other, everybody was perfect...I understand that this was really not a rowdy bunch and that they all behaves for the most part...but the over the top continual and repetitive love fest got a little old.

Editing - The flow of the book was really good.  You always knew where in the process you were so as far as that went good editing.  The tone as I've mentioned (and am now of danger of being guilty of myself) was just so repetitive.  You would feel like the story was about to move on and then BAM we were once again reiterating the wonderfulness of everybody.  I feel like the editor (or maybe the ghost writer) should have found a way to mix it up a little.

The Gift - I know I have mentioned it in a previous post...but I've got to again mention the coolness of how I got this book.  My amazing Mamma took months and I'm sure no small amount of money to obtain a copy that was signed by the Dread Pirate Roberts/Westley/Cary Elwes himself.  This alone would have made it pretty awesome.  The fact that this is a) a book about b) one of my favorite movie that is c) based on one of my favorite books and d) is signed by an actor I adore who e) wrote said book in point a.  So pretty much the worlds most perfect gift.

Book/Movie - Aside from getting some insight into the making of the film...this book made me crave a rewatch of the movie and a reread of the original book.  Upon watching the movie again, it was cool to see some of the secrets that were revealed in the memoir.  You can bet I paid special attention to the fight scenes.  I also need to reread the book.  Hearing about the passion of the author when it comes to what he considers his favorite work...in let's face it, is a hugely accomplished body of work, makes me eager to enjoy it with a new perspective.

Lovefest - Ok Ok Ok, I know I just spent half this rambling complaining about the repetitive love fest...but on a totally different note...it's kinda cool to know that the cast and crew seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience.  You watch movies like this and hope that everything about it was magical, and to find out that it seems like it actually was...well it kind of gets me right in the feels.

Overall Impression - The absolutely awesome amazing way I obtained this book will always give it a very special place in my heart and on my bookshelf.  That being said...I would have loved it even more if it was a bit better written/edited.  Without hesitation I recommend it to ANYBODY who loves the movie (so pretty much any real human with any sort of heart) and can't get enough.  I give it 10 out of 10 on a nostalgia Cliffs of Insanity Scale and a 6 out of 10 on rereadability R.O.U.S. scale.  Happy Reading Everybody!