Year of 52 Books #11: Shakespeare Manuscript

The Shakespeare Manuscript, by Stewart Buettner

**

I picked this book up by browsing through the Kindle Top 100 selling free books list. The premise looked interesting to me—an old manuscript that appears to be an earlier draft of the Hamlet story, or more accurately, a prequel to Hamlet, shows up in a trunk of old documents and a struggling theater troupe decides to mount a production in hopes that it will bring them the boost they need. And it was interesting, and even bordered on can’t-put-it-down (I really wanted to see what happened next), but ultimately it was more frustrating than anything else.

You see, one of the ground rules of writing is Show, Don’t Tell. From reading the description of this book and the author’s experience in writing, I don’t know if he’s a trained writer; I got the impression that he’s something else (a theater type, maybe?) who got an idea and decided to write a book about it. I think it’s also semi-self-published, which, good for him. But at any rate it seems clear that even if he is a trained writer, he missed class the day they explained Show, Don’t Tell.

I’m not talking about his descriptive diction or his approach to writing individual scenes. I’m talking about plot. Put simply: too much of the action took place offstage. There were so many times in this book when MAJOR plot points were not shown; someone told us about them later in passing. I felt severely cheated in a lot of instances because even the telling tended to gloss over what I thought were important parts. One of the more egregious examples: one chapter ends with one of the major characters being rushed away from the rehearsal retreat in an ambulance. It’s not until several chapters later that anyone even mentions him again and we find out what happened. And those intervening chapters are full of scenes and incidents where all the people who watched the ambulance leave are together; where it would be natural and right to explain what the resolution of that particular piece of drama is; where, in short, it feels unnatural to NOT mention it. This isn’t creating an aura of mystery or suspense to serve the plot of the story; this is straight up withholding information from the reader just because you want to have a big shocking reveal later.

(It’s like starting Gone With the Wind with the picnic at Tara and then skipping ahead to a scene where Scarlett, in between wondering if Rhett really loves her or that Belle Watling character, thinks in passing that he just hasn’t been the same since Atlanta got burned down and everything was destroyed and I nearly starved to death in the ruins of Tara, and does he really like me or is it just in my imagination?)

Other scenes of omission (sorry; my dad is hopelessly addicted to puns and sometimes I just can’t help myself) aren’t as obvious, but they are just as annoying. Yes, sometimes it’s a good and effective trick to show a scene through its aftermath, but you actually have to 1) explain enough of what happened in the scene that the aftermath makes sense and 2) have the aftermath actually move somewhere and have some sort of action or resolution in re: said scene. I feel like I got half of a good novel: the anguished uncertainty of love interior monologue half. There were so many words spent on what the two main viewpoint characters thought of their respective love interests that it really underscored how many words WEREN’T said about actual plot or action scenes.

Things I would love to have seen or to have had explained:

*What is up with the main character’s sudden-onset agoraphobia anyway? As in, how did it get started and how is she suddenly miraculously okay enough with it to function?

*What is up with the dead brother/son that nobody ever mentions? Even when they finally get to this explanation, it isn’t explained.

*What was the horrible thing the professor said to the love interest that caused the major insurmountable fight that is then surmounted in roughly two minutes of interior monologue?

*What’s the backstory between main character and skeazy actor? It’s mentioned so many times that there IS a backstory but we are NEVER given any details.

*Did the wife really flirt with the brother-in-law or was the husband just really drunk?

*Where the heck did that divorce come from? (Oh, wait, left field is where.)

*What happened after said divorce came out of said left field?

*Why is main character still fighting with older brother? Why does older brother put up with it? Why does he work for a politician?

*While we’re at it, what’s the deal with brother-in-law? Or with secretary? Or with any number of people, all of whom seem to be important cogs in this book and have important scenes that ALL HAPPEN OFFSTAGE?

*Is British bookseller actually creepy or is it just the aftereffects of crazy dad’s amnesia?

*Who really wrote the manuscript? (Actually, this one I was okay with the ambiguity on—this book is more about the waves the manuscript causes than the actual manuscript itself. It’s just that, with all the other stuff that got left out, I felt like maybe the author could have thrown us a small bone on this one.)

In short: just because one character gets major amnesia doesn’t mean you have to make the reader feel like she also got amnesia and forgot half of the book.

I can only give this book two stars, which really makes me sad, because I wanted so badly to like it and because it really was gripping enough that I read it straight through in a fever of wanting to know what happens next. But if a book refuses to tell you what happened before, what’s happening now or what happens next, the best premise in the world can’t save it. Two stars.

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Year of 52 Books #10: Life of Pi

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

***

Surprisingly, this was not a re-read for me. I know this book has been around forever and I had been hearing of it for a long time. What may be more surprising, though, is that with all the buzz, I really didn’t know anything about the plot going into this book. I picked it up as a Kindle Daily Deal (oh, KDD, how I love thee!) because I like buying titles I recognize for cheap as free.

I feel that a little context is necessary for my review. The week before we made the big cross-country move, my husband was already in Florida getting things set up and starting his job. I was back in Utah packing up everything and taking care of our 18-month-old son, who decided to get RSV exactly eight days before we were scheduled to fly out and two days before my husband was supposed to come home to help me with the final arrangements and such. Long and harrowing story short, I ended up spending a very long and very bad night in the hospital as they monitored my son’s breathing and heart rate (fortunately they didn’t end up having to put him on oxygen and he was better enough to go home the next day). I got very little sleep, due to both the assorted blinking and beeping coming from the monitors and an overabundance of worry from various sources, listed here in roughly descending order: 1) my son, 2) the fact that my husband was out-of-state, 3) the fact that I didn’t have time for this emergency what with the tight packing schedule, 4) the fact that I was moving cross country soon, and 5) the fact that I was hungry and thirsty and suspected that the hospital staff had forgotten their promise to bring me some cheese and crackers and a cup of ice water.

To try and get my mind off of these various issues, I started reading a new book on my Kindle app on my iPhone, and happened to choose Life of Pi. Thus I did not start reading it in the most auspicious of circumstances, nor did I finish reading it in the most auspicious of circumstances. Turns out that a toddler with RSV tends to pass it on to you if he coughs in your face repeatedly because he’s too exhausted to turn his head away from you and is so sick and sad that you can’t put him down for more than 30 seconds at a time. So, three days after our hospital stay, I was fighting through RSV myself while packing up two moving pods. Fortunately my bout did not require any hospital time, but I did spend the bulk of the next day curled up with my iPhone on an air mattress, a lump of pathetic misery, finishing this book. (Needless to say, this move was not the smoothest or most organized one we’ve ever made.)

But as for the book itself: I liked it. It was able to distract me enough from the crappy situation I was going through and entertain and even uplift me. My favorite part was the description of the events leading to Pi’s becoming a devout follower and active practicer of three different religions at once (Hindu, Islam and Christianity). I loved his descriptions of his first encounters with other religions and how he came to love his two adopted religions as well as the religion of his birth. I wish that this theme had been kept up a little more throughout the section on the Pacific Ocean. Not that the Pacific Ocean wasn’t exciting and enthralling as well; but it didn’t have the heart of the book that I had fallen in love with at the beginning, the tripartite faith of this young man.

Like The Princess Bride, this book is written as a frame story, with the narrator ostensibly interviewing an older Pi about his life story. Since, as I said, I knew basically nothing about this book going in, and my Kindle edition didn’t specifically say “A Novel” on it, I wasn’t sure at first if this was fiction or non-fiction. It added another layer to the reading experience for me, wondering if it was actually true or not. I know that part of the point of the book is to look at what is or isn’t true and choose the story that means the most to us, but it still was sad to determine for certain that this book was fiction after I finished reading it, and I think that revelation made me like it a little less than I had. That’s not really fair to the author, of course; but that’s the way it is.

All in all, this book was a solid good read and a much-needed distraction for me during that last horrible week before the move. I don’t know if I would have liked it more or less if I’d read it in different circumstances, but as it is I can recommend it as a good book, as long as you don’t get too squeamish (certain of the lifeboat scenes are a bit gruesome). Three stars.

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Year of 52 Books #9: Persuasion

Persuasion by Jane Austen

*****

Side note: I love this cover and wish I had a copy of this version. What a perfect image for this book!

When people ask what my favorite book or movie is, I usually can’t give them a simple answer. It’s like choosing a favorite child (even though I only have the one), I say. I love so many books; you can’t possibly ask me to name just one favorite! I hem and haw and list five or ten books on my rotating favorites list.

But I’m going to admit, here and now, that I really do have one single favorite book, and that it’s Persuasion.

I’ve been thinking over this review for a few weeks now and have been having much more difficulty writing it than might be expected, given that I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this book and that I love nearly everything about it. But it’s important to me that I properly articulate why this book means so much to me.

It surprises me sometimes that more people don’t know about Persuasion. Everyone knows and loves Pride and Prejudice, which is kind of the sparkly diamond necklace of the Austen canon: beautiful and dazzling and obviously worthwhile. Persuasion is more of the tiny gold band, plain and sweet and perfect, fitted to the hand from long wear and love. Most people also know about Sense and Sensibility and Emma, mainly because they know Emma Thompson or Kate Winslet or Gwyneth Paltrow. Not as many people know Amanda Root, which means that not as many people know Anne Elliot, which is a true shame.

This book, to me, provides much more than “occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one.” It is the book above all others that I know I can go to at any time and in any mood and come away feeling whole and happy, enlightened and enlivened.

It may sound silly to wax so poetic about what many would view as a typical chick-flick-Austen-love-story: poor boy meets well-to-do girl, they get engaged, she is persuaded by (probably snobby) friends that it would be better for him if she broke off the engagement, he gets upset and leaves to make a great career for himself in the Navy, she stays home and never marries. So far, so Nicholas Sparks.

Their paths do not cross again for eight years, which time has served to confirm Anne’s belief that Captain Frederick Wentworth was her ideal match, and to solidify Captain Wentworth’s anger at the woman he loved but who had not, as he believed, loved him well enough to keep him. He turns up in the neighborhood to visit his sister and to look for a wife—any woman but Anne Elliot.

Things work out, as they tend to do in Austen novels, but in a real and moving way that flows perfectly, leaving you with a sense that all is as it should be. No grand coincidences or deus ex machinas here. Anne and Captain Wentworth are drawn back together because there is no other way the world can possibly be; they are meant for each other.

But, for me, this is not primarily a love story.

I will admit that my love of love stories certainly doesn’t diminish my pleasure in this book, and that my sentimental heart beats wildly along with Anne’s through the more suspenseful and sweet portions of the story. But it’s not the romance that keeps me coming back to revisit this book every year or six months.

Ultimately, this is a story about hope. Hope that things can be mended, that mistakes can be made right. Hope that life can be good and worthwhile even if you have family troubles or heartbreak or other problems. And yes, the hope that lost love can return.

I think that’s why the basic Persuasion-style plot line—love is thwarted for a long time but eventually triumphs—is so popular and sees so many iterations. One of the more recent ones I can think of is the delightful movie Letters to Juliet. The ostensible main story line about a perky young journalist (Amanda Seyfried) looking to get her big break and her sparring with the grandson of a woman she’s writing about is cute enough, your standard chick-flick fare. But the secondary story about the grandmother, played by the inimitable Vanessa Redgrave, is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. Simply enough, this grandmother comes back to Italy after fifty years to find the boy she fell in love with as a girl and tell him that she’s sorry she didn’t meet him to run away together like she’d promised. She’s not necessarily looking for a grand reunion, romance, the works. She just wants to tell a person who was important to her that she’s sorry she let him down.

Of course things work out, just as they do in Persuasion. But if things never worked out, how would we be able to hope? If we had no memory of light, no hope that it would return, how would we bear the darkness? If we didn’t think that things could be mended, why would we ever try to make them right?

Anne, for all the dreary stretch of years clouded by regret, the dearth of real friendship and companionship in her life and the pain of suspense that she faces, still manages to keep hope and life and quiet joy alive, even when things look bleakest. That is her triumph. Even if Captain Wentworth had married Louisa, Anne would have kept that hope in life. The fact that things DO work out is just the icing on the cake.

And that is why this is my favorite book.

Well, that and the fact that Captain Wentworth can write one heck of a letter.

Five stars.

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Year of 52 Books #8: The Woman in White

The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins

****

This was a re-read for my book club, but it’s a book I love. The first time I read this book, I was reading it online on Project Gutenberg during my breaks at work. My husband and I were getting ready to move around this same time, and the move date (when we’d be without internet for a couple of days) coincided with my reaching the part where Things Start to Get Really Good. I was also going to be taking a couple of days off work for both the move and my little sister’s wedding (yeah, I know, we have *great* timing), and I could not bear the thought of waiting that long to find out what happened, so I ended up taking time out from packing to run to three bookstores to find a copy because the first two were out.

And I’m glad I did. I think this was my fifth read of this book (yeah, I re-read a lot. I’ll discuss that in another post sometime) and the first time reading it with the specific plan of discussing it with other people, so it was fun to see what themes I picked up on this time that I had missed before or forgotten about.

This book is an early mystery novel of sorts, involving a strange woman in white, two half-sisters, a drawing teacher, a brutish baronet, an invalid uncle, assorted old ladies and a sinister count. Add mistaken identities, lunatic asylums, trained white mice, kidnapping, doomed love, sea voyages, attempted murder, arson, forgery, slander, scandal, and opera-loving Italians of all shapes and sizes to the mix and you have the makings of 400-ish pages of a whole lot of fun.

What can I say? I can’t really sum up the plot of this book succinctly, partly because Collins is anything but succinct. It’s told as a series of first-person narratives, ostensibly so that no part of the story is given second- or third-hand; each part of the story is related by an individual who was actually there to see it or take part. This is great but it means that when Walter is telling the story we have to listen to a lot of extraneous matter about how wonderful and beautiful and perfect Laura is, and when Marian is telling the story we have to listen to a lot of (unconvincing) regrets about how she can’t do anything to save them because she is only a weak woman.

Let me take a break here to say the lady doth protest too much. Wilkie Collins, in Marian Halcombe, appears to have created a character he didn’t quite know what to do with or how to control. She’s smart, she’s sassy, she’s resourceful, she’s basically awesome, but he needed Walter to be in love with Laura instead, you know, for plot reasons, so it feels like he had to keep artificially hobbling Marian to keep her from becoming the main love interest. To do this he specifies that she is ugly (yes, he even goes so far as to give her a bit of a mustache) and keeps having her remind us all that she is only a woman, and what can women do? A heck of a lot, Marian, as you keep showing at every turn. Seriously, Laura’s great and all, but you’re the heroine of this story in my book and only the VILLAIN has the sense to see it. Yeah, you read that right, the hero is in love with bland and actually-helpless and feminine to the core Laura, while the villain has the good sense to fall madly in love with spunky Marian.  (Actually, in the not-really-faithful-at-all 1930’s movie adaptation, the filmmakers DID make Marian the main love interest, kind of the same way that people can’t help but tinker with Fanny Price. This was possible because in the movie Marian did not have a mustache.)

Wilkie, your character was too good for you, and I hope you realize it. (I think you do, because you do have Walter, in his brief pauses between rhapsodizing on Laura’s perfections, mention how amazing a person and what a staunch ally and good friend Marian is. And hey, she’s the one he takes into his confidence when plotting! Seriously, the only thing keeping this woman from taking over the show is that tacked-on mustache. In my mind I see it kind of like a Mr. Potato Head accessory; just shoved on there as an afterthought once the author realized that he’d painted himself into the corner where his reader was naturally going to be rooting for the hero to get with the wrong girl.)

But even with these flaws, I still really enjoy this book. It’s long; it’s an investment and fun to curl up with knowing that you’ll be taking a long journey together. And the good news is that (other than the aforementioned rhapsodizing and self-deprecation from our respective main characters), there isn’t much wasted space (okay, okay, so a few of the landscape descriptions could also have been dropped). What I mean is, all the PLOT elements come back together; even what seem like throw-away bits end up being important to the story later.

If you can get past some Victorian stereotypes, can tolerate unnecessary facial hair, and like fun mystery-type stories, I recommend The Woman in White. It’s worth it, I promise. (Seriously. Just wait till you meet Fosco. He must be seen to be believed.) Four stars.

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Year of 52 Books #7: Midnight in Austenland

Midnight in Austenland, by Shannon Hale

****

 

Let me just get this out of the way to begin with: My friend Tracy (name changed) would probably hate this book.

Let me back up a bit.

Shannon Hale’s Austenland* is one of my go-to favorites for frothy and sweet but not stupid reading. I love Jane Austen, I love Shannon Hale, I love Colin Firth, I love romance and happy endings. I think Austenland was the first book I actually bought for my Kindle (mostly I just loaded up on freebies); I loved it enough to want to buy it again to have easy access to it all the time. It’s basically a one-long-sitting read and cheers me up every time. I even had my book club read it after we’d finished all the Jane Austen books, and it was enjoyed, even if not all of them loved it like I do.

Fast forward a few months from that book club meeting. I’m sitting at work one afternoon with my friend K, who is also in the book club, and our friend Tracy walks in. Without preamble, she declares to the room, “Have you ever read Austenland? Don’t. Worst book ever.”

This isn’t the only book we emphatically disagree on. She loves Eragon. She hates Jane Eyre. I think her main complaint with Austenland is that it *SPOILER ALERT* ended happily. (I sometimes wonder if she also hates puppies and sunshine. Not really. And I love her dearly. But that Jane Eyre thing makes me worry sometimes.)

Anyway. Midnight in Austenland is the, well, not really sequel, but follow-up to Austenland. It takes place in the same setting—a fictional resort in England where rich women pay fabulous amounts of money to have an immersive Jane Austen vacation experience, complete with handsome actors in breeches whose job is to make the guests feel enchanting—but most of the characters (with a few sparkling exceptions) are different. While Austenland took its inspiration more from Pride and Prejudice, with healthy doses of Persuasion and Mansfield Park thrown in, Midnight is most closely allied with Northanger Abbey. It’s basically Shannon Hale’s nod to the Gothic novel and is more of a mystery novel than a romance, although it also *SPOILER ALERT* ends happily. (Sorry, Tracy.)

This book features Charlotte, a successful entrepreneur who discovered Jane Austen’s books after her husband left her for a woman named Justice. (Yes, really.) Her two children are spending a few weeks with their father during the summer and she decides to take her first vacation in years. A casual mention of Jane Austen to her travel agent ends up with Charlotte booking a two-week stay at Pembrook Park. Once there, she begins to lose track of what is real and what is only make-believe, and she must decide whether she actually has uncovered a sinister mystery or if it is only part of the entertainment.

I love Shannon Hale’s voice and the way her books make you feel like a member of a cool little club with the narrator’s sly comments and the inner monologue her characters carry on. She is witty and intelligent and obviously having a whole lot of fun writing these books. But I also enjoy these books because although they are firmly planted in the “just-for-fun” category, they’re actually well written and smart. There’s substance going on; they’re not just cotton candy. They’re well researched and stand on their own rather than being mere derivative fanfic. They’re definitely more frothy than most of her other books, so if you’re coming to these books expecting the beautiful literary prose tone of, say, The Goose Girl, you might be disappointed. But the writing is still excellent and well-crafted and the humor is great, and the characters are ones that you wouldn’t mind curling up and spending an afternoon with.

I’d recommend reading Austenland first, just because I love it and it gives you a bit of perspective on some of the events of Midnight in Austenland, but Midnight can stand on its own quite easily if you haven’t read Austenland (or, you know, if you trust Tracy’s judgment more than mine or if you hate happiness and butterflies). Four stars.

 

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, there are actually many books on which Tracy and I agree; I’d be willing to bet that in most instances trusting her judgment wouldn’t be all that different from trusting mine. 

 

*Brief synopsis of Austenland for those who are interested: Jane Hayes is a thirtysomething with a string of bad relationships and an unhealthy obsession with Mr. Darcy as played by Colin Firth. Compared to Darcy, real men just don’t stack up. When Jane’s great-aunt dies and leaves her an all-expenses-paid vacation to Pembrook Park, a Jane-Austen-themed resort, Jane decides that maybe this will be the best way to kick her Darcy fixation for good.

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Year of 52 Books #6: The Princess Bride

Yes, I’m back, for those of you keeping track. The cross-country move went well but the dust is still settling so I’ll be playing catch-up for a bit, but I should be posting more frequently now. So, without further ado, I give you book number six in my year of 52 books:

The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

*****

This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.

So begins one of my favorite books, The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. This book has been a source of both happiness and confusion to me since I was a young child.

I should explain. As you may have caught on, I’m a bit of a movie geek. Yeah. I’m the one who can rattle off actor resumes and Bacon scores faster than IMDb. If you don’t understand a comment I just made, there’s about a 75% chance that it’s a quote from a movie (and an 80% chance in that case that it’s a movie you’ve never heard of, let alone seen). I, like my father before me, stay until the end of the movie in the theater, not to see if there are any extra scenes, but to read the credits. (The advent of extra scenes, however, has really helped to convince the people with and around us not to bug us to leave early. True story: my parents were once asked to leave a movie theater. They had gone to a late showing of the Disney classic Alice in Wonderland—the real one, not that Tim Burton nonsense—and were the last people left in the theater because my dad was watching the credits. The cleaning staff just wanted to go home so they asked my parents to leave.)

But I digress.

The Princess Bride was one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater. There was an old dollar theater near our house called The Arcade, and that’s where I remember seeing such movies as The Rescuers, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp (I chose to see that for my birthday movie, probably when I was three or four, and the projector broke), The Little Mermaid and, of course, The Princess Bride. I loved that movie. When it came out on VHS my aunt got it, whereupon she was the most-requested babysitter at our house in spite of the fact that she lived nearly an hour away. One of the best days of my young life was when The Princess Bride had  its network TV broadcast premiere and my dad recorded it so that now we had our own family copy (the downside was that this was the copy I was most familiar with growing up and so I was surprised when I went to college and got my own copy of the movie and there were parts in there I didn’t recognize because the TV version had been edited to run in the time allotted. I made up for it, though, and three years later actually became the campus champion of Princess Bride trivia. No, I am not kidding. My prize: a Princess Bride frisbee full of gummy worms, which the event organizers called “shrieking eels.” The reason I chose that prize was because I already had a copy of the movie, the book and the soundtrack, which is not surprising when you consider how I wound up knowing all that trivia in the first place).

But (coming back to the aforementioned confusion) my mom had raised a question when I was little that had always made me wonder. In the movie, when the grandfather starts reading, he says, “The Princess Bride, by S. Morgenstern. Chapter One.” But in the credits, my mom pointed out that  it says it’s based on William Goldman’s book. Which is the real author?

The real author, of course, is William Goldman. But his book is ostensibly “the good parts version”—that is, he’s writing it as though he’s abridging S. Morgenstern’s longer book, just keeping the good parts and getting rid of all the boring political satire that Morgenstern supposedly stuffed into it. But it’s done well enough that when I first read this book in the sixth grade (no, this isn’t a children’s book), I really did think there was an unabridged version floating around out there. I’m not sure how long it took me to figure out the truth, but much longer than it probably should have. (I’m guessing somewhere around my junior year of high school is when I finally accepted the fact that I would never get to read the hat-packing scenes. It’s kind of like learning about Santa.)

But coming to the book itself—it is simply wonderful. The movie, excellent as it is, doesn’t half do it justice. I still, to this day, am disappointed while reading the passages from the Zoo of Death because they’re not in the movie and it would have been so cool to see them! And then I remember that I don’t like seeing pictures or video or real life of snakes or spiders and think, well, okay, the Pit of Despair will do. But I still use the Zoo of Death passages as great examples of suspense and good writing in classes. I also love how much more back story you get with the characters (young Inigo listening to Domingo and Yeste in particular gives me the giggles), and I have to say that it’s much, much easier to understand the dialogue in the movie’s swordfight scene once you’ve read the book.

William Goldman is an excellent writer in every sense. You’re probably familiar with his work even if you don’t realize it—he’s an amazing and successful screenwriter as well. Think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, Misery, Maverick, and of course The Princess Bride. But this book is a marvel of creation and of construction. Everything fits seamlessly together, especially the way he uses the frame story of the abridgment and his father first reading the book to him when he was sick as a child to actually help tell the story. Writers should study this book to see how a master crafts a story.

It’s come to the point where I don’t know for sure which I’ve done more, read the book or watch the movie. But it had been a long time since my last re-read (I know because I found a ticket stub to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban tucked inside my copy when I opened it), and I needed something familiar, comforting and lighthearted-but-not-stupid after the emotional wringer that was Wintergirls. The Princess Bride did the trick very nicely, like a long conversation with an old friend, the kind where you both end up laughing so hard you can barely breathe.

All I can say is, if you have never read this book, please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy as soon as possible. It is one of the most well-crafted novels I have ever read, and it’s entertaining and witty on top of it, which, really, is everything a book ought to be. Five stars.

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Preview of coming attractions.

So I don’t know how many people are actually reading this at this point, but I just wanted to give all y’all a quick shout out to reassure you that I have not, in fact, given up on this venture. It’s just that I’m in the middle of a very sudden and unexpected (but good) cross-country move and haven’t had the necessary time or brainpower to write properly thought-out reviews of the books I’ve been reading. But at some point in the coming weeks I will get proper reviews written for the following books, so stay tuned:

  • #6: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. (Needed something light and comforting and awesome after the emotionally harrowing experience that was Wintergirls. This is a favorite re-read of mine, and it had been a long time since I’d revisited it.)
  • #7: Midnight in Austenland, by Shannon Hale. (Read this in one sitting. I love anything by Shannon Hale, I loved Austenland, I love mysteries, and I loved this book.)
  • #8: The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins. (Hosted this book for my book club. Love the early mystery style. This is another book I revisit every couple of years or so.)

Thanks for your patience, and I hope to be back to regularly scheduled blogging (well, regular ANYTHING, really) as soon as possible.

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