Tuesday, March 24, 2015

'As You Wish'

I love movies.  Especially movies based on books.

I read 'Gone With the Wind' when I was twelve years-old, and I was amazed at how closely the film matched the book (although I still have a beef with the fact that the filmmaker didn't include Scarlett's other children).  Yeah, I love movies.

But as I've grown older, I've found that I absolutely adore 'stupid' comedies.  'Raising Arizona'?  Stupid humor in a brilliant script.  'Fargo'?  Oh, yeah.  Stupid, yet brilliant, also.  Those Coen Brothers really have a most intelligent way of portraying stupid comedy.  Twisted?  Yes.  And brilliant.

But along with the brilliance of stupid comedy comes innocent (yet snarky) comedy, and one of those films I really adore came from a most wonderful book.  'The Princess Bride', written by William Goldman, sucked me in from the first page.  But when the movie showed up years later, I was a bit hesitant to see it. However, once I did, I loved it as much as the book, and I watch the movie a few times every year.  I can't escape it.  It's funny, it's sweet, and it has a fantastic cast.

Brilliantly directed by Rob Reiner, from a script by William Goldman, the movie is one I cherish. I love the humor and innocence, the snarkiness and inside jokes.  There's just something about it that's hard to describe.  Let's just say that if you love 'Monty Python' films, you'll love 'The Princess Bride'.  The humor is contagious, and the cast is unforgettable.

And one of the major cast members has written a wonderful book about this memorable movie.

Cary Elwes, he who played the 'Farmboy' and 'the Man in Black', shares with us many warm memories about working with a perfect cast and a gifted director in his book, 'As You Wish'.

'It truly was as fun to make the movie as it is to watch it, from getting to work on William Goldman's brilliant screenplay to being directed by the inimitable Rob Reiner.  It is not an exaggeration to say that most days on set were exhilarating, from wrestling AndrĂ© the Giant, to the impossibility of playing mostly dead with Billy Crystal cracking jokes above me, to choreographing the Greatest Sword Fight in Modern Times with Mandy Patinkin, to being part of the Kiss That Left All the Others Behind with Robin Wright'.

Yes, the book is sweet.  And, yes, the book gives us quite a bit of inside gossip, but not malicious gossip (God knows I'm really tired of finding malicious gossip all over the internet, so this book was refreshing). Elwes still respects and loves his fellow players, and the 'inside scoops' are rather enlightening.  Although the entire cast didn't work together (i.e., Peter Falk and Fred Savage), they all did a great job of playing off each other.  Director Reiner was sensitive to his players (he has a great acting background, and his father is the phenomenal Carl Reiner), but his greatest coup (in my opinion) was getting his old friend Billy Crystal to play Miracle Max ("While you're at it, why don't you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?") and Carol Kane to play his wife, Valerie.  The memories of AndrĂ© the Giant are very unusual, but funny, and reading of Wallace Shawn's fear of being fired had me thinking that no one else could have played Vizzini with such brilliance.   There are just so many things about this movie that stay with you; almost like the fart scene in 'Blazing Saddles', or anything from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'.
Author Cary Elwes

So, I'm sorry to disappoint those who are looking for 'juicy gossip'.  Most of the cast members include their own remembrances, which I feel is a nice touch.

As for me, I love this sweet memoir of such a sweet film.  It makes me adore Elwes even more.

And I adore Robin Wright even more, too, even if she is currently playing the Bitch Queen of the Universe in 'House of Cards'.

With that written, I think it's time to sit back and watch 'The Princess Bride' one more time.  Knowing what I know now, I think it will make the viewing even that more special.

'As You Wish' is available at your local library and favorite independent bookstore.  ISBN 978-1-4767-6402-3  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


A few years ago, when I was working at our local Borders store, my friend, Heather, strongly suggested that we all read the 'Twilight' series.  "Yeah, yeah," I said. "Someday."  Well, I read them.  And, although I'm not a big vampire fan, I rather enjoyed them, especially 'Eclipse', the third book in the series.  Sure, they were written for young adults.  And, sure, a lot of people have made fun of the series.  But I don't care.  I enjoy reading Young Adult novels, especially the fantasy series.  The Young Adult book world is rapidly expanding to include readers of every age.

And so it goes with 'The Lunar Chronicles', a fantastic series written by Marissa Meyer. As most of you know, I absolutely love all the books and have tirelessly promoted them, even in the thrift shop where I work.  A few people have even asked me to call them if we receive any copies from generous donors.  Sadly, we haven't received any yet, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

It's not often that I get very excited about a series, but I can't say enough about it. This adult loves Young Adult books.  This adult loves Sci-Fi/Fantasy.  

And this adult loves fairy tales.

'The Lunar Chronicles' is an new look at the fairy tales we know and love, only this series carries a moral lesson that is set in a time and place far ahead of ours.  There's evil. There's good.  There's innocence.  There's not-so-innocent. There are age-old characters with whom we've grown up. And there are characters who are totally new.  But this series looks and feels like pure steampunk.  All of the books tie together, and the end result should be quite amazing.  

The first novel is 'Cinder', a wonderful take on the Cinderella legend.  The next is 'Scarlet', which, as most of us know, is Little Red Riding Hood.  The third is 'Cress', a take on Rapunzel. And the villain of the series is Queen Levana, ruler of the Moon; a woman who has come to power in a most devious way, and wants to control the Earth and everyone on it.  These are all powerful, intelligent women, women who can rescue themselves.

As I read these books, I wanted to know more about Queen Levana; how she became so heartless, what her childhood was like, etc.  Meyer has answered my questions in this marvelous novella:

Long before Queen Levana, ruler of the Moon, crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, she lived a very different story--a story full of heartbreak, sorrow, and deviousness. She was the sister to the Queen, and in love with a man who loved another woman.  But with the use of 'glamour' and lies, Levana obtains everything she wants, yet realizes she really has nothing.

This is a great back story and answers quite a few questions about Levana's childhood.  You feel great pity for her, even while she's taking everything she can get in the most malevolent way possible.

Author Marissa Meyer
Although 'Fairest' is a quick read, it was very enjoyable, and it truly helped flesh out the character of the Queen.

Besides, I've been eagerly waiting for the fourth, and last book, in the series, so this was a nice little tidbit to hold me over until the Fall.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the first three chapters of the new book included after the Acknowledgments page.

'Fairest', a novella in the 'Lunar Chronicles' series written by Marissa Meyer, is available at your local library and favorite independent book store.  ISBN 978-1-250-06055-6  Book four in the series, 'Winter', will be published in the Fall of 2015. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

'Shadow Season'

I've been a Paulo Coehlo fan for a long, long time.  In fact, my most favorite Coehlo book is 'The Alchemist', a tale of finding just what you want/need in your own backyard.

It is a simple tale simply told, and it has affected my life in more ways than one.

I thought that I would never find a story like that ever again, but it's wonderful how I can be proven wrong.

A good friend of mine recently sent a book to me, written by her father, and once I started reading this wonderful, mystical tale, I couldn't put it down. Lara, it's great.  Believe me.

'Shadow Season', written by Sigman Shapiro, is the tale of Coyote, Rabbit, and Tortoise, and how they affect each other, and the lessons they teach and embrace.  Coyote, however, doesn't realize (or refuses to admit) that he's growing older.  He no longer attracts females, and his hunting skills aren't what they used to be.  In other words, he's not the threat he once was.

Wise Tortoise tells his student, Rabbit, that she has a mission to undertake: Follow Coyote, observe him, and help him, for his time seems to be running short.

Coyote is baffled.  Where has his great hunting prowess gone?  Are the small creatures of the scrublands actually laughing at him?  Something seems different.  If he doesn't discover the cause soon, he will lose his status on top of the food chain.  Neither his pride nor his belly will allow that to happen.

On a mission from Tortoise, Rabbit is headed to the far away mesa where her vision quest begins.  It is a magic place; a place no rabbit has ever been, but she is truly no ordinary rabbit.  She sniffs the air one last time and hops off towards to unknown.

Together, this unlikely pair, predator and prey, will confront questions of self worth, courage, passion, mortality, and sacrifice in their quest to defeat the mysterious Shadow Creature.

The threat of aging is a constant to us all, especially those of us who are approaching our 'twilight years' (I hate that term, but there you go...), and I have to admit that this story broke my heart at one pivotal point.  But after the tears dried, I continued following Coyote on his path and grew a bit proud of him when he confronted the Shadow Creature.

And Rabbit.  Oh, what a rabbit.  Strong, brave, cunning, and wise.  A follower and student of Tortoise from a very young age, Rabbit learned to curb her impatience and just listen.  And although she was a bit apprehensive to take on the current task, she knew that someone needed her, and she was ready to be there.

You can laugh at Coyote and his posturing, and the steps he takes to attract a mate.  You can wince when things don't turn out the way they should for him. But a strange thing soon happens:  You find compassion for the old guy.  You discover that Rabbit is a brave teacher.

But the heartbreak....oh, the heartbreak.  

The story flows so well, and the characters are simply, yet eloquently, drawn.  

Each reader will take away different things from this story.  As for me, I learned that it takes a great deal of bravery to stand up and face facts, and it takes even more to realize that the end is closer than we think and not an enemy to be feared.

But with a little compassion and support, it needn't be so hard.  No matter what messages we send to others, it's the lessons we receive in return that can change our own lives.

It's the 'circle of life'.  And you aren't the only hamster on the wheel.

'Shadow Season', written by Sigman Shapiro, and illustrated by Brenda Erickson, is an independent publication.  You can find it on lulu.com.  Book Hog would like to thank the author for the chance to read and review his most marvelous story!