Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togever.....

For those few of you who haven't already figured this out, I'm a hot gay nerd. Which has to be one of the reasons I wound up picking up Cary Elwes (with Joe Layden)'s memoir As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride.

For the record, while the movie itself came out in 1987, I didn't actually see it until 1995, when the guy across the hall from me in my dorm suckered a bunch of us into piling into a small double in Cedar Hall at Wright State to watch what I assumed would be a kid flick. When I found instead was a charming movie with a lot of humor directed at the adults in the audience.

If you haven't seen it, get thee to a Blockbuster, er NetFlix, er...well, it's streaming someplace, I assume... Well, anyway, it's a story told by Peter Falk to Fred Savage about a Farmboy in love with a girl. He goes off to find his fortune to marry her, dies at the hands of a pirate, and then she gets engaged to a prince who wants to kill her off.

Elwes' narrative here is more or less a book format of the 25th anniversary reunion in New York a few years back. We hear tales of him (mostly unknown) being cast in the role of the farm boy Westley, his first meeting with Buttercup (Robin Wright), meeting Andre the Giant and Mandy Patinkin for the first time...

Interspersed throughout are sidebars with cast and crew adding in their thoughts on the passages, allowing for a much broader view of the filming.

Many of the stories (like Christopher Guest actually knocking Elwes out at the end of the Fire Swamp sequence) make me want to stick the DVD in again. Others, like all of the wonderful tales of Andre the Giant, make me want to find old highlights of his time in what was then the WWF. (One story involves Andre getting too drunk to get a cab home, so he passed out on the floor of the hotel lobby. Since no one could rouse him, they roped him off until he woke up. Almost all stories though speak of his gentle nature and how much he endured in every day life.) Others, like Wallace Shawn's (Vizzini) being convinced he was going to get fired after flubbing a few lines are kind of sad.

And sometimes, Elwes (who's married) gets a little too flowery in professing his love for Robin Wright. I notice her asides are a little less worshipful than his stories of her tend to be. On the other hand, "listening" to Carol Kane and Billy Crystal "argue" in print brings a joy found in their shared cameo returning to life in what's fairly obviously a good friendship between them.

If you enjoyed the movie, the book is worth checking out.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

That was a sharp retort

I've talked before about how much I'm enjoying Kelly McCullough's Fallen Blade series, and having just finished book 3, Crossed Blades, I'm happy to report it's just gaining steam.

As a quick recap, in the last book, one of the apprentices from the Temple of Namara (that Aral, our narrator worked out of before Shen and his devotees declared the goddess dead and destroyed the temple) was found and apprenticed herself to Aral. Faran has been a quick study in using the shadow arts, having worked as a spy and assassin prior to reconnecting with Aral.

We start this chapter with the reappearance of Jax, Aral's one time fiancee, who wound up in bed with Aral's best friend and later traitor to the order, Devin. Jax managed to escape from the Son of Heaven's torture chambers along with a few other Blades, starting a sanctuary and school in the high mountains of her home country. However, rumor of Aral's reappearance in the eleven Kingdoms coupled with the capture of her current lover and the apprentices at her school leads her to the city of Tien to find her lost lover in hopes of freeing them.

What we find out early on is that Jax is being blackmailed by a high ranking priestess in the Temple in order to capture Aral. We also find out that Aral's mentor, Kelos, is now in league with the Temple, acting as the Sun's shadow. Not that Kelos doesn't have his own agenda, but....

Again, much of the book focuses on Aral's climb out of the depths of his depression and recovering from his alcoholism. We also delve quite a bit into Aral's psyche as he deals with his doubts over his previous vocation and whether or not he was doing right by bringing justice in Namara's service. Ultimately, give the preview of the next book tucked into the end of this one, I rather doubt that question is easily answered, as Aral's mindset evolves on the matter.

Another high point is the interactions between Jax and Faran, who hate each other at first sight, and have to work around their differences in order to achieve their goal.

Kelos is by far the most interesting addition to this book, as his motivations remain clear as mud until the very end. One hopes he reappears down the line, as he provides a very interesting perspective on the cause of justice.

Really, while the entire premise sounds like the stuff of an RPG, the verve and flair of the author and his characters makes it worth the investment of time to read.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cats and Books....

When I picked up Blaize and John Clement's new Dixie Hemingway, The Cat sitter's Nine Lives, I was amused to see the cover had a tabby reading feline themed literature on the cover. It put me in mind of Edward Gorey's famous illustration:

Sadly, what lay between the covers was less enthralling. Mind you, this series is still leaps and bounds above the quality in the The Cat Who.... series, but then, I'm not a cat person.

The main plot centers around Dixie again being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In this case, Dixie gets in a fender bender caused by a serious head on collision further up the main drag of Siesta Key. She ends up saving one of the drivers before his car explodes. She then goes into a bookstore she frequented as a child, where she buys a book on animal friendly gardening. As it turns out, other than the murderer, she's the last one to see the proprietor alive.

What follows  is a pretty run of the mill mystery, with a bit of silliness in the climax.

I mean, yes, I realize, again, that I'm not the target audience, but half of what makes series mysteries like this work is character development. and honestly, about the only real development in here is that Ethan and Dixie are happily dating. And the scenes are kind of chunky, less tied together than normal.

Anyway, still a quick read, and fun to get from the library if you need something fun to get you through.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

How many bullets, Gino?

Well, evidently, Mercedes Lackey has decided against ending her writings in Valdemar. Which isn't a bad thing, although the first book in the follow up to her Collegium Chronicles, Closer to Home, does borrow a few tricks from her Elemental Masters series.

Again, we're following Mags and Amily, since Bear and Lena are off Barding and Healing someplace besides the capital. As we start, Amily's father, Nikolas (current King's Own), has an accident, dies for a few minutes in icy water, then gets Chosen by another companion. The grove born Rolan, King's Own companion chooses Amily to be the new King's Own. (It's kind of like Buffy. One dies, another gets activated.)

As such, Nikolas is more or less out of commission, meaning Amily has to learn to be Kyril's adviser and Mags has to take over much of Nikolas's spy ring.

In the meantime, as Midwinter approaches, two feuding Houses come to Haven for Winter Court, mostly to get daughters and sons betrothed. As such, King Kyril gets Amily involved with Lord Leverance and his 3 girls, while Mags gets involved with Lord Kaltar and his son Brand. Leverance's youngest daughter, Violetta, is flighty and hooked on novels of great romance. Kaltar's son Brand likes to go with Mags (posing as Magnus) to brothels. At one of the parties, Violetta spies Brand and grows infatuated. She sends him an impulsive note. After getting a rather stern lecture about fallout from such an act, Violetta starts pining away with unrequited love.

Now, Brand, supposedly having been convinced that a lesser noble wrote the note as a prank, runs into Violetta at a party her House is hosting. Brand and his friends arrive masked, of course, but Violetta's cousin Talbot recognizes Brand right off the bat. Brand shows up outside Violetta's balcony, makes promises of love, Talbot and Brand get in a sword fight, well... you get the idea.

Quite thankfully, even if Lackey borrowed heavily from Romeo and Juliette, she makes enough changes to the course of events that I wasn't busy complaining about teen angst and stupid reasons to commit suicide.  (Seriously. R&J annoyed me as a teen.)

I'm kind of curious why Lackey is staying in this time period, following the same characters now through a 6th book, when most of Valdemar has been in trilogies and focused on different characters with previous foci becoming recurring characters. Not complaining, since it remains interesting enough to read, but I'm kind of missing the "Modern" setting.

As a side note, according to Goodreads, I managed to log 38 books read last year. Now, given there were a few here and there I didn't list (mainly graphic novels and a few YA novels), and I probably did list a few which were series I was trying to find new volumes in, 38 is probably a good estimate. As such, I set a goal to read 40 in 2015. Which may be easier, since my lunch hour is mostly my own again, although I no longer have a job where I can read during downtime.