My Book a Week Challenge – Week 6

WHAT’S PLAYING:  Colbie CaillatRealize

This week’s book is “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman.

This book is really two stories in one. There’s the purported abridgement of “S. Morgenstern‘s classic tale of true love and high adventure” in which Buttercup, the most beautiful woman in the world, thinking her true love Westley is dead, agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck, who plots to kill her and frame another country in order to start a war. Then there’s the book’s effect on the life of the narrator, a fictionalized version of the author.

Got all that? Good.

The first word that pops into my mind when I think of the Princess Bride is “clever.” Everything about it is just so brilliant: the writing, the conversational asides, the characters, even the fictitious events in Goldman’s life. It’s all fantastically creative and original. Another thing that struck me is the fact that this book was written quite a few years before I was born, and yet continues to be entertaining. The tone is so modern, so relevant, that the story still feels fresh after almost forty years and countless reads.

If I had to pick my least favorite character, it would be Buttercup. I know. I know. She’s the most beautiful woman in the world. But she also happens to be brainless, cowardly, faithless, and to be brutally honest, useless. All she does is stand around and wait for her beloved Westley. I don’t know if Goldman meant her to be a satirical version of every other fairy tale princess, but I do know that she annoys the hell out of me.

Despite the useless Buttercup, I’ve read this book half a dozen times and I’ll probably read it a dozen more, if only to relive the thrilling duel at the Cliffs of Insanity.

Bottom line, this is still one of my favorite books.

Favorite line: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

OK, that one might be a bit obvious, so here is my second favorite line. “There are no words to contain all my wisdom. I am so cunning, crafty and clever, so filled with deceit, guile and chicanery, such a knave, so shrewd, cagey as well as calculating, as diabolical as I am vulpine, as tricky as I am untrustworthy…let me put it this way: the world is several million years old and several billion people have at one time or another trod upon it, but I, Vizzini the Sicilian, am, speaking with pure candor and modesty, the slickest, sleekest, sliest and wiliest fellow who has yet come down the pike.”

What I learned: Freshness and creativity can conquer time. Like I said before, I’ve read this book many times, and I enjoy it every single time, probably because I haven’t come across anything like it before or since.

Coming up next week: “Everything is Broken” by John Shirley.

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My Book a Week Challenge – Week 5

WHAT’S PLAYING: Rob Thomas “Gasoline”

This week’s book is “Poison Study” by Maria V. Snyder.

This is the story of Yelena, a convicted murderess who, on the eve of her execution, is offered a reprieve. She can either hang or become the official food taster for the Commander of Ixia. She’ll eat the best meals, sleep in the palace…and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander. In order to prevent her from escaping, Valek, Chief of Security and master assassin, doses Yelena with Butterfly’s Dust. Only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison. As she adjusts to her new situation, Yelena has to deal with enemies past and present, while searching for a way to escape her dilemma and forge a life on her own terms. 

Set in the former kingdom of Ixia, “Poison Study” is an engrossing read, full of intrigue, subterfuge, and poisons. Under the firm, but fair, hand of the Commander, the country has become a militarist society with a strict Code of Behavior. All citizens are required to wear uniforms and work at assigned jobs. Magic and killing – whether accidental, justified, or done in self-defense – are both capital crimes punishable by death. The plot moves quickly with plenty of twists and suspense to keep things interesting. (Though there was one plot twist involving the Commander that seemed to come out of nowhere.) Snyder manages to deliver an enormous amount of information without bogging down the story. I found Yelena’s lessons in food tasting to be particularly well thought out and entertaining.

One thing that I found to be a bit annoying was Yelena’s seemingly superhuman ability to master any and every task put in front of her, from food tasting to fighting. Though much of her feats can be chalked up to intelligence and untapped magical powers, I never quite got the feeling that she “earned” her abilities. 

Bottom line: This was an exciting read with an intriguing plot and likeable characters. An impressive debut effort.

Favorite character: The Commander is definitely the most interesting character. Seen through the eyes of Yelena, he is a unique blend of merciless dictator and benign father figure. His strict adherence to the Code of Behavior, along with the secrets he hides beneath his uniform makes him even more intriguing.

What I learned: Plotting is paramount. This book was entertaining for one reason: Snyder plotted the hell out of it. Yes, the characters were cool, the writing solid, and the world building very well done, but it was the plot with all its twists and interwoven storylines that made this novel such a joy to read. 

Coming up next week: “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman