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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

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This is author and screenwriter William Goldman’s classic spoof fairy tale, which tells the story of Buttercup (the most beautiful girl in the world) and Westley (former farm boy turned swashbuckling hero) and their eternal love. Except that it is SO much more than that. There are pirates, kidnappings, death, swords, giants, princes, heroic escapes, magic and more besides. Apart from Buttercup and Westley, the main characters are Inigo Montoya and Fezzik the Giant, not to mention the numerous others, all of whom were highly entertaining in their own right.

It is framed in an unusual way – in the edition which I read, there is first of all a proper introduction by Goldman (I often skip introductions, but this is worth reading), and then a part where Goldman himself reminisces about being a young boy who had the story read to him by his father. The conceit is that Goldman claims that The Princess Bride was written by S. Morgenstern – who is in actuality entirely fictional – and he (Goldman) has merely edited it to get rid of the boring bits, and only tell the entertaining parts. Throughout the story itself, Goldman often interrupts the narrative to explain that he has cut part of the story and gives a brief synopsis of what happened in the part that he has cut. It sounds complicated, but all makes sense when you are reading it.

I actually didn’t realise quite how accomplished Goldman was – he wrote screenplays for such incredible and successful films as All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Misery. He also wrote several novels including Marathon Man, which was turned into an excellent film. His talent is undeniable, and his originality shines through in The Princess Bride. I am not normally a lover of fantasy fiction, which is why it took me so long to get around to reading this, but I would recommend this whether it is a genre you enjoy or not.

Truly deserving of it’s classic status.

 

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Described as Gosford Park meets Groundhog Day, by way of Agatha Christie, this is a twisty, confusing book with a brilliant premise.

The formerly grand Blackheath House is hosting a party, and the hosts’ daughter Evelyn is going to die at 11.00pm. It’s murder, but it won’t look like murder and until the culprit is brought to justice by Aiden, a young man who is visiting the house, the day is going to repeat itself over and over. But as if that wasn’t enough of a mystery, every day Aiden will wake up in the body of a different party guest, seeing the party and the crime through a new set of eyes. He will have to use the clues that he picks up in each persona to piece together what happens and work out who kills Evelyn. Only then will be free to leave Blackheath.

Right, so I have very mixed feelings about this book. I was very much looking forward to reading it; I like the whole Groundhog Day scenario, as well as the idea of seeing the same day through different eyes and perspectives. The writing itself was eloquent and often quite poetic – there were occasions when a sentence really caught my attention just by how beautifully it was phrased. But my goodness this book is confusing and I can’t help feeling the author got a little bit too clever with the idea, and tried to cram almost too much in. (I am in awe at the planning he must have made to get the timeline in order!) With every day starting over, every ‘host’ was somewhat affected by the actions of the previous host, and the times and locations of certain events became quite hard to follow. I would genuinely recommend keeping a notebook nearby and jotting down when key events happened, because it gets very convoluted, with most characters literally not being who they seem.

Despite all this, I still found myself drawn in and didn’t feel like giving up – this is partly due to the aforementioned writing style. I will say that the ending when it came was excellent, very clever and to my mind unpredictable.

I’m not sure if I would read another book by this author. Possibly, but I’ll be sure to keep that notebook handy next time!

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The first book I read in 2019 was Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King. I loved it and doubted whether I would enjoy another book quite so much throughout that year (I actually did, but Sleeping Beauties is still ranked in my top 3 books of last year)).

This year the first book I read – not counting audiobooks – was Under the Dome by Stephen King. I may have started a tradition here by starting each year off with a Stephen King novel, and so far it has worked out well, because I loved this book too. It’s dystopian rather than horror – although there are certainly some horrific scenes contained within – and I do love this genre. And of course there is a reason that King is one of the most popular fiction authors of all time – he knows how to spin a good yarn.

The story revolves around the Maine town of Chester’s Mill, which is suddenly and for no reason enclosed within a transparent dome. Everyone in the town is trapped inside and there is no way in from the other side. Naturally the air gets dirtier and supplies run short; people panic and react in different ways. The situation brings out the very best and the very worst in people and pits townsfolk against each other. It’s a great big brick of a book with a big story and lots of characters, including some major players and some more peripheral parts. As the situation gets more and more dire in a short period of time, people get ever more desperate, and while some just want to find out what has caused the dome to be there and search for a way to get rid of it, others take advantage of the situation.

I loved every page, and would highly recommend this book to Stephen King fans, lovers of dystopian fiction, or anyone who just loves a good story.

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The book – one of King’s most beloved works – is essentially a story of good vs evil, in a post-apocalyptic setting. It was initially published in 1978 and then reissued including parts that had been cut from the original publication (for financial reasons). In the later version, the setting was moved from 1980 to 1990. It was the later, bigger edition which I read, which came in at over 1300 pages. So a big brick of a book!

The books starts with a man made plague sweeping the earth and killing most humans, although a few remain immune. After the plague come the dreams – people dream of a faceless man who terrifies them, and an elderly lady who they see as a saviour. Two groups form – followers of the faceless man – Randall Flagg, and of the elderly lady – Mother Abagail.

The scene is set for an epic battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil; between God and the Devil or certainly at least between their emissaries on earth.

The story has everything – the supernatural, horror, human relationships and the gamut of emotions – there is love, hate, fear and despair, hope and friendship. There are unlikely heroes and tragic villains. It’s epic in every sense. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although on balance I still prefer Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King, which I read earlier this year.

The Stand is a wonderful book though which really drew me in, and I really came to care about a lot of the characters. Stu Redman was my favourite character in the whole story and I also have a soft spot for Nick Andros. It took the me the best part of two months to read, which is a LONG time for me! But it was worth it. Highly recommended.

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This book is set in Dooling, West Virginia, but the events of the story are happening throughout the world.

A new global phenomenon which comes to be known as Aurora is affecting women as they sleep. They become cocooned in a web like structure, and if anyone tries to remove the webbing the women become uncontrollably violent. As women fight to stay away, inevitably they all (almost all anyway) fall asleep and the men are left to run things by themselves. It’s not long before they revert to their primal instincts.

In Dooling Correctional Prison however, there is  a new inmate named Evie Black, who is able to fall asleep and wake up normally, and opinion is divided over whether she needs to be studied in the hope of finding a cure, or whether she is a demon who needs to be killed.

I half wish I hadn’t chosen this book as my first book to read this year – I think it’s going to be hard for other books to live up to it, because quite honestly I LOVED this. It’s not a horror story, it’s more of a dystopian novel – and if there’s one genre guaranteed to get me interested, it’s dystopian fiction. The book raises the question of what the world would be like without the input of women, and while it’s fictional of course, so we cannot really know the answer, in this story at least, it’s not pretty!

As is normal with Stephen King (I’m not familiar with Owen King’s work, but after reading this would like to seek more out), there is a huge cast of characters, but I felt that they were all brought to life admirably and the distinct personalities shone through. There is the age old battle between good and evil, although both sides see themselves as good and the other as evil, and the suspense is maintained throughout.

I would say that this is a thoughtful and intelligent novel. Don’t be put off by the size – at just over 700 pages, it’s a big brick of a book – if this is a genre or theme that interests you, or if you have previously enjoyed Stephen King, I cannot recommend this highly enough.

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The world is burning, civilisation is collapsing and the human race is in danger of being wiped out…a mysterious disease known as Dragonscale is sweeping the planet – nobody knows how it started, but everyone thinks it will end with the destruction of mankind. The disease starts out as swirling patterns on the sufferer’s skin, and eventually those with it burst into fire and are literally burnt to death. It doesn’t take long before vigilantes roam the streets killing those affected in an attempt to rid the world of the disease.

Harper Grayson finds out that she has Dragonscale at roughly the same time as she discovers that she is pregnant. Her husband Jakob abandons her, and in fear of her life, Harper flees to try and find a place of safety. She is taken under the collective wing of a group of fellow sufferers who have set up their own community known as Camp Wyndham, where they believe they have found a way to, if not cure Dragonscale, at least control it and even use it to their advantage. One of the group is John Rookwood, known as The Fireman. Enigmatic and single-minded, John protects the group and has special skills of his own for using Dragonscale to defend his community. But danger and hysteria lurk within the camp…

I had previously only read one book by Joe Hill – Heart Shaped Box – which I thought was okay but not brilliant. I would probably not have bothered with any more of his novels except that dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels always intrigue me, so I gave this one a try. And wow! am I glad that I did!!

It’s a big brick of a book, at just shy of 750 pages. Sometimes I can get a bit impatient with such long books, but I seem to have got lucky with a couple this year (earlier in the year I read Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ which I also loved), including this one. The writing is engaging and there’s always something to tease you into reading just one more chapter, and oh go on there, just one more…

Some scenes were particularly poignant – crazy as it sounds, one of the scenes that sticks in my head is when Harper gets brief access to the internet after weeks of having none. She goes to Google only to find that it is no longer there.

There’s a lot of characters in the book – some I loved, and some I absolutely detested, as I am sure was the intention of the author. Harper was a feisty heroine – the best sort actually, as she only realised her own strength of character when the chips were down.  found her obsession with the film Mary Poppins a bit odd but I’ll let it go!! The Fireman was exasperating and antagonistic, but fiercely protective of those he cared about, and his bravery knew no bounds.

The story seemed to move quite quickly for me – that is there was always something happening and it didn’t lag at all. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I liked it although I know some reviewers were disappointed.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes dystopian novels. It’s well worth your time reading!

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I honestly can’t remember whether I actually read these books – more commonly known as Alice in Wonderland, I guess due to the 1951 Disney film, which is an amalgamation of both of the Alice books – or whether the stories and characters are just so well known that I feel like I’ve read them.

Either way, I recently bought the dark retelling and continuation ‘Alice’ by Christina Henry, and decided to read the originals before reading this newer release. For anyone who has lived under a rock for their whole lives, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland tells the story of the strange encounters a young girl called Alice has when she falls down a rabbit hole and ends up in Wonderland. There she meets such characters as the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice steps through a mirror and ends up in a strange world where she meets the Red Queen and the White Queen, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and many other characters.

I have mixed feelings about these stories. On the one hand, I am not really the target audience anyway and I feel I should take that into account. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Carroll was both imaginative and intelligent. The stories are quite fantastical, and Through the Looking Glass includes several clever verses, one of which is the famous Jabberwocky poem.

For all that though…I can’t say I really enjoyed reading the book (I read one book which contained both stories). I definitely preferred the first one, but I got a little bored with Through the Looking Glass, and consequently took far longer to read it than I would have expected. Maybe it’s because fantasy – which I guess this book probably could be classed as – is not a favourite genre of mine; maybe it’s because as I say, I am not the target audience; maybe it’s just that no book can resonate with every reader.

I would not want to put anyone else off reading the book – it is after all a much-loved classic, so really what does my opinion matter? – but on a personal level, I felt a little disappointed by it. I still look forward to reading the Christina Henry book though!

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This book centres around three women – Alexandra, Sukie and Jane – who live in the fictional Rhode Island town of Eastwick in the early 1970s. They are all divorced and/or widowed, and they all just happen to be witches. Their close friendship is threatened by the arrival in town of the base, bawdy, but hugely charismatic Darryl Van Horne. And…that’s about it. More does happen, but the storyline here is really pretty slow, centering more on the interactions between the main characters.

I must confess that this was not what I expected it to be at all. Having recently watched the film again for the first time in years, I expected the book to be of much the same tone – quirky, funny and colourful. It wasn’t, and while it did eventually draw me in somewhat, quite often I found myself looking for something else to do rather than pick up the book, and certain parts did feel really tedious.

I didn’t find any of the characters believable, although to an extent maybe they weren’t meant to be. Indeed out of the three women, the only vaguely likeable one was Alexandra (until it was revealed that she had used a spell to kill a puppy out of sheer spite; that takes some getting past). The prose was undoubtedly eloquent in places, but I always felt that Updike was inserting descriptions where they weren’t required, and was forever flying off at tangents.

The fact that the three women were witches – and were not the only witches in Eastwick – was not treated as particularly surprising to other members of the community, although it was repulsive to some of them, and some of the things that happened because of their spells (such as unusual items coming out of people’s mouths while they were talking). There was not an awful lot of humour in the story, but a lot of simmering malice. In short, for me this book was something of a let-down. I can sort of see why some people would love it, and there were flashes of great enjoyment sandwiched between the weirdness, but as it turned out I was just relieved to get to the end of this one.

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Three bored friends, widowed Alexandra (Cher), newly divorced uptight musician Jane (Susan Sarandon) and single mother of five Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer) all wish that they could meet an interesting man to shake up their lives in the New England town of Eastwick. Enter the devilishly charming Darryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) who not only shakes up their lives, but causes scandal, gossip throughout the neighbourhood, especially upsetting the devoutly religious Felicia, who is the wife of Sukie’s boss.

Darryl seduces all three women and they all stay at his mansion with him, living a life of decadence but when they realise that the town of Eastwick is gossiping about them and calling them all names, they decide that something needs to be done. And then the trouble really starts…

I remember watching this film when it first came out in 1987, and although I had forgotten some of the details, I do recall thinking that it was a lot of fun and visually spectacular, but all kind of fell apart at the end. And this was more or less my feelings on this occasion too, although to say it fell apart is perhaps a bit harsh. The first two thirds of the film are wonderful – the four main members of the cast are superb, especially Jack Nicholson and Cher, and the colour and lavish production are a treat for the eyes. The last third of the film is possibly a bit overblown – I won’t give away what happens in case of spoilers; it may be a fairly old movie by now, but still people will be watching it for the first time – and visual effects seem to take over from the story itself, but it’s still good fun.

Susan Sarandon seems to thoroughly enjoy her role, and the transformation of Jane from a repressed and nervous woman into a sexually adventurous and sensual lady. Michelle Pfeiffer too plays her part as sweet Sukie very well, but it’s Cher as the bohemian, straight talking Alexandra who stood out for me amongst the three female leads. But Jack Nicholson – a man who was probably born for such a part – steals his scenes. Although he is rude and provocative, he does indeed have a lot of charisma and you can see why these women would be attracted to him.

If you like fantasy with your comedy and this one has slipped under your radar, I recommend it – it’s entertaining and amusing, with a great cast.

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Year of release: 1987

Director: George Miller

Writers: John Updike (novel), Michel Cristofer

Main cast: Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, Jack Nicholson, Richard Jenkins, Veronica Cartwright, Carel Struycken

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Londoner Amanda Price is unsatisfied with her current relationship, and finds solace and happiness in reading her favourite book, Pride and Prejudice.  Although she feels as though she knows the characters intimately, she is astounded to find the book’s protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, in her bathroom – and even more surprised when, after stepping through a door in the bathroom, Amanda finds herself in the Bennet household at the turn of the 19th century, right at the beginning of the story of Pride and Prejudice….but without Elizabeth present, the storyline goes awry and despite Amanda’s best efforts to remedy matters, nobody is falling in love with the right people!  Can Amanda ensure that everyone gets their proper happy ever after?  And will she ever make it back to modern day London?

Well!  I can see why some Austen fans did not like this mini-series (four episodes), because it totally plays around with the storyline of one of Britain’s best-loved books.  Although I do love P&P, I did find this series amusing, and thought it was, in the main, cleverly done.  Jemima Rooper plays Amanda, who captured that ‘fish out of water’ feeling very well.  Elliot Cowan certainly looked perfect for Darcy, and portrayed Darcy’s discomfort and awkwardness in social situations.  Morven Christie and Tom Mison played Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley respectively – although in this series, Jane ends up married to the odious Mr Collins (much to Amanda’s – and Jane’s – horror), and both were very much how I imagined the characters to be.  However, the stand-out turns for me were from Alex Kingston, who was brilliant as the fussy, silly Mrs Bennet, and Hugh Bonneville as her long-suffering and infinitely more sensible husband.  Both of these brought a lot of humour to the series, with Kingston stealing most of her scenes.  Gemma Arterton played Lizzie Bennet, but only appeared in two episodes of the series, and in one of those, her appearance was a brief one.  It’s a shame, because I could really see her as Lizzie, and did feel that I would have liked to have seen more of her coping in modern day London – which is where she is while Amanda is at the Bennets’ house – somehow the lack of Lizzie in London feels like a missed opportunity.

Chaos and laughter ensue as Darcy starts to fall for Amanda – as indeed does one other surprising character – and Wickham, far from being the dastardly charmer which he is in Austen’s book, actually seems to be quite a lovely guy (helped by a charming turn from Tom Riley).

I intended to watch one episode per week, but ended up watching the second, third and fourth episodes in one chunk, because I really wanted to see what happened.  My only complaint is with the ending of the series.  I won’t say too much because to do so would be to give away big spoilers, but the final few minutes of the last episode did not turn out the way I either expected or wanted them to.  But apart from that, the series was thoroughly entertaining, sweet, and funny.  I would suggest that it is better to know the basic storyline of P&P before watching, because comparing what is supposed to happen, with what actually does happen, is part of the fun, but I  would still say that it would be enjoyable to anyone who likes a bit of offbeat comedy.

Year of release: 2008

Director: Dan Zeff

Producers: Guy Andrews, Michele Buck, Hugo Heppell, Damien Timmer, Kate McKerrell, Brett Wilson

Writers: Jane Austen (inspired by novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’), Guy Andrews

Main cast: Jemima Rooper, Elliot Cowan, Hugh Bonneville, Florence Hoath, Alex Kingston, Morven Christie, Perdita Weeks, Tom Mison, Ruby Bentall, Christina Cole, Tom Riley, Guy Henry

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Click here for my review of the novel Pride and Prejudice.

Click here for my review of the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Click here for my review of the 1995 mini series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

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