As you wish…

When I was a kid, my sister brought her best friend home with her from college, and that friend introduced me to the movie The Princess Bride. I was instantly swept away by this beautiful story packed with intelligent humor. A few years later, while on a visit to my mom’s favorite Buy/Sell/Trade bookstore, my brother found me a copy of the book The Princess Bride.

I own a paperback copy that is nice, but this is what I really want:

I found it at Target. My birthday is in about a month and a half. I’m really hoping I get my wish!

If you aren’t familiar with the story, either buy the book or borrow the movie. I would normally say that the book is better, but I think both are fabulous. The actors in the movie were the perfect choices and I wouldn’t change a thing about how the movie was made.

When I bought the paperback copy I own now, it contained a bonus chapter called Buttercup’s Baby. I didn’t read it. It has something sad in it about Fezzik (the giant portrayed by Andre the Giant in the movie.)

This book/movie was integral in my development as a bibliophile and book nerd overall. I must now share some Internet awesomeness about it.

This ⤵️ is my favorite quote from the movie.

Is case you really don’t get it, whenever Buttercup ordered Wesley around he would say, “as you wish” but what he was really saying was “I love you.”

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My favorite monsters

Last night my husband and I watched a movie that got me thinking about my favorite monsters.

While I am not a huge Tom Cruise fan, I did really enjoy this movie. I’m sure I’ve mentioned my love for classic movie monsters before. And the best part of those monsters is that they are often inspired by classic novels. I did some digging online and Universal Studios is going to be creating a multi-movie dark universe featuring some of these stories; The Mummy is just the first of more to come.

The big surprise in The Mummy was Russell Crowe playing a doctor. Dr. Jekyll to be more specific.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde isn’t long, but it’s horrifying. Crowe did a great job in the role, I can’t wait to see the movie about Dr. Jekyll.

One of my all time favorite actors is going to be playing the Invisible Man–Johnny Depp.

I liked The Invisible Man book by H.G. Wells. It isn’t as ominous as some monster stories but its implications are intriguing.

My all-time favorite novel is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The monster will be portrayed by Javier Bardem.

I’m giving Universal bonus points for using the title Frankenstein’s Monster. It helps with a common misconception about who is the monster in the story (which is a topic of debate for another post.) The article said that there would also be a Bride of Frankenstein but there are no named stars. I hope they follow in the footsteps of the original and cast a redhead like Elsa Lanchester–the actress who created our iconic image of the bride.

I really wanted to have a book for every one of these movies, but I’m struggling with The Mummy. I could have sworn that I once read a short story by either Jules Verne or Robert Louis Stevenson that was about a mummy. I can tell you for sure that Bran Stoker wrote The Jewel of Seven Stars and it’s about a mummy. My favorite mummy novel is actually The Mummy or Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice.

Now I’d like to suggest that if these movies do well, that Universal add some great stories like Dracula

Or if Universal wants to surprise audiences, they could go with a female vampire like Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu.

And maybe a wolf-man, though some people will know that Stephen King himself said The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is nothing if not a werewolf story. I’d also consider The Portrait of Dorian Grey and The Island of Dr. Moreau great additions. Could something by Edgar Allan Poe be adapted?!? Give me time, I could think of plenty!

Which books would you like to see adapted to this dark universe?? I’m dying to hear from other classic monster fans.

The League of Regrettable Superheroes

Today’s book is not only a Thrift Store Score, it’s also for adults! I know, I’m just full of surprises today.

I am planning to start it tonight. I’ll give you the synopsis:

Look up in the sky! It’s a bee! It’s a witch! It’s….a giant eyeball?

You know about Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man, but have you heard of Doll Man, Doctor Hormone, or Spider Queen? In the League of Regrettable Superheroes, you’ll meet fifty of the strangest superheroes to ever see print, complete with backstories, vintage art, and colorful commentary.

I’m really looking forward to this book. Dr. Hormone?!? I will share some images from these strange, strange characters.

My only regret about this book is that I don’t have the follow-up, The Legion of Regrettable Super Villains.

I think I’ll be shopping for it on ThriftBooks!

1000 Black Girl Books

Most people enjoy reading books about characters like themselves, children especially. An eleven year old caucasian boy is more likely to want a book with a boy like himself as the main character than a book about a girl of a different ethnicity from the other side of the world. I’m not saying that it’s wrong for the boy to have that preference, quite the opposite. And since it is a perfectly acceptable desire, we should have books that cover the entire spectrum of people on the Earth.

Marley Dias has started a grassroots movement to gather books that have African American girls as the main characters. She astutely identified a need that was not being met, and decided to do something about it. You can visit the website to learn more about Marley’s cause.

I thought I’d share a few books that I love with African American girls as the main character:

I’ve written about the Gaither sisters before. I love these girls and their family!

Sharon Draper is a favorite author of mine, though Stella By Starlight is very different from Out of My Mind.

I started The Jumbies as an audio book and didn’t get it done. I liked the Caribbean folklore so I really do plan to finish it.

My daughter’s favorite American Girl is Addy, who is a runaway slave during the American Civil War.

One other book that I loved, even though it’s not a kids book, is Beloved by Toni Morrison.

If you enjoy historical fiction and a good ghost story, this could be a good book for you. But, and that’s a big but, it is graphic in describing the lives and deaths of slaves. It is not a book to take lightly.

Jack the Ripper

My family loves a good mystery. My husband isn't a reader, though, so the mysteries we share tend to be on tv. Right now we are watching s History Channel series about H.H. Holmes, a serial killer from Chicago in the 1890s.

Holmes is actually an alias, one of many, as this man was a con artist and committed fraud many times for money as well.

The series is based on the theory that H.H. Holmes could have also been Jack the Ripper. This theory has been put forward by his great-great-grandson. The grandson and a former CIA investigator are looking for clues to either prove or disprove this theory. It is a compelling argument and I think it has a strong basis in fact. We are only two episodes into the eight part series, so I can't tell you anything definitively.

What I can tell you is I have read books of differing theories on who the Ripper was.

Cornwell is the author of a bestselling mystery series. She believes in research and backs up her theories. She postulates that Jack the Ripper was a troubled impressionist artist who was known for painting odd subject matter. Walter Sickert followed the Impressionist art style and so would have painted things he actually saw.

This painting is called The Camden Town Murder, and the Ripper's last known victim was killed in her bed.

A second book I have read is
The theory here is that the man who was Jack the Ripper stopped killing because he was institutionalized after slitting his own wife's throat.

If I was going to pick one suspect based on these two books, I'd go with Sickert, but now I think H.H. Holmes could be him.

One of the things about this mystery is that I don't think we will ever conclusively prove who he was. Crime scene investigation was in its infancy at that time and the scenes were often contaminated by unwary gawkers and police officers. DNA could yield clues but I don't know that much of the evidence remains. There is a shawl from Mary Eddows being tested for the show but I doubt the blood is anyone but hers.

I wish I had more time to read other theories for comparison, but I just don't right now. I'll have to rely on the History Channel series to sate my curiosity for now.

Author Spotlight: David Wellington

Warning: today’s post is about a horror author! 

David Wellington is one of my favorite authors of horror fiction. The first book of his that I read was Monster Island.



Honestly, they weren’t bad, just different from most zombie books I’d been reading at that time. The premise of the first book is a group from Africa must get into New York City to get medications for treating an HIV+ warlord in Africa. 

After I finished that series, I decided to try his vampire series. I loved vampires as a teenager and got away from them when Twilight came along. No, I did not read that crap! I just felt like vampires had became too much of a fad. So it was with trepidation that I tried 13 Bullets. 

This series is based around a Pennsylvania State Trooper named Laura Caxton. She is recruited into a secret force with the purpose of eliminating vampires from the world. Wellington’s vampires do not sparkle. They are hairless, with teeth like sharks and they will rip your head right off. Fabulous! Caxton is a badass and I always wanted more books about her. 

One of my favorite things about Wellington’s writing is his crossover characters. A family from the Monster series plays a big part in the Laura Caxton books. I did notice that the storylines for that family don’t quite match up in the two series, almost like they are alternate timelines.

Since I loved the Laura Caxton series so much, it was a no-brainer to read his werewolf series.

Frostbite and Overwinter are about a young woman who is accidentally scratched by a werewolf who has haunted her nightmares for years and he is obliged to take her in. She is not happy about the situation and the two must find an uneasy peace in the far northern woods of Canada.

I liked these books a lot and I was bummed out that the series is only two books long.

Wellington got his start with a book called Plague Zone that he published a chapter at a time as an online serial.

I read it online, and it was good! The main character is away on business when the zombie plague starts in his hometown. He sees video on the national news of the outbreak and the video shows his wife being attacked by a former neighbor. He decides that he has to find and destroy that single zombie, but to do it he must walk back into the plague zone.

So, as you can guess, I can hardly get enough of Wellington. I’m still trying to get all those new children’s books done for that class I’m teaching, but I needed a break and do I checked the library catalog and found Posi+tive.

Posi+tive takes place twenty years after the zombie plague hit, but it’s not over yet. The remaining population live in protected enclaves like Manhattan, where Finn lives. Unfortunately, the virus that caused the zombies can take up to twenty years to incubate in the host’s brain. Finn’s world is turned upside down when his mother turns into a zombie one night at supper. Finn is branded a positive, he could have caught it from her as a baby.

It’s not supposed to be a death sentence to be branded a positive, but Finn finds out the hard way that life outside his little city is very different than he expected. Being a positive doesn’t keep him safe from zombies. Or road pirates. Or death cults. Finn is going to have to find a way to forge a brand new world.

I’m not finished with it yet, but something wonderful happened in this book! Laura Caxton showed up!! I think this is a third alternate timeline, but it doesn’t matter, she’s still Laura. Thank you, David Wellington, for throwing me a bone!

Author Spotlight: Gregory Maguire

Today my husband surprised me at Wal-Mart. My older daughter and I had stopped to look at something and when we caught up to him, he handed me this hardback book, marked down to $5.97!

Alice In Wonderland is one of my all-time favorite books, and it’s by Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked.

Wicked is followed by three other books, but I need to read the last in the series. Honestly, I didn’t need the other books to be written. Elphaba’s story was what I really wanted.


I have read and enjoyed some of his fractured fairytales though. I loved Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Mirror, Mirror wasn’t bad.


I was completely shocked when the narrator’s identity was revealed at the end of Stepsister. Mirror references the Medici family in medieval Italy.


I have not yet read Hiddensee but I think it’s a retelling of The Nutcracker.

I did not enjoy Lost as much as I had hoped. The blurb on the book says it’s a ghost story with Jack the Ripper, but it just didn’t work for me.

Maguire also has numerous children’s titles. I’ve read Matchless, which is a take on Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Match Girl.

I would like to read What the Dickens which is about a tooth fairy gone rogue. There are other children’s titles, but I’m not familiar enough with them to share them.

I hope I’ve peaked your interest in this great author. He uses beloved stories and creates amazing alternative storylines for them. I have not read his works in a few years, since I don’t have any of his titles at school and my favorites by him are adult titles. I need to make more time for adult works.

One old book!

On April 25, 1719–198 years and 1 day ago–Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe.

I’m guilty of skipping this classic until now. Yesterday, when I saw the day’s “This Day In History” calendar, I decided it was time to read the book. Since my library is only K-4, I don’t have the original version. I do, however, have the Great Illustrated Classics version. I was able to read it in a couple of hours.

Maybe it was because of the condensed version, but I felt like the story skipped ahead very quickly and I’m confused why he waited so long to do some major things, like exploring the island?!?

I was also disappointed in the way that Friday came into the story. I love that Robinson rescued him but the idea that Friday would immediately swear himself to life-long slavery just grates against my nerves. Why didn’t he tell Robinson his given name? And what kind of egomaniac longs for a companion, finds one, and then teaches him to call him “Master”?

I get that Defoe was a product of a very different time but I struggle with the storyline. I’ve read other Great Illustrated Classics and they were some of the best books I’ve ever read. As a kid I read Swiss Family Robinson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds Sherlock Holmes and Journey To the Center of the Earth. I’ve read the complete version of many of these as an adult and as no complaint with how the condensing was done. That makes me think that my complaint is with Defoe, not Great Illustrated Classics.

Before you write me off as a the worst book nerd ever, I want you to know I’ve read Defoe before. I really enjoyed Moll Flanders. That poor girl was a hot mess. She’s got a great story though. So for my money, I’d recommend Moll over Robinson any day.

It’s Alive!

One of my top two favorite books of all time is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (the other slot goes to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee).

My senior year of high school I received a paperback copy for Christmas. Coincidentally, our English teacher started us on a unit after winter break reading the condensed version — I got permission to read the full story.

Most Americans can give you the gist of the story: Dr. Frankenstein uses corpses to assemble a monster that he uses electricity to bring to life. The monster then rampages and  has to be destroyed.

Close, but no cigar. Victor Frankenstein begins to study medicine and developes an obsession with returning life to dead flesh. Mary Shelley was very smart and wrote Victor’s diary in such a way that he never tells how he did it. (Critics can’t argue with something left unsaid.) Victor is never truly happy with what he has created. In his fervor of discovery he has broken the natural laws, and he has no desire to see it repeated. Lightning and electricity are a flashy visual added by the classic movies many of us love.

Boris Karloff’s classic portrayal of the monster has rooted itself into the American psyche. I see nothing wrong with how those first movies were made, but I think anatomically the monster sewn together from corpses would look more like this:

What Dr. Frankenstein feels after creating the monster is excitement that quickly becomes shame and regret. He has toyed with the laws of nature. His creation is an abomination.  It becomes a murderer, tormenting Victor to the end.

In the final scenes of the story we see the monster weep over the body of Frankenstein and we are left with a lingering doubt of whether the monster was really a monster.


Another iconic figure in The a Frankenstein myth is is the Bride, most iconically portrayed by Elsa Lanchester. (Side note: we almost always see the Bride with black hair and the white stripes, but Elsa was a redhead, you just can’t tell because of the black and white film.) The monster does want a mate so he won’t be alone, but Victor refuses complete the process, leading to more blood on the monster’s hands.

In senior English, we read the book and then watched the 1994 version starring Robert DeNiro as the monster, Kenneth Branagh as Victor and Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth. I loved DeNiro’s monster!

 

We were then assigned an essay reviewing either the book or the movie. I chose to compare and contrast the two. After 20 years I’m still proud enough of it to share here.

Frankenstein: Then and Now

Though made centuries after the original, Kenneth Branagh’s modern film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein may provide the final pieces to the puzzles of Shelley’s thought provoking characters. It seems that where Shelley’s characters confuse readers, Branagh’s movie picks up the slack with audiences. It is also true that Shelley’s novel fills some of the gaps in the movie. The two together form an unbeatable team in captivating audiences.

Shelley casts her novel with characters ruled by passions that stir a huge array of opinions in today’s readers. Victor can come across as cowardly or as a genius, depending on who is reading, whereas the creature may seem the innocent victim or as the embodiment of evil.

Under Branagh’s direction the movie tries to compensate for the character flaws. We see Victor as a man confused by his loyalties to mankind and his passions, and the creature begins to look more and more wronged and confused by man. Branagh also ventures to add dimension to Elizabeth, Victor’s lover. Branagh produces a strong woman lost in her love and concern for Victor, where Shelley wrote only of her concerns from long distance, never as an active role in Victor’s plight.

Shelley’s writing overpowers the movie in Victor’s insistence to hide the secret of life. Branagh endeavors to use electricity–a relic of earlier films–to bring the creature to life. Shelly’s novel closely guards this secret, providing no details, lest horrid consequences be lived again, this her lesson for the entire story.

Combined, the novel and the movie provide what could be the entire spectrum of Shelley’s first horrifying vision. The mix that they make is a potent lesson for readers and movie-goers alike–God’s domain is not our own.

🎶It’s the end of the world, and I feel fine🎶

I really enjoy post apocalyptic stories. I find the question “what would you be willing to do to keep your loved ones alive?” very intriguing. I haven’t read many of them lately, but I have read enough that it’s hard to pick which ones to share.

One of the first books I ever read in this genre was The Stand by Stephen King. This story is scary because a pandemic could easily happen with the ease of world travel and our dense population. It’s also terrifying to see how quickly some people choose to do bad things to keep themselves alive.

The Road was a great story that felt both real and heartbreaking. The father is working so hard to keep his son alive and safe. I can’t imagine trying to raise a child in such a world.

Kunstler’s World Made By Hand series is a bit of a more gradual decline. The people who have survived a flu epidemic have adapted fairly well and are making their way in the new world. They aren’t above violence though.

If you like zombies, and I do, this is probably the best written zombie book I’ve ever read…and I’ve read a lot. Max Brooks approaches the story as a reporter with individual stories following the pandemic in both geographic and chronological progression around the globe. (I was blown away to discover that Max Brooks is the son of Mel Brooks, as in Blazing Saddles, Young  Frankenstein and Space Balls!)

Though not true zombies, Amanda Hocking’s Hollowland series is along those lines. This is a young adult series, and the writer began her career by self-publishing online. She has found well deserved success. I loved the main character’s grit and determination. She will do anything to protect her brother and even manages to befriend a lion that helps protect them.

Another great YA series is the Ashfall series by Mike Mullin. The supervolcano under Yosemite erupts and sends the North American continent into chaos. The main character is a 15 year old boy trying to get from Des Moines to his family in Indiana. I’ve read the first two books in the set and loved them. I hope to catch up on the series this summer. 

One of the most powerful stories about a world gone wrong is Life As We Knew It and the follow up books in the series by Susan Beth Pfeffer. An asteroid hits the moon and shifts it closer to Earth. This results in tsunamis and massive flooding. Then later on, as the world reels, volcanic activity skyrockets plummeting the globe into a nuclear winter (of sorts). The story follows a 15 year old girl and her family in Pennsylvania. The second book is about a family in New York City and the third book brings the two families together. These families rely on the power of love and their devotion to one another to see them through.

I could probably come up with 20 more books like this that I think are good enough, or unique enough to tell you about. I would have recommended another volcano triggered apocalypse story if I could recall the name, and there’s an odd one by a classic author, again my brain is not working–where 100 years has passed since a virus wiped out most of the educated class. The servants survived in greater numbers and the result is an uneducated group of people who no longer even speak English correctly. I wish I could think of the name!