Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

30841109Over Thanksgiving last year, I went on a book buying spree with my family, picking up a few new releases, including this one. I was excited to read it in advance of the PBS airing of the ITV mini series. I’ve previously enjoyed books by this author and I knew that she was also the showrunner/head writer for the mini series. I gave it to my mom to read before I left and she enjoyed it as well, so I was ready to love it.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t very much. Perhaps it was because I saw a bit of The Young Victoria on cable as I started reading it, so this felt like a retread. Or it was just too slow going in the beginning. Once Victoria stopped behaving like a spoiled child, it was much easier to read. I mean, I get that she’s the Queen and like 17 when this all happens to her, but there was a little too much stamping her feet and having a crush on Melbourne for me. Or maybe it was Melbourne indulging her instead of being the adult that I couldn’t take.

In any case, it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I actually felt interested and/captivated. I’m also quite curious why the mini series appears to go way past the events of the book, if they were written at the same time. Regardless, I’m happy to finally catch up on the mini series and check this book off my list.

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As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden

21412202The first movie I can remember watching is The Princess Bride. I’m sure there were Disney movies before that, but this is the first movie I have a clear memory of watching. My family would always spend a week on the Outer Banks with another family (the parents were my parents best friends from college) and one evening, they put in the VHS tape of The Princess Bride. I know I didn’t get all the jokes, but it was fast and funny with all the things that Peter Falk describes at the beginning – “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” I also, of course, had a huge crush on Westley!

That was the first of MANY, MANY viewings. So, when I saw that Cary Elwes was coming to the Castro Theatre in 2015 for a Quote-Along screening of the film, followed by a Q&A and book signing, I knew we had to be there. The screening itself was hilarious. It was so fun to be with 3000 other people who know all the words and enjoy being dorks about it. My dad even got an inflatable sword to wave about when they start fighting. The Q&A highlighted a few of the anecdotes from the book, but the best part was getting my copy of the book signed by the man himself. I can’t recall what I might have said (if anything at all), but I DO remember that his eyes were incredible! I was giddy the whole way home, having met my first crush and not embarrassing myself (for once).

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Meeting Westley in person

Oh right, the book! I don’t know why it took me so long to actually finish this book as it’s a delightful read. Elwes is self-deprecating about his own part in things, while heaping glowing praise on his co-stars. It’s a lovefest all around, as his co-stars also contribute anecdotes related to each chapter. I loved the behind the scenes photos and all of his stories about Andre the Giant. I also hadn’t realized all the work that went into the sword fight as well as how extended it became at the last minute. Elwes is good-natured about how the movie is entwined with his legacy, which is always nice to read, since some actors get tetchy about associated with one role, no matter how long ago it was.

My only quibble with the book is that the anecdotes from his cast members are presented in boxes along with the main text, so it’s hard to figure out when the read them without losing the story that Elwes is telling. I’m sure there’s a good reason for the publisher doing this, but it was rather distracting. However, the book has further enhanced my enjoyment of the movie (which was on cable this week) as I watch for all the little things he mentioned. Knowing that he really was knocked unconscious after the Fire Swamp put that scene a whole new light! But I don’t want to give away anymore – you should really just read the book because it’s excellent, and then watch the movie because it’s excellent.

“Yes, you’re very smart. Shut up.”

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara

23652519When I found out about Thrift Books, I immediately ran through my “can’t find at the library” list of books for things to buy. I was able to get 4 books (including this one) for $12.88! They were all like new or better, which was great.

I’ve been hearing about this book for a year from Ali’s Twitter feed, so I was crazy excited to be able to read it without taking a trip to England or expensive transatlantic shipping. However, it took me much longer to finish than her previous books.

A black sheep daughter inherits her grandmother’s flower shop in a seaside English town. Even though she’s not sure she’s going to keep it, she ends up sucked into the town and running the business. She used to visit her grandmother with her brother when she was a kid, but then there was an incident and her life turned upside down. Which is fine, cause every heroine needs a backstory, but ugh, this one is dragged out until almost the very end and the pay off is nothing special. I mean, yeah, it’s sad, but after all that build up, I wasn’t as moved as I knew I should have been.

I enjoyed the romance, but again, it was only so-so. I think I must have built this one up too much in my head.

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

30821598As someone who tries to curate her Instagram feed, I very much related to this story.

Cat, nee Katie, is new at her job at a branding agency, where everyone hates their overbearing boss. She commutes an hour (on a good day) for the privilege and is still trying to make her mark at the office. She’s a country girl, trying to make it in London, making no money, sharing a flat with terrible people and sneaking photos of other people’s lives for her Instagram. A chance encounter with a cute guy on the roof of her building (after her boss makes her re-do the boss’s roots) makes her think her life’s finally turning out the way she always dreamed. But then she gets laid off.

Going back to her dad’s place, Katie finds him in the middle of another get-rich-quick scheme. Realizing she can actually help him do it right, she tells a white lie about being on sabbatical from her job to make it happen. Then her boss shows up at their glamping grounds, and it all goes to hell.

As someone who sacrifices a lot to live in a world-class city AND who has had some not-so-great bosses (though luckily, not at the same time), I really felt Katie’s dilemma. It’s hard to keep going when it feels like everything is telling you “no.” And given our/my obsession with social media, it’s really easy to project that your life is going however you’d like. Making connections as an adult, out of college, is difficult, and her desire to fit in really struck me. Also made me realize that perhaps I shouldn’t have been so hard on some of those not-so-great bosses. Still waiting to meet the cute guy who wants to stay with me though. Guess I need to try a Santa-themed bike ride across London!