Top Ten Tuesday (June 26) – Characters I Think I Know in Real Life

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, where the terrific team over at The Broke and the Bookish give us excuses to make lists and indulge our inner OCD tendencies.

I’ve got to be honest, guys. I looked at the topic for this week, and I just about skipped it, because I’ve got nothing.

But then I was sad, because Top Ten Tuesday is my favorite meme, and I always enjoy coming up with my lists and seeing what others come up with. Plus, I’ve seen Galaxy Quest enough times that “Never give up, never surrender” is kind of emblazoned on my psyche, so admitting defeat wasn’t really an option.

The good news is that my psyche is apparently not opposed to a bit of cheating, so I decided to tweak the topic to one I could do.

So here’s the topic I was supposed to do:

Top Ten Characters Who Remind Me Of Myself Or Someone I Know In Real Life

Yup, complete blank. Part of the problem is that most of what I read is YA, and I am just…A. But even if I think of myself and my friends from back when I was in the YA age bracket, I still came up blank. Not a lot of authors tend to write books featuring characters who enjoy Star Trek and Scrabble. Comic books, maybe, but that’s probably because characters in books are on the verge of developing superpowers, and my friends and I never developed superpowers. So. This topic wasn’t going to work for me.

Here’s the one I’ve decided to do instead:

Top Ten Characters I Think I’d Have Been Friends With If We Went to High School Together

(That’s close enough, right?)

1. Hermione GrangerHarry PotterI was a big nerd and a squeaky clean kid. So was Hermione. We would either have been BFFs or arch nemeses, because that’s the way it works with smart kids.

2. Simon, The Mortal InstrumentsI have only read the first book in this series, but Simon was my favorite and I could totally see us hanging out and not wanting to go to clubs together.

3. Kent McFuller, Before I FallI can’t say anyone I was friends with in high school actually wore a bowler hat, but I still think that Kent would have fit right in.

4. Angela, TwilightShe’s sweet and soft-spoken and kind of hangs back while her friends arm wrestle for attention. I can relate to that.

5. Peeta, The Hunger GamesOkay, it’s highly probable that Peeta would be too cool to be my friend because he’d probably be on the football team or something like that, and not in the marching band with me, but I’m going to hold out hope that we’d be buds.

 6. Chuck, The Maze RunnerGranted, we will probably never know what Chuck was like before the Maze, but he seems like the kind of kid I would have joked with in study hall.

7. Kate, Die For Me. Assuming her parents never died and she never moved to Paris and never fell for the undead Vincent, we’d probably have gotten along pretty well. She’s quiet and bookish and not one for large groups of people, and that was pretty much me in high school.

8. Beth, Little WomenI love Jo and all, but Beth is the one I think I would have clicked with. She was probably the type that was quiet in groups, especially when there were strong personalities present (like, you know, every other member of her family), but was lots of fun one-on-one. Some of my best friends are like that.

9. Inigo Montoya, The Princess BrideI’ll admit this one is probably just wishful thinking, but wouldn’t it be great to be friends with teenage Inigo? Maybe he’d have been an exchange student. I never actually befriended any exchange students, but I probably would have if Inigo was one.

10. Marlee, The SelectionBecause honestly, Marlee would have been friends with everyone in high school.

So there you go. Sorry I cheated.

Review: The Princess Bride by William Goldman, and why you should read it. Immediately.

 

The more I participate in weekly memes, the more I’ve come to a disturbing realization. Try to prepare yourselves, for the shock and horror may be great:

Not everyone has read The Princess Bride.

Are you still with me? How’s your heart? Try to focus on your breathing. I know, the truth is hard to digest.

There is even a large portion of the population that does not realize that The Princess Bride was originally a book. They’ve seen the movie, and think it’s the original.

Don’t get me wrong. The movie is fabulous. Fabulous. But it’s not the original, and it’s certainly not as good as the book.

This review isn’t going to be a usual review. I’ll give you a nutshell intro to the plot (like you need it), then list the reasons why you need to read this book right now.

The Plot

Probably most of you know the basics of the story. Buttercup, the most beautiful girl in the world, falls in love with Westley, a worker on her family’s farm. Although they are deeply in love, Westley decides to sail to America to seek his fortune, and while at sea, his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves a prisoner alive.

Buttercup’s mourning is cut short when the dastardly Prince Humperdinck decides to take a bride. He chooses Buttercup because of her astounding beauty, but she vows to never love him. He doesn’t really care, because his true purpose is to have her killed by mercenaries, hoping to incite his fictional country of Florin to go to war with the fictional country of Guilder.

Buttercup is kidnapped by mercenaries, Vizzini (a Sicilian), Fezzik (a Turk), and Inigo Montoya (a Spaniard). They are then perused and methodically defeated by a mysterious Man in Black, who steals Buttercup away from them.

You know what happens next.

Why You Need to Read The Princess Bride Immediately

(all quotes taken from the 1992 paperback version, copyright William Goldman):

“The Good Parts.” 

Here’s the blurb from the inside cover of my copy:

“As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the ‘S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride.’ But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the ‘good parts’ reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the ‘Good Parts Version’ to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it’s about everything.”

But of course, there never was any S. Morgenstern. There never was an “original” version of The Princess Bride that turned out to be more a history of Florin and Guilder than a story about True Love and Revenge. But the fact that Goldman writes it as if he’s extracting “the good parts” out of a boring history book just adds to the wit and charm of this book. He always inserts little notes in italics to let the reader know when he has “extracted” something. For example, at the beginning of Chapter 2, we have this note from Goldman:

“This is my first major excision. Chapter One, The Bride, is almost in its entirety about the bride. Chapter Two, The Groom, only picks up Prince Humperdinck in the last few pages.

This chapter is where my son Jason stopped reading, and there is simply no way of blaming him. For what Morgenstern has done is open this chapter with sixty-six pages of Florinese history. More accurately, it is the history of the Florinese crown.

Dreary? Not to be believed.”

- p. 59

He also interjects little pieces of “history” into the narrative so that we can orient ourselves:

‘I’m going to America. To seek my fortune.’ (This was just after America but long after fortunes.)”

- p. 50

The Dialogue

“‘I love you,’ Buttercup said. ‘I know this must come as something of a surprise to you, since all I’ve ever done is scorn you and degrade you and taunt you, but I have loved you for several hours now, and every second, more. I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then. But ten minutes after that, I understood that my previous love was a puddle compared to the high seas before a storm. Your eyes are like that, did you know? Well they are. How many minutes ago was I? Twenty? Had I brought my feelings up to then? It doesn’t matter.’ Buttercup still could not look at him. The sun was rising behind her now; she could feel the heat on her back, and it gave her courage. ‘I love you so much more now than twenty minutes ago that there cannot be comparison. I love you so much more now than when you opened your hovel door, there cannot be comparison. There is no room in my body for anything but you. My arms love you, my ears adore you, my knees shake with blind affection. My mind begs you to ask it something so it can obey. Do you want me to follow you for the rest of your days? I will do that. Do you want me to crawl? I will crawl. I will be quiet for you or sing for you, or if you are hungry, let me bring you food, or if you have thirst and nothing will quench it but Arabian wine, I will go to Araby, even though it is across the world, and bring a bottle back for your lunch. Anything there is that I can do for you, I will do for you; anything there is that I cannot do, I will learn to do. I know I cannot compete with the Countess in skills or wisdom or appeal, and I saw the way she looked at you. And I saw the way you looked at her. But remember, please, that she is old and has other interests, while I am seventeen and for me there is only you. Dearest Westley–I’ve never called you that before, have I?–Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley,–darling Westley, adored Westley, sweet perfect Westley, whisper that I have a chance to win your love.’ And with that, she dared the bravest thing she’d ever done; she looked right into his eyes.” 

- p. 48

The way the characters talk is simultaneously cheesy, poetic, endearing, and absurd. It’s hard to not feel a profound sense of happiness when reading a conversation taking place in The Princess Bride.

The Backstory

The characters in the movie are wonderful and iconic. The book lets us know how they became that way. As an example, I present to you:

Inigo Montoya. He is the greatest swordsman that ever lived. He gives Westley a stirring 30-second speech about why he is a great swordsman, and why he is hunting The Six-Fingered Man. He has one of the most iconic lines in the movie: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” He is awesome.

Book Inigo is just as awesome, but now we are treated to 16 pages of intriguing backstory about him and his father, their relationship, his father’s murder, his training to become the greatest swordsman who ever lived, and his constant search for The Six-Fingered Man.

“Domingo Montoya was funny-looking and crotchety and impatient and absent-minded and never smiled.

Inigo loved him. Totally. Don’t ask why. There really wasn’t any one reason you could put your finger on. Oh, probably Domingo loved him back, but love is many things, none of them logical.”

- p. 97

And of course, he also says his famous line in the book. Many times.

The Action

The film is full of swordfighting fun, and the book has even more. Plus, the book goes into even more detail about the different fencing techniques, which doesn’t sound interesting, but is. Remember the part in the movie where Inigo and The Man in Black are bantering while swordfighting about the different attacks and defenses they are using? Straight from the book, but the book has even more of that.

The Humor

I know you’ve probably picked up on this by now, but the book is hilarious. It’s not side-splitting give-you-the-hiccups kind of hilarious, although an unexpected guffaw will probably escape your lips several times while reading this. But it is leave-a-smile-plastered-across-your-face-constantly hilarious. It will give you happy feelings.

Westley

I know this is hard to believe, but book Westley is about 10x awesomer than movie Westley. True story.

Buttercup

I know that super-strong, independent, quick-thinking heroines are all the rage these days. Buttercup is not like that. Poor girl, she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.

“‘Do you love me, Westley? Is that it?’
He couldn’t believe it. ‘Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches. If your love were—‘
‘I don’t understand the first one yet,’ Buttercup interrupted. She was starting to get very excited now. ‘Let me get this straight. Are you saying my love is the size of a grain of sand and yours is this other thing? Images just confuse me so—is this universal business of yours bigger than my sand? Help me, Westley. I have the feeling we’re on the verge of something just terribly important.’”

 - p. 51

She has beauty, and she has love, and that’s really all she has going for her. But it’s enough. She never learns to be a fighter, she never gets much cleverer or wittier, and she can’t wield a sword or shoot an arrow. But she has love, and it makes her strong.

““I am your Prince and you will marry me,” Humperdinck said.
Buttercup whispered, “I am your servant and I refuse.”
“I am you Prince and you cannot refuse.”
“I am your loyal servant and I just did.”
“Refusal means death.”
“Kill me then.” 

- p. 72

And last but not least, the book contains this line:

“The beef-witted featherbrained rattledskulled clodpated dim-domed noodle-noggined sapheaded lunk-knobbed BOYS.” 

- p. 36

So. There you have it. My case for why you need to read The Princess Bride. I hope you’re convinced. Even if you aren’t normally a fan of fairy tales, or love stories, or humor, you should read The Princess Bride. Because it’s magical and amazing and splendid.

And if by some cruel twist of fate you haven’t seen the movie either, I highly recommend it. It’s a beautiful and fabulous movie.

But you still need to read the book.

Content Guide: Contains violence and torture, murderous plots, grave danger, and R.O.U.S.s

Top Ten Tuesday (April 24): Favorite Book Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fine folk over at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they are particularly fond of lists, and I’m participating because I am particularly fond of lists. Fancy that!

So the topic for this week’s list is:

Top Ten All-Time Favorite Characters In Books

There will be some minor spoilers in here, because some of the reasons I love these characters are kind of spoiler-y.

10. Cinna (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins) - Cinna is cool, composed, and suave. He’s a stylist, so you wouldn’t think of him as being a fighter. But he proves himself to be brave and devoted to a cause greater than himself. He fights intelligently, not with swords and fists, but with well-placed images that turn the tides of feeling in the Capitol and the Districts. He was the secret but powerful force behind the Girl on Fire.

 9. Molly Weasley (First introduced in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling) - I would be remiss if I didn’t mention such a wonderful example of a mother. Molly Weasley is often in the background of the story, knitting horrible sweaters and fussing over her brood of red-headed children. But her fierce love and devotion for her family is never in doubt, and ultimately, she demonstrates the kind of power that comes from a mother’s love for her children. It’s nothing to be trifled with.

8. Robert Muldoon (Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton) - This is going to be short and sweet. Muldoon is freakin’ awesome, and if they’d all have listened to him from the beginning, dinosaurs wouldn’t have wound up eating most of them. And, unlike in the movie version, Muldoon is smart enough to not get eaten himself .

7. Valentine Wiggin (Ender’s Game and its sequels by Orson Scott Card) - In a world where children are turned into weapons by the military, Ender’s sister Valentine was rejected from the program for being too sympathetic and compassionate. But her intelligence was never the issue. Valentine’s game against her brother Peter is on a much smaller scale than Ender’s against the Formics, but she plays it well, proving what a shrewd strategist she really is. She also is Ender’s emotional center, the one member of his family who is always supportive and loving of him, no matter what he has done. She later proves her devotion to Ender when she accompanies him on his travels after the completion of the Game.

6. Jamie Fraser (The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon) - If you like your romantic leading men big, burly, and Scottish, look no further than James Fraser. From the moment Claire Randall finds herself inexplicably transported from 1945 to 18th-century Scotland, Jamie is her savior, her protector, and her friend. He is innocent, funny and friendly while also being a strong warrior and leader. He’s not without his flaws, chief among them his fiery temper and fierce stubbornness. But ultimately, it’s his enduring love for Claire — a love that literally spans centuries — that makes him utterly endearing.

5. Peeta Mellark (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins) - I never really bought into the whole “Team Peeta”/”Team Gale” thing (in my opinion, Peeta’s biggest rival for Katniss’ affections was Katniss.) So my admiration for Peeta is not based on the fact that he’s just sooooooo dreamy. Peeta takes more mental and physical abuse than any other character in THG series (barring, of course, the ones who die). But his strength of character and his will to be true to himself ultimately prevail. He is gentle, kind, and full of hope in a world where all of those are in short supply; but he also demonstrates strength and power when the situation demands it. Katniss may be the focal point of THG, but in my mind, Peeta is the true victor.

4. Professor Remus Lupin (First introduced in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling) - As Harry’s only Defense Against the Dark Arts professor who is both qualified and competent, Professor Lupin’s teachings are instrumental in Harry’s fight against Voldemort. Additionally, in spite of Lupin’s internal struggles, he continues to be one of the main leaders of the Order of the Pheonix. He serves as mentor and protector of the Dynamic Trio, and ultimately helps Harry understand the power of sacrificial love.

3. Westley (The Princess Bride by William Goldman) - If you haven’t read The Princess Bride, go get yourself a copy and read it. Right now. The movie is great; the book is better. And however much movie Westley is the ultimate in swashbuckling romantic heroes, book Westley is even better. If you thought his survival in the Pit of Despair was impressive, wait until you see him in the Zoo of Death. “To the pain” indeed.

2. Nighteyes (Farseer Trilogy/Tawny Man Trilogy by Robin Hobb) - Nighteyes is protagonist FitzChivalry’s wolf companion for most of his journeys. Nighteyes is as you would expect a wolf to be: vicious, cunning, and fiercely loyal. But he is also surprisingly witty, refreshingly honest, and endearingly playful. Through all of Fitz’s misadventures, Nighteyes is there to ground him, support him, and be the voice of reason. In a series I loved full of characters I loved, Nighteyes was among the best. I’ve never felt so emotionally attached to an animal character, before or since.

1. The Fool (Farseer Trilogy/Liveship Traders Trilogy/Tawny Man Trilogy by Robin Hobb) - In Robin Hobb’s spectacular trilogy of trilogies, The Fool is the thread that ties them all together. He is an enigma wrapped in a puzzle wrapped in a cleverly worded and slightly biting riddle. And somehow, even though you never truly understand everything about him — even after 9 books — you come to know him. Introduced as a comical background character, The Fool ultimately evolves into one of the most complex and fascinating characters I’ve ever read. But despite the vast mystery that surrounds him, it’s hard to doubt or deny his friendship and devotion with Fitz, even in the face of unimaginable hardship.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

Neville Longbottom, Hermione Granger, Professor McGonagall (Harry Potter)

Burrich (Farseer Trilogy/Tawny Man Trilogy)

 Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe (Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery)

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

Kent McFuller (Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver)

Jo March (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)

 I may add more to this later. It’s too painful not to mention some of these great characters.