When your day is inconceivable, pick up an old favorite

Sword fights. Giants. Revenge. Rodents of Unusual Size (R.O.U.S). Princesses of great beauty. Princes of great evil. Pirates. Riddles. “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman is the grandest and funniest adventure you’ll ever embark upon.

The book begins with Goldman explaining how his dad read him “The Princess Bride” when he was young, and as an adult, he seeks it out only to discover that his dad skipped over pages and pages of boring history, description and explanations just to give him the “good parts,” which are the meat – the drama, the magic, fights to the death, the course of true love.

So as an adult, Goldman decides to abridge it. Now, everyone can enjoy the book in its purest form as he did, without all the boring bits. Throughout the book, he puts his abridging remarks inside the story, amusing comments on the characters, their lives or his construction of the book from its original.

Don’t be fooled by his great sense of humor though – this is all just a part of the book, a story within a story and a large part of the fun.

The tale within the tale begins in the land of Florin with a stunningly beautiful girl, Buttercup, 17, who lives on a farm with her parents and the farm boy, Westley. Buttercup falls in love with Westley, only to discover he loves her as well.

Upon knowing his love is reciprocated, Westley goes off to seek his fortune; but his ship is taken by pirates, he is presumed dead and Buttercup is heartbroken.

Soon after, Prince Humperdinck, in his search for a wife, sweeps Buttercup off to his castle. Despite her promise to never love him, she is to be his bride.

Resigned to her fate, Buttercup finds solace in her solitary rides. One day, Princess Buttercup comes upon three men: Vizzini the Sicilian, who has a slight hunch to his back but the quickest mind you’ll ever challenge; the Spaniard Inigo Montoya, slender and quick with a sword at his side and a thirst for revenge against a unknown six-fingered man who murdered his father; and Turkish giant Fezzik, who loves rhymes.

The kidnapped Buttercup awakens on a boat heading toward the Cliffs of Insanity, where she soon learns the men have been paid to leave her dead body to start a war between Florin and its neighbor Guilder.

As they arrive at the Cliffs of Insanity, the trio and Buttercup realize they are not alone. They are being pursued by a man in black, and though it seems inconceivable, he catches up and challenges them all one by one to get what he truly wants – Buttercup.

This is really only the beginning. Like any great adventure, there is so much more to come – fire swamps, killer rodents, battles of wits and battles to the death. There may even be a miracle or two.

Goldman keeps us enthralled and chuckling throughout his book, which in case you’re wondering, yes, is better than the movie. (But actually, the movie didn’t do too bad a job. It’s one of my favorite books-into-films.)

Over the years, I’ve read “The Princess Bride” again and again, whenever sickness has me bedridden or I need a good laugh. It is one of the most enjoyable books you’ll ever pick up.

And if you don’t read it to find out whether Buttercup lives, whether Inigo gets his revenge or whether the Prince is vanquished, then you can always read it for the rhymes. That Fezzik is quite talented.

Reopening Room 217

“FEAR stands for fuck everything and run.” 

Dan Torrance escaped the Overlook hotel with his mother when he was a child, but he could not escape the shining.

Dan eventually learns to lock away the rotting corpses that haunt him, but as he grows up, he cannot lock away his need to drink. For years, he follows in his father’s footsteps, trying to black out the shining with liquor. He tries to bury the horrors and despair in bottles and pitchers.

You’d think this is when they would take him, when he is weak. When he is at his bottom.

But it is years later, when Dan is sober and working at a hospice as “Doctor Sleep,” using his shining to help people die in peace, that evil finds him again.

The True Knot travels across America’s highways in RVs and Winnebagos with cheery bumper stickers, canes and polyester suits. Looking like typical retirees roaming through truck stops and tourist traps, they scour the country for special children. Children who shine.

They torture; they maim. They slowly devour the children with shining and eat the “steam” which comes out of them when they are dying.

The steam helps the True Knot stay alive as they keep roaming and killing. They are almost immortal, until they meet Abra Stone.

Abra has a shining so great that she reaches out to Dan when she is only a couple months old. She shines right into his mind while he is sitting at an AA meeting, beginning a relationship that slowly develops as she grows older.

Though Abra makes spoons stick to the ceiling and music play in the air, her shining isn’t something to be dealt with until she witnesses a boy’s murder at the hands of the True Knot. As she watches them lick his blood off their hands, they sense her.

And once they know Abra exists, a little girl with a shining so bright they can feel it across the country, they have to have her. To eat her.

This long-awaited sequel to “The Shining” is a gruesome and exciting thriller that any reader who feared the woman in Room 217 will enjoy. Anyone who wishes for a little more REDRUM. Anyone who still dreams about the hedges moving when they are alone in bed at night.

“Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King is about what happens after the nightmare is over. Or when you think it’s over because it doesn’t really end.

It follows you home.

One inescapable year

“And then it’s always that one word that makes you so different and puts you outside the overlap of everyone else; and that word is so fucking big and loud, it’s the only thing anyone ever hears when your name is spoken. 

And whenever that happens to us, all the other words that make us the same disappear in it’s shadow.” 

“Winger” by Andrew Smith starts with Ryan Dean West, 14, having his head shoved in a toilet. As he takes note of his current situation, we learn a little about him. West, also known as “Winger” because of his position on the rugby team, hates football players, and is top of his class as a junior, loves to draw and has a wicked sense of humor about the world around him.

He attends Pine Mountain, a boarding school he refers to as “the best school around for the rich deviants of tomorrow.” This year, West has been moved to Opportunity Hall, a dorm for troublemakers, to room with Chas, a fellow rugby player he doesn’t get along with. So the year starts off with some difficulty, in addition to the fact he is trying to overcome being a younger man in high school, where any kind of difference makes you stand out.

West believes that the main difference of each person, whether it be age, size, sexuality or gender, can be the one aspect that blinds those around us to anything else. No matter what else he does, he feels that his age is what defines him to his peers. Kids at his school may be known by identifiers such as “the gay guy” or “the nice guy,” but at only 14 years old, he is known as “the young guy.”

This makes him feel that he has to work hard to gain respect from his fellow students and the attention of his best friend, Annie (whom he is madly in love with, of course). As the year progresses, he tries to break out of his identifier and broaden his mind about others’.

West has many typical teen experiences. He sneaks out of his dorm at night, gets into fights with friends, falls head over heels in love, acts incredibly stupid and even gets bullied by other students.

West slowly realizes that his best guy friend is Joey, a young man who also happens to be gay, and his girl best friend, Annie, is someone worth fighting for. He gets to know students outside of his circle and watches his friends overcome their personal battles each day as he confronts his own. He does his best to be a good friend in the face of all the hormones, stupidity and headstrong beliefs that tend to fill teens with such surety when they are young.

“Winger” is hilarious, imaginative and heartbreaking. The comics included throughout the book and the sense of humor add a light undertone to balance the seriousness of some of West’s experiences.

I couldn’t help but be charmed by this book. It made me laugh all the way through and then completely broke my heart.

It begins with a statement that reverberates throughout the rest of the book – “Joey told me nothing ever goes back exactly the way it was, that things expand and contract – like breathing, but you could never fill your lungs up with the same air twice.”

And by the end, we learn with Ryan Dean West how one incredibly beautiful and inescapably hard year can change everything.