Book Reviews

One of them was breathtaking. The other one was mind-numbingly stupid.

I should probably preface this by saying that I do not read a lot of books, contrary to what a lot of people seem to think. This doesn’t mean I don’t love reading- I do. I would much rather get lost in a really good book than get lost in a movie. I just don’t find many books that have a good plot, well developed characters, and an entertaining enough narrative to keep me reading until the end. This would be the reason why I have started a great number of books in the past few months and only actually finished one or two.

It’s also why I am usually guilty of watching the movie first.


I’ve been meaning to do two book reviews since… two months ago? And I just keep forgetting to do them. Thus, they will be smashed into one blog.

Book number one: Empire of the Wolves, by Jean-Christophe Grange.

I put this book on hold from the library not because I knew what it was about or that it had been recommended to me, but because I knew that they’d made a movie out of it…and the movie was French. I have a soft spot for French movies . But because the movie isn’t available at my library, I had to read the book first. 😉 And now, I have a soft spot for French books.

I haven’t read a book in years that has captured my attention so well. From the very first sentence, I was hooked. For the first… twelve or so chapters (short chapters), it follows Anna Heymes, the wife of a top Parisian official, as she tries to find the answers to her horrifying hallucinations and memory lapses. She cannot remember her husband, and she thinks she knows people she’s never met before. After a series of tests given by a doctor who knows her husband, a doctor that she does not trust, she secretly seeks the advice of a psychiatrist and finds out that she’s had plastic surgery to change everything about her face.

But she cannot remember why, when, or how.

Then, it jumps over to a young cop who is trying to track down a serial killer, and the escapades he goes through as the old retired cop he’s pulled back into the service to help begins operating by means the younger cop doesn’t like. Somehow, Anna Heymes and the young cop’s case are connected. But how? Well. I’m not going to tell you.

All throughout the book, I was constantly thinking I had figured out who did it, who was connected to who, what had happened, and why it was happening… and I was constantly wrong. Just when I thought I’d figured out how it might end, something new was thrown in and I was completely befuddled. The plot was incredibly fascinating, twisting, turning, always changing. The characters were all really richly written, and the little details thrown in to make them more real were brilliant.

This isn’t a book for the faint of heart, though, and as far as books go I would probably give it an R rating. There are no sex scenes, and while all nudity is case-related (dead people at the morgue) and completely free of any kind of distorted perversion, it does get kind of graphic and morbid. The language- cursing- was pretty limited.  I only remember one case of cringing because of the language, and that was one scene of one chapter. Other than that, it was quite clean.

So if you want a good thrilling mystery and you don’t mind a smattering of curse-words or dead bodies in the morgue, read it.

Book Two: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

Now, William Goldman has written the screenplay of one of my favorite movies (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), and I really enjoyed Princess Bride the movie. I have a friend or two who have recommended the book to me and told me that it is SO much better than the movie.

Sadly, the only reason I finished this book… was that I kept hoping it would eventually get better.

I’m sorry to all of you who might be a fan of the book, but I thought that it was absolutely idiotic.

The movie is pretty well-known, but in case you’ve never heard of it,  here’s a (very, very short) summary: Buttercup is a beautiful farm-girl, Westley is the farmhand. They fall madly in love, and he decides to go to a richer land to make his fortune and provide her with something to come to. However, he is reportedly killed by The Dread Pirate Roberts, and Buttercup is heartbroken. After years of vowing she will love no one else, Buttercup is chosen by Prince Humperdink as a bride. But villains arise, kidnap Buttercup, the Masked man follows the bandits and defeats them all, takes Buttercup, and… well. Shenanigans happen. Fire swamps, rodents of unusual size, swordfights, true love, fires, etc…

It’s “a classic tale of true love and high adventure…”

… and it is  routinely interrupted by William Goldman’s narrative to tell us many, many splurts about his life in relation to the story…  most of which are rather mundane and (I thought) annoying.  But I liked his interruptions better than the actual book.

Usually, the book is a thousand times better than the movie. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right?

Horribly wrong in this instance.

In the movie Westley is charming and witty, smart, cunning, and very heroic. In the book, he’s unrighteously snide, superior, and annoying. In the movie, Buttercup is sweet, adamant, and loyal. In the book, she’s absolutely stupid, clueless, and weak. The narrative is not only interrupted by William Goldman’s life stories,  but also many brackets that explain things or add to things and completely break up the writing.

If he had just stuck to writing The Princess Bride as an uninterrupted fairytale without trying to add pieces of his personal life to it, without trying to make it seem like he had edited the fictitious S. Morgenstern’s book to be “better,” I do believe the book would have been much more enjoyable. Only the two main characters still would have been irritating.

All in all, I was very disappointed with the book. The only thing I liked about it was the ending.

This is something I never thought I’d say, but if you ever want to experience the story, don’t waste your time on the book. Just watch the movie.

And that’s it!

Hopefully I’ll be doing more book reviews in the future. I am trying to make a list of books I need to read- most of which I own and have never read- and I’ll try to review a few of them every month, whether I like them or not. They’re almost all  old classics- The Three Musketeers, Ivanhoe, The Scarlet Letter- but I’ll probably also be getting books from the library to read that are newer.

If you have read any really good books, recommend them to me, please! I’ll keep a running list and review the recommended books once I’m done. Don’t be offended, though, if I don’t like them as much as you do. It’s nothing on your taste, I’m a little hard to please when it comes to reading material.

P.S. This month’s reading list.


  • Bethly

    Empire of the Wolves sounds right up my alley! I must remember to check it out sometime!

    I remember a good friend of mine telling me about Princess Bride years ago. She said, “Remember how Inigo is told his over heightened sense of vengeance was going to get him in trouble someday? Well, in the book it did. A lot. And it depressed me.” And when I’m told a book depressed a person, I tend to stay away from it.

    I love your book reviews! Do you have more? Will you do more?? 🙂

    • Mara

      Empire of the Wolves is absolutely amazing. I actually want to read it again, which is super rare for me.

      Yeah, I’ve had two friends telling me that Princess Bride the book is better than the movie, and I so very much disagree. Inigo’s part in it is really depressing. The only character in the book that was good was Fezzik. He was cute. But it’s not really worth reading, to me.

      I will do more, once I’ve finished another book. I just started reading Wicked (book about The Wicked Witch of the West), so that will probably be my next review. 😀

  • Avra-Sha Faohla

    S. Morgenstern is fictitious? How come I did not know this? Now that you mention it, though, it makes sense; after all, how could an author go on for thirty pages about someone’s hats (I seem to remember Goldman saying Morgenstern had done something like that)?

    Duh, Avra. He didn’t. (And now I feel stupid…. 😉 )

    • Mara

      Yes, he is. And it’s okay you didn’t know, because I didn’t either. But I’d never really been interested in the book, so I never bothered to look him up until I read it. I half-expected he’d be fictitious, and I half-hoped he was real so I could try to track down the original story and see if it was really that bad.
      But sure enough… he’s fake. As is most of the biographical material Goldman has in the story about his son and wife.

      Yeah, Goldman said that he edited out pages on hats and clothes and history about Florin (not a real place, by the way), and it’s just like… why not just tell the story and forget the fictional author and how much excess he wrote? It was a big peeve of mine in reading the book.

    • Mara

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’m a very, very critical reader. I don’t know why, but I tend to be extremely picky about my books. So don’t worry, it’s probably better than I think it is!