Sunday, August 16, 2015

We Don't Need Roads: the Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy,204,203,200_.jpg 

The title: We Don't Need Roads: the Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy
The author: Caseen Gaines
Publication: Penguin, 2015
Got it from:  Amazon

How much do I love the Back to the Future trilogy?  You don't want to know.  They are hands-down, by a long shot, far and away my favourite movies.  I have watched them dozens of times since the early 1990s and practically know them line for line.  I've often pondered why I love them so much.  Is it the incredibly written scripts, where every scene has purpose and meaning?  Is it 80s nostalgia?  Is it that the characters are so great I want to visit and revisit them constantly?  Maybe it's all of those and more.  There is also of course my deep and abiding love of time travel.  Chicken and egg question: did my love of time travel spring from these movies or did I love them because they had time travel?  I was so young the first time I saw them.  I doubt I'll ever be able untangle that conundrum.

And honestly, who cares?  It's enough to just love them.  Every time I see them I notice something new.  It doesn't matter that I know exactly how they end, I still find them thrilling.  (My personal opinion: the train scene at the end of Part III is the most exciting action sequence in cinematic history).  They are somehow childhood comfort and adult appreciation at the same time.  Another paradox, just like the films love to mention. 

I could go on pretty much forever dissecting these films.  No, really, I could.  Don't get me started down that path.  Suffice to say, when I found out there was going to be a 30th anniversary retrospective book, I said, "shut up and take my money."  Because let's be honest, there's a pretty slim chance I wasn't going to enjoy this book.  

Now, as a disclaimer, I'm going to admit that you should probably be a fan before you read this book.  The author doesn't describe the plot in a huge amount of detail.  You're going to have to know what "the lightning scene" or the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance are, for example (as in "this was what happened when they filmed that scene.")  But who the heck even reads a making of book without having seen the movies first anyway?  Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I can say that if you are a big BTTF fan, you'll love it.  It's not entirely gossip, but there are some pretty juicy details, like just what Crispin Glover asked for that prevented him from being in the sequels and what really happened with Eric Stoltz.  I like that they interviewed some of the smaller memorable characters too, like Marvin Barry and the Wallet Guy, to get their perspective on what it was like to be in these iconic films.  I also have a new appreciation for just how much work Robert Zemeckis (aka Bob Z) and Bob Gale had to put in to make these films so perfect.  Overall, I really like the way the author framed the narrative.  I was impressed with how he kept the story flowing and made it interesting. I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about these movies but I was wrong. 

Verdict:  Set your De Lorean time circuits and get the flux capacitor fluxing.  October 21, 2015, the day Doc and Marty travel to the future, will be here in just two months.  While you're waiting, I suggest reading We Don't Need Roads to get your BTTF fix.

Dearest Rogue

The title: Dearest Rogue
The author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Publication: Hachette, 2015
Got it from:  The library

It's book #8 in the Maiden Lane series!  (Previously reviewed: #3, #4 and #6.)  The couple in this one were featured characters in Duke of Midnight and I looked forward to reading their story.  Lady Phoebe Batten is the younger sister of the hero in Duke of Midnight, Maximus Batten.  Normally I haaaaaaate ingenue romances with a passion (she's only 21) but she is forgiven by me because - in an unusual-for-romance twist - she has slowly gone blind.  Her disability, which in the early eighteenth century was even more difficult to live with, makes her older and wiser for her age.  But she's still very young and vivacious, and she chafes at the restrictions her brother places on her because of her status and disability.  

Phoebe is a  target for kidnappers, which is why Maximus hires James Trevillion, former dragoon captain, as her bodyguard.  Trevillion is the sort of no-nonsense hero who's a perfect foil for Phoebe's lightheartedness.  He also has a disability of his own.  In Duke of Midnight his horse fell on him while he was helping the Ghost of St. Giles (Maximus) chase a criminal.  Ever since he's had a permanent limp and has to walk with a cane.

It goes without saying that for me the Maiden Lane series is just so darn good.  The couples from the other books in the series always play a role in later books so the that area of London is starting to feel like one big friend reunion to me.  (I do love books about communities).  This book is the perfect blend of character development, action, historical detail and humour.  There is never a dull moment and much to reward an intelligent reader.  For instance, there's the fact that the hero and heroine both have disabilities that are particularly irksome to them.  Trevillion, as a man of action, has the bad leg, while Phoebe who has a love of beautiful things, particularly flowers, can't see.  They could have been given any number of disabilities, but having the two most frustrating ones for each of their characters makes the story that more interesting.  It's that kind of care Hoyt puts into her stories that makes them worth reading.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines

The title: America's Women
The author: Gail Collins
Publication: HarperCollins, 2003
Got it from: Christmas 2014

Last fall when I bought Gail Collins' When Everything Changed at the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Musuem I enjoyed it so much I asked for her other women's history book for Christmas.  Where Changed focused on the 1960s to present, this one covers over 400 years of history.  And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.  One reviewer called it "as readable as any Harry Potter adventure," and they aren't kidding.  

I am in absolute awe of the way Collins writes.  The depth of her research and knowledge is astonishing, but it's the way she can pinpoint the remarkable women of history and make their lives exciting that's really impressive.  Each chapter covers a different era in American history from the Pilgrims to the Women's Lib movement and honestly, each one could have been a whole book.  I'd find myself caught up in a mini-biography of some fascinating, forgotten woman of history and be disappointed when her section ended, only to find myself riveted in the next part by details of how ordinary women lived their day-to-day lives.  Of course she touches on the greats (Anthony, Tubman, Roosevelt, etc.) in a way that makes them accessible, but it's the way that she manages to make you feel as if you were a woman living that era that's truly remarkable.  

It's hard to say which era I enjoyed reading about the most.  The section on the Salem Witch trials was interesting, given the mythic proportions to which the event has been inflated - though the truth, as usual, is far more interesting.  Reading about the Underground Railroad and first person testimony from former women slaves was probably the most enlightening of the whole book.  And after reading about the hardships endured by the women pioneers in the West, I have to say thanks but no thanks.  If I had to pick an era to live in as a woman (other than today), I'd have to go with 1920s New York, which was a pretty exciting time for us gals, what with the dispensing of corsets and getting to drink and party and wear your hair short for the first time.  

Overall, this book does an outstanding job of filling the women-shaped hole in American history.  I thought I knew these stories already, but I was wrong.