Tag: Shakespeare

Oct 17

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Shakespearean 15

Howdy Bookworms!

Did everyone have a lovely weekend? It feels very sneaky of me to write such a thing because technically it’s Friday night even though you won’t read this until Monday morning. Weird, right? The Internet, man. What a place. Anywho, you’ll recall a while back when I told you about Vinegar Girl (review), and how it was a fun retelling of The Taming of the Shrew? I’m happy to report that the Hogarth series is still going strong and I just got my mitts on Margaret Atwood’s contribution, Hag-Seed. It’s a retelling of The Tempest and let me tell you, it’s… Weird. *I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration through NetGalley. Because libraries exist and I can also get free books there, you shouldn’t be too suspicious of my intentions here. No penguins exchanged hands, so.*

hag-seedThis series is kind of amazing for me personally, because I suuuuuuck at reading Shakespeare. I can’t do it, I need to see it performed or read a translated to modern vernacular version. I’ve tried to read Shakespeare on my own, but the only plays I’ve ever made it through have been those I studied in school. Nerd fail. Unfortunately, The Tempest isn’t one of the plays we covered in school, nor did it spawn any teen friendly movie versions. Thus, I really had no idea what I was getting into. But, you know. Margaret Atwood? Hard to go wrong there.

In Atwood’s version, the artistic director of a theater troupe is thwarted in his creative endeavors and finds himself living a hermetic life while teaching Shakespeare to inmates in a prison. (Prison seems to be kind of her thing lately… I mean The Heart Goes Last (review)?) Our protagonist turns the inmates into quite an inventive set of actors, directors, and costume designers. Eventually he decides to put on the play that he was working on when he was fired while simultaneously seeking revenge on those who destroyed his career. The play was, of course, The TempestWhich is also about revenge seeking. It’s a play within a play. Turtles all the way down.

My favorite Atwood has always been dystopian Atwood, but it was quite fun to see her tackle The Bard. Although I finished reading this quite a while ago (because I’m hideously behind schedule) I can’t help but giggle a little when I think of folks attempting to make Shakespeare relevant to a less than enthused audience because Lin-Manuel Miranda, our glorious national treasure, did this on SNL. If you dig Shakespeare retellings or The Tempestyou should totally read this book. And then ruminate on the parallels between Shakespeare and hip hop. And then go listen to Hamilton. Just because.

Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s your favorite Shakespeare play? And is there a movie version available with a rocking soundtrack? Asking for a friend…

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Jun 17

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Shakespearean 9

It’s Friday, Bookworms!

I made it through a full week of reviews! I have no idea what I’m going to talk about next week, but that is unimportant at the moment. Frankly, this daily review thing has been a great distraction from this God-awful week in the news. Plus, who doesn’t love a good Shakespeare retelling? Vinegar Girl by Ann Tyler is the latest in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, which sees Shakespeare’s stories retold by some of today’s award winning authors. Let’s tame a shrew, shall we? *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. I’m a bit of a shrew myself, so you can count on unfettered honesty.*

vinegar girlVinegar Girl takes a modern look at Shakespeare’s immortal classic, The Taming of the Shrew. Granted, I’ve never actually read The Taming of the Shrew (I have a hard time sitting down and just reading Shakespeare) BUT I have seen 10 Things I Hate About You approximately 8 billion times. Because Julia Styles and her “angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion” was everything high school Katie wanted to be. And Heath Ledger (rest in peace, bro) was just so swoon-worthy. Obviously I am extremely qualified to discuss this book. (I still can’t figure out why publishers give me stuff either, but SHHHHHH don’t tell them I’m inept!)

Kate Battista’s life hasn’t turned out exactly how she planned. It’s not that she necessarily had a clear plan, but keeping house for her eccentric scientist father, taking care of her spoiled little sister Bunny, and working in a daycare where she’s constantly being reprimanded  definitely wasn’t part of it. It’s not her fault parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and lack of filter. The kids love her, shouldn’t that be enough?

Dr. Battista is on the verge of a scientific breakthrough, thanks to the help of his brilliant young research assistant Pytor. Unfortunately, Pytor? He’s about to be deported. In his infinite wisdom, Dr. Battista decides that if Kate will only marry Pytor, everyone’s problems will be solved. Because that always works out well.

It’s a ludicrous premise. It always has been. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still charming. Tyler adds in so many wonderful and weird little touches from a bizarre culinary staple to a misguided attempt at activism. I love Kate with all her sour sass and Pyotr with his awkward attempts to win her over. Dr. Battista was a bit of a buffoon, just shy of lovable, and Bunny needed a good smacking. But, all in all, it was a fun little romp through a well-worn story.

Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s your favorite Shakespeare retelling? Books or movies, I’m not picky. 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 17

The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett

Art, Crime, Historical Fiction, Mystery 43

How fare thee, sweet Bookworms?

Today we explore a book about books! A few weeks ago, one of my aunts left me a note on Facebook asking me if I’d read The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Love and Obsession by Charlie Lovett. I said I hadn’t and asked if it was any good. My aunt responded with “I don’t know, YOU’RE the bookworm!” Apparently snarky eyebrows aren’t the only familial trait… Full on sarcasm runs rather strongly as well. I decided to look and see if I could find this book on NetGalley, so I could mention this conversation on my blog and tell the world that my aunt is one sassy broad. As luck would have it, I was able to snag a copy. I am fortune’s fool… Or something. Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley. This shan’t compromise my integrity in the slightest, as I am rather fond of looking gift horses in the mouth. I won’t hesitate to bite my thumb at it, should it come to that.
bookmanus
Are my Shakespearean references annoying you yet? Too bad! This book is about Peter Byerly, an antiquarian bookseller and collector. Peter is a shy young widower with an anxiety disorder. Since the untimely death of his beloved wife, he’s lost interest in his former passion for hunting down lost treasures in antique manuscripts. He has run away from his grief stricken home in North Carolina and settled in a cottage in the English countryside. While half-heartedly rummaging through a collection, Peter discovers a water color that is the spitting image of his late wife. The mystery? The painting is very clearly from the Victorian era… And Peter is in 1995. He is suitably confused, and embarks on a journey to uncover the origins of the painting. During the course of Peter’s research on the painting, he accidentally runs across a book that has the potential to prove that Shakespeare really wrote all of his own plays.
Oh yeah. Background information. There’s always been some rumors swirling about in literary circles that doubt that the works attributed to William Shakespeare were in fact written by William Shakespeare. Theories abound as to who the true author may be, or if the person of William Shakespeare existed at all. Though the works are clearly documented through dates, it’s awfully difficult to prove WHO actually wrote them. Most of the works were originally plays, Shakespeare the business man never spelled his name with an “e” at the end and only had a grammar school education, Francis Bacon may have wanted to use a pen name, blah blah blah. Conspiracy theorists only sound ridiculous when you’ve got solid proof to discredit their claims, and no such solid proof exists of Shakespeare being, well, Shakespeare. Except maybe, just maybe, this book that Peter has come across. Dun dun dun!!!
This book has elements of The DaVinci Code and Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. We’ve got a mystery of historical proportions that needs to be solved. The stakes are high. The mysteries run deep. People are trying to protect SECRETS.  The story is constructed sort of like a braid. It’s got three distinct storylines going at the same time. We follow Peter’s life circa 1995 with the brooding and the grief and the mystery. We also explore the time line that shows Peter meeting his late wife Amanda in college and the blossoming of their love story (which is rather heartbreaking since you know from the beginning that she’s not long for this world.) The third piece of the puzzle is the story of a rather important book and how it ends up being passed down through the ages.
The black string is Peter in 1995. The red is Peter and Amanda, sitting in a tree. The blue is the book's story.

The black string is Peter in 1995. The red is Peter and Amanda, sitting in a tree. The blue is the book’s story. Analogies in friendship bracelets. Astounding. (Image Source)

I refuse to be a spoilsport, because I rarely read mysteries and I rather enjoyed this one. The ending was a little too tidy for my taste (dare I say predictable?), but I’m willing to forgive Lovett on the grounds that I enjoyed the rest of the story. If you liked Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, I think this will be right up your alley. It’s not quite as whimsical as Penumbra, but it is every bit as engrossing. If you’re at all like me, Peter the super book nerd will steal your heart and you’ll want to hug him and give him tea… And Xanax.

Oh yes. I almost forgot to mention! I felt exceptionally close to this book because it talked about places I’ve been! Several times throughout the book Peter stops at the Russel Square tube station while in London. It’s close to the British Museum (where I’ve BEEN!!!) and it was our “home stop” while I did my two week mini-mester in London approximately 1,000 years ago. I was all, “Russel Square is my ‘hood!” Very exciting for me.

Oh my dear little peaches of Bookworms. We could talk about Shakespeare or mysteries or any number of things. But I must know. Am I the only person who gets unreasonably excited about reading stories with PLACES I KNOW?! When I was reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods I was practically giddy with all the Illinois small town name dropping. It makes me feel a part of it, you know? Is it just me? Don’t leave me hanging y’all. Share your stories. Or tell me I’m crazy. I most certainly am, though this is probably quite low on the list of my “eccentricities” shall we say? Spill!

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Jun 17

The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett

Art, Crime, Historical Fiction, Mystery 43

How fare thee, sweet Bookworms?

Today we explore a book about books! A few weeks ago, one of my aunts left me a note on Facebook asking me if I’d read The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Love and Obsession by Charlie Lovett. I said I hadn’t and asked if it was any good. My aunt responded with “I don’t know, YOU’RE the bookworm!” Apparently snarky eyebrows aren’t the only familial trait… Full on sarcasm runs rather strongly as well. I decided to look and see if I could find this book on NetGalley, so I could mention this conversation on my blog and tell the world that my aunt is one sassy broad. As luck would have it, I was able to snag a copy. I am fortune’s fool… Or something. Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley. This shan’t compromise my integrity in the slightest, as I am rather fond of looking gift horses in the mouth. I won’t hesitate to bite my thumb at it, should it come to that.
bookmanus
Are my Shakespearean references annoying you yet? Too bad! This book is about Peter Byerly, an antiquarian bookseller and collector. Peter is a shy young widower with an anxiety disorder. Since the untimely death of his beloved wife, he’s lost interest in his former passion for hunting down lost treasures in antique manuscripts. He has run away from his grief stricken home in North Carolina and settled in a cottage in the English countryside. While half-heartedly rummaging through a collection, Peter discovers a water color that is the spitting image of his late wife. The mystery? The painting is very clearly from the Victorian era… And Peter is in 1995. He is suitably confused, and embarks on a journey to uncover the origins of the painting. During the course of Peter’s research on the painting, he accidentally runs across a book that has the potential to prove that Shakespeare really wrote all of his own plays.
Oh yeah. Background information. There’s always been some rumors swirling about in literary circles that doubt that the works attributed to William Shakespeare were in fact written by William Shakespeare. Theories abound as to who the true author may be, or if the person of William Shakespeare existed at all. Though the works are clearly documented through dates, it’s awfully difficult to prove WHO actually wrote them. Most of the works were originally plays, Shakespeare the business man never spelled his name with an “e” at the end and only had a grammar school education, Francis Bacon may have wanted to use a pen name, blah blah blah. Conspiracy theorists only sound ridiculous when you’ve got solid proof to discredit their claims, and no such solid proof exists of Shakespeare being, well, Shakespeare. Except maybe, just maybe, this book that Peter has come across. Dun dun dun!!!
This book has elements of The DaVinci Code and Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. We’ve got a mystery of historical proportions that needs to be solved. The stakes are high. The mysteries run deep. People are trying to protect SECRETS.  The story is constructed sort of like a braid. It’s got three distinct storylines going at the same time. We follow Peter’s life circa 1995 with the brooding and the grief and the mystery. We also explore the time line that shows Peter meeting his late wife Amanda in college and the blossoming of their love story (which is rather heartbreaking since you know from the beginning that she’s not long for this world.) The third piece of the puzzle is the story of a rather important book and how it ends up being passed down through the ages.
The black string is Peter in 1995. The red is Peter and Amanda, sitting in a tree. The blue is the book's story.

The black string is Peter in 1995. The red is Peter and Amanda, sitting in a tree. The blue is the book’s story. Analogies in friendship bracelets. Astounding. (Image Source)

I refuse to be a spoilsport, because I rarely read mysteries and I rather enjoyed this one. The ending was a little too tidy for my taste (dare I say predictable?), but I’m willing to forgive Lovett on the grounds that I enjoyed the rest of the story. If you liked Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, I think this will be right up your alley. It’s not quite as whimsical as Penumbra, but it is every bit as engrossing. If you’re at all like me, Peter the super book nerd will steal your heart and you’ll want to hug him and give him tea… And Xanax.

Oh yes. I almost forgot to mention! I felt exceptionally close to this book because it talked about places I’ve been! Several times throughout the book Peter stops at the Russel Square tube station while in London. It’s close to the British Museum (where I’ve BEEN!!!) and it was our “home stop” while I did my two week mini-mester in London approximately 1,000 years ago. I was all, “Russel Square is my ‘hood!” Very exciting for me.

Oh my dear little peaches of Bookworms. We could talk about Shakespeare or mysteries or any number of things. But I must know. Am I the only person who gets unreasonably excited about reading stories with PLACES I KNOW?! When I was reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods I was practically giddy with all the Illinois small town name dropping. It makes me feel a part of it, you know? Is it just me? Don’t leave me hanging y’all. Share your stories. Or tell me I’m crazy. I most certainly am, though this is probably quite low on the list of my “eccentricities” shall we say? Spill!

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Sep 21

Confession Friday: I Don't Read Shakespeare

Classics, Uncategorized 20

It is with tremendous shame and utter humiliation that I admit I don’t read Shakespeare. It doesn’t make sense, because I love Shakespeare. The tragedies make me cry, the comedies make me laugh… When I see them performed. But I can’t just sit down and READ it. What kind of a bookworm am I?!

My first encounter with the bard was when we read A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 8th grade. Freshman year we did Romeo and Juliet. Sophomore year was Julius Caesar. Senior year we read Hamlet and Two Gentlemen of Verona. After enjoying the plays in class and seeing an incredible version of Two Gentlemen at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, I was a Shakespeare devotee.

I was also a HUGE fan of 10 Things I Hate About You starring the late Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. One of my favorite bands, Letters to Cleo, was featured in the movie and on the soundtrack. Everybody, even angsty teenagers, knew that the movie was an interpretation of The Taming of The Shrew. I trusted in my mantra of “the book is always better than the movie,” so I decided I needed to read the play. I was so sure I was going to love it that I bought it in a compilation of Shakespearean comedies, so I could bone up on more plays and be extra super smart.

I made it about 20 pages into The Taming of the Shrew before I threw in the towel. I had taken for granted the teachers explaining the social implications of biting one’s thumb and the benefit of hearing different voices speaking their parts. I just couldn’t follow it, and I haven’t picked it up since. I keep it on my bookshelf though, because I want to appear intelligent. Sadly, I’m not brilliant enough for Shakespeare. Bookworm fail.

Any of my wormy friends have tips for enjoying the READING of Shakespeare? Am I the only person who has this problem?

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