Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by A. J. Hartley and David Hewson, Narrated by Richard Armitage

Hamlet, Prince of DenmarkHamlet, Prince of Denmark by A.J. Hartley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read it to me, Thorin Oakenshield! This was an excellent rendition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, novelized by A. J. Hartly and David Hewson and narrated by the resonant Richard Armitage. I’m still hearing it in my head a day after finishing, maybe I need to start it over!

I count myself among the fans of the Bard, but I’ll be honest, I have a hard time understanding what is happening just by reading the plays, and often have to watch them acted out before I get on board with the action, so I was very interested to listen to this version. This was much easier for me to follow, and while I know there were differences to the original (and some discussion at the end about whose the original even was) they were intended and added to the flow of the story. I was especially intrigued by the treatment of Yorick, who is one of the most famous bit parts ever! Poor guy doesn’t even get to appear in the flesh or have a line, but everyone knows who he is. It just isn’t Hamlet without him.

It is dark and full of madness, some of it feigned, some of it perhaps not, and with Armitage’s wonderful voice to bring it to life it was a production I highly recommend!


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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka

Cloud of SparrowsCloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cloud of Sparrows is a study of the contradictory nature of the Samurai in a time when their world was inexorably moving forward. They are ruthless killers, incited to decapitate a foe over insulting words, but are also moved to tears by the nuance of a gesture, or a perceived boon found in what was not said, or not done to spare feelings and perception of a reputation. This brutal beauty is reflected on an individual as well as a cultural level, and it is into this passionate, yet rigidly structured society that Lord Genji ushers in foreign Christian missionaries, who become a catalyst for the events of the story.

Genji himself is a huge juxtaposition of ideas, welcoming the outsiders but at the same time not taking their religion seriously, even as he plans to assist them in setting up a mission location, he seems more fascinated and amused by a new toy, more interested in how it is unsettling his rivals than in their purpose for being there. He is the more forward thinking of the Great Lords, but also has difficulty letting go of some traditions and ingrained ideas, even as he recognizes they are outdated, and sometimes downright ridiculous. Coupled with the difficulties of navigating political waters, he also carries the burden of prescient visions, which often make no sense, but sometimes are all too clear.

Genji and Heiko, Matthew and Emily, Shigeru and even Genji’s loyal warriors and servants are all excellent characters who are tested to their limits throughout the course of the story. We learn the history of how the Americans came to be in Japan and see the Samurai way of life beginning to crumble under the press of time and traditions that cannot be sustained as the world moves in. It is by turns beautiful and violent, poignant and humorous, sensitive and senseless, and it was exactly what I wanted on my visit to this culture and time period.


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Monday, April 06, 2015

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

The Dark Unwinding (The Dark Unwinding, #1)The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was deeply drawn into this amazing and secret world that Katherine found herself in. Almost immediately I became attached to Uncle Tully and his toys, and completely sympathetic to Katherine and her plight. The dark richness of the grand but decaying house and complex grounds, and the family secrets which came to light all gave vivid depth to the world. An interestingly set teen mystery with a gothic feel and a satisfying resolution, though with an open end that leads to a second book which I'm definitely looking forward to! I definitely recommend to the historical, steampunk, mystery fan.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Muse by Raine Miller

The Muse (Rothvale Legacy Historical Prequel, #1)The Muse by Raine Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this through the Goodreads giveaways in exchange for an honest review.

I chose it because of the combination of historical romance and art that the synopsis promised, and also because one of the comments on it were from a fan of the Rothvale series, who really loved that series and was excited to have this backstory prequel.

I ultimately gave this a 4/5, but it was a struggle for me. It went very slowly to me until the last third of the book. Had I not felt that I needed to give a review of it, I might not have finished, but finish it I did, in tears, today at lunch time. I'm also now interested in the Rothvale series, which I realize is contemporary, but I think will be more full for me with this backstory to draw on.

There are some steamy sex scenes, which seem a little at odds with the formality of the characters to each other, but then I remind myself that culture is different now than it was then, and I need to stop comparing it to a married couple of today.

Graham and Imogene have both had a lot of tragedy in their lives, I always have a soft spot for damaged heroes, and there is plenty of that here. His fears of past events repeating themselves lead him to quite a bit of paranoia and heavy-handedness, while Imogene wants to live life to the fullest and know the truth of things, no matter how hurtful they are. Together they make a beautiful couple that are deeply in love, but sometimes deeply at odds as Graham tries to protect her from everything, and she stubbornly refuses to to play the docile lady for him.

An enjoyable read, and I'm looking forward to giving the Rothvale Legacy series a try.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received this through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

I kept hearing friends trying this one out and raving that it was wonderful, and I admit I was intrigued by the premise, so when I saw it available, I decided to give it a try. I was a little apprehensive that I would be bored by a one-man show, I haven't seen either of the movies that it were offered as a combo/comparison, Castaway and Apollo13, though I am aware of them. I had nothing to worry about!

I was drawn in right away, and found myself holding my breath to see how Mark would deal with his next challenge! The science was great, it was high enough level that I could follow it, even if it wasn't an idea I was already familiar with, it was explained and applied to a situation, which really helps me to understand what's going on. Mark is a great character, a definite Space MacGuyver, humorous and endearing, an easy guy to like. I had to be careful reading this one before bed because it was keeping me awake, I just had to see what happened next, it couldn't wait!

I can't recommend this one enough because I really think it makes Sci-Fi accessible to people who aren't usually into it, it's got more of a real world feel because it is our world, albeit the future, it all sounds very plausible. Well, okay, just the sheer volume of stuff that happens to him and that he's able to overcome is kind of over the top, but still! If I have any criticism, it's that it ended a little too abruptly for me, I would have liked just a bit more follow through on what came next, but overall, it was fantastic!

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Tuesday, January 06, 2015

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess BrideAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cannot say how much I loved listening to this. I was 14 when The Princess Bride came out, and it became one of the defining movies of my teen years. I've watched it I don't know how many times, quoted it endlessly with my friends then, and still do today. This movie touches people in a way no other can. It is so many things, a comedy, a fantasy adventure, and the ideal romance. It's the happy ending we all want. I've been itching to watch it again the whole time I've been listening.

What I dearly love about this book is the sheer love and delight towards the movie of everyone involved in making it. That really shines through and makes me so happy that the people who made one of my favorite movies share that love with me. It wasn't just another project they worked on, it was something incredibly special.

I could listen to Cary Elwes speak all day! Well, I sort of did or would have if I could have had that long uninterrupted! His delivery is perfect, joined by Rob Reiner and other cast members and combined with the stories from the making of the movie, fun facts, the actors real insecurities and downright fears, their personal struggles and camaraderie make this a book I will treasure. It adds an extra dimension to the story that makes it even more precious to me.

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Bout of Books 12.0!


Bout of Books



Bout of Books 12.0 is here! I'm ready! Bring it on! No goals for me, just reading and having fun!

To join us, check out the Bout of Books Blog or click on the picture above!

Chat with us on Twitter at #boutofbooks, or on Facebook at Bout of Books.

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