Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Richard III by William Shakespeare

Title: Richard III
Author: William Shakespeare
Read by:  The Folger Theatre – The Folger Shakespeare Library Full Cast Recording
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 3 hours (3 CDs)
Source:  Review Copy from Simon & Schuster – Thanks!

I have never read or watched Richard III by William Shakespeare, but I love to read historical fiction set in this time period.  I was very happy to have the opportunity to review this audiobook.

Richard III is the full cast full length dramatic reading of the Shakespeare play.  This makes it very entertaining with each part read by a different actor complete with sound effects and music between each scene. What I discovered while listening to this audiobook is that Shakespeare painted a very dark picture of Richard III.  He is a Machiavellian character that works his way through the play to complete evil.  Shakespeare also condenses the timeline greatly.  Years pass by very quickly from Edward IV’s reign, death, Richard’s marriage, rise, and end all in a three hour play.

I read about this time period frequently so I understood most of the action although this was my first experience with the play.  I think the perfect experience with this audiobook would be to listen to it while actually reading through a Shakespeare play.  This type of audiobook would have been so helpful while in high school or college Shakespeare classes.

Overall, I enjoyed listening to Richard III.  It was a great audiobook production.  I found myself interested by the play, but it was not one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.  I think the problem for me is that I am such a great fan of the time period.  I think that Shakespeare painted Richard III was a one dimensional character that was only evil, and failed to capture the true nuances of whether Richard III was good or evil.  It was more an exaggeration of the real historical figure.

I loved hearing my two favorite quotes in this play:
“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Title: Julius Caesar
Author: William Shakespeare
Read by:  The Folger Theatre – The Folger Shakespeare Library Full Cast Recording
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 2 hours (2 CDs)
Source:  Review Copy from Simon & Schuster – Thanks!

Julius Caesar is a Shakespeare play that managed to surprise me by not being about Julius Caesar’s life, but rather his assassination at the hands of his friends and fellow politicians.  I somehow missed this play in high school and college Shakespeare classes, but enjoyed listening to it on my drive to and from work.  

Caesar’s friends and colleagues feel that he has become too powerful and decide to assassinate him.  Caesar receives warnings from both a soothsayer and his own wife to “Beware the Ides of March” but goes to the Senate and his death.  This assassination scene is easily the best in the play, especially Caesar’s final words when he sees his friend Brutus among the assassins, “Et tu, Bruté?”

After his assassination, the conspirators say they did it for Rome and Brutus gives a great speech.  But Mark Antony turns the tide with his famous speech,
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Cæsar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”

There is a final battle at the end and many suicides.  This audiobook version was wonderful to listen to with a full cast performing the play, great sound effects, and music.  I enjoyed listening to it.  I did have a hard time at times following who was speaking as I was unfamiliar with the play.  I think it would work great to listen to this while reading the play.  Overall this is a great production of a great play.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hush Hush by Laura Lippman

A baby left in a car on a hot summer day while her mother sits nearby gazing into the water, everyone has a theory on what happened the day that Melisandre Dawes left her baby in her car to die.  Was she crazy?  Suffering from postpartum depression?  Was she going to kill her other two girls as well?  Was she pure evil?  Melisandre was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has come back now ten years later to reconnect with her other two daughters.  She has also hired someone to film this reunion as a documentary.  Detective Tess Monaghan is hired to protect Melisandre and she discovers that there is much more to the story than meets the eye.

Over the past few years, Laura Lippman has become one of my favorite authors.  She writes intriguing mysteries that involve real world characters that could be my family, friends, or neighbors.  One of the best parts of Hush Hush to me was that Tess is a busy mother of young Carla Scout and is doubting her own parenting skills.  Dealing with Melisandre and her mothering skills and problems makes Tess take a look at her own relationship with her daughter.  Tess also finds herself pretty much never seeing Crow, her fiancé, as they are continually switching off work and care of their daughter.  Will they ever find the time to marry?  When will life stop being so busy?

Overall, this is another fantastic novel by Laura Lippman.  I’ve read a couple that have involved Tess Monaghan, but have not read the entire backlog.  This book works well as a stand-alone novel or as a continuous story of Tess.  One thing I really love about Tess is that she grows and changes with time. She is not a cookie cutter detective with no personal growth.  I still need to go back to book one, Baltimore Blues and start my journey with her!  I feel like I’m holding back as it’s always nice to think that there are Laura Lippman books out there still for me to discover.

William Morrow also has a fantastic website at this link which has all sorts of great background on different characters in the novel as well as maps.  Baltimore itself is a wonderful setting and seems to be a character of its own in Lippman’s novels.

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow – Thanks!

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George

A simple woodcutter’s daughter, known as “the lass,” possess the gift to speak with animals after a mysterious meeting with a white reindeer.  She later meets a great white bear, known as an isbjorn, and agrees to go with him to a mysterious castle for a year in order to bring wealth to her family.  Accompanied by her faithful wolf, Rollo, the lass tries to determine the mystery behind the castle, the servants, and most of all, the mysterious person who sleeps beside her each night.  One day her curiosity goes too far and she has to find the courage to rescue her one true love.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is based off of the Nordic fairy tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon.  I am a great lover of fairy tales, but I somehow missed this one.  I thought the story has many elements of other fairy tales such as "Beauty and the Beast" and most of all the myth of “Cupid and Psyche.”  It’s funny how such tales were in so many cultures with slightly different twists.

The boys originally received this book from the library to read for their Youth Book Club.  Kile is 9 and in third grade and Daniel is 6 in first grade.  Kile read about half of the book to Daniel, but it is a young adult book and ahead of where he is in his reading level.  He did a good job of it and was interested by the story, but it was slow reading.  I read the rest myself as I wanted to know what happened. For me it was a fast and enjoyable read.  I especially recommend it to anyone who loves fairy tales.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library