[Audiobook] Review: Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

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much-ado-about-nothingTitle: Much Ado About Nothing
Author:
William Shakespeare
Genre: Classic, Play
Source: Library (Dramatization Audiobook)

Length: 2 hours 14 minutes
Narrator: Full cast
Publisher: BBC Radio

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Set in a courtly world of masked revels and dances, this play turns on the archetypal story if a lady falsely accused of unfaithfulness, spurned by her bridegroom, and finally vindicated and reunited with him. Villainy, schemes, and deceit threatens to darken the brilliant humor and sparkling wordplay–but the hilarious counterplot of a warring couple, Beatrice and Benedick, steals the scene as the two are finally tricked into admitting their love for each other in Shakespeare’s superb comedy of manners.

About the BBC Radio Dramatized audiobook:
BBC Radio has a unique heritage when it comes to Shakespeare. Since 1923, when the newly formed company broadcast its first full-length play, generations of actors and producers have honed and perfected the craft of making Shakespeare to be heard.

In Much Ado, the clarity of radio allows the wonderful verbal sparring between Beatrice and Benedick to sparkle as high comedy and melodrama mix magically in a combination of prose and verse.

Revitalised, original, and comprehensive, this is Shakespeare for the new millennium.

my thoughts-01

(This review was originally posted on my blog Winter Distractions on April 2, 2013)

It has been YEARS since I’ve read anything to do with Shakespeare. To tell the truth, I remember being quite lost in high school when we read some of his plays, not really knowing what was going on. I think this is why I had avoided reading any plays for so long. BUT when I got completely addicted to David Tennant (from Doctor Who), I decided to check out everything my library had that was about him, or featured him. One of these items was the audiobook for Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

It sat on my table for a few weeks before I thought of picking it up. Actually, the whole reason I picked it up was because I was looking for a book to start in the evening, but a classic book, and something that was short. Much Ado About Nothing is a mere 30 pages in my massive Shakespeare book, and the audiobook was just over two hours. I thought I would be able to just listen and go about my evening, but once the Shakespearian talk started up, I decided the best thing to do would be to curl up with the audiobook and follow along in my giant compendium as well. Best decision ever!

The first thing I noticed when listening was that it was so much easier to really understand what was going on. Really, this play is quite awesome. It may have helped that the audiobook was the BBC dramatized version of the story, which meant multiple actors doing the reading. I loved that I could really tell the different between the voices and the pacing was perfect so that I could follow along in my book. The actors picked to read for this play fit PERFECTLY to their parts and, I may be biased, but I thought that David Tennant did a perfect Benedick — and Samantha Spiro was also wonderful as Beatrice. Really, I started listening to this, thinking that the only thing I would like would be David Tennant, but I really enjoyed all of the scenes and the full cast. It was a real treat to listen to.

The second thing I noticed was the HUMOUR! I knew that Much Ado About Nothing was a comedy, but I really had no idea it would be as funny as it was. I must have laughed out loud a few times as I read and listened, which would have been unthinkable back in my high school days.

I do feel like I can’t just comment on the voice actors and the humour, but also the story. I had a smile on my face for the majority of this book because of the story. It’s not just a comedy, but a romance as well. The romance between the two main characters was pretty much based on their friends trying to fool them into thinking that they each loved each other. I thought that part was unbelievably sweet! And there’s not just one romance going on, but two. I do think that the romance between Benedick and Beatrice is the best one of the play, just because they seem so equally compatible and UNcompatible with one another.

One thing I noticed while reading this — which I’m surprised I didn’t know more of before — was the connection between this play and the band Mumford & Sons. Right off the bat, I realized that the name of their first album, Sigh No More, was taken from this play — as are various lyrics borrowed. Once I finished reading, I immediately put on the album just so I could listen to the lyrics and try to pick out ones that came from this play. I can see myself reading the play again just so I can find them all!

The only real issue I had, reading and listening in tandem, was that the audiobook was just slightly abridged. There were certain lines cut out for some reason — though, a few looked like they were just a little too prejudiced that they were cut. Also, there was a scene that was moved around from the original play. BUT I really didn’t find fault with anything else. I loved the little extras that the actors added to the play and would definitely listen to it again when I need a laugh.

I’m so happy that I decided to pick up this play and read it. While I thought it would be something I would put down from boredom or lack of understanding, it has led me to want to read more of Shakespeare’s plays.

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Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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jane eyreTitle: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Genre: Classic
Source: Purchased (Paperback)

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Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity.

She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.

my thoughts-01

(This review was first posted on my blog Winter Distractions on April 10, 2013)

I really, really wanted to like this read as I dug into it. I have read only one modern adaptation of the story, Jane by April Lindner, and I really liked it. Reading the adaptation led me to want to read the original story of the young girl who becomes governess at Thornfield, ultimately falling in love with Mr. Rochester. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed the story of a young Jane, I felt that the story went on for too long and wasn’t the classic romance that I had been expecting it to be.

Now, I really appreciate Charlotte Bronte’s writing. She’s very good at telling a story and I felt myself completely drawn to Jane in the beginning. I really enjoyed learning about her life with her evil aunt, and her life at school. I even enjoyed seeing her decide to work at Thornfield. My problem with the story was that it seemed to take pages and pages to describe certain times in Jane’s life, whereas part of me really wanted to get to the meat of the story. I felt like it was taking me ten minutes to read each page since Charlotte Bronte really loves her words and fills each paragraph to the extreme.

And while I found myself drawn to Jane in some sections, I just couldn’t warm up to Mr. Rochester. He was just an odd, odd character. There were things that he would do — like dressing up as a gypsy woman to get information out of Jane (who wouldn’t notice this?) — that struck me as very strange. I have no idea how he fell in love with Jane, or why Jane found it necessary to fall in love with him, but it happens. It just made no sense to me. Mr. Rochester was just extremely rude, a liar, and not a very nice person, in general. I didn’t know if I was supposed to like him or not!

I had actually thought that the language would be a complete hinderance to me, but I felt comfortable enough in reading the story that the language made no difference — it was just extremely wordy. Certain parts would drag and drag, and then other parts had me perking up my ears like a cat. I only wish that the whole story had kept me so intrigued.

I know this is one of the classics, and one of those love stories that should be read and cherished, but I just can’t find myself ranking it as a favourite classic. Perhaps it was because I read this after reading Pride & Prejudice, a novel that really deserves the honor of being called a sweeping romance, or maybe it was because it just wasn’t the book for me.

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Review: A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

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a-study-in-scarletTitle: A Study in Scarlet
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Genre: Mystery
Source: Purchased (ebook)

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“A Study in Scarlet” is the first published story of one of the most famous literary detectives of all time, Sherlock Holmes. Here Dr. Watson, who has just returned from a war in Afghanistan, meets Sherlock Holmes for the first time when they become flat-mates at the famous 221 B Baker Street. In “A Study in Scarlet” Sherlock Holmes investigates a murder at Lauriston Gardens as Dr. Watson tags along with Holmes while narratively detailing his amazing deductive abilities.

my thoughts-01

(This review originally appeared on my blog Winter Distractions on March 20, 2013)

For the past few years I’ve been very intrigued by Sherlock Holmes. I think it all started when I saw the Guy Ritchie movies with Robert Downy Jr., and then the infatuation only continued when I found out about the BBC show, Sherlock, with Bernard Cumberbatch. It seemed only inevitable that I would one day start reading the books to see where it all started.

Surprisingly, this first book in the Sherlock Holmes series was very accessible. Maybe it was because I love the TV show, but the TV show follows the first part of this book very closely, with the meeting of Watson and Sherlock — it was nice to revisit the dialogue I loved so much when watching the show!

Dare I say that I actually liked the character of Sherlock right off the bat? I know he’s painted to be very socially inept, egotistical, and just very unlikeable, but part of me can’t help but picture him with Robert Downy Jr.’s face or Bernard Cumberbatch’s face and smile … he’s almost like the Sheldon Cooper of the literary characters. You want to dislike him, but it really is impossible.

One thing I really enjoyed about the Sherlock character — aside from his amazing powers to take in EVERYTHING about a situation from one seemingly quick glance — is how he keeps things, or rather tosses things away, in his head. The idea that his brain is a cupboard and that he should only keep the essentials and forget all of the other things that just won’t assist him in his detective skills is a great way to think about it. Really, I read that part and wished I were able to do the same. The ability to recall things very specifically would be such a great asset to have.

I will admit that when the story went from part one, with Sherlock and Watson and their exciting journey to find the murderer, to part two, with the murderer’s recollection of Ferrier and the Mormons, I was a little confused. To go from the mind of Sherlock into the very dry and EXTENSIVE backstory of the murderer was a little jarring, and the story took almost a — dare I say? — boring turn. Really, in the end, all is explained as we enter London again, but it seemed almost unnecessary to go to such great lengths into that history. I would almost say that one could definitely skip over the whole flashback part and still get plenty of resolution by the end of the story.

This was a fun first read in this series and I full intend to try out more. I do hope that other books in the series aren’t so dry in their midsection, but I’m willing to try them out to see.

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