Monday, June 27, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY | Genre Mash-ups I Have Loved

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for bloggers who like books and lists. It's awesome and is graciously hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

It's a freebie week in TTT land  - any topic of our choosing is acceptable. It's total anarchy and it is awesome.  I actually had two other much cooler ideas in mind (Books I think my favorite TV characters would read/love or Authors who love authors who I love - confusing but awesome, trust me) but they both required a lot more work and time then I had so I decided to highlight one of my most favoritest literary things.  Genre Mash-ups; when an author throws genre barriers and distinctions out the window and just smooshes it all together. It's total anarchy just like freebie week in TTT land so an appropriate topic for this week.  Here goes....

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1) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

What does it mash?: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance and even a smidge of the supernatural.

2) 11/22/63 by Stephen King

What does it mash?: Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror  

Okay so it's a time travel book which by its very nature is almost always a mash-up but this does a particularly deep dive into specific historical events.

3) The Peter Grant Series by Ben Aaronovitch

What does it mash?: Police Procedural Mystery, Urban Fantasy.  

It struck me that a LOT of urban fantasy focuses on detectives of one kind or another.  Or at least the UF I like does.  This series is particularly strong as a police procedural which happens to have some magical elements.

4) The Veneficas Americana series by M.K. Hobson

What does it mash?: Historical Fiction-Western, Fantasy, Romance

5)  Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

What does it mash?: Crime, Historical Fiction

6) The Brother Cadfael Series by Ellis Peters

What does it mash?: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Historical mysteries are my favorite but sometimes the "history" really just appears as the most superficial of settinga.  Some however, like the Cadfael series reflect or use historical events as more than just backdrop and are more immersive in the time.

7) Jasper Fforde's Novels - Notably the Thursday Next Series and Shades of Grey

What does it mash?:  Mystery, Fantasy

8) The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

What does it mash?: Mystery, Science Fiction (Or fantasy - I get confused where alt-histories go)

9) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

What does it mash? Historical Fiction, Romance

10) The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

What does it mash?: Science Fiction, Fantasy - Fairy Tales, Romance

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Do you have a favorite book that you think could classify as a genre mash-up?  I'd love to hear about it!

** I apologize for no pictures or links this week.  I was squeezed for time!  I will work on adding links later.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Saturday in the Garden | Monarchs Love Gatorade

OUTSIDE

It's been a really smashing week in the out of doors and specifically the garden.  The garlic started dropping hints that it was ready for harvest and thence was harvested.   The green beans have flowers which means soon there will be beans! I went to a conference this week focused on pollinators and worked a booth for part of the time with a passel of Monarch Butterflies who were absolutely adorable drinking gatorade out of a feeder.  Finally this morning I went and picked 3.5 pounds of blueberries!  I used to hate blueberries - temporary insanity is the only possible explanation.







WATCHING, READING and BLOGGING

Watching 

I am stalled on SO MANY shows y'all.  I'm like an angsty mayfly - no attention span.

  • Longmire: I re-watched the first three seasons, which I have done many times but then couldn't make myself re-watch season 4 because it is so unkind to any fan of the character of Vic and/or Vic and Walt as an item.  I decided I'd put off re-watching it until just before season 5 is released this September.
  • Hell on Wheels:  As I went on about in this post, a very disappointing thing happens at the end of season 2 and I haven't been able to move past it to watch the remaining 3 seasons. 
  • Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman:  The second season is positively dripping with every cliched circumstance possible to create conflict between Dr. Quinn and her wild man paramour Sully and I just couldn't take it any more.
  • The 100:  I started re-watching this awesome show but I've heard really disastrous things about season 3 and it kind of deflated my interest in re-tackling season 2.  
I have finally settled on Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries which I had started watching a couple years ago and couldn't get into.  Now?  I'm loving it.  Fickleness, lack of attention span, and getting too attached to fictional characters - it's a curse.


Reading

Finished Last Week:

  • Murder on Waverly Place (Gaslight Mystery #11) by Victoria Thompson: Historical mystery set in turn of the 20th century New York.  This series has really lost its verve in this and the previous installment which is sad.  I'm determined to stick it out at least until Sarah and Malloy get their act together.
  • The Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad #1) by David Eddings:  This was one of my favorite epic fantasy series in my childhood days and I've been wanting to re-read.  It is seriously troperiffic but I'm loving it just the same.  

Currently Reading:

  • One Magic Square by Lolo Houbein: A gardening book about maximizing food production in a small space.  An ARC from Netgalley (though I think it's an older title).   
  • Just One Damned Thing After Another  (The Chronicles of St. Mary's #1) by Jodi Taylor: British time travel series.  
  • Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine:  This is an alt history/steampunkish story in a world where a somewhat insidious library rules the world with violent automatons.
  • City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare:  Shadowhunters vs. "down worlders".  I'm (very) slowly making my way through this YA series. 

Added to the TBR:

This is a list of books that I have added to my Goodreads TBR list this week.  It helps to burn the books I want to read a little more firmly into my mind, maybe get them on some other folks TBRs and gives me a chance to recognize a lot of the awesome bloggers that add stuff to my TBR!

  • Meg (MEG #1) by Steve Alten:  I couldn't resist adding this action/adventure involving rampaging aquatic dinosaurs after Mogsy from The Bibliosanctum kind of gushed and what ridiculous fun a later book in the series was.  
  • Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James:  I really enjoyed James' The Haunting of Maddy Clare and am definitely up for checking out some other books by her.  Creepy historical fiction (at least that's what The Haunting... was).
  • The Lotus Place (The Pingkang Li Mysteries #1) by Jeannie Lin:  I just kind of stumbled over this author/title and was intrigued.  Historical romance set in imperial China with a dash of mystery thrown in.  

Blogging 


On the BLOG LAST WEEK:

TUESDAY:  Favorite Literary Characters | 2014 Edition


Have a Great Weekend Full of Overly Friendly Golden Retrievers! 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Favorite Literary Characters | 2014 Edition


This week's Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is again all about new releases which as I mentioned last week is not really my "thang".  The topic is "favorite 2016 releases thus far" and I've only read three, two of which I liked very much (Stars Above by Marissa Meyer and The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater) and one of which was pretty meh (Steal the Sky by Megan O'Keefe).

Since I don't have much to share on the 2016 releases front, but I still want to make a list, I thought I'd do one of my favorite things - talk about characters.  I did a list of favorite characters I met in 2015 but I hadn't done that for any other years.  Thanks to goodreads and a marginally intact memory, all things are possible, so here's my list for 2014.

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1) Sabriel from Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel is just finishing up her schooling when she learns her father, the Abhorsen, has gone missing in the land of the dead and only she can go after him.  She's brave, practical and kick ass.  I love this series and its heroines a whole bunch!

2) Marian Halcombe from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Marian is one of the narrators for this book and undoubtedly its heroine.  She is described as being a rather ugly spinster lady but as we get to know her in the book, it becomes very clear that she is worth 1000 of the pretty and delicate Laura Fairlie.  I mean Laura's fine, but Marian is so brave, self-sufficient and smart it's hard to imagine how she has remained a spinster.  I mentioned last week on a list of my favorite knaves and villains that Count Fosco, who's quite evil, redeems himself ever so slightly by being the only man in the book to realize Marian's superiority.   

3) Mark Watney from The Martian by Andy Weir

This is the book boyfriend section of the list.  I like a smart guy with a great sense of humor and Mark Watney has both of these things nailed down tight.  With duct tape. He'd also be super handy around the house and could whip my garden into shape pronto, lol.  The perfect man?  I think he just might be.  

4) Peter Grant from Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Mark Watney wasn't the only smart, funny guy I met in 2014 however.  Peter Grant is a London cop who can talk to ghosts and do magic.  Plus he's got a fantastic sense of humor, is easygoing, and has a scientific and curious mind.  Sigh..... He's a dreamboat and so much fun to hang out with.  

5) Fermin Romero de Torres from The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

So I suspect Fermin Romero de Torres might drive me a little crazy because he can be a bit...dramatic...at times but Fermin has also had a fascinating life that has made him quite wise and resourceful.  He was the character in this all around wonderful book that invoked the most emotion in me; both laughter and sorrow.
6) Shara Thivani from City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Okay, back to the kick ass ladies!  I love Shara's strategic mind, her obsession with tea and the loyalty she very obviously earns from her burly, violent factotum Sigrud.   

Art by the author, D.M. Cornish
7) Europe of Naimes aka The Branden Rose from The Monster Blood Tattoo by D.M. Cornish

I got to know Europe slowly through the three books of The Monster Blood Tattoo series.  On the surface she is rather haughty and cold. Moody even.  However, watching her slowly reveal her softer side; the affection and fierce protectiveness she develops for Rossamund despite the fact that he makes her question her whole belief  system; made her become one of the more interesting characters I met in 2014.  I'd love a book focused just on her and in her head, pretty please!

8 and 9) Cinder and Cress from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

I couldn't choose just one!  These are my two favorite heroines of this series. Cinder is resourceful, practical, brave and a cyborg. Oh, and a tomboy! I love that when she finally finds out who she is and what is at stake that she doesn't waste a lot of time whinging or feeling sorry for herself.  She just gets on with doing what's right.  Cress is not as competent at life as Cinder is, since she's spent most of her life shut away from the world but she's super smart, kind-hearted and brave despite being afraid of everything.  Also filled with wonder at the world and universe.  Plus she has great taste in men:).

10) Anne Edwards from The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Anne is the feisty smart older lady in The Sparrow and she's awesome.  She is a marvelous cook and gets all the best lines in a book that has a LOT of good lines.  Definitely my favorite character in this amazing book!

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That's my listiness for this week!  Have a good one!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Saturday in the Garden | Hotter 'n Hades

OUTSIDE

Well, I don't have much to report except that it's dang hot and I'm a wimp.  Air conditioning has ruined us all.  I had a couple days working outside this week and it was brutal.  My smart and also ruined dog Jasper has taken to parking himself on the Air Conditioning vent (see below).

Also to report is lots and lots more insect damage in the garden.  Ideally, I would accept this with peace and good will but it really is a bummer when you have as small a space as I do.




GAK

Last Sunday, my friend and I went on one of those Parade of Homes where you get to snoop around in (mostly) newly built houses.  These houses are usually well out of my price range as are most of the features in the houses.  Doesn't keep me from admiring some of these features.  These are a couple of my favorites:

This Shower Y'all.  The picture doesn't do it justice. It was as large as my entire bathroom.




WATCHING, READING and BLOGGING

Watching 

Nothing much.  I got a little fed up with Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman about halfway through season 2.

Reading

Finished Last Week:

  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:  I'm surprised I had not read it before.  This audio version is read by Claire Danes who has a really pleasing voice.  
  • Murder on Bank Street (Gaslight Mysteries #10) by Victoria Thompson:  Historical mystery series set in New York at the turn of the 20th century.  
  • A Quiet Life in the Country (Lady Hardcastle Mysteries #1) by T.E. Kinsey: Set in the early 1900s in rural England - mysteries investigated by a Lady and her maid.

Currently Reading:

  • One Magic Square by Lolo Houbein: A gardening book about maximizing food production in a small space.  An ARC from Netgalley (though I think it's an older title).   
  • Murder on Waverly Place (Gaslight Mystery #11) by Victoria Thompson: 
  • Just One Damned Thing After Another  (The Chronicles of St. Mary's #1) by Jodi Taylor: British time travel series.  
  • Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine:  This is an Alt history/steampunkish story in a world where a somewhat insidious library rules the world with violent automatons.   

Added to the TBR:

This is a list of books that I have added to my Goodreads TBR list this week.  It helps to burn the books I want to read a little more firmly into my mind, maybe get them on some other folks TBRs and gives me a chance to recognize a lot of the awesome bloggers that add stuff to my TBR!


Blogging 

On the BLOG LAST WEEK:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

REVIEW | The Woman Who Rides Like A Man by Tamora Pierce

Publication Year: 1986
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Series: The Song of the Lioness
Awards: NA
Format: Audio
Narrator: Trina Alvarado

WHY: Well, it's pretty self-explanatorily the third book in a series I have been enjoying.

Out of guilt and sadness, I've been dragging my feet about writing this review.  You see, most of my thoughts on this YA classic are pretty negative which bums me out and makes me feel like an old curmudgeonly jerk.  But before I get to the complaining, here's what happens in the book.

SYNOPSIS:  Alanna of Trebond is now officially a knight and she sets off into the world to do knightly things.  Honestly, I don't remember if she has a goal when she sets out?  Anyway, she ends up being captured by the people who live in the Desert, the Bashir (sp?), who are obviously patterned after a generic middle-eastern culture.  Even though this culture only allows women into more home-based roles, Alanna quickly wins them over, beats the one bad person who doesn't love her and becomes the tribe's shaman.  She adopts 3 young people as her apprentices and brings Prince Jonathan in to broker a historic alliance between the two peoples.  

The positives?  I liked the change of setting and an exploration of a slightly different form of magic.  The story while a little meandering was interesting enough to keep me listening.  The tone of the books has become more and more overtly feminist which is mostly a good thing.  Pierce doesn't inject or explore a lot of the nuance between feminism and a respect of a different culture though she doesn't do a terrible job  - she doesn't demonize the entire desert culture/people, just certain elements and the book does suggest that some of the feminist shifts are already slowly happening naturally.  However, there is a touch of the white savior complex happening here.

And that's about it for the positives.

My major beef in this installment, if you can't tell from the synopsis, is with Alanna who has become increasingly less appealing as the series has gone on.  I loved the spunky cross-dressing girl of the first book who worked hard to become a knight.  Unfortunately, her characterization has become increasingly shallow and unbelievable as time has gone on and she crossed the line into unlikeable for me in this book.  

Reason number one is that she is good, nee the best, at absolutely everything.  Oh she messes up now and again but even her screw ups end up just making people love her more.  Because they all do.  Love her.  Most of the men she encounters want her or if they're a little older, wish she was their daughter.  In fact, her old teacher Myles officially adopts her and leaves her his estate and all his wealth.  Oh there's a few people who don't like her which immediately tags them as the villains of the piece.  Basically,  she is too good at everything and everybody loves her too much for her to be relateable and she is not given enough depth to balance her perfection.

And then there is her love life which is literally THE WORST.  I liked when Prince Jonathan and she started up a clandestine affair in book 2 but when it was revealed that her friend George also had the hots for her I almost audibly groaned.  In this book some manufactured strife is created by Pierce pretty randomly injecting some hard core male chauvinism into Jonathan.  He starts off legitimately struggling with the weight of responsibility that comes with being the heir to the throne and is feeling stifled and restless.  Alanna is completely unsympathetic about this despite the fact that many of her objections to getting married, because of course Jonathan proposes, are exactly the same reasons he is struggling. She at least has the luxury of saying no or at least not right now.  It is at this point Pierce has Jonathan suddenly and uncharacteristically act like an Alpha-hole out of a romance novel so that Alanna has an excuse to storm off in a huff while being morally superior and judgmental.  And of course she heads to George.  Whom she begins sleeping with.  After hearing rumors that Prince Jonathan is paying attention to another lady.

And please don't think that I am slut-shaming in any way.  If Alanna enjoys sex she can sleep around all she likes.  What I have a problem with is that she is sleeping with two men who are in love with her while she is not entirely sure of her feelings or intentions.  Both the men are ready to make a commitment to her  - their intentions are clear.  She comes across as using them for comfort and to boost her self-esteem while not having any intention of returning their commitment.  It's pretty crappy.  And it should make me like her more because it's a break in her perfection but the problem is there are no real consequences or payoff in the book.  Everybody still loves her.  It's sloppy and shallow and the whole kerfuffle just feels false and manufactured.

 Contemplating it, I think I wouldn't have had these problems with Alanna if I had read this at 15.  I wouldn't have minded the lack of complex and consistent characterization and would have just enjoyed having a strong, desirable female to read about.  However as an adult, her character is just not working for me anymore.

FINAL VERDICT:  This book mostly just gave me a headache but I have enough love for books one and two of this series to finish it out and will continue on to book 4.  As such it gets a generous 3 out of 5 stars.

Other Opinons Are Available: Book Whispers | Leaf's Reviews

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My Favorite Literary Knaves and Villains


This week's prompt from The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday is all about new releases in the second half of the year. Since I don't really pay too much attention to new releases I don't really have anything to contribute but I was still feeling listy. I decided to go rogue, literally, and see who might show up on my list of favorite villains, knaves and general ne'er do wells.  

The list below is made up of some truly terrible people(ish) who really inspired horror but also a few who confused me because I kind of liked them and felt like I understood them. There's no doubt though that all of them caused problems for our heroes/heroines.  

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1) Tyrannthus Slaughter from Mister Slaughter by Robert McCammon

McCammon wasn't fooling around when he created the mad, charming, violent, amoral Tyrannthus Slaughter.  He's deliciously evil, almost indestructible  - the perfect nemesis to Matthew  - dastardly enough to change him profoundly forever.

2) Count Fosco from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Count Fosco is bad to the bone but he's also rather smart and charming.  And the thing is, he loves Marian who is amazing - the best character in the book and a woman much more deserving of adoration than the other females presented.  Basically he's got great taste so it's hard to truly hate him even though his actions are despicable.

3) The Darkling from The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo

The Darkling is a seductive villain. Oh let's just face it - he's hot.  Making out with him is a bad idea but when he turns on the charm, I doubt there is a lady who could resist him.  Too bad he's a power hungry and selfish bastard.
Honorable mention for seductive villain:
Nahadoth from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. Nahadoth isn't really a villain but he's not exactly trustworthy or reliable or...human.  But he's also pretty irresistible.

4)  Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I think Willoughby is one of Austen's most interesting characters.  Any thought that he may not be SO bad  - just weak-willed and too materialistic - are removed when it is revealed that he seduced, impregnated and abandoned a young woman and yet....  Austen makes a point of revealing towards the end of the book that Willoughby truly did (does) love Marianne.  Why did she make a point of this?  To emphasize that his selfish behavior has not led him to happiness and has cost him everything?  That his knavery has brought him to unhappy ends? Probably.  It still doesn't stop me feeling that Marianne's marriage to Colonel Brandon is a little melancholy and a consolation prize.


5)  Logen Ninefingers aka The Bloody Nine from The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

Logen Ninefingers is technically one of the "good guys" in the The First Law trilogy but his past, as it is revealed, is filled with horrors he has committed and he is always a hairsbreadth away from reverting to that bloody creature.  And he does in fact revert by the end of the series which was such a huge bummer.  He's one of those villains that I feel for and for whom I wish a better life.  In the books I feel like we get a glimpse of who he might have been if his life had been just a smidge kinder.

6) You Know Who from The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Revealing the villain of this murder mystery would be a GINORMOUS spoiler so I won't name the character for those who haven't read it BUT trust me - he/she is Christie's most interesting if not best villain.

7) Mrs Danvers  from Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier

Mrs. Danvers is the insidious kind of villain with a strong touch of madness who manages to remain competent and functional enough to make YOU feel like YOU'RE the mad one.  She's creepy and horrible and I hope I never have to share a large house on the sea with her,

8) Richard III from Richard III by William Shakespeare

In  this play Richard III looms like a megalomaniacal, devious and power hungry monster.  I saw a production of this play many years ago that had shifted it into a Nazi Germany/World War II with Richard playing the part of you know who.  He's pure evil.  The interesting thing is that historically speaking Richard may not have been so bad.  Some historians make the case that he may have in fact been a pretty great king and human being but his throne was usurped by the Tudors who were still in power during Shakespeare's day.  Shakespeare couldn't have gotten away with portraying Richard as anything but evil incarnate.

9) Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Forget Voldemort (though he is also a very interesting villain), for my money Dolores Umbridge is by far the scariest villain in the HP series.  At least Voldemort is up front with his power hungry intentions and evil nature.  Dolores is a member of the ministry and meant to be one of the good guys fighting Voldemort.  That makes all the cruel things she does that much more terrible.

10) Uriah Heep from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

It's been so long since I read David Copperfield that I don't remember the specifics of Uriah Heep's villainy, all I remember is the impression he made.  Oily, snake-like, sycophantic, disturbing.  Just seeing his name gives me the shivers.  David Copperfield is said to be somewhat auto-biographical which begs the question - did Dickens know someone as terrible and creepy as Uriah Heep?
Honorable Mention Dickens villain?
Bill Sikes from Oliver Twist - I haven't actually read Oliver Twist so I didn't want to include Sikes but if you've ever seen the musical movie, Oliver!, from 1968, the scene where Bill beats Nancy to death is truly disturbing and upsetting.  He is surely a bad 'un.

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I truly do love me some good villainy but I think I am done for now.  What are some of your favorite villains?


Sunday, June 12, 2016

TV | Hamish Macbeth | Book vs. Show

Hamish Macbeth (1995-1997)

It's not often that I like the media thing based on a book more than the book itself but it does happen. The Princess Bride, comes to mind as does the Hamish Macbeth TV Series.  I just re-watched Hamish Macbeth for about the 10th time and it reaffirmed once again my love for the show.  I need to confess of course that I was a fan of the TV series before picking up the books so this almost certainly influences my preferences.

The show is based on a long series of books by M.C. Beaton.  Loosely, both the books and the show center on the laid back police constable of a small Scottish Highlands town called Loch Dubh, which is populated by an eccentric cast of characters.  In his police work, Hamish subscribes to the idea of honoring the spirit of the law rather than the letter of it and he is a perfect fit for the small rural town. Both the books and the show are part cozy mystery, part small town vignettes.

Beyond this general outline though, the books and show don't have a ton in common.  The show only uses plots from the books once or twice and it also adds and morphs a number of characters and relationships from the books.  M.C. Beaton has reportedly said:
“It wasn’t like the books, I wrote about a six-foot laid back highlander and I got a 5ft 8” Glaswegian with a chip on his shoulder,” Beaton says. “It was an unfortunate experience.”
It feels pretty arrogant to contradict the author and creator of the source material, and I certainly don't blame her for being upset that they changed things so much from the books, but for me the TV show works much better than the books.  The books are fun enough but I have always struggled with M.C. Beaton's writing style and I honestly think she is crap at developing characters.  She's great at coming up with story ideas and the outline of really interesting characters but then she doesn't do a lot to actually flesh those characters out and have them feel real.  When reading her books, I am always feeling like her characters are doing things that don't make sense;  I never understand the motivations behind their actions.  Based on the premises and the types of characters she creates, she should be one of my favorite authors but I struggle with her execution of her ideas.   I describe it a little bit better in my thoughts about The Quiche of Death, the first in her Agatha Raisin series.

In the TV series, Hamish is played by Robert Carlyle - he of Trainspotting/The Full Monty/Stargate Universe/Once Upon a Time fame.  He is in fact Glaswegian, as Beaton alludes to, and in fact, my only possible complaint about the character of Hamish is that Carlyle doesn't tone down his accent, so as an American I have a really hard time understanding him sometimes.  This is a very minor complaint however, and not often a problem.  I don't see the character of Hamish in the show as having "a chip on his shoulder".  He just has genuine feelings which lead to some occasional angst which for me is a HUGE improvement over the books and makes Hamish easier to relate to and much more likeable.  Robert Carlyle does a great job breathing life into the character and making him feel very real and grounded.  He's competent and smart but not ambitious.  He likes a pint or two, fishing and walking the hills and he loves the small community of Loch Dubh.  Hamish's love life on the show, while bordering on the soap operatic, is a millions times more satisfying than the weird wishy-washyness of the books.

So my number one reason for preferring the show to the books, is a more fully developed and likeable Hamish.  A close second is all the quirky and totally charming secondary characters which the show has and the books don't.  Hamish's right hand man with the second sight John "TV John" McIver, the hapless and shifty but mostly good-hearted father and son McCrae, Rory and Esme the world's most unlikely and adorable couple, Bernie and Agnes who run the pub.  They are all delightfully eccentric and loveable.  Hamish's love interests are also suitably developed and cast.  Alex is the local laird's daughter who Hamish is still in love with in series one though she has moved to London to pursue a career as a writer.  She's gorgeous and a little privileged and supremely frustrated with Hamish's lack of ambition and desire to leave Loch Dubh.  Isobel (played by the awesome Shirley Henderson) is the local newspaper reporter, slightly frumpy and shy but smart and with a huge crush on Hamish in series one.

Another thing I appreciate about the show, which likely doesn't work for everyone, is its deliberate campiness and embracing of the ridiculous and the over-the-top.  I'm not fond of these characteristics in a show if they are done seriously without a wink and a nod but Hamish Macbeth embraces it and uses that to create a more charming and quirky show which also manages to retain some moving sentimentality from time to time.

And it can do emotion quite well from time to time.  The friendship between Hamish and TV John, Lackland McCraes' surprising support and affection for his son, Rory and Esme's true connection, Hamish's affection for his wee dog Jock.  My favorite episode I think of the whole show is a rather serious one, No Man is an Island in Series 2,  that highlights the acting talents of Robert Carlyle as well as the perfect acting and chemistry of the little known Edith MacArthur.  After experiencing a loss that Hamish feels partially responsible for he heads out for some solitude on one of the desolate islands that housed a military base during the second World War.  He runs into Belle Carter (Edith MacArthur) who has accidentally stepped on a leftover land mine and can't move.  They have no immediate way of calling for help so Hamish sets aside his own worries to focus on keeping Belle upright and alive until help can arrive.  It's a rather overblown and cliched set up but the two have great rapport and it ends up being a lovely contemplation of life and loss and what it means to move on after.  It's not something the books could pull off.

Basically I love how the show ramps up the ridiculous but still manages to feel warm and genuine.  I love the community of Loch Dubh.  I love the character of Hamish and how he is played by Robert Carlyle. I love his romantic entanglements regardless of how soap operatic they may be. I like laughing, and feeling moved and puzzling out some of the mysteries.  I love the stunning scenery and experiencing the beauty of the Scottish Highlands.

It's a show that may not be for everyone but it's worth checking out.  And in my opinion it takes the basic concepts and a couple of the characters from the books and improves on them.

Is there anybody else a fan of this BBC series?  How do you think it compares to the book series?