Monday, September 12, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday | All Time Favorite....Shakespeare Plays!

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.  
HA!  Take THAT terrifying and impossible prospect of naming my all time favorite books of any larger category than the 36 plays of Shakespeare!  As you might have guessed, The Broke and the Bookish really threw down the gauntlet this week requesting, nay demanding, that we pick our all time 10 favorites of X genre:
Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books Of X Genre (I know, I know. Picking all time faves. I'm MEAN. But I like knowing people's definitive faves). Can also break it down into sub-genre if that helps?
It's hard not to panic and just run away.  So I'm going to do what any sensible person would do. I'm gonna kind of cheat and pick a really small pool.  I do actually really love Shakespeare and his plays quite a lot so it doesn't feel like too much of a cheat.  To make it harder on me I'm going to try and order it from my tenth most favorite to my first. Anyway, here it is:


10 and 9) Henry IV Parts 1 and 2

I love the whole "Prince Hal" trilogy of histories that starts with Henry IV part 1 and ending with Henry V.  The charm of these two plays is of course Falstaff and the, at times heartbreaking, evolution of Prince Hal to King Henry.

8) Hamlet

I know that the pervading wisdom is that Shakespeare's tragedies are his finest masterpieces but this is the only one to make my top ten.  I much prefer his histories and comedies.  Hamlet gets the nod because of all the family drama and SO MUCH death.  

This play is hilarious but it can be a little problematic.  However I have seen a couple of productions of it that play the problematic parts very tongue in cheek and it's a brilliant interpretation.

This version of Richard III is probably complete propaganda but he's so deliciously evil and this play lends itself so well to so many creative productions.  I saw Sir Ian McKellen in a production set in the World War II era.  It was as badass as it sounds.  And when I just went to look for photos it is also apparently a movie but I swear I saw it live in Washington D.C.!

5) Henry V

I love the Branagh film of this play - it's so good.  I love this history for its continuation of the Henry IVs plays, the romance and the stirring St. Crispin's Day speech.  

Magic!  I love when Shakespeare gets all fantastical!  And I'm a big fan of shipwrecks as you will see lower down on the list as well.

Two words. Beatrice and Benedick.  Best. Couple. Ever.  I actually really struggled with the top three on this list and how to arrange them.  I might've arranged them differently tomorrow.

There is so much going on in this play and it is definitely Shakepeares's most magical and comedic.  

A shipwreck, a cross-dressing lady with a fraternal twin brother, mistaken identities and mistaken amorous attentions plus Malvolio and his yellow stockings cross-gartered - no way this wasn't going to be number one.  The picture above is hanging in my living room and is a keepsake of the most amazing production of Twelfth Night I saw by The Royal Shakespeare Company in London!

There you have it.  My semi-definitive list of my favorite ten Shakespeare plays. How about you?  Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?  Do you prefer his Comedies, Dramas or Histories?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saturday in the Garden | Be Curious, Not Judgmental


....It's GORGEOUS.  Seriously beautiful day.  I began it by leading a workshop on creating habitat for pollinators at the local Arboretum and it was lovely.  A great small group of folks, a beautiful location and we even got a net on several species of butterflies.  It was the perfect way to start the day and has left me feeling very relaxed and dreamy.  A beautiful day will do that:)!

I've got a ton more lima beans coming on which is exciting!  I really like the variety I planted at least as far as productivity.  I haven't yet tasted them, though which is the real test.


The internet was out for most of today.  That and the fact that I was up and at 'em and working this a.m. gave me the motivation to be lazy and read all afternoon!  I usually curl up on my couch to read but the perfect temperatures and open windows convinced me to venture up stairs (which is not well cooled/heated by my AC/furnace) to my catch all room and it was totally delightful.  I've been thinking of using this room more  - as a meditation and yoga room and to read obviously.  The windows look out on the canopies of the two big oaks in my front yard and it's a very peaceful feeling room.  I just need to figure out that ventilation thing.  Ahhh... old houses:).

The dogs also like to be perched above everything, surveying all (see below).



I've continued to catch-up with Once Upon A Time.  I finished watching season 1 and am halfway through season 2.  I am realizing with the re-watch just how brilliant that first season is - they do such a good job weaving the modern and fairy tale plots together.  Also the characters, particularly Snow White/Mary Margaret and Charming/David.  The writers and actors did such a good job making the fairy tale character and their alter ego very similar but not exactly alike which is really fun to watch and take apart.  Particularly as you move into season 2, Snow White acts in a subtly different way, a more motherly way, to Emma than Mary Margaret did who was just Emma's friend  - Ginnifer Goodwin does a great job and it's fun to watch her play with it.  Similarly, David isn't a bad guy but he's kind of wishy-washy ass while "Charming"  is much more heroic and decisive.  Anyway, this is a really fun show, at least through season 2, and if you haven't checked it out, you should!  If you're already a fan and less delinquent than I, do I have good stuff awaiting me in seasons 3-5?

P.S.  I also recently discovered that Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White) and Josh Dallas (Charming) are married in real life and have two kids so that explains how they are able to sell the twu wuv so convincingly!


Finished Last Week:

  • Duplicate Death by Georgette Heyer:  I wish every book was a Georgette Heyer book.  
  • Rattle His Bones (Daisy Dalrymple #8) by Carola Dunn: Getting back to this series after a several year hiatus.  It's a mystery series set in 1920s London, very light and fluffy.  So I haven't quite finished this but I will as soon as  I finish this post! I only have ~30 pages left.

Currently Reading:

  • Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2)  by Libba Bray:  I had an actual Love-Hate relationship with the first book in this series but there was enough love to make me curious about where the series is headed.  I am not not enjoying this book but I'm not making very fast progress.  I just can't express how little I care about Evie and her relationship entanglements with Sam and Jericho.  I had to return this to the library and I was making no progress in it.  I'll try picking it up again later.
  • Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh:  This is a book of short and somewhat random essays/speeches/lessons by Hanh about mindfulness, gathered together in this book by some of his students. 
  • Enchanter's End Game (The Belgariad #5) by David Eddings: The concluding book!  I've really been enjoying this re-read.  Glad this series has held up.  

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!

Nothing added this week!



THURSDAY: REVIEW | A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Check out the sitch outside
Be Curious, Not Judgmental.
- Walt Whitman

Thursday, September 8, 2016

REVIEW | A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Mystery, YA
Series: Charlotte Holmes (#1)
Awards: NA
Format: Hardback from Library
Narrator: NA

WHY?: I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan in a really odd way.  I have only read maybe two of the original stories - pretty recently  - and I found them rather dull.  I found them dull because I have consumed so much other ancillary Sherlock Holmes storytelling that by the time I got to the originals they felt derivative - Ha!  I have watched most if not all of the TV adaptations more than once, all the movies and I've read dozens of books and short stories based on the Sherlock Holmes mythos.  I am a Sherlock Holmes fan fiction junkie. I am a little ashamed of this but not so much that when I heard about this book I didn't immediately say to myself "I'm gonna read the crap out of that."  
“I was maybe the only person to ever have his imaginary friend made real.”

SYNOPSIS:  Jamie Watson is shocked and unhappy to find that he has secured a Rugby scholarship at a posh boarding school in Connecticut.  Shocked because he's not that great at Rugby, unhappy because it means he'll have to move across the ocean from his London home.  The one bright spot is that one of the other students at his new school happens to be Charlotte Holmes.  Jamie and Charlotte are descendants of that Holmes and Watson and Jamie has always cherished a fantasy of meeting Charlotte who has already made a name for herself by solving various crimes.  Jamie wonders if they might connect like their famous ancestors.  They do and it's more wonderful and terrible than Jamie ever imagined especially since their first case is to save themselves from a murder charge.

“When I saw a story about a stolen painting on the front page of the newaspaper, I told my mother that Charlotte Holmes and I were going to solve the case. My mother cut me off saying, "Jamie, if you try to do anything like that before you turn eighteen, I will sell every last one of your books in the night, starting with your autographed Neil Gaiman.” 

This is a book that met all my expectations which is not something I get to say too often! I love when books with a great premise are matched with equally great writing and storytelling.  Cavallaro did a fantastic job writing a modern-day YA version of a Sherlock Holmes story and managed to capture that elusive quality of the original stories - light but not without substance.  

She starts with two great characters.  Jamie is a great narrator who is pretty immediately likeable.  He's down to earth, quick-witted and extremely funny.  He's perhaps a tad to emo and thoughtful about his feelings than I imagine would be the case for an average teenage boy but otherwise he's totally believable as a slightly geeky, mostly cool guy.  

Charlotte is just as neurotic and complicated as her famous ancestor.  She has a drug problem, her relationship with her family is complex, she mostly doesn't know how to interact with other people but those that get past the prickly demeanor, end up mostly liking her and are loyal. She returns that loyalty fiercely.  And she is of course brilliant and equally as close-mouthed about her plans and theories as the original Holmes.  Few can keep up with her but thankfully, Jamie enjoys trying.

Cavallaro creates some really strong and believable chemistry between the partners which mirrors John and Sherlock's but at the same time has it's own flair.  Setting the story at a boarding school was a stroke of genius because a) stories at boarding schools are always fascinating to me and b) it allowed Holmes and Watson to "live together" without living together. Basically, it was an excellent facsimile of 221B Baker Street. 
“We weren't Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I was ok with that, I thought. We had things they didn't, too. Like electricity, and refrigerators. And Mario Kart.” 
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MYSTERY, you say?  It's fine.  I liked that this first case has their own heads on the chopping block.  It was a good way of throwing them together and solidifying their alliance.  It perhaps did not have the flair of Conan-Doyle's mysteries but I was content enough and happily occupied by the witty banter and the character development.  The book is really delightfully funny and has enough teenage angst to warm YA-loving hearts.

FINAL VERDICT:  A delightfully, entertaining entry into the Holmes and Watson mythos that did not disappoint.  I can't wait for book two!  4 out of 5 stars.

Other Opinions Are Available: Cuddlebuggery | Storybook Slayers

Monday, September 5, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY | TV Shows on Netflix This Fall That I Will Happily Lose Brain Cells to Watch

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.  
I recently became aware that Netflix streaming has several either recently added or coming soon TV shows/seasons that I am SUPER excited about.  Like I may just sit on my couch and enter a permanent TV coma.  No idea when I might find time to read. So since the official topic this week was so open:
In honor of Fall Tv, do a tv-themed topic! Top ten favorite tv shows of all time, ten new shows coming out this Fall that are on my radar, tv shows I wish never got cancelled, tv shows I would recommend to book characters, books I wish would be tv shows, ten favorite shows from the late 90's or early 2000's, ten tv shows for every fantasy lover, etc.
I decided I'd do a little virtual jazz handing about the shows I am most looking forward to streaming this Fall.


I am always on board for a little Victorian era Gothic horror!  I have been interested in this show since it was first announced three seasons ago so am super excited to see it come to Netflix! (Already On)

I've heard mixed reviews about this adaptation of Terry Brooks quest fantasy but I liked the books in my younger years and want to support whenever epic fantasy comes to my TV Screen! (Already On)

This is a Netflix Original that was in part created by BAZ "FREAKIN'" LUHRMAN.  You either love Baz Luhrman or you don't and you can probably guess where I fall.  I am not particularly interested in the setting or topic of this show (1970s NYC, the evolution of soul music) but I am going to watch the heck out of this show. (Already On)

I may have mentioned before that I kind of wish I lived in a musical.  I'd appreciate being able to sing and dance about my troubles and triumphs.  This show involves Alan Menken with the musical portions and is a fairy tale spoof.  Sign me UP. (September 7, 2016)

I've heard good things about this addition to the DC Comics inspired TV show lineup.  I don't always connect with dramatized comic books but when I do...Hoo boy.  Excited to check this out! (September 10, 2016)

Pretty much ditto the above with an added I really enjoyed Brandon Routh's Ray Palmer on Arrow so I am looking forward to checking this show out! (October 13, 2016)

7) The IT Crowd, Series 5

The first six on this list are shows I'll be experiencing for the first time but starting with this one the rest are shows I'm already in love with:).  This is my favorite sitcom in the whole wide world and I had NO IDEA they had done a 5th season.  SO EXCITED.  Although it appears that it may just be one episode from 2013 which won't be as good as a full series but I'll take what I can get. (September 1)

8) Longmire, Season 5

I didn't love season 4.  In fact, it kind of pissed me off but I still have a ton of loyalty to this show and want to see where it goes in season 5. (September 23rd)

9) Arrow, Season 4

I've been obsessed with this show this year and am both nervous and excited to catch up with season 4.  (October-ish)

10) iZombie, Season 2

This show surprised me the most at how awesome and delightful it was but I should have known because it was developed by Rob Thomas who also created Veronica Mars.  There's no date for this one but I'm hoping it will show up at the same time as many of the other CW shows in October?


So what shows are you most looking forward to binge-watching this Fall? Any I should check out?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Saturday in The Garden | Like a Golden Retriever With Couch Privileges


I got a lens flare/rainbow in the weekly pic of my yard!  I'm a photo-taking genius (aka lucky)!


And that's kind of all I have to say about the garden and the grand outdoors.  It was a beautiful week weather wise.  The last two days in particular have been cool and sunny.  More of that Autumn feeling moving in.  In an attempt to keep up at work, I am going to do some butterfly surveys tomorrow which I would normally maybe feel a little grumpy about, working on a Sunday and all.  The weather forecast looks fantastic though and this will give me purpose to be outside, taking notice of the world so I'm okay with it.


My "struggle" for the week has been having to rely on unreliable people.  This is at work of course and the people I'm referring to are all lovely, generous people who are talented at their jobs but they have too much to do and lack workable task/time management skills.  I HATE having to nag them and hate that my nagging implies I don't trust them but when I don't do this, I am almost always sorry.   It is a HUGE causer of stress at work for me. Besides not wanting to annoy the person who is performing a task for me,  I am also very busy and really don't have time to constantly be following up and poking people about tasks they agreed to do within a particular timeline.  And to be clear, these are not tasks that I could easily do that I am delegating (usually), they are things way outside of my training and job duties like producing a video or designing a poster using specialized graphics software.  I'm a wildlife biologist who has no artistic ability and it is not an efficient use of my already very full time to learn how to produce a video.  So I'm appealing to you all  - how do you handle this?  Do you have a technique for politely and non-obtrusively keeping a co-worker on schedule without seeming like a pesky nag?  Do you have a way of viewing the situation, that philosophically helps you navigate things without becoming frustrated and stressed out?  I'm not expecting answers but I sure would appreciate some!  They are the two questions most prevalently on my my mind this weekend.



I finished season 3 of Agents of Shield and it was SO. DAMN. GOOD.  It's kind of amazing how good this show got after such a boring beginning.  Season 3 is anything but boring.  Sure Coulson still doesn't entirely work for me without May (so god forbid Ming Na Wen ever leave) and while Daisy/Sky has definitely grown on me, she is still the character I would least miss if she got abducted by Kree and was never heard from again.  Still, a very respectable third season!

I've drifted into re-watching the first couple seasons of Once Upon A Time in preparation for catching up with season 3 through 5.  How did three flipping seasons happen while I wasn't looking?!  I am also really excited about a bunch of shows upcoming on Netflix in September - Longmire Season 5! Supergirl!, Galavant!, Penny Dreadful!, The IT Crowd Series 5!  Also. ALSO. I was just informed that there is a Netflix Original show that was created by BAZ LUHRMAN!!  It's called The Get Down and I must watch it.  Baz isn't for everyone but he is definitely for me.  So.... hopefully I get some reading done this fall:).


Finished Last Week:

  • The Castle of Wizardry (The Belgariad #4) by David Eddings:  I am re-reading this series on audio - it was one of my favorites as a wee(ish) thing.  It is holding up surprisingly well!
  • A Corner of White (The Colours of Madeleine#1) by Jacklyn Moriarty: Told across two alternate realities, one of which is this realities Cambridge, England which is a town I love dearly.  I really liked this book - the tone (not sure that is even the right word) of it was very unique and I found it charming.  

Currently Reading:

  • Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2)  by Libba Bray:  I had an actual Love-Hate relationship with the first book in this series but there was enough love to make me curious about where the series is headed.  I am not not enjoying this book but I'm not making very fast progress.  I just can't express how little I care about Evie and her relationship entanglements with Sam and Jericho. 
  • Rattle His Bones (Daisy Dalrymple #8) by Carola Dunn: Getting back to this series after a several year hiatus.  It's a mystery series set in 1920s London, very light and fluffy.  
  • Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh:  If you read the GAK section you can probably guess why I decided to pick this one up, lol.  About mindfulness. 

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!



HAVE A LOVELY WEEK! May you relax with all the abandon of a golden retriever with couch privileges. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

REVIEW | The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage by Justin Cronin
Publication Year: 2010
Genre: Science Fiction (dystopia), Literary
Series: The Passage (#1)
Awards: NA
Format: Bought from Audible
Narrator: Scott Brick, Abby Craden, Adenrele Ojo

WHY?: This book/series has had a LOT of buzz.  I'm not normally one to chase after the latest big thing but this one won me over because of two things: 1) my best friend recommended it when I was in a reading slump and 2) vampires.  Vampires always win me over.  And best friends too.  

SYNOPSIS:  The book starts by telling the story of how a virus that turns people into vampires got unleashed on the U.S.A.  It then shifts, 100 years into the future to the remnants of humanity that are left after the virus and its victims have done their work, particularly focusing on one isolated outpost in California.  This close, but quickly becoming dysfunctional, community is at a turning point and as a result a few of the residents are forced to brave the wider world and the vampires that still threaten all life.  


For me this was a book that got more and more interesting as it went along.  It initially reminded me a bit of The Stand by Stephen King except that I had almost a complete opposite reaction to each.  I loved the first part of The Stand but lost interest as the book dragged on while with The Passage, I almost put the book down during Part 1 but I'm glad I stuck with it because I got more and more sucked in and engaged as the story progressed.  

What didn't I like about Part 1?  It was interesting enough really.  It's always edifying to see human kind be its own worst enemy;).  However, it felt a little like Cronin had to get his Literary Fiction Writer jollies out before moving on into the more compelling character stories.  I enjoy literary fiction but it does seem like sometimes it is just a contest to see how miserable and unfortunate characters can be written.  There is copious background on all of the characters in this first part and that background is universally devastatingly tragic and violent.  Only 3 of these characters go on to play important but minor parts in the bulk of the book so morbidly dwelling on their misfortunes, felt a little superfluous and indulgent.  

There is so much improvement, however when the book moves into part 2 and fast forwards roughly 100 years into the future.  The characters still have pretty tragic lives but in context it would be weird if they didn't and knowing what the characters have been through is necessary to the development of the plot and relationships.  

The pacing of the plot gets better as well.  It spends a good chunk of time at the isolated fort where most of the main characters spring from but the time and attention is spent well in portraying what society has become, setting up some important mysteries and getting the reader attached to the ,main characters.  Just as the time at the fort starts to drag, we move out of it and the book launches into the third part which is generally the  "road trip" part of the story. 

One thing Cronin does exceptionally well is take pretty standard tired old tropes of fantasy/dystopias and make them burn with life.  The latter half of this book is basically a quest fantasy with prophecies and a chosen one and all the trappings but it doesn't feel overly familiar or overdone.  The vampires themselves are an enigma, created by humans and starting off as people themselves - they are drawn back to where they came from with a human yearning to return home?  Or because it's familiar ground and poses a better chance for hunting?  No one knows.  There are also the mysterious 12 who may have some powers to control vampires and humans alike but because humanity only exists in pockets and communication between outposts doesn't exist, they have become profoundly ignorant and have no way of connecting the dots.  The overall quest that drives the story is philosophically for humanity's survival but mundanely it is about lifting the blinders from their eyes and gaining knowledge.  

The world that Cronin imagines would result from this kind of plague is utterly real and believable.  How completely unprepared we'd be for this kind of disaster, how good sense would deteriorate and nuclear bombs would be used which would have a profound affect on future generations' survival and ability to procreate.  How quickly people would become isolated and as a result be almost thrown back to a pre-era-of-discovery type state where knowledge of anywhere outside of ones 50 mile radius area would disappear along with any curiosity about it.  I liked that no one knew whether the rest of the world was affected by the plague or if it had been effectively limited to the U.S. while everyone else went on like normal. The atmosphere is both scarily vast and also claustrophobic. The trip from California to Texas becomes a massive journey and undertaking.  Basically, Cronin does a great job creating a dystopia that feels real and is fascinating.

And of course, what is always the key for me to love a book, the characters are very well developed.  This is where that literary bent comes in the most.  It burrows deep into the psyche of each of the rotating perspective characters and for me it is what really makes the book worthwhile.  If you like a character driven book with a strong story to boot, you will likely enjoy this book. 

Finally, I listened to the audio version of The Passage and it had a somewhat unique set up.  When I saw the multiple narrators, I thought it would rotate, perhaps with a new narrator for each part.  In fact, Scott Brick reads roughly 90% of the book with the other two narrators just stepping in occasionally for some very specific parts.  It worked fine and Brick is a competent narrator but he is not really my style so I was a little bummed that he did the bulk of the reading.  His style is just a bit too dramatic for my taste but it didn't really have much impact on how I enjoyed the book.

FINAL VERDICT:  The beginning annoyed me a bit but it blossomed into a riveting character driven story with plenty of plot and momentum.  4 out of 5 Stars.

Other Opinions are Available: The Book Smugglers |The Guardian

P.S. If you are wondering about the strong movie rumors that The Book Smugglers mention in their review, here's what Cronin had to say about it recently:
Is there still going to be a movie or TV adaptation of The Passage?

"That’s an interesting question. It was really bought for movies. I was always uncertain about this because I thought, “There’s too many characters here.” It’s a very difficult narrative to unpack and fit into three two-hour movies. So, the studio’s kind of sitting on it for a while and my hope is that it will go to television. Television right now is where all the great storytelling is taking place."
This would be an EPIC TV show.  I am right there with him hoping for it!