Celebrating Shakespeare 400

Today marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the world is coming together to honour and celebrate that man that brought us such wonderful plays like Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and beautiful sonnets and phrases we still use today. While I’ve been posting all April about all things Shakespeare, this is the actual day that marks the momentous occasion, even the Google Doodle is getting involved. It’s been 400 years since Shakespeare died somewhat unexpectedly (no one is sure what he died from) and judging by the effort and the scale in which people are honouring the playwright it’s incredible that he is as important today as he was in his own day.

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The best place to see all the Shakespeare action is to follow the #Shakespeare400 tag on Twitter and Facebook. There is a myriad of posts from people offering up fun facts, trivia, quizzes and hosting other fun events. I know Bell Shakespeare here in Australia has a scavenger hunt going to find copies of Othello hidden around various cities and the bookstore Dymocks in Sydney have a whole afternoon of Shakespeare activities planned. Over in Britain the BBC have a range of live broadcasts planned as well when they tick over to the 23rd in a few hours. You don’t even need to do anything grand, go on Facebook and share your favourite quote, favourite movie, rewatch Romeo+Juliet, undoubtedly one of the greatest Shakespeare movies ever made. Even if you just want to share in the comments your favourite play/adaptation/quote, feel free!

I’ve included a selection of links below to get you into the Shakespearean mood and I will be posting on Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram if I can) a bunch of things to help keep the celebrations going strong. Or have a look at past Shakespeare posts from this month and see what fun things I’ve included and links I’ve suggested. It’s important to remember Shakespeare isn’t all stuffy boring plays; he’s so ingrained in history and our society there’s a myriad of ways to enjoy his work.

Shakespeare

Good Tickle Brains makes Shakespeare fun

A few wonderful things I will suggest to start off your Shakespeare experience are from Good Tickle Brain, an amazing website where the delightful Mya creates cartoons and funny Shakespeare-themed things. She has recently created a useful flowchart to help you decided which Shakespeare play you should go and see, as well as an awesome Shakespeare Game of Life.

Other things I suggest if you’re in the USA is high tail it over to New York and book a seat to see the hilarious Something Rotten play because while I’ve only heard the soundtrack (on repeat all day every day), I assure you it is amazing.

If reading is more your thing (and why wouldn’t it be) grab a copy of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series for some great Shakespeare moments. The best one is Something Rotten which is filled with all sorts of great and hilarious things about Shakespeare and a very dramatic Hamlet. Or, if fun insults are more your thing, check out this chart of great Shakespearean insults.

As the day goes on and as other countries move into 23rd April there will no doubt be more exciting things revealed but for now take a look at what’s already around and who knows, you may discover something interesting!

 

Links and Bits

Shakespeare Quiz

Another Shakespeare Quiz

BBC Live broadcast celebrations

Good Tickle Brain

Shakespearean insults

Shakespeare inspired novels

Lessons from Shakespeare

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November Book Haul

I went on a slight buying spree recently. There were new releases out that needed buying, a few series I had to finish collecting. I’m usually quite good in the book buying department. The main contributors to my bookshelves are book sales, writer’s festivals, or gifts. Occasionally books get through that I buy simply because they’re books I have to have. This is the reason seven new books have made their way to my shelves, plus it was fun when each new one arrived in the mail! I have yet to read them but they are all very high on my TBR list the moment I have a chance to enjoy them.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Scarlett

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Cress

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Winter

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Fairest

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I have read Cinder and with the release of Winter I felt I needed the collection before continuing my read.
I had been warned to have all books before reading because you will want to pick up the next one immediately.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

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I love the podcast by these guys so naturally the book was a must have.
If you haven’t heard it you can still read the book no problem.

 

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

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This was very much a “Garth Nix has a new book, I must buy it whatever it is” thing.

 

The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde

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The Thursday Next series is probably Fforde’s most well known, but the Last Dragonslayer is quite good as well.
This is the third in the series.

Top Five of 2013

New year means time for my 2013 Top Five list. Like last year these are the books that were real surprises and completely unexpected in just how wonderful they’d be. They managed to get me excited, engaged, emotional, and managed to change how I saw the world just that little bit.

Because I read some pretty wonderful authors as well as books in 2013 I am mixing things up a bit and compiling a top five authors as well as books. I only managed to read 45 books in 2013 because of Uni, other commitments, and “things”, but there were some absolute gems within those 45. Looking at it now, it almost seems like the year of the Young Adult novel which is interesting.

2013 was also the year I read a lot of particular authors or series which was very rewarding, however it also makes choosing a simple 5 rather hard. I am not going to number them because really, it won’t mean all that much, they all could be number one.

Top Five Books

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
It was hard to find the right Thursday Next book to choose from those I read, but this won out. The entire nature of the narrative was weird and bizarre as per usual but offered something new and different to the series. Being the fifth book in the series a lot has come before it and a lot comes after it in the next two books but while each book brings new stories and people, there is a common thread through it all and a great sense of familiarity despite each book being very different from one another. It also made me read Pinocchio so that was a bonus experience right there.

Looking For Alaska by John Green
Oh do not talk to me about this book. This like The Book of Lost Things have had messed up my life so much, I mean really it is quite unfair. This is a beautiful story, it is about finding out who you are, trying to find a place in the world, and about friendship and life and all the crazy unknowns about being a teenager. And you truly have to listen to his brother Hank’s song ‘Looking For Alaska‘ which is about the book because it is just as wonderful and emotional as the book itself, and while you can listen to it before reading because it doesn’t contain any exact spoilers, it has so much more meaning once you’ve read the book.

Artemis Fowl and  the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer
If only an entire series could be selected this would be one I’d pick. This is the eighth and last book in the Artemis Fowl series, and I could easily have also picked the seventh book to accompany it in this list but I didn’t. I think, remembering back to the moment when I finished, this was a much better choice because while the seventh book was emotionally involving and wonderful, I think this one rides of the back of that and brings it to a whole new level combining everything we’ve seen from the series so far. A really exceptional read.

Please Ignore Vera Deitz by A. S. King
I had been trying to find this book for awhile. I cannot remember exactly what made me want to start reading it, I think I may have stumbled on one of A. S. King’s quotes and went from there. Throughout the book there are certainly a number of wonderful quotes about life, society, being a teenager, a friend, someone’s child. However I found it it was worth it on so many levels, I got so much out of this book that made me look at the world just a little bit differently. And after all, isn’t that what a good book should do really?

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I have wanted to read this for awhile, and with the movie being released now was the time. Like Please Ignore Vera Deitz, this book was filled with so many wonderful insights and poignant moments about life, being a teenager, trying to find your place in the world. Chbosky has a way with words that suit his characters so well. You can picture everything and with Charlie as our eyes you just follow him and watch the world go by. It is really beautiful. There is a mystery around the whole thing and it just sits quietly as the story goes on, offering us an occasional snippet. But the pleasure is really just following Charlie and seeing him experience life, make friends, and uncover things about himself he never thought possible.

 

Top Five Authors

John Green
I read all of John’s wonderful books in 2013, from his first book An Abundance of Katherines, to his most recent release The Fault in Our Stars. His writing style is pretty wonderful, he can express the voice of a teenager extremely well, while also offering multiple profound and insightful moments in deep or seemingly mundane moments and strange circumstances. Away from Looking For Alaska, Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Paper Towns had to be my other favourites.

Eoin Colfer
If we don’t already adore him for his entire Artemis Fowl series, we love him a little more for his new series W.A.R.P. Colfer has a wonderful humour in his writing, the witty nature of his characters and the absurdness that can occur is his books is a joy to read. Colfer’s imagination is captured in his books and there is no end to the surprises that he comes up with in his work.

Jasper Fforde
Jasper Fforde was introduced to me by a friend and here we are a year later and I have been sucked into his books and numerous series and I don’t really feel like coming out. The humour, pure imagination and creativity, not to mention the complete literature focus is more than enough the adore his Thursday Next books, but even others like The Last Dragonslayer have the same Fforde style and engaging nature that bring you into this constructed world and you just cannot wait to see where it’ll lead and through which twists and surprises on the way.

Neil Gaimain
Neil is on this list because it is Neil basically. But I read his novel The Ocean at the End of Lane and it was just excellent. It was such an awesome book that mixed magic and reality, as well as childhood memories and mystery that you really are quite moved by the whole thing. I’ve also included him because his short stories in M for Magic were so haunting and wonderful that you just admire the skills that exists in one person to make you so moved and affected without seemingly doing anything too grand and extraordinary, but in facts hide the extraordinary and magic in the seemingly simple.

Aurelio Voltaire
Getting to review and interview Voltaire about his new book was a serious highlight of 2013 I cannot tell you.  Having fallen in love with his music it was no doubt I loved his book as well. But it wasn’t just my love of his work that makes him great, it is also his wonderfully storytelling abilities. For a first time writer he did an excellent job with his book Call of the Jersey Devil, and his history as a song writer really shines in his descriptions and his narrative. I’m not sure whether Voltaire plans on writing another fiction novel anytime soon, but if he does, I’m sure it will be just as wonderful.

The Woman Who Died A Lot (#7) by Jasper Fforde

Published: January 31st 2013
Goodreads badgePublisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Pages: 380
Format: Book
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

The Bookworld’s leading enforcement officer Thursday Next is four months into an enforced semi-retirement following a near fatal assassination attempt. She returns home to Swindon for what you’d expect to be a time of recuperation and rest. If only life were that simple. Thursday is faced with an array of family problems – her son Friday’s lack of focus since his career in the Chronoguard was relegated to a might-have-been, daughter Tuesday’s difficulty perfecting the Anti-Smote shield needed in time to thwart an angry Deity’s promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth, and Jenny, who doesn’t exist except as a confusing memory. And that’s not all. With Goliath attempting to replace Thursday at every opportunity with synthetic Thursdays, the prediction that Friday’s Destiny-Aware colleagues will die in mysterious circumstances, and a looming meteorite that could destroy all human life on earth, Thursday’s retirement is going to be anything but easy. If you thought dealing with the Bookworld could be hard, wait until you see what it takes to be a mother.

I wanted to read this book so badly that I drove an hour round trip this morning to get my hands on it. That is the result of the previous book and the fact I was so engrossed in this series once again I couldn’t bear leaving it any longer to read the latest book. I finished it by early evening too, because that is what Jasper does. You can force yourself to stop in between books (if you must) but once you start, you cannot put it down.

The Woman Who Died A Lot effectively is showing the effect and consequences of the events in First Among Sequels, and also the aftermath of One of Our Thursdays is Missing. The events of One of Our Thursdays Is Missing act as a buffer between the two, still important, but in an abstract kind of way.

As usual in the Thursday world there are six things going on at once that you must keep track of. The wrath is due Friday, the library is armed to the teeth, there are cross-dressing nuns, and forgetting why you walked into a room suddenly makes so much more sense. There is the word foible, the ongoing issue of the Stupidity Surplus, and someone is finally getting angry about making Enid Blyton politically correct. There is something in this for everyone.

The tone and writing takes a little while to feel natural this time around, I don’t know why exactly but the recapping that Jasper has always been good at seems a bit out of place. It reads ever so slightly as if directed at a reader who has not read the series before. While the other books offered a simple reminder about what had happened within the story itself, The Woman Who Died A Lot tends to describe things as if we did not know them already. This is only for the early section of the book mind you and the fluidity returns soon enough, but it did have me worried for awhile that the magic had vanished.

There is no point pretending this book is not different. As much as you wish and fondly remember the Thursday adventures from the earlier books you have to accept that realistically it was almost twenty years previous, and things change. The large jump into the future throws you slightly because we haven’t had the time to get used to the aging Thursday. There was a gradual change in some respects but we are also suddenly presented with the middle aged woman who is struggling to be as she was; granted it was due to the events of the previous book so you can’t be too harsh, but it does make you remember how she once was. I think if she had recovered instantly it would have been worse, so I am happy to take the person she is now because you can see the Thursday that once was within her still.

This is just as a character of course, story wise there is mystery and chaos as before, perhaps in a different style but chaos nonetheless. Things from past books are brought up and ongoing issues still present themselves but that is part of the familiar joy. The content lends itself to all manner of strangeness so asking for any sense of normalcy is out of the question. What Jasper does is he likes to drop bombs on you and then keep moving as if nothing has happened. All the while you are jumping up and down three pages behind demanding answers you know full well he isn’t going to give you. The worst part is that even when you think you have an inkling about what is going on, Jasper won’t give you anything to confirm or deny this. He lets you make up theories and explanations of your own and teases you with tantalising clues that make you impatient but over excited at the same time. It is his devilish way.

The RealWorld of the past is different as the years have passed but there are still some familiar faces. Circumstances change and people adapt, there is not a lot you can do about it. But no matter what happens, don’t ever start to worry about Jasper and his books, even if you get doubtful of where things are going and worry that he’s losing his touch, you just need to get to the end because by then your view would have completely changed and you will be out of your mind with excitement and amazement and joy that you can hardly sit still and will complain when dinner is called and you have 13 pages to go. Trust in Jasper, there is a reason he does what he does and you just have to follow him where he leads you; which is now into a state of impatience while I wait for him to write the next book!

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing (#6) by Jasper Fforde

Published: 10 November 2011
Goodreads badgePublisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Pages: 385
Format: Book
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Only the diplomatic skills of ace literary detective Thursday Next can avert a devastating genre war. But a week before the peace talks, Thursday vanishes. Has she simply returned home to the RealWorld or is this something more sinister?

All is not yet lost. Living at the quiet end of the speculative fiction is the written Thursday Next, eager to prove herself worthy of her illustrious namesake.

The fictional Thursday is soon hot on the trail of her factual alter-ego, and quickly stumbles upon a plot so fiendish that it threatens the very BookWorld itself.

Let’s start by saying this: who knew reading could be so complex?

From the beginning chapters, and really the title and spoiler blurb on the back of the book, we find out that Thursday Next is missing. However due to the books she’s written there is a Thursday who can take her place until she is found. This instantly changes the tone of the book as the new Thursday takes over as narrative voice. Despite looking like the Real Thursday, her written counterpart has a much different personality, and this is reflected in the narrative voice. As I started reading, I had a constant feeling of discomfort as I read because I felt like something was off. It wasn’t until much later that I realised it was because it was a different Thursday altogether. I think if Jasper had tried to write using the Thursday style I had grown accustomed to in the past five books it would not be believable. Of course the tone would be different, because the narrator was a different person, despite looking exactly the same. I am not saying this is a bad thing at all, it was a little bit like going through the Looking Glass, it is very familiar, but it wasn’t at the same time. Actually, pretty much the entire novel felt like that.

With the main protagonist missing, we are taken away from the official and policing part of BookWorld, and instead we are given a civilian point of view. I do think having anything too much like the past books would have felt very out of place in this unfamiliar world. Even when written Thursday meets people from real Thursday’s world you can feel the difference. You really get the sense she is a different person trying to be someone else, and outsider looking in the window, yet still somehow participating.

I did find myself missing the old Book World, despite us never really getting an expansive description of it before. A lot of the previous books consisted of jumping from one to the other with few stable points of reference like the Great Library. There was nothing wrong with the new BookWorld certainly. it just took a little getting used to. I understand why it had to be done though; story wise I can see that the old set up probably would not have been possible considering the plot, and certainly not make half the things in the narrative possible. So in that regard I am fine with the changes, but a small part of me missed it. I think the other part is I just missed the Real Thursday, familiar characters, the Jurisfiction and official side of BookWorld. As much as I loved seeing the Book World from the civilian and written characters perspective, after five books focusing on one side, it was an adjustment seeing the flip side.

Don’t get me wrong, it was brilliant all the same. Once you take the story as it is you began to see the immense effort Jasper had gone to. The detail in this book is astounding. It is not even always relevant, but the descriptions and the minute things like street names or conversations and logic that you tend to just brush over, yet have probably needed just as much thought as the narrative itself. I can’t even begin to list the detail Jasper has put into the BookWorld and the novel itself this time around. Something that I thought was truly beautiful was the way the RealWorld is described through Jasper’s BookWorld descriptions. His descriptions of everyday life and activities are rather poetic, which considering how poetry is viewed in these books, shouldn’t be taken as an insult. The wriggling in your seat excitement returns, not entirely through the whole book, but enough and in the right places to make you grin like the Cheshire Cat filled with warm bubbles.

The fact that this book is similar yet very different to the others works well for the BookWorld’s advantage. As readers we are given a full layout and story in this world from the point of view of the characters that live in it. They are the fictional counterparts of all the books, and while there is the mystery to be solved, the reality is we are given a complete breakdown and introduction to the Book World we have only seen glimpses of in the past, and all in the name of solving the mystery. This is something Jasper is very good at, telling us what we need to know but without interrupting the story’s flow. A lot is revealed from past books that you didn’t even realise needed to be solved, but there is also a few unanswered things as well.  There were some unrelated revelations though. We have finally discovered an explanation of how there, their and they’re problems arise in the RealWorld, discover how important syntax is, and how Malapropism is funny, but also makes conversation a little trying. We get to see the dangers of comedy, realise that yes, clowns are an offset of the Horror genre, that humans in a crowd are very much like starling and fish, and the awkward back and forth shuffle between two people on the street is not as simple as it makes out to be.

I really do not want to give any more away for fear of spoilers, but in all truthfulness there is also no time. There is just so much beautiful description, so much detail, imagination, forethought, genius, humour, absurdity, and amazement in this book that you wouldn’t even know where to begin telling you about it all. Even if I did explain them all and gush over their awesomeness, it’d take the joy away from discovering them yourselves and admiring Jasper in your own way. Not all of them even ruin plot, it’s just simple pleasures in the BookWorld life and the story itself that is being told.

A lot of the story seems rather normal for the most part, but then you come to a point where you start to doubt everything you had accepted as true. I entered into this story blindly and accepted what Jasper told me as per usual, when he starts to mess with you there is nothing else to do except try and solve the puzzle or just accept defeat and just read on in confused acceptance until he wants you to know anything. You still have no real idea about what is going on through this book, but where confusion sat most of the time in past books, now instead becomes an air of mystery to a certain degree.

Since I have given nothing out about what actually happens in this book, I suggest you rush out and read it right away. Aside from the plot there is so much more to love about this book, and so many new things that after you reset what you know about these books you will find them a rather intriguing change. A refreshing change is what I think we’ll call this, but I look forward to getting back into the writing and point of view I know and love. What this book does well is give a great insight into how reading is actually done, and received, which changes how you read yourself. Don’t resist it, just accept it and enter this world blissfully; and by the time you finish you will feel as suspicious and guilty for getting sleepy when reading a book as I do now.

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