Romeo and Juliet: A Novel by David Hewson, narrated by Richard Armitage

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Exclusively written for Audible, only available in audio

“I think Romeo and Juliet is the greatest, most tragic love story ever told. What David Hewson did with this script is so exciting to me. I really love the fact that he followed avenues that Shakespeare suggested but didn’t necessarily detail in depth. If you want to immerse yourself in a warm bath of Garganega and the heat of Verona and hear a brilliant story about a young woman who is challenging the restraints of her time, listen to this audiobook, which has romance, poetry, politics, and humor to spare.”(Narrator Richard Armitage)

It’s a story you think you know: the age-old tale of “star-cross’d lovers”; two families at war; a romance, so pure and absolute, fated for a tragic end. It’s a story so thoroughly embedded in our culture, and so frequently retold. Yet, nothing captures the spark, the possibility, and the surprise of Shakespeare’s work quite like this….

In Romeo and Juliet: A Novel, author David Hewson reworks and expands on the classic story so that it becomes something richer, something new and entirely its own. Much more than a simple love story, it is a brilliant examination of young versus old, hope against despair, and, for Juliet, the search for individual identity at a time when women were regarded as little more than chattel.

An original production commissioned by Audible, Romeo and Juliet: A Novel marks the second pairing of David Hewson and actor Richard Armitage, whose previous partnership resulted in Audible’s 2014 Audiobook of the Year, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel. Hewson’s talent for writing for audio is undeniable, and he finds his perfect vocal foil in Armitage, an actor of immense range and absorbing intensity. Together, they bring you a familiar story told in a surprising way – with an ending you might not expect.

Bonus: Audiobook includes an afterword written and narrated by David Hewson.

I am not a big fan of Romeo and Juliet. I got this audiobook because Richard Armitage is the narrator. Since Valentine’s Day is in February I made this my V-month listen.

It took a while for me to get into the story because I am not a fan of this classic tale, but once I did get into it I really enjoyed it.

Something I learned in the Author’s Note at the end is that Shakespeare didn’t come up with the story originally . The tale of Romeo and Juliet already existed in the form of a few Italian romances that were an inspiration for Shakespeare. I liked this new take on the story. I really loved the time setting and the little hints thrown in about the Renaissance, like Da Vinci. I also really liked the modern, intelligent and independent version of Juliet in this new version.

I had forgotten how many famous lines came from R&J. It was much easier to understand in novel form. The prose is very pretty.

Richard’s narration is excellent. He has a great range of different voices for the characters, and his voice is just downright sexy. Oh my goodness gracious, the wedding night scene. With the honey and that verse…that was steamy. *Unfolds a fan.*

In the end I’m glad I pushed through and gave this a chance. It turned out to be a version of Romeo and Juliet that I enjoyed.

Overall: 3 out of 5 Poisons
Performance: 5 out of 5 Poisons
Story: 4 out of 5 Poisons

Some of my favorite quotes:

Chapter 9: A husband betrayed was a cuckold. A woman treated the same way was a wife.

Chapter 31: Rash acts may spur rash consequences.

Chapter 49: The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.

 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

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The Color Purple is a classic. With over a million copies sold in the UK alone, it is hailed as one of the all-time ‘greats’ of literature, inspiring generations of readers.

Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually, Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

To expand my library beyond my usual go-to genres, two years ago I started dedicating October to horror novels. This year I am adding to that expansion during Black History month. I started with The Color Purple. Friends have been recommending the movie to me and I wanted to listen to the audiobook first.

The Color Purple is a true American classic novel. It has heart and beauty but also does not shy away from the ugly truth of abuse and violence. I loved the discussions about religion, philosophy, history, culture, race and classism. It really makes you think and consider those issues.

I loved the letters between Celie and Nettie. Those were some of my favorite parts. All the relationships between the characters were well developed, but the one between Celie and Nettie was so bitter sweet. My heart would ache for them.

One thing I was confused about though was

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The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

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Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star hotel on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby’s glass wall: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for Neptune-Avradimis, reads the words and orders a drink to calm down. Alkaitis, the owner of the hotel and a wealthy investment manager, arrives too late to read the threat, never knowing it was intended for him. He leaves Vincent a hundred dollar tip along with his business card, and a year later they are living together as husband and wife.

High above Manhattan, a greater crime is committed: Alkaitis is running an international Ponzi scheme, moving imaginary sums of money through clients’ accounts. He holds the life savings of an artist named Olivia Collins, the fortunes of a Saudi prince and his extended family, and countless retirement funds, including Leon Prevant’s. The collapse of the financial empire is as swift as it is devastating, obliterating fortunes and lives, while Vincent walks away into the night. Until, years later, she steps aboard a Neptune-Avramidis vessel, the Neptune Cumberland, and disappears from the ship between ports of call.

In this captivating story of crisis and survival, Emily St. John Mandel takes readers through often hidden landscapes: campgrounds for the near-homeless, underground electronica clubs, the business of international shipping, service in luxury hotels, and life in a federal prison. Rife with unexpected beauty, The Glass Hotel is a captivating portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences, and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.

 

I got this ARC at a give away during NYCC ’19.

I’m really glad I listened to the audiobook of Station Eleven right before reading this ARC because there are some Easter eggs. (Though it’s not a requirement to read Station Eleven before.) It’s almost a parallel universe in a way. I loved that the story played with alternate realities. I imaging an AU of my life all the time. I also liked the elements of ghosts or being haunted by the past (depending on the reader’s views).

I really like Mandel’s style of writing. The Glass Hotel goes back and forth in time and between different POVs. It does it really well. The pacing and the way details unfold is seamless. It made it a real page turner.

I loved the multi-POVs from everyone: the criminals in the Ponzi scheme and the victims of the scheme, and seeing how they all are connected to each other. The characters are interesting and well develop without boggling the book with too much detail.

I also have many favorite quotes that I related to, but I feel that is opening a whole other discussion and I’m going to keep this review just a review.

So here is one quote that made me chuckle:
Page 94 – “You cannot be both an unwashed bohemian and Cary Grant.”

This is so me and all the imaginary discussions I have:
Page 285 – “It turned out that never having that conversation with Vincent meant that he was somehow condemned to always have that conversation with Vincent.”

Yes, I know I am supposed to check the ARC with he final print before quoting, but these are just too good not to share.

4.5  out of 5  Investments. 

The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander

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In 1962, in the Soviet Union, eight-year-old Katya is bequeathed what will become the love of her life: a Blüthner piano, on which she discovers an enriching passion for music. Yet after she marries, her husband insists the family emigrate to America–and loses her piano in the process.

In 2012, in Bakersfield, California, twenty-six-year-old Clara Lundy is burdened by the last gift her father gave her before he and her mother died in a terrible house fire: a Blüthner upright she has never learned to play. Now a talented and independent auto mechanic, Clara’s career is put on hold when she breaks her hand trying to move the piano, and in sudden frustration she decides to sell it. Only in discovering the identity of the buyer–and the secret history of her piano–will Clara be set free to live the life of her choosing.

I got this title at Book Con 2019. Penguin Random House/Knopf had a “blind date with a book” giveaway. They had the books wrapped in different color paper depending on these genres: fiction, non-fiction, mystery, true crime, or historical fiction.

I chose historical fiction and got an old ARC for The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander. It was published in January 2019. Even though it was given away as historical fiction I wouldn’t place it in that category. Life in the USSR was not the main focus. Most of the story takes place in California in the 1980s, 90s and present day.

That’s just my opinion. Otherwise, I really enjoyed it. The story was sad but ends with hope. I really like the way it began and ended, like bookends.

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, narrated by Kirsten Potter

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One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the cross-hairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

I got an ARC of Emily’s new book The Glass Hotel from NYCC ’19 and before I read that I wanted to listen to Station Eleven.

I could not stop listening to it. It’s not so much that it’s suspenseful but I needed to find out what happened to the characters.

There are a few main characters to follow and it moves back and forth through time, and that has the potential to get confusing and messy. Station Eleven is written seamlessly with the way the little details unfold and connect. That’s also what made it un-put-downable.

Post-apocalyptic stories always scare me just a little bit. Listening to the way civilization unraveled had me a bit freaked out. (I don’t think I’d make it far. I can’t hunt or fish or garden. Unless I found someone to teach me those skills I would die within the first year.)

Favorite Quote in Chapter 23: “Hell is the absence of the people you long for.”

5 out of 5 Symphonies 

I only have one small wish for the ending:

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Dracula by Bram Stoker, narrated by B.J. Harrison

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Dracula is a Transylvanian monarch planning on purchasing a ruined castle in England. Before he knows it, Jonathan is trapped inside Dracula’s castle as a prisoner. Taken from a collection of journal entries, letters, telegrams, and newspaper clippings, Dracula is the grand sire of all vampire tales. Discover the nefarious means Dracula uses to enter England and wreak his hellish havoc. Who can stop the lord of the undead? Only the Dutch scientist Van Helsing can persuade the disbelieving to believe the reality that there are creatures of the night beyond our ken – things that suck the blood of the living, transform into mist, and flee to the safety of their coffins before the rising of the sun.

 

I first tried to read this back in 2013 when I got a free copy of the book at NYCC.
They gave them out after the panel for the NBC drama Dracula staring Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Back then I got about 64 pages in before I gave up (right after Lucy’s letter about her three proposals.) I was bored and annoyed that the story was told through letters and diary entries. I wanted the point of view from Dracula himself. (What are his true origins? Is he the first ever vampire? How old is he?)

Then I got into audiobooks and I really enjoy B.J. Harrison’s narrations. (I listened to his narration of The Count of Monte Cristo.) When I saw he narrated Dracula I thought I would try again.

I enjoyed it so much more this time and followed along with the copy I kept from NYCC 2013. (Some sentences were missing from the audiobook! Different editions, perhaps?)

Ok, so some spoilers below. Are they still spoilers when the book has been out for over 100 years?
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More News Tomorrow by Susan Richards Shreve

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On the morning of her seventieth birthday, Georgianna Grove receives an unexpected letter that calls her back to Missing Lake, Wisconsin, where her mother was murdered sixty-six years earlier. Georgie’s father had confessed to the murder the next morning and was carted off to a state penitentiary. Haunted by the night that took both her parents away and determined to unearth the truth, Georgie takes her reluctant family on what will become a dangerous canoe trip up the swollen Bone River to return to Missing Lake.

Acclaimed novelist Susan Richards Shreve, celebrated for her “refined explorations of parent-child relationships” (Washington Post), captures the tenor of the times with clarity and elegance as she follows both Georgie and her parents on parallel trips up the Bone River, weaving together the hope of June 2008 with the injustices of June 1941. Georgie must untangle a web of bigotry, loss, and half-forgotten memories to finally understand her parents’ fate.

More News Tomorrow is a stirring and irresistible portrait of a family drawn together in search of truth.

I picked this ARC up at Book Con 2019.

More News Tomorrow is a fast, entertaining read. I enjoyed reading the multiple point of views from the present and the past. Most were written in the third person and one was in the first person.

It is a page turner because I just had to know if Georgie’s father really killed her mother. Some twists and doubts are presented.

 

Warning! Major Spoilers Below:

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