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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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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Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley, Narrated by B. J. Harrison

Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley, Narrated by B. J. Harrison; 8 hours 19 minutes.

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It is the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein! It also October and I decided to read some ghoulish stories.

I first read Frankenstein almost 20 years ago when I was in high school.

So back then I was a bit bored by the writing. I still was at times because Shelly would go on a bit with some descriptions, and listening to Harrison’s soothing voice would allow me to doze off.

I do think this time around though that I appreciated the prose more and found some passages quite poetic. I do love that Mary Shelly was a woman ahead of her time to write such a deep, philosophical, science fiction story.

I am so used to the adaptations of Frankenstein that I forgot that in the original story it is never outright said how he makes the Creature. It’s not the digging up bodies and using lightening method we’re used to. It’s implied that Frankenstein made the body from scratch. Also, and maybe I fell asleep during that part, he is also never called Doctor Victor Frankenstein. Did he get his P.H.D.?

The reason that this story still stands today is because the philosophy and themes in the story are timeless. We’re a blank slate and what shapes us is nature and nurture together. Also, take responsibility for your actions. I am looking at you, Victor.

4 out of 5 Lightening Bolts

I just want to give a shout out to my two favorite adaptations:
– Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein, which is still hysterically funny.
– Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein, where Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternated their roles each night as Frankenstein and the Creature.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Narrated by B.J. Harrison

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Revenge at all cost!

A young sailor returns home from a dangerous voyage. His father and his sweetheart are waiting for him. But an act of jealous treachery changes his life forever!

An unexpected meeting changes everything and the man who was once an unknown sailor emerges as The Count of Monte Cristo, mysterious, rich, and powerful enough to take the ultimate revenge against his enemies.

I love, love, love this classic novel. Definitely one of my all time favorites. The complexity of it is just brilliant. It’s not just a revenge story (though the revenge is juicy and deserved!) but also a story of hope and forgiveness.

I began listening in the fall of 2017, but I didn’t like the narrator’s voice and couldn’t get past the first chapter. Then I found B.J. Harrison. He narrates a few of Poe’s short stories I love and his voice work is amazing. When I saw he narrated TCoMC I started listening to his rendition.

For two days in December I listened to 14 chapters. Then I took a break to do a re-listen of the Red Rising books before Iron Goldcame out. Fast forward to mid-February I went back to TCoMC and spent the next couple of months only listening to it. The audiobook is 52 hours long (117 chapters). To clear things up in the beginning (February- March) I wasn’t listening everyday. I was doing like only 5 hours a week. The past few weeks of April I have been listening 1.5 – 2 hours daily.

The length of the novel can be intimidating but it is so engaging, and the prose is so poetic. I book marked a lot of sections. I’ll have to share a few of my favorite quotes.

There are so many details between the events and the characters’ connections. There is just so much planning involved that
A) I would have loved to see the outlines that Dumas made and B) I don’t know how anyone can read an abridged version. So many little details from early in the story come back later. You may think something is insignificant, but it’s not. Every subplot has a purpose.

I kept a list of the characters nearby and would refer to it in the beginning to keep them straight, but as time went on I didn’t need it.

I love the evolution of Edmund’s character from innocent and naive to worldly, educated and cunning. I don’t know how Edmund juggled all those identities and stories. (My friend who listened to it right before I did called Edmund the first Batman. I’ll say! She also listens all day long and finished in about a week or so. Damn!)

I loved the way Harrison changed his voice for Edmund. When he was young and naive it was a bit higher and faster. When he became the Count it was deeper and more articulate.

Harrison is a wonderful narrator. His pacing is just right and he does a great range of voices so you know which character is speaking. I love the way he pronounced the name Mercédès. Actually, if it weren’t for the audiobook and hearing all these French names and words pronounced correctly I would be saying them in my head the incorrect American way.

I also loved the way Harrison said “Yes” for Monsieur Noirtier de Villefort (he is paralysed and only able to communicate with his eyes, but retains his mental faculties). His “Yes” is very long and deep.

I could go more into all the characters and their fates but that would turn into a whole essay. (So maybe another post someday.) I’m really glad that I persisted because now I am proud to say I read The Count of Monte Cristo.

5 out of 5 Millions in Diamonds.

FAVOTRIE quotes:

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