cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Books”

Author Spotlight: James Herriot


Eons ago I became smitten with the James Herriot series All Creatures Great and Small—both the books and BBC show.

The gentle humor, the insights into human nature, the animal stories, the quaint English countryside with all of its unique characters, the appreciation for life even in the hard circumstances of being a country became a tonic for this reader.

james herriot life work

It wasn’t until recently, while researching for a writing project, I came across James Herriot once again. This time I paid more attention to the writer. I came away more impressed than ever, and developed more respect for James Herriot or rather James Alfred Wight, the man behind the stories. Here are some facts I learned while reintroducing myself to his works:

  • He choose to write under the pseudonym of James Herriot due to strict veterinary association ethics of not writing under one’s own name to avoid self-promotion. He took the name from a professional football (soccer) player who played for Wight’s favorite Sunderland team.
  • Born in England, his family moved to Glasgow, Scotland when he was a baby. He spent 23 years in Glasgow and naturally developed an accent causing people to think he was Scottish.
  • He decided to become a vet due to the combination of loving animals, reading an article about choosing a vocation, and listening to a guest lecturer from the Glasgow Veterinary School.
  • Wight was an avid reader, one dedicated to classics and authors such as Sir Conan Doyle, H.G.Wells, H. Rider Haggard, O’Henry, P.G. Wodehouse, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare. These literary influences are evident in Wight’s writing with his ability to inject humor in unexpected moments with irony, imagery, and a turn of a phrase. His ear for natural dialogue added greatly to the rhythm of the story.
  • Being born in 1916 put Wight at a disadvantage since it placed him in the middle of an economic depression by the time he graduated from vet school, making it difficult to find a position.
  • He first worked with a veterinarian in Sunderland (where he was born) but due to the vet’s contract with the dog racing track having ended, Wight had to find another placement. This led him to Yorkshire where he would work with Donald Sinclair (Siegfried rom the books) for nearly fifty years.
  • After being hired by Sinclair, Wight had to run the practice single-handedly because Sinclair had joined the Royal Air Force.
  • Wight had tried publishing other stories before writing his country vet tales, yet only met rejections. He didn’t begin publishing his memoirs, his life as a country vet, until he was 50 years old and continued writing through his early 70s.
  • His initial book, If Only They Could Talk, was serialized in the newspaper, and a favorable literary review launched further reader interest. Soon after, his books sold constantly and his career as a writer began and to this day people are still fans of his writing.
  • Wight claimed 90% of his stories were true, having had the need to change names and situations, yet some dissenters, particularly Graham Lord, a biographer, say it’s closer to 50%, making his memoirs more fiction than fact. However, Wight’s son, Jim, maintains in his biography of his dad that 90% true is accurate [Does it really matter? The stories are marvelous—so what if there are embellishments?]
  • Wight continued his veterinary practice even while becoming a successful author, as he truly enjoyed being a country vet.
  • His books were bestsellers, sometimes remaining on the New York Times list for over six months.
  • To this day Wight’s books have sold over 60 million copies.
  • Thousands of fans, mostly Americans, would trek to Yorkshire to meet Wight and he would personally sign books and meet with people and he took the time to answer the cascade of letters sent to him. Today there is a World of James Herriot museum located at his original practice where devotees can learn more about the author.
  • James Alfred “Alf” Wight was always surprised at his success as a writer; he remained humble and in awe of his publishing achievement throughout his life. Though he became a millionaire author, he nevertheless lived a simple life, enjoying his marriage to Joan “Helen” for over 50 years and had a loving relationship with his two children, Jim and Rosie, who both became doctors (Jim carried on in his father’s practice, and Wight talked his daughter out of becoming a vet due to the strenuous work, so she became a general practitioner).
  • He received the OBE for his contribution to veterinary science, along with many other significant awards.

His original books published in Britain had titles such as It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet, The Flying Vet, and were short volumes, which were combined to create longer volumes and retitled from lines of a famous British hymn: All Creatures Great and Small. Although I have read most, if not all of Herriot’s books, including his biographies, I do have my favorites:

Picture Books

Oscar, Cat-About-Town

Moses, the Kitten

Collections

James Herriot’s Cat Stories

Image result for james herriot cat photographs

The Best of James Herriot, Favorite Memories of a Country Vet

Biographies

The Real James Herriot, Memoir of My Father by James Wight

Television and Film

The entire BBC series with Robert Hardy

Image result for all creatures great and small bbc

The first film with Anthony Hopkins

Young James Herriot

Advertisements

Debatables: LoL


Well, the odds were not in my favor this round.

But then, I knew that funny little kid in the round glasses would no doubt trounce the strong, courageous Katniss, at least in favorable voting. Get him in the Cornucopia? No competition.

I knew Mike had the win when he called Harry Potter. No matter.

I suited up and walked out on the field because I believe in Katniss. Oh sure, she got annoying sometimes with her “which guy?” conundrums, yet, she has pluck and she has been an influence in areas of significance beyond book parties and reading interest.

So-Mike, a win hands down. See you next month at your place.

Here’s a little fun to cap off our debate between Harry Potter and Hunger Games.

Debatables: July—YA best (series-ly)


This month’s Debatable gets serious about YA. Mike and I are taking on the great debate of which YA series is the most influential YA in terms of overall impact.

Yep, we are throwing down the quodlibet gauntlet and arguing whether the Harry Potter series bests the Hunger Games series. We are going for overall influence, not just books, but movies, social impact, topic genre–everything, everything. We are going big on this one.

As a reminder, here are the ground rules:

Each debater is allowed one brief argument (fewer than 300 words) on a previously agreed upon topic. These brief arguments will then be followed by a briefer rebuttal (fewer than 150 words).

Mike, that increasingly prolific writer of children’s books and always popular blogmeister, is my Debatable partner. He has chosen the Harry Potter series:

I am nominating the Hunger Games trilogy:

Image result for hunger games trilogy

As the month’s host, I defer to Mike to lead out the argument:

Mike’s opener:
Whether you love Harry Potter or are indifferent to Harry Potter, you gotta admit that Harry Potter changed everything we once thought we knew about kid lit. Before that little wizard showed up, young adult and middle grade fiction novels were relegated to the bookstore ghetto, to live and die as a dog-eared paperbacks. 

There have been many pre-Harry YA books of great distinction, of course, The Giver, The Outsiders, and about a jillion others that are far superior to anything J.K. Rowling could’ve ever conjured in her Hogwarty mind. But those novels lack a certain magical something that Harry had in spades: Crossover Appeal. 

Harry Potter did to literature what Star Wars did to movies, it found an audience with pretty much everyone. And, man, was that audience rabid. Remember the midnight release parties with lines stretching for blocks? Remember how revealing a spoiler was considered a Crime Against Humanity? Publishers sure do, and they have been attempting to recapture that ol’ HP magic, literally and figuratively, ever since. 

Once upon a time, the kid lit center of gravity was in picture books. Harry Potter (and its decade-long listing on the New York Times bestseller list) changed that business model. The big money is now is YA and that’s where publisher resources have gone—and will continue to go—for the foreseeable future. 

No, I’m not saying that Twilight or Hunger Games or Miss Peregrine wouldn’t have been published if HP didn’t exist. I’m saying that Twilight and Hunger Games are Miss Peregrine enjoy the popularity they have because HP exists. Without that incredibly influential wizard, they would be unfairly slumming with the latter-day Nancy Drews, ignored and overlooked by the masses.

 

Cricket’s remarks:
Granted, Harry and his school chums initiated a noticeable interest among middle/YA readers; however, Suzanne Collins made a lasting impact with her Hunger Games trilogy that is still evident today, going well beyond readership.

First off, Katniss is a relatable hero. Flawed, no superpowers, yet passionate in her beliefs, placing others before her needs, transfers into the real world.  Several articles on how Katniss is inspirational in her purposeful focus are found on the internet. Hunger Games can be found at the core of curriculums revolving around dystopia and totalitarian governments, sharing time with Antigone and I Am Malala. Wizardry may be entertaining, but standing up for one’s beliefs is riveting, inspiring, and powerful in its ability to influence.

Other aspects of influence include the three-fingered salute from Hunger Games, a gesture that’s become a global symbol of resistance. There is also a  resurgence in archery evidenced by Nerf’s crossbow. Hunger Games ushered in other dystopian-themed books/films such as Divergent and Maze Runner. Tricks are for kids; bad government is reality, and Hunger Games has influenced others to take on the reality of tyranny. Saving friends from foes with magical spells doesn’t work in the real world. Courageously standing up for convictions makes a difference.  

Katniss has firmly established that a female hero doesn’t have to be seductive or come from another planet to get things done. Hunger Games also has gender and age appeal–AARP members raved about the series. Even Time noted Katniss Everdeen as an influential character

Admittedly, Harry Potter filled some kind of needed hole in middle/YA  reading needs, yet a boy wizard can’t compare to the lasting influence of a young woman who started out wanting to save her sister and ended up freeing society from injustice.

Mike’s Rebuttal
First things first: Katniss didn’t use a crossbow. Second, the Nerf crossbow was first released in 1995, a full 12 years before the first Hunger Games book came out.

Now to the meat of your argument: Yes, Katniss is a strong, flawed, relatable, femal hero fighting valiantly against a totalitarian government—but she certainly isn’t the defining voice of today’s “Resistance,” as you suggest. (That would be Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale). And influential dystopian-age books for YA existed long before Katniss ever showed up (again, I reference 1993’s The Giver). 

Don’t get me wrong, The Hunger Games is a great, exciting read. In fact, I enjoyed THG trilogy more that Harry Potter. 

But this Debatables topic is about which book is more influential. In that particular Harry versus Hunger competition, Katniss wouldn’t even make it to the cornucopia.

Cricket’s Rebuttal

Thanks, Mike for acknowledging how Hunger Games is a better read-points for my argument of HG’s influence.  I am not interested in reading Harry Potter.

Why?

Magic is so unrealistic in solving problems compared to tenacity and fortitude in righting wrongs (you did notice the photo?). And while there have been a few unique female heroes such as Ripley and Sarah O’Connor, they were adults and Katniss is a teen. A brave young woman willing to sacrifice for family, friends, and the greater good is more admirable than a bespectacled kid wizard with a scar.

So–maybe HP influenced kids to read more than they used to–can Harry make the claim he has influenced politics or human rights concerns? Katniss and the Hunger Games series is an influence that  continues to resonate long after HP’s last spell has dithered away.

Alrighty, readers–time to weight in with votes and comments. Which series is more influential in your opinion: Harry Potter or Hunger Games?

Reader Round Up: June


June was a strange month. At one point I found myself trying to survive 112 degree temps in Arizona. It wasn’t a planned visit. DO NOT plan a visit in Arizona in June. Or July. Or even August. Some consideration can be given to September on up to May.

Then there was a conference I had to attend barely having time to refresh my suitcase contents and reviving from heat prostration.

I will never take the greenery, nor the rain, of my region for granted–ever, ever again.

I returned from one conference long enough to appreciate my bed for a few nights, read a bit in the hammock, and repack the suitcase. Back-to-back conferences sounded like a good idea back in April when I scheduled them. You know, get business out of the way to leave the rest of summer to enjoy…

Unscheduled life events can throw neatly planned calendars right out the window.

I haven’t really started Summer Break (yes, it’s capped–because it is important) but I have snuck in a few choice books during my heat endurance trial. The site library had air conditioning. Fortunately.

Cormorant’s Isle by Allan McKinnon

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

A freebie from the library rack and I’m glad I grabbed it. Publish date is 1952 and has that old feel of a Mary Stewart mystery with a bit of Ian Fleming. I’m determined to find more of McKinnon’s books.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The librarian within thrilled to the idea of reading about the great Los Angeles Library fire–not because I harbor pyro tendencies, because such a huge event had gone unnoticed–a library fire that consumed hundreds of thousands of books and I hadn’t heard about it?

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Victoria Jones is 18 and is graduating out of the foster care system into an independence she is not prepared to handle. Almost feral in how she survives her emancipation, Victoria nevertheless has an innate, refined talent for flowers and finds herself immersed in the world of San Francisco’s flower world.

Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Reminiscent of Twain, Culler, and even Lee in its portrayal of a family full of memorable characters, Kaye Gibbons provides a story that reads like an autobiographical tribute to matriarchal families of yesteryear.

A Stranger’s House by Brett Lott

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Having read Jewel, I was prepared for the transparent rawness of Brett Lott’s writing style, that intensity in which he peels back the veneer of coping with life and shows the hurt, anguish, and truths of what it means to live with our humanity. The story still caught me sideways in the way Lott reveals pain and sorrow.

The Pool of Fire by John Christopher

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The third installment of The Tripod series provides both action and a thoughtful commentary on world peace.

The Seven-Percent Solution by Nicholas Meyer

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Is it possible to reach Sherlock saturation? Apparently not. There are many, maybe too many, adaptations, reinventions, and suppositions of Sherlock, both in print and film out and about. Some better than others. Yet, in 1974, Nicholas Meyer provided a clever pastiche called the Seven-Percent Solution and readers, even Sherlockians, can appreciate the effort.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tiffany. This is the place where dreams abound in its grand showcases and is multi-story wonderment of glitter and gold. What would it be like to work there? Marjorie Hart describes her summer working at Tiffany with her best friend Marty. The two girls, fresh from Iowa, find plenty of first time adventures as they explore New York as young adults, barely out of high school.

Told in first person in a light pleasing style, Hart provides a lively memoir of her “best summer ever.”

Had the potential for a higher review rating, yet vague details and a rushed ending dampened the otherwise enjoyable recollection.

June was an odd month filled with more than a few stress-filled moments; however, books, those paged balms, helped me cope.

How was your June?

Any memorable reads to share?

Word Nerd Confessions: July


Summer is its own special time, especially July. It’s solidly summer: weather is warmish but not too uncomfortable, events are happening–outdoor concerts, craft fairs, and the like, the lake is tolerable not freezing, school is distant past and not a threat on the horizon.

July requires its own set of vocabulary:

serotinal:pertaining to or occurring in late summer (must be related to serotonin–that feel good chemical in our brain).

phub: to ignore (a person or one’s surroundings) when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device (I admit to phubbing when at the park or beach–tuning out people to cocoon in my little bubble of perceived solitude–is this a bad thing though?).

tzimmes: fuss; uproar; hullabaloo (when temps get too warm crankiness arrives and tzimmes is a fitting word).

ergophobia:an abnormal fear of work; an aversion to work (self explanatory).

benighted: intellectually or morally ignorant; unenlightened (unfortunately, there is evidence of this behavior when out and about during summer, especially seen at the beach–oh my–do my students who are life guards have interesting days).

paseo: slow, leisurely walk or stroll (summer evenings when the temp drops a tad and the sun has just disappeared on the horizon, a paseo along the boardwalk after dinner is a lovely way to start/end the evening).

craic: fun and entertainment, especially good conversation and company (often precededby the–English derived, as in “wisecrack”).

solitudinarian: a person who seeks solitude; recluse (me, that’s me–give me a hammock, a book, and a soft breeze and I’ll be a-phubbing for hours).

deracinate: to remove or destroy utterly; extirpate (related to above as in socializing?)

ariose: songlike (“The ariose breeze filtering through the stand of pines added an extra appreciation of the fine quality of this July day.”)

biophilia: a love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life form (but not when they are benighted or phubbing).

sabulous: sandy or gritty (beach wear side effect)

cynosure: something that strongly attracts attention by its brilliance, interest, etc. (blue lake, hot day)

pasquinade: a satire or lampoon, especially one posted in a public place (like Taming of the Shrew as a performance in the park–good times having Shakespeare as a summer performance).

joyance: joyous feeling; gladness (that overall summer mood)

hygge: adj.--cozy and comforting; noun–the feeling of cozy and comforting (some may associate this with winter, but being snug in a backyard hammock with a cool breeze playing about is indeed cozy and comforting).

petrichor: a distinctive scent produced by rainfall in dry earth (there is a word for that amazing smell right after the rain hits the hot sidewalk–word nerdiness points!)

Heiligenschein: the ring of light around the shadow cast by a person’s head, especially on a dewy sunlit lawn; halo (you know that photo, the one where you notice that strange glow around the person’s head -“whoa, I didn’t know you were an angel! Look at your halo!)

viator: wayfarer or traveler (got my bags packed and my ticket to go)

vade meecum: something a person carries about for frequent or regular use (a book, of course–summer is prime reading time).

So that’s a batch of summertime words. There are some fabulous ones that I’m determined to slip into casual conversation.

“I see you got your vade meecum ready.

“Wow! Smell that petrichor!”

“Yup, me and the hubs got our bags packed–we’re just a couple of viators ready to hit the road.”

“Nothing like a well-done pasquinade to get a person laughing.”

“These summer concerts have a certain cynosure about them, don’t they?”

What two words are you going to work into a conversation?

Debatables: Sparking a Conversation About Arcs


My indomitable sparring compatriot, Mike Allegra, tossed down an interesting Debatable challenge for this month: which picture book character has arc?

Arc:

A character arc is the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story. If a story has a character arc, the character begins as one sort of person and gradually transforms into a different sort of person in response to changing developments in the story. [Thanks Wikipedia]

Arc, not Orc–that’s Tolkien

Image: Molang Kim

Although maybe an Orc could have an arc? Aren’t Orcs rather focused on their prime directive of generating mayhem?

Doesn’t matter. We are focusing on picture book characters for this round.

Mike selected Ferdinand

and I suggested Harold.

(both images from Wikipedia)

This round is a straight up editorial. You aren’t expected to vote–although you most certainly can. You aren’t even expected to come with your own arcless character–although you most certainly can chime in a contribution.

Trot over to Mike’s post, read over our thoughts on our selected choices, and leave your comments.

Just sparking a arc-conversation this month. See you over at Allegra’s place. Maybe he’s serving up waffles…

Reader Round Up: May


May was a month of escapism as different stresses cropped up and reading is my escape goto having learned that finding frozen yogurt in the local groceries is frustrating and futile.

An eclectic batch indeed:

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell⭐️⭐️⭐️

Malcolm Gladwell has proven his ability to combine an intriguing premise with research data, anecdotal examples, and an engaging style of bringing it all together. This method worked well for Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers. Not so much for David and Goliath.

One problem is how the premise is not fully defined, or tends to flex and morph into something a bit different as the book progresses.

True to Form by Elizabeth Berg

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

True to Form continues the story of Katie Nash, a 13 year old girl who has both little and everything going on in her life. With only one friend and a summer filled with jobs arranged by her emotionally distant father, Katie is fairly sure her summer of 1961 is going to be dreary.

While Katie’s summer is far different than she anticipated, she discovers new friendships, experiences new opportunities, and finds out making choices can be very serious—and can drastically change a person’s life.

Engaging and charismatic, Katie’s voice borders on being a bit too precocious for a young teen girl, yet there is much truth to Katie’s observations. This can be read as a stand alone.

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

A small town in Maine is the setting for a novel that interconnects various stories of coping with loss. Switching from WWII and its aftermath, to present day, the author explores how people cope with losing someone they love, exploring emotions from guilt and sorrow to regret and restored faith, Dyke weaves in humor and poignant human drama to create an engaging inspirational romance with historical insight.

Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

One aspect of rereading books from long ago is rediscovering and reconnecting with the story. I only vaguely remembered the incident of finding Jackaroo’s costume, all else was like reading a new novel.

And what a wonderful story! Adventure, Middle Ages setting with villages, earls, and plenty of Robin Hood trope. Voigt crafts her story with full characters and descriptive imagery that rounds out a story not easily put down once started.

There are enough twists in the plot to prevent the usual stale tale script from forming, and the ending is definitely satisfying.

It will be a happy mission hunting down the other books in the series.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Exupery

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Little Prince is of those mesmerizing books containing a deep message as it twinkles and beguiles readers with its captivating prose and quaint renderings. For children it’s the magical tale of a prince who rules a planet and journeys to other worlds. For adults it’s an allegory of despondency–how life is not always as it seems to be, for we get caught up in our world of being grown up for having peeked behind the curtain, we sadly realize the truth behind the magic.

June and summer vaycay is welcome anticipation. What titles are you looking to read? I wouldn’t mind plumping up my “want-to-read” list now that it’s under a 100.

Bookish Thoughts: Skimming versus Deep Reading


In addition to my monthly posts of Word Nerd Confessions, Reader Round Ups, Why We Say, and Debatables, I’ve decided to chime in thoughts about book issues. This month deals with how electronic text has created the dilemma of skimming.

This is not a post so much about being pro or con towards e-readers, although I always request paper instead of electronic when request a review copy. From that you can surmise my stance.

Dog gone it—my attention span is in the dog house

Instead, I’m more concerned with how electronic reading has transformed overall reading habits. I’m not the only one either.

Maryanne Wolf , the Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at UCLA, is the author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. In an article from The Guardian (8/25/18), Wolf discusses research findings that indicate how the essential skill of “deep reading” might become jeopardized as electronic reading becomes more of the normal. Basically, if we don’t use it, we lose it.

Further studies indicate the increasing reluctance of university students to dive in and tackle older texts due to impatience with sifting through older syntax style and stiff vocabulary of authors from yesteryear. It takes work to read older books. True that. It’s just like losing the ability to climb three flights of stairs if one always takes the elevator.

Wolf‘s research also indicates that the damage to reading deeply can begin as early as fourth grade. This interprets as soon as students begin to read they are at an disadvantage due to the push to put electronics into their hands. Not having the ability to develop an appreciation or skill for deep reading means future readers have the potential of never gaining insights into more complicated texts such as Emerson, Proust, Bronte and a larger cadre of other pre-info bite writers.

Scary.

What is happening is a style of reading known as “skimming” which is scanning sections of texts in a pattern, such as a Z, to absorb information. I’m thinking of the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course I had to take in summer school once upon a junior high year. Speed reading is what it went by in most circles. It admittedly came in handy. Skimming seems to be the rebrand.

Skimming does not sound like something Wolf promotes. She admits her attention span for reading complicated texts has diminished. With some personal introspection I realize I rarely sit and study a text or read a book like I used to. I still read a lot of books but solidly with deep satisfying comprehension? Not so much. This blog is an example. I put aside a really great book to write up these thoughts. Why?

I think issue of distractable reading has evolved as a deplorable habit. I bounce in and out of newsfeeds and sound bite updates and have lost sustainable attention span.

Solution?

For one, I will become more conscious of how long I read and keep my phone across the room. Reading and texting are not companionable. Distracted reading is not life threatening but it is concerning.

Skimming. Anyone else found this to be an issue in their reading habits?

Reader Round Up: April


I don’t know if this is embarrassing or if it is something of an accomplishment to crow about–here it is:

I have read 57 books of my 101 goal. And it’s not even halfway through the year.

What does that mean?

Have I surreptitiously slipped from bibliophile, merely a person loves books, into a bibliomaniac, being crazy about books?

‘Tis a ponderment.

If I were to submit to a consultation, as if there is real concern about reading too much, (is that even feasible?) What would be revealed about my reading habits?

Today we will look in on the eminent Reader Analyzer, known for her insightful understanding of reading habits. The following is a session excerpt with Cricket Muse, known for her monthly Reader Round Ups and efforts as a chirpy Book Booster.

RA: Cricket, I appreciate your willingness to share your views about reading.

CM: Well, isn’t this really about whether I’ve drifted from casual reading into habitual reading?

RA: No one here is judging. We are here to celebrate your accomplishments. You do like to read, don’t you? <smile>

CM: Somewhat of an understatement. You’ve read my rap sheet: three years in a row of surpassing my Goodreads goal of 101 books? Reading 57 books before May 5 hit the calendar? I read 4 books in one week! <lowers voice> Is that even normal?

RA: Normal is subjective. Some say “normal” is a setting on the dryer.

CM: It is? Mine says “dry or more dry.” What type of dryer you own? A Kenmore? I think my mother had an old dryer that had that setting.

RA: Back to books and the normal reading standard. Who is to say what the new normal is? Reading isn’t what it used to be is it?

CM: That’s true. Some of my students wouldn’t ever pick up a book if I didn’t require SSR, silent sustained reading. I don’t know many adults who are avid readers either.

RA: Not being surrounded by readers, what influences you to read?

CM: Getting right down to it, aren’t we? Well, I read because at the end of the day I suffer from screen scream. When I’m not teaching up front and personal, my time is at the computer grading and creating lesson plans. My brain is buzzy from all that screen activity. My solution is to grab a book and knock back a couple of chapters, letting my brain settle down. Holding a book in my hands, feeling that paper between my fingers, hearing that crisp swish of pages turning is very therapeutic.

RA: Not judging <smile> but you said four books in one week? Teaching must be stressful.

CM: It can be. That four book week was not a teaching week. I was in a situation that resulted in a combination of weather conditions, downtime, and the need to de-stress.

RA: Sounds like reading is your go to for relaxing. Do you read for other reasons?

CM: Of course! I read out of curiosity–what’s the big hype about The Martian, for instance (I actually liked the movie better, but reading the book helped enjoy the movie more)? I read because as a writer I need to know what is current on the market–what are others reading and what are others writing? And yeah, I read for pleasure. A cup of cocoa, my cozy chair, a crackling fire, a good book or glass of lemonade, my hammock, a soft backyard breeze, a paperback of choice–yup, these are a few of my favorite things.

RA: Enjoying a book, for whatever reason, could be addictive. Do you just read?

CM: I see what you’re doing <wink/finger point> I have a full life that includes books; it doesn’t revolve around books: teaching, working out at the gym, volunteering at the library, writing, putzing about in the yard–books are frosting, not the cake.

RA: Sounds like a good balance. I can’t resist–what good books have you read lately?

CM: Here’s a few titles from last month and a couple of recommends. So–am I crazy about books or am I crazy?

RA: Not here to judge, remember–but it is crazy wonderful how much you enjoy reading. I’d say keep on reading on. Thanks for revealing your thoughts about reading.

CM: See you around, and I hope you find a good book to read this week.

April Read Highlights:

The City of Gold and Lead by John Christopher ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ sequel to The White Mountains–classic science fiction and ignore that it’s in the juvie section because it’s a great plot and writing

King of Shadows by Susan Cooper ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Another juvie–yet appropriate for adults, especially for Bardalators and Bardinators as it is a time transfer back to the Renaissance Globe theatre when A Midsummer Night’s Dream played. Lots of marvelous historical detail and the plot is intriguing as well.

The Martian by Andy Weir ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ finally got around to reading this and it was a bit better than okayall the science detail proved a bit daunting, but the Castaway on Mars with Mark proved a decent story.

For more reviews check out my Goodreads links on the right (on full site) or look me up on Goodreads as I have plenty to say about all those books I read.

Until the next Reader Round Up…

Shakespeare Celeb:As You May Like It


As this tribute to Shakespeare winds up, I’m wondering how Shakespeare best fits in your life. Yes, your life. You are either reading this post because you are interested in Shakespeare or because you are a Cricket Muse follower and are tolerating these  incessant Bard posts because they automatically pop up in your feed. Or perhaps it’s what Star Lord said:

Image result for guardians of the galaxy a bit of both

How do you like your Shakespeare?

Plays? These come in the variety of Globe traditional, high school productions, professional troupes, creative adventuresome adaptations:

Image result for globe theatre Image result for high school shakespeare

Image result for royal shakespeare company           Image result for creative shakespeare play adaptations

Film adaptations? These appear in Branagh style with polish and high production value, or campy or modernized or foreign or really, really so bad, or really, really so good.

shakespeare adaptations

No comments on what I consider to be the good, bad, or ugly. Everyone has their own tastes in film.

How about reading the play? Shakespeare didn’t publish his plays to be read. He didn’t even have scripts for his players,* for fear of having his plays stolen and presented elsewhere (no copyright laws then). Today we have the opportunity to study Shakespeare through a vast choice of quick online summaries that make Shakespeare almost painless to understand (though the music of his language is definitely stilled by transposing it to modern comprehensibility). There are scholarly publications, first hand discovery accounts, guided tours for students. Even graphic novels.

No fear Shakespeare is available online and in book form at barnesandnoble.com.

Image result for shakespeare bloom critiques Image result for shakespeare saved my life

Image result for shakespeare for students  Graphic Shakespeare

Do you perhaps browse the internet looking for enlightening approaches to Shakespeare?

If you are still thinking Shakespeare is “meh” then maybe David Tennant can convince you otherwise:

*Historical interjection: they were called “players” because they were “playing” the part, usually a young boy playing the part of a girl, which stems from Greek theatre when men played females. This also go with the line from As You Like It when Jacques says in his speech “all the world’s a stage and the men and women are merely players.” It would have been different if he had said “actors” wouldn’t it?

I hope this month of dedicated Shakespeare has enlightened you to his amazingness, that it has at least entertained you, or has swayed you to joining the ranks of becoming a Bardinator. Adieu, adieu, for now until next month…

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: