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review 2017-11-20 13:26
Fools and Mortals
Fools and Mortals - Bernard Cornwell

by Bernard Cornwell

 

From the well-known Historical fiction writer is a story about players, actors on the stage, in the time of Elizabeth I. Women were still played by men and the brother of Will Shakespeare, Richard, is continually given women's roles with his brother's company. Between getting to be too old and taking a liking to a servant girl in a great house where they are to perform, Richard tries everything he can think of to get his brother to give him a male role.

 

Themes of dominance between brothers are fully explored in this story and I couldn't help but have sympathy for Richard, who, as a significantly younger brother, is constantly in his brother's shadow.

 

I don't know if Shakespeare really had a brother but I'm not going to look it up. I enjoyed this story and Richard was a likable character. Will Shakespeare came over as a callous, unfeeling brother, most of the time. Whether there i any accuracy to this is anybody's guess.

 

The story gave a good look at the life of players in Shakespeare's time and I found it was my preferred read among several books I've been reading at once. It is undeniably well-written and has plenty of excitement and a few laughs.

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review 2017-11-17 18:45
A book for lovers of theatre, and Elizabethan historical fiction.
Fools and Mortals - Bernard Cornwell

Thanks to NetGalley and to Harper Collins UK for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I had not read any of Bernard Cornwell’s novels before (I believe I have another one on my list and I’ll definitely check it out after this one) so I won’t be able to provide any comparison with the rest of his work. When I read some of the reviews, I noticed that some readers felt this novel was less dynamic than the rest and lacked in action. I cannot comment, although it is true that the novel is set in Elizabethan London and its events take place over a few months, rather than it being a long and sprawling narrative, ambitious in scope and detail. If anything, it is a pretty modest undertaking, as it follows the rehearsal and staging of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream. The author’s note at the end clarifies much of the historical background, explaining what is based on fact and what on fancy, and also the liberties he has taken with the materials.

The story is told, in the first-person, by Richard Shakespeare, William’s younger (and prettier, as everybody reminds him) brother, who is also an actor (mostly playing women’s parts) and plays in his brother’s company, but he’s not a regular player in it. I am no expert on Shakespeare (although I know his plays, some better than others, and have read a bit about him) but checked and now know that although he had a brother called Richard, it seems he never left Strafford, whilst a younger brother called Edmund went to London to join his brother and was an actor. The Richard of the novel is no match for his brother and they do not like each other too well. Throughout the book, we learn about Richard, whose current adventures are peppered with memories of the past and his circumstances. His character lives hand-to-mouth, is always in debt, and illustrates how difficult life was at the time for youngsters without money and/or a family fortune. Although he does not dwell on the abuse he has suffered, modern readers will quickly realise that some things don’t change and children have always been preyed upon. He is a likeable enough character, and although he does some bad things (he was taught how to be a thief by a character who would have been perfectly at home in a Dickensian novel and is fairly skilled at it), there are things he will not do, and he is loyal to his brother, although sometimes it does not seem as if William deserves it. There are other interesting characters in the book (I particularly liked Sylvia, Richard’s love interest, and the priest who lives in the same house as Richard), but none are drawn in much psychological detail.

What the book does very well, in my opinion, is portray the London of the time, the political and religious intrigues (the Puritans trying to close the playhouses, the religious persecution and how an accusation could be used to implement vendettas and acquire power, the social mores of the times, the workings of taverns and inns, the river Thames as a thoroughfare, the law in and out of the walls of the city…), and particularly, the workings of a theatre company of the time. The different types of audiences and theatres, how they had to accommodate their performances to the setting and follow the indications of their patrons, the process of rehearsal, and details such as the building of a playhouse and its distribution, the staging of a play, the costumes they wore, their makeup, wigs… The book also uses fragments of Shakespeare’s plays and others of the period (and some invented too), and brings to life real actors of the era, creating a realistic feeling of what life on stage (and behind it) must have been like at the time. If you are wondering about William Shakespeare… Well, he is there, and we get to see him in action and also from his brother’s point of view. He appears as an author, an actor, a manager, and a man, but if any readers come to this book expecting new insights into Shakespeare, I’m afraid that is not what the novel is about.

There is a fair amount of telling (it is difficult to avoid in historical fiction), and plenty of historically appropriate words and expressions, although the language is easy to follow. There is also plenty of showing, and we get to share in the cold, the stink, the fear, and the pain the main character suffers. We also get to live the first performance of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, and it is glorious. In the second half of the book, things come to a head, and there are a few fights (fist fights, sword fighting, and even a pistol is discharged), romance, intrigue (although we are pretty convinced of how everything will end), and nice touches that Shakespeare lovers will appreciate (yes, there’s even a bear).

A solid historical novel, well-written, that flows well, placing us right in the middle of the late Elizabethan era, and making us exceptional witnesses of the birth of modern theatre. A must-read for lovers of theatre, especially classical theatre, Shakespeare, and historical fiction of the Elizabethan period. I will be sure to read more of Cornwell’s books in the future.

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text 2017-10-24 11:23
Post-Bingo Reading
The Toy Makers - Robert Dinsdale
Devil's Day - Andrew Michael Hurley
Fools and Mortals - Bernard Cornwell
Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra - Anne Rice,Christopher Rice
First Person: A novel - Richard Flanagan
Lava Storm In the Neighborhood (Giant Tales Apocalypse 10-Minute Stories) (Volume 1) - Paul D. Scavitto,Sharon Willett,Stephanie Baskerville,Robert Tozer,Shae Hamrick,Christian W. Freed,Rebecca Lacy,Douglas G. Clarke,Mike Boggia,Sylvia Stein,Gail Harkins,Glenda Reynolds,Lynette White,Randy Dutton,Joyce Shaughnessy,Amos Andrew Parker,Laura S

With all my Bingo card books read and just waiting around for calls, I thought I would launch into reading my backlog of Netgalley books and finish off the anthology I've had on my currently reading shelf for months now. There's only a couple of stories left in the anthology so might as well finish.

 

I've started reading three of the Netgalley books and all are at least reasonably good so far. The other two look interesting but I'm going to get further in the ones I've started before I start new reads. Probably just a few days delay so that I'm not just getting a handle of 5 stories at once.

 

Once I've got on top of those, I still have 5 pages of Horror books in my Bingo folder because I had back-ups picked out for the categories where I was ferreting out possibilities from my free books slush pile. I've been threatening to clear the slush for ages so I think I'll start with those.

 

As soon as I start finishing off Netgalley reads, I'll also start alternating with my A-list so that I've always got one of those going. Then there is the Samples folder. I had accrued 12 new samples at the beginning of September. A lot of interesting books have come down my feed during Bingo and I've just been ordering samples freely to look at later. I now have 115 waiting. Um, yeah. I'll probably bounce between clearing those and the free books slush.

 

At any rate, I have no lack of books to read while the game finishes off. Wheeee!

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url 2017-06-23 19:22
Barnes and Noble's Readouts -- Nook Friday Freebie (also free for kindle)
Whom the Gods Love (Of Gods & Mortals) - M.M. Perry

Download free (at least today, likely at least this weekend) from Barnes and Noble or from Amazon.com .  Another not traditionally published offering.*

 

Book synopsis says:  "When Cass draws her blade, nothing can stop her. Except maybe a god.

 

Cass is eager to help when she is called. Gunnarr is eager to help Cass. When he suggests they go on a mission together, she's pleased the big man noticed her.

 

Unfortunately, the gods have taken notice as well, and that spells trouble for them both.

Tasked with a noble entreaty, Cass and Gunnarr set out with a group of friends on a harrowing adventure. It will take more than harpies, giant spiders and ogres to stop them from getting the job done, but the gods are far more dangerous than any of their creations. Certain death lurks at the end of this quest.

 

As Cass and Gunnarr close in on their goal, and to each other, it becomes clear a terrible choice must be made. Cass must decide what's more important to her, the love of a good man, or the life she's trying to save. Can she escape her fate?"

 

* By "not traditionally published," I'm not meaning that negatively or positively.  It's just that many of those often go free anyway where it's becoming disappointing how seldom now the nook freebies are "exclusive" freebies of traditionally published books -- "exclusive" at least until price matched on other sites. Takes away the excitement I used to have on Fridays just like the monthly Kindle Firsts are not as exciting since becoming all Amazon published arcs.

Source: www.barnesandnoble.com/readouts
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review 2016-10-31 20:04
Mortals should wake up and read Vonnegut
While Mortals Sleep: Unpublished Short Fiction - Kurt Vonnegut

I don't read a lot of short stories, but I do really like Vonnegut and am on some sort of poorly planned out mission to read all of his works. Of all the Vonnegut books at the Nelson Library, this is one I hadn't read and was sure I could finish on time (on time meaning before I left the country).

 

Something I think many people tend to do is get caught up with trying to identify the moral of a story. Every story has to have a message, a purpose and a lesson they are trying to impart to the reader. And in some cases that is the truth, and in some cases it is more obvious than others. What I decided while reading While Mortals Sleep is that stories don't have to have a moral. Sometimes they are just funny, sad, or perplexing stories and they exist simply because the author felt like writing it.

 

There is nothing wrong with writing a story, or reading one for that matter, that serves no other purpose than to entertain us. Stories that teach us things or make us think more critically about things and see familiar things from a different perspective are good, too. But like in all aspects of life, there should be a balance in reading. Happy and sad, funny and dark, practical and just down right silly. They all have a place in the literary canon.

 

The stories collected in While Mortals Sleep have all the elements you would expect from Vonnegut. Bizarre character names, undertones of satire and social commentary. And in some cases, a feeling of whimsy, in the least whimsical of ways. I do believe I have gone on long enough.

 

~Ren

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