2015 Authors A to Z Reading Challenge – July Check-in

Apologies for the slightly late post, but it’s July, which means it’s time for our second quarterly check-in! After receiving quite a few comments and suggestions about what to do with the “X” author name, I’ve decided to allow the letter “X” in any part of a writer’s surname. If you’d still like to pick someone whose surname begins with “X”, then please go ahead–but if you’re struggling to find something you’d like to read for “X”, then hopefully this will makes things a little easier!

Anyway, how has everyone been doing so far? Has the challenge helped you discover any new writers? Have you come across any particularly awesome or awful books/writers? Are you taking it slowly with the challenge, or are you almost finished? I’d love to know about your progress!

So far, I’ve finished exactly half of the challenge, at 13 different writers, and I gotta say I’m very glad to have come across some of them (such as Daphne du Maurier and Ruth Ozeki)!

April to July(-ish): 8 funfunfun books

It seems real life has gotten in the way of reading and “reviewing” again… And so, here’s what I’ve read since March (I know, I know–but better late than never!):

10. Marian Keyes – Watermelon (25 April)
11. Roberto Bolaño – Antwerp (25 April)
12. Cicero – On the Good Life (trans. Michael Grant; Penguin) (3 June)
13. Lois Lowry – Messenger (5 June)
14. Ruth Ozeki – A Tale For the Time Being (12 June)
15. Sarah Quigley – The Conductor (27 June)
16. Anne Bishop – Murder of Crows (28 June)
17. Evelyn Waugh – A Handful of Dust (3 July)

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Introducing: The Tragedy of Macbeth

For this inaugural post about an actual Shakespeare play, I decided to go light and easy, and provide a summary of sorts. There’ll be plenty of time to cover more ground in the future, but for now, here’s a brief overview of the play (contains a couple of spoilers!).

The Tragedy of Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, and is most commonly dated 1606, making it a Jacobean play. As with all his plays, Macbeth was drawn from other sources, namely Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1587), which detailed a lot of British history. Basically, Shakespeare read the Chronicles and decided to yoink some aspects about Macbeth, the King of Scotland (who reigned between 1040–1057), and make up lots of things along the way to make it a more interesting story. Sounds like (inaccurate) historical (fan)fiction that’s nonetheless entertaining? Yup, Macbeth is exactly that—a Renaissance version of The Tudors or Vikings, if you will.

King James IV of Scotland and I of England. Look at all that gingery goodness!

King James IV of Scotland and I of England. Look at all that gingery goodness!

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Review: As You Like It at The Globe (dir. Blanche McIntyre, 2015)

So it’s been a good fortnight since my last post, but that’s because I’ve travelling a little and was rendered inarticulate by one-too-many food comas. I know I’ve promised a post on Macbeth, and while that’s mostly written, today’s A Spot of Shakespeare will feature a review of the Globe’s thoroughly entertaining production of As You Like It (directed by Blanche McIntyre), which I had the pleasure of seeing while in London.

I went to the opening night with my good friend Costy, who, as it happens, has seen a previous production of As You Like It at the Globe (but she preferred this one—I’d like to think her stellar theatre companion had something to do with it). Despite our relatively last-minute booking, we managed to nab two £16 seats near the base of the stage and with a restricted view. Here’s how we experienced the production:

A sold-out opening night.

A sold-out opening night.

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Shakespearean authorship, originality, and theatre practices

I hope you’ve had a good week, and have been throwing around some Shakespeare-related terms like “Renaissance” and “Elizabethan” like celebratory confetti! Today’s post—which is a little on the long side, so feel free to read it with two biscuits instead of one—is about breaking the “Bardolatry Barrier” (formed by idolising the “Bard”, one of Shakespeare’s nicknames) by considering some of the vastly different writing and performance practices during the Renaissance, and lowering him a little on that literary pedestal (not by too much, though—I wouldn’t want to be branded as a dissident and lose my Shakespeare PhD funding!).

bard-fever

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Flour Hour: Vegan Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares (Gluten-Free)

I attended a couple of committee meetings last week, during which I shared my vegan almond cookies. A fellow attendee who can’t eat dairy was especially fond of them, and was excited when she discovered I’d posted the recipe. Meanwhile, I’d sent out an email to my Renaissance classes reminding them about this week’s final play-focused tutorial and asking if anyone had any requests for goodies—one of them suggested I repeat some chocolate peanut butter pieces I’d made last month. My dairy-free friend messaged me a few days later, informing me she’d successfully made the almond cookies, and that she was delighted in having found yummy treats she could stomach. With all that in mind, I decided to experiment a little on the previous chocolate peanut butter (pseudo-)squares, and make these Flour Hour goodies dairy-free. They also happen to be vegan and gluten-free, so I promptly texted a celiac friend about the noms, and she was happy to pick some up from my house after work.

All of which is to say: there were many circumstances and powers of awesomeness at work in the creation and production of this week’s Flour Hour (which happens to be a misnomer, but hey).

Yes yes yes.

Yes yes yes.

These were very, very simple to make, required no baking, took about 40 minutes of meandering, and left me with only two bowls, a spatula, and a few spoons to wash. And they’re so glorious I had to give them away for fear of eating them all.

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A photo a day, of all lovely things

Roughly a year ago, after completing the 100 happy days challenge, I decided to take it a little further by embarking on a lifelong photo-a-day project. I don’t claim to be any sort of photography expert—and am an apprentice amateur at best—but I loved the challenge of finding something special everyday, something about which to be grateful. We all live in such a cluttered, fast-paced, and “busy” world—and I know I certainly take on way more than I should—that it was such a comfort for me to pause for a few minutes everyday, and see the beautiful things in my life. It’s now become quite the habit, and many of my friends know exactly what I mean when I pull out my phone and say, “Excuse me, I have to take this for my photo-a-day project.” And on some days, there are so many wonderful things going on that I have to decide on just the one photo (which is when I sometimes “cheat” and use multiple frames to feature them all).

lovelies8profile

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Elizabethan, Jacobean, Renaissance, early modern—what huh when who?

I hope you all had a chance to indulge in some celebratory birthday cake for dear Shakespeare last Thursday—I certainly went for it, and had three servings of cake (I figured it was my duty as a professional Shakespeare fangirl to om nom nom on his behalf). While we’re at it, here’s one of the cakes I had, with some theme-appropriate roses:

Happy birthday, Shakespeare--I'll eat all the cake on your behalf!

Happy birthday, Shakespeare–I’ll eat all the cake on your behalf!

Okay, so those of you non-Shakespeareans who haven’t seen Shakespeare in Love might be thinking, “What’s so special about roses?” Well, first and foremost, I highly recommend you go see the film—the music is sublime, as is Joseph Fiennes in a perpetually half-open shirt.

Will and his quill.

Will and his quill.

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Flour Hour: Vegan Almond Cookies

I have a bit of a confession to make: I’ve been restaurant-hopping, conference-crashing, and living out of the freezer since Easter. Most of this is due to the insane workload I’ve taken on (but hey, I have ten fingers, so I can totally put them into ten pies!), but short of cutting down on sleep (which I may or may not have done), I’ve not been playing in the kitchen as much as I would like—a real shame, since I’ve been sitting on a brilliant idea for what would come after my pound cake project. All I would need is an hour to whip up some baked goods… Fortunately, amidst all the craziness today, I decided to take five (times twelve) to make some super delicious cookies. And so, I’m proud to present the first recipe of Flour Hour: almond cookies (which happen to be vegan)!

almond-cookies-5

Almond cookies in all their delicious glory.

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