Shakespeare 400: Monstrous Little Voices (review)

Remember this book I mentioned a few days ago?


Well, I’ve finished it, and here are my thoughts! Spoiler-free, because at least with spiders, I can ring my neighbour’s doorbell; with spoilers…just, no.

Blurb: It is the Year of Our Lord 1601. The Tuscan War rages across the world, and every lord from Navarre to Illyria is embroiled in the fray. Cannon roar, pikemen clash, and witches stalk the night; even the fairy courts stand on the verge of chaos.

Five stories come together at the end of the war: that of bold Miranda and sly Puck; of wise Pomona and her prisoner Vertumnus; of gentle Lucia and the shade of Prospero; of noble Don Pedro and powerful Helena; and of Anne, a glovemaker’s wife. On these lovers and heroes the world itself may depend.

These are the stories Shakespeare never told. Five of the most exciting names in genre fiction today – Jonathan Barnes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Foz Meadows and Kate Heartfield – delve into the world the poet created to weave together a story of courage, transformation and magic.

Including an afterword by Dr. John Lavagnino, The London Shakespeare Centre, King’s College London. (From Goodreads)

Release: 8 March 2016 for the collection, but each story is released separately. See the publisher’s site for more details.

Disclaimer: I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. I also have an academic background in Shakespeare studies, where my research is focused on film adaptations.

Having worked so extensively on Shakespearean adaptations, I’m always ambivalent about approaching works based on or inspired by Shakespeare. While I do read and write plenty of fiction, I find it difficult to switch off my ‘academic mode’ when it comes to Shakespeare, and was admittedly a little cautious about reading and reviewing this collection. In my experience, it’s almost impossible to achieve the ‘right’ balance between the most ‘critically successful’ and ‘enjoyable’ adaptations, and when you throw my own personal tastes into the mix, things can get even more interesting—as it certainly did here.

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2016 Bardathon: January News and Giveaway

Admittedly, I’ve neglected these Bardathon-related posts, but I’m hoping this grave error will be mitigated in light of my having neglected practically everything else in my life—I’m submitting my (Shakespearean) PhD thesis/dissertation in less than two months, and I’ve been working consecutively on revisions since 1 January. Yup, that’s 24 days and counting… On the bright side, my (crazily self-imposed) timeline means February will be relatively less insane, which means more time for Bardathoning (and also, well, laundry)—happy days ahead!

But back to the Bard! On the 400th death anniversary of the guy indirectly responsible for feeding and housing me, I’m fortunate enough to be living in the UK, at least until May. And golly, there are certainly quite a few events happening in the upcoming year!

Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III in the upcoming BBC War of the Roses tetralogy.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III in the upcoming BBC War of the Roses tetralogy.

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Shakespeare Film Adaptations: Histories (Anglophone)

Compared to the comedies and tragedies, Shakespeare’s history plays haven’t been adapted for cinema much at all—by my count, there are only five sound-era Anglophone films! The BBC and ESC (English Shakespeare Company) have produced several more for the small screen, but with the exception of The Hollow Crown series (2012-ongoing), I shan’t talk about them here.

Since there are only five cinematic histories, I’m listing list them all, by production year.

Henry V (1944)

Directed by Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier, Renée Asherson, Robert Newton, Leslie Banks


Even though the film might seem out-dated today, this was the first critically and commercially successful Shakespeare film adaptation—ground-breaking stuff! If you look at the date, you’ll notice it was made during WWII. Yup, it was partially funded by the British government, and was actually intended as a propaganda film (I’ve written a bit about that here). 10% of the production budget went into shooting the epic Battle of Agincourt, which was the only sequence filmed on location (in the neutral Republic of Ireland, near Dublin).

IMDb / Wikipedia

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Shakespeare Film Adaptations: Comedies (Anglophone)

For those who would like some help choosing titles for the 2016 Bardathon Challenge, I’ve put together lists of some Shakespearean film adaptations. (See this post for my definition of adaptation, and for some suggestions on what to keep in mind while watching a Shakespearean adaptation.) Starting with Anglophone/English-speaking films, here are my five favourite adaptations of comedies (as classified by the First Folio):

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Robert Sean Leonard, Kate Beckinsale, Keanu Reeves, Michael Keaton

much ado

An absolutely delightful adaptation! Although I’m not a fan of Branagh’s later works, I adore his Much Ado About Nothing. Emma Thompson is flawless as Beatrice, the screenplay and pacing are excellent, and the music is simply lovely (especially with composer Patrick Doyle’s cameo as the musician Balthazar). Although Keanu Reeves’s Don John isn’t the most convincing villain, we can overlook that, given the bright and sunny nineteenth-century setting, and the overall joys of the film. If you’re looking for a more ‘traditional’ comedy adaptation that uses Shakespeare’s words, I recommend you check this out.

IMDb / Wikipedia

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An Introduction to Shakespeare Film Adaptations (and why they’re awesome)

Since a few participants of the 2016 Bardathon Challenge are interested in a list of recommendations for Shakespearean film adaptations, I’m putting together a blog post…or twenty. It seems my academic and fangirl personas have been conspiring behind my (sore and bad) back, and now I’ve no choice but to talk at little length and with great gusto about these film adaptations.


Before getting started, I want to put forth my definition of adaptation, which has been shaped by my academic work on Shakespearean films. Over three years ago, I had a rather limiting view of what an ‘adaptation’ constituted, and would always be comparing those adaptations to Shakespeare’s ‘originals’ in terms of what the new versions lacked. Now, I think of adaptations as entities in and of themselves, and not ‘copies’ or imitations’ of Shakespeare’s plays.

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Best of 2015 – Top Five-ish (books, films, TV, shows, meals, and moments)

Now that I’m firmly in 2016, I can finalise my “Best of 2015” list—and I’m glad I waited, because there were some wonderful last-minute additions! Here are some of my favourite books, films, TV shows, shows, meals, and moments from 2015:


Since I only read 37 “funfunfun” (i.e. non-academic/work-related) books this year, it wasn’t too difficult to choose my top five. I’m particularly glad I did my three reading challenges, because I wouldn’t have discovered some of these otherwise! I’ve included the “overall” reason I’ve picked these books, but do please click on the titles to read the full “review”. These are listed alphabetically, because I’m indecisive enough as is. ;)

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10 books in the second half of December? Yes, please!

I’ve only got about an hour left in 2015, but I can proudly declare that I’ve finished my reading challenges! The last few days have been a mini-readathon—yay books! Will post my Best of 2015 tomorrow, but for now, here are my final books of the year:

28. Alice Hoffman – Fortune’s Daughter (18 Dec)
29. Ken Hunt and Mike Taylor – The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Aussies (20 Dec)
30. Carrie Vaughn – Kitty and the Midnight Hour (26 Dec)
31. Anne Ursu – Breadcrumbs (28 Dec)
32. Eva Ibbotson – Journey to the River Sea (30 Dec)
33. Yamaguchi, Noboru – Zero no Tsukaima (The Familiar of Zero), Vol. 1 (30 Dec)
34. Malcolm X – Speeches By Malcom X: The Ultimate Collection (31 Dec)
35. Paul Zindel – My Darling, My Hamburger (31 Dec)
36. Scott Westerfield – Uglies (31 Dec)
37. Eimear McBride – A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (31 Dec)

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Shakespeare 400: The 2016 Bardathon Challenge – Info and Sign-up


2016 marks the year of William Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary, and to commemorate, celebrate, and yayayayay-ate, I’ll be hosting a year-long “reading” challenge focused on his works (and re-works). I use “reading” very loosely here—although there are categories focused on reading his plays and poems, the challenge consists of other activities, such as watching adaptations, attending Shakespearean operas/concerts, or participating in your own production. At the end of the day/year/lifetime of awesomeness, it’s all about your experience of Shakespeare, and enjoying the wonderful worlds, characters, and words attributed to the Bard!

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Shakespeare 400: The 2016 Bardathon Challenge – Participants


Here are all the participants of the 2016 Bardathon Challenge. If you’d like to join in the fun, please sign-up here.

As of 17 Jan 2016, we have 16 participants.

Complete Shakespearean: Read/watch/engage with all 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and 2 narrative poems (and other various poems if you wish)

Tragic Shakespearean: Read at least 5 tragedies (as organised in the First Folio)

Comedic Shakespearean: Read at least 5 comedies (as organised in the First Folio)

Historical Shakespearean: Read at least 5 history plays (as organised in the First Folio)

All-rounder Shakespearean: Read at least 3 plays from each of the tragedies, comedies, and histories (as organised in the First Folio)

Late Shakespearean: Read Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest

Poetic Shakespearean: Read the 154 sonnets, 2 narrative poems, and the various poems (including “A Lover’s Complaint” and “The Phoenix and the Turtle”)

Theatrical Shakespearean: Attend at least 5 plays (these can be live or recorded performances, e.g. a screening of RSC Live at your local cinema, or watching something from Globe on Screen on your computer)

Cinematic Shakespearean: Watch at least 5 screen adaptations

  • Sarah (West Yorkshire, UK): 5 comedies

Non-Anglophone Shakespearean: Read/watch/engage with at least 5 Shakespeare adaptations in a language other than English (e.g. Kurosawa’s three Shakespearean films)

  • Sarah (West Yorkshire, UK): 3 Kurosawa films;
    at least one screen/stage adaptation from every continent

Performative Shakespearean: Participate in at least 2 Shakespeare adaptations as cast and/or crew

Musical Shakespearean: Engage with 5 Shakespeare-themed concerts (such as this one), operas, ballets, and musicals

Novelistic Shakespearean: Read at least 5 novels based on Shakespeare’s plays and/or life (there’s a list here and here)

Mix-and-match Shakespearean: Participate in any of the above categories (read/watch/listen/perform/play/etc) on at least 5 occasions


2015 Authors A to Z – Challenge Completion Post

Welcome to the completion post for the 2015 Authors A to Z Reading Challenge! If you’ve finished the challenge, please use the following form to link your wrap-up post or list, which also acts as your entry submission for the booktastic prize: any book of your choosing for up to £10 from The Book Depository (or, if you don’t have a book in mind, I could recommend one of my favourites).

2015-authors-bannerEntries are accepted until 3 January 2016 in case you need a bit of extra time to get your post together, but you must have read all your books by 31 December 2015. I’ll use a randomiser to pick a winner, and notify you sometime in the first week of January. If you have any questions or comments, do please drop me a line below.

If you’ve manage to complete the challenge this year, then many, many congratulations for your alphabetastic feat! If you’re still working through the last few authors (which I’m doing), then all the best for the next few weeks! In either case, thank you for taking on the challenge—I hope you’ve had lots of fun, broadened your reading horizons, and discovered a gem or two!