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#Bookreview MACBETH by Jo Nesbo (@NetGalley) A dark and twisted take on the original for readers interested in morally ambiguous characters. #JoNesbo #Shakespeare

Hi all:

I was very intrigued by this book and well… Here is the review, finally.

Review of Macbeth by Jo Nesbo
Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

JO NESBO: #1 Sunday Times bestseller, #1 New York Times bestseller, 40 million books sold worldwide

He’s the best cop they’ve got. 

When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess.

He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past. 

He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach. 

But a man like him won’t get to the top.

Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his.

Unless he kills for it.

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Macbeth-Jo-Nesbo-ebook/dp/B01N6STDIS/

https://www.amazon.com/Macbeth-Jo-Nesbo-ebook/dp/B01N6STDIS/

Editorial Reviews

“Majestically satisfying…a deliciously oppressive page-turner” (Steven Poole Guardian)

“Immensely enjoyable and gloriously dark… He has accomplished that toughest of literary feats: putting his own unmistakable mark on one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays” (Matt Gibson Daily Express)

“Inventive and deeply satisfying… a dark but ultimately hopeful Macbeth, one suited to our own troubled times” (James Shapiro New York Times Book Review)

“Nesbo makes excellent use of all the atmosphere of his genre, and the stakes at play are every bit as convincing as those in the original… This is Nesbo doing what he’s good at” (Lucy Scholes Independent)

“Macbeth as a SWAT team leader. His wife as a former prostitute. The three witches as drug dealers. It’s Shakespeare’s darkest tale — reimagined by the king of Nordic noir” (Graeme Thomson Mail on Sunday)

“Majestically satisfying…a deliciously oppressive page-turner”

“Immensely enjoyable and gloriously dark… He has accomplished that toughest of literary feats: putting his own unmistakable mark on one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays”

“Inventive and deeply satisfying… a dark but ultimately hopeful Macbeth, one suited to our own troubled times”

“Nesbo makes excellent use of all the atmosphere of his genre, and the stakes at play are every bit as convincing as those in the original… This is Nesbo doing what he’s good at”

“Macbeth as a SWAT team leader. His wife as a former prostitute. The three witches as drug dealers. It’s Shakespeare’s darkest tale — reimagined by the king of Nordic noir”

Author Jo Nesbo
Author Jo Nesbo

About the author:

The gripping new thriller from the author of The Snowman 

Jo Nesbo is one of the world’s bestselling crime writers, with The Leopard, Phantom, Police, The Son and his latest Harry Hole novel, The Thirst, all topping the Sunday Times bestseller charts. He’s an international number one bestseller and his books are published in 50 languages, selling over 33 million copies around the world.

Before becoming a crime writer, Nesbo played football for Norway’s premier league team Molde, but his dream of playing professionally for Spurs was dashed when he tore ligaments in his knee at the age of eighteen. After three years of military service, he attended business school and formed the band Di derre (‘Them There’). They topped the charts in Norway, but Nesbo continued working as a financial analyst, crunching numbers during the day and gigging at night. When commissioned by a publisher to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, he instead came up with the plot for his first Harry Hole crime novel, The Bat.

Sign up to the Jo Nesbo newsletter for all the latest news: jonesbo.com/newsletter

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jo-Nesbo/e/B004MSFDCG/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Vintage Digital for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book is part of the Hogarth’s Shakespeare project, a project designed to create novels based on some of Shakespeare’s original plays and bring them up-to-date thanks to best-selling novelists. Although I have been intrigued since I’d heard about the project (because I am a fan of some of the authors, like Margaret Atwood and Anne Tyler), this is the first of the novels to come out of the project that I’ve read. Evidently, the idea behind the series was to try and bring new readers to Shakespeare and perhaps combine people interested in the plays with followers of the novelists. My case is a bit peculiar. I love Shakespeare (I prefer his tragedies and his comedies to the rest of his work) but I can’t say I’m an authority on him, and although I’ve read some of his plays, I prefer to attend live performances or watch adaptations (I’ve watched quite a few versions of Hamlet, but not so many of the rest of his plays, by poor chance). I’ve only watched Macbeth a couple of times, so I’m not the best person to comment on how closely Nesbo’s book follows the original. On the other hand, I have not read any of the author’s novels. I’ve watched a recent movie adaptation of one of them (mea culpa, I had not checked the reviews beforehand) but, although I know of him, I cannot compare this novel to the rest of his oeuvre. So I’m poorly qualified to write this review from the perspective of the most likely audience. But, that’s never stopped me before, and this review might perhaps be more relevant to people who are not terribly familiar with either, Macbeth or Nesbo’s books.

From my vague memory of the play, the novel follows the plot fairly closely, although it is set in the 1970s, in a nightmarish and corrupt city (some of the reviewers say it’s a Northern city somewhere not specified. That is true, and although some of the names and settings seem to suggest Scotland, not all details match, for sure), where unemployment is a huge problem, as are drugs, where biker gangs murder at leisure and control the drug market (together with a mysterious and shady character called Hecate, that seems to pull the strings in the background. He’s not a witch here but there’s something otherworldly about him), where the train station has lost its original purpose and has become a den where homeless and people addicted to drugs hung together and try to survive. The police force takes the place of the royalty and the nobles in the original play, with murders, betrayals and everything in between going on in an attempt at climbing up the ladder and taking control of law-enforcement (with the interesting side-effect of blurring any distinction between law and crime), with the city a stand-in for the kingdom of Scotland in the original.

The story is told from many of the characters’ points of view (most of them) and there is a fair amount of head-hopping. Although as the novel advances we become familiar with the characters and their motivations, and it is not so difficult to work out who is thinking what, this is not so easy to begin with as there are many characters with very similar jobs and, at least in appearance, close motivations, so it’s necessary to pay close attention. The technique is useful to get readers inside the heads of the characters and to get insights into their motivations, even if in most cases it is not a comfortable or uplifting experience. The book is truly dark and it seems particularly apt to a moment in history when corruption, morality, and the evil use of power are as relevant as ever. (Of course, the fact that this is an adaptation of a play written centuries before our era brings home that although things might change in the surface, human nature does not change so much). The writing is at times lyrical and at others more down to earth, but it is a long book, so I’d advise readers to check a sample to see if it is something they’d enjoy for the long-haul. I’ll confess that when I started the book I wondered if it was for me, but once I got into the story and became immersed in the characters’ world, I was hooked.

The beauty of having access to the material in a novelised form is that we can get to explore the characters’ subjectivity and motivations, their psychology, in more detail than in a play. Shakespeare was great at creating characters that have had theatregoers thinking and guessing for hundreds of years, but much of it is down to the actors’ interpretation, and two or three hours are not space enough to explore the ins-and-outs and the complex relationships between the characters fully. I was particularly intrigued by Duff, who is not a particularly likeable character, to begin with, but comes into his own later. I liked Banquo, who is, with Duncan, one of the few characters readers will feel comfortable rooting for (Banquo’s son and Angus would fall into the same category, but play smaller parts), and I must warn you that there is no such as thing as feeling comfortable reading this book. I thought what Nesbo does with Lady is interesting and provides her with an easier to understand motivation and makes her more sympathetic than in the play (it is not all down to greed or ambition, although it remains a big part of it). No characters are whiter-than-white (some might be but we don’t get to know them well enough to make that call), and although the baddies might be truly bad, some remain mysterious and unknown, and they are portrayed as extreme examples of the corruption that runs rampant everywhere. Most of the rest of the characters are human, good and bad, and many come to question their lives and what moves them and take a stand that makes them more interesting than people who never deviate from the path of rightness. Macbeth is depicted as a man of contrasts, charitable and cruel, a survivor with a difficult past, perhaps easy to manipulate but driven, full of doubts but determined, addicted to drugs and ‘power’, charismatic and dependent, full of contradictions and memorable.

The ending of the novel is bittersweet. It is more hopeful than the rest of the novel would make us expect, but… (I am not sure I could talk about spoilers in this novel, but still, I’ll keep my peace). Let’s just say this couldn’t have a happy ending and be truthful to the original material.

Although I have highlighted several paragraphs, I don’t think they would provide a fair idea of the novel in isolation, and, as I said before, I recommend downloading or checking a sample to anybody considering the purchase of this novel.

Not knowing Nesbo’s other novels, I cannot address directly his fans. I’ve noticed that quite a number of reviewers who read his novels regularly were not too fond of this one. Personally, I think it works as an adaptation of the Shakespeare play and it is very dark, as dark as the plot of the original requires (and perhaps even more). It is long and it is not an easy-going read. There are no light moments, and it is demanding of the reader’s attention, challenging us to go beyond a few quotations, famous phrases, and set scenes, to the moral heart of the play. If you are looking for an interesting, although perhaps a not fully successful version of Macbeth, that will make you think about power, corruption, good and evil, family, friendship, and politics, give it a try. I am curious to read more Nesbo’s novels and some of the other novels in the project.

On a personal note, as I was reading this novel, the relationship between Macbeth and Banquo brought to my mind one of the novellas included in Escaping Psychiatry, Teamwork. Readers have described it as noir, and it is fairly twisted. Here is a sample:

“Who is this Justin, then?” Mary asked.

“Oh…Poor guy. He’s going through a really hard time. He comes from a very traumatic background. One of Tom’s men, Sgt. David Leaman…did you meet him?…took him under his wing and…treated him like a son. A truly good job he did with him. Recently…about two months ago, they were working together in a case and…Sgt. Leaman was killed. Tom is quite concerned about Justin, who seems to have reacted very weirdly to the whole thing. He just wants to go back to work, won’t talk to anybody, won’t have counselling…”

So that was it. An informal consultation. That’s what Tom wanted. Fair enough, but at least he could have told her. However hard she tried to leave psychiatry behind and get on with her other career, it didn’t seem to work. She was always pulled back.

“Is it nearly ready?” Tom asked from the dining-room.

“Yes. Ready!”

Dinner was somewhat weird. It was evident that Justin wasn’t a regular visitor to the house and didn’t quite know what to say. And he didn’t seem the talkative type either. He was sitting opposite Mary, and asked her:

“Doctor in what?”

“Literature and film, aren’t you?” Tom replied for her. Once Tom got distracted by his wife’s conversation she added:

“I also studied Medicine. And Psychiatry. I still work at it sometimes.”

She’d hit the target. His face changed and he became even quieter. Shortly after, he said that he needed to make a phone call. He wasn’t too long and remained as quiet as before when he returned. Both Justin and she made their apologies quite early and left together. Once in the street, as he opened his mouth to say goodbye, Mary said:

“Listen, I didn’t know anything about it. I asked Maureen in the kitchen and she told me what happened to Sgt. Leaman. I’m terribly sorry. But Tom hadn’t told me anything. I can see why he invited me, and I must say I found it a bit weird at the time, but he’d always been helpful and kind to me, I couldn’t say no for no reason. I just wanted you to know that I didn’t come here with the intention of analysing you or anything like that. Goodnight then. And good luck.”

As she turned to leave, he asked:

“Could we…talk? In confidence?”

“If you think it might help…”

“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t talk much. David was one of the few people I’ve ever talked to…And his wife Lea, but less…She’s too distraught to bother her with the way I’m feeling right now.”

“Let’s go somewhere. Do you know any place?”

“There’s an all-night diner not very far away from here. There’re never too many people there.”

He was right. There were a couple of people having something to eat, but otherwise, the place was dead quiet. Mary ordered a hot chocolate and he had some ice-cream and coffee. He had a spoonful of the ice-cream and put it to one side.

“No appetite? You didn’t eat much at the McLeods either.”

“No. I don’t feel like eating.”

“Have you lost weight?”

“Probably. Clothes seem loose now.” He went quiet. Mary asked.

“Are you sleeping all right?”

“Not really…I fall asleep easily enough, and then…I wake up in the middle of the night. I keep having these horrible nightmares…I can see David being shot in the head over and over again…”

“Did you see it?…I knew you’d been there, but I didn’t realise…”

“Yes. I was there. When I close my eyes I keep seeing him…falling down…Yes, I know…post-traumatic stress and all that crap. I don’t care what you call it; I’m not going to let it beat me. Not after what I’ve been through. I was beaten up by my father, tortured by him, really…He sent my mother and me to hospital time and again until one day…he hit her; she knocked her head against a banister and died. I pushed him downstairs, he was drunk…He didn’t die but ended up in a coma, like a vegetable. He finally died a couple of years ago and I couldn’t have cared less. It was a relief. I was 14 when all that happened. And then…They put me in a children’s home, and I did drugs, and drank, and…other things…And David caught me at a robbery…I was 16 at the time, and…I don’t know what it was, but he felt sorry for me. Lea says I probably reminded him of the son he lost as a child. Anyway, he took an interest, took me home with him and…He can’t be dead!” Justin burst out crying and Mary kept quiet, offering him a tissue after a few minutes.

“I hadn’t cried…for a long time. It makes me feel stupid and…”

“Vulnerable?… We’re all human and we hurt. It’s allowed, you know?”

“No. Not me. If I let everything come out…It’s a can of worms, Mary…Can I call you Mary?”

“Sure you can.”

“It’s…The only way I can get on with my life is by forgetting what went on before. Dave used to tell me that I didn’t have control over what the bastard of my father did to me and that he’d been punished for it, and I might as well concentrate on the rest of my life, because over that…I had some control and I could decide what to do. I could change it over; I could become anything I wanted if I just tried hard enough.”

Here, a reminder of the whole book and links:

Escaping Psychiatry cover by Ernesto Valdés

Escaping Psychiatry

‘Escaping Psychiatry’ is a collection of three stories in the psychological thriller genre with the same protagonist, Mary, a psychiatrist, and writer. She is trying to develop her literary career but circumstances and friends conspire to keep dragging her back to psychiatry.

In ‘Cannon Fodder’ Mary has to assess Cain, an African-American man accused of inciting a religious riot when he claimed that he could hear God and God was black. He might not be mad, but Mary is sure he’s hiding something.

‘Teamwork’ sees Mary hoodwinked into offering therapy to Justin, a policeman feeling guilty after his partner and ersatz father was killed on-duty. Before Mary can extricate herself from the case, things get personal.

In ‘Memory’ Mary goes missing after an incident with Phil, who is manic as he hasn’t been taking his medication. When she is found, she has been the victim of a horrific crime, but they soon discover she was luckier than they had realised.

The epilogue revisits Mary at the point of the trial of her abductor and sees what changes have taken place in her life. Will she finally manage to Escape Psychiatry?

AMAZON (e-book)    KOBO           NOOK            APPLE           SCRIBD        

PAGE FOUNDRY   OYSTER  GOOGLE     PAPER

And also in AUDIO: in AMAZON  and i-TUNES
And if you want to check a sample of the audio you can go here!

Thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher for the book, thanks to all of you for writing, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and to keep smiling!

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#Bookreview FOOLS AND MORTALS: A NOVEL by Bernard Cornwell (@BernardCornwell) (@HarperCollinsUK) A book for lovers of theatre, and Elizabethan historical fiction #amreading

Hi all:
Once more I’m catching up on a very popular author that for unknown reasons I had not read until now. And as I seem to be reading a lot of historical fiction at the moment, it was about time too.
As a theatre lover, I really enjoyed this book.

Fools and Mortals: A Novel by Bernard Cornwell
Fools and Mortals: A Novel by Bernard Cornwell

Fools and Mortals: A Novel by Bernard Cornwell

New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell makes a dramatic departure with this enthralling, action-packed standalone novel that tells the story of the first production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream—as related by William Shakespeare’s estranged younger brother.

Lord, what fools these mortals be . . .

In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft and a silver tongue. As William’s star rises, Richard’s onetime gratitude is souring and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty.

So when a priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing him onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London. Entangled in a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal which threatens not only his career and potential fortune, but also the lives of his fellow players, Richard has to call on all he has now learned from the brightest stages and the darkest alleyways of the city. To avoid the gallows, he must play the part of a lifetime . . . .

Showcasing the superb storytelling skill that has won Bernard Cornwell international renown, Fools and Mortals is a richly portrayed tour de force that brings to life a vivid world of intricate stagecraft, fierce competition, and consuming ambition.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Fools-Mortals-Novel-Bernard-Cornwell/dp/0062250876/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fools-Mortals-Bernard-Cornwell-ebook/dp/B06XGHX1NW/

Editorial Reviews

‘Cornwell not only succeeds in creating an engaging story, but also in celebrating the difficulties and delights, at any time in history, of putting on a show.’ THE SUNDAY TIMES

‘Cornwell leads us effortlessly through palaces and playhouses with the skill of a master storyteller who loves this period of history.’ DAILY EXPRESS

‘With all the vivid history that is his trademark, Bernard Cornwell transports the readers to the playhouses, backstreets and palaces of Shakespeare’s London with added depth and compassion, and a likeable hero.’ Philippa Gregory

‘Story and characters crackle off the page as do the stink and violence of Elizabethan London. The author of the Sharpe and Last Kingdom bestsellers has pulled off a surprise for his readers ― and a terrific one at that.’ Elizabeth Buchan, DAILY MAIL

The Times Saturday Review Book of the Month

‘Cornwell is an enthusiastic amateur dramatist. His portrayal of the actors’ rivalries and superstitions is sharp and often funny. His combination of wit, adventure and deft characterisation is a triumphant departure from his usual territory.’ THE TIMES

Praise for Bernard Cornwell:

‘Like Game of Thrones, but real’ OBSERVER

‘Blood, divided loyalties and thundering battles’ THE TIMES

‘Strong narrative, vigourous action and striking characterisation, Cornwell remains king of the territory he has staked out as his own’ SUNDAY TIMES

‘A violent, absorbing historical saga, deeply researched and thoroughly imagined’ WASHINGTON POST

‘The best battle scenes of any writer I’ve ever read, past or present. Cornwell really makes history come alive’ George R.R. Martin

‘Cornwell draws a fascinating picture of England as it might have been before anything like England existed’ THE TIMES

‘He’s called a master storyteller. Really he’s cleverer than that’ TELEGRAPH

‘A reminder of just how good a writer he is’ SUNDAY TIMES

‘Nobody in the world does this better than Cornwell’ Lee Child

Author Bernard Cornwell
Author Bernard Cornwell

About the author:

Bernard Cornwell was born in London in 1944 – a ‘warbaby’ – whose father was a Canadian airman and mother in Britain’s Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted by a family in Essex who belonged to a religious sect called the Peculiar People (and they were), but escaped to London University and, after a stint as a teacher, he joined BBC Television where he worked for the next 10 years. He began as a researcher on the Nationwide programme and ended as Head of Current Affairs Television for the BBC in Northern Ireland. It was while working in Belfast that he met Judy, a visiting American, and fell in love. Judy was unable to move to Britain for family reasons so Bernard went to the States where he was refused a Green Card. He decided to earn a living by writing, a job that did not need a permit from the US government – and for some years he had been wanting to write the adventures of a British soldier in the Napoleonic wars – and so the Sharpe series was born. Bernard and Judy married in 1980, are still married, still live in the States and he is still writing Sharpe.

https://www.amazon.com/Bernard-Cornwell/e/B000APAB68/

My review:

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 Night’s 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 William does not seem to deserve 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 Night’s 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.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publishers, and the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

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#Newbook and #Bookreview The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson (@ms_lilyanderson) ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ for YA in a school for gifted kids. A quick-fire delight.

Hi all:

On Friday I usually bring you new books and/or authors. Recently I read a new YA book by a new author and I loved it. I’ve shared the review in Lit World Interviews even before it was published, but by the time you see this, it will already be on sale. I can’t recommend it enough.

The only thing worse than me is you

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You

Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West–and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing—down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben’s, including give up sleep and comic books—well, maybe not comic books—but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it’s time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie’s for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben’s cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie’s best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they’re on—and they might not pick the same side.

Stephanie Perkins meets 10 Things I hate About You in The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You, a fresh, romantic debut from author Lily Anderson inspired by Much Ado About Nothing.

Here is my review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to St. Martin’s Griffin for providing me a free ARC copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

When I read this book was a modern take of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing for young adults I could not resist. It’s one of my favourite Shakespeare’s comedies and it’s had pretty good adaptations to screen. I am very partial to Ten Things I Hate About You and I hoped this would be as good if not better.

Told in the first person, this novel’s narrator is Trixie (Beatrix, of course), who is a fiercely intelligent and feisty shrew. She’s a geek, loves comic books, TV series (Dr Who among them), and attends a school for gifted youngsters, that is a fascinating ecosystem, with its own rules, its fights for top position and ranking, and it’s aristocracy (all based on merit, intelligence and hard work).  Her two friends, Harper and Meg, are also very clever but very different to her in their unique ways (Harper, who is kind to a fault, lost her mother years back and her family life is fairly empty despite the money, and Meg’s psychologist parents seem to track any behaviours that might fit in some theory or other, and she is always trying to classify friends and actions around her as if they took place in a lab). Of course, there would be no school without boys, and Trixie has a long-term enmity with Benedict (Ben), who shares many of her hobbies and dislikes but who can’t open his mouth without aggravating her. Everybody but the two people involved know the pair are a perfect match, but making them see it proves a hard task. Students start getting suspended and they don’t realise at first that behind exams, essays, tests, balls and functions, there is somebody messing up with pupils’ results with dramatic consequences.

The characters are as clever as is to be expected from the school they attend, and at their age, they know everything. Their references to both pop culture and Culture with capital letters are flawless, witty and make for a great read. The dialogue is fast, clever, and funny (I must confess to laughing out loud quite a few times), and appropriate to the age of the characters. Although they are clever, they are also young, naïve, and at times very innocent and that makes them plausible teenagers. They are friends of their friends, they confront serious moral issues (for their age) and they are articulate, wholesome but sometimes mean.

I remember talking about a young adult book to a reader who told me he couldn’t remember having met girls as clever as the ones in the book. Well, I did, and although perhaps the interests might vary depending on the person and the era of our school years, I appreciate a young adult book where the young protagonists are clever, study, and care for each other. And are very funny too.

I thoroughly recommend this book to anybody who likes high-school young adult novels (I have no doubts adults will like it too), and I’m sure people who enjoy Shakespeare and pop culture references will have a field day. And I look forward to more books by the writer.

Here links:

http://amzn.to/1XoA3bz

http://amzn.to/1XoA3bB

Here a bit about the author, whom I think we’ll be hearing plenty about:

Author Lily Anderson
Author Lily Anderson

Lily Anderson is a school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California, far from her mortal enemy: the snow.

Her page in Amazon:

http://amzn.to/1XoArqG

Here is her website:

http://mslilyanderson.com/

Here a couple of scenes from Ten Things I Hate About You as I keep mentioning it (and I’m not the only one):

And just in case you want to know a bit more about the movie, here is the link in IMDB.

Thanks to Net Galley and to St Martin’s Griffith for the book, thanks to Lily Anderson and plenty of success (she’s touring the book so check where she’s going) and thanks to you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment, and CLICK!

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