macbeth, my grandpa, and me

This post is part of We Love Shakespeare Week.

Shakespeare Book Covers by Chris Hall, via Behance

After I graduated from high school I started taking college-level courses with my grandpa.  We studied worldview science, regular science (think: Answers in Genesis), and literature.  We started with really ancient texts like Sophocles and Homer and Aeschylus and then moved on from there.  The textbook we were using had Macbeth as the Shakespeare text to study and, while I’d heard Grandpa quote from it before, I’d never read it.

Well, I read it.  Not all at once. (I believe the textbook just included excerpts.)  But eventually I did read the whole thing.  I still wasn’t a huge fan (this was schoolwork, after all) but my interest was piqued.  We watched the Ian McKellen version (#disturbing and #weird) and a recorded performance from the college that produced our textbook (there was some bad acting).

Even though I didn’t particularly love Macbeth yet, it was rapidly becoming the thing that Grandpa and I really shared.  He loved to quote the “double, double toil and trouble” and “Is this a dagger that I see before me?” with great gusto. (In earlier days, Grandpa was in a few plays – including Taming of the Shrew – so he knew how to project his voice and really say the lines.)  We had good times laughing over all that.

It was actually amazing. ❤

Then, on July 7th, 2016, I saw Macbeth performed live in Stratford. (Ontario, not England.  Psych!)  It was with both my grandparents (though my grandma doesn’t particularly like the play) and, oh man, it was fantastic.  I fell in love with Macbeth right away.  The actors were brilliant, Shakespeare’s lines lived and breathed in my ears…I can’t even.  I particularly remember that Lady Macbeth looked really young and innocent, but her performance was chilling. (As it should be.)  And Banquo (my favorite character in the play) suddenly appeared at the banquet – his ghost, rather – it was terrifying.

(The trailer for the show is here.  There are some disturbing images.)

I came out of the show in a daze – and as a firm fan of Macbeth and Shakespeare himself.  It’s still in one of my top three favorite Shakespeare plays.  And it will always remind me of Grandpa.  It’s a special thing we share…and I’ll never forget that.

23 Jokes And Memes About Shakespeare Plays That'll Make Smart People Laugh
I just had to.

So do you have a movie, book, or TV show that you and a friend or relative consider ‘yours’?



anatomy of a Hallmark royal romance movie

Warning: high levels of snark and sarcasm from this point forward.  You Have Been Warned.


There is a particularly delightful genre of Hallmark films that I’ve dubbed ‘royal romances’.  Though each of these films gives their own unique, spell-binding twist on the trope of ‘prince meets princesses’ there are some slight similarities between a few of these films if you dig deep enough into the subtext.  To save you from all that fuss and bother, I’ve done all the work for you!  So if Hallmark shows up at your door, asking you to write the script for their next royal romance blockbuster, this post has you covered.

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Our heroine – We’ll call her ‘Sam’ (short for Samantha, of course) because every Hallmark heroine needs an easy-to-forget-remember name.  She will be awkward, relatable, quirky, unique, ditzy, down-to-earth, prone to ramble and babble in the presence of princes, and may or may not be an unknown princess because her mother’s brother’s cousin’s nephew was the king of-  Well, we’ll get to that. (She’s probably lost both parents btw, but definitely one.)

Our hero – Kent Brentworthy the fifteenth.  Perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect face, perfect stubble…this guy has it all.  Except a personality.  But Sam won’t care because one flash of his dimples and some mutterings about being a prince and he’ll have won her heart.  Until he loses it momentarily by talking about how women should conform to traditional female roles.

Other side of the love triangle – Actually, there will be two.  Lara Meangirl who is indubitably more royal than Sam and thus is a serious threat to Sam’s budding romance with Kent.  The other will be Sam’s boyfriend from back in New York who comes all the way to Europe to beg for her heart and hand. (This will lead to some glowering by Kent.)  If you’re really lucky and the budget is big enough, you can squeeze in a local guy, ridiculously handsome, who builds leather clocks or wooden shoes.  If he’s handsome enough, Sam could end up giving up the prince and marrying Handsome Leatherworker.

Heroine’s POC bff who gives advice in probably the first scene of the film and is never heard from again – I pretty much just said it all.  Who needs diversity in Eastern Europe???

Sweet, perky maid who gives Sam all the advice she needs – She’ll be a brunette (to contrast Sam’s inevitable blondeness).

Mean, vaguely threatening prime minister who tries to dig up dirt on Sam – Every fairy tale needs a good old fashioned villain.  Or at least someone with a threatening, graying goatee.  He’s probably scheming with the Mean Housekeeper, btw.

Elderly hilarious British butler who provides tidbits of wisdom to Kent and Sam respectively and is really the hero of the film – This character will be the fan-favorite, especially if you give him some comedy scenes where The Proper British Dude starts break-dancing or something. (Because Sam is starting to change everyone and everything around the castle.)

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Sam is a twenty-something female writer/reporter/journalist who has a hard time finding love.  Or keeping love.  Or clutching onto it with both hands wrapped in velcro.  She comes home one day to find a thick letter (delivered by Old British Butler) that either a) invites her to Gorovia for some inexplicable reason or b) reveals that she is indeed the long-lost princess of Gorovia.

Upon arrival, she instantly bumps into a stunningly handsome man in an impeccably tailored suit.  She literally bumps into him.  Much embarrassment ensues, but only on her side.  He seems faintly amused but excuses himself as quickly as possible.  “Boy, he was handsome,” she thinks.  “Who could he be???”

At the palace (the interiors of which do not match the stock footage outside), she meets Perky Maid, Mean Housekeeper, and Vaguely Threatening Prime Minister.  She also literally bumps into the same guy again only, GASP, it’s PRINCE KENT.  Who is visiting from a neighboring kingdom (called Hofferlotosidifjowovia – it really doesn’t matter what the kingdoms are called so long as they all end with ‘ovia’).  More embarrassment ensues and Sam quickly escapes to her room with the help of Perky Maid.

Sam gasps over her room, even though it doesn’t look all that great.

Awkward commercial break. (I won’t point out all the commercial breaks in this because they will be frequent and awkward in the actual film.)

Next morning, Sam awkwardly does some stuff with politics, including suggestions that the patriarchy be overthrown.  This is met with horror, so she escapes for a horse ride with Prince Kent.  It’s raining but that doesn’t deter them.  He ends up talking about how women – even princesses – should get married ASAP and raise children while their husbands take care of politics.  Sam vows to hate him forever and rides home alone.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is working to dig up dirt about Sam.  A ball is planned (double points if you can make it a masquerade ball) and Sam wears a ballgown that is spectacularly underwhelming.  I mean, she’s a princess!

You’re expecting this:

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And you get this:

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Sam and Kent dance together.  All is forgiven.  Kent is just about to announce their engagement when the Prime Minister shows up, all out of breath, and declares that Lara Meangirl (idk where she came from but whatever) is closer to the throne than Sam and Sam is an imposter.  Sam is stunned and runs away, back to her home in America. (Without waiting to hear explanations from anyone because quirky, down-to-earth people like Sam don’t do that.) 

When she gets there, her old boyfriend who dumped her, is waiting.  They’re about to announce their engagement when Kent bursts into the hotel’s party room, soaking wet (it was raining outside again), and sweeps Sam off her feet.  “I don’t care that you’re not a princess!” he exclaims.  “You’ll always be my princess!”  Then he slips a fifty-carat diamond ring on her finger and all the guests who were supposed to applaud her engagement to Loser Boyfriend applaud her engagement to Kent.  Because princes are better than ordinary dudes.

They kiss.  And the world basically explodes from the power of that kiss.

Whether there’s a wedding after this pivotal scene or not depends on the movie’s budget, but if there is a wedding, it’ll be the best part of the film.  And Sam will definitely wear an underwhelming wedding dress.

You’re expecting this:

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And you get this:

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The End

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  • Make sure there’s a Kent-teaches-Sam-archery scene.  Especially if she already knows how to hit the bulls-eye and shows him up after his cringy, here-let-me-put-my-hands-on-your-waist-to-steady-you lesson.
  • Have Sam (Kent optional) tour Gorovia to see some insulting Eastern European cultural and architectural stereotypes.  Bonus points if a lisping child gives Sam a bouquet and kicks Kent in the leg. (If she kicks Kent, it has to be before he makes up with Sam for being all chauvinist.  This will make the audience laugh.)
  • If the casting choice for Prince Kent is hot enough, you’ll probably get a sequel deal out of it, ‘kay?

So now you have the basic ingredients for a Hallmark royal romance movie!  Have fun writing!


‘we love Shakespeare week’ – tag!

Hamlette’s We Love Shakespeare Week is upon us and I’m so excited.  I’ve got a post planned for later on this week talking about my personal connection to Macbeth, but for now I’m going to answer this tag.  Because tags are the lifeblood of this blog. (Seriously, if I don’t have any post ideas, I’ll usually hunt up a tag to answer.)

1. When and how did you first encounter Shakespeare’s plays?

Well, Romeo & Juliet was the first Shakespeare play I read (back in 2013 or something) and I think I tried it because it’s one of his most famous plays and I figured I’d better read some Shakespeare before I died.  I was also kind of obsessed with the Lady Grace Mysteries which are set in Shakespearean England…those might have had something to do with my discovering the Bard.

2. What are your favorite Shakespeare plays? (Go ahead and list as many as you like!)

Macbeth, Hamlet, and Romeo & Juliet.  Those are the three I know really well and I love each of them – for very different reasons, mind you.  Macbeth is a brilliant story that kinda appeals to my dark side (muahahahaha).  Hamlet is a brilliant story with many lovable characters and it’ll always remind me of this great trip I took ’cause I read it on the road.  Romeo & Juliet isn’t as brilliant a story.  I’m literally just there for Mercutio, let’s be real.

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3. Who are some of your favorite characters in his plays? (Again, list however many suits you.)

Mercutio, Banquo, Hamlet, Friar Laurence, Ophelia, Horatio, and Juliet.

4. Have you seen any of his plays performed, whether live or on film?

YAAAAAS.  I’ve seen Macbeth performed live and it was GLORIOUS.  Loved every minute of it.  I’ve also seen a couple film versions of it and the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Hamlet.  Oh, and I’ve watched the Richard Burton ‘Taming of the Shrew’ and ‘Kiss Me Kate’ (does that count?).  I started watching ‘Julius Ceaser’ (the one with James Mason) and really enjoyed it, but I was also in the mood for something more fast-paced, so yeah.  I do want to try it again some day.

5. Have you read any of his plays?

Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, King Lear, Othello, and A Midsummer’s Night Dream. (According to Goodreads anyway.  I don’t really remember reading the last two.)

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6. Share a dream cast for one of your favorite Shakespeare plays.

Oh goodness.  It takes me a long time to come up with a dream cast for anything.  So I’m going to pass on this one.

7. What draws you to Shakespeare’s plays? (Language, themes, characters, the fact that they’re famous, whatever!)

The fact that they’re famous was definitely why I started reading Shakespeare.  I do love the language now, though sometimes it’s a little difficult to understand. (I do pretty well though, I think.) 

Basically if I read a Shakespeare play and really understand it + the characters, I’m a fan for life.  But I don’t like striking out into new territory without some kind of guide so if a friend doesn’t recommend any more plays to me, I’ll probably stick with the trio I love the best – Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo & Juliet.

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8. Do you have any cool Shakespeare-themed merchandise, like t-shirts or mugs or bookmarks, etc? Share pictures if you can!

Nope. 😛  All I have is this mug with author’s names on it and Shakespeare is among them.  And I’m too lazy to get up and take a picture.

9. How do you go about understanding his language? (Do you prefer copies with translation notes, look things up online, or just read so much stuff written in Elizabethan English that you totally know what everyone’s saying?)

I really like the Folger Library editions of the plays.  I have my favorite triumvirate in those editions and what I like about them is that they provide a summary of each scene.  Yes, there’s spoilers (which y’all should know I don’t care about) but if I know where the story is going, I can muddle through a few words and phrases I don’t understand. (They define those as well, but I prefer to read straight through without referring to their other helps, for some reason.)

Oh, and watching the plays helps, I think.  Even though the language is really dense, I could understand ‘Julius Caeser’ (James Mason one, remember?) pretty well because the actors are so good and expressive. 

10. What are some of your favorite lines from Shakespeare? (Maybe limit yourself to like ten, okay?)

Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.Romeo & Juliet, Act III, Scene II

It’s so lame but that’s literally the only good one I can think of.  I love the imagery and fire and beauty of those lines, tbh. ❤  It'll have to do.

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my favorite composers #6 – Bernard Herrmann

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Elmer Bernstein was going to be the next composer featured in this series, but I watched ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ (1959) yesterday and, well, Bernard Herrmann knocked that score out of the park.  So I had to write this post about him.

Bernard Herrmann is probably best known for scoring Hitchcock films – ‘The Trouble With Harry’, ‘The Wrong Man’, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ (1956 version), ‘Vertigo’, ‘North By Northwest’, ‘Psycho’…and the list goes on.  In fact, he scored almost every major Hitchcock film of the 50’s and 60’s.  It’s no wonder, then, that whenever I see Herrmann’s name in a film’s credits, I expect something atmospheric, a little creepy, and definitely intriguing.

Like this:

But aside from Hitchcock’s films, Herrmann also did excellent work with other genres and film makers.  His first film credit was ‘Citizen Kane’ – a fact that speaks for itself.  I also love his work in ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (1951) as I mentioned in this post.  Probably the first Herrmann score I heard was, as I talked about earlier, ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’.  It’s not a great movie, but it’s a fun one, and the music is ingrained in my brain.

Just to give you a taste…

So, do you enjoy Bernard Herrmann’s work?  Have you seen ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ (1959 version)?


my top ten favorite retellings

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Did you know that there are more retellings out there than just fairytale retellings?  It’s true! (And probably doesn’t surprise many of you, tbh.)  I’m writing a retelling of the Apostle Paul’s life – and a western retelling of Hamlet – neither of which are fairytales. (Far from it, haha.)  Taking a classic story and making it new is one of my favorite past times…and retellings happen to be one of my favorite genres.  So let’s get into the list!

~Emmeline by Sarah Holman – A 1920’s take on Jane Austen’s Emma.  One of the sweetest books I’ve read in a while.  Updating Harriet’s character so that she’s a German working girl gave her depth and strength that the original Harriet lacked.  And Emma/Emmeline and Mr. Knightley/Frederick are as great a couple as ever.

~Cinder by Marissa Meyer – I have nothing but admiration for Marissa Meyer’s skill with retellings.  Each book in the Lunar Chronicles is excellent (including Fairest and Stars Above) but I think Cinder is my favorite.  Yes, Cinderella retellings are a bit overdone these days, but I still love them.  And Meyer’s nods to the original story are so clever!

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~Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken – I didn’t expect to love this quiet, gentle retelling of Emma as much as I did…but I did. 😉  The parts that retell Jane Austen’s original story seem a bit rushed, but all of Jane’s backstory is super interesting and the whole thing is written in pitch perfect ‘Austen-ese’.

~Dancing & Doughnuts by Rachel Kovaciny – Western fairytale retellings for the win!  I’ve read several, by a few different authors, but Dancing & Doughnuts is something special.  From the unique, upbeat narrative voice of the protagonist – Jedediah Jones – to the cleverness of the retelling itself to the fun characters…Dancing & Doughnuts is a sweet delight to read. (My other favorite Kovaciny retelling is The Man on the Buckskin Horse, which can be found in the anthology Five Magic Spindles.)

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~A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher – This is a retelling of Les Miserables and it came this close to being a five star read on Goodreads (and those are super rare for me).  I had a bit of trouble connecting to the characters (which is why I only gave it four stars), but oh my word, the writing is GORGEOUS.  And the story is appropriately bleak and sad (considering the source material).  Highly recommended to fans of both the book and the musical.

~Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – One of my favorite books so far this year!  It has moments of comedy, yes, but overall I found it to be a far more serious book than I was expecting.  Ella and Char’s growing relationship actually had me, y’know, shipping them.  And that ending…so emotional and sweet!  I liked how it was kiiiind of a retelling of Cinderella, but still very much its own story.

(Also, the movie is trash.)

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~Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange – I usually enjoy Grange’s Austen-inspired stuff (though not everything she’s written) but Colonel Brandon’s Diary is definitely the best of her work.  She has to fill in a lot because Sense & Sensibility doesn’t give too many details about him, and it works beautifully.  Two thumbs up.

~Hawksmaid by Kathryn Lasky – I feel like Robin Hood retellings aren’t really retellings because the ‘original stories’ are basically retellings themselves.  There’s no one definitive version of the legend. (Though from what people have said Howard Pyle probably comes pretty close.)  Anyway, Hawksmaid is a spirited, rich retelling of Robin Hood’s story.  Highly recommended.

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~Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge – A straight-up retelling of Sense & Sensibility, set in Texas.  If you’re an Austen fan, you NEED to read this.  Lodge doesn’t try to copy Jane Austen’s style but there’s a delicacy and straightforwardness about her prose that echoes Austen’s work.

~Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay – Despite the title, this is a retelling of Daddy Long Legs, not a Jane Austen book.  I will say that the book’s heroine, Sam, is spectacularly unlikable for a long stretch of the story.  But I still loooove this novel.  It’s gripping, real, and full of hope and grace.

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So, that’s my list!  Do you spot any of your favorites on it?  Also, I’d like to mention that Once, a collection of six fairytale retellings, is perma-free on Amazon!  I knew some of the authors and, trust me, if you’re a fan of fairytale retellings, you’ll definitely want to snap this deal up.  Let me know what you think once you’ve read it. 🙂


movie review: mulan

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Fearful that her ailing father will be drafted into the Chinese military, Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) takes his spot — though, as a girl living under a patriarchal regime, she is technically unqualified to serve. She cleverly impersonates a man and goes off to train with fellow recruits. Accompanied by her dragon, Mushu (Eddie Murphy), she uses her smarts to help ward off a Hun invasion, falling in love with a dashing captain along the way.


‘Mulan’ has always been one of those movies I enjoyed watching but didn’t really love.  I lumped it in with other [personal] Disney disappointments like ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Pocahontas’.  But last night I watched it and, well, I kind of adored it.  And now I don’t get why it isn’t more popular!

For starters, the characters are something special.  The only complaint I have about Mulan is that sometimes her voice actress doesn’t seem to be a very good actress. 😛  But other than that, Mulan is a young woman with a fierce love for her family – something even stronger than her fierce warrior skills.  I love her compassion and bravery.  I love her.  And her dad is probably the best Disney dad ever. (All their scenes together make me tear up.  Except maybe the very first one, ’cause it’s pretty funny.)

Mulan                                                                                                                                                                                 More

I can’t get over how much I liked Sheng on this rewatch!  He’s such a well-developed character.  He wants his father’s approval, he wants to protect his troops, he wants to understand this weird guy, Ping.  You can almost see the conflict in his mind when he’s supposed to execute Mulan – loyalty to his country’s laws or loyalty to what he knows is right?

(By the way, I take issue with what that plot summary says about Mulan falling in love with Sheng ‘along the way’.  I personally don’t see that she fell in love with him, except maybe at the verrrry end.  And even then it was more of a, “I could like this guy if I had the chance”.  Not actual love.)

"You fight good." #Mulan

Mushu still irks me at times, but he can be legitimately funny.  And he’s not half as annoying as Olaf, so that’s a definite plus.

The artistry that went into ‘Mulan’ is astounding.  Every time there’s smoke or steam or what have you, it’s rendered so artistically.  And who can forget the iconic shot of the Huns spilling over the snowy clifftop? *literal chills*

And then there are the songs.  They’re a little different than the typical Disney songs because there are no villain songs, no love duet…just two funny songs, the “I want” song, and THE SINGLE MOST EPIC SONG DISNEY EVER PRODUCED. (Jerry Goldsmith’s score is also worth a listen.)

I got "I'll Make A Man Out Of You"! Which Disney Song Should Be Your Theme Song? | Quiz | Disney Playlist

The themes in ‘Mulan’ – loyalty, family, doing one’s duty – all strike a chord in me.  Now, more so than ever.  Which is probably why I like it so much.  There are moments of humor throughout ‘Mulan’ but I think it’s Disney’s most grown-up princess movie.  It’s also one of the most underrated.  If you don’t enjoy ‘Mulan’ and haven’t seen it in a while, I highly suggest you give it another try.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

Have you watched ‘Mulan’?  What do you think of it?


a month in books: january 2019

This quote about reading from Ralph Waldo Emerson will make you want to pick up…

This year, I set myself the goal of reading 300 books.  In one year.  Last year, I read 228 books so I’m not sure why I thought 300 books was the next step (250 would probably have been more logical), but whatever.  I was pretty sure I’d fail, but so far I’m four books ahead of schedule.  And, um, mentally exhausted.

However!  January has been a great month for books.  I’ve read 29 so far and, for the most part, I’ve enjoyed them.

The highlights:

~We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels.  Read my review here!

~The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt.  Yes, it’s a kids’ picture book.  But it’s one of the funniest, most charming picture books I’ve ever read. (And the ‘Gladiator’ reference was icing on the cake.)

The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors | Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex | Harper Collins publication | 4 - 4 - 2017 | ISBN: 9780062438898

~The Negotiator by Dee Henderson.  After hearing my mom talk about the O’Malley series for ages I finally started it.  So, so good.

~A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold.  Hard, sobering, and thought-provoking.

~An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson.  Gorgeous prose, an intriuging fantasy world, and the greatest can-turn-into-a-raven-and-is-also-a-sweetheart YA hero since Jest.

The lowlights:

~Selp-helf and My Diarrhe by Miranda Sings/Colleen Balinger.  Miranda is much funnier on Youtube than in book form. (Though I’d hesitate to recommend her videos to less-than-adult audiences.  At least, some of them.)

miranda sings, lol. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! WHAT THE EVEN HECK?!?!

~I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora.  This one was okay, but it felt like the author was trying too hard to have a quirky first person POV narration that seems to be the staple for middle grade fiction these days.  And the plot was pretty dumb.

~Egypt’s Sister by Angela Hunt.  I was expecting a little more, y’know, Cleopatra in this book.

(There were some other not-so-great books but I don’t feel like devoting energy to them.)

Favorite book of the year (so far):

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Yes, it’s a re-read.  And, yes, it’s the best.

My favorite quotation from my favorite book! "To Kill A Mockingbird" -- And to think, Harper Lee is publishing her second novel!!

So, let’s talk!  How many books have you read this year? (Please don’t think I’m bragging about how many books I’ve read, btw – I have more free time than most people and an affinity for speedy reading.)  What’s your favorite book so far this year?