Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - STAR WARS, I am most definitely Waiting!

This meme is going to give me the perfect excuse to fangirl about Star Wars a bit more after the amazing cast announcement yesterday. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

It is a terribly exciting time for the Star Wars fandom because there is so much happening right now. For May The 4th (i.e. Star Wars Day) I'm going to write a post about what I think their recent announcement regarding the Expanded Universe means exactly, for us fans. But for now, I want to focus on the other news we got on the 25th of this month. Star Wars is publishing new books and they will be part of the 'single, cohesive Star Wars storyline'!

The first book to com out soon is Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller. It's release date is the 2nd of September, 2014 and it will coincide with the beginning of the new animated series Star Wars Rebels, which I'm equally excited for. In the beginning I had my doubts about it but after seeing the new clip released at Wondercon, all my fears have been abated.
Set prior to the events of the forthcoming animated series Star Wars Rebels, this novel tells the story of how two of the lead characters of the series, Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla, came to cross paths.
Photo: Well, that sure was a lot of news for one weekend.  Now that the dust has settled, any of the four new novels we announced that you're looking forward to the most?

We here at Del Rey are having a tough time choosing favorites--we've seen the outlines (and some manuscripts) for these four books, and we're pretty excited about what we're reading so far...There's not much of a synopsis, I grant, but then they can't tell us too much without potentially spoiling the first few episodes of the show. They are also releasing other books in 2014/2015 and my current hope is at least one of them will show up on Netgalley for me to sink my claws in!

STAR WARS: TARKIN
James Luceno
4/11/14 

STAR WARS: HEIR TO THE JEDI
Kevin Hearne
January 2015 

STAR WARS: LORDS OF THE SITH
Paul Kemp
March 2015

I'm ridiculously excited. So, what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Star Wars Episode VII Cast Announced

I know that this is technically a Book blog, but I'd like to see it as a blog dedicated to stories, may they be told through words or through music or through pictures. And Star Wars is a story that has been told through all of those mediums and today we have heard fantastic news about the next Star Wars film. No, we don't have a title and we don't have a clue what is going to happen, but we have a cast.
The Star Wars team is thrilled to announce the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. 
Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film. 
Director J.J. Abrams says, "We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud." 
Star Wars: Episode VII is being directed by J.J. Abrams from a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer. The movie opens worldwide on December 18, 2015.
All of this is amazing news. Once again, the casting directors at Lucasfilm Limited have managed to create a cast that strikes the balance between, as my dad so eloquently put it, 'old, old but new, and new'. There is the returning cast from the Original Trilogy, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels etc., there are actors which are well known, Andy Serkis and Max von Sydow, who are still new to the Star Wars Universe and then there is actors who are relatively new, ranging from up and coming like Dmhnall Gleeson to practically unknown like Daisy Ridley. They have also done well in casting John Boyega as a main character, which I'm assuming he is considering his name is mentioned first, in order to remain representatives of all races and genders.

What this means is that JJ Abrams can rely on the skill of some of his "older" actors to carry the film's gravitas while the younger ones are able to spread their wings a bit and play characters which we as a younger audience can identify with. What I am desperately hoping for is Daisy Ridley as Leia and Han Solo's daughter, John Boyega as an up and coming Jedi Knight, Andy Serkis as an established (real and human) Jedi Knight, and Adam Driver and Max von Sydow as a pair of Sith Lords.

I can promise you I will try not to freak out too much about this, but this is, in my honest and humble opinon, the biggest movie news to have hit us in years. I was nowhere this excited for any of the Hobbit movies a good year and a half before it came out. I have another Star Wars post planned for tomorrow which I actually wrote this morning before I heard the news, so I still owe you that one. From then on I will try and remain quiet about it till May the 4th, which is Star Wars day so I practically owe you something Star Wars related then.

Ok, my tiny rant is over, thank you for not getting too annoyed by it!

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph & Teaser Tuesday

I can't believe April is almost over! I swear it was only January the other day and now another year at university is almost over and I'm even closer to the inevitable doom that is "the real world". But I'm going to ignore that pesky thing called my future for a bit longer and focus on all the lovely books I'm reading at the moment. First Chapter ~ First Paragraph is hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea. This week I'm using a book I'll hopefully be starting at the end of the week; The 53 Parallel by Carl Nordgren.
In The 53rd Parallel, book one of the River of Lakes series, Brian Burke emigrates from 1950s West Ireland to the wilderness of Northwest Ontario with his partner Maureen O’Toole. He’s been exiled from his village, and she is running from her IRA past. 
20560424The dreams of an Ojibway clan elder bring the Irish to the sacred place on the River, where they build The Great Lodge of Innish Cove. The dreams tell of a white man who will destroy the River and another who will protect it. While the Ojibway believe Brian and Maureen are the River’s guardians, Maureen’s IRA connections and the construction of a pulp mill upstream threaten to destroy the newly created Eden before it even begins.
Under the watchful eye of a warrior spirit, the clan and their Irish companions risk all they love to protect the River and the promises it holds for their future. The fates of the two groups will intertwine as both seek to ward off the encroachment of the modern world. 
Here are the opening paragraphs:
'With so much light absorbed in the full rolling clouds of fog floating over the River's lake and shrouding the fir and birch forests it seemed like dusk all day. At the far end of the lake, where the current collected its force to return to the River's channel, some of the clouds were smoke. 
A large animal was swimming in the middle of the lake, lost now in a fog cloud, then seen as a shadow before it emerged. It was a big bull moose, his heavy muzzle held just above the water's surface, his dewlap submerged, his large ears folded back, a massive tack of antlers trailing a stalk of broken reed behind. The drifting silver white clouds just above hid the sky. The big bull's bulk was hidden under the water and his neck cut a modest wake.' p.1
I'm not quite sure how I'm feeling about this one, but I guess I'll see when I'm actually reading it. The description is quite nice.

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. This week I'm teasing you with Gone Are The Leaves by Anne Donovan, which I'm really enjoying so far.
Feilamort can remember very little of his childhood before he became a choir boy in the home of the Laird and his French wife. Feilamort has one of the finest voices in the land. It is a gift he believes will protect him...Deirdre has lived in the castle all her short life. Apprentice to her mother, she embroiders the robes for one of Scotland's finest families. She can capture, with just a few delicate stitches, the ripeness of a bramble or the glint of bronze on a fallen leaf. But with her mother pushing her to choose between a man she does not love and a closed world of prayer and solitude, Deirdre must decide for herself what her life will become. When the time comes for Feilamort to make an awful decision, his choice catapults himself and Deirdre head-first into adulthood. As the two friends learn more about Feilamort's forgotten childhood, it becomes clear that someone close is intent on keeping it hidden. Full of wonder and intrigue, and told with the grace and charm for which Anne Donovan is so beloved, Gone Are the Leaves is the enchanting story of one boy's lost past and his uncertain future.
20329433Here's the teaser:
'After the first hauf-hour, though, as dawn started tae show pink and orange above the treetops, I found mysel with energy renewed. I was in the fresh air again, hearing the chitter of the birds, seeing shoots start tae form on bare brances; I breathed freedom intae my lungs.' 33%
No, I have not suddenly lost the ability to write correctly. This book is written in dialect, Scottish I think, and although it was quite hard to get into at the beginning, I feel it somehow fits the description of nature perfectly.

So, what are you teasing with? And what's the first paragraph in your read?

Monday, 28 April 2014

Review: 'The Watcher in the Shadows' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I have an absolute passion for anything written by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which is well-known to most who know me which is why I usually get his books as presents when they come out. This one was given to me over Christmas and I didn't get around to reading it till now (shame on me).
A mysterious toymaker who lives as a recluse in an old mansion, surrounded by the mechanical beings he has created ...an enigma surrounding strange lights that shine through the mists that envelop the small island on which the old lighthouse stands...a shadowy creature that hides deep in the woods...these are the elements of a mystery that bind will bind 14-year-old Irene to Ismael during one magical summer spent in the Blue Bay. He mother has taken a job as a housekeeper for the toymaker, Lazarus, but his house contains more secrets than Irene and Ishmael have bargained for.
This book is part of Zafon's Niebla series which also includes The Prince of Mist and The Midnight Palace, the first of which I've also read. These are the books he has written for a younger audience, yet they are equally infused with the Gothic style which makes The Cemetery of Forgotten Books such an amazing series. Unlike that serie, this one isn't set in Barcelona but in the French and Spanish countrysides, which provides a breath of fresh air from Barcelona's well-known alleys and mansions where everyone somehow is linked to everyone else. Although aimed at teenagers, Zafon doesn't hold back with his imagery, which I personally think is a good thing. Children aren't stupid and they shouldn't be treated as such, least of all by literature which is supposed to be a part of their growing up. The main characters here are also teenagers, between fourteen and sixteen, and most of the time they behave like teenagers as well. Although the love that blossoms between Irene and Ishmael might seem unlikely, Zafon manages to write it in such a way it is like a 'magical summer'. There is no large sweeping romance that last for all eternity, but rather an experience that binds them together through memories that might eventually unite them again.

Something I mentioned in my review last week of Zafon's The Count of Parnass, is that his origins as screenwriter are very visible. The imagery he creates is incredible. Although all of it is fantastical and magical, there is something incredibly horrifying yet true about a lot of the beings he writes. However, the book kind of feels like a film at times as well. We jump from one scare to the next, from one terrifying description to the other, and the breathers in between are practically non-existent or very clearly set-ups for the next big scene. Although the beginning of the book takes the time it needs to set up its characters and their surroundings, afterwards anything not immediately related to the plot gets thrown out. There are no light moments, no evening dinners at which everything appears normal although everyone knows it isn't etc. This means that the realism is slightly lacking in the magical realism of this book. But it is a beautifully written book where the language itself makes up for the potential lack in grounding.

I give this book...

3 Universes.

I would recommend it to fans of Spanish magical realism and to Gothic literature fans. There is something spectacular about how Zafon creates magic out of thin air, much like his characters. Would I reread it? Potentially yes, but not for some time. The imagery is one of the main draws of Zafon's novels and although the plot here is interesting, it isn't explored the way it is in his adult novels.

Stacking the Shelves and It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is the week, I have decided, where I am definitely, seriously, starting on my essays for University. But because I know how important it is to relax as well, I've made sure there is plenty of pleasure reading for this week! Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews and It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.
2aaaStacking The Shelves [103]
19288607Last week I read:

Der Fürst des Parnass by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (my review here)
In 'Der Fürst des Parnass' (En. 'The Count of Parnass'), Zafon tells the story of the creation of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the creation of one of Spain's most famous work, Cervantes' 'Don Quixote de Mancha'. Along the way, we meet one of the first members of the book-loving Sempere family and the terrifying Corelli. 

and

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman (my review here)
Coney Island, 1911: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of a self-proclaimed scientist and professor who acts as the impresario of The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show offering amazement and entertainment to the masses. An extraordinary swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl,and a 100 year old turtle, in her father's ""museum"". She swims regularly in New York's Hudson River, and one night stumbles upon a striking young man alone in the woods photographing moon-lit trees. From that moment, Coralie knows her life will never be the same.
The dashing photographer Coralie spies is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father's Lower East Side Orthodox community. As Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the mystery behind a young woman's disappearance and the dispute between factory owners and labourers. In the tumultuous times that characterized life in New York between the world wars, Coralie and Eddie's lives come crashing together in Alice Hoffman's mesmerizing, imaginative, and romantic new novel.
I loved both of them but to my own shock I have to admit that I preferred Alice Hoffman's novel.

This week I'm reading:

Gone Are The Leaves by Anne Donovan
20329433
Feilamort can remember very little of his childhood before he became a choir boy in the home of the Laird and his French wife. Feilamort has one of the finest voices in the land. It is a gift he believes will protect him...Deirdre has lived in the castle all her short life. Apprentice to her mother, she embroiders the robes for one of Scotland's finest families. She can capture, with just a few delicate stitches, the ripeness of a bramble or the glint of bronze on a fallen leaf. But with her mother pushing her to choose between a man she does not love and a closed world of prayer and solitude, Deirdre must decide for herself what her life will become. When the time comes for Feilamort to make an awful decision, his choice catapults himself and Deirdre head-first into adulthood. As the two friends learn more about Feilamort's forgotten childhood, it becomes clear that someone close is intent on keeping it hidden. Full of wonder and intrigue, and told with the grace and charm for which Anne Donovan is so beloved, Gone Are the Leaves is the enchanting story of one boy's lost past and his uncertain future.
and

If On a Winter's Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino.

374233If on a Winter's Night a Traveler is a marvel of ingenuity, an experimental text that looks longingly back to the great age of narration--"when time no longer seemed stopped and did not yet seem to have exploded." Italo Calvino's novel is in one sense a comedy in which the two protagonists, the Reader and the Other Reader, ultimately end up married, having almost finished If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. In another, it is a tragedy, a reflection on the difficulties of writing and the solitary nature of reading. The Reader buys a fashionable new book, which opens with an exhortation: "Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade." Alas, after 30 or so pages, he discovers that his copy is corrupted, and consists of nothing but the first section, over and over. Returning to the bookshop, he discovers the volume, which he thought was by Calvino, is actually by the Polish writer Bazakbal. Given the choice between the two, he goes for the Pole, as does the Other Reader, Ludmilla. But this copy turns out to be by yet another writer, as does the next, and the next. 
The real Calvino intersperses 10 different pastiches--stories of menace, spies, mystery, premonition--with explorations of how and why we read, make meanings, and get our bearings or fail to. Meanwhile the Reader and Ludmilla try to reach, and read, each other. If on a Winter's Night is dazzling, vertiginous, and deeply romantic. "What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space."

I've been trying to finish Calvino's novel for ages now because I keep on picking up others despite really enjoying it so this week it's my mission to finish it!

This week I had three books come to me.

From Netgalley:

LORE: Tales of Myth and Legend by Brinda Berry, Karen Y. Bynum, Laura Diamond and others
THIS IS AN ANTHOLOGY OF NOVELLAS. A collection of six folklore retellings that will twist your mind and claim your heart. SHIMMER: A heartbroken boy rescues a mermaid... but is it too late to save her? BETWEEN is about a girl, a genie, and a ton of bad decisions. SUNSET MOON: Eloise doesn't believe in Native American magic--until the dreamcatcher spiders spin her down an unknown path. THE MAKER: An incapacitated young man bent on revenge builds a creature to do it for him. A BEAUTIFUL MOURNING: The story of a Maya goddess torn between duty and love, and the ultimate sacrifice she must make to achieve true happiness. THE BARRICADES: When a human girl risks everything to save the life of an Eternal prince, will their feelings for each other change the world they know, or tear it apart?
and

After Before by Jemma Wayne


After Before is an intimate and beautiful novel about three women whose lives interweave: Emily - a Rwandan Genocide survivor, Lynn - a terminally ill woman in her early 60s and Vera - a young woman struggling to come to terms with her troubled past.Spanning cultures and ages, the novel explores the universality of guilt, regret, and grief.  
This year is the 20th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, and the novel gives a moving insight into the personal atrocities experienced at the time. Jemma researched the book through first hand interviews with a Rwandan Genocide survivor and reading War Crime documents.

From the Author:

The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes by David S. Atkinson

Don’t you hate it when you may (or may not) be trapped endlessly in a Village Inn with your ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend, coincidentally your ex-best friend? That’s the kind of day Cassandra is having. In a homogenized world that is left mostly empty so everyone can feel comfortable, The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes explores the fictions we tell ourselves and the fictions we tell ourselves about the fictions we tell ourselves. 


I'm excited for all of my reads! How about yours? What are you reading this week?