Sunday, 31 May 2015

Weekly Overview

This week was Armchair BEA week, which means there were a lot of posts and a lot of blog-hopping but not a lot of reading or reviewing. There will be a change in that now though, that normality has returned. I am also considering a major overhaul of my blog, but that is something for next week!

Monday:
Tuesday:
Wednesday:
Thursday:
Friday:
Saturday:
Sunday:
This has definitely been one of the busiest weeks ever on my blog and I am genuinely exhausted! I might take part of next week off to get myself back on track!

This post is linked up with Sunday Post by Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Spotlight: 'Senlin Ascends' by Josiah Bancroft

Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel, #1)For today's Spotlight I'm glad to present the first in the series The Books of Babel by Josiah Bancroft, Senlin Ascends. Described as a mix between Gaiman’s Stardust and Gibson & Sterling’s the Difference Engine, Senlin Ascends is an adventurous read with well-developed characters. And isn't that a stunning cover?
Senlin, a mild-mannered school teacher, is drawn to the Tower of Babel by the grandiose promises of a guidebook. The ancient and immense Tower seems the perfect destination for a honeymoon. But soon after arriving, Senlin loses his young wife, Marya, in the crowd. 
Senlin’s search for Marya carries him through slums and theaters, prisons and ballrooms. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find Marya, Senlin will have to do more than survive. This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.
Find Senlin Ascends on: Facebook, Website and Goodreads

About Josiah:
I am a freelance writer, poet, and musician. My work has appeared in dozens of journals and magazines, including Slice Magazine, BOMB Magazine’s: Word Choice, Rattle, the Cimarron Review, the Cincinnati Review, and Gulf Coast. In 2010, my book of poems was a finalist for AWP’s Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. 

The poet Alberto Rios had this to say about my collection of poems, The Death of Giants:
"These are poems of constantly surprising adventures for the reader. The title poem sets the tone, marvelous in its pragmatism and equanimity, and the poems benefit from this start. Things happen, and things get done because of that, but what is so easily said is the precise source of wonder in these pieces, in that even the most complex and strange occurrences are simply dealt with."

And especially for you, here's a small excerpt from the beginning of Senlin Ascends!
The train came to a final stop though they saw no station outside their window. The conductor came by and told them that they’d have to disembark; the tracks were too clogged for the train to continue. No one seemed to think it unusual. After days of sitting and swaying on the rails, the prospect of a walk appealed to them both. Senlin gathered their two pieces of luggage: a stitched leather satchel for his effects, and for hers, a modest steamer trunk with large casters on one end and a push handle on the other. He insisted on managing them both.Before they left their car and while she tugged at the tops of her brown leather boots and smoothed her skirt, Senlin recited the three vital pieces of advice he’d gleaned from his copy of The Everyman’s Guide to the Tower of Babel. Firstly, keep your money close. (Before they’d departed, he’d had their local tailor sew secret pockets inside the waists of his pants and the hem of her skirt.) Secondly, don’t give in to beggars. (It only emboldens them.) And finally, keep your companions always in view.Senlin asked Marya to recite these points as they bustled down the gold-carpeted hall connecting train cars. She obliged, though with some humor.“Rule four: don’t kiss the camels,” she said.“That is not rule four.”“Tell that to the camels!” she said, her gait bouncing. And yet neither of them was prepared for the scene that met them as they descended the train’s steps. 
What do you think? Does Senlin Ascends sound like your kind of book?

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Major Spotlight: Four posts from Authors Large and Small #3

The Stranger's EnigmaThis is the third out of five spotlight posts for Authors Large and Small. They have been showing off some amazing books, covering a lot of different genres. 

Louis Villalba's Stranger's Enigma 
A successful neurologist's bizarre dreams guide him through a series of personal and professional reversals. Convinced that the protagonist of his dreams holds the secret of eternal youth and joy, he decides to study him and unveil the enigma.
Links: Amazon, Author's Website, Goodreads

Scott Spade's Black's Beach Parallax

Black's Beach ParallaxA historical thriller set in the 1960s in San Diego. When Jack graduates from college he has no inkling of the strange events that will soon dominate his life. Fired from his job at Astro Dynamics, Jack turns to poker parlors to pay his bills. Jack's adventures span a curious spectrum of politics, life, love, and sex in the 1960s counterculture. Jack's close friend Gene takes a job with the mysterious organization Integrated Parallax Systems. When Gene and his boss, a shadowy figure known only as the Colonel, uncover top secret government programs, Jack's carefree life turns deadly. 
Links: Goodreads, Facebook and Amazon
Rebel Song (Rebel Song Book 1)
Amanda Clay's Rebel Song 

The once prosperous European kingdom of Arelanda has been plagued with poverty and corruption since the failed rebellion tore it apart. Now, rebels stir again in the capital’s underbelly, vowing to depose the monarchy and overturn the unjust government. Seventeen-year-old Rogan Elwood, son of a rebel leader executed for treason after the first rebellion, has borne a tainted legacy his entire life. As he is pulled deeper into conflict, Rogan must face his calling in the future of the rebel cause—waging his want for peace against his desire for vengeance.
Links: Author's Twitter, Goodreads and Amazon

Lynn Snyder's play collections 
Couples in Crisis, Politics and Corruption, and Social Order Upended
Lynn intends her plays to be just as enjoyable when read on paper as when seen live in the theater, to make her works accessible to those who don't live near or can't afford live plays. She writes with a gentle, life-affirming sarcasm, exploring human behavior, rules, customs and manners. And she enjoys conversing about and reading from her work.
Links: Couples in Crisis, Social Order Upended, Politics and Corruption 

I'm loving that Authors Large and Small also have playwrights in their selection. It's good when publishers have such a variety in their works.

Armchair BEA 2015: Book to Movie Adaptations

It's the last day of BEA! Why did this ABEA go so quickly? Time has genuinely flown and I feel like I haven't been able to visit as many new blogs as I would've liked, but I'm working on it! I love today's final topic, Book to Movie Adaptations!
What books do you want to be made into a movie or a television show? What are some of your favourites? We'll explore more about this topic, especially what works and what doesn't. Are there any upcoming shows or movies that you're excited for? What are your recommendations?
An adaptation I really want to see is a film for Carloz Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game! Crucially, however, I want them in Spanish, made by a Spanish director. Whenever I watch Spanish films, such as Pan's Labyrinth (I know that Guillermo is Mexican), I feel like there is a distinct "magical realism" touch about them and that's what I want from these adaptations. I don't want Hollywood to touch them and ruin them!

My favourite book adaptations are probably the The Lord of the Rings films and the Harry Potter films. Although they left brilliant bits of the books out and although they might not have been perfect for everyone, I felt like both adaptations really got to the core of the book. Naturally an adaptation isn't a "translation onto screen", so there will be aspects that won't make it. However, the beauty of both LotR and HP is that the directors really understood, I feel, the atmosphere and the emotions of the books.

I also really love the adaptation of Howl's Moving Castle by Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli! In the light of this year's theme, Diversity, I just loved the fact that an Asian studio made an anime film of a British book and, despite changing a lot, still stayed true to the magic of the book!

Also I am SO, I repeat SO, excited for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December! I know that's not exactly a book adaptation, but these films are steeped in mythology and therefore I feel like it sort of counts!

So, that was only a short post for today, but that leaves more time to really hop around and see some others! I want movie recommendations!!

Friday, 29 May 2015

Armchair BEA 2015: Character Chatter and Blogging Q&A

Third and penultimate day of Armchair BEA! Why does ABEA always go so fast? Who joined in on yesterday's Twitter Chat? It was a lot of fun! Today's themes are Character Chatter and Blogging Q&A!

Character Chatter
It's time to give your favourite characters some love! Characters are essential to a story, and they can make or break a book for some readers. Now's your chance to shine the spotlight on your favourite characters, or maybe your least favourite. Who's your favourite couple? What are the components of well written characters? What are your favourite or least favourite cliches associated with characters?
This question is very dangerous because there are so many characters which I absolutely love and everyone is always so passionate about their favourite characters as well! Hence, I won't be picking my least favourite ones! I think good characters can be quite hard to write, but on the other hand I feel like there are no rules for how to write them. Look at Tolkien, who's writing is, in some ways, very stylized but his characters are very well-formed. On the other hand there are authors who use first-person narratives to really get into a character's head.


My only pet peeve about characterization is when it's sacrificed for plot and cliches. I hate, utterly hate, modern love triangles because they don't work and often feel forces and ruin characterization. (I wrote a ranty post about this, in case you want to know why I dislike them.) Don't sacrifice your characters in order to fit into certain genres, please.

My favourite characters, of the top of my head, are:

  • Lizzie Bennet, Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen
  • Hermione Granger, the Harry Potter-series - J.K. Rowling
  •  Guðrún, Atlakviða - Unknown
  • Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Margarita, The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
  • Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë 
So, a lot of female characters there but that isn't really the problem. What is, however, is that they are all white and (mostly) European! This year's ABEA topic is Diversity and clearly much of what I have read hasn't been very diverse. It should have been and be easier for me to pick up literature from other countries and cultures!

Blogging QA
Blogging 101! All kinds of tips and tricks to get you started or keep you going. Talk about ARCs, reviewing in general, web design, etc. What blogging platform do you use? How do you network? What are some of your favourite web designs? Or maybe you want to talk about your own blogging journey, and how you got to where you are now. Either way, we want you to share your knowledge with the rest of the community.
I wouldn't exactly call myself knowledgeable but I will give this my best shot! Rather than talk you through my story, which is a bit boring, I'll just give some general tips which I wish I'd been told when I started blogging!

  • ARCs: Don't get too excited and over-request! I am terrible at restraining myself on Netgalley which means I'm always behind schedule. Don't do this to yourself!
  • Review requests: Only accept them if you really want to read the book. This sounds simple, but I often think it's rude to reject a request which means I end up with a book I don't have the time to read. It's better for you and the author if you only accept books you need to read! I tend to offer requests I refuse a Spotlight post, that way you help the author out without clogging up your schedule!
  • Pressure to review: I at times feel quite a lot of pressure to review at least three books a week or more and I simply can't do that if I'm also going to University and working. So my advice on this is to review at your own pace! Blogging should be fun, not add even more stress to your life!
  • Social media: Yesterday's topic was social media and I think it is a great help to getting your blog and your thoughts out there. However, it should be fun, not feel like a chore. If it makes you nervous, don't push yourself to be overly active until you're ready for it. 
  • Commenting: This is something I didn't start off doing, but it is definitely worth it. If you can, take out some time at least once a week to respond to the comments you have received and to visit some of your favourite blogs out there to comment on some of their posts. It's a great way to interact and to show other bloggers you appreciate them!
I think I will leave it at that because when it comes to web-design or to reviewing itself I think that it is all up to you! The thing I love so much about the book blogging community is that everyone reviews in their own way! Do you want to do your review all in gifs? Works for me! Do you want to do an in depth analysis of the main themes? I'm here for that! Same goes for web-design, although I do advise to not go too crazy because if I can't find my way around it I won't be able to follow or comment!

So, that's it for me today! No more advice from me and I'm sticking with these characters as well!

Friday Memes and Vonnegut's 'Bluebeard'

BluebeardI am incredibly busy with Armchair BEA at the moment but I didn't want to miss out on the Friday fun! These Friday memes are my favourite ones so here I am, doing my thing! However, I will only be doing two memes today!

This week I'll be using Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut. Once I finished all my coursework I got bored within three hours so I decided I was finally going to try and read all the books on my 100 Classics list! And Bluebeard is one of those.

Broad humor and bitter irony collide in this fictional autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, who, at age seventy-one, wants to be left alone on his Long Island estate with the secret he has locked inside his potato barn. But then a voluptuous young widow badgers Rabo into telling his life story—and Vonnegut in turn tells us the plain, heart-hammering truth about man’s careless fancy to create or destroy what he loves.
Book Beginnings and Friday 56 are hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader and Freda at Freda's Voice respectively.

BB:
'Having written "The End" to this story of my  life, I find it prudent to scamper back here to before the beginning, to my front door, so to speak, and to make this apology to arriving guests: "I promised you an autobiography, but something went wrong in the kitchen. It turns out to be a diary of this past troubled summer, too! We can always send out for pizzas if necessary. Come in, come in." p.1
I love Vonnegut's style, it's hilarious. And any author that is open to ordering pizza for dinner is a winner with me! Also, Vonnegut is very clever in how he addresses the reader and I simply can't wait to get cracking!

F56:
'I remember the afternoon I came home from school when I was about fifteen or so, and Father was sitting at the oilcloth-covered table in our little kitchen, with Marilee's letters in a stack before him. He had reread them all.' p.56
I am really curious to see how this situation has come about! Who is Marilee, why is she writing letters and to whom? To the 'I' or to the father? This is also the beginning of a chapter, so is this a new situation or is this something already explained? I'm curious!!

So, does Bluebeard sound like something you'd enjoy? And what are you reading at the moment?

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Armchair BEA 2015: Visual Expression and Social Media

Yesterday was the first day of this year's Armchair BEA and this year's topic is: Diversity. There are two topics for today and for once, I'm combining them into one post to make it easier for everyone.

Visual Expression
There are so many ways to tell stories. Whether it's comic books, graphic novels, visual novels, webcomics, etc. there are quite a lot of other mediums to tell a story. On this day, we will be talking about those books and formats that move beyond just words and use other ways to experience a story.
This is a great topic because it goes hand-in-hand with diversity. The 'novel' that we nowadays consider standard is an incredible Western thing! Although arguably the first novel was by Lady Murasaki, the author of The Tale of Genji, written in the early 11th century in Japan, it was popularized and developed in England the early 18th century. Story-telling isn't necessarily done through words on a page. It can be done through actual, verbal story-telling, through paintings or through music. I mean, don't you dare tell me that classical music, despite being instrumental, doesn't tell a story. Back to the original point, I love this topic because I can't wait to see which books and mediums everyone comes up with. I'm waiting to be inspired and have works recommended to me.

But before I move on, let me give you the special books I have read that gave me more:

  • Moth by Daniel Arenson - I can always rely on Daniel to write amazing books with beautiful world-building, but for Moth he went even further. On his website he has music, artwork, maps and an encyclopedia for this new world and it makes the reading so immersive!
  • Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. by Brian M. Bendis - this was one of the first comic-series that I picked up and I absolutely loved it. Most of the story's emotion and depth really came from the drawings by Alex Maleev and I really had to train myself to not just rush over them. This was really a new experience to me!
  • Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor - I'm not even quite sure what to qualify this as. Technically it is an audio podcast which has a huge number of episodes by now. However, it feels like so much more than that! Cecil Baldwin's voice is amazing and there is such a sense of atmosphere and story-telling to Welcome to Night Vale that I would recommend it to everyone! Also, talking about diversity, this pod cast IS IT!

Social Media
How do you use social media to expand your blogging/writing horizons? Social Media is all about networking and connections, and utilizing today's technology to the fullest. Make sure you mention your own social media pages. Do you have another blog, maybe a Tumblr? Have a Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook? Or maybe there's an underrated social media program that you like.
Ah social media, both the bane and the blessing of this current generation! I love using social media for a purpose, i.e. for promoting my blog, or for having fun, e.g. Tumblr is all the fun, but I try to not spend too much time on it. I completely fail at this when it comes to Tumblr, but oh well. Below are some of my social media accounts:

Would this be a good moment to mention my other blog? The Star Wars blog that I run with my father and sister? This blog is Clone Corridor and it's a Star Wars blog which I run with my father and sister. We also have social media ;)
Social media is an amazing way to connect with people from all across the world. Especially this last year or so I have noticed how Tumblr, I know, has made me a lot more aware of what is happening in America, for example. I knew about Ferguson and Baltimore before many of my friends. We also just had Eurovision and I loved seeing everyone really excited about it online!

Soo, have you read any comics or listened to audio podcasts? And are you a fan of social media or no?

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Armchair BEA 2015: Library Love


Library Love is the second topic of the first day of Armchair BEA 2015. In honour of this theme, I will be blogging from the library today, or at least for part of today!
Librarians are awesome. Not only are they helpful, they're very fun to talk to and give great recommendations. Show your library love, and the wonderful men and women that run it. Why is your library fantastic? Got any funny stories? Feature your library on your blog? Do an interview with a librarian?
I won't be doing an interview with a librarian because my library is a University library and all of the people here feel very senior and like they have too much to do for me to awkwardly shuffle up to them. They're all absolutely lovely though when I was freaking out in the last three years because I couldn't find a book that I thought was crucial to my essays.

Libraries and Me

Unfortunately I never really got into libraries when I was a teenager, but as a child I utterly loved them! I would go and browse the shelves for hours, or so it felt, and always left with at least three books! The old library at where I used to live in the Netherlands was the kind with shelves upon shelves and light that was both dim enough to be cosy but bright enough so you could find and read your books. Unfortunately I sort of lost touch with the library when I went to high school and started needing to own my own books. I didn't like sharing them with other people because I'm a book hoarder! (Confession time: who here religiously hoards books like you're Smaug and books are the Arkenstone?!)


University of Nottingham: Hallward Library

And then I came to University and realized that I wouldn't survive if I didn't go visit the library. And once I reentered the library (on the right) I was lost forever. I mean, shelves upon shelves of books which will not only help me get good grades but will also learn me things I'd never have thought of? Hell's to the Yeah!  So over the last three years I have spent a ridiculous amount of time here, both sweating blood and tears over essays and happily perusing and reading. The only downside is that there is no real Fiction-section. Of course it has the classics since I study English and it needs to stock our texts, but there are no modern or contemporary books that aren't academic. Hence, I have to get all of those online or from bookstores, not that this is much of a hardship.

The funniest thing that ever happened in Hallward was when I went there with one of my housemates, Molly. We were doing some serious and some not so serious studying and then she went to get a drink. After a few minutes I got a text from her asking me to covertly stand up so she could find me because she'd forgotten where we sat. Mind, we were surrounded by severely stressed students. So I, already trying to contain my laughter, stood up and apparently did so awkwardly because she had to hide behind a shelf laughing, drawing more attention to us. This went on for a good 10 minutes until we'd both calmed down enough to resume work. We ended up leaving early because everything was cracking us up and she kept sending me hilarious videos!


Next year I'll be moving on to St. Andrews in Scotland for an MLitt (a Masters programme) in Medieaval English (not a typo). Of course St. Andrews also has a library, actually, it has multiple ones and some are all fancy and old-looking which'll make me feel like I'm finally studying in Hogwarts! I can't wait to difgin to their archives and see what they've got!


Favourite Literary Library

I decided  to end this post by bringing it back to literature and emphasizing this year's BEA theme: diversity. My favourite library that I've ever read about is the one in Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Cemetery of Forgotten Books-series. I know that the Cemetery doesn't necessarily count as a library, but I'm just going to pretend that nobody knows that! What I love about this specific "libary" so much is that it seems so non-discriminating. If you think a book is worth saving or if a book is important to you, then it has deserved its spot there. There are no questions about language, gender or race of the author, time of writing, etc. Books are preserved there which have been important to people and I think that if publishing got back to that core then diversity would be a logical next step! 


People care a lot about books and about how they're represented in literature and if there was a move back to publishing, en masse, books for people to love and identify with rather than books for people to make money off, we may be able to solve some of these problems of representation. On that slightly, potentially, depressing note, I'm closing this post.

What is your favourite library? If you've put a Library Love or Introductions post up, leave a link in the comments so we can come visit!

Armchair BEA 2015: Introductions

I am so excited that Armchair BEA has started again! Last year was my first time and I just can't wait to get back into the fun of it. We're all starting with Introductions, hop over to Armchair BEA to check out the questions. And remember, only pick five questions to answer!

Tell us a bit about yourself: How long have you been blogging? Where are you from? How did you get into blogging?

I have been blogging for close to five years now, I think. I haven't been blogging full-time since I have also been going to school and just finished my Bacherlor's Degree (yaay me) so I haven't been able to focus completely on my blog. I started because my English teacher suggested we start a blog to write about our thoughts on the books we were reading, etc. I took her advice and went completely overboard with it and ended up with a proper book blog. I am originally from the Netherlands and Germany, but I lived in London when I started my blog. I have been in  Nottingham for the last three years at University and will move up to St. Andrews for my Masters in September!

Why do you love reading and blogging?

Reading is something I feel like I have always done. When I was too young to read my father used to read to me and since then books have always been a major part of my life. Blogging only came into it relatively late, considering, but I have absolutely grown to love it. It is amazing to have such a platform and community with which you can share your passion. Everyone in this blogosphere shares their communal passion for reading and that just makes it a very pleasant environment to be in. I feel like I can be as enthousiastic as I want to be without being judged.

What is your theme song?

Aah see, this is a difficult question. If my life was a movie it would be the strangest one ever because it moves from comedy to tragedy to road-movie to drama and back to comedy relatively quickly. So I'm going to pick a song which has been very important to me.



Yup, this song was pretty much a life-saver at times. I don't even care if it's a little bit cliche or not, I love this song and this woman. 

What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity is very important to me. Although I am about as white and European as you can get, I've always been friends with people from different cultures and countries and therefore hope that I am quite aware of how important diversity is. Within literature I think there should be space for everyone because books are such a good way for people to learn about things. Last week I read Girl at War which was about the Yugoslav War. Although I knew about it, it was amazing to learn about this time from someone from Bosnia who has a lot more knowledge about it than I do. That is what literature is for, to learn from others and to really sink into someone else's life experience. And that is why diversity is important as well because literature should be representative, not privileged. 

Take a picture of your bookshelf and share it with us! :) #ABEAShelfie

I haven't done a shelfie in aagees. I'm currently at university which means that many of my books aren't actually with me atm. I have decided to make a composite shelfie, i.e. take a picture of all my deposit spots and put them together.


Ok, so I get that the quality here is rather crap, but I hope you get the gist. As you can see I have two shelves up on the wall, a small bookcase on the floor and of course rows of books on my desk.

So, that was my introduction! Have you got your ABEA Introductions post up? Leave a link below so we can come round and visit :)

Major Spotlight: Four books from Authors Large and Small #2

It's a Nightmare (The Gold Stone Girl Book 1)It's time for another Spotlight with books from Authors Large and Small. Yesterday we had some amazing books already and the ones below feature some female authors as well.

Nicole Quinn's It's a Nightmare
The Gold Stone Girl is set a million years in the future. The planet Earth has reformed itself into the one-continent world of Blinkin. God and his devil have given way to a new polarity -- to the Night Mare and the Dream Weaver. But the Night Mare has co-opted her opposite, and she now rules the night and the day. 
Into this nightmare world, where human females are kept as cattle, and licensed as domestic pets -- inside the stone-system designed to prevent the enemy’s return -- Mina, a rogue DreamWeaver, is born in the Off-grid of Winkin City. She’s found inside the mossy womb of a willow tree, alongside lygaeids hibernating as larvae. Hers is a hero’s journey, as she lives the life of a human-breeder, who discovers that in order to survive, she must change everything. 
Link: Goodreads, Amazon, Book's website

Vicki Madden's The Book of Darkness 
The Book of Darkness follows Cora as she discovers her power of magyc. Soon, however, a mystical and powerful necklace turns her attentions to darke magyc. Her friends on both sides-good and evil-work and fight to sway her and her powerful magyc to either side.
Jordan Acker's The Shadows 
The ShadowsThousands of years in the future, after the destruction of Earth, humans disperse throughout a variety of alien civilizations. The corrupt Balithian government wages a genocidal war against Earth's descendants and their allies. Finally humans defeat the Balithians, but ten years into a fragile peace, an assassin known only as "Red Blaze" jumps onto the scene and tries to kill a popular politician. With little information to go by, a team of agents from across the galaxy go on an epic journey to look for this villain. The Shadows tells the story of this group's adventures. Can they find the murderer in time to prevent a return to deadly armed conflict?

Karolina Simos' Ambrosia Chronicles 
When Alex is reunited with her high school crush, Ian, she discovers that he is part of a suspicious organisation that she herself becomes involved with. Suddenly entrusted with a heavily sought-after little pouch, she must go on the run. Alex must let go of the frustrations of ignorance at her new circumstances with the knowledge that the less she knows the safer she'll be, while she relies on the protection of her arrogant and mysterious rescuer in order to reach the organisation's headquarters in one piece. Fantasy trilogy based on Greek mythology.
Links: Facebook 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Review: 'Equus' by Peter Shaffer

This play has been on my radar for a long time and yet I have always been slightly hesitant about picking it up. The subject matter is both intriguing and off-putting and reading a play rather than seeing it is always a matter of contention as well. In the end, destiny chose for me and quite literally dropped a copy of Equus in my lap. This play is on my 100 Classics list for Out Classics Club.

Original Premiere Date: 1973
Publisher: Longman Literature
When a deranged boy, Alan Strang, blinds six horses with a metal spike he is sentenced to psychiatric treatment. Dr. Dysart is the man given the task of uncovering what happened the night Strang committed his crime, but in doing so will open up his own wounds. For Dysart struggles to define sanity, and justify his marriage, his career, and his life of normality; ultimately he must ask himself: is it patient or psychiatrist whose life is being laid bare? The most shocking play of its day, "Equus" uses an act of violence to explore faith, insanity and how the materialism of modern life can destroy humanity's capacity for pain and passion
When Daniel Radcliffe starred in a staging of this play back in 2007, the press descended upon the fact that Harry Potter would be naked on stage. This play is about much more than a horse and a naked disturbed young man and it is a shame that this was completely missed, although there is always the hope that the media attention will have interested other people into picking up the play as well. At the centre of the story is not Alan Strang, but rather Dr. Dysart and his profession as a psychiatrist. Because the play isn't structured chronologically, in the sense that the whole is presented as some kind of flashback, there is a sense of detective mystery to it and to his investigation into Alan's mide. We know what happened and who did it, but why? As such, the audience, and in this case the reader, is constantly questioning and wondering alongside the characters.

It's always strange, reading a play. Shakespeare didn't write for the page, for example. The folios from which we have the plays were transcribed during performances. Playwrights write for the stage and therefore at times reading plays can be confusing. The stage directions can either make sense or be incredibly confusing because you can't see the stage. Realizing halfway through a play that the stage has two exits and that everything depended on where the characters exited is a sobering experience. Shaffer's directions are rather confusing at times, since the story of the play isn't linear and very much depends on staging. However, the occasional confusion is also elemental to the story since Shaffer's characters themselves are inherently confused. The human mind is a chaotic place and in many ways the audience is exploring the mind together with Dr. Dysart.

At the heart of Equus is the question of how primal humanity is at its core, which is presented through a number of different debates.An example is how Alan's parents seem to struggle with the nurture vs. nature question. Did Alan blind the horses because of their upbringing or was there always something "wrong" with him? The play is suffused with passion, whether it's in the way that the characters speak or in Alan's self-created theology around Equus. And yet it doesn't feel as if Shaffer is judging Alan's passion. Rather, throughout the whole of Equus Dr. Dysart works towards the conclusion that passion is an essential part of humanity. We lose ourselves in it, whether it's self-created, like Alan, or created by society, like his mother's devotion to Christianity. Shaffer questions a lot of different things in this play which makes reading it very intense at times.

I give this play...

4 Universes!

At times Equus is hard to follow and its reputation can be hard to overcome but sticking with it is incredibly rewarding. Shaffer demands much from his audience, but also gives a lot in return. After reading the play, I am convinced I need to see it staged so I will be keeping my eyes open for any stagings close to me. I don't recommend it to those with sensitive sensibilities, but for those willing to look past the initial strangeness, it's a must read!

Tuesday Intros and Teaser Tuesdays - 'Druidism' by Dudley Wright

I haven't done one of these in a few weeks now and I won't be able to drop by other blogs until after work. But then I will dedicate myself, promise! This week I will feature a book which I took out of my University library about a year and a half ago and haven't gotten around to reading yet. No one else has requested it though, so clearly I'm not taking it from anyone else. And now that University is ending I have to get onto it. The book I'm talking about is Druidism: the Ancient Faith of Britain by Dudley Wright. 

From the famous Coligny Calendar to the legendary mistletoe rite, to the magic of the Tuatha de Danann of Ireland and ancient "druidic" temples, Wright draws on comparative evidence from Gaul and beyond to give a detailed view of the ancient druids. First published in 1924, this Kindle edition includes the original plates and illustrations, and an extensive bibliography.
Tuesday Intros is hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea and Teaser Tuesdays is hosted over at A Daily Rhythm.

Intro:

'It is problematic whether the question, asked so frequently both in the past and the present, as to what period in the history of the world witnessed the foundation of Druidism, will ever be answered with definiteness. Some writers have maintained that it was a development or offshoot of the Egyptian religion and, along with Freemasonry, originated in the sublime teachings of Ptah, which, by some, are believed to have been brought out of Egypt by Moses. Faber, in his Pagan Idolatry, expressed the opinion that the Druidical Bards were probably the founders of Freemasonry; certainly members of the Craft will be able to tace many analogies and similarities between Druidic and Masonic ceremonial and practices, but the extent, if any, to which the one has been drawn from, or is dependent upon, the other, must be more or less a matter of speculation.' p.1
It's obvious that this book is from 1924 because those sentences last forever! However, this beginning does get to the core of what I find interesting about Druidism: how rooted it is in world culture. I want to know how it developed and what it inspired.


Teaser:
TeaserTuesdays2014e'The ceremony of initiation, so far as can be gathered from the records, was solemn and arduous. The candidate first took an oath not to reveal the mysteries into which he was about to be initiated.' p.61
I would love to be initiated into all the mysteries. Whenever I see a film about secret societies everything inevitably goes wrong and yet I still want to be a part of it. Anyways, I want to know more about these records  and these mysteries so I will definitely be starting this book soon!

So, what are you reading and teasing? Also, would you read about Druidism or is it not for you?

Monday, 25 May 2015

Major Spotlight: Four Books from Authors Large and Small #1

The Vale of Years: A Sequel to "A Portrait in Time"This week I have the honour of presenting you with not one, but four different books to rest your eyes on! And there will be more coming from Authors Large and Small, a literary publisher which is being kind enough to let me spotlight nineteen of their books in the next few weeks. So, let's get cracking!

Charles J. Schneider's The Vale of Years
Susanne Bruante awakens to find herself in an impossible place: the past. And not just any past, but the very time in 19th century Paris when her double, Nicole Bruante, had lived. That is, before Nicole exchanged places with Susanne and shot through a time-shell to the 21st century. And now everyone, even Nicole’s own mother, believes that Susanne is Nicole.
Continuing the intriguing time-travel story begun in A Portrait in Time, The Vale of Years follows Susanne as she faces a dilemma that soon becomes a challenge for the clever imposter. Somehow, the former Assistant Director of Acquisitions and Special Exhibits at the Musée d’Orsay must insinuate herself in the lives of famous painters of the time. By lying and deceit, she creates a clever scheme that will ensure she won’t just survive, but inherit a fortune from a painter she studied in her former life. 

Links
: Author's Website, Facebook, Goodreads and Barnes & Nobles.

Rocky Gregory's One Groovy Summer: A Summer Adventure from 1968


The critically acclaimed One Groovy Summer is a fun book about two young adults seeking fun and adventure the summer of 1968. It was the Sixties - the time of the Sexual Revolution and the Hippie Movement. Just out of high school, Will and Skip knew they could be drafted into the Vietnam War soon. So they were determined to make the most of their summer break, and they sure did. It was one groovy adventure full of action, romance,and comedy. Young Adults everywhere are enjoying it and telling their friends. So don't miss it.

Links: Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Website

My Razzle Dazzle: An Outsider's True Story
Todd Peterson's My Razzle Dazzle 

My Razzle Dazzle is an unforgettable trip of a lifetime. Beginning with a Wisconsin farm in the 1960s, Todd Peterson characterizes every outsider’s candid, moving, and often hilarious coming-out story that will take you apart and put you together again. His adventures are set against a backdrop of the cultural events of the sixties and seventies and a burgeoning gay Mecca that changed our world forever. Along this unusual journey Todd not only meets carnival freaks and murderers, but also lions, tigers and bears… oh my!
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook

Charles Schneider's Under the Forgotten Oak
Under The Forgotten Oak: Definitive Second EditionWhat if God is not at all what people envision? Imagine a powerful energy portal that stretches from one end of the galaxy to another, the sustaining reservoir of life for Earth as well as a connected sister world where the ancient deities actually live and breath. What if Satan is actually a renegade thread of this interplanetary gateway; and the future of two worlds, and three dimensions, rests entirely on one single human being's actions? 
When Lan MacCamhail unexpectedly inherits an estate and a multi-million dollar legacy overseas, he hopes this stroke of good fortune will give him the chance to make a fresh start in Ireland. The terms of the mysterious bequeathal, however, require that he must find an enigmatic amulet before he can claim his rightful inheritance. Based loosely on the Celtic legend of Oisin and Niamh, Lan's saga, mirrored by his father's strangely similar story from three decades earlier, takes a sinister turn when dark forces intervene. 
Link: Goodreads, Amazon, Author's Facebook

Don't all of these books sound amazing? Check back soon to see what else Authors Large and Small has to offer you.