Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher (Shakespeare’s Star Wars #1)

HARDCOVER; 174 P.
QUIRK BOOKS, 2013
SOURCE: FROM THE PUBLISHER

Inspired by one of the greatest creative minds in the English language—and William Shakespeare—here is an officially licensed retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearsome Stormtroopers, signifying…pretty much everything.

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter—and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations—William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.

Alas, what a book! Ever since I first heard someone talk about this book, I’ve marked it as one of those which I want to read. I thought the idea sounded very interesting, and though I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, I thought I would enjoy this. Thus when Quirk Books was looking for book bloggers to review the series, I thought: “Why not?”

To begin, I’ll recap the plot to those who (like me) are not familiar with the storyline of Star Wars. Verily, A New Hope is based on the movie Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). The story begins when a space station is attacked by the Empire, and Princess Leia is taken into custody. The Princess is one of the leaders in a revolution against the cruel Empire. However, two droids escape the space station and land to a planet Tatooine, where they meet Luke, a young farm boy who dreams of adventures. Luke sets to help these droids to find a man named Obi-Wan Kenobi, and upon meeting him hears that his destiny is tied to this strange man.

Verily, A New Hope is science fiction written in Shakespearean language. The book is written in iambic pentameter with a lot of references to Shakespeare’s own works, such as Hamlet (see quote below). Along the text are beautiful illustrations of the characters as well as some of the scenes. Science fiction is a genre that I’ve read very little and find hard to get into. This also goes for movies, and the only Star Wars movie I’ve ever seen is Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999). I know these movies (especially the early series 4-6) are cult classics, and referenced often in popular culture. In fact, reading the book inspired me to plan a Star Wars movie marathon once I’ve read the next books in the series, The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return (out in July). Call it edutainment.

What I loved in Verily, A New Hope was the language, puns and all the Shakespeare references. (Side note: A study guide explaining these references can be found on Quirk Books website.) The movie has been adapted into a play, with only little description of surroundings and a chorus narration. Although this works well for most of the story, there are some scenes which are hard to grasp without previous knowledge of the story. For example, building the tension fell flat in some scenes and especially with “gibberish languages” it was hard to figure out whether the character was playful, sad or furious. Putting that aside, I must praise the effort that Doescher has put into transforming the story into its Shakespearean form.

Overall, Verily, A New Hope was a very enjoyable read. A must read for fans of the series, but recommendable also to others who are interested in reading how science fiction would have been written by the greatest writer of the English language. I have the next episode sitting on my bookshelves, waiting for me to continue the journey.

4/5

Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not,
yet have I taken both uniform and life
From thee. What manner of a man wert thou?
A man of inf’nite jest or cruelty?
A man with helpmate and with children too?
A man who hath his Empire serv’d with pride?
A man, perhaps, who wish’d for perfect peace?
What’er thou wert, goodman, thy pardon grant
Unto the one who took thy place: e’en me.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

My review of The Empire Striketh Back (#2), The Jedi Doth Return (#3) AND The Phantom of Menace (#4).

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Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

PAPERBACK; 369 P.
TRANS. JAANA KAPARI-JATTA
OTAVA, 2011/1890
SOURCE: FROM A BOOKSWAP

From Goodreads:

Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life; indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was a succes de scandale. Early readers were shocked by its hints at unspeakable sins, and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895.

To live a life of pleasure without taking responsibilities. Seduced by his own looks and youth, Dorian Gray unknowningly makes a pact that lets him stay young whilst his portrait carries the burden of age. As his friends invite him to explore the seduction of senses, Dorian Gray disregards all sense of proportion and immerses himself to all kinds of pleasures. However, the transforming portrait still haunts him. While he stays forever young, the portrait reveals the state of his rotting soul.

From the very beginning of The Picture of Dorian Gray, I was torn between liking and disliking the main character. At times I felt for him, wanting things to get better, but on others I despised his selfishness. It’s no wonder that the duality of his persona and the deeds hinted at the book raised an uproar in 1890. Although the book does not completely deny the religious values, it’s moral is questionable. However, I think it’s the contrast of  morals and sin as well as the seduction of language that has made this book a much loved classic. 

The Picture of Dorian Gray turned out to be a very interesting classic. It explores the elements of purity and sin as well as our perception on truth. Do our actions transform us or just our soul? Can these two be separated? Oscar Wilde’s writing is flawless and kept me reading page after page. The Finnish translation was well-executed, fluent and easy to read. However, I do hope to read this book also in English during the summer just to get a better sense of Wilde’s writing. All in all, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a gripping and suspenseful story with a thoughtful take on the concept of good and bad. I’d definitely recommend you all to read it. 

5/5

–What are you?
-To define is to limit.

Review: This is the Water by Yannick Murphy

E-BOOK; 288 P.
HARPER PERENNIAL, 2014
SOURCE: FROM THE PUBLISHER

This is a novel about a woman. About a mother. About a marriage. 

About a murder.

In the brightly lit public pool the killer swims and watches. Amongst the mothers cheering on their swim team daughters is Annie. Watching her two girls race, she’s thinking of other things. Her husband’s emotional distance. Her lost brother. The man she’s drawn to.

Then she learns a terrible secret. Now her everyday cares and concerns seem meaningless. Annie knows she has to act. Above all, she must protect her children. 

This is the Water is a book that surprised me. When requesting a copy for review, I thought it would be a typical crime novel about catching the killer. However, the book turned out to be so much more. This is the Water opens up its characters to the bone, revealing the gritty reality. It is a book about relationships, trust, adultery, and fear.

This is the story. It follows a New England swim team wherein both parents and swimmers try to find themselves. It follows a killer set on killing again, a marriage that is struggling, a swimmer wanting to improve her time, a sister who cannot forget the suicide of her brother. This is the Water follows several characters, but in the center is Annie, a fourty-something mother, who is loosing her energy to go on. She feels a distance has grown between herself and her husband, and finds more connection with Paul, another swim parent. However, Paul’s life is also a struggle, and as he spends more and more time at the office, his wife suspect that he’s cheating on her.  When one of the swimmers in the team is suddenly murdered, everyone has to come to terms with their past, and it seems that everyone carries a secret.

This is the writing. One thing that sets Murphy’s novel apart from others is her style of writing. Murphy uses the title phrasing, “This is the …”, several times in her novel to mark the change of perspective, to describe the surroundings or to introduce a new character. I enjoyed this very much as it gave also minor characters a voice – even the water in the swimming pool has something to say. Another memorable feature is her use of questions that reveal the inner thoughts of the main character. It works almost as a stream of consciousness, and reveals the confusion that inside our heads. This can, however, be tiring to read, especially if you’re not connecting with the character.

This is the format. This was my first time reading an e-book, and I did struggle with the new format especially in the beginning. It was hard to focus on the mood of the book, or find a good reading place since the book was on my laptop. However, it was a learning process and towards the end, I didn’t even think it any different from other reading forms. Once I was hooked on the story, the surrounding didn’t matter anymore. Nevertheless, I’m not entirely convinced of the suitability of e-books for reading from a laptop. Because I use most of my working hours on my laptop, I like to switch off in the evening by grabbing a book and curling to a chair with it. With an e-book, I found it harder to switch off, and kept checking emails, etc. when I was supposed to read. Nevertheless, I believe that I would not have had this problem if I owned an e-reader.

This is the Water is released on July 29, 2014.

4/5

This is Thomas the next morning saying, listen to this. This is you wanting to put your hands over your ears, because you are not in the mood to listen to observations about the decline of civilization or how Alzheimer’s is transmittable or how some people have more chimpanzee DNA than others.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

March-May Book Haul

Hello book lovers!

I was browsing through my blog, looking for ideas for a new blog post and realised that I haven’t done a book haul in months. My original plan was to do a March-April book haul similar to my January-February one, but due to stress and the fact that I really hadn’t bought any books in the past months, I decided against it. However, as of late there have been new additions to my library: some from flea markets, some sent for review and some that were found from my boyfriend’s bookshelves at his parents.

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First are the two second hand books that I’ve acquired. The one on the left is the Finnish translation of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I actually bought this just a few days ago from a flea market and it cost me only a euro. Khaled Hosseini is a well know author also here in Finland and The Kite Runner is his debut novel. I’ve seen his other works in book shops and they have all received great reviews so I think it’s time that I also catch up on this. The book has also been adapted into screen and I believe my copy is the movie tie-in.

Next is another Finnish translation – The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I’ve already mentioned this book on my April Reads and May Plans post, but just to recap, I got this book from a book swap event that I went to in April. I have never read anything by Oscar Wilde, which is a shame because I’ve heard that his books are wonderful. I was bit hesitant to pick the translated version because the brilliance in the use of language is sometimes lost in the translation process. However, I feel confident about this one because it is done by one of my favourite literary translators, Jaana Kapari-Jatta.

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Sometime in April, I saw Quirk Books tweet that they were sending copies to book bloggers who were interested in reviewing Ian Doescher’s The Shakespeare’s Star Wars series. I naturally jumped at the opportunity because I’ve been wanting to read both The Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope as well as The Empire Striketh Back  for ages, but alas, they have not reached my corner of the world. I sent an email to Quirk Books and they replied that they’d be happy to send these books to me in exchange for a review. The delivery of the books took over 3 weeks, but it does not matter since these books are simply gorgeous. I can’t wait to delve into these!

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And last but not least, Ich bin kein Berliner – Ein Reiseführer für faule Touristen by Wladimir Kaminer. The title translates to I’m not a Berliner – a travel guide for lazy tourists  and it was found from my boyfriend’s bookshelves when we visited his parents in the beginning of this month. The book is essentially a travel guide to Berlin, although not the typical kind. It is written by a writer and television presenter Wladimir Kaminer, who was born in USSR and moved to Berlin in 1990, and has thus seen how the city has developed since then. This book could not have had a better timing, as we are heading to Berlin later this month and could use some ideas on what to do and see there.

That was all for now. I might buy a book or two when in Berlin, but those will be included in the next haul. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them. Have a great weekend! x

Review: Sculptor’s Daughter by Tove Jansson

PAPERBACK; 117 P.
TRANS. KRISTIINA KIVIVUORI
WSOY, 2014/1968
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

Tove Jansson’s first book for adults was a memoir, capturing afresh the enchantments and fears of her Helsinki childhood. Restored to its original form, Sculptor’s Daughter gives us a glimpse of the mysteries of winter ice, the bonhomie of balalaika parties, and the vastness of Christmas viewed from beneath the tree.

As part of my 2014 resolution to read at least 4 adult books written by Tove Jansson, I picked up her novel, Sculptor’s Daughter, which is a highly biographical collection of short stories. The narrator in these stories is a young girl, presumably Tove herself, and feature several characters in passing. The stories include scenes of everyday life, such playing games with friends, making adventurous journeys, spending time with busy parents, and so on. The vivid imagination of a child is well expressed in the book and reading these short stories felt like I was going through my own memories from childhood. For example the story of ice skating outside, with the darkness that surrounds the rink and the dark ice, I could sense the mixed feelings of both terror and excitement.

The language and writing style are charming, and the stories heart warming. Jansson immerses herself into the world of a child, and it is easy to see why she begun to write children’s fiction. In fact, there were several scenes that reminded me of similar scenes or places in the Moomin books. Sculptor’s Daughter was published when Jansson was already well known for her Moomin books, and it was her first attempt to branch out of the box of writing only ‘Moomin fiction’. The atmosphere of the book is similar to that of the Moomin books, but the stories feature also the negative feelings, jealousy and disappointments that are part of growing up.

Nevertheless, I did not find Sculptor’s Daughter as enchanting as The Summer Book. Although all of the stories were beautifully written, I found some to lack certain depth or insight that was found in the previous book. However, Sculptor’s Daughter is a great adult novel debut, and a good introduction to Jansson’s style of writing. I’d recommend it especially to fans of the Moomin books.

3.5/5

tove100

April Reads and May Plans

April. Also known as The Month of Reading A Clash Of Kings. Besides studying, meetings, dissertation writing, and editing for a magazine, there was not much time left for reading. I read 3 books in April which is a bit sad, but that’s life. I knew I would be busy with other things, so my main goal was to simply finish reading ACoK. Nevertheless, I enjoyed all of my reads this month. Siddharta was refreshing and thought-provoking, A Clash of Kings had mystery, murder and action, and Sculptor’s Daughter was a childhood memoir filled with description of everyday life and coloured by the vivid imagination of a child.

Books read in March:

The two books that I’m currently reading are both from my April TBR. This is the Water is an ARC, and so far I like Murphy’s writing style very much. However, I’ve never read an e-book and since it’s tied to my laptop, the reading experience is a bit strange – when reading from the screen, I tend to browse instead of reading every word. Nevertheless, I’m beginning to get used to the different form and hopefully I’ll get time to finish this book soon.

The other book that I’m reading is Round Ireland with a Fridge which is a true story about a bet and a young British comedian who decides to hitchhike round the coast of Ireland in 30 days – with a fridge, of course. The writing is clever and funny, filled with small anecdotes and funny stories making this book a pleasure to read. Once I have more time to read, I’ll probably finish this book quite quickly.

Books I plan to read in May:

  • Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks (currently-reading)
  • This is the Water by Yannick Murphy (currently-reading)
  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Despite not having much time for bookish things, I did manage to squeeze in a quick trip to the library and a book swap event in April. The library visit brought to my nightstand The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides – a book that I have heard nothing but good things about. In the middle of the month, one of the societies at the university organised a book swap event where you could exchange your old book to another. I love these type of events because, besides getting new books almost for free, you get to meet other readers and discuss about their thoughts on the books that they have brought. In the end, I adopted a translated copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. The translation is a fairly recent one and done by one of my favourite Finnish translators, so I’m really looking forward to reading this classic in May.

At the moment, I’m not feeling very competitive, so I’ll keep my May TBR short. Should I have more time for reading, I’ll visit the local library and then do a quick library haul post to show what I got. I hope you all had a great April and read some good books!