Review: William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher (Shakespeare’s Star Wars #3)

HARDCOVER; 168 P.
QUIRK BOOKS, 2014
SOURCE: FROM THE PUBLISHER

The epic trilogy that began with William Shakespeare’s Star Wars and continued with The Empire Striketh Back concludes herein with the all-new all-iambic The Jedi Doth Return – perchance the greatest adventure of them all.

Prithee, attend the tale so far: Hans Solo entombed in carbonite, the princess taken captive, the Rebel Alliance besieged, and Jabbe the Hutt engorged. Alack! Now Luke Skywalker and his Rebel band must seek fresh allies in their quest to thwart construction of a new Imperial Death Star. But whom can they trust to fight by their side in the great battle to come? Cry “Ewok” and let slip the dogs of war!

Frozen heroes! Furry creatures! Family secrets revealed! And a lightsaber duel to decide the fate of the Empire. In troth, William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return has it all!

This is the third book in William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series. To read my review on the first book, Verily, A New Hope, click here and the second book, The Empire Striketh Back, here.

Excitement is gathering as we face the final book in the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars trilogy. By now this intergalactic battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire has seen many victories, losses and chance escapes, and it is finally time for the epic finale. And to be sure, I was excited for this book. This book series has made me re-think my stand to science fiction, and though I’m still not fully won over, I’m eager to watch the Star Wars movies.

The Jedi Doth Return follows the plot of Episode VI – Return of the Jedi where the band of rebels fly to rescue one of their friends from the arms of Jabba the Hutt. With this mission, new secrets are revealed and the blueprints for the final battle are prepared. The story includes a mixture of suspense, secrets, plotting, family relationships, and humour. The illustrations fill in on the description of all the creatures and new characters, and Doescher has again delivers writing that cleverly incorporates some of the famous passages of Shakespeare’s work. (For more, see the study guide on Quirk Books website.)

Although the plot line and its twists have been referenced several times in popular culture, I did not know how the ending would wrap up. Thus the book still held some elements of mystery, which I enjoyed. However, as a whole The Jedi Doth Return was probably my least favourite of the trilogy. I believe that the book stays very loyal to the movie, but in my opinion there are scenes that do not translate well to paper. This is often a problem with plays, as you cannot really describe silent scenes and the action scenes often seem a bit redundant. The overall feeling of this book is more science fiction than Shakespeare, although many of the themes echo the Shakespearean tragedies.

As a whole, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is an interesting take on the famous movie saga. One of the inspirations for Ian Doescher was Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a book that draws parallels between the traditional hero stories in the world – using Shakespeare as an example. In fact, the director of Star Wars saga, George Lucas applied this theory when he was writing Star Wars and it was interesting to see how all the phases appeared in the book adaptations. I highly recommend Campbell’s book – as an avid reader and lover of all stories, it really opened my eyes to structures and themes employed in storytelling. But not to digress to far from the original topic, The Jedi Doth Return is a must read for the fans of Star Wars, but also recommendable to those who are interested in Shakespeare.

The Jedi Doth Return is released on July 1st, 2014.

3.5/5

Until that day I shall be on the scene,
To play my part as pilot: faithful, true,
Committed to the play that doth play out,
Determined to help write our final act –
To lift our noble cause e’en by a Wedge.

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

My review of Verily, A New Hope (#1), The Empire Striketh Back (#2) AND The Phantom of Menace (#4).

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Tove100 Update

tove100 In the beginning of this year I stated that besides reading 50 books in 2014, I’ll try to read at least 4 adult books written by Tove Jansson. 2014 marks the 100th year anniversary of this Finnish-Swedish author and artist, and many bloggers have been celebrating this through reading her books and visiting exhibitions.  Looking back at this post, I’m currently half-way through the challenge. I’ve read two short story collections by Tove Jansson: The Summer Book and Sculptor’s Daughter, and I have one book ready for July.

So far the challenge has been great: I’m in schedule, I’ve enjoyed reading Jansson’s work and I want to read more. I adored The Summer Book, and I believe it will be a book that I’ll keep re-reading indefinitely. Sculptor’s Daughter didn’t quite live up to the expectation, but for a debut novel it is a solid short story collection. I recently noticed that I’ve read mostly books from her post-Moomin era, so for the last two books, I hope to go further and see how her style has developed and if there are changes.

Anyways, this was just a short update on my year-long reading project. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any Tove Jansson this year and what you thought of it! Also, check out the official Tove100 website for more info about the author and some cool events that are happening around the globe.

Cheers! x

Review: As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka (Snow White, #1)

HARDCOVER; 256 P.
TAMMI, 2013
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

Seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson is hardly your average teenager. She lives by herself in the city of Tampere, Finland, and has a firm rule to mind nobody’s business but her own. But that rule is put to the test when she happens upon five hundred washed euro notes hanging up to dry in her school’s darkroom, and it is shattered once Lumikki realises who owns them.

Caught in an increasingly tangled web of deception, corruption and danger, Lumikki finds herself navigating the Tampere’s dark underbelly in the search to expose its shocking connection to the international drugs trade. Lumikki is smart, but is she smarter than a master criminal? Can she bring down the infamous ‘Polar Bear’ – or will she become another one of his victims?

Salla Simukka is a proficient Finnish YA author, and over the years I’ve read a few of her books. As of late, her Snow White trilogy has gained a lot of praise among Finnish book bloggers and its publishing rights have been sold to over 40 countries. As the third and final book was published in the spring, my interest was peaked and during my latest library visit, I checked out the first book in the trilogy.

Lumikki Andersson is not like everyone. To begin with, her name is Lumikki (Snow White in English). She is a 17-year-old Finnish-Swedish student in an elite high school for arts. Instead of falling into one of the social cliques in the school, she prefers to watch from the sides. Describing herself as the secret love child of Lisbeth Salander and Hercule Poirot, Lumikki examines her surroundings and tries not to get involved with other people. Her cold attitude is explained by her past as victim of bullying, and when she first encounters the blood soaked notes on the school grounds, all she wants to do is turn back and walk away.

Simukka’s writing is clever, insightful and she uses language to her advantage, placing small clues without giving it all away. The UK publishing house, Hot Key Books, has published a small chapter sample of the book here, but to be honest, I’m not completely satisfied with the translation. I think the style of the English text is not fluent and that the intensity of Simukka’s writing is missing. However, it is hard to judge a book based on few chapters, so I’d still give the English version a chance. The English translation is done by Owen Witesman. The title of the book refers to the Brother Grimms’ fairy tale of Snow White – lips, red as blood – and the hardcover edition that I read also had blood red coloured edges.

As Red As Blood is a YA crime/mystery novel with an interesting female protagonist that does not fall to the typical Mary Sue mold. Although I struggled to connect with the main character at first, the story hooked me soon enough and I could not put the book down. The fast-paced plot keeps the suspense tangible and if only I had the second book with me, I would have moved straight to it. One aspect that I enjoyed in the book was the setting of the book in my hometown, Tampere. In my eyes, this gave the story some credibility as I was able to picture the already familiar scenery. In addition, it’s fun to read about places that you know and how other people perceive them.

Overall As Red As Blood is a terrific YA book and though it does have its faults, it is very entertaining. I will definitely continue with the series and recommend that you check it out once the English translation is released on August 7th, 2014.

4.5/5

My review of As White As Snow (#2) and As Black As Ebony (#3)

Blogistania 24-h readathon

Last summer, the Finnish book blogging community hosted a few 24-h readathons where the objective is simply to read as much as you can in 24 hours. Back then I wasn’t yet into blogging, so this will be my first time taking part in a readathon that is this short. The actual event is scheduled for the June 19th, but the rules state that you can already begin on Wednesday or continue reading to Friday – as long as you stay within the 24 hour limit. And since I’ve already made plans that include a full day of travelling in a car on Thursday, I was a bit skeptical about participating. I get car sick easily, so reading in a car is not an option. However, the excitement around the readathon was so contagious that I could not resist.

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My reading plan is to start the marathon on Wednesday 18th of June at 6 p.m. I will try to tackle as much as I can of Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (I’m still a bit behind…) on Wednesday, and to balance that, I have As Red As Blood, a Finnish YA mystery book by author Salla Simukka. For Thursday, I’ve downloaded the audio of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, read by Selma Blair. The audio is about 10 hours long, so I probably won’t finish it during the marathon but I’ll try listen a fair share of it.

I will post updates throughout the 24 hours and document my stats as well as initial thoughts on what I’m reading

6:00 PM – Getting started
The day’s work is done, so it’s time to brew a cup of tea and get started. Starting the readathon, I’m on page 128 in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

8:20 PM – First pages
Pages read: 32
Thoughts: Now that the ship has set sail, the first, second and third mates are introduced. And then, the long awaited appearance of captain Ahab. Don’t know yet what to think of him. Surprisingly, I loved the Cetology chapter – I though it was fascinating how the narrator describes all the different whales and their nature.

10:38 PM – One milestone reached
Pages read: 59
Thoughts: The quest of Ahab is revealed – to hunt down the white whale, Moby-Dick. I’ve now reached the week 2 page count of Moby-Dick read-a-long, so I think it’s a good point to stop for the day. Moby-Dick isn’t really the fastest book to read, and too heavy for a readathon such as this. Starting As Red As Blood next.

12:20 AM – Turning in
Pages read: 117
Thoughts: Simukka’s book is cleverly written, and her protagonist an interesting mixture of features. The occasional references to different locations in my hometown make this a compelling read.

08:31 AM – Day Two
Good morning to all! I have gathered some breakfast and a big cup of coffee, so here begins the second day in this 24-h readathon. I’ve approx. 3.5 hours before the car journey starts, so I better make the best of it!

10:42 AM – Hook, line, sinker
Pages read: 218
Thoughts: I’m hooked. Lumikki Andersson is one of the most refreshing main characters I’ve read in a while. The mystery is dangerously addicting, and oooh… I have to read more.

11:51 AM – On the Road
Pages read: 250
Thoughts: OK, time to pack my bags to the car and hit the road. Unfortunately the mystery of the Polar Bear won’t be solved until after I reach my destination later today. I’m going to take a short break to clear my head before starting the audio of The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank. I think I read this book ages ago, but I feel its time to refresh my memory. I’ll try to give an update before 6 PM, but can’t promise anything.

3:50 PM – Coffee break
Pages read: 250
Audio listened: 2h 16 min
Thoughts: We paused for a coffee break, so I have a moment to write an update. I’ve now listened a bit over 2 hours of The Diary of A Young Girl. Selma Blair is pleasant to listen to, and so far I’m pleased with my choice for audio book. Only 2 hours left!

Final page count: 250 + 3h 29min audio
Thoughts: I stopped the audio at 6 PM, recorded the time and continued to listening for one more hour. Although I did not finish any of the books I read, the total page count is about as long as a short book. It was definitely worth it to participate in this readathon and try to read around the clock. Before going to bed, I’ll finish the last 50 pages of As Red As Blood.

Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

HARDCOVER; 183 P.
BUCCANEER BOOKS, 2000/1939
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

From Goodreads:

First, there were ten; a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal; and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

Agatha Christie is often referred as the Queen of Crime, and I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Back in upper secondary, I perused a lot of her novels and fell in love with the manner that she could spin a story and think of the most unexpected things. I went through all the Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot books, as well as few others, but for some reason never picked up her most famous novel, And Then There Were None.

As the blurb in the beginning says, And Then There Were None introduces ten characters who are all invited to the mysterious Indian Island in Devon. The characters are completely unaware of each other until they all meet on the shore, waiting to be taken to the island. Once on the island, they hear that their hosts have not yet arrived and that they will appear later. That evening, a record is played that accuses each one of the guests of a past crime and at the end of the evening, one falls down – dead.

The mystery and suspense of And Then There Were None is built around an old nursery rhyme called Ten Little Indians. However, the original title of the book and the nursery rhyme contained a rather controversial n-word, which is why the U.S. publishers decided to change the title to the last line of the rhyme. In fact, in today’s editions the word is replaced with either Indian or soldier, depending on the edition. Thus the name of the island, the little figurines and other instances have all been changed. Despite the controversy, the book is a masterful work. It provides an interesting study of the characters and how they deal with the situation. The focus of the narration switches between the characters in each chapter, showing the growing suspicion, fear and train of thought that they go through.

And Then There Were None is like an intricately constructed spider web that slowly draws you in to the point were you can’t turn back. As much of the story revolves around the psychology of the remote island, the book could also be considered as a psychological thriller that keeps its readers on their toes until the last page. For me it became my instant favourite of Christie’s work, but I do understand that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Nevertheless, I do highly recommend it, especially if you’re not sure which Agatha Christie novel to start with.

5/5

Best of an island is once you get there – you can’t go any farther…you’ve come to the end of things…

World Cup of Literature

Hi guys!

 ©Penguin Publishing

This is a completely unplanned, spur of the moment post so bare with me, okay? As most of you know, today is the beginning of the 2014 World Cup. I am not a huge fan of football/soccer, so nothing special there. However, I saw Penguin tweet that they had set up a Penguin Cup where “16 of the world’s literary giant battle it out for supremacy”. To put it in a nutshell, they have formed national teams out of famous authors.

For example England’s team has Agatha Christie, J.K. Rowling and George Orwell up front, whereas Germany has Nietsche, Kafka and Marx. It’s all quite hilarious, and I thought I’d share it with you since it me at least me smile. In addition, it is also interesting to see the line up for non-European countries, because I know less about their literary traditions. For me, Brazil, Colombia and Australia feature a lot of names that I haven’t heard, which is great because it helps me to discover new authors!

I hope you check it out, and enjoy it as much as I did! Also, let me know in the comments which is your favourite team! (Mine’s England, no surprise.)

Cheers! x

Review: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

PAPERBACK; 249 P.
BLOOMSBURY, 2011/1993
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

From Goodreads:

The shocking thing about the five Lisbon sisters was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters’ breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear.

The Virgin Suicides is Jeffrey Eugenides’ debut novel and has been famously adapted into a film directed by Sofia Coppola. The story takes place in a nice suburban neighbourhood in Michigan in the 1970s, and is narrated by a group of anonymous boys who admire the Lisbon sisters. The five Lisbon sister are quite normal, but in the eyes of the teenage boys they appear as ethereal, mysterious beauties. However, the story is told from 20 years after as the boys (now middle-aged men) are still trying to piece together the puzzle of the suicides. The story is, in fact, as much about the boys as it is about the five Lisbon sisters: Lux, Cecilia, Mary, Therese and Bonnie.

The first thing that you notice in The Virgin Suicides is how beautifully it is written – the language is simply stunning. It is like a fading photograph, fighting against the time to relive the moment over and over again. The beauty of the writing presents a strong contrast to the serious topic of suicide. In fact, in the beginning of the book I was slightly hesitant because I feared that it might end up glorifying suicide (which it didn’t!). The fate of the sisters is revealed already in the beginning, and this foreshadowing of the future events actually reminded me of The Book Thief. Hence, the focus of the story is not so much on the ‘what’ but on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the event. I found this aspect of the story very interesting as it explored also the wider impact of suicide in small communities.

As the story is narrated 20 years after, it offers also snippets of information that the boys have gained in later years in their search for the truth about the Lisbon sisters. There are interviews with the neighbours, teachers, doctors and school friends, that all contribute to the picture of the time period. All in all,The Virgin Suicides presents a story about growing up, with all its joys and sorrows. In addition, it explores the small community and how a neighbourhood reacts to the decay of one family. I heartily recommend this book to all the readers who love beautifully written books and stories that matter.

4/5

We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.

Review: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher (Shakespeare’s Star Wars #2)

HARDCOVER; 176 P.
QUIRK BOOKS, 2014
SOURCE: FROM THE PUBLISHER

The saga that began with the interstellar best seller William Shakespeare’s Star Wars continues with this merry reimagining of George Lucas’s enduring classic The Empire Strikes Back.

Many a fortnight have passed since the destruction of the Death Star. Young Luke Skywalker and his friends have taken refuge on the ice planet of Hoth, where the evil Darth Vader has hatched a cold-blooded plan to capture them. Only with the help of a little green Jedi master – and a swaggering rascal named Lando Calrissian – can our heroes escape the Empire’s wrath. And only then will Lord Vader learn how sharper than a tauntaun’s tooth it is to have a Jedi child.

What light through Yoda’s window breaks? Methinks you’ll find out in the pages of The Empire Striketh Back!

This is the second book in William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series. To read my review on the first book, Verily, A New Hope, click here.

If flurries be the food of quests, snow on. When the second volume to William Shakespeare’s Star Wars begins with a adaptation of one of my favourite Shakespeare quotations, it can’t go wrong. In The Empire Striketh Back, the rebels have taken refuge on a icy planet called Hoth. The group is undecided upon the next move and as the Empire is hot on their heels there isn’t much time to dillydallying. Luke wants to find the mysterious Yoda, Han wants to clean his reputation, and the droids… well, they have a lot to say.

The Empire Striketh Back continue is the same style as Verily, A New Hope. Although Doescher has reduced the amount of chorus, the play continues in iambic pentametre. In fact, the only exceptions are Boba Fett, who speaks in prose, and Yoda who’s lines are in haiku. Again, there is an abundance of puns and references to Shakespeare’s own works (an educators guide is provided in the Quirk Books website). Doescher himself thinks that out of the original Star Wars movies, Episode V – Empire Strikes Back is the most Shakespearean of all. It contains romance, betrayal, estranged family relation, etc. Thus it transformed well into the form of a Shakespearean play. However, unlike the movies, the play also gives a voice to creatures and machines such as AT-ATs and the space slug.

I’d say that my Star Wars edutainment is definitely working. Exhibit A: I saw Lego – The Movie last week and actually understood all the references to Star Wars! Plot-wise, the problem in The Empire Striketh Back is that the “big twists” in the story are already common knowledge and thus lose some of their surprise effect. My reaction to the great father-son revelation was just “Oh, this is it”, before I continued reading. As for the sci-fi, the more that I read of this reality, the more I feel out of place; nevertheless, I’m also slowly starting to understand it. To sum it up, I recommend this book and the whole series not only to Star Wars fans, but also to fans of Shakespeare. And yes, I can’t wait for the continuation.

4/5

LEIA: [aside] – He kisses by the book.

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

My review of Verily, A New Hope (#1), The Jedi Doth Return (#3) AND The Phantom of Menace (#4).