Star Wars Day

Star WarsToday is once again International Star Wars Day. Last year I made a wonderful post about it and my thoughts on the movies, but it was coupled by the fact I was having seriously annoying issues with the last host of this blog, Blog.com, and so there was a slight air of tension about the day and in the post.

The revival of the series, Star Wars VII, is coming along nicely, the first group of actors that will star in it have been announced, the old favourites of Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford all playing (presumably) their original parts. There was some immediate controversy however about the fact only one additional woman has been added to the story, something which prompted theories of it being another annoying love triangle plot with the new generation. But there are also theories there are further cast announcements to be made and with no filming having started or clear indication of plot, speculating isn’t doing anyone any good.

I think I am looking forward to the movie if not just to see what they’re going to do with this big time difference. Having rewatched the series last year I came to the realisation that I don’t mind the prequels, being older than I was when I first saw them I can see the flaws, but it wasn’t that badly done that I’m giving up on them. I do reserve my right to avoid any TV show about it because computer generated Stars Wars about the clone wars isn’t my thing, so I am a movie fan and quite happy to be one. Plus possibly a lot of the merchandise which I eye off and add to wishlists I know will rarely be granted.

Only a few hours into this morning I already saw a lot of annoyance and negativity towards Star Wars Day on twitter. Everything from people saying that people who go around saying “May the fourth be with you” will end up alone, or nit-picky people saying it is “the fourth of May, not May the fourth”, even just people saying it is stupid and don’t want any one near them to say it. I don’t understand the dislike, it isn’t technically official, nobody has asked you to participate in the day and commenting on your distaste for what is really a meaningless unofficial day seems to me a lot more effort than you believe it to be worth. Don’t attack people who want to enjoy a fun day and share their love a film series (and subsequent TV, books, comics, cartoon etc etc and whatever else Star Wars format I’ve forgotten), it’s rude, disrespectful and just unnecessary. This goes for other non Star Wars Days as well, don’t belittle someone’s passion just because it isn’t yours, but that rant is not for today.

What I like about this day is not just the play on words, because that is always an awesome added bonus, and not just that I can have more of an excuse to look up images of stormtroopers being parents/enjoying life (seriously Google that because it is adorable!),  but the fact that it isn’t a small “holiday”, I’ve seen booksellers and authors, newspapers and websites all promoting the day, they may not be fans themselves but take part and celebrate it all the same. As I say, I don’t claim to be the biggest Star Wars fan, but at 12:04am when I realised what day it was, I did spent two and a half hours, hours when I should have been in bed (or at least working on my assignments), putting Toby in Jedi robes so that definitely puts me on the scale somewhere.

I may have to go listen to some Aurelio Voltaire Star Wars themed songs now to celebrate since writing this has gotten them in my head. I hope you all have a wonderful Star Wars Day and may the force be with you all.

 

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One year ago…

Whose idea was it to start a blog with Uni, a holiday, life, all within the first year of creation? Hmm? Who? My organisational skills have failed, my reading has failed, and my dedication has faltered. Always with intent or bringing it back from the lonely corner where it was continually pushed. Always hoping that what I had built up over the fractured year would remain when life got sorted again, I think it’s still there? Well as there as it was before, granted it wasn’t all that there to begin with if we’re honest.

One year ago I launched this blog. I had wanted to do it for so long, I wanted to write reviews about books I had loved, I wanted to explain what was exquisite about them and how they made my world a wonderful place. I wanted to read books that I hadn’t read before and if I hated them I wanted to figure out why, what was it that made me dislike it and find cause instead of just disliking it overall.

I never used to write reviews. I have been a Goodreads member for about five years and I never wrote reviews there either. It wasn’t a conscious decision, exactly, I just didn’t do it. But then a couple of years ago a friend of mine discovered Goodreads and she said that she looked forward to exploring the site and reading some of my reviews. It was then that I almost went to say to her that I hadn’t written any reviews and then I thought, ‘well why not? If she wants to read my reviews, my opinions and thoughts on a book I should probably start writing reviews’. So I wrote short reviews and long reviews and emotional reviews and all kinds for awhile and the idea of the blog grew. It had been there for awhile, popping up on occasion, but I never thought I could manage it, it seemed so hard and confusing. Funnily enough it wasn’t until a Uni course about 18 months ago that I realised blogs are not that complicated. The premise is there, it just needed to be started and so I took the plunge, a year and one week ago today I created my blog, technically, but today was the day it was released out on its own. Thinking back, before the chaos the rest of the year was to bring, it was beautiful. I had fun, people who read it enjoyed it, and I realised as it got more lost as the year progressed, just how much fun it was. Being able to escape for awhile and tell people about a book, just a simple book, that had had an effect on me.

In this year however I have had some wonderful opportunities I will remember forever. When I was still in the early months I was offered a chance to be part of a blog tour for the wonderful author Kerry Letheby. Her novel Mine to Avenge was a wonderful read and being part of her tour made me feel like I was helping something worthwhile. The second excellent thing was the amazing chance I had to not only get an advanced copy to review one of my favourite singers Aurelio Voltaire’s debut novel Call of the Jersey Devil, but I also got to interview him about it as well which was seriously the highlight of the year if we’re honest. I then subsequently ruined it by missing the chance to tell him I did all this when I met him, but we aren’t dwelling on that. I also got to do some great cover reveals, I have been asked to review people’s novels for them, and I also got to run a giveaway which was really wonderful.

But away from these great things, this  has not been the best first year I will admit. There were teething problems (understatement of the year) with the old site, and then so many interruptions and problems for the latter half of the year. Ignoring the three month Uni block, as well as the three week holiday, the other time I had seemed devoted to simply recovering from the emotional and work overload and suffocation I was feeling. I would look at these half finished reviews, of books I adored but I could not find the devotion to finishing them. What I realise now is I think I needed to recuperating time. I needed time after Uni finally finished to just gather myself up again after the mess of the last six months and try and hold myself together with more than sticky tape and safety pins. As I say, not much of a smooth start to this first year of blogging. But I will say that I have realised something in all this: the fact that through all of this I never once wanted to throw in the towel. I always felt guilty for neglecting my posts and for feeling like I let people down. That shows me that I do want to keep doing this. I know now that it’s going to take some time, I need to balance my time once more and work around things like Uni and slowly build myself up again before the new semester starts. Finding the passion again for what I like doing, gradually bring myself back.

I know this is not the most wonderful or uplifting of blog anniversary posts you may have seen, but this is where we’ve ended up. I’ve let out as much of my emotions as I am willing and I can’t really sum up this year without all the cracks. I am very grateful for those who have read my reviews this past year, and all those who found me on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, it is wonderful to feel supported and to be able to share things with you about books and reading and crazy things like fireworks and emotional instabilities.

I look forward to making this a better blog in this second year and building up my reviews once again. In the meantime I will quietly celebrate this one year anniversary because even after everything we cannot simply let it pass by unnoticed, and I hope you’ll join me in continuing this journey of reading and the world of books.

Anniversary

Top Five of 2013

New year means time for my 2013 Top Five list. Like last year these are the books that were real surprises and completely unexpected in just how wonderful they’d be. They managed to get me excited, engaged, emotional, and managed to change how I saw the world just that little bit.

Because I read some pretty wonderful authors as well as books in 2013 I am mixing things up a bit and compiling a top five authors as well as books. I only managed to read 45 books in 2013 because of Uni, other commitments, and “things”, but there were some absolute gems within those 45. Looking at it now, it almost seems like the year of the Young Adult novel which is interesting.

2013 was also the year I read a lot of particular authors or series which was very rewarding, however it also makes choosing a simple 5 rather hard. I am not going to number them because really, it won’t mean all that much, they all could be number one.

Top Five Books

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
It was hard to find the right Thursday Next book to choose from those I read, but this won out. The entire nature of the narrative was weird and bizarre as per usual but offered something new and different to the series. Being the fifth book in the series a lot has come before it and a lot comes after it in the next two books but while each book brings new stories and people, there is a common thread through it all and a great sense of familiarity despite each book being very different from one another. It also made me read Pinocchio so that was a bonus experience right there.

Looking For Alaska by John Green
Oh do not talk to me about this book. This like The Book of Lost Things have had messed up my life so much, I mean really it is quite unfair. This is a beautiful story, it is about finding out who you are, trying to find a place in the world, and about friendship and life and all the crazy unknowns about being a teenager. And you truly have to listen to his brother Hank’s song ‘Looking For Alaska‘ which is about the book because it is just as wonderful and emotional as the book itself, and while you can listen to it before reading because it doesn’t contain any exact spoilers, it has so much more meaning once you’ve read the book.

Artemis Fowl and  the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer
If only an entire series could be selected this would be one I’d pick. This is the eighth and last book in the Artemis Fowl series, and I could easily have also picked the seventh book to accompany it in this list but I didn’t. I think, remembering back to the moment when I finished, this was a much better choice because while the seventh book was emotionally involving and wonderful, I think this one rides of the back of that and brings it to a whole new level combining everything we’ve seen from the series so far. A really exceptional read.

Please Ignore Vera Deitz by A. S. King
I had been trying to find this book for awhile. I cannot remember exactly what made me want to start reading it, I think I may have stumbled on one of A. S. King’s quotes and went from there. Throughout the book there are certainly a number of wonderful quotes about life, society, being a teenager, a friend, someone’s child. However I found it it was worth it on so many levels, I got so much out of this book that made me look at the world just a little bit differently. And after all, isn’t that what a good book should do really?

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I have wanted to read this for awhile, and with the movie being released now was the time. Like Please Ignore Vera Deitz, this book was filled with so many wonderful insights and poignant moments about life, being a teenager, trying to find your place in the world. Chbosky has a way with words that suit his characters so well. You can picture everything and with Charlie as our eyes you just follow him and watch the world go by. It is really beautiful. There is a mystery around the whole thing and it just sits quietly as the story goes on, offering us an occasional snippet. But the pleasure is really just following Charlie and seeing him experience life, make friends, and uncover things about himself he never thought possible.

 

Top Five Authors

John Green
I read all of John’s wonderful books in 2013, from his first book An Abundance of Katherines, to his most recent release The Fault in Our Stars. His writing style is pretty wonderful, he can express the voice of a teenager extremely well, while also offering multiple profound and insightful moments in deep or seemingly mundane moments and strange circumstances. Away from Looking For Alaska, Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Paper Towns had to be my other favourites.

Eoin Colfer
If we don’t already adore him for his entire Artemis Fowl series, we love him a little more for his new series W.A.R.P. Colfer has a wonderful humour in his writing, the witty nature of his characters and the absurdness that can occur is his books is a joy to read. Colfer’s imagination is captured in his books and there is no end to the surprises that he comes up with in his work.

Jasper Fforde
Jasper Fforde was introduced to me by a friend and here we are a year later and I have been sucked into his books and numerous series and I don’t really feel like coming out. The humour, pure imagination and creativity, not to mention the complete literature focus is more than enough the adore his Thursday Next books, but even others like The Last Dragonslayer have the same Fforde style and engaging nature that bring you into this constructed world and you just cannot wait to see where it’ll lead and through which twists and surprises on the way.

Neil Gaimain
Neil is on this list because it is Neil basically. But I read his novel The Ocean at the End of Lane and it was just excellent. It was such an awesome book that mixed magic and reality, as well as childhood memories and mystery that you really are quite moved by the whole thing. I’ve also included him because his short stories in M for Magic were so haunting and wonderful that you just admire the skills that exists in one person to make you so moved and affected without seemingly doing anything too grand and extraordinary, but in facts hide the extraordinary and magic in the seemingly simple.

Aurelio Voltaire
Getting to review and interview Voltaire about his new book was a serious highlight of 2013 I cannot tell you.  Having fallen in love with his music it was no doubt I loved his book as well. But it wasn’t just my love of his work that makes him great, it is also his wonderfully storytelling abilities. For a first time writer he did an excellent job with his book Call of the Jersey Devil, and his history as a song writer really shines in his descriptions and his narrative. I’m not sure whether Voltaire plans on writing another fiction novel anytime soon, but if he does, I’m sure it will be just as wonderful.

Another year over…

NewsWell, it’s certainly been an interesting year. There were ups and downs, boy were there downs, but luckily with my impenetrable emotional brick wall in place we don’t have to acknowledge those months now that it’s over. I have had it worse, of course it was more spread out than this year so whether that is a good thing or not I don’t know. But moving on!

Bookwise it’s been sad but wonderful. Because of things and stuff and life and everything I have hardly read anything. I managed just a mere 45 books this year, I think last year was 114 or something. Of course uni made that a problem because who has time for decent reading when you have too much to do and no time to do anything fun. But what I did manage to read was pretty spectacular. I am still behind on reviews, I know, I keep saying I will and I don’t, it’s the freedom. The fact I was locked into this uni thing with absolutely no time for months with barely a chance to think or relax or even watch TV, the thought of sitting too long on the computer writing is actually hard, I need to vege. I want to write, I do honestly, but relaxing and just enjoying my days catching up on doing nothing is wonderful. I am trying though. I need to keep trying.

I started this blog in January. In that time we have had so many things happen it is unbelievable. For newbies who may not know I started on Blog.com, and after a few smooth months it crumbled and it crumbled bad. Server issues, site issues, an issue you want to imagine they caused me and after five months I had to pack up and move. I must say WordPress is better, much better. In the remaining seven months or whatever it has been great. I wrote some good reviews, I got to interview one of my favourite singers Voltaire about his debut book Call of the Jersey Devil and I wrote a wonderful review that people loved. I am still very much regretting that when I met him I froze completely and never got to mention I was the one who had interviewed him or wrote the review, but maybe next time when I have a bit more composure and less awe, I even forgot to take the book to get him to sign, granted I was there for a concert of his but that is besides the point.

I have said I do not want to stop doing this, I just need to find my way in again, get to a point where I can just finish a book and sit down and regurgitate all the emotions and feelings I had about it, that’s how most of my reviews have begun. Then I can find my way to finishing others, they are there, half finished and waiting. I think the new year is going to bring challenges but I want to be determined. Uni is coming to an end by mid year and after a stressful and crazy time when it starts again I am going to be at a loss and a freaking out state of mind where we could grab some evaluation time about what I am doing with my days. Christmas flew by, the year ends in six hours and who knows what is on the other side. I would love to just relax and watch TV and get invested in books and watch the days fly by until it is suddenly the end of January but the urge to not let that happen is also tugging at me. I have prac coming up in a couple of weeks in a library which is itself terrifying so we have an end point to my vegging, I am trying to do everything at once and it is making my head jumbled. So deep breaths everyone and let’s see in the new year like the responsible stable adult we’re convincing the world we are.

We’ll start with news. I have been lucky enough to be asked to review a book called Sun Poisoned by Nikki Rae, as a YA/NA paranormal romance it is intriguing. I also have been given the first book of the series Sunshine, so with both of them hopefully we can make them the start of our regular return. I miss you guys and my regular posts, they were a lot of fun. The other thing I must do is I also need to construct my Top Five list for the year. Last year had some wonderful books, this year had excellent books as well, they all seemed pretty spectacular so I get to revisit a few favourites, maybe it can help me finish the reviews as well, can’t be bragging about books when you don’t know what I really thought of them.

Other than that I think that’s all. It has been a good year, it has, all dramatic obscurity aside, it was a bit of everything, adventure, drama, action, young adult, fiction and non fiction, emotions and chaos, love and conflict, we’ve had it all. I hope you had a wonderful year yourselves, I implore you find and watch any fireworks you can get to tonight because they are sent by the gods and are the greatest things ever created. My absolute love and fascination with the beauty and gloriousness of fireworks can never be underestimated. Happy New Year guys, I will see you on the other side.

Call of the Jersey Devil by Aurelio Voltaire

Published: May 28th 2013
Goodreads badgePublisher: Spence City
Pages: 248
Format: Book
Genre: Horror/Paranormal/Humour Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Five suburban mall rats and a washed up Goth singer find themselves stranded in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey where they discover two horrifying truths: The Jersey Devil, hellspawn of folklore and legend, is real; and New Jersey (as many already suspected) is the gateway to Hell!

With the help of one lone witch, this small group must face off against their deepest fears and the most unholy monsters in a battle where their very souls, the world they live in, and any chance of returning to Hot Topic in one piece is at stake!

I was given an ARC copy of this book by the publisher.

The idea that the gateway to hell is in a forest in New Jersey is a pretty enticing way to base a novel. As soon as we begin the story we are thrown into the world of a mysterious creature and what it is capable of doing, then as we move on to a different world entirely we know it is just a matter of time before two worlds collide and creates the trouble this causes for those involved.

Call of the Jersey Devil tells the story of five “mall rat” teenagers who travel to the New Jersey Pine Barrens to see Gothic singer Villy Bats, however things are not all they seem, and when all hell starts to break loose (I love that this has become a literal phrase), they are soon faced with an entire underworld itching to get out through the gates of hell. Enlisting the help of a witch the teens and Villy must fight to stop the gates from opening further, and flooding the world with demonic incarnations, one of which is the legendary figure known as the Jersey Devil.
Being a fan of Voltaire’s work and having watched him provide updates on the book’s development for months, I sat here patiently waiting to finally get a chance to read it. After given the chance to read an Advanced Reader Copy I jumped at the opportunity. Having now finished it, almost unable to put down unless I had to, I am so glad it lived up to my expectations and went beyond what I ever thought it would be. It seems wrong to seemingly praise Voltaire for somehow writing such an excellent book as a first time novelist, almost as if it were unexpected, but not only do I know many first time authors who write excellent books, but Voltaire has a long successful creative and storytelling history behind him, this time it has simply descended on the page rather than in a graphic novel, a song, or a film.

But while Voltaire is a good storyteller, there is no doubt he is also a good writer. There are sentences and phrases in this book that are wonderful, all nestled in amongst the joking and the teenagers, and the whole ordeal of this demonic spawn and an opening underworld. The descriptions are excellent as well, whether they are of people, demons, or the environment around them. The way Voltaire writes you can immediately conjure up images and feeling of people and events; especially the scenes in the woods, not to mention the ominous feeling of uncertain darkness and the monsters it hides.

Along with descriptions there are also some very insightful moments in this book, as well as evoking one-liners and entire ideas expressed eloquently, often needing very few words attached to them. Voltaire has a way with words that is very beautiful; perhaps this is the long established creator within, or simply an observant and insightful personality coming through on the page, or perhaps both. Whatever the case it is certainly a talent to create a compelling and engaging story that can make you think, feel, as well as be fearful and grossed out all at the same time.

What I enjoyed about Call of the Jersey Devil is the fact that is has so much in it, but it never seems crowded, nor does it jump and feel fractured as you read. The opening of the book and early chapters are definitely designed to set up our characters and lead us into the oncoming events that connect you to the title. This beginning I feel is needed because it impacts on the remainder of the story, as well as how you perceive and assess the characters themselves.

Whether this was my own over thinking or not, but I felt that we were introduced to these “mall rats” as we were to give us a chance at creating our own preconceptions and assessments on them as people. Certainly other characters and they themselves fed this opinion, but in doing so it gives a lot of power to the rest of the novel which then begins to break down these initial judgements.

Voltaire changes point of view throughout and we are able to see the unfolding events through almost every characters eyes and thoughts. In doing so we are also given the opportunity to gain an insight into their history and back story to show you who they are and how they came to be that way. Aside from providing histories, it is interesting to see how each character treats the circumstances they are in, some relish it, some fear it, while others hate it.

Villy was an interesting character, if not complex. I enjoyed his character more I think because of his complexities and imperfections, that is what makes him real. The same can  be said for the others; these characters, especially the mall rats: Stuey, Prudence, Ari, AJ, and Aleister, are portrayed as real people, all with the quirky, obnoxious, selfish, vain and adoring aspects that is within anybody. Voltaire is very good at showing the readers that there is certainly a ‘group persona’ that is separate from who someone really is. This is why having alternating points of view and providing back stories helps you understand these characters a lot more, you see them as who they are, not only as the face they put on for the public.

You do get to see these characters behave separately from their group persona. This helps you not to instantly dismiss them as selfish teenagers who are loud and obnoxious and rude to one another, they all have a reason and Voltaire shows us, giving us a little more understanding, and yet almost not enough to excuse everything that they do, more to show how it has shaped who they became. This doesn’t always change any opinions or add much sympathy, but we are given an explanation.

Towards the middle of the book the story settles in nicely and it is now that everything begins to unravel, and it isn’t long before it is strange, and is possibly grotesque to some, but it is brilliant. There is a strange absurdness about it that is compelling and wonderful. You can certainly see where the influences came from of the genre films, and yet it does not read as cliché and over done either. The additional elements Voltaire added makes it humorous, and yet still terrifying and clever at the same time.

While it is grotesque in some parts, you cannot ignore the humour, this almost balances out the unpleasant details and descriptions Voltaire gives to the demonic faction within the woods. There is snarky sarcasm, and amusing moments that sit either side of the ‘horror’ aspect, but there is also some that cuts through the horror and breaks up the unpleasant scenes.

There were events in this book that took me by surprise in some cases, and not in others, but all were engaging, and in some cases saddening, all contrasting within a single chapter at times. There are also some very heartfelt moments in this book which was certainly a surprise, but certainly well placed and executed. There is the correct balance between the parody, the horror, and the realism to make it work very well. It isn’t even an equal balance, that is not what the story requires, but where these moments happen and by whom are perfectly placed to suit the character and the narrative.

I loved the ending of this book; I thought it was perfect for where the story began and how it played out. I think the way Voltaire established his characters and how we get to know them, not to mention the situations they get themselves in, helped explain and make the ending scenes and epilogue ideal. What was wonderful was the fact that Voltaire keeps you engaged and laughing throughout and until the end, which is very hard when you have demons, teenagers, witches, and the paranormal to contend with. There is also amazing and detailed artworks that accompany this story, certainly not required as the descriptions do them justice, but by having a startling sketch to illustrate a scene create an impressive impact on the mind when you continue reading. And entire idea can be captured in one of those drawings, there are just the right amount to suit just the right needs.

In his interview Voltaire said he was a storyteller, and he is; but there is also novel here. Within this story there are glimpses and hints of beauty and art, hiding amongst this “storytelling”. So while when you hear storyteller you may think casual conversational tone, there will be a lot that will surprise you with this book. For someone who does not read, Voltaire can write. But we already knew that. You only need to look at his songs or his films, or his other works to know he is talented, and know that reading does not always equate to talent or skill in writing.

You still have time for pre-orders before Call of the Jersey Devil is released on May 28th.

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