Fair warning: I have been a Star Wars fan since the age of 4, when my mother plonked me in front of The Empire Strikes Back on VHS. As such, this is an overly long review for a Star Wars book. :P
In Expanded Universe (EU) novel The Truce at Bakura, published in 1994 and set directly after the second Death Star goes BOOM, the very first chapter sees fan favourite Wedge Antilles in a spot of bother. So imagine my nostalgia-ridden delight when Aftermath's (also set directly after aforementioned BOOM) very first chapter saw Wedge Antilles getting into...a much bigger spot of bother.
The characters we do end up with are nobodies, but you do root for them to escape their dire circumstances. There are two too (not a typo!) many dei ex machinas for my liking and I would have preferred to have seen a lot more Wedge (personal bias leftover from the EU, admittedly).
This book is advertised as the "journey to The Force Awakens" but it's really not - it doesn't link up well at all. At the end of the day, this is just a book about Rebels and Imperials getting off a planet. There are changes in the galaxy, and they're shown, but they're obvious. I've seen all this in the Expanded Universe, right down to warring factions of Imperial remnants. This is old. I wanted new.
Casual fans can leave this one at the bookshop. Those fans, like me, who watched the EU slide into utter ludicrousness and enjoyed some of the last attempts of the EU to redeem itself (i.e. Honour Among Thieves) will enjoy Aftermath, but will close the book feeling vaguely annoyed.
The moment you know that you truly want something, is the moment you're afraid to lose it.
I reflect on this tonight, because in 6 days I will be married.
I didn't understand that the love between two souls can reach such a depth that staying by one's side is not an obligation, but a necessity. You cannot breathe unless you can hear their own breaths. You cannot resume living until you know that they will continue to do so.
On the Edge: My Story changed my perspective. It taught me that love was very real and much greater than I had ever imagined. And I cried and cried and cried once I understood this.
This evening I stumbled across "My Marriage Didn't End When I Became a Widow", written by Lucy Kalanithi. Her husband passed away from cancer. His last gift to the world was When Breath Becomes Air, a memoir which he wrote as he faded away.
The cynical side of me, the one that studied editing and publishing at university, notes that his wife writing such an opinion piece just before the book is released is a classic manoeuvre to drum up interest and sales. That compulsory marketing class paid off, I see.
The more passionate side of me, the one walking down an aisle this coming Saturday, barely made it halfway without bawling. Lucy Kalanithi's grief seems, to me, the way I would react if I lost the man I am about to marry. I would be the type to lie on his grave so that only soil and grass divides me from his withering husk.
Strange, for I have spent most of my life saying that once the body is vacated, it's no longer a person.
So I read this article, mindful that in less than a week I will be marrying my soul mate. It makes my fear of losing my husband even more painful and real. It's so very, very possible. And I will fall apart without him. I really will.
Lucy Kalanithi didn't change my perspective. Her piece confirmed that I really have come a long way since I was younger, when I lacked the true meaning of love and loss.
As much as I look forward to using this emotional knowledge in my work, I will never forget that it comes from a very real and scary place.
Urban fantasy is my favourite genre. I can't get enough of strong female characters facing down the underworld with their set of unique powers - and wit. Don't forget the wit. Perhaps I have a soft spot for the Kitty Norville books because I was once a DJ myself, though I was on community radio and certainly wasn't a werewolf.
It's an excellent introduction into Kitty's world which just gets deeper and richer with each book, though like any series some are better than others. The comedy and drama and action...it all just works. Some characters feel a bit two-dimensional. The book's strength is Kitty's strong, believable and very relatable voice. The pace is cracking too. Some plot points kind of wither away but they are dealt with in another book.
I adore this series, despite its flaws. I enjoy it more than the Sookie Stackhouse books (I'm blaming radio DJ bias) so if you like those and the Weather Warden books, do check out Kitty's adventures.
A Rose for the Anzac Boys
Midge Macpherson, a 16-year-old Kiwi languishing in an English boarding school while her brother fights in WWI, wants to be able to do more than roll bandages and wait impatiently for sporadic and censored letters from the front. Together with her friends Ethel and Anne, Midge opens a canteen for troops in France, far enough from the fighting that they should be safe. But Midge learns that nothing is safe - not even her heart.
French is extremely prolific and I've always enjoyed her work aimed at younger readers. It's also a massive relief to find some decent Australiana among the bookshelves, especially in works for those in their formative years. A Rose for the Anzac Boys is no different from her usual excellence - teenaged girls taking charge in a situation where men dominate, what could be more inspiring? Although the time skips between chapters can be frustrating, this helps the story breeze by and the horrors of war are presented very well for non-adult readers. The dash of romance is inevitable but it adds a sweetener in a story of such sadness.
I found this while trawling a local bookstore in Sydney. Given that Jackie French is Australian, you're going to have more luck here than elsewhere. :)
The unthinkable happened.
I was pulling off my favourite shoes (seen here in all their Kill Bill-esque glory) when I noticed that on the bottom the yellow exterior was wearing away. I could not justify re-buying the same pair of shoes, could I? This necessitated a forlorn trip to an Onitsuka Tiger store were I...immediately fell in love with completely different colours.
My wallet despaired. But then I was told they did not have my size. It seemed my shoe addiction was foiled. For now...!
To me, there is no such thing as impulse buying when it comes to shoes. Each pair requires the right amount of meditation and, sometimes, a trip to nearby clothing stores to ensure that an entire outfit can be created around new feet-coverings. If the urge goes away, consider yourself lucky - if not, oh dear. Budget, budget, budget. And hope that the shoes do not spontaneously disappear in the meantime, or somehow get more expensive (it's like they KNOW!).
For the next few weeks, I stewed. But then finally I found my shoes elsewhere.
My fiancé and I took one 3-person seat on a train. The bag containing my shoes took another all to itself. I bounced the entire way back to our station then floated all the way home. There is definitely a buzz that comes with new gear.
Of course it rained when I wanted to wear them for the first time - a whole week of doom and gloom! But I braved it with my painfully white shoes (paired with black jeans - the horror!). And I am very glad I have them - something different, something that makes its own statement, something that can replace my Kill Bill shoes when vengeance has been achieved. I hope. :)
I am running out of interesting backgrounds to feature my shoes against. First it was the kitchen table, more recently cardboard boxes on the carpet. So I opted with the black office chair. I would love to take my shoes out to capture them in "the wild" but you tend to get very strange looks when you do so.
That said, I get a lot of inspiration for my writing simply by meandering the nearby footpaths. Perhaps I will find much more interesting landscapes out there even under the eyes of judgemental passersby! ;)
(Side note: does anyone else find it weird that "passersby" is the plural, not "passerbys"? I mean, it makes perfect sense but it's still weird!)
Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.
I thought I'd keep track of all the books that end up in a terrifying and teetering tower on my second desk (technically I bought it for my fiancé but you can never have enough writing space, y/n?) so here goes. A weekly review! There's a lot a writer can learn from reading books (I always steal an awesome word if it comes across the pages before me!) and I find that it's a hobby that stimulates my imagination.
And how can I expect anyone to read my stories if I never read theirs?
Roland has his night all planned - he's going to get drunk in a pub and enjoy the last few dollars he has left. As a bonus, Roland gets himself into a brawl when he decides to defend a mysterious newcomer. This is Griffith, a sorcerer on his way to Salem in the north of New South Wales, Australia - turns out he could use a bodyguard with smarts. Roland takes the job without quite realising just how much attention Griffith has attracted (and will continue to attract) from dangerous entities...
Purcell immediately triumphs in sinking the reader into noir aesthetics and Roland's voice is strong and his journey to redemption a believable one, if cliched. There's a lot of potential here but it felt like the author was swerving away from some of the more interesting aspects of the story in order to remain focused on Griffith and Roland. And sometimes there were weak moments that I felt could have been fixed up in a more ruthless edit - there were also some typos spread throughout that could have benefited from that as well. All in all, a diverting and promising work but the author still has a way to go before he gives us a much more polished piece.
I picked this up for my Kobo Mini but you can find assortment of sources here.
Christmas, 1956. A female writer, having recently found herself an agent, is given a pricey and priceless gift. Her friends surprise her with a year's worth of wages so she can write without worrying about the daily details such as food and upkeep. No doubt she was hesitant at using her friends' money this way, but she takes the opportunity.
Of course, she isn't published within that year. Two and a half years later, her disjointed manuscript is taken by an editor and tweaked and loved until...July 11, 1960. The book becomes an instant classic.
To Kill A Mockingbird is an undisputed masterpiece and was even voted the best novel of the 20th century. But would Harper Lee ever have managed to write and then rewrite it with the limited time she had around the working week? It's awfully hard to throw your full self into a manuscript when most of your hours are spent watching time slip away from you. Imagine having 9-to-5 filled with writing!
August, 2014. "But now I am left to mourn/the loss of dreams and time," I agonise in a poem, spilling my frustration into verse. The previous year, I had discovered that I was actually capable of writing novel-length stories. But then my real life had arrived - I was given a full time job.
Unfortunately, I spent the entirety of 2014 unable to write anything substantial and my productivity had dropped in all time low. I would return home at the end of the day, my mind dulled by a peculiar mix of boredom and stress. But I had to grow up. I had to accept my cage.
I had a way out.
During 2014, I sped from single to exclusive to engaged to a wonderful man who, quite conveniently, started to earn a very decent salary. He hinted that I might give up on the hard slog and become a writer, because it's what I loved.
December, 2014. I leap into the unknown, but I am supported by a generous benefactor. I don't need to worry about food or rent.
How could I ignore the opportunity? How could I waste the chance of a lifetime? Who is ever this lucky? Do I even deserve this chance? What if I waste it? What if I never write anything publishable? Did Harper Lee ask herself these same questions?
Was I simply unable to accept the life and responsibilities of a grown up? Did I just quit my job to escape it?
I'll find out, won't I?
PS: Hopefully I don't stumble onto YouTube on my first day as a "writer". Sadly, "Jedi Master" is currently an unattainable position.
Alyce Caswell is an aspiring writer who apparently lost her mind, threw away a steady job as an office junior and entered the realm of imagination.
She has blamed her accomplice and husband for giving her this most excellent opportunity.
Alyce has written articles, poems, short stories, books
and several embarrassing blogs. She hopes this venture will avoid the usage of cat gifs.
Links of Interest
A Rambling Rover
Alyce's travel blog which features various castles, stone circles and bemused musings about the Northern Hemisphere.