October 28, 2015

Weeckies: How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman


Hello, everybody! I've been preparing this feature for quite some time and today it's finally the day for the first post. In Weeckies, which is a mixture of weekly and quickies, I'll be talking about short stories. For the first week of Weeckies, I have chosen a story by one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman. It's called How The Marquis Got His Coat Back and you can find in the short story collection Rogues which was co-edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.


If you're a Neil Gaiman fan, then the title of this short story alone lets you know that we have the return of a character previously known to us. The Marquis refers, of course, to Marquis de Carabas, a character that first appeared in Neverwhere. I was more than happy to read more of his adventures, as Marquis is one of the characters I instantly liked from the novel. Plus, returning to London Below was more than appealing to me. It's a totally different world located below London simultaneously to our own and has its own rules. The paths of London Below are not the paths of London Above: they rely to no little extent on things like belief and opinion and tradition as much as they rely upon the realities of maps.   

But don't worry if you haven't read Neverwhere. This short story takes place after the novel and it just borrows the fact that the Marquis lost his coat (I'm not going to reveal anything more, as I'm urging you to pick up Neverwhere). What is so special about this coat anyway? It's what gives Marquis the confidence to be the person who has become. Someone that reminds a picture of a cat wearing two boots. Indeed, without it Marquis de Carabas seems a little lost. He has at times his usual wit, but going in the dangerous territory of Shepherd's Bush with even an obvious plan? That's unheard! Marquis was always the one that out planned everybody, he could get to places and obtain things that were impossible. In this short story, though, he has an unlikely ally: his brother Peregrine. From the little we encounter him, he picked my interest and I'd gladly find out more about him. 

All in all, this was an excellent short story, about 30 pages long. Despite its length, it managed to suck me into this unique world of London Below. The truth is that it made me want to re-read Neverwhere. It also made me realize that I'd love to read more stories about the adventures of Marquis de Carabas, he is a favourite of mine after all. 

October 27, 2015

Literary Rome

Hello, everybody! As you know last week I went on a short vacation in Rome, Italy. I had a great time and I loved the city. But Rome has always been attractive to some of the most well-known writers of the previous centuries. During my stay, I had the chance to visit some spots that are significant to all of us literary lovers. Here is a list of what a book lover can see in the eternal city:

Keats-Shelley Memorial House


Located in the Spanish Steps in Piazza di Spagna, this is the place where Keats spent his last days. My photo was taken at night by my mobile, so it's a little blurry.

Found on: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Keats

Antico Caffè Greco


Also located near Piazza di Spagna, this is one of the oldest cafès in Rome (dating back in 1760). Many famous writers, such as George Eliot, Nikolai Gogol, Henry James and Nathaniel Hawthorne visited this cafè.

Villa Borghese



Found on http://www.romeartlover.it/Borghese.html

One of my favourite places in Rome, in Villa Borghese you can find these sculptures of the famour writers Nikolai Gogol, Lord Byron, Alexander Pushkin, Ahmet Shawki, Ferdowsi, Nizami Ganjavi and Victor Hugo (who you can below).

Found on https://www.pinterest.com/pin/425027283561605289


This is called The Gift a piece of modern art by the Joseph Kosuth. You can find it in Museo Nazionale D'Arte Moderna, also located in Villa Borghese. I love this quote by Ludwig Wittgenstein.

National Roman Museum




Among the numerous sculptures that there are in the National Roman Museum, I saw these busts of Socrates and Sappho



These are some of the things that I explored in Rome.
To finish this post, here is a list of novels taking place in the eternal city:




October 26, 2015

The Reading Book Post, October 26th


Hello, everyone! I'm back! It took me longer than I expected but due to technical problems, I couldn't really help it. But I've prepared many exciting things for the following week, so wait for them. With a few weeks' absent. let's see what happened in the literary world the previous week.

  • A map of Middle Earth annotated by Tolkien himself was found inside a copy of The Lord of the Rings. The copy belongs to the illustrator Pauline Baynes. Through this map we learn, for example, that Hobbiton is at the same latitude as Oxford. 


  • The cover of the upcoming Stephen King novel was revealed last week. The novel will be called End of Watch and it is due on June 7th, 2016. I have to admit that this cover has left an impression on me!


  • On October 20 we celebrated the National Day on Writing. On this day, many authors used the hashtag #WhyIWrite on twitter. Very interesting thought! 


  • We also have some Mark Millar news this week (Yay!). The creator announced that sequels for his well-known works are under their way. So we should expect Chrononauts 2: Futureshock on July 2016, Jupiter's Legacy in the spring and Hit-Girl, although this will be written by a new author.


  • Until now, we thought that a sketch by Charlotte Bronte that was found on her school atlas was the picture of a classmate. Now experts say that it might be a portrait of the author herself, years before she wrote Jane Eyre. There is indeed a similar scene in the novel.


  • The hotel that inspired The Shining will be turned into the world's first horror museum. Until now, it hosted the Stanley Film Festival. Now that's a thing I'd like to see!

  • The Girl in the Spider's Web was published last September. But fans of the Millenium series rejoice: David Lagercrantz has just revealed that there will be at least two more sequels. I'm curious!

  • Tomorrow the long-awaited new novel by David Mitchell will be published. The novel will be called The Slade House and it's a ghost story. But read this interview of the writer talking about it.


  • Just for fun! This is a random plot generator. You just insert some random facts and it generates a plot. I chose a horror story and the result was really funny (we're talking about a killer pot here!). Try it out and let me know the result! 

  • How Would You Die in a Stephen King Horror? Take this creepy quiz to find out! I got that I would be sacrificed by the religiously fanatic kids from Children of the Corn. What did you get?

October 25, 2015

Review: The Afterlife Decision: Chapter One: The Offer by Michael Smith


Title: The Afterlife Decision

Author: Michael Smith

Publisher: Self-published

Date of Publication: 2015

Number of Pages: 27

Disclaimer: The author provided me a copy of his book in exchange of an honest review. Thank you so much!

Summary


Steven Brett is in prison awaiting for his parole hearing, however, before he gets interviewed by the parole board he is sent to a room to be interviewed by both an angel and a demon.

They make him an offer which will not only affect the rest of his life but also his afterlife.

However, there are consequences if Steven accepts the offer or rejects the offer which are both appealing and unappealing.

Review


The Afterlife Decision is a very quick read. In fact, it's as the title suggests, the first chapter of a bigger story. The premise is very interesting and I think that it has a potential.

But there are definitely many issues that need to be taken care of. All of the problems could be summarised with just one word, editing. I mean serious editing. First of all, this is just a chapter, it doesn't need to be divided into smaller ones. Also, there are some serious punctuations mistakes that are a little disorienting. Another problem I found out was the repetition of "police officer" and "Steven's cell mate" in conversations. 

Apart from these, the story was intriguing enough to make me want to read the second chapter. I hope that we will learn Steven's backstory there, which is lacking here. 

So, my advice is...

What would you choose? 

Manga Review: High School Debut by Kazune Kawahara


Title: High School Debut

Author: Kazune Kawahara

Publisher: VIZ Media LLC

Date of Publication: 2008

Number of Volumes: 13

Number of Pages: 192 (each volume)

Find it at: Book Depository (Vol. 1-3)

Summary

When Haruna Nagashima was in junior high her life consisted of playing softball and reading comics. But now that she's going to high school, Haruna decides to put all of her energy towards getting a boyfriend and having the high school romance of a lifetime. To help in her quest, she enlists cute upperclassman Yoh Komiyama to coach her as she eschews her jock tendencies and turns herself into the kind of girl who can catch a guy. Yoh agrees, with one catch: Haruna had better not fall for him!

Review

Before I start writing my review of this manga I have a confession to make: I watched the live action version of it first. And, if I might add, luckily I watched it first. If it were the other way around I would be utterly disappointed. Having explained that, I can now say that High School Debut was completely different from what I was expecting.

As I had watched the film, the summary of the manga was known to me. So, when I started reading it I knew what was going to happen more or less, and some part of me was afraid that it would be just like so many other romantic manga out there. But then the fun part begun! The story I knew concluded in the third volume! Now, if you've read manga with many volumes, like this one, you know that it can take a really long time for the feelings of the protagonists to finally get to one another. And here in this one, not only they confess to each other, they also decide to go out! In the third volume. And there are still ten more volumes to go. This fact alone picked my interest.

As it turns out, if someone asked me about the story of High School Debut I would probably give a different answer from the given summary. Ok, this is the starting point, but this manga has so much more! Haruna and Yoh do go out, but we watch them struggle to make this relationship work. There is jealousy, there is fighting, there are expectations to be met. One of my favourite parts is when Haruna tries to plan the perfect date for Christmas and it all goes wrong. It's not romantic at all, although they do have fun.

Like most of the manga of this genre, the protagonists face the problem of choosing a future for themselves. They are high school students after all. But are they ready to possibly go the distance? Is their love strong enough to last? I've yet to read a manga showing so perfectly these feelings and worries than Lovely Complex, but High School Debut is decent enough. Yoh is a year older than Haruna, so he graduates earlier. I loved the fact that he asks Haruna what he should do and she pushes him to follow his dream, even though she is hurt.

Both of the protagonists in High School Debut are likeable enough. I mean Haruna is always trying her best, sometimes maybe too hard, and she always tries to meet every obstacle with a smile, but she is also hopeless. She believes everything she reads in women's magazines, even though the bits of advice they give don't suit her. She could just be herself, maybe with a different wardrobe. She should embrace the fact that she is athletic and very good at softball. Yoh, on the other hand, plays it cool most of the time. He pretends that he doesn't care but he's actually very shy and gets embarrassed pretty easily. Although sometimes I feel like he could show his affection to Haruna more, there are times when he makes up for it. But my favourite character is Yoh's friend, Yui. You never really understand his deal. His thoughts are a mystery and his actions are often confused as jokes. He's not even sincere to himself about his own feelings. But he does help the story to move forward and I would surely miss him if he weren't there.           

All in all, High School Debut was a fun read. It made me laugh more than once, it pleasantly surprised me and I didn't realise when I finished thirteen volumes. But I wouldn't say that it didn't have its flaws. Sometimes it got a little cliche, other times the characters were frustrating but my biggest problem was that the art style was somewhat generic. I felt like I had seen the same design many times before, so the characters weren't memorable to me. I would recommend it to those who want to read a pleasant and quite funny romantic manga.

So, my advice is...

Make your high school debut!

October 13, 2015

Short vacations!


Ciao, my lovely friends! As you can guess, I'm going on a short vacation tomorrow. It's my first time in Rome and I'm so excited about it. I can't wait to find out how espresso tastes in Italy! Anyway, I'll be back next week, so see you soon! Those of you who follow my instagram account will probably get a glimpse of what I'll be up to :)

October 6, 2015

Review: Hellboy Vol.2: Wake the Devil by Mike Mignola


Title: Hellboy: Wake the Devil

Author: Mike Mignola

Publisher: Dark Horses Books

Date of Publication: 1994

Number of Pages: 146

Find it at: Book Depository


Summary

When strangeness threatens to engulf the world, a strange man will come to save it. Sent to investigate a mystery with supernatural overtones, Hellboy discovers the secrets of his own origins and his link to the Nazi occultists who promised Hitler a final solution in the form of a demonic avatar.

Review

Up until now, I knew Hellboy only by his image. I didn't really know anything about him, whether he was a superhero or what his deal was. I hadn't even watched Guillermo del Toro's films. So while opening this comic book I would encounter a world that I didn't expect to find.

Strange creatures have awakened, things that shouldn't exist. For this reason, the Bureau of Paranormal Research has taken over the investigation. Hellboy is an agent for this bureau, but he's not the only one. Clark, Sapien, Waller and Sherman are all agents and they are divided into small groups, in order to search all the possible locations of the paranormal activities.

But what is really going wrong? People who should be long dead are rumoured to be alive, like Vladimir Giuresku. There is also more to it. The nazis wanted to build a whole army of vampire men, but while encountering the true power of Giuresku, Hitler decided to kill him. But Giuresku has the ability to return back while being in his own castle. And there is still a nazi scientist, Ilsa Haupstein, who wants to see Giuresku alive once again. This is exactly what the Bureau is trying to stop. From this point, it really gets complicated and I won't spoil it.

The antagonists in this comic book are amazingly constructed. They have a master plan, they are all devoted to their own ideals and beliefs, they are willing to sacrifice everything in order to achieve their ultimate goal. It's a shock to find out that there is a definite connection between them and Hellboy. It's even a shock for the hero himself. But this also gives us a very believable explanation about those two things in Hellboy's head. The art in these pages is breathtaking.

Wake the Devil is dark. You can guess that just by looking at its cover, but there is a time in the story when everything is going wrong. You can see that the protagonists can barely survive, that maybe this time the bad guys will manage to take over the world. The art style also emphasizes the atmosphere, making it one of the most memorable comics I've ever read.

The edition I own is completely drawn in black and white. The truth is that I missed a little the colours. Maybe if Hellboy was red, it would make a difference. But I know that newer editions have colour, so I would urge you to find those ones.

I don't say that Hellboy: Wake the Devil is without flaws. In fact, there are some plot holes and I still don't understand how the antagonist's plan failed. But it's definitely one of those comic books that get you pumped up for more and I will most certainly read the other stories. A dark, action-packed story for all the comic book lovers out there!

So, my advice is...

Go Hellboy!    

October 5, 2015

The Reading Book Post, October 5th


Hello, everyone! October is here at last! This month will be the one that will bring a lot of changes in my life. I might be a little absent lately, but I promise that I'll try to write as much as I can. Anyway, let's see what happened in the literary world the previous week.

  • Kirkus has announced the finalists for the literary prizes. The winners will become known on October 15, in a ceremony which will take place in Austin, Texas. Also, the shortlist of the Goldsmiths Prize 2015 has been announced. The winner will be announced on November 11, 2015.


  • Exciting news for writers/comic book artists! Mark Millar is funding a competition, in which the writers and artists are called to write scripts with his characters. The winners will get paid Marvel and DC starter rates.


  • Sad news for the literary world. The Swedish author and playwright Henning Mankell passed away at the age of 67. He was well known for the creation of the Inspector Kurt Wallander. Some books of the series include Faceless Killers and The Fifth Woman.


  • Tor Books is celebrating its 35th anniversary. For this reason, they revealed their new logo design.


  • Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle is getting a sequel. It's called Truly, Madly Famous and it will be published on October 13, 2015. For those of you who can't wait, you can read right now an excerpt from the upcoming novel.


  • The Martian (one of the most anticipated films for me in 2015) is out in the theaters. Gearge R. R. Martin has written about our long obsession with Mars. Amazing!


  • Another fantasy writer has big news this week! Patrick Rothfuss has announced on his blog that he has sold the rights for a TV series based on The Kingkiller Chronicles. What awesome news! I can't wait!


  • Can you guess the reason these books were banned? Take this quiz to find out, some of the reasons are really shocking! Which Literary Monster Are You? Take the quiz and let me know of the results. I got Medusa. That's interesting.. 

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