Romeo & Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels)/ Matt Wiegle

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A graphic novel adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.

ISBN: 9781411498747

I’ve never read Romeo & Juliet. All I really knew was both lovers killed themselves. The Shakespearean text was hard to understand on my own. So this graphic novel was really useful for me in appreciating the full story.

There’s many interpretative layers to the play, I think. And many possibilities for re-makes and re-interpretations.

Here’s a ‘dark’ one: For instance, Romeo could have been a fickle knave rather than the naive lover, which meant Juliet’s death, as well as his, might have a different backstory. Or, Juliet could have been played up to be even more of a stubborn and rebellious (manipulative?) teen rather than being caught in a love triangle.

Rough notes:
The Montagues (Romeo’s family) and the Capulets (Juliet’s) were two rich and powerful families in the city of Verona (I think renaissance period Italy).

Romeo was at first pandering over an unrequited love (a Rosaline, who never quite appeared in person) but quickly changed his mind after he saw Juliet. The chance encounter came when Romeo, egged on by his friend and cousin, gate-crashed a Capulet dinner party in disguise.

Romeo then famously wooed and Juliet with his charm and words, after he sneaked into the Capulet family home grounds and under Juliet’ balcony. (What a charmer! Or maybe Juliet’s not so bright. And yes there seems to be a lot of sneaking around).

Romeo and Juliet got themselves married secretly, with the help of Romeo’s friend Friar Lawrence.

But on that same day when they got married in secret, Tybalt (Juliet’s cousin) ends up being killed by Romeo in a revenge-fight, because Tybalt picked a fight and sneakily killed Mercuto (Romeo’s friend).

That very day, Romeo was also banished, as punishment for the clan duel and murder.

Juliet was heartbroken to learn of the death of a cousin and the banishment of her still-secret husband.

(prior to Romeo’s leaving his city, he manages to sneak into Juliet’s room and spent the night there. So scandalous! Heh. All that with the help of Juliet’s nurse and a rope ladder).

Juliet’s father then made a hasty decision to marry her to a nobleman Count Paris. When he told Juliet about it, he was furious at His only daughter’s seemingly smarmy response about non-marriage. He issued an ultimatum: marry Count Paris or be disowned.

That forced Juliet to seek Friar Lawrence’s help.

He devised a plan: he gave Juliet a concoction that would allow her to fake her death. He and Romeo would wait or her to be revived and the couple would sneak away. All that, the friar intended to inform Romeo by way of a letter.

It all went to plan, at first. Juliet drank the mix and appeared dead on her wedding day to Count Paris (poor man). Her wedding celebrations became funeral preparations (her poor parents!)

But the first sign of a SNAFU was when the letter never made it to Romeo (a quarantine due to a suspected plague outbreak).

Romeo receives word from a servant that Juliet was dead. He rushed off to see his beloved, armed with poison so as to die at her side.

Unexpectedly Count Paris showed up at the tomb that night. He caught Romeo attempting a tomb break-in.

They duel.

Romeo killed the count (for a supposedly naive romantic dude, Romeo was quite the fighter!)

He carried the count’s body into the tomb, said his final words to Juliet, drank the poison.

“Thus with a kiss I die.”

Goodbye, Romeo.

By then, the Friar discovered the carnage at the scene. So too, did Juliet as she woke.

The friar was unable to persuade Juliet to leave. He fled.

Juliet famously plunges the dagger into herself: “Oh happy knife, this is your sheath! Rust there and let me die.”

It all came to an end when the friar was caught fleeing the scene. He revealed everything in front of the Prince of Verona, and both fathers of the two dead lovers.

The two heartbroken old men, rebuked by the prince, make up on the spot.

A seemingly happy ending to a tragic sequence of events.

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In the arms of the sheikh/ kaori himeki

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Manga with English text. Pulp fiction storyline. Good for quick flip on a Sunday no-brainer morning, those sort of days.

Self-made girl meets aloof but nobel hearted sheik prince. Warms his heart and he also makes her fall for him inevitably. Kidnap/ assassination risk, to spice things up.

Two caravans/ Marina Lewycka

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Two Caravans
ISBN: 9780670916382

From strawberry picking, to chicken slaughtering, to escaping from murderous thugs. And in between, a blossoming romance.

Newcomer Irina joins the team of “Seasonal Agricultural Workers. Yola the female Polish supervisor, Marta (Yola’s niece), and two chinese girls (one from China and one Malaysian).

Andriy (Ukrainian), Tomasz (Polish), Vitaly (fellow migrant and later “recruitment consultant”), Emanuel (from Zomba, Malawi; “harsh staff of chastisement” aka ruler). And a dog.

They are illegal farm workers. One night, after a bit of run-in involving the farmer’s jealous wife, they all suddenly find themselves on the run.

An insightful novel, no doubt fictitious but probably with some basis from real life, about the exploitation of the transitory migrant (often illegal) workers in Europe.

A Separate War and other stories/ Joe Haldeman

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If you’ve not read Haldeman, start with this one.

If you’re a Haldeman fan, you’d definitely want to read this.

All stories are excellent reads. Typical of Haldeman, involving Hi-tech weaponry and technology all appropriately woven to enhance (rather than detract) the stories and ideas.

A solid 10 out of 5 (yeah, good reads like this makes me lose the ability to count!)

cover

ISBN: 0441014070

Short stories covering a 36-year span of writing.

Forward by Connie Willis. “… the first time I ever met Joe Haledeman was in the aisles of the public library, where I found his wonderful novel, The Forever War.” She writes of how Haldeman remained humble, never boastful of his writing achievements (awards and sales). That he still managed to churn out excellent works even after publishing a ‘classic’.

Introduction chapter (“The Secret Of Writing”). Joe Haldeman writes: “… there’s no “secret formula” to writing fiction, at least fiction that aspires to accomplishing anything beyond filling time for the reader.” Explains how writing novels is different from short stories. Keeps a “Crazy Ideas” file and retrieves ideas as he needs them.

Chapters:

A Separate War (1998)“Our wounds were horrible, but the army made us well and gave us Heaven, temporarily.” This is Marygay’s account of  her part in The Forever War (TFW). She is separated from Mandella and reassigned to another unit. Homo/ Hetero sex theme further explored. War ends when Taurans and Man reveal themselves. Sub-plot: Marygay takes on a woman lover but still finds herself pining for Mandella. Decides that it’s him or no one. Writes him a letter: “If I can’t be your lover, I’ll be your nurse”. Buys her place in a retrofitted starship serving as a time-machine. Consistent ending as with TFW.

Diminished Chord (2004) – A musician who meets a woman; the woman disappears but leaves behind a chitarrone. Playing it makes couples come together and find love. Except for the musician.

Giza (2001) – How two separate societies developed on Moon and Earth; those on the moon had to modify their phsyical aspects and gradually saw themselves as separate; culminates in an act of terrorism against Earth.

Foreclosure (2004) – Woman visited by an advanced alien specie, who claims to be the rightful owner of Earth. Demands all humans are evicted from the planet by 2017. A woman who’s a real-estate agent, unwittingly finds herself the official representative of Earth. She finds a solution at the end, by claiming Squatters Rights and who have profoundly changed the planet’s environment.

Four Short Novels (1998) – Short sequential stories revolving around immortality.

For White Hill (1995) – Earth is a disaster world as a result of a Human Vs. Alien species war. Artists from out-of-earth colonies invited to Earth, which has been devastated by nanophages. A romance blooms between two of the protagonist and another artist, White Hill. The group find themselves stranded on Earth when Earth’s enemies find a way to speed up the sun’s evolution and would go super-nova in mere decades. White Hill leaves the protagonist when she decides to accompany the last out-going starship, utilising her ‘jaturnary’ skills to maintain the psychic states of those undergoing cold-sleep.

Finding My Shadow (2003) – Set in future Boston after the city became the target of a terrorist virus attack. Protagonist discovers her lover is alive and the attack and subsequent quarantine of Boston was a conspiracy.

Civil Disobedience  (2005) – Set in future US where rising water levels have resulted in submerged towns. Main plot is about how the protagonist tries to outsmart the authorities after being picked up for questioning, but is beaten by the system and security/ surveillance. Story plays on the increased powers of surveillance by the US authorities and other political issues. End notes by Haldeman elaborates that this story was also in response to the tightening Homeland Security acts by the Bush administration following the 9-11 attack.

Memento Mori (2004) – Nano-tech interpretation of the vampire myth, though it’s inferred to be a vampire myth. Nanazooans, latin rites as instructional codes to reactivate the Nanazooans.

Faces (2004) – Subtly humorous. Two earthers encounter the equivalent of the Easter Island head sculptures. Except the statues compel those who see it to stay rooted without any thought for food or replenishments. Only way out was for another powerful distraction – someone you can fall in love with. The problem: the male protagonist is gay and the partner is a woman.

Heartwired (2005) – The shortest story, most humorous, and also the most subtle. Marriage and sex counselling that involves romance/ love/ sex inducing drugs. Couple uses it to embarrassing consequences.

Brochure (2000) – What a brochure would be, if earth was touted as a quaint primordial backwater world for alien tourists. An undertone is a condensed version of earth’s history and evolution of life.

Out of phase (1969) – Alien explorers on earth. Braxn, an adolescent G’drellian whose species is like the ultimate lifeform. Time manipulation abilities, morphing (some elements a little like Camouflage, as Haldeman explains in his endnotes).  All human life on Earth on the brink of being killed — part of a G’drellian ritual of creating “poetry”!

Power complex (1970) – This follows the earlier “Out Of Phase” story. Braxn continues life on Earth as the president of the USA, set in the 60s. Part of his species development, where he now needs to understand the manipulation of power (authority, political). Most profound statement on p.177 “most organisms who are relatively powerful, in relation to the challenges of their environment, are shielded from an appreciation of their power by an inability to directly feel the effects of welding that power.” Braxn’s powers of time manipulation is temporarily switched off. He can potentially die on Earth. As usual, Haldeman weaves in combat scenes well and appropriately (one scene was a firefight reminiscent of Vietnam War; Braxn stops time and heals the wounded; makes a statement about how military draft bill affected young men who had to be drafted to war). Political intrigue within the US presidency and senate. An assassination attempt. Braxn almost dies.

Fantasy for six electrodes and one adrenaline drip (a play in the form of a Feelie script) (1972) – Last story, written in a form of a “Feelie Script” is a SciFi script within a SciFi story. The play implies a technology sophisticated enough to incorporate sense of smell and touch to be experienced by the viewer. Written in 1972! Mega-billionaire holds party. An assassination seems to be on the agenda, when he spots a known hitman and his handler (an influential but aged woman). Hitman is subdued. Turns out the hit is on the millionaire. The handler is the backup executioner and he was the one who contracted the hit. Written in a play script format, and you get both the SciFi feel of future “immersive play technologies”. At key parts of the script, the (presumably) machine dispenses electrical and drug inputs to make the audience feel what the actors are required to feel (e.g. Heart rate, adrenaline levels, sexual tension). Hence the title!

Notes on the Stories – Haldeman explains how he came to write those stories, the thinking and ideas. Very insightful.

E.g. “Giza” arose from a writing assignment he gave to his MIT class. He required them to write based on a theme (chosen at random from the TOC of Peter Nichols’s “The Science In Science Fiction”). Students are required to research the science. As partial compensation students could assign him what they thought was the worse theme. Said the students that year were particularly cruel and gave him a made-up theme: “asteroid psychology”. Haldeman cites a technique from Gabriele Rico’s “Writing the natural way”, essentially a mindmap to outline the characters, ideas, settings etc. Haldeman wrote “asteroid” and then “psychology” and tried free-association to find a commonality. Took 15mins and came up Giza (an asteroid can’t have a psychology but could be toxic for people trapped on one). Says also partly inspired by Sept 11.

“For White Hill” was based on the opening 14 lines of Shakespeare’s sonnet no. 18. Says he noticed some sonnets had a “compelling narrative thrust”.

My favourites are the two stories featuring Braxn. P 177.

Jessica/ Bryce Courtenay

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cover
ISBN: 0140279601
NLB Call No.: COU

The book is a coming of age/ bitter-sweet romance set in early 1940s 20th century (1901-1945) rural Australia.

THE PLOT

Jessica grows up in the outback with her strict father, Joe, as a role model and friend, not quite identifying with her mother and sister. as a child sent to work on a sheep shearing farm, she meets Jack and Billy, two other central characters in the story.

Jack, son and heir of the farm, eventually falls in love with Jessica and so does she with him. Billy gets injured in an accident while trying to punish the hired help who bullied Jessica. He ends up as the town idiot.

Billy looks for Jessica after being driven to murder. Jessica tries to save him from the lynch mob by taking him to town where he might at least be given a fair trial. There, she meets Richard Runche the alcoholic lawyer.

Jessica’s sister and mother, Meg and Hester, plots to get rich by having Meg married to Jack. They succeed (which is another subplot). At the same time, Jessica is pregnant but refuses to reveal who’s the father, and she’s accused of being pregnant with Billy’s child.

Another Subplot – Jessica gets incarcerated in a mental hospital. Her child is taken away from her. She survives her stay in the hospital and meets Moishe. Through her help, he is discharged from the hospital and earns the gratitude of Moishe’s father.

Yet another subplot – Mary, an aborigine who’s a good friend of Jessica from childhood, has her children forcibly taken away by the Aborigines’ Protection Board. The later half of the story deals with the context and background of the law and aborigines’ rights. Jessica ropes in the help of Runche and Moishe and eventually they win their case.

But, does Jessica win her own son back?

Read the book. 🙂

Plot wise, it’s not as captivating as Courtenay’s Power of One and Whitethorn. At times, it could get draggy. I skimmed through several pages but still managed to follow the story.

I’d rate this 3 out of 5.

Because your vampire said so/ Michele Bardsley

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I borrowed this book because I desperately wanted something to read for my bus journey home (I’m a book-addict!).

But also because I wanted to read something outside my reading comfort zone.

This is Chick-lit meets Fantasy meets Paranormal meets Romance.

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NLB Call No.: BAR
ISBN: 9780451223869

Patsy Donahue is a 40-year old single mother of a rebellious teenage son. And she’s a vampire, living in a secret enclave of vampires and werewolves.

Chick-lit: Story is about a woman, a single mother, in modern day US town. She runs a hairdressing salon.

Mini-family drama: She’s divorced from an alcoholic husband, suffers the anguish of an enstranged relationship with her teenaged son.

Romance: She meets this hunk of a guy. Who rescues her time and time again in the novel. But their relationship is complicated by them belonging to different racial classes. Romantic relations between the two are taboo.

Fantasy: She’s a vampire. Her beau is a natural-born Vampire-werewolf (an adbonnimation, it seems). An involuntary one, Turned after being bitten by a vampire. She lives in a village of vampires, protected by werewolves. Her life is in danger as a group of renegade Ancients try to obliterate her to rid themselves of a prophesied Queen to rule them all. Pasty ends up acquiring seven powers effortlessly, like shopping! Except it was for free.

Between chapters, there’s a narration by Raudan, the first of the Ancient vampires, about how he Turned the other original Ancients like Hua Mulan! (I found it weird but interesting that a Asian character is cast in an European paranormal story).

Some parts I found corny at times.

Like this line, when patsy simply got off the couch and commanded to the ghosts — “Only your fears and confusion hold you here,” I said to the ghosts. “if you want freedom, go to the light” — and then the ghosts left. Too easy!

The sex scenes isn’t anything to shout about. Seems like it was written because it was mandatory to include the typical explicit sex acts. They aren’t exactly crude or vulgar (depending on how much of a prude you are) but they aren’t eloquent either.

But I’m not complaining. I managed to read the book cover-to-cover. Plus, it’s my first Chick-lit novel and it turned out to be interesting overall.

The novel is a very straight-forward storytelling. No complicated subplots. Maybe it’s seen as shallow but I think it’s a fun and relaxing read if you want something quick and uncomplicated.

I’d give this a 2.7 out of 5 from me.

You had me at halo/ Amanda Ashby

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cover
ISBN: 9780451221353
NLB Call No.: ASH

Enjoyable stuff. A feel-good story.

Four stars out of five from me.

A very nice read over the weekend. It’s not a sophisticated novel. No complicated plot, though the sub-plots are interesting. A “discovery of who the good people really are” and “the baddies get exposed for their nasty selves” type of story.

Plot, in brief:

An ambitious career woman, Holly, finds herself in heaven. Dead in her prime. Heaven decides to send her back to earth for some “unresolved issues”.

Problem #1 – her body has already been embalmed so she was made to occupy the body of soon-to-be-dead person; a colleague in her company.

Problem #2 – the body belongs to a man.

Problem #3 – there was a botch up, for the guy isn’t dead as they thought and now there are two people, of different sexes, occupying the same body.

So now Holly has 2 days to uncover who drugged her and subsequently caused her premature death; a way to find closure with her fiance Todd. The twist comes when she discovers that her boyfriend had been a jerk all along, and the colleagues she despised were the good guys.

The novel (typical paperback thickness, so it’s not a long read) reminds me of the kind of Bridget Jones Diary style — not the diary format but the process of closure, self-acceptance and a little romance thrown in for good measure.

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