Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Before the Awakening

 I was really looking forward to the new Star Wars movie, although there was without a doubt some element of fear.  Would it live up to the hype, would it erase the bad taste left by parts of the prequels, would it really deliver everything the nerd in me wanted?  Why you might ask is this relevant to the book and a book review?  Well, like the origin Star Wars movie, the new one assumes you know a bunch of things you have no way of knowing.  It trusts the viewers to fill in the blanks.  For completely new viewers, this is really easy, there’s a resistance, and the New Order, and some other stuff.  However, for people who saw the original, it raises a few questions.  What happens after Return of the Jedi to give rise to these new groups, is a good example of one question you might find yourself asking.  There are others, but they may spoil the film or the book so I won’t mention them.

If you look on the ‘net you’ll find people asking a lot of these questions, and for some people it has reduced the enjoyment of the film.  There is a solution, and this book is it.

Before the Awakening is a triptych really, if books ever can be, with three sections, covering three major characters from the new film.  Each section is essentially a short story in its own right.  We have Fin, Rey and Poe (in that order).  It’s fair to say, without spoiling too much, that their paths do not cross in the book, but the action all takes place presumably in parallel, and all of it in close proximity to the start of the movie.  The prose is plain, workmanlike, unadorned.  The delivery feels like narration, you get the sense that someone is telling you what has happened, describing it to you, I’m not sure if that was intentional or not.  Normally novels try and embed you in the story, but this feels remote.  Not without some element of emotion, but just as if you’re truly watching it rather than being in it.

The three sections focus totally on their respective characters, they are in every scene.  There is a little bit of character development for each of the three, and just enough extra background to really bring their story in focus in the film.

This is a pretty short book, 216 pages in the paperback, with about half a dozen of those being artwork.  Given the limited scope, the style and the length, it felt very short as well.  Not necessarily a bad thing given the intent, but I did feel like I could have done with it being twice as long perhaps.

There were a small number of emotional moments, some laughs and some interesting reveals (although given how much you learn about the characters in the movie, not that many).  The most interesting bits outside of the characters are present during Poe’s section, where we learn more about the Resistance and the First Order and I found those very interesting.  The most emotional bits also come within the last character’s section (Poe), and his story definitely got the best deal.  There’s one moment where Poe is flying with other X-Wing pilots, and they all report in using the phrase, “Rapier Two, standing by.” (or Rapier One, etc.)

That moment dropped me right into the first film and sent shivers up my spine, but there were sadly too few of those moments throughout the whole book.

All in all, Before the Awakening is very easy to read, light on emotion or depth, but a good introduction to three of the main characters in the film.  It answers questions you might have if you’ve already seen the movie, and it sets some stuff up ready for you if you haven’t.  My enjoyment of the film has increased after having read the book, even without watching the film again.  Well worth it for Star Wars fans, but not a good introduction to the franchise for someone who’s never experienced it before.

May the Force be with you.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Greg Rucka
  • Illustrator: Phil Noto
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Egmont
  • Genre: Sci-fi
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Otherworld Nights

All in all, this is a great collection and a bonus having the new material. I would have bought it just to have the stories in one place, even the ones I have read. If you haven’t read any of them yet then it’s highly recommended.

 I always have a feeling of sadness when a much loved series comes to a close – especially one that has run across quite a few books.  I always want to know more, even if it’s in glimpses or character histories via short stories and novellas.  I was really happy to find out about three anthologies from the Otherworld series (also known as Women of the Otherworld) – not only to have the stories I had read in one place but also for the rare, hard to find ones and of course, new material.

The first of these is Otherworld Nights!

The focus of this one is love in its various forms such as family, friends or a loved one.

First up is Demonology – This was an online story and is the story of how Adam’s mother discovers what he is.  I originally read it online and it was an interesting look at the young Adam and how far Talia was willing to go to help him.

The second novella is Twilight – This appeared in Many Bloody Returns and is about Cassandra’s (re)birthday and the lack of enthusiasm she is experiencing at continuing on with her life.  It’s a good piece in its own right and Cassandra is an enigma for me in the Otherworld, so it was nice to have a story from her point of view.

Third is a Clay and Elena story and is called Stalked – I just can’t get enough of this pair and this is about their honeymoon.  It originally appeared in My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon and was one story I missed, so it was great to have it here.  Obviously things can’t run smoothly for them and it also has quite an amusing conclusion.

Fourth is Chivalrous, a story that appeared in Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 – It’s Reese’s back-story and I found it very emotional and tugged right at me.  It gives you so much more of an insight into the Australian Wolf and it is a really good story.

The fifth story is Lucifer’s Daughter and is about Hope and Karl – I originally read it in blood Lite 2 and this is probably the story I rate the least here.  While I like Hope and Karl, they just don’t grab me as characters the way most of the rest of the cast do, so for me, it’s enjoyable but not hugely exciting.

Hidden is the sixth story and is a long novella released in 2012.  Elena, Clay and the twins at Christmas time – just awesome.  Not only just for the characters but the plot of this is quite serious and on par with the novels.  There is a serious twist in the tale and a bit of a shocker.  This story is my favourite of the set but I may be biased!

The penultimate offering is From Russia, With Love and this Elena story was included as a bonus with some versions of 13.  Elena has grown so much over the series, and I just love her.  I feel like this was a brilliant point for her and something she has been working towards, even though she didn’t know it.  I don’t want to spoil it but it was a surprise to me and made me a bit emotional.

Finally we have the new novella – Vanishing Act.  this is about Savannah and Adam and is set after the events in 13 so there may be spoilers for you!  It’s really well written and gives you a look at ‘what comes after’ but I can’t say more than that.

All in all, this is a great collection and a bonus having the new material.  I would have bought it just to have the stories in one place, even the ones I have read.  If you haven’t read any of them yet then it’s highly recommended.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Kelley Armstrong
  • Series: Otherworld
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Genre: Paranormal Romance
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Truly, Madly, Deeply

 From wedding days to special anniversaries, steamy one night encounters to everlasting loves, Truly, Madly, Deeply takes you on an unforgettable romantic adventure where love really is all you need.

This is a collection of 24 new stories from some of today’s best romantic authors including Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Miranda Dickinson. There really is something for everyone here, but I must confess I did not like all the stories, and some authors that were new to me and I will not look to read again. However, there were also a number of authors who I had never read before that will definitely have me looking for more of their work – Nikki Moore (she made me cry!), Alison May and Heidi Rice to name but three.

I have to say I’m not a big fan of short stories like this, as there is not enough time to really develop characters or a story. Having said that, I am amazed at how well some authors could drag me into their story in only a few pages.

I am also an extremely quick reader so short stories like these can take only a matter of a couple of minutes to read. Probably why I prefer a longer story I can get my teeth into. I do like a drawn out romance 🙂

This is however a great collection of stories and if you are the sort of person who likes to read in bite sized chunks this is perfect. Romance abounds and as mentioned you may discover some new authors to add to your reading shelf.

Please note this is a review of the paperback version, the e-book contains a number of bonus stories which I have not read.

Book Information
  • Author: Sue Moorcroft
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Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Side Jobs

Side Jobs is a collection of stories set in the world of Harry Dresden, occurring in and around the main series.

It’s always good to be back in the Dresdenverse, even if it is only for brief dips.  I had already read some of the stories collected in this book, in their respective anthologies, but others were new to me and a complete joy to read.  Butcher loses none of his charm and style even though the stories are short, and every one had a different feel to it, fitting to the situation at hand.  His trademark laugh out loud moments are still very much prevalent and as with the full books, they are totally appropriate to the scenes.

He writes a little about each story before it starts, how it came into being or what his reason for writing it were, and they provided quite an insight into Jim Butcher himself.  The very first introduction actually made me laugh, and also realise his ego, or rather lack of one, has not been affected by the success of his books at all.  He believes it to be a beginner’s effort and there I have to disagree with him completely.  It might not have been up to the quality of his later work, but it had all the flair and energy that attracted me to his work in the first place.

There are eight stories about Harry, a very short vignette which I found very amusing, and two told from other character’s perspectives.  One is told by Thomas and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it; there is definitely more going on in his mind than I expected.  I also loved that a few old beloved characters came back into action again, even if it was only for a short time.

The big surprise, however, was the final story, told from Karrin Murphy’s perspective which takes place directly after the last book, Changes.  I won’t say much more because of spoilers, but he wrote her extremely well and it was good to see the world from her perspective.  I’m really glad it didn’t become an attempt to have a female version of Harry, she is her own person completely, stayed true to the character I love in the series, and it was great being able to delve into her mind.  I absolutely cannot wait for the next Dresden book, Ghost Story!

Jim Butcher is a master storyteller that always leaves me wanting MORE!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Jim Butcher
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
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