Monday, December 27, 2010

The Magician's Apprentice (The Black Magician Trilogy 0.5) by Trudi Canavan * * * * *

I really loved this book. Though at first I was a bit confused as to when it's actually happening, because there was no note on it. It happens in the Black Magician universe, and it's about the time before the founding of the Magicians' Guild, not long after they were freed from Sachakan rule. It gives an interesting insight into those times, and it also reveals what Sachaka was before a lot of it turned to a wasteland. It has a war in it, battles, issues of sexuality and a bit of romance. I won't go into any more details, but it's a definite page-turner. It broadens the whole universe just before reading the next series in it. I hope we will see a lot more of this world and perhaps in future novels visit some other countries as well. The possibilities are endless, and I believe we can be witnesses to the creation of a new fantasy universe which will be among those most beloved by the fans of the genre.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Meitantei no Okite (JDrama) * * * *

This is one drama that doesn't take itself seriously. Well, except for the last about five minutes. The initial concept is that it takes the clichés you can find in classical detective stories and ridicules them in a style not unlike the "Horror Movie", "Date Movie", etc. method. Except for the little fact that the three main characters actually know that they are in a drama with that goal, but this only increases the hilarity of the situations. The whole thing is actually funny and the episodes provide good entertainment.

For non-Japanese viewers I do have to note that the detective story concepts seem strange to us sometimes. This is because it's based on more Japanese detective stories than Western ones. The series I can find the most connection with is actually the anime "Detective Conan". Therefore I do advise watching a few episodes of that before watching this drama in order to understand some of the references.

Each episode can be viewed separately, and aside from the characters, they don't have much connection.

The main character is played by Matsuda Shota, whom we most know from Hana Yori Dango. He is a very good actor and performs very well in all his roles. He seems to become one with the character and makes them believable. This drama only made me want to see more of him. Not to mention that he's cute.
The role of the female cop is played by Kashii Yu. She is good as well and looking very pretty in all the different styles they put her in. It's interesting to note that she actually had a part in the second live-action movie made from "Detective Conan". She is the most serious character in the drama, and also the required newbie cop. She represents the viewer in the show, and also a refreshing spot of reality in a story that sometimes goes over the top with the crazy.
Kimura Yuichi in the role of the 'cop who can't solve cases' - Okawara Banzo - is not very well known for most drama fans as he hasn't appeared in many. He is a comedian and naturally performs well. His character is the cliché detective story character, the cop who can actually arrest the bad guys, but is not very smart.

I recommend the drama for people who love detective stories, and are looking for a fun filled time.

Love Shuffle (JDrama) * * * * *

The frame of the story is that eight people, four women and four men, date each other for a week to find out what they want out of their love lives. As is usual for a Japanese drama; it ends up being about more than just love. It discusses our motivations to live and love, what we really look for in a relationship. Sometimes you just need to give people a chance, and find out who they really are. In the beginning you may think you have it all figured out, but the ending will surprise you. Half the fun is trying to predict who will be with whom.

This is also a drama about finding friends, and then letting them help in the course of their lives. No one is left untouched by the shuffle.

Tanihara Shosuke plays the psychologist Kikuta Masato. He is in a way the main character and motivator in the shuffle. As the oldest member of the team he pulls the strings, and helps the others deal with the hurdles in their lives.
I do have to note that Daigo, the singer of BREAKERZ has his only longer-than-one-episode role in this drama as the shy, but wealthy Oishi Yukichi. If you thought his singing voice was unique, his speech voice will surprise you. It does take a bit of getting used to, but he is as cute in his role as he is while singing. His character first seems really boring, but he turns out to be more devious than expected.
I'm not going to go through all eight characters. They're all unique and interesting. I'm going to leave it up to the viewers to get to know them. Let me just tell you, that they all have a secret, and all will be revealed by the end.
For the women out there, I do also have to note that this has more male nudity in it than usual.

And for everyone, this also has more sexual themes than is usual for Japanese dramas. Also, I warn you, you will never think about the word "Panda" in the same way.

Hanayome to Papa (JDrama) * * *

At first glance this may seem like a love drama, but it is not. I did root for the other guy, but there really never was a chance of the main character ending up with anyone else. What the story is actually about is the relationship of a man and his daughter and how they deal with her becoming a woman. It is often hard for a single father to let go, but we do see a lot of growth in him.

Another aspect of the drama is the difficulties of growing up and separating from the parents from the girl's point of view. The first job and the first love are hard enough to deal with, but she also has an overbearing father on her hands. At times the story is funny in an embarrassing way, but also very heart-warming. The running musical theme of the drama is sung by the father and is titled "Kimi no kaeru basho". It's a lovely song full of the same warmth as the story itself.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sapuri (JDrama) * * *

Suppli mostly takes place at an advertising agency. While part of it is about the actual work, you also get insight into some of its workers' lives.

The main character, Fuji-san (Ito Misaki) is a woman of 28. It's a difficult time for women and a lot of the drama centers around that fact. She is faced with the decision of what is more important in life; work or romance. Being unmarried and recently single, she puts all her effort into work. She lives alone, and mostly works alone, at her own pace. That is convenient as she doesn't have to deal with others, but also lonely.
Yu-kun is the other main character, who is played by KAT-TUN member Kazuya Kamenashi. He is young and inexperienced, drifting from one job to the other, not really knowing what he wants to do. To him, a beautiful day is wasted in the office. He still has to take the part-time job at Fuji-san's firm and slowly, guided by Fuji-san he realises that advertising is actually something that interests him. Of course, that interest quickly turns towards the teacher as well.
I'm generally not very impressed by Kazuya Kamenashi's acting abilities. I have seen him in several dramas, but somehow he just never seems to become as one with the character as I'd like him to be. His acting doesn't feel deep, he's like a face that's in front of you, saying the lines, but it's blank.

The questions that this drama raises are love or work? Can an older woman see her future in a younger man? Can you give up your way of life for another? Regarding other characters, you also find wondering about other things. Can a selfish man learn to become a good father? How long can a woman wait for a man, or a man for a woman? When should you let go and have the person you love do what they should?

Besides the romances that these people experience you also get a glimpse into the workings of an advertising agency and you will never look at an ad the same way as you did before.

While the story of the drama is very good, there is just one flaw. When the two main characters kiss, it just lacks that special something that all the great kisses in the world have had. The fire; the connection. The other romantic scenes work, but kissing just doesn't. It's a bit disappointing, and you begin to doubt the validity of the romance.

Leap Year (2010) * * *

Leap Year is a rather good romantic comedy, for one of its overly cliched genre. It does follow the classic script: the characters not liking each other at first, but having to cope for some reason. Then as they get to know one another, they gradually fall in love. No surprises there. 

Why I would recommend this movie though is partly because Amy Adams just does a great job again. Her classically beautiful face looks something that is straight out of the 50s. She makes the snotty character of Anna look believable and as a woman you have to give her extra points for running around in those really high heels. 
The leading man (Matthew Goode) is nice looking, pulls off the scruffy Irish lad really well. 

The comedy situations are genuinely funny and you are amused by them, even though you can see some of them coming. The romance is a bit in the background next to the comedy and the journey that they take together and you do wonder a bit why those two actually fall in love. Though probably men don't wonder why anyone would fall for Amy Adams. Another high point of the movie is the wonderful backdrop of the Irish countryside. There are truly beautiful scenes with the rolling hills and all that green. It makes you want to go there and run down a hill barefoot in the rain as well. I'm sure that after seeing this, a lot of people make Ireland their next holiday destination, but not the city.

The movie does ask one question that you find yourself wondering about. If your house was on fire and you had 60 seconds to save something, what would you take? What is the most important thing in your life?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Star No Koi (JDrama) * * * * *

I started to watch this as my latest Japanese drama because it introduced the story as the Japanese take on Notting Hill. I remembered liking that movie, and I wanted to watch something romantic, so I started it. It may resemble the American movie, but it's just so much more.

Why do you fall in love with a story? There are some love stories, that you like, or find interesting. Some are cute. But there are still others, that just manage to touch something inside you that others may not. To each its own and no two people are affacted in the same way by a story. This one did manage to touch something inside me. I could never explain why, but I'm glad it did, because it will be a drama I will always cherish. Anyone who knows me may find that strange, as I'm not a romantic type, and generally detest love stories. There was, however, something so pure in this story, that it even broke through my barriers.

A strange thing is that what I will always remember the most about this story is not just the romance, but the guy eating eggs with rice and soy sauce straight from under the chicken. He never cooked the eggs by themselves. I want to eat eggs like that, though it wouldn't be very sanitary.

It's about two people. One a star, a beautiful actress, who constantly has love affairs, but none of them really touch her heart. Then she meets this man, who is not particularly handsome, nor smart, just a regular man working in an office. But for her, he is the one she had always been looking for. The one who changes everything. It's a Japanese story, so they may or may not get together, but all the same, I still managed to cry a lot.

Please, let them into your heart.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth, #1) by Terry Goodkind * * * *

I really liked this book. Maybe it wasn't the best book I've ever read and some parts of it were rather gruesome, but I did enjoy it. It is a very classical fantasy, but I like those. The characters were interesting and the world that was built up was very diverse. I liked that it could get you to like a negative character. I also liked that it was in a way very adult. Things came together at the end and then you could see each of the trials that Richard went through have meaning. In the end he managed to grow a lot and you can see the potential in him. I'm definitelly continuing the series.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Chosen One by Sam Bourne * * * *

I finished this book in a week. It was rather engaging and interesting. Mind you, not the best book I've ever read, but it was entertaining. The character had some development and it was fast-paced. I also liked the ending. So if you are looking for an interesting story and are not terribly squeamish, this is a good book. Even if it wasn't that special for me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Wicker Man: A Novel by Robin Hardy, Anthony Shaffer * * * * *

I actually loved this book. I read it while on a vacation in a few days. I loved the movie, the original one, not the remake, when I saw it a while back, but this book adds to it. The most interesting part is the different aspects of the religion on the isle. Written down, you get more details of it. The book itself had a sense of suspense, of waiting through the whole thing.

All in all, I could hardly put it down and wished there was more. I wish they would write a sequel as I keep wondering. What happened next?

Flash Forward by Robert J. Sawyer * * *

This book is very unlike the TV series. I enjoyed the series, and I did like the book. However, other than the initial idea, they have nothing in common. Oh, and some names are the same, but the people behind them are totally different. So I don't want to write spoilers, it should be enough that the book explores the idea of a Flash Forward without the over-dramatization of the series. It's rather clean and simple. There is a lot of science in it and that can get frustrating. I skipped most of it as I was trying really hard not to fail Physics in high school. So basically I have no clue about partical physics. Once you put it down, it does give you a sense of satisfaction, unlike the last episode of the series, which was just frustrating.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Shopaholic #1) by Sophie Kinsella *

I picked up this book for three reasons:

1. I wanted to read a light chick-lit.
2. I wanted to find out what shopaholics are like, since I can't relate.
3. Advertisements all around.

I shouldn't have. I was sort of hoping that she would be cured, and learn to live a sensible lifestyle halfway through, but no. I never knew a person like her, and discovered I don't want to. Like I said, I'm not a shopaholic myself, but I like to investigate people who are not like me. The main character drove me crazy! I'm a total scrooge myself and the type who will put at least 10% of her paycheck into savings every month. So it was so frustrating for me to see someone be so nonchalant about money. I was hoping that maybe I could just laugh at her, but I can't. If you're anything like me, stay away from this book.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Magicians' Guild (The Black Magician Trilogy #1) by Trudi Canavan * * * * *

This is one of the best fantasy books I've ever read. I feel that it's a crime that not more people are reading her books. It should also be translated into my native language, so that I could have other read it as well.

This story is not your avarage fantasy. There is no quest to undertake, no clear lines of who is bad and who is good. You may think that one character is the greatest enemy, only to find out that the person is a friend. There are mysteries to figure out. The main character grows a lot from a little girl to a woman. So in a way it's a coming of age story. It's fast paced and interesting and I can promise everyone, you start reading and don't stop until your eyes are tearing up, and you're yawning so big that you could swallow the book.

I've hear it compared to Harry Potter because it also takes place in a magical school. However, this school is not Hogwarts. These kids aren't just learning spells, they're learning how to use magic in a battle as well.

Sonea, the main character is only a child. She's poor, and she's not supposed to have magical powers, but of course she does. She is scared, and tries to get away, plunging into the underworld of Imardin. It was exciting, because partly I wanted her to be found for her own good, but I also didn't. 

The book is a first part of a series, and it does sometime feel like it. It can drag. However, I'm sure if they had the first three books of the series in one book, like they do Lord of the Rings, it wouldn't feel like it. When I finished the series, I realised that it was a long journey from where Sonea started, to where she ended up. It may start like a girl going to a magical school, but the end is so far removed from that world, it seems unreal.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Moon (Twilight #2) by Stephenie Meyer *

I love vampires. I watch everything that has vampires in it and read a lot of vampire fiction. But this is about vampires? Really? It has nothing of what makes vampires interesting. In fact, it has nothing interesting at all. I read the first book and it was okay. Then I get to this one and have to read through pages and pages of whining, teenage angst over a guy she barely knows. I wanted to strangle the little b... Thank the gods I was never a teenager, because if that's what it's like, then I didn't miss a thing. Then she takes forever to realise that Jacob is a werewolf. Who didn't know by the end of the book? The saddest thing is that this horrible little girl has the same name as I do. I didn't read the whole thing, I gave up after page 200. I'm selling the book, because I never ever want to pick it up again. Just seeing it in the shops makes me cringe.

Seriously, how can people be so in love with this series? Don't they have taste? I've read fanfiction that was more interesting, exciting and better written than this book.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Starstruck (2010) * * *

I have mixed feelings about this movie. It was quite good for a Disney teen movie. I loved the lead male character, but the girl I wanted to strangle with my bare hands. She obviously had hidden issues. The guy was nothing but sweet to her, and all she would do is bitch about everything and blame him. The music is catchy and makes me wish that it had more music and less girl in it. It did have some funny moments.

Overall, a watchable afternoon movie. It also doesn't have silly messages like you have to fling yourself at a guy, or that you're not good enough if you're single.

Twilight (2008) *

When I went to see the movie, I had no idea what it was about other than vampires. I have always been a fan of vampire movies and stories. The sexuality, the suspense, the blood, it all fascinated me. I once wrote a little piece on vampires, the history of the figure, and that sort of things. A vampire always expressed hidden desires, mostly sexual ones.

After I came out of the theatre, the only thing running through my head was; "What in the world was that?"

Let's start with a story. I'm not going to spoil the thing to anyone, by saying that it's about a girl, who moves in with her dead to the middle of nowhere - Washington state. She meet an old friend, a Native American named Jacob. He has the hots for her. Then she goes to school, and every boy, including the mysterious Edward Cullen has the hots for her. Kind of cliche. Okay, very cliche. It's so obvious he's a vampire, even without the trailer I would have figured it out. The big scene is supposed to be when he tells her what he is. First of all, when he runs up on top of a hill with her is probably the worst special effect I've ever seen. Then he has this big speech about how horrible he is when he's in the sun, and then it turns out that he ... sparkles. Now that was a let down. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The vampire baseball was ridiculous. The pace did pick up towards the end, but the fight scene was horrible. In the end, it was basically about nothing much, and I was so bored, I forgot half of the movie. I actually had to watch it a few months later again, because I thought I forgot half of the movie. I didn't.

Bella Swan, what can I say. I'm ashamed that she wears my name. She's a horrible character. Moody, never happy about anything, and utterly boring. There is nothing interesting about her, yet all the men are falling in love with her. Kristen Stewart doesn't put in any effort to breathe any life into the character. She has two expressions. One is that she's about to throw up, the other is that she's about to have an orgasm. I have seen her in other things as well, and that is really all. When she tries to smile, it's scary in a bad way.

Edward Cullen, the vampire. He's supposed to be the big romantic hero, but he's actually rather creepy. He watches her while she sleeps, tells her to stay away, yet keeps pursuing her. Robert Pattison doesn't help. I didn't like him much in Harry Potter. I didn't even remember that he played Cedric, that's how forgettable he is. I suppose some women may find him attractive, but big forehead and square head is not for me. He is also very boring, and lacks charisma.

This movie was supposed to be about vampires and romance. It failed on both. In spite of the two leading actors becoming a couple while filming, they completely lacked chemistry. They just both seemed bored. It didn't deliver on vampires either. There was no sexuality, suspense, and they didn't drink blood. My hidden desires don't include being stalked, and then getting sparkled at.

I have read the book. Why? Because it was a hype, and I wanted to know what it was about. I hoped that it would be better than the book. It wasn't. It was in fact worse, as it took longer, and I had to read Meyer's awful prose.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Twilight (Twilight #1) by Stephenie Meyer *

I always read the bios of an author before reading anything from them. This makes me aware of where the author is coming from. I noticed that she graduated from Brigham Young University. Having studied Mormonism at the University, and read bios of ex-Mormons, so I know that it's a good device of indoctrination for them. So I'm thinking she's probably a Mormon, though it was never confirmed, just an assumption.

For a majority of the book nothing happens. Painful descriptions of I have no idea what, because I only remember important things and I remember so little of this book. I may have been half asleep during it. The characters are shallow and show no development, the story boring and unoriginal, Meyer often uses words in bad context. The least of which is that the vampires are just lame. It picks up with the other vampires getting into town and you're hoping something is going to happen. Then it ends quite abruptly and you hope that Edward turns Bella and things get interesting, but no. So it ends. I was hoping that the excitement of the last pages would translate into the next book, but it's even more boring. And longer. I think they pay her by word count, or something.

I've become an avid Twi-hater. Why? One, it's fun. Two, I just don't get how people can actually like the series. I've read a lot of in-debth analysis of it and I could never read it myself, because it's horrible. Recently, I've realised something about Bella and I want to put it here.

There have been many books where the main characters may not be liked or don't develop, but these characters lack the most fundemantal thing in making someone up. They have no basis for who they are. Meyer claims that Bella is old beyond her years, when she constantly acts juvenile. Her pessimism, low self-esteem have no basis in her history. If she had taken care of her mom a lot, she would have been proud, independent and self-assured. Bella is Meyer. A Mormon woman who has been constantly told by everyone that she is inferior, not good, vulnerable, unable to accomplish anything without a man. Since I read all those things about the series, I know that for her, a woman is only someone who has a husband and kids.

I have a third reason for hating Twilight. It demonizes independant women and glorifies those who depend on their husbands. This is the 21st century and we have come a long way from letting men be the center of our universe, of defining ourselves based on our maritial and fertility status. Let's not go back there.