Tuesday, December 17, 2013

World After (Penryn & the End of Days, #2) by Susan Ee * * *

I started reading World After right after finishing Angelfall. The pacing of this book is different from the first one. In a way, it reminds me of Lord of the Rings. There the first book was mostly about the journey and finding out about the world. In the second, you find out more, and the building blocks of defeating the foe emerges. So the third would be the big battles. We'll see.

There isn't an easily progressing story in this one as in the previous book. It may be the reason that people feel the pacing is different, but now that I think about it, not so much. A lot of things do happen, but Penryn mostly just floats from happening to happening. It feels a bit forced, and too incidental. Of course, if I think about it, and take into account what Paige's goal was all along, things make more sense. The random events feel no longer so random, except for a few.

The characters stay mostly the same. The whole thing is just about two or three days, so no wonder. There are some side characters introduced that will probably play a part later, but they are just moments now. Maybe the doctor feels more rounded, and of course Clara. The main focus of this tale is the information though.

Overall, an enjoyable sequel. Still not seeking out fanfiction, but will read the third book once it comes out. I just wasn't blown away.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) * * * * *

This is the second installment in The Hunger Games trilogy. I went to see the movie with a higher level of excitement than I did the previous one, as can be seen from the tone of my review. Partly, it's due to the fact that I've read the books in the time between. I was bothered by the style of writing in the books, which I talked about in detail in the review of the first book. However, the story itself and Katniss' character captured my imagination, and I managed to get passed the style for the most part.
The second book was my favourite. It had the most imaginative story line out of the three, and the greatest shocker at the end.

Now onto the movie. My greatest problem with the previous movie was the shaky cam, and the weird close-ups. Luckily, we got a new director for this instalment, and he didn't suffer from this "artistic" compulsion. According to the credits of the next two (yes, Mockingjay looks to be a two-parter, yay) movies, he will stay on. That is great news to me, because I really loved the movie.
This year had been full of disappointments. Man of Steel I couldn't even review, I was so saddened by it. City of Bones was watchable, but didn't rock my world. The Colony had a great trailer, I just wish the movie had been even remotely like that. I was almost afraid Catching Fire would follow along the same vein. I'm so glad it didn't! It was probably one of the best movie adaptations that I've seen, and it's probably going to make my top ten all time movie favourites list. It was that good.
No more shaky cam! The images were clean and grand. The settings just like I imagined. The clothes and the make-up were wonderful. Visually, it couldn't have been better.
The story compared to the book followed it well. Of course, there were some differences, but the book covers a lot of things, and I thought it had the important things. It has been a while since I read the book, but I didn't have a sense of anything major being left out. Maybe there was something about District 13 in there, but I'm not sure, it may have been in the next book. I went to see it with a guy who hasn't read the books, so I used him to test the coherency and how well the story could be understood without that background. According to him and my test questions, the major points went over well.
One little bit that was different, is that not everything was through Katniss' eyes. This gave us an interesting glimpse into some of President Snow's actions. I was glad to see those.
Tissue warning should have been at the start of the film, because I had tears in my eyes at several points. Just one word, not to spoil anything. Rue.

Now for the characters and the actors.
Jennifer Lawrence carried the story on her back. She was truly brilliant here. Her face showed Katniss' emotions perfectly. The part got somewhat harder here, I think. As I wrote in my book reviews, after the events in the first instalment, Katniss clearly suffers from PTSD. It was apparent often on her face how she could barely keep it together, and how she lost it sometimes. I could feel Jennifer being Katniss. She did show her comical side in THE elevator scene, which I won't spoil. Her face there though, priceless. I think we all needed that little laugh in the grimness of the story.
Josh Hutcherson seemed to have come into his role of Peeta. In the previous movie I wasn't completely convinced, but he won me over.
The rest of the cast had matured into their roles as well. I guess that's the benefit of playing in a series. Though next to Jennifer, they all felt as minor characters. I confess, I had mostly just eyes for her. I'll check out the other people when I rewatch the movie.

I have to write a little side note here. I was watching the movie in English, with Hungarian subtitles. Now I had no need of subtitling, but they were sometimes hard to ignore, and I read them. I face-palmed a lot. When I saw how they translated "May the odds be ever in your favour", I had a little rant at the screen. It was completely wrong. Sometimes half of the sentences were missing. Overall, it was a poor job, whoever did it. So all you people out there who don't have to see that abomination, be ever so glad.
Why was that phrase so important to translate right? Because it's a mockery. The odds never were, and never will be in their favour, for anyone in the Districts. It depicts their relationship to the Capitol in one, simple sentence. They have no chance, no choices, they are just slaves to the Capitol. The people in charge feeding them that line are trying to give them a false promise of chance, but that can be ripped from them at any moment. Some people on the internet wrote that it means "Good luck". They were wrong. It doesn't. It means, you have a chance to make your life and that of your District better, we are giving that to you. That is the promise of the Games. What is given, however, can be taken away just as easily. That is what people realise, when they change "ever", to "never".

Overall, this is a great movie. Others may not agree with me, but I was totally pumped by the end. I won't tell you what signs I was making towards the screen, intending them for Snow, when the end approached. I recommend the film for everyone, really. If they continue on in this manner, then by the end, this will be one of the best movie series out there. You can make room next to your LotR and Harry Potter box sets.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1) by Susan Ee * * *

Rating books is hard. Did this book excite me, make me want to seek out fanfiction, make me sad that I only have one more book to read? No. Not five stars then. Did it make me check the release date for the next instalment? No. Not four stars either. What it did do was have me not notice the bath water turn cold, and reach for the next book. 3.5 stars.

Now about the story. Without spoiling much, it's obviously about a girl and an angel. The majority of the angels showed up one day and started killing people. Why, I have no idea. We start the tale a bit in the middle, and learn of Penryn's story from flashbacks. I'm not sure if I like that. Do other people? I like to see at least one normal day before everything goes South. That could be just me though. The rest is spoilers.

The two main characters are Raffe and Penryn. We see the world through Penryn's eyes in present tense, which I still don't like much. Sometimes I catch my brain converting the tense to past.
Penryn is not annoying. Nowadays, literature seems to have an abundance of annoying heroines, so I'm glad to report Penryn isn't one of them. I can empathise with her need to take care of her disabled sister, and look after her mother. Family is always hard. She's also pretty sensible. She doesn't fall into insta-love. She can think on her feet. She's resourceful. She doesn't sit around waiting for her angel.
Raffe is the angel. He is sufficiently superior-feeling, glaring, pretty. Not a fool either. What was a bit annoying about him was that he kept putting Penryn down for asking questions. Worse still, Penryn felt chastised for asking them, and like a child. To me, questioning everything is important. Penryn was right to ask them. Raffe was just being an arse.

Overall, I liked the book. It was fast paced and interesting. I'm reading the series for sure. The angel theme is a bit troubling as a non-Christian, but I can ignore that.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Big Hand For The Doctor by Eoin Colfer * * *

The story takes place before the Doctor took on any companions, and just had his granddaughter, Susan. It happens in Victorian London. The story itself is very brief. The only reason it took me so long to read it was that I had too many things going on to read for more than a few minutes at a time. It's okay. I like some of the concepts in it, like the pirates, and it would be cool to see them again somewhere, maybe in a longer novel or an episode. It wasn't bad as some of the other reviewers found it. I just felt that there should have been more to the whole thing.

I do recommend the story for fans. Maybe as a bedtime story for themselves.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5) by Rick Riordan * * * *

Aw, it ended. I feel sad now. Anyway, the last story wasn't like the previous ones in many respect. First of all, it didn't start in a school. Second, there wasn't a quest to travel around. This was war. I cried several times. It wasn't pretty, or fun. It was often gruesome, though the description was kept to a minimum. Still managed to sneak in a few jokes here and there though. It was a good conclusion.

Percy. Now what can I say about him? I saw him become a man. He really recognised his position in this world in this story. He became a spectacular fighter, and a good leader. He also realised what was important in life for him.
Annabeth. I always loved her character. She never gave up, she was brilliant.
I can't even list the important characters in this book. It had a lot of action, a lot of things happening.

Overall, great finish! It wrapped up the story nicely, while also leaving room for more. It of course has a continuation in a new series, which I don't know if I should start now, since it's not finished. I'll see.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #4) by Rick Riordan * * * *

Things are getting serious in this instalment of the series. It kind of reminds me of the 5th or 6th Harry Potter book in that. Percy is growing up, his 16th birthday is getting nearer, and his quests and actions are becoming more and more dangerous.
I found this book to be the most complex so far. A lot of things happened, and now my mind is just replaying event after event. Again, I had a difficult time putting it down, and if I hadn't had some actual social life to attend to, I may have read it in a day again. Though I think this one was longer than the previous books, but it's hard to determine on Kindle.
An interesting thing to note is that this one started in a school as well. Poor Percy, trying to get into another one. But I stop right here, don't want to spoil it. Though we all know that Percy + school; not a good equation.
Another part of the story that I have to mention is Pan. I felt that had a very strong message about the environment, and I hope that kids will be touched by it.

Like I said before, Percy is maturing, getting older, and takes on more dangerous situations. If I hadn't know that there was another book, I would have feared for his life. He's also getting romantically more involved, but only in the emotional sense. A lot of the time he's still a clueless teenage boy. He is, however, taking charge in the fighting aspect of his life. He doesn't always succeed, but he is more ready to jump into a fight, and to figure things out on his own. He is also more aware of his powers, something that I'm sure he'll need in the final book.
Annabeth got a bit shaken at the start of the story, and that effects her behaviour through the story. She did feel a bit out of character, but towards the end everything was cleared up. She was a bit on the outside again in this book.
Grover and Tyson were absent through the majority of the story, which was a bit sad, but it had a purpose. I was glad for Grover though.
Rachel makes another appearance. I had my suspicions, that she would at some point. We got to know her a bit more. I took instant liking to her in the previous book, so I was happy about that.
Nico is in this as well, of course. I was happy about the growth his character went through. Though his situation was a bit sad. Okay, sometimes very sad.

Overall, a really exciting book. The complexity of the story reached a new height, and definitely stepped out of the kids' realm. The monsters were more horrible as well. I'm a bit sad that the next one is the end, but it was a great ride!

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3) by Rick Riordan * * * *

I couldn't put this down. Literally, almost. I read the whole book in a day. The adventure just swept me along.

The story started in a school again. It's sort of a pattern, that the book always has to start with Percy in a school. Though this time, it's not a school he actually goes to. He was also not alone, but with his two friends. They were there on a mission. From then on, it was non-stop action.
I think we meet the most amount of gods in this book, that we actually see Percy talking to on a personal level. It's also the most tragic book so far, and I did find myself crying a little at one point. Okay, maybe two.

Percy is becoming a real teen boy now, and there are some mentions of love too. How he gradually changes in that respect is interesting to see. He doesn't just suddenly become interested in the opposite sex, as in some cases that I've seen. I feel I am really a witness to his maturing through the series.
While the previous two books had mostly male heroes, this time we have mostly female heroes. I loved Artemis' Hunters, that was a great concept. The hunters that we get to meet feel like individuals, and not stereotypes, or generic characters. Even the one whose name we just learned felt like a real person.
Annabeth and Grover are great, and I grew to like Thalia a lot as well. In this adventure there was less of a separation, the group mostly stuck together, unlike in the previous one.
I have to mention Blackjack. Now there was a personality! I'm scared of heights, but I'd love to ride on his back if he let me. The coolest pegasus I've ever read about.

Overall, this was another fun adventure. I'm gobbling up the series in record time, but it's really hard to put it down for me at this point. I love how the series situations are mixed with the fun things. Like killing a monster with space food. Really. It happened.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2) by Rick Riordan * * * *

I think I found this book more interesting than the previous one for some reason. Maybe because there were less explanations needed.
I also watched the movie, and wrote a review for it.

I talked about the world in my review of the previous book. This time it gets a bit more expanded, but not a lot. The story is mostly a modern version of the Odyssey, with some modern twists and Percy's friends added in. I did love the modern changes this time as much as I did previously. The whole story seemed to pick up its stride. One thing I have to mention that I loved a lot was the Ironclad. It's a piece of history that I love, and even did a presentation on in high school. I was excited about mentally travelling on it.

Percy was slowly coming to his own. He's only thirteen still, but feels more confident, and more of a leader. He had matured during his previous adventure.

Annabeth was a more prominent character in this story. She was more in the background in the previous book, but she worked more closely with Percy this time. They needed some time to get to know each other, which is very realistic. Her knowledge and quick thinking were more memorable. I hope this will go along this vein in the future.

Tyson was a new character that we got to know. Without spoiling who he was, I liked his character. He was a bit simple, but sweet. At first I felt that he was just a neat plot device, but thinking more about it, I realised that he played a role in Percy's character growth, and a bit in Annabeth's as well.

Clarisse made a return in the story. In the previous books she was a bit of the classic school bully. This time, however, she was a lot more likeable, and stepped out of her two dimensions.

Overall, great sequel, which is hard to do. The story sweeps you along, and you forget that this was supposedly for kids. So, sorry, but I have to go. I have book 3 to start...

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013) * * * *

The movie is an alternate version of the book. That is what I have to state first of all. I've read the book, and while the two do have similarities, there are major differences as well. As I've talked about it in a previous review, it's important for me that the movie can be watched by people who haven't read the book, more so, than how true they were to the original plot line.
For anyone who had seen the first movie, which I hope they did, since without it this movie doesn't make a lot of sense, the obvious difference was that they were four years older. This of course gave the whole story a different dimension, since they were a lot more adult, and there was also some of the usual teen looks they were giving each other. I have to confess, I felt that this was a good change. The adventures were a bit too much for thirteen-year-olds.
The story was very different as well. That was apparent from the first scene, though a movie is always pressed for time, and the changes did make sense. They did leave in some important elements, like the bull and Rainbow. There were some major cuts in the adventure, but the movie swept the viewer along, and didn't lack excitement.
The 3D was used well. Some pictures were clearly put there for the benefit of it, but if I sit into a cinema to watch 3D, then I want to get some of the joys that only that can give.

Logan Lerman looked a bit weird as Percy this time around. He seemed to have bulked up a lot, and that was strange. Otherwise, he was still good for the role.
Tyson was very different from the cyclops in the book. I suppose they wanted to give him a more well-rounded role, but it still felt out of place. He talked too much, and maybe they played up the angst surrounding him a bit more.
Annabeth felt more in character this time around, than she did in the previous movie. In the first adaptation, she didn't seem as clever as she was in the book, and was made even meaner, since some of the things that Clarisse originally did was given to her. This time Clarisse was in the story as well, and the two girls were an integral part.
Grover had a bigger part in the story than he did in the book, which gave more opportunity to his special brand of comic relief.
Luke was more active than in the book. The ending was very different, and gave Luke less role, while the previous installment's ending gave him a bigger role. So it evened out. The scene did give a good opportunity to make use of some 3D CGI, so it worked well in the movie. However, he didn't feel as clever as in the book.
I do have to mention a casting change. While in the first movie Chiron was played by Pierce Brosnan, this time it was changed to Anthony Stewart Head. While a surprise, I didn't mind, since I like both men. Though the character seemed to change a bit as well. While Brosnan's Chiron was more forceful, more powerful, Head was more relaxed and pensive. It didn't feel like a bad change, but it was a difference.

Overall, good movie. Even my mum enjoyed it, and came out smiling. That is important, because if she thinks something is too juvenile, then it is. Therefore, older lovers of adventure can enjoy it as well.
Those who have read the book can enjoy. It's different enough to hold a few surprises, but still contains some of the most important elements.
Those who had not read the books will surely want to try them. I do recommend starting from the first one for them, but more good reading material can never be a problem.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) by Rick Riordan * * *

More like 3.5 stars. I had a difficult time deciding between the two, but the story is more fun, and a bit too simple to deserve 4 stars. Of course, it's more for a younger demographic, still, it was a good light read.

The story itself is clever, but not too inventive. It can be recommended to young people as an introduction to the Greek pantheon. In a way it's very educational, and having always been a fan of Greek mythology, I can appreciate that aspect. It also does a good job of making it interesting for contemporary people. However, since most of the mythology is not invented by the author, I deducted points for it.
The story itself has a good pace. The language is easy to read, not overly descriptive, but still gives a good sense of the places and the people. It focuses on adventure, and since I'm not a fan of overly flowery language, I appreciated the simplicity. I gobbled up the whole thing in a few days.
It's also educational in that it often stresses the visible reality of pollution. It's interesting to note that at one point there is also a mention of not just physical, but mental pollution, that is done by negative thoughts.

I could empathize with Percy Jackson. He had ambivalent feelings about his father, and had to work through some issues. His devotion to his mother was also understandable. I have a similar relationship with my parents, therefore I could identify with his character.
Annabeth was a bit understated. She was the girl in the team, and I felt she was often forgotten. She was the brains of the operation, but I felt she should have had a more important role. Hopefully in future books.
Grover was a lot of fun. In a way, his character was the comic relief, but couldn't be completely dismissed as such.

Overall, the book is more for the 12-14 demographic, however, can be appreciated by adults as well. It should not be taken seriously, but as a light adventure, a bit of fun at the end of a hard day. For younger people, it's a good teaching tool for ancient mythology, as well as environmental protection.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns (The Devil Wears Prada #2) by Lauren Weisberger *

I really don't have much to say about this book, as I only got to 11%. Let me try to gather my thoughts.

This book is obviously a money-making attempt. The latest books of Lauren Weisberger probably didn't sell as well as The Devil Wears Prada. I wasn't that keen on that book either, but you can read my review of it as well. The point is, the movie was a lot better.
The real reason why that book sold was not the main character, which I believe is Lauren herself. If that's how she really is, I'm sorry, I'd never like to be her friend. She's whiny and often hopeless. Now it has been a while since I read the previous book, and I don't intend to repeat the experience. I do remember that the job was tough. So are most first jobs. However, how awful it must have been to take part in a party at the Met, which I remember her hating. Overall, if you don't care for fashion, don't get a job at a fashion magazine. The only redeeming factor of that whole story was Miranda, her boss, who didn't seem that bad to me. I've had worse.
However, in this sequel, Miranda is gone. All that we hear about is Andy. She is just getting married to a rich guy in high society, who has some issues because of his father. Prince on a white horse doesn't seem to cover the guy. In the 11% I read, they meet, fall in love, get engaged, and are to be married. Her only problem is the mother-in-law. Can someone say cliché? At least, make it an uncle or something! Story wise, this is about how far I got, when I felt that watching paint dry was more fun. There was some plot going on with a letter the mother-in-law wrote, but really, if you have that much faith in your husband-to-be, you shouldn't be getting married in the first place.

Character wise, this is Andy 10 years down the line. She has a bridal magazine together with her old colleague, Emily, who had landed her own rich husband. How did that happen? I didn't find out how they became besties. We do learn some of how the magazine was started. However, am I the only one who has a problem with Andy anywhere near fashion???? I'm sure I wasn't the only one who looked at that with a raised eyebrow. One would think that in 10 years she would at least be able to dress herself. Still, at the beginning we see Emily lending her a dress, because she didn't take proper clothes to The Hamptons. Obviously, the woman had 0 growth in that department. Therefore, I really never got what she was doing with a bridal magazine. Andy, this completely boring person hadn't changed at all.

Overall, I just didn't want to read more of this. I've had to read enough terrible books in my life for school, now that I'm out, I'd rather not waste my time. I didn't care for Andy's bridal problems. If this plain Jane got her prince or not. She could have hung herself in pain, and I wouldn't care one bit. So my recommendation is, don't buy this book. Really, don't waste your money on something so terribly ... snooze worthy. If Ms. Weisberger wants our money, she should make more of an effort, and try to write something worth reading.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013) * * *

I went to this movie after reading mixed reviews about it. Though there were mixed reviews about the books as well, and those I liked. Okay, the first three. I haven't read on, as I felt it should have ended there. Moving on...
When I watch a movie that is based on a book, I don't try to compare it to the book too much. They are two different mediums, and something that may work in a book, doesn't work in a movie. What is important is for the movie to give back the main story line of the book, the feel of the book, and to stand on its own, so that people who don't read the books understand it as well.

The story line I had a problem with. Partly, because I read the book over a year ago, and I don't remember much of it. I'm pretty sure the end was different, but that I understand because of the time. They did commit a major sin though. They revealed a very important plot point, in fact, I think more than one, that doesn't get revealed until the next book. They did stick to it mostly, but still...
The feel was great. Seriously, I came out of the theater pumped up, and that is always a good thing. I saw the world as if I was still in the movie. That may not be that good.
It can stand on its own for the most part. There were some things that I knew from the book, that was a bit problematic in the movie. For example, the people living at the Institute. Who they were wasn't explained well. I would have liked them to be properly introduced. Maybe it was a time issue, or a flow issue, but really, how long would it take to say "Hi, I'm Isabelle, this is Alec, my brother." or something to that effect. We basically don't know anything about anyone, just Clary. All the back stories that they may have is missing. It's implied, but I only caught snippets. That was a negative. The rest of the plot is explained well, can be understood without the book.

The look of the movie was great. The Institute I loved, the demons looked properly hideous, the fight scenes were reasonably exciting. The soundtrack was also really good. I generally don't pay much attention to the music, but that was a huge plus in this one. I especially liked one fight scene music, so I'm definitely getting the soundtrack.

Now on to the cast. I must say, pretty good.
Lily Collins I first noticed in Mirror, Mirror, where I thought how better she was at being Snow White than Kristen Stewart. She was a very believable Clary too. I look forward to seeing her in more movies, I think she'll be great.
Jamie Campbell Bower was properly hot and dark as Jace. I didn't have a clear picture of Jace in my head, but it would have been something like him. I was very glad when he was cast, I always thought he was wasted as the young Grindelwald.
Kevin Zegers as Alec was a bit of a let-down. I just imagined Alec as a lot more imposing figure somehow. A bit like a darker, more muscular Jace. It was especially a let-down, because I always liked Alec.
Some people say Godfrey Gao didn't fit the bill of Magnus. I actually imagined him to be uglier somehow. It was a bit of a pleasant surprise, because I found Godfrey very cute. Therefore, although he didn't fit my Magnus either, I'd rather have him.
Aidan Turner I didn't recognise at first, although I watched Being Human. I knew I had seen him somewhere, but because of all the hair, he was playing Luke, it was hard. He didn't have a major role in the movie, I hope he'll get more story next time. I always thought Luke was a good character.
Casting Jared Harris as Hodge is a bit of a give-away. I won't say more. Spoilers.

Overall, it was a good movie. Watchable. I may even re-watch it in a few months on a bored Sunday. People can take their boyfriends or girlfriends to it as well, and they will probably have a good time too. I do wish it was less show, more story, but the fight scenes were pretty cool. If someone likes the story, they should read the book though. If someone read the book, try to leave your outrage over the little things behind, and just immerse yourself in the sights. That is why this gets 3 stars. Slightly worse than the book.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Itazura na Kiss ~ Love in Tokyo (JDrama) * * * * *

I wanted to watch a cute, funny and romantic drama, and that is just what I got. I do remember watching the previous version of Itazura na Kiss, but I don't remember much of it. It didn't seem to have much of an impact, and that version was only 9 episodes, while this one is 16.

The story is a love triangle, sort of. From the start we know that Kotoko is in love with Irie-kun. It's also not hard to deduct that Kin-chan is in love with Kotoko. Irie-kun doesn't even seem to know that Kotoko exists, until she presents him with a love letter that of course, no surprise, he turns down. What happens after that is years and years of Kotoko being hopelessly devoted. Yes, this drama takes place over 3-4 years.
Kotoko is in class F at the beginning, and Irie is in A. Fs, people who are perhaps not that book smart, and As, who are seem to be a world apart. Can two people so different find each other? Can it work? At one point Irie confesses that he had no troubles until Kotoko entered into his life. Everything was easy for him, he never meet any challenges. The obstacles in his life, and overcoming them showed him that he can be strong. Only someone from class F could have done that for him.
The story is complex, and full of ups and downs. It reminded me of Hana Yori Dango in that, which is my favourite drama of all time. I often found it hard to believe that Kotoko could still go on, but I think she is such a positive person, she couldn't give up.

Kotoko is played by the lovely Honoka Miki. She has the obligatory big ears, but other than that, she's beautiful. Half the time I was staring at her, and couldn't understand how Irie-kun could resist her. Miki does a great job. She hadn't worked in many dramas yet, but she's very young. She's the youngest of the trio, and completely steals every scene. I hope to see a lot more of her in the future.
Irie-kun is played by Furukawa Yuki. The actor grew up in Canada, and hasn't been in many dramas either. He has to speak English in a few scenes, and there is one very funny one, where he has to repeat what he said in a strong Japanese accent for Kotoko to understand it. He is very cold, and hardly ever smiles, but that's in his role. I don't know how he could bear not laughing at Kotoko all the time.
Kinnosuke Ikezawa, aka. Kin-chan is played by Yamada Yuki. His character dresses a bit like someone from the early 90s, which is strange and out of place. He is lovable though in the way he dots on Kotoko, and I did find myself wishing that she gave up on Irie. His cooking always made me hungry.
A supporting character I really loved was Irie's mother, Machiko, played by Nishimura Tomomi. She was a bit silly, kind of a comic relief, but really sweet in her love for Kotoko. I felt that the two found each other. She needed a daughter, and Kotoko a mother. I was almost more concerned for their relationship than Kotoko and Irie's.

Overall, this is a very good drama. I recommend it to all women, because I'm sure you'll enjoy this a lot. This may just be my second favourite drama.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blood Trail (Victoria Nelson, #2) by Tanya Huff * * * *

I liked this book better than the previous one. The supporting cast was more present and interesting.

In this story Vicki finds herself heading out from Toronto to rural Canada. Henry is asked to help in uncovering who killed a few of his old friends from a family he has been in contact with since WWII, and he asks Vicki to go with him. Mike gets into the mix too about half-way through, and messes things up a bit.
A fun thing about the story was that it takes place in the high heat of the summer, August. I read it in August, beginning it just as I was waiting for the bus, trying not to faint from the heat.
The detective story was interesting, and the ending reminded me a bit of the kind of stories I saw in Japanese detective dramas. It was slightly bittersweet. Again, about half-way through, we were told who the killer was, and got to see it a bit from their perspective. I'd really prefer it if Tanya Huff hadn't done that, but maybe it was a thing in the 90s. I mostly read historical fiction back then. It did give another perspective though, however briefly.

In the story we do see some progression in Vicki's and Henry's relationship, but not a lot, which is a bit disappointing at times. It's not really the sizzling vampire romance, but I don't mind all that much, since I'm not a fan of romance. In fact, Henry is not present a lot in the story at all, just at some important points. The focus is more on Vicki, and the other family.
As can be expected, it's not an ordinary family. Without trying to spoil it, I'll just say that I enjoyed learning about their way of life, their habits. I also grew to like the whole family, especially the twins. This lead me to care for them, and the situation they were in.

Overall, the story was entertaining, and a quick read. I recommend it to people who like a simple detective story with a supernatural twist. If you like a lot of romance, this is not for you. It can be read in a few days. The only reason it took me so long was that I read another novel at the same time.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Darkfever (Fever, #1) by Karen Marie Moning * *

Darkfever is a novel that is in the very popular supernatural YA category. Mercifully, this first instalment of the series skips the trope of the girl falling madly in love at first sight with a mysterious man, though there are signs that it's in her future. Still, not just yet.

I rated it just 2 stars, because it was just okay. I can't say it was terrible, like New Moon, which was 1 star, but I also can't say that I liked it. It was just okay. The reason for it is not in the story itself, or the writing. The story was fine. It kind of blew some of the plot on the first page. The story is told from the perspective of a future Mac, the main character, who doesn't just tell the story, but also comments on it, almost like she has an agenda, like self-reflection. Therefore, foreshadowing is a big thing in the narration.
It's also not very fast-paced, because it does stop often to make room for what we could call "fillers". One kind of filler that drove me crazy and I started skipping it at about 53%, was outfit descriptions. I don't just mean things like "he wore all black". We get descriptions from the maker of shirts to the heel of boots. They don't add to the story and are not even interesting, pretty, or artistic. They really just seem to be there to add word numbers. Things like these stop the flow of the story, and even when there were action scenes, the descriptions, and other motion-stopping fillers just kept coming. Therefore, instead of smooth camera action, you get a serious of stills and slow motion footages. Sometimes it gets so distracting, that you lose track of what is actually happening.
Otherwise, the story itself is not bad. The world that is built is interesting, and has a lot of potential. There are two types of Fae, and I'm not really spoiling here, since that is basically on the first page. They are not just dark and light haired faries, but more diverse.
The writing is not bad either. Sometimes you even get highlights, especially in the way emotions are told. They can be kind of pretty in places. That was a saving grace in the story, and one of the places where I actually almost liked it.

The characters are the main reason why I gave it 2 stars. I just couldn't care about any of them, nor like them.
MacKayla Lane is the main character in the story, and her older version is the narrator. Most of the time her older self sounds more interesting, than the younger one. At the start she is quite shallow. Moning tried to deepen her character by liking books, but she must read only romance novels, because otherwise she doesn't sound all that smart or knowledgeable. She's also pretty bad with technology, which in the 21st century is odd from a young person. For example, there is a part where she's trying to find a street. Does she use Google, or Google maps, or something like that? No. She gets maps from a store. Another thing that bothered me about her characterization was that she was too Southern. Especially in the first half she was all magnolia trees and fried chicken, to the point of exhaustion.
The other main character is Jerricho Barrons. He's the enigmatic love interest, without there being much of an interest in love. He's so enigmatic, I really don't know much about him other than he wears a lot of black. In fact, his secrecy is taken so far, that instead of being sexy and interesting, to me he's totally boring. He hardly ever answers any questions, when he's supposed to be the character that introduces Mac into this other world. He also keeps calling the main character "Ms Lane", which is annoying, especially because he inserts it into every other sentence. It's not needed in the context, and just weird after a while.
There are some minor characters. For example, a strange old woman that pops up in a few convenient places to move along a plot line. Not even in likely places. Which old lady goes to a pub at night, or to the museum in their own city?
Another is V'lane, who is just annoying at this point. He's the only Light Fae that we meet, and doesn't rank high up in the likeability scale. I also can't stand his power, which is humiliating, and disgusted me so much, I had to page through his scenes. Mercifully there were only a few.

Overall, the book isn't bad. Some people even love it. However, the author failed to make me care for the characters, and because of that, I couldn't enjoy the story. They could have all died in the end, and I would have been glad. It is worth giving a shot to though, and I'm not saying I'll never read on. However, for now, I want to read about people I actually give a damn about.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Colony (2013) *

I'm really mad at this movie. Mad with disappointment. After watching the trailer some time ago, I was excited to see this. Now, I just want to kill the people who couldn't translate the awesomeness in the trailer to the movie.

Let's start with the story. It starts out good. Post-apocalyptic world, good. Characters having tension, there. Love angle, present. See? Lots of potential. When they decide to go to the other colony, you get excited. They even learn something very important there, that you think is going to be the endgame of the movie. Instead, when it does end, you have a WTF moment. I usually don't use such things in my reviews, but seriously, that's the only way it could be described. Like halfway through the budget ended, and they decided to leave it at that. Or it was the first episode in a TV series. Yeah, I could actually see this continued in a TV series.

The acting couldn't have been much of a challenge. You have Laurence Fishburn playing his usual authority figure. As if he was still the same person he played in CSI, but after he left, the world ended and he got stuck in the colony.
Don't be fooled by the picture though, he's not the main character. It's actually Kevin Zegers' character, Sam. He does a good job, but not a demanding role. Maybe just in the amount of running he had to do.
Bill Paxton's role is such a cliché, it almost hurt. In every one of the stories you need the guy who just wants to be the king of the junk yard. However, I didn't expect too much depth in the story, just some entertainment, so I guess he could stay.

I thought that this was one of the most disappointing movies that I've ever seen. They had a potential here, and ended up doing one of those mindless "running from zombies / things that want to eat you" movies. I get that they are hip now. However, it can be done without me wanting to slap someone, and scream at them: "You had all this potential and you wasted it on THIS?"
Watch this movie, if you like to see people running from stuff. Also, watch it if you want to see good world-building wasted. Watch it if you are looking for a good base for a fanfiction. Otherwise, stay away!

Lovelace (2013) * * *

First of all, I have a confession to make. I watched this movie because I just love Amanda Seyfried. She's beautiful and very talented. It was strange to see her as a brunette, but she looked good with that too. Now, on to the movie review.

The story itself is about Linda Lovelace, one of the best-known porn actresses in the 70s. Frankly, having grown up in Europe and been born in the 80s, I never heard of her. I did read up afterwards though. From what I could gather, the events in the movie are taken from her autobiography, Ordeal. It is controversial in a way, and some sources have contradicted several statements in it, like just how much porn she participated in, or how willingly. It also leaves out the reported drug and alcohol abuse she was doing at the time.
However, as a woman of today, these things didn't matter to me. What spoke to me was the way she grew up, and the way people dealt with the domestic abuse that was going on at the time. In a way it was shocking to see just how much the attitudes in the general public have changed since then, but also keeping in mind that in some places, that is still the case.

The way the story was told was particularly interesting. I'm trying not to spoil it, but let's just say that first you get the outside, then the inside. It played with the mind of the viewer, by having them sort of see the surface at first, and establish a view of the events, only to show the flip side later. It especially works if you go into it not knowing anything about Lovelace.

Amanda Seyfried was great as the slightly naive girl. Due to the rather pornographic nature of the theme, it was probably not an easy role to play. However, I had to remind myself that she wasn't just the innocent Sophie in Mamma Mia!, but also the strange and sexual creature in Chloe. I could wholly believe she was Linda.

Peter Sarsgaard played her husband. He was just as hateable as you would want from the villain of the story.

The reason that I'm giving it 3 stars is because while the storytelling is done very well, and the actors are good too, the whole thing feels disjointed, and incomplete. We get glimpses of Linda's life, we do see the problems, but it feels like something is missing. I would have especially liked to see more of just how she managed to get out of the marriage and the porn industry. The story did have a beginning and an end, but it was a shadow. You didn't see what was actually casting the shadow. However, I do recommend it, especially to women, but it's something for a Sunday afternoon when you want to relax, but also engage your brain some.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2) by Marissa Meyer * * * *

This is the second addition to the series, disregarding the little side stories. When I started reading I was worried that we wouldn't see anything of Cinder, but my fears were quickly silenced. While the majority of the story does focus on Scarlet, Cinder is still a part of it.

This story is different from Cinder. The previous book was a lot slower, and focused on the plague. It also had a lot more of Kai. While the Emperor is still occasionally there, his part is minuscule. However, it's still good.
The story focuses on Scarlet, and just like her original version, Little Red Riding Hood, she's searching for her grandmother. While the wolf is originally the symbol for a sexual predator, Wolf is more of an actual wolf, but sexual attraction still plays a part. The story is very fast-paced. It sweeps you along, making you keep reading. Thinking back, the whole thing takes place in about three days. Cinder is also looking for the grandmother, but she is no longer alone. She got a new friend.

Scarlet is not the scared little girl in the fairy tale. She has guts, and is determined to go after her grandmother, even though people try to deter her. I took an instant liking to her.
Wolf is an interesting character. I suggest reading The Queen's Army first, because it does give a lot of insight into Wolf. He is an interesting character, and his animal nature is fascinating to me. However, I always loved wolves. That part did make me think of A Game of Thrones. I do want to see more of him though, because he also makes the air sizzle with his animal instincts.
Cinder is more on the side lines this time. Though I was glad for her response to the revelation at the end of the previous book. In a way that part reminded me of Japanese anime, which the author does like. Usually the characters in those deal with such monumental revelations about themselves this way.
Carswell Thorne is Cinder's new friend, and she needed a man like that. Cinder is a nice person, and she is very disturbed by her abilities, but Thorne gives her the outside perspective that she needs. He is also the sort of rugged rascal we women tend to go for in our weak moments, and he knows it. However, deep down, he's a good person. He is a walking cliché, but he fills a needed hole.

This story also has romance. It is kept to a minimum, maybe a bit too much. The attraction is that sudden YA romance thing, but thankfully the fluff is kept to a minimum. I can deal with it. Though I had to admit, at the end it was getting a bit too sugary cute.

Overall, it's a fun book of action. It is different enough from the previous book to not feel like a copy of that like some bad series sometimes do. No surprises really, but it's not the kind of book that you expect to win literary awards. I still recommend it to people who like good action, light sci-fi, and re-interpretations of fairy tales.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Papa Wa Idol (JDrama) * * * *

Papa Wa Idol or Papadoru is a funny family drama. It's about an idol, Nishikido Ryo, a member of Kanjani8, who falls in love with a woman, and marries her. Now, as a European person, this whole idol thing is a bit strange for me. I understand that people think these guys shouldn't get married, because that destroys the illusion of their availability, but in reality, they really aren't available for the average Jane. In fact, ironically, this could be about the realisation of a fan. After all, all fans dream of marrying their idol. If we go by this drama, marrying an idol is the easy part. The life after is the hard part.

The story doesn't show much of the romance, it focuses on the start of the marriage itself. Haruka, the new wife, already has three children from her previous marriage. The drama mainly centers around Nishikido being an idol, and how he tries to become a husband and a father while hiding the whole thing from the public. This provides lots of occasions for hilarity, as well as touching moments. In the mids of it all we can explore what it means to be part of a family, and a father. Some of the more touching scenes had me reaching for tissues. The story helps us realise that there are more ways one can be a father, than what we may traditionally imagine.

Nishikido did a good job, but he had the easy part, as he was basically playing himself. He does seem to be bewildered sometimes, like he's not sure what he's doing. Especially when he's not speaking, it's almost like he falls out of the situation.
Yuka plays Haruka, the wife. Her character is often on the side-lines, which is strange in the story. She doesn't have a lot of lines, much of her part is silent, but that is hard to do, and she does it well. The air doesn't sizzle between the two lovers, it's more like a quiet, easy romance.
Overshadowing the mother's character is the older daughter, Mei, played by Kawashima Umika. She is the strong person in the family, and has a lovely side story.
A fun character is the younger daughter, Kana, played by Kanon Tani. She is an Arashi and Sho fan. I'm a MatsuJun fan, but I can relate. Her adoration towards our favourite band was a constant source of fun.

Overall, this is a good drama to watch. It's fun, but has its deep moments. Culturally the whole "idol" thing was interesting to me as a non-Japanese. I recommend it to all ages. Even to men, who are becoming fathers, because some of the themes speak to them.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Blood Price (Victoria Nelson, #1) by Tanya Huff * * * *

I've wanted to read the books ever since I saw the TV show. It was a really good series, and I was sad that it got cancelled so prematurely. I'm a huge fan of everything vampire, well, except for Twilight, but I don't really regard that as all that vampish. However, the vampire here is really great, even though he's the good guy. The key is that he's good because he used to be a good person growing up.

The story itself is a supernatural crime mystery. We have the main character, Vicky Nelson, an ex-cop, who is tasked with finding a serial killer. She suspects supernatural origins from the start, and is quickly confirmed. The action is fast-paced. We meet our vampire quite early, and Vicky and him share the perspective of the story by skipping from one person to the other. This is not third person limited, which I felt did take away from the mystery aspect a bit, since we knew who the killer was from almost the start. The suspense is whether he succeeds in his endeavour or not.

Vicky Nelson is of course our main character next to Henry, the vampire. The book came out in 1991, so we could say that she begins the tradition of kick-ass female characters in vampire stories. She's an ex-cop, who left the force because she has a degenerative eye disease, and her sight is very limited. Still, she couldn't get away from fighting crime, and ended up as a private eye. She's tall and confident, but not an iron-lady. It makes her a lot more approachable.

Henry Fitzroy, the vampire, is the bastard son of Henry VIII. This made him interesting to me because the Tudors are some of my favourite people in history. His character is still basically of his time. He is religious, and there are references to the Christian God, which to me as an atheist is a bit disturbing. I try to put that next to the vampire thing. What is good though that Henry fits into the image of a 16th century aristocrat. The things that were ingrained to him in boyhood are still there, as well as some ideas that he had developed in the past 450 years. It also helps the character somewhat that we can keep picturing him as we saw him in the series:

Kyle Schmid as Henry
What is sometimes funny about it is that I kept forgetting it was published in 1991. I kept thinking "Why doesn't she call her cell phone?" or "Why not Google it?" The story is modern, but obviously those things didn't exist back then.

Overall, the book is exciting. I could hardly put it down. There is the required sexual tension that a good vampire story should have. The characters are life-like, with flaws. I wished that we didn't see the perspective of the killer, but oh well. It is a good, fun read, and not long. So I'm giving it 4 stars.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Death Cloud (Young Sherlock Holmes, #1) by Andy Lane * * * *

I picked up Death Cloud not being sure if I'd like it. I'm a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, always have been. The recent modern interpretations I also love, especially BBC's Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch is just brilliant in it. Brain is definitely the new sexy. However, I also like quality, so I just wasn't sure if I'd like a new book, one that was about a young teen Sherlock. Would it be true to the time, since it's set in Victorian times? I have seen things set in that era that were more steampunk than period. Not that there is anything wrong with steampunk, but it would feel odd. I was also concerned about Sherlock being a young teen. It's been some time since I was a teen myself, if ever, and even then I was the geeky, not-into-teen-lit type. I couldn't work my way through The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and that sort of books, I just couldn't interest myself in those sort of things. However, I was curious, and in need of a mystery, so I started the book on my Kindle. I can always read something else.

What I found was that all my fears were placated. This isn't steampunk, not a gadget in sight. The history looks well-researched, I even learned some things about Victorian times that I didn't know about. The attitude towards children is correct as well. The young Sherlock is a young Sherlock, someone who has the beginnings of a great mind, just needs time to get there. What happens to him, the people he meets tie into the adult Sherlock we know. Even the dark shadow of drugs looms ahead as well. This is also not just a young teen boy, having adventures in the countryside. It sort of starts out that way, but things get serious fast.

The story is interesting. It's part adventure, part mystery. You get all the vivid action of youth, the running about, sneaking, stealing bicycles,... However, this is no childish adventure. The mystery is very adult, and the adventure could test a grown man. It is appropriate for young teens, but can be enjoyed by an adult as well. It's about Sherlock leaving his school for boys only to find out that he's not going home, but will be spending the summer with relatives he doesn't know, in a small English town that he's unfamiliar with. He fears he will be bored. After a day of getting there, he knows he won't be.

The host of characters is interesting. There is no Watson, but he's not missed. Matty, the new friend is not a replacement, but a real boy, with real skills and story. Amyus Crowe is not a good choice of name for a Potterhead, because I keep being reminded of Amycus Carrow, since their names are obviously familiar. Though Amyus is not an evil person. He is a good addition, since we can see from the adult Sherlock that he stands out so much from his culture, that he must have had other influences as well. While the adult Sherlock is definitely British, and Victorian, he also has ideas and ways of looking at things that are more free-thinking, we could say, rather American. Victoria Crowe is rather on the side-lines for now, but I get the feeling that her role will be more influential in Sherlock's life to come.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced, a page turner. It swept me along on an adventure that was exciting, intriguing, and felt like something a young Sherlock Holmes would engage in. I definitely recommend it to fellow adventure lovers and Sherlock fans.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1) by Marissa Meyer * * * *

Cinder is a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella. Sort of. What always bothered me about Cinderella's story, and also apparently many of the people who created their own versions of it; was that she doesn't meet him until the ball, doesn't even talk two sentences with him during it, and marries a complete stranger in the end because he's the handsome prince. So this version does correct that as well. It still has the wicked stepmother, and sister. It's also not unheard of that the younger sister is nice to Cinderella. The author also kept some of the elements of the story, like the chores, the sleeping where she works, the leaving of the shoe on the steps. However, this Cinderella doesn't just take it all and hope that her kindness will free her from her sad life. In fact, she doesn't expect it to. She knows that only she can save herself, and she's no pushover. She is her own fairy godmother.

Of course, she still falls in love with the Prince. However, this prince is not the pretty shell we have in the fairy tale. He's a real person with responsibilities and problems. We see the story from both perspectives, and this helps take the story out of just being about a girl in love. Which, by the way, is not a very dominant part of the story. No long, long gazes into each others' eyes page after page, no romantic sappiness. People who have read my reviews before know that I'm not a romantic person, so this was a big plus for me.

Another obvious influence is Sailor Moon. That is incidentally one of my all time favourite anime, so I immediately noticed the parallels between having a kingdom on the Moon, and people with "magic" inhabiting it. Also searching for Princess Serena - sorry, Selena. The story also takes place in New Beiging, so the feel of Asia is everywhere. Evil queens are also very common in the 200 episodes of Sailor Moon.

What is different from both of these stories is the ever-lurking threat of the plague. Without giving too much away, the disease is used well, as something to advance a plot, make a plot, or to just influence people in the background.

The sci-fi elements are not so overwhelming so that only hardcore fans can read it. It's sort of there in the ID chips and hover crafts, Cinder's wiring and limbs, but we don't get long Physics lessons that you need a degree for. It happens in the future, with people who live in the future. Most of them probably know as much about how their android works as we know about our coffee machine.

Overall, it's an interesting and exciting story. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Cinder and the rest of the people in it. I'm also eager to continue. The reason why it gets only 4 stars is because it didn't excite me to the degree that 5 stars would. It wasn't Harry Potter, or something like it. I don't want to read it again, or find fanfiction in the world. However, it was a good story, well written, even though I found one word mistake. The pacing was good, and I am going to read on.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Glitches (Lunar Chronicles, #0.5) by Marissa Meyer * * * *

I started the series unsure of whether I want to read it or not. I love sci-fi, and I'm working on my own story, so I like to read something that can give me inspiration. I turned to this short story hoping to get a taste for the book to follow. It did give me that.

I found the characters interesting even in this piece. They were living in a world that is like and unlike our own. I find it important in a story set in the future to have people still be people. Sometimes in worlds like Star Trek, they seem superhuman. The family in this story was real, with all the hang-ups of real people.
I found Cinder interesting, though a bit out of her element, but that is understandable. She didn't really have a personality at this point, but that can be because of the amnesia.
The twist at the end was good, and made me more interested in this world. I'm sure it'll come up later in the story and it makes me curious as to what will happen.

Overall, as a short story it was interesting, and can be enjoyed as a whole. It also made me want to read more. Therefore, I gave it 4 stars, and hopefully I'll give at least that amount to the actual books as well.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Heat Wave (Nikki Heat, #1) by Richard Castle * * *

This is a crime novel. It has aspects of romance, but not very pronounced.

There is a mystery behind the novel, which is the identity of the original author. While reading it, I noticed that whoever wrote it, has a good knowledge of close combat, less of guns. Is probably male. He's not very good at writing romance though.

That was one problem I found with the novel. The romance is very forced. In the TV series, the romance comes about slowly, and seems like a natural progression of their relationship. Here it seems sudden, and almost like it's not a part of the whole narrative. The famed sex scene was okay, though I'm not a good measure of its quality nowadays.

The crime part was pretty good. A bit slow going at times, but the mystery was interesting, and while you don't realise the solution on the fifth page, it is solvable. The number of deaths is not ridiculously high as in the case with some crime stories. The depiction of the action is good, and understandable for the person not knowledgeable about combat and arms.

Overall, it's not a bad book. It's enjoyable for a quick read. Won't rock your world, or have you reaching for the next instalment right away, but fun. So I'm giving it 3 stars. If the romance was actually hot, I'd give 4. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Taking Of Chelsea 426 by David Llewellyn * * * *

This Doctor Who book was not so original in its storyline, but it gets brownie points for still making it exciting. Seriously, I should some day count how many stories have alien possession in them. However, in this case while it was a major part of the story, it wasn't the only thing going on.

The appearance of the Sontarans was a surprise, since I didn't read the synopsis. It added an interesting twist to the story. Some central characters were Sontarans, and they weren't portrayed in a completely negative light, which was nice. The author captured the species well, though the resolution to the conflict between the leader and his subordinate felt odd and a bit out of place. I suppose the author wanted to add something of Sontaran culture into the whole thing.

Our main positive characters were humans again. The family running the local hotel were well-rounded, not one-dimensional. What I did find strange was the computer thing with Vienna. It just didn't seem like something the Doctor wouldn't know. If he did know it, then it wasn't communicated well. The Doctor's companions sometimes do know things better than he does, but in this didn't seem like something that would fit that. He is often socially challenged, but not computer challenged. The boy's thing did fit.

An interesting character was Mr Smalls. I thought that was a reference to Bill O'Riley. Would he do the same thing? Probably. Hopefully, anyway, if he's not just all talk.

Overall, the book is a good, fast read. It did make me wonder how they were going to resolve the crisis, so that's why I gave it 4 stars. It wasn't completely predictable. But seriously. No more human possessions, please!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4) by Dan Brown * * * *

In some ways this is a typical Dan Brown book, and a typical Robert Langdon, but it's also a bit different.

It was typical in that the pace is fast and there is an awful lot of running. The whole thing happens in about 24-30 hours. Robert is again running with a woman around Italy, while being helped along by symbols and the occasional helper. People aren't all that they seem, which is usual as well, but they all seem to be really smart. It seems like Robert can't get your average Jane to tag along, who wouldn't know a thing about anything beyond the latest fashion in shoes. Maybe next time Dan Brown should have someone like that along for the ride, just to keep things interesting.
What is also typical about the book is all the detailed descriptions. They are really nice and it's interesting to get to know the history of the places they are running through, however, there is a point where it gets to much. Almost at the end there's a chase, and there's a bit about the history of the market they are running through. I yelled at the book: "I don't care about the friggin' market!" It really wasn't the place, so I skipped over that part, but I may go back to read it. I get it, it's really old and has interesting history, but not in the middle of a chase. Footnote? Another place where it started to get frustrating was when they were headed towards an important place in the journey, and for about two chapters nothing happened, we just learned about a square. I skipped a few paragraphs at that point.
These typical things are why we enjoy these books, and what we expect. What Dan Brown should be careful about is not going overboard with the description, and not all of it turning to a predictable formula, because that gets boring fast.

What it was different in is the beginning and the end. Without spoiling the story, neither was what I expected, and really surprised me. That's good, I like surprises.

The theme of this book was overpopulation. I was glad of that, because I do also think that it's a huge problem, and we may need to make drastic decisions that may not be nice for everyone, but necessary. I also think that in order to save tomorrow, we may need to do things now that may be hard. We are animals, with instincts to reproduce, but we also have these huge brains designed to overcome those instincts. Once I read that Japanese teenagers said that the greatest threat to society is individualism. That is true in that we have to get over ourselves, and regard the big picture. I won't spoil the book by telling you about what they do about it in the end. I'm just going to say that I agree with what they're doing in China, which is limiting the number of children people can have. Some people dream of having a big family, but we can't always fulfil our dreams, and those dreams may not always be viable. No matter what Americans tell you.

Overall, the book was a good read, I could hardly put it down. Though that was mostly due to the fact that I just wanted to know how it ends. It had some surprises, some predictable things, and sometimes a bit too much history. That is why I gave it four stars.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Konkatsu! (JDrama) * * * *

Konkatsu! (Marriage Hunt!) is a romantic drama with some comedy. It's about a Amamiya Kuniyuki finding a government job after many years of being unemployed, but lying about wanting to get married to his long-time girlfriend, since he doesn't even have a girlfriend. He gets hired specifically because the district president wants to promote marriage, and help the declining birthrates in her district. Therefore, Kuni goes on a marriage hunt along with some friends and co-workers to keep his job.
The drama isn't just about a marriage hunt, but also Kuni's district, which is becoming abandoned. He doesn't want to leave, so he has to find ways to save it.

The characters were generally likeable, and well acted, believable. I especially liked Ueto Aya's performance. I have seen her in some other dramas and she always feels fresh, and sweet. Her character, Tobita Haruno, is a shining sun in the otherwise dreary sets of the declining district. She plays one of Kuni's childhood friends, and has a crush on him that she's been harbouring for years.
Kuni is of course the lead character, and the driving force of the drama. It's through his trials and tribulations that we travel on this journey, and he introduces us to the other characters. He is somewhat reserved, but that's a rather typical trait of many of the male characters in dramas. He is a good and faithful friend, and you do cheer for him. Nakai Masahiro, who plays Kuni, is not an especially attractive man to me, but the nature he portrays makes him likeable, and I'd marry him.
There are many more people hunting for marriage in this drama, and I don't want to spoil all the surprises that has in store. I do want to talk about the district president, Mizoguchi Shizuko, who is a mostly fun element in the drama. She seems to have a need to be the centre of attention, and to be famous among the district residents, and how she tries to achieve that is always fun to watch. She does, however, have a genuine want to make things better, even though that may not always be apparent. Some say comedy is hard, but Fubuki Jun pulls it off really well.
Another interesting character is Masaru Ito, who seems to be the villain of the drama. I don't want to spoil things, but if I interpreted his looks and gestures at the end, then it's certainly new for me in Japanese Dramas.

Some interesting things in the drama are the different types of date parties that Kuni goes on. They are all organised by the professional matchmaker and old friend of his, Takakura Makoto, and aimed at providing an environment for marriage hunters where they can relax and get to know each other. As someone who has been looking for love for over a decade, it made me wish we had such organised group dates as well. They looked like a lot of fun. There was the old rapid date, cooking party, golf party, yoga party, chocolate fountain party - my favourite, and I may have left some out. Any matchmaker could learn from the drama.
Another theme of the drama was Kuni's father's tonkatsu shop that he runs alone. At first I wasn't really sure what it was, it just looked like breaded meat to me. It's pork and breaded in panko (sort of bread crumbs). Looked really good and always made me want to eat something like that. It's traditionally served with shredded cabbage, and of course rice is matter of fact. One sign that Kuni isn't always completely dedicated to his father and the district is that he doesn't like the dish, and can't even make it, so he never helped his father, even when he was unemployed. Though we have to admit that people are not exactly lining up at the door.

Goes well with Konkatsu. :D

Overall, the drama is fun and light. Not action packed or anything, but if you want to just curl up in front of something on a rainy afternoon, this is for you. Probably not for guys though. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4) by George R.R. Martin * * * *

This book is the natural progression from the previous ones. It's a bit different in that we don't get to read about all the characters, just a few that are connected to each other. We also get to briefly see Dorne, which I found interesting.

It dragged for me a bit, but that could be because my two favourite characters Tyrion and Dani aren't in it. I missed them.
Some of the characters that I was sort of on the fence about, like Jamie and Sansa I grew to like by the end.
Brienne I just can't care about. I almost wanted to skip over her parts, and frankly, she didn't add much to the story in this book. Maybe in the grand scheme of things she'll be important, but if she gets killed off, I'm not going to be sad. We also get to get to know the people on the Iron Islands more, but frankly, I don't like anyone there and if one of Dani's dragons torched them all, more power to them. Roasted ironmen!
Cercei is pretty much THE villain at this point, so reading about her is fun. She's also one of the more important people that you actually know are important, so reading about her is like watching the news on a crisis. Feels like something that matters.
Arya I'm on the fence about, because sometimes she's just weird. You don't really know if she's nice or not or stupid or clever. Maybe she's in flux and could go either way. Same goes for Sam Tarly. Though maybe the problem with them in this book is that while a lot happens with them, it feels like filler mostly. There are some important things, but the detail with which they are treated feels forced and unimportant.

The story and the characters are still consistent and generally interesting. They also feel real, which is one of my favourite things about the series.

Overall, the book has highs and lows to me. If your favourite character is in it, it probably helps. I'm looking forward to the next one a lot more.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) * * * * *

I do have to say, I'm a huge fan of Star Trek. It was one of the first the first sci-fi-s I've ever seen, back in the day on Sky One. It was the original series, and then I went on with the new series. Therefore, at first my mind was occupied by "OMG, Enterprise in 3D!!!!" The scenes were gorgeous. The future London and San Francisco, the starships, a real treat for the sci-fi fan. I like how they kept the style of the original movie and series. You did see a lot of 60s influence with short skirts and that weird hair that goes up. Visually, it didn't disappoint.

Frankly, I don't remember much of the original second movie. I have watched it several times, but not in recent years. The twist towards the end was nice, I did remember the original of that. Of course in such a movie you can't really expect a very complex plot, but the story was fun too. The action didn't seem forced. Sometimes in action movies you just don't know why they jump through all these hoops when they could solve things more easily. The sequel was definitely as good as the original. Even the remake was as good as the original.

The acting was of course superb. All the actors are well established and most have played their roles already in the first film. Benedict Cumberbatch is a newcomer, but if anyone has seen him in Sherlock, there can be no doubt of his talent. I'm only sorry I couldn't hear the whole thing in English, but the local theatre only had the movie with the Hungarian dubbing.

Overall, the movie was as spectacular as expected. A must-watch for fans of Star Trek, sci-fi and even for those who like action. I can't say a bad thing about it.