lexlingua: (Brightness)

2016 saw me reaching out for many books and abandoning them midway. Even TV shows and movies were fewer in number than I had hoped. However, out of the few media and moments that I did explore, here are the most memorable ones for me:

#1# And Then There Were None (BBC 2015). I find this to be Christie's darkest story (well, maybe besides Curtain and Five Little Pigs). A group of eight strangers with sordid pasts are invited for dinner, and slowly, each one of them is murdered. Suspenseful, with a great star cast. And may I add here, that I finally understand why Aidan Turner has such a big fan following in Poldark? Watch him in this fan-made trailer.

#2# Veronica Mars. Who knew a 2003 TV show about a teenage girl detective could be so cracktastic? The first season was a series of sleuthing assignments for Veronica (and her PI father), overlayed by a grimmer, more urgent plotline of the mysterious death of Veronica's best friend last year. All the characters are well-drawn, with a lot of backstory and depth, and the relationships are well-knit too. But best of all is Veronica's snark. *smirk*

#3# The Visit. Got this 1956 play by Swiss dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt from the local library. I wish I'd found this book when I'd been searching for plays to direct at my school talent show. Claire Zachanassian, now a multi-millionnaire widow, re-visits her dying hometown, and is willing to offer financial help. Except she has a condition -- they must kill the man next in line for Mayor. A cynical, comical and dramatic take on human hypocrisy and how greed can be and often is paraded as righteous piety.

#4# Star Wars: Rogue One. Aka, Episode 3.5. While Episode VII had left me grinning like a loon, this one left me feeling nostalgic. The plot was predictable, the speeches were not so inspiring. Special effects were great as always, though also sorta I've-seen-this-before. But if you have been a Star Wars fan all your life, you simply CANNOT miss this movie.

#5# Oh Drakon, or He's a Dragon. The title is not very inspired, but the movie is a feast for the eyes. Based on a Russian folk tale about a dragon who demands a human bride sacrifice to leave the villagers in peace, the story sucks you in. The soundtrack is as beguiling as the cinematography. If you like folk tales retold, then this one's a must watch. You can find the English-subtitled trailer here.

#6# Arrival. Any "First Contact" movie out there, I gotta see it. In this one, a linguist is called on to interpret the language of the alien Hexapods who land on earth in their eerie egg-shaped spaceships, with incredible consequences. The first part of the movie is especially tense and nerve-wracking, and Amy Adams' look of absolute awe mixed with fear makes for superb acting. Though I did find loopholes in the ending and some hidden geographical biases, Arrival was possibly the most thought-provoking movie I saw all year.

#7# Dark Universe. I saw this short documentary-cum-movie at the Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History on New Year's Eve. And before you think only kids go there, let me tell you -- NOT. It was an amazing hair-raising experience, with the whole archdome of the theatre a giant 3D screen immersing you right amidst the stars. Here's a brief clip:

#8# Thank You. Well, the year's best-of-list is never complete without a Korean drama strewn in. Thank You is a 2007 production, starring my favorite actors Jang Hyuk and Gong Hyo-Jin. The story centers around a single mother raising an HIV-positive child and a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer's in a backwaters village, with no respite in sight. Then one day, a jaded, almost maniacal, doctor walks in, and from there onwards, the show is a story about redemption, new beginnings and the joys of simple living. Each of the 16 episodes was so well-crafted, my heart ached afterwards. Thank you 2016, for letting me watch this show. You can watch it on Youtube.

#9. A Year Full of Music. I discovered a lot of great music this year, thanks to Apple Music, including: the creepy Dollhouse by Melanie Martinez, the haunting Can You Hear Me? by Fleurie, the strangely restful Ethiopian prayer music, and the epic instrumental music by Thomas Bergersen (great for writing, by the way). I also attended the Norah Jones musical concert, which was three hours of therapy for the soul.

#10# First Snow. So I have never seen real snow before. Or held it in the palm of my hand. Brr. You know about all those first snow theories? That if you make a wish on first snow, it turns true? Well, here's hoping it comes true for me this 2017.
lexlingua: (Disney)

Book Blurb:

The stunning conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke award-winning Ancillary Justice.

For a moment, things seemed to be under control for Breq, the soldier who used to be a warship. Then a search of Athoek Station's slums turns up someone who shouldn't exist, and a messenger from the mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq's enemy, the divided and quite possibly insane Anaander Mianaai - ruler of an empire at war with itself.

Breq refuses to flee with her ship and crew, because that would leave the people of Athoek in terrible danger. The odds aren't good, but that's never stopped her before.

I began this book with a lot of trepidation. I remembered the basic plot and loved the characters from Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword (my review), but didn't remember the specifics. I simply didn’t have enough time to re-read the previous books, and I was also very afraid that Breq would sacrifice herself for the Greater Good.

These particular qualms were soon sorted out -- but there were other issues. Perhaps the only biggest fault of Ancillary Mercy is that it’s not the first book. The same world building that hits you like lightning in the first book is old hat by now. For the first 25% of the book, I felt I was reading about the same situation again: a kind of ceasefire at the Athoek Station, where Fleet Captain Breq’s ship is stationed, and her crew is waiting for something ominous to come out of the neighbouring ghost gate.

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lexlingua: (UserPic)

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

I am not a fan of dragons, so I have not tried Novik’s more popular Temeraire series (also to be filmed soon by Peter Jackson of LoTR fame). A decision I need to change, obviously, if the series is anything like Uprooted. Because this book. This. Book. It is written like a fairytale, it has a juicy mystery that keeps you on tenterhooks, it speaks of relationships that are realistic and beautiful, and it has cover art which is glorious. What's not to love?
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lexlingua: (Books)
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
Publisher: Hachette Audio (2014)
Narrated by: Robert Glenister

Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo's Calling. When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days--as he has done before--and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives--meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced. When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before.

To be honest, I don’t think I would have read this book if I’d not known that Robert Galbraith was J.K. Rowling. That’s not an aspersion on the quality of the book itself; however, several mystery books come out every year, how many of them actually get pulled into the light? But The Silkworm did, because, well, it’s the second book in the new mystery series by Rowling.

The blurb does a good job of explaining the plot and Glenister narrates the audiobook well, especially the character of Cormoran Strike. It’s clear from the audio version that Cormoran is a gruff and large man, a good employer and a kind man. I personally think that women always make better audiobook narrators because they have a broader range of voice modulation for both male and female characters. Most male audio narrators make women sound as if they are screeching, whispering, or flat-out childish. Glenister doesn't do that, so that's to his credit.

There is a lot of focus on the actual process of detective work, even the smaller daily rituals (sometimes more than the focus on the dangerous side of a detective’s work). Inevitably, therefore, the book is not very fast-paced and despite the dark tenor of the premise, there wasn’t really a time when I was on tenterhooks as to what would happen next. Well, The Silkworm is definitely not a “thriller”. But the whodunit reveal towards the end was quite unexpected, and for that, The Silkworm gets brownie points. I haven't read the first book in the series, so I can also tell you that The Silkworm can be read as a standalone, which is something that Rowling aka Galbraith has always managed exceptionally well.

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lexlingua: (Macabre)

My earliest memory of apocalyptic references is from the movies The Omen and The Seventh Sign *rolls eyes* and I remember a heated discussion at the locker rooms/ near the water cooler about the grave signals that apocalypse is imminent. Unlike Buffy, however, I could not shrug it off with an irreverent: "If the apocalypse comes, beep me." Ten years later, I saw the book "Picturing the Apocalypse" on Net Galley, and as I am interested in art, especially books which dissect art, I requested an ARC.
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lexlingua: (Contemplation)

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne-or his life.

I picked up this book last year, only to shelve it again within the first few pages itself. This cycle repeated again and again; the only reason I didn't give up on it entirely is because I felt too bad about dismissing a book as DNF without giving it even twenty odd pages, especially when everyone I knew was positively raving about it. Finally, I took up the audiobook -- and lo and behold, I finally realized why The Goblin Emperor makes for such a great read.

Simply put, this is the tale of how the underdog became emperor, and who doesn't love the underdog winning?

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lexlingua: (Books)
We are all completely beside ourselves. With rage. With grief. With helplessness. That’s what the narrator of the book, Rosemary Cooke, tells us, how seemingly innocuous little decisions and innocent accidents can snowball into something disastrous. Rosemary is the daughter of a psychologist – and that in itself, is a major plot giveaway, because when you see a psychologist in the midst of the first few pages, you know something’s going to go very wrong.

Something’s gone wrong in Rosemary’s life – she used to be a bubbling chatterbox as a kid, but now she’s a quiet girl, looking for ways to become invisible. Her sister’s missing, her brother’s run off and joined an activist group, and her parents won’t talk about either of them. The first half of the book is a glimpse into Rosemary’s character, and a witty but sad thing is that glimpse. The second part— now that’s the part that throws everything for a toss.

Stop here, if you are afraid of spoilers.
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lexlingua: (WHAT!?)

This show. THIS SHOW. I can't even *gasp*.

I am not a fan girl given to squeeing, but the television drama, Liar Game, has reduced me to squeeing. A masterpiece of brilliant puzzle-solving, an insightful foray into human psychology, superb acting, and feet-on-toes edge-of-chair mystery -- I am simply amazed by this show.

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lexlingua: (Books)
Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier is a strong starting book for her series, Blackthorn and Grim. It hooks you immediately, with the pages opening in a murky prison where our leading lady Blackthorn, a healer with a dark past, has been locked-up wrongfully. Blackthorn thinks she’s up for a death sentence, but a mysterious fae appears and offers her a reprieve –he will help her escape if she agrees to help anyone who asks her for help for the next 7 years. And when I say anyone, I mean anyone.Blackthorn accepts, and finds her way to a province ruled by Prince Oran, which is not as cozy as it seems. Oran, helpless in the face of his troubles, asks Blackthorn for help.

The story is told in multiple and alternating POV which works well without the jarring or abrupt cliffhangers at the end of each chapter that so many fantasy writers like to use. But much of the middle of the book felt like a drag, because Oran’s narratives felt too YA-ish. No doubt that’s because he’s a young, lovesick, perplexed chap, but I just could not connect on an emotional plane with his bag of woes.

Dreamer’s Pool is essentially a folk tale-cum-fairy tale about a mysterious mirror-like lake (hence, the title of the book) in that province, and comes with the necessary insights into domesticity and country life. I was happy to see Marillier return with her fae plotlines as well, and if you like Patricia McKillip, you will like this book as well.

The final section of the book was where the story really caught on, and for that alone, you should read it. Something alien lives in that lake, something that affects everyone around— especially Prince Oran, and Marillier captures that feeling of suspense really well in the last half of the book.

But best of all, and my favourite part of the book, was Grim. Grim is an interesting character; his poor self-esteem (a result of his past incarceration) coupled with his innate kindness makes a beautiful foil to Blackthorn, whose past has made her bitter, hard and cynical. The two together made a great detective team, but Grim, aww Grim. Somebody should tell him not to worry, he’s a great person – maybe Blackthorn will, in the next book.

Rating: 8/ 10. Recommended.
lexlingua: (UserPic)
With shows like Desperate Romantics, Copper and Penny Dreadful on my watchlist, I knew the next step was to make a countdown of my 10 favourite television shows till date. Here they are in descending order:

10. Mildred Pierce
Kate Winslet does an outstanding job in this 2011 four-part HBO miniseries, based on the book by the same name. I was drawn to this show because I had seen the 1945 version with Joan Crawford on TCM. The show has been changed quite a bit, to adapt it more for modern audience, but the shockingly mean and vicious greed of Mildred’s daughter, Vida, still evokes the same repulsion as it did then.

9. North and South
Class struggles abound as the industrial revolution zooms through England, as do labourer strikes and lockouts. North and South is a truly exceptional adaption of a truly exceptional 1855 novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. But what is really unforgettable is Richard Armitrage, about whom the less said is more.

Also recommended on similar lines: South Riding, Anne of Green Gables series, Catherine Cookson shows, and Lark Rise to Candleford

8. The Buccaneers
This 1995 show is based on a book by Edith Wharton, which lays out the story of four American girls’ fortunes in England, particularly that of the tomboyish Nan’s unfortunate marriage to a duke. A well-made show, though the ending has been much criticized.

Also recommended on similar lines: Downton Abbey, The Paradise and The Forsyte Saga

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lexlingua: (typing...)
Name: Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword
Author: Ann Leckie
Publisher: Orbit Books
Cover Art: John Harris
Awards: Hugo, Nebula, British Science Fiction Association, Arthur C. Clarke, Locus
Audio: Recorded Books (Book 1); Hachette Audio UK (Book 2)

Ancillary Justice exploded in the SFF sphere last year and won almost every award the genre has to offer, with good reason. It’s no easy feat, world-building on this level, with a character of this level of integrity and grit, and a thrilling, convoluted, galvanising plotline to boot. Think Star Wars, combine it with Inception and Artificial Intelligence, and you will still fall short of Ancillary Justice. I can give the book(s) no higher praise. After Cordelia's Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold, Ancillary Justice is definitely my favourite SciFi book.

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From what I last heard, there are plans of turning these books into TV shows. Can’t wait.
lexlingua: (UserPic)

'Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.'
(Matthew Ten, Verse Twenty-Nine)

I find this book extremely difficult to describe, more difficult than it was to read it. The Sparrow raises some uncomfortable questions about our perception of and our (according to the book, unfounded) expectations from God. Mary Russell does a spectacular job of blending science and religion in this book, and for both agnostics and believers alike, this is a story that will send you reeling.

The Sparrow is based in the future, and revolves around Emilio Sandoz, a devout Jesuit priest and a good man whose friends love him, and the strength of whose devotion to and belief in God inspires everyone around him equally. Sandoz’s biggest virtue is that he is not without flaw and that he recognizes this, but it is also true that he has the faith which can move mountains. And boy, is his faith tested.

Emilio and a few of his closest friends are sent to a planet four light years away from earth, a planet called Rakhat, as part of a top-secret space mission in the search for extraterrestrial life. The bond among these seven travelers is a beauty to behold: they are like a close-knitted family, and I especially loved the wit of Anne Edwards, the fellow medic among them. I did find it odd that this motley group went off without space protection suits, vaccinations, defence weapons, alternative fuel supply, etc. to Rakhavat; how did they become so optimistic about meeting aliens of whom they knew nothing? Ah, but maybe Emilio’s faith inspired them to take a giant leap of optimism – anyway, this is a minor point, and our group does reach Rakhat safely and succeeds in making “first contact” with the aliens there. Russell paints the alien life well: she makes it seem alien and eerily beautiful at the same time, and it’s our Earth group which is outlandish there.

In the seventeen earth years (please apply theory of relativity here) that follow, something goes horribly wrong with that space mission. Only Emilio survives from the original group, and when he finally returns to earth, he is a broken, bitter and sickened man facing accusations of prostitution and infanticide – grave crimes for a Jesuit. The media is out for his blood even as he convalesces in a Jesuit home, and the Jesuits themselves want him to “confess” and tell all. Emilio himself has lost the love for God that he was once characterized by. This is what Emilio says:
Read what happened... )
lexlingua: (WHAT!?)
Howl's Moving Castle was my first anime, and I loved it to pieces. Since then I haven't seen many anime shows, but now, I have a new one to add to that list -- Paprika. Paprika is about a groundbreaking device that a scientist has invented to help psychiatrists enter the dreams of their patients, detect and understand their problems (as manifested in the dreams of the patients) and fix them. Lately, however, someone has stolen that device and is causing mayhem by entering the dreams of the psychiatrists themselves. Paprika is a strangely hypnotic, mystifying and very well directed (by Satoshi Kon) anime show. I went into it looking to be puzzled by a convoluted story, and I was. I was also charmed beyond my expectations. It needs a second watch, though, before you finally can make sense of the entire picture, but its worth the effort.

Other (Better) Reviews: Heidenkind
lexlingua: (Brightness)
Magnetic Press
Diamond Book Distributors
Publication Date: June 3, 2014

NAJA is a graphic novel by J.D. Morvan, illustrated by Bengal. I received a copy of this based on a request at Net Galley, and I am glad I took a chance at this one. I have read very few graphic novels/ comics before -- limited to Persepolis and The Professor's Daughter, actually -- so this one was a lucky shot. NAJA is a female assassin who has the curse (or privilege?) of never being able to feel anything. You get the feeling from the start that she has some symptoms of a post-traumatic stress disorder. She works for Zero -- a person she has never seen -- and is in competition, so to speak, with two other assassins also working with Zero. Except, in the process, she uncovers some deadly, hair-raising secrets, which finally prove to be her undoing.

What makes Naja a pleasure to read are the strangely symmetrical, even geometrical, style of drawing, and a fascinating concoction of various shades of blues and purples and browns. It's all very pretty to look at, even though there's a lot of blood and gore spilled across the pages. the best parts are the scenes where the assassins travel to new places, and a brief travelogue is given of the same, for example:
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lexlingua: (Contemplation)
When you read the other urban fantasy works out these days—with those badass heroes and heroines in leather and hijinks and fancy weaponry—McKillip’s Ombria in Shadow seems a tamer work in comparison. It was hard for me to get started with the book—the scenes were too rustic, the heroine too commonplace, the hero too subdued. You may have heard of ‘cozy mysteries’; Ombria in Shadow seemed like a ‘cozy fantasy’. But give it a few chapters, and Ombria will reel you in with the elegance of the words and the charm of uncomplicated blacks and whites.

The reason I am talking of blacks-and-whites may not resonate with you. In today’s fantasy works, there is too much scope for greys. You may sympathize with villains, heroes may fall in honour, persons with dubious character may turn out to be the lynchpins (or the traitors).

Ombria is not a tale of who is the villain or will the villain remain a villain. It’s a tale of two cities, Ombria and her shadow city, and the magic to access these cities and harness their power. The imagery in the books is so potent that you will constantly have an impression of nostalgia, of old faded vintage photos, of dusk and shadows. I don’t know many authors who can strike at me with such forceful imagination as McKillip.

The tale is simple. There is a malevolent being, Domina Pearl, who wants to gain power over the city of Ombria and the shadow city too. She kills the king, throws out his mistress, imprisons or murders his supporters, ensorcells the young prince, and blackmails the hero, who is a bastard with no legitimate claim to the throne. Of course, she does other evil stuff too, but into her way comes a waxling (a sort of halfling) named Mag, whose mistress is a powerful sorceress in her own right. How these persons cross paths and meddle with each other’s lives is curious and endearing.

I read The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier some time back, and the story was too remarkably similar to Ombria— twin cities, an evil sorceress desperate to harness their power, the bastard and his halfling sister. Is this a common topic then—the magic of twin cities? I found the similarities in the two books odd and uncomfortable, but maybe that’s just me.

Warning: the ending will surprise you and leave you thinking for a long time.

Rating: 8/10
lexlingua: (WHAT!?)
Until I read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I hadn’t realized that madness gives you a key to the faerie/ magical worlds. Then I read Bleeding Violet, which shows that crazy can be cool— though with some immediate repercussions.

The blurb from Amazon:

Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills, and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna’s tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas, in search of a new home.

But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she’s far from normal. And when a crazy girl meets an even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.

Hannah is a girl who suffers from bipolar disorder. She has been shunted from one place to the next after her father’s death and is in therapy. In one particular burst of manic depression and hurt, she hits her aunt on the head with a frying pan, and runs away to her mother’s home in an obscure weird city called Portero, Texas. Portero is called thus because it has a lot of portals (doors) to other worlds. Hannah’s mother, Rosalie, is not happy because she had abandoned Hannah as a kid because of various reasons. But Hannah is determined to stay in this crazy town and win her mother’s love. The highlight of the book is Hannah, (who is a flawed heroine but is instantly loveable) and Hannah’s need for mother’s love and her willingness to do anything to get it. One way to do this is by becoming friends with the Mortmaines, especially Wes — tale too complicated and fascinating to summarize— who go around hunting crazy creatures in the night.

The crazy creatures that Reeves cooks up in the book are all kinds of cool. It will bring to your mind all those strange blobs and goons from Cartoon Network scifi shows (like Johnny Quest, if you will). In fact, Bleeding Violet is like a comicbook, with some really fun-horror scenes and cool stunts.

There is a darker theme running underneath, of course. A crazy ghost is in town who’s looking to re-unite with his daughter, and who’s – spoilers — possessing Hannah’s mother, due to a series of unfortunate events set in motion by Rosalie and Hannah themselves. Getting Rosalie free of him will take Hannah all her love and all her badass effort. That’s the best part of this book— dealing with really weighty issues with lovely dollops of hope, and a treat to read.

Rating: 8/10
lexlingua: (Disney)
Fangirl has recently been the buzz book of blogosphere. Its subject is new and controversial— the ethics and perils of writing fanfiction. Cath is a girl who is a huge fan of Simon Snow (read= a take on Harry Potter) and likes writing fanfiction about his adventures in her spare time, which has become very popular among the fanfiction-readers. At the beginning of the book, Cath and her twin sister are moving into college, and this leaves Cath little room for writing. Her struggle between her love for the fictional Simon and the rigmarole of the real life (aka college, study, assignments, socializing) are what the book hinges on.

First of all, this book relates to me on a variety of levels, because I used to be a huge Harry Potter fan, and used to write Harry Potter fanfiction. If you have never indulged in this particular vice, you will never understand how big that fandom really is, and how much potential is there for reading and writing fanfiction pieces. You may not understand the drive to write a chapter a day, or wait anxiously for the writer to put a chapter a day for you to read. Several disclaimers are put up on the websites (like fanfiction.net, unknowableroom.org) —that everything belongs to JKR, and you’re just using (or usurping) her ideas for a non-commercial fair use. It’s a dangerous addiction, and one needs to know when to put a closure to your fanlove, because, it’s not getting you friends, it’s not getting you a livelihood, and its not making you so much wiser. It can be a terribly draining experience for the fans of fanfics.

These fans of fanfiction should be given this book to read. Though Cath never really lets go of the fandom, she also manages to draw a line (eventually) between her fanfiction life, and her love of writing about characters which are her own (not borrowed ones). But here the book’s weaknesses also come out. Cath could come out of her fanfiction make-believe world only because she had a support network to pull her out, and also because the real author stopped writing the books—and hence, stopped feeding the fandom. How many fans would be able to get that kind of closure is debatable. The message of coming back to “reality” was more subtle than I would have liked, but maybe that’s just me.

The book also seems to show that writing will inevitably kill your social time, which is true, as most authors would tell you— it’s a sacrifice that the author makes, to sit at home and write feverishly into the night, foregoing a lot of other fun times. Cath seems to have made the same choice, and is okay with it (though it does lead to a few fights).

The rest of the book deals with your typical YA/ teenager problems—alcohol abuse, selfish friends, sibling spats, unrequited crushes, et. al. The book’s other highlights are Cath’s relationships with her absent-minded father, her snarky roommate, and Levi, a gangly teenage guy with ADD syndrome (who’s Cath’s complete opposite and balances her in a way).

All in all, a good book, though more for the novelty of its topic.

Rating: 7/10
lexlingua: (Divinity)
This is the sequel to one of my top 10 SFF books, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and I have no idea why I delayed reading it for so long. May be I wanted to save it for some rainy day, and indeed, it brought me out of my recent SFF jadedness with a wham! It helps if you have read its prequel, because in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the stage gets set for – spoilers ahoy! – the murder of goddess Enefa by one of the other two gods, Bright Itempas. Itempas is the god of the light and order, but as punishment for his heinous mad deed, he is banished from the god world, stripped of his powers, and is cursed to live among the mortals (whom he so disdains) for the rest of, well, for some undefined time till he learns his lesson. This second book in the trilogy thus gives us a deeper look into the world where the power basis of religion has been shifted, i.e. into the “broken kingdom”.

Itempas learns his lessons – unintentionally, of course-- by the hands of a blind mortal woman, Oree Shoth, who takes him, in his suicidal, sorry state, without knowing that he is, was, a god. I find Oree to be one of the most fascinating characters I have ever read. She is accessible to her reader, in the sense that she is a brilliant mix of logic and emotion (very different when juxtaposed with the arrogant god she has sheltered), and though she thinks herself powerless, she is the pivotal point in the struggle born of old hatred. Itempas was never a kind, benevolent god, and was never a likeable character, but the course of redemption in the book was something quite marvellous. He gets “humanized” and yet gets glorified in the book in a way that makes me speechless with wonder.

The book seemed to be a lot about genocide and the inevitable repercussions of thoughtless racial murder. It also seemed, to me, to revolve around the curious relationship between gods and their worshippers, how a god’s powers are dependent on his/her worshippers’ devotion. Without faith, a god too becomes powerless to act. For that is Itempas’ fate. There are godlings (children of the gods) being murdered all over, to investigate which incidents the aristocratic, autocratic priests come down, and in which madfare, Oree Shoth gets embroiled. Itempas is obliged to protect Oree with his measly powers, though really, its Oree doing all the protecting. There is a scene where the priests turn against him to attack him, not knowing that he is the very god whom they worship. It's appalling and so well-written; god proposes, man disposes.

Once again, Jemisin wows you with her amazing world-building. The mythology is detailed and intricate, and even a few words on the page pull you into a new realm of imagination: the World Tree, the void, the floating city of Sky, the Shadow worlds… I am sure there are other reviewers who have done more justice to the imagery in the books.

You have got to read this series (or hear its audiobook brilliantly narrated by Casaundra Freeman)

Rating: A stupendous 10 out of 10
lexlingua: (Reading)

The theme for this Tuesday's The Broke and the Bookish meme is your top 10 best/worst movie adaptations, and here's mine:

10. Anne of Green Gables

While growing up, I came across Anne Shirley, the talkative, smart, red-haired, impulsive girl who loved to dream and use big words. Was there anything better than reading up Lucy Maud Montgomery’s adventures of Anne, and then seeing it onscreen? True, Montgomery should have stopped writing after the third book, Anne of the Island, and that’s where the telemovie ends. I think a sequel has been made too, The Continuing Story, though I am still to watch that. Anne of Green Gables is ideal for a feel-good day or as a present for any teenage girl you know.

9. The Last of the Mohicans

Michael Mann turned the book by James Fenimore Cooper into a visual delight. The soundtrack adds to the beauty of this adaptation, and it helps that the movie story is more hopeful than the actual book. This movie also made Daniel Day Lewis my favourite actor for a long time to come.

8. Dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been turned into movie more times than any other book, and continues to fascinate readers even a century after it was first written in 1897. We owe our vampire legacy to Bram. I find it hard to decide which version of Dracula I like the most. Almost all movie adaptations have turned the story slightly or radically, and most of them end up making Mina Wentorth Dracula’s one true dear love. I found Wynona Ryder’s version of Dracula hard to digest for the same reason, but it definitely needed mention in this list for the sake of its eternal movie-making ability. Then of course, there's also the new Dracula TV show coming up onRead more... )
lexlingua: (fanfiction)
"Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority."
-- Francis Bacon
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey took me by surprise. A mystery book-- arguably, again in the top ten list of most mystery fans-- which begins when a convalescing detective from Scotland Yard finds something wrong in the portrait of King Richard III of England.

Josephine Tey re-creates one of history's most famous -- and vicious -- crimes in her classic bestselling novel, a must read for connoisseurs of fiction, now with a new introduction by Robert Barnard

Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world's most heinous villains -- a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother's children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England's throne? Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower.

The Daughter of Time is an ingeniously plotted, beautifully written, and suspenseful tale, a supreme achievement from one of mystery writing's most gifted masters.

Well, take a look at the picture to your right. Do you think this is a good man, or a bad man? Or is it simply a man in suffering? Is it even possible to deduce character from the lines on one's face? The real deal is that this man is Richard III, who has been condemned in most history books-- including school textbooks-- as the evil uncle who killed off his two very young nephews in order to usurp the throne of England. Grant (our hero detective)  who suffers from acute boredom in the hospital, decides to dapple into the mystery of this much reviled man.
Read more... )


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January 2017



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