Friday, January 30, 2015

Grave Surprise, An Ice Cold Grave, and Grave Secret (Harper Connelly #2–4) by Charlaine Harris

an ice cold graveSUMMARY: In Grave Surprise, Harper finds a body of a girl she already searched for in the past, but in vain, in a 19th century grave. In An Ice Cold Grave, looking for a body of a missing boy puts Harper’s life in danger as she stumbles upon a serial killer. And in Grave Secret, Harper finally finds out the truth about her own family and the disappearance of her older sister Cameron.

MY OPINION:

It has been a long time since I finished the series, and I forgot many details, so I decided to simply review the final three books together. Besides, I would be only repeating the same things if I reviewed each book on its own.

What I enjoyed the most about this series were definitely Harper’s cases. From the strangely reappeared body of Tabitha Morgenstern in Grave Surprise, the serial killer in An Ice Cold Grave (which was both the creepiest and the one that made me empathise with Harper’s predicaments the most), and finally to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Harper’s sister Cameron in Grave Secret, they were full of suspense and their outcomes were unpredictable to the very end.

I liked Harper well enough throughout the series. However, I didn’t much care about Tolliver, who always seemed just as her extension. Even the language used suggests that, since Harper, the first person POV narrator, uses a lot of plural, not only with regard to actions (which makes sense, as they do most things together) but also when describing their emotions and even thoughts, thus “they” like this or that, “they” feel, etc.

Their relationship taking a not really unexpected turn does not do any favours to Tolliver’s character, as he remains uninteresting and personality lacking. If anything, he becomes annoying as he pouts because people only see him as Harper’s sidekick, which hurts his manly feelings.

Nevertheless, I liked the entire series. The books were fast and entertaining reads, and the stories were captivating so much so that I often couldn’t put the book down because I had to know what happened next.

3,5 stars

RECOMMENDATION: If you like crime and mystery with a bit of a supernatural element, this series might be great for you.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

gotgDIRECTOR: James Gunn; CAST: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): A group of intergalactic criminals are forced to work together to stop a fanatical warrior from taking control of the universe.

MY THOUGHTS:

As usually, I didn’t care much for all the explosions and the like (Why am I watching sci-fi again? Oh, right, because there is more to it than action and special effects), but I liked the film as a whole very much.

What appealed to me most was that Guardians of the Galaxy is at its core a story of a band of misfits who have no one and by teaming together for essentially selfish reasons (read: greed and revenge) at first, they eventually find a family of their own choosing in each other.

The above is an important theme on its own, but alongside it, the line that struck me the most was Rocket’s “I didn’t ask for this!”, spoken in the name of everyone ‘different’. It is such a powerful message all people should bear in mind, that whichever ‘difference’, be it the colour of skin, sexual orientation, a disability, or anything else, sets us apart form the ‘norm’, we didn’t ask for it and shouldn’t be judged on its basis.

After all, we are all Groot. And Groot made me shed a tear in the end. However, Grootlet (as a friend of mine likes to call the Groot sapling) was adorable.

Over all, Guardians of the Galaxy was both an entertaining and thought-provoking film, and I am looking forward to the sequel.

4 stars

RECOMMENDATION: If you like good, entertaining, but not mindless sci-fi, give Guardians of the Galaxy a try.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (2013 – 2014)

OUAT-Wonderland-Title-CardCREATORS: Jane Espenson, Zack Estrin, Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis; CAST: Sophie Lowe, Michael Socha, Peter Gadiot…

SUMMARY: A spin-off of Once Upon a Time is based on Alice in Wonderland, but rather than retelling the story, it is cantered around a twist of its own. In Victorian England, nobody believe young Alice’s stories of her adventures in Wonderland. As she finds herself on the brink of a precarious decision with irreparable consequences, White Rabbit and Knave of hearts save her from a terrible fate and bring her back to Wonderland, where Alice sets on a new series of adventures, saving her friends, herself, and Wonderland itself.

MY THOUGHTS:

Firstly, let me admit that I haven’t read Alice in Wonderland yet (I still might in the future, though) – growing in a non-English speaking country, we read other, Slovene authors, as children.

This is one of the reasons, that although I have seen one or two film adaptations, and I have been watching Once Upon a Time (OUAT) since the beginning (although I only reviewed season 1) I have only caught up with Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (OUATIW) now, but I absolutely loved it, even more so that OUAT.

Here are the reasons why:

  • Alice. She is a wonderful heroine, a “strong female character” written as she should be: yes, she kicks ass, but she is not invulnerable, not masculinised as many so-called strong female characters are; she saves others but needs saving herself, too,  she accepts help when needed, she makes mistakes, and she breaks when everything is too much. But in the end, she comes out stronger and victorious. She is good hearted and selfless, but I loved that she fights for her own happiness, contrary to the cliché of a heroine only putting others’ happiness before hers.
  • Knave of Hearts. What a splendid male sidekick! Sassy and snarky (though, Alice is all that herself as well), and not always quite willing or capable to do what’s right, but the goodness inside him gets the better of him.
  • No love triangles drama. Almost no love drama, period. Far from the usual norm of contemporary television which focuses on romance, in OUATIW, love is in the centre of the story but is also just a part of it at the same time.
  • The villain(s). I loved the parallels the show draws of how differently life can take people who start with things in common: one may earn the error of their ways and try to do better while the other does not do so and suffers the consequences.
  • And all other characters and subplots. There is just so much good I cannot possibly mention everything.
  • Despite the fact that the show wasn’t renewed for a second season, the story is perfectly wrapped up in 13 episodes of its first and only season and everything is nicely tied up. No cliff-hangers or loose ends.
  • The fluff-tastic, but not corny, ending.

Finally, OUATIW does slightly overlap with its parent series (OUAT), but the references make sense even if you haven’t been watching OUAT.

Hence, there is no reason not to watch Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.

5 stars

RECOMMENDATION: I think OUAT and Alice in Wonderland fans as well as fantasy lovers in general will tremendously enjoy this series.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Yearly Overview and Happy Holidays!

christmas tree 1

Winter is here, or it should be, since it’s the 21st, although it has been snowless so far where I live.

However, since Christmas is coming, I decided to do a somewhat early overview of my reading and blogging and what not in 2014.

Reading-wise this year has been much better than 2013. I have not only completed my Goodreads challenge to read 20 books but surpassed it and am currently reading book 24, though I don’t think I will finish it this year with all the holiday things to do and all.

I am 5 books behind on my reviews, because I have been busy with other things. (Read: I hammered out 21,000 words in the last month or so. Which makes me feel very accomplished, since my writing was rather sparse in the first part of the year.) But that is okay, if nothing else, I will have something to blog about in 2015, for a start.

I have also watched a lot of films and reviewed some of them, which you have probably seen. Basically, I have fallen in love with Marvel’s cinematic universe, albeit late – I only saw both Thor films and The Avengers before this summer and then I suddenly discovered there are a lot of other awesome things out there. ;)

So, there is that, and now I’m hard-core fan-girling Agents of Shield and I am super excited for Agent Carter to start in January.

Her Majesty the Cat was a little sick in November and got me worried and consult a vet, but after a few days of listlessness, she got back on her feet on her own and is now okay. She still rules the place as well as ever. ;)

I am, unfortunately, still hunting for a regular job while taking on what I can to get by. But hopefully, a new year will bring new opportunities and a brighter future and that is what I wish for myself and for each and everyone of you. May good luck, health and prosperity be with you wherever you are!

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Book Thief (2013)

the book thiefDIRECTOR: Brian Percival; WRITERS: Markus Zusak (based on the novel by), Michael Petroni (screenplay); CAST: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. In the basement of her home, a Jewish refugee is being sheltered by her adoptive parents.

MY THOUGHTS:

I’m always wary of films based on books, but The Book Thief was a good one. Of course they changed a few things, but only small details, which didn’t make a difference on the story as a whole.

Casting department did a great job with Liesl – she was just as I had imagined her. The other characters were a little different from what I had had in mind, but that didn’t bother me either. And the actors did their jobs splendidly.

The story itself overwhelmed me once more with so much emotion and perspective, as it included all the important bits from the book, with both the dialogues and the narration largely unchanged.

All in all, The Book Thief is a superb adaptation of the same-titled book, and I liked it very much. 4 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Despite the fact that the film is very much faithful to the book, I would still recommend you to read the book first. Above all, read the book. In that way, you will take away more than from just watching the film.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor TDRDIRECTOR: Alan Taylor; CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston…

SUMMARY (adapted from IMDB): When Jane Foster gets cursed with a powerful object, Thor must protect it before an army and it's ruthless leader try to get their hands on it to take over the remains of Earth.

MY THOUGHTS:

How does one review a spectacle like Thor: The Dark World anyway?

Someone on Tumblr said they could have watched the entire film only of Agardian landscape and I can’t help but agree. What an amazing job the CGI department has done, creating such an astonishing scenery, not to mention other special effects.

Then, of course, there are our favourite characters, humans and Asgardians, involved in a yet another race to save the Earth and Asgard from destruction, each contributing what they can, and, naturally (it is a film, after all), through their joined forces defeating the enemy.

Loki, who has been facing the consequences of his past actions, is responsible for some twists and turns, and I’m still in awe of the final one. But that’s Loki, always with mischief up his sleeve, and one rarely sees it coming.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World is an suspenseful, entertaining and visually stunning film, which tackles a few serious topics along the way. And not a minute of it is boring.

4 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Does it really need a recommendation? It’s Marvel. Thor. Loki. Asgard. Badass ladies. Pretty things. Emotions and such. And anyway, everyone has seen it already.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Prince of Darkness (Plantagenet Saga #4) by Jean Plaidy

Prince of DarknessSUMMARY (from Goodreads): The untimely death of Richard the Lionheart left his nephew Arthur and his younger brother John in contest for the throne of England. Reluctantly the barons chose John, and so began years of rule by a ruthless and greedy tyrant. Yet despite his reputation, John, still manages to seduce the young and beautiful Isabella of Angeloume. But in taking her as his bride he makes an enemy for life. And in the tempestuous years that follow many men come to believe that the House of Anjou was tainted by the Devil's blood, the loathsome monarch was himself Evil Incarnate, the very Prince of Darkness...

MY OPINION:

I assume everyone has in one way or another heard about King John of England, whose life this book focuses on. His story is what one would expect: full of debauchery, murder, and tyranny… So, one can’t actually like him, I think, though he is an intriguing character.

However, I liked Isabella. Though she is self-centred and likes to enjoy things life has to offer, she doesn’t want people to suffer (that is, if their comfort doesn’t cause her discomfort) and, even more, she empathises with their suffering. She is clever and thinks for herself and even manages to trick John into doing things her way a few times.

The writing is as usually unsophisticated and at times a bit dry, simply recounting historical events, especially when dealing with with the eternal struggles between the State and the Church and England and France.

Nevertheless, The Prince of Darkness, a story of one of the most notorious kings of England, gives us a glimpse into the mentality behind his atrocious behaviour and at the larger context of his era and is as such an interesting read.

3 stars

RECOMMENDATION: The Prince of Darkness is an easy and fast read, fictionalised just enough as to not be tedious, but still largely true to historical facts, and I would definitely recommend it to history lovers.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Memory Challenge Meme

I found this on my friend’’s Agnes’ blog and I thought it could be a cute post. The rules: answer the questions without searching the Internet or looking at your bookshelves and tag five bloggers.

memory challenge

Indeed, what a challenge for me, with my bad memory! I tried my best.

1. A book written by an author called Michael:

Und Morgen die ganze Welt by Michael Burk. I don’t think it is translated into English; I read it in Slovene.

2. A book with a dragon on the cover: 

This couldn't be easier: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

hobbit

3. A book about a character called George:

Does George (aka Georgina, but she hated that name) from Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series count? Because I can’t think of anyone else. (And I’ve been mulling over it for days. Really. No cheating.)

4. A book written by an author by the surname Smith.

Again, piece of cake: The Vampire Diaries series by L. J. Smith.

5. A book set in Australia:

This is easy, too, as it’s one of my favourites: Eucalyptus by Murray Bail.

6. A book with a name of a month in a title:

This is the question I had to cheat at, at least as far as by searching Goodreads for the authors’ name, although I’ve heard of Paris in April by Allan Dare Pierce before, I have yet to read it, though.

7. A book with a knife in the cover:

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2) by Philipp Pullman.

the subtle knife

8. A book with the word “one” in the title:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my to-read list.

9. A book with an eponymous title:

Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks

10. A book turned into a movie:

Well, I could go with five of them, not one. One of the better and fairly recent examples: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

***

Wow, this was actually easier that I thought, with the exception of number 6. And oops, there are a lot of WW II themed books in my answers. I guess the era & genre are simply a lot on my mind lately.

Tagging: Sarah of Sarah Says Read, Celine of Nyx Book Reviews, Freda of Freda’s Voice and if anyone else want to join the fun, I’m sure you’re welcome to as well.

P.S.: Since I’ve been a terribly unsocial blogger for a while now, I won’t hold a grudge if you just ignore me. ;)

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