Friday, January 22, 2016

The Follies of the King (Plantagenet Saga #8) by Jean Plaidy

Review:

Follies of the King (Plantagenet Saga) Paperback - February 1, 2008 - Jean PlaidyThe Follies of the King deals with the reign of Edward II, who inherited his father's looks, but is as unlike him as possible in any other way.

Preferring the company of men to that of women and the merry sides of life to the matters of the state from an early age, Edward II marries Isabella, a beautiful daughter of Philip IV of France, but neglects her in favour of his lovers Piers Gaveston and Hugh le Despenser.

Utterly humiliated, Isabella bids her time, comforted only by the admiration of her people while she plots vengeance, counting on people's ever-growing dissatisfaction with their king and their hate for his male friends.

Yet, when Isabella finally manages to enact her revenge, in the end I couldn't help but feel sorry for Edward. Deposed and imprisoned, he finally recognises the mistakes he made by turning a blind eye to the world around him, admitting he was an unworthy king not made for ruling, before he meets a horribly cruel tragic end.

The Follies of the King is a suspenseful story, full of twists and intrigue and has thus definitely kept my interest in reading the rest of the saga. I will take a break from it for a while, but I am already looking forward to reading the next instalment, dealing with the reign of Edward III.

Originaly posted on my Booklikes blog.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Ant-Man (2015)

Ant Man Movie Poster
DIRECTOR: Peyton Reed; CAST: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily…

SUMMARY (from IMDB)Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

MY THOUGHTS:

I have a terrible misconception when it comes to Marvel movies (although by now I should have learned to know better), namely that they are either cartoons for kids or stupid action, neither of which is true, of course. Ant-Man is no exception, and I am yet again wondering why I haven’t bothered to watch it sooner. But better late than never.

Ant-Man is a most of all an entertaining film with great visuals, but it also offers some food for thought by seamlessly incorporating a few hard truths about human existence and nature.

I was floored by the cast’s amazing performances, especially because I’m a noob who doesn’t check the cast list before watching, and just seeing Michael Douglas was like a punch in the gut – in a good way. Also, I absolutely loved the minor appearances of Peggy Carter and Sam Wilson.

Finally, Ant-Man was nicely tied up with the wider Marvel’s cinematic universe with the little allusions to CATWS and Age of Ultron and with the final bonus scene that reminded me of what is to come in Captain America: Civil War (as in death by feels, that's what.)


RECOMMENDATION: Overall, Ant-Man is a fun, highly enjoyable film, and a must-see if you are a fan of sci-fi. 



Friday, January 08, 2016

The Hammer of the Scots (Plantagenet Saga #7) by Jean Plaidy

Review:


The Hammer of the Scots  - Jean PlaidyThe Hammer of the Scots depicts the rule of Edward I, who considers himself to be – and, for the most part, is – a stern, but just king, even if he brutally punishes his enemies in accordance with his belief in instilling respect through fear.

Thus, Edward I proves himself to be a great king, who brings not only order to England, but also subdues Wales and brings it under the English rule, while he fails to do the same with Scotland.

Taking after his father, he is a devoted husband to both of his Queens and a loving father. His children are his pride and joy, the exceptions being sometimes over-temperate Joanna and, above all, his heir, prince Edward. However, unlike his ancestors, he understands the needs of the people and brings the end to the over-the-top extravagance of the Court from the past, slipping perhaps only now and then when indulging his many beloved daughters.

As usually, in The Hammer of the Scots Jean Plaidy manages to give a fairly accurate historical account, while letting the reader get a stunning glimpse into the reasoning and sentiments of her characters, from Edward I to his children and his enemies, of which the most intriguing to me was that written from the point of view of William Wallace.

The Hammer of the Scots was a compelling book, even if it took me ages to read it, and I am looking forward to the next instalment in the series, dealing with the rule of a much different man than Edward I, his son Edward II.

Cross-posted from my Booklikes blog.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Bout of Books 15.0 Day 2 Challenge

BoB ButtonI'm participating in Bout of Books 15 and I really like today's challenge which is a bookish 'Would You Rather, hosted by Lori at Writing My Own Fairy Tale.

As it's too long to do it on twitter without me feeling spammy and the lack o G+ formatting options made me nope away from there, I'm doing it here after all. ;)

Here are the questions:

Would you rather:
Lend books to someone who dog-ears pages or to someone who reads with cheesy Cheetos fingers?

Preferably neither, but I could stomach dog-eared books much much more easily. 

Would you rather:
Be able to meet one character of your choice or meet one author of your choice?

An author.

Would you rather:
Never be allowed in a book store again or never be allowed in a library again?

I'd rather never be allowed into a book store again, since libraries are a greater source of reading material for those of who can't afford to buy every book we want to read anyway. 

Would you rather:
Have to choose one of your favorite characters to die in their book or have to pick one of your favorite couples to break up in their book?

I'd rather have to pick one of my favourite couples to break up in their book, because I can still imagine that didn't happen. Well, I can imagine the not dying, too, so... imagination is everything. A character can die or a couple can break up in their book, but I can always 'write' and alternate ending in my head. ;)

Would you rather:
Be required to read Twilight once a year for the rest of your life or The Scarlet Letter once a year for the rest of your life?

The Scarlet Letter, since it is much shorter than Twilight and would thus allow me more reading time for other, new-to-me books.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Yearly Overview and Happy New Year 2016!

Since it's only a few hours until New Year here, it is time to do a little recap of 2015.

I haven't been around much this year and certainly not as much as I'd like, mostly due to RL trials and troubles, but let's not dwell on that as we are about to turn a new leaf and start a new, hopefully better year.

I have read only five new-to-me books and reread two, but if I counted all thousands upon thousands of words of fanfiction I've also read (on daily basis), that number would be at least about 20 decent-sized novels.

Including this post, I have made 20 posts on this blog. However, over on my tumblr, I have written many many more posts discussing TV shows (as I've said before, I watch a lot of those) and related things.

I have also written quite a lot this year, even if only fanfiction, and I am very proud of that.

Her Majesty the Cat has continued to make my days better, ruling the household as well as ever, making me laugh (and sometimes get mad :P) and taking care I kept being busy and got enough exercise. ;)

Her she is, sleeping peacefully on my chair just this afternoon:

Her Majesty the Cat

And with that, this post comes to its end. All that is left is for me to wish you a happy new year.

May you be happy, healthy, full of joy, and blessed with good luck, good people around you, good books, and all other good things you enjoy!

Happy New Year 2016

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas, everyone!

Or happy holidays! And if you don't celebrate anything, have a great time just the same! :)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Top Ten TV Shows of 2015

It’s that time of year we are making all kinds of yearly overviews.

However, I can hardly make a top ten books post with my barely existing reading (ahem!) and blogging this year. All right, if I counted fanfiction, I actually read quite a lot: I think it would sum up to about 20 – 30 full-length novels at least.

But, never mind, in the spirit of the season and in hopes for a more prolific blogging in 2016, and since this blog is not dedicated only to book-ish fictional worlds but also to those brought to life by visual media, I decided to share the top ten TV shows that conquered my heart in 2015.  

  1. The Originals
    To be honest, this dysfunctional family of original vampires and their friends, enemies, and frenemies has conquered my heart long ago, back in TVD days, but with the lack of other good shows and so many cancellations, it has now firmly solidified as my #1 show.

  2. Agent Carter
    A show with a female lead who is more than your typical badass strong female character™. Peggy Carter remains feminine and vulnerable, while also kicking ass, of course. And, it’s Peggy Carter!

  3. Killjoys
    Stunning cinematography and incredible world-building with well-developed characters. And it is set in space! What is there not to love?

  4. Sense 8
    Another sci-fi show, with heart-wrenching characters’ stories that doesn’t shy away from the difficult real-life issues. I could just hug this show. And each and every one of the sensates.

  5. The Last Ship
    This is actually what I’d call a ‘light’ summer show. The US-centric patriotism, among other things, is sometimes over the top to the point of being ridiculous. But, with a show that is supposed to be a summer entertainment, I can overlook its shortcomings, especially since it’s suspenseful enough to keep me interested, and the main characters totally grew on me.

  6. Downton Abbey
    Another long-time favourite was a bit more low-key in its final season, but still, I loved following the conclusion to the stories of so many beloved characters of this period drama. Can’t wait for the Christmas special grand finale!

  7. Constantine
    Snarky and sassy, exorcist and master of the dark arts, John Constantine is more of an anti-hero than a hero. I’m not a comic-reader, but I loved this gritty, intriguing show, and therefore, it had to be cancelled.

  8. The Messengers
    Seven angels of the apocalypse working together and prevent the four horsemen of the apocalypse to end the world. I loved the well-balanced focus on each of the main characters and the relationships between them and I was absolutely intrigued by the show’s concept. Sadly, it was cancelled short after the beginning, but at least they aired the entire season despite that fact.

  9. Dominion
    Do you see the pattern with the shows I watch here? I didn’t care much for the first season up to the finale, but the second season was a whole other and much better show, as it delved deeper into biblical mythology, spending less time on human politics, thus promising an even better third season. Alas, it was, guess what, cancelled. Yep.

  10. Quantico
    A crime/action drama about the lives of new FBI recruits. This fledgling new show has hooked me right at the beginning. With only half a season behind us, I love it: the characters, the relationships, the suspense and mystery, all of it. I hope the second part of the season will be just as good and will get us another season.
What about your favourite TV shows?

Perhaps we have some in common. Or, you know, I’m always on the look-out for new goodies to watch, so please, feel free to comment away. 

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Virtual Advent Tour 2015: St. Nicholas

Once again I am participating in Virtual Advent Tour, this year organised by Sprite at Sprite Writes.

Today is the 6th of December, one of very special December days, because it is the name day of Saint Nicholas, the good man who brings presents for the good (kids) and hazel rods and coals for the naughty. ;)

St. Nicholas was a bishop in Myra in the 3rd/4th century. As per one of the legends, there lived a poor man who couldn’t afford a dowry for his three daughters, so the bishop secretly brought three purses of gold coins, one for each daughter, and threw them into the house through an open window at night, so they could get married.

That and numerous other good deeds of generosity earned him the reputation of a gift-giver, so his name day became the day when ‘St. Nicholas’ brings gifts to children (well, nowadays, adults may get a little something as well) in Central and Western Europe.

Saint Nicholas (source)
Nowadays, with consumerism and all, in some families gifts can be quite fancy, and St. Nicholas is no longer the only gift-giver, since most people adopted the tradition of Santa Claus (and Grandpa Frost) as well.

However, most people where I live still consider St. Nicholas the main gift-bringer of the season and they mostly keep up the tradition of modest gifts, usually things a child needs.

Traditional St. Nicholas gifts are fruit, either fresh (oranges and mandarins) or dried (plums, pears, and apples, or figs), and nuts (most often walnuts, hazelnuts, or peanuts), clothes (such as new underwear and socks or winter-wear like gloves and hats or even a new pair of shoes/boots or a new piece of clothing to wear for the Midnight Mass.) Books, colouring books, or notebooks and writing/colouring utensils are also traditional gifts.

Of course, the most important part of celebrating St. Nicholas is the anticipation, trying to be as good as one can, or at least a little bit better than before, and writing letters to St. Nicholas.

If one was really, really naughty, St. Nick might give them over to devils, or so the adults would scare the kids. In the weeks before the holiday, the adults or older children from the neighbourhood would go around other houses where younger children lived in the evening and rattle with chains or knock on windows, pretending to be devils waiting to ‘get’ the ‘naughty’ child, but the scare usually only adds to the thrill.

On the evening before the holiday, the kitchen table would have to be made extra tidy and a large bowl would be placed on it, which would be full of presents in the morning.

In Catholic families, St. Nicholas would bring some presents at home, but he would also bring some at a church event, so the children can ‘meet’ him, and usually there would be also a short play with St. Nicholas, angels, and devils (who would in the end go hide behind the altar and lay in wait should St. Nick deem any kid naughty enough to give him or her over to them – which never happens, of course. ;))

It would all be very exciting, albeit a little scary, but the scare is part of the excitement, as I’ve said.

St. Nicholas's procession in Ljubljana (source)
Now I’ve relived some of my favourite childhood memories and I am grinning from ear to ear. And why, yes, I still get excited about St. Nicholas like a five-year-old, not as much for potential gifts, but for the spirit of the holiday.

What about you? Have you heard of St. Nicholas bringing gifts on the 6th of December? Is it him or someone else bringing presents where you live?

I’d love to hear some of your memories and gift-giving traditions, so feel free to share them in the comments. 

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