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 thiefSUMMARY (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 TDRSUMMARY (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. ;)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

CatwsDIRECTOR: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo; CAST: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson …

SUMMARY (from IMDB): Steve Rogers, now finding difficult to fit in to the era of today then leads an assault against a friend turned rival from World War II, a Soviet emissary known as "The Winter Soldier" and his lead of a precarious uprising.

MY THOUGHTS:

I watched this sometime in July and it took me till October to get to writing a review. That’s how I am nowadays.

However, one of reasons for me stalling with reviewing was definitely the emotional turmoil caused by Captain America: The Winter Soldier which still makes it hard to find the right words to describe my feelings about this film.

I can’t think of anything I didn’t like in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as there were so many thing I loved:

  • the overarching theme of the evil rooted at the very core of the good as Steve stumbles upon a terrible conspiracy against humanity,
  • the incredibly developed characters and in-depth explored relationships, even minor ones, despite the turbulent pace of all the action scenes
  • and, yes, the spectacular fighting choreographies and special effects.

In conclusion to my sort-of review, I’m pretty sure everyone but me had seen and fallen in love with this franchise ages ago, but if you haven't: what are you waiting for?

5 stars

RECOMMENDATION: Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an action-packed but heartfelt film about the struggle against evil found in the very pores of what was supposed to be good; a tale of not just one hero, but many; and, of course, a story of a long lost friend who may yet be found again. No need to say I’m excited for Captain America 3.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron man 3DIRECTOR: Shane Black; CAST: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pierce…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): When Tony Stark's world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.

MY THOUGHTS:

In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark continues to struggle with who he is both as Iron Man and as a person as his past comes back to haunt him in the form of an adversary who feels wronged by him in the past.

On a personal level, Tony’s preoccupation with his so-called hobby - that is, working on constant development and improvement of the Iron Man technology - interferes with his personal life, in particularly with his relationship with Pepper.

However, the Mandarin puts in danger not only Pepper’s life, but the world, and Tony must figure out how to save both. Fortunately, he finds not only strength within, but also outside help in likely (Captain Rhodes) and unlikely places (Harley Keener, and does just that.

While the film’s central themes are fighting evil and not being able to escape one’s past, Iron Man 3 also addresses the issue of genetic engineering and provides some food for thought on that topic.

Finally, the film has quite a few stunning scenes, mostly of fight and destruction. Curiously though, I found that this fearful imagery, such as the fall of the Malibu compound, can also be beautiful, in a way.
3-stars_thumb2
 
RECOMMENDATION: Obviously, if you have watched the first two Iron Man films and are a fan of Marvel cinematic universe, you won’t want to skip Iron Man 3.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

DeathlessSUMMARY (from Goodreads): A glorious retelling of the Russian folktale Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless, set in a mysterious version of St. Petersburg during the first half of the 20th century. A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and he is Marya's fate. For years she follows him in love and in war, and bears the scars. But eventually Marya returns to her birthplace - only to discover a starveling city, haunted by death. Deathless is a fierce story of life and death, love and power, old memories, deep myth and dark magic, set against the history of Russia in the twentieth century. It is, quite simply, unforgettable.

MY OPINION:

Deathless is quite a depressing book, in a way, but nonetheless a fantastic read.

The story is mainly set in St. Petersburg, the city with ever-changing name, in one of the darkest (if not the darkest) periods of Russian history, spanning the time from the pre-Revolutionary era to the aftermath of the Second World War. That said, the plot takes the reader across Russia, to its farthest hidden corners, both the tangible and the intangible, in space and in time.

Catherynne M. Valente perfectly captures the Slavic soul – which may feel exotic to some people, but is so much a part of me – with its pessimistic worldview with and a penchant for tragedy, finding beauty in dark things and sadness, interspersed with tiny bits of humour, or rather, typical sarcasm, even cynicism.

Valente combines myth and folklore with historical allusions, which stay almost unobtrusively in the background of the story. Between the lines one can discern insightful yet subtle social commentary/criticism, applicable both to historical and contemporary circumstances.

Everything is wrapped in a beautiful, highly metaphorical, yet easily readable language. The magic, myth and folklore at the forefront are, for one who wants to see beyond them, filled with an overwhelming symbolism, a study of humanity on the level of an individual and the society in general.

All that said, I have no idea why I had had the impression Deathless would be a YA book prior to reading it, for it is certainly not, at least in my opinion. It is, however, an amazing read, though dark, and I enjoyed it very much.

5 stars

RECOMMENDATION: If you love the darker side of myth, folklore and humanity, Deathless could be excellent read for you.

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