Log in

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Reminiscing the good old days as a child and dreaming to be like her - memories that will definitely tickle you when you watch this movie.

I had watched this cartoon as a young girl and was so in love with it. I remember watching the episodes but not the movie. So after a little search I found the 1997 Pippy Longstocking movie online - which I had watched as a young girl - and for the sake of this post I had the pleasure to watch it all over again, become a kid myself, and imagine myself going through all those adventures that Pippi goes through.

Pippi Longstocking is the main character of the series of children's books by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. She was named by Lindgren's then 9-year old daughter Karin. The books were first published during 1945 and 1948 marking 2015 as 70th birthday for Pippi. Yet, she remains the same 9-yr old year after year, going up and about her adventures with her father South Seas seafarer Ephraim Longstocking - captain of the sailing ship Hoptoad - and her friends - her horse, her monkey (Mr. Nilsson) and her neighbor's children Tommy Settergren and Annika Settergren.

A few years ago I had seen a film based on the book that didn’t involve animation and I must say I was not much impressed. I believe I like the animated version.

Pippi has a really cool and really long name - Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking.  After her father was lost during a storm at sea, she comes back to her home Villa Villekulla in small village Swedish village with no one else except her monkey and horse. She befriends her neighbor's kids - Tommy Settergren and Annika Settergren - and the three have tons of adventures much to the frustration of Tommy and Annika's mother. Pippi is quite friendly but with none to less social etiquette causing Tommy and Annika's mom to dislike her at first.

Although she has less formal education she has knowledge of all the household chores - cooking, cleaning, handling repairs as needed - and does them efficiently. And she loves to tell tales for her adventures aboard her father's ship and from her travels. She is shown to be the most strongest woman since she puffs away all the cover of her furniture and she can lift anything even her horse - which she as a matter of fact takes everywhere. Although quite charming, at times she is very rude and opinionated. I suppose since she lives alone she has to stand-up to all kind of people. She is also shown to be very self-sufficient living by her own rules.

Some of the memorable scenes from the movie  that remain still fresh in my mind.

Here, she is making a huge stack of pancakes like a piece of cake - singing and dancing along too.

Here she is spinning Mrs. Prysselius around at a party.

A movie that will bring back all the old memories from childhood and that adventurous soul in you. If you havent watched it, you don’t know what you are missing. Go click the link on youtube and watch it.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) Wiki page for Pippi Longstocking has so many movies listed that I havent watched at all. Perhaps one day I will.
2) It always amazed me that none of the adults ever monitored her or forced her into a children's home. But again Pippi is a charming self herself so I bet adults were charmed too - even the local social worker Mrs. Prysselius to an extent.
3) I would like to think that the story of Pippi Longstocking could have inspired the first Home Alone movie and there-after. Especially the part where Pippi outwits the robbers - at first unknowingly and later with a better plan.
4) The two cops of the small village see a large fish like a dolphin and get mesmerized by it. Although there is no connection to the plot anywhere. Not sure why the writer had put it in.

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: If you love ghosts and gardens, this is a definite pick.

Red Lily is the third installment in the In The Garden Trilogy written by Nora Roberts and published in December of 2005. This is the story of Hayley Phillips and Harper Ashby with the sub-plots continuing from the first two books. Because I did not have a warm feeling towards the character Haley, this was a tough book to review. Hard to keep myself objective when the focus always shifts. Hopefully you will find my review unbiased.

Just like the previous two books, this one too opens in the late 1800s, specifically to January of 1893 - approx a year after the first book's prologue was set. Amelia Connor is seen to reach the Harper House - destitute, desperate and demented. What Reginald Harper had done to her was cruel and harsh - the betrayal, the loss and the hurt. But the calculated Amelia wasn’t completely innocent either. So, she implores to the mistress of the house and is turned away instead with threats and bitter words. Demented as she had become, she plots to do the most unthinkable to acquire what she has lost.

The story then fast-forwards to July 2005 in the Harper House in present times. Haley Phillips had arrived at the very same door-steps 18 months ago ripe with pregnancy and looking for a job. She not only found a job, but friends and a home - Stella Rothchild (Manager of In The Garden Nursery), Rosalind "Roz" Harper (owner of The In The Garden Mystery and the famed Harper House), David Wentworth (lives in Harper House, friend of Roz and takes care of the house), Logan Kitridge (married to Stella and her sons, works with Roz and leads the landscaping side of her business), Harper Ashby (Roz's oldest son, part-owner of In The Garden Nursery), Gavin and Luke (Stella's kids from her first husband), Dr. Mitchell Carnegie (a writer and professor, expert on genealogy and married to Roz). She has a sweet little baby, Lily Rose Star, who is doted on by everyone and taken care of - especially by Harper.

And that is where the problem started for Hayley. She very much was in friends with Harper and has a feeling of thanks towards him. Yet her feelings are changing into something more than friendship, something involving a lot of lips, hands and body. Two things though - one, he was the son of Roz, her manager and the one who had provided her with food, shelter and job; second, she wasn’t sure if Harper had the same feelings towards her, although he loves Lily like his own. Will she act on her feelings and find out if they are reciprocated? Of course, we know that Harper has feelings for her too. Will he accept her and Lily into his heart and life?

While she is struggling with her feelings towards Harper, Amelia is instilling all kinds of cruel thoughts in her mind and goes to an extent of taking over her body. Will Hayley fight her off? Will Amelia take over her body and soul completely? What has caused Amelia to become so strong now when for more than 100 years she hadnt hurt anyone? And why target Hayley to such extreme measures when she barely scratched Stella and even though had hurt Roz she had come to her aid? But the dreams are returning for Roz and Stella to. Why? What is the end goal for Amelia?

The sub-plots that continue involving Stella and Logan, Mitchell's genealogy and attempts to find what happened to Amelia and both couples' post-marital blisses; are blended in well by Nora. There is a chill that comes up your spine whenever one reads the chapters involving Amelia - so chill that one literally would shake. Well written series and equally well concluded in this final episode answering all questions and finally resting Amelia in peace. If you get a chance to read it, enjoy it despite the chills

Spoiler Alerts:
1) The concept of ghosts taking over human bodies is shown in this book. It gave me creeps while reading and I wonder if Nora was affected similarly while writing.
2) Hayley becomes pregnant with Harper. Just like she calls herself as a magnet to sperms, it made me think in the beginning why Nora made her pregnant again. It's like she is just a breeding person here. Although my thoughts were answered in the following chapters, I couldn’t shake the feeling.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: If you love ghosts and gardens, this is a definite pick.

Black Rose is the second installment in the In The Garden Trilogy by Nora Roberts and was published in June of 2005. This is the story of Rosalind "Roz" Harper and Dr. Mitchell "Mitch" Carnegie. Ofcourse it involves quite a few sub-plots. As always Nora has melded them well.

Just as the first book, this one also opens with a sub-plot that is set in December of 1892 in Memphis, Tennessee. This continues from the previous book as well - the life of Amelia, after she faces her biggest fear, the time with Reginald Harper and when she finally faces the betrayer. The story then fast forwards to Harper House in present Memphis in the year 2004 where everyone is geared up to celebrate Christmas in Harper House.

Stella Rothchild is engaged to Logan Kitridge  now and are preparing for their upcoming nuptials. She will be soon moving into Logan's home once it is finished for a family of four. We get introduced to Roz's remaining two sons - Gavin and Mason - when they come to visit for the holidays. A nice cozy family is Roz's. However Hayley and Stella tie in very well into it. Now how does or rather will Mitch fit in there?

Roz hires Mitch to do her family genealogy  so they can identify who the resident ghost is. We already know her name is Amelia since she writes it on the glass at the closing of the first book. Mitch sets up his office in Roz's library for working on the genealogy when he is onsite. Of course, he has the added benefit of watching Roz in close contact - towards whom he is attracted. However, Mitch has his own share of baggage that he had worked hard to get it loose. His baggage comes with a son - Josh - an excellent basketball player and well educated. Will Mitch act on his feelings towards Roz? Will Roz reciprocate even after what she had faced with her second husband Bryce Clerk?

Speaking of Bryce, he is back in town and had managed to finagle an invitation to Roz's party at Harper House - albeit as a guest to a recent widow of much much younger age for him. Although Roz gave him the boot again from the party, will Bryce sit quiet and let go of what he had considered a cozy nest egg in Roz? How will Roz fight back Bryce again without causing damage to her pride and dignity?

And the resident ghost, Amelia. She has come back full force now, resorting to physical attack at Mitch when Roz starts seeing Mitch on a more personal basis. Why is Amelia doing this? Who is she angry at? Will she cause more harm to Roz despite the efforts she is putting in to identify her? Well one has to read and see to know what happens.

Another lovely sequel written by Nora Roberts. However, like I mentioned in my previous one. There is heavy dosage of gardening, garden terms and plants. Yet, she has made it interesting with the addition of the paranormal aspect and a whole lot of romance. Usually I feel the second book always has a low rating compared to the first or the third and thereafter. However in this series, this second book also has been not only gripping but also intriguing enough for the reader to not want to put the book down until finishing it. If you come across this book, I would hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) The love that Harper Ashby - Roz's oldest son - has towards Hayley Phillips continues and progresses. We have to wait and see how it turns out in the third book. Obviously they are the pair for Nora's third book. ;)
2) Mitch talks about the film Fargo. I had heard about it but never seen it. Another one added to my list for a future blog post. :)
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: If you love ghosts and gardens, this is a definite pick.

June 20th marks Summer Solstice this year. And to mark the onset of Summer I picked the In The Garden Trilogy by Nora Roberts.  I was intending to post this day's post on the day it was destined to but I am way behind in my posts, sadly. Summer is on the corner at this time for the date of this post and this trilogy is a perfect complement for that wait of warm sun and happy breezes.

Blue Dahlia is the first book in In The Garden Trilogy by Nora Roberts and published in November of 2004. This is one of the series that Nora Roberts had written pretty close to vintage Nora type and that had no yet touched the flair that she shows in recent books. I liked this series in particular for the portrayal of three strong women who come from different background and life-style but find what they need in one place along with three strong men who stand by them and love them.

The book opens with a prologue describing the life of one Amelia Ellen Conner in 1892 - mistress to Reginald Harper - and how she faces the biggest disappointment and betrayal in her life. Then the plot fast forwards to 2001 into the life of Stella Rothchild who had moved from Southfield, MI to Harper House in Southern Tennessee. She had been fighting her own demons after losing her husband, Kevin, to a freak flight accident with two growing sons - Gavin and Luke. Now as the Manager to the In The Garden Nursery, she found new challenge to her life, a new path giving her the lost hope and trying to fill a little of the void left behind from the loss of the life she had envisioned with Kevin.

As the new manager Stella faces ups and downs but her biggest hurdle comes with the name Logan Kitridge. Despite her efforts to make the nursery a success and give a new face lift, butt heading with Logan may cause to have her budding relationship with Roz threatened. Stella was determined to stay in her hometown and be part of In The Garden nursery. Now she just have to keep butting her head and Logan has to learn to take a step back. Will Logan do that? Will Stella find herself again?

Logan comes with his own past that sometimes clouds his present. Where does this buttheading with the cute redhead lead to for Logan? Despite the initial confrontation that she faces, Stella gives into Logan's charm and her attraction towards him. And they both start acting on it. So why is the resident ghost being antagonistic towards them. As far as Roz's knowledge goes nothing ever of such kind has the ghost done in past years.

Why is she targeting Stella and Logan? Who is she? What is the reason for her to still haunt the Harper House? To know her and understand her, the Harper House residents gather to look at the Harper history books, journals, births and records to identify her. Roz hires Dr. Mitch to do a genealogy on her family and identify the ghost. Will they be able to identify who she was? And why she has been haunting for so many decades? In all this hoopla, Hayley gives birth to a baby girl and names her Lily Rose Star. Will the ghost harm or protect Lily Rose?

The plot in this series introduces most of the main characters that we will be seeing as the series proceeds - Stella Rothchild (Manager of In The Garden Nursery), Rosalind "Roz" Harper (owner of The In The Garden Mystery and the famed Harper House), David Wentworth (lives in Harper House, friend of Roz and takes care of the house), Logan Kitridge (works with Roz and leads the landscaping side of her business), Harper Ashby (Roz's oldest son), Hayley Phillips (in a long-winding way cousin to Roz, works for Roz and is very pregnant), Gavin and Luke (Stella's kids from her first husband), Dr. Mitchell Carnegie (a writer and professor, expert on genealogy) and the resident ghost Harper Bride - yet to be discovered as to who and why she has been haunting Harper House for decades.

Although the book had passed from 1892 to2001 in one chapter, the story moved slow since then until mid-way through the book when the drama with love, legends and mystery unfolded. It carried more interest there after making me not wanting to put the book down. There is heavy usage of garden terminology and life relating to gardening is depicted by Nora that it bordered on being a Home and Garden book. However, the resident ghost took away that feel and brought back Nora's flair into it. All the characters are portrayed strong and able. And not to forget the comic book references that Logan and Stella's kids keep making - oh that took me back to so many lanes in my memory book. :P However I got ticked off at Hayley's character. Often times she comes off as impatient, ungrateful and bitchy when all the residents of Harper House have gone above and beyond to help her and make her comfortable. She is sweet and smart most times, but there are pockets of her nature that don’t gel well with a reader's mind.

Another book with Nora's stamp in her theme and plotting of characters with an added element of supernatural in it. Very interesting read that definitely keeps you awake a little in the night. :) I hope you all will enjoy it as much as I did when I read it.

Spoiler Alerts:
1. Harper, oldest son of Roz, faces love at first sight the minute he sees Hayley. But Hayley is pregnant, 6 months far. It would be curious to see how their story unfolds.
2. Roz's second husband and a very much ex- gets introduced in this plot. We have to wait and see what will Bryce Clerk bring in to Roz and characters.
3. Stella's kids play Wiffle Ball - a game I heard for the first time. Googling on it, it looked similar to baseball.
4. There is distinct attraction towards Roz for Dr. Mitch. Curious to see which couple does Nora pick up for the second book in the trilogy.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.
Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: A movie filled with laughs, tunes and much needed life's lessons - yet completely entertaining.

This year Father's Day fell on June 19th. For this day I picked this movie as it is one of the movies that my dad likes most. To all the fathers in my family, a Happy Father's Day!! Hope they like my selection and review of the movie.

Gundamma Katha ( = Gundamma's Story) is a Telugu comedy-drama film released in 1962 starring Akkineni Nageswara Rao aka ANR, N. T. Rama Rao aka NTR, Savitri and Jamuna as lead actors along with other famed character artistes in supporting roles. The plot is loosely based on William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. This movie also was the first one to be a remake by Vijaya Vauhini Studios. It was a remake of the  B. Vittalacharya's Kannada film Mane Thumbida Hennu (1958). For this Father's Day posting this review.

The plot revolves around Gundamma (portrayed by Suryakantam) who has two daughters - a step-daughter Lakshmi (portrayed by Savitri) whom she ill-treats and keeps as a servant and her own daughter Saroja (portrayed by Jamuna) who is a spoilt-brat and arrogant. Gundamma also has a son Prabhakar (portrayed by Haranath). Although being step-sisters, both Lakshmi and Saroja dote on each other and love selflessly - albeit is more from Lakshmi in the beginning and eventually from Saroja later. Things change when the lead actors Anjaneya "Anji" Prasad and Raja - two brothers - come to their home in various roles, woo the daughters and eventually teach Gundamma a much needed lesson.

To add to the spice, there are a few sub-plots in the film that meld well with the plot - Prabhakar and Padma (portrayed by L. Vijayalakshmi) - distant cousin to Anji and Raja - falling in love with each other; the torments Gundamma faces at the hands of Durgamma (portrayed by Chaya Devi) - mother of Padma; the twist the brothers show the sisters; and finally the minor but yet standing out villians plotting behind Gundamma for their benefit - Ghantaiah (portrayed by Ramana Reddy), his wife (portrayed by Rushyendramani) and his son Bhoopati (portrayed by Rajanala).

The film has a plot that not only  teaches some much needed life's lessons, but also comes with beautiful melodies composed by singer-composer Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao. All the Lyrics were penned by Pingali Nagendra Rao. Ghantasala provided vocals for ANR and NTR while P. Susheela and P. Leela sang for Savitri and Jamuna respectively. Marcus Bartley's beautiful cinematography involving moonlights and shadows are mesmerizing as always. No wonder it received the Filmfare Award for Best Film - Telugu that year. With such a star cast and ale technical staff, this was no surprise.

The film shows the Indian society during the 1960s and the songs depict them as well. While Lechindi Nidra Lechindi talks about women empowerment and uprising of women in every field, Dance sequence by Padma (L. Vijayalakshmi) shows the classical heritage of the country despite moving towards fast paced music, Manishi Mara Ledu depicts the nature of humans and humanity how it changed over period of time and Aligina Velane Choodali depicts the maternal as well as romantic side of Krishna. Despite several critics - many considered that the lead actresses roles were under-played - the film went on become a commercial success and was the first Telugu film to be run for 100 days with three screenings per day in Hyderabad, India. The opening credits also used the pictures of main characters rather than their names making it unique in itself.

I believe this is one of those few movies that Savitri has such few dialogues.

Although a remake, Aluri Chakrapani - one of the script writers - made considerable changes to the second half of the film taking inspiration from Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. He also named the film as "Gundamma Katha" after being asked constantly by everyone thus - Gundamma Katha Entha varaku vachchindi? ("What is the progress in Gundamma's story?").  This movie was later remade in Tamil the same year as Manithan Maravillai which sadly was a box office failure.

The timing in the comedy situations are most part hit but there are a few misses - that one doesn’t notice at all because of the rest of the plot. Most of the talk between characters goes through eyes and facial expressions - which is so rarely seen now. The film touches many aspects of human emotions, ideals, values and one's day to day life activities - value one's family, standup to your people and above all good always wins over evil. A balanced blend of comedy and seriousness was perhaps the recipe for success of this film. The movie is now considered as a cult classic.

Seemingly a simple plot, but with many intricacies weaved within, it forms a very complex yet beautiful tapestry to watch time and again. A classic that becomes unforgettable once seen. Enjoy it again if you get a chance to watch again, or simply enjoy it if you are watching it the first time.
Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: A new twist mixing Science and Magic giving the plot an easy read at the same time. Go for it for those sunny days.

This is the second book in the Newton's Laws series published in May of 2015 by Rebecca Schwartz. After reading the first one, even though it had a few bumps here and there , I was curious to see how the journey of Rachel continues before she gets into the world on her own. Here is my take on the book.

Rachel Simons is back at her school for her final semester after break earlier than others to settle herself down - only to run into Justin Borgstrom. Justin had been interested in her in way more than needed, especially after she figured out that he and Dr. Peter Parker - fulltime physics professor - along with a few others are superheroes - ability to bend physics and break all kinds of laws related to physics. And he wants her to take a second term of Physics, baiting her that it would be needed for her intern job at  Jessica's lab - Jessica is wife of Peter. She wanted to have a peaceful final semester before she gets into the wide world, but with Justin around will there be any moment of peace for her? It didn’t look like that.

After a sitting with her advisor, to accommodate for the internship, she signs up a change of course that will help her in getting the job, only to realize she had signed up for a course that Justin was TAing in. So much for avoiding him. Her internship was one thing that she was so much looking forward to since it involved looking at genes of super humans - Justin and Peter. And with the experiences she had the previous year she was very curious on how Justin and Peter could bend Physics and create magic. But not necessarily interested in Justin or take a Physics class again. But why is Justin warning her off about Jessica's lab? Why does he want her not to go there? But again Peter want her to investigate what's really happening in Jessica's lab? Who is stealing their research? Conflicting requests from both yet Rachel goes about what she wants to do - being curious.

Two weeks into her internship at Jessica's Lab, Rachel runs into Weird Eddy - a Director of Oncology who is just given that title but allowed only to do blood analysis like a phlebotomist - holding  a rabbit, murmuring with cages around him. Unsure of what it was she reports that to Peter. And, later they notice that Peter lost his super-hero touch and the physics-bending stuff. And so did Justin. What is going on? How is that even possible? Is it have to do with whatever was going off at Jessica's Lab? In the meanwhile, Justin walks into Isaac at the hospital where Jessica's Lab is. Isaac is working as a construction guy repairing something in the hospital and used to date Justin.

After doing their own snooping on Weird Eddy, Justin and Rachel find genetic engineered dinosaur - dragon monitor lizards in the basement where Eddy was murmuring a few days ago. Granted that these may have not caused the temporary loss of their super-powers, why is Eddy creating these? Who has asked him to do this? What is their end goal? As all this is going on, Justin and Melissa - Rachel's roommate - bond together and have weird looks to each other that Rachel is confused if they have a secret now that they are hiding from her or if the looks are because of her. What is going on between both of them? Thus the plot continues intertwining with the lives of Justin, Rachel and the rest of the characters.

There are some inconsistencies in portrayal of Rachel's character. At one point the author mentions that Rachel feels that she is running behind Jessica as she is walking fast her being tall and Jessica running to catch up being short (Chapter 3). At the same time in the chapter that follows this incident she comments that Rachel has a fast gait so even though Justin has long steps they walk at same pace. Both are contradicting with each other. References to Lando from Star Wars and Latin American spirit of metal work, Ogun made me wonder where this book was going on at the beginning - changing from the science side of magic into fantasy magic with fictional science?

Also it's still confusing about Justin's character - is he gay? Bisexual? Or simply playing with Rachel's heart for a different motive? Also he frustrates me a lot. Come on, you are a superhero so be a man and behave like one. Instead more than often he is like a 6 year old sulking at not being given some candy or a toy. I hope Rebecca will improve her characterization of him in the next book. And Rachel complaining about her senior year being very stressful - the usage of the word stressful - is very repetitive bordering on becoming boring.

What I liked about the book was the way author Rebecca has stripped down the human emotions and activities into their basic rawness. For instance, there is no flim-flam in the romance part, albeit it is only on Justin's side for now. The scene where Justin drools over Rachel's shoulder in sleep is not very romantic and causes you to go "Eew". Yet, she has kept it as is instead of masking it with some romantic interlude keeping the story more real than fantasy. Also the scene where Rachel and Justin are in a supply closet and she describes Rachel feeling her eyes sting because Justin was smelling due to him not having shower since a week and using more than required cologne.

The whole sharing of looks between Jessica, Peter, Justin, Melissa and other superheroes also confused me cause it never ends. I wish at one point that looks translate to words. A lot of my sympathies to Rachel for being in between something she doesn’t want to be and not being explained to her by others a whole lot. The author also combines the real-world fears of Rachel with the scientific / magical issues she is facing into a smooth blend. The language used is much better than her first book, but there have been instances where the words have been magnanimous. ;) For instance - verisimilitude on pg 76. And new words like Superheroing on Pg 74 - doesn’t have any real meaning other than what the character Rachel explains in the book, never know if this will eventually become a real word in future.

All in all another easy and quick read with enough entertainment to not bore you. Looking forward to finish of the series with the third installment soon.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) A few grammatical errors are seen here and there - Pg 6 (the big para in the center has one error), Pg 22 (6th para that starts with "Peter nods again"), Pg 86 ("gapes" is spelt as "gaps" in the last but third line), Pg 96 ("it" is printed instead of "is" in the last but third line).
2) Reference to Doctor Who (Pg 22) and the Time Lords he visits is so on the spot.
3) It was funny to see a reference to Bruce Campbell (Pg 24) - took me a while to match the name to the face.  Can't forget him as Ash Williams from The Evil Dead which took permanent etch in my brain even though he has acted in so many movies after. Another post for another day about that horror movie that gives me nightmares still.
4) I notice a reference to Daphne and Scooby Doo (Pg 28) and to Marvin Martian (Pg 42). I haven't come across a single book that I have read so far that referenced to these cartoon characters that are a reminiscence from my childhood days. I almost rubbed my hands with glee while reading. :)
5) The author mentions an 1891 novel "Tess of the d'urbervilles" that created quite a stir in that era. Piqued my interest to read it. Perhaps one day I will read it. :)
6) Another superhero comic book is mentioned - Jenny Sparks - which I haven't read in a long time. Time to read it again, perhaps. ;) (Pg 81)
7) And never new Superman had a cousin named Kara Kent (Pg 85). Have to check on that.
8) And Vulcan took me back to Star Trek getting me cravings to watch all of the series again. (Pg 87)
9) Jessica's replacement is a red-haired woman named Pamela, Pam. I am curious to see if she has a bigger role in the next book.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Animation at its rudimentary form yet at its best making it one of the top movies to watch.

One of my friend on LiveJournal blog had posted about Lotte Reiniger's google doodle celebrating her 117th birth anniversary (June 2 2016). Her post piqued my interest in this German film director. (Thank you osprey_archer) Lotte Reiniger was the first one to make a feature-length film using silhouette animation - where all the characters are black silhouettes accomplished by backlighting cardboard cut-outs and such. She had successfully made over 40 films using this technique.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed was her first animated feature film that she made in 1926, a full 10 years before Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that was made in 1937. This is the oldest surviving feature-film. The story is based on elements taken from the One Thousand and One Nights, specifically "The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou" featured in Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book. The original print of this movie however don’t exist anymore. But it was restored by German and British archivists  during 1998 and 1999 using surviving nitrate prints.

The story begins with an African sorcerer, der afrikanische Zauberer, creates a flying horse with his magic. There upon he shows it to the Caliph - one who admires and shows interests in the unique. When the sorcerer refuses to sell the horse, Caliph offers any treasures he has. Thee sorcerer chooses Princess Dinarsade, much to the distress of the princess. Her brother, Prince Achmed, objects to it.

The said Prince Achmed here. :)

But the sorcerer convinces the prince to try the flying horse. But the flying horse carres away the pronce as he does not know how to control the horse. The sorcerer is imprisoned. The prince finally figures out the mechanisms and lands in a strange land called Wak Wak. There he meets Pari Banu, beautiful ruler of Wak Wak and they both fall in love but she warns about demons of Wak Wak who might try kill him.

And the heroine please... :)

The story then continues on how Prince Achmed and Pari Banu face the demons of Wak Wak, the sorcerer and his minions, finds allies in Aladdin and the Witch - die Hexe - and eventually over power the sorcerer and kill him freeing all of them from his clutches.

Brilliantly made animation with well plotted story with complex twists and turns. Hats off to the creativity and ideas of Lotte Reiniger that we get to see the beginnings of animated films. Samples pictures of some of the animated scenes from the movie.

Two characters and stories from fairy tale land (Prince Achmed and Aladdin) brought together under one roof, so to speak, adds much weight to the plot.

I would have loved to watch it with English subtitles, but the German version found on youtube also made a lot of sense. It took Lotte several years (from 1923 to 1926) to make this film. However, she has certainly paved the way for cartoons and animation in film and TV. Because I was impressed by the technique and the methods used, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Being it silent and an alien language I still loved it. I wonder if the current generation would appreciate it as much. Have to ask my nephew to watch and see what he thinks. My gut feeling is he would ask me million questions on the language to start with. :)

Spoiler Alerts:
1) Google Doodle on Lotte Reiniger and more about her on the web page here (https://www.google.com/doodles/lotte-reinigers-117th-birthday)

2) The original story "The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou" featured in Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book is something I will have to read in future, if I find it. :)

3) Per Wiki: Two homages to this movie can be spotted in two Disney films: the duel between a witch and a wizard who both transform in various creatures is found in Disney's 1963 The Sword in the Stone, and a character named Prince Achmed makes a cameo at the beginning of Aladdin. Something to check out for future blog posts.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  4 / 5
Recommendation: Sometimes illusions are what charms one's mind and this is one of them.

June 15th marks the birthday of not only my oldest nephew, Srithan, but also my youngest brother Sudheer. When I asked what should I post for him celebrating his birthday, he picked this movie. He considers this movie as one his favorites. So, here's wishing my brother a very Happy Birthday with this review.

The Illusionist is a 2006 American romantic mystery movie starring Edward Norton, Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti as the lead characters. The film is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s telling the story of Eisenheim, a magician in fin de siècle Vienna. It also depicts a fictionalized version of Mayerling Incident (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayerling_incident).

The movie begins with Eisenheim (portrayed by Edward Norton) performing a magic show in Vienna, Austria-Hungary in 1889. He gets arrested by Chief Inspector Walter Uhl (portrayed by Paul Giamatti) for practicing necromancy by the order of Crown Prince Leopold (portrayed by Rufus Sewell). The story then goes into flashback where Uhl explains the life story of Eisenheim.

Eisenheim (born) Eduard Abramovich), son of a cabinet-maker, is said to be one of supernatural powers or acquired from a travelling magician, but gets interested in magic. He meets young Sophie, the Duchess von Teschen and falls in love with her. Even though they are forbidden to meet, they meet as many times as they can until one day they get caught. That day Eduard walks away from the village and then surfaces 15 years later as Eisenheim performing magic - more of an illusion.

Here he is showing an illusion of an Orange Tree growing out of an empty bucket.

At one such performance he meets Sophie (portrayed by Jessica Biel), now grown up to be a beautiful maid, but expected to be married to Crown Prince Leopold - rumored to be brutal towards women and even might have murdered one. Impressed by his performance, Crown Prince Leopold asks Eisenheim to conduct a private show for him where Eisenheim makes fun of him. Follwing which he is banned from performing anywhere in Vienna. He asks Sophie to run away with him for which she refuses afraid of execution as well as that Leopold was going to announce their engagement - a move by Leopold leading up to bigger plans by him.

The rest of the plot follws how Eisenheim tries to get Sophie and how Leopold tries to make Eisenheim pay.

A brilliant plot with equally talented actors, which I would have loved to watch in theaters. Edward Norton - although fits the role of an illusionist, I still cannot take my mind off his role as Aaron Stampler / Roy in Primal Fear. Jessica Biel for once looks good in her acting. Her days as Mary Camden from 7th Heaven show a little here but still she has a long way to go in acting - that is if she is still acting considering this movie was made 10 years ago. As for Rufus, well, he is charming as always and a perfect Crown Prince Leopold. Paul Giamatti, I must say, has taken more shine than any in the movie. As he describes himself he himself was a mere public servant to Leopold in the movie, he certainly was no such one over all.

All in all a movie that will entertain you from start to end.
Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 4.5 / 5
My Recommendation: Absolutely for kids ages 10+ and above and adults who want to visit the fairy-tale land again. ;)

My oldest nephew turned six on June 15th of this year, the day this post was originally supposed to be done. (I am way way behind in my schedule). He is a master spinner of tales. Be it as small as getting a pen from a nearby table to as big as going to Lego Land for a day trip, he spins the fun he had there into a beautiful tale. Albeit sometimes he goes over the board, but that is what an active imagination should be like. Makes me wonder if channeled well, he may perhaps one day become a well-known author or screenplay writer. Here's wishing Srithan a very Happy Birthday with the review of this book from the Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer. What better book than this, huh? :)

Beyond The Kingdom is the fourth installment in this series that was published in July of 2015. The book opens with a prologue set in 1845 Copenhagen, Denmark. The Fairy Godmother visits Hans Christian Andersen who after a frustrated day of writer's block was lounging at the Langelinie Promenade. An unexpected turn takes their conversation and Fairy Godmother reveals that she has two sons infact - John and Lloyd. The conversation spurs an idea into her brain which Fairy Godmother acts upon. And what she does next is as much an eye opener to her as well as the readers. She not only learns the darkest dream of someone she loved the most but for the readers it answers a lot of questions from the previous book, A Grimm Warning.
The story moves on to the current era where Alex Bailey and Connor Bailey - the twins who managed to open the portal to the fairytale land - are still in Fairytale land. Alex is now the new Fairy Godmother while Connor is aiding her in finding The Masked Man. Alex is convinced that he is her dead father John who miraculously came alive or faked his death. She feels sick to her core whenever she thinks about and no one would believe her if she had mentioned the same.

In the meanwhile somewhere in the fairytale land a group of witches gather to ponder over two dozens of children kidnapped and being blamed for it. The Masked Man - who had escaped the battle in the previous book, stole something really important from the dead Fairy Godmother's room and ran away - arrives in the middle of their conversation. With threats and consoles, he gets the witches on his side - in a war that he want to wage against all the fairy tale land kingdoms as well as the Outerworld, so he can rule them all. In the tussle, The Masked Man faces Alex, Connor, Goldilocks, Jack, Red and Froggy - all of who have been  who had come into the discussion disguised as witches, but escapes with the potion he stole from the Fairy Palace.

Since the time she has seen The Masked Man's face which looked exactly like her father, Alex's emotions and powers have become uncontrollable. In this search of The Masked Man, when she had come so close to catch him and help him - for she wants to help him so he can become as before - Alex loses further more control and comes close to hurting everyone around including her friends. After another of such episode, The Fairy Council finally "un-godmothered" her after a very serious episode. Not only that she was getting out of control but her obsession in finding The Masked Man was becoming more and more hazardous. Will Alex find who The Masked Man is? Will her friends believe in her again? Will The Fairy Council forgive her? Where has The Masked Man escaped to? What is in that blue vial?

In the Outerworld, Alex and Connor's two other friends who had travelled to The Fairy Tale land in the previous book, are facing their own punishments from their parents - grounded for being gone for five months without a note. Emmerich Himmelbasch - living in Bavaria, Germany - has been grounded for how long he doesn’t know and he has the Kitchen Cleaning duty every night as part of the deal. So does the same thing happen to Bree Campbell - in America - has been grounded till she reaches college. However neither of them could forget the amazing adventure they had in those five months with Alex, Connor, their friends and the Fairytale Land. When they get a chance to talk to each other again, Bree shares her theory of how she and Emmerich could be having magic in their blood and because of which they could travel to the Fairytale Land - for if you don’t have magic in your blood, you will get lost in the portal forever. They decide to explore on this idea, but first they need to be able to get out of their homes - again! How are they possessing magic blood? Whom are they related to in Fairytale Land? Bree's constant conflict with The Book Huggers - Mindy, Cindy, Lindy and Wendy - the book club members at her school grates on her nerves and is not lost on the reader on how irritating they can get. Their fixation on Bailey Twins gets very obsessive to the point that they stalk Bree - much to her frustration. Yet, the determination Bree has to find out about herself and to go back Fairytale land took over. Will she and Emmerich go back again?

As for The Masked Man, he has the blue vial that sends him to worlds beyond the Fairytale Land, beyond the Otherworld, into a literary world. What his intentions are in using the potion in the vial are far more crueler than what The Grand Armee had intended to do. Intentions that Morina, the witch, takes part freely in. However, The Masked Man has a secret of his own that he doesn’t share with anyone. And so does Morina - a secret of The Masked Man that he wasn’t even aware of. What are these secrets? Where will this hunt lead The Masked Man and Morina to? Who is The Masked Man? Why is he bent on destroying the Fariytale Land?  To add to the troubles the teens and their friends are facing, Morina forces Froggy to go along with her else would destroy his friends. Why didn’t Froggy object? What did Morina need him for? The Masked Man also upped his ante by kidnapping Tinker Bell. Another hurdle that the Bailey Twins have to solve.

The plot is slightly complicated than other books, complicated for younger kids but not for youth. Chris Colfer has matured the plot well along with the kids growing up in the story. However the plot revolves between Real World, Fairytale World and the Fictional Book World - World of each famous books out there in our real world - causing a bit of spin to one's head.  It get's a bit of reading before one settles into all three worlds. I can't imagine how Chris Colfer has managed to write without mixing them together. :)

Along with the usual friends of Alex and Connor, both in Fairytale Land and Otherworld, we get to see more surprising characters, some allies and some foes - Morina (the witch who had converted Prince Charlie into Froggy and a foe to the Bailey Twins), Trix (the little fairy that Connor had helped in their first adventure to Fairytale Land), Rook (the boy on whom Alex had crush and was crushed by his betrayal, an ally for now since he tried to make amends), Hagetta (The good witch who helps Connor and Alex heal on several occasions when injured), Tin Woodman (Yes, our very own Tin Man from The Wizard Of Oz and ally to the twins),  Peter Pan and The Lost Boys (Tootles, Nibs, Slightly, Curly and the twins), Arthur and Merlin, Robin Hood of Sherwood, Wicked Witch of The West, her Winged Monkeys and Twinkies and finally the The Queen of Hearts.

As usual Red is very obnoxious and borders on making you want to strangle. However, when there was need of help, she comes through. I believe that is the reason why readers tolerate her - at least I did. Froggy is confusedly in love with Red. I feel so much pity for him. And the begging question if Connor can also do magic just like his sister gets finally answered in this episode. All through the book it felt that The Masked Man was gaining advantage on the Bailey Twins and their friends. Towards the end it left each and every character in a world of each of the books that The Masked Man had gone through while he is heading back to Fairytale Land. I was expecting at some point the Twins team to get an upper hand. And suddenly the plot stops without giving a headsup to the reader that there would be a fifth book following this.  It was a rather odd way to finish a book by the author.

Spoiler Alerts:
1. When The Fairy Godmother meets Hans in the beginning of the book, he was stuck on a chapter of his famous book The Story of a Mother. I have to read this some day. Another one for my blog post.
2. The person that Alex had seen towards the end of in the last book, A Grimm Warning, perhaps is not her father but yet related to her.
3. Goldilocks is pregnant in this book - so intriguing to see the young characters of our fairy tales that we know, growing up.
4. Froggy and Red are planning for a wedding - this follows through in the book as a sub-plot.
5. Red keeps calling Shakespeare as Shakyfruit all though the series. I do hope she learns to call him right eventually.
6. In this version of The Wizard Of Oz, Chris plays a scene where field mice help Tin Woodman to take Alex, Connor and their friends from the field of deadly poppies to save them. I don’t remember reading it in the book as well as in the movie. Have to check again.
7. Cinderella's step sisters and step mother who had gone to the Otherworld in the previous book, are shown to be owning and running a diner named "Storybook Grill".
8. Robin Hood is depicted way overly pompous with a loud voice and no heroic quality in him. The author perhaps never liked him for real to make him look so silly.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 5 / 5
Recommendation: An absolutely delightful film that made the book come alive and real.

The Jungle Book is the 2016 American live-action film based on the 1894 book of the same name by Rudyard Kipling produced by Walt Disney Pictures. The movie also picked some elements from the 1967 American animated musical film of the same name - produced by Walt Disney Productions then.

The movie introduced Neel Sethi as the famous Mowgli and features other famous actors in pivotal roles - Bill Murray as Baloo, Ben Kinglsey as Bagheera, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa and Christopher Walken as King Louie (a Gigantopithecus) among others.

The movie plot is well known - a man-cub, Mowgli, brought up by an Indian wolf and her pack is the target of the evil Shere Khan's eye (well, his scarred eye across his face); who decides to leave the pack to avoid a conflict and war; in search of his man-village where he assumes he can be safe from Shere Khan meets some great friends and some unavoidable foes and finally comes back to the pack to face his biggest fear to come out on top.
The CGI effects for this animated movie are beyond compare and very impressive. Although the plot covers only the first three chapters of the original book, it makes up for a complete story. However the plot in this version has lot of differences to the 1967 animated movie as well as to the book. Perhaps leaving it to viewers mind on the concept of a sequel - which seems to be a common thing with movie makers now-a-days. Compared to the 1967 movie, this movie however retained the dark undertones from the book - cruelty of Shere Khan when he swipes at Akela (leader of the wolf pack that raised Mowgli), without a thought and kills him, the subtle rashness in the King Louie who insists Mowgli on getting the "red flower", the hidden cunningness in the python Kaa.

Neel Sethi lived the part as Mowgli. For a child actor debuting in a movie, he has showed immense professionalism in his acting and yet keeping his child-like nature for the role as well as for himself. Him being the only human character in the entire movie, it must have been a tough ride for Neel Sethi to act. However, he made it look like a piece of cake. Kudos the young boy's acting capabilities. I would love to see him in more movies in future and hopefully not fade away like Dev Patel and other Indian-origin actors who act in American and British movies.
Picture and Video Heavy behind the cut...Collapse )
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a TV Show review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 5 / 5
Recommendation: Need I say that this is a must watch series.

The Abominable Bride is a special episode of British TV Series Sherlock - a series based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books - that was released on Jan 1 2016. It was released in theaters for a very limited period of time. The title is based on the quote "Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife" from The Adventures of the Musgrave Ritual.

Sherlock Holmes has been an inspiration, an enigma and a favorite on many book lovers especially those who love murder-mysteries. While Dr. Watson has remained his faithful partner aiding as needed and yet making a mark of himself in the reader's minds. From the time Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created his character, Sherlock Holmes has taken a personification of his own rather than just staying inside the book - so much so that sometimes one forgets that he is just a figment of Sir Doyle's brain. Perhaps Sir Doyle must have felt the same too because he had taken a long hiatus after slaying away Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty over the  Reichenbach Falls in the story "The Final Problem" in 1893.  After a lot of pressure from his publishers and demand from the readers, Doyle had finally written the novel The Hound Of Baskervilles in 1901.

A toast to such a great author who created a character that lives out of the books and has crept in everyone's bedrooms and minds charming them with his mind-boggling capabilities to solve the unsolvable. Whenever someone applauds at how Sherlock solves a crime, I always feel that the credit lies solely in Arthur Doyle's hand and mind. How can one imagine so much complexity on paper giving it visual impact of dark-side of humanity in the form of murders, etc. and at the same time keeping the readers gripped with wit and charm. A person within a person within a person - such seems the complexity of Sherlock Holmes.

With the fame of the character comes the passion of the readers to make him alive by re-creating him in theater plays, movies and cinemas; giving him an actual home to live in and an actual life to portray. In years that passed, several actors have portrayed as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson but only few of them have become memorable. One that comes to my mind is Matt Frewer. I know everyone likes Jeremy Brett as the best Sherlock Holmes, but for me Matt Fewer for some reason tops. Until I watched the new Sherlock. Now Benedict Cumberbatch tops all the lists and he is The Sherlock that Doyle would have imagined in every way.

With the episodes period setting being current era and technology they have become all the more interesting. With the inhumanly calculating and addictive personality and not being cold is the essence of Sherlock. Benedict has married all the three qualities into one and has become the 21st century Sherlock Holmes. I have watched every episode of this series since its inception. And love love love it. Here's me sporting the t-shirt of Sherlock to show my love.

Back to this episode of the series. It is very interesting to see that the episode rolls back to 1890s - the time when Sir Arthur had written about Sherlock - with Holmes meeting Watson for the first time.

And moving speedily until the time where Watson is married to Mary and is successfully publishing Holmes adventures in solving murders in The Strand Paper. A unique case of Emelia Ricoletti - a consumptive bride - who had committed suicide keeps coming alive and killing people. Sherlock doesn’t believe in ghosts and very much knows there is a human intervention.

In solving the crime his trusted friend Dr. John Watson and his wife Mrs. Mary Watson come to aid. His brother Mycroft Holmes also aids in his own way. However he gets stumped when all clues lead to Professor Moriarty - the one person who he was sure was dead. Is Moriarty really alive? Is he the cause of the murders? Who really has been doing the killings?

Answering all those questions was at one side of the scale - a scale that balanced with only one on the other side: Why is the series rewinding to the 1890s setting? As always the episode has been produced brilliantly with such unexpected twists and surprising turns that it keeps one glued to the sofa. Another part excellently made and worth every penny if watched in theater.

Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: A good book on the side-line with characters from the main book, easy and quick read.

Patrick Rothfuss has published two books so far in The Kingkiller Chronicle series - The Name of The Wind (My review here) and The Wise Man's Fear (My review here) - and I have been waiting for his third and final book, The Doors of Stone to be out. Unfortunately Day 3 in the life of Kvothe is yet to come to light. In the meanwhile he has written three novellas featuring things and people from the Kingkiller Chronicle's world and set during the time periods explored in the two books of the series.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the third short novella focusing on the character Auri who lives in the Underthing - a hidden location of old rooms and tunnels under the University - published in October of 2014 in UK and November of 2015 in USA. According to Wiki entry the books covers specifically the time period that was covered between chapters seven and eleven of the second book The Wise Man's Fear. After much waiting on my part to open and read the book, I finally finished it.

However, just like the author has warned in his foreward, if you haven't read his first two books in The Kingkiller Chronicle series, then this is not the book to start with and would be a total confusion for you. I urge you to read the other two books before picking this or any of his novellas related to this series.

The writing style of the author is very old world almost from some other century far far away. He humanized every single thing even the inanimate ones as though they had life and would speak. So does Auri - the central character of this book - treats her things around like humans, like her family. She has a finding day for finding them. She uses the tunnels and the rooms around as though she owned them - perhaps she did since she is the only one living there. She liked to do things the proper way. And she liked things to be in their proper place just like she was. She has seven days before "he" comes for a visit and she needed to find something for him by then. The second day was turning day - to do something while the Third day she cried. Fourth day was tapering day - a burning day. Fifth Day didn’t have a name so Auri set on to do the preparation for "him". Sixth Day was the wazing day - a day of making.

Author has used very interesting names to the rooms - Mantle (the area where Auri lives), Port, maze of Rubric, The Twelve (one of the rare changing places of the Underthing), The Yellow Twelve, Withy, Darkhouse (a very dark area where light doesn’t seep into much), Clinks (area where the tink of glass could be heard), Vaults, Tenners, Dunnings, Bakers, Borough, Black Door (Auri didn’t like this on a white day), Wains, Throughbottom, Greely (area is filled with sulfurant smell), Crumbledon (a narrow dirt tunnel that is not more than a hole), Tumbrel (Place that was half fallen and half full), Delving, Woods, Van, Cricklet (a small trickle of stream of drinking water), Tree (the tree that Auri used as her kitchen), Applecourt (Where Auri met "him"), Umbrel, The Grey Twelve, Mandril, Candlebear, Tenance, Billows, Pickering, Scaperling, Mote (An area with pool of clear water), Grimsby, Oars, Trip Beneath, The Black Twelve, Emberling, The Silver Twelve, Old Ironways, Winoway, Draughting, Annulet, Taps (place where there are faucets with fresh water), Boundary (A place that is similar to a lab), Veneret, Doubton, Forth, Lucient, Annulet, Lynne (a place full of pipes), Ninewise and Tocks.

She has a companion whom she calls Foxen, living in her Mantle and provides light to her when she wanted. Auri seems to know all about Alchemy and Chemistry and with efficiency and knowledge that only learned scholars could achieve with age and experience. How did she acquire all this knowledge? How old is she really? How long has she been living in the Underthing.

A very interesting style of writing by the author that gives life to all the mute and inanimate things making us feel the existence of so many characters when in reality the whole book has only one person in it - Auri. There is a lengthy description of how to make a candle which might have been a boring episode. However we are so engrossed in Auri by then that we literally make the candle in our minds. So it doesn’t become boring at all.

Frankly speaking it took me a while before I finally ventured on to read this book even though I had bought it a long time ago. I was sure I would be bored to death. However since I loved the main books for this novella, I braved myself to read it. To my surprise the book hooked me on to it so quickly that I couldn’t keep it down. I was constantly thinking will Auri complete what she had figured out to do for that day? What will she find when she would go into one those rooms in the Underthing? How does she live all by herself and all alone there? All these questions made me want to go back to the book immediately. Believe me, I had finished it much faster than I had anticipated.

Give it a try if you come across this book. And if you are anyone like me, trust me, you will not be disappointed.

PS: Now that I have read this I am looking forward to read two of his other novellas that he has written in a similar way - tying back to the main books.

Spoiler Alerts:
1. The Yellow Twelve - Mentioned in the book several times, I could not figure out what it was. A huge Trunk? A armoire? A dressing room?
2. Withy - Another mysterious area in Underthing that I could not place my finger on.
3. Temerant - Auri calls the world as Temerant. Perhaps that is where this plot occurs, a different world called Temerant.
4. The words are so unique that I have not come across in any book before, even his two other books - Minnow-quick (meaning very fast per the usage in the sentence: Pg 12), in nothing but her pinkness (to describe nude or naked: Pg 21), white day (to describe a bright and happy day: Pg 25), frescoes (paintings: Pg 26), higgledy-piggledy (perhaps to mean scattered in a disarray: Pg 31), triptych (a picture or relief carving on three panels: Pg 32), tenebrific (meaning darkness: Pg 80), gooseprickle (couldn’t find the meaning for this: Pg 107), cricket-quick (perhaps meaning as quick as a cricket? Pg 109), widdershins (counter clock-wise: Pg 117), raveledy (couldn’t find the meaning for this: Pg 131)
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation:  A decent read with enough history and facts blended in to make a tapestry of Grace Sherwood.

On my recent trip to Virginia Beach, VA, my friends and I took a tour of Ferry Plantation House located at 4136 Cheswick Ln, Virginia Beach, VA. The house was originally built in 1830 with addition of the main house in 1850. The reason we had picked this house was because of its link to paranormal activity - something we all wanted to explore, of course during day time only (at least I would be the one to prefer that. :P) More about the house here.

One of the persons who gave us the tour was Danielle Sheets. She was very informed about the history of the home, people who had lived there, their stories, their life and lots of little details from the time the house began its existence. Towards the end of the tour we came across this book in the gift shop housed inside the building. Little did we know that the co-author of this book was the very person who had given us the tour until she told us after she saw our interest in the book. Immediately me and another friend in our group bought the book - not just because it is about witches and history that always creates mystic in one; but also for the fact that we got to spend so much time with a writer albeit a beginner. Also the fact that she was not looming over us and pushing that book at us made me want to buy it more.

And here is a picture of me with Danielle Sheets

I don’t normally read non-fiction, not that I don’t want to. I feel I have so much reality in my life that I like to live in a fantasy world at least while reading books or watching movies. I can remember only handful of non-fiction books that I have read in my entire life. Anyways, since I bought it I ventured along to read it to get a feeling if it reflects the author in the same way I had felt her in-person. Here is my take on the book.

Danielle Sheets co-authored this book - published in 2012 - with her mother Belinda Nash, a biography of Grace Sherwood - the last witch to be "convicted" by ducking on July 10, 1706 in the Lynnhaven River. Ducking was the ordeal by cold water where the accused was submerged in a stream of cold water and acquitted if the accused survived. Grace Sherwood had survived this ordeal and had lived into her eighties. This was the only trail by ducking held in the state of Virginia. However, she was forever marked as a witch that had gone through the ducking. Belinda Nash's interest in Grace Sherwood and her ordeal started when she was looking into the history behind why a street was named as Witchduck Road nearby where she lived.

Because of her research and work, Grace Sherwood was given a pardon on July 10 2006, 300 years after her trial by ordeal - the trail that took place at the very Ferry Plantation that resides today. Here is how the house is now.

The book opens with the how the life was in the early 1600s, leading up to the indentured services by contracted people and how the first African American people were brought it. It was a time where despite the hardships and slave labor, the indentured servants, including the African Americans, were freer and indeed became free after serving their term per the contract. It still appalls me how one human can do that to another human - slavery in whatever name you call it had been existing in every part of the world, just named different. It was also chilling to read a brief account of the battles between the Powhatan Indians and English settlers when England ruled that the local Indians should be made Christian. Why would anyone want to change the other? You are given passage, land and food to stay on their land and you go and attack their lifestyle - this is what many countries have been doing for so many centuries. Sadly it still continues, but the scarier part now is that the battles are at higher stakes now -stakes that might eliminate the human race one day.

The book moves on to illustrate the first settlers highlighting about Adam Thoroughgood who created New Norfolk County whose daughter married Thomas Walke - one of the affluent settlers in the colony. It continues on to highlight the slave trade of African Americans in English settlers colonies and the laws that were brought around it - more to encourage slavery and discourage folks who wanted to help the slaves. And also increased the inhumane methods the masters instilled on the slaves. This resulted in giving birth to sprinkling powder and curses. Added to that the constant working on farm with moldy grains around caused psychedelic effects on these people when ingested. Since mostly women ate these grains, the mass hallucinations caused as a result, put fear in officials making them to believe in witches and witchcraft - something that was a fear in England. Thus continuing into the witch trials and eventually leading upto the trial by ordeal of Grace Sherwood.

The book could have been printed in a smaller print and with single line space formatting to reduce the number of pages. It would still have been easy to read. The book also started abruptly without any preface or text. Perhaps non-fiction books are written thus.  In the beginning of the book, my stomach started growling at the description of so much food in the area during the early 1600s, and I had just had finished my lunch when I had picked the book to read. :P The English used is very old world  - wonder if the author kept it that way to keep with the sentiment of the time the tale took place in. Author uses a word "ancient women" in a few places (Pg 121 and 122) - wonder what that meant, old women?

A well written book with snippets of history exactly depicted without any embellishment. Some of the lines did bring a jerk to my heart and mind making me think how insane, cruel and unjust human person is not only against his own race but against the flora and fauna. The book takes through so much of historical changes going through America at that time, but I would have loved it if it stuck to purely the life and trials of Grace Sherwood.

A good attempt to bring history into an interesting tale making it a very quick and easy read.

Spoiler Alerts:
1. The book is written in four parts
  a. First part has no chapter heading and talks about the settlers and beginning of the colonies
  b. Second part titled God talks about the advent of Anglicism, Puritans and the birth of Slavery
  c. Third part titled The Devil talks about the concept of Witches and Witch Hunt including the trial of Grace Sherwood
  d. A very shorter Fourth part titled Restitution describing the exoneration of Grace Sherwood 300 years after the trial
  e. Another shorter Fifth part titled Redemption describes how Belinda Nash had struggled to get a statue erected for Grace Sherwood. Seems like the Virginians still outcast her even after the exoneration.

2. Some grammatical errors are seen in the book - Pg 28 (unrelated "the" in the second line of the second para).
3. Battle of Severn - The shortest battle that lasted only about half hour occurred on March 25 1655. For such a short battle the death toll was really huge - 40 dead and 32 wounded. More about the battle here.
4. Another part of history revealed called the Bacon's Rebellion in 1676 led by Nathaniel Bacon, Jr. against the then Governor William Berkeley. More about it here.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: A weak plotted movie yet enjoyable when watching with kids.

Hotel Transylvania 2 is a 2015 American animated fantasy-comedy film and a sequel to its 2012 film. This film takes places seven years after the first film was set. Hotel Transylvania is owned by 539 year old Count Dracula. After his daughter Mavis - a 125 year old vampire - marries Jonathan aka Johnny - a 28 year old human - (story told in the first installment) he has a change of heart towards humans. The second installment shows him opening up the hotel for humans and vampires alike.

The plot starts with Mavis announcing that she is pregnant. A year later she gives birth to a boy named Dennis. Drac worries that Dennis is nearing to his fifth birthday and yet hasn’t grown any fangs. And Mavis is considering to raise Dennis as a human near her husband's home. Knowing his daughter's plans, Drac asks Johnny to take Mavis on a visit to his parents home - Johnny agrees with much reluctance as he doesn’t want to leave the hotel. Mavis considering this as a good break and also a good way to get to know the area her husband had grew up and her in-laws, she sets on the adventure with her husband.

While Mavis and Johnny are away, Drac plans to take help of his friends  Frankenstein, Wayne the Werewolf, Griffin the Invisible Man, Murray the Mummy and Blobby the Blob to awaken the vampiric powers in Dennis. But his escapades get on to youtube and are seen by Mavis. Mavis comes back to the hotel and decides to leave after Dennis's fifth birthday the following week. The remaining plot follows how Drac tries to make up to his daughter, how Dennis gets his vampire powers, and how they all finally decide to stay in the hotel after all.

An 89 minutes of animated and colorful film that definitely tickles your belly. However this is not as better as the first part. The story plot is also weak with quite a few holes - who is Bela? Why is he so against humans? What is the story of Vlad? - and no where they are tied neatly. Dennis and Mavis are the ones that stole the movie however. This is not a sequel like any other movies where the cast is powerful and plot is strong. This is more of a silly gag for the original. And the brilliant concept that gets lost in translation - embrace and accept all the differences in the world.  Yet, I wouldn’t shy from watching it especially when I hear the squeals and squeaks from my nephews.

Since there are talks about Hotel Transylvania Part 3, I am curious to see how that will pan out. Until then, this is a movie for getting silly laughs out of any adult - no matter how cold that person might be.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4.5 / 5
Recommendation: Another one of those flicks that will put you in a happy mood and also give you entertainment.

The Holiday is a 2006 American romantic comedy film starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black and Jude Law. This is another one of those movies that I love to watch and always cheers me up in whatever kind of down mood I might be or adds more cheer to me if I am already in an up and up mood. The plot revolves mainly around these four characters with a few of them supporting.

Amanda Woods (portrayed by Cameron Diaz) is the owner of a prospering Los Angeles advertising film creating movie trailers. She breaks up with her live-in boyfriend Ethan Ebbers (portrayed by Edward Burns) when she discovers that he was cheating on her with his 24-year old secretary. Iris Simpkins (portrayed by Kate Winslet) is a society column editor for The Daily Telegraph in London and has been in love with Jasper Bloom (portrayed by Rufus Sewell). However she becomes despair about how her life is turning after Jasper announces his engagement with one of the "other woman" he had had a relationship with on the side.

Both of them decide to go online and take a holiday when they come across a home swap website. After looking at each other's homes online, they decide to swap their homes for two weeks. Amanda travels to Surrey in England to Iris's home and feels disappointed with the quiet life there.  Just as she books a flight to go back home, Iris's brother Graham Simpkins (portrayed by Jude Law) comes to the cottage to sleep his drunken stupor off. Graham is a book editor and a single father of two little girls Sophie and Olivia. The attraction between them sizzles and sparks and they end up sleeping together.

In Los Angeles, Iris is impressed and absolutely delighted by Amanda's luxurious home. She meets with Miles Dumont (portrayed by Jack Black), a friend of Ethan Ebbers who had come to retrieve some of his stuff. She also meets Arthur Abbott (portrayed by Eli Wallach) who was s screenwriter during the Golden Age of Hollywood with quite a few Oscars under his belt.

Thus the plot continues where both Amanda and Iris make new life in the two weeks of their vacation, have a change of heart within them as well as folks around them, fall in love and eventually make life-altering decisions.

The story is really sweet with enough romance and comedy mixed together. No over the board acting by any of the actors and no major glitches or hiccups that would make the viewer pause to think about their choice. The scene where Amanda (Diaz) runs in snow in heels, I thought was so illogical. Who runs in snow wearing heels? However, looks like Cameron Diaz actually did that scene for real. Amazingly athletic she is. The movie is set in Los Angeles, CA, USA and Surrey, England giving the viewers a feast of two contrasting worlds for their senses to enjoy. That perhaps was the most successful factor for this movie along with the star cast. Although Hallmark had produced one or two movies of similar plot for their Christmas movies airing on their Movies and Mysteries channel, this is the one that I like the most.

Do watch it if you come across either on TV or on Netflix or Youtube or any other source of media.
Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: A cute movie that charms you, makes you laugh and cry at the same time.

Smooch is a Hallmark TV Movie released in 2011 loosely based on the Brother Grimm's short story The Frog King. In the original story a Prince is turned into a frog by a witch's cruel charm. He must convince a Princess to take him home and treat him like a king. Reluctantly, she does, and on the third day, the Princess awakens to find that her kindness has transformed the frog into a handsome Prince, and the pair lives happily ever after.

However in this movie, Zoe (portrayed by Kiernan Shipka) is a young girl who is obsessed with fairytales - The Frog Prince in particular - and want her widowed mother a perfect prince for valentine's day. Coming home from school one day trying to save a frog from her science class, she chances upon an amnesiac young man dressed in monarchy clothes with webbed feet assuming him to be the frog that turned to a prince.

The rest of the plot shows how Zoe convinces her mother Gwen (portrayed by Kellie Martin) to get him into their home as a Manny with the name Flynn (portrayed by Simon Kassianides) and eventually get her to like him enough to take him on as a valentine's date.

The movie is sweet and reminded me of the fairy tale very much. I always loved Kellie Martin's Mystery Woman Murder Mysteries series. So it was a natural for me to like her in this movie. But Kiernan was the one that captured me the most as Zoe. Certainly a good watch for those dreamy days.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) Zoe read the Frog King tale from a book with the title Blue Moon. Wonder if they are real books, although I didnt find any.

2) The lead actor Simon Kassianides, if you may remember, portrayed the role of Yusef Kabira in Quantum of Solace.
PC: Google

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: A good movie but can wait to watch it on TV with no qualms of missing it in theater.

X-Men: Apocalypse is a 2016 American super-hero action film based on the X-Men characters from Marvel Comics. This is the ninth installment in the X-Men series and sequel to X-Men: Days of Future Past. The movie is set in 1983 and revolves around a powerful mutant who try to wreak havoc on this world while the X-Men try to save it.

En Sabah Nur, an ancient mutant who had ruled Egypt, awakens after millennia of being entombed by  his betrayers. He always has four lieutenants along his side. With the world being so different from what it was when he had ruled, he sets on to destroy it and remake it. In order to do that he recruits his four lieutenants - Psylocke (with powers of telepath among others), Angel (whose wings he replaces to metal ones) and Ororo Munroe (who can control weather). He comes across Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto in a raged and ravaged situation after his family gets killed by the militia of Poland. Erik joins En Sabah Nur to turn his grief into revenge without thought. In the meanwhile Xavier is joined by other mutants and plan on fighting the ancient mutant. However En Sabah Nur takes over Xavier's mind when he was using the Cerebro and orders all mutants all over the world to unlock Earth's all nuclear arsenals. The plot continues in how Xavier and his mutants fight En Sabah Nur and save the world eventually.

The movie had begun with a very interesting plot showing us how mutants originated and what was it like in the past. However, as the movie progressed the violence increased one fold by one fold. I was expecting a bit less of destruction in this movie, however, there seemed more than necessary. I always wonder when will the super heroes and the super villains realize how much destruction they leave in the wake of their wars. This was very disturbing for me when I watched the movie. Hopefully the next installment has a better way of portraying the superheroes.

That said, the movie has its good parts too. We get to see the younger X-Men tied in with all the different pieces with their older self from the original X-Men movies. We also get to see some very good graphics. However I would say the show was stolen by the mutant En Sabah Nur portrayed by Oscar Isaac. He has a very powerful presence and bordering on shadowing all the X-Men characters together. X-Men get united in this part again - albeit most part - and that always cheers me when everyone stand up for the greater good.

All in all a good movie, but I would have rather waited to watch on TV than drag myself to the theater for this one.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) Scott with his power to shoot optic beams from his eyes meets Jean Grey (both telekinetic and telepathic) in Professor Charles Xavier's educational institute in Westchester County, New York. Sparks of romance fly between them instantly. This is a prelude to what we see of their love and romance in the original X-Men series.
2) Peter Maximoff aka Quicksilver is shown as the son of Erik / Magneto.
3) Weapon X is released from Colonel William Stryker's military facility - who turns out to be Wolverine. Jean helps restore some of his memories.
4) The original actor to portray Charles Xavier was Sir Patrick Stewart who has been bald for quite a long time. To tie in to that character this movie added a sub-plot that would show the hairy James McAvoy to become a bald one. Very neatly tied that in.
5) Don’t miss the ending as it does give us a insight to the next sequel - perhaps a Wolverine movie again?
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: If you like easy read mystery with logic involving brain added with romance.

I have written about the TV Series Castle a while ago, I did mention that the books of Nikki Heat and Derrick Storm books shown on the show have been also released as actual books at the beginning of every season. In fact, Nathan Fillion appears as the face of Richard Castle on the books, on the website and also participates in book signings. Finally I got to read the very first book in the Nikki Heat series that Richard Castle writes - the book coincides with Season I of the TV Series as well. Heat Wave was published in September of 2009.

The plot revolves primarily around Jameson Alexander Rook - the fictional character that the fictional writer Richard Castle bases on himself, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning magazine journalist who shadows the detective - and Detective Nikki Heat - loosely based on the fictional NYPD detective Kate Beckett - and takes tips from the real cases that Castle and Beckett solve in the show. Not just them but the 12th Precinct staff that aided Kate Beckett were all fictionalized too. Oh I know it's getting confusing. Believe me, it does specially if you have watched Castle and know the characters in and out.

New York real estate tycoon Matthew Starr plunges to his death from the 6th floor of his building on to the side walk. He leaves behind his trophy wife, Kimberly Starr, and 7-yr old son Matty Starr. Kimberly doesn’t have a rosy past for Detective Heat to ignore her as a suspect - she was a call girl and an exotic dancer going by the name Laldomina Batastini from Queens, New York and later changed to Samantha, who had hooked up with a 60-yr old sugar daddy, got married, cleaned up and came out as Kimberly. But Matthew himself becomes a suspect when his near bankrupt financial situation comes to light. He wasn’t as good a person as he had been painting along. But who had killed him? Kimberly? His rival businessman Omar Lamb? Is it the bookie Miric? Or his muscle Vitya Pochenko aka Iron Man - who Nikki suspects of beating Matthew Starr? What other suspects will Detective Heat uncover as the case proceeds?

Detective Nikki Heat has her own demons that show up in the loneliness of the night - demons that have been haunting her since past 10 years. Her mother's murder was one case that she could never solve.  The festering attraction between Rook and Heat culminates into a sexual bout one night. However Heat is very reluctant to make it a full-on relationship as much as Rook wants. Will Rook wait it out, chip into her armor and eventually warm his way into her heart just as he had warmed into her bed?

The humor that the TV show had is not lost in the book. I wondered how the author would incorporate a visual one into a book and he did a superb job. I would love to know who actually wrote these books, for Nathan Fillion is no writer. Yet in some cases it lacked the reality that was shown on TV, it had more of an actor acting the part rather than living the part. The plot in the book also takes elements from the Season 1 of Castle TV Show - for instance the poker scene in Castle's home with famous writers and judges in the room, where Beckett cleans out one of them. One thing that bothered me was that while Castle was a tag-along to Beckett he still had his mind blowing insights that helped Beckett and her team solve cases. As for Rook, he seemed more of a tag-along nag without any valuable insight. Wonder why the author downplayed Rook in the first book. And hopefully he will bring up Rook to his full potential in the following books.

I was skeptical of Murder, She Wrote books in the beginning, however they have gotten better as years passed. I am wishing the same to happen for these books as well. Although not a bad plot, it still lacked a lot of character for Heat and Rook. All in all a good bedtime book for now.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Grammatical errors seen here and there - Pg 9("liking" is printed instead of "looking" - 4th para), Pg 81 (3rd para from bottom has a line "She of the intercepted love letter" makes no sense).
2) Overly large words used in the book that I had to look-up for meaning, at least a few of them - "self-aggrandizement" on Pg 9.
3) Several famous personalities names are thrown around in the book just like in the series, giving the reader an idea of how many contacts fame has given Rook or how far Jameson Rook reached if needed - Mick Jagger, Bono, James Taylor, Barry Bonds, Desmond Tutu, - Too many used up in one book if I may say. Will there be more in next book I wonder, or the author will stop pointing them out since the stage has already been setup now.
4) Who exactly wrote these books? Unlike Murder, She Wrote books (Check my reviews of this series here), the actual author of these books is really hidden deep.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in the Guild Hunter series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Definitely a pick if you like fantasy fiction involving vampires, archangels, angels and humans.

Angels' Dance is the last novella in the Guild Hunter Series written by Nalini Singh so far. It is published in the anthology Angels' Flight in February of 2012 and also was released as an e-book. The plot shows the love affair between Galen - Raphael's Weapons Master and approx 700 yrs old Angel - and Jessamy - over 3000 years old Angel with a broken wing and a Scholar and Teacher at The Refuge.

The stories in this series are set in a world where it is ruled by Archangels with Vampires, Angels and Humans with extra-ordinary powers as their team serving them. The Cadre that is the council of Archangels seats 10 powerful archangels who share the world in ten different continents and rule them, hold sway over the immortals and mortals alike. Archangels are immortals who have lived thousands and thousands of centuries. Angels are born or made but have lived centuries. Vampires are almost-immortals and are Made mostly and some have lived as long as the Archangels. They serve the Archangels and have contracts with their angelic masters that they have to live by. They use humans as cattle for feeding on blood. Guild Hunters are humans with special powers who are tasked to capture Vampires who have gone rogue. They have psychic and physical powers which are extra-ordinaire. The plots primarily revolve around Archangel Raphael, his consort - Elena, his Seven and his people while he is ruling North America from The Tower in Manhattan, New York.

The plot is set 400 years ago, approx a century after Archangel Raphael - ruling North America from New York - becomes Cadre. Raphael is expanding his core team with trusted and able people picked from other Archangel's courts or from elsewhere. Galen sets to The Refuge to give his loyalty to Raphael. He had been the second-in command to the weapons master at Archangel Titus's court - Titus ruled the region of South Africa. In his first test against Dmitri, he captures quite an audience at The Refuge. But the Scholar and Teacher of The Refuge - Jessamy - captures his attention. All along going through different tests to get the weapons master position in Raphael's Guard, he pursues Jessamy and courts her.

Jessamy - with a broken wing and unable to fly - had confined her life to The Refuge, teaching the angels and archiving the angels' history - had never considered for her heart, body , soul and mind to react so vigorously towards someone - a someone who is much much younger to her. She had never been with anyone before. But that was not the reason for her to hesitate in her reciprocation - she feared her inability to fly will ground Galen as well or she have to let him go if he has to go to higher levels; both would cause her pain unbearable. Yet Galen pursues her insistently. In the meanwhile someone is trying to kill Jessamy - already a murder attempt done - as she seems to know too much.

Who is trying to kill Jessamy? What is it that she knows? What is the new war that Raphael is facing? Will Jessamy give-in to her fears? Or accept Galen? Will Galen stay if Jessamy doesn’t accept him as what he wants her to? Will Galen give his loyalty to Raphael and stay despite the situation with Jessamy?

Nalini Singh has expertly spun a tale set centuries ago giving the readers a view of the world that never been seen before, giving them a taste of the life the people let then. But what left me miffed was that no matter how much Galen pursued her, Jessamy was stubborn to accept him as what he wants her to and even ventured to explore other options - now that everyone knew that she was open to the idea of courtship - even though Galen had given her permission to reluctantly. Despite that it was fun to read the beginnings of a different world and learn how they were made. And the love affair between Jessamy and Galen is so sweet that it hurts with pain and love. An absolute read - short, sweet and touching a chord in you somewhere.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) We get to see Aodhan and Illium in their earlier stages. So do we get glimpses of Dmitri and Jason. Along with pieces of their past that get further illuminated in the main books.
2) Michaela is yet to become an Archangel - but is growing into one, at present a powerful angel in this.
3) Archangel Alexander is introduced in this book. He rules the region of Persia.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a TV Show review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: Worth watching these made-to-TV movies - some easy and some hard to chew candies.

Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel has five mystery movies in the form of series - Aurora Teagarden Mystery Movies, Garage Sale Mystery Movies, Murder She Baked Movies, Flower Shop Mystery Movies and Gourmet Detective Mystery Movies. Originally started with Garage Sale Mystery Movies, gradually Hallmark added the remaining three to the package of the mystery movies releasing the new ones together. The Gorumet Detective Mystery Movies released along with these but less frequent that the rest. So for the sake of this discussion I will remove that movie from my post. All these movies are based on books written by real authors. :)

In the month of June, Hallmark came up with four new movies in the series (barring Gourmet Detective Mystery Movies) with leading actresses being the sleuths. I always look forward to these movies but I am partial to some compared to the other.

Here is the order and why of it.

Garage Sale Mystery Movies:

The series stars Lori Loughlin as Jennifer Shannon who owns an antique shop called Rags to Riches. With her keen observation skills and penchant to not let go of a quest, she stumbles upon key evidences and clues in solving several murders in her town. The movies are based on two-part book series by author Suzi Weinert: Garage Sale Stalker and Garage Sale Diamonds.

I like this series the most because - first, its Lori Loughlin and who doesn’t love her since the days of Full House (albeit I saw them mostly as reruns after coming to US). Second, the plots revolve around garage sales, antiques and estate sales which is my favorite activity to do. Third, the rest of the characters simply blend in making it a very beautiful tapestry.

Flower Shop Mystery Movies:

This series stars Brooke Shields as Abby Knight an ex-lawyer who owns a flower shop after being widowed and left with a daughter and nothing to do on hands. The movies are based on books of the same name written by Kate Collins. These movies didn’t come into the package of series for Hallmark until 2016. Yet, I rank them second purely because of the theme involving flowers and Brooke Shields of course.

Although I hadnt watched many of her movies, but I admired her in whatever few she acted in. She always made me wonder how the heck she looked ageless. She and the myriad of actors in this movie series tell a well made murder mystery just like one of Abby's flower arrangement.

Aurora Teagarden Mystery Movies:

This series stars Candace Cameron Burre as Aurora Teagarden who is a professional librarian and belongs to a Real Murders club. With her inquisitive nature, her ability to see clues that regular investigators miss and her profession as a librarian giving power to research, she constantly meddles in a case and inadvertently solves it much to the frustration of the local cops. The movies are based on books written by Charlaine Harris who had written a series of eight crime novels between 1990 and 2003 centering on Aurora Teagarden.

I was hesitant to watch this series in the beginning because of Candace Cameron Burre. Yes, she is also from Full House that I admired a lot watching, but for some reason Candace was never my favorite. Perhaps her permanent frown or scrunch look that she portrays all the time, could be a turn-off to me. All her method of delivering the dialogue  - almost comes out as a shriek most times - also didn’t help in anyway for me to like her. However the plots in the movies and the character she portrayed made me consider her series as well. But, please can someone tell her that she doesn’t have to frown or scrunch her upper face all the time.

Murder She Baked Movies:

This series stars Alison Sweeney as Hannah Swenson who is a small-town baker and always getting tangled with a murder and cops. With her ability to find clues in food and baking, she becomes a valuable asset to Mike Kingston - a cop who moved into this small town after a personal tragedy - despite his reluctance. These movies are based on cozy mystery novels written by Joanne Fluke with 23 books under her belt just for this series.

In the beginning I liked these movies, but as the series progressed, it put me in a lot of confusion about the Hannah Swenson. So far four movies have been released and she still hasn’t decided if she like the cop Mike Kingston better or Norman Rhodes - the dentist. She seems very indecisive. I always like a closure for any chapter or event. When that doesn’t happen I lose interest. That is what is happening with this movie series slowly. Will have to wait and see if in the movies she decides sooner than in her books - which I am told that after 23 books she hasn’t settled on Mike or Norman and still is dangling them along. Verdict on this series is still out until a few more movies and then will decide.

All in all four good movie series to watch out for and enjoy.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) I have not read any of the books all these movies were made of. Something for future reads I should remember.

Movie Critique 2016 – 06/03/2016: A Aa

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: Yes, since there is no super complexity not utter foolishness - fun to watch for some lazy or rainy days.

A Aa is a 2016 Telugu film starring Nithiin and Samantha Ruth Prabhu released on June 2 2016. The primary plot revolves around the lives of  Anasuya Ramalingam Vs Aanand Vihari hence the title.

Movie opens with Anasuya planning to take her life unable to cope up with the pressure her mother, Mahalakshmi - a rich business woman, puts on her to be a perfect woman. Even that attempt fails much to her disappointment and her mother's wrath.  Aanand on other side is a chef coming from a middle-class family with responsibilities to get his sister married off and clear the debts. When Mahalakshmi goes on a business trip, unbeknownst to her, Anasuya's father, Ramalingam, sends her to Aanand's home in Vijayawada to spend a few days there. Once there, Anasuya realizes that both families are related and that are not on talking terms for reasons unknown to her. He stays on discovering how happy she was living there, uncovering the reason behind the cold war between the two families and also falls in love with Aanand although both have been promised to others. The movie continues on how Aanand clears the cold war between the two families, fights out of his debt, gets his sister married and eventually win Anasuya.

Directed by Trivikram Srinivas, I went in expecting punch dialogues, funny moments and memorable melodies. Yet it paled in comparison to many of his other movies. Character portrayal of Anasuya bugged me a lot. She despises how her mother behaves towards her or her father and servants at home. Yet when she resides at Aanand's home, she behaves exactly the same. How can she despise her mother but become like her? And how can Aanand love her while hate her mother? She was not a character I could warm up to easily instead grated my nerves. As for music none of the songs were memorable although one song was pictured beautifully giving us an eye candy to the beautiful landscapes in and around Vijayawada.

The movie released right on the heels of Pawan Kalyan's Sardaar Gabbar Singh and Mahesh Babu's Brahmotsavam - both films bombed at the box office much to the disappointment of the audience. Although the story plot is very simple and predictable the movie went on to become a commercial success perhaps because the audience were craving something better than the two bombed films. If any other time this movie would have released it would have paled.

That said, it's an easy breezy movie with love story and predictable twists. No brain exercise needed to watch this.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a TV Show review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: If you can stomach the hardcore crimes and raw depiction, these are the series to go for.

The Swedish TV Series Wallander based on Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander novels were aired on Swedish TV between 2005 and 2013 with three seasons during that time. The same series was made by British TV with the same name during the years 2008 and 2016 with four seasons during that time. Swedish episode had Krister Henriksson in the title role while the British version had Kenneth Branagh.

Swedish Version:

British Version:

Wallander is a detective and police inspector in the small town of Ystad, Sweden. He always tries to find not just the who of a crime but also the why - more vehemently so perhaps to get a meaning for why he does what he does every day. The violence that he sees in the cases he solves never becomes normal for him - every case brings on more reasons for him to continue. Yet, he has a portion of empathy towards the victims that never clouds his judgment nor pulls him back in an investigation. Sometimes he lives in that dark so much that this empathy is the light he thrives on. And this very dark side of his life also takes away his personal life - estranged from his daughter and father.

The plots for each episodes are primarily set in Ystad, Scania near the sudden tip of Sweden. Some of the British episodes have been filmed in Riga, Latvia. Most of the plot lines for the individual episodes are based on the original novels in the Swedish Version. While the British version took only few episodes from the original version for their episodes. Both actors who played the title roles have given stellar performances and lived the part. I cannot discount their acting at all. However, both the versions are quite different. Especially in the portraying of the crime. Swedish version is very raw and sometimes borders on cruelty that makes you cringe. While the British version masked the cruelty a bit to make it easier for the viewers. Yet, I liked both versions.

I have not seen Krister in any other movies however I did see Kenneth in many movies - one being Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the review of which I had recently posted. I still admire him for his role as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart but Wallander set a bar too high even for Kenneth. Sadly the series has ended when both the actors have refused to continue to portray the role of Wallander. Guess the reel was getting too much into real for them. Watch it to know what I mean, however this is not for those lazy nights. These are for those nights when you want to burn down something for an injustice caused.
A good series with grave episodes and equally compelling performance by complementing actors.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 5 / 5
Recommendation: Another movie showing grit, determination and how someone copes in any situation

June 1st is celebrated as Global Running Day. I ran / walk 3 miles that day on its honor. What better way to further more honor it but by posting the movie that had the famous line "run, Forest, run" and later became a coping mechanism for Forrest Gump. So, here's to Mr. Gump who did a three-year long running journey across the U.S.

Forest Gump is a 1994 American comedy drama film based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom. The primary role portrayed by Tom Hanks with added cast of Sally Field, Gary Sinise, Robin Wright and Mykelti Williamson has speared the movie into a blockbuster giving it 6 Academy Awards - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, and Best Film Editing. And many other awards and accolades.

The film shows several decades in the life of a slow-witted but good-natured, athletically fit man named Forrest Gump from Alabama. During the course of his life he witnesses life-changing events of history, gets to meet famous people , faces situations unthinkable and comes out on top, influences quite a few that he meets along during the years 1944 to 1982. It has some really powerful scenes - where his mother takes all kinds of measures to get Forrest the best normal school, gets involved in anti-war rallies, saves his comrades in war, influences his friend and Lieutenant Dan Taylor, establishes a successful business and eventually takes responsibility for Jenny - his on and off girlfriend. So does the script lasts impressions in your mind just like the scenes. Who can forget the famous line:

My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

I know myself how many times I have quoted that to myself, to motivate and move forward and to bring a light of hope in someone's eyes. Or the lines below that inspired me to start running.

Forrest Gump: [running] I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.
[he stops and turns around]
Young Man Running: Quiet, quiet! He's gonna say something!
Forrest Gump: [pause] I'm pretty tired... I think I'll go home now.

Or this

Forrest Gump: Sometimes, I guess there just aren't enough rocks.

Or this

Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: Where are you boys from in the world?
Forrest Gump, Bubba: Alabama, sir!
Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: You twins?
Forrest Gump: No, we are not relations Sir.

More behind the cut...Collapse )

Any day I would take this movie over many others and always on top of my list for those down days. If you have not watched it yet, you should watch for yourself to see what I am talking about. Nothing I write will give justice to the eyes and ears.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) I have the original book and am yet to read it although heard there are some differences between both movie and book.
2) The sequel Gump and Co. also written by Winston Groom in 1995 is something on my list to have it and read it.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in the Guild Hunter series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Definitely a pick if you like fantasy fiction involving vampires, archangels, angels and humans.

Angel's Wolf is the third novella in the Guild Hunter Series by Nalini Singh which was originally published as part of the anthology "Angels of Darkness" along-side three other authors in October of 2011 and later on  later published in Angels' Flight in February of 2012 along with three other novellas that Nalini Singh released between 2009 and 2012. The story plot occurs after the plot in Archangel's Kiss - the second book in the series (post link here) - revolving primarily around Noel - the vampire who was badly beaten beyond recognition if not for his ring given by Illium on his broken finger - and Nimra - 600 years old angel ruling the territory of Louisiana under Archangel Raphael.

The stories in this series are set in a world where it is ruled by Archangels with Vampires, Angels and Humans with extra-ordinary powers as their team serving them. The Cadre that is the council of Archangels seats 10 powerful archangels who share the world in ten different continents and rule them, hold sway over the immortals and mortals alike. Archangels are immortals who have lived thousands and thousands of centuries. Angels are born or made but have lived centuries. Vampires are almost-immortals and are Made mostly and some have lived as long as the Archangels. They serve the Archangels and have contracts with their angelic masters that they have to live by. They use humans as cattle for feeding on blood. Guild Hunters are humans with special powers who are tasked to capture Vampires who have gone rogue. They have psychic and physical powers which are extra-ordinaire. The plots primarily revolve around Archangel Raphael, his consort - Elena, his Seven and his people while he is ruling North America from The Tower in Manhattan, New York.

Noel, after healing at The Refuge from the terrible attack he faces at the hands of Anoushka, is sent to serve under the powerful angel Nimra. He believed that everyone thought him to be weak after the terrible ordeal and will break one day, hence has been sent to Nimra to be her toy. For Nimra is famed to be ruthless and cruel since many angels also fear her. However, on having his first real conversation with Nimra, he realizes that he has been transferred to Nimra to help her in finding who was trying to kill her. A potent called "The Midnight" although will not kill an angel can leave her without power and unconscious for a few hours that would be enough for anyone to kill her - was used in the incident which killed her cat, Queen. Now Noel is tasked to secretly investigate folks in her inner circle - as only a few of her courtiers have access to her inner sanctum.

In the process of his investigation, Noel realizes that all that Nimra shows on the outside is not what is inside. He starts falling for her very fast and very strong - especially after all the pain he had gone through and thought he lost the ability to feel. Will Nimra reciprocate the same? Will she be ready to take on a partner as strong as her and capable in every way to rule his own territory one day? But who was trying to kill Nimra? And why? And Noel also is keen on finding what is it that of Nimra that fears the angels as well.

Nalini Singh has created another marvel with this chapter. I would love to see more of Noel and Nimra in the future. When I had read Archangel's Kiss and had come across the chapter that explains the torture done to Noel and the pain he goes through, my heart had gone out to that character. I am glad Nalini Singh wrote a story on him alone giving some relief to the character. A short but pleasureable story.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) The plot is very similar to what Nalini Singh has written a year later in Archangel's Storm (Post link here) - although that plot is in much elaborate than this one.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4.5 / 5
Recommendation: A little bit of fun with bits and pieces of sadness yet delivering powerful life's lessons.

Last Holiday is a 2006 American comedy film starring Queen Latifah and LL Cool J amongst the others. The movie is about a store assistant who spends all of her funds on a luxury holiday in Europe when she is diagnosed with a rare brain condition with only a few weeks to live. It is loosely based on the 1950 British film of the same name.

When I was vacationing in Virginia Beach with a few friends, we had dinner at the local Ynot Italian pizza place one of the days - which happens to be the day this post is being written for. One of our friends had order a certain dish with a few instructions. Although the waitress had mentioned that they normally don’t do it that way, she did say that she will tell the chef about it. To my friend's surprise, the chef had made it exactly how she wanted and more. She complimented the chef through the waitress. To all of our surprise, the chef walked to our table and spoke to our friend, made sure she was really happy. He was a very young chef and it was really nice of him to come out and speak with us. At that age he seems to have already grasped the ropes of an established chef.

The entire situation reminded me of the scene in this movie where Queen Latifah walks into the hotel's restaurant, where she realizes that Chef Didier - her favorite chef - was cooking that day and he doesn’t cook any dish twice. So she orders all of the dishes on the menu without any changes. Chef Didier gets so surprised and intrigued that he personally comes to meet her.  Youtube doesn’t have the complete scene but this is a snippet of it.

I did mention to my friends about the scene and the movie and asked them to watch if they get a chance. For me this is THE GO TO movie whenever I feel down or a little sad or a little off beat that day. This movie brings out the hidden light in me, shakes up all of my depression and puts me in a sunny path.

Georgia Byrd (portrayed by Queen Latifah) is a humble employee in the cookware department at Kragen's Department Store in New Orleans. She is in love with Sean Williams (portrayed by LL Cool J) who works in the grills department. She maintains a journal called "Possibilities" in which she records her dreams and what she wanted to be if life gives her a chance. An accidental bump to the cabinet door puts her in front of a CAT scan that reveals that she has a very rare brain disease and that she has only a few weeks to live. Depressed to the core, when she realizes that she is all alone with nothing to call something or someone as hers, she quits her job, liquidates all her asserts and sets off on a dream vacation at the deluxe Grandhotel Pupp in the spa city of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic.

There she meets Matthew Kragen - the owner of the store she worked prior to her last holiday - Senator Dillings - from her home state Louisiana - Kragen's mistress Miss Burns, a prominent congressman Stewart and famed Chef Didier. With her simplicity and will to enjoy the last few weeks of her life to the fullest she wins the hearts of not only the hotel staff but most of the dignitaries she meets. The rest of the story continues on how she changes the lives of those people she meets, how she takes on what life throws at her and lives to its full and eventually comes out with an upper hand.

The movie has its own flaws - one can guess how the movie ends in the beginning itself; the morals and message perhaps is not new either. However, It is a movie that I would recommend everyone to watch not just because of the actors or the characters, but for the fact that it will take way any gloominess that might have resided in your mind or heart at that moment - even if it is for a few hours. Yet, the movie leaves you always with a new perspective towards life.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) More than him being an actor or a singer, I love LL Cool J in the role of Special Agent Sam Hanna in NCIS: Los Angeles TV show.
2) All the dishes served in the movie were prepared by Food Network Chefs and the recipes are posted on their website.
3) I havent watched the 1950 British movie of the same name, but that is something I have marked for my future post. :)
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 5 / 5
Recommendation: A movie that makes you want to fight for justice, against human evils and come out top even if you lose a little in the process.

The Untouchables is a 1987American gangster film based on 1957 book of the same name. The movie follows the prohibition agent, Elliot Ness' efforts in the 1930s to capture Chicago mobster Al Capone and bring him to justice during prohibition.

The first time I saw this movie it was 20 years after it was shown on TNT and I instantly fell in love with the Andy Garcia of the 80s even though I had already watched Ocean's Trilogy by then. He left a distinct mark on my mind for that movie that when I saw it a few years later I realized there was Sean Connery too in the movie. **Wicked Grin** Anyways, with the 30th anniversary coming up next year, I thought it’s a good movie to be part of my review posts for this year.

Elliot Ness, a prohibition agent in the year 1930, forms a special team of agents that he hand picks them for their courage, morality and incorruptibility, calling themselves as The Untouchables.

With the help of his small group he plans to bring down Al Capone as he has the entire Chicago under his control with his illegal supply of liquor. Although his initial attempts fail, the proceeds to form a small group of honest and courageous agents with integrity and incorruptible nature who successfully raid on one of Capone's liquor cache. In another raid they get hold of one of Capone's book keeper and try to use him to get Capone on tax evasion case. However Capone has his book keeper along with Oscar Wallace - accountant assigned to Ness from Washington, D.C. - killed.

While Ness and George Stone - cop with a superior marksmanship - figure out what to do next, Jimmy Malone - Irish-American veteran officer - finds out that police chief had indeed sold out Wallace and the book keeper. Threatening him, Malone finds out where the chief book keeper of Capone, Walter Payne, was heading.

But Capone's hit man Frank Nitti kills Malone. However Malone manages give the information to Ness and Stone before he dies. Ness and Stone manage to capture Payne albeit there is bloodshed of Capone's men, they bring him to court to finally get Al Capone imprisoned.

The movie explores  integrity, honesty and courage of the police men and other non-uniform officers who work hard to bring down a mobster despite their loss in life and love. That always strikes a chord in any human behind who has a heart. Added to that each of the characters portraying the roles have lived it thoroughly to make a perfect plot. Robert De Niro as Al Capone can be only played by him and no other. Who else can portray the role of a mobster who can kill his own henchman with a smile as pleasant as though he would be posing for a camera. Chilling performance.

Sean Connery as Jimmy Malone is definitely Oscar Worthy - no wonder he won an Oscar. So did Andy Garcia as George Stone and Charles Martin Smith as George Wallace fitted perfectly beside Sean Connery and Kevin Costner as Elliot Ness.

Most of the plot has been kept true to the real life story including the scene where Capone bashes one of his henchman's head with a baseball bat. Perhaps that added to the success of the film. The iconic scene where Ness and Stone fight Capone's men to capture Payne is one of the most memorable one in the movie as well. The baby carriage rolling down the steps from this scene has been used in so many other American and Hindi movies as well making this scene immortal in the world of movie makers.

One of the best gangster movies made in American film history that warrants a watch again and again, no matter how many times one had seen it. If you have not seen it yet, I would say you have to add it to your watch list immediately.

Spoiler Alerts
1) The movie was based on the 1957 book of the same name, but the book was also made into a hit series of the same name, that ran on ABC Television Network from 1959 to 1963. Another TV Show for me to check out for a future blog post.
2) This was the only movie role for which Sean Connery won an Oscar.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in the Guild Hunter series: Go here.

Stars: 2.5 / 5
Recommendation: A easy read involving vampires, archangels, angels and humans.

Angels' Judgment is the second novella in the Guild Hunter Series by Nalini Singh - first published in the anthology "Must Love Hellhounds" in November 2009 and later published in Angels' Flight in February of 2012 along with three other novellas that Nalini Singh released between 2009 and 2012. This was also published before the second book in the series was done and can be considered another prequel to the Guild Hunter Series. The story revolves around Sara Haziz - who is on track to become The Guild Director of United States - and Deacon - legendry hunter known as Slayer who is brought in to hunt Guild Hunters gone rogue.

The stories in this series are set in a world where it is ruled by Archangels with Vampires, Angels and Humans with extra-ordinary powers as their team serving them. The Cadre that is the council of Archangels seats 10 powerful archangels who share the world in ten different continents and rule them, hold sway over the immortals and mortals alike. Archangels are immortals who have lived thousands and thousands of centuries. Angels are born or made but have lived centuries. Vampires are almost-immortals and are Made mostly and some have lived as long as the Archangels. They serve the Archangels and have contracts with their angelic masters that they have to live by. They use humans as cattle for feeding on blood. Guild Hunters are humans with special powers who are tasked to capture Vampires who have gone rogue. They have psychic and physical powers which are extra-ordinaire. The plots primarily revolve around Archangel Raphael, his consort - Elena, his Seven and his people while he is ruling North America from The Tower in Manhattan, New York.

A Guild Hunter has gone rogue and is killing vampires - the near-immortals can also be killed if beheaded or burnt. Sara is tasked with hunting one of her own but she is sent the aid of Deacon aka The Slayer. One look at Deacon and Sara's emotions and hormones go haywire. Deacon is someone to be reckon with yet his charm and hunting skills tug at Sara's heart. Together they go on a journey that will be the cause to lose one of their own, as well as get their emotions tangled with.

However they are also followed by a group of vampires every step they go. The Guild Director position is changing face - the new face if accepted going to be a woman's. The Cadre is taking interest in the new Guild Director. Like how the current director Simon is tested, so is Sara being tested - much to her frustration.

Will Deacon and Sara successfully capture the hunter gone rogue? Or is he really a hunter? Will they act upon their feelings? How does Sara get out of the test by the Cadre? Or is it just an Archangel going for her throat - just for the heck of it?

Another novella that Nalini Singh has well written to give more life to the minor characters of the series. However this did not appeal me as much as the earlier novella. Still I would not discount it. A good read and a segway to the future books.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Sara is shown to have "the eye" - ability to have premonition of future events.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in the Guild Hunter series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Definitely a pick if you like fantasy fiction involving vampires, archangels, angels and humans.

Angels' Pawn is the first e-book in the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh published in March of 2009 and later published in Angels' Flight in February of 2012 along with three other novellas that Nalini Singh released between 2009 and 2012. This was published soon after the first book Angels' Blood was published focusing mainly on Janvier - a 300 year old Cajun-born almost-immortal Vampire - and Ashwini Taj - hunter-born Guild Hunter with her own daemons to fight. This book though published after Angel's Blood, can be considered a prequel to the Guild Hunter series.

The stories in this series are set in a world where it is ruled by Archangels with Vampires, Angels and Humans with extra-ordinary powers as their team serving them. The Cadre that is the council of Archangels seats 10 powerful archangels who share the world in ten different continents and rule them, hold sway over the immortals and mortals alike. Archangels are immortals who have lived thousands and thousands of centuries. Angels are born or made but have lived centuries. Vampires are almost-immortals and are Made mostly and some have lived as long as the Archangels. They serve the Archangels and have contracts with their angelic masters that they have to live by. They use humans as cattle for feeding on blood. Guild Hunters are humans with special powers who are tasked to capture Vampires who have gone rogue. They have psychic and physical powers which are extra-ordinaire. The plots primarily revolve around Archangel Raphael, his consort - Elena, his Seven and his people while he is ruling North America from The Tower in Manhattan, New York.

It has been a cat and mouse chase between Ashwini and Janvier since Aswhini has taken up her job at Guild Hunter. It always has been a question to Ashwini, the Guild, Vampires and Angels /Archangels - if Janvier on purpose goes rogue so Ashwini can hunt him, more a game than for-real going rogue. Yet as Ashwini gets closer, Janvier always patches up with his master and gets away scot-free - much to the frustration of Ashwini. However, this time Ashwini surprises herself by voluntarily seeking help of Janvier in rescuing a kidnapped vampire.

The Beaumont vampire family runs Atlanta — under a mid-level angel Nazarach. They've been a lucky family over the generations as every generation at least one person was Made vampire. And this generation they had two Made into vampires - Monique and Frédéric, a sister and brother. Antoine is the vampire head of the family with his lover Simone Deschanel - a 300 year old vampire serving under Nazarach. He has a sister Jean Beaumont and dotes heavily on Monique and Frederic. Now Monique is kidnapped by Callan Fox - leader of a band of vampires called Fox's Kiss - and the Guild is tasked in rescuing her. However, Nazarch would like Monique to be retrieved to him so he can play against the rising power of Antoine Beaumont.

Caught between the three entities - Knowing fully they are being used as pawns Janvier and Ashwini set on to rescue Monique despite the power games being played around them. In the midst their feelings for each other strengthen even though Ashwini would like not to - for she has a past that she feels would hurt her future. Will they rescue Monique and hand her over to Nazarach? Will Ashwini escape the unwise interest that Nazarach has towards her? Where does the relationship between Janvier and Ashwini lead to? Does she face her daemons and take aid of Janvier while facing them?

An e-book worth reading and is a quick finish with a good intro to some of the key players of the series. However, I recommend you to read Angels' Blood before reading the e-book to give you an idea of the characters. Well weaved in with the main book, yet standing on its own.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Nazarach's evilness and cruelty is shown in explicit form.
2) Ashwini and Janvier share quite a few romantic moments that gives us more to look forward to the book with the story of their own. Quotes like below wrench your heart in a good way and make it shiver and thump.

“So you love her still?" She found herself asking.
"The vampire. Shamiya."
His hand squeezed her calf in gentle reproof."A silly question, cher. You know love cannot survive where there is no light.”
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in the Guild Hunter series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Definitely a pick if you like fantasy fiction involving vampires, archangels, angels and humans.

Archangel's Legion is the sixth book in the Guild Hunter Series by Nalini Singh published in October of 2013. The story begins from where Jason's was left-off in Archangel's Storm. With so many changes the Archangels' facing because of the Cascade, rise of Caliane, appearance of Neha's twin sister Nivriti - who was thought long dead, with Lijuan moving closer to becoming a Goddess with powers that no one can stop, the relationship between Elena and Raphael grows only stronger. However somebody or something is causing sickness in Vampires causing the near-mortals to die and making Angels fall from sky causing them life-threatening damage. Now Raphael and Elena have to work harder more than before to not only save their region (North America) from this unknown enemy looking for war but also deal with the growing powers within the Archangels, for Elena evolving into an full-grown angel before time, for Elena to play the role of a Consort successfully before time and for Raphael to fully comprehend the extent of his powers that are increasing.

The stories in this series are set in a world where it is ruled by Archangels with Vampires, Angels and Humans with extra-ordinary powers as their team serving them. The Cadre that is the council of Archangels seats 10 powerful archangels who share the world in ten different continents and rule them, hold sway over the immortals and mortals alike. Archangels are immortals who have lived thousands and thousands of centuries. Angels are born or made but have lived centuries. Vampires are almost-immortals and are Made mostly and some have lived as long as the Archangels. They serve the Archangels and have contracts with their angelic masters that they have to live by. They use humans as cattle for feeding on blood. Guild Hunters are humans with special powers who are tasked to capture Vampires who have gone rogue. They have psychic and physical powers which are extra-ordinaire. The plots primarily revolve around Archangel Raphael, his consort - Elena, his Seven and his people while he is ruling North America from The Tower in Manhattan, New York.

As Archangel Raphael and his consort Elena Deveraux relax in their home in the Angel's Enclave, when they watch - much to their shock - Angels falling from the sky during a storm that seems unseemly. Several angels - more than 800 - are gravely injured during this incident called as The Falling while five Angels lose their lives. Elena is shocked to realize that immortals can also die. As they are coping with this atrocity when they come across Vampires dying because of pox - Vampires don’t die normally. Raphael believes that someone - an Archangel perhaps whose powers are increasing due to the Cascade - is gearing to attack his region. With help of his Seven and his Consort, he sets upon to save New York and also prepare to go war with this unknown evil. But the key question is who is this? Is this one person's plot? Or many are involved? Or is it a cause of Cascade?

Elena continues to play the part of Consort in taking over the ownership to soothe the injured and share their hurt - something she was not to be ready for atleast another 40 - 50 years. And continues to be the Hunter she was in hunting the source causing the sickness in Vampire. But can Keir - the greatest healer of the angels - find a cure for the Vampires and also save all the injured Angels? As they are facing this threat, Caliane invites Raphael and Elena to a ball that includes all the Archangels except Lijuan (for she had attacked Raphael and got Caliane to wake up from her sleep. Caliane not ready to forgive her.) With the kind of reception she had received when they were invited to Lijuan's ball (in Archangel's Kiss), Elena was hesitant to go but who can refuse Caliane - An Ancient, Raphael's mother and her Mother-in-Law. In the meanwhile they have to figure out the affect of Cascade on themselves as well their Seven.

Another thrilling episode by Nalini Singh traversing the readers through the lives of Raphael, Elena and his Seven and brave the threats together. Nalini Singh has also mixed angel war-fare with mortal war-fare in the fight between two archangels giving it a tinge of reality at the edges - for wars are fought even now. Well-written enough for me to be reluctant to put the books down even when it was getting very late into midnight and I had a full day next day. A definite pick if you are curious to see how Elena and Raphael fare this testing period again.

Spoiler Alerts:
1. During the period of Cascade - when all the Archangels acquire more powers - some are gravitating towards more sinister ones while others taking on the brighter side of the powers.
2. Archangel Raphael develops healing powers -increasing at higher speed - and also becomes a bit mortal due to alliance with Elena.
3. Dmitri's wife Honor St. Nicholas has been successfully converted to a Vampire and is now healing. However there is little none of Dmitri in this plot. Would love to see him in the future books even though he grates at my nerves while reading. :)
4. History behind Raphael and Dmitri's friendship is revealed further.
5. Elena signs-up Izak -badly injured in The Falling - as the first-person in her future Guard - similar to The Seven of Raphael - albeit only verbal for now. So does Sameon "Sam" - a very young angel who was a constant companion to Elena in The Refuge - want to be part of her Guard.
6. Elena's mind opens up to more of her past that she had shut down aiding her in understanding her father Jeffrey better, but not enough to forgive him for being cause of her pain that wont leave her now forever.
7. Illium's - the blue-winged angel - bond towards Elena strengthens further in this book and so also his powers due to the Cascade.
8. Archangel Elijah - ruling South America - reveals his growing powers to Raphael and bonds to him as well. His history with Caliane is also revealed.
9. The love affair that has been going on for 400 years between Galen - Weapons Master and part of The Seven - and Jessamy - Scholar and Teacher at The Refuge - is explored bits and pieces here. Although their story is told in the novella Angels' Dance published a year before this book. I havent read that yet so cant comment on their history much.
10. Vivek Kapur - Computer genius and eyes and ears of The Guild though paralyzed from shoulders and below also gets Made into a vampire by Aodhan - on of the angels in Raphael's Seven. And also gets a position in Elena's future guard.
11. Aodhan's past is also explored in this plot.
12. The beginnings of the relationship between Janvier - a vampire just below the Seven - and Ashwini - another Guild Hunter and friend of Elena - is shown here. The book that I began the series was the story between Janvier and Ashwini in Archangel's Shadows.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 5 / 5
Recommendation: A movie about integrity, redemption and survival - a must watch.
Red: [narrating]:  Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can't even imagine, or maybe I just don't want to. Five hundred yards... that's the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile.

That's the crux of the movie The Shawshank Redemption, a 1994 American film with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in the lead roles. The movie was based on a short story or novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King published in 1982 in his collection Different Seasons. The plot revolves around Andy Dufresne, a banker who was sentenced to two life sentences after being convicted of the murders of his wife and her lover. Although it bombed at the box office, the movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards but had not one a single one. Yet, it went to become a successful one  and even getting a #72 position on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition).

The main plot revolves around Andy Dufresne (portrayed by Tim Robbins) and Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding  (portrayed by Morgan Freeman). Andy after being wrongly convicted of the dual murders of his wife and her lover arrives at Shawshank State Penitentiary in 1947. After going through a few hiccups, he befriends Red and works in the prison laundry. He has Red acquire him a rock hammer so he can while away any free time chiseling at small rocks in miniature sculptures. Though he is frequently assaulted by "the sisters" and their leader Bogs Diamond (portrayed by Mark Rolston), he eventually gets help from the guards when he starts helping the guards on their taxes and legally hiding money. Later Warden Samuel Norton (portrayed by Bob Gunton) assigns him to prison library to assist another elderly inmate Brooks Halten (portrayed by James Whitmore) - oldest inmate who was in prison since 1905. But Andy soon realizes why Warden has moved him to the role when he starts helping the Warden in hiding all his laundered money in a legitimate account.
How ironic for Andy as he aptly quotes "Yeah. The funny thing is - on the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook."

When Brooks gets released on parole in 1954 after serving 50 years in the prison, he fails to get adjusted to the life outside and commits suicide. Andy then resorts to dedicate the prison library on his name after he receives considerable amount of books and recording of The Marriage of Figaro on donation. In 1965, Tommy Williams comes to Shawshank convicted of burglary. Andy takes a shine for him and helps him in passing his GED exam. However a year into his sentence, Tommy reveals that he had overheard one of his inmate in another person had claimed to commit the murders that Andy was sentenced for. When Andy approaches Warden Norton to help him prove his innocence, Warden dismisses him by sentencing him to solitary confinement and has Captain Byron Hadley (Chief Guard portrayed by Clancy Brown) kill Tommy.

Once out of the solitary confinement Andy makes a decision that he has had enough of his prison life and having no scope of proving his innocence, one night escapes the prison through the secret tunnel he had dug over the 19 years of his time in prison. Much to shock of the Warden, the prison guards and prisoners, Andy gets out safe and depicting himself as Randall Stephens - the figment of imagination that was holding all of Warden's laundered money - and crosses the Atlantic into Mexico. Soon after when Red gets released, follows Andy per his instructions that he had left with him before he escaped, and joins him.

The story shows that no matter what life throws at you integrity is what holds you up, and that you find freedom even bound within walls, and finally about redemption. The plot also shows love and affection between two men who have been thrown together in the worst of the prisons. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman were the perfect people to be casted for their roles - I don’t think anyone else would have justified them. The movie comes with some powerful quotes that reflect in one's life at one time or another. Excellent screenplay by Frank Darabont. Who can forget these haunting ones:

Andy Dufresne: [in a letter to Red] Dear Red. If you're reading this, you've gotten out. And if you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further. You remember the name of the town, don't you?
Red: Zihuatanejo.
Andy Dufresne: I could use a good man to help me get my project on wheels. I'll keep an eye out for you and the chessboard ready. Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well. Your friend. Andy.

Andy Dufresne: Get busy living, or get busy dying.

Red: Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.

And these funny ones:

Brooks: Easy peasy japanesey.

Andy Dufresne: If there's any trouble I won't use the rock hammer
Red: I guess you'd want to escape? Tunnel under the wall
[Andy starts laughing]
Red: did I miss something? What's so funny?
Andy Dufresne: You'll understand when you see the rock hammer

Red [narrating]:
I remember thinking it would take a man six hundred years to tunnel through the wall with it. Old Andy did it in less than twenty. Oh, Andy loved geology. I imagine it appealed to his meticulous nature. An ice age here, million years of mountain building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That's all it takes really, pressure, and time.

The film is set in Maine, but the movie makers used Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio for Shawshank Prison.

The scene where Andy approaches Red about the rock hammer took nine hours to picture and Morgan Freeman had played ball for all that nine hours without a complaint.

Although the movie is dark and depressing at most parts, Andy always shined because of his hope. The brighter scenes in the movie are:

One where all the prisoners drinking beer after they have tarred the roof - the beer that Andy secures for his fellow co-workers risking him being thrown off the roof by Captain Hadley.

Another scene is the one in which Andy plays the recording - featuring the soprano "Letter Duet" ("Canzonetta sull'aria") from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, also known in Italian as "Sull'aria...che soave zeffiretto." - that he receives as donation for his letters for books, despite the objections from the guard and gets solitary confinement. A very chilling scene to which Red remarks in his voice-over narration:

I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.

Such a dark movie must have left a lot of impact on the people who were part of it when it had left a huge mark on all the people who watched it. Even Nelson Mandela had commented that he had connected to the movie and loved it.  The movie had no female characters in it except for the scene that is shown on Prison TV of the movie 1946 Gilda portrayed by Rita Hayworth - perhaps that's why Stephen King mentioned her name in the title - the three posters that Andy had pinned to his wall during his 19 years in the cell - Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe (from her 1955 movie The Seven Year Hitch) and Raquel Welch (poster from her 1966 film  One Million Years B.C. movie) - one woman at the grocery store complaining about Brooks inability to pack groceries and finally the bank clerk who helps Andy Dufresne aka Randall Stephens in settling his accounts.

A powerful movie that leaves every one with a ache in the heart and tear in the eye - no matter how hardened one is. One of my all-time favorite movies that I frequently watch.
Spoiler Alerts and few pictures behind the cut....Collapse )

Latest Month

October 2016

My Other Blogs

Radio I Listen To

Music I Listen To

Page Summary



RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Paulina Bozek