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Stars: 4.5 / 5
Recommendation: Amnesia added to a murder mystery always keeps one awake long after the film is done. This is one such gem worth watching again and again.

Somewhere in the Night is a 1946 American film noir psychological thriller. A few months ago this film was being aired on Turner Classic Movies channel and it's synopsis reminded me of the first film in the Jason Bourne series - the 2002 film The Bourne Identity. Hence I ended up watching this movie and thus my review.

The plot follows the story of George W. Taylor (portrayed by John Hodiak) who returns home injured after fighting in World War II. In the process he loses his memory and doesn’t even remember who he was. All signs lead to him being a George Taylor but he doesn't seem to think he was one. Thus begins his quest for finding about himself, about George Taylor, about what happened to him and about his past. The only clues he gets are the ones left by a mysterious Mr. Larry Cravat. Who is this Larry Cravat? What does George find about himself? Is he indeed George?

Well-made murder mystery and thriller combo that has some nail biting scenes as well as funny bone ones. This is the second film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz who went on to win two academy awards each (for Best Director and Best Writing, Screenplay) later for two of his films - 1949 A Letter to Three Wives and 1950 All About Eve. One can see the beginnings of becoming a famous director in this film. Not a single frame was boring or confusing or unnecessary for the plot.

Another chilling and entertaining thriller to keep you glued to your seat.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) A radio version of the film was broadcast on Lux Radio Theater on March 3rd, 1947. It starred John Hodiak reprises his role and Lynn Bari joins him in the lead roles.
2) The film is based on the original unpublished story "The Lonely Journey" by Marvin Borowsky.
3) How interesting that it cost only $13.60 for storing a package at a storage facility for three years and seven months. Seventy years later this cost would perhaps be $170 per inflation calculator but could be more based on the rates of the storage facility as well as what is being stored. Dollar certainly inflated.
4) The gunshots shown in the film look exactly like firecrackers. Perhaps they did use firecrackers then…:P
5) I wondered why the lead character Nancy Guild looked like some of her contemporary actresses Lauren Bacall, Lana Turner or Rita Hayworth. Then later I found that she had signed a seven year contract with 20th Century Fox with this film - her debut film. Fox had intended to have her as the Warner Brother's sultry actress Lauren Bacall. I havent watched other movies of Nancy Guild but it is mentioned that she wasn’t as much successful. I see why. Her acting and looks are so similar to her contemporaries and nothing stood out for her to be different. Perhaps that was why she wasn’t as successful.
6) One of the characters, Phyllis, uses some complex words that I haven't heard them being used in modern speaking English as such:
a. Gauche - lacking ease or grace
b. Fachee - French word meaning sorry

Movie Critique - #349: Now You See Me 2

Stars: 4.5 / 5
Recommendation: If you like movies based on heist and illusion with a tinge of magic, then this is the perfect movie with a balance of both.

Now You See Me 2 is a 2016 American heist thriller film and a sequel to the 2013 film Now You See Me (My review of that film here). The basic plot revolves around a tech genius who forcibly recruits the four horsemen to pull off an impossible heist.

The movie opens with Daniel Atlas being asked by The Eye to take another mission while Agent Dylan Rhodes is hot in pursuit of the Four Horsemen again. But as a Shrike he is setting the stage for the next act for the Four Horsemen. Although the Four Horsemen are tired of waiting for the next assignment, biggest gap is trust. Daniel is losing trust not only on his team members but on the leader who had originally united the Four Horsemen and also The Eye. In comes Lula May who wants to be part of the Four Horsemen. Will Daniel trust her what she is? Jack is getting antsy to be behind the scenes as Shrike wants him to be. And so is Merritt.

Finally Shriker assigns a mission to the Four Horsemen on the orders of The Eye - expose the corrupt businessman Owen Case whose new line of the phones has secret software that would steal the user's information. The Four Horsemen hijack the launch party of Owen's new line of phones when all things start going wrong for them. They are forced to use their escape route only to land into the hands of Walter Mabry - Owen's partner who was suspected to have been killed a year before. What is Walter's plans for the Four Horsemen? Why did he interrupt their hijack of Owen's launch party? Was Walter really dead? If so why was he faking his death? What is Walter's ultimate goal? Is Thaddeus behind this trying to get revenge on the Four Horsemen for what they did to him? All that is what follows with this magically tuned illusion filled plot.

Jessie Eisenberg as J. Daniel Atlas (self-appointed leader of the Four Horsemen), Mark Ruffalo as former FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes / Shrike, Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney (specialize in hypnosis), Dave Franco as Jack Wilder (magician specializing in card tricks), Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley ( magic debunker - an expert at exposing the tricks of other magicians) and Sir Michael Caine as Arthur Tresser (former sponsor of the Four Horsemen) reprise their roles in the sequel. Lizzy Caplan replaces Isla Fisher (who portrayed the role of Henley Reeves and the fourth Horsemen) and portrays the role if Lula May - newest member to the group.

I did not much like Isla Fisher in the first part as Henley Reeves, but at least she came across a horseman better than Lizzy Caplan in this installment. Although Isla sounded more like a rejected and dejected girlfriend, which she was, she at least had the prowess and power of her role. However Lizzy comes across as that newbie in the school who wants to impress the popular girl or boy in her class with her very loud mouth and overtly active expressions that don’t seem to have a place anywhere. Perhaps they will chose a better horsemen in the next installment.

Daniel Radcliffe is no Harry Potter here, but more a lunatic but very clever illusionist as well as a businessman. He has shattered the image of Harry Potter completely with his brilliant performance. Sadly it hadn't been realized by the public still. I still wait for Daniel to be cast in another role that would supersede Harry Potter.

The rest of the star cast fell into place seamlessly adding weight to the plot and lifting it rather than sinking it. Just like the first plot this one also keeps the viewer glued to their seats till the end. Another movie that I would have loved to watch in theaters and sadly have to content watching on TV.

A thoroughly entertaining, intriguing movie pulling you into the world of illusion and magic. Can’t wait to watch the third part in this series.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) A third part for this series is being planned for 2019 and titled as Now You See Me 3 for now.
2) The opening scene before the title of the movie is revealed, we are shown some excellent pieces of illusions that can deceive one's eye on what they are seeing. Very intriguing.
3) As much as the opening title was for the film, I was surprised to see a closure title simply written.

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. ;)

An Author's Odyssey is the fifth installment in the Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer published in July of 2016. The books in this series follow the lives of twins - Alex and Connor Bailey as they enter the fairy tale world from real world only to discover that there is more to both these worlds that meets one's eye. This fifth book starts where the previous book Beyond The Kingdoms (My review of that book here).

Alex and Connor who were trapped in separate worlds; literature worlds to be precise; by The Masked Man, when they come back to the fairy tale land realize that Lloyd had already sent armies to destroy all the fairy tale kingdoms. But they leave to their home back in the real world  - The Otherworld - for more manpower who can help them fight The Masked Man. Fairy Council has been turned to stone and no one knows what their fate would be. Charlie – Queen Red Riding Hood’s fiancée – has been taken by evil monster, Morina, who traps Charlie inside a magic mirror. This is where the fifth book begins.

Alex and Connor Bailey come back to The Otherwrold – real world -  to get the short stories that Alex had written when he was in sixth grade – almost three years ago. Connor’s plan was to go into his stories and bring the heroes from those stories back to Fairy-Tale World and fight The Masked Man. Meanwhile in The Fairy-Tale World, The Masked Man had unleashed his literary villains – The Wicked Witch of the West and her armies of Winkies and Flying Monkeys, The Queen of Hearts and her Card Soldiers, Captain Hook and his band of Pirates -  on the different Kingdoms to wreak havoc and then eventually combining it into one big land ruled by The Masked Man and his Literary Army. And Jack and Goldilocks save the former kings and queens of the different kingdoms at the last minute from being executed by The Masked Man.  With all that is going will Connor and Alex be successful in recruiting their heroes? What other tricks does The Masked Man has up his sleeve? What is the fate of Charlie? This is what follows the rest of the plot.

As always Connor comes off a bit unprepared and overconfident while Alex comes off as impulsive. If only author Chris had made Connor a bit more well-planned instead of petulant and stubborn which I have been waiting to see happen since the first time Connor  was introduced in The Wishing Well (My review of the book here). Well, what can we expect from 15 year old kids, perhaps they are in their natural mode. But come on it’s the fifth book and the kid has to realize that he does make mistakes when he plans something on his own and need his sister’s help. Are you hearing us, Chris?

However as the siblings travel through Connor stories they not only gather man-power but also learn more about themselves. I liked that Chris incorporated this in the plot by making Connor's stories much more palpable.

It can’t be helped but thought if the stories written by Connor and that he and his sister travel into could be actual stories that Chris Colfer himself might have written them as a kid. No he simply used those into this Land of Stories plot. A question I would love to get an answer for if I ever meet Chris Colfer in person.

Since The Masked Man had already taken all the literary villains, it stands to be that Alex and Connor Bailey have to take help of external sources to fight him. This is where I liked what the author Chris Colfer has done with the plot – making Connor the author of his own army, making them come alive to fight The Masked Man. Brilliant move I would say for one need to fight with equal or more wit than your opponent to win in the end.

Although Chris managed to bring all the characters together both from Connor's stories and the fairy-tale world, in some parts it gets really chaotic and confusing when the readers are taken between worlds. Perhaps it would be a bit too much for children to grasp what's going on.

A tad bit on the darker side the fairy-tales take on a shade that is not normal for a children's book. Yet it keeps you glued to it and compelled to finish it. Now I am ever more curious to read the next book in the series and see how Connor and Alex fare against this fight to save both the worlds.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Chris also mentions the movie 1984…recently I came across this in a different book too. I have to now definitely watch this movie.
2) Chris Colfer quotes lines from a boy band song that I could not relate to at all neither I could find it anywhere. Wonder what or who’s song it was.
3) Chris gives a new spin to how the Enchantress had turned cruel. Don’t forget he even gave her a name – Ezmia.
4) Connor talks about Goldilocks Zone when he and Alex travel to his second short story – Galaxy Queen. I thought the author Chris made this up and named it after Goldilocks again. But in reality there is indeed a Goldilocks Zone is space that scientist have named it so where a planet is that right distance from its home star so it is neither too cold nor too hot, like Earth and Sun. More about it here.
5) The story of Connor titled Galaxy Queen reminded me a lot of Star Wars. Wouldn’t be surprising if Chris took inspiration from that series.
a. And that is firmed up more when Connor uses the quote "May the cosmos smile upon you." cementing the fact that Chris is inspired from the Star Wars series.
6) In story titled The Ziblings, Connor has the robbers called as The Rat Pack - Frank, Sammy, Dean, Joey and Peter. Another inspiration Chris takes from the real Rat Pack including the names. Perhaps Chris when he wrote this story originally must have heard about Rat Pack and thought to use it as a pun here. :)
7) Connor's story about "The Adventures of Blimp Boy" resembles very closely to Indiana Jones and his adventures. Even the part that Connor travels to is very similar to Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom plot.
8) Emmerich and Bree both travel to the fairy-land through the portal that takes the Grande Army to travel 300 years, but they take it in 30 days because they must have fairy blood in them just like Alex and Connor – Book III A Grimm Warning. Finally in this plot we get some of the questions answered as to how they have fairy blood:
a. Bree is a descendant of Grimm Brothers who had Mother Goose’s blood in it giving her ability to travel through portals to the fairy-tale land.
b. Emmerich is the son of Bo Peep and The Masked Man aka Lloyd (Alex and Connor’s uncle). And Bo Peep was the one who helps the escape of The Masked Man. Did Bo know the truth about who The Masked Man was? <check the Book III again to see if it was Bo Peep who helped The Masked Man
9) When The Fairy Godmother meets Hans in the beginning of the previous book (Book IV), he was stuck on a chapter of his famous book The Story of a Mother. I have to read this someday. Another one for my blog post.
10) Goldilocks is pregnant, Hope and Ash - Queen Cinderella and Snow White's daughters - so intriguing to see the young characters of our fairy tales that we know, growing up.
11) Red keeps calling Shakespeare as Shakyfruit all though the series. I do hope she learns to call him right eventually.
12) Cinderella's step sisters and step mother who had gone to the Otherworld in the previous book (Book III), are shown to be owning and running a diner named "Storybook Grill".
For review on Drake Sisters Novels: Go here.
For review of all books from Sisters of the Heart/Sea Haven series: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: Yes, if you want to continue with the Sea Haven novels, believe in siblings made even though not related by blood, believe in second chances and true love.

Bound Together is the sixth and final installment in the Sisters of the Heart / Sea Haven series published in March of 2017. This is the much awaited story of Blythe Daniels – the oldest of the Sisters of the Heart - and Viktor “Czar” Prakenskii – the oldest Prakenskii brothers who had married Blythe and left her for an assignment very deep. From the time the series started I had been waiting to read the plot involving Blythe.

Sisters of the Heart / Sea Haven is the spin-off series from the Drake Sisters Novels (My review of this series here) written by Christine Feehan. Six women form a family after they meet in a special grief counselling group that deals with victims of violent crimes. Each of them had suffered extreme loss. While working through their grief, they form a unit loving and trusting each other. They combine their resources, buy large portion of the land in Sea Haven and form their own farming community on which they live as well. Though they don’t relate to each other by blood, they have formed a bond through heart. Here are the stories of six strong women calling themselves as Sisters of the Heart, dealing with their past, overcoming unbelievable challenges and finding true love.

The series also follows in parallel the line of Prakenskiis - the seven sons of the seventh son - similar line to the Drakes but all men. They are born in Russia into a family with magic and psychic powers. As children their parents were murdered by corrupt Russian Government officials, separated from each other and placed in facilities that trained them brutally in every way to become enhanced soldiers and killing machines. Now each of the brothers are hunted by their government as their services are no longer required. It is said that where one Prakenskii settles the others get drawn there and settle. Ilya Prakenskii - seventh son and carrier of the family legacy - settles in Sea Haven after resigning from Interpol, marrying the sixth Drake sister, Joley Drake (Their story told in the sixth installment of that series Turbulent Sea. My review of that book here). Now the remaining brothers follow, leaving their past, striving on a second chance at the kind of life they want and falling for each of the six Sisters of the Heart.

Victor “Czar” Prakenskii had chosen a path that led him to a one-way hell. Despite knowing the consequences he had been going through that path one single purpose – take down the world’s most powerful motorcycle club – Sword Motorcycle Club - that had been dealing with violence and atrocities unimaginable. In the process of bringing it down Viktor hoped to get another step closer to his ultimate personal goal. But wherever he went his team followed without question – 16 hardened soldiers trained by the Russian government similar to Viktor – especially at the hands of Kostya Sorbacov, a cold and brutal power house. All 17 bonded in the training, coming from similar background as Viktor. Now Viktor’s path took him straight to Sea Haven and into the farm where Blythe Daniels lived – the woman he married and had abandoned. Viktor had been undercover at Blythe’s step-father’s business – a business so illegitimate and filled with horrible atrocities. He murders her step-father, marries Blythe before he leaves for his latest assignment that cost him five years of his life. Now he was bringing not just him and his 17 brothers of his club, but also a long-festering jealousy and madness of a crazy one with stronger powers on the evil side.

Blythe comes across someone with a serene and balance façade giving the much needed support to her sisters, but she has deep waters that are churning and churning making formidable. Blythe and The Drake Sisters are first cousins - their mothers are sisters; although Blythe's mother really never appreciated the power she had and instead became jealous of all her sisters and their children including her own child.

Finally we get to see Jackson Deveau and Elle Drake (Their story covered in Hidden Currents - My review of that book here) in this plot - a scenario that readers have been waiting since Lev Prakenskii first appeared in the last in the Drake Sister final book Hidden Currents where he was undercover on Stavros Gratsos' ship aboard which Elle was kidnapped and tortured.

I had wondered when Christine will start putting up a family tree kind of chart that she had put up for the Carpathian “Dark” Series. Finally she has it in this book where she outlines each of the Drake Sisters and their husbands, each of the Sisters of the Heart and their husbands and the members of the next series spinning off from this series – Torpedo Ink Series; although not exactly in a Family chart kind of thing. That would have been interesting to see how the Drake Sisters, Sisters of the Heart and Prakenskiis get connected truly.

The most disturbing scenario was that Christine showed absolute no privacy between the members of Viktor's biker club. Albeit it is because Viktor is always protected it was disturbing for me. I would love to have some privacy and would not want the entire world to know what I was doing that moment. This is perhaps people like Presidents, Kings and Queens, even actors and actresses would face too - no privacy.

As every book in this series progressed, reader gets insight into what kind of tortures the Prakenskii brothers or the Sisters of the Heart faced or the Drake Sisters encountered. And each book we see them increasing in many fold. This time I can say I hit the top - so much of what Viktor faced was unimaginable. Now I wonder how much more hard and gory they would be as the Torpedo Ink series would start.

Christine has crafted the end battle expertly giving everyone their due without downplaying anyone. With so many characters it would have been a confusing one, yet she managed to make it look simpler and easier. The entire scenario reminded me of Padmavyuha battle formation in the epic battle Mahabharatha (More about this battle formation here). Wouldn’t be surprised if Christine had picked some of her ideas from this formation.

As always there is a lot of repetition of context through the book that bugs me a lot in Christine's plot…I just wish she could reduce that.

Bound Together perfectly not only binds the Drakes, Prakesnkiis and the Sisters of the Heart but also Viktor and Blythe in many ways. The title fit like a glove to the story plot, for we get to see several sub-plots that had begun in the Drake Sisters series getting closure too. Of course Christine has left enough openings for a new series.

A very good ending to the series with opening for a new series that engages the reader well taking them into the dark world of magic and psychic powers at the same time showing the light to the right path. Brilliantly closed the series.

Spoilers behind the cut...Collapse )
For review of all the movies in the series: Go here

Stars:  3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Family drama involving money and greed with a tinge of romance keeping you entertained for 60 minutes.

The Return of the Whistler is a 1948 American mystery film noir based on the radio drama of the same name. Directed by D. Ross Lederman this is the last of the eight film noir series adapted from the radio drama produced in the 1940s. This is the only movie in which Michael Duane as the main character in the film as opposed to Richard Dix, as Richard had retired from films by then. Otto Forrest reprises his role as The Whistler narrating in the background.

Theodore Anthony 'Ted' Nichols (portrayed by Michael Duane) and Alice Dupres Barkley (portrayed by Lenore Aubert are enroute to getting married when their car breaks down. He leaves his fiancée in a hotel room and goes to get his car fixed. By the time he is back, his fiancée goes missing. His altercation with the hotel manager brings in the police but he is unable to prove that Alice was there and how she had disappeared. Thus follows the story on how Ted works to find where Alice is, what happened to her and why. But will he get her back? Will he like her at all when he finds her? What happened to her for real? Watch the film to know the rest.

Michael Duane is very dashing and much more handsome to look at than Richard Dix. But in acting he paled. The plot is a strong one that shows the abuse in a family and how one coped with it. But yet it had so many pieces unfinished and at places breezy. Perhaps it would have been a better success if it was longer than 1 hr. Yet, it had been an entertaining one like the rest.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) James Cardwell who plays the role of Mr. Barkley - husband to Alice - had also appeared in an earlier movie in the Whistler series. He portrayed the role of Dr. Fred Graham in the fourth film in the series, Voice of the Whistler (Post link to my review here). He had, sadly, a very short life and even very short career. He had committed suicide due to his failing career and financial difficulties.
For review of all the movies in the series: Go here

Stars:  3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Murder, Mystery, Revenge and Framing - all elements of an excellent crime thriller. Will not leave you bored.

The Thirteenth Hour is a 1947 American mystery film noir based on the radio drama of the same name. Directed by William Clemens this is the seventh of the eight film noir series adapted from the radio drama produced in the 1940s. Richard Dix reprises as the main character in the film with Otto Forrest as The Whistler narrating in the background. This is the second movie in the series where the title that doesn’t have the word "Whistler" in it. This is also the last film in which Richard Dix had acted in The Whistler series of movies. He had stopped acting after he had suffered a heart attack during the making of this film. Sadly enough, two years after the release of this movie, he had suffered a severe heart attack and had passed away at a very young age of 56.

Steve Reynolds, a truck driver, after a night of celebration, goes on his route. He picks up a hitchhiker, but as he was driving to the nearest gas station, a white car comes speedily opposite his truck on the same lane. To avoid it he turns sideways and crashes into the gas station. When the cops come, he fails to produce the hitchhiker who had been with him and seen the incident. Also no one in the gas station remembers the white car. Thus starts the downfall of Steve Reynolds, the good truck driver. Who was the hitchhiker? Why did he escape the scene? Was the speeding car really there? What is the fate of Steve Reynolds is what we see in the rest of the plot as it unfolds.

This is also a better ones in the series, and Richard Dix has given his utmost performance in his last film. The plot, the characters, the situations and even the climax are set superb. For a B-movie series, this one is one up the notch with all the elements of murder, mystery, revenge and romance. And the twists are so sudden and unimaginable that you will not guess until the very end who is the puppeteer for all these casts.

Thoroughly enjoyed the film from start to end. It's on youtube if you want to watch it, although the print is grainy. And still you can watch it with glee.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Tommy the kid in the film, is shown reading a book in one scene titled "Studies in Necrophobia" which is the same book that the killer is shown reading in the first movie in this series, The Whistler.
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
My Recommendation: Despite the flaws it is an interesting read if you care to overlook them.

As promised I continued with the series and here is my take on the next one.

City of Fallen Angels is the fourth installment in The Mortal Instruments series, an urban fantasy by Cassandra Clare published in April of 2011. The novel is set in modern day New York but in an alternate world where humans, vampires, werewolves, magical fey, demons and shadow hunters co-exist. The plot begins a few months after The Mortal War against Valentine Morgenstern ends.

In the previous book, City of Glass (My review of the book here) - Jace and Clary along with the rest of the Shadowhunters and Simon - the Daylighter - had gone to Idris to get a remedy for Jocelyn to wake up. Valentine closely follows them for the third Mortal Instrument - The Mirror. Jace and Clary face their own share of mishaps along with their struggle to forget the forbidden love. In the end they successfully unite the Shadowhunters and Downworlders - The Fair Folk, Werevolves, Warlocks and Vampires - to fight against Valentine Morgenstern and his son Jonathan "Sebastian" Morgensten. Jace kills Sebastian but Valentine kills Jace in a rage and uses his blood to raise the Angel Raziel. But the angel kills Valentine knowing his true intentions. Angel Raziel brings Jace back for Clary. Jace and Clary find out that they are not brother and sister finally releasing Jace and Clary of incest. Phew! Simon gets the Mark of Cain – Clary puts it to protect him from Raphael and his hidden intentions.

Cassandra had neatly tucked everyone in their corners and given a closure with that. But as we see she did not end it there and proceeds to continue with the story of Jace, Clary and Simon back in New York. Clary is back in New York with Jace and other Shadwohunters getting trained at The Institute – pleased that finally she could call Jace her boyfriend. However Jace is hiding a secret very deep and dark from Clary and everyone. While Simon is being pulled in every direction where everyone wants a piece of him since he is both a Daylighter as well as carries the Mark of Cain. How will Jace, Clary and Simon together face new challenges is what the rest of the books is about.

As I suspected the series was supposed to end with the third book – City of Glass. However per Wiki and Cassandra’s blog, she had extended this series into a second trilogy. And if we follow the path that Cassandra is taking, the first trilogy had Clary, Jace along with their Shadowhunters and Downworlder friends battling against Valentine Morgenstern – Clary’s father; it makes sense that the second trilogy would be their battle against Valentine’s son Jonathan(Sebastian) Morgenstern – and Clary’s brother. Almost gives the series a Star Wars feeling – the movie series that comes on in three parts always.

Cassandra focuses most of her plot on Simon Lewis – the Daylighter Vampire – while Clary and Jace becoming sub-plots, giving Simon a more evolved character. However the story still revolves around Jace and Clary. Again Cassandra refers quite a few time to India and things / people etc. from India. Very pleased to read about that. Although is it Clave or Conclave? Cassandra seems to use both the words to represent the same thing. I don’t remember if she had some kind of expansion or differences between them in the first place.

What bothered me most about this book was that it was all over the place running from one end to the other. The order of sequence or the flow of the plot that was there in the previous three books lacked in here. The other thing what lacked was the presence of adult Shadowhunters – they completely seemed side-lined. After seeing what someone like Valentine could do and after knowing what these young Shadowhunters can bring to the table I am surprised to see that Cassandra made them work in two different silos. Would have been perhaps a better plot if they had worked together.

The title of the book made much less sense to me in connecting it to the plot as well. I wonder what Cassandra had originally titled this book. It felt like I was back in the mode of City of Bones where I literally ran through the book just to finish it the first time around I read it. Although the feeling is same with this book, this time around I will give the benefit of doubt to the remaining two books before I shrug them off, cause City of Glass was a very very good one. Plus the characters are now much more  evolved and better to read about.

All in all another book that you can perhaps fast-read and still not miss anything.

Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3.5 / 5
My Recommendation: Finally the books and characters start connecting making a lot more sense and giving it a sense of completeness for the reader to enjoy.

As promised I continued with the series and here is my take on the next one.

City of Glass is the third book in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare published in 2009. The novel is set in modern day New York but in an alternate world where humans, vampires, werewolves, magical fey, demons and shadow hunters co-exist. It begins where City of Ashes, the second book in the series, leaves off.

In the second book City of Ashes (My review can be found here), Jace comes under the investigation of Inquisitor Herondale, suspected for being in cohorts with his father, Valentine. Clary is confused and pulled between Jace and Simon even though she knows her love towards Jace is unacceptable. Valentine steals the Soul-Sword, The Maellartach, burns the Bone City of the Silent Brothers, to perform The Ritual of Infernal Conversion. While Simon gets turned to a vampire which puts him in direct line with Valentine. Clary and Jace wake up new powers within them. The book ends with The Inquisitor sharing a riddle with Jace that is more cryptic than he could imagine while Simon becomes a daylighter - a Vampire who can walk in the sun - and Jace accepts his role as brother to Clary breaking her heart again. And now my take on the next book in the series.

After coming to terms with Jace's decision, the one thing that Clary wants to concentrate is in waking up her mother - Jocelyn. For this she heads to Idris – home to all Shadowhunters - to get help from other Shadowhunters. However an unexpected attack on The Institute forces Jace and The Lightwoods to go to Idris via the portal without Clary as planned. An injured Simon gets pulled in through the portal as well. An enraged Clary creates her own portal to enter the Idris and draws Luke in with her. Jace and The Lightwoods come under the sight of The Guard with regards to Simon at Alicante. While Clary and Luke since land elsewhere but closer to Idris, walk on foot to their destination and the person who can help them. Valentine also reaches Alicante in search of the Third Mortal Instrument - The Mirror. The rest of the drama unfolds in Alicante with keeping the reader on edge at every turn of the page.

Cassandra introduces a few more new characters, obviously expected - Sebastian Verlac and his cousin Aline Penhallow and new Inquisitor Aldertree, Amatis. But irrespective of how many characters are involved, Cassandra doesn’t wear off from the traditional formula. As if it wasn’t enough to have two guys being dangled in front of Clary, Cassandra dangles a third one this time around - Sebastian. But once the reader knows who Sebastian evolves to it is surprising that Cassandra even took that route. I would have hoped she avoided it.

Takes a while to figure out why Shadowhunters date young, marry young and give birth to kids young. Once that got through the reader it is easier to accept all those facts that seem too early for normal humans to be involved with.

Very few authors that I read have plot insets about my birth country - India. That’s why it always surprises me when I come across about India in non-Indian author's books. Cassandra has one of the Shadowhunter representing India in this plot.  Super cool.

Somewhere along the way I started liking this series especially after I got deeper into this third book in the series. Reader gets pulled into the life of Jace more than Clary. One could not help but fall in love with Jace - his resilience, his strength and how much he endures in a such a young life is commendable. I still have reservations on Clary as I feel her very impulsive although she demonstrates extreme courage in this plot. Simon turned out to be the one strongest when in comparison to his role in previous plots.

Cassandra kind of gave closure to every character in her plot for this series with this book and even brought back Jace and Clary together, evolved the rest of the characters much better with a fitting battle between good and evil at the end. So it made me wonder what would she have had for three more books in the series. Personally I would have liked it to end here. It took three books for me to like the series. I do hope that when I read the fourth book I will still like the series instead of revolting again.

This is by far the better book so far in the series with elements of mystery, tragedy, love, betrayal and war - all melded together. A very enjoyable read only that you have to survive the first two to get to this.

Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
For review of all the movies in the series: Go here

Stars:  3.5 / 5
Recommendation: A dark tale of base human emotions - love, greed and jealousy - a tangle of web one enjoys watching on screen.

The Secret of the Whistler is a 1946 American mystery film noir based on the radio drama of the same name. Directed by George Sherman this is the sixth of the eight film noir series adapted from the radio drama produced in the 1940s. Richard Dix reprises as the main character in the film with Otto Forrest as The Whistler narrating in the background.

Ralph Harrison (portrayed by Richard Dix) is married to a very wealthy and very sick woman Edith (portrayed by Mary Currier). But desperate for companionship he seeks it out in an artist's model Kay Morrell (portrayed by Leslie Brooks), and gradually falls in love with her. But then Edith also miraculously starts getting better. What will Ralph do now? Stuck in an unhappy marriage? Longing for a new partner? Has Edith already suspected about his wavering? Where will the love between these three characters lead them to

Another dark story dealing with love, jealousy and greed. Perhaps plotted well and also played well. Even though Richard Dix had become a complete alcoholic person by the shooting of this movie, he managed to play his part well without showing any of those signs. I wonder how many takes and retakes had to be done for his scenes. All in all another plot well-made and enjoyable.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Until this film I didn’t realize how different some of the words are. For instance, Ralph mentions to one of his guests , "Bar is over there, eats are over here…". Now we would just say "food is over here" instead.
2) One of the lead actress Leslie Brooks looks so similar to the current day English actress Sheridan Smith (portrayed the role of Mrs. Bromwyn in The Huntsman: Winter's War). It amazes me how the resemblances are there decades apart nations apart.

3) Arthur Space portrays as Dr. Gunther in the film. He had portrayed other roles in the previous Whistler movies too - As Sellers the Bell Captain in The Mark of the Whistler (My review of the film here), As Davis (Summer's Henchman) in Mysterious Intruder (My review of the film here). But I remember seeing him in many of the episode of the Perry Mason TV series in the late 50s and early 60s.

For review of all the movies in the series: Go here

Stars:  3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Another movie in the series with the right amount twists and turns making it watchable.

Mysterious Intruder is a 1946 American mystery film noir based on the radio drama of the same name. Directed by William Castle this is the fifth of the eight film noir series adapted from the radio drama produced in the 1940s. Richard Dix reprises as the main character in the film with Otto Forrest as The Whistler narrating in the background. This is the first movie in the series where the title doesn’t have the word "Whistler" in it.

One Edward Stillwell, owner of a music store hires private detective Don Gale (portrayed by Richard Dix), to find a woman named Elora Lund, whom he had seen seven years ago when she was 14 years old. But then when a girl comes to his store claiming to be Elora Lund, he is murdered by Harry Pontos. Who is Harry Pontos? Why did he kill Edward? Is the girl who came to see him, is she really Elora Lund? Will Don Gale unravel the mystery of Elora Lund?

An interesting and almost a Perry Mason kind of mystery with all the elements needed except a court room drama. So far the movies I have watched in this series this is a better one. Having the right amount of twists and turns making you gripped to the plot. Enjoyable watch for any day.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) From iMDB: There was a real Jenny Lind, but there are no known recordings of her. Born in 1820, she was a world-renowned Swedish opera singer, dubbed "The Swedish Nightingale". At the height of her fame she toured the U.S. from 1850 to 1852 under the auspices of famous showman P. T. Barnum that reportedly made close to $1M. Lind gave most of her earnings to charity. She passed away November 2, 1887. A 1930 fictionalized film about Lind, A Lady's Morals (1930) was made by MGM
For review of all books under Ghostwalker series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: A good one to have the continuity of the series involving mystery, eroticism, science and undefined.

Power Game is the thirteenth installment in the Ghostwalker Series by Christine Feehan published in January of 2017. The plot revolves around Ezekiel "Hunter" Fortunes - Captain and Doctor of Team Four, the Elite Air Force Pararescue Team - and Bellisia "Bella" Adams - one of Dr. Peter Whitney's discards but has been highly trained to be an assassin and spy.

Brief intro of what the series is about: Ghostwalkers are a group of women and men who have special talents, including psychic and physical abilities (both enhanced genetically and natural) and some abilities more rarer than others. Dr. Peter Whitney had spear-headed this operation for a long time starting with orphan-girls and then continuing his experiments on males to convert them to super soldiers. He also pairs the orphan-girls to specific members of these super soldiers in an attempt to create the next generation. These super soldiers belong to four different teams: Team One - the special forces team, comprised of Army men, mainly Rangers and Green Berets headed by Ryland Miller with base in the mountains of Montana; Team Two - made up of Navy SEALs and headed by Logan Maxwell with base in mountains of Montana along-side Team One; Team Three - consisting of Marine Force Recon Urban Warfare Team headed by Mack McKinley with base in San Francisco and Team Four - consists of the Elite Air Force Pararescue Team headed by Joe Spagnola with base in the bayou of Louisiana. The orphan-girls are also divided into four groups. The stories follow these men and women who are marked for termination by Dr. Peter Whitney as he deems them failure and how they fight back while living their life as normal as they could.

This time around Christine concentrates her plot on Team Four - the Elite Air Force Pararescue Team. While most of the team was out in the field on a mission, Ezekiel "Hunter" Fortunes along with four other Ghostwalkers from his team - Gino, Draden, Rubin and Mordichai - stay in the Fontenot compound protecting the women - Cayenne and Pepper - and Wyatt and Pepper's triplets - Ginger, Thyme and Cannelle. However the perils are not far from home for this team. First Ezekiel is kidnapped by someone from whom Bellisia Adams - a spy and an assassin - helps in escaping. And then all hell breaks loose for Ezekiel and his team when more dangers come to their doorstop. And Ezekiel has to trust his family in the hands of a spy to fight these dangers. Will he give his trust? Will Bellisia turn around and protect him? Where will Christine take us with these and many more twists and turns is something every reader will enjoy as the plot continues.

Bellisia’s smoothness is a perfect match for Ezekiel’s fluidity although to the core both are ghostwalkers. They not only match in their powers but also in emotions and love. Too good to be true for a reader but when you feel for what these ghostwalkers went through you would end up rooting for them to get this perfect match in their mate. Christine has finally showed the ghostwalker character with all their arrogance they are, true to their self, as opposed to softening them up. I always wondered why she did so. Perhaps to set the stage for the reader I guess. But portraying them truly did elevate the character better.

Interestingly enough Christine starts the plot with the lead female character rather than the male ghostwalker who centers the plot. A slightly different approach that I see rarely in her books. We get to see more of Team Four in this book compared to the previous two plots that Christine had included them in. And for the first time I have a favorite character from this team - Joe Sapgnola, the Team Leader. He has suddenly taken up a soft spot for me and I really want to see proper justice done to his character. Rest of the team is also expanded more and evolved with this plot.

In every book we see that the orphan-girls are also super soldiers. However, Christine wraps it in the soft-nature of these girls masked with insecurity sometimes and stubbornness other times making them more human. Every plot we get more glimpses into the atrocities of Dr. Whitney on these girls when they were children and the same he does on the ghostwalkers as adults. It makes you wonder how safe your world has been and not so for so many. Makes you want to weep for these girls who haven’t known anything about childhood nor ever behaved as children.

There is sex of course, Christine being an erotic writer. However I am pleased that her focus was on the plot this time around like many of her books. The previous book Spider Game was too much of sex and too little plot for my liking. Very excited to see her back in the game.

Authors who write series like these always bring in the remaining characters in most plots to build a relationship between the characters as well as the readers. Similarly Christine brings in quite a few characters from past plots in the series reminding the reader about the other teams and other members of this team. No harm in doing that but occasionally things tend to get repetitive and mundane. Yet, it was a pleasure to see more of Trap Dawkins & Cayenne (Their story told in Spider Game and my review of the book here), Wyatt Fontenot & Pepper (Their story told in Viper Game and my review of the book here), Iris "Flame" Johnson - wife of another ghostwalker from Team One, Raoul "Gator" Fontenot (Their story told in Night Game and my review of the book here), Nicolas "Nico" Trevane and Dahlia Le Blanc from Team One (Their story told in Mind Game and my review of the book here).

Looks like the past two books - Viper Game and Spider Game - and this one has been focusing on Team Four by Christine. Curious to see how the remaining unpaired members of the other teams are faring and who their partners will be.

The title Power Game got me a preconceived opinion that either there would be a shift in power between Dr. Whitney and Violet or may be a new power will be introduced to the ghostwalkers abilities. I might be partially true but it was a bit disappointing that the plot didn’t pack as much punch as one with power would. It went smooth as silk with a few edges as these plots go but less of fire and more of embers. In a way it suited the characters though which I can totally be happy with. I believe the original title for this book had been Swamp Game as that was what Christine had announced earlier this year for this book. Swamp Game might have suited well in my opinion.

The repetitiveness of the text is far more lesser in this book than before although we do see the repeat of the history on some of the characters – which of course is warranted as Christine has come up with the next book in this series after a year. One would tend to forget what the series was about and who the characters were.

Another successful book from Christine despite some of my negative points. The series is becoming more and more intense with more players joining that Ghostwalkers have to fight against, with their surviving skills and the unimaginable twists in their powers and abilities. It would be interesting to follow each of the remaining Ghostwalker's lives and see how they eventually destroy the evil Dr. Peter Whitney.
Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
My Recommendation: If you are an avid Nora Roberts fan like me, go for it for the conclusion is spectacular. A light read for any day.

Island of Glass is the third and final book in the series The Guardians Trilogy by Nora Roberts published in December of 2016.

In the review of my first two books in this series, I had mentioned that it felt like a merge of Stars of Mithra and Circle Trilogy (My review on this series is here) series - both these written by Nora herself. Although not as strong as those series, this is still a good one. Nora's style of writing, her essence is coming back with this series. Yet, waiting for her to completely bounce back to her previous self.

Three goddesses of moon create three stars, one of fire, one of ice and one of water to celebrate the rise of their new queen. To keep them from the evil goddess, they place them in the sky. But they fall down to unknown places after being cursed by the evil goddess Nerezza, putting the world in danger. Now six people – three women and three men – have to bond together, earn trust, experience love, find the stars and fight the evil goddess. They are the Seer – Sasha Riggs; the Sorcerer – Bran Killian, the Werewolf – Dr. Riley Gwin, the immortal – Doyle McCleary, the Time and Space Traveler – Sawyer King and the Mermaid – Annika Waters.

In the first two books Stars of Fortune (My review here) - Book I helping find love for Sasha and Bran - and Bay of Sighs (My review here) - Book II helping find love for Sawyer and Annika - the Six bond together and find the Fire Star and Water Star. Now that two Stars are out of reach of Nerezza, the Six set about to find the third and the final star - Ice Star.

The plot in this book begins exactly where it ended in the last book - everyone being transported to Ireland after their fight with Nerezza. The Six settle in Bran's family manor in Clare, Ireland for, that is where they are directed to go to for their next clue on the third and final star - Ice Star. They continue with their research and training - boy train they would to overcome all their weaknesses. For, Nerezza would make her attacks triple-fold in order to stop the Six and acquire the final star the Ice Star. The Six would have to brace to find strength and magic in them that can fight back Nerezza and her human turned pet creature - Andre Malmon. In the midst of all this love blossoms between the last couple. No one Doyle had found in his long lifetime someone he would die for. No one had Riley found in her dual life someone she would die for. How will they conquer their apprehensions and accept the love? Will Nerezza find this as chip in their armor? Or will the Six make this as an armor? How will the fight end?

Of course the worlds will be saved - as almost all tales have happy endings. But the paths to the finale are different in each tale. However for Nora, the recipe seems to be working - three men, three women with supernatural / highly intellectual powers and fight against the evil power who want them, their powers as well as the world but eventually the six of them come out on top. Several of her trilogies are a similar based theme but the evil is different, the powers are different, characters are different, the paths are different and the happy endings are different. The plot in this series is no different. And it would have worked too…except for the fact that it is an amalgamation of two of her earlier trilogies. So, I would say a chip in her formula.

Despite that chip, this is one of those trilogies you still want to read because of the way each character perfectly complements their partner just like in this plot with Doyle and Riley. Doyle's cynicism is well-balanced with Riley's thirst to learn everything. If given a chance will Riley chose immortality to be with Doyle or will he prefer a mortal life will be interesting to watch. I would like either way Nora goes. The other reason I would like to read this trilogy is because of the evilness. Nerezza and Mormon are no more evil than Lilith in The Circle Trilogy or Evan Channing - atleast Evil that starts with Evan - in The Three Sisters Island Trilogy (My review of this series is here) or Lazarus Twisse in The Sign of Seven Trilogy. Yet the evilness is different, almost creepy and giving shudders. And finally I see the real Nora that we have been missing in the past few years. At last the spark is back, the fire is building and I do hope it continues to build in future books bringing her back to her full form.

Although I felt the ending a bit open-ended I am not sure if Nora would write a follow-up. She has done very rarely some quartets but most of her books have been trilogies or stand-alone. However I wouldn’t mind if she has a fourth book for this series.

Despite a few flaws I still loved this series much better than the previous ones that she had come up lately. All in all a very good book from Nora in a long time, a definite pleaser.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Grammatical / Factual / Location / Historical / Character Errors:
a. On Pg. 111, Nora spells "pantry" as "panty" in the conversation with Bran around the bottom quarter of the page in the dialogue -"Doyle said the same." Bran stepped back, "Kitchen panty…."

2) Plot Reveals:
a. Bran has his family manor on the very same land that Doyle had his family home three centuries ago. Will be interesting to see if in some way Bran and Doyle are connected centuries apart.

3) Nora references Dorian Gray in the beginning of the plot. How coincidental as the film "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is on my list to watch soon.
4) Nora also references goddesses from another of Irish mythology here - ones she hadnt used in her plots so far:
a. Ernma - Irish Mother Goddess and is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. More about her here
b. Tuatha Dé Danann - loosely translated as "people of the goddess Danu" are a supernatural race in Irish mythology. More about this race here.
c. Fodla, Banba and Eriu - One of the sets of Daughters of Ernmas, they are called as the trinity of eponymous Irish Goddesses.
d. Morrigan, Badb and Macha - Another of set Daughters of Ernmas alos called as the trinity of War Goddesses.
e. Niniane - Also known as the Lady of the Lake who plays a predominant role in many stories around Arthurian Legend. More about her here
f. Fedelm - a female prophet of Irish Mythology. More about her here
g. Merlin - Wizard in the Arthurian Legend
h. Dagda - another god of Tuatha Dé Danann with supernatural powers including being a god of time. More about him here
i. Caturix - the war god. More about him here

5) Interestingly enough in the Key Trilogy (My review of the series here), her focus was on the Irish mythology of Daughters of Glass and one of the demi-goddesses was named Niniane. She is not the same as the Niniane who is called as the Lady of the Lake in this plot.
6) Riley seems to be a personal fan of Terry Pratchett books who is undoubtedly achieved fame in fantasy fictions especially in comic world. Although I havent read it, since Riley is a fan I am adding him to my list of books to read starting with his 2003 book Night Watch - this was what Riley was having her bag. :) More about Terry Pratchett here
7) I am yet to see all the first six movies of the Star Wars movie series. But it was surprising to see Doyle comment that the 1977 film Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope is a cinematic pastiche - a copy or an imitation. I wonder if that is true and I will only know if I watch the series. Something adding to my list again.
For review of all the movies in the series: Go here

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation: A twist on human emotions and what happens when the darker side of these come out.

Voice of the Whistler is a 1945 American mystery film noir based on the radio drama of the same name. Directed by William Castle this is the fourth of the eight film noir series adapted from the radio drama produced in the 1940s. Richard Dix reprises as the main character in the film with Otto Forrest as The Whistler narrating in the background.

The story is set in flashback in the thoughts of Joan Martin Sinclair (portrayed by Lynn Merrick) and it goes back to the time when a millionaire John Sinclair (portrayed by Richard Dix) was on the verge of dying. As a last good faith of act, he decides to marry his penniless nurse, so that he can leave something for her to make her life better. But then the unexpected events  happen that changes the course for both Joan and John. What happens to them afterwards? Why is Joan living alone? Where does this change of course take them to?

The plot starts off with a rather sympathetic note towards the lead characters. But then it takes a sinister turn as the plot proceeds, makes you wonder what a man could do for greed, jealousy and mistaken feelings of love. Sixty minutes of intense human emotions tossed around between four key characters that form a nice web.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The actress Lynn Merrick reminds me of Katherine Heigl so much. And both have lived decades apart.
2) The plot reminds me of two Indian movies, although the ending is a little different than above film.
a. The 1977 hit Hindi classic Gharonda ( = The Nest) starring Amol Palekar, Zarina Wahab and Dr. Shreeram Lagoo. More about the movie here
b. A 1990 Telugu film Mrigatrushna starring Revathi and Sarath Babu in lead roles. There is not much about this movie on internet nor a video that I can play. But I remember distinctly that this movie plot closely resembles to Voice of the Whistler movie, of course ending being different.
For review of all the movies in the series: Go here

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation: Chills, Fortune telling and mystery - all packed in this little movie for a shivering time.

The Power of the Whistler is a 1945 American mystery film noir based on the radio drama of the same name. Directed by Lew Landers this is the third of the eight film noir series adapted from the radio drama produced in the 1940s. Richard Dix reprises as the main character in the film with Otto Forrest as The Whistler narrating in the background. Also Janis Carter is again cast as Richard's leading lady in this film. She was his leading lady in the second movie "The Mark of the Whistler" as well. (My review of that movie here).

Jean Lang (portrayed by Janis Carter) is an amateur fortune-teller who ends up telling the forecast of a man - William Everest (portrayed by Richard Dix) - in the restaurant that she was dining with her sister Frances and sister's boyfriend Charlie, unbeknownst of the man. She then follows this man to tell him what she read in the cards only to realize that the man doesn’t have any memory who he was or where he was coming from or where he was going to. Jean volunteers to help him sort out by going through the stuff in his pockets. Thus begins a very strange journey of two different people that fate brought them together, ahem! Cards I mean. Will Jean be successful in helping this man find himself? Who is this man for real? Why is he wandering in the streets of Greenwich Village?

The film starts in a very interesting mode almost giving it a feel of investigative mystery but then it goes on to become a bit more sinister. Jean and William come across all kinds of omens along the journey some causing you chills and some making you wonder "how odd". Story well-made and told.

Another chilling episode in the series.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The bookshop owner shows a book that William Everest was reading through it a week ago. It is titled The Art of Poison by Dr. Noel J. Hendricks. I couldn’t find this book for real either. Perhaps created for the sake of the plot.

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, super humans and humans.

Archangel's Viper is the tenth book in the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh released on September 26 2017. The plot revolves around Venom - one of the powerful Vampire in Raphael's Seven - and Holly Chang aka Sorrow - girl broken by Archangel Uram in his madness.

Earlier this year when Nalini Singh had an online contest for receiving an early copy of the book, I participated and to my surprise I won one of her copy. Incredible and very thrilling. So, here is my review of the advanced reading copy just three days after it is officially released.

Note: Since I am reviewing an uncorrected proof copy there may be errors that I see but might have been corrected in the actual book that released yesterday.

Brief Intro about the Series in general: 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. One of the powerful Archangels is Archangel Raphael who rules North America from The Tower in Manhattan, New York along-side his consort – Elena and his Seven. There are nine other Archangels who rule the different regions of the world. They are immortals who have lived thousands and thousands of centuries and rule the world filled with Angels, Vampires, Guild Hunters and Humans The plots in the series primarily revolve around Archangel Raphael, his consort and his Seven.

Holly Chang was a human but forcefully converted to something else – neither fully human nor fully vampire - by the insane archangel, Uram. She calls herself now as Sorrow. Under the protection and direction of The Tower, she grows into an able soldier for The Tower prowling the undergrounds of the city making friends with the darker side of the city to unearth much needed secrets for the Tower. And now someone has put a bounty on her. Who would want Holly kidnapped? And how did her secrets get out? Venom – the youngest of Raphael’s Seven and a Vampire – assigns himself as her personal bodyguard until they find out answers to these questions, for Holly was always his to train. However Holly is just waking up and her powers are rising. No one knows to what extent they can go. Will Venom be safe from Holly? What will Holly do when the powers finally rise? How will this bloodlust end for them both? What follows is a very intricate web of moves that keeps the reader glued till the end.

We get first glimpse of Holly Chang in Angels’ Blood – the very first book in the series – when she gets taken by insane Archangel Uram and had used her as a pet toy. (My review of this book here). The only survivor of that rampage, she had been under the protection and close watch of Tower ever since, not just because she was a survivor, but also because of not knowing what poison had Uram injected to her and how that would change her. We see her character evolve a bit more in the fourth book in the series Archangel’s Blade (My review of the book here) which is when she is placed under direct protection of Dmitri. Focusing the plot entirely on Holly giving little sight to Venom - at least in the beginning - I thought would be a wrong recipe. But as we read through the book, when the dots start connecting, I can't appreciate enough on the brilliant move by Nalini - for, Snakes are supposed to show surprise moves.

Not being completely human nor a full vampire, Holly becomes a perfect complement for Venom – both being something other. And just not in that but in their powers too. The rise in her powers scares Holly the most, but doesn’t seem to scathe Venom a bit. Venom's brutal strength is seen in every aspect but it is not lost on the reader how gentle he is shown by Nalini at instances giving him the human touch. Those little bits that Nalini adds makes her characters more likeable and readable.

It was a pleasant surprise to see more of Janvier and Ashwini Taj in this book. They have become fast favorites to me over the period of time the series progressed. For once it was interesting to see a plot bringing the three of the most powerful of the Seven together - Dmitri, Illium and Viper - although the plot centered on Viper. Not just mentioning them off-hand but giving the characters substantial role. They gave the true meaning to being brothers even though not born to same parents or at the same era. And with very entertaining conversations, they charmed me further.

Nalini has smartly weaved into scenes from the previous books and connecting them with this plot giving it a feel that one is living the lives of these character, like following each day of their lives. Connecting them that way added a smooth flow through and through the series. For instance, there is distinct mention of Elena and Raphael being away from New York and attending a Cadre meeting in Lumia - which is the essential plot of the previous book Archangel's Heart (My review of the book is here). We also see the continued conversations around Illium and Aodhan's spat that occurs in the previous book.

Like any other book in the series she has again left this plot open-ended for the reader to know there would be a follow-up in the near future. However what I feel is that the follow-up could be two books again one following the line where Archangel's Heart ends and one where this book ends or could be an amalgamation of both. One has to wait and see what Nalini eventually produces.

Another thrilling adventure in the world of archangels, angels. Vampires, guildhunters and humans that keeps you gripping till the end.

Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
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, super humans and humans.

Archangel's Heart is the ninth book in the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh published in November of 2016. This time around the plot again revolves around Raphael - Archangel of New York - and Elena Deveraux - Guild hunter turned angel and consort to Raphael.

Brief Intro about the Series in general: 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. One of the powerful Archangels is Archangel Raphael who rules North America from The Tower in Manhattan, New York along-side his consort – Elena and his Seven. There are nine other Archangels who rule the different regions of the world. They are immortals who have lived thousands and thousands of centuries and rule the world filled with Angels, Vampires, Guild Hunters and Humans The plots in the series primarily revolve around Archangel Raphael, his consort and his Seven.

The plot in this book starts two years after where the eighth book Archangel's Enigma (My review of that book can be found here) ends. Lijuan had completely disappeared from the face of the earth and no one knows where she is. Has she been really killed by Raphael in the battle or had she chosen to sleep? That is what construes the plot in this book where Raphael and Elena work closely with their Seven while the mysterious and ancient order of angels called the Luminata calls the entire Cadre to discuss the fate and security of Lijuan's territory. But all doesn’t seem as luminescent about The Luminata. Once in Lumia – The Luminata’s territory – Elena and Raphael delve into secrets not just hidden recently but that are distant past and some eons away; secrets that would change everything for them. The secrets that they unearth are far from imagination and all the more closer to danger. Is it for the better? Or for worse?

Elena is portrayed as a restless character in this book as opposed to the composed ones in the earlier ones. However, she is still the perfect complement to Archangel Raphael. We get to see more about Aodhan - one of Raphael's Seven and a 500 year old Angel - who always intrigued me. The little we learn is not enough to quench the thirst readers have about getting to know Aodhan. Finally I get to see Dmitri and Honor again in this book. My favorite of Raphael’s Seven always intrigued me and want to find more depths in his  hidden layers.

On another author’s book I would have skipped the detailed descriptions and scenarios some of which Nalini put in her books. But with Nalini’s way of writing, every detailed description or scenario comes with a hidden plot material that if you miss you might find it disconnected. I would suggest that if you take her books, don’t skim through them. Read through their entirety, it is worth it for you will get more out of the plot.

Another well-written plot with a few flaws yet thoroughly enjoyable.

Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
For review of all the movies in the series: Go here

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation:  Can one change their fate? Well, watch this movie to see if Lee Nugent has been successful or not.

The Mark of the Whistler is a 1944 American mystery film noir based on the radio drama of the same name. Directed by William Castle this is the second of the eight film noir series adapted from the radio drama produced in the 1940s. Richard Dix again stars as the main character in the film with Otto Forrest as The Whistler narrating in the background.

Lee Selfridge Nugent had seen better days in his life, but now has been reduced to close to destitution because of ill health and bad luck. He comes across a paper ad by Standard Savings Bank about dormant accounts worth of hundred dollars or more which haven't been claimed in twenty years or longer, and unless claimed legally in sixty days they will be   claimed by the government. Lee uses this ad to claim one of the dormant account as he is desperate to get some money. But then the minute he cashes that account he is being followed, hunted. Why is he being hunted? What is the past in the dormant account that is now become a cause of his present problems? How will Lee come out of this?

Another 60 minutes of a thriller that begins so ordinarily but takes on unexpected turn of events. However it does amaze you how easily the swindling happens on the movie. It may be very hard to do that in this current era and age where everything is digitalized. Although not as much as a chiller as before but none the less, interesting to watch how a person tries to mend his fate.

An easy short mystery that is also fun to watch.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) This film reminds me of one episode titled "Good-Bye Charlie" in the Murder, She Wrote hit TV Series. Although Angela Lansbury doesn’t reprise her role as Jessica Fletcher in this particular episode, she narrates her newest novel about a private eye and his girlfriend trying to cash in on a dead relative's will.

Movie Critique - #333: The Whistler

For review of all the movies in the series: Go here.

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation:  Do you know what the fear of death feels like? Do you know what the obsessions to kill looks like? Well you get both in this film that keeps you glued to the screen.

The Whistler is a 1944 American mystery film noir based on the radio drama of the same name. This is the first of the eight film noir series adapted from the radio drama produced in the 1940s. In each of the films Richard Dix played the main character - although the plot is different in each as well as his role.

This first film is about industrialist Earl C. Conrad (portrayed by Richard Dix) who hires Lefty Vigran (portrayed by Don Costello) to get a person killed. He does not know who will be killing this person and when, only that it will be done in next few days. But then he has a change of heart and does not want the hit to proceed. Thus the cat and mouse chase begins. Who did Earl wanted to be killed? Why did he have a change of heart? Who is the killer? Why are so many after Earl? The mystery unravels as the plot proceeds, each step unexpected by the viewer.

Just in 60 minutes the director William Castle manages to push you over the edge with fear and chills just by the tune of the whistler. That tune raises the hairs on the back of your neck and makes you wonder if he is there right now somewhere behind you. Brilliantly depicted and equally casted the actors well suiting to their respective characters. The fear of death is exploited in every which way in the film without making it all bloody and gory. The obsession to kill is also not lost on the viewer. Although I would have better liked it if the killer wasn’t revealed till the end.

Although classified as a B movie, I still think it is a chiller that sends you shivering and drives the fear through your bone. Well-made mystery movie for all those noir movie buffs out there.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The radio program aired from May 16, 1942, until September 22, 1955, on the west-coast regional CBS radio network. More about the program here.
2) Although Richard Dix played the main character in each of the films, Michael Duane played that in the eighth film after Richard Dix had retired.
3) "The Whistler" is voiced by Otto Forrest although uncredited.
4) A syndicated TV version of The Whistler was produced and aired for a brief period in 1954. More about that TV series here.
5) Per Wiki: In the 1990 film The Two Jakes, set in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, the opening narrative of The Whistler can be heard on the car radio as private detective J.J. Gittes (played by Jack Nicholson) cruises the streets.
6) Earl C. Conrad offers $10,000 to Lefty Vigran for the murder. That would be a considerable amount in that time for a person to spend it all. **Surprised**
7) Checkout the Superman magazine the deaf-mute errand boy reads. Boy oh boy that is some edition I would like to get my hands on.

8) According to internet: The signature whistling at the beginning of all The Whistler movies was provided by Dorothy Roberts, backed by the theme's composer Wilbur Hatch and his orchestra.

9) Check out the book the killer is reading while waiting for information to come through. "Studies in Necrophobia" by Ira B. Franklin. How apt of a book the killer picks up considering his profession. However, I could not find any such book existing with such a title.

10) The movie reminded me of another movie The 39 Steps that I watched a while ago and posted review of it too. My review can be found here.
11) The series of these movies also reminds of Twilight Zone, TV series that aired in the 60s - a series that starts almost a decade after the last Whistler movie is made. Similar kind of narration in the background, similar kind of weird and unexpected situations in human lives and similar unexpected end to the plot. More about the series here.
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
My Recommendation: Despite the flaws it is an interesting read if you care to overlook them.

As promised I continued with the series and here is my take on the next one.

City of Ashes is the second installment in The Mortal Instruments series, an urban fantasy by Cassandra Clare published in March of 2008. The novel is set in modern day New York but in an alternate world where humans, vampires, werewolves, magical fey, demons and shadow hunters co-exist.

In the first book City of Bones (http://inspirethoughts.livejournal.com/540145.html) we see how Clarissa "Clary" Fray first encounters the Shadow Hunters - Isabelle "Izzy" Lightwood, Jace Wayland and Alec Lightwood; how Jocelyn is kidnapped by Valentine who is looking for The Mortal Cup and also rise his Circle again; that Clary finds out she has Sight; that there are Vampires, Werewolves and other creatures living among Humans; how the secret about her father devastates not only Clary but Jace and how Clary eventually gets her mother back despite losing The Mortal Cup to Valentine. The second book City of Ashes begins where City of Bones ends.

Clary is now in a world of confusion – her mother Jocelyn is in Coma, her father is the evil Valentine and Jace is her brother with whom she has fallen in love badly (of course she did not know then that he was her brother). And now Valentine has disappeared into Idris with The Mortal Cup. Although they have left the hunting of Mortal Cup to the Clave, Clary gets pulled into the world of Shadowhunters again. This time around it is because the Inquisitor suspects Jace of being in cohorts with Valentine. But then the second Mortal Instrument - The Maellartach, the Soul-Sword – is stolen by Valentine leaving behind a trail that the Inquisitor connects to Jace. Could Jace really be in cohorts with his father Valentine? Could the Inquisitor’s suspicions be true?

Another interesting sequel and I must say a much better one than the first one. Jace is a much better character with a lot more integrity in this plot. Perhaps by going through what he went through, his stubbornness and adolescent quirkiness matured and made him into a decent shadowhunter by Cassandra. And Clary also has been redeemed. She proved worthy of her role, with steel courage and strong loyalty that I would want a lead character to have in. Finally there is hope for this series to be read by me. But the nagging question is when will the incest end? I was hoping it would be in this plot…but there is something in there that I cannot put my finger on it that makes me feel that the incest is a cover, hiding a bigger plot by Cassandra. If that is true I would like that to come out sooner than later cause incest is so not pleasant to read. She however elevated Simon a lot, making me think one of her future books in the series would be focused on him.

This time around Cassandra at least did not have disconnected conversations or missed scenes that were referred later. That is a huge plus to the plot if I may say so. However, what is it with authors like Cassandra Clare and Stephanie Meyer who always want to dangle two boys in front of the lead girl. Is it not enough that the teens are going through a lot already with the twists and turns in the plot that they have to create a love triangle too? Never got to my head this scenario.

Another thing Cassandra shattered was my fantasy of faeries being good and happy people in one single chapter. Too bad, I always loved Tinker Bell.

Cassandra managed to make this time around a bit more interesting and tolerable to read. I still detest the incest but hopefully the next book will have a better approach. Another book for those lazy days that you can either finish in a day or stretch it out to the next.
More Spoilers behind the cut....Collapse )
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5
My Recommendation: Despite the flaws it is an interesting read if you care to overlook them.
Note: I anted up the rating for the book in my review this time around.

I had written a review on City of Bones, the first installment in this series earlier. You can find the review here. My opinion at that time was that I did not believe that this series should be catered to teenagers although it includes teenagers as the characters. And also had given a very low rating. It was a bit hard for me to pick up the second book in the series after the first one.  However, someone had mentioned to me that the series is not as bad as I thought it was and asked me to re-read the first book again to see if my opinion would change. And so I did and thus my review of the first book in the series again.

City of Bones is an urban fantasy novel by Cassandra Clare published in March of 2007. This is the first installment of The Mortal Instruments series. The novel is set in modern day New York but in an alternate world where humans, vampires, werewolves, magical fey, demons and shadow hunters co-exist.

It was a very normal evening for fifteen year old Clarissa “Clary” Fray and her best friend Simon Lewis at the Pandemonium Club until Clary witnessed a group of three teenagers – a girl and two boys – lure another boy into a storage room. Her curiosity took the better of her and she followed them into the storage room despite Simon’s denial about seeing the boys following the couple. That was her first encounter with The Shadowhunters who would keep this world safe by getting rid of the demons – Isabelle "Izzy" Lightwood, Jace Wayland and Alec Lightwood. Before she could share her experience with anyone and find out why she could only see those three Shadow Hunters, Jocelyn Fray – Carly’s mother – goes missing leaving behind a trail of demons who are hot in pursuit of Clary. Why would anyone want to pursue her, a mundane "mundane"? Who has taken Jocelyn? How is it that Clary suddenly acquired the power of Sight?

Who is interested in mundanes like Clary and her mom? Where has Jocelyn disappeared to? Why is someone after her and her family? Thus begins Clary’s unexpected and adventurous journey into a world of Shadowhunters that she had never known existed. She is pulled into the realms of Shadowhunters that gives her glimpses into their covenant and lives, Downwolders – consisting of vampires, werewolves, faeries and warlocks aka half-demons - who are at constant battle with the Shadowhunters, into the inner chambers of the Clave, Covenant and the Silent Brothers. And unravels more secrets that she ever could have imagined to be hidden from a 16-year old. What she finds not only amazes the reader but also shocks them.

Although Cassandra has done a good job, I did see some flaws which I could not ignore. There are several instances, incidents, plot parts, things and characters that reminded me of other authors’ works or movies. Makes me wonder if Cassandra had taken bits and pieces of these from different works – either movies, books or plays – and filled in some of the blanks with grout and made a tiled backsplash for her Mortal Instruments series to give it a complete picture. But one thing I should give credit to Cassandra. She has created her demons and half-demons so vicious and ugly looking that just reading about them got me goosebumps all over. She also uses elaborate description of scenes and repeats them. Repetition is not as much as I know one author who does, but the elaborate scenes and some of the descriptions sounded silly, some aloof, some unnecessary and some didn’t make sense at all.

For instance, couldn’t she simply had said “…I’m having second thoughts about letting you give me a makeover” instead of “…I’m having second thoughts about letting you make me over”. I had to re-read twice or thrice to make sure she meant what she meant.

There are conversations that occur talking about something happened in the past chapters. But I went back to read through old chapters and couldn’t find them. Clearly there is some disconnect here. Also having her last name as Clare and the lead character as Clary created a confusion for me while writing this review on the book.

As for the characters, Jace comes of very aloof and detached except when it comes to hunting of daemons and rogue vampires. But what will he be when his polished veneer is removed is something keeps the reader moving through the plot – ever turn of page he evolves more. Clary for me is more of a rotten spoiled school girl but gives her all when she is trying to find her mother. That one redeeming factor in her kept me going from reading the book. It would have been much better if the author had made her a bit more strong than just one of those characters who would be of no use when the time of need arises. May be she evolves in the future books. I have reservations on who Isabelle would become but she is one I am guessing can easily turn to the wrong side of the coin if she thinks that it will help in the long-term. Will have to wait and see how she turns out. Alec is a wild card for me for now although all he was portrayed was that of a jilted lover which he wore well. Of all these Simon has my heart set on. I would love to see his character evolved more and be better than Jace, which I am guessing what Cassandra would do in the end. He is one that would be best of all even though Jace and Clary are lead characters.

The story plot is very interesting as I noticed the first time around when I read it. However it still bothered me that Cassandra introduced the concept of incest in characters who are teenagers. I could accept love – be it gay or straight – at that young age even though I don’t approve of it, but incest is a line that I would not want to cross. But I must say that second time around the series piqued my interest despite that fact. I am curious to see what would happen to Jace, Alec, Simon, Clary and Isabelle in the next book and what new twists and characters will Cassandra introduce.

Budding love, Heartbreaks, Forbidden affection, Love triangles within triangles, Magic and Long-festering Feuds consist the beginning of the Mortal Instruments Series that is very intriguing enough for the reader to continue. And I am still going to read the rest of the books for the sake of principle that I have and also hoping that Cassandra would have redeemed some of the characters.

Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
Stars:  2.5 / 5
Recommendation:  A lot of confusion while showing the lives of two queens before and after whilst the huntsmen are lost in translation - a couch movie rather than a theater visit.

When Fairy Tales originally were made into cartoons and movies, Disney and other production companies had removed the grim parts of the stories and made them lovable and happily ever after themed. I remember the first time I watched the 2010 American fantasy film Alice in Wonderland. It stumped me that Alice is so grown up and that the mad hatter is prettier than I remember and the Red Queen still is cruel and that the whole wonderland was waiting for the return of Alice. The viewer is given entry into the Wonderland after the original walk into it by Alice, a different perspective on everything that Alice sees the first time around. It first created confusion then later as the plot submerged into my brain, I loved the idea of knowing what the characters go through after The End.

Ofcourse there have been a few movies made prior to this 2010 movie that were based on fairy tales but nothing that was made in this large scale as this one - Alice in Wonderland - that certainly became a trend-setter. And we have been seeing a lot of movies and books being made based of fairy tales and fantasy novels written by Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, Brothers Grimm and many other famous authors from the past who had originally written them - showing the darker grim side of Happily Ever After. And so here comes another of such movie released in 2016.

The Huntsman: Winter's War is an America fantasy film based on the characters from the German fairy tale "Snow White" written by Brothers Grimm and "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen. This was a prequel / sequel to the 2012 American film Snow White and the Huntsman. Although this film has not been as successful as the first one. The basic plot combines both the books with showing the viewer the story before Snow White and after.

The Before: Queen Ravenna, the evil sorceress, takes over the next kingdom she had in mind and rules it the same way she had conquered the previous with her sister Freya by her side. Freya also forms her own kingdom in a cold ice wasteland later, forming her own army - her huntsman. And her best huntsmen are Eric (portrayed by Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (portrayed by Jessica Chastain) who fall in love against the rules of Freya. How will it end for Eric and Sara? What will the Ice Queen do when she realizes that her best huntsmen have fallen in love with each other?

The After: The plot shifts to a year after the Evil Queen Ravenna is vanquished by Snow White. Eric is tasked by William - Snow White's husband - to find the Magic Mirror that was enroute to Sanctuary and disappeared. He is accompanied by Nion - one of Snow White's dwarf ally - and his half-brother Gryff in this search. But the Ice Queen is hot on their trail to acquire the Magic Mirror so she can increase her power. Will Eric and his gang fight the Ice Queen to keep from taking the Mirror? What is the fate of the Mirror in the end? And of the Huntsmen?

Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna - the evil snow queen - had given a much better performance and justice to the character than Julia Roberts in the similar role in an earlier movie Mirror Mirror released in 2012 (around the same time as the first installment of this series). But did you know that the evil queen's name was Ravenna? I always remembered her as Evil Queen. It is true then, evil also has a name.

We are also introduced to Freya (portrayed by Emily Blunt), the Ice Queen, who is the sister to Queen Ravenna, the Evil Queen. She is based on the Snow Queen from Hans Christian Andersen's book.  And primarily the story revolves around her although Queen Ravenna has a key part too. Emily Blunt however failed to come across as cruel and icy she has to be. She looked more like a frozen doll than an Ice Queen.

Chris Hemsworth reprises the role of Eric and lives it perfectly. As a huntsman he is suited aptly. Jessica Chastain as Sara is better at being a huntsman than Kristen Stewart as Snow White who tried to become a warrior in the first movie. But there is serious lack of chemistry between Chris and Jessica, and at times it felt pale or plastic. That spark that they show as huntsmen is missing when they are shown as lovers.

I have to say though I didn’t like Kristen Stewart cast as Snow White in the first film. For some reason she comes across as whiny and moody and bit off rather than an appealing actor no matter whether she is Bella Swan or Snow White. And I was super glad not to see her in this follow-up prequel / sequel. Although we see a brief glimpse of her in the opening credits when the narrator (voice by Liam Neeson) talks about the first part as well as in some archival footage through the movie.

The costumes are very rich. Locations are supremely stunning. The cinematography is excellent. Language is although English the pronunciation of the words is almost 17th century or older. However there are several editing issues. Snow White is talked of so much but is hardly shown except in archival footage. There are seen some dwarfs other than Snow White's seven dwarfs who help Eric, but no history or background on who they are and why they help Eric and his gang. There are a few disconnects in the plot and several unnecessary scenes that wouldn't have hurt the plot if removed either.

The title of the movie is "The Huntsman: Winter's War", but the viewer has more view into the worlds of two queens who are consumed by their own power and greed to rule the world in their own way for their own personal revenge. And very less of the huntsman and their lives. May be that was the reason for the failure. The title misleads the viewer and expectations are different. The War is also less depicted than anticipated. It ends up being another regular story about two sisters vying for power and nothing about the Huntsman. Perhaps the director used all of the plot that he had in just one film rather than making them two movies - one showing the story before Snow White story happens and one showing the story after Snow White story happens. That would have been a better approach to this film. Now it makes me wonder what would the third film in the series be about specially the director did end with a hint of that happening and used up all of his story in here.

All in all it is a good movie to watch sitting down on your couch at home rather than spending time in the theater.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories is a similar kind of series that has a different take on traditional fairy tales where the real world and fairy tale world collide. I have written reviews of the first four books in this series. You can find those reviews here.

2) One of the other movies made recently is about the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Only this time the story is before the Wizard of Oz is set. It has fabulous settings like any but the film failed to be a hit. My review on the film is here.

3) Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer is another series that I have been meaning to read for a while. They are all based on famous fairy tales - Cinderella, Snow White, Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. After watching this movie, I am thinking of reading this series as well.

Movie Critique #329 : Hold Your Man

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation:  A film that entertains you with the light and dark shades of human emotions, a must watch.

Hold Your Man is a 1933 American romantic drama film starring Jean Harlow and Clark Gable. This is the third of the six films they had been paired together. This film also is from the pre-Code Hollywood era when the censorship guidelines were not yet established allowing the film makers to project nudity, violence and all the sins without limits. But the film makers ensured that there was punishment involved for sins committed so that the nudity and violence was accepted and appreciated by the audience.

Edward "Eddie" Hall (portrayed by Clark Gable) is a small-time con man who rushes into the first open apartment to hide from a chasing policeman. But the apartment isn't vacant as he thought but occupied by Ruby Adams (portrayed by Jean Harlow). Immediate sparks ignite between Ruby and Eddie. However, Ruby has a string of boyfriends whom she dates on and off and whom she too cons for money. And Eddie although falls in love with Ruby cannot leave his con man skills behind either. How will this end for both Eddie and Ruby? Will they find decent jobs to make their living? Or will their cons come to bite them back? And what will they do when their past relationships smack on their faces? Will they get married and live happily ever after? Or will they face the consequences of their sins? That is what the rest of the plot is about.

The opening scene for Jean Harlow is a semi-naked pose in a bath tub clearly showing this as a pre-Code era film, although the current films that we see in American, British or Indian languages have much more nudity that pass through censor board. Eddie's charming and easy going personality matches perfectly with the cynical mind of Ruby, they complement each other superbly. And their chemistry is superb - no wonder they made six films together. The comedy is there where needed and not more. Eddie and Ruby's friends and mates also have the exact role they need.

Movie starts off on a very humorous and easy note but goes into the darker shades of human emotions and sentiments. It is well made romantic film but for one elaborate hide and seek type scene for Eddie and Ruby. It could have been shortened a bit. Although there are a few more editing issues, the film is spot-on with the plot, characters and emotions.

Another classic film that definitely keeps you entertained with both light and dark shades of human emotions.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The opening plot of this film reminded me of a much later movie titled Raja - a Telugu (an Indian language) film - released in 1999 starring Venkatesh, Soundarya and Abbas in lead roles. Although the Telugu film added a lot more sentiment and lot less nudity / violence as opposed to this film. More about the film here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raja_(1999_film).

2) A cute little saying on one of Ruby's pillows. Almost similar to what my motto is - live every day like it's your last day. Although the word gay would mean lot different in the current era.

3) A pennant named "Albany Night Boat" is also seen in Ruby's room. There was indeed such a steamship that carried passengers from NYC to Albany, usually an overnight trip up the Hudson River. These were mostly used by people who wanted to have romantic getaways or illicit affairs. However they ceased to exist by 1940 once the modes of transportation like trains, buses and cars were introduced which were must faster than a steamship.

4) Jean Harlow sings the title song "Hold Your Man". First it is shown playing on a gramophone record by an unknown woman in the background while Clark Gable and Jean Harlow dance to it. Later Jean Harlow sings it while playing a piano. Lyrics were penned by Arthur Freed and Music was composed by Nacio Herb Brown.

5) Check out the street organ player playing his music for a few coins. Not much different from the street performers we have now.

6) Grand Central doesn’t seem to have changed in almost 85 years.

Book Critique #328: Shadow Reaper

For review of all books in The Shadow Series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: You believe in super powers, abilities and the good that one can do with it, then this is the series you should read. Of course it comes with mix of eroticism too. ;)

Shadow Reaper is the second book in The Shadow Series by Christine Feehan published in June of 2017. The plot is again set in Chicago as the previous one. This time the story follows Ricco Ferraro - the next brother in the Ferraro family - and Mariko Majo - a blast from past for Ricco certainly.

The Shadow Series is about the powerful Ferraro family who are revered with both admiration and fear. For they are famed to have powers and abilities that not a normal human can have.  Albeit that is only a rumor but they are more feared because of the ties to mob that they are known to have. Neither of these allegations ever could be proved. Power clung to them. But the neighborhood that the Ferraro family had hold on - Little Italy - has been crime-free, secure as well as a happy place for any of them to live. People are taken care of as their own until the line crosses where the punishment is severe and sometimes unforgivable. Everyone in the Ferraro family - Five bothers and one sister Stefano Ferraro has the head along with their mother and father - and the extended families are very successful, powerful, handsome/beautiful and with a hoard of abilities in them. Yet, they are not complete until they find their mate, the one that can match them in power, character and needs - for the Ferraros have high sexual appetite especially after they have used their abilities - to manipulate light and shadow to their advantage.

The plot opens with Ricco Ferraro in a hospital bed healing from the injuries caused because of the latest crash - a crash the Ferraro family suspected was not Ricco's reckless driving as usual, but a deliberate attempt to kill him. With his family's pleas and his brother Stefano's warnings, Ricco concedes to the fact that he needs a partner who can allow him to love her the way he wants to, who could also be his rope mode and allow him to practice his art of Shibari with her between closed walls - the only thing that grounded him other than being a shadow rider. But there is a danger from his past that is a threat to his family, a threat he had hidden from them and guarded them with his life day and night, a threat that comes from his two year training during his teens in Japan. What is that threat? Who has given him the threat? Can Ricco finally confide in his family to take care of it and at the same time keep him safe?

He finds Mariko Majo in his search for a rope model. But he didn’t expect her to be his shadow rider made who was throwing all kinds of shadow tubes around her. Mariko had her own secrets. She belonged to a family that had disowned her as she had dishonored them. But what was that she had done to dishonor them? And she most definitely was running from someone trying to find a safe refuge. Mariko's mother - Maria Hammond - was a rope model to a rope master - Eiichi Hayashi - in Japan who wanted to marry her against his families wishes and dishonor. But she had her reserves on the truth. And becoming a rope mode for Ricco was the only way she could get to the bottom of everything that happened to her in past.

Lying to the world of riders was unheard of. And Ricco was bringing things from his past that could mean a difference between life and death from him and the Ferraro family. Now Mariko brought more war to their front. How will the Ferraros fight this time? In the midst of all of this will Mariko accept Ricco the way he accepts her and wants her?

The other Shadow Rider family members that the Ferraros face during the course of the plot, some allies and some foes: Isamu Yamamoto, Dai Saito and his wife Osamu Saito, Mikito Ito, Akiko Tanaka, Nao Yamamoto, Master Kin Akahoshi (Ricco's jojutsu instructor) and Archambault family of riders (the one that mete justice to any riders and their families who include Marcellus Archambault, Maxcence Archambault, Sacha Archambault).

Another strong plot in the series by Christine Feehan but definitely has a few low points. A little off-putting when the author keeps using the term "giving her the gift" or "giving him the gift" when relating to the sexual scenes between characters. Seems very false. And she uses it in almost every book. I wish she finds some other line for it. There is an elaborate foreplay shown between Ricco and Mariko that could have been shortened a bit. As always she has a lot of repetitive statements and descriptions. The readers could still love the book without that.

As for the characters, they are strong as always. Be it male or female, she portrays them with full strength and character that is a notch higher, even though they have their little flaws. She also brings in strong family ties and support system into the mix. And as always leaves the readers with tit bits about possible future plots - some we could guess and some perhaps would surprise when those plots come to light.

Another book that one can enjoy reading it for any time of the day or season.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The Ferraros - male and female - wear pin-stripe suits when in public or in mission. The stripes let them to play with light and shadow well, so they disappear without raising a suspicion.

2) The Ferraros and their extended families:
a. Ferraro Brothers, their partners, Sister and Parents - Stefano Ferraro and Francesca Cappello; Ricco Ferraro, Giovanni Ferraro, Taviano Ferraro, Vittorio Ferraro, Emmanuelle Ferraro, Eloisa Ferraro (Mother) and Philip Ferraro (Father).
b. Cousins: Emilio, Enzo and Enrica Gallo, Tomas and Casimo Abatangelo, Renato and Romano Greco, Drago and Demetrio, Franco Mancini, Rigina and Rosina
c. Extended Ferraros: Alferi Ferraro (International Council Member), Damian Ferraro (Famous jeweler for the riders), Vinci (Ferraro's lawyer)
3) Emmanuelle Ferraro and Valentine Saldi (of the notorious mob family, the Saldis) have more role as a couple in this plot making it certain that they would be paired. It's only a matter of time to see if they combine the two families that have been at war since a century. And to see if Saldis were also as much mobs as the Ferraros were considered.
4) Nicoletta Gomez a 17-year old abused teenager was rescued by Stefano and placed under the care of Lucia and Amo Fausti as their long lost niece. She is also a shadow rider although she doesn’t know it yet. My gut says she would be a mate to Taviano. One has to wait for future books to know it.
5) We get introduced to a French counsellor - Oceane Brisbois - in this plot. I am curious to see whose mate she will become. Although mentioned briefly her role sounded important for a future plot.

6) Grammatical / Location / Historical / Geographical / Mythological Errors:
a. On Pg. 110, para 3, there is a missing "of" before "Ricco" in the line "…..or aware of a man as she was Ricco."
b. On Pg. 215, para 4, there is a missing "or not" at the end of the line "……whether Emilio and Ricco agreed."
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 4.5 / 5
Recommendation: About Indentureship, Opium Trade, Britishh-Raj, French fight, China War and the long sail to Mareech - all mixed in with fiction and fable transporting to you to the early 1800s India. A must read if you enjoy period setting books.

Sea of Poppies is the first book in the Ibis Trilogy by Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh and published in October of 2008. The plot is set in India, especially in the Bengal area, prior to the First Opium War that occurred between 1839-42 (More about the war here). And naturally it would also revolve around the Opium Industry flourished then between England and China by way of India.

I came across Amitav Ghosh's all three books in this series in a library sale a few months ago. The colors of the book covers attracted me first before the author or the plot. Knowing it was an Indian author I grabbed them cause I so rarely read Indian authors. And now my review of the first book in the series. Hope you all will enjoy it as much as I have.

Zachary Reid had been a mere novice aboard Ibis - once a "black birder" slave ship but now use for Opium trade owned by Benjamin Brightwell Burnham - when he had started his voyage in Baltimore, America. And now as a second-mate, he had managed to hire a motley of crew called the lascars. But with China objecting to the Opium trade, Mr. Burnham resorts to use his ship Ibis for its old purpose - transporting of slaves, instead this time around transporting on indentured Indians to Mauritius. Unexpectedly along with the motley of his crew, Zachary Reid gets a string of people aboard the ship - some indentured and some free - who turn the fate of everyone in ways unimaginable.

Among those who join Zachary on the Ibis are - Serang Ali who led the lascar company that boarded Ibis, Aditi "Deeti" and her second husband Kalua escaping Deeti's family betrayal as well as caste; Azad Naskar "Jodu" an orphan from the village of Ghazipur with an ambition to work on an ocean-going ship; Miss Paullette "Putli" Lambert the daughter Pierre Lambert a French assistant curator to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Calcutta; Raja Neel Rattan Halder the bankrupt and betrayed Zamindar of Raskhali enroute to the jail in Mauritius, Framjee Pestonjee Moddie "Ah Fatt" who had been jailed for robbery and Baboo Nob Kissin Pander gomusta for Mr. Burnham but with his own burning agenda to be on the Ibis.

Thus proceeds the plot with it being split into three parts - Part I "Land" gives us glimpses into the lives of the key characters that would be aboard The Ibis eventually; Part II "River" takes us through the paths of each of these characters eventually leading them to The Ibis; Part III "Sea" showcases the journey of Ibis across the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean and what they face through their voyage. I loved the way that Ghosh goes deeper into each of the characters setting the base before he joins all the pieces together. But with so many personal and social prejudices, difference in their statures, political differences and their own secrets to keep, it is interesting to see how they will survive this long journey through the tumultuous Black Water.

The other aspect of the book that grips you is the language. Granted that first time around it is a bit confusing to read through certain passages. But again the language Ghosh uses resonates to the 1830s period with very old English mixed in along with a lot of Hindi, Urdu and Bengali words that are Anglicized - which I am sure we still use and more have been created since. For instance "Serang Ali wife-o hab makee die. Go topside, to hebbin. By’mby, Serang Ali catchi nother piece wife." that the Lascars talk. Or this "Mama! She forgot to bundo her jumma! And oh dekko mama" - the easy manner in which the local Hindi and Bengali words get mixed into English and French language spoken by the foreigners. However he did not miss in bringing in the actual Bengali language -only he italicized these. For instance "to make everyone laugh in their sorrow - dukhwa me sabke hasaweli". It took a while for me to get to the motions of the language, but once I picked it, it was easier to read and understand what Ghosh meant.

The era that the book was set it also saw the spurge of inventions all around the world. So also did they see in India. Ghosh gives the reader a glimpse into it - a contraption that resembles modern day shower except the water is poured down the holed-bucket by servants; Thermantidote (an ancestor to air conditioning only being operated manually by servants with water being poured onto a winnowing machine fitted with fragrant khus-khus. I remember we having such khus-khus filled hanging carpets that we used to wet them periodically to keep the rooms cooler in my grandmother's home.). Not only does Ghosh educate the reader on the budding inventions, but also the budding biological system of naming the plants. Interesting to read how Bougainvillea got its name.

It is amazing how a small country such as Britain could take over so many big countries and make them her colonies. Ghosh gives a clear picture of their “Divide and Rule” policy being put into practice in the book. The continued hatred toward Hindus and Muslims by the Whites is shown very subtly. He also exposes the Indian Indentureship bordering on Slavery. Ghosh also cleverly spins the deceit bestowed upon by the Britishers on the Indians, the exploitation of the simple people to utmost extent, the practice of Sati the women take up to avoid being raped or taken as mistresses by both White and Indian men alike, the deceit that Indian people put on their own folk for their short-term benefit inadvertently giving a piece of this land and power to the Britishers, the partiality and hypocrisy of British-Raj in India with rules that didn’t apply to the Britishers but applies to Indians, the reasons for the Indo-China war in 1839, the impacts of forced trade of Opium, cruelty that both Indian and British superiors show on the indentured and convicts on Ibis and much more from that era including the blind beliefs and superstitions.

Ghosh mixes the actual events with fiction spinning a very fine tale for the reader to be transported into the early 1800s, practically making the reader live the life of each and every character. A tinge of romance, a hint of violence, a dash of morality, a splash of injustice, a morsel of inequality and finally with a scoopful of deep-rooted goods and evils perfectly melded together. Thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait to read the next one in the series. You want to be transported to life in India in the early 1800s, this is the perfect book for it.
Spoiler Alerts behind the cut....Collapse )

Movie Critique #326: The Peanuts Movie

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation: Amusing and at the same teaching some much needed life's lessons all along. A must watch.

The Peanuts Movies is a 2015 American animated film based on Charles M. Schulz's comic strip Peanuts. I have always loved the comic strip and wanted to watch this. Unfortunately could not watch on big screen, but finally made it when it was playing on the small screen. Charles M. Schulz's son Craig Schulz and grandson Bryan Schulz contributed a lot towards the script. The movie was released by 20th Century Fox commemorating the 65th anniversary of the comic strip and the 50th anniversary of the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, and was released on November 6, 2015. This is the first feature film based on this comic strip in 35 years.

The basic plot revolves around Charlie Brown trying to impress the new girl - Little Red-Haired Girl - and get her attention. While Snoopy is writing a book about World War I Flying Ace in which he imagines being a super hero saving his love interest Fifi from the Red Baron and his army. But the movie opens with Charlie Brown trying to fly a kite in the middle of the winter as the kite-eating tree is sleeping. A hilarious concept to open with.

An imperfectionist by nature yet tries very hard, Charlie Brown, is  such adorable and lovable. Schroeder as always plays his piano timely. Introduces us to how Snoopy comes by his famous typewriter. And not mention watching the rest of the gang - Lucy, Pigpen, Pepperment Patty, Marcie, Sally, Woodstock and Franking - come alive is simply bliss. I liked that they retained the characters to look like comic strip ones rather than actual animated characters on film.

The film definitely has the same elements of the original comic strip, without boring the viewer and leaving one with a strong message like always. As the comic strip was well done all those years, so did the movie reflected that success. No wonder it had been nominated for so many awards.

Thoroughly enjoyed it and I wish I had seen it on big screen.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The last original Peanuts strip was published on February 13, 2000, a day after Charles M. Schulz.
2) Loved the end credits especially the background song Better When I'm Dancing sung by Meghan Trainor. Such an up beat song.

Movie Critique – #325: Night Waitress

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation: A speedy crime drama film with comedy and romance that can be watched on a lazy day.

Night Waitress is a 1936 American crime drama film. Margot Grahame and Gordon Jones star in the lead roles.

Helen Roberts (portrayed by Margot Grahame) is back to working at Torre's Fish Palace run by Torre. A scandal that was a cause because of her roommate's negligence. However she is on probation now only to be harassed by people who knew her story. And one such person was Martin Rhodes (portrayed by Gordon Jones). Infact he was waiting to receive a call at exactly 10pm at that dive from Ted Rigo his ex-partner, but instead his brother Mario (portrayed by Don "Red" Barry) calls him telling that Ted had been tortured and killed by the gangsters for information about some secret cargo. And in parallel he pursues Helen Roberts enough that she agrees for a date.

That begins the downfall of Helen should we say. Pursued by Martin - who isn't a straight arrow either, followed by detectives from Borgum Detective agency and threatened by the gangsters, falls under suspicion again for witnessing a murder.

Although the setting is alongside the docks in San Francisco area filled with gangsters, ruffians and low character folks, the plot could have been a bit stronger. Rather drab with a lot of pot holes in it. I don’t understand the heroine who despite knowing that Martin was a crook she falls for him for all the wrong reasons. As for the lead actor Gordon Jones, he reminded me Elvis Presley all along, although Elvis was born just a year before this movie was released. Seems to be Elvis did use some old heroes acting characteristics in his life.

A short - 57 minutes - film that runs faster than it supposed with the plot jumping leaps and bounds. A B-grade crime drama film with tinges of romance and comedy on the side that keeps you entertaining enough to enjoy this movie in a snap.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The film marks debut for some great actors such as Anthony Quinn and Don "Red" Barry.

2) Comedian Willie Best is also seen briefly with one line to speak.

3) Notice how the disclaimer calls the movie as "photoplay". Interesting choice of words.

Note: It's 2017 and I still have two months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

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

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Eleven short stories that take the readers through various times and places from the author's mind - a quick read leaving one wanting more.

A Quiver Full of Arrows is a collection of eleven short stories by Jeffrey Archer published in 1980. This was his first attempt at short stories before the rest of them came out. One such of his future books Cat O'Nine Tales I had read and wrote the review here and I had loved it. So here I go again reviewing his very first collection of short stories that take the readers from London to China to New York to Nigeria filling them with tales of ancient world mixed with modern romance, making fortunes and betrayals at every bend.

The first story titled "The Chinese Statue" revolves around a statuette from the Ming Dynasty that had now come to auction., although it was originally purchased by one Sir Alexander Heathcote who was serving for Queen Victoria as a Minister in Peking at that time. He had bought this in 1871 from a craftsman in a tiny village named Ha Li Chuan -  a statue that was in the craftsman's family for seven generations.  The remaining story tells how Alexander happen to acquire it and why it is being now auctioned over 100 years later.

The second story titled "The Luncheon" takes you to an incident in the past when a struggling writer was invited for a lunch with a lady named Susan who was married to a certain Hollywood Producer. The write reminisces on that incident. This story left me feeling really sad for the writer and angry at Susan for being a conniving woman.

The third story titled "The Coup" shows what a tough situation could bring out in a human being. The author uses Senhor Eduardo Francisco de Silveira and Manuel Rodriguez - two rival business magnates from Brazil - who are forced to spend time together during a very rough situation while in Nigeria.  Although it started a little slow and lengthy, as the end came nearer it captures the reader well.

The fourth story titled "Old Love" centers on two students - William Hatchard and Phillippa Jameson - of English Literature from Oxford in the 1930s. It follows their lives from the time they have been freshmen. It's heart-wrenching and beautifully written that makes one ponder a lot after.

The fifth story titled "The Perfect Gentleman" is about Edward Shrimpton who is met at a club in New York by a man from England who was there on business. This man who happens to be a publisher tries to find the hidden story behind a particular achievement by Edward during his youth.

The sixth story titled "Broken Routine" follows the routine of one Septimus Horatio Cornwallis who is a habitual person, and what happens when one day his routine is broken. A very humorous plot, if I must say.

The seventh story titled "One-Night Stand" is just about what it says. However, this is more about one woman being vied by two men from London - Michael Thompson and Adrian Townsend. Well, who gets the girl is what you have to read to know. :P

The eighth story titled "Henry's Hiccup" shows what happens when a rich brat named Henry - Grand Pasha of Egypt - who has never managed a single thing by himself is forced to do so when the countries go at war. That single hiccup is the center of this plot which is set in the early 1900s. Although I must say it left me thinking that somehow it was unfinished by the author.

The ninth story titled "A Matter of Principle" is about Sir Hamish Graham after years of being the Chairman of a successful construction company and also as an honest, hardworking, talented and filled with principles is faced with a dilemma when the world turns its thumb down on those principles. It's amusing to see how Sir Hamish makes his way through this changed world.

The tenth story titled "The Hungarian Professor" reflects on a conversation a student athlete had with a particular Hungarian Professor in Budapest when this student was visiting to participate in a student athlete meet.

In the eleventh and the final titled "The First Miracle", the author goes biblical by sharing with the readers the one incident through the eyes of a young lad named Pontius - an incident that perhaps could be considered the very First Miracle as the title suggests.

As always Jeffrey Archer impresses the readers with his flair of writing in subjects of all kinds - some that do not resemble his other fictional stories went along. All the short stories are quick reads but they leave us thinking long and wanting more.

A perfect companion for any kind of readers, but specially would appeal for those readers who want to finish a book in a short interval of time.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Although Wikipedia mentions a 12th story, the book doesn’t have it. Titles The Century it is said to be based on the famous Indian Cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan "Tiger" Pataudi (aka Nawaab of Pataudi). I wonder if a future printing of the book had included this story, but this first edition I had doesn’t have this. Even the Author's note and the Contents speak for only eleven stories.
2) Of the eleven stories, ten were known incidents with some embellishment from the author per the privacy law and only one was from his imagination.
3) The Luncheon - second story in the book - was inspired by W. Somerset Maugham. It was also made into an episode on the 80s British TV Series Tales of the Unexpected. I have to watch this sometime in future.
4) Base on the story Old Love - fourth in the book - a play titled Love Song was made in 1987. It was produced by Richard Bennett for Masterpiece Theater. Something I would love to watch if it ever airs on TV or Theater. (Here is a brief intro on it)
5) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character / Geographical Errors:
a. On Pg. 74, author mentions someone names Beatrice, but the entire plot of "Old Love" didn’t have a character named Beatrice.
6) The story "Broken Routine" reminded me of a scene from the 2006 hit Telugu film Godavari ( = Name of an Indian river).

Note: It's 2017 and I still have two months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

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.

Heat Rises is the third book in the series of Castle books written by the fictional writer Richard Castle from the TV series Castle (portrayed by Nathan Fillion) published in September of 2011. Since I liked the second book, Naked Heat (My review of the book here), enough to finish it and admire it, I picked the third one in the series. The book resonates a lot with Season III of the TV Show (My review of the TV series here) just like the first two books.

The plot opens with NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat called to a crime scene at Pleasure Bound - a bondage club, murder of one Father Gerald Francis Graf - a priest at Our Lady of the Innocents. However, when Nikki reaches the parish, she comes to know that Captain Montrose had been there the night before following up on the missing person's report. Why would the Captain be there before even the victim was found? What was the priest doing in a pleasure place? Perhaps his secret night life gone bad? While Nikki investigated the murder, her tag-along magazine journalist Jameson Rook was off the grid with his own investigation of an international arms smuggling expose for First Press, giving enough break for Nikki to ponder about their relationship. Eventually when Rook returns they pick up where they left off, but what does it mean to their relationship? A progress or an adjustment for the now?

In the midst of this, Detective Heat is eagerly waiting on the results of the department civil service tests that she took for a promotion to become a lieutenant. Add to it someone was following here every step of the way in this case. Bits and pieces of the case baffle both Nikki and Rook along with her team that makes no sense to begin with - A missing St. Christopher Medal from the victim's home, their only lead to the BDSM clue gets shot by a sniper while he is being apprehended, Justicia a Guarda - a group of militant marxists and a CIA operative who is very uncooperative. And then the case becomes more than personal for Detective Nikki Heat as it progresses.

She is assisted by her team and extended team as always - Detective Raley, Detective Miguel Ochoa, ME Lauren Parry, Detective Randall "Randy" Feller, Detective Karl "Dutch" Van Meter, Detective Dan "Opie" Rhymer, Detective Sharon Hinesburg, Captain Charles Montrose, Constable Harvey "The Discourager", Tam Svejda (a reporter), Zach "The Hammer" Hamner (Senior Administrative Aide to Deputy Commissioner of Legal Affairs), Detective Neihaus (another detective from a different precinct) and Deputy Commissioner Phyllis Yarborough.

As usual Detective Nikki Heat and her team have a long list of suspects pool to wade through before they could close the case - Roxanne Paltz (Manager of Pleasure Bound), Lydia Borelli (Father Graf's housekeeper), Simmy Paltz (Roxanne's husband and lawyer), Raymond Colabro (A doctor who gave Gerald prescription medicine), Lawrence Joseph Hays (a CIA operative), Andrea Boam (One of the Dominatrix at Pleasure Bound), Milena Silva and Pascual Guzman (Justicia a Grada leaders) and Alejandro Martinez (one of the reformed drug kingpin).

The key characters in this book follow the same route what the TV series characters go, including the emotions and feelings - budding romance between Detective Ochoa and ME Lauren Parry, Captain Montrose's secrets, expanding romance between Rook and Heat and Heat's past grief with regards to her mother. And still this book somehow managed to remove the shadow of Castle TV show from over it. Finally I could relate to the characters as actual characters of a book rather than alter-egos of fictional characters. Yes despite the similarities, the plot is very strong, with some really unexpected twists and turns. Although once or twice I could guess why a certain situation happened, yet it was totally a surprise when the actual course of events unravel finally at the end.

A well-written murder mystery based on a TV show written by a ghost writer. Thoroughly enjoyable and gripping till the end.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) There is still no mention of any child or ex-wives for Jameson Rook yet unlike Richard Castle in the TV Show. Perhaps future books might have some reference.
2) Interesting places from NYC mentioned in the book - Tony Rosenthal's sculptors in NYC, Bouley in Trbeca, NYC, EJ's Luncheonette in NYC, Belvedere Castle in Central Park, NYC.
3) Albeit briefly, there is mention of Castle in the plot. Even though it is in reference to Belvedere Castle, I would think it an appropriate reference to the TV show.
4) Detective Nikki Heat remembers Columbo in one of her musings. My favorite rumpled-coat detective. Find my review of one of his very first episodes here.
5) Rook mentions about the infamous Proust Questionnaire (http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/2000/01/proust-questionnaire) that was a parlor game but became famous after Proust used it as a way to reveal more of one of the famous personality on the back of Vanity Fair. I remember reading this a while ago. Havent checked lately if Vanity Fair still carry it.
6) Grammatical / Historical / Geographical / Character / Mythological Errors:
a. On Pg. 56, para 5, additional "the" in the line "calmed a little, and a glimpse of the old skip…"
7) Rook and Margaret (Rook's mother) mention a few books and movies some of which I have seen / read and some getting added to my list - Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Constant Gardener, A Perfect Spy, Call for the Dead, The Big Sleep, Sound of Music, Pal Joey, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, 21 Jump Street,
8) Inventive words I came across in the plot:
a. Polemic - strong verbal attack on something or someone.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have two months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

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

Stars:  3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Cowboys, Kingdoms and Tribes mixed with treasure, deceit and romance - a perfect blend for a thoroughly entertaining film.

I had posted about the 1986 Telugu film Veta ( = Hunt) a while ago (My review here) thinking it had scenes that were exact copy from the hit American film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. After watching Veta I realized it was not that. After a little more pondering I zeroed in on to this 1990 Telugu (Indian Language) action-western adventure film titled Kodama Simham ( = Majestic Lion). It starred Chiranjeevi, Radha, Sonam and Pran in lead roles. Kaikala Satyanarayana is one of the producers along with his brother perhaps (I  couldn’t find much about that) Kaikala Nageswara Rao. He has a very important role in the movie as well. The movie plot is written some-time before independence. Sadly though it was the not movie with that scene either. **Sigh**

Bharath (portrayed by Chiranjeevi) is a robin-hood type cowboy but his agenda is to capture the villains responsible for gambling, prostitution and other evils. One day he ends up rescuing Swapna (Sonam) from a band of such goons. Swapna happens to be the daughter of Mayor Ranjith (portrayed by Pran). She falls in love with Bharath even though he doesn’t reciprocate. After one such fight with the goons in a saloon and a brothel, they come attack his parents (portrayed by Gollapudi Maruti Rao and Annapoorna) and kill them. On hid dying breath his father tells him that he had been adopted and he doesn’t know who his real parents were. Only one person named Sudi Gali can unlock that mystery. Thus begins the search for Bharath for his real parents which leads him to Sudi Gali and a much elaborate plot that ties everything neatly including the murder of his adopted parents.

Veteran and experienced actors such as Kaikala Satyanarayana, Kannada Prabhakar, Sudhakar, Allu Ramalingaiah, Ranganath, Chalapathi Rao and Jayanth play key roles in the rest of the plot. Who are Bharath's real parents? Why had Sudi Gali kidnapped him in the first place? Where does Sonam and her father fall in line? All that and much more we get to know as this complex western-based plot moves along.

Music and Songs are melodious and memorable as any of the Chiranjeevi movies. Music composed by Raj-Koti and Lyrics penned by Veturi Sundararama Murthy. Songs Sung by S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Nagurbabu and Chitra.

One of the song "Pillo Jabillo" was considered as the fast beat song at that time until more took over in later years. Impressed with Radha as well since she kept up to pace with Chiranjeevi with every beat of her steps in the same speed and grace.

Pran being a Hindi actor, his voice was dubbed by Jaggaiah. He was famous for his booming voice and was well-known as Kala Vachaspathi' (Vachaspathi= Lord of Speech). No wonder Jaggaiah got the part to dub for Pran in this film. I wonder why Jaggaiah itself didn’t do the role. Nataprapoorna Mohanbabu portrays the role of Sudi Gaali who has a prominent part in the plot - part villain, part comedy - that is not to be missed to watch. Apt to his name, Sudi Gali ( = whirlwind), he creates such whirlwind of events that everyone gets captured in it and thrown along. Surprisingly enough Gollapudi Maruti Rao has a very small role for such a veteran actor.

Chiranjeevi definitely played his part as a cowboy pretty well, so much so that he lived the part. As for the heroines: Vani Vishwanath although plays a one-time girlfriend , Rosie, is just another side kick with no major part. The movie would have survived even without her role, but again then we would have had to see someone else in the song "Star Star Mega Star". :P Now, Sonam, there is a fair belle who knows only to stand like a doll who either smiles or cries - the only expressions she can manage to do. Her dialogues are with more stress than needed - perhaps being a Hindi actress her dubbing artist didn’t do much justice. Even her dance steps seemed stiff. No wonder she couldn’t reign as a heroine for longer as much more talented than her had swept by fast. Only remediating factor was that she can draw well, which of course causes more harm than needed for Chiranjeevi.

And finally Radha. Being a veteran actress and a lead heroine in many movies, especially for Chiranjeevi, I was surprised to see her in a supporting role in this movie. I would have loved the movie much better if she had been his love interest, for the chemistry between both of them is spot one as opposed to with Sonam where it looked play-acting. Radha doesn’t appear for more than an hour into the movie which finally cast some fresh breath to the plot. If not for her and her role, this movie would have not survived long just on Chiranjeevi. Playing as tribal princess Bijli, she exposes her tough side to the viewers as well - a side we had not seen of her before.

Comedy by Brahmanandam and Sudhakar is as usual timely keeping the viewers entertained with another layer of art. Stunts and thrills are a step ahead of that time, and well orchastrated. Strong plot played by equally capable actors (except for two as I mentioned above), directed beautifully taking the viewers into the land of kingdoms and cowboys. A thoroughly entertaining film that doesn’t bore you for a single second. Although the print is not so great, you can watch it on youtube if you want. Have a blast on any day!

Spoilers behind the cut..Collapse )
Note: It's 2017 and I still have two months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.
For more reviews on this series: go here.

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation: Legal mystery with a touch of comedy that is far more different that what you are used to with Perry Mason. ;)

Before Raymond Burr made his mark as the legendry criminal defense lawyer in the TV adaptations of the works of Erle Stanley Gardner with Mason as the central character, Warner Bros had made six Perry Mason films in the 1930s. The Case of the Curious Bride was the second in the series released in 1935. Warren William played the title role with Claire Dodd as Della Street - his confidential secretary. The script is based on the novel of the same name that was released in 1934.

Rhoda Montaine (portrayed by Margaret Lindsay) is an old friend of Perry Mason who approaches him to investigate the disappearance and supposedly death of her husband Gregory Moxley (portrayed by Errol Flynn). But now that she is married again to Carl Montaine (portrayed by Donald Woods) she is needed to prove that her first husband was indeed dead to keep her marriage valid. But his investigation leads him to a house where George Moxley is found dead and Rhoda Montaine is arrested. Rest of the plot continues how the brilliant and charming Perry Mason gets his client off the hook as well as apprehends the real culprit. Perry Mason is teamed up with Coroner Wilbur Strong and Toots Howard in the investigation and the case.

I am so used to seeing Raymond Burr in the role of Perry Mason and Barbara Hale as Della Street, it felt very odd to see Warren William and Claire Dodd in the same roles respectively.

Interestingly enough this Perry Mason has a huge culinary interest too. However that is not the only difference I noticed. Interesting enough Paul Drake's character is called as Spudsy Drake (portrayed by Allen Jenkins). Instead of being a private investigator he is Mason's assistant.

Even Perry Mason's office is in San Francisco as opposed to Los Angeles per the novels. Even the District Attorney in the film is not Hamilton Burger but it is Stacey. As opposed to the normal Perry Mason novels where there is an elaborate court room scene, here in this Perry Mason concludes his trial in his own living room with a room full of suspects.

The case and plot has a touch of humor at a larger scale than the TV series. Yet, the element of murder, mystery and trial was maintained. If I hadnt watched the TV series I would definitely love this movie. Since I watched that I cannot help but to compare. But the end result was still enjoyable for me.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) This film marked the first American screen appearance of Errol Flynn - an Australian-born American actor who was famous for romantic roles in Hollywood films in late 1930s. He played the role of a corpse and alive in a brief appearance in the flashback.

2) This novel that is the basis for this film, is supposed to be one of the popular of Perry Mason novels. I don’t have it yet to read it.
3) In 1958 this film was remade as part of the Perry Mason TV Series too. It was aired in Season 2 Episode 5. I could not find a video of this TV episode unfortunately.
4) Wini Shaw, a famous American actress, singer and dancer at that time, appeared in a song "Dark and Stormy Night" which she sings along with a chorus of the burlesque theater. Music was composed by Sammy Fain and Lyrics penned by Irving Kahal. Such a beautiful melody but I could not find its audio or video anywhere alas. She also plays a very critical role in the film as Doris Pender.

5) Interestingly enough the theater that Wini Shaw performs in the film is called as Irving Theater. Wonder if it has anything to do with the lyricist Irving Kahal.

6) For reviews of the Perry Mason books that I have read, go here.

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