Monday, September 30, 2013

Lately

I should really finish all the drafts and post some actual stuff, but I've been a little out of it these days unable to do much.  Freaking foot. 

The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (2008) by Tennessee Williams (1957) The story revolves around Fisher Willow (Bryce Dallas Howard), a heiress that recently returned to Memphis for a debutante ball, only to realized that her father blew up part of the levee he owned. This was a brilliant story, don't know why not many people know about it. Or why they're not that into it.

Ah, Tennessee William, what conflicted emotions you evoke from us all. 

~~~~~~

As an added bonus: Lil Alys' mini morning adventure!  Feel free to skip.

The piercing bright light escaped through the heavy curtains and insisted on waking Lil Alys from her already restless slumber. She tossed aside the light sheets that worked plenty in the humid heat of the night and sat up. Glancing at the two temporary aluminum "legs" Lil Alys had acquired, the desire to fall back into the softness of the comforter grew. Instead, she had to listen more to the bloated feeling in her bladder. With a heaved sigh full of dramatics, Lil Alys balanced her crutches and gingerly lowered her currently multi-colored and still swollen left foot. Then with an even more dramatic sigh, placed her right foot onto the warm floorboard and hobbled to the bathroom to get her business done. An action that should've taken less than 5 minutes, but now have doubled and often tripled in time.

As it was morning, the constant gnawing feeling of hunger called out. As such, Lil Alys called out to her current slave helper, already downstairs relaxing in front of the new season premiered tv shows.  Hobbling some more towards the stairs, Lil Alys sat down on the top of the stairs in her nightshirt and waited for said helper to hurry by - as the ruckus she had started, it would not bode well for him if she was not in his line of sight.  Hehehe.

He picked up the two crutches and went down a few steps below and watched as Lil Alys slowly lowered herself step by step.  A funny enough sight in the beginning, but after two weeks of this nonsense, it was just another morning.  As she reached the last few steps, she stopped and waited for her new friends that have left bruises under her arms and in both palms.  Ah, such friendship.  With Old Man leading the way, the two moved to the kitchen for some breakfast before Lil Alys began whining again.  Such a baby.

"Now I know why once babies start walking, they never stop."  Lil Alys griped.

Too late, it has begun.  Mr. Old Man just sighed and went to pick up some eggs.

"Cuz crawling sucks!"

"Why are you crawling again?" Old Man asked offhandedly.

"Cuz, cuz," the baby in Lil Alys whined, "it hurts to use the crutches all the time."

"Then don't move around!" Exasperation in every word.  No hope. This was almost a daily conversation nowadays.

"But I'm hungry, Old Man."

"Ok, ok, I'm cooking."

Lil Alys secretly smiled with a touch of smugness as she watched Old Man busy beating eggs.  As inconvenient as it was, it's nice to be babied every now and then.  Given that the last time both Lil Alys and Old Man were sick, she still had to get up and take care of a bunch of stuff, including breakfast, Lil Alys will enjoy this while it lasts.  Even when it wasn't seasoned right, or had too much salt, or no salt, she ate it with a thanks.  Up until he took a bite and went "bleck" at the taste.

Hehehehe.  To be continued!




Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Jeannie Lin ebook My Fair Concubine

You know, I didn't exact hide this fact, but it might be best to just opening lay it. I have great obsessive love admiration for Jeannie Lin's books.  Her stories have been so awesome.  My Fair Concubine didn't single-handedly pull me out of my past I-don't-know-how-long-of-a-black-holed-slump, but it was the major contributor.

My fellow ebook readers, guess what? It's on sale at amazon right now for $1.99 until the end of September!  Perfect time to sample this awesome author.  One week left!

Go get it! What are you waiting for? 

It sounds crazy, but I really want Jeannie Lin to write wuxia romance novel. OMG, I've been daydreaming about it for quite some time.  I mean, seriously.  I'd been waiting for a good solid wuxia novel in English for quite some time.  As much as I love my translated novels, I know too much get lost during the translation.  Plus, a lot of words, phrases, and characters could really be up for interpretation.

Jeannie Lin has written one of the most intricate work that I've read in recent memory.  The world was so vivid, the description so beautiful, and not at any moment did I feel things were too Westernized or Orientalized.  Yeah, that second one isn't a word, but do you get my meaning?  The Dynasties and time periods, the backdrops - everything was so wonderfully written and so thoroughly researched you may as well walk down the halls of ancient China.  At no point did I feel like I was being lectured with info dumping, and I never felt it was made to be exotic or just a wallpaper-world.



I love it so much, I have two hard copies of everything.  One for reading and one for keeps.
I have received ARCs for The Sword Dancer (wuxia galore!!! <~only in my mind) and The Lotus Palace so I only bought one copy after it came out, but My Fair Concubine was all mine.  I bought both on my own.  Good thing too since my reading copy is falling apart.

Yeah...I have a problem. Ahem.

I want Jeannie Lin wuxia novels!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A little late

Happy (belated) Mid Autumn Moon Festival.

We didn't do much this year. I went to eat dinner with my parents and watched some funny tv show (that embedded up being more confusing than funny).

Old Man and I haven't started any traditions yet. Most of the time it is each to their offer parents' house which I think works rather well for now.

My relatives overseas had bbq, yum.

Hopefully we can do that in the future. Nothing says Asian holidays like family and food.  Lol.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede


Update: My apologies for the blogging errors.  I was using my phone to set this one and it published wrong.

If you have not read the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, you really should.  I actually didn't read it until the late 90's which was just fine except I read them in the order it was meant to be read, instead of the way they were published.
By Patricia Wrede

Dealing with Dragons (1990)
Searching for Dragons (1991)
Calling on Dragons (1993)
Talking to Dragons (1985, revised 1995)

Talking to Dragons was published first and it probably would've been better had I read it first. It would've been exactly how I'd been hoping for a lot of other novels I read (wanting prequels).

Let me just say this, Talking to Dragons was probably my least favorite because I had read it last. 


Dealing with Dragons (1990)
In which Princess Cimorene of the kingdom of Linderwall decides that being a princess is too boring and confining, leaves home to work for the dragon Kazul, and discovers and subsequently dissolves a plot by the wizards to take control of the King of the Dragons.

This book was my first introduction to the wonderful world of the Enchanted Forest and I was addicted.  I absolutely loved and adored Kazul, the dragon that takes in Princess Cimorene as a cook.  It was interesting how Dragon world was organized and classified, a definite breath of fresh air in many aspects.  I wouldn't say that it turned the usual dragon-knight-princess story on it's head, but I loved the new take on everything.  It was funny and different from the over abundance of the damsels in distress.

When I first read this book, it blew me away with happiness. Goodbye creepy angst, hello characters that took care of themselves and each other.  For this book, I also adored the fact the romance was less of a focus for our heroine/protagonist.  Also, the secondary characters were so engaging.  Actually, I loved all the side characters. The best part was that the book ended with Cimorene staying as chef.  Just adorable. Ps. Wizards are the villians because they do not have magic so they steal it! Oh! And they melt.

Searching for Dragons (1991)
In which Cimorene meets the King of the Enchanted Forest, Mendanbar. With their new friends, they collaborate to rescue Kazul—now the King of the Dragons—from the wizards who have captured her in the Enchanted Forest.

When I read this book I was quite surprised that Mendanbar (our new protagonist) was our introduction to this world again. Given how much I adored Cimorene and Kazul, I was quite sad they were not our POV. After I got back into the story it was of course great fun.  Even thought this book fell more in line with fantasy stories, it was still incredibly unique. It ends on a happy note of the two falling in love and getting married, but instead of any of the usual drama,  the two simply state it with such logic and common sense. 

I missed some of the old secondary characters but lived the new ones equally. The myster was fun (although not hard to guess) and I still adores this world.

Calling on Dragons (1993)
In which Morwen discovers that the wizards have stolen Mendanbar's sword, which kept them from stealing the Enchanted Forest's magic, and works with Cimorene to retrieve it.
I actually am really conflicted about this book since although I really adored Morwen as was one of my favorite characters, story-wise, I was not blown away at all.

To tell you the truth, I was more or less annoyed with the direction it went. As much as the book still allowed me to live the wonderful world of the enchanted forest, the mystery and the drama was not appreciated. Granted, I understood the point of this book was to set is 
the final book, which therein lies the problem. It was merely building up to the final book and that was just annoying.  Its my personal opinion of course and it doesn't change the fact I very much adored all the individual characters. It just felt so much less than cool than the previous two... like it was a more normal novel. 

Talking to Dragons (1985, revised 1995)
In which Daystar, Cimorene and Mendanbar's son, is sent off into the forest with his father's sword and no knowledge of his heritage. Written and published first, and then revised later to better fit with the prequel books.

Probably my least favorite, sadly, as I didn't quite connect with Daystar. I also thunderstood that the author wrote this book first and after the other three book came back and updated it.  Maybe if I had read it first I would have enjoyed it better, but not only did it have first person narrative (which I am inclined to look at with a harsher and critical eye) this book also felt more like the usual children's fantasy book very common out there.  Even our fire witch wasn't as awesome and that was a disappointment. 

The characters from the previous books were still fun to read, but overall, this was an okay read. A lot of what I loved about the previous books just were not present. It was also because the previous books set the bar to high. Lol. They ended everything in a happy note and wrapped up almost all the loose ends. 


Overall, if you haven't already, go ahead and read this series. The good will definitely outway any problems. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Foot progress

This is karma or something. I have twistef my ankle several times before in my life, but out had never been this painful and bad. Just look at it!  How is my entire for purple, green and completely swollen?

Old Man has been taking good care of me, but he cannot help but keep taking pictures everyday. While laughing about how the swelling either looks like a giant meatball or how my foot more resembles a piggy foot dish.  Always good related.

Nothing like realization of human frailty like physical incapacitation. I am so useless right now.  Can't even get myself a cup of hot water much less a couple of snacks.  I did a lot of crawling and I realized, babies have out tough! No wonder the moment they learn how to walk they just take off with no sign of ever stopping.  Crawling just ain't all its cracked up to be.  Walking is so much better.  That or those electric wheelchairs. Lol.

It actually has not been all that bad. I just lost a lot of my upper body strength these past few years as I sat at a desk job.  It also didn't help my sense of balance also went right out the door. Being on one leg and crutches has been giving me a heck of a work out and some time to think.

Ok, back to hobbling.  Come on body!  Get better soon!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh

Man oh man, where do I start?

It's a pretty well known fact that I very much obsessively love Ms. Nalini's work and had stalked met her before gushing with much appreciation for her work.

Unless you had been living in an underground bunker without internet connect or human contact for the last few years, the glorious Psy/Changeling series had been taking the world by fire very much lauded as a great series.  I, myself, am numbers in that groupie fan-base.  It doesn't take a genius to see how Ms. Nalini's a brilliant literary genius writings were very unique, thorough and fun to read.  I stalked followed her writings nonstop. 

Sadly, I had not been feeling as connected with her last few books *hides in shame*.  After reading this book, and contemplating for quite some time (plus a few re-reading), I have finally understood why.  Ms. Nalini genius extraordinaire, brilliant genius, wrote wonderfully and beautifully as always.  This book was equally awesome as the rest of her series.  It was I whom changed and therefore my taste in books have altered.  Still, what an incredible book.

Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh

For those following the series, it should come as no surprise that Kaleb would be a walking, living hotness awesome character.  The most (seemingly) ruthless and young Psy Council, it was had to determine his allegiance.


The stakes for the Psy-Net wars (as I call it) continued to climb and the new alliances of previous books came more solidified.  The pure complexity of the overarching storyline would've driven most people nuts, but Ms. Nalini kept everything crystal clear.  I don't even have to remember the previous books to be able to follow the current events in the books.

As with always, the main storyline was still the relationship between our Sahara and Kaleb.  It was a good solid relationship.  I loved how it was built and my favorite FAVORITE parts were when they were younger.  Those flashbacks were so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes.  Then I would go back and re-read those parts only...over and over again.

We got an even more awesome heroine in Sahara.  Been tortured for 7 years and still came out whole.  That's just plain awesome.  The one think I especially loved and appreciated about Ms. Nalini's writing were her heroines.  The heroes were always wonderful and love and hot, but it was always the heroines that drew me in.  They have all gone through unimaginable situations and always came out stronger.  Damaged and shattered, but never for long.  They put themselves back together and become even stronger. Sahara doesn't cower, she doesn't go off and do stupid stuff to prove herself.  Instead, Sahara had a great grasp on herself even as she was unable to remember aspects of her life.  Despite all the torture, Sahara refused to remain beaten down and broken.  Which make Sahara and Kaleb's relationship all the more touching as she continued to try and help him heal even as she was healing herself. 

Minor Spoilers Alert:

As many have already predicted, Kaleb was the Ghost.
Also, he was not only the protege of the psychopath Santano Enrique, but also his biological son, was meant to be a shocker.  It really wasn't a big shock for me.  Why else would some psycho just pick a random high powered kid if he didn't have something vested in it, you know what I am saying?

Spoiler End.

Where I noticed my own problems...

This started with Hawke and Sienna's book...this idea of meeting your mate young and being able to determine their OTL (one true love).  Now, I finally realized it.  I've fallen off the wagon of insta-mate/love/soulmate.  It's funny since Hawke and Sienna's book was about finding love after loss of true mate and I ended up feeling it was the opposite.

The second part...which falls into this book with Kaleb and Sahara was the age they decided to be together.  Granted, it worked perfectly in this book's context and as I mentioned above, I much obsessively LOVED adored the parts of their youth together.  My discomfort were my own and nothing to do with this book.  I.E. My own prejudices jolted me out of my reading zone and I get caught up with the ideas rolling around in my head rather than let the book flow.  It also has not been limited to Ms. Nalini's books...just novels in general.

Also in line with this...just because people grew up together, spent their youth together, would the love continue to be unconditional in their adulthood.  Ok, in my own messed up way, I wanted to say that people grow and change differently.  The love of youth, no matter how deep and strong, would change once two people whom had lived and suffered apart even when they meet again.  It does not mean they cannot still fall in love together, but often youthful love would gain an idealized quality.

The couples idealized each other too much just because they were a certain way in their youth.  This theme really bothers me in general.  As Hawke just somehow knew at his tender age that his dead mate would've been perfect, or that Kaleb "emotions" for the young girl he knew somehow laid the burden of millions upon millions of lives onto her memories.  What if Sahara wasn't the awesome woman she survived to be?  What if Hawke's mate survived and turned out to be some bitchy skank in fit of rebellion for having some old dude having planned their live together without her having a say in it?  It's hard for me to swallow at times.  Plus as with Nathan's situation of "letting" his mate live her life before settling down because of her youth?  She didn't need anyone to "let" her do anything.  Let a girl make her own mistakes please.

Do you kind of get my drift?  I know that in Ms. Nalini's awesome capable hands, these would never happen and we get the brilliant stories we now have adored and obsessed admired.  It's really just my personal biases and I getting in the way of a good read.  Goodness knows I'll probably always love her writing, but more often then not, little things snap me out of a good read.

Like, we're reading about Kaleb's background angst and he said this:
"Men... aren't supposed to be raped." (158)

Um...ok.

Neither are women. Or children.  Or animals....
So what's your point?  That somehow it's worst for a guy?  How about let's not suggest comparison and agree anything forced without consent despite gender, race, ethnicity or age equals horrendously wrong and bad?  Just saying.  

That's just a very minor example and it didn't really take the enjoyment out of this book.  Merely gave me pauses all throughout which did disrupt the flow for me personally.  Anyways, overall - another awesome read by Ms. Nalini.  The writing was top notch, the characters were awesome and the stories captivating.

P.S.  I loved the interactions of young Kaleb and young Sahara.  I sometimes just re-read those parts.  :)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Whaaaaa

I am currently on RICE due to a late night accident down the stairs.  The result of carelessly hurrying down the stairs in the late midnight hours, without lights, and without the glasses desperately needed by a nearly blind as a bat person.

The pain was so knife-stabbingly intense, I was surprised I was still alive. Hahaha. There was a lot of crying involved. For the few hours where frozen packets of corn and peas were used as comes on the baseball sized swelling on my ankle, it was coupled with a lot of shaking and sweating before we finally decided to go to the hospital. It was just a heck of a sprain the side of a baseball.

I've had sprained ankles before, but it has never been this bad or painful. It was time to face the truth, i got fat therefore my ankles were unable to support my increasing size. Hehehe, ok, maybe not that. It just mademe realize I am not as young as I used to be and my body doesn't recover as fast. 

While being unable to do anything might seem like a great opportunity to write, two things stop me:
1) The need to do normal things take longer, ie. going to the bathroom, getting a drink of water...general hobbling.
2) Lack of actual writing. Hahaha.

I tried to write, but it was so hard to even get into a physical position to write. Sitting up hurts, laying down was the only position that has the least amount of pain, given that I did not move a cm.  I couldn't even lay on my side.  For the most part, I slept through out the day. I would like to say due to boredom and rest but it was more of a combination from pain, exhaustion and stress.


(healing foot) 
 
 
I would post a pic of the actual damage, but it looks bad.  Hubby was having fun taking photos, the meanie, but he has been doing his best to take good care of me. 
 
So, my apologies if my posts this month are going to be even less than I anticipated.  When it takes double to triple the time to move from one place to the next, getting to my computer and staying in a type-able position actually causes pain - forming any kind of cohesive sentence is rather miraculous.  My spelling went from bad to horrendous. Thank goodness for spellcheck. Lol.
 
Okie dokie.  Back to resting. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rebbeca Barnhouse - Coming of the Dragon and Peaceweaver

A short duo review.



Coming of the Dragon
Above a farm, a black shape rent the sky. Like a dark ribbon blowing in a breeze, it undulated through the air, then straightened and shot toward the farmhouse. Fire streaked from it. The thatched roof blazed in sudden flames, and two tiny figures raced from the door. The thing wheeled and turned, beating heavy wings and retching forth more fire. Both figures fell.

Rune’s body turned to ice. It was the worst thing he could imagine. A dragon. Someone had awoken a dragon.

Peaceweaver

In this stand-alone companion book to The Coming of the Dragon, 16-year-old Hild has to decide what’s most important to her, honor or happiness. Those who have read Dragon will meet new characters and see some familiar faces from a new perspective. Readers new to Hild’s world will meet a girl who knows how to wield a sword, but whose job is to weave peace between two warring kingdoms.

by Rebecca Barnhouse

Coming of the Dragon was based on the latter half of Beuwolf/Grendel. 

Let me say this, I was very much surprised by both books.  I expected to be so-so with The Coming of the Dragon given that it was a first person narrative of a young male, where as Peaceweaver was a third person narrative of a young female.  Well, I ended up like the Coming of the Dragon much better than Peaceweaver.  They were kind of companion novels to each other. 

Both books were a coming of age type of story, with the second being a partial journey story.  The two protagonists only met at the end of both books and even then, judging on how they thought of the other also influenced my opinion of the stories and characters.  The world building for both books were very solid.

Coming of the Dragon, Rune - our growing hero, felt stronger in terms of character growth. The changes and development was very believable.  It was tense and exciting.  I loved the various layers of background and depth.   Although in first person, it never felt like there was much info dumping.  The stories were told very organically and Rune's observations were very realistic.  He even comments on his own changes (or lack of).  His losses were painful to witness and hard to endure, but at the same time, you cannot help but cheer him on.

Peaceweaver's character, Hilt - the accused witch of the royal family, started as a great and interesting character, but kind of driveled off.  Her character growth was way too fast and abrupt throughout the book and then almost disjointed, especially towards the end.  Maybe it was the timing, something I can't quite put my finger on, I felt the ending was so abrupt I didn't really believe the changes at all.  Which was a shame, since I really wanted to like this story (given how much I enjoyed Coming of the Dragon).

The timelines for both books were concurrent.  I found it fun to contrast both characters perspectives of the same event and how different they truly were.  At the same time, since I read Rune's book first, I felt a little peeved at Hilt's observations about their situation.

Spoilers below:


While Rune raised himself from humble means, even as he was used and abused, he maintained this strength and quality...ergo, he was able to be king.  Even as he doubted his own capabilities, he was able endure and lead.  The example was the Peaceweaving marriage at the end.  As Rune was trying to rebuild their homes, fight off internal conflict, and deal with border warfare, he still looked at things optomistically.

In contrast,  Hilt felt like she stayed a teenager the entire time and never really grew up.  It was very tough on her as well given that she actually grew up in a good environment and then got accused then lost everything.  It's not that she was acting out of character, but I really didn't felt like she really grew up at all. Even at the end, her change was just too abrupt since I felt she didn't grow at all throughout her journey.  She went from, "I'm going to trick them, escape, marry someone I hate and hope my family will take me back" to "I'll stay with this puny (our previous hero) guy and see what happens."

If it wasn't for our hero Rune, I really foresee doom for them all.

Spoiler End.

As much as I enjoyed both books, I ended up liking Coming of the Dragon better.   A definite fun read.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson.


I could not believe I had not heard about this author until around the time of her passing in 2011. I simply couldn't believe it because her stories were so interesting. I really must have been living in a hole my entire life, or some cave. This was my first book of her's and it was definitely just the beginning.

Written before my birth apparently, pulled me out of a completely reading vortex of tar back when I read it in 2011.  At that time, I was also passionately and desperately waiting for her last book.
I wanted that book so bad I went a little crazy like, wanting to fly to Europe and buy that particular book first.  Although flying to Europe to buy a book was a little too crazy even for me…although buying the book from a UK store and having it shipped here would not be. Only exorbitantly pricey. So, while I waited for A Boy and His Dog I tried to catch up on some of her older books.

A Countess Below Stairs – Eva Ibbotson 
 

The basic story was a bit of cinderella, rag-to-riches (except it's reverse, like riches-to-rags-to-riches), family dynamics, and quite a lot of romance towards the back.  The story revolved around 19 year old Anna, a countess (very high born) in Russia, but had escaped with her mother to live with her governess.  Not wanting to be a burden, she convinced the housekeeper and butler at Mersham to hire her as a maid while keeping it a secret from her family (especially younger brother that was away at school).  From there, her personality and hard work won the staff and family over.   Robert, the current Lord of Mersham after the death of his older brother, returned from the front with a fiance that he doesn't remember proposing to in tow and things change more from there.  It became heavier on the romance later on, but mainly revolved around many of the characters.  This was mostly the story of the resilience of Anna.

The prologue was a great set-up of the past…a very long prologue that went through most of Anna’s childhood to her current predicament. Right after the First World War, Russia went through her own cultural revolution into the Soviet Union. Politics aside, what struck me as most poignant was Ms. Eva’s utter portrayal of people. Her ability to mix the politics without judgment nor lectures made this book all that much better. I have never read such a book where such a precarious time was written with such honesty and sincerity that I would totally have discounted had I written the book.  My emotions and prejudices would've overtaken the characters and stories.  Eva Ibbotson, master that she was, dealt with so much more.

What was dealt with?
Anti-semit:  A family in the story were Jewish and it dealt with how they were being treated.  I felt there were times that the characters fell into certain stereotypes, but at the same time were not used as a short-cut to characterization.  They were simply part of these characters.  Instead, we saw how they were treated merely because they were Jewish.  Not outright cruel, but those subtle backhanded prejudices and treatments meant to hurt without being able to call out and slap the perpetrator.

Eugenics: It may sound horrible, but I laughed so many times while reading this in the book since the absurdity of such an idea was handled so well. Oh, I do believe Ms. Eva did a great job making fun of the people with these illogical notions. She was really much too kind to those fools even as she illustrated the horrors and ignorance eugenics actually brought.

Disability: This was actually very well tied in with the eugenics issues. We have the Honorable Olive, Win, and Mrs. There was no magical cure. These were real problems, but what Ms. Eva showed us was the people behind the disability. 

Also, one thing I really enjoyed was the inverse of beauty and the pitfalls being beautiful brought.  It was both internal and external: how people treated those they deemed beautiful. It could've been very cliche or annoying, but the author was very subtle and tried to make it a real issue.  To Sergi, Anna’s handsome Prince cousin, it brought nothing but troublesome women old and young. It was utterly hilarious at times.  For Muriel, the love rival of our protagonist, her beauty made people blind to her faults, but only initially.  Her physical perfection hid her nasty character. People made immediate judgement based on their looks.  With Anna, she was described as very plain looking and a very thin body (probably a nice way of saying no curves), but her innate elegance and grace overshadowed physicality.  It was also interesting about the mannerisms...ex) Anna's actions and words gave more away than she intended, such that the staff originally didn't want to hire her because it was apparent that she was from a high class family.

This was also something I really enjoyed: the fact that Anna and her relatives were willing to work.  Instead of being waiting on hand and foot or even expecting people to help them just because they were royalty, Anna went out to work because she didn't want to burden the person that took her in.  Everyone wanted to contribute in their own way. 

If I had one complaint? Anna was too perfect. Absolutely, wonderfully perfect. Elegant, compassionate, smart, generous, understanding, funny… She was way too perfect. Of course, dear Ms. Eva reiterated several times, Anna was very simple looking. Compared to Muriel, the supposed perfect genetic specimen, Anna’s features were not striking and that she was rather thin. Anna was not written as a beauty. It was her graceful nature, the larger than life personality, and her all accepting attitude that drew everyone in.  So, other than every character trying to drive into the fact she wasn't a looker, Anna was pretty much perfect.

Overall, the characters were all unique and their voices very clear and strong.  Humor was also a big factor throughout the book.  The secondary characters, even the "servants," almost took center stage at times with their quirks and individuality.  This book could've been a series and I would've kept reading about each and every single character, from the cook to the uncle.  There was such realism that was involved.  Granted, it was not a book without faults, but the overall enjoyment of this book overshadowed the tiny minor pitfalls.

This, honestly, would’ve made a heck of an adult romance novel. Then again, the author intended it as such although recent publications have listed it as young adult/teen.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Why bugs

Goodness knows I enjoy volunteering.
(a happy doggy)

Spending time with dogs was sometimes the only way I survived the stupid workplace and mean people a nice was for me to unwind and relax after a long grueling hard day at work. Being it summer though, I had actually been too !@#$ ing exhausted tired to go these days. Then the other day, the hot humid air that clung to your lungs and molded your clothes to your existing waistline, I said screw, I need some dog time.

As you can clearly see, volunteering was awesome. Look at that view. And you gotta love the company. So cute. Sadly, what I didn't realize at the time was this suffocating humid and hot weather was like bug orgies insect breeding ground. Especially the fleas. Omg I got bit 4 times in less than a few minutes.

What was  most universally laughably tragic worse was I accidentally brought one home (at least I hope it was one). Omg I got bit a few more times at home. It has been horrible. Just horrible.
 
 
 
 Next few weeks are probably going to be slow here...again.  After I was doing so well too.  Lol. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Swan Maiden by Heather Tomlinson

The Swan Maiden by Heather Tomlinson


In the quiet hour before dawn…

Anything can happen. A third daughter can dream of being a creature of flight and magic, of wearing a swan skin like her sisters. But Doucette must run the castle household while her older sisters learn to weave spells. Her dream of flying is exactly that--until the day she discovers her own hidden birthright.

I read this book a while back and found it fascinating.  It was a quiet story, but tackled quite a lot in its pages.  Family and love, birthright and dreams.  Even dignity and compassion.  I also loved how they tackled magic, much more dark and dangerous but infinitely more seductive.

Our protagonist was Doucette, a third daughter for a high class family.  She was different as both her older sisters, Azelais and Cecilia, were Swan Maidens and were training under their Aunt for one of them to eventually be a great sorceress.  Doucette wanted so badly to be a swan maiden, instead of being trained all lady like by her mother, but sadly, was not born with a swan skin.  Then one day, she discovered she was lied to.  She was born with a swan skin except her mother wanted so badly to have a "normal" daughter, her mother hid her skin.   In her anger, and exhilaration of finding her skin, Doucette ran (actually, she flew) away to her aunt's to learn magic.  Even though she had potential, she was not powerful enough to gain the Sorceress title and instead, to escape the life her mother planned Doucette made an exchange...

I know that sounds a bit mysterious, but it was a bit of a key factor about magic and the prices one must pay.  There was also the discussion about love vs. freedom, which I found to be brilliant.  So many times, an unbecoming young woman suddenly gains magic, freedom and love and thus happily ever after.  Here, there was an incredible difference in that gaining power and freedom conflicts with love.  Sometimes, the price for freedom and magic was to not love.  It wasn't perfect by any means as the end, we still had our happily ever after perfectly wrapped up, but it was nice change.

A quick thing about the magic.  I don't want to give too much away, but a simple example that I loved was about gold.  The greed of Azelais, Cecili and Doucette's father had Azelais and Cecili magically create gold and pass it off as the real thing, except it's still not gold.  A piece of wood turned into gold would never be real gold and could not be melted down, thus had dire economic consequences throughout their world.  Or when grass turned in to a feast would have no real nutritional value as it would still be grass. Even at the end, if it wasn't Cecili's subtle care in slipping Doucette a little something real, I doubt Doucette would've had her happily ever after.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book.  The writing was very lyrical and beautiful to read.  It was a simple story on the surface with a lot of complex ideas and themes. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Spoilers - Yes or no?

I have been reviewing my posts lately, trying to improve my reviewing and writings when I noticed something odd.

I rarely write spoilers!  
Why is that weird? Well, since you never ask and I'm annoying...it's because I LOVE reading spoilers.

(here's a pic of my nephew getting spoiled)
(since I'm not exactly sure what a spoiler pic should be)

You read right, I love it (spoilers).  I'm one of those that love flipping to the end first, or watching the first and last episode of a series. In the famous words of Tim Bisley (Simon Pegg)of Spaced "Skip to the End."

Yet, why don't I write any? Asked no one, again.

Part of it is probably because I'm not every good at storytelling and reviewing, recapping and summarizing tends to be a form of re-telling stories.  I'm better at analyzing and essays, but even recently, with lack of use has made it all deteriorated even more.  *depressed sigh*

Plus, I don't know if people want spoilers.  I figured most people come here out of boredom for additional thoughts about a story.  There are probably countless places that talk about the stories much better than I can ever describe them.  At the same time...spoilers?

What do you think? What do you look for in reviews?


More pics of my spoiled nephew.
He stuck his own head there while Sis was trying to use the computer.  Then we just ended up petting him the whole time.
 
My Bro-in Law takes my nephew everywhere.  He doesn't even need to walk half the time. Lol.   

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Palace Lock Sinensis 宫锁沉香 (2013)

The Palace Lock Sinensis 宫锁沉香 (2013)

So I had watched the original tv series. This was yet another story that gets compared to Bu Bu Jing Xing and comes out wanting. I ended up not that into bbjx in the long run, but I understand peoples' obsession. Anyways, that's probably another post if I feel up to it.

The original Gong had time travel, which was much cuter and funny in the beginning. This movie stayed firmly in the past.



The story was pretty standard:

A young girl goes into the Palace to become a maid until the age of 25, that's when they will be let out. She accidentally met the future love of her life as a child, the 13th Prince. Until then, she met her two best friends: another maid and a young eunuch. Fast forward, her friend Liu Li has her eyes on the 9th Prince, while our heroine named Cheng Xian (meaning incense, thus Sinensis) continued to love the 13th Prince from afar. To help out Liu Li, she went on night duty with a handkerchief over her face and accidentally connected with the 13th Prince. Whereas Liu Li gets seduced and tossed aside by the 9th Prince. As fate would have it, in her desire for wealth and power, Liu Li lied that she was on night duty (since it was her handkerchief) and stole the opportunity to marry the 13th Prince. Thus signallying the breakdown of this once close friendship. All the while, the struggle for succession to be the next Emperor raged in the background...


They had some awesome actors and actresses indeed, but oh my goshes was the storyline messy.

It was so visually beautiful to watch, but the storyline was just such a jumble. There were quite a lot of interesting aspects and characters, but then all everything was forcibly jammed into this ball of emotional jellybean of flavors, where instead of being unique They tried to cram too much into it and a lot of the strength gets lost. Example was the number of great actors and actresses that had less than 5 min of screen time to express all their background and character. Luckily, the actors/actresses were so skilled they were able to...but not fully. Even the MV and stuff made it seem more exciting that it really was in the movie, although this has been a problem everywhere recently.


(the main song, pretty song and I listen to it a lot)

I am pretty sure it will be popular in its own right. As much as the screenwriter has annoyed me with his insane jin yong fanfiction disaster occasional melodrama storylines and idealized characters, he has been very good at a few things: capturing 'feelings' and visual drawings. He knows how to play the viewers emotions as well as "showing." Only a top writer can fully express a lot of these hidden human nuances, but he only got half of it. He has been extremely good at giving a character reasoning and background, while at the same time keeping everything idealized. Which ends up being very fun to watch, but something always seemed off about it. The other "theme" I kept finding in this writer's work has been this very strong sense of idealism. It's both good and bad, I guess since it depends on how it's portrayed. It makes the entire storyline much more attractive. At the same time, it goes overboard and as a viewer, I get snapped out of the suspension of disbelief.

Also, let's just note the historical aspects with his stories tend to be on fantasy side. Yinxiang (13th Prince) historically had like 4 wives and 2 more, and they were all of high class families. It would be impossible for him to actually simply marry and elevate a maid as a Primary wife. If we wanted to go loyal guys, I can name a few Emperors that were more monogamous, or married commoners. So, the historical aspects were very much nonsense. Don't take most of it seriously, except the succession issues, which existed in every dynsty and country.


(the breakdown of friendship)

It didn't help that the trailer had more storyline than the movie itself. It also would've been even better if the true focus stayed on the loss of friendship rather than the romantic aspect of it. It was more interesting overall, but I guess they wanted to focus on the romances as well. Plus the whole Emperor succession battle took a big part at the end as well.

See what I mean? Three (at least three, they tried to stuff some more background for the Emperor and stuff) storylines all crammed together. It was unnecessarily messy. Probably would've been more interesting had it been longer or continued on as a tv series some more, which they did. Lol. Also, for the sake of intelligence...how can a guy not tell the complete difference of voice, eyes and actions between two women. Even scent, right? Anyways, he was under duress most times so I guess it's understandable.

Spoilers Ahead!

Some spoilers about the storyline if you're bored:
I didn't like that fact that Liu Li kind of went nuts after being abandoned by the 9th Prince. I also had a really have a hard time believing she would turn on Chen Xian so quickly for nothing. It might seem like the darker aspect of human nature, but they were such close friends - with almost a minor lesbian scene, I'm sure just to gratify the male viewers, that to me, the change should've been more gradual. She continued on an affair with the 9th Prince all the while not consummating with the 13th Prince. Kind of hard to believe, but probably happened all the time in the past.

Also, Chen Xian's love for the 13th Prince seemed a little too much. They've barely interacted in the long run and the sufferings she went through seemed kind of unnecessary. Although when they had the big Misunderstanding, I was glad she slapped him. Finally showed some strength.

A minor note about the fake marriage, as Chen Xian requested the marriage to a eunuch, the point was to embarrass and demean them both as it could not be consummated. Then Chen Xian and the 13th Prince had a one night stand, even though the 13th Prince was temporarily blinded. Just all weird...

The fake Emperor death scene was weird and stupid. That's all.

4th Prince eventually won succession through shady means - as with history. 9th Prince gets in trouble...which leads to me, where was the 8th Prince because he was actually a bigger candidate.

Liu Li gets killed by 4th Prince, now Emperor. New Emperor figured out Chen Xian and forbids the love, blah blah blah. 13th Prince figured out everything at the end and when skipping along with Chen Xian. It was completely illogical and unbelievable but incredibly beautiful and fun to watch. So, I enjoyed it despite having to shut down my brain from thinking. Hahaha

Spoiler Ends.

One last thing, watching this movie made me more aware of why Swordsman pissed me off was not that fun to watch. The writer writes very well telling his own stories.  In my personal opinion, he has been very good at giving background and motive to all his characters - even though they tend to be too idealized, thus the story ends up lacking depth and meaning. He may take liberties with history, but the fact he took liberties with someone else's work just felt disrespectful to me. Even if I had problems with the writer's writings, at least these were his own creation and works.

This movie had good cgi, action and general cinematography.  I, personally, adored all the actors and actresses and they're wonderful to watch. It was visually beautiful. Watch for fun or entertainment, then move on.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

one dog and his boy by Eva Ibbotson

Back to the book reviews, while I obsessively watch stuff... -_-


one dog and his boy by Eva Ibbotson
 
I discovered this book about the time Eva Ibbotson passed away.  This was her last book.  It was also around the time my dogs passed away and I was in a terrible reading slump that lasted a really really long time.  This book was adorable.  Just plain adorable.  I was definitely a fun read, minus one which I will get to later on.
 
All Hal had ever wanted was a dog. "Never!" cries his mother. "Think of the mess, the scratch-marks, the puddles on the floor." But on the morning of Hal's 10th birthday, the unbelievable happens. He's allowed to choose a dog at Easy Pets, a rent-a-pet agency (a fact his parents keep from him). The moment he sees the odd-looking terrier, he knows he's found a friend for life. But no one tells Hal that Fleck must be returned. When Hal wakes up on Monday morning, Fleck is gone. If dog and boy are to stay together they'll have to run away...

The story was simple enough, although rather unbelievable.  A young boy really really wants a dog, but instead of getting him a dog, his wealthy parents found this place that rents out dogs and rented him a dog.  Without telling him the dog was rented.  Yeah.  The dog was returned and the boy devised to take back his dog and the two ran away, with a group of rag-tag friends/dogs along the way. 
 
It's a simple story of love between a person and a dog.  As with classic Eva Ibbotson, even the secondary characters were fun to read and had their own unique characteristics.  There were no "real" antagonists, except maybe four people and their motivations were greed.  Overall, it showed the incredibly deep and strong connections between a dog and his/her guardian. I loved the dedication and the fact so many points of views were used.  Everyone had their perspective on how things were and other than the two antagonists that were renting out the dogs (and the "kidnappers" so to speak), everyone made decisions that weren't exactly mean or cruel, but only what they felt was best. 

Ok, the only problem I had was the classification of certain dogs, like pitbulls and stuff...meaning, their personality traits were assigned to their breed.  To me, dog lover and animal advocate that I am, was a type of -ism... All animals were no more one specific type than another.  Normally, I would easily overlook these shortcuts to characteristic except the author put in the idea of pitpulls and such type of dogs as inherently blood thirsty and vicious.  No.  Just no.  They are a physically strong breed and the terrier aspect of them were like all terriers, very very active, but they are in no way blood thirsty.  That's humans.  So, this made the enjoyment go down quite a lot.  Granted, the story did try to show that they're not completely bad, but that bit already put my face into a frown.
 
Another secondary issue that kind of made me notice was actually pretty nicely dealt with, about wealth (or lack of).  As much as I felt bad for the Hal and loved how he and Fleck loved each other, it's kind of hard to feel bad for a young boy who really lived a pretty good life.  I felt terrible for Fleck, for Pippa and her family, but I'm glad it was addressed to see the disparity.  It ended nicely though, with every dog finding a great family.  Pippa's family got a surprised and definitely welcomed help from Hal's dad.   So very Eva Ibbotson.  I am definitely going to miss her writings. 
 
A definitely fun read.

Monday, September 2, 2013

It Started With a Kiss/They Kiss Again

Um, I just rewatched both series over the weekend.  Started on the Anime...probably going to watch the new Love in Tokyo version soon after. 




Should I do recap/summary posts?  I'm conflicted.  It's not like I'm spending the time to do my reviews lately...*sigh*  Plus, I'm super biased.

Let's just watch all the making out scenes for a while...


This is seriously one of my favorite series ever. 

I learn something new every time I rewatch it.  I also giggle like crazy and totally admit to attacking showering my hubby with a few kisses then running back to keep watching throughout the series.  Hehehe.

I don't know how they did it, but this series really fully captured that feeling of youth, first love, growing up, friendship and family.  *happy sigh*

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunny (2011)

A short break for fun movie.

Sunny (2011)

I saw this movie completely at random on a hot summer weekend while Old Man was downstairs on his computer nagging me to hurry up and go (we had appointment and didn't have lunch yet).  He was the one the turned the TV on earlier during the day, so neener neener.  Anyways, I got bored while cleaning up and looking for something cool to wear.  By cool, I mean weather cool, because it was so hot that day.  So I flipped through some channels and randomly landed on this show. Sunny.

What caught my eye was the clothes the teenagers were wearing...they looked so very old-style, but the film quality was very new.  I don't know why, but I stopped in my tracks and watched.  And watched.  And Old Man took pity on me and let me finish the movie instead of dragging me out to eat. Lol. 

Basic plot was through Im Na-mi, a 40-something wealthy housewife.  While at the hospital visiting her mother, she reunited with her high school friend/leader/idol Ha Chun-hwa and learned of Chun-hwa was dying of terminal cancer.  Na-mi then goes on a

It might sound crazy, but there is something supremely satisfying about watching 44 year old women giggling, dancing around, jumping on beds and talking about boys like teenagers. They act young because a part of them always will be young and should be that way.  It only took finding each other again to bring that back out. 

We all hear about the complaints about mid-life crisis or youthful dramas.  It was so refreshing to see the combination of the two came together.  These women were once young girls, with the problems that kids go through.  They also grew up and changed, either by outside forces or personal changes and must have the problems they have as middle-aged women.  Even through personal crisis, being together with good friends, they can still laugh and cry and work through anything. This story was really good at exemplifying what truly lasts: friendship.

An American equivalent would be The First Wives Club (tv series, not novel - novel was rather different)... sort of, but less about revenge of ex-spouses (although kind of slightly in there). It was more the idea of lasting friendship.  Life and family should not get in the way of true friendship.  Instead, these friendships foster a greater personal development.

What I felt was incredible about this was the scope. Instead of the usual 2 best friends or 4 girlfriends, the story has 7 girls. Yeah, 7.  There was a bit about childhood romances, but it was exactly that, childhood romance.  I loved how in the end, you also saw how even young rebel males change. Hahaha.  The focus was more about the 7 girls though.  Stories that centered around friendships, especially female friendship without a guy being the make-or-break rivalry was much more interesting. 

There were times I wanted to cry, but most times, I couldn't help but smile.  One part that was especially poignant for me was when there was when as adults, our protagonist was watching a video they had made as high-schoolers talking about their dreams and their future...the contrast to their realities really made me want to cry.  It was so sad.  ;_;

Overall, this was a great movie and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it every now and then.