Archive for Books

3 Mediums 3 Reviews

I haven’t written for a while, and I haven’t read anything substantial, though I have read and watched a bit, so I decided to give a couple of short reviews all in one post. We’ll see how it goes.

– Book: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Having read a couple of books by Juliet Marillier already, I know she favors a good fairy tale. So when I saw that this book was based on the fairy tales “12 Dancing Princesses” and “Frog Prince”, I wasn’t surprised. It’s about 5 sisters that live in a castle in Transylvania (yes, there are, in fact, vampires) in 1500s. They discover a portal from their room to another world, where they go dancing each full moon by crossing a lake called Deadwash. Deadwash, in fact, is the same lake where their cousin drowned many years ago. Jena, the main character, also has a pet frog with whom she can communicate via her thoughts. They are living quite harmoniously until their father falls ill and goes to another city to get well and their cousin (the younger brother of the drowned one) takes charge of their beloved castle.wildwood dancing

This is a young adult fantasy book, or so I heard, though other than the fact that the story is a bit simpler and shorter than her other books (at least the ones I read) it’s not that babyish. I like the relationship between the sisters, although Jena is sometimes really annoying. I like the cousin, Cezar, and how evil he can be. Also I really enjoy a good love story, and this one is not a bad one. There are also vampires, though they are not called thus but “Night People”, and you know I also enjoy a good vampire story. It also has this small historical vibe, and she even mentions Turks. It’s overall a good story, though I’d prefer her Sevenwaters Trilogy any day.

– Movie: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I do not exactly run to the theater after a Harry Potter movie has been released (though I was among the first who purchased the books), but when I actually get there, I do enjoy it immensely. Sometimes I find myself to be the only one laughing or crying (not at the same time, hopefully) and attract a couple of weird books. Who cares.

Anyway. As with the books, each movie is a better than the last, and a lot more sophisticated. I don’t even believe I have to talk about the plot at this point. When I had read the book, I had cried my eyes out on the bus, for an hour at least. Thank God I didn’t cry that much, though I cried a little bit, because the ending is the most heartbreaking yet. I believe it’s even worse than the last one. Though it’s been a while since I read the book, I can physically detect the differences between the book and the movie, the most obvious being Harry and Ginny. It was a lot better in the book, as usual. I also don’t remember Dumbledore asking Harry if there was something going on between Harry and Hermione. That just doesn’t sound like something old Dumbledore would do. There is another thing: I heard that in the first script, Dumbledore actually mentioned an old crush on a girl, but J.K. Rowling said that Dumbledore couldn’t have a crush on a girl because he’s actually gay. I already knew she had said this, but it’s still funny.harry potter and the half blood prince

I like the flashbacks to Tom Riddle, and I like whoever plays both the child and the teenager. He’s close to the Voldemort I imagined. Especially the way he speaks reeks evil. I adore the scene where Harry visits Hagrid with that Professor Horace, and he’s kind of drunk. I love Ron, as usual, when he eats the love-potion-induced chocolates and is lovesick all over the place. I also like Draco Malfoy, and how he’s finally a center character trapped between good and evil. It’s just so enjoyable. All Harry Potters are enjoyable. Rowling is such a genius. I only have one negative thing to say, and it’s that the ending is a bit rushed, especially the bit with Snape, but I can see that there’s nothing to be done about the short span of a good movie.

– Manga: Constellations on my Palm by Chisako Sakuragi and Yukine Honami

This is one of the lighter yaoi mangas I have encountered. Mizuho is a college student (as these things go) and Enji, his cousin, comes to Tokyo to study and stays with Mizuho’s family. They used to be really close, but something happened in the past, when they were still teeny kids, and Mizuho avoided seeing Enji since. When they meet again, Mizuho sees that Enji barely talks to him, and is cold as ice. He really wants to go back to the way things are, but Enji doesn’t seem to want to. constellations on my palmThe title comes from the fact that they used to watch the sky together, and stare at the stars. In fact, now Enji is studying to be an astronomer and seems mad at Mizuho because he has abandoned his childhood dreams.

The story is pretty straight-forward, and nothing really surprising. But I did enjoy the way the story goes, all calm and deep, and Mizuho’s changing feelings. Enji is especially a nice character, though he seems cold at times. Their chemistry is just right. The misunderstandings go a bit too far, but that’s to be expected. It’s nothing hard core, so it can be a good starting point for the immense world of yaoi. Good stories are hard to come by in yaoi, so this one is a good choice.

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Vampire Studies #1: Anita Blake

My journey to the world of blood-suckers started, as much as I remember, with The Little Vampire by this German author called Angela Sommer-Bodenburg. I was in elementary school and a friend of mine had recommended it to me, and we used to discuss it. Then I saw The Interview with the Vampire, and I guess the combination of Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Antonio Banderas gave me what I needed to jump headfirst into obsession. We know the classics. The legendary Vampire Chronicles. Buffy. Or the newer craze. Twilight. Vampire Knight. All endless vampire series. 

What’s weird about keeping up with all these is that the vampires in all of them are very different. For example, Anne Rice’s vampires are highly asexual beings, whereas Angel had no difficulty. Vampire Knight has a whole different concept of vampires and how you become one. The other day, I read the manga Millennium Snow, by Hatori Bisco, and the vampire there could eat normal food. Once I read a vampire novel, which I don’t really remember the title of, though it was one of those popular ones, and the vampire fangs there had some antiseptic quality which made feeding easier.  

What I’m trying to say is, you have to keep up with these things. There are new vampire novels emerging everyday. Some of them are good, some of them are not. Most of them are intensely “erotic” for some reason (though sometimes I fail to see how). I imagine that if we lived in the world of Anita Blake, I would be one of those junkies. Which brings me to the topic at hand. From now on, I decided to write about the vampire stuff I read, and call these the Vampire Studies. And we’ll start right now.

My latest read was Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton. It’s the first book of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series. I had purchased it long, long ago, but failed to read it, probably because it seemed corny. But since it looked innocently thin, I decided to give it a go. 

Anita Blake is, yes, a vampire slayer. She lives in an alternate USA, where raising zombies out of their graves to testify in court is normal. Vampires are legal, but you need a permit to kill them. Though it sounds silly, as a lawyer-to-be, I think the thing with zombies would make some things a lot easier. Anyway. Anita is very kick-ass with much wit on her side, and she kills vampires and raises zombies for a living: being an animator is actually a job, unlike Buffy, who did it for free after school. The book is part mystery, part horror, though it smells like one of those erotic romance novels, I failed to see any eroticism or romance.

I really like Anita Blake, she’s very hardcore and sarcastic, and answers back to 1000-year-old master vampires. She frequently gets knocked out and heals fast. She isn’t mesmerized by sexy vampires who can lure you into being their human slave (I can just imagine myself as the human slave. It’s not pretty). The world she depicts is interesting to discover, though I wouldn’t necessarily want to live in it. She talks about the difficulties of having zombies testify and complains about their short attention spams, and it’s kind of fun. 

The book reminded me of the Stephanie Plum series, and I’ll tell you why. They are both girl detectives after a certain target, and through the book, they tell you everything they do, including what they eat and stuff. However, in a fight, I believe Anita would win, though I love Stephanie a lot more. Anita knows her stuff very well, and seems to have a bit of history that is waiting to be discovered later in the series.guilty pleasures

The vampires in the world of Anita Blake can live very, very long. Some of the vampires in this first one is over 1000 years old. They go to sleep at dawn and wake up as the sun goes down (for a vampire newbie, this may seem a rather silly thing to say, but we all know this is not always the case). They are very fond of human slaves, and having yourself bitten a few times will guarantee it. Some human slaves can live as long as the vampire itself. They can perform magic on you and lure you into doing stuff you wouldn’t necessarily do. They also use their magic to change their looks and seem perfect to your eyes. They can be killed using the conventional methods. They suck blood, but they don’t have to kill their prey. There are also zombies, were-animals and ghouls that lurk about in the cemeteries. 

So, I guess I gave a thorough account of the book itself, though I try not to spoil the plot but introduce the series instead. It also made sense to look at the qualities of the vampires and whether they are the only paranormal thing or not. Anyway. I’ll continue the Vampire Studies as I read other series. Lots lined up. Stay tuned.

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Footbinding and Other Horrors

snow flowerAs you must know by now, I am obsessed with the Far East. So obsessed that it’s only East by now and it doesn’t seem that Far. Mostly, my efforts have been concentrated on Japan, in forms of manga and an occasional Korean one, so I decided to read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, since I needed some conversation filler for China as well. It had some raving reviews, and I decided it was worth reading. 

Lily is this girl who lives in 19th century China, which was a time when women spent all their lives in a room with other women. A woman is ruled by the Confucian ideals. The Three Obediences: “When a girl, obey your father; when a wife, obey your husband; when a widow, obey your son.” A daughter is someone the natal family looks after until they are given to another family as a wife, and there they must obey their mother-in-law. They are worth an absolute nothing unless they give birth to a son. This is the world Lily is born in. She never feels motherly love, until a matchmaker shows up in her house and says that her feet are special and she’ll probably make a really good match in the future. She also says that she’s eligible for a “laotong” relationship, which is kind of a penpal, a friend the matchmaker makes for you in another village. Lily’s laotong is a girl named Snow Flower, and she becomes her best friend for life. She values that relationship even more than she’ll eventually value her marriage.

You might think that obeying someone all your life is unfortunate, but this is nothing when compared to the horrors women faced because of footbinding. That is a major part of the book. Whenever I told my friends this, they go: “Oh yeah, geishas do that, right?” But no, footbinding has nothing to do with Japan. That is purely Chinese. They bind girls’ feet at 6-7 years-old, and they are at their perfect 7 cm forms by age 12. So this is what Lily says about footbinding and its many good qualities:

“My small feet would be offered as proof to my prospective in-laws of my personal discipline and my ability to endure the pain of childbirth, as well as whatever misfortunes might lie ahead. My small feet would show the world my obedience to my  natal family, particularly to my mother, which would also make a good impression on my future mother-in-law. The shoes I embroidered would symbolize to my future in-laws my abilities at embroidery and thus other house learning. And, though I knew nothing of this at the time, my feet would be something that would hold my husbands’ fascination during the most private and intimate moments between a man and a woman.”

So you might think that flat abs and long legs will help you land a millionaire, but things were really different at that time. A woman didn’t even see her husband (and vice versa) until their wedding day. They didn’t even move in with their new family until they were pregnant. And personally, I believe, though I am not a man and do not have the desire of one, my sexual drive would shut down forever if I saw feet like that. I encourage you to see pictures of footbinding, which will make you appreciate your feet, which I don’t think we do enough.

The book is not actually about the horrors of footbinding and mother-in-laws, though they are huge parts. The main theme is the friendship between Lily and Snow Flower. They exchange letters and have sleepovers all their lives, until the are faced with some major obstacles. Laotong is a relationship matched by a matchmaker, just like a marriage, and it lasts your whole life, much like a marriage (in those times, at least). Some things happen to these girls as they grow up and get married, and those things will break your heart. It’s quite moving. When you finish, you’ll be sad, and happy at the same time. Today, we may be living in a polluted, materialistic world with almost no chance at finding your true love, but at least concubines are frowned upon.

Look at this here for the author’s site, and to see pictures of footbinding. At your own risk.

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Luck of the Irish

I have tons of stuff to do today, but I am still trying to blog, which is weird, since I’m never busy nowadays. Anyways. Today, I’m going to talk about Juliet Marillier, a fantasy writer, since I finished her book The Dark Mirror, which is the first book of the Bridei Chronicles. Previously, I read her Sevenwaters Trilogy, which is mainly the basis for this post.daughter of the forest

Juliet Marillier is from New Zealand, from this town with Scottish roots. She also belongs to a Druid order, and she has been diagnosed with breast cancer in March (which doesn’t have anything to do with the books, but I am stating this anyway so you can utter a prayer). Sevenwaters Trilogy takes place in Ireland, in 9th century AD, before it was under English dominance and the  Irish were still mostly Pagan and druids played a big role. It consists of three books. The first one, Daughter of the Forest, is from the point of view of Sorcha, the only daughter of Lord Colum, who’s the lord of, well, Sevenwaters. She has six brothers, and her mother died giving birth to her. She has some supernatural abilities, like communicating mind to mind with her brother and sometimes seeing the future etc. She’s also a healer in the community. One day, their peaceful existence (which is never actually really peaceful) is disrupted when Colum takes a wife. His wife is an evil sorceress who has bewitched him, and one day she turns his brother into swans. She escapes, and one of the Good Folk tells her to weave them sweaters with this nasty plant. The Good Folk is this form of being, like magical beings that live in the forest by the way, and they play a huge part in the book. Sorcha goes through a lot, and I mean a lot through the book. It has some really heartbreaking moments. 

The second book, Son of the Shadows, has a misleading title, it’s not from the point of view of a son at all, it’s based on the life of Sorcha’s daughter, Liadan, who has a different adventure of her own. She’s captured by an army of warriors and taken to the camp of the Painted Man, who are actually guns for hire. There she meets Bran, who’s their leader, and is more than he seems. I really like this book, too, it has some good moments. And the third book, Child of the Prophecy is, yes, about Sorcha’s granddaughter, though she’s not Liadan’s daughter, but her sister’s. This one is somewhat different, since Fainne doesn’t grow up in Sevenwaters, but in a cave with his druid father, who’s actually the son of Lord Collum and his sorceress wife. One day the sorceress shows up and tells her to go to Sevenwaters to do a bunch of evil, and Fainne struggles all through the book, making this the most depressing of the three. The love story in this one isn’t like that of the others, it’s much less apparent. This one is my least favorite, though it’s more surprising than the others. 

This, I believe, is the first fantasy trilogy I finished (yes, I never got through Lord of the Rings. Sue me.), and since I’ve always been fascinated by Pagan culture, I really enjoyed it. There’s a fairy tale like atmosphere, lots of mystical druid lore, rituals, spells and the like, people who can do extraordinary stuff, and solid love stories. There’s a lot of description of the forest and stuff, which can get a bit tiring, but all the people drama makes up for it. The women are very strong, sometimes a bit too strong, and the men are, well, they are pretty strong, too. There are plenty of heartbreak, surprises, and if you’re too soft, you may find yourself crying, though I didn’t cry (I haven’t cried since Harry Potter).

Since we’re on the subject, I can mention the Bridei Chronicles, too. This trilogy is a bit different, since I only read the first book, The Dark Mirror. There are two points of view, one of Bridei, who’s the foster son of Broichan, the druid of the King, who’s raising Bridei as the future king. The other is Tuala, the baby of the Good Folk that Bridei finds in the forest one day and raises as her “sister”. It begins when Bridei is just 3 years old and comes to Pitnochie, Broichan’s house, and is educated in all aspects. He finds Tuala when he’s six, and they grow up together, and they understand each other better than anyone. However, Broichan doesn’t like Tuala at all, since he fears that this little minx may be disrupting his plans of raising an invincible leader. 

This trilogy takes place in the 6th century AD, and follows the King Bridei of the Picts. Yes, Bridei becomes king, but I’m not really spoiling anything, it’s very obvious since the beginning. I don’t know what happens in the other books, because one thing I learned reading these is this: never read the backs of the books, or the summaries at the end of the book, because they spoil the next book. It doesn’t say generally state what happens, it names names and tells everything. It’s a nightmare. So I did my best not to read, but I’m pretty sure what the other books are about, since the other characters, who are going to be main characters in the other books, made themselves pretty obvious.Sevenwaters

Here is the website of Juliet Marillier, which is pretty cool since she has pictures of the place she based Sevenwaters on. She also wrote the fourth book of the trilogy, which sounds weird, “fourth book of the trilogy”. She also has other books, and one of them actually takes place in Istanbul. So, lots to explore that way.

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A Little Cornwall

I just came back from a little trip to the east, to a city called Gaziantep. There was actually a little conference there, but what I remember is eating nonstop. I don’t think I’ll be able to eat anything resembling baklava or meat anytime soon. That is why I couldn’t write for the last few days, and why I am writing about Rosamunde Pilcher today. I was searching for a handy paperback to read on the way, and Under Gemini by Rosamunde Pilcher was what laid around.book

I was on a cruise, Costa it was, which visited Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Talinn. And since the cruise sails for whole days in between, I needed something to do. I am not good with gambling: I have an addictive personality. And there is a limit to how much a person can eat, even if that person is located in a cruise. So I went to the library, which consisted of two shelves of books, and I picked up The End of Summer by Rosamunde Pilcher. I finished it in a day, and later read other small stuff, but I realized I quite liked this Rosamunde Pilcher. So when the ship reached the shore, I went to the bookstore and picked up a few of her books. Then, to my luck, I found bunch of her stuff in second hand bookstores in Istanbul. So I have most of her stuff. So far, I have read The Day of the Storm, The Empty House, The Carousel, and now Under Gemini

The plots of the books are different, to some extent. Each one of them is about a young woman, who, for some reason or another, some to Cornwall, except for Under Gemini, which was somewhere in Scotland, but the description really reminded me of Cornwall. The plots are simple, about everyday  life. There is always a big family, and a very nice house with a long history. There aren’t really “bad” people, only people with different agendas. There is a man, usually with a big age difference. They usually wait until the very end to get together. They wake up, eat delicious meals with the family and take walks in the gorgeous beaches. Or they drive down to the small city center to shop at the fish store or something relaxed like that. 

I don’t know why I like these books, but their serene environment relaxes me. Nothing outrageous happens, it’s usually pretty predictable, but you can be sure that it will have a happy ending. The characters are usually women at crossroads, and the men are really good people with solid backgrounds. They live in houses with personality which overlook the beaches of Cornwall and they get wet in the rain all the time. There is usually a secret to be discovered, usually related to the family’s past. There is usually a side character, a man, which the heroine decides she doesn’t want, mainly because he has his own agenda.

I read about the author’s life a little bit, and to my surprise, she was born in Cornwall. Like the books, she belongs to another generation, though they still make sense. Her more famous books are Coming Home and September, which are a lot thicker, thus waiting for me to read them.

. I guess I like them because I’ve always been a person who’d love to live in a small town, of course within 50 km radius of the big city and definitely not in Turkey. And the ladies here just leave the big city for the small town life. Though I don’t think I’d live London. Anyways.I guess I can say that if you, too, need a paperback for the weekend, this is the way to go. At least you won’t be kept awake until 2 AM because you’re so curious what happens

Just a few pics of Cornwall. Just to make you wish you were there. Click here for more on Rosamunde Pilcher.

take me heresplash splash

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Gossip Gossip Gossip

I read Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar way before they were all popular with the TV show. I already had all the books before the TV show even came out. However, I had stopped reading them after the 5th installment. I don’t know why, I guess I had better things to read, and let’s face it, I was getting older. But after I watched the first season of the series, I decided to read them, so I started at the beginning again. I know, why would someone read a book like this one twice, instead of better books by Camus or something. But oh well, no one said I was perfect, and they are quite short.

First of all, the plot is only loosely connected to the show at the beginning, with the Serena-comes-back-Blair-is-a-bitch and the Dan thing, but later they grow completely apart. In the book, Dan is this super serious writer, who drinks coffee and writes intense poetry. Vanessa is bald and wears only black. Jenny has huge boobs. Chuck is disgusting, a lot more than the show. However, the biggest difference is Serena and Blair. Serena is supposed to be very very beautiful, someone who stops guys in their tracks. Blair, on the other hand, is supposed to be plain. However, in the show, I think it’s completely the opposite. Blair is gorgeous and Serena has a tired looking face. Nate is quite handsome in both, thank god.gossip girl

I finished the first two books, Gossip Girl and You Know You Love Me. I think I was more impressed when I first read them, when references to brand names impressed me more. They are both funny, with good characters, lots of making out, glam parties, teen issues, rich people who shop and drink all day long. The girls there are 17, but they live like they are 35, which suits me just fine, since who wants to read about a bunch of 17-year-olds? Though they are pretty good, their target is definitely a younger audience than me. However, I shall be patient and finish the series, and move on to more mature ones, like The It Girl or Gossip Girl: The Carlyles

 

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One for the Money

one for the moneyI woke up in the middle of the night yesterday, and my mother and I couldn’t sleep for hours. Then she fell asleep and I continued reading Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich. Since I didn’t finish it yet, it would be wrong to talk about it. 

For those who haven’t heard of it, this series is about a bounty hunter named Stephanie Plum, who starts the job in the first book, One for the Money, because she’s broke, jobless and divorced. She lives in this New Jersey neighborhood, where I imagine is only a tad better than wherever Earl (from My Name is Earl) lives in. She’s actually quite funny, and I remember laughing out loud a couple of times. It’s a through and through crime book, with almost no romance. But it’s quite good, though I’d prefer  a bit more romance, but the comedy covers up for it. It’s also quite smart. 

It also has a huge fan base and is going to be a movie (or was going to be one years ago). It would be quite cool to watch it, though there’s no way it can be as funny. Give it a try.

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