Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Paris Syndrome


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Book Description
On the morning of her fifth birthday, Miki Suzuki’s aged grandfather gave her an unusual gift – the fragment of a story. The tale told of a magical realm where all the women were beautiful, dressed in the finest gowns, and where the men had the looks of movie stars. The trees were covered in ivory-white blossom all year round, and everyone was joyful and proud. This place, young Miki learned, was a city in far off Europe – a city called Paris. 
The story took seed in Miki’s mind and, over twenty years, she became quite obsessed with the French capital. Having studied its history, language, and traditions, she vowed that one day she would venture there. 
Winning a competition at her work, where she sold low-grade beauty products door-to-door, Miki embarked on the journey of a lifetime to her dream destination.
Feverishly excited, and exhausted after a long flight, she hit the ground running, in her desperation to see every last tourist sight in town. But, as the others in the tour group looked on in horror, the telltale signs of a rare condition began to manifest themselves – a condition known as ‘Paris Syndrome’. 
Made crazed by a stream of unfavourable events, Miki went on a riotous rampage, which ended in her mooning the sales clerk in Louis Vuitton – an assault that gripped the French nation. And so began the treatment in the most bizarre of clinics – a refuge for fellow sufferers of Paris Syndrome. All this set against a backdrop of vigilante groups, trade wars, bounty hunters, and true love. 
Both hilarious and toe-cringing, Miki Suzuki’s psychological rollercoaster ride gets under the skin like nothing else, as the novel explores the real condition that afflicts dozens of Japanese tourists each year. 
I must admit, Tahir Shah has been on my top 10 favorite authors list since reading the nonfiction travelogue THE CALIPH'S HOUSE and this "tragicomedy" novel affirmed his rightful place.

I loosely place the book in the tragicomedy category. It certainly has the elements: absurd, satiric, funny, semi-tragic, happy ending. The book description says it all and I feel I don't need to add anything else except I love it and will reread as soon as possible.

Highly recommended.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Going Shogun

Product Details

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Amazon Kindle freebie

Book description
On the run.  Out of time.  A brownie recipe worth millions.
Lovable loser Chris waits tables by day and dreams of making something better of himself by night. But, under the almighty, oppressive rule of The Board and their divisive caste system, it's nearly impossible. That is until his super-geek pal and fellow waiter, Forklift, hits upon a foolproof scheme: steal their employer's ultra-popular, top secret recipes and sell them on a black market internet site.

It's all fun and games until the mysterious death of a local hacker shatters their surefire plan, sending them on a fast-paced adventure through the city's seedy underground, where they hope to salvage what's left and avoid capture by the Board Agents at all costs. Nobody comes back from that. Nobody.

There are numerous reasons I love this scifi-ish novel: it is short and sweet, there are plenty of twists and thrills, and laugh-out-loud funny scenarios. And it's free. Highly recommended.

Chris/Brick's geek friend chiclet-toothed, small in stature, multingual Forklift speaks a linguistic variation that is not at all difficult to understand. In fact I find it simply brilliant and makes the novel even more enjoyable to read. The mystery/ending is a surprise both to the reader and Chris/Brick himself. Very clever, IMHO.

from Chapter 17
Forklift is hanging out there, as planned.  
Greeting me, he says, “The Brick in the wall!”
“Ready to go?”
“Let’s barbeque the buttocks here for a tick-tock.  Give Dorna a few more hourglass grains.”
We have to wave the bus driver off since he must be waiting for Forklift to get on.  The great metal monster growls its engines and pulls away, leaving a heavy plume of pollution floating behind it.  With all the technological advances we have around us to supposedly make our lives easier, they’ve yet to figure out how to make the engines run cleaner that operate on the natural resources from Canadian oil sands.  Some of the brilliant, engineering Mensa minds at AU must be asleep at the proverbial wheel, or the Oil Magnates have them in their pockets too.
I cough through the fumes, ask Forklift where he’s parked Machine, wondering how far we’ll have to sprint to the getaway car if it comes to that.  I make a mental note to check for Bingo’s second-chance spot, provided she’s adhering to the now-in-question plans.
“Baby’s in the bassinet, couple blocks down.  Too sunup to be closer.”
He hasn’t changed out of his Wishful Thinking uniform, and I haven’t either.  It’s one particular detail we discussed through some of the planning, figuring if someone happens to notice us going into or out of the restaurant, it won’t be as obvious that we’re Breaking & Entering & Exiting.  We’ll look like regular employees coming to and fro.  There’s only one addition to his stealth-mode attire; a black backpack slung over both shoulders.  I ask him what’s inside.
“The tools to heist the jewels, and a place to park the Top Secret Recipe Book,” he says, patting a strap.  He adds, “And don’t go geisha.  The secret ingredient will be there, trust,” repeating the same line from last night.
That impervious vernacular is simple enough to understand, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less irritating that he’s not thoughtful enough to make this easier.  “That’s the last Forklift-ism.  Keep this simple for me,” I demand.  “No mas, comprende?”
“Yr wyf yn deall.”
“Oh for the love of God.  What?”
“I understand.  In Welsh.  Sorry, couldn’t resist.”
“You speak Welsh, too?”
“Trochu.  Czech for ‘a little bit.’”
I feel like a cat chasing a fly.  “You speak Spanish, Welsh, and Czech?  Anything else?”
“Gaelic, Tagalog, Arabic, and about seven more.”
He taps the side of his head.  “Genius, remember?  Linguistics professor dad?”
“And this is something you never thought would be an interesting bit of conversation?”  Another aspect of the mellifluous mystery regarding All That Is Forklift.  
“Never seemed important enough.”
“Forklift, what in the f—” I start to say, but stop myself mid-curse.  This guy, who is supposed to be my best friend, who has been by my side nearly every day for the past two years, is a walking, talking, locked-up diary of private information.  I’m beginning to trust him less and less by the hour and the word maddening doesn’t even have the power to convey what I’m feeling.
It’s my ass in his hands.
Wait, that sounds weird.  
What I mean is, I’m at the mercy of this perplexity of a human being.  Damn it, I don’t even want to Ascend anymore.  I consider telling him that I’m done, right there on the sidewalk, underneath the bright-as-day streetlight.  That I’m going to track down Bingo, wherever she’s parked, if she’s parked, and blaze trails for what’s left of Mexico.
Thoughts twirl as we stand in silence, barbequing the buttocks.
Why don’t I?  
It would be easy.  
Forklift, buddy, compadre, mi amigo.  I’m out of here.  You’re on your own.  I have a pixie rebel with a car parked nearby and I’m going to go find my own Ascension Sux! t-shirt.
But I can’t.  
Whatever the undiscoverable truth may be behind the real Forklift, the guy has been my hero for two years, my rock, the giant whose shoulders I’ve been standing on all this time, and I absolutely cannot make myself walk away and let him face the rest of tonight alone.
I want to scream.  I want to rage.
I want to kick the shins of gods.
Calvin Coolidge sneaks into my head one last time.
The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Even mine.  I hope.
“Now are we ready?” I ask.
He pulls out his phone, checks the time.  “Critical mass is mere...I mean, yeah.  Dorna should be long gone by now.”
“Is it okay to say we’re going shogun?”
It’s such a timid request that I have to consent.  “That one’s fine.”
“Good.  That’s my favorite.”

Sunday, May 18, 2014


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After a failed mission in South Korea, a North Korean spy's 18 year old son Myung-Hoon (played by T.O.P of the Korean hip-hop group, Big Bang) and daughter Hye-In are sent off to a forced labor camp. A high ranking North Korean military official offers Myung-Hoon a deal to carry out a spy mission in South Korea and if successful, he and his sister will be released from the labor camp. Myung-Hoon accepts the deal and undergoes 2 years of intense training.
Myung-Hoon arrives in South Korea under the guise of a North Korean defector, is adopted by a South Korean couple who are actually North Korean spies, and enrolls at a local high school. 
His mission is to assassinate a North Korean spy from another unit. 
However, a power struggle ensues in North Korea with the failing health of dictator Kim Jung-Il and Myung-Hoon quickly becomes a liability.

Well, as a lover of Korean films and dramas, I'm probably biased but I don't care, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. The fight sequence is T.O.P-notch, sorry I couldn't resist, so is the acting, and script.

Highly recommended. If you are female and a fan of Korean boy bands, try not to get distracted by T.O.P's pretty face. (^_~)

Currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Odd Thomas

Oddy and Stormy: 'destined to be together forever'

Odd Thomas

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Movie Description
Small-town fry cook Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is an ordinary guy with a paranormal secret: he sees dead people, everywhere. When a creepy stranger shows-up with an entourage of ghostly bodachs – predators who feed on pain and portend mass destruction – Odd knows that his town is in serious trouble. Teaming up with his sweetheart Stormy (Addison Timlin) and the local sheriff (Willem Dafoe), Odd plunges into an epic battle of good vs evil to try to stop a disaster of apocalyptic proportions. Based on the best-selling thriller by Dean Koontz, ODD THOMAS is a supernatural action thrill-ride from the acclaimed director of The Mummy and G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra.

I've read all the Odd Thomas novels since the first one, Odd Thomas, came out in 2003, and became a fan of Odd. [I've been a Dean Koontz fanatic before I was introduced to Oddy and Stormy.] Yes, it's been more than 10 years since I read it and had to reread before viewing the movie. I like that it follows the book closely but left out a few things such as Elvis Presley's lingering spirit which I think is clever because seeing Elvis constantly will distract the audience from Odd Thomas and the story. Dean Koontz's sense of humor is also evident in the movie which to me is essential to capture the book's character.

I highly recommend the movie to fans of Odd Thomas books. You won't be disappointed.
It's currently available streaming on Netflix and Amazon.

What I love:
The narration by Odd
The screenplay
The cast, specially Addison Timlin as Stormy Llewellyn
The bodachs, although not what I imagined, are creepy enough and moderately scary
The subtle but very funny comedic scenes
The whole movie from start to finish

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dragon's Triangle

 Dragon's Triangle

 Dragon's Triangle   

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Book description
Maggie Riley has settled into her new life in Thailand, working aboard her sailboat and doing her best to leave the past behind. When she receives a letter from a World War II vet claiming to have served with her grandfather who went missing in action, Riley is once again pulled into the intrigue that tore her family apart and led to the disappearance of her former search partner—and the love of her life.
Armed with the secret code her grandfather left behind, Riley must head to the Philippines to hunt for a mysterious shipwreck, uncover the truth of Yamashita’s gold, and find the answers to old questions about her own family.

I got this book as one of the choices in the advance copy Kindle First, a freebie program for Amazon Prime members. I chose it for its Philippine setting and the Yamashita treasure story line.

The thriller starts good and I was actually loving it but the narrative goes downhill as soon as the antagonist, Elijah, is introduced and the story never recovers. His character, almost cartoonish and another cardboard cutout, is never fully developed. The only thing that's memorable about him is his thousand $ Lucchese cowboy boots. If he were not tall and buff, I'd imagine him as Yosemite Sam with all the posturing specially with a katana, but nothing spectacular happens except once with a minor character near the end of the novel. I was expecting a bloody confrontation but the action I was hoping for instantly pops like a soap bubble.

The novel is supposed to be a thriller with a side of romance but the thrill dissipates with page after page of touristy descriptions of market goods and dark alleys in Bangkok and the constant appearance of Riley's iPhone and the character Irv's dentures. As I progressed with the novel, I got more annoyed specially with the author's description (through Elijah) of Filipino and other Asian women as "submissive" in comparison with strong American women such as Riley, who don't flinch at the sight of a 7-inch double-edged knife. There is a total of 3 Filipino women in the book, one of them is a prostitute, one is an underage hotel chambermaid (the author did not bother to research that 18 is the legal age for Filipinos to work in hotels, department stores, etc.), and the last one is hot, sexy, and intelligent super-duper woman. There is a reason why she is so and it has to do with her genes. I'm not usually sensitive about these things but misrepresentation of a people specially women is not cool, even in works of fiction. The irritating narrative continues with the appearance of the late Philippine dictator and thief Ferdinand Marcos as a guerilla fighting the Japanese. Whaaat??? 1 star for you then!!!

I discovered that the book's story and characters seem to "borrow" heavily or maybe take without attribution to [the word I'm trying to describe here starts with P] from a conspiracy theory non-fiction book called GOLD WARRIORS written by Sterling and Peggy Seagrave. I came across this book months ago when I read another book about Yamashita's treasures. The main theme they share of course is locating the treasures hidden in various caves in the Philippines, the missing submarine, the missing maps, etc. What is really striking resemblance and almost lifted from GOLD WARRIORS is the novel's Japanese prince's manservant Ben, the name of the Filipino assistant to the Japanese in charge of the maps in the non-fiction book. In the novel, the gold relic containing pieces of coded papers is given to Ben by the fictional Japanese prince, no logical reason is given, BTW. In GOLD WARRIORS, copies of the map were given to the Filipino assistant by his Japanese boss. There is also a Norwegian psychic in DRAGON'S TRIANGLE and in GOLD WARRIORS, the American psychic hired to locate the missing maps has a Scandinavian name. Coincidences? I have my doubts.

My advice: Read if you must but it's a long-ish novel and not worth your time and money. You've been warned.

The one star is for effort. The book is BAD but doesn't deserve a no-star which is reserved for the UGLY.