Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Warchild Series Books 1 and 2



Book 1 Warchild: Pawn 

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currently an Amazon Kindle freebie
237 pages

Book description
The world ended long before Caroline Mathers was born, but that doesn’t mean life stops for the fourteen-year-old army scout for the People’s Republic of Virginia. Abandoned by her parents, raised by her grandfather, she slinks through the forests surrounding her encampment, monitoring the woods for nomadic bands of criminals known as Republicons, all while keeping a watchful eye on her northern enemies from the Democratic Alliance. 

It’s a hard life, but a simple one, at least until the day Caroline hears the sound that everyone dreads: distant drums echoing throughout their quiet valley, pounding to the beat of the war rhythm. With some help from two unlikely allies, Caroline leads her people in a breathtaking retreat, praying they’ll find salvation in their capitol city. Along the way, haunting dreams may reveal a look into her mystifying past. 

The first book of the Warchild series is a powerful, coming of age, dystopian thriller full of fast-paced action, tragic choices, and the undeniable strength of the human bond. 
I read this first book in March of this year and loved it because I'm a dystopian sci-fi thriller junkie specially well-written and fast-paced ones like this series that grab you from the first sentence to the last.


Judas (Warchild, #2)

Book 2 Warchild: Judas

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Amazon Kindle and Paperback
264 pages

Book description
Hope alone can not win the war.
Caroline Mathers, Forward Scout of the People's Republic of Virginia, leads her people to safety after a harrowing escape through the Appalachian Mountains. But, the security of their capitol city won't last for long...maybe even less than a night. Old friends are left behind, while inside the walls, new alliances are formed and trust betrayed. 
Empowered by the strength of a massive army, their northern enemies suffocate the city outside the walls, preparing to take control of what they believe is rightfully theirs: citizen slaves. 
With the help of her fellow Kinder, Finn, and an ill-equipped group of volunteer soldiers, Caroline must defend her city to the last breath or watch her people marched away in chains.

The second book is even better than the first. It has brilliant action, unexpected turns, and surprising twists. The cliff-hanger ending is perfect. The book somehow reminds me of Tetsuo from the Japanese anime movie Akira and the American superhero-ish movie Chronicle.

Highly recommended for both YA and adult readers.

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Ernie Lindsey is quickly becoming one of my favorite indie authors. I currently have 9 of his books on my Kindle, only 2 short stories remain on the "to read" list and I'm eagerly awaiting the Warchild series book 3. Hurry up, Mr Lindsey!

Monday, July 28, 2014

3:00 AM

19292922  tags: mystery, short story, Kindle freebie

3:00 AM by Nick Pirog
Goose Egg
Henry Bins has Henry Bins. A sleeping disorder, named after him. He is awake for one hour a day. He wakes up at 3 a.m. then falls asleep at 4 a.m. Life is simple. Until he hears the woman scream. And sees the man leave the house across the street. But not just any man. The President of the United States.
This 100-page short story is short on pretty much everything. It tries to be a murder mystery with a bit of humor and judging from the ending might have a glimpse of romance in a sequel. *dear God, please, no sequel!*

IMHO, the book failed. It is a ridiculous idea that a person can accomplish so many things during 1 hour of being awake from 3:00 AM - 4:00 AM. The main character Henry Bins jogs, exercises, takes a shower, eats, invests [in stocks] and manages his money on the internet, watches Game of Thrones, and then tries to solve a potential murder. Suspending disbelief is stretched to the limit. I'm okay with that if the author writes well and has a genuine sense of humor. Unfortunately the narrative is very juvenile as if written by a teenaged boy, and is peppered with profanity written IN CAPS. The author thinks he's funny and clever with Bins's "conversations" with the dead woman's cat. The book annoyed me. It's a total waste of 2 hours. Not recommended at all even if a very quick read and free from Amazon.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The City

 tags: family, friendships, mystery-crime, thriller

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Book Synopsis
A young boy, a musical prodigy, discovering life’s wonders—and mortal dangers. His best friend, also a gifted musician, who will share his journey into destiny. His remarkable family, tested by the extremes of evil and bound by the depths of love . . . on a collision course with a band of killers about to unleash anarchy. And two unlikely allies, an everyday hero tempered by the past and a woman of mystery who holds the key to the future. 
These are the people of The City, a place where enchantment and malice entwine, courage and honor are found in the most unexpected quarters, and the way forward lies buried deep inside the heart. Brilliantly illumined by magic dark and light, their unforgettable story is a riveting, soul-stirring saga that speaks to everyone, a major milestone in the celebrated career of #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz and a dazzling realization of the evergreen dreams we all share. 

excerpts from Chapter 1

"My name is Jonah Ellington Basie Hines Eldridge Wilson Hampton Armstrong Kirk. From as young as I can remember, I loved the city. Mine is a story of love reciprocated. It is the story of loss and hope, and of the strangeness that lies just beneath the surface tension of daily life, a strangeness infinite fathoms in depth.

But the city was as well a place of wonder, of magic dark and light, magic of which in my eventual life I had much experience, including one night when I died and woke and lived again."

Dean Koontz opens his new novel with beautiful prose and continues throughout until the very end. It's one of the reasons I love the book and why it is already on my favorite list.

At the present time, Jonah Kirk is a 57 year old accomplished musician. His friend Malcolm, also a musician, urged him that it's time to tell what happened from when he was barely 10 years old in the 60s (the bulk of the novel is set in the 60s). And what an amazing story he told not just about himself but also his family, neighbors, friends. 

Dean Koontz set the slow pace early on. This is not a typical Dean Koontz novel because normally when reading a new Dean Koontz thriller, I couldn't wait to finish within 2 days. Not this book. I read it slooowly to savor it like a fine chocolate candy bar. I read a few chapters, put it down to analyze what I just read, and continued reading the next day. I don't know why but I think it's to understand what Dean Koontz tried to convey in this novel. Probably this - "No matter what happens, no matter what, everything will be okay in the long run."

More noteworthy excerpts:

"After you have suffered great losses and known much pain, it is not cowardice to wish to live henceforth with a minimum of suffering. And one form of heroism, about which few if any films are made, is having the courage to live without bitterness when bitterness is justified, having the strength to persevere even when perseverance is unlikely to be rewarded, having the resolution to find profound meaning in life when it seems the most meaningless."

"Surrendering to fear can destroy your life. Indulgence to stubborn anger destroys it as well. But guilt, is no less a destroyer of lives. Fear can be overcome. You may let go of anger. And guilt can be forgiven."


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The novel is written so vividly and the characters so well defined, it reads like a movie. If it becomes a movie adaptation, I hope the cast of protagonists will be similar to my fantasy cast. 

young Jonah Kirk - Terrell Ransom, Jr
adult Jonah Bledsoe - Denzel Washington
Jonah's mom Sylvia Bledsoe - Jennifer Hudson
Grandpa Teddy - Samuel L. Jackson
Miss Pearl - Stacey Dash
young Malcolm Pomerantz -  Preston Bailey
adult Malcolm Pomerantz - Bruce Willis or Tom Hanks
Amalia Pomerantz - Elle Fanning
Mr. Yoshioka - Tadanobu Asano
Mrs. Lorenzo - ?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel



The Grand Budapest Hotel Poster.jpg tags: comedy, farce

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The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.
The movie was recommended by one of my favorite authors. I watched and liked at least 3 of director Wes Anderson's movies and had such high hopes for this one. It was a total letdown.

For a movie categorized as comedy, it never even produced a chuckle from me. Professional and armchair critics rave about its deadpan humor, great acting, and vivid colors but I beg to disagree. IMHO, the only good but not that good is the actor who played the younger Zero (half a star for him and half a star for some of the cinematography). Everybody else is horrible, and that include the numerous cameos of well-known actors. Adrien Brody, one of my favorite actors, wasted his enormous talent in this pretentious movie. Recommended only to masochists.

What I didn't like:
>plot is weak and pointless
>totally boring
>vulgar language and sexual images
>dead humor
>director tried his darnedest to be different and edgy but utterly failed
>colors came straight out of a Crayola box and executed by Kindergartners
>too many of the same scene shown over and over and portrayed by different actors in cameo [note to Wes: I'm a smart viewer; don't try to beat me over the head with Thor's hammer so you can employ as many actors as you possibly can.]

Monday, July 14, 2014

Romancing The Stone



tags: action-comedy-romance(ish) movie, rewinding the 80s

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Synopsis
  • Joan Wilder is a mousey writer of romance novels. She finds a package from her sister mailed from Colombia in her mailbox. A call from her sister tells her that she has been kidnapped and that bringing the package to Colombia is necessary for her safety and release. Being fairly clueless, she leaves for Colombia to rescue her sister. She is lost within hours of her arrival. She is nearly murdered by one of the men searching for the package when Jack Colton, a fairly low life American rescues her. They begin a journey through the jungle with bullets flying nearby. Is Joan up to all of this? What a way to find out.
    Written by John Vogel 

This 1984 action-comedy movie is a lot of fun to see again reminding me that once upon a time Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas used to be sooo hot. Who could ever forget the mudslide scene and Juan and his Little Mule, Pepe. Good times. Good movie.

The movie is now streaming on Netflix and in HD on Amazon.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Devotion of Suspect X

   tags: mystery-crime, psychological thriller, cultural-Japanese

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 Book Synopsis from Amazon.com
Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who thought she had finally escaped her abusive ex-husband Togashi. When he shows up one day to extort money from her, threatening both her and her teenaged daughter Misato, the situation quickly escalates into violence and Togashi ends up dead on her apartment floor. Overhearing the commotion, Yasuko’s next door neighbor, middle-aged high school mathematics teacher Ishigami, offers his help, disposing not only of the body but plotting the cover-up step-by-step. 
When the body turns up and is identified, Detective Kusanagi draws the case and Yasuko comes under suspicion. Kusanagi is unable to find any obvious holes in Yasuko’s manufactured alibi and yet is still sure that there’s something wrong. Kusanagi brings in Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and college friend who frequently consults with the police. Yukawa, known to the police by the nickname Professor Galileo, went to college with Ishigami. After meeting up with him again, Yukawa is convinced that Ishigami had something to do with the murder. What ensues is a high level battle of wits, as Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko by outmaneuvering and outthinking Yukawa, who faces his most clever and determined opponent yet.

I enjoy a mystery thriller whenever the killer/s are known early on. This Japanese novel in particular, pitting 2 geniuses against each other is pure pleasure to read. Who will prevail: the physicist or the mathematician? The novel is full of twists and turns that I never saw coming. Highly recommended.

The novel spawned 2 movies, one from Japan and one from Korea, and a Japanese TV series. I read the book first last year before watching both movie versions. 

The Japanese version: Suspect X


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The movie is good but not great. It's not as compelling as the book and looks like a Made-for-TV flick. I took out 1 star out of 4 because of the female rookie cop replacing the original male cop as the physicist's "partner" in solving the puzzle. It makes no sense since she is not the physicist's friend from college who together frequently discuss crimes and possibilities, think Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. She also annoyed me constantly. The film makers had to have a female detective working with the physicist for the TV series. 

The Korean version - Suspect X/Perfect Number


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The Koreans just know how to make an edge-of-your-seat thriller. The title, cast, cinematography, dialog, acting, and script are just about perfect. Although they added a few stuff, they didn't distract from the essence of the novel. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

P.I. Cormoran Strike Series by Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)

The second book in J.K. Rowling's (writing as Robert Galbraith) P.I. Cormoran Strike series, THE SILKWORM, is already out. I read the sample pages; the writing style and Rowling's potty mouth have not improved, IMHO. I think it's even worse than the first book. Rowling's followers are eating up the 2 books and I am genuinely bewildered by it. A year ago, I wrote on my food blog my thoughts on the series debut, THE CUCKOO'S CALLING, a copy is below.

When THE CUCKOO'S CALLING first came out, it didn't sell well, only 1500 copies the first 3 months, maybe because it is simply crappy...pardon my language. Although Rowling denied she had knowledge of "outing" her as the author, I have my doubts. I believe the publishers thought they had to do something about the slow movement of the book and "accidentally" divulged to the media who the real author of the book was. Naturally, the sales and 5 star ratings [from Rowling's die-hard sheeple] went through the roof. I read it before it became a best seller and I understand why NO ONE with a sound mind wanted to recommend the book to their friends; maybe to their worst enemies perhaps to torture them.



    Goose Egg

from my food blog
THE CUCKOO'S CALLING  by Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)  
After a long long pause I decided to write a review of a novel again. I occasionally wrote short reviews and recommendations in the past but had gotten tired and stopped. This book however compelled me to write one, not because it was amazingly great, but because I did something that I never have done before with any other books no matter how boring, i.e. I stopped reading at page 105 and NEVER finished the book. I didn't want to torture myself and so this is the very FIRST TIME I abandoned a book.
The quite lengthy book at 455 pages is a mystery/crime which is one of my favorite genres. The main characters are Cormoran Strike, an Afghan war veteran turned Private Eye and his supposed to be just a temporary female assistant, Robin. The P.I was hired by the brother of a young model who committed suicide to find out if she was actually murdered.
I will not elaborate on the story but will list down the reasons why I didn't like the book one bit.
  • The story is very simple which is not a bad thing but there is nothing new, extraordinary, or exciting to this novel. It's just same old same old "is it suicide or murder?", lacking layers and intrigue to reel you in to the story. I was able to guess with certainty the killer very early on. 
  • There are too many side stories and descriptions of places and people that serve no purpose. It's as though the author was paid per word.
  • The characters are not well defined. I saw them all as cardboard figures cut out from a template. I waited for distinct personalities to emerge but they never did. They, including the 2 main characters are all dull and have one voice, no distinction between men and women. It's very frustrating for me not to be able to picture in my mind the different people, most specially the P.I. 
  • Dropping F and C bombs page after page after page; it's a major pet peeve of mine. Uttering swear words constantly doesn't make a character edgy and cool, nor does it add anything to the story line. 

I don't know who Rowling is targeting to read this book. I'm guessing she is encouraging her Harry Potter fans to try reading mystery in addition to fantasy. If she wants people like me to read her mystery books, she has to do better. Hiring a really good editor for her next installment of Strike series is a must. I, for one will not be reading the sequel.
I may be too spoiled for having read hundreds of books by my favorite and, in my honest opinion, best British mystery writers ever:
Ellis Peters/Edith Pargeter
P.D. James
          Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine

          Agatha Christie

          Dorothy L. Sayers

Friday, July 4, 2014

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption













       
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Book description from Amazon
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

This is a nonfiction book that I read in August, 2013, and will probably be the only one on this blog. This book is an extremely moving biography of Mr. Zamperini and I can not recommend it highly enough. Everybody, not just Americans, should read it.

On Wednesday, July 2, Mr. Zamperini passed away at age 97. Rest in peace, Mr. Zamperini.

 

Update - July 15, 2014: Trailer of movie based on the book; directed by Angelina Jolie, opens on Christmas Day, 2014.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Gôsuto - Japanese Remake of Ghost


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This 2010 movie is a Japanese remake of the Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore movie, Ghost. Although the husband is Korean played by a Korean actor, the entire movie is in Japanese with English subtitles.

I like this version more than the original:
>the roles are reversed (the wife dies instead of the husband)
>the ending is a bit different but better, IMHO
>the always annoying and unfunny Whoopi Goldberg isn't in the movie

It's no longer streaming on Netflix and Amazon does not stream it either. The DVD is available; look for Ghost In Love or Ghost: In Your Arms Again. Or you can watch it here via YouTube. Enjoy.