Ice Station

10/12/2017 at 6:32 AM (Books, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Ice Station is Australian thriller writer Matthew Reilly’s second novel, released in 1999.

When a diving team at Wilkes Ice Station is killed, the ice station sends out a distress signal. A team of United States Recon Marines led by Shane Schofield, under the code name of Scarecrow, arrives at the station. At the station, he finds lots of French scientists have arrived, and several more arrive after the Marines’ join them. The French reveal them to be soldiers and a fight ensues at the station, claiming the lives of Scarecrow’s men along with several scientists and most of the French soldiers. Mother loses her leg, Samurai is badly injured, and two French scientists are captured.

Schofield decides to send a team down to find an object below the ice where the diving team was going. Later, Samurai is found strangled, leaving the only people he trusts to be one of the scientists, Sarah Hensleigh and another soldier named Montana as he was with them at the time of Samurai’s death. Hensleigh, Montana and two other Marines, Gant and Santa Cruz, are sent down to where the diving team vanished. While alone, Schofield is shot and killed. He later wakes up, found to have been accidentally resurrected by his attacker, and is in the care of scientist James Renshaw, the believed killer of one of the other scientists at Wilkes. Watching a video of Schofield’s death, they view the attacker and discover it to be Snake, one of Schofield’s men. The two capture Snake before he is able to kill the wounded Mother.

Meanwhile in the United States, Andrew Trent and Pete Cameron meet; Cameron is a news reporter and Trent was a former Marine using the alias Andrew Wilcox to avoid being found by the U.S military who had tried to kill him a few years back. They hear the distress call from Schofield and Trent realises what happened to him was duplicating itself in regards to Schofield.

The team learns of an impending attack by the SAS and decide to flee the station. During the escape via stolen vehicles, Schofield and Renshaw’s is pushed off a cliff, Schofield’s close friend Book and the step-daughter of Sarah Hensleigh, Kirsty, are captured, while Rebound escapes with four of the scientists. Schofield manages to destroy a French submarine and he and Renshaw begin their journey back towards it. Meanwhile, the SAS Brigadier Trevor Barnaby kills the two remaining French scientists and feeds Book to a pod of killer whales. Schofield returns to the station and manages to kill all of the SAS and Snake, and save Kirsty. Schofield receives a message from Trent with a list of members of a secret service known as the Intelligence Convergence Group (ICG) which includes Snake and Montana.

Gant and her team find what appears to be an alien ship, but which turns out to be a spy ship. Montana kills Santa Cruz, but is killed by mutated elephant seals. Schofield and the two others arrive and Hensleigh reveals herself to be an ICG agent, but is soon killed by a wounded Gant. Remembering the station is about to be destroyed, Schofield, Gant, Renshaw, Kirsty and her pet fur seal named Wendy escape on the spy plane and land on the USS Wasp. They later destroy the plane using a guided missile fired earlier. It is revealed Mother escaped Wilkes before its destruction and was luckily saved by US forces.

The survivors get to Hawaii where they are nearly killed by an ICG agent before being saved by Andrew Trent, Pete and Allison Cameron, and the captain of the USS Wasp. Renshaw assumes custody of Kirsty since he is her godfather, and Schofield doesn’t leave Gant’s side until she recovers.




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The Hundred Foot Journey

10/10/2017 at 6:00 AM (Books, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I am currently in the middle of a book called The Hundred Foot Journey. It is written by Richard C. Morais and is the recipient of accolades from Joanne Harris, the writer of Chocolat (yes, the movie with Johnny Depp).

This story is about an Indian family that moves to France and sets up a rival restaurant across the road from a French restaurant that has been awarded 2 stars. Madame Mallory, the restaurateur is eagerly awaiting her third star but when Maison Mumbai goes into competition with her regarding supplies, she is very displeased because the Indian restaurant becomes quite popular with the French populace who live in the area.

 

The family was originally living in Mumbai India but then moved to the UK, after the protagonists mother passed away in the wake of a political melee. In the UK, there is far too much variety to compete with when it comes to owning a restaurant and after some not so savory dealings with his cousin, the protagonist and the rest of the family move to Lumiere in France. Unfortunately their decision to open an Indian restaurant so close to her is not palatable to Madam Mallory.

Things change later on when the main character is employed by the rival French restaurant because she realises Hassan, the protagonist, has perfect pitch on his palate when it comes to experimenting with food and bold and exotic flavours inspire him.

The book deals with the clash of cultures in different locations ( Mumbai, Lumiere, London, Paris ) involving food and in an interesting way explores people’s reactions to things that are new and foreign.

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Savouring the Animations of Shinkai

10/09/2017 at 11:33 AM (animation, Movies, Romance, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

It has been a while since I’ve written about Japanese animations. They came to my attention again when I was searching for a gift for my now ex-boyfriend. I know I’ve praised Miyazaki before but this time my words of adulation will be for the storytelling skills of Makoto Shinkai. His body of work has received comparison to works by the illustrious Studio Ghibli animator but the creator of 5 Centimers Per Second and Children Who Chase Lost Voices is rather self-effacing about his talents.

5 Centimers Per Second

The film consists of a triptych of acts: Cherry BlossomCosmonaut and 5 Centimeters per Second.

In the first act, Takaki Tōno, the main character, becomes friends with Akari Shinohara when she transfers to his elementary school. The classmates foster a deep friendship because they have lots of mutual interests and end up spending recesses together often; even when they talk to each other, they don’t use honorifics, a sign of closeness in Japan. When Akari moves to Tochigi after completing elementary school because of her parents’ jobs, the two friends keep in contact through post but this communication slowly fades as time passes. This part of the story is set sometime before the arrival of cellphones and email. When Takaki hears that his family will be moving to Kagoshima, he decides to visit Akari in person first because they will be living too far apart to regularly see each other. Before he visits, Takaki also composes a letter that expresses his feelings about her. On the way to see her, Takaki loses the letter and a severe snowstorm pushes the train schedule behind several hours. When the two finally meet each other again, it is a temporary, touching and bittersweet reunion during which they talk for hours. They make sentimental promises to each other and after the events of the night spent amongst the snow, Takaki decides the loss of his letter was not important. He never realises there was a letter he never got as his train leaves, because the audience see a letter from Akari addressed to Takaki that never changed hands to the addressee.

In the second act, we see Takaki attending senior high in Tanegashima and he is blind to the love shown by Kanae Sumida, who is not brave enough to admit her feelings. Despite all her efforts at winning him over, Kanae remains in the friend zone. She sees that Takaki always appears to be writing emails or looking off into the beyond. We learn these emails are sent to nobody and he often has recurring dreams that feature Akari. After an attempt to confess her love fails, Kanae decides what she could offer to Takaki will not be enough to satiate what he desires and keeps the truth of her love locked within her heart.

In the third act, Takaki has become a computer programmer in Tokyo while Akari is preparing to get married to another man. His feelings for Akari that he has been unable to shake impact negatively on his life. Eventually a depressed Takaki leaves his job, unable to cope with his unresolved feelings for Akari. Meanwhile Akari goes through her old belongings and discovers the letter addressed to Takaki. The two characters narrate in tandem, both recalling a dream depicting the events of their last meeting in the snow and hoping to watch the cherry blossoms together again.

One day walking down a road, Takaki and Akari appear to recognise each other as they walk past at a train crossing, where they had watched cherry blossoms together thirteen years ago, before Akari’s moving to Tochigi. At the opposite sides of the tracks, they begin to look back but the passing trains cut their view. Takaki waits for the trains to pass and sees Akari is gone. After a moment, he smiles to himself and continues walking.

Makoto’s film gives a realistic view of the struggles many face against: time, space, people, and love. The title 5 Centimeters Per Second comes from the speed at which cherry blossoms petals fall, the petals being a allegorical representation of humans, evoking the slowness of life and how people often start together but drift into separate ways.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices

Asuna is a young girl who has been forced to grow up quickly due to the death of her father, while her mother, a nurse, works long shifts at a hospital. Asuna spends her solitary days listening to the mysterious music emanating from the cat’s-whisker receiver her father gave to her as a memento.

One day, while walking to her clubhouse across a bridge, she is attacked by a fearsome creature and saved by a mysterious boy who calls himself Shun. Asuna treats Shun’s wound from fighting the creature and later they both listen to Asuna’s radio. Shun tells Asuna he is from another country called Agartha and that he came to this place to find something. He then gives Asuna a blessing in the form of a kiss to the forehead. Asuna leaves hurriedly and tells Shun she’ll be back tomorrow. Shun, now alone, looks up at the stars and falls from the ledge to his death.

The next morning, Asuna hears from her mother that a boy was found dead in the river, but refuses to believe it’s Shun. In school, Mr. Morisaki, a substitute teacher, is giving a lecture on a book which grabs Asuna’s attention when he mentions Agartha, the land of the dead. After school, she visits Morisaki and asks him about Agartha. Morisaki explains that long ago when humankind was young, it needed the guidance of Quetzalcoatls (keepers of the dead) until humans matured and no longer needed them, so they went underground along with a few humans who joined them.

Afterwards, Asuna goes to her hideout to find another mysterious boy who looks like Shun standing on the ledge. Just then, a group of armed men who the boy calls the Arch Angels, appear and attack the both of them. The Arch Angels’ commander captures Asuna and uses a crystal called the clavis to open a gateway to Agartha. The commander and Asuna enter the gateway followed by the boy. Once inside the commander reveals himself to be Morisaki and the boy also reveals himself to be Shin, Shun’s younger brother. Morisaki tells him that all he wants is to bring back his late wife from the dead. Shin leaves Asuna and Morisaki.

Morisaki tells Asuna that she can go back but she decides to accompany him. They both go into the realm via an underwater entrance. Once inside they go on a journey to the Gate of Life and Death which can bring the souls of people back from the dead.

Upon arriving in his village, Shin is told that he has failed in his mission to retrieve that clavis, because Asuna has unknowingly returned with a fragment of one. Shin re-embarks to stop Asuna and Morisaki from wreaking havoc in Agartha.

Along the way Asuna is kidnapped by a race of monsters called the Izoku. In their hideout she meets a young girl named Manna and they both try to escape. In their escape attempt, they encounter Shin who helps them but is wounded by an Izoku. Morisaki finds Asuna and Manna down the river as well as Shin. Shin tries to retrieve the clavis crystal that belongs to Asuna. However, he is too weak to put up a fight and Morisaki easily defeats him. Asuna convinces Morisaki to take him with them while Manna leads them to her village.

Once there, the villagers are, at first reluctant to help the “top-dwellers” but the village elder convinces them to let them in. The elder allows them to stay one night at the village. Meanwhile Asuna checks up on Shin but Shin yells at her telling her to leave him alone.

The next morning Asuna and Morisaki depart from Amaurot. Shin wakes up later and after hearing the villagers riding away to kill them, decides to follow in order to protect Asuna. Morisaki and Asuna are walking towards a steep cliff when they are attacked by the villagers but they are saved by Shin. Asuna, being too scared to climb down, stays while Morisaki continues, leaving her.

Meanwhile Shin is fighting the villagers and is about to be killed when the villagers sense that the clavis crystal has reached the Gate of Life and Death and leave Shin to wander aimlessly, having betrayed his country.

Asuna is walking aimlessly and asking herself why she came to Agartha and finally accepts that she came to Agartha because she was feeling lonely. She is then attacked by the Izoku but saved by Shin. Asuna and Shin return to the cliff after seeing the Ark of Life descending. They encounter a Quetzalcoatl who is about to die. Before he dies, Quetzalcoatl offers to take them to the bottom of the cliff.

At the bottom of the cliff, they both find the Gate of Life and Death and enter it. Inside they find Morisaki who tells Asuna she shouldn’t have come and she is soon possessed by Lisa, Morisaki’s late wife. However Shin is able to destroy the crystal Morisaki has used to make his wish. Before she leaves Asuna’s body, Lisa tells Morisaki to find happiness without her. Asuna is now back to her normal self but Morisaki is devastated and asks Shin to kill him but Shin tells him that he must live. Asuna heads back to the surface and saying farewell to Shin and Morisaki, who stay behind. The film ends with Asuna, looking out her window at the cliff side where she had met Shun and Shin. She then says her goodbyes to her mother as she hurries to her graduation ceremony as an older teen.

This film is his longest animation film to date and is described as a “lively” animated film with adventure, action, and romance centered on a cheerful and spirited girl on a journey to say “farewell”.

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The Trespasser

06/05/2017 at 12:09 PM (Books, Mystery, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

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This was my first experience reading Tana French and my negative reaction to it is attributable to a mistake on my part. Had I been introduced to the main detective earlier in her Dublin Murder Squad book series, I might have found her sympathetic. However, this was a pick up from a local bookshop after reading the following blurb.

Being on the Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed to a shine, and dead in her catalogue-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. Aislinn’s friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?”

Due to my lack of research into reviews of this book and expectations of fast-paced story, when I realised it was the reverse I found the descriptions of police procedural rather tedious because it seemed to border on the excessive. I enjoyed her writing and her characterisation was very well done but personally I think this book probably didn’t make for a very good stand-alone read. The mystery was interesting enough in its individualistic way but the paranoia exhibited by Detective Conway grated on my nerves. My favourite part was when a certain arrogant character got his comeuppance from an unexpected ally but I disliked the brow beating of the primary suspect in the murder mystery. I was coming in expecting a psychological thriller so I was disappointed despite the motivations of the murder victim.

All I can say is if you are a Gone Girl fan, don’t go for this type of book. It’s not the type of psychological thriller you are looking for. For me this particular reviewer’s assessment of The Trespasser is spot on. For a positive perspective on the book, try this review.

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The French Lieutenant’s Woman

09/29/2014 at 10:26 AM (Books) (, , , , , , , )

Source: myvictorianbooks.blogspot.com

Source: myvictorianbooks.blogspot.com

I first encountered the The French Lieutenant’s Woman after finishing The Collector by John Fowles but had to return it to the library before I had the chance to finish. I gave it another go and was able to make it to the end of the book before it was time for overdue notices!

Sarah Woodruff is a governess who is looked upon with contempt by the  English community of Lyme Regis due to falling for a French naval officer who left her behind after he allegedly ‘ruined‘ her.  In spite of her pious employer’s warnings, she walks by the cliffs pining for her lost love.  Meanwhile Charles Smithson is a Victorian gentleman engaged to Ernestina , the daughter of a wealthy tradesman who is residing with her aunt Tranter  in Lyme Regis. After Charles accidentally stumbles across Sarah, he becomes fascinated by her history and tries to convince her  to go to London where her tale of scandal is less likely to be outrageous. But Sarah is not amenable to that particular course of action and asks Charles to compromise himself by meeting her in secret in order to give her emotional support while pretending she lacks the will to alter her life. During the course of these meetings, Charles begins to find himself falling for her despite warnings from her doctor that Sarah’s mind is not in the best state and may drag others down with her. 

You could be forgiven for thinking this is a tragic melodrama but now the story starts to veer off in a different track as the narrator begins to intervene in the novel and supplies three possible endings. Each offers a possible ending for Charles’s pursuit of Sarah: the first ends with Charles married to Ernestina without him explaining the details of his meetings with Sarah, the second with a recreation of a relationship with Sarah which hints of a future reconciliation, and the third with Charles ending partnerless deprived of both Ernestina and Sarah. The narrator explains the fairest way to end The French Lieutenant’s Woman is to present all the ways in which it could possibly end.

I think The French Lieutenant’s Woman is really clever and ingenious with all the interpretations given to the reader to finally conclude. But I feel it also shows the limitations of plot devices and how much authors are constricted by the rules governing writing. There are few authors who pushed through that boundary and Fowles was one of the early ones.

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The Maze Runner

09/24/2014 at 10:52 AM (Books) (, , , , )

maze-runner

In James Dashner’s post-apocalyptic novel, The Maze Runner, the protagonist Thomas finds himself in the Glade without any memories of his past apart from his name together with a community of boys who have made it their home. The Glade is surrounded by a maze out of which an escape has not been found. At night, mechanical creatures called Grievers roam around the maze and attack any boy who has not made it beyond the gates after sunset. A new boy usually appears in an elevator called The Box once a month but after Thomas there is another delivery on the second day, a comatose girl, the first girl to ever appear in the maze. Afterwards they are warned there will be no more deliveries of anyone.

Each of the boys have roles in their community and Thomas finds himself yearning to be a Runner. Runners are required to explore and decode the maze while escaping Grievers who are informed by spies called Beetle Blades belonging to WICKED. They also keep Maps to preserve patterns as the maze changes everyday. There are also Builders, Baggers, Track-hoes, Med-jacks and Sloppers. Try and guess what those careers might entail? Thomas proves himself to the Keeper of the Runners and makes some friends and also enemies after a Gathering is called to discuss his brave but foolhardy, rule-breaking actions.

After purposefully subjecting himself to injury, Thomas finds out a way to recover some lost memories. However he finds the solution to the maze is not the most pleasant of prospects for their future.  I’ve since found out that Thomas’s story continues on in The Scorch Trials and is finally resolved in The Death Cure.  Perhaps the upcoming movie version might amalgamate all 3 books into 2-hours? Although I’ve heard the movie has made some significant differences to major plot points.

As for my thoughts, I initially found The Maze Runner a little slow and irritating because the boys in the Glade speak in their own dialect using words like Greenie, klunk and shuck-face. However it is fairly easy to get into the swing of it in a couple of chapters because you are purposefully fed so little information that you keep turning the pages to find out how the kids ended up in the maze. The writing is quite simple to read but is captivating enough for young adult fiction. This is a very plot based book and not much depth is felt with the characters apart from Thomas and his best mate in the Glade, Chuck.

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Requiem

08/30/2014 at 2:25 PM (Books) (, , , , , )

Requiem brings the long awaited resolution to the Delirium series. All the loose ends lingering from the previous books are neatly resolved. 

Requiem

Lena has now become a fully-fledged member of the resistance and is trusted to take on roles that require leadership skills. The rebellion in Pandemonium was only a stirring of unrest. Now a full-scale revolution is underway and the government can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to the protests of the resistance fighters. This means the government starts to look at the Wilds as a threat to their order and structure and it ceases to be a safe haven. Regulators come past the border to combat the resistance head on. While the former have strength in numbers, the latter know how to put up a fight that does not require assistance from bombing planes. 

While Lena makes a stand with the resistance, we also learn of the fate of Hana – Lena’s best friend from Delirium. From Hana’s perspective, we learn she is the fiancee of the mayor’s son, Fred Hargrove, her assigned partner.  Hana quickly learns Fred is not what he appears to be on the surface and takes refuge in helping Grace, Lena’s cousin. What Lena and Hana don’t know is that their stories are going to collide.

What I haven’t pinpointed in the above plot is the love triangle of Julian-Lena-Alex. I think the entry of Coral as a nemesis for Alex gave the story a bit more bite but it was obvious Alex was still having feelings for Lena even if she was not able to see that. I felt sad for Julian because he quickly adapted to the Wilds after being torn from the life he had known but was only a source of secondary comfort for Lena. The decision she made to hook up with Julian in Pandemonium after Alex sacrificed himself for her was truly baffling but it did allow room for intense, seriously emotional cliffhangers.

The end felt somewhat curtailed but ultimately the series seems to have achieved its purpose with its depicted culmination of events. 

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Pandemonium

08/29/2014 at 2:25 PM (Books) (, , , , , )

Pandemonium is the second instalment of the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver. It continues Lena’s story after she escapes through the border fence separating the city from the Wilds.

pandemonium

Emotionally distraught at losing Alex and trying to put her nightmares behind her, Lena puts her heart and soul into helping the resistance group that rescued her by infiltrating the protest group DFA – Deliria Free America. The mascot of the group is Julian Fineman, the protest group leader’s son, who is willing to martyr himself for the cause. Lena’s assigned job is to keep an eye on Julian but the resulting adventures after they are captured by Scavengers creates a shift in the dynamic of the relationship between them. So when a place of shelter is raided before they make it to safety, Lena makes the decision to rescue Julian rather than subject him to the cure which could potentially kill him. In this story, Lena does for Julian what Alex did for her.

Later on Lena learns there were things that played out which were planned for her but realises she wasn’t taken into confidence about them. While she feels betrayed and used, she ultimately receives support she needs when she makes a strategic plan of her own. She is also rescued by a freedom fighter in the  top ranks with whom she has a connection. But before she can even come to terms with that discovery, the final chapter brings with it a massive twist in the tale. So all I can say is Requiem will be heart-wrenching.

I think the transformation of Lena from insecure, disgruntled, whiny Cinderella to assertive and capable character makes Pandemonium quite an interesting book to read. It is easy to fail to see that chapters shift in perspective between past and present. I did this so I was a confused for a while with the first few chapters. Because her characters have been established, Pandemonium is directed more by action rather than governed by emotions of characters but I felt that made the built world more concrete.

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A Room with a View

06/13/2014 at 1:40 PM (Books, Classics, Movies, Romance, Romance, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

It has been so long since I posted here. I feel like I’ve renewed a friendship with someone who had drifted away. Now the cold winter months are approaching and the sky is pitch dark by 6 PM, blogging seems like less of a geeky, couch potato activity to do on a Friday night. It also distracts me from food in the fridge because while many are increasing their waistline in winter by eating carb-piled comfort food, I’m doing the opposite by depriving myself.

In terms of reading exploits, my latest read was A Room with a View by author E. M. Forster, who also wrote A Passage to India. While the book is meant to be a comedy of manners with its cast of medieval and renaissance characters and employment of witty, humorous dialogue, I didn’t find it as entertaining as expected.

It narrates the story of Lucy Honeychurch, a free-spirited but sheltered young middle-class lady, who has her rigid, ordered life thrown off balance after visiting Florence with her chaperone and older uptight cousin Charlotte leads to a meeting with the Emersons. Other unconventional characters residing in the Pension Bertolini opens Lucy’s eyes to differences between ingrained archaic, repressed Edwardian morals and emerging liberal social values through the author’s cleverly contrasting England’s staidness with Italy’s vitality. She ultimately learns propriety can mask the truth and beauty can be found by not conforming to etiquette. This new knowledge affects Lucy’s structured plans as she has discovered that social boundaries are arbitrary. In the end with a fitting dramatic conclusion, Lucy decides to follow her own heart in regards to love and chooses her own destiny and defies convention. The most interesting thing is that while we are allowed into the minds of all the characters, save the two Emersons who remain an enigma.

I have not watched the movie adaptation of A Room with a View starring Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch so I cannot personally comment but here’s a film review by Roger Ebert to present some perspective on the film.

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