Monday, December 9, 2013

NOTICE- Currently not accepting any books for review

We are sorry but due to our tight schedule, we will not be able to accept any books by authors for review for a while. Author interviews, blog tours and other promotional events are welcome during this time.

Thank you very much for your patience and understanding.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Drama review- Kasuka na Kanojo







Kasuka na Kanojo is a supernatural/romance/comedy drama starring Katori Shingo, Anne and Maeda Atsuko. Junior high school teacher Kamiyama Akira has the ability to sense ghosts, and his new school has a ghost named Akane who used to be a teacher. (DRAMAWIKI)

This drama starts off quite interesting, following the typical j-drama mould of focusing on the problems of one student in an episode who then starts believing in Kamiyama-sensei. Atsuko Maeda plays the role of a spoilt teacher, who just wants to quit her job and is not interested in the welfare of the students. Anne plays the ghost in Kamiyama-sensei's apartment. She is by far the most interesting character. She had a terrible past, but she is always so chirpy. Her character is very lovable. The supporting cast including the new vice principal and the teacher with a crush on Maeda's character are also very well characterized. 

The best thing about the drama is that all the character grow and develop through their relationships with each other. The drama also has a fair bit of suspense, which keeps it from getting boring. As you would expect of a decent j-drama, it has tear-jerking, heart-warming and funny moments all rolled into one. 

Definitely a great drama worth watching. 

Ratings

Characters-5
Plot-4.5
Acting-4
Direction-4.3

Overall- 4.3

Pros
Interesting storyline with fun, suspense and tears
Good characterization and character development

Cons
Anne overacts sometimes and Atsuko Maeda's acting leaved something to be desired
A bit of a typical 'teacher' drama

NOTE- Picture from dramawiki


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Drama Review- Karei Naru Ichizoku



Karei Naru Ichizoku is a human drama comprising of a star studded cast that aired in 2007. It stars Takuya Kimura as Teppei, the eldest son of the Manpyou family as the protagonist. Here's a summary from dramawiki:

Originally a novel by Yamazaki Toyoko, and later a 1974 movie, Karei naru Ichizoku depicts the conflicts within the Manpyo family, famous in Kansai's financial circles, amidst the tumultuous reorganization of the financial industry of the late 1960s. Unlike the book, the eldest son, Teppei, and not the father, Daisuke, is the central character of the drama.

This drama is set in the late 1960s decade of Japan and depicts the rivalry between Manpyo Daisuke , a powerful banker, and his eldest son, Manpyo Teppei , the executive managing director of a steel firm. For reasons not yet entirely clear, Daisuke seems to dislike his own son and when Teppei finds out why, the Manpyo family is turned upside down.

I will start with the positives. It is easy to say after watching the drama that it was adapted from a novel because it is very well plotted. There is a lot of story that goes into the twelve episodes. The story is filled with ample twists and turns and for a human drama has a large share of suspense. It is not like the emotional and gentle human dramas that we usually see (1 litre of tears and the likes). In fact, if I had to compare the style of this novel to a western author, the first one I would think of is Sidney Sheldon. That is not to say that this drama is not original but to say that the plotting is world class. For western audiences, this would translate to something like Sheldon's Master of the Game (this is my opinion). This is a drama that spans many generations in a period of time where Japan was rapidly expanding especially in the steel and banking sectors. Therefore, there are conflicts due to the difference in thinking between generations one prominent example of this being the perception of marriage. The novel was well adapted into script and directed. There are quite a few popular plot devices that the drama utilises but I don't want to spoil it for you, so, I won't reveal them.

Another big plus point of this drama is the cast. Of course, anything with Takuya Kimura already passes the test but the other characters here were not sidekicks but experienced actors in their own right. For me, this was one of Takuya Kimura's best performances. I always thought of him as a romance hero but after this drama, I think he does these kinds of roles better than romance. Teppei, Kimura's character is the protagonist and one of the characters you want to root for. Besides Takuya Kimura, Suzuki Kyoka's acting stood out. Her portrayl of Aiko was done well. I think her enigmatic appearance matched her role and she managed to stir emotions of hatred in the viewers towards her character. Kitaoji Kinya'a portrayal of the head of Manpyou family was another A+ performance. All these three characters made a strong emotional impact. I saw Aibu Saki but she is not her best here. I found Sanae's acting very bland compared to the other characters but maybe that had something to do with her role. Overall, the cast was great and made the drama work. A lot of them were good looking and added to the visual appeal of this drama which may not have been so appealing on TV otherwise.

As for the negatives, there is a long list of them as well. The picture quality is oldish considering that the drama aired in 2007. I guess this is okay to create a sense of the time period.

 For me, the biggest problem with this drama was that it was very hard to relate to. The time period is a bit old. The characters seem solely motivated by lust, ambition, money or jealousy and rarely display the more tender feelings of love or compassion.
Teppei was the only character that you can relate to and probably Daisuke. All the women were very flat as characters except Aiko maybe. It may be due to the fact that women didn't occupy a very important position in society at that time. Nevertheless, the characters are a bit one dimensional and even though you can sense the depth in them, they still lack the wholeness of being human and having those gentler moments. The atmosphere of the drama is very tense and this seems very unusual considering that the main cast is supposed to be one family. Despite that, they lack a general feeling of love underlying all the complexity. The drama did a very good job of portraying the myopic view of the time it was set in and I can relate the older people around me to that generation. The portrayal was very realistic.

Additionally, the ending was the biggest strength and weakness of this drama. My Japanese friend and I were discussing this drama once and we both agreed that the ending was not very pleasing. The pacing is also a bit rushed towards the end. Most of the events in the beginning are not very important and spaced out but the events towards the end progress very fast to the climax.
The drama projects the frail nature of human emotions especially ambition, and desire. Misunderstandings and how they get built and create baseless hatred is also another theme in the drama. Change, transformation and the winning and losing parties in the constant evolution of societies is also looked at.

Overall, the drama was very strong if you look for a human drama that presents the dark side of human nature. Also, for those wanting to learn more about Japan post World War 2, this is a good drama. I would also recommend it to Takuya Kimura fans. His acting is wonderful here. If the novel is translated, I would want to read it because I think there are some things I would understand better if I read the novel.


Plot-4.6/5
Characters-4/5
Acting-4.4/5
Overall- 4/5

Pros

Cast
Plot
Detail

Cons

May be hard to relate to
Ending

I am sorry I can't upload photos now. My laptop's giving me trouble.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Drama review- Zenkai Girl



Devoted to becoming an international lawyer, Ayukawa Wakaba is full of ambition. Her hard work pays off when she lands a job at an international law firm, but to her disappointment, the first prestigious assignment that is given to her is to babysit the boss' 5 year old daughter, Hinata. Wakaba loathes kids and nursing, but unwillingly takes on the job as she is fixated on wealth and success. One day when she goes to a preschool to pick up Hinata, she meets a man named Yamada Sota. Sota is a man without higher education, wealth, or a future goal, someone that Wakaba absolutely cannot stand, the complete opposite of her ideals. Once again, contrary to her will, she ends up looking after Hinata and a few other kids along with Sota. Despite being exhausted from all the first-time experiences in child care, Wakaba begins to realize what is truly important to her. A heart-warming comedy about work, relationships and love. (dramawiki)

Ayukawa Wakaba (Yui Aragaki) is the typical career woman, or rather wannabe career woman. The typical career woman would have to be her boss, Himejima Sakurakawa, who effortlessly manages to make huge deals and is a super achiever, and even manages to buy her daughter expensive things. Her daughter Hinata, whom Wakaba looks after, is actually a very mature kid, who can do everything on her own, so she hardly needs Wakaba's help. She has a bit of a princessy attitude, but is never annoying or tyrannical. In fact, she even schemes to help Wakaba with her love life and provides guidance and advice throughout the show to Wakaba (talk about reversal of roles). I really liked Hinata's character. She even has a cute little crush on Sota's (Ryo Nishikido) son, as they go to the same play school.


I found the drama very addictive and watchable, especially because I have been looking for this kind of drama for a long time. It is lighthearted, has enough romance to satisfy the viewer and also has touching and emotional scenes about parenting and life in general.

Wakaba's character is a very strong one, unlike the typical feminine, weak heroines. She has been fending for herself since she was young and as a result, is extremely materialistic and looks down on those with 'no achievement' like Sota. She is apalled to think that someone would be a stay-at-home dad even though her own father was one (I didn't really get this), but slowly warms up to Sota and the other dads and realizes the importance of family. As a result, she even reconciles with her father. Wakaba is very image conscious and struggles with the mind-heart conflict. This made her seem very real a women in her position would struggle with the thought of whether to marry for security and money or love because of her life circumstances. Of course, in the end love triumphs (expect a happy ending) since this is a rom-com drama after all. Her personality is a bit unlikeable at first, but even then, she is very hardworking and persevering and her personality slowly becomes much better.

I really liked the interaction between the kids as well, who were much more mature than their parents, for sure. They spot Wakaba and Sota's budding romance even before the leads and plot ways to get them together. The drama has funny parts, but I wouldn't say that it is a laugh-out-loud funny drama.

As the synopsis accurately says this drama is a heart-warming comedy about work, realtionships and love. I would definitely recommend it as I enjoyed it very much.

Ratings
Plot-4
Characters-5
Story-4.5
Acting-3.5

Pros
Happy ending
Strong characters

Cons
A bit unrealistic

NOTE- Images do not belong to me

Book review- The Professor and the Housekeeper by Yoko Ogawa



Professor and the Housekeeper by Yoko Ogawa was originally written in Japanese but has been translated into English. I for one, am glad that so many Japanese novels are being translated into English. I have always wanted to read Japanese novels but I don't know how to read Japanese.

'He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem—ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.

She is an astute young Housekeeper—with a ten-year-old son—who is hired to care for the Professor.

And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor's mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities—like the Housekeeper's shoe size—and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.' (amazon.com)

The synopsis on the back of the book that I have reads a bit differently. The one line that attracted me to the book was the last line of the synopsis. 'With each new equation, three lost souls forge an affection more mysterious than imaginary numbers, and a bond that runs deeper than memory'. I wondered, is it possible for a bond to run deeper than memories? Aren't bonds built on memories? I was intrigued so I wanted to read this novel.

This novel is not a romance novel, in fact I don't think it fits neatly into any genre. In some parts, when the professor lectures about mathematics, it can actually seem like you're reading a non-fiction book. In other parts, the story is quite tender, a human drama.

Gentle and touching are good words to describe this book. The language is extremely simple but very beautiful and brings about the story and emotions in the book very clearly. Yoko Ogawa's writing style is an asset to this novel.

The story revolves around the housekeeper, her son 'Root' (because his head looks like a square root) and the sixty-four year old retired mathematics professor, who has only eightly minutes of memory. Even though this is quite a disturbing condition, in the story it seems just normal.

Throughout the story, the housekeeper, her son and the professor become closer through mathematics, such as when the professor describes the relationship between the housekeeper's birthday and his watch (they are amicable numbers). The housekeeper feels that there is a 'connection' between them through these numbers. The professor also acts as a grandfather-sort-of figure for her son Root.

I thought that the story was very simple and beautiful. The book is pretty thin compared to the standard length of novels.

I would recommend this book for those interested in deep and profound books, with simple language (like the Little prince).

Ratings
Story-4
Characters-5
Style-5
Plot-2

Pros
Interesting characters and realistic relationship building
Makes mathematics seem like a language and relationships between numbers like poetry

Cons
Even though it was a gentle story, it lacks a bit of emotion. I never even came close to crying.



Book review- Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino




I have recently become a Keigo Higashino fan after reading his book the Devotion of suspect X and watching the Galileo drama series. Salvation of a Saint is another novel in the Galileo Series that has been translated into English. The third full novel in the series, A Midsummer's equation will be translated in the future, I think. I can't wait!

The basic premise of Salvation of a Saint is the murder of businessman Yoshitaka in his apartment. He was poisoned after his wife left to meet her parents. Once again, we see detective Kusanagi and professor Manabu (aka Galileo), but joining them this time is rookie cop Utsumi Kaoru. I have seen Kaoru's character in the drama where she was the one who is always seeking professor Manabu's help rather than Kusanagi, and received more screen time. I was very happy to see her in this book. She adds a much needed 'female' dimension to the novel.

Like the previous book, most of the book consists of talking to suspects, visiting places and tracing leads connected to the time. Galileo comes up with a few theories that need to be discarded in the beginning. I really liked that he was failing and trying again, rather than everything just coming to his as a solved mystery at the end of the book.

From the beginning of the book, the murderer is known, so the focus is on proving how the murderer committed the murder since the murderer has an airtight alibi. However, I felt that the motive for murder was pretty weak.

The characters are also a bit boring when compared to Devotion of Suspect X where I found Ishigami's character quite intriguing. Ayane's character is among the better ones but I really liked Utsumi Kaoru's enthusiasm and drive. She trusts her feminine intuition completely, but is not illogical.

Overall, this book was a very solid mystery novel that will keep you turning pages. This is also in the same genre of 'intellectual mystery' where the detective figures out a very complicated method of murder with just their brains. I really like these types of mysteries. They are somewhat similar to Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes but set in modern times.

Galileo 2  drama is going to be airing in spring, by the way and I can't wait!

Ratings

Plot-5
Characters-3
Story-4
Style-4.7

Pros
Great writing style that keeps you turning pages
Interesting plot thatw ill keep you guessing
Great conclusion

Cons
Characters are not very interesting
The whole situation seems a bit 'mundane' and 'ordinary' rather than 'spectacular'

NOTE- Images do not belong to me and have been taken from Google image search

Monday, March 25, 2013

Book review- Playing the Maestro by Aubrie Dionne



Melody Mires has sworn off dating musicians, but when the sexy European conductor Wolf Braun takes over her struggling symphony, her hesitation almost flies out the window with the notes of her flute—until he opens his mouth. Wolf is arrogant, haughty, and seems to have a personal vendetta against Melody. Oh, and he’s her boss. If she wants to keep her job as principal flutist, she’ll have to impress Wolf while simultaneously keeping her undeniable attraction to herself.

Wolf came to America to get as far away from his past as possible, and to recover some of the swagger he had as one of the world’s best maestros. He never imagined being forced to reassess the entire orchestra’s talent—and potentially fire anyone who doesn’t make his cut. Dating the attractive flutist is out of the question, but as their feelings reach a fever pitch, can they risk both their careers for a chance at love? (from goodreads)

The heroine has quite an unusual name. This romance is a typical modern love story but with a musical twist. However, I did not find that the music aspect of it was featured often enough, for example as a tool to deepen or develop their feelings for each other or someone else. There are many scenes involving music, obviously, as both of them work for an orchestra and there are other sub-plots involving music as well, but it all boils down to just description of music and what is being performed, rather than taking it to a deeper level. This wasn't necessarily a negative thing, but just that it annoyed me that the music aspect, which was so interesting, is used just like a job, like in other novels the characters who are lawyers, accountants, ceos etc. have their jobs and events happening  in their job featured prominently but it acts as a secondary plot rather than a force for bringing the characters together.

Other than that, the hero was interesting and a strong character in the novel, because he was the perfect balance of good looks, hurtful past and caring personality. Although there's a lot in his past, he never falls into the brooding hero stereotype.

The novel was quite interesting and a quick and breezy read. If you're looking for a good contemporary romance novel with a little unique twist, Playing the Maestro would be a good choice.

Ratings
Story-4/5
Characters-4.5/5
Style-4.6/5

Pros
A musical romance
Hero and heroine are not very stereotyped or annoying

Cons
The music aspect could have been used better

NOTE- I received a copy of this book from the publisher but my opinions are not biased and the review is in no way influenced by this

Friday, March 8, 2013

Book review- Devotion of suspect X by Keigo Higashino



Devotion of suspect X is a mystery/thriller novel by Keigo Higashino featuring the genius physicist and detective, Yukawa Manabu and inspector Kusanagi. It is part of the Galileo series. This novel has caused a lot of buzz recently so I decided to give it a try. Also, since I have watched the drama Galileo and loved it (You can find the review on this blog as well), I really wanted to read the book.

The book starts off pretty unsually for a mystery where so much hinges on how the murder was committed. It shows exactly how the murder happened and the events surrounding it. This tricks the reader into complacency as they feel they already know how it was done, but this is not a good assumption (as the book subsequently shows, assumptions are the biggest barrier to cracking a case). An interesting character featured right from the start is that of Ishigami, a maths teacher who lives next to the victim's wife's house.

The writing style was what really captured me, apart from the very interesting plot. The style is so simple that even a middle schooler could easily read. It doesn't feature any vocabulary of high level. I don't know whether the credit for this goes to the translator or the writer himself. Because of its simplicity, it is even more addictive.

The plot features a brilliant twist at the end as well as throughout. This is a mystery novel along the lines of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie mysteries which feature impossible to guess, startling endings in which all the threads are tied together.

The characterisation was quite well done, and one easily gets a sense of the characters, who are not stereotyped but real people. Even though it is a plot focused novel, the personality of characters still manages to shine through.

Overall, this was a great novel. The writing style, plot, characterisation were all good and the ending was the icing on the cake. I couldn't wait to read the next page. Thsi novel will keep you hooked.

Ratings
Plot-4.7/5
Characters-4.5/5
Style-5/5
Story-4.3/5

Pros
Addictive and a racy read
Full of surprises and a great ending
Does not lose out on emotion even though it is a mystery novel
Clear and simpel writing style which works well for the book

Cons
Is wholely focused on the mystery; characters or other things are not explored in detail.
The ending page could have been better

Overall, I will definitely be looking foward to reading The Salvation of a Saint, the next in this series.

NOTE- Images taken from google image search