Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Book Review- Trade Me by Courtney Milan






Trade Me is a new young adult novel by Courtney Milan. 

Here is the blurb: Tina Chen just wants a degree and a job, so her parents never have to worry about making rent again. She has no time for Blake Reynolds, the sexy billionaire who stands to inherit Cyclone Systems. But when he makes an offhand comment about what it means to be poor, she loses her cool and tells him he couldn’t last a month living her life.
To her shock, Blake offers her a trade: She’ll get his income, his house, his car. In exchange, he’ll work her hours and send money home to her family. No expectations; no future obligations.
But before long, they’re trading not just lives, but secrets, kisses, and heated nights together. No expectations might break Tina’s heart...but Blake’s secrets could ruin her life.
The two things that made me interested in this book were 1) the premise of trading lives. I wanted to see how this would work out. 2) Interracial romance- I am always interested in these. 
It starts off okay. I have to admit though, I found it a bit hard to like Tina in the beginning and even in the end. Blake, however, I liked from the start. He is sweet, sensitive and mature. I found Tina a bit too difficult to understand and stubborn and always using her poverty to become defensive about everything. 
But anyway, on to the story. The story was well paced and there was some interesting stuff going on. A lot of it is similar to other contemporary romances, in how you would expect it to develop. Towards the end is when it becomes really exciting as  many secrets about the characters start surfacing.  Also, this could  just be my opinion, but I found Tina's poverty a bit too exaggerated and becoming the theme of every conversation in one way or the other. 
The supporting characters, especially Blake's father and Tina's father and Tina's roommate  were very well fleshed out and I probably liked them even more than the main characters.  However, I found Tina's mother just as annoying and stubborn as her in her ways. I guess it's genetic. 
But flaws aside, this series has an interesting backdrop and some really good characters whom I hope to read more about in future books (especially Blake and Tina's fathers). If you are interested in new adult romances and anything with the word 'billionaire', this book is a good read. 
Ratings 
Characters-4/5
Story- 3/5
Writing style- 5/5

NOTE- I received this book for review. However the opinions are not influenced by this in any way. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Author Interview with Courtney Milan

                                    



Hi there, everyone. I am excited to present to you an author interview with historical (and now contemporary) romance writer Courtney Milan. 
TRIVIA




Her latest book Trade Me has just been released. You can find out more about this book and her other works on her website- http://www.courtneymilan.com. I will shortly be reviewing Trade Me on Review Carnival.






Wednesday, January 14, 2015

J-pop group interview- 4TE






Hi there everyone. It has been a long time since there was a post on Review Carnival. However, here I am today, interviewing j-pop group 4TE. 4TE is a very unique group in that they are a concept group where all members met and collaborated over the internet, to finally release their single More/Ippo zutsu. I was really excited when I heard of something so novel so I decided to interview them. Here is the interview. The details of their first single are at the end. There are 4 members in this group: Jenny, Chii, Micchi and Mei.


Some Trivia about the members:


Name of member- Jenny
Favorite color- Red
Zodiac sign- Capricorn
Place of your dreams-  Osaka
Favorite artist/singer- Utada Hikaru


Name of member- Chii
Favorite color- Pink
Zodiac sign- Taurus
Place of your dreams- Harajuku
Favorite artist/singer- Mariko Goto

Name of member- Micchi
Favorite color- Blue
Zodiac sign- Aries
Place of your dreams- Akihabara
Favorite artist/singer- °C-ute

Name of member- Mei
Favorite color- White
Zodiac sign- Taurus
Place of your dreams- Shibuya
Favorite artist/singer- Beyoncé


The interview

1) Your group concept is very unique and all of you are from very
different backgrounds. Just to make it clear to your fans, can you
describe what you do (or used to do)  and how you met the other members of
the group?

Chii: Living in a Mexican community that values its rich heritage, it was
difficult to find other fans of Japanese music and like many others, I
turned to the internet to reach out to like-minded people. I started a
youtube channel where I uploaded primarily anime theme songs and Showa
Kayou. I knew most people wouldn’t listen to my songs if the videos only
featured audio so I decided to give MV-type videos a spin. Naturally, the
more time I invested in this hobby, the more I took it seriously and
learned more about lighting, cameras, recording etc. Without even feeling
it, I had invested all of my attention in music production and all of the
things that follow it. Eventually, I was contacted by a net-idol group and
through that, met the other members of what would finally become 4TE.


Mei: Before I became a part of 4TE, I was auditioning for commercial
acting and singing gigs. I owned a Youtube channel, but had only stuck to
solo covers and originals. The amount of collaborations I’d done online
were close to zero. One day when I was searching for auditions, I found
one for a net-idol group - and it was through this project that I had met
the other talents and staffs in 4TE. I honestly felt like the whole “idol”
image wasn’t my thing, it felt way superficial (now that’s not saying
nothing else in the music industry isn’t, haha!) - but it wasn’t me. So
after we left, we decided that we were going to create a J-POP group that
didn’t restrict us to one image, and this was perfect for us. We’re
artists, we create, each of us are unique, and each of us have something
artistically different to offer. Not being bound by one image gave us the
freedom to create this beautiful mish-mash… thing that we call 4TE, and I
love it.


Jenny:  I originally started off on youtube as mainly a vocaloid cover
artist (utaite or youtaite as they call it in the community). I met the
rest of 4TE after I auditioned and became part of a “net-idol” project
over the internet. On our own, we decided that we wanted to start our own
thing and follow our own path into J-pop so we created our 4 member group,
4TE.

Micchi: I had been a fan of anime since I was a little girl, and I
eventually discovered Japanese pop music through youtube. When I saw that
people were posting recordings of their singing and dancing online, I
wanted to join the fun and made my own channel when I was 12. I also had
been taking various dance lessons, so my love of dance and performing
inspired me to make videos. To this day, I’ve been posting singing and
dance covers of Japanese songs to youtube. The J-pop youtube community was
very small when I first started out, and it’s amazing to see how much it
has grown since then! I auditioned for the net-idol group that everyone
else was in, and from there, I joined 4TE.




2) Producing and releasing a single is hard work. How did you share the
work? Who wrote the song, who produced it and how did you record it and
get a label to release it since you are all in different places.

Chii: If there is anything unique about this group, I’d definitely say
it’s just how much we all individually take part in the creative process.
Anything from music to video production, we all have a strong voice in the
matter. One song may feature the writing of Mei , for example, and another
may be all of us. In “MORE”s case, our producer (known as promwolf on the
internet) created a short concept and Jenny and I worked at coming up with
a vocal melody on top of it. Turns out, we both really liked how ours
sounded together! So, we went with: intro, verse, spoken part, written by
me, and chorus, ad lib, written by Jenny. From there, promwolf extended it
and wrote based on the structure that was being formed. Some little
snippets of instrumentation thrown in were actually parts I wrote myself
too. (such as the piano part and a synth heard in the background of the
chorus) Our other producer (Felipe) contributed to the chord progression
in the chorus to give it more energy. Once lyrics were completed in
English, our manager Berry wrote the Japanese lyrics. I mix the vocals in
the first stage, and it gets sent back to Promwolf to master. In short, we
certainly all do our part in bringing our music to fruition.


Jenny: We have a few producers working with us. Our producer, “PromWolf”
is mainly responsible for our sound. He’d come up with a demo and we’d
kind of pass it around and record melodies over it, we listened, and tried
to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Then when it came to recording
the real thing, we’d have to do it seperately in our own homes and then
send it to Chii who would mix everything together to create the final
product. As of right now though, we actually aren’t apart of any label.
We’re what people would call “Independant” and all the work and
distribution is done by both the members, producers, and managers.


3) When did you decide that you wanted to be a singer and what advice
would you give to aspiring singers who want to pursue their dreams?

Chii: I grew up being too afraid to sing. I only began to seriously work
towards it once my confidence went up and I finally pushed myself to
publicize my growth. My biggest piece of advice to aspiring singers is to
find a balance between high confidence to keep going,  taking risks even
when the outcome is slim, and having humility to continue improving.

Mei: In elementary school, we were taught to memorize dozens of patriotic
songs, and in second grade, I remember having to sing in class with
everyone else. My teacher noticed my singing (or wailing at the time, I
can’t honestly remember how I sounded in second grade.) and told my mom I
could sing. Not long after, I found myself awkwardly singing on top of a
desk in front of the school, swallowing my mic while singing the national
anthem. That was my first performance, and since then, I had been working
towards my goal of becoming a singer. My advice to singers who want to
pursue their dream is to keep going. You’re going to get a lot more “no”s
than “yes”es. Sometimes it is you, sometimes it isn’t you, but regardless
of the reason, keep working on your craft, be in the know (knowledge is
power), and always aim to better yourself.

Jenny: For a long time, singing was only a hobby for me. I originally
wanted to go into Illustration haha but I’m honestly not very good. It
actually wasn’t until I met my fellow members that I really decided to go
for it as a singer. The best advice I could give to other aspiring singers
is to educate yourself in as many aspects of the field as possible. It’s a
bit cliche’ to say I know, but I can speak from personal experience that
the classes I’ve taken in music business, sound engineering, and vocal
training has proven it’s worth time and time again.

Micchi: I mainly focused on dancing, but I would always enjoy singing my
favorite songs everywhere I went. I never took singing too seriously until
I started posting song covers online, and my singing started to improve
over years of making videos. Joining 4TE was really what caused me to push
myself further in singing, and my parents also helped in supporting me! My
advice for aspiring singers would be to just have fun and to never give
up. If you really love what you do, then that will truly inspire you to
keep going at it and keep improving no matter what obstacles you face!

4) What are your future plans? Are you planning to release more singles,
or maybe an album?

Chii: We’ll probably release a couple more singles to get ourselves
established and then we’ll have enough of an audience to release a full
album. That’s just my thought process anyway~


Jenny: We have a lot of songs in the works! I wish we could show everyone
everything we’re working on! But they say patience is a virtue so… haha


5) Where can fans watch you perform live? Do you have any plans of touring
yet?

Chii: Although we wouldn’t necessarily associate our music with anime,
there is much more of an appreciation for J-pop in that community here in
America so we will most likely make plans to tour at cons in the US.  As
for Japan, there aren’t currently any solid plans but we are certainly
willing!

Mei: Right now, we’re aiming for performing at cons. However, if the
occasion arises, we would also be open to performing at events - music,
fashion, anime, anywhere that you can possibly imagine hearing J-POP
performed. We do have touring in the works, and if it were to happen,
we’ll probably have something up and running towards the later half of the
year.

Jenny: We would like to try and book a small tour at the end of the summer
in texas at different anime cons. It would be nice to spread out from just
cons but time will tell!

Micchi: Conventions are definitely places we are aiming for. It’d be
exciting to be able to perform in front of an audience that shares our
love of Japanese music! As we continue to grow as a group, hopefully our
venues will expand as well!

6) What message would you like to give your fans?

Chii: We promise to be an ever-growing group so please stick around to
witness it! Thank you for all the support.

Mei: You guys are freaking awesome! Thank you guys so much for all the
help and support. Every bit of support pushes us to work harder. We love
creating art that you all can enjoy, so we hope that you continue to
support us!!


Jenny: Thank you so much for the overwhelming show of support for our
group. We did not expect to gain as much attention as we did. I really
hope you truly enjoy what we do as much as we enjoy doing it for you and
please look forward to hearing more from us in the future!

Micchi: We truly appreciate all the love and support we’ve been getting!
We have so much more amazing things to share with you all, and I hope you
continue to stay with us along the way. Thank you all so much!

And as promised here are the details for their single:






"M O R E / 一歩ずつ "
released 08 January 2015
Debut Double A-side Single
credits


1. M O R E
Melody: Christi Arredondo, Jennifer Diaz
Lyrics: Berry Risa, Christi Arrendondo
Music: Richard Garza, Felipe Vilches, Christi Arredondo
2. 一歩ずつ (Ippo Zutsu)
Melody: Christi Arredondo, Jennifer Diaz, Mei Sasmita
Lyrics: Berry Risa
Music: Richard Garza, Christi Arredondo
3. M O R E (instrumental)
4. 一歩ずつ (Ippo Zutsu) (instrumental)

Right now it can only be purchased through the group's site https://4teofficial.bandcamp.com/album/m-o-r-e  but there are plans for an iTunes release. 

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.