Monday, May 30, 2016

Captain America: the First Avenger movie review

I know I'm a bit late for this party but I saw the first Captain America movie on Saturday and thought I'd share my thoughts. I have never been a big superhero fan, I've only seen the Tobey Maguire Spiderman trilogy, the Dark Knight and the first Thor movie and thought they were OK, not great. Althought now that I think about it, I watch Arrow and the Flash and enjoy them quite a bit, but that's it.

The only interesting factor that made me actually want to watch Captain America is that Sebastian Stan is one of the actors in it. I love Sebastian Stan, too bad he never stays long in any of my favorite series (how awesome is Jefferson in Once Upon a Time?) I was a bit disappointed at how small his role was after all, the movie would have been so much better if he had more screen time.

The beginning was promising though; I liked Skinny Steve a lot and I hate when "weak" characters suddenly get huge muscles and perfect abs. It gives so wrong image to people. Also all the USA propaganda makes me cringe and I'm a bit tires to all these WW2 themed movies. There are other interesting eras and historic events, you know.

Funny thing about this movie was that the villains were the actors of Elrond and Thorin. That's basically the only good thing about the villains, they are very 2-dimensional and left me cold. I'm obviously not familiar with the Marvel universe but I can guess Hydra will come up in other Marvel movies.

The ending was quite sad, Steve waking up 70 years later in a hugely developed world. His love interest is probably long dead or at least very old at that point which was about the only thing that moved me in this movie (okay Sebastian Stan falling to his apparent death was a shock but I googled that he is in the next Captain America movie too, so he's not dead). Based on this movie I'm still not that fond of Marvel but if the other movies happen to pop up somewhere I might very well watch them too.

Friday, May 27, 2016

My Favorite Disney Movies

I grew up in the 90s which is described as the Disney Renaissance and for good reason. None of the movies made during that time were bad, not even average but true gold. Many of my favorite movies are from that era, so I thought I's list my top5. I will only include Disney Classics, not Pixar or live action movies.

5. 101 Dalmatians: I like all Disney Classics, though some of them I've never seen, but some have a special place in my heart mostly because I used to watch it when I was a kid. 101 Dalmatians is one of them, we played the old VHS so many times with my sister. Also, Cruella is awesome.

4. Robin Hood: I have a weak spot for heroes with a bow (coughlegolascough) and Robin Hood in his foxy form is right down my alley. I never cared too much for the noble and brave princes but little shady characters get my heart beating. This is a fun and adventurous movie and I love it, never mind that it's from not so successful Disney era.

3. Peter Pan: in addition to heroes with boys, I love pirates and one of my deepest wishes is to be able to fly. Peter flies and never grows up so this movie has everything I could ever wish for. Stories with eventful adventures and freedom as a theme always appeal to me.

2. The Little Mermaid 1 & 2: I know that the sequel isn't technically a Classic, but I watched it more than the first movie, so I'm going to count it in here. I'm not a big fan of larger than life love stories but the concept of mermaids is what I loved here as a kid and still do. The story is great in both movies but as a kid I identified more with Melody because she wanted to be free and explore the sea. Music and the songs in these movies are some of the best there are and they will always stay in my heart.

1. The Lion King 1 & 2: again I'm going to include the sequel, deal with it. When I was very small, like 3 years, I never got past the elephant graveyard scene in the first movie because the hyenas were so scary. In my opinion The Lion King will always be the Disney masterpiece, I don't think any movie can ever top this, it's perfect. The music, the songs, the story, the characters, it all just clicks and I have loved it my whole life. The death of Mufasa is a 100% tearjerker for me and I rarely cry watching movies.
Now about the sequel: though it may not be as perfect as the first one, it will forever be my favorite. I got it on my birthday and since then I watched it at least once a day for a few years. Kiara is the fictional character that embodies me 100%. I was a bit of a wild child, climbing trees and seeking adventures, not wanting anyone telling me what to do. I identify with Kiara more than any other character, real or fictional, and I love Kovu too. The story is beautiful and the songs are great, I used to know them all by heart as a kid. Thank you Disney for making my childhood so great.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Book Review: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)

I don't know if I know how to write a sufficient book review but let's try. I'll give an overview first and then go on to more specifics, but I'll give you a warning when the spoilers start.

So The Sword of Summer is the first book in the new Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan. The book is definitely written in Riordan's familiar style including fast action and ongoing joky tone. That probably has an appeal among a bit younger audience but I feel like I'm getting a little too old for this style. Riordan seems to be determined to claim all the possible gods to his stories, the new addition in this series being the Norse mythology. His next series is bound to be about Hindu gods, I'm calling it here.

To give you a quick synopsis, Magnus Chase is a 16-year-old boy who dies on his birthday fighting a fire giant Surt. He is brough to Valhalla, a place for heroes who died in combat, by a valkyria named Sam. It turns out that Magnus is a son of Freyr, a god from Norse mythology. He gets a prophecy stating that Ragnarök, viking version of the apocalypse, will start in nine days if he doesn't find the Sword of Summer before Surt. That leads to a quest with a lot of twist and turns through several of the nine Norse mythology worlds.

At times I felt like the book had a lot of similarities with the Percy Jackson series and especially with the Lightning Thief. The Sword of Summer is very enjoyable but after reading 14 Riordan books already I'm starting to get tired of his style. He should upgrade it a bit, since his characters are not 12 years old anymore.

Now that I mentioned characters, a few words about them. For the most part they were good and interesting if I forget the fact that they have some similarities to Riordan's earlier characters. The diversity of the characters is wide: Magnus is homeless, Sam is of Middle-Eastern background, Hearth is deaf and Blitz wants to design clothes instead of working as a blacksmith as most of the dwarfs do.

Despite my criticism, I will read the whole series through if it stays on this level (or gets even better, who knows). I liked the book enough to be interested in the story and the characters and the Norse mythology is a cool thing since I don't know much about it. The Greek gods I was somewhat familiar with since we touched on them on history lessons while talking about the Ancient Greece but we skipped the Norse mythology totally when we talked about vikings. I gave this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads and recommend anyone who likes Riordan's other books to read this too.

Now a few words about the specific things in this book. SPOILERS AHEAD! Don't read on if you don't want to get spoiled.

First about the similarities between this book and the Percy Jackson books. To start with Magnus, he finds out that he is a son of a god and not only that, he is the only son of that god in a long time. He has lost his mother, which felt somewhat similar to the Lightning Thief, though Percy's mother doesn't actually die. The book is written in Magnus's point of view a.k.a. the narration is in first person and he cracks same kind of jokes as Percy. Thank gods he is not also ADHD and dyslexic but actually loves reading and books, which was heartwarming for me.

I don't know if I'm going to like Sam or not. She is the Annabeth to Magnus's Percy but I hope they will not become a couple. I love Annabeth and Percy as a couple but for once it would be nice to see a pair working together as just good friends. Sam's background and engagement to Amir is interesting and I'd like to see how that plays out in the long run. 

It was nice to see Annabeth even for a little while. I'd love it if they visited Camp Half-Blood or New Rome and Magnus got to meet Percy and everybody else. 

There are probably a lot more similarities than I have mentioned so far but I'll say this last one and somebody else can pick up from here. Gunilla reminded me of Clarisse, a tall and mean leader type of character who doesn't like the main character. I though she would be one of the regular characters thoughout the series but no. I still can't believe she died, her and Magnus's moment on the balcony looking down on Asgard made me ship them and it was all crushed. Still not over it.

I can already guess what happens in the last book of the series. So much talk about Ragnarök can only lead to Ragnarök or a smaller version of it. It will be an event like the war in the Last Olympian where all gods and demigods and viking heroes are involved.

After reading this I need to get my hands on the Trials of Apollo series but since the first book (Hidden Oracle) just came out I don't think that will happen soon. Luckily I have tons of books waiting to be read, so the wait shouldn't be that bad.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Monthly Recommendations: Friendship Stories

Goodreads has tons of groups and one of them is called Monthly Recommendations hosted by Trina from the booktube channel Between Chapters and Kayla from Kayla Rayne. Each month there is a topic for which you can give recommendations to, and the topic for this month is Friendship Stories. A lot of books are about friendship or the friendship is one of the core elements of a lot of books, but I tried to choose books that have something special about the friendship in them. Also I'm not going to include the most obvious choices like Harry Potter in this list but books I think not so many people necessarily have heard of or read.

First I want to recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora (and the whole Gentlemen Bastard Sequence for that matter). Locke Lamora is a bit like Robin Hood and the Gentlemen Bastards are his Merry Men. They steal from the rich but keep it all themselves and live carefree life. In the middle of a con someone interferes their business and things start to get dangerous on several levels. The book includes flashbacks showing how the group came together and became such a seamless team of criminals.

The second book I'm going to recommend is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This follows an Afghan boy called Amir and his family's servant's son Hassan, who are best friends despite being from different social classes. They live in 1970s Kabul in Afghanistan, where one day Hassan gets in trouble and Amir doesn't help him because he is a coward. This drives a wedge between them, and sometime after that the Soviet Union attacks Kabul and Amir escapes with his father to the United States. His past keeps haunting him even when he has grown up until he gets a chance to make it all better.

The third book I want to recommend is City of Thieves by David Benioff. This is a story about two young men, reserved Lev and confident Kolja, during the siege of Leningrad in WWII. They meet at jail and in exchange for their freedom they are told to find a dozen eggs for a colonel's daughter's wedding cake in five days. Since food is scarce during the siege that is almost an impossible task, but they try nevertheless and a lot of close calls, stumbling and serious danger follows. Even in the most desperate situations they have each others back right til the end.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My Eurovision 2016 Favorites

This year I'm not going to guess which countries are going to get to the final but I will list my favorites (which probably don't even get to the final and definitely are not going to win). I have no understanding of music, so this is not an educated opinion. I like songs very randomly, but usually the melody has to have some hook but not too obvious and lyrics have to have some hook too but not too repetitive, which is a problem with many Eurovision songs. Anyway, my favorites this year, in no particular order, are:

Belgium: young and sweet singer and the song is catchy. Delightful dance moves too, I wouldn't mind Belgium doing well for a change.

Hungary: I liked this entry before I even heard the song, because the singer is a former basketball player and that is a big plus in my books. Singer's voice is lovely and I like the Star Wars-y light sticks the background singers wave.

Bulgaria: feels modern, I could see this played on the radio around Europe. The melody gets me dancing, so definitely one of my favorites.

Iceland: the singer of the Iceland's entry has been on Eurovision earlier and I liked her then and I like her now, though the song this year is a little bit more mainstream and the show has some similar elements to that of the winner of the last year.

Ireland: I'm too young to remember Westlife, but boybands are always in. This is the most summery of all the songs this year and listening to it makes me want to sit in the sun..light with my friends.

Cyprus: this reminds me of Linkin Park, which is not a bad thing. Heavier music is still quite rare in Eurovision, nobody has been able to do what Lordi did. Maybe Cyprus will? I would like to see more rock in Eurovision and I hope this song does well.

Lithuania: this is another a bit summery song and more than that it is about being young and free which usually works. The video is a bit weird but I hope the stage show will be awesome and Lithuania gets into the final.

France: I don't understand why nobody ever votes for France. They've had some very cool songs but they always place last in the final. I hope that won't happen this year, but I'm afraid it will. Anyway, this song, too, makes me happy and smile, so it belongs in my favorites.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Recent Reads 1/16

I thought that I should tell what I have read recently, and since my monthly reading phase depends on how buzy I am and what I am reading, I'll just recap all the books I've read this year so far. In the future I will probably try to space these a little more evenly, maybe every two or three months.

January: half of the Christmas holiday is during January, so I had extra time to read and read five books. First book I read was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It was the first time I read it in English and though I know all the Potter books are awesome, I didn't remember CoS being this good. I should re-read the rest of the series, too, which I will do once I get my hands on the English versions.
Then I read Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater, which I guess is a stand-alone sequel to the Shivers trilogy. I loved Shivers and my oh my did I love Sinner. Isabella and Cole are just the perfect imperfect couple and their undeniable chemistry works like nothing else and sparks fly throughout the book.
After Sinner I read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and that was also extremely good. I had heard it would be good but the synopsis and reviews I had heard didn't quite prepare me for the adventure I stepped into. Basically it takes place in a virtual reality where there is a treasure hunt and the winner inherits the virtual reality company, so not a big deal or anything. My only complaint is that for a chapter or two in the middle of the story the pace kinda dropped and slowed down, but it was picked up fairly quickly and the rest was just great. Can't wait for them to make a movie out of this.
The second to last book I read in January was The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, also known as J.K. Rowling. I had my doubts about this, because I'm not too into detective stories, but Auntie Row delivers as usual. The main character Cormoran Strike is a struggling private detective who forgot to cancel his contract with a temp agency. That gives him Robin Ellacott, who has dreamed of exciting things to happen to her. Together they try to figure out what happened to a model who according to police jumped from a balcony to her death.
And the last book I read in January is So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams, which is the fourth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. The book is as crazy as the first three, going across time and space and nothing seems to be impossible.

February: in February I only read two books, because I started to prepare for my university entrance exam and that took a majority of my time. First I read Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams, the fifth and last book to his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. The book stayed on the same course as the previous four, but I expected a little more since this ended the series. The different plotlines were not resolved like I would have wanted and I was left a bit confused after finishing this. I understand there is a sixth book to this series, but it's written by Eoin Colfer, so I might check that out sometime in hopes that there I could find true closure.
The second book I read in the month of February was The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. The book is set after the second World War, but the winners were Japan and Germany and world is build according to their preferences. The book follows a couple of characters who try to cope with the world, and one of them stumbles onto a sort of revolutionary, strictly forbidden book, The Man in the High Castle which tells how the world would be had the Alliance won the war. The book is very short, only about 300 pages when this could have been made into a whole series. Amazon has adapted this to a TV show and the first season aired last year. I watched it after reading the book and holy cow it was good and felt very fresh, I can honestly recommend it to anyone who likes series with a little historical and political aspects.

March: my March was filled with Percy Jackson, since I only read books by Rick Riordan. I re-read the Battle of the Labyrinth and the Last Olympian and then I went through Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods and Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes. The last two were a bit hard to get through, at least I felt like it, because they were a collection of short stories about Greek gods and Greek heroes and being so there was no coherent plot. Also Riordan's joky style didn't quite fit with these stories since they mostly are tragic and serious tales.

April: in April I only read one huge book, the Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The story of the book is about a young guy who lives in poverty and tries to improve his situation by murdering and robbing a shylock. After the crime he is constantly worried about getting caught and gets into all sorts of situations following his crime. The book is clearly a product of its time, the description of the poverty and the poor and the constant suffering is present all along. I found the story a bit static and tedious at points, but I'm glad I went through it.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Jungle Book review

So as a huge Disney fan I had to go see the live action Jungle Book and it did deliver. Based on trailers I knew the movie would look awesome and it certainly did. My friend had a problem with it not being animation or real but something in between, but I don't mind, it looked awesome. All the animals and the jungle, man the things people can do with a computer these days.

Neel Sethi, who played Mowgli, was just cute and he's obviously very talented, he will have a bright future in acting. It was a bit weird watching when all the voices of the characters were different than what I'm used with the original Jungle Book movie, but I forgot it pretty quickly as I watched. The new characters provided nice comic relief and worked well with the old characters.

The movie was more violent than I expected and sometimes I felt like the plot was a bit far fetched and overdone, considering the characters are animals in the jungle. They didn't even follow the original movie's plot (now I have to point out that to my great regret I have not yet read the book, so I don't know if they perhaps kept closer to the book than the animated movie) and especially towards the end it was very different. I must say I prefer the animated version, but this was excellent experience nevertheless, I can gladly recommend this version, too.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

BookTube shoutout!

I discovered BookTube around New Year's, so my inspiration to write this blog got a little boost. I want to share my favourite BookTubers so other people can find them too. Many popular booktubers are a bit too dramatic and loud to my taste, so the ones I like are more peaceful. Also the type of books they read is a big criteria, people who read nothing similar with me won't get me to subscribe. But anyway, here are my favorite BookTubers:

PeruseProject: quite popular, reads a lot, mostly YA and fantasy which I like. Has good humor but too much, can talk about books adequately.

CassJayTuck: post quite rarely, but great humor and videos are not empty talk but great topics and she has a lot to say.

bookables: reads contemporary and fantasy, very peaceful way of making videos.

jessethereader: tries sometimes to be too funny and gets into his dramatic way of presenting too much, but reads a lot and makes good videos. Also, the only guy on my list, for some reason there are not a lot of male booktubers.

Between Chapters: does a lot of excellent reviews, which sadly is rare in the BookTube community I feel. She's calm and doesn't try to force jokes.

WhittyNovels: very honest way of making videos, doesn't try to embellish anything. Post unregularly, but often enough.

WhyMermaids: sometimes a tiny bit loud, but makes excellent videos of very interesting topics.

Little Word Weaver: my latest discovery, video topics range widely from X-Men to classics. Should talk more about books she has read because she is very good at that, she captures the essence of a books precisely.