bookspluslife

June 20, 2014

Book: A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:24 pm

imagesThis book is the third book in the series of A Song of Fire and Ice, better known as the Game of Thrones Series. It is a continuation of the excellent Game of Thrones, already reviewed here before, and A Clash of Kings, also reviewed here, which I consider is better than the first one. This book, if anything, it is even better than those two books! The series seems to get better and better.

 

You need to definitely read the first two books before you can understand the third. It is not one of the series where each book stands independently because the background of the characters and the richness of the story woven by George Martin will be lost without the background. But the sheer pleasure of reading is the very same as you get when you read the Harry Potter series of J. K Rowling. You get happy that this book is only the third book and, at the time of this writing, there are two  more books that you can read!

 

The story continues.

 

Tyrion wakes up in the Red Keep and finds all is gone. He lost his men, he lost Tommen as hostage, and suspects Cercei tried to kill him through one of his own aids. (If you remember, he survives an assassination attempt in the heat of the battle but loses part of his nose at the end of the second book), Lord Tyron has taken away his Hand of the King title and his Alayaya a decoy for Shae was whipped and driven away. Jamie is being taken by Brianne back to Tyron and for that treason, Catelyn has been imprisoned in her own father’s castle.

 

Davos the Onion Knight that we met in the second book, washes up ashore in a rocky island and  rescued from there after the disaster of the battle. He realizes that he has  all his sons in the battle.

 

Lady Olenna, “the Queen of Thorns”, grandmother of Margery, seems to be a female Tyrion in character!

 

Sansa tells Margaery and Olenna the real nature of  Joffrey against her own best judgement! She has a crush on Loras and assumes, when Olenna offers to take her back to her castle for an alliance, that the latter means to marry her to Loras  but realizes that she is being marked for Willas, an older man and a cripple to boot.

 

Jon and Qhorin Halfhand caught by wildlings, Qhorin persuades Jon to kill him to be accepted by the woldlings and Ygritte. the girl who he had earlier spared, speaks for him. Rattleshirt, the leader with bones as cloak, is taking him to Mance Rayder. He is accepted after an ingenious explanation as a turncoat and one of them.

 

Meanwhile Ser Jorah Mormont persuades his Khaleesi not to trust Illyas fully and to take with her an army.

 

In the meanwhile Arya runs away from the castle and gets taken by an old man from Robert’s army. But he is Cedric’s man and not with Robb at all.

 

Jon joins the wildlings and is attracted to Ygritte and respects them. He is forced to have sex with her and loves it. He is forced to join in an attack against his erstwhile brothers in black – against the Wall

 

Daenerys buys Unsullied, the fanatically loyal and castrated troops who know no fear,  with a treacherous promise but kills the traders (all of them) before she needs to pay up.

 

Sansa, in the meanwhile is forced to marry Tyrion.

 

Arya meets the Hound, who is forced into a battle with a knight whom he wounds grievously.

 

Jamie loses his hand in a shocking scene, to a brutal and cruel warlord Locke.

 

Davos is propositioned  to by Melissandre and is aghast. He is in prison for plotting against her when she proposes to him.

 

Catelyn’s father dies. Robb leaves to placate the Freys and runs into Red Wedding, one of the most shocking scenes in the entire series. I will try not to give it away. Read it, you will not be disappointed, even with this little hyped up sentence in your mind.

 

Arya is captured by the Hound. Jamie is sent to Tywin but comes back to rescue Brienne.

 

Another shocking story where Tyrion is accused of treason against his own family (Reason? Telling you that will be a spoiler)

 

Sansa is rescued by Petyr in a kidnapping,  taken to Lysa and kept there but when Petyr kisses her and is caught by Lysa, Petyr kills Lysa.

 

Arya gets captured by the Hound who wants to give her to Jon and claim his reward. Finally  a stroke of luck for Arya? It was not to be. He runs into enemies and escapes with Arya but is grievously wounded. She watches him die. And moves on.

 

A brilliant story, with more shocking twists than any other book I have read so far. Period.
I will give it a score of  9/10

 

–        – Krishna

June 13, 2014

Movie: Oculus (2013)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies, Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:05 pm

imagesThis is an interesting movie. The trailers made it look like a run-of-the-mill type horror and I went in there just with the expectation of just another blood freezer with moments of silence where someone wanders around the house alone in the dark punctuated by sudden screeches, sudden appearance of things close up to the camera with the intent of scaring the audience into feeling good about paying good money to be scared senseless. Instead, what I got was a very intelligently and very differently narrated story. It is a horror movie, it is true, and it has the creep factor expected, also true but otherwise, you come back with having watched a well-crafted and well narrated storyline as a bonus.

Now, on to the story. Tim Russell gets released from a lunatic asylum. He has a sister called Kaylie who was also a child when Tim went to the asylum (having killed someone with the gun and having been declared insane). His grown up sister Kaylie comes to receive him and hijacks an antique mirror called the Lassar Glass that came for sale in an auction house that she works in. We wonder why. The mirror incidentally is in mint condition – except for a small crack at the lower end.

Our puzzlement increases when we find that she has set up an elaborate contraptions around it, with a lot of cameras, gun, recording devices etc. We slowly are told why.

Time for some explanations and some flashback. As children, Tim and Kaylie moved into a new house with their father Alan and mother Marie. It is an interesting aside that the mother is played by Katee Sackhoff of the Battlestar Galactica fame. ).  Marie is surprised that Alan bought a large mirror for his office (the self same Lassar Glass, without the crack) as this is so out of character for him.

Pressure is mounting on Katie, in the current time, to explain why the mirror was removed for “repairs”. She dodges the question and buys some time for now.

Kaylie meets Tim and asks if he is willing to keep the promise to her made in younger days – and reminds him that he promised her that, when he got out of the loonie bin, he will help her destroy the mirror that ruined their lives. Then takes him to the house to show where she has stored the mirror with such elaborate precautions. Tim is skeptical and says that it was their dad who ruined their lives and the mirror had nothing to do with it.

 

There is a creepy scene where Kaylie meets the mirror in the auction warehouse (before she moves it to a secluded location) and tells “it” that she is going to destroy the mirror. She notices that the objects behind her do weird things (some covered statues move in the mirror but not in real life, sometimes the weirdness spreads to the real world where the statues move). Nicely done, was my thought. But she is fully focused on carrying out the destruction and so moves it “for repair” to her secret place – the very same house that they had occupied when she was a kid.

Past and present interweave beautifully. Slowly we learn that the mother was killed by their dad and Tim then kills his father and is declared insane.

Kaylie records the whole episode as evidence. She first tells of her research, where she finds that everyone who has owned the mirror in the past has died violently. We begin to see that the mirror plays with the mind. Katie takes every precaution to survive. Knowing that all previous victims dies malnourished, she has a timer to remind her to eat and drink, hour on the hour.

Kaylie also knows that the plant feeds off the life force and so keeps plants and a dog to record how the mirror slowly kills them. Tim has had enough and releases the dog over Katie’s protests.

We see Alan slowly falling under the spell of the mirror and even having a woman from the mirror in his room. Marie grows jealous and puzzled.

The siblings slowly descend into the trap of the mirror, seeing broken glasses, seeing past victims etc. Katie had one last defence against the mirror. She has set up an axe to automatically descend and destroy the mirror unless she reset a timer every minute. She once almost gets killed standing in the path of the axe but is saved by the (yet another) alarm ringing, reminding her to reset the timer. Fascinating storytelling!

 

Marie grows demented and the father cannot even call the police as the phone just whisper’s like the  mirror and takes him too in its spell. He locks her up in a chain. He goes berserk and the children escape with their lives. Alan comes up and sees Marie eating plates, breaking her teeth. He releases her and she runs after the children on all fours, like an animal.

Finally, the present catches up and what they do to the mirror is the end of this fascinating story.

 

Very nicely written, very intelligent, very credible after you swallow the premise of a mind controlling, all powerful mirror.

 

They way they have blended illusion and reality and also past and present – in one case the past and present merging as they watch their adult selves play out the past with their ghost parents – all of it is very new to films (At least the versions I have seen) and totally absorbing.

A thriller with nail biting suspense and a fascinating depiction of people’s slow descent into madness.

Lovely

 

I will give it a 8/10

 

–        – Krishna

 

 

 

 

 

June 6, 2014

Book: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 6:01 pm

imageThis is a kind of poor man’s Angela’s AshesAngela’s Ashes deals with an Irish family with a totally irresponsible father and a submissive mother. Here both the father and the mother are irresponsible and the children are trapped in a bizarre, surreal world. The setting is Ireland for Angela’s Ashes and the setting in this book is the United States. This book is a biography like the other one, and the story is told by one of the children, as in the other book.

 

The similarities end there. Frank McCourt paints a much deeper picture, filled with sadness, humour and an empathy that rises out of each page and immerse you in that book. Jeanette Walls tries but, in my opinion, this book is not in the same calibre as the other one. Is it still worth reading? Yes. It is a fairly interesting book, in many parts.

The story’s central characters are Rex Walls and Rose Mary Walls. Rose Mary was a town beauty in her younger days and Rex was a navy person in uniform, and woos and wins her. After the Navy, which I think he quit, he is jobless and is, frankly, a little crazy with strange ideas about life. His wife seems to go along mostly, enjoying it, even being brainwashed into believing most of it. Or perhaps she is equally strange. We are not told.

For instance, he thinks that the hospital is for wimps and forcibly removes his daughter Jeanette when she was admitted. He gets into fights or fraud to live and has to move constantly from place to place due to the place becoming too hot for the couple.

They do not even have elementary common sense when it comes to the children and in one instance, Jeanette falls out of a moving car when her family goes travelling and they discover the loss only much later, turning around to pick her up much later and laughing at how funny it is.

He always dreams of grandiose schemes to get rich – panning for gold in the desert that ‘he alone knows how to look for’.

Why was she hospitalized, she burned herself making toast. What do they do after moving to another city? Let her toast bread on the oven again. Jeanette was three or four at that time.

Her mother stays poor but Jeanette and Lori, her older sister walk out on the family to go to New York City when they grow up. Jeanette finds her mother dumpster diving when she goes out one day (and that is how the book begins).

 

Jeanette’s mother, the only sensible person in the family apart from the kids, it would seem, loathes Rex for what he has done to her daughter who was staid before marriage.

 

If you have read A Beautiful Mind, you wonder whether the father was a Bi Polar or Schizophrenic, especially when he tells and believes stories about himself where he exhibited supernatural powers. The thing I liked about the book is that Jeanette just tells her story and lets the readers come to their own conclusions, instead of hitting our heads with it.

 

Mother gets a job as a teacher when the dad finally disappears for good but hates working. She seems to cheat on the children by buying chocolate and other desserts when the kids are away and eating all of it, when the kids do not have much by way of food.

Brian, the youngest brother of them all, makes a guest appearance in the novel and adds colour but does not seem to be central to the plot.

 

Erma, the grandmother, when they visit, tries to molest Brian and is rescued by Jeanette.

 

Finally, we learn of all the kids leaving their parents and moving to NYC to get proper careers and live a normal life.

 

After that the story still goes on about Jeanette’s husband, divorce and a second husband.

 

The story is not bad but sags in many places and is simplistically told. It is also too long, despite the book being a short one, because, after their escape it is like reading the diary of someone’s life.

And why is it called The Glass Castle? Rex promises to build one for Jeanette and tries to make her stay to see it.  The idea becomes her prison until she decides to leave, castle or no castle.

 

I would give the book a 5/10

 

–        – Krishna

 

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