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Becoming Mary Mehan (Readers Circle)
Becoming Mary Mehan (Readers Circle)
by Jennifer Armstrong
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Great second novel, 12 Nov. 2008
First off, if you happen to find this book, do not read the back synopsis, and I would also suggest avoiding the amazon option to take a look inside. The synopsis basically tells exactly what happens. It is so full of spoilers as to almost be ridiculous, so be careful.

To avoid giving away any spoilers, all I'll say is Becoming Mary Mehan centers around a young Irish girl who moves to Washington during the Civil War. That is only the first novel; the second deals more with the aftermath.

The first story, although containing some wonderful descriptive writing, was a little lacking in originality. I have heard many, many war stories with the same ending and I was really looking for something different. That aside, it is not a bad story. I just didn't quite like it.

When I read this it was very late at night, and I planned to finish the first novel, get a little into the second, and then quit until the next day...Bad idea. I had to finish the second half. The first half may have been mediocre, at the least, but the second was extraordinary. I rarely say this, but I was very touched by Mary's relationship with the other characters. And it wasn't until I neared the last twenty pages that I realized how little was left of the story, and it really upset me. This second, unfortunately short novel, I did not want to end. I wished it had been longer.

I know that what I said about the first novel was negative, but when compared to the second half, I don't think it compares. This is a very nice set of novels that, while historical fiction, is comforting, entertaining, sometimes bitter, uplifting, and an enjoyable enough read to where even though I could not bring myself to stop reading, I regretted that the story ended.

Overall: A wonderful story that I highly recommend.

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening: Book 1
The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening: Book 1
by L J Smith
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unlikable main character, 12 Nov. 2008
The premise of The Awakening is pretty basic and not very original. Elena Gilbert sees Stefan Salvatore--a vampire haunted by his past--at school and decides that she must have him. That last line is actually not made up, as later quotes will show.

Of course, Stefan avoids her, deeming the relationship too dangerous to pursue, and Elena becomes offended and does whatever possible to be noticed. Now, where have I heard this storyline before? Might Stephenie Meyer have read this before writing Twilight and gotten a few ideas? This series was published well before that one (1991), although the premise itself has been used countless times. I'm not saying anything, though it is an interesting thought. Stephenie Meyer's story is different in many ways but also similar in many ways...but so are a lot of other vampire stories out there. Things are just so unoriginal these days.

The main problem I have with this book is not due to the recycled storyline but with the main character, Elena. Have I said she's unlikable? Within the first twenty pages this is quite evident.
The author gives evidence before the reader even becomes well acquainted with her:
..."Elena Gilbert, cool and blond and slender, the fashion trendsetter, the high school senior, the girl every boy wanted and every girl wanted to be" (3). Now, I have always had an aversion to characters who are so described, but if their personalities prove greater than their first introduction, I can get past it. In this case, Elena proves that she fully backs the description. She has a crowd of people waiting for her when she gets to school, refers to herself as the "queen of Robert E. Lee" (57) high school, and even seriously argues with one jealous former friend about scepters and thrones.

Upon seeing Stefan for the first time she becomes obsessed, and within minutes of seeing him, forces a girl to get his class schedule. This is just how nicely she asks:
"Well, I want his class schedule. Get it from the office if you can, or copy it from him if you have to. But do it" (21-22)! I don't like name-calling, but what a little snob...If I were to describe the character of Elena Gilbert, the choicest words would be selfish, snob, brat, rude, and conceited.

When Stefan thwarts her first attempt to meet him (it isn't very nice, but, well, neither is she) Elena, egotistical maniac who thinks everyone loves her, is absolutely shocked and mortified. Like a child, she cries and hides from family and friends because of some imagined, horrible shame. But what shame? So, the guy didn't feel like being escorted around the school by a liar...big deal. Following his rejection, the author writes that Elena will "have him, even if it killed her. Even if it killed them both, she'd have him" (31). Okay...getting a hint of psycho here. God forbid if someone should become angry with Elena, then there would be a massacre, but personal rejection, oh no! How unspeakable!

Her view of boys also fails to endear her character to me.
"After all, what was more important than boys? They were the mark of how popular you were, of how beautiful you were" (20). Oh, so beauty doesn't come from the inside and popularity really IS important? Along with this little admission, there is also a part where she recalls being told by former boyfriends' friends and sisters how she made them feel, and the reaction?--"Elena had always found such stories amusing" (50). Well, I find Elena to be quite cold.

There are a few passages when her character seems almost normal, but these are quickly swept away. Of course, once she finally gets with Stefan, (and her ego is sufficiently stroked) she spends the rest of the book with her thoughts set solely on him and not on her own perfect self.

I also found their relationship preposterous. What would a 600 year old vampire want with a selfish teenage girl? Elena has no admirable qualities. The one time I felt sorry for her was when I found out she had lost both parents. Sorrow and death hardly excuse her attitude and behavior. So the idea that a vampire, six centuries old and while attending a high school (and probably knowing more history than his teachers), falls in love with Elena Gilbert is unbelievable. I think the author attempts to form a correlation between Elena and his past love in a semblance of credibility. She looks like the girl he once loved, so I should buy it, right? It does not work.

Interspersed between these things are the introductions of Stefan and a mysterious dark presence, whose induction into the story is as follows:
Elena sees a crow watching her from a tree and the author writes that it's "Looking the way boys looked at her when she wore a bathing suit or a sheer blouse" (6). While I knew what was coming later, I found this funny. And how does one beady-eyed crow leer at a teenage girl?

Stefan, surprisingly, is not a bad character. He stands up for several badgered, minor characters. The reason I gave this a two-star rating instead of one is potential. There is potential in Stefan's past (when he becomes a vampire), which remains the most interesting part of this story. Were the author to have written this about six centuries back in time, moving forward, dropping Elena entirely, and just going from there, well, it might have been something. The idea itself is intriguing. Too bad this is the way the story turned out. Stefan is too good a character for Elena, and the plot stays weak.

I have noticed a strange thing with L. J. Smith. For the most part, her main female leads are usually rude snobs and the guys are gentlemen. Why can't there be a balance in leading roles, say two likable protagonists? It would make her stories so much more enjoyable.

Elena might go through a character transformation (not the vampire kind...) in the next book(s). Will I be there to find out, though?--No. Judging from past experience and a few reviews I've read, Elena will remain just so, and the rest of her tale, and ultimate fate, will remain a mystery to me, because I don't really care. I loved L. J. Smith's Forbidden Game trilogy, although the lead in that is also unlikable. I am very frustrated with bad main characters. For me, they really ruin a story.

A Posse of Princesses
A Posse of Princesses
by Sherwood Smith
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought I wouldn't like it...because of the cover, 12 Nov. 2008
This review is from: A Posse of Princesses (Paperback)
Sherwood Smith's book, though with a cringe-worthy title and a cover that did not (and still doesn't) appeal to me at all, is actually a really awesome read. The plot: Princess Rhis is invited to a party for the prince of Vesarja. Of course, once she arrives her hope for romance is rocked by the events that take place.

Uh, yeah. My summary is pretty terrible, especially in comparison to the story itself (apologies). But don't worry, I plan to give nothing important--plotwise--away. I really enjoyed this book. It's fun, entertaining, funny, and just an all-around good read. There's also a little lesson thrown in about outward appearances, which is a definite plus.

The main character--as well as all of the characters--is very likable, which isn't always the case in stories. And, here's another bonus, she is also three-dimensional, with flaws, fears, sympathies, and a lot of heart. Rhis and the other female and male characters that are encountered along the way are also strong characters, and not just personality-wise but with the way in which they conduct themselves. I enjoyed the conversations, the adventure (which, there is...don't worry), and the relationships. One thing that I give extra credit to the author for is that the main character is not only likable, her behavior is also honorable; she is a character that deserves respect (not something often seen). This story that contains strong female characters as well, and is definitely not one where they need to be saved. They take care of themselves (even better).

That all aside, I loved this story. And I'm being very vague plot-wise because I always think it's better to go in knowing as little about the story as possible. Now, this is not a perfect book, and although I loved it, I will note the things I did not like.
I believed one character to be quite older than she actually was, and later learned that her age had been eleven. (I don't remember her age being given beforehand--negligence on my part?--but this altered her character for me.)
The huge twist is not so huge; I pretty much had it figured out from the beginning and kept thinking, okay, you can tell me now. (Even though I've actually seen this same plot twist many times, I did still enjoy it. But...not surprising.)
Also, the very end half was rushed. I felt like the minor characters who had been brought in were abruptly cast aside and the story was shoved forward so that it could end, and this really did not seem to go with the rest of the story. This is probably the most disappointing thing, that the end was not written as well as the rest of the story. I am almost tempted to rate the book less just because of this.

Altogether, these complaints are all pretty minor. This is an excellent story. I know, look past the cover...and the title...I felt a little embarrassed when my sister saw me with this book and asked what it was called...And, of course, don't be embarrassed to pick it up, because you'd be missing something. If you enjoy fantasy, small romances, adventure, or just want something to pass the time with, try it out.

Leon the Professional [DVD] [1995] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Leon the Professional [DVD] [1995] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If I met an assassin and he was like Leon..., 17 Jan. 2008
I don't usually rent movies about people who kill for a living, but one day, the cover of Leon happened to catch my eye; and from there, well, it's all old history.
The story sets off with an action-packed beginning in which the character of Leon, excellently played by Jean Reno, is first introduced. Of course, this is an action movie, and with those you kind of have to be careful because you could end up with something terribly dumb, something that takes away two hours of your life that can never be returned, something too macho or too ridiculous to even enjoy, something with a weak plot and no character development...or you could end up with something kind of like Leon. This isn't your standard mindless action film; it's got character development, heart, action, brutality, and an underlying message. And when I FINALLY saw it after passing it at the video store for years because I didn't feel like sitting through yet another bad and annoying action movie, I was glad I did.

After the slaying of her entire family, Mathilda (Natalie Portman proves her talent as the disillusioned girl even at such a young age), is taken in by Leon, the cleaner, who promises to teach her his trade. I think that the greatest element in this entire movie, the thing that makes it what it is and gives it that last powerful punch, is the character development. Mathilda is bitter and obviously confused about normal relationships, considering that her family life was a muddle of abuse, neglect, and drug trafficking. Gary Oldman plays Stansfield, the sick and twisted bad cop whose deranged and erratic behavior is so convincing in the film that I almost forgot he was playing a part in a movie. And then, there's Leon, my favorite, whose loneliness and distance from normal life tugs somewhere deep and makes you feel for him even though his profession involves taking the lives of others.
The characters aren't cardboard and one-sided as in most mindless action films. In fact, I am so impressed by the characterization and the actors' portrayal of their characters, that I wish both Jean Reno and Gary Oldman had been awarded for their performances. They definitely deserved it. No one could ever have pulled off Stansfield's disturbing character the way Gary Oldman did, and as for Jean one else could ever be Leon.

My one complaint with the entire film is that sometimes the relationship between Leon and Mathilda feels a little bit uncomfortable due to her attitude toward him. But most often the awkward moments just come out funny. I am pretty sure that with her previous family life, she would be confused about her feelings. No one's ever really cared for her and when someone finally does, she gets turned around and misconstrues the meaning.

The rest of the film, from beginning to end, is just a flash-bang of fast-paced action, hope, violence, friendships, betrayals, kindness, and new beginnings. And the climax, the final showdown, is pretty great: explosions, SWAT team, the whole nine yards.
Leon-The Professional is an awesome action movie with an actual story; a very smart and original film not to be overlooked or forgotten. Luc Besson truly did well with this one.

Equilibrium [DVD] [2002] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Equilibrium [DVD] [2002] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Tread softly, for you are treading on my dreams...", 17 Jan. 2008
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I know that people are calling Equilibrium a rip-off of The Matrix; but I really don't see how any such comparison could be made. This is a sci-fi film in and of itself.

Like the remake of a mix between Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, Equilibrium is set in a world where feeling, and anything that might produce such a sensation, are illegal. Anyone caught violating the law are apprehended because of their "sense offense," and usually, executed. There is also a man that is only seen on the telescreen, who could easily be considered a "Big Brother" type of figure. Everyone is forced to take a drug that deadens the emotions.

Enter the strange fighting style of gun-kata, and one of the top law enforcers, played by Christian Bale, who doesn't take his dose one day, causing his entire life to change.

How could anyone possibly say that this is a rip-off of The Matrix??? I don't get it. The fight scenes weren't the most original, but almost everything has already been used at one time or another, and that's not saying that the action sequences aren't entertaining. They are.

The setting of a dismal future where the government has full power is shown quite effectively as each scene unfolds. I really liked the idea of a drug that deadened the senses so that the government could be in control. It wasn't implausible.
I hate to say too much to give away the plot, but there are some very cool parts, and the thought behind the film is intriguing. And if anyone else is wondering why Taye Diggs continues to smile even though he isn't supposed to have feelings, I really can't answer that, and it's probably one of the only problems I had with this movie.

I liked it. One of the best sci-fi movies I've seen in a long time.

The Return [2003] [DVD] [2004]
The Return [2003] [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Vladimir Garin
Offered by nagiry
Price: £5.94

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No reason to be disappointed..., 17 Jan. 2008
What if you hadn't seen your father in twelve years, and one day you came home, and your mom said that he was sleeping in the bedrooom?
That's exactly what happens to the two young brothers, Andrey and Ivan, when the mysterious man, just arrived, who claims to be their father, decides to take them on a fishing trip for bonding time.

As the movie progresses, it is evident to both the movie viewer and the brothers that something isn't quite right. Every once in a while, the father turns around and just seems to do something absolutely strange, from a violent outburst causing his motives to be questioned to moments of a possible attempt at actually spending time with his sons.

Both of the brothers experience separate reactions. The older one trusts his father, while the younger is reluctant, which often causes strife between them.

Haunting, disturbing, and in some ways sad, The Return, is more of a slow and thoughtful film to be appreciated for its subtleties. Each part is acted quite well. The characters are believable and made real through the their hardships and obvious uncertainties. I think the thing that makes The Return such a special movie is the relationship between each separate person and seeing how they treat one another.

It's fun trying to figure out whether or not the father really is good or bad; although, a warning beforehand, a few things are left for you to form your own opinion about. Perhaps that is what the director wanted, and it doesn't harm the film, might even make the ending more effective and powerful; so keep an open mind and don't be disappointed. This isn't like American movies where every loose end has to be tied up at the close, however messy or unbelievable.

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next)
The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next)
by Jasper Fforde
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

23 of 73 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not all it's cracked up to be..., 21 Nov. 2007
I have to say that when I heard the premise of this book I really wanted to read it. Characters from stories walking right off the pages, alternate universes...sounded pretty good to me. So, when I finally got around to The Eyre Affair I had a completely unbiased opinion...not yet.

Thursday Next, in the novel, works for a company that protects classic stories like Jane Eyre. Enter Acheron Hades, the villain in question on a murderous rampage, who appears to have super powers and is also being sought out by Thursday herself and other SpecOps guards.

Later on, Thursday reveals that, throughout her life, she has been visited by Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, especially at one point when she actually seemed to become a part of the book after someone read it to her.
I found Mr. Rochester's presence beyond preposterous. Don't get me wrong, I love the story of Jane Eyre and didn't have any qualms beforehand, but when his character actually made an appearance in the story, I was completely appalled.
First of all, why Thursday? Why continue to pop in and out of her life at just exactly the right moment? Oh, yes, Mr. Rochester just happens to be there to save Thursday when she needs him the most...Come on! That is ridiculous. And later, when Jane was brought in, I was even more horrified because it seemed that the author had stripped the well-known character of any resemblance to her former self.
Those things aside, I was bored not thirty pages into the book, but I kept expecting it to pick up. I think the fact I was unable to like this story, at all, was due to the overload of information. It seemed that Jasper Fforde kept attempting to make the story one thing, then another, and another, and another, and so on...From werewolves to black holes, to a serial killer with superhuman abilities, to a father whose face literally stops time (don't ask), it was all too much.

And now I come to the worst part of all: Thursday Next, main character and voice in the story, was one-dimensional. Actually, she was even less than that. At one point, it is mentioned she was in a war, but she has no real thoughts about it other than a brief mention of her brothers death during the war. She has no thoughts about anything even though the story is from her point of view. It was all "I left this place and drove blah, blah, blah," but she never has an opinion. This became so annoying that I almost stopped reading, which rarely ever happens. Also, her love interest...I hated the mention of his character because he had no personality; even less than Thursday's. And he's just kind of thrown into the story like an afterthought, as if the author said, "Oh, wait, we have werewolves, Mr. Rochester, a time-freezing father, a serial killer, a cloned pet dodo bird...what's missing? I know!-A love interest!!! We must have romance!!!!!"
Um, I disagree. How about, we must not have romance or read any other books in this series...ever.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 12, 2013 8:20 PM BST

by Melanie Gideon
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unlikable main character, 21 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Pucker (Hardcover)
I was very interested in the plot of Melanie Gideon's book: The main character, Thomas Quicksilver, known as Pucker to some because of his burned face, is asked by his mother, Serena, to retrieve her seerskin from their former home so that she might be well once again. But there are two catches; first, Thomas will be returning to the place he once lived where he received the burns on his face and where all the secrets of his past await, and second, he will be healed when he gets there.

My main interest was the idea that he would be healed and the possible changes that would result within him because of the difference in his appearance, something he had been ridiculed cruelly for most of his life. So, going in, I was very much looking forward to this book, but after getting to know Thomas' character in just a few pages, I dreaded picking it up again.

First of all, I expected some bitterness on Thomas' part. The boy was tormented. But after Thomas received his new face, his character became exceedingly conceited. If someone heals a person, one would think that they would be grateful and make the better of things while at the same time not treating other people the way they hated to be treated before they were healed.

Thomas, in the story, is apprehensive because he is unsure of where exactly to search for his mother's seerskin. So, not finding any information, he instead spends his time dating. That's right. Dating. He has several girlfriends, all of which he cruelly names the Connecticuts. In his defense, the girls didn't seem to have a single original thought in their heads, but I found his name-calling extremely spiteful, especially when his character continued to date them while actually not caring for a single one.

And then, later in the story came the moment when Thomas, in my opinion, showed his true character. I was so upset at this point in the story (I will not say what it was because some people might still want to read the book.), but suffice it to say that Thomas completely abandoned a friend when they needed him the most. By then, the story was over for me. There would be no redemption of character. I also thought that the situation that the characters were in, via how their world got the way it was, was not properly explained; that bothered me throughout most of the story, but maybe I missed something.

The rest of the story was overshadowed by Thomas' many, many flaws, none of which having to do with his outward appearance but his inward ugliness. And his search for his mother's seerskin was...boring.

Overall: The main character was so full of it and cold that I regretted ever having read the book. If a story doesn't have a character I care about, I hate it. A complete waste of time.

Kamikaze Girls [DVD] [2005] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Kamikaze Girls [DVD] [2005] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly great movie, 12 Nov. 2007
Kamikaze Girls starts with the introduction of lolita-dress-wearing, Rococo-period-obsessed Momoko. In order to pay for her rather expensive outfits, she sells fake Versace and Universal items, thereby throwing her into the path of the deep-voiced, headbutting Ichigo (Ichiko). Suddenly finding herself with Ichigo practically attached to her hip, Momoko, a loner for as long as she could remember, finds that her life is changing, as well as herself.

I have to say that this movie is completely amazing. There really isn't enough I can say about it. The two main characters are original, strange, weird, funny...Some people might be put off by the pink, frilly picture on the front of the case, but this movie is in no way limited to a girl audience nor is it shallow. And just to let everyone know, I hate pink; I only watched this because I heard it was great, and I wasn't disappointed at all. In fact, it turned out to be much better than I thought. Now, it is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Kamikaze Girls is a hilarious movie, filled with everything from girly lolita dresses, strange and frightening hairdos, friendship and loneliness, self-discovery, motorcycle gangs, and some truly funny moments. Both characters are very likable, strong, and funny; Momoko with her obsession with everything Rococo, and Ichigo with her comical facial expressions.

I enjoyed every moment of this unique film, and I highly recommend watching it even if you have qualms about the content or whether or not you'll like it. It was an inventive and surprisingly meaningful film, and I'm sure that it will strike a chord with every viewer in some way. Now, if I can only get other people to watch it...

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