Review: Sekigahara (2017)

It was with pleasure I noted during the opening scenes of this film that it is based on a book by Ryotaro Shiba, a true favourite of mine amongst writers. It was even better, therefore, that the movie jumped to a scene where the author narrated a story about the meeting of Ishida Mitsunari and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. These original scenes piqued my interest and turned this into a thrilling story which continued in a similar way. Continue reading “Review: Sekigahara (2017)”

Review: Ryoma! Volume I, Ryotaro Shiba

Rating: 5 out of 5

I have been a fan of the writings of Mr Shiba for nearly a decade now — and I was overjoyed when I saw that yet another of his books had been translated into English (or, well, the first volume of one of his books…). That was the beginning of my story of reading ‘Ryoma!’, the first volume of which details the early years of a figure who was to feature very strongly in the politics of 1860’s — the end of the first volume sees the reader through to that decade in a very colourful description of Sakamoto Ryoma’s formative years. Continue reading “Review: Ryoma! Volume I, Ryotaro Shiba”

Review: Heroes, Stephen Fry

Rating: 5 out of 5

Most of us probably have some idea of various Greek gods and also their heroes — after all, who has not heard of Herakles or Odysseus? There are other names which could be thrown into this mix, but the point I am trying to make is that Greek mythology has permeated much of Western culture and civilisation to a very great degree. Therefore, it could be said that one should be a bit careful about which author’s take on these myths they should read — having experienced ‘Mythos‘ some time ago, I was keen to take up ‘Heroes’ as soon as I could — and I was not disappointed.

Continue reading “Review: Heroes, Stephen Fry”

Review: The Tower is Full of Ghosts Today, Alison Weir

Rating: 2 out of 5

I was hoping this would be on par with some other works by Alison Weir I’ve read, but I really can’t recommend this short story to anyone. It is without purpose and direction, and while it grasps a historic sense of the moment in the events described, it is without that feeling one expects from a story.

Review: All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren

All the King's MenAll the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book took me a long while, indeed a lot longer than I would have thought originally. This stemmed from the author’s style which was rather complex and long-winded. I do not mind this, but I caution anyone going for the novel that if this does not sound like your thing, this book might be especially hard going. Continue reading “Review: All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren”

Review: ‘Dangerous Women’, George R.R. Martin

Dangerous WomenDangerous Women by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have to say, rating a collection is tough as it can obviously be very variable in quality. I found this here — a few of the stories were breathtaking in their intensity and beauty while others (the majority, regrettably) not nearly as interesting. For personal reasons, I found the stories which touched on the historic aspect a bit more thrilling but in general the variety was commendable. Continue reading “Review: ‘Dangerous Women’, George R.R. Martin”

Review: ‘Odd and the Frost Giants’, Neil Gaiman

Odd and the Frost GiantsOdd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a delightful tale of old Scandinavia and a winter that people dread. Reading it right after ‘American Gods’ made me think of a bit different an Odin than this tale gives us, but this is foremost a children’s tale as well and the witty animals that entertain us belong here exactly as they are written. More than that, this really is a happy story and I don’t think much else needs to be said: read it.

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Review: ‘Ivanhoe’, sir Walter Scott

IvanhoeIvanhoe by Walter Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ivanhoe is a classic. Yet, it is a classic of the early 19th century which is something we need to bear in mind while reading the novel. Undoubtedly, however, it is also one of the first books (in its many editions and re-translations) which got me into historical fiction and therefore I have some special history with it. Therefore, it was with some trepidation that I took it up again. Continue reading “Review: ‘Ivanhoe’, sir Walter Scott”

‘The Wind Rises’, H Miyazaki

I saw this film only recently, and while I am still considering some of what it showed in the story, I was more hoping to comment on the aspect of a Hayao Miyazaki film in general — for this was the first one I had the pleasure of watching. Maybe this was not the best one to start with, but maybe the others are fairly similar. What I do know is that I enjoyed it, and I would like to watch more of his works.

Why I enjoyed it is a different question — ‘The Wind Rises’ has a very interesting subject matter, the Mitsubishi Zero. Not knowing the engineers who designed it previously by name or anything else, I was able to divine that in the first few minutes of the film. I am not sure whether that was a good or a bad thing, but past that point it always felt to me as if I knew what was about to happen. After finishing, I had the feeling that I had seen it beforehand despite knowing it was the first time. It was a very weird feeling, trying to sustain belief in these thoughts whilst seeing that what went on in the show was moving in the same direction as my mind wanted to take it.

In addition to the previous, it constantly felt to me as the cultural references and borrowings were familiar, or at least some of them. It is difficult to describe what I mean, but say the theme of the film, the ‘Das gibt’s nur einmal, kommt nicht wieder’ song played in my mind for a long long time afterwards. I looked it up to see whether I had known it before (and I can’t divine anything obvious on whether I can).

My conclusion is that the film was a whole, a whole so beautiful and fitting that it all fit together perfectly, creating the sensation of familiarity — quite possibly one of the best gifts that any entertainment can have.

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