Kristin Hannah – Night Road

Kristin Hannah – Night Road

If I stuck to my reading patterns, then Kristin Hannah would be a novelist I would be totally unfamiliar with; being more of a crime/military fantasy reader myself. But then, what’s the point of reading if you stick to well-established patterns, right? Also unavoidable is the fact that Night Road was staring at me from the top among my Goodreads recommendations. Of course, I had to get to it sooner or later.

Night Road begins with a girl, Lexi Baill, an orphaned teenager adopted by her aunt Eva and taken to her place on Pine Island, where Eva lived in a trailer park. Lexi joins the high school and on the very first day, makes friends with Mia Farraday, who is more or less a social outcast in her class. Outwardly, Mia and Lexi couldn’t have been more different; Mia came from a prestigious and wealthy family, and had a loving mother in Jude Farraday, and mischievous and incredibly popular twin brother in Zach. Lexi on the other hand, grew up in seven different families which came forward to adopt her, only to be pulled out of them by her drug addict of a mother who spent most of her time in prison. However, both had similar mentalities, both of them loved reading, and most importantly to Mia, Lexi was the only one who didn’t care if she would be shunned by others for befriending Mia.

When Jude Farraday catches wind of this, she is at first both happy and worried for Mia; something similar had happened before when another girl became friends with Mia, but the girl only used Mia to get close to her brother Zach. But over time, Jude’s worries are alleviated and she comes to treat Lexi as one of the family. Later on, things get more complicated between Mia and Lexi, but the issues get resolved. But one incident that occurs, changes their lives forever; hearts are left broken, never to heal, hopes crushed to the ground, you know the drill. How can they all come out of this and begin to hope for the future again, with renewed life?

Don’t put her in the dark…

At first I thought Night Road would be a cheesy romance novel and was regretting buying the book on an impulse[considering there are many other books on my recommendations list I don’t give a second glance to], but all my doubts were put to rest within 20 minutes of my starting the book. Kristin Hannah writes brilliantly, there is not a shred of doubt about it; the writing flows smoothly, without any disjointedness even when she is switching perspectives from Lexi to Jude to Zach. The story is not very complicated, but her writing makes all the difference in the world. Character development is spot-on; especially with Jude Farraday, and the relationship between her and Miles, her husband. The events and the dialogue really get you emotional, and some of us might need to keep a tissue box in reach; it gets that touching. I must iterate, Night Road has been a real emotional rollercoaster ride for me.

If you are a fan of emotionally draining books and tear-jerkers, just go for Night Road without another thought. I’m not someone who generally reads that kind of books, but Night Road makes me want to change it, even if just for a little while.

RATING : 9.8/10

 

 

To The Moon

To The Moon

Ever since I started twitch streaming, I’ve been on the lookout for some awesome indie games because let’s face it; my laptop is nowhere near good enough to play the latest games, let alone run a livestream on the side. During this search, I came across To The Moon, a 2D exploration game(sort of) made by Freebird games.

To The Moon puts us in the shoes of Dr. Neil Watts, one of the duo who go to visit Johnny Wyles, a dying man with a wish to go to the moon. The wish is made even more inexplicable by the fact that even Johnny doesn’t know why he wants to go there, in the first place. However, that wasn’t something that Neil and his partner, Dr. Eva Rosalene, should worry about. As employees of Sigmund Corp., their job is to fulfill Johnny’s dying wish by implanting memories into his mind using some revolutionary technology. So no matter how weird they found Johnny’s situation, it wasn’t something they had to overly worry about; just accomplish whatever they came to this rural settlement for, then leave the man to die in peace. And on to the next job.

But when Eva and Neil go into Johnny’s memories and cause some alterations to push him towards becoming an astronaut, they find out that no matter how much they tried, their attempts ended in failure. And amongst all this was his deceased wife, River Wyles, who had an eccentric habit of making paper rabbits during the later stages of her life. What was the relationship dynamic between River and Johnny, really?  And what is with that lighthouse? Most importantly, why were they facing these unanticipated difficulties in altering Johnny’s memories? Telling you more would only end up spoiling the story for you guys, so just play it and find out for yourself.

                                             If you don’t make this too hard, then of course…

The plot of To The Moon is rock-solid, I must say. The way it progresses from the present to Johnny’s memories over his life time was done really well, and some events threaten to bring tears to your eyes. However the gameplay itself is uninspiring, to say the least. We just go around collecting a certain number of interactable objects, then find a memento, solve a small puzzle and use the memento to get further into Johnny’s past life. Not so great gameplay-wise. However, this mechanic works well in establishing how certain objects have left an indelible impression on Johnny. The soundtrack is amazing though, I must say. A game like this needs an appropriate soundtrack to set the mood of the player, and To The Moon, I’m glad to say, has done the job well. And wait, I almost forgot to say this : the dialogue is awesome. The banter between Neil and Eva often will make you laugh out loud, and serves to establish not only their personalities, but also their camaraderie.

So, do I recommend To The Moon? Hell yes I do, especially if you’re a fan of indie games and story-driven games. Just go for it already!

RATING : 9/10

PROS :
– great story
– awesome soundtrack
– main characters’ conversations are so funny

CONS :
– gameplay itself is uninteresting

GINTAMA [SEASON 5]

GINTAMA [SEASON 5]

The fourth season of Gintama picks up after the crazy incidents of its previous season, with a gap of an year between the two seasons. So, how does it hold up in comparison to the previous insanity?

The anime starts off with Shinpachi returning to the Odd Jobs “office”, if you could call it that, after the gap of an year, since the show was on hiatus for that long. But on returning, Shinpachi finds out that all is not as it seems. Gintoki seems to have turned into a Dragon Ball Z character rip-off, and Kagura has grown way too much in the span of an year. Otae-chan is married to Gorilla Kondo-san, of all people. This convinces Shinpachi that something has gone seriously wrong with the world in the span of just an year. The surprises don’t stop here; as is only to be expected from Gintama, craziness follows soon enough, like maybe within a minute of the opening song itself.

Image result for gintama season 5

                                                          What the hell…are you kidding me?

Actually, you know what? Every review of the newer Gintama season feels the same to me, because the show does do similar things with explosively hilarious effects every single time. But not only that, the anime does tug at your heartstrings on many occasions, when you really feel for those poor sods. They really do know how to make the viewer feel. Far as the characters themselves are concerned, Tama has now grown into a more important supporting character, ever since the story arc in S3. And Otose gets a whole new story arc for herself which explores her background and why she  is supposed to be one of the four unofficial heads of Edo, so to speak. So basically, some more character development in the show.

Anyways, whoever enjoyed the show and stuck with it for four whole seasons, would find it only sensible to watch this hilarious and chaotic show through its 5th season too. Way too much fun to pass up for me.

RATING : 9.2/10

PROS :
– more character development
– much more emotional than S4

GINTAMA [Season 4]

GINTAMA [Season 4]

Gintama does not continue so much as rush headlong into yet another set of funny antics that is season 4. Anyone who’s watched Gintama up till its third season and found it to be of their taste, you don’t even need to continue reading this; just hurry up and start watching already. But anyway, how does this season hold up in comparison to the previous seasons?

Very well, I must say. As usual, Gintama is ever-ready to make humor out of anything and everything. The season starts off with Gintoki going for a haircut, but chaos and hilarity ensue when the shogun also comes to the same barber shop while the barber is out getting new manga issues for Kagura to read. And Katsura and Kondo too. Anyway, the nub of the matter is that this season sets the pace right off the bat, so to speak. Pacing is never an issue with Gintama, anyways , except for its very first season.

Some of the sorta-minor characters come back pretty strongly, with Otsu-chan and Tama-san getting a whole story arc each. And there is also an arc on a popularity contest which was one of the most creative efforts put up by the developers. And those parodies ranging from One Piece to Nintendo Wii to Dragon Quest, are all just so well done.

Anyways, I won’t be taking up much more of your time. Those who found Gintoki and Co. to be their favorite weekend companions [or something on those lines] will continue enjoying the show. I honestly don’t understand how they manage to come up with such ludicrous, yet entirely imaginative ways to make the viewers laugh all the time.

RATING : 9/10

PROS :
– even more humor!!!
– parodies are godly, as usual
– some minor characters make a comeback of sorts

CONS :
– not as many heartwarming moments as in the previous seasons

 

Barakamon

Barakamon

So, why did I decide to start Barakamon? Because right now, its prequel, Handa-kun, is airing to more than satisfied audience. So it felt like a good idea at the time to start in on this anime.

Handa Seishuu is a talented but temperamental calligrapher. As such, he is prone to mood swings and impulsive acts which often land him in trouble. During one calligraphy exhibition, the director of the exhibition severely criticizes Handa’s calligraphy style, associating it with a copybook style of writing and lack of originality. An angry Handa punches the old geezer in the face for this criticism, and is almost immediately sent off to a remote island by Handa’s father who comes to know of this incident.

Handa is allotted a house, which has turned into a secret base for the villagers’ kids, and he is greeted by a mess of a place, along with a small kid Naru. And thus begins Handa’s journey to finding his own style of writing, and some good old self-discovery.

Barakamon is really funny throughout its length, and Handa is the butt of many jokes, ranging from his cooking “skills” to buttjabs; the variation fills a whole spectrum. The characters are awesome too; Handa is stellarly designed, as is only to be expected, as are the villagers. The anime renders village life in a most life-like way; every villager knows the other, something which is sadly amiss in urban life. And all the villagers are funny in their own ways; the school teacher is always seen with a cigarette in his mouth, while Tama, a school-going kid, wants to publish a horror manga in Shounen Jump. Everyone has their own quirks which make them uniquely lovable, for lovable they all are. But for me, the real star was Naru; she’s sooo cute and funny, and does crazy stuff all the time.

Anyone who has some level of interest in calligraphy should find Barakamon to be more of their taste, possibly. In any case, fans of anime like Hayate or Gintama should find this a worthy pick.

RATING : 8.5/10

PROS :
– well-designed characters
– hilarious
– occasionally heartwarming too
– Handa’s mom

ReLIFE

ReLIFE

So on my recon of the latest anime which I could try out, I came across 91 Days and proceeded to start in on this ongoing show. But when I almost had decided on 91 Days, I saw that ReLIFE would be a better thing for me to watch, as I prefer to binge-watch my anime rather than watch an episode a week. And conveniently enough, all the episodes of ReLIFE came out together, as if it were one of those Netflix shows. So, how is this anime?

ReLIFE follows Kaizaki Arata, a 27-year-old man who has resigned from his first job in just three months, and has since been without a regular job, living off his parents’ allowance and part-time jobs. He applies for jobs and attends interviews, but has not been able to score a steady job yet. After a night of drinking with his friends, which he attends only to keep up appearances, he receives a phone call from his mother. Kaizaki’s mom cuts off his allowance over the phone, and he is left worrying about his future, which look positively bleak and hopeless.

But just as his phone call ends, Kaizaki is greeted by Yoake Ryo, a scientist from ReLIFE Research Institute and is offered a year’s costs and a job waiting at the year’s end if Kaizaki participates as a test subject in an ongoing research. Kaizaki has to take a drug which transforms him into his 17-year-old self and attend high school for the period of a full year. In his drunk state, Kaizaki ends up taking the drug capsule overnight. Later he does agree to being a test subject in the experiment, if only reluctantly. Kaizaki’s days as a NEET are over.

ReLIFE is an anime which plays out over a school-life setting, with Kaizaki studying alongside kids who are ten years his junior. The show makes good use of its setting, and fills the cast with a bunch of colorful characters. The trials and tribulations which Kaizaki faces on his one-year long journey through high school again, make for fun viewing with lots of humor. The supporting characters are interesting too, and above of all they are believable and identifiable. I personally found the character of Kariu Rena, a really competitive girl in both sports and studies, to be the best-written; in fact, she more or less carries ReLIFE‘s plot forward. Only problem for me, was remembering Rena’s first name, I always kept switching it up with Higurashi‘s Ryugu Rena.

relife-anime-funny-scene

The story itself is not a revelation as such, with most of the plot being the generic stuff that happens over school life, but that does not take much away from ReLIFE. Also, some of the comedy stems from a long-standing gag throughout the show, which some may find to be a tad annoying. But otherwise, ReLIFE is a well-realized anime. It’s not Gintama-level awesome humor[I doubt anything can ever reach up to that level], but it is pretty good.

This may quite probably be one of the better offerings of this summer, unless there are many more anime with amazing plots and stuff. I personally found ReLIFE to be heart-warming and fun throughout.

RATING : 8.5/10

PROS :
– identifiable characters
– funny
– ending is awesome

CONS :
– plot progression may be a tad on the tried-and-tested route

 

Sakamoto Desu Ga?

Sakamoto Desu Ga?

Did you ever watch an anime where the protagonist is a super-cool guy, with everything he does being touted as the epitome of coolness? Well, you may or may not have, but if you really want to see a new anime with such a lead? Look no further, because Sakamoto Desu Ga? is such an anime.

The titular character, Sakamoto, is a high-school student in his first year of high school. But he isn’t just any other regular student; he is the definition of suave. The very first episode confirms this fact with more examples than I could care to count. The efforts made by his classmates to somehow bring him down to ground-level, only serve as stepping-stones to Sakamoto’s growth in fame over the whole of his school. For example, the way Sakamoto fights against a typhoon to save a sparrow, armed with nothing more than his umbrella, is one of the many amazingly incredible things he does.

The anime is the definition of suave comedy, or more accurately, Sakamoto is the living example of swag in perpetual motion. It begins from the opening theme itself, with the song extolling Sakamoto’s awesomeness. The whole show is carried on Sakamoto’s able shoulders, and he clearly stands up to it. Sakamoto’s character has been designed amazingly well; on the outset, a cool protagonist feels cliché but the show really makes use of both conventional and out-of-the-box situations to show off his awesomeness. But even though Sakamoto is the strength of the show, the creators have not ignored the other characters. Sakamoto’s classmates are realistic and we viewers can sympathize with their feelings. The only extremely unbelievable thing in the show is the girls’ reaction to Sakamoto’s presence/absence; it’s really over the top, but it helps to set the tone of the show.

Overall, if you want to watch a funny anime in a school setting with a few slice-of-life elements, Sakamoto Desu Ga? is one fun way to go.

RATING : 8.3/10

PROS :
– lead character is cool as hell
– good animation
– suave humor

CONS :
– may be too over-the-top for some

NOTE : Sakamoto Desu Ga? is Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto in English.