Thursday, February 28, 2019

Review: Bokura ga Ita (2006)

Bokura ga ita (2006) is a Japanese anime series. It contains 26 episodes. Nanami Takahashi is a high school student entering her first year. Immediately on her first day however, she becomes the victim of a practical joke by the school's most popular guy, Motoharu Yano, who coincidentally also ends up in her class. While the two get off to a rocky start, they soon find themselves falling in love with one another and begin dating. But their relationship is marred by Yano's past which includes the death of Yano's previous girlfriend, Nana Yamamoto, and the betrayal surrounding her death. To make matters more complicated her younger sister, Yuri, is in the same class as Yano and Nanami. As Yano struggles to come to grips with Nana's death and his unresolved feelings for her, so too must Nanami learn to understand Yano if the two hope to continue their relationship with one another.

This may sound crazy but I watched this series back in 2006 and finally had the time to re-watch it again (nearly 13 years later!) to see how much I remember and how much I have changed as a person. When I first watched this series, I was a college student with conflicted feelings about romantic feelings. I was less sure of myself in terms of what I wanted in a boy. Fast forward to 2019, I am now more confident and have a better grasp in reading people's emotions and behaviors. It was a pleasure to re-watch this series for a number of reasons. First, teen romantic relationships can be unpredictable. Young minds are still forming at that age, and it's a period of discovery. Second, I could reflect back on what I did back then and how much I have changed towards people. The series was as much entertaining as it was informative.

I also love the soundtrack -- this series had a total of 9 different ending songs! but what was so great about it was that each song matched the theme and mood of the episode. How cool is that?? I would rank Bokura ga ita as one of the top teen romance dramas in anime. Below, I share examples four ending songs that I enjoyed listening to from my college years. Overall, I highly recommend the series (check out the manga version as well).

Opening Song: "Kimi dake o…" ~Only You…~ by Mi

Ending Song: "Sunset—Album Version" by Mi

Ending Song: "Suki da kara" by Izumi Katou

Ending Song: "Futari no Kisetsu ga" by Nozomi Sasaki

Ending Song: "Kotoba" by Izumi Katou

Monday, February 25, 2019

Review: Hidden Legacy series (Books #1-3)

One woman must place her trust in a seductive, dangerous man who sets off an even more dangerous desire ...

The Hidden Legacy series was written by Ilona Andrews. The first three books focus on Nevada Baylor: Burn for Me, White Hot, and Wildfire.

Burn For Me, by Ilona Andrews, is the first book in the Hidden Legacy series. Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret magical ability: she is a truthseeker, which means she knows when people are lying. However, she is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career in Houston--a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile situation. Her suspect is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire. Then she's kidnapped by Connor "Mad" Rogan--a darkly handsome billionaire with equally devastating powers. ROgan is also after the same target, so he needs her help. But she's getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. Torn between wanting to run and wanting to surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.

White Hot, by Ilona Andrews, is the second book in the Hidden Legacy series. Nevada Baylor has used her unique and magical skills (along with plain, hard work) to keep her family's detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with the man she loathed from a previous case. Rogan is a billionaire Prime--the highest rank of magic user--and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada must work together again to save those dear to them. But they will find that nothing burns like ice.

Wildfire, by Ilona Andrews, is the third book in the Hidden Legacy series. Nevada Baylor can’t decide which is more frustrating—--harnessing her truthseeker Prime abilities or dealing with Connor “Mad” Rogan and their evolving relationship. Since the previous two novels, the billionaire Prime has been helping her navigate the complex magical world in which she’s become a crucial player. But she also has to deal with his ex-fiancĂ©e, whose husband has disappeared, and whose damsel-in-distress act is wearing very, very thin. Rogan also faces his own challenges, too, as Nevada’s magical rank has made her a desirable match for other Primes. Controlling his immense powers is child’s play next to controlling his conflicting emotions. And now he and Nevada are confronted by a new threat within her own family. Can they face this together? Or is their world about to go up in smoke?

This was the first non-Kate Daniels series I have read from the duo-pair authors. After reading Burn for Me, I was totally addicted to the plot. Nevada and Rogan, who are both in their late twenties, are polar opposites as individuals, but their chemistry lights up like fire when they work together on cases. They also evolved as they learn from one another and become deeply entrenched in the magical politics of Houston. In this world, magic means everything. You have magic dynasties (called Houses) who dominate society. They own corporations, influence politics, employ private armies, and kill each other in deadly feuds. The more magic you have, the more powerful, the wealthier, and the more prominent you are. Marriage was treated as a transaction based on magical abilities. Regardless of how powerful the magic, no magic should be taken lightly.

Nevada finds out as she partners with Rogan that the more contact she has with other Houses (and enemies that comes along with the detective gig), she has to look out for her own family interests. By the third book, we get to learn the backstory of the colorful Baylor family and the origin of each member's unique gifts. I liked how Rogan, who had completely isolated himself due to his own destructive powers, becomes enamored with Nevada's resilience, intelligence, and compassion. She is not the type to be impressed with his status, which makes him want to learn more about her. As the head of the Baylor family detective agency, Nevada also took on a guardianship role to help provide for her family. And how falling in love with her tested his feelings. No matter the stakes, the sexual attraction becomes hot between the two. I highly recommend the series.

While the trilogy ends Nevada's story, the next book the series focuses on her younger teenage sister, Catalina, who also has an unique and powerful gift. I won't spoil what it is but it sounds terrifying. Stay tuned for the next books in the Hidden Legacy series, Diamond Fire (novella) and Sapphire Flames.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Favorite Music from Anastasia the Musical

As a fan of the original animated film, Anastasia (1997), I will always cherish this magical story. Last spring (May 2018), I had the opportunity to visit and watch the Broadway rendition in New York. I had the ideal seats where I had a full view of the stage. The experience was so worth it! I was impressed as I got to revisit my childhood and listen to new songs to this classic film. I loved the music so much that I purchased the Anastasia the Musical soundtrack. "In My Dreams" is a new song from the soundtrack. It is one of my favorites (I have too many to list in this post). On the soundtrack, I also enjoyed "Once Upon a December" and "Stay, I Pray You". In "Journey to the Past", the lead actress performs a duet with the original singer, Liz Callaway, from the 1997 animated film. How awesome is that?? Relive the moment and check out the videos below.

"In My Dreams"

"Journey to the Past" (a duet featuring Liz Callway, the original singer from the 1997 animated film!)

I highly recommend the Broadway version in New York City. Reserve your tickets while it lasts!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Review: Broken Destiny series (Books #1-3)

Sometimes falling in love really is the end of the world ...

The Broken Destiny series was written by Jeaniene Frost. It consists of three books: The Beautiful Ashes, The Sweetest Burn, and The Brightest Embers.

The Beautiful Ashes, by Jeaniene Frost, is the first book in the Broken Destiny series. Ivy has always seen strange, otherworldly things that she cannot explain. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse--her hallucinations are real, and her sister is imprisoned in a supernatural realm beyond Ivy's reach. Meanwhile, the fate Adrian has fought to escape is here--but he never expected the burning need he feels for Ivy. With destiny on one side and desire on the other, Adrian must help Ivy search for the powerful relic that can save her sister. Yet he knows what Ivy doesn't: the truth about her own destiny, and a war that could destroy the world.

The Sweetest Burn, by Jeaniene Frost, is the second book in the Broken Destiny series. Conquering a supernatural realm turned out to be easier than getting over a broken heart. But her initial victory has made Ivy a target for revenge, forcing her to reunite with the dangerously handsome Adrian. Ivy isn't sure which will be harder: finding the hallowed weapon that will repair the crumbling walls between the demon and human realms, or resisting Adrian. At first, Adrian tried to resist his feelings for Ivy. Now, determined to break the curse that dooms their love, he's vowed to save her and to have her. If only he can persuade her to forgive his past sins.

The Brightest Embers, by Jeaniene Frost, is the third book in the Broken Destiny series. Ivy thought she and Adrian they had conquered their fates. Yet with thousands of innocents still trapped in the demon realms, she’s determined to locate the final hallowed weapon and harness its unparalleled power to free them. But the last relic nearly put Ivy in the grave--there’s probably no coming back from this one. Adrian’s dark lineage has made him the most powerful of his kind, yet even his incredible abilities might not be enough now. Instead, the treacherous fate he has fought so hard to escape might be the only way he can save Ivy.

My goodness, this novel series was breathtakingly action-packed and sexy! I enjoyed the first two books, which focused on the lead characters' backstory and dangerous quest to find the relics to seal the demon realm. Despite the fast-paced nature of the plot, the conclusion in the third book left much to be desired. It started out with a lot of promise in the first two novels -- good chemistry between the lead characters, inventive plot with high stakes on the line, and a humor element that is familiar in Frost's writing. If the trilogy contract left Frost little room for imagination, it was quite telling in the final book, The Brightest Embers. The first third of the book seemed like another author wrote it. The second half dragged with Ivy self-reflecting on her life -- something that should have been addressed in the second book, The Sweetest Burn. The ending also seemed very rushed and abrupt with no epilogue to tie up loose ends on what happened to Ivy and Adrian. I still recommend this book for the action and mystery that made the adventure worth reading. But I believed that Ivy and Adrian deserved a better ending. Frost's other novels in the Night Huntress Universe are of much higher quality -- and spread out for building up character development. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Review: Forever (2014-2015)

A 200-year-old but young-looking man named is a medical examiner who hopes to understand his immortality.
Forever (2014-2015) is a TV crime fantasy drama that premiered on ABC. Stars: It starred Ioan Gruffudd, Alana De La Garza, Joel David Moore. It contains 22 episodes.

Dr. Henry Morgan, an immortal New York City medical examiner who uses his extensive knowledge to assist the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in solving crimes and to discover a way to end his immortality. Whenever he dies, he materializes in water. Flashbacks within each episode reveal various details of Henry's life.

The show was cancelled after one season. ABC cited the show's low ratings as the rationale behind the decision. Television critics believed that other factors explained the network's decision, as the show gained viewers who watched up to seven days later on their DVRs. Fans of the series reacted strongly, creating a social media campaign to save the series; despite these efforts, the series remains canceled.

I was one of the fans who discovered Forever late in the Fall season and watched episodes on demand (Comcat's version of DVR). Despite not watching the show as it premiered on the air due to my busy schedule, I enjoyed this show immensely because it combined element of Law & Order, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and Sherlock Holmes with a fantasy twist. I  am always looking for TV shows that show an alternate fantasy twist. Like many fans, I was rooting for the handsome Dr. Henry Morgan to find the secret to his immortality. 

While Forever fit the elements of a crime drama, the show also explored personal themes of Dr. Henry Morgan's immortality, romance, and pleasures with immortality, throwing in flashbacks of his life in previous time periods. He also displayed how this gift was more like a curse  because he witnessed the people he loved and raised age while he remained young and immortal. Fans will never know what will happen next for Dr. Henry Morgan. I highly recommend this show! You can find old episodes playing on CW Seed. (If you are a fan of the Welsh actor, Ioan Gruffudd, he plays a medical examiner in the Australian crime drama, Harrow.)

Watch the trailer below:

Friday, February 8, 2019

Review: The Angel and Vampire War series (Books #1-3)

This post is a review of the three books in The Angel and Vampire Wars trilogy by G.K. DeRosa: Wings & Destruction, Blood & Rebellion, and Souls & Salvation.

First the vampires attacked. 
Then the angels came. 
Humans thought they were saved. 
They were wrong.

Wings & Destruction is the first novel in The Angel and Vampire War series. Seventeen-year-old Liv and Asher are trying to survive in an apocalyptic world destroyed by two powerful immortals--angels and vampires. Along with their dog, Duke, they must fend for themselves when rations run short in their small upstate New York town. Unfortunately for Liv, a warrior nephilim (half angel, half human) drops from the sky and snatches away Asher, the only person close to her. With Duke by her side, she must risk everything to save her best friend from the dreaded angel tower in ravaged D.C.

On her journey south, she runs into a pack of ravenous vampires. Out of nowhere, she is rescued by a mysterious handsome young man who goes by the name, Declan. As much as she hates to admit it, she needs his help if she's going to survive the perilous trek into angel territory. Declan’s cunning, strong, and charming, but he’s definitely keeping secrets.

Those dark secrets, once revealed, will force her to question everything. Will Declan be the key to rescuing Asher or Liv's ultimate downfall?

Blood & Rebellion is the second novel in The Angel and Vampire War series. Together, Liv and Declan just learned that their mission has become much bigger than rescuing Asher. They must hunt for a mythical shield that would rid the world of the dreaded immortals and end the war. They must race against the clock before the angels and vampires find the powerful weapon.

There’s just one problem: she's not the only one searching for the legendary weapon. Both the angels and vampires are closing in, hell bent on stopping her and her friends. When an unexpected loss changes everything, she's forced to come to terms with her new destiny. A destiny she's not certain she wants any part of. To make matters worse, she discovers a terrible secret that shatters her faith in the one person she needs to survive the war—the one person she's falling for.

Can Liv embrace her fate and complete her divine quest or will the immortals destroy her along with all hope for humanity?

Souls & Salvation is the third novel in The Angel and Vampire War series. Trapped in the dreaded angel tower, Liv attempts to infiltrate the enemy from within, but not falling for the angel by her side is proving to be the most difficult part. When she receives an ominous warning about an impending attack, Declan makes a decision which threatens their already precarious relationship.

Left to her own devices, Liv teams up with the rebels and an unlikely ally in the hopes of rescuing the human slaves. But when she's captured by the vampires, she risks jeopardizing everything.

Finding the mythical shield is the only way to defeat the immortals, but winning the war comes at a high cost. When Liv discovers saving humanity means losing the one she loves, will she be able to make the ultimate sacrifice?

This is my second angel series after Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter series. I was excited to branch out to other authors who cover the angel perspective. I must say that I was impressed with this supernatural teen romance in an dystopian world. The protagonist, Liv, was feisty and brave to protect her friends. The immortals had devastated so much of humanity that cities lied in ruins. People had to hide underground to avoid capture. She had lost so much--her own family--in the angel and vampire war that she was determined to save others. That was, in my opinion, her gift and why she was chosen to wield the shield. I like that kind of fiery spirit in an individual. Declan turned out to be a sweetheart and protector of Liv who stayed by her side at all costs. They would endure many dangerous situations, and it was his warrior training that made it possible for Liv to fulfill her destiny. Despite some shocking secrets that tested their relationship, Liv and Declan worked well together as a team. As they got deeper into the mission, their love for one another blossomed into a magnificent force to be reckoned with. Together, their love for another was the strongest weapon to end the war once and for all. I highly recommend this series.

Stay tuned for my next review of a supernatural trilogy series by G.K. DeRosa, The Vampire Prophecy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Insert Songs from the Fushigi Yuugi OST

It is now February, and Valentine's Day is less than two weeks away.. It is hard to believe that this blog is nearly ten years old! In this post, I want to reflect on a wonderful anime series, Fushigi Yuugi. If you are new to the series, please take the time to read my published review of Fushigi Yuugi on my blog. After the Sailor Moon series, Fushigi Yuugi has to be my second favorite Japanese anime series that had a tremendous effect on me. I loved everything about this show--the fantasy, the tear-breaking romance, and the mysterious clues that left audiences guessing on what lied ahead for the main cast. I have re-watched several times since college, and it never disappoints me. It's not a perfect anime, and didn't receive tremendous global success as Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, and Pokemon but Fushigi Yuugi will always be special in my heart. I highly recommend the series.

I also love the Fushigi Yuugi original soundtrack. The songs have become timeless classics in Japanese anime. I have so many favorites and it was hard for me to narrow the list. Below I have provided a few of my favorite songs from the Fushigi Yuugi series. I didn't include insert songs from the OVAs -- I didn't want to spoil the ending! All three songs were sung by singer Satou Akemi, who provided most of the discography on the Fushigi Yuugi series. Sadly, she is no longer active in music. She had such a beautiful voice. Nevertheless, her immense talent bought raw emotion to the story. Thank you for these treasures.

Fushigi Yuugi OST - For the One I Love~ (ballad version)

Fushigi Yuugi OST - Wakatte-ita hazu

Fushigi Yuugi OST - Only Tonight