Thursday, September 22, 2016

Movie Review:Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur (1959)

Rating: PG (violence and injuries)

Recommended for: Ages 14 and up

A member of the Jewish nobility living in Jerusalem, Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) lives a religious life and peacefully opposes the tyrannical occupation of Judea by Rome.

After months of waiting to watch this movie (we recorded it the week of Christmas) I finally got to see it. It wasn't nearly as good as the book, but it was still good.

Technical: 4/5

This is an old movie, so the acting was a little stiff and awkward at times. There was some good acting too. The film score would get dramatic at strange times and was also a little weird. The chariot race was pretty realistic (and a little horrifying) and left us wondering how they would have done it. The pacing was good and I wasn't confused about things, even when they changed things.

Setting: 4.5/5

The setting was true to the book, from what I can remember. Things didn't seem to be historically out of place. I don't know a ton about the area, but nothing was obviously out of place.

Plot: 3.5/4

There was a lot that was changed from the book and in my opinion, it was not for the better. They cut a major character, killed a major character that didn't die, and changed a very major event. The basic plot line is still the same and they keep some of the most major things. Some of the things they cut probably would have taken the focus away from Ben-Hur.

Characters: 4.5/5

For the most part, the characters are the same as they were in the book. They also let you see two characters' good friendship before it went bad. Ben-Hur wants to protect his family and to get revenge. The actor was a little too old for Ben-Hur and didn't exactly look the part but since he is on the cover of the book I read, I think of him as Ben-Hur.

This movie is semi-faithful to the book. It is an old movie but it is still good. I would recommend it. and if you like the book, it is still worth watching (just be prepared for major changes) and it is a good movie despite its differences from the book.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Book Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Rating: PG

Recommended for: Ages 13 and up (interest level)

 Jules Verne's perennially popular Journey to the Center of the Earth begins when irascible but dedicated mineralogy professor Otto Lidenbrock finds a centuries-old parchment inside an even older book. His nephew Axel decodes it, and discovers instructions on how to get to the center of the Earth: "Go down into the crater of Snaefells Yocul," an extinct Icelandic volcano. As they descend, the explorers also travel backwards to the past, through layers of human history and geologic time, encountering prehistoric plants and animals and ultimately coming to understand the origins of humanity itself.

I have been wanting to read this book for several years,  since I liked Around the World in 80 Days, and about a year after finding it at a library book sale, I finally read it.

Technical: 4/5

The book is mostly from Axel's point of view as if he is telling the story afterwards, except for the random part where it switches to the author's narrative without any break. The story was easy to follow but it dragged a little when they talked about scientific things and some of their journeying. Overall, it was an interesting read. This is a translation, so different editions will have some differences.

Plot: 5/5

The plot was pretty simple, all they did was go on a journey to the center of the earth, there was no villain. It was just an adventure story, and that was about it. It was very simple, so there were no plot holes. The reason they decided to go on the adventure, while not the best reason, was due to a character's personality while another character thought he was crazy but was still dragged along.

Setting: 3/5

While the setting makes for an interesting story, it is not very realistic. It doesn't get incredibly hot as they go down towards the center of the earth and there probably is not an ocean, or extinct animals living in the earth. There were also mentions of evolution in the story and in the notes. The notes would also mention when Jules Verne got geographical or other facts wrong or confused. The characters are from Hamburg, Germany, and they also travel to Iceland while above ground.

Characters: 4/5

There are three main characters: Hans, Professor Lidenbrock, and Axel. Hans is an Icelandic guide who is hired to take them to the crater of Snaefells and to help them along the way. Hans does whatever the Professor tells him to do. He is resourceful but is mostly there. Professor Lidenbrock is eccentric and impatient and is determined to go on the journey, He can sometimes be nice but gets very worked up over things. Axel is the one who tells the story. He has his moments of despair and of enthusiasm. He is realistic and since he narrates the story, you get into his head.

While this book is not perfect, it was still an interesting read and a good classic and I would recommend it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: The Children of the New Forest

The Children of the New Forest by Frederick  Marryat

Rating: PG

Recommended for: Ages 10 and up (interest level)

 In The Children of the New Forest, Marryat describes the trials and triumphs of the four Beverley children, orphaned during the English Civil War and forced to take refuge with a poor woodsman in the New Forest. This is the first annotated edition of a great children's classic, which has retained its popularity since 1847.

This book probably sounds boring, but it was very interesting. Although it is very different, the premise about learning to survive on their own reminded me of Robinson Crusoe learning to use the resources available to him.

Writing: 4/5

The book starts out explaining the history of the time, which I didn't find very interesting, but it quickly went to the start of the story. It was good about putting the history of what was going on during the story in a natural and more interesting way than some books. Other than at the beginning, there were no long rambly passages about it. The author made things that could have been easily been really boring into an interesting story. 

Setting: 5/5

The story is set in England at the time when Cromwell was able to take over England. There was nothing in the setting that seemed out of place and that it shouldn't belong. They mostly spend time in the forest. I don't remember all of the events from this period but I have read about some of them in a different fiction book, so it was interesting reading about these events from a different perspective.

Plot: 5/5
The king is on the run from his enemies and soldiers are looking for him. The Beverleys are on the king's side and are forced to take refuge in the forest, where they are taught how to take care of themselves. Edward wants to fight for the king and it is a goal he seeks to meet. They also run into trouble throughout the story, which does not get intense but is still interesting.

Characters: 3.5/5

 There are four Beverley children but it only focuses on two of them. I think that Alice and Edith should've been developed more than they were. Edward was the most developed of them all and became the main character (the book starts out with a different main character who is pretty well developed). While the characters had different characteristics, I think that they could've been better developed. For an older book, they were well developed. 

It is a good book with a satisfying ending that I would recommend, especially if you like English history.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Movie Review: Nanny McPhee

Nanny McPhee

Recommended For: All Ages

Rating: PG

Mr. Cedric Brown has just lost his wife and is now left with his seven children who misbehave so much that all the nannies have run away. A magical, but fearfully ugly Nanny McPhee shows up and claims she can tame the rowdy children.

This movie was so cute! The other day we watched this because we hadn't been using our Netflix in a while, and oh my gosh, it was adorable! I certainly did not expect Colin Firth to be in it. So weird. But he did a really good job.

Technical: 5/5
This movie was done really well. The CG, the acting, the costumes, all done well and aesthetically pleasing.

Settings: 4/5
The settings were...interesting. I couldn't tell what the time frame was supposed to be, though. The house was painted such weird colors! Probably as a result of the kids somehow.

Plot: 5/5
The plot was very...just wow. It was so magical. And it had a happy ending! (Of course it had a happy ending, it's a kids' movie. Still, though, I was wondering for a bit.)

Character Development: 5/5
The characters were so amazing. Nanny McPhee is very interesting. I really liked the kid that Thomas Brodie-Sangster played. I can't believe he was fifteen when that movie was made! That kid looks so young!

Does he look fifteen in that picture? No? Well, he was! That kid just amazes me. I just can't fathom how much younger he looks than he actually is.
The other characters were really good, too. I really liked Mr. Brown, and felt so sorry for him! Yes, he almost married a nasty woman, but he was doing it to keep his kids out of the workhouse. Poor guy. I liked the kids, too, though they were bratty, and Aunt Adelaide...well, I just can't believe she was Angela Lansbury!

This was a very good movie that I would recommend to everyone, especially naughty children. :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book Review: This Quiet Sky

This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof

Recommended for: Ages 15 to Adult

Rating: PG (for romance)

There is nothing extraordinary about Tucker O’Shay’s dreams. Go to college. Become president. Fall in love. And pretend like he has enough time to get it all done.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah Miller doesn’t expect anything out of the ordinary when she begins her first day at the one-room-school house in her new hometown of Rocky Knob. But when she meets seventeen-year-old Tucker O’Shay—the boy with the fatal illness who volunteers to tutor her in algebra—she finds herself swept up in a friendship that changes the way she sees the world and a love that changes her life.

 I cried. Just a little, the only book that made me bawl is Bridge to Terebithia, but I, the one who almost never cries over books, cried.

The setting didn't feel quite as authentic to me as Little House (yes, I compared as I read for awhile), but it still felt pretty historically accurate. And once I got into the story, I didn't notice little things that felt slightly modern anymore.

Oh my word, the pain. I'm not quite sure what it was I connected to so much, but this story, short though it is, crushed my heart. I was there. I felt the pain and the sorrow. I feel like crying whenever I think of it.

Tucker. Sarah. Always meant to be. Never meant to be. But it doesn't really matter how much time you have in this world. What matters is what you do with it. Even if you never become President. Even if you never marry the one you love. As long as you do the most you can, you will have done enough.

Now excuse me while I go cry again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Review: Storming

Storming by K. M. Weiland

Recommended For: Ages 13 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 (violence)

In the high-flying, heady world of 1920s aviation, brash pilot Robert “Hitch” Hitchcock’s life does a barrel roll when a young woman in an old-fashioned ball gown falls from the clouds smack in front of his biplane. As fearless as she is peculiar, Jael immediately proves she’s game for just about anything, including wing-walking in his struggling airshow. In return for her help, she demands a ride back home . . . to the sky. Hitch thinks she’s nuts—until he steers his plane into the midst of a bizarre storm and nearly crashes into a strange airship like none he’s ever run afoul of, an airship with the power to control the weather. Caught between a corrupt sheriff and dangerous new enemies from above, Hitch must take his last chance to gain forgiveness from his estranged family, deliver Jael safely home before she flies off with his freewheeling heart, and save his Nebraska hometown from storm-wielding sky pirates. Cocky, funny, and full of heart, Storming is a jaunty historical adventure / dieselpunk mash-up that combines rip-roaring steampunk adventure and small-town charm with the thrill of futuristic possibilities.

I've followed K.M. Weiland's writing help blog for a really long time, so when my sister bought this book, I jumped at the chance to read it. I had so many other books to read I didn't get past the beginning for a while, but when I made myself sit down and read it, I loved it and finished it in a day. I moved down to our basement halfway through the book because it was thundering so loud the windows were shaking. This isn't my normal genre at all, but I enjoyed it just the same.

Writing: 5/5
K.M. Weiland certainly practices what she talks about on her writing blog. This book had deep and engaging POVs, a backstory that is told to the reader just as the story demands it... I could go on for a lot longer, but I shouldn't. I did guess the big plot twist very early on, but I've read so many stories, it's incredibly hard to fool me in plot twists. I can remember it happening recently once, and I've read I don't know how many books with plot twists I've read.

Setting: 5/5
I've never been to Nebraska, and certainly never in the 1920s, but since Nebraska is the author's home, I would assume she got it pretty accurate. Despite the obvious advanced technology in the airship, everything seemed historically accurate. The descriptions were really good, too.

Plot: 5/5
Exciting and well-structured! The plot points are right where they should be and they're big and epic as they should be. It's an intriguing concept that has an intriguing plot that never falls flat.

Character Development: 5/5
Even the best story rules-wise can fall completely flat without great characters and a heart. This book has both. Not only are the characters true to life, they're likable characters a reader can easily connect with and root for. Hitch, Walter, and Jael were my favorites, although I really liked the two feuding brothers and Walter's aunt. It broke my heart when SPOILER Hitch's brother refused to forgive him even after repeated attempts on Hitch's part to apologize. END SPOILER 

This is one book you don't want to miss. It has heart, charm, and characters with a ready wit. If you like action, adventure, historical fiction, steampunk, dieselpunk, or Jules Verne novels, you will love this book. Go buy it and read it now!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Movie Review: Harvey


Rating: G

Recommended for: Ages 10 and up (interest level)

Elwood P. Dowd is friends with a giant rabbit which no one but he can see. His sister struggles with what to do with him and finally decides to have him committed, which causes many mix-ups.

This movie follows a man who everyone thinks is crazy, since he has a friend who is a six foot tall invisible rabbit. It is a funny movie and is not too long, which can be nice sometimes.

 Technical: 4/5

This is an older movie, and the version we saw was in black and white. The acting was good and seemed mostly natural. It was definitely not as stiff as some old movies. The story line is pretty simple and easy to follow even as things get more messed up.

Setting: 5/5

There are not a ton of different places and I don't remember them saying where they lived. There is a mental hospital which they go to and a couple of places in town. The settings seem very much like the settings in other old movies.

Plot: 5/5

The story is mostly about Dowd's sister trying to get rid of Harvey so that people won't think that they are crazy. Dowd is oblivious to everything and is nice to everyone. He also brings people together, though I don't know why the nurse liked the doctor since he was always rude to her.

Characters: 5/5

Elwood P. Dowd is friendly to everyone and believes the best about people. He invites people he has hardly met to dinner and tries to introduce everyone to Harvey. His sister is very upset about Harvey, especially since she has occasionally seen him and he looks just as her brother described him. There are other characters too, which play a part in the story, especially when they learn that Dowd is the one everyone thinks is crazy.

It is hinted at that Harvey is actually real, but you only see him in a picture. It has a good ending and I would recommend it.