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 Forth 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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Book Review: Before You Meet Prince Charming

Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Mally

Recommended for: single girls ages 12 to adult and parents of daughters 

A young lady who is pure will shine with a radiant brightness in this world of darkness. How can a young lady stay physically and emotionally pure as she waits for God s best in marriage? This guide to radiant purity combines the thoughts and events in the life of a young princess with solid, clear teaching of Biblical convictions that young ladies today need to grasp. Through a captivating fairy tale, modern day examples, practical instruction and abundant humor, Sarah Mally challenges young ladies to turn to the Lord for fulfillment, to guard their hearts and minds, to identify and avoid the world s thinking and to shine brightly in this generation. This book offers Biblical answers to everyday questions and deep life struggles. It deals with many practical topics such as being wise in internet usage, dealing with crush, and building strong relationships with parents. Sarah Mally is a bright light in our day.

I've wanted to read this book for years, but I had never been very active about tracking down a copy. When I saw that they sold it at the Creation Museum, I naturally picked up a copy, but I was thinking "I'm twenty, I've pretty much defined my ideas on relationships. I doubt I really need this." But as I flipped through, I went, "Yep, I still need this." Luckily I remembered I still had a good bit left on the Visa gift card I got from my grandma for Christmas, or I never would have bought it. Because while it's true that I already knew a lot that was in the book, I did need it and I still managed to get a lot out of it.

Now, I've come across things in the Bright Lights handouts that indicate the Mallys seem to lean a bit towards legalism, but I didn't come across much if anything in this book that seemed overly legalistic. At least, nothing I hadn't already read in Bright Lights materials. (Honestly, the thing I most disagreed with was the implication in the bonus material that online friendships are fake. Because while you absolutely have to be super careful, it is possible to make good friends online. It's like a modern version of a pen pal.)

Essentially, what the book is about is staying truly pure and trusting God in relationships. It seems like basic stuff, but unfortunately, it's not really very common. I don't want to rehash the entire book, you need to read it for yourself, but I want to touch on the chapters that stood out to me the most.

Guard Your Heart

I honestly tend to have the opposite problem from what this chapter is really written to help you with. I tend more to hide from guys than to be overly familiar with them. But whether you're boy crazy or anti boy, this chapter helps. It talks about how to have friendships with guys without becoming emotionally attached in a romantic way. Things like keeping the friendship casual and focusing on the other person, not yourself. It's not bad to be friends with guys, but you absolutely need to protect your heart and keep it for the right one.

Could He Be The One?

Despite being a girl who was never interested in guys and never really developed any crushes, I do want to get married someday, and I want to know...How do you know if he's the one? Unfortunately, there's no hard and fast rule, and every situation is different. What this chapter does do is give you an idea of essential qualifications to look for in a spouse. Things like the essentials of marrying a strong Christian, and things like considering if your life missions are the same. But a bigger thing is: Are YOU ready for marriage? And if not, what things do you need to work on to get there? Because you can't expect a guy to be ready to be your husband if you aren't making yourself ready to be a wife.

When God Says Wait

This really stuck out to me because, well, I'm not in a relationship, don't see the possibility of one anytime soon, and I know I'm not really ready for one anyway. God is saying wait. Waiting is important. There are so many things we miss if we refuse to wait on God. God's timing is rarely the same as ours, but His is infinitely better. Still, waiting doesn't mean sitting around just...waiting. It means serving. There are many opportunities for ministry we have while we're single that we won't have once we're married. The morning after I read this chapter, I talked to my mom about the subject, and then immediately after when I got in the car to go to work, "While I'm Waiting" was playing on the radio. I guess it's a message I needed to hear!

Have a Life Purpose Bigger Than Marriage

Despite the fact that I don't even want to get married for at least a few more years, I still tend to think of my single years as filler. The years in between graduation and marriage. I think that's why this chapter stood out to me. It tells me not to hold back because, well, it's probably something I'll have to give up once I get married and start having kids because I won't have the time anymore. Use your single years wisely. I don't want to be thirty and unmarried, looking back and saying, "I should have tried harder at the things I was doing. I gave up opportunities I should have taken advantage of because I was afraid it would keep me from getting married or something." Because my life purpose, your life purpose, should be far bigger than marriage. It's about serving God in everything, surrendering to Him, and working for His kingdom, regardless of whether it's something you'll have to give up or put on hold should you get married.

Reserved For One

This chapter was really exciting to me. For a lot of girls, what they care about is how far they can go while technically remaining pure. But what it should be about is how much we can save for our future spouse. And that is immensely exciting to me. It's really amazing to think of saving as many firsts as I can for my future husband, more than just my first kiss. Sarah provides a list to get you thinking, things like first expression of interest, first words of affection or love, first special song, place, event or memory...How much more special will it be if we have all these firsts of a romantic relationship with the right one? I don't want to have any special romantic moment with some other girl's husband. As I told a friend the day after reading this chapter, I want to be able to tell my husband someday that "there was only ever you." And that thought excites me.

This book taught me a lot, as well as better defining and reinforcing beliefs I already held. Because while I don't agree with the Mallys on everything (I do think completely getting rid of your TV is a bit extreme), they teach a lot that is of value. Before You Meet Prince Charming is well written, informative, and biblically based, containing many scripture quotes and references. This book is well worth the read for any single girl or woman.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Book Review: Princess Academy Series

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Recommended for: Ages 10 to Adult

Rating: PG

Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince will choose his bride from among the village girls.

The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess. Soon Miri finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires. Winning the contest could give her everything she ever wanted-but it would mean leaving her home and family behind.

It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was very, very good. I'd been reading it on my Saturday lunch break for several weeks, but I had to bring it home  to finish it. So good. So much about what education can really do, deep relationships, real characters, and the quarry speak is pretty cool. 

Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city is a thrill to Miri. She and her princess academy friends have come to Asland to help the future princess Britta prepare for her wedding. There, Miri also has a chance to attend school – at the prestigious Queen's Castle.

But as Miri befriends sophisticated and exciting students, she also learns that they have some frightening plans for a revolution. Torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends' ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city, Miri looks to find her own way in this new place.

 Oh my goodness, words cannot express how much I loved this book. The Princess Academy books are never what I expect, they are so much better. I intended to leave this as a lunch break book, but I just had to bring it home and finish it. This book. It's just so deep. I love deep. All the Ethics questions Miri ponders, the politics, the French Revolution-type conflict, the uncertainty of her relationship with Peder...there's just so much I love, that I can relate to, that made me think. So, so good. 

 After a year at the king's palace, Miri has learned all about being a proper princess. But the tables turn when the student must become the teacher!

Instead of returning to her beloved Mount Eskel, Miri is ordered to journey to a distant swamp and start a princess academy for three sisters, cousins of the royal family. Unfortunately, Astrid, Felissa, and Sus are more interested in hunting and fishing than becoming princesses.

As Miri spends more time with the sisters, she realizes the king and queen's interest in them hides a long-buried secret. She must rely on her own strength and intelligence to unravel the mystery, protect the girls, complete her assignment, and finally make her way home.

 The second book is still my favorite, but I loved this one nevertheless. In a way, it brings the series full circle as Miri the Princess Academy student becomes the teacher of a mini Princess Academy. But it is so much more than that. Political unrest is not yet over, and relations between Danland and Stora are, well, not pretty. I do caution you not to peek at the end. I did before I even read Palace of Stone--solely to see if Miri and Peder got together--and accidentally got a spoiler that ruined a lot of the suspense. But it still managed to surprise me a bit even so. Miri and Peder are still fantastic, the sisters are great, things are concluded well, and I love it to pieces. I must have my own copy.

This series is highly recommended. Clean and kid appropriate, yet so deep. Wonderful stories.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Review: Brothers in Arms

Brothers in Arms by Jack Lewis Baillot

Rating: PG-13 (violence)

Recommended for: Ages 15 and up

 Franz Kappel and Japhet Buchanan never expected their friendship to be tested by the Third Reich. Friends from early childhood, the boys form an inseparable, brotherly bond. Growing up in a little German village, they escape most of the struggles of war until the day Japhet is banished from school for being a Jew, and later has a rib broken when other village boys beat him up. Franz learns he is putting himself in danger for spending so much time with Japhet but continues to stand up for his Jewish friend even at the risk to himself. Then one day their lives are shattered when they see first-hand that the price of being a Jew is dangerously high. 

 With the war now on their doorsteps, Franz and Japhet come up with a desperate plan to save their families and get them out of Germany alive. Leaving behind the lives they've always known, they move into Berlin with nothing to protect them but forged papers and each other. Convinced their friendship can keep them going, the boys try and make a new life for themselves while trying to keep their true identities and Japhet's heritage a secret. Taking his best friend's safety upon himself, Franz joins the Nazis in an attempt to get valuable information. At the same time, Japhet joins the Jewish Resistance, neither friend telling the other of their new occupations.

  With everyone in their world telling them a Nazi and a Jew can't be friends, it is only a matter of time before they believe all the lies themselves, until neither is certain if they are fighting against a race of people or fighting for their homeland. Somehow they have to survive the horrors of World War II, even when all of Germany seems to be against them.

This is a great but sad book about friendship in Germany during WWII. This book was one I actually felt like reading and wanted to read over doing other activities, which doesn't happen very often. 

Writing: 4/5

The writing was easy to stay focused on and it was easy to follow the story. She also clearly presented the gospel in a natural way in the story. There were a lot of typos and some wrong tenses. I also wished that some of the changes of point of views were more defined. There was a lot of back story that was the foundation to the story. The ending was satisfying, but I wish that it had a little more before it ended and went to the Afterword. I was also able to get attached to the characters.

Plot: 5/5

The story is about two boys' friendship during WWII and them trying to survive the war. It is a very character focused story, which is something that I really like. It is a very sad book and many people die. While it doesn't have a lot of detail of what happened in the Holocaust, there is some violence mostly when characters are interrogated.

Setting: 4/5

I haven't done a lot of research on Germany during this period, but there are some more minor things that didn't seem quite historically accurate but that don't really affect the story (except the one that was addressed in the historical note at the back of the book). For example, when the children start becoming indoctrinated there is no mention of Hitler Youth for awhile and no mention of the Kappels not attending Hitler Youth and what repercussions might occur from them not going. The setting seemed real and the way a character was pushed to do things was done in a realistic way. The feel of the story definitely fit with the story. It did seem well researched and not every thing will be completely accurate.

Characters: 5/5

This is a character book (with a good story too) and these characters go through a lot. They make mistakes and sometimes act rashly. They have their good and their bad, which make them more human, and are still likeable. The things the characters go through impact and change them. They changed slowly and not all at once. Things also aren't always clear to them, like in real life, and they then make mistakes which don't just magically go away, and they have to deal with the consequences of their mistakes. 

This is a book that is well worth reading. It is sad but still good. I really enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to people who like character stories.