Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: Rainbow Valley

Rainbow Valley by L. M. Montgomery

Recommended for: Ages 8 to Adult (reading and interest level)

Rating: G

Anne Shirley is grown up, has married her beloved Gilbert and now is the mother of six mischievous children.

These boys and girls discover a special place all their own, but they never dream of what will happen when the strangest family moves into an old nearby mansion. The Meredith clan is two boys and two girls, with minister father but no mother -- and a runaway girl named Mary Vance. Soon the Meredith kids join Anne's children in their private hideout to carry out their plans to save Mary from the orphanage, to help the lonely minister find happiness, and to keep a pet rooster from the soup pot. There's always an adventure brewing in the sun-dappled world of Rainbow Valley.

Rainbow Valley is an interesting book. I enjoyed reading more about Anne Shirley's children and about the Meredith children. There were funny parts as well as some sad parts.


The writing was pretty good. L. M. Montgomery is able to write about regular life without making it boring. There were some parts that were a little wordy, mainly at the beginning of chapters where she is descriptive about the weather.


This story is set in the early 1900s on Prince Edward Island, Canada, in the town of Glen St. Mary. The setting seemed pretty good, but I don't really know much about Canada at that period. It does tell what behavior people thought was wrong, like not wearing socks to church.


I don't know what the main plot would be for this book since it mainly just follows the life of the Meredith children and the "scandals" they cause. Even though there is no main plot, it was still interesting and well written.

Character Development:5/5

The characters were all unique and even though they have faults and make mistakes, they are still likeable characters. Anne's children weren't the main focus and the youngest boy Shirley was barely in it, but her children are still unique.

This book was worth reading and, even though it does not focus on Anne and her children, it is still a good continuation of the series.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Review: Holes

Holes by Louis Sachar

Recommended For: All Ages

Rating: PG (mild violence)

This winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award features Stanley Yelnats, a kid who is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys' detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys "build character" by spending all day, every day, digging holes five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake: the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.

After watching the movie, I found Holes was originally a book. When I read the book, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book and the movie were almost identical. I loved the book as much as I loved the movie, and can see why it was given the Newbery Medal.

Writing: 5/5
The writing of this book was great. Louis Sachar cleverly switches between Stanley and an overview of past events that is necessary to understand the events going on with Stanley. The wording was good, no typos, etc., etc. I don't think I need to go through all that. Suffice it to say I didn't find anything to pull me out of the story.

Setting: 5/5
The book was set in Texas in the middle of a desert. Very realistic.

Plot: 5/5
This was a very original plot. Very intriguing. Well-rounded and no holes in the plot (pun intended).

Character Development: 5/5
I loved the characters! They were great! They were very well-done, as everything in this book was. The characters were very deep.

I enjoyed this book, as you can tell. This book would be a good read-aloud, good for the whole family. It is deserving of the Newbery Medal.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Movie Review: The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure

The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure 

Recommended For: Ages 6-12

Rating: PG (mild violence)

Unraveling a series of clues left behind by his grandfather, Mickey Matson and his friends embark on a magical journey in search of a mythical ancient device. With the future of the country hanging in the balance, they will have to outsmart and outrun an evil conspiracy that dates back to the civil war. Chock full of exciting twists and turns, The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure is a fun adventure for the whole family!

Mickey Matson was an interesting movie that is family friendly and will likely be enjoyed by children. However, while there wasn't anything that would make me hesitate to show it to children, there are many things about it that prevented full enjoyment for me.

Technical: 3/5

As far as filming, acting, and CGI work goes, this film was well done. The special effects were believable, and the actors knew how to act. There were some well known actors in the cast, such as Christopher Lloyd, though he didn't actually appear much. Where Mickey Matson suffered was the writing. I'll get into the plot side of the writing later. The dialogue seemed kind of cliche. Many times I could predict what they were going to say even though I had never really heard anything about the movie before watching it. Sully, the girl, seemed to be supposed to have good comebacks and humorous comments, yet they lacked the effect they seemed to be intending to make. It wasn't the actress's fault, she, like the others, did the best she could, but it just wasn't written as well as it should have been. And some of the scenes themselves were awkwardly written. This was pretty typical of the writing throughout. The actors did an amazing job with the script, it's just the script itself held it back from what it could have been.

Setting: 4/5

Mickey Matson was set in a small town in Michigan next to one of the Great Lakes. It appeared to be filmed mostly, if not entirely, on location, which gave the setting a feeling of accuracy. Nothing spectacular, but it was pretty good.

Plot 2/5

It wasn't a bad premise, and young children most likely won't see the plot holes and poor story development, but the plot could have been so much better developed. It was full of cliche, and was very predictable. After Mickey's grandfather dies, he and Sully begin searching for three magical objects that will power an "alchemy machine" that was supposedly started during the Civil War. Descendants of Confederates are the bad guys trying to use a rebuilt alchemy machine to be able to rule the world. I'm not a big fan of alchemy being presented as real in fantasy, but I still would have liked them to get the definition right. In this film, alchemy is turning anything into silver, when really it was an attempt to turn base metals into gold. That definition threw me out of the story for a moment, one moment of many. (Of course, I was tired and would rather have been watching Doctor Who, but still.)

Maybe it was just a bad Netflix description, but I felt like the Civil War part of the story should have played a larger role. All it seemed to do was serve as a starting point for the alchemy machine controversy and provide a reason for some of the bad guys to have Confederate beards. Now, I'm not sure why Mickey had to find all the elements. The bad guys didn't have them and weren't really finding them, and since the good guys weren't trying to use the alchemy machine, there didn't really seem to be a point. Also, I'm not sure why, if Mickey's grandfather was trying to keep the elements safe, they were all hidden so close to one another. One would think it would be better to hide them at least in different parts of the state, rather than around a small rural town. It seemed kind of pointless. Yes, it is a children's movie, and not even a big budget one, but surely it doesn't require a big budget to have a decently developed story line.

Character Development: 3/5

The characters were decently developed, if awkwardly written. I applaud the actors for being able to pull off characters written like these without seeming at all like bad actors. They were rather cliche, but they weren't by any means the worst developed characters I've encountered. I did find it odd for Mickey to so quickly go back and forth between mourning his grandfather and readying for an adventure. When he wasn't mourning his grandfather, he acted as if he had lost him years ago. I didn't really like how it portrayed Confederates as crazy coots, who all have evil intent. There was good and bad on both sides of the Civil War, but a movie review isn't really the proper place to get into that.

The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure is a family friendly adventure that young kids will likely enjoy, though older children and adults will likely be frustrated by its flaws. I can't recommend it as film literature, but it would be decent for a family movie night.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: The Door Within Trilogy

The Door Within Trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson

Recommended for: 10 and up

Rating: PG (for violence)

Aidan Thomas is miserable. Within two weeks, Aidan’s life is completely uprooted as his parents move the family across the country to care for his ailing grandfather. The quiet but imaginative Aidan is struggling with attending a new school and fitting in with a new group of friends. But when he begins having nightmares and eerie events occur around his neighborhood, Aidan finds himself drawn to his grandfather's basement—where he discovers three ancient scrolls and a mysterious invitation to another world.

No longer confined to the realm of his own imagination, Aidan embarks on an adventure where he discovers a long-fought war between good and evil. With the fate of two worlds hanging in the balance, Aidan faces Paragory, the eternal enemy with unfathomable power. Will Aidan be willing to risk everything and trust the unseen hand of the one true King?

 I read this trilogy, and though I enjoyed it there were some things that needed work. It was through discussing this trilogy that my sister came up with the idea for a review blog.

Writing: 5/5

The writing was pretty good at telling the story and the descriptions were also well done, though it annoyed me that the different parts of armor were put in italics. There was a sentence that didn't make very much sense, but overall the writing was pretty good.

 Setting: 4/5

The worldbuilding was good and each city and region was unique. The characters from each place reflect where they're from. However, the maps in the books were not consistent. In the first book the Blue Mountain Provinces are east of Paragory and in the third book the Blue Mountain Provinces are west of Paragory. I thought the concept of the fantasy world was unique. The two worlds are connected, since they split from one another in the Great Schism. Everyone from this world has an identical counterpart in The Realm, called a Glimpse.

Plot: 3/5

The plot is unique with the Mirror Realm. The plot was exciting but in the first book they are trying to get to a city quickly, and even though they own dragons that they ride, they take unicorns instead. In the second book they use their allies' dragons. It is not until the third book that they start using their own dragons. Another thing was in the first book when they're marching toward enemy territory, they don't leave a watch. I liked the parts in our world and I wish that he had put stuff about the Glimpse twins being on Earth. The ending wasn't cliche at all.

Character Development: 3/5

The characters were unique, but it took the whole first book to get attached to Aidan. In the second book there is a different main character for the majority of the book. Wayne Thomas Batson also tries to focus on too many characters and the character guides don't always put in the minor characters from earlier parts. This made it hard to remember who they are.

Even though there are some problems with the story, it is still worth reading and I am glad to have read it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: DragonLight

DragonLight by Donita K. Paul

Recommended for: Ages 10-Adult

Rating: PG (for mild violence, some romance, and fantasy elements)

As Kale and her father are busy hatching, bonding, and releasing the younger generation of dragons as helpers throughout the kingdom, the light wizard has little time to develop her skills. Her husband, Sir Bardon--despite physical limitations resulting from his bout with the stakes disease--has become a leader, serving on the governing board under Paladin.

When Kale and Bardon set aside their daily responsibilities to join meech dragons Regidor and Gilda on a quest to find a hidden meech colony, they encounter sinister forces. Their world is under attack by a secret enemy. can they overcome the ominous peril they can't even see?

The Dragon Keeper Chronicles has taken me on a delightful journey that sadly has finally come to an end. Well, it hasn't really come to an end. I still have the last two books from the library and keep picking them up and rereading my favorite bits. DragonLight was a worthy continuation that I greatly enjoyed, and I'm sad to have to say goodbye to Kale and Bardon.

Writing: 4/5

The writing is really pretty much the same as always. I suppose I can mention here the flaws in her climaxes. Donita K. Paul is excellent at worldbuilding and character development. I mean fantastically excellent. And she weaves it all together like a master. But when it comes to climaxes, it just could really be better. The climax of DragonLight was rather anticlimactic. It so deserved to be epic and amazing, but it fell short. That being said, her writing did pull me into the story and make me sympathize with the characters.

Setting: 5/5

If you've been following these reviews, you already know how much I love Amara, so I won't bore you by reiterating it yet again. In this book you get to see the origins of the dragons, which was extremely interesting. I love how she weaves in further worldbuilding with every story in a way that interests the reader and never feels like an info dump.

Plot: 4/5

I really did enjoy the whole book. There were several plots woven through. One involves the cult of the Followers. It was very well done, and the allegorical meanings of it really stood out to me. The way they solved the problem did happen somewhat offscreen in a way that was easy to miss, so that's my only complaint about it. It really made me think about how easy it is to fall into the traps of those who wish to deceive.

Then there was the whole thing about finding the meech colony. That became the main plot as...well, spoilers. But I loved how they gradually discovered the reason behind the attacks of the little black dragons and how it led into the climax. It was a bit anticlimactic and abrupt, the way it ended, but I still loved it. There's also Toopka's story, related to that, but I won't spoil it. To be honest, I'm not sure I understand it well enough to spoil it.

Then there's the personal side of the story. SPOILER Kale has a baby! END SPOILER I loved seeing Kale and Bardon together. They're so entertaining, and it was great to see them move on to the next stage of their lives in this book.

Character Development: 5/5

Again, excellent. Gilda was a very well drawn character, and thoroughly aggravating. Seriously, when she found out that the aforesaid spoiler was going to happen, she was angry about it and made me mad. Bardon. *sniff* It was so sad to see him still struggling with stiffness from the stakes (a childhood disease dangerous in adulthood) that he had in the last book. I wanted so bad for him to be healed completely. No more spoilers, I won't say the conclusion of that. Kale was quite interesting in this book, due to the previous spoiler (my anti spoiler sister gave it to me before I read the book, so maybe it's not such a big one, but it isn't revealed until about halfway through the book). She was sometimes grumpy, and sometimes quite not, but I really enjoyed reading about her. Toopka was extra interesting, so was Sittiponder, and, really, the characters are just fantastic!

Despite my struggles to get truly interested in the Dragon Keeper Chronicles at the beginning of the series, by the end I loved it, and highly recommend it to fantasy lovers. I only wish there were more books.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: DragonFire

DragonFire by Donita K. Paul

Recommended for: Ages 10-Adult

Rating: PG (for mild violence, some romance and fantasy elements)

Three years of strife have passed since Kale and Bardon freed Paladins knights. Now, fiery dragons scorch their beautiful countryside as an evil husband-and-wife wizard duo battle one another for supremacy.

The people of Amara just want to be left alone, hoping the conflict with disappear. But Paladin is dying, and Bardon and Kale, now married, must accept fateful assignments if their land is to survive. Will their efforts turn the tide against their adversaries? They face a deadly threat, and a challenging choice.

DragonFire was a very interesting book, and a worthy continuation of the Dragon Keeper chronicles. I very much enjoyed reading it, and it was actually the Dragon Keeper book I read the fastest, reading it in about three days. And it made me still want to read the last book, which is always a good thing.

Writing: 4/5

Ms. Paul's writing is much the same as always, not exactly the best in physical descriptions, but quite sufficient to get the mental movie going in my head. The writing does really get me to feel the emotions of the characters, even if it doesn't give me a good picture of what they look like. Now, when Kale and Bardon are together in the last two books, the point of view character does change quite a bit. It does get somewhat confusing in the mindspeaking, as the POV character does not have his or her dialogue in quotes and the other person does. Several times I had to stop to figure out who was who, though it didn't usually take long to do so.

Setting 5/5

I love Amara. It is definitely one of the fantasy worlds I would want to visit if it was real. As always, the worldbuilding continues in this book, giving deeper insight into the world, that is still consistent with previously established facts. This book (at least I think it was this one, I read the last two back to back) explains better the development of the low races. I was a little unsure about the idea that Pretender had created the low races, that being the common conception of their origins, but the full explanation doesn't give me pause at all. I suppose to explain it would be a spoiler, though not a major one.

Plot: 4/5

The plot of DragonFire was definitely more interesting than that of DragonSpell. Kale and Bardon are given different tasks, Kale to find the dragons with her father and to enlist their help, Bardon to go fight. Like Kale, I didn't want for them to be separated, but it was necessary to the story. There were many ups and downs, especially when Bardon got sick, and when Kale and her father, Sir Kemry, faced Burner Stox. The climax was better than the ones in the other books, though not quite as climactic as I would like. The ending was sweet, though, and I loved it. Now, there are quite a few kisses between Bardon and Kale, but it never is very descriptive (it usually says something like, "He kissed his wife,") and they are married, so it would be odder if they never did.

Character Development: 5/5

I love Kale and Bardon. I was pleased to see that they were married in this book, that the author allowed them to move forward in their lives and not be teenagers throughout all their adventures. Something else that recently occurred to me about these characters is that Bardon is a character in his own right. Sure, he came into the story to eventually marry Kale, but he's not Mr. Perfect. He has flaws, but at the same time is chivalrous and a gentleman. I love for there to be gentlemen. There are so few nowadays. I alternately loved and hated Sir Kemry and often wished with Kale that Bardon was there instead. Sir Kemry just didn't know how to be a father, and had more confidence in Kale's ability to protect herself than she did, but he did aggravate me when he aggravated Kale. Honestly, I had the same feeling about most of the characters that Kale did, which I guess means it was well done.

Fantasy lovers everywhere will enjoy DragonFire, and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Movie Review: Monsters University

Monsters University by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Recommended For: All Ages

Rating: G

Disney Pixar proudly presents the hilarious story of how two mismatched monsters met and became lifelong friends in a movie screaming with laughter and oozing with heart. Ever since college-bound Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) was a little monster, he’s dreamed of becoming a Scarer—and he knows better than anyone that the best Scarers come from Monsters University (MU). But during his first semester at MU, Mike’s plans are derailed when he crosses paths with hotshot James P. Sullivan, “Sulley” (John Goodman), a natural-born Scarer. The pair’s out-of-control competitive spirit gets them both kicked out of the University’s elite Scare Program. With their dreams temporarily dashed, they realize they will have to work together, along with an odd bunch of misfit monsters, if they ever hope to make things right.

I loved this movie! Although from the trailers it looked silly, and because it was a Disney sequel (or prequel) I expected it to be lame, like most Disney sequels, this movie exceeded all my expectations and turned out to be great. About far more than Mike and Sulley's hilarious moments at college, this movie was a good story and had a few great messages. I view this not as "good for a sequel" but as a story that is good on its own.

Technical: 5/5
The technical aspects of this film, as it was Disney, was best of the best. It was very well-done. There was no bad acting as far as I could tell, though I'm usually not the best judge on that sort of stuff, and the animation was well-done.

Setting: 5/5
Like its predecessor, Monsters University is set in the monster world. Most of the movie was on the campus of Monsters University, with a few scenes at the scare floor and in the human world. The settings were realistic and believable.

Plot: 5/5
This is where Disney usually fails on their sequels. Their sequel plots are usually unoriginal, incredibly predictable, and have horrible morals. Monsters University had none of this. The plot was surprisingly original, not quite predictable, and actually did have some good morals. SPOILER ALERT I mean, I knew that they would eventually win the Scare Games, but who would've thought that Sulley would cheat on them and confess it, which eventually led to Mike and Sulley getting kicked out of Monsters University? I was also surprised that Mike and Sulley worked their way into the Scare Floor without college! Especially in these days where most people think you have to go to college to have a successful life. This viewpoint, especially by Disney, was surprisingly refreshing. END SPOILER ALERT I liked how the movie taught that it's okay to fail at achieving your dream and everybody is special. I especially liked how it showed why Randy hates Mike and Sulley so much. The plot of Monsters University was all-in-all very good.

Character Development: 5/5
Disney seems to always excel at developing characters, no matter how bad the plot is. This movie was no exception. The old characters were well-done, as well as the new ones. The various character arcs were all very well-done. The characters were not flat at all.

This movie was very good, with good morals, and very enjoyable. A good movie enjoyable for all ages.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Book Review: The Shadow Children

The Shadow Children by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Recommended for: Ages 8-12

Rating: PG (mild violence)

Luke has never been to school. He's never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend's house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend.
Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He's lived his entire life in hiding, and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family's farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside.

Then, one day Luke sees a girl's face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he's met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows--does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford not to?

I enjoyed reading this series and I read it quicker than most books. It is written for a younger age group than I am used to, but I still enjoyed reading it, and wish I had known about it when I was younger.

Writing: 5/5

The writing pulls you into the story and lets you know what the characters are going through. The descriptions are well written and she explains things in a way that fits with the story. Each character's point of view was unique. I didn't notice any typos or problems with the grammar.

Setting: 5/5

This series is placed in an unnamed location where all third children are illegal. The setting was good for dystopian and there are explanations for how their world is and why they banned third children.

Plot: 4/5

The plot starts when Luke meets a girl that helps to eventually start a resistance. The plot was interesting and didn't drag. Each book has its own story, and is a new installment in the overall story. It is hard to choose a favorite, they're all so good. The overall plot was good but there were some holes in Nina's past that was never fully explained. Another problem was when one character was set up to be an antagonist, but then was only mentioned giving a report in a later book.

Character Development: 5/5

The characters were well developed and unique. It was written in a way in which you get to know the characters and you know their emotions and struggles. It was interesting to see how Luke changed from a scared little boy to a leader. One other character that stood out to me was Trey, and how he overcomes his fears. He first appears in Among the Impostors, but is the main character of Among the Brave.

This series was good and exciting and clean and is a good dystopian series for children and I would recommend it.