Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Favorites: Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Recommended For: All Ages

Rating: G

The Big Woods are getting too crowded.

Pa Ingalls decides to sell the little log house, and the family sets out for Indian country! They travel from Wisconsin to Kansas and there, finally, Pa builds their little house on the prairie. Sometimes farm life is difficult, even dangerous, but Laura and the family are kept busy and are happy with the promise of their new life on the prairie.

I've loved this book ever since I can remember, ever since I was really little and my mom read it to us. I've always loved all the Little House books, but this one used to be my favorite from when I couldn't read and made up words about the part of the story I knew went with which part of the book (I like the later ones with Almanzo more, now, though...). This book is probably one of the books we have the most copies of in the house, coming to a grand total of seven.

I honestly don't know what it is about this book that makes me like it so much. Maybe it's Mr. Edwards, maybe it's being all alone on an expanse of prairie, maybe it's the Indians, maybe it's that so much exciting stuff happens, I don't know, but it's always been intriguing to me. Maybe it's the characters. Laura Ingalls Wilder crafts her characters from real life so cleverly. The story just draws you in and doesn't let you go until you come to the last page. The Little House stories have drawn people back in time for ages. The characters seem so real and life-like. Laura in particular isn't lacking in flaws. And even though it's drawn from real-life, it isn't dull. It's educational, too, telling of a time in American history where the Indians' right to have the land they were promised was respected for once (though not for long. Those same Indians were pushed off their lands onto reservations later). It keeps in the fear and bravery and hardiness of the pioneers. And it makes them seem down-to-earth, not this separate race of people whose bravery and courage far exceeded our own. Laura Ingalls Wilder tells an intriguing story of a little girl growing up in the pioneer days. And this book happens to be my favorite.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Recommended for: 13 and up

Rating: PG-13 (for violence and frightening images)

The hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf and 13 Dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield, continue their journey to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. Along the way, they encounter the skin-changer Beorn; giant Spiders of Mirkwood; Wood-elves led by Legolas, Tauriel and King Thranduil; and a mysterious Man named Bard, who smuggles them into Lake-town. Finally reaching the Lonely Mountain, they face their greatest danger - the Dragon Smaug.

I first saw this movie in the theater and enjoyed it more than I enjoyed the first part. After recently getting the movie on DVD we watched it again and even though there are many differences from the book I still liked it.

Technical: 4/5

As far as I could tell the acting was good. Many of the special effects were well done, such as the dragon, but there were some parts where I could tell that it was animated and not the actor (mainly with Legolas). There are parts of the story where it is a little confusing, but mainly just when they are trying to tie it into The Lord of the Rings. Overall the storytelling was pretty good.

Setting: 5/5

The settings were the same as in the book and since Tolkien liked world building, each place is unique. I loved the setting for Mirkwood and wish that they hadn't changed some of the parts from the book. Mirkwood is a dark forest with with dangerous creatures, it is also home to the wood-elves. After Mirkwood comes Laketown which is a poor town on a lake. In the movie Laketown is a dreary place that is always overcast. The last setting is Erebor (the Lonely Mountain), which is the Dwarves' old home that has been inhabited by a dragon. The halls in the mountain are huge and parts are filled with treasure. other parts are set up for mining in the Mountain.

Plot: 3/5

The plot is the continuation of the journey to Erebor to take back the Dwarves' home from the dragon Smaug. The story can be confusing, mainly with understanding who different characters are, especially if you haven't read the book. The characters do explain things, but I think the book is better at explaining. The most confusing parts are the back story (not in the book of  The Hobbit, but that Tolkien did write) that tries to tie The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings. 

Characters Development: 5/5

There are so many characters that the movie only focuses on a few of them. It starts out focusing on Bilbo, but as soon as you meet the elves, the focus shifts to Tauriel and Legolas. Tauriel was not from any of the books, but she is still a likeable character. Legolas was not in The Hobbit (he probably hadn't been made up yet) but I am glad that they put him in, since he is the king's son. There are 13 dwarves, so the movie only focuses on a few of them. In The Desolation of Smaug the dwarf it mostly focuses on is Thorin's cousin Kili. Another character it focused on was Bard the Bowman. Bard ends up playing a major role in the story, but in the book he only gets about a paragraph, maybe a little more. I enjoyed that they gave him more of a character and that they let you get to know him.

There are many things that I wished they hadn't cut or changed from the book, but I still enjoy watching the movie. I would recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: Resistance

Resistance by Jaye L. Knight

Recommended for: Ages 12 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 (for violence, torture and threats of torture, and dangerous situations dealing with persecution)

“Don’t you know? Animals like you have no soul.”

Could God ever love a half-blood all of society looks upon with such fear and disdain? Jace once believed so, but when a tragic loss shatters the only peace he’s ever known, his faith crumbles as the nagging doubts he’s tried to put behind him descend on his grieving heart. With them come the haunting memories of the bloodstained past he longs to forget, but can never escape.

Taken from home at a young age and raised to serve the emperor, Kyrin Altair lives every day under a dangerous pretense of loyalty. After her unique observation skills and perfect memory place her into direct service to the emperor, Kyrin finds herself in further jeopardy as it becomes increasingly difficult to hide her belief in Elôm, the one true God.

Following the emperor’s declaration to enforce the worship of false gods under the penalty of death, many lives are endangered. But there are those willing to risk everything to take a stand and offer aid to the persecuted. With their lives traveling paths they never could have imagined, Jace and Kyrin must fight to overcome their own fears and conflicts with society as they become part of the resistance.

I have been a fan of Molly Evangeline/Jaye L. Knight's books since I first read The Pirate Daughter's Promise. I absolutely loved that book, and was pleased to see how her writing improved in later books. In fact, when I first started reading Resistance, I was blown away by how much better her writing is. I mean, Pirates & Faith and Makilien are awesome, loved, and highly recommended, but Ilyon Chronicles is above and beyond those two series put together. So excuse me if I rave a bit. Resistance is amazing. And, if you've been to my writing blog, especially earlier this year, you probably already know that I think that. You should get used to it. I'll probably be saying it again.

When I first received it, I was riveted to my kindle, even reading it in the car in the middle of door to door campaigning. Backing up, I probably made my sisters sick of hearing how excited I was to read it when I finally got the timetable on getting it. As a disclaimer, I did beta read the book, but I loved it tremendously then, and love it even more now that I've read the final version. I'm no more biased toward it than I am towards C. S. Lewis, or Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.

Writing: 5/5

Pretty obviously, I think the writing in Resistance is fantastic. The character point of view is well done and adds a whole new dimension to the storytelling, the settings are well described, it made me feel the emotions...The writing really pulled me into the story and kept me there, making Ilyon and it's inhabitants a permanent part of my imagination. The book was also extremely well formatted, which pleased me much.

Setting: 5/5

Even before I read Resistance, I got the impression from Jaye's Pinterest boards that the Ilyon worldbuilding was intricate and well developed. It really is. Ilyon is a magic-free fantasy world, but it takes more from Ancient Rome than from medieval times and has a somewhat dystopian feel to it. It is a harsh world, where people are in danger for believing in the one true God rather than in idols. And, I don't know, it just feels very real. You can tell Jaye put a lot of effort into developing the different races and cultures, and it definitely paid off.

Plot: 5/5

The plot of Resistance isn't exactly what one would expect from a fantasy story. It's not a quest, nor is it a battle to free a land from an evil king. It really deals more with things one would expect from historical fiction and futuristic stories: Christians trying to survive in a pagan world, and what happens when they can no longer stay undercover. It really follows two stories which come together towards the end. It has many ups and downs and dangerous situations and a few moments to relax before things just get worse. Resistance has a lot of action. It is clean, but it can get pretty intense at times, which is why I probably wouldn't recommend it for anyone under twelve.

Character Development: 5/5

I'll take the main characters in turn. First, Kyrin. Kyrin Altair is the main girl. She has a perfect memory and a lot of insecurities. She really leans a lot on her twin brother Kaden, and it's hard for her to be without him. It was interesting to see how having a perfect memory might affect someone. I related to her best of all the characters. While my memory is really rather opposite of hers, in almost every other way, I'm like her. Her personality, her shyness around strangers, her timidity about sharing her faith, even her headaches! Seriously, when it described her headaches, I would think, "I know exactly how that feels!"

Kaden. Kaden really really made me wish I had a brother. He has always been there for Kyrin. He wants to protect her and take care of her, and she really needs him, just as he needs her. He's really close to his twin sister, and, to be honest, made me jealous of the close sibling relationship they have. I know, they're fictional characters, but there's a good reason why my favorite character I made up based on me has two triplet brothers.

Jace. The general consensus seems to be that Jace needs a hug, and I agree. Thankfully, he eventually gets a few. He grew up as a slave where people constantly told him that since he was half ryrik he was a soulless animal. It's terrible to see how much this hurts him. He's tortured with doubts, and has a really difficult time not condemning himself as a dangerous animal. He's not, not by a long shot. He's a really great guy, if only he would see it. I only wish I didn't have to wait until book 3 for Jace and Kyrin to fall in love. Yes, that will be book 3. No, I never miss a series Facebook post.

Other honorable mentions. Emperor Daican was a very well done villain. He really was made to be human rather than evil incarnate. That being said, he's still the villain of the story. His son Daniel was a particularly interesting character, and my sister's favorite. I was glad to interview him during the blog tour. Rayad was great as a mentor, Holden made an interesting minor antagonist, and I loved what we get to see of Kyrin and Kaden's family.

Wow, this is probably the longest book review I've ever written. Resistance deserves it, after all, the book is about 500 pages long. If you haven't picked up on it already, which I'm sure you have, I highly recommend Resistance, Ilyon Chronicles book 1. It's exciting to know there are still 5 more books in the series, all bound to be better than the last.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Favorites: The Two Towers

The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien

Recommended for: 13 and up (for reading level and some violence)

Rating: PG-13 for violence

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

Frodo and his Companions of the Ring have been beset by danger during their quest to prevent the Ruling Ring from falling into the hands of the Dark Lord by destroying it in the Cracks of Doom. They have lost the wizard, Gandalf, in a battle in the Mines of Moria. And Boromir, seduced by the power of the Ring, tried to seize it by force. While Frodo and Sam made their escape, the rest of the company was attacked by Orcs. Now they continue the journey alone down the great River Anduin—alone, that is, save for the mysterious creeping figure that follows wherever they go.

Even though The Two Towers is number two in the trilogy, I really enjoyed reading this book. The Two Towers is a continuation of The Fellowship of the Ring, where the fellowship is beginning to break. The first half of the book (book three) follows the adventures of Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli while the second half (book four) follows Frodo and Sam as they continue their journey to Mount Doom to destroy the ring of power.

I love the books and the movies and it is hard to remember the differences between the two. Some of the conversations in the movie are almost word for word from the book. I was a little disappointed that an argument from the book was left out of the movie. The Two Towers is probably the best book in the trilogy, apparently so good that it was put in all three movies.

When I read the book, I had a library book that I read in between book three and four, it was really hard for me to get into the library book. Another thing about this book that makes it one of my favorites is that the character Gollum is in it.

 I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend this trilogy to anyone who loves fantasy. It will probably always be one of my favorites.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Movie Review: What About Bob?

What About Bob? by Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Recommended For: Ages 10 to Adult

Rated: PG for mild language

Determined to receive treatment, a neurotic New Yorker struggling with a host of phobias follows his psychiatrist on vacation in this quirky comedy.

This movie was funny. I enjoyed it very much. It had me in stitches almost the whole time.

Technical: 5/5
The technical aspects of this movie were good.  Acting, special effects, writing, all well-done, although I'm not really a good judge on that sort of stuff. I really don't notice bad acting and such that much.

Setting: 5/5

To be honest, there wasn't much to the setting. What there was of it, however, was well-done. Set in New York City and at a vacation spot in New Hampshire, this movie is very real-world. I would have liked to see more of the town near where they were staying, but even so, I have to give the setting 5 out of 5.

Plot: 5/5
The plot is very interesting. There isn't much to it, as is typical with comedies, but it was enjoyable just the same. The climax was especially interesting, although I won't spoil it for anyone.

Characters: 5/5
The characters excelled. Bob was quirky and funny, the psychiatrist interesting, and the others well-rounded. The characters are very rich, and will connect with the viewers. I especially enjoyed how as Bob became less crazy and fulfilled his character arc, his psychiatrist became crazy as he just couldn't stand Bob anymore!

I loved this movie. Although containing mild language, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a funny movie for movie night.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: Only a Novel

Only a Novel by Amy Dashwood

Recommended for: Ages 10 to Adult (interest and reading level)

Rating: G

Elizabeth Markette has always led a quiet and privileged life under the guardianship of her wealthy grandmother. But when her grandmother dies and leaves twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth alone in the world and nearly penniless, she’s forced to earn her own living for the first time in her life. Taking inspiration from her favorite British novels, she sets sail for England to seek a position as a governess. Before she can do that, however, she is rather abruptly and overwhelmingly befriended by a lonely and slightly eccentric young socialite, Lavinia Bancroft, who introduces her to the sparkling world of London society. Yet Elizabeth still feels the need to make her own way, though once she actually acquires a position, she begins to have doubts as to whether she’s actually qualified. The children she’s teaching don’t seem to like her, the housemaid seems far too eager to be friends—who wants to be friends with a housemaid?—and the stable hand keeps interfering with the children. Elizabeth’s one hope and consolation is that somehow, some way, Mr. Darcy will come riding out of the mists very soon indeed to save her from a life of respectable servitude. There’s just one problem—where is he?

I hadn't heard much about this book before a friend lent it to me, so I didn't really know what to expect. I ended up really loving Only a Novel. After I finished it, I handed it over to my sister who read it in a day. She loved it too.

Writing: 4.5/5

Only a Novel was very well written. It had a very old-fashioned feel, like that of the classics, but thankfully without the rambling the classic authors were prone to do. It had somewhat of a satirical tone, and was full of delightful references to the works of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, and Lewis Carroll. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had read more of Jane Austen's works than Pride and Prejudice, but I still enjoyed all the references. In fact, even though I am not much of a Jane Austen fan, it made me curious to possibly try more of her books in the future. I only deducted half a point because there were some formatting errors in the book. It was extremely well proof read, but the text on opposite pages did not always begin and end at the same point on the page, and she forgot to take the header off the first page of about half of the chapters. Most people probably wouldn't notice, but I tend to notice just about all formatting errors.

Setting: 5/5

The setting is primarily in England in the early 1900s. It seemed accurate to me, and felt quite real. Having always loved British literature, I really enjoyed it. I liked how it also was not primarily a high class setting, but had plenty of servant life. I've always preferred the servants to the rich people in books.

Plot: 5/5

Elizabeth Markette is convinced her life will be just like that of a novel, but it is anything but that. Real life isn't nearly as glamorous. Being a governess isn't as wonderful as it seemed in Jane Eyre, and why hasn't Mr. Darcy shown up? Elizabeth is forever trying to make her life like a novel, but running into difficulties all along the way. Still, it has a happy ending, which pleased me much. There weren't any plot holes, and it kept moving at a good pace throughout the whole book. It was a very enjoyable story.

Character Development: 5/5

All the characters were very well developed. Every line of dialogue seemed to portray their various personalities. Elizabeth kind of aggravated me for a while be her snobbishness towards servants, but I was pleased at her character arc. Lavinia was certainly an entertaining character, Mercy was sweet, and Rodney was funny. Actually, Rodney was my favorite character. He liked to say ridiculous things to make people laugh, which caused me to be constantly grinning while I read the book. But Rodney was also kind and understanding. I loved the characters, and I was sad to say goodbye at the end of the book.

Only a Novel was a well-written, enjoyable book which I highly recommend.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Favorites: The Giver

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Recommended For: Ages 10 to Adult

Rating: PG (dystopian culture and some disturbing topics such as euthanasia)

Jonas' world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community.

When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

In light of the movie coming out that is likely to be extremely unsatisfactory (I admit, I tend to be rather a book purist), I decided to bring up The Giver as a Friday Favorite. I haven't loved The Giver as long as I've loved Narnia simply because I was older when I first read it, but when I read it several years ago, it became an instant favorite. I have, at this point, read it three times in all.

I obviously haven't seen the movie yet (the Plugged In review doesn't make it sound too horribly different other than the addition of romance and the replacement of the pills with injections), but from the trailer it seems like they're trying to make it something it's not. It looks like they're trying to make it into another Hunger Games. That's not what it is. It isn't the story of a teenager thrown into a world of violence accidentally setting off a revolution. The Giver is the story of a boy who has grown up in a "perfect" world realizing the truth about his world. And it truly is an amazing story, well worth the Newbery Medal it bears.*

Yet, The Giver isn't exactly a book you just love. There's too much about it that is terrible. Really. Everything seems perfect at the beginning of the book, There is no pain, no suffering, no need to choose anything. Everything is decided for you. It is a secure life. Yet, as the book goes on, and Jonas learns from The Giver, you realize how much is missing from that life. I can't say much more, because part of what makes the book so powerful is the slow discovery of what the Community really is.

The Giver isn't a book you just read and dismiss. To do that is to miss the point. It is supposed to make you think. It should make you ponder what it really means to give up freedom for security. Take this journey with Jonas. Learn the truth. There really is no turning back.

*Edit: Ignore the trailer. It misrepresents the movie. Read my review of the movie here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Movie Review: Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me 2

Recommended For: All Ages

Rating: PG (rude humor and mild action)

Gru, his adorable girls, and the mischievous Minions are back with a cast of unforgettable new characters in the blockbuster sequel to the worldwide phenomenon. Just as Gru has given up being super-bad to be a super-dad, the Anti-Villain League recruits him to track down a new criminal mastermind and save the world. Partnered with secret agent Lucy Wilde, Gru, along with the wildly unpredictable Minions, must figure out how to keep his cover while also keeping up with his duties as a father. Assemble the Minions for laugh-out-loud comedy in "one of the funniest, most enjoyable movies ever!" (MovieGuide)

When my family first got Despicable Me from Netflix awhile back, we didn't expect to like it. After all, the previews weren't that great. But we ended up greatly enjoying it. Then we heard how good the sequel was and got it from the library. I personally don't think it was quite as good as the first one, but as far as sequels go it was really good. Some sequels are terrible, don't even get me started on Mulan 2, but Despicable Me 2 wasn't. (Though, really, can't people think of a better title than simply adding "2" onto the first one?)


Despicable Me 2 was a well-made film. The animation was good, the voice acting was good, it was well written, and hilarious. Parts of it had me doubled up on the couch laughing. It wasn't entirely unpredictable, but it wasn't like Mulan 2 where the entire movie was predictable. And the writers didn't try to simply recreate the first film, but truly moved the characters forward. However, I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had had more of a refresher on the first movie than "Let's see, that was about the guy who stole the moon and adopted three girls as part of his scheme, but ended up trying to be their dad."

Setting: 5/5

I'm not really sure what to say about the setting, but it suited the movie. It isn't exactly realistic, but it was perfect for a comedy superhero/supervillain animated film. I do like the area under Gru's house where the minions are. It's pretty cool, even when full of jelly-making equipment.

Plot: 4/5

Like I said, it wasn't entirely unpredictable. It was pretty easy to guess, from the number of people trying to play matchmaker for Gru, that it would have a wedding ending, and it wasn't hard to pick out the girl. Nor was it difficult to predict that Gru would join the Anti-Villain League despite his initial reaction to them. (I didn't read any descriptions before watching the movie.) However, there were twists that weren't entirely foreseen. And it's comedy. It doesn't need to keep you anxiously on the edge of your seat wondering if they're going to survive. If you're on the edge of your seat, it's probably because you were laughing so hard you ended up not sitting properly anymore. It was an enjoyable story overall.

Character Development: 5/5

The characters were consistent with the original film, and each very unique. Gru didn't reset. He's still a reformed villain who is doing his best to raise three girls, but does not always quite succeed in squashing his old tendencies. It's also obvious he really cares about the girls, and wants to protect them. Margo has started being interested in boys, which really freaks out Gru, and he spends a good bit of time trying to keep her away from them. There's even one scene where Gru insists a certain character is the villain they're looking for, but the son (who Margo likes) is the one who they really have to watch out for, the one they have to get. Lucy Wilde was also a well-developed character, though rather eccentric. I wasn't crazy about her at first, but she grew on me and I liked her quite well by the end. The girls were still the same, and, of course, there is plenty of the minions.

Despicable Me 2 was an enjoyable, funny movie, and I recommend it for fun family movie nights.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review: Found

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Recommended for: 8 and up 

Rating: PG (mild violence)

Thirteen-year-old Jonah has always known that he was adopted, and he's never thought it was any big deal. Then he and a new friend, Chip, who's also adopted, begin receiving mysterious letters. The first one says, "You are one of the missing." The second one says, "Beware! They're coming back to get you."

Jonah, Chip, and Jonah's sister, Katherine, are plunged into a mystery that involves the FBI, a vast smuggling operation, an airplane that appeared out of nowhere -- and people who seem to appear and disappear at will. The kids discover they are caught in a battle between two opposing forces that want very different things for Jonah and Chip's lives.

Do Jonah and Chip have any choice in the matter? And what should they choose when both alternatives are horrifying? 

After enjoying another series by Margret Peterson Haddix, I decided to read Found, and was not disappointed. I love stories about time travel, and this series will probably be added to my list of favorites.

Writing: 4.5/5

Haddix's writing pulls you into the story. She makes it interesting and there weren't any parts where it dragged. The reading level is very easy, but the book is written for ages 8-12. There were several typos and at the beginning of one chapter it says very clearly that Chip was at the dentist, and then Katherine throws the basketball at him.

Setting: 5/5

This book is set in modern time (no year is specified) in a town in Ohio. There is not much to the setting in this book but it was good.

Plot: 5/5

In Found, Jonah and his friend Chip, get mysterious letters in the mail. Jonah and Chip then start trying to find out more about their adoptions. Their investigations lead them to problems that they never expected. This book mainly just sets up for the series, but it was a good introduction.

Character Development: 5/5

The characters were well developed, and even though they have flaws, they are still likeable. One thing I liked is that throughout the story, Jonah and Katherine start getting along with each other. The cast of characters is not large, but each one is unique.

I enjoyed reading Found, and I am excited to learn more about the characters and their pasts in future books.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Favorites: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Recommended for: All Ages

Rating: PG (mild action)

They open a door and enter a world.

NARNIA...the land beyond the wardrobe, the secret country known only to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy...the place where the adventure begins.

Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor's mysterious old house. At first, no one believes her when she tells of her adventures in the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund and then Peter and Susan discover the Magic and meet Aslan, the Great Lion, for themselves. In the blink of an eye, their lives are changed forever.

I'm a huge fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, so it seemed appropriate to kick off Friday Favorites with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I also firmly believe the original published order is the best reading order, so don't try to tell me I'm starting with book 2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is really the introduction into Narnia, with all the wonder of describing a whole new world through the wardrobe door. It also sets the foundation for the whole series. So don't start with The Magician's Nephew. I've had too many people tell me they tried to start with it and thought it was boring. (Okay, not all that many, but still.) It's place is later.

At the surface, it's a beautiful tale of discovery, a world frozen by an evil queen, waiting for deliverance. It's a tale of heroism, of ordinary children who deliver a land to freedom, but it's so much more than that, and it's so much more than that because of Aslan. C. S. Lewis said that he didn't know where to go with the story until "Aslan came bounding in." And it's so true.

Without Aslan, the winter would never be destroyed.

 "Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again."--LWW Chapter 8

Without Aslan, the White Witch would never have been defeated.

"Or have you forgotten who really defeated the White Witch, Peter?"--Lucy, Prince Caspian (2008 movie)

Without Aslan, Edmund would not have been redeemed.

"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."--LWW Chapter 15

There's so much about Narnia to love...the characters, the worldbuilding, Lewis's way of telling a story...but Aslan is the best part. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a glorious tale of adventure and redemption and that's why I love it so much.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Movie Review: Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World by Marvel Studios

Recommended For: Ages 13 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content (and a bad word) For a more thorough discussion of any content concerns, see the Plugged In review.

From the Studio that brought you the #1 Super Hero movie of all time, Marvel's The Avengers, comes another must-own, epic blockbuster starring Chris Hemsworth as The Mighty Thor. Worlds collide when a powerful ancient enemy threatens to plunge the cosmos into eternal darkness. Now, reunited with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and forced to forge an alliance with his treacherous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor embarks on a perilous personal quest to save both Earth and Asgard from destruction. Experience this action-packed adventure featuring bonus content, including a deleted scene and a new exclusive look at the feature film Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier!

This movie was better than I thought it would be due to a review I read condemning its lack of sequel scenes. True, it did suffer from a lack of sequel scenes, but nothing so major as to detract from the enjoyment of the movie.

Technical: 4/5
As I mentioned above, this movie suffered from a lack of sequel scenes, mainly manifested in the way Thor and his friends and family almost never have a discussion about the events taking place and how they feel about them. Thor and Jane talk alone together maybe twice, and when Thor, Jane, and Odin talk, it's mostly Odin explaining to Jane about the bad guys and their evil intentions. The addition of sequel scenes would have made it a little less confusing and slowed down the pace a little. Also, it was a little too fast-paced for my taste. Other than that, it was good. The acting was good, the special effects were good, and the filming was good.

Setting: 5/5
The movie was set in London and on Asgard, with a few scenes on the Dark World. The setting was well-done and consistent. Asgard particularly was impressive, and was developed even more as the watcher got to see what an Asgardian funeral is like. Very impressive.

Plot: 5/5
The plot was very good, if a little confusing. It kept me hooked all the way through the movie. This movie was more serious than the first one, with less humorous moments. The movie was very action-y. It wasn't quite as good as the first one, but are sequels ever really?

Character Development: 4/5
I loved the characters! Honestly, there weren't a lot of new ones (just Darcy's intern, some random guy Jane went out to lunch with, and the bad guys), but I didn't really care. The old characters were fun to revisit, and Thor didn't have a character-arc reset, as is common in sequels. He continued to grow in character, and the other characters, were good as well (Although Jane's scientist friend's character confused me. It's constantly changing! But there's probably a good reason for this, I just missed it.) All in all, the characters were mostly very well-developed, with the exception of some more minor characters like Odin. The characters weren't as good as they could have been, which is why I gave it 4 instead of 5.

I recommend this movie to anyone who liked the previous Marvel movies. This movie is a good continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite its flaws. This is a movie you don't want to miss!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Book Review: Rilla of Ingleside

Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery

Recommended For: 10 and up (interest and reading level)

Rating: G

Anne's children were almost grown up, except for pretty, high-spirited Rilla. No one could resist her bright hazel eyes and dazzling smile. Rilla, almost fifteen, can't think any further ahead than going to her very first dance at the Four Winds lighthouse and getting her first kiss from handsome Kenneth Ford. But undreamed-of challenges await the irrepressible Rilla when the world of Ingleside becomes endangered by a far-off war. Her brothers go off to fight, and Rilla brings home an orphaned newborn in a soup tureen. She is swept into a drama that tests her courage and leaves her changed forever.

This was a very interesting book, and a good finale to the Anne of Green Gables series. I got to learn a lot about World War I. I enjoyed reading this book and am happy to have finished another series.

Writing: 4/5

The writing was good and for most of the book, it didn't focus too much on the war. There were some parts where it did focus too much on the war and got a little boring. The book was interesting and wasn't too descriptive unlike many older books.

Setting: 5/5

This book is set on Prince Edward Island, Canada, in the town of Glen St. Mary during World War I. The book begins when the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife are shot and continues until late 1918. A lot of the focus of the book was on the war. I don't know a lot about the details of World War I, but from what I do know, it seemed pretty accurate.

Plot: 4/5

I am not exactly sure what the main point of the story was, and as I said before, it focused  on the war. The story is also about how the war changes Rilla Blythe as her brothers go off to war and she takes in a baby whose mother has died and whose father is fighting in the war. Even though I couldn't see a definite point in the story, it was still enjoyable to read.

Character Development: 5/5

As always, L. M. Montgomery's characters are unique and well written. There wasn't the usual focus on the characters that she usually has, but what there was of the characters was well written. Rilla grows throughout the story and all men who have gone off to war come back changed.

I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to people who enjoy historical fiction.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Book Review: Swipe

Swipe by Evan Angler

Recommended For: Ages 10 and Up

Rating: PG (for violence)

Everyone gets the Mark. It gives all the benefits of citizenship. Yet it getting the Mark is such a good thing, why does it feel so wrong?

Set in a future North America that is struggling to recover after famine and global war, Swipe follows the lives of three kids caught in the middle of a conflict they didn’t even know existed. United under a charismatic leader, every citizen of the American Union is required to get the Mark on their 13th birthday in order to gain the benefits of citizenship.

The Mark is a tattoo that must be swiped by special scanners for everything from employment to transportation to shopping. It’s almost Logan Langly’s 13th birthday and he knows he should be excited about getting the Mark, but he hasn’t been able to shake the feeling he’s being watched. Not since his sister went to get her Mark five years ago…and never came back.

When Logan and his friends discover the truth behind the Mark, will they ever be able to go back to being normal teenagers?

I really enjoyed this book. I brought it home from the library with the same feeling of anticipation I had for Among the Hidden, and it did not disappoint. I did read it slower than I should have, but for three very good reasons.

1. I was mourning the end of Dragon Keeper. Still am.
2. I needed to use my time to fulfill my self-imposed writing quota and, since I didn't have much time and couldn't concentrate during the day, it didn't leave time for bedtime reading for several days.
3. My eyes were having focusing issues, partially due to having the wrong prescription in my right eye and also due to actually having issues focusing on close up things when my distance vision is corrected, so I couldn't read in the car like I wanted to because I couldn't see well enough to do it.

So my slowness (a little over two weeks rather than two days) had nothing to do with the story. At all. I loved it and can't wait to continue the story. And now that I'm interested in the series, and my eyes seem to be somewhat better, I think the other books will go much faster.

Writing: 4/5 

Swipe was a well-written book. Angler definitely drew me into the story, as evidenced by how, when I had time to read and could see the words, I read large chunks of it at a time. He kept up the suspense, and, though I had suspicions about who the true bad guy was from looking at his website, I couldn't really tell for sure from the story until the end. The constant use of words like "gonna" in dialogue did kind of bug me, but it is how people talk, so it's really just a nitpick on my part. (And, yes, that is the reason I didn't give it 5/5.)

Setting: 5/5

Swipe is set in a future United States where the whole of North America has been united as the American Union (A. U.). There is also a movement toward a global union. It is dystopian, which is one of the reasons my bad guy/good guy suspicions were the way they were,  but it's a slow reveal, similar to that of Lois Lowry's The Giver, though there is really no other comparison between the two books, seeing how incredibly different the plot and worldbuilding are. And it seems to give the indication that the revelations of the truth about society are nowhere near over. The culture is well developed, even the difference in Logan and his friend Erin based on him living in basically rural Spokie and her being from huge city Beacon. There is a bit of sci-fi technology, but nothing so far-fetched it is unbelievable.

Plot: 4/5

The plot of Swipe is twisty and complicated, taking many turns along the way. It is full of adventure, suspense, danger, and intrigue. At the beginning, Logan is paranoid that he is being stalked, that he has been since his sister disappeared, as well as being terrified of getting the Mark. Erin, who has already been Marked, is unwillingly traveling to Spokie for her dad's "government work" when she'd really rather stay home in Beacon. These two circumstances, once brought together, send them into dangerous investigations that lead them deep into trouble. And there's the Dust, who are a major part of the story and show it from a  different perspective, though without getting rid of any suspense. I really loved the story. The only thing I wasn't crazy about was how Logan deceived his parents. I don't really see any way around it, they would have thought he was crazy if he told them what danger he was really in, and he had to find out why he was being watched and by who, but still. He did get majorly grounded for his actions, so it was not without consequences.

Character Development: 5/5

I loved Logan and Erin. They were both well-developed and grew throughout the story. Erin was a bit cliche, the headstrong, stubborn female lead, but I didn't mind. In fact, as the ending leaves it in doubt whether she will be in future books, I was desperately looking for her name in reviews declaring, my sister with me, that if she is not, we will turn Evan Angler over to DOME. :) Logan was really a paranoid kid at the beginning, but he already had hero elements in him, which Erin helped to bring out. I loved seeing them grow, and greatly enjoyed the time I spent with them. They felt like real people who I only want to get to know more. 

Swipe is definitely a book I recommend, the morning after I finished it, I handed it right over to my youngest sister and she finished it that same day. Anyone who likes adventure, dystopian, or just an exciting book will love Swipe.