Monday, December 14, 2015

It's Christmas!

"For unto us a child is born."

It's Christmas break now for Shire Reviews. We'll be back in January, hopefully with some new books to review. Until then, merry Christmas, and happy New Year! And remember the real reason for the season.

    "And it came to pass in those days, that there came a decree from Augustus Caesar, that all the world should be taxed. (This first taxing was made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) Therefore went all to be taxed, every man to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of a city called Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David,) to be taxed with Mary that was given him to wife, which was with child.
    "And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first begotten son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
    "And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. And lo, the Angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone about them, and they were sore afraid. Then the Angel said unto them, "Be not afraid: for behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people, That is, that unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you, Ye shall find the babe swaddled, and laid in a manger." And straightway there was with the Angel a multitude of heavenly soldiers, praising God, and saying, "Glory be to God in the high heavens, and peace in earth, and toward men good will." And it came to pass when the Angels were gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said one to another, "Let us go then unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed unto us." So they came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph and the babe laid in the manger. And when they had seen it, they published abroad the thing that was told them of that child. And all that heard it, wondered at the things which were told them of the shepherds. But Mary kept all those sayings, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God, for all that they had heard and seen, as it was spoken unto them."
Luke 2:1-20

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

TV Show Review: Doctor Who Series 9

Doctor Who Series 9

Rating: PG

Recommended for: 10 to Adult

Peter Capaldi returns as the Doctor alongside Jenna Coleman and guests including Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams. Now that the Doctor and Clara have established a dynamic as a partnership of equals, they’re relishing the fun and thrills that all of space and time has to offer. Tangling with ghosts, Vikings and the ultimate evil of the Daleks, they embark on their biggest adventures yet. 

Doctor Who Series 9 was great. At least, in my opinion. Peter Capaldi has settled into his role as the Doctor, he and Clara Oswald are getting along just fine now, they're traveling the universe together with no fear of danger, and they go on quite the journey together. There was very little I didn't like about this series. I don't know if I'm in the minority on this, I know my dad doesn't really like the Twelfth Doctor and didn't like Clara as much once the Impossible Girl mystery was solved, but I thought series 9 was really good.

The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar

This was a truly interesting story. I'm not sure how much I can say without spoilers, but it revolves around the daleks and Davros. The end of the pre-titles scene had me loudly exclaiming. It involves Missy and Skaro, and wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey. Aaaand we get to see the Doctor come in on a tank playing an electric guitar getting medieval people to yell "Dude!" We see the first of the Doctor's confession dial, basically a Time Lord's last will and testament, or so Missy says. This little object is actually quite important later on. Missy is a quite entertaining incarnation of the Master, and this really shows in this story, the only one of the series with her character. She does do some infuriating things (like trapping Clara inside a dalek), but things do work out in the end. An interesting theme is that of mercy. Because when [a certain character] asks the Doctor what side he's on, he replies that it doesn't matter, "as long as there's mercy." And yes, the sonic screwdriver is gone from this series (replaced by sonic sunglasses), but it didn't bother me since they've gotten rid of it before, in the Fifth Doctor episode "The Visitation."

Under the Lake/Before the Flood

This was kind of creepy, but I still loved it. There are ghosts. The Doctor originally insists that they're not really ghosts, but later...."They're ghosts!" And, yes, he's excited about it. The Doctor and Clara end up on an underwater base haunted by ghosts that only come out when it's in night mode, and can't get into the Faraday cage. A scientific team investigating an unearthed alien ship is aboard. They have to figure out what the ghosts are trying to do, without getting turned into ghosts themselves. The Doctor decides to go back in time to before the area flooded to find out the reason for it all. And Clara sees his ghost. There's a lot about paradoxes in this story. It's really very interesting. Things happen in the past, but they are based on things you know from the future, so where did it really originate? Who really wrote Beethoven's Fifth? One of my favorite things from the episode, though, is the cue cards. Clara is trying to help the Doctor with his people skills, so she gives him cue cards...which he's not great at using. But I really love the one that references Sarah Jane Smith: "It was my fault, I should have known you didn't live in Aberdeen." Very interesting story with great references.

The Girl Who Died

(Technically considered part one of a two parter, but while both stories center around Ashildr, the stories are distinct from each other, IMO.) The only episode in which I like Ashildr. This sets off an important part of the series 9 story arc. The Doctor and Clara end up in a Viking village terrorized by aliens claiming to be Odin. A girl named Ashildr is different from the other Vikings, and she's a skilled storyteller. After their soldiers are killed, Ashildr declares war, causing the villagers to have to fight against a merciless alien race. The Doctor is clever. And he can't leave people to die. But his plan has unforeseen consequences...and causes a very big change to happen to Ashildr. It was a good episode, going into the historical side of Doctor Who, a thing which doesn't seem to happen much anymore. It's sort of a set up for things to come later with Ashildr. And she's a character well played. By the way, the Doctor's face is explained in this episode. No, he's not actually Caecilius, but at least they give it an explanation.

The Woman Who Lived

Ashildr is back, in 1651 England, and she's not so happy about it. She's immortal now, due to events of "The Girl Who Died," calling herself Me, living with only a servant as a wealthy lady by day and acting as a masked highwayman by night. She's been alive for 800 years at this point, and is lonely. She's seen some very hard times, but it's only made her harsh. Maybe it's because with a finite mind she can't remember it all. Maybe it's being alone. She begs the Doctor to take her with him, but he refuses. I kind of felt like the story itself in this episode was a bit flat, but they more than made up for it with character and theme. It might just be because I've explored the idea in my own writing, but I find the subject of immortality/abnormally long life in this world to be a fascinating concept. It takes much the same stance on it that Natalie Babbitt did in Tuck Everlasting and that I did in Time Captives. You don't want to live forever in this world. It's not a good thing. Clara's absent for most of this episode, which I didn't like, but oh well.

The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion

Osgood is back! No, her death in the series 8 finale wasn't fake. But if you remember in "Day of the Doctor," human Osgood and Zygon Osgood became friends. One of them died. Which one? It doesn't really matter. The Zygons were assimilated into Earth's culture after those events, living as humans, which most of them were content to do. However, there are a few who want to take over Earth instead. The Zygons want the "Osgood Box" to destroy the humans, but the Osgood Box is not quite what it seems...and there's a very good reason it's called the Osgood Box. I tend to love it when they bring UNIT in, because it necessarily makes references abound. After all, Kate Stewart is the Brigadier's daughter. There are many throwbacks to "Day of the Doctor" and even "Terror of the Zygons" in this story. And then towards the end, the Doctor gives a great speech on the consequences of war and the necessity of forgiveness. He's fought in a very terrible war. He has done worse things than you can imagine. And he doesn't want anyone else to have to live with that.

Sleep No More

I...didn't really understand this episode. There's a machine called the Morpheus that concentrates a month of sleep into five minutes, but it somehow creates sand monsters from the dust that collects in your eyes while you sleep. It's supposed to be assembled from security footage from where it takes place, so the format is a bit different. It's kind of inconclusive too. I really just need to watch it again, because it's one of those episodes that doesn't make a lot of sense. It's supposed to be a scary episode, but I didn't understand it enough to be scared. Maybe next time...

Face the Raven

Get the tissues ready. Rigsy from "Flatline" calls Clara to ask for her help. A tattoo appeared on the back of his neck, a number...and it's counting down. And when it gets to zero, he will die. They learn that Ashildr put it there, and that death can only be avoided if she takes it off or if it's transferred to someone else. I'm not sure what to say about the rest of this episode or the remaining parts of the finale, because it's spoiler territory, but extremely important to the storyline. I really liked this episode, but I finished it in shock. I wasn't expecting that ending. And I really don't like Ashildr now.

Heaven Sent

The Doctor goes solo in this lead up to the ultimate finale of the season. Trapped in a castle in the middle of an infinite ocean, the Doctor is pursued by a mysterious shrouded figure called the Veil. He falls out a window, finds a drying set of his own clothes by a fire, digs up a grave, sees stars that indicate he's in the future even though he didn't time travel, punches a wall made of diamond but 400 times stronger, realizes that the rooms in the castle reset themselves and then...spoilers. This episode was very different. It's not usual for the Doctor to be without a companion. He's not Time Lord Victorious yet, that's more of the next episode, but the circumstances surrounding his companionlessness makes him very determined. And that ending! Great episode. My sister didn't love it because she doesn't like him without a companion, but it was still a really good episode.

Hell Bent

And then the very last episode of the series. I can't tell you the premise of the episode without spoiling the ending of "Face the Raven," was a good episode. Hard. And the Doctor is really not doing well. It's like Time Lord Victorious all over again. There are Time Lords in funny hats, vague hints at the Doctor's past, Ashildr alone at the end of the world, the "hybrid" hinted at throughout the series becomes important, a scene with the Doctor and Clara in a diner that doesn't make sense until the very end, TARDIS stealing, "Journey's End" references. It's sad. It's epic. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey. At the end, the Doctor is off alone, ready for a brand new companion to come in the next series. 

Doctor Who series 9 was far better than series 8, though I liked that series too. There are still unanswered questions, like where Orson Pink comes from, but I have confidence that it'll eventually be explained. Clara was great in her last series as companion. Peter Capaldi makes a great Doctor. Some interesting developments have come to the story in this series, and I'm looking forward to what comes next, seeing a new companion and new story in the next series. And seeing the sonic screwdriver back in action.

But before that comes "The Husbands of River Song." Because River is coming back for the Christmas special!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Review: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Rating: PG (smoking)

Recommended for: All Ages

"Hey! Unto you a child is born!"

Meet the Herdmans--they lie, cheat, and love to give clonks on the head. They are, without a doubt, the worst kids in the history of the world. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus--it's all news to them. So they're convinced that the Wise Men should bring pizza and that the Angel of the Lord is straight out of a comic book. Everyone worries that this year's pageant will be horrible (just like the Herdmans!), but they are sure to make it the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.

This is really more of a Friday Favorite on Monday. (Monday Favorite? It doesn't quite have the same ring to it.) Anyway, this is kind of a classic, one of those books we read for school when we were little. I remember reading it, reading about how horrible the Herdmans are...and being bothered that it doesn't actually mention the main character's name (it's told in first person).

The Herdmans are simply horrible. They're basically the worst kids that ever lived, at least, from the perspective of proper churchgoing folk with functional families. They are brats, they're always causing problems, and despite the fact that they don't really learn much in school, they're never held back because no teacher wants to have two Herdmans in her class. They never went to church until they were told there were refreshments (which there weren't). But when they heard about the annual Christmas pageant, they wanted to take part.

Instead of the typical, everyday, ordinary Christmas pageant, they had Herdmans in all the main roles. The other kids were afraid of the Herdmans, everyone thought it would be terrible, and it looked like they would be right.

But the Herdmans were actually interested in the Christmas story. They had never heard it before. It was entirely new. And because of them, people started to see the Christmas story in a different light. They started to get it.

When something is incredibly familiar to you, it sort of loses its meaning. It becomes routine. You don't really think about it much anymore. And then sometimes something happens to make it fresh and new. And you get it in a way you never have before. It finally means something.

That's what The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is about.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Movie Review: Mockingjay Part 2

Mockingjay Part 2

Rating: PG-13

Recommended for: Ages 15 to Adult

As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow, while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.

Read my review of Part 1 here.

Mockingjay. Heartbreaking. Horrible. Meaningful. 

This movie is sad, just like the book. It's hard to watch, yet I like it. It was really good, in my opinion, at least. The only possible ending to the story after what they went through, though I hate that so many people had to die. If they hadn't, it wouldn't have been as real. It wouldn't mean so much. "If you kill Snow, those deaths, they mean something."

Since I reviewed the book and thus the story and its meaning earlier this week, this review will primarily focus on how they adapted the original material to the screen, which was very well.

Technical: 5/5

Can I think of any technical complaints? Um....still thinking. With so much word-for-word-from-the-book dialogue, ultra-professional filmography, brilliant acting, and beyond amazing score, I'm really having a hard time thinking of technical problems. Oh, wait, I thought of one. The Mockingjay hairdressers don't appear to know how to create the iconic Katniss braid from the first two movies. When she has a braid, it's just a side braid, not a Dutch braid that crosses the back of her head diagonally. This movie works best watched right after Mockingjay 1, which I was not quite able to do, since I had to watch MJ1 the night before, but even so, it's a well made movie. It was well acted. Josh did a good job of portraying hijacked Peeta, which was heartbreaking to see, even though he was less broken than in the book. Jennifer Lawrence, as usual, was spot on for Katniss, despite the fact that she too was less broken. Really, they all were. It was well done.

And have I mentioned the score? I think Mockingjay 2 is my favorite soundtrack of the series. It's so amazing, so full of emotion. The last song makes me want to cry every time. It's just beyond words.

Setting: 5/5

I don't have much to add to what I said last year. The worldbuilding remains consistent. Panem is a horrible place to live, but it's very well developed. We get to see more of the Capitol streets here, though they're kind of turned into a Games. We see Snow's mansion again, and it plays an instrumental part. (By the way, I don't even live incredibly far from it. I want to go drive by. I've been to the Tribute Center too. I had Chick-fil-A there after going to the World of Coca-Cola.) They're at war. Panem is certainly war-torn. They did a good job of portraying that on-screen. Things aren't running the way they used to. Everything's falling apart. Panem will never be the same again.

Plot: 4.5/5

It was a very faithful adaptation. I appreciate that. They did change a few things, like having Prim visit Peeta instead of Delly Cartwright, which makes sense, since they never mentioned Delly. So much was right out of the book, what Katniss said to the guy who wanted to kill her in 2, Peeta and Gale's conversation about her, bits from the very end and the epilogue...That's what makes a good movie to me, basing it on the book. There wasn't very much of Annie, mostly due to the biggest change they made, I assume for time and to keep the tension high. SPOILER In the book, Katniss trains to go on a mission to the Capitol and passes. In the movie, she sneaks onto a transport and they send her team to pretend it was their plan all along. END SPOILER So that gives less Finnick and Annie time, less Johanna time, and even a little less Peeta time. But that was really the biggest change. And I appreciate the changes they made to make some of the deaths less gruesome. And then there's the ending. They did rush the aftermath of a certain thing Katniss does a bit, keep her from sitting in a room crazy for so long, but they dwelt a bit more on the actual ending. They did cut the making of the book, but they had several little scenes showing "Peeta and I grow back together." And then "You love me. Real or not real?" I was kind of annoyed at the people who laughed in the pause between the sentences, but I still managed somewhat to focus on the beautiful moment there. And the epilogue. Nothing can compare. 

Character Development: 5/5

I've been on a long journey with these characters. They feel like old friends. Even Johanna's that girl I never really liked but feel sorry for just the same. I miss Finnick. Peeta makes me want to cry. Gale...he's too much of a soldier. Prim, dear sweet Prim. Katniss, a girl who just wanted to save her sister and is now so broken. Katniss and Peeta aren't quite as damaged and broken in the movie as they are in the book. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. I like it because I hate to see them so scarred, but at the same time, it kind of feels like it diminishes what they went through a bit. Anyway, the character development is still excellent and I miss these characters.

So, like I've said before, these stories are not a light read or watch. They're meant to be pondered. They're not for everyone, especially if you're sensitive to violence. (Though the violence is very tastefully handled. I can barely handle LOTR, but I'm fine on THG.) If you've watched the first three movies, watch this one. If you've read the books, watch them all. Think about it. And work to turn this country around before we become a nation like Panem.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Movie Review: Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street

Rating: G

Recommended for: All ages

 Miracle on 34th Street is an irresistible fable that has, for many years, become synonymous with celebrating Christmas. And now this three-time Oscar-winning tale is as colorful and resplendent as the holiday itself in an all-new colorized version that's sure to delight fans old and new!

 The holiday season is full swing when a cultured gentleman with twinkling eyes, an ample belly, and a snowy beard (Edmund Gwenn) is hired as Macy's department store Santa. He claims his name is Kris Kringle, and soon fills everyone with Christmas spirit...except for his boss, Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), who's raising her daughter (Natalie Wood) to not believe in Santa. But when Kringle is declared insane, and put on trial, everyone's faith is put to the test as young and old alike face the age-old question: Do you believe in Santa Claus?

 We like to watch this movie around Thanksgiving because it starts out with Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. This movie has some funny parts and the way that they resolve everything is clever.
Technical: 4/5

 Some of the acting is stiff or doesn't seem quite authentic but the majority of it is done well. The quality of the film isn't as clear as Blu-ray but it is not terrible. There really isn't anything in the way of special effects.

Setting: 4/5

 The story is set in New York City and was a modern story when it was made. I have never been to New York City but nothing seemed to be out of place. The main places are Macy's, Doris's apartment, and the courtroom. The settings all fit the story very well.

Plot: 3/5

 The story follows Kris Kringle and the difference he makes at Macy's. Kris hates the commercialism of Christmas and is unwilling to push certain toys just because too many were bought. What he does is turned into a new policy which the rival store also does. After an incident, in which one person involved twists the facts, Kris ends up in a hearing on his sanity. His lawyer says that he is going to prove that Kris really is Santa Clause. As far as Santa stories go, it doesn't make sense. He lives in New York and not the North Pole, and although he mentions being busy on Christmas Eve, he also tells parents where the best places to buy the toys that their children want are. 

Characters: 4/5

 There are many characters, like Kris who is nice and friendly. Doris is practical and while she likes Kris, she thinks that he is just a nice old man. Her daughter Susan, who doesn't know any fairy tales, is puzzled by Kris. Kris teaches her how to play make believe and tries to teach her how to use her imagination. Albert also hates commercialism and likes to play Santa and to see children's faces light up when they get presents. There is a doctor, whose name I forgot, that doesn't like Kris and wants to get him fired.

 The story is a lot about believing in Santa, which I never have, but it is still a good story and I would recommend it.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Book Review: Mockingjay

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Recommended for: Ages 15 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 (for violence and references to victors having been forced into prostitution, tastefully handled and presented in the correct light)

My name is Katniss Everdeen.
Why am I not dead?
I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans--except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay--no matter what the personal cost.

The first time I read this book, two and a half years ago, I read it in two days, zooming through the horrors of war to the sort of a little bit happy ending that does its best to make up for it. Another time, I stayed up late reading the last third of the book, feeling the utter heartbreak of all that happened to them. After seeing Mockingjay Part 2 last week, I gave this book a full reread. The horrors of the war hit me hard. The gruesome deaths. The instability of mind. How hard it is to put yourself back together. I hate this book, yet I still manage to really like it. Because it's not just fluff. It's not a fun, relaxing read. It's not even all about "which guy is Katniss gonna choose." It's deep. It means something. It makes you think. That's why I like it.

Writing: 4/5

The first time I read The Hunger Games trilogy, I wasn't overly impressed with the writing quality. Honestly, I think it's mostly because I wasn't used to present tense narrative. It's still not my favorite, but that's not a good reason to say it's horribly written. No, it's not classic literature quality writing. However, it really does pull you into the story and keep you there. It makes you feel like you're experiencing the story. I wouldn't have been constantly gasping and grimacing as I read Mockingjay otherwise. The deep character point of view/character voice is excellent. We're really in Katniss's head and her way of thinking is unique. And really, Mockingjay couldn't have been easy to write. We're in the head of a girl who's mentally unstable. You can tell from the way it's written that she's losing it. And yet the story is still well told. Now, there were a few times I felt the grammar was iffy, and that bugged me a bit, but it wasn't too bad. Katniss tends to think in fragments, a lot more than in a typical book, which I know bothers some people, but it was kind of part of her voice.

Setting: 5/5

The worldbuilding of Panem is excellent. Horrible, but excellent. Collins overlooked no detail that I can see in developing this world. I continue to find it interesting how she mixed futuristic technology with old fashioned things and reality TV in a way that works so well. In Mockingjay specifically, I'm interested by the fact that District 13 is just about as bad as the Capitol but in a different way. They're controlling, Coin certainly is. Rarely is there a truly good side in a war. And another aspect of Panem I find interesting is the handling of the violence. Yes, these stories are very violent. Innocent people die. But it's never condoned. It's not okay. Look at this quote:

"It costs your life," says Caesar.
"Oh, no. It costs a lot more than your life. To murder innocent people?" says Peeta. "It costs everything you are."
Caesar Flickerman and Peeta Mellark, pg. 23

Yes, sometimes war is necessary, and Katniss in her brokenness does want revenge, but does that make it a good thing? No.

Plot: 4/5

It's hard to rate this plot. I felt like it was fairly well developed. I personally didn't see any glaring plot holes (though the better point is that my sister didn't point any out to me), but it's hard. They're at war. War has casualties. The thing is, this book remembers that the only casualties of war are not deaths. War causes a lot more than that. You're never the same after going through that. It scars you. Also, Katniss isn't the actual leader and mastermind behind the war. Most stories have the child hero as the actual leader. Katniss is a figurehead. She's a powerful figurehead, she inspires people, unites people. As Peeta says, she has no idea the effect she has. But she's a piece in Coin's games just as she used to be a piece in Snow's games. She's not a very cooperative piece, though. There's so much that happens in this book, visiting districts, fighting in attacks, attacking districts, attacking the Capitol, filming propos, for it really is a war on reality TV, and then there's Peeta. If you don't know what happens to him, be prepared for heartbreak. It's pretty horrible. But as hard as this story is, it makes sense, the plot works, and...I have a hard time reducing it to literary analysis. I tend to focus more on the message behind it. Because it's powerful.

Character Development: 5/5

I've heard people say the characters aren't well developed, but I don't see it. To me, they're all very real and three dimensional. They change as their circumstances change them. I can't exactly say they grow, because in most cases they're broken. But they feel very real, and I'm quite attached to them. Katniss is the one we know best, as we're in her head the whole time. She's complex. She's broken. Maybe sometimes she has a harsh outlook on life, but she's also driven by love. Volunteering for Prim? How could that be motivated by anything other than love? Considering the horrors she's been through, it's no wonder her grasp on reality is shaky. Peeta will always be my favorite, despite how he is in this book. The boy with the bread appears to be gone, but perhaps he's still there, fighting to get back. All these characters. Gale the soldier. Haymitch the drunk. Prim. Finnick. Annie. Johanna. Plutarch. Boggs. Coin. Snow. So real. So much they've been through, so much they've done. They face consequences for it, no bad deeds go forever unpunished, and even the good guys have to make sacrifices.

The Hunger Games trilogy and especially Mockingjay are not easy stories to read. If you're a sensitive reader, you should probably stay away. I do recommend them, though. Read them as a warning. Don't take it lightly...don't be Capitol about it. And remember "the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again."

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: Doomwyte

Doomwyte (A Novel of Redwall) by Brian Jacques

Recommended For: Ages 7 to Adult

Rating: PG for violence

"Traveller, beware of the Doomwytes!"

Set your paws on the track of a great adventure, my friend. Who stole the jeweled eyes of the Great Doomwyte Idol long ago? What horrors dwell in the caves beneath the wooded hill - the realm of the fearsome Korvus Skurr, the black-feathered raven?
Young Redwallers and their friends find themselves in the grips of adventure, solving mysterious riddles and battling villainous foes in daring underground forays. Join them in the quest, the feasts, the songs, and the fray. Unite with the tribes of the Guosim and Gonfelin against vermin, carrion, and the dangerous Wytes. Discover why the black avenger haunts the wooded slopes. But most of all, beware of the dreaded Balissssssssssss!

Just be forewarned, I'm trying to watch a football game while I'm writing this, so if this review is incoherent, I'm sorry. But the Falcons are playing the Colts right now. 

So, on to the review! This is my first venture into the Redwall world. A friend at church talked about Redwall enough she convinced me to try one out, and while I enjoyed the book, I'm not sure if I'll take another venture in.

Writing: 3.75/5
The writing, while pretty good, wasn't as good as it could have been. It seemed as Brian Jacques was semi-trying to write deep POV. He didn't pull it off very well. And there was a really annoying quirk that pulled me out of the writing more than once where he would blend two sentences together with just a comma which should have been replaced by a period. Gah, grammar issues. I tried to overlook it and enjoy the story. Other than that, it was fairly well-written, just not spectacular.

Setting: 4.5/5
It wasn't spectacular. I couldn't really tell if it was supposed to be in a separate world from the text, although my friend at church assured me so (I think). Other than that, it seemed pretty good, just nothing stood out.

Plot: 4/5
Well? You've seen me say before I couldn't pinpoint the plot, but I loved it. I sort of pinpointed the plot, it just wasn't a very dynamic or moving one. There wasn't even a reason to be searching for the lost Great Eyes of the Doomwyte other than the adventure, and there was absolutely no clear idea what they were going to do with them when they acquired them all! SPOILERS When they got them, all they did was rebury them, which was...a huge anticlimax, to say the least. SPOILERS They ran into trouble and everything, so there was excitement, or it would have been, if I had been more invested in the characters, but I'll get to that in the next section.

Character Development: 3.5/5
I know why I didn't connect with the characters well. There was no clear protagonist. I'm serious! There was no protagonist. There characters were fairly well-developed, but there was no clear main character. The characters were a little more two-dimensional than three-dimensional, but they were well enough developed that I was invested enough to keep reading.

In review, I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I had been younger. It was definitely an adventure story for a younger reader, although it has a more mature tone. I don't know, maybe being a writer has made me more picky about stories, but I'm not sure if I enjoyed it enough to read more of the series.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Favorites: Star Wars Episodes V and VI

 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi

Recommended For: Ages Eight to Adult

Rating: PG (for sci-fi action violence) and PG (for sci-fi action violence)

After the rebels have been brutally overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker takes advanced Jedi training with Master Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke.

Somewhere in 2009, I watched these movies for the first time. And became obsessed with them. While I certainly am not obsessed any more, I still enjoy watching the Star Wars movies, despite some of their...obvious plot problems. Not to mention the bad acting in the Prequel Trilogy. Oh, and the fact that George Lucas can't direct a movie? Which is probably why these two movies are my favorite of the Star Wars Saga (so far, since the new one hasn't been released yet...). George Lucas didn't direct them, which is probably why they are just better than the others. (Although, maybe it's just me, but Luke looks funny on the front of the Return of the Jedi cover...)

Anyway. We rewatched the Star Wars movies (all except A New Hope) recently in honor of the new movie coming out, and to introduce our friend to it before The Force Awakens is released. (We watched the movies out of order, but that's beside the point.)

Not having George Lucas direct these movies really made them better than the others, I think. Plus, Luke is just awesome, and I relate to him really well. Apparently we're the same personality type. (Well, as much as a fictional character can have a personality type.) 

These movies are just really, really good. I especially love the happy ending of Return of the Jedi.

And that's the end! Sorry if this is a lame post. I really can't think of much more to say about these movies. (Other than Luke is a much better guy than Anakin? But I guess that's just a given.) I can't wait until the new Star Wars movie comes out. Out of curiosity, who's planning on going to see it in theaters?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Movie Review: Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace

Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace

Rating: PG 

Recommended for: Ages 10 and up

The evil Trade Federation, led by Nute Gunray, is planning to take over the peaceful world of Naboo. Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi are sent to confront the leaders. But not everything goes to plan. The two Jedi escape, and along with their new Gungan friend, Jar Jar Binks head to Naboo to warn Queen Amidala, but droids have already started to capture Naboo and the Queen is not safe there. Eventually, they land on Tatooine, where they become friends with a young boy known as Anakin Skywalker. Qui-Gon is curious about the boy, and sees a bright future for him. The group must now find a way of getting to Coruscant and to finally solve this trade dispute, but there is someone else hiding in the shadows. Are the Sith really extinct? Is the Queen really who she says she is? And what's so special about this young boy?

This movie is my least favorite of all the Star Wars movies but since we were showing it to a friend, we had to watch it before watching Episode 2. There a things that could have been done better in this movie.

Technical: 3/5

The special effects in this movie are great and if you didn't already know that something wasn't real, such as the spaceships, you would have a hard time noticing that it wasn't real. I have a hard time noticing bad acting but I do think that the acting could have probably be done better. I have seen much worse acting. There are many things about this movie that are confusing. A lot of it has to do with worldbuilding that is not really explained or it can be hard to catch the explanation.

Setting: 4/5

This is a sci-fi movie and there are spaceships with gravity that can travel at the speed of light, if they're working. The culture of each planet is unique and very different from the others. There are weird aliens and some people, especially the queen of Naboo, dress strangely. There are planets that are just an entire city and some that are a desert. All of the places are done well.

Plot: 4/5

There are a couple plots in this movie, the political one being the most confusing. There is a trade federation that is trying to take over a planet. The other plot has to do with a Jedi Qui-Gon, finding a boy who he wants to train as a Jedi. This is where the cosmic humanism comes in. In these movies they do talk about it and Qui-Gon is the main one to give a lesson on it in this movie, though Yoda also is usually the one to talk about it. This movie also starts setting up for the original trilogy and it hints at things.

Characters: 4/5

There is a rather large cast of characters so I will just focus on the main ones. There are a couple villains, two Sith and an alien with the trade federation. The Emperor, Darth Sidious, is in this movie and he sends his apprentice, Darth Maul who is pretty creepy, to find the people who escaped. There is Qui-Gon who will disobey and do what he wants even if he is told no and he also takes risks. His apprentice Obi-wan does tell him that he should obey more. Padme is someone who cares about her people but does take some bad advice that causes problems later. Anakin is a reckless young boy who Qui-Gon thinks will fulfill some prophecy which is never explained where it came from. He is smart with some things. Jar Jar Binks is also in this movie, he is clumsy and dumb and many people hate him a lot.

There are good things and bad things in these movies and if you have seen the original trilogy and you like back stories then you will probably like it. If you do not like back stories then you will probably not like it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Book Review: Greensleeves

Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Rating: PG (for romance)

Recommended for: Ages 15 to Adult

For eighteen-year-old Shannon Lightley, life’s been an endless parade across Europe, following either her actress mother or her renowned journalist father. Paris, Milan, London—Shannon has been everywhere, but somewhere along the way, she realizes she’s really…nowhere.

Having graduated from high school and about to board yet another flight for yet another destination, Shannon is offered an alternative: stay in Portland, Oregon, with her parents’ close friend and help his law firm investigate a group of strangers living near the local university. A will with a substantial inheritance is being contested, and Shannon’s task is to gather information on the unlikely recipients of the money.

Using an assumed name and working as a waitress in a diner, Shannon finds herself entirely on her own for the first time in her life; and as the long summer days go by, she tries to sort out who she really is and what her future holds.

A week ago, I didn't know this book existed. Last Thursday, I came across a link to this review on Twitter. Odd, because I rarely actually scroll through my Twitter feed, and even more rarely click on any links (unless they're behind-the-scenes information on Doctor Who; those I can scarcely resist). I suppose it was the author name that intrigued me: Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Since the review made it sound incredibly interesting, it was $1.99 on kindle, I still have gift card (I tend to hoard it for moments like this), I'd really enjoyed the author's The Golden Goblet and Moccasin Trail and my library doesn't have Greensleeves, I decided on impulse to buy it. It's definitely for a different audience than those books; those are middle grade historical fiction and Newbery Honors. Greensleeves is a 60s teen contemporary novel with a dash of mystery and intrigue and a lot about finding direction in life.

I rarely read contemporary teen fiction, 50 years old or otherwise. If I read any era of contemporary, it's usually middle grade. As for teen fiction, I have a friend who reads a lot of it and her reviews are usually enough to steel my determination to avoid it. A lot of the teen fiction books I hear about sound wildly inappropriate, my main reason for avoiding them, other than the fact that I generally enjoy adventure the most. Greensleeves certainly isn't. There is kissing in the book, and Shan does analyze how different guys make her feel, but it's rather less than what's in The Hunger Games. (In case you're wondering why I make the comparison, since I also did it in my Cinderella post, THG is basically my as-far-as-I'll-go-on-Content, which I realize isn't incredibly far.)

I have a lot of unread books on my kindle, yes, bought ones as well as free ones. It's mostly typical for me to download a book and let it sit there. However, Saturday came and since I'd spent Friday out in the woods with my sisters and our friend filming an impromptu movie, stayed up past midnight to show her Star Wars, and then gotten up earlier than I would have liked so I'd be up before her parents came to pick her up, following that up with a trip to the post office and several hours editing our movie, and a 45 minute nap (I never take naps) because I was so tired, I really didn't feel like trudging through the really old books that don't get good until halfway through, and I wanted something different. Besides, Greensleeves had intrigued me. So I did little else from that late afternoon until late Sunday afternoon besides read that book. (Of course I didn't read it during church, just to and from church.)

I really enjoyed it. Shannon is a girl who really doesn't know what she wants out of life. I'm sure everyone's felt that way at some point. And even though I do know what I want from life and I am pursuing some of those things, I still can't help feeling directionless and like I'm waiting for something to happen. Shan goes under cover to help her Uncle Frosty investigate a strange will, but also because she's tired of Shan Lightley and her problems, and just wants to be someone else for awhile. She's trying to find herself. While I don't exactly identify with her struggle for identity, I can understand her fears that people wouldn't like her if they knew the real her. Probably why I liked it, besides the natural intrigue of the peculiar will and the interesting, varied people named in it which is bound to excite me, is because I can understand her struggles.

I have to say, though, my favorite character is Sherry. Gone are the days when I didn't like guy characters simply because they were guys. Sherry (his full name is George Maynard Sherrill) is an interesting guy. He’s good and smart and intellectual, kind of shy, very perceptive, extremely curious, and he wants to learn just to know things. He studied Greek because he wanted to know how people in Greece sounded. He wanted to learn integral calculus so he would know what people were talking about when they said “integral calculus.” I didn’t like Dave Kulka. He kind of reminded me of Dean Priest from the Emily of New Moon books by L. M. Montgomery, and that’s not exactly a good association. The characters are all very well developed, and so is the little world Shan stepped into when she went to College Street and became Georgetta Einszweiler Smith. It all felt so real.

Greensleeves is a good book. The ending was slightly unsatisfactory due to being a bit inconclusive, but I guess I can make up my own epilogue. I’d say it’s geared towards older teen girls and that’s probably the best audience for it, but I would recommend it. It gave me a nice weekend and some food for thought.

(P.S. Do you prefer story-of-my-experience-with-the-book reviews or literary analysis reviews?)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Favorites: Gilligan's Island

Gilligan's Island 

Recommended for: All ages

Rating: G

 A tour boat gets caught in a storm on a three hour tour and lands on an uncharted desert isle. The crew and passengers then try to find a way back to Hawaii.

Recently I've been re-watching a lot of these episodes and it reminded me how much I enjoyed watching this show.

 It is not a serious show and there are a lot of things that don't make sense, such as the amount of visitors they get on an uncharted desert isle. There are also animals that are unrealistic and the characters are also unrealistic. These are the things that make the show so funny. 

The characters are the main thing that makes this show so amusing. The Professor knows everything and has a book on everything. It never explains why he brought so many books on a three hour tour. The Howells are always talking about money, which they brought quite a bit of with them along with all of their luggage. There is also the movie star Ginger Grant who is always saying how something happened in a movie that she was in. Mary Ann is a farm girl and is my favorite one of the seven. The Skipper orders Gilligan around and helps run the island. Gilligan is clumsy and is always messing up their chances of getting rescued. He can't keep a secret but they continue to ask him to keep them. Sometimes part of an episode will be of a dream he has. Mary Ann is if not always, almost always good in his dreams. The dreams are always amusing.

 This show isn't realistic but is definitely funny and I would recommend it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Movie Review: Aladdin



Recommended for: All ages

Rating: G

 Disney's beloved masterpiece will make your heart race and your spirit soar. Experience the laughter, adventure and Academy Award-winning music (1992: Best Music, Original Song, "A Whole New World," Original Score) for the first time on Blu-ray and Digital HD. And now Aladdin shines even brighter with never-before-seen tributes to the enchanting talent of Robin Williams, the "Genius behind the Genie."
 I have wanted to see this movie again for a long time, but I had to wait for it to come out on DVD this fall to see it again. 

Technical: 4/5

 This is an animated film and is like the other Disney movies that came out around that time. The people were drawn pretty realistically, definitely better than the animation in Lilo and Stitch. Animation takes a lot of work, so overall I would say that it is great for this style.

Setting: 4/5

 This movie is set somewhere in the Middle East in a place called Agraba. They are not very specific about when and where exactly they are. Genie does impersonate and mention modern things. I don't know how historically accurate it is, but it fits for the movie. 

Plot: 4/5

 The story follows Aladdin who is a thief. He is used by Jafar to try to get the magic lamp, because he is the only one allowed into where it is kept. Aladdin finds the lamp and tries to use the Genie to be allowed to marry the princess, Jasmine. This is not a realistic story with things like a magic carpet, Genie, and a bird that can have a real conversation, but it is fine for fantasy. I like how in the story Genie tells Aladdin to tell the truth and when he doesn't, bad things happen.

Characters: 5/5

  The villain, Jafar, is an evil adviser to the Sultan who is trying to get power, a realistic motive. Jasmine is the princess who is being forced into a marriage. She has never left the palace, so one day she sneaks out to see what it's like. At the beginning of the story, Aladdin is just trying to survive but as is shown later on, he doesn't always know the best way of going about things. He is still a likable person who has not had anyone to guide him.

I like this movie and would recommend it especially if you like Disney movies.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Book Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Sorry for the lack of posts last week. I...really don't have a good excuse. But we're back!

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Recommended for: Ages 12 to Adult (reading level, mild romance, action violence)

In the year 1792, Sir Percy and Lady Marguerite Blakeney are the darlings of British society—he is known as one of the wealthiest men in England and a dimwit; she is French, a stunning former actress, and the cleverest woman in Europe—and they find themselves at the center of a deadly political intrigue. The Reign of Terror controls France, and every day aristocrats in Paris fall victim to Madame la Guillotine. Only one man can rescue them—the Scarlet Pimpernel—a master of disguises who leaves a calling card bearing only a signature red flower. As the fascinating connection between the Blakeneys and this mysterious hero is revealed, they are forced to choose between love and loyalty in order to avoid the French agent Chauvelin, who relentlessly hunts the Scarlet Pimpernel.
My friends, especially my friend Ashley, told me that I had to read this book. I downloaded it to my kindle, and didn't really read it. Ashely kept getting onto me about reading it, and I would just be like, "yeah, I'm going to." I'd read a few chapters when I was half asleep and gotten completely lost on it, and I just kind of didn't care. I kept thinking I probably needed to just start over, but I had other things to read.

When Masked, a modernized webseries adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel, began, I started to think about this story again. After all, my friends wouldn't really let me avoid it. I watched the first episode. I hadn't really intended to, I wanted to read the book first, but Ashley posted it on her blog and so I went ahead and watched it. I didn't really know what to expect, and I can't say it really piqued my interest, but I saw the hype over this book. And perhaps got a bit of a spoiler, but I'm not mad.

After I listened to Little Dorrit, I found myself with a bit of a book hangover, and I didn't want to listen to anything else. But I had more sewing to do and my friends had been on me about this book for so long that I just said to myself, "fine, I'll listen to The Scarlet Pimpernel" and turned it on on Spotify.

I'm not sure when I realized "this is a really good book!" but it was long before that moment when it was at least half past midnight and I was telling myself I needed to put aside the sewing projects for the night, turn off the audio book, and not pick up my kindle to continue so I could actually go to sleep. It's just SOOOOO good. Even though my sewing project was very difficult, I wanted to work on it every possible moment because I just had to listen to more of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

I was told to just file away the information in the first few chapters and wait for Sir Percy to show up. It's when Sir Percy shows up that things really get going, before that it's admittedly a bit boring, but after? Oh my goodness, there's no putting that book down! The farther along the book gets, the more exciting it is, the more intense, the more nerve-wracking. I just had to know what would happen, if Marguerite would be able to avert the consequences of her desperate actions, or if her decisions would lead to the most horrendous outcome. 
It's clean, too. There is a romantic aspect to it, and there is a point where Marguerite really wants Percy to kiss her, but (1) they're married, and (2) this was written at the end of the Victorian era so it's still handled in a pretty clean way.

This book also made me think. At a time when miscommunications between people I know in real life were potentially hurtling things towards a very bad conclusion (thankfully averted), the fact that a little communication would have prevented the events of The Scarlet Pimpernel entirely really stuck out to me. So many things go wrong because people fail to communicate. It can destroy so much. Marguerite should have communicated with her husband, Sir Percy. They both loved each other so much, yet they were driven apart by a lack of vital communication.

I love the characters. I don't want to say which character I love so much because spoilers, but suffice it to say that I dreamed I was meeting him and having a really hard time not fangirling. In my dream. He's so brilliant and selfless and brave. And the forerunner of secret identity superheroes. How can it get any better than that? I also love Marguerite, of course. Sure, she's a character I want to tell what to do, but I still love her. And she turned out to be really brave too. Though she made a grievous mistake in trying to save her brother whom she loves so much, she does all she can to right it.

And the ending! So many twists. So much brilliancy. Such a perfect conclusion. But couldn't it have gone on forever? 

In short, The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the best, most exciting classics I've ever read or listened to. Perhaps I used to be confused as to why so many of my friends love this book so much, but now I'm up there with the biggest fans among them. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Movie Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Recommended For: Ages Eight to Adult
Rating: PG for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language
Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is a master sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). Balthazar can't do it alone, so he recruits Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a seemingly average guy who demonstrates hidden potential, as his reluctant protégé. The sorcerer gives his unwilling accomplice a crash course in the art and science of magic, and together, these unlikely partners work to stop the forces of darkness. It'll take all the courage Dave can muster to survive his training, save the city and get the girl as he becomes The Sorcerer's Apprentice.               
On one of our trips to Walt Disney World, they were advertising this movie a lot. The only thing I got from the advertisements was that it had something to do with Mickey? Or maybe not. I can't really be blamed if I thought of Fantasia when I saw the advertisements. I wasn't that interested, and I certainly didn't expect I would ever actually see it. So when my dad turned The Sorcerer's Apprentice on after Once Upon a Time (the new season of which I refuse to watch), not really knowing what it is, and Bekah said it was The Sorcerer's Apprentice, I was very surprised, but I wanted to watch it. So we did, and my sisters and I actually stayed up until 11:30 to finish it.
Technical: 5/5
I know I've stated it before. Disney does great on the technical stuff. They always do. I'm not a huge fan of Nicholas Cage, but he wasn't too bad. Funny thing, the moment I got a clear shot of young Dave's face, I said "Isn't he the kid from Night at the Museum?" He was. And right when I heard the regular Dave's voice, I was like "I've heard his voice before. I haven't seen him act in anything, but I know I've heard his voice before." A couple lines later: "Is he Hiccup? I think he did Hiccup's voice." And he did. I enjoyed seeing Jay Baruchel and listening to his Hiccup voice. (Confession: I actually like Dave a bit better than the Hiccup in the movie.) The special effects were great, and the actors were stellar (though again, I'm not a big fan of Nicholas Cage).
Setting: 5/5
New York City. Such a strange city it is. It really isn't hard to get wrong as a setting, especially when you're filming there. (At least, I would assume...) Even though I've never been to New York City, I'm pretty sure they got the setting good on this one.
Plot: 4/5
Okay, I'm trying to hold back and not give 5 to every single book and movie that comes along that I like. I mean, of course the plot could have been a bit better, but since it's a Disney movie, I'm not expecting them to complicate things. Honestly, though, it really could have been better. I can't put my finger on why exactly it didn't feel quite cohesive or...something, didn't quite deserve five and I can't quite articulate why. Just...they could have made it better. More epic. Or something.
Character Development: 4/5
I've seen better, especially from Disney, but it wasn't bad either. I don't feel as if I got to know the characters as well as I could have, but I did feel as if I knew them. Just more like acquaintances than actual friends. I did like Dave, and Balthazar wasn't bad. And I did like Becky and Veronica. Horvath was a good bad guy, if a bit Disney-typical. They were certainly enjoyable.
This was a unique movie that is definitely worth watching. It is enjoyable and fun, and even has the Fantasia broom sequence in the middle, which I loved. This is a very entertaining movie that is fun for the whole family.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Book Review: Michael Vey: Storm of Lightning

Michael Vey: Storm of Lightning by Richard Paul Evans

Recommended For: Ages 10 to Adult

Rating: PG 

The resistance movement has been compromised.

The Voice is in hiding.

Their families are missing.

Can the Electroclan pull together to defeat the Elgen once and for all?

My sisters and I have gone to the store to buy the Michael Vey books right when they came out after we read the first one from the library. And if you know our family and how we rarely buy any of our books new, you would realize how much we like this series. The Hunt for Jade Dragon, while still being a great book, felt like filler. I was expecting this book to pick up the pace some more. Instead, I got a big let-down and a set-up for the last two books. I'm hoping Richard Paul Evans will step up his game in the next book and make it better than even the first three.

Writing: 4/5

Richard Paul Evans isn't the greatest at deep point-of-view. He tries to make it deep POV in his books, but it isn't. However, the sentences flow well, and he has mildly good descriptions, though he's not so good at making the reader feel the character's pain. In short, his writing isn't the best you'll find out there, but it's certainly nothing to be sneezed at.

Setting: 4.75/5

This particular book is set mainly in modern United States and Mexico, with some in a very small country called Tuvalu out in the Philippines, which I'm honestly not sure exists outside of Michael Vey's world. (I could look it up, but I just had a bad experience Google-searching something and am not anxious to repeat it.) The setting seems pretty accurate, except for one character's comment about how it would be pretty hard going from Mexico to the US. It actually wasn't, but the characters' surety about the ease in which they got through being a trap by their enemy seemed pretty idiotic to me, especially since they had a really smart guy with them who would've known how hard it would be to travel from Mexico to the US. Other than that, though, the setting seemed pretty accurate.

Plot: 3.5/5

There...really wasn't one. There was enough of one not to make me throw the book out the window from boredom, but it really wasn't worth speaking of, and there wasn't even any climax! I'm serious, there was absolutely no climax, just a set-up for the next book. The plot certainly wasn't one of Richard Paul Evans' best works.

Characters: 5/5

While there weren't as many character moments as in the other books, I still found the characters to be the same ones I've known since Book One, which was a relief. I'm happy to be able to give at least one category all five stars.

In short, if you've read the first four Michael Vey books, you're in for a disappointment on this one, but you should still read it. Plus, I think Book Six is going to be really good. *fingers crossed!* Richard Paul Evans has promised a lot of action in the next one.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Favorite: Eight Mules from Monterey

Eight Mules from Monterey by Patricia Beatty

Rating: PG

Recommended for: Ages 10 and up

 A library in a saloon? In a general store? Sounds crazy, but not to 13-year-old Fayette Ashmore's mother. During the summer of 1916, her job is to establish libraries wherever she can in the rugged country surrounding the town of Monterey, California. Escorted by a mule-driver nicknamed Possum, Mrs. Ashmore and her two children soon find themselves in all kinds of crazy situations.

 I love many of the Patricia Beatty books that I have read, especially the comedies. I don't  remember many of the details of this book but it was good and entertaining. It is also set in a time and place that you don't find much in stories.

 A letter comes from five women asking for some books and so Fayette's mother is sent to take some books. Fayette and her brother must go with their mother to deliver the book. Throughout the story, Fayette is trying to get rid of an Edgar Allan Poe book. I think she thought that it was giving them bad luck but the details are dim. I do know that she didn't like the book and didn't like it when her teacher read it. 

 They had many adventures that I can't remember but when they reach their destination, things aren't exactly what they thought they would be. I do remember enjoying this story. One thing that I love about this book and some of her other books is that it is set in the west during a period that I don't know much about.

This is a great book and I would recommend it for people who love comedies and historical fiction.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Review: Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Recommended for: Ages 13 to Adult (reading and interest level, mostly)

A novel of serendipity, of fortunes won and lost, and of the spectre of imprisonment that hangs over all aspects of Victorian society

When Arthur Clennam returns to England after many years abroad, he takes a kindly interest in Amy Dorrit, his mother's seamstress, and in the affairs of Amy's father, William Dorrit, a man of shabby grandeur, long imprisoned for debt in Marshalsea prison. As Arthur soon discovers, the dark shadow of the prison stretches far beyond its walls to affect the lives of many, from the kindly Mr Panks, the reluctant rent-collector of Bleeding Heart Yard, and the tipsily garrulous Flora Finching, to Merdle, an unscrupulous financier, and the bureaucratic Barnacles in the Circumlocution Office. A masterly evocation of the state and psychology of imprisonment,
Little Dorrit is one of the supreme works of Dickens's maturity. 
I'll just admit upfront, the main reason I chose Little Dorrit was because of the cast of the newest miniseries, primarily Arthur Darvill, Freema Agyeman, and Andy Serkis. I did know already that I love Dickens, so that was one factor in choosing to listen to this while sewing, if smaller than the cast influence. However, I was not prepared to love it as much as I do. It is my favorite Dickens book so far, it is just that good. I love it, and I can't wait to see the miniseries. I hear it's excellent.

Writing: 5/5

Dickens is a master of the English language. Sure, it's a little difficult to understand at times, but I guess people used to be smarter. But still, it really did pull me into the story. I was in the Marshalsea. I was with Arthur Clennam. I experienced what Amy Dorrit experienced. And I gotta say, I got really mad at the Dorrits when they were belittling Arthur. How dare they! But that's how invested Dickens made me in this story. Plus I loved the way the parts where Arthur was determined not to fall in love with Pet Meagles were written. It made me laugh.

Setting: 5/5

Dickens wrote about the world in which he lived, so I assume it was historically accurate. Little Dorrit focuses on debtor's prison, specifically the Marshalsea prison. It's rather different from what I expected out of a prison, it's not just a bunch of cells. They actually have rooms they stay in, and they have lots of visitors, it's just the actual prisoners of the Marshalsea obviously can't leave, and they do have a certain time every day when they lock the gates so no one can come in or out. As far as the settings outside of the Marshalsea go, they're pretty much the same as any other Victorian novel. I do quite love it.

Plot: 5/5

Dickens is a master. The plot is so complex, so many different storylines that come together in the end. I admit, I'm still a little confused about the ending, but, well, I'm confused about the ending of every Dickens book. Little Dorrit is a lot easier to follow than Bleak House, though. The story follows the Dorrit family and Arthur Clennam, primarily, but there are also plotlines involving characters such as Henry Gowan, the Meagles family, Miss Wade, etc. And there's Blandois, or Rigaud, whichever name he's using at the time. I don't want to spoil the twists and turns, but there are so many, and it certainly kept me interested. Be prepared for suicide and blackmail and secrets brought to light.

Character Development: 5/5

Arthur and Amy are my favorites. Arthur's my favorite Dickens guy character for sure. He's not as irresponsible as Pip Pirrip, nor as ridiculously immature as Richard Carstone. I still like him better than John Jarndyce and Allan Woodcourt, and there's no comparison whatsoever to Ebeneezer Scrooge. He's one of my favorite characters from the classics, yes, I like him far better than Mr. Darcy. He ranks below Sir Percy, though. Arthur is pretty awesome. He's so good and kind and thoughtful. He's so helpful and so determined to make things right. He'd far rather take the blame for poor business decisions than let his partner have anything at all to do with it. And I like his name too. Amy, better known as Little Dorrit, is also very sweet and kind. I love her very much as well, and I feel sorry for her for having to deal with her family, though she never complains and always thinks the best of them. I have to admit, I was rather disappointed that her brother Tip is such a jerk loser. I can't bear to think of Rory Williams being such a guy. As is the case with all of Dickens' books, Little Dorrit is full of colorful characters. Affery Flintwinch, who's always having strange "dreams" who is so scared. Jeremiah, her husband, who is kind of scary. Mrs. Clennam who hasn't left her room in 15 years. John Chivery who is always composing a new epitaph for his tombstone (Alonzo from Doctor Who!). Spoiled Pet Meagles. Mentally handicapped Maggy. Talkative Flora Finching. Father of the Marshalsea William Dorrit. There are so many, all so unique.

Read Little Dorrit. Just do it. It's my favorite Dickens so far because it's just. so. good. You must meet Arthur Clennam and Amy Dorrit. Learn about debtor's prison. And prepare yourself for an intricate, amazing story by one of the best classic authors ever.