Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Review: Water Princess, Fire Prince

Water Princess, Fire Prince by Kendra E. Ardnek

Recommended for: Ages 10 to Adult

Rating: PG (fantasy violence and romance)

When the Lady Dragon does come,
Hold fast, do not fear, do not run.
Your Water Princess will fight,
Fire Prince will set all to right.
Each shall come from a Fall,
Their union will save you all.

Despite the fact that she's on track for competing in the Olympics, and he's practically raised his younger brothers since they lost their mom in a car accident, Clara Mandras and Andrew Stevenson are pretty much normal teens. They have normal hopes, normal dreams, and they live in a normal world.

All this is torn away from them when they are thrust into another world and declared Water Princess and Fire Prince. With no experience ruling a country, meeting each other for the first time, and being expected to fight the Lady Dragon – an evil sorceress plaguing the world of Rizkaland – Clara and Andrew are underprepared and inexperienced. Unless they learn to work together despite their standing opposition, Rizkaland's hope will be lost. 

What is to come will change their lives forever.

I found out about Kendra through following Homeschool Author stuff and downloaded and read The Ankulen once when it was free. I then got some Bookanias on kindle and liked those a good bit. I also got to know Kendra on Goodreads because we ended up in groups together. Which was fun. When she asked for beta readers for WPFP, I signed up because, well, why not? I liked Bookania and she's a friend and I like to help friends. She sent part one, and it took me awhile to get around to it, but one day I was sick, so I pulled it out. I liked it. She sent me part 2. I liked Andrew better than Clara and wanted to see them meet. I really loved part 3. I couldn't wait to see how their relationship developed. Then came part 4. And it became one of my favorite books. With a "whoa, I did not see that one coming" and a "how could part 4 end like that?!" And then part 5 which I love so much left me sighing with contentment and wanting more at the same time. And reading and rereading the ending several times on the way home from church. And, I admit, I kind of fangirled over it. Primarily to Kendra and in the Goodreads group. Which actually caused me to make a new friend.

It takes a good book to get that kind of response from me. The kind that has me driving my sisters crazy by talking about it all the time. The kind that has me daydreaming about making it into a movie. The kind that has me determined that I have to have a paperback. That's Water Princess, Fire Prince.

Writing: 4.5/5

Kendra understands deep character point of view. Clara and Andrew, the Water Princess and Fire Prince, are the two points of view and it alternates between them. It's clear whose head we are in. They have their ways of thinking, their little quirks. I was pulled into the story. I was pulled into the world. I lived this adventure with them. And Kendra has a way of throwing in references and making fun of cliches while using them that's brilliant. I can't necessarily say the writing is completely perfect, but it's far more than sufficient.

Setting: 5/5

Rizkaland is the most unique and interesting fantasy world I've visited. The world is a cylinder rather than a ball. Water is of multiple different colors, depending on its use. The trees are thus rainbow colored. There are interesting versions of animals and mythical creatures like etrinas and rowandas and hinequas. They have prophets called Bookholders or Bookdaughters. They have unique traditions and customs (if I talk too much about that, I could tread into spoiler territory). There is the Doorkeeper, Laura, who was given the task of opening doors between worlds by Alphego Himself. It's a very well developed world. You can tell Kendra spent a lot of time on the worldbuilding. It's on my list of worlds to visit once I meet Laura. :)

Plot: 4.5/5

On its surface, Water Princess, Fire Prince might seem like any portal fantasy story: teens pulled out of their own world, brought to a land where they have been prophesied to defeat the oppressor, which they then proceed to do. However, WPFP is very unique. Kendra, or rather Clara, makes fun of those cliches and fantasy stereotypes. There are unusual challenges they face, not the least of which the fact that the Water Princess and Fire Prince are prophesied to get married, and they barely even want to be friends. It's fun. It's serious. It's exciting. It's romantic. It's...Water Princess, Fire Prince.

Character Development: 5/5

The characters are what really stand out. I admit, Clara was kind of hard to connect with in part 1. But the more I got to know her, the more I could relate to her. As she resisted everyone pushing her to fall in love with Andrew, I found myself thinking that, yep, that's probably how I would react too. I wanted her to stop being so stubborn, yet I saw myself in her stubbornness. Andrew is awesome. I liked him pretty much from the start. He doesn't like the situation any more than Clara does, but he handles it better. He's really a great guy. And while she's the little fighter that Lord Abraham compared to an etrina, he's the definition of a true leader. After all, he kind of had to take over the care of his three little brothers after he lost his mom in a car accident. Funny, though Clara's a fighter (sword, martial arts, bow and arrow), she's still feminine, and while Andrew did take over from his mother and is a good cook, he's very much a man. I love how they're not a stereotypical gentleman and lady while still being quite a gentleman and a lady.

A couple of secondary characters worth mentioning. Jill Anna is the girl I aspire to be. She's a seamstress and a big sister, and fills both the roles of mentor and friend to Clara, sometimes simultaneously. Such words of wisdom come from her mouth that struck a chord with me and continue to stick around. I can relate to her a lot personality-wise, and, well, I want to know more of her story. Lor'Son Jakob is a remarkably perceptive guy, as Clara says. He's the one who is calm and steady, but has a big heart that doesn't care about class or rank. I like him a lot. Jasmine and Karlos are the kids, and they can be quite entertaining, particularly Jasmine. Laura, the Doorkeeper. With influence from River Song, the Doctor, and even the TARDIS herself. She lives a lonely life, but she's always ready to encourage. She shows up where she is needed, where Alphego needs her to be. There are so many characters, too many to talk about, this review is already too long. But WPFP has quite a colorful cast of characters. Even Amber and Granite are interesting, and I'm actually looking forward to learning more about them in book 2 of The Rizkaland Legends.

Water Princess, Fire Prince is a really good book. If you like fantasy, if you like adventure, if you like discovering new worlds, if you like tales of good vs. evil, if you like romance, if you like book characters, particularly ones who can carry on conversations with quotes and references, you will love Water Princess, Fire Prince.

I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I was under no obligation to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Author Bio:

Kendra E. Ardnek loves fairy tales and twisting them in new and exciting ways. She's been practicing her skills on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years, "Finish your story, Kendra", is frequently heard at family gatherings. Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children's tales that also glorify God and his Word. You can read more about her on her blog, Water Princess, Fire Prince on Kindle
Part 1’s first chapter 
Part 2’s first chapter 

Free Kindle Books!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Reviews: Escape From Memory

Escape From Memory by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Recommended For: Ages 8 to Adult

Rating: PG (scary situations and intense images)

When Kira agrees to let her friends hypnotize her at a slumber party, she has no idea that she will reveal secrets even she didn't know she had - memories of fleeing a war-torn country with her mother, understanding a language she can't identify. Then her mother disappears, and a woman calling herself Aunt Memory takes Kira to Crythe, a place that doesn't officially exist, in order to rescue her mother - or so Kira thinks. She soon learns that there are memories locked in her mind that place her and her mother in grave danger, but those memories are also the only thing that might save them.
In Escape from Memory, award-winning author Margaret Peterson Haddix imagines a culture that values its memories above everything else - and a teen who has to make the most important decision of her life.

This book...was not what I was expecting. It was certainly interesting, and certain aspects of it reminded me of a character from the Ilyon Chronicles. Another noteworthy thing: I finally got my library card! Yay! I had to wait a while, but the wait is finally over, and I can start getting new books again.

Writing: 5/5
It was well-done. It immersed you into the head of the main character and portrayed her and her thoughts well. Descriptions weren't lacking, and the grammar and spelling was good as well.

Setting: 5/5
It was set in the Mid-West and a place...well, in California. The settings were realistic and interesting.

Plot: 5/5
The plot was very exciting. It had unexpected bits, and rounded off well. It was an intriguing plot.

Characters: 5/5
I really liked the characters in this book. They were well-rounded and interesting. The villain was well-done and had believable motives.

This book is another good one of Margaret Peterson Haddix's, and I certainly recommend it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Favorite: Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo

Recommended For: All Ages

Rating: G

  1. Marlin, a clown fish, is overly cautious with his son, Nemo, after a tragedy with a shark kills his wife and the rest of Nemo's brothers and sisters. When Nemo swims too close to the surface in order to prove himself to his friends, he is caught by a diver, and a horrified Marlin must set out to find him. A blue reef fish named Dory -- who has a really short memory -- joins Marlin and complicates the encounters with sharks, jellyfish, and a host of ocean dangers. Meanwhile, Nemo plots his escape from a dentist's fish tank. Join this high-thrilling adventure with lots of fun characters that children everywhere will adore.
I've loved Finding Nemo for as long as I can remember. We used to always watch this movie when we went to our grandma's house. This is such a good movie full of fun and laughter and heartfelt moments and Dory.

The beginning is so awful. I mean, it starts out with Marlin losing his wife and all but one of his children. I still mourn Coral. And if she hadn't gone down to the cave, the children would have survived and she might have, too. I really don't know why I like this movie...I guess sad is happy for deep people.

It doesn't stay sad, though. Nemo grows up, goes off to school, and...acts like a bratty kid. Which gets him into MAJOR trouble. Marlin frantically goes after him, and meets a forgetful blue tang on the way who wants to help but keeps forgetting everything about their mission. Dory helps Marlin loosen up and stop being so scared of losing his son. They traverse an ocean together and become friends.

Nemo gets stuck in a fish tank at a dentist's office that I wouldn't want to go to if my life depended on it. He makes some friends, gets his courage bolstered, and in the end, gets a major boost of confidence in his dad, who he probably won't disobey ever again. 

Nemo and Dory join forces near the end in a search to find Marlin and get caught in a fish net. It doesn't take long for them to escape this, however, in a surprising example of what unity can accomplish. Then they all go back home to the barrier reef. They even get to bring along Squirt to Mr. Ray's class as a foreign exchange student!

This is such an awesome movie that everyone should seriously see at least once in their lifetime.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action)

Recommended for: Ages 13 and up

 Captain America leads the fight for freedom in the action-packed blockbuster starring Chris Evans as the ultimate weapon against evil! When a terrifying force threatens everyone across the globe, the world's greatest soldier wages war on the evil HYDRA organization, led by the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving, The Matrix). Critics and audiences alike salute Captain America: The First Avenger as "pure excitement, pure action, and pure fun!"

This is probably the best super hero movie that I have seen. There are many things I like about this movie: the characters, the setting, and seeing Hugo Weaving as a villain (I don't like Elrond very much).

Technical: 4/5

The movie starts out with a modern scene, which makes more sense the second time, and then goes to the story. I do like the structure of it, though it is confusing the first time. Most of the special effects were well done. I think there was a part where things didn't look real but I can't remember where it was. One thing that was really well done was putting one man's head on someone else's body. It was put together very well. There were a couple of German accents that sounded fake but that could be because I've heard the actors speak with different accents.

Setting: 3.5/5

This movie is set in the early 1940s during WWII. It starts out in America but some time is spent in Europe. While they're in Europe, they are in the wilderness. Nothing seemed off about the setting other then I don't know how accurate it is to have a British woman involved in the American army. There were things that weren't accurate to the 40s. The villains had some very advanced technology that was beyond what was around then. The protaganist's technology was more accurate.

Plot: 4/5

The first part of the movie is an introduction to Steve Rogers and how he becomes Captain America. After being used for publicity, he then fights against HYDRA, which wants to take over the world. The story flows well and you can get to know the characters. The ending is really sad, though it was worse the first time.

Characters: 5/5

The main character is Steve Rogers who doesn't like a bully and keeps trying to join the army. He is chosen for an experiment because of his good character. There is then his good friend Bucky.  There isn't much to say about him other than that they were good friends. Then there is Peggy who gets to know Captain America during the movie. The characters' lives are then ruined at the end of this movie, partly for the Avengers.

I like this movie and enjoyed it again. If you like superheroes, then you will definitely like this movie. If you don't really care much about superheroes, it is still an interesting and sad story.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Review: Implant

Implant by J. Grace Pennington


Recommended for: Ages 12 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 (violence and medical)

Welcome to the world of a universal cure.

 Gordon Harding didn’t ask for the life he has. He didn’t ask to be orphaned. He didn’t ask to go through life with cancer. And he certainly didn’t ask to be pulled into a future world without warning–a world where every human being is controlled by means of a medical implant. 

 And when he learns that he’s the only one who can destroy the base of operations, he’s faced with an impossibly painful choice: either hide and let the world decay under this mysterious futuristic force, or rescue humanity from oppression, knowing that there’s someone out there who is willing to use any means necessary to stop him.

Wow. Just wow. Because I volunteered late with uncertain reading time, I wasn't sure I'd get the book done in time for this, but I ended up with plenty of time to read Wednesday and read the whole thing. In one day. I've come to expect no less than fantastic from Grace's books, and this certainly complied with that expectation. I finished it with the same awe and "I wish I could write like that" with which I finished Radialloy. Implant is amazing, and everyone should read it.

Writing: 5/5

Have I said it in this post yet? Grace is an amazing writer. Her writing is concise and her descriptions concrete. Throughout the entire book, I could clearly see all the places and events in my mind. I could feel the emotion. I tensed during the action. I was shocked at the plot twists. I lived the story. I was there with Gordon experiencing it. Grace knows just the right words to use to pull in the reader. Just as I was in the Dead Mines with Travis Hamilton, just as I traveled in the Surveyor with Andi Lloyd, I was pulled to a future dystopia with Gordon Harding. Just perfect.

Setting: 5/5

The entire thing is at least somewhat in the future. Gordon's home time period is not so different from now, and the future is a war torn nation. But it didn't feel cliche or anything. After all, Grace wrote the book before the dystopian craze really began. And there really aren't too many settings. Just the few places there needed to be. I'll talk about the medical aspect and the time travel in this section too. There's basically always something to do with medicine in Grace's books. Gordon's father was a doctor. His mentor back home is a doctor. In the future, Doc is obviously a doctor. And since it centers around medical implants, much of the story involves medical stuff. There is some futuristic medicine, but it all felt very realistic. I trust Grace to know what she's talking about in that area. :) The time travel also felt realistic. It wasn't your typical hop in a spaceship, go where you want to go (or where your TARDIS thinks you're most needed). Gordon is pulled through time, and it's a very calculated, not very certain, scientific experiment. It's not explained in detail, but it works well for the story.

Plot: 5/5

Grace is a master at plot twists. And mysteries. And plots in general. Obviously, I can't give much away or it would ruin the book. But while it does have the same save-the-world as most dystopians, it's not the same save-the-world as the typical dystopian. Gordon is out of his time period. He doesn't really have a lot invested in saving it. But he's gradually convinced that he should do something. And the twist. I did not see it coming. I felt like I should have, but I didn't. I was able to guess a few things accurately once that twist was revealed, but before, I had no idea what would happen, or if they would even succeed. No more, because I don't want to give spoilers, and I know I will if I keep talking about it.

Character Development: 4.5/5

I would probably have liked to get to know the characters a little deeper, but that doesn't mean they weren't well drawn and unique. They certainly were. The story is just so fast paced there really isn't any downtime, is all. Gordon Harding is a high school graduate with a job working for a doctor, Baum, but he has severe anemia which turns out to be cause by leukemia. Not exactly the sort of guy you'd picture as an action hero. Combined with the fact that he doesn't know who to trust and sometimes makes stupid mistakes. But his mistakes are completely relatable ones, which I would probably also make in the same circumstances. And he hates oatmeal. Just a briefly mentioned fact, but it stuck with me because, well, so do I. Doc is...not what you'd expect from a doctor. He seems quite heartless and unfeeling, but he's hiding a secret which made him that way. He's not what you'd expect from a mentor, even though he does constantly push Gordon to be better. Then there's Neil Crater. He's a man with principles, and a man determined to save the world.

Implant is a roller coaster of emotions. It is an exciting adventure and a story with a message of freedom, and what it truly means. Just my kind of story, and whether it is yours or not, I think you'll enjoy Implant. It is a book you do not want to miss.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Favorites: Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Recommended for: All Ages (as a read-aloud, 10 and up on own for reading level)

Rating: G

As soon as Anne Shirley arrived at the snug, white farmhouse called Green Gables, she knew she  wanted to stay forever... but would the Cuthberts  send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she's not  what they expected -- a skinny girl with decidedly  red hair and a temper to match. If only she could  convince them to let her stay, she'd try very hard  not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes or blurt  out the very first thing she had to say. Anne was  not like anybody else, everyone at Green Gables  agreed; she was special -- a girl with an enormous  imagination. This orphan girl dreamed of the day  when she could call herself Anne of Green Gables.

I don't think I've talked about Anne here on Shire Reviews yet, though I know I have over on my author blog. And that is somewhat of a shame, since Anne is more than worth talking about, but at least that means I get to talk about her now.

Anne of Green Gables. I don't remember how old I was when my mom first read it to me, but I do remember things from it, primarily how much I hated the part where SPOILER Matthew dies. END SPOILER That was only the first of many times I experienced this wonderful story. It never gets old. 
Anne is an orphan. She wants a family, she wants raven black hair, and a bosom friend. When she finds out she is to be adopted, it seems too good to be true. And, in a way, it sort of is. Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert intended to adopt a boy, but they got Anne instead. Though at first they didn't want to keep her, soon they can't imagine life without her. Anne is very talkative, highly imaginative, and makes LOTS of mistakes. Like the time she accidentally set Diana drunk. Or when she dyed her hair green. And there's the time she fell off the Barrys' ridgepole. Life is never dull with Anne around.

L. M. Montgomery is such an excellent writer. Her choice of words is simply exquisite. Her descriptions are so vivid. The characters are well drawn and very memorable. Her books are full of heart, and just too fantastic for words. The entire Anne series is amazing, all eight books. I love and recommend them all.

I can't finish this without mentioning Anne's relationship with Gilbert Blythe. From the start, Gilbert liked Anne, but he went about getting her attention quite the wrong way. By calling her "carrots" he caused her to not only break her slate over his head, but to refuse to speak to him for five years. Yes, Mr. Philips played a part in causing that as well, but five years. And then she became good friends with him, instead of just good rivals. Gil had tried to make amends, but Anne was just too stubborn. And too stubborn to realized she loved him until he nearly died of typhoid fever towards the end of Anne of the Island. Of course, since that's only book 3 of an 8 book series, there's much more to their story after that. In fact, the protagonist of Rilla of Ingleside is their youngest daughter.

I do love these books so much. They are true classics, just as beloved now as they were when they first came out a hundred years ago. Anne is relatable. She is a character from whom one can learn both what to do and what not to do. Her story is timeless. It is both fun and heartbreaking. It is a story well worth reading, and one you will find yourself reading again and again.

Speaking of, I still need to find time to finish listening to my Anne of Green Gables audio drama...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Review: The Secret School

The Secret School by Avi

Recommended For: Ages 10 to Adult

Rating: G

More than anything, fourteen-year-old Ida Bidson wants to become a teacher. That's not going to be easy, especially for a girl living in the remote Colorado mountains in 1925. Still, Ida knows she can do it. She just needs to finish eighth grade so she can go on to high school.
But then her town's one-room school unexpectedly closes, and for the first time, Ida's dream seems unattainable. Her only hope is to keep the school open without anyone finding out. Yet even a secret school needs a teacher. Ida can't be it...Or can she?

After Wolf Rider and Escape From Memory, this was a nice lighter read. I saved it for last and I'm glad I did. It was worth the wait.

Writing: 5/5
I...honestly don't remember much about the writing. Nothing caught my attention or drew me out of the story. I don't think it was this book I kept noticing typos in. I'm going to assume since nothing stood out, the writing was well-done. I certainly don't have any reason to mark the writing down any.

Setting: 5/5
1925. An odd mix of the old and the new, old-fashioned living and newly-invented technology. Out in the Colorado mountains, there wasn't much technology. Only a car or two. And telephones are mentioned. There are trains, but they aren't new. The settings were vivid, accurate, and well-done.

Plot: 5/5
The plot is simple, but sometimes the simple plots are the best. This was one of those, Though simple, it was exciting, funny, and heart-felt. And  the climax was well-done and not cheesy as is so often done in books of this type.

Character Development: 5/5
I really felt like I knew Ida Bidson. She was well-rounded and interesting. Also, I liked Tom and Ida's little brother whose name for the life of me I can't remember. And Herbert. Such a puzzle, but a well-done one. The characters alone were worth the read.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction or pioneers. It's definitely worth reading.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Review: Wolf Rider

Wolf Rider by Avi

Recommended For: Ages 12 to Adult

Rating: PG

The kitchen phone rings three times before Andy picks it up.
"Hello?" he says.
A voice replies, "I just killed someone."
From that moment, Andy Zadinski, a 15-year-old student at Madison High is plunged into terror of his own making. No one believes that the caller - "Zeke" as he names himself - was serious. When Andy reports what he's heard to the police, they dismiss Zeke as a Friday-night crank. And no one believes that Zeke's reputed victim, Nina, a pretty young woman attending the local college, is in danger. She refuses to believe it herself. Andy, says everyone, is crying "Wolf!" But Andy, whose experience with death has been close and hurtful, will do anything to protect Nina.
Pressured by the doubts of others, particularly his father, Andy is driven to prove the "wolf" real. Finding Zeke, however, is not enough. Andy must prove his existence to the doubters. To do so, he sets in motion a series of tension-filled events that can well lead him to the very catastrophe he is trying to avoid: Nina's death. For even as he and his father struggle to save each other from the consequences of Andy's actions, the man called Zeke begins to act on his own.
When the boy who cries "Wolf!" attempts to ride the beast, nothing can ever be the same.

This was a heavy read. What's crazy about it is that the phone call at the beginning of the book actually happened to the author just as it happened in the book. This is definitely the creepiest Avi book I've read, and it doesn't even have ghosts or anything like his some of his other ones do. This was my first book I read from my new library. I was so excited when I finally got my new library card! I'd been waiting for weeks.

Writing: 4.5/5
This book was written fairly well, Avi's books always are. The one complaint I had was I couldn't tell whether it was supposed to be an omniscient point of view or a deep third-person point of view. It seemed to be from Andy's point of view, and then it would say something that Andy wouldn't know because he had his eyes closed or something else like that. Probably something only a writer would notice. Other than that, the book was very well-written.

Setting: 5/5
There wasn't anything particularly spectacular about the setting. It was mostly in a college town. I got the impression it was in the eighties or nineties, however, this is never specified. For what it was, it seemed accurate and fairly vivid.

Plot: 5/5
Very interesting and intriguing. I certainly wasn't quite expecting the end the way it was. The plot was well-done and...creepy.

Character Development: 4.5/5
Not really spectacular, but not horrible either. Andy is well-developed and is given good motives for his persistence in believing what "Zeke" said on the phone call. Andy's dad was pretty well-developed, but "Zeke" could have used some more development and explanation into his past and motives and current state of mind and everything. Pretty well done, but not amazing.

This is a good book, though a little dark, and though I would recommend it, it's not for everybody.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Favorites: The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride

Recommended For: Ages 8 to Adult

Rating: PG (for swashbuckling violence, some sensuality, and brief language.)

Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...The Princess Bride has got it all. Don't miss out on this hilarious classic that will have you laughing, crying, and cheering at the inconceivable end.

Oh, my goodness, this is such a good movie is a surprise everyone hasn't seen it. It's not a movie to be taken seriously, though. That'll take away all your enjoyment of it. It's just such a fun tongue-in-cheek movie with so many great quotable lines. If you see this movie, you'll either love it or you're wrong.

How do I start? The Princess Bride has so many facets to the story it's amazing. It's a comedy, a romance, an adventure, a revenge story, and so much more. And it's so enjoyable and unique. From the R.O.U.S.s to The Machine to Miracle Max to Prince Humperdinck, this story has things you won't see anywhere else.

The humor. Just. Wow. The movie's chock full of it. "True love is the best thing in the world. Except for a nice MLT. Mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe." "Thievery. You are trying to kidnap what I have rightfully stolen." "Common blunders. Most common of which is never get involved in a land war in Asia. But only slightly lesser known is never get involved with a Sicilian when death is on the line!" It's just hilarious to the nth degree.

The characters. Westley, the farm boy who loves Buttercup and goes out to seek his fortune, and who consequently gets killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Buttercup, the princess bride engaged to Prince Humperdinck. Fezzik, the lovable and friendly giant. Inigo Montoya, the fiery Spaniard bent on avenging his father's death. Vizzini, the clever and diabolical Sicilian who will do anything for money. Prince Humperdinck, who wants to start a war with Guilder so much that he'll kill his own wife to do it. Count Rugen, the evil man who loves causing people pain, and who invented The Machine to do so better than ever. And the mysterious Man in Black that follows them around. Can't forget him. He's actually very important.

The story. Well...It's kind of a satire, kind of serious, kind of comedic, and kind of something else. It's...well, inconceivable, as a matter of fact.

In short, this is a movie everyone should see at least once. Warning, it does have one bad word in it (that I always forget about until it happens in the movie) but under the circumstances, I can't blame the character at all for using it. So, I'm off to show The Princess Bride to a friend for the first time while watching it for the millionth time myself. It'll be awesome fun. And I expect you all to go watch it again as well. So goodbye, and have fun stormin' the castle!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Movie Review: Frozen


Recommended for: All Ages

Rating: PG (some action and mild rude humor)

Fearless optimist Anna sets off on an epic journey -- teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven -- to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.

No, I did not just see Frozen for the first time. Last weekend was one of many. We just didn't watch anything new last weekend. Not that I'm complaining. I love Frozen. And even though the subject has come up on my author blog here and here and here and here and here and here, we have yet to review it over here on Shire. 

So now that I've got that clarification out of the way, I love Frozen. It's a fantastic movie with fantastic music (yeah, I know other people are tired of it, tough luck) and it has a lot of memories attached to it for me. I used to sing the songs with a girl I babysat before she moved away, because she loved it. It reminds me of our last Disney trip, because I had a Fastpass to meet Elsa and Anna and went to the Frozen Sing-Along twice and saw Jonathan Groff at the Candlelight Processional on top of all the other Frozen things in the park. It reminds me of Play Camp and singing the songs with a roomful of preschoolers and of a super cute little girl who is a bigger Frozen fan than me, and remembered me from last year even though I hadn't seen her at all between Practicums. Then there are all the times I drove down the road by myself singing Frozen quite loudly. And the movie itself.

Technical: 5/5

Disney does a good job. And I'm sure having John Lasseter in charge helped with just how well done it is. The animation is in a far more realistic style than some animation, which I much prefer. It is well written. The dialogue is fantastic, and each line is well delivered. Yes, it's just voice acting, but it was still very well cast. And having some of the actors record together, an unusual method, apparently, made the interaction between characters so much better. And there's a reason so many people are tired of the songs. They're so good that everyone sings them and plays them all the time. Guilty as charged. When trying to get a song out of my head, "Let It Go" is one of the first other songs I think of. Plus, interesting tidbit as far as technical goes, when Olaf gives Anna a minute to go talk to Elsa, it's almost exactly a minute. I saw that on Pinterest, and so last time I timed it. Pretty cool.

Setting: 5/5

Arendelle is a fictional kingdom, but it is largely inspired by Norway. The clothes are Norwegian, the architecture is Norwegian inspired. Actually, in Norway at EPCOT they have a little building full of displays which are all about how Norwegian culture influenced the design of Arendelle. I loved seeing that, and how close to Norwegian culture the worldbuilding is. Of course, the North Mountain and Elsa's ice castle are very fictional, but still super cool. And when everything is covered in snow. "Cold, cold, cold." It's more snow than I've ever seen, but then, I have lived in Georgia my whole life. A magical winter? It fits everything perfectly. And can I just say that I love the style of Anna's main dress? I like that style anyway, but...I can't make myself one, because then I'd just look Frozen crazy.

Plot: 4/5

I don't want to deduct points, but...the beginning does present a few unanswered questions. Like, they didn't try to keep Elsa's powers a secret before she hurt Anna, and so when they reduced the staff, surely some of the ones who left knew about it, and yet it was a surprise to everyone. And there were three years between their parents' death and Elsa's coronation, who ruled then? Sounds like the perfect opportunity for evil uncle. (Not that I'm complaining, Agravaine really did me in with the evil uncle bit.) But once the preliminary stuff is out of the way, I see no plot holes, nothing to make me dislike the story. It’s rightly called “A Tale of Two Sisters” because, while Elsa and Anna are rarely together, the story revolves around their relationship, or lack of one. Anna wants a close relationship. She doesn’t understand why Elsa pushes her away until her powers are revealed. And then still all she wants is her sister back. With Kristoff and Olaf along for help, she sets off to find Elsa, and get her to end the winter, as they encounter strange hardships and evil from unexpected places on their quest. Probably no one is unaware of who the bad guy is, but all the same, just in case, I won’t spoil it.

And what Frozen is really all about is true love. I'm not talking about cliche "true love's kiss" prince and princess happily ever after true love. While there certainly is a romance in Frozen (which honestly kind of makes fun of typical Disney princess romance), that's not the true love it's all about. It's about real love. Putting others above yourself. Sacrificing your wishes to help others. Some people are worth melting for. And that, I think, is one of the main things which sets Frozen apart.

Character Development: 5/5

Fantastic. I talked about Kristoff and Anna in my Favorite Screen Characters post, because I love them so much. I love Kristoff because he's honest and upright, has good morals, is down to earth and ordinary, while having realistic flaws. I like Anna because she's fun and quirky, determined and stubborn, loyal and forgiving. And while she did agree to marry a man she just met that day (I love Kristoff's reaction to the news), she wizened up and managed to get out of a bad situation. I like Elsa because she's a protective big sister who wants the best for her sister and kingdom, even though she is kind of misdirected about what that best is. And you can't help feeling sorry for her. I like Olaf because, well, who doesn't like Olaf? He's kind of stupid, but he's really funny, and he gets some great lines towards the end when he's telling Anna what love is. Plus "Hey, Sven, I don't know if this will help, but there's a staircase leading right where you want to go." and "Go on. Knock. Why isn't she knocking? Do you think she knows how to knock?" And Hans is well developed too. Don't like him. But he's well developed. Even the Duke of Weaseltown--'scuse me, Weselton. He's annoying, but, well, he's the Duke of Weselton. And Flynn and Rapunzel even have a cameo!
So, here's just a little bit of why I love Frozen. It's so popular that I doubt anyone who reads this hasn't seen it, but if you're one of that small demographic, get Frozen. Watch it. You'll be singing the songs too. I love it very much. And yes, I do intend to see Frozen 2 in theaters. Why do you ask?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Book Review: The Phantom Of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Recommended For: Ages 13 to Adult

Rating: PG (for scary situations and intense images)

An opera house in Paris is haunted by a mysterious and reportedly deformed "Opera Ghost". The new owners of the Opera choose not to believe the rumors, and in this, they make a grave mistake. For the Opera Ghost demands monthly payment and his other demands met...or grave trouble will ensue.
Meanwhile, chorus girl Christine Daae is getting singing lessons in her dressing room from the "Angel of Music" her father promised to send to her when he died. However, when old childhood friend and theater patron the Vicomte Raoul de Changy shows up and Christine pretends not to know him, he suspects something more behind the sinister Angel of Music.
No one suspects the truth behind the two personages, and the secret is one that could get many people killed. And their lives all hinge on the direction of the love of Miss Christine Daae.

I decided I don't really care if Morgan's already done a review of the book, if I can take a chance to rave about The Phantom of the Opera, I will.

I mean, wow. I had read the first quarter of the book and it wasn't really picking up, it wasn't really grabbing my interest, and then one day in the last week of Camp NaNoWriMo, I was scrolling through my Kindle carousel and my finger accidentally hit The Phantom of the Opera and it opened up. Instead of being a good author and putting the kindle down so I could catch up on my word count, I read the rest of the book that afternoon. And as a plus, I still caught up on my word count. So, all in all, I think it was a very good choice to make.

Writing: 4/5
This is an old book, originally written in French. Now, I don't really know what it is the French have with deformed men, least I can say The Phantom of the Opera was clean, unlike most French things I've seen or heard about. For an old book, it's written very well. It's written as if it actually happened and the author did research and talked with some people to find out about and write down the story. This kind of writing detracted from the character development and majorly detracted from the climax, but over all, it was tastefully written with no boring over-descriptions.

Setting: 5/5
The setting is pretty simple: a 19th century opera house in France. Not that I know anything about 19th century French opera houses, but I do (sort of) know old-ish theaters, and from my knowledge of them, it seemed pretty accurate. I hear the opera house the story was set in is actually real, too, so the author could have gone to the actual location for research. And I would sincerely hope the book was historically accurate since it was written in the author's own time period and I don't believe the author was a time traveler.

Plot: 5/5
Well...I'm not really sure how to describe it. I gave my best effort in the description at the beginning of the post that I wrote myself since none of the descriptions I saw were very good ones. I...really liked it, but I don't know much to say about it other than I couldn't put it down. Because I couldn't (other than the time I made myself so I could write) and I was severely disappointed when I was nearing the end and it was time for dinner. But I managed to finish it soon enough. I mean, the plot was really good! I just don't seem to have the words to describe it. It left me speechless, I guess.

Character Development: 4/5
I've heard from multiple places that Raoul is a wimp in the book. Well, I am here to dispel these rumors! *cue epic superhero entrance* The main impression I got from Raoul was that he was confused and had no idea what was going on. And people that don't have a clue what's going on can't do much of anything no matter how much they want to, and Raoul obviously wanted to from love of Christine. Yes, he lost it in the torture chamber, but that doesn't make him a coward. I have several characters of my own who are very brave yet probably would have lost it in there as well. And from the Persian's narrative, you could tell he was struggling to keep his hold on reality as well as they were in there longer and longer. The only reason he didn't was that he knew how the torture chamber worked and he knew the Phantom and he had seen many people in the torture chamber before. And even he would have lost it if they had been in there much longer. There, now I'm done defending Raoul...I really wish the characters would have been better developed. But, considering the style it was written in (see above), they really couldn't be developed as much as I would have liked. But one of the good things about this was that pretty much all the characters got the same amount of development, except the Phantom, who got considerably more, and Christine, who seemed to get less. I really liked Raoul all the same, and the Persian was interesting (Raoul never could have done it without him). Christine seemed the same as in the play and movie adaptations I've seen, and the Phantom...I just don't know what to think of him.

In other words, if you've seen one of the movie adaptations and/or one of the performances on stage, read the book. It'll make a whole lot more sense, and you'll certainly enjoy it, even if you didn't like the songs in the play, because the book doesn't have the songs. And if you haven't watched it in any way, shape, or form, read the book anyways. This is one classic you don't want to miss!