Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book Review: The Fifth of March: A Story of the Boston Massacre

The Fifth of March: A Story of the Boston Massacre by Ann Rinaldi

Rating: PG

Recommended for: Ages 13 and up

 “Carefully researched and lovingly written, Rinaldi’s latest presents a girl indentured to John and Abigail Adams during the tense period surrounding the 1770 Massacre. . . . Fortuitously timed, a novel that illuminates a moment from our past that has strong parallels to recent events. Bibliography.”--Kirkus Reviews

 This is the fourth Ann Rinaldi book that I have read, and it is one of the best of the four. I love that in her books she takes people who were real and the events of the time and makes an interesting story out of it.

Writing: 4/5

 The writing is interesting and puts you into the story. She was good about how she put the history into the story and if it dragged a little, it wasn't very much. You get into the main character's head and the story is told by her. I don't know what reading level it was, but I do think that it probably should have been a little higher.

Setting: 5/5

 All of this book takes place in Boston. It starts out before the Boston Massacre by at least a year, maybe more, and ends after the soldiers' trial. I think that it was pretty accurate, there were the mobs that would go through the streets and the soldiers that came to Boston. There were also some famous people like John and Abigail Adams. At the end of the book there is an author's note that says what is real and what she made up.

Plot: 4/5

 The story was about an indentured servant to the Adams living in colonial America. The story follows how she wants to learn and decides what kind of person she wants to be. She also becomes friends with a British soldier. The soldier wants to be more than just friends while the main girl just wants to be friends. There is kissing once and some insinuations that some people want and think that something more will happen. Her uncle also says that her mother was pregnant before she got married.

Characters: 4/5

 The main girl starts out unsure of herself and slowly grows throughout the course of the book. She does make mistakes and doesn't always listen. There were a couple things about Abigail Adams that I didn't think would be completely accurate but for the most part the Adams seemed to be like the people I learned about. There are some other characters that are all different, like a soldier who is upset about his past, Jane who is friends with some people in the mob, and Henry Knox the friendly bookseller.

 I enjoyed this story and I would recommend this especially if you love this time period.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Book Review: Reapers (The Reapers Trilogy Book One)

Reapers (The Reapers Trilogy Book One) by Bryan Davis

Recommended For: Ages 13 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 (for violence and dead naked people)

Reapers, the first book in The Reapers Trilogy, is a dystopian tale with a supernatural twist. Taking place in a futuristic, urban setting, this first book in a planned trilogy will appeal to readers of The Hunger Games and similar fast-paced stories for young adults.

Along with a blend of real life and imagination, it delivers action, danger, and suspense through the adventures of three teenagers, Phoenix, Singapore, and Shanghai, Reapers who collect the souls of the dying of already dead and transport them to the Gateway where they will travel to their final destination...or so they are told.

I've always loved Bryan Davis's books. They're exciting, they're intense, they're complicated, and they're really weird. So when the first book in his Reapers trilogy was free for a couple days, I jumped at the chance to get it. Surprisingly, I was less than impressed with this book. It did not live up to the writing standard I had come to expect from Bryan Davis's books.

Writing: 3/5
I never thought I would get bored reading a Bryan Davis book. However, many times while reading this book, I wanted to put it down and had to force myself to keep reading. part of the reason I was incredibly bored was the very low stakes for the protagonist Phoenix. Nothing was at stake if anything went wrong, which brings me to the other thing that contributed to my boredom: hardly anything went wrong for the characters. It was ridiculous! They wound up just wandering around the concentration camp with a couple ghosts making useless plans that got destroyed in the climax.

Setting: 4/5
The world is actually pretty well-built. The settings were pretty vibrant, the descriptions were more than adequate. I could envision the world perfectly. (I left this review in the middle of this section and came back to it days later after being sick, so I honestly don't remember the exact reason I took away a point, though I know the reason was a good one.)

Plot: 2/5
Um...what plot? I...don't remember there being much of one. I feel really bad giving it such a low rating, but it honestly just didn't have much of a plot, and what was there was not made clear.

Character Development: 3/5
The main characters had no clear goals, and I'm not sure if Phoenix had any at all. They were flat, especially Phoenix, because absolutely nothing happened to stretch his character. He honestly didn't grow at all, he just changed his loyalties (and gosh it took one long boring book to do it!) The antagonist was pretty well done, though, and Mex. Honestly, Mex was more developed as  a side character than Phoenix was as a main character.

I probably wouldn't read the next book in the series if the opportunity arose, nor would I recommend this book. It just wasn't well-written, though maybe some other people would still enjoy it. I have always loved (most of) Bryan Davis's books, and I had expected to like this one as well, but it just wasn't good.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Movie Review: The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid

Rating: PG (language)

Recommended for: Ages 10 to Adult

There is more to karate than fighting. This is the lesson that Daniel (Macchio), a San Fernando Valley teenager, is about to learn from a most unexpected teacher: Mr.Miyagi (Morita), an elderly handyman who also happens to be a master of the martial arts. So when he rescues Daniel from the Cobra Kai, a vicious gang of karate school bullies, Miyagi instills in his young friend the importance of honor and confidence as well as skills in self-defense, vital lessons that will be called into play when a hopelessly outclassed Daniel faces Johnny, the sadistic leader of the Cobra Kai, in a no-holds-barred karate tournament for the championship of the Valley.

"Wax on, wax off." There's a lot about this movie that is iconic. It's one of the good movies that came out of the 80's. There were some really great films, and then...there are those "PG" films you have to turn off because the content is just THAT bad. Fortunately, this is one of those good ones. Aside from some language in a scene or two, there's not even much to warn about. Even the relationship drama isn't over the top. (Now I have some significant complaints about the girlfriend situation in 2 and 3, but that's another story.) We rewatched this recently when a friend spent the night, and I really enjoyed it.

Technical: 4.5/5

It's a pretty well made movie. It's well written, well acted, and the guy who created it actually knew karate, so I'm pretty confident the karate is even accurate. Now, Sensei does at times seem a little too evil and mean, but that's probably the point. And the ending might be a bit predictable, but SPOILER who doesn't expect the hero to win in the end against all odds? END SPOILER

Setting: 5/5

I wasn't alive in the 80's, but it was contemporary fiction for the time, and I've never heard my parents complain about it being inaccurate. Yet it's still a setting that feels applicable to this day and age. Because whatever the time period, a high school where a boy gets constantly bullied and has to do what he can to stop it is relevant.

Plot: 4.5/5

Daniel has to move to a new city where he has no friends and is a prime target for the bullies. And his solution is to run away from a fight. He wants someone to get him out of his problems, but Mr. Miyagi finds him a different solution. Much of the plot centers around Daniel learning karate--in a very unconventional way. This is where "wax on, wax off" comes in. Daniel doesn't get what's going on, and he gets mad about it (that's the scene with the language). 

But in spite of being a movie about a teenager learning karate to fight in a tournament, it's very much a movie about people. About human problems that people face. About bullying. About doing the right thing. About friendship. And even though I've never been to public school or taken karate, it's still a story that I can enjoy.

Character Development: 5/5

Really, all the characters in this movie are well developed. And well acted. They all feel very real. While Daniel's attitude keeps him from being one of my favorite characters, I still feel like I know him well. Sometimes I might want to smack him, but he eventually gets it all right. Mr. Miyagi. He's kind of eccentric, sort of Yoda-ish, but a good teacher and the perfect person to fill in the father figure space that's left empty in Daniel's life. They don't give much of a reason for why Sensei is such an evil jerk, but since Johnny is more of the direct antagonist, I guess it doesn't matter.

The Karate Kid is a good movie. It's not perfect, but it is good. I very much enjoy it.