Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Review: Brothers in Arms

Brothers in Arms by Jack Lewis Baillot

Rating: PG-13 (violence)

Recommended for: Ages 15 and up

 Franz Kappel and Japhet Buchanan never expected their friendship to be tested by the Third Reich. Friends from early childhood, the boys form an inseparable, brotherly bond. Growing up in a little German village, they escape most of the struggles of war until the day Japhet is banished from school for being a Jew, and later has a rib broken when other village boys beat him up. Franz learns he is putting himself in danger for spending so much time with Japhet but continues to stand up for his Jewish friend even at the risk to himself. Then one day their lives are shattered when they see first-hand that the price of being a Jew is dangerously high. 

 With the war now on their doorsteps, Franz and Japhet come up with a desperate plan to save their families and get them out of Germany alive. Leaving behind the lives they've always known, they move into Berlin with nothing to protect them but forged papers and each other. Convinced their friendship can keep them going, the boys try and make a new life for themselves while trying to keep their true identities and Japhet's heritage a secret. Taking his best friend's safety upon himself, Franz joins the Nazis in an attempt to get valuable information. At the same time, Japhet joins the Jewish Resistance, neither friend telling the other of their new occupations.

  With everyone in their world telling them a Nazi and a Jew can't be friends, it is only a matter of time before they believe all the lies themselves, until neither is certain if they are fighting against a race of people or fighting for their homeland. Somehow they have to survive the horrors of World War II, even when all of Germany seems to be against them.

This is a great but sad book about friendship in Germany during WWII. This book was one I actually felt like reading and wanted to read over doing other activities, which doesn't happen very often. 

Writing: 4/5

The writing was easy to stay focused on and it was easy to follow the story. She also clearly presented the gospel in a natural way in the story. There were a lot of typos and some wrong tenses. I also wished that some of the changes of point of views were more defined. There was a lot of back story that was the foundation to the story. The ending was satisfying, but I wish that it had a little more before it ended and went to the Afterword. I was also able to get attached to the characters.

Plot: 5/5

The story is about two boys' friendship during WWII and them trying to survive the war. It is a very character focused story, which is something that I really like. It is a very sad book and many people die. While it doesn't have a lot of detail of what happened in the Holocaust, there is some violence mostly when characters are interrogated.

Setting: 4/5

I haven't done a lot of research on Germany during this period, but there are some more minor things that didn't seem quite historically accurate but that don't really affect the story (except the one that was addressed in the historical note at the back of the book). For example, when the children start becoming indoctrinated there is no mention of Hitler Youth for awhile and no mention of the Kappels not attending Hitler Youth and what repercussions might occur from them not going. The setting seemed real and the way a character was pushed to do things was done in a realistic way. The feel of the story definitely fit with the story. It did seem well researched and not every thing will be completely accurate.

Characters: 5/5

This is a character book (with a good story too) and these characters go through a lot. They make mistakes and sometimes act rashly. They have their good and their bad, which make them more human, and are still likeable. The things the characters go through impact and change them. They changed slowly and not all at once. Things also aren't always clear to them, like in real life, and they then make mistakes which don't just magically go away, and they have to deal with the consequences of their mistakes. 

This is a book that is well worth reading. It is sad but still good. I really enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to people who like character stories.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Book Review: By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, Book One)

By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, Book One) by Jill Williamson

Recommended For: Ages 13 to Adult

Rating: PG-13 (violence, mature themes)

Half of the kingdom is shrouded in Darkness. On the side that still sees the sun, two young adults struggle to understand the magical abilities thrust upon them. 

It's called bloodvoicing. Some say it's a gift. One of the newly "gifted" wish it had never come. 

Jill Williamson’s award-winning epic fantasy series, Blood of Kings, tells the story of Achan, an orphan who’s been a stray all his life. When an enigmatic knight offers to train Achan for the Kingsguard, he readily accepts. But his new skills with the sword do not prepare him for the battle raging between the voices in his head. 
Vrell Sparrow is not who she seems. She masquerades as a boy to avoid marriage to a powerful prince who seeks to exploit her. But Vrell feels called to help a young squire who recently discovered his bloodvoicing gift, even if doing so puts her in the path of her enemy. 

While Achan learns to use his new ability, Vrell struggles to shut hers down. All the voices strive to learn Achan and Vrell's true identities—and a different kind of voice is calling them both to adventure, romance and a truth that just might push back Darkness for good.

So, I started this in a book slump because the cover was cool. For some reason, no Kindle books were good enough. All I wanted was a physical book. So I got through a little bit of the beginning, gave up on Kindle books, and read Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson instead. (Good book, by the way. Definitely worth a read.) Then I picked this book up again Thursday morning after getting out of the book slump and...I was finished with it by that evening. Man, it was a good book! I admit, during Vrell's POV, I was very impatient to get back to Achan, but still. Very good book. 

It's been long enough (AKA, I've read a book or two in between) that I don't think I can remember enough to review it analytically. But I know I loved the characters. Achan and Vrell, man, they were amazing! I did like Achan better than Vrell, but I still really liked Vrell. And yes, I have a ship between those two even though Vrell's engaged to someone else and Achan's attracted to her cousin and doesn't even know Vrell's a girl. But still. They'd be perfect for each other!

I also really liked the bloodvoicing and the way Christianity was portrayed. A little hard to explain, but it was fresh and new while staying true to the essentials. Certainly not the typical Christian fantasy allegory that sticks to dry facts while missing virtually everything that's most important. Quite a relief!

I absolutely loved how she took very overdone story idea and took such a new angle on it, I didn't see it coming until it was revealed. SPOILER I suspected he was somehow a big part of the royal family since bloodvoicing is a gift that is passed down through anyone descended from the Er'Rets royal family and Sir Gavin was dragging Achan to the prince's confirmation when it was way dangerous, but I did not expect him to be the prince! For all the times "unsuspecting hero turns out to be long-lost prince." I think the main reason Jill Williamson pulled it off so well was because she didn't flaunt in the readers' faces that the identity of the prince was questionable. She didn't really need more foreshadowing since the plot has been done so many times. Kudos to Jill Williamson for keeping readers blind! It was so refreshing to see a really good but clich├ęd plot done well. END SPOILER

I would definitely recommend this book, and since you can get it free for Kindle on Amazon, head over there now and buy it!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Movie Review: Wreck it Ralph

Wreck it Ralph

PG (rude humor and mild action/violence)

Recommended for: All ages

Wreck-It Ralph longs to be as beloved as his game's perfect Good Guy, Fix-It Felix. Problem is, nobody loves a Bad Guy. But they do love heroes... so when a modern, first-person shooter game arrives featuring tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun, Ralph sees it as his ticket to heroism and happiness. He sneaks into the game with a simple plan -- win a medal -- but soon wrecks everything, and accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens every game in the arcade. Ralph's only hope? Vanellope von Schweetz, a young troublemaking "glitch" from a candy-coated cart racing game who might just be the one to teach Ralph what it means to be a Good Guy. But will he realize he is good enough to become a hero before it's "Game Over" for the entire arcade?

I thought, before I saw this movie, that it seemed like an interesting concept. I was also told by a little girl that it was the sweetest movie because of the candy.
Technical: 5/5
The animation of the characters was good and since they are video game characters, they're not supposed to look realistic. The story was more complicated than normal for a kid's movie but not confusing. It was also cool to see the foreshadowing of the finale.
Setting: 4/5
It was interesting to see how they made the video game world a place where the characters lived. They travel through the wires to get to a place where you can go to different games. The different games were all very unique and the characters reflected where they came from, but one of them was given the saddest backstory. 
Plot: 5/5
The plot follows Ralph who does something rash while trying to get acceptance from others and thinking that a medal will give him that. Other characters are trying to save their games because Ralph's rash actions could destroy everything. There are two main plots: Ralph trying to be a good guy and trying to save their worlds from destruction. Their actions do have consequences. There is also Vanellope's story. She glitches and so is treated badly. Ralph also makes a tough decision about her, doing what he believes to be right even though it hurts him and Vanellope.
Characters: 5/5
Disney characters are always well developed, and this movie is no exception. Each character has their motive which drives their actions throughout the movie. They do grow, realizing when they made mistakes, except for the bad guy. The characters also have their different hurts and prejudices which shape the way they act towards each other.
This is a fun movie with a sweet setting (Vanellope's world) and even if you are not into video games, like me, it is still a good movie and I would recommend it.