Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Stubborn Fool (music)

Stubborn Fool - Brother Oliver - Americana - October 16, 2014


Track Listing

  1. A Change of Scenery
  2. Coffee and a Cigarette
  3. Can You Feel the Dissonance?
  4. Stubborn Fool (Album Version)
  5. Headwater
  6. What Will Be Will Be
  7. Burn It Down to the Ground
  8. Interlude
  9. This Creature Inside Me
  10. Hey Hey Look Around
  11. Old Soul
  12. Let That Old River Run


My Review

It doesn’t take fame and record-breaking sales to produce good music, and Brother Oliver is proof of this. Having only recently arrived on the Americana scene, duo artists Andrew and Stephen Oliver have gained a lot of attention with their debut LP, Stubborn Fool.

Hailing from Michigan, they stir the air with rooted vocals/instruments and potent themes. Andrew’s ephemeral voice pairs well with his intentional acoustic harmonies. Sometimes mixing in pointed brass, minimal percussion, or other textured instruments, they manage to give each song its own voice. At times, Andrew layers his voice over, illustrating a dichotomy within himself: the theme behind this album.

Stubborn Fool quite honestly delves into his (and our) conflict with sin nature. According to the artist: “The weasel on the cover symbolizes the flesh, the inclination in us all to hate and fear.” This candid exploration thankfully has a course, and is balanced well, for the most part, over the course of the album.

There are four chapters, each preceded by an instrumental diorama. “A Change of Scenery” opens the first of these, which identifies the conflict between us and our sin nature. “Coffee and a Cigarette,” the first vocal track, serves as a fit prologue to this exploration. “Can You Feel the Dissonance?” jumps right in to the dichotomous theme, and involves the listener by asking the uncomfortable title question. “One seeks for answers in a deep and dark abyss. One takes his chances on a calculated risk. Can you feel the dissonance?” “Stubborn Fool (Album Version)” takes a personal turn, referencing resulting actions rather than internal conflicts alone. It makes sense that this track should take focus in the album. “This old man’s a stubborn fool...there’s a little bit of him in me and me in him, I cannot hide it.”

The second chapter, heralded by “Headwater,” attempts to reach the root of the problem, in order to resist the flesh. “What Will Be Will Be” begins as a plea (“God please speak to me. I’m having trouble listening.”) and finishes as an intriguing altercation between reassurance and self-pity. Now, I’ll admit that “Burn it Down to the Ground” is still making me wonder about what it’s saying. At this point, I believe he comes to terms with his flesh and takes up the fight against it. It could be that I’m daft, but I like music that makes me think long after it plays. This album definitely qualifies. Irregardless, this track has meaningful setting and actions, which I appreciate.

The third chapter begins in the odder, light-hearted instrumental piece “Interlude”. It is placed well, giving a moment to reflect and relax before moving on with the story. However, the following tracks muddy up the division of the story. In “This Creature Inside Me,” he has definitely resisted, and recognizes his sin nature as needing to be separate. “I just wish that this creature inside me, would stay at a distance.” This would have been better placed in the previous chapter, leaving only three chapters. The next track takes on a different voice, and this is where the third chapter ought to begin. “Hey Hey Look Around” speaks directly to the audience. “Free your mind from the space that you take up. We’re in love with ourselves in need of a break up.” “Old Soul” is a moody instrumental piece that fits right in the middle without needing to announce a chapter. It precedes the end, which is quite fitting. The finale has become my favorite, because of the subject material. “Let That Old River Run” is about grace. If you take anything away from this album, this song is the key to it. The whole story leads to this conclusion, and it is a delight. “Let go of what you've done and let that old river run.”

My Rating: 4 stars



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (film)

Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios, James Gunn

Synopsis: Light years from Earth, 26 years after being abducted Peter Quill finds himself the prime target of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by Ronan the Accuser.

My thoughts: Here arrives the latest Marvel installment. Not the next sequel, prequel, or tie-in, but a new team. One part Terran, four parts alien. People have called this a filler story, but it's actually much more. It's a key move in the direction of Marvel's Phase 3, and it's a heck of a ride, mistakes notwithstanding.

James Gunn had the tough task of introducing all 5 characters well enough, but still leaving screen time for plenty of spacey action. While he did so, he altered some origin story details, and this bothered me. Being a Rocket Raccoon fan, I have read his original appearances. He wasn't precisely "experimented on," and this may end up cheapening his story in the Marvel film universe. But it could be possible he doesn't remember exactly what happened, and assumes. Considering this, they might be perfectly in line, which I'm hoping for, but it's looking grim.

Old Ranger Rocket was designed and voiced wonderfully. I knew going in he would be my favorite character, but they captured him just right, apart from his origin. In the coming film, I hope they heavily feature the other guardians also, notably Drax. I never felt Drax or Gamora's characters shine through, except when they were exploited for humor. I didn't feel much for their losses, cheer them on when they got the upper hand, etc.

Groot was likewise amazing. His balance between gentle giant and brute warrior was spot-on. :SPOILER: I loved everything about him, until Gunn made a Hollywood-like move with his last words, "We are Groot". Why not throw away years of history and suddenly add a fourth word to his vocabulary? Because it needed to be a tender moment? The comics achieved that quite a lot without compromising the character. :END SPOILER: This was my biggest disappointment with the film.

Starlord, Peter Quill, was the most complicated character of the film, but a bit less rounded. He's an 80's-loving, artifact-thieving, and wise-cracking momma's boy. We see his fun side, and his tender side, but I don't think his motivations were fully expressed. They're there, but could be deeper. While I enjoyed Chris Pratt's portrayal, I think it could have used a bit more cooking.

Now for the plot. A fun-loving outlaw steals a valuable object, high-up baddies pursue him doggedly, and he must side with the law to save the galaxy. The way this plays out, and how they end up doing the saving, seemed very nearly cliched and Hollywood-like to me. While it was intense, that's what I see in it.

The action and tactical genius exhibited by the group was highly entertaining, Rocket of course being the mastermind behind most of it. If you're looking for intense fight scenes set to awesome 80's rock and roll, this delivers right to your door.

As a note before I finish, there's a lot of good with this film, and I'm mostly highlighting the bad. Go see it for yourself, because I don't want to spoil much, and I'd have to in order to show you just how good. Trust me in that Marvel continues to do humor well, also. Don't let the heavy critique worry you. If you plan to see it, and I recommend that you do, know there is some mild language and intense scenes of violence. Here ends the critical part of my review.

:SPOILERS AHEAD:

I would like to discuss the implications of this film in the future of the Marvel film universe. Guardians of the Galaxy takes place far from Earth, but there are a few tethers to the story. First, there's Peter Quill, who originates from there. Second, this isn't the first time we've seen The Collector. He appears to be collecting the Infinity Stones, which appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger, then in Thor 2. This makes 3 of the 6 found. And a third tether is of course Thanos, who appeared briefly at the end of The Avengers.

Now, I will make a few predictions here. Phase One of the Marvel film saga led all the way up to The Avengers. So we can safely say the climax of that phase was the Chitauri invasion led by Loki. Phase Two is still being released, but with the Guardians in theaters, the only film we have to wait for now is the climax, Avengers: Age of Ultron. This will conclude the phase, and very likely change the game for the future, just like several of the films in this round. Phase Three begins with Ant-Man, immediately bringing in a new character, instead of waiting until the end like in this phase. I believe this phase will be a longer one than the last two, since three stones have yet to be discovered.

Now, if the first big threat was Loki leading an alien fleet against New York, and the second is Ultron, which we'll see very soon, what could follow these? Only Thanos, the biggest baddie of them all. And since both the Avengers and the Guardians have a huge beef with him, it stands to reason that the crossover rumors are going to be true after all, with even more possible attendees. It's going to be a huge throwdown. And I can't wait to see Rocket in the middle of it all.

I was given early access to see the film by Walt Disney Studios. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions here are my own.

My rating: 8 stars.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Medici Boy

The Medici Boy, John L'Heureux, Astor Blue Editions, Historical Fiction, 328 pages, April 7, 2014.


Synopsis: The worlds of art, politics and passion collide in John L’Heureux’s masterful new novel, The Medici Boy. With rich composition, L’Heureux ingeniously transports the reader to Donatello’s Renaissance Italy—directly into his bottega, (workshop), as witnessed through the eyes of Luca Mattei, a devoted assistant.

While creating his famous bronze of David and Goliath, Donatello’s passion for his enormously beautiful model and part time rent boy, Agnolo, ignites a dangerous jealousy that ultimately leads to murder. Luca, the complex and conflicted assistant, will sacrifice all to save Donatello, even his master’s friend--the great patron of art, Cosimo de’ Medici.


My thoughts: The Medici Boy was a conflicting read for me. There is a very clear mastery in the book. Firstly, of first-person writing, the use of which was well justified, I found. L'Heureux wrote more showing than telling. He also mastered the feel of Renaissance Florence, and Donatello's workshop. Many writers could learn from the simple, stripped down focus and immersion he brings to the reader.

As for the historical aspect, everything is kept in accurate reference, and aligns very well with the time period and sequence of events. But it is this accuracy that brings up the controversy. Sodomy frequented the streets of Italy, despite being a severe crime. Near the start of the book, graphic detail becomes overbearing and unnecessary, in my opinion, and is brought up too often later on as well. Yes, this book concerns the forbidden, but there were still unnecessary sequences that put me off. The other part of the historical accuracy concerned the artwork of Donatello, his processes of creating it, and the political patronage who supported it: Cosimo de' Medici. This is the part I enjoyed the most; I was able to see the Italian Renaissance workshop beauty and atmosphere.

I loved how this was a simple story about a simple, yet privileged man. There were no world-altering events, drastic secrets revealed, or wildest dreams realized. It was the life and story of a man who had the privilege of knowing Donatello, and what he did with it.

One aspect that readers have reported having trouble with is associating with the characters, Luca especially. I, on the other hand, think that the characters were well illustrated, but Luca was illustrated through the others. If you remember, this is a recounting of events by Luca himself. He wouldn't write excessively about himself, being from that era. Like many other real authors, his writings would reveal himself through others he wrote about. I respect L'Heureux for taking advantage of this. There were a few times, though, where current novel style showed through, from Luca's hinting at future events. This detracted from the atmosphere of the time period, as I doubt this would be done in such a memoir as often as he did it.

In conclusion, I don't recommend this to anyone uncomfortable with the topic of sodomy, as it plays a large part in this novel, as it did historically. But, if you can stomach this, the era immersion is wonderful, and so are the characters.

*This book was provided free by the publisher and Blue Dot Literary. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*


My rating: 4 stars


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (film)

Thor: The Dark World, Marvel Studios, Alan Taylor

Synopsis: Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

My thoughts: Thor: The Dark World is, in short, a hit. With a new and different threat, the battle takes place behind the lines, in wastelands, and on metropolis Earth, rather than the cold world and small town scene of the first film. Trickery, subtlety, and cunning take the place of brute force this time, and it's a good direction to take.

The characters, for the large part now established, were furthered well. Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) was played well, but could have spoken up a great deal more near the end. It should have been more shocking when he finally spoke English, in fact I don't recall the exact moment he started.

The action in this film was great, but skipped a few beats at times, which is forgivable this time with Loki's interchanges with Thor. Marvel did meet my expectations with intermittent comedy, once again. This sequel was full of it, and each time it was written and performed very well, and got a laugh from the whole audience.

The movie is family-friendly except for fantasy violence, two moments of direct violence, partial nudity (a character is shown in public on television, but is thankfully censored), and less worrying details seen here
. See it in 3D, see it in 2D, either works. 3D doesn't stand out, for better or worse. All in all, Thor: The Dark World is worth seeing in cinemas.

P.S. Stay after all the credits roll, and you'll be doubly rewarded.

I was given early access to see the film by Walt Disney Studios. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions here are my own.

My rating: 8 stars

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Memory's Door

Memory's Door, James L. Rubart, Thomas Nelson, Suspense/Fantasy, 368 pages, August 6, 2013

Synopsis: The prophecy brought them together. But the Wolf has risen, and now th
eir greatest battle begins.


The four members of Warriors Riding have learned to wage war in the supernatural, to send their spirits inside people’s souls, to battle demonic forces, and to bring deep healing to those around them.
But their leader Reece is struggling with the loss of his sight. Brandon is being stalked at his concerts by a man in the shadows. Dana’s career is threatening to bury her. And Marcus questions his sanity as he seems to be slipping in and out of alternate realities.
And now the second part of the prophecy has come true. The Wolf is hunting them and has set his trap. He circles, feeding on his supernatural hate of all they stand for. And he won’t stop until he brings utter destruction to their bodies . . . and their souls.

My thoughts: After reading the first novel to this series, I was immediately interested in reading Memory's Door. Speculative fiction, unusual circumstances, and the like are often favorite reads. These strange events happened on two levels. One: extending the main theme of the novels, and the second: providing a bit of variety with alternate realities. To be fair, the second didn't extend far enough to have much variety, but instead accomplished the same goal as the main theme: restoration. (restoration and a deeper relationship with the Spirit was the theme in the first novel, and likely will be for the series as a whole)

Partly because of this, I feel as if I'd read Soul's Gate over again. Another reason is that the characters don't seem to have progressed far beyond their state at the end of the first novel. Most problems were both introduced and remedied in this book alone. The cast had a developed base, but didn't register easily this time.

There were a few scenes where the suspense was fairly heavy, and I didn't expect much suspense in Memory's Door, so props to Rubart for that.

Overall, I didn't find much that hadn't been explored in the first book, apart from the suspense. Here's hoping that this was largely an interim novel, and that the next shows us more variety.

*This book was provided free by the author. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed here are my own.*


My rating: 3 stars


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Friday, August 9, 2013

Planes (film)

Planes, Klay Hall, DisneyToon Studios.

Synopsis: Dusty is a cropdusting plane who dreams of competing in a famous aerial race. The problem? He is hopelessly afraid of heights. With the support of his mentor Skipper and a host of new friends, Dusty sets off to make his dreams come true.

My thoughts: It doesn't take very long to notice that Planes is a watered-down film. All you need to see is the logo to realize there isn't much to see that's new. A ridiculed dark horse makes his way to the big leagues, realizes he must change to continue the course, and with the help of his friends shows everyone who's the real winner. I'm beginning to wonder if a non-Pixar animated studio will be capable of releasing anything different for a few years (save for the HTTYD and CWACOM sequels).

The similarities, or copies, of ideas in the Cars films were more annoying than engaging, because they didn't often develop past what Pixar did. There are only a few good reasons to see this film, and here is one: watch it to find and list all the references to concepts in Cars (such as a fuel aficionado).

There is one concept that I enjoyed seeing developed, only because Cars 2 showed such a limited scope. This concept is travel, seeing the world, beautiful views and different cultures. Because the race is all around the world, you get to see many, many places, and the vehicles that live there. My absolute favorite was the German bar, so watch for it if you choose to view Planes.

The dialogue was mostly geared towards children, with a few exceptions, and didn't have the dual charm (children and adults) that Pixar has mastered. Still, I laughed on occasion, and I've seen more embarrassing scripts.

The animation was exactly what I expected. Slightly less precise than Cars 2, but only slightly. Where the movie excelled the most, in my opinion, was in the camera angles. They were an absolute treat throughout, despite it being an animated film. The 3D was good, but didn't have any scenes where it stood out.

Here is one more good reason to see Planes: Dane Cook. Throughout the feature, his voice acting stood out as quite a talent to watch for in the future. As a side note, I didn't appreciate the John Ratzenberger cameo, as this wasn't a Pixar film, and he already has a character in the universe. Take it how you will.

The only surprise that came to me was the "ride into the sunset" moment. I wasn't expecting a bold change, but it still happened. What came after the credits cleared it up, but didn't make me feel better. Planes: Fire and Rescue is a full-length sequel being planned with the same screenwriter. I'm more than a little disappointed they already approved it.

In conclusion, this movie is great for kids, but adults can busy themselves counting the "rip-offs". See Planes for the beautiful camera angles, vehicular takes on cultures and landmarks, and Dane Cook, but expect little else to impress.

My rating: 3 stars

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Gamecocks

The Gamecocks, Stephanie M. Sellers, CreateSpace, Literary Fiction, 260 pages, March 3, 2013

Synopsis: Historical theories braid North Carolina's Lumbee Indians and America's largest ongoing mystery, The Lost Colony, with a friendship that will never leave you. Jake Wilkes has ownership of his best friend’s bank account and winery and is engaged to the woman of their dreams. But he doesn’t have the highly coveted proof of North Carolina’s Lumbee Indians’ true origins. It was stolen it from his best friend, Bruce Black. His death made headlines. So Jake bravely directs his first presentation, ‘Lumbee Indians and America’s First Christians,’ which seems like a fiasco, and receives death threats and a proposition by an unassuming wordsmith. When Jake shares his true life tale of growing up with a Lum as his best friend he reveals a secret subculture and life on the swamp becomes a jubious ride to live to tell the tale. While a world away a second chance at love rides in on a turbulent tide. Set in rural North Carolina where moonshine, conjuring, church and fifty five thousand Lumbee Indians truly are as much a part of the beloved culture as America’s largest ongoing mystery, The Lost Colony. Includes references and guide to Lumbees' endangered language.

My thoughts: The only category I feel no doubt placing The Gamecocks in is “Southern.” It has dramatic, mysterious, mischievous, and most importantly historic content. The book is set up with the main character introducing each chapter of his story by reading it to us, himself being the author. This gives a sense of realism which is necessary because, in fact, the historical reveal brought forth here is being brought forth right now.

Jake, the main character and “author”, is quite a real person. In fact, this is true with each of the greater-seen cast. The time Mrs. Stephanie Sellers invests in her characters is very clear to see, and impresses me a great deal. She tied these characters very close to the South, and therefore the reader too. I felt ready to see a rowdy procession at the church, boys being told off by their momma, or Fisk and Wart runnin’ after a snake. Likewise, she doesn’t tone the speak down completely, neither.

Now, for the history. I appreciated the beginning exposition on the discovery of the Lumbee’s origin. This helped me track the book as I was reading, and made it much easier to understand once repeated. But, I also appreciate it for not saying all that would be said. It left quite a bit at the end for the Knights Templar, the Portuguese, the Council, etc.

The title of the book doesn’t become very clear until the end. This is where the action begins to unfold, and abruptly finishes the story. The end was unexpected, but when I think about it, was necessary. This is because it leaves much room for mystery that won’t be revealed, meaning there will likely be no sequel (not that it needs one).

In conclusion, The Gamecocks is a Southern-to-the-heart story of two friends trying to bring the historical truth of the Lumbee origins to light. It has fantastic characters which bring out the South in the reader, and has great historical enlightenment, which we would all benefit to learn.

My rating: 5 stars

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It All Trends: Hugh Jackman


Welcome to the first of many potential articles about interesting and unusual trends in film: It All Trends!

This idea has been growing on me for some time, and I've wondered if anyone else has noticed it. Have you? Hugh Jackman seems to continually take/steal children in films he leads. I'll take you through those I've found, and please tell me if I've missed any.

CAUTION: spoilers ahead!


The Prestige (2006)

Here, Jackman plays Robert Angier, a magician struggling to keep audiences amazed in rivalry with another magician; yet, obsessed with discovering the secret to his best trick. He ends up framing the other for murder, and stealing his child.

This is the most outright of those I found. What's the deal with Jackman playing the good guy lately? He does a good cruel.




Real Steel (2011)

Here, Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a forgotten boxer and robot boxer alike who finds that his ex has died and his child, Max, might end up in his care. He agrees to allow Max into his ex-sister's care for a price to buy a robot, but must have him for the summer. When that time is up, he refuses the offer he'd made, thus going against the ruling, and taking Max.

In opposition to the first example, viewers will side with Kenton/Jackman on this one. But does this make it right to steal, even if the stolen (Max) approves?



Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Here, Jackman plays Bunnymund, the Easter Bunny (who is real, of course). At one point in the film, a young girl manages to follow him into a portal of sorts to the Warren, his home, becoming trapped there until Bunnymund befriends and returns her.

This one's a stretch. It's not completely his fault she came, and he did return her. But I think it's still worth noting.



Les Misérables (2012)

Here, Jackman plays Jean Valjean, a convict who....well, you know it by now. Moving from bad guy to good, in his view, relies upon taking and raising the child of a deceased ex-employee. This child is in the "care" of innkeepers. He pays them and walks off with her.

This plot detail as portrayed in the movie is good, but depending on the viewpoint and editing, could be a very sinister and despicable act.



That's all I have for now! Have you found any of this in Jackman's other films?

Look for more "Trending" articles later.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Man of Steel (film)

Man of Steel, Zack Snyder, Warner Bros.

Synopsis: A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.

Thoughts: To start, watch out for the first period of the film, set on Krypton. It's full of sci-fi and comic eye-candy.

It was great that Christopher Nolan chose a darker hero for his superhero debut. Given that he'd been directing such-themed movies (Memento, The Following, Inception), wouldn't it follow that the Man of Steel himself would take on a darker tone? While in a few ways it did, Zack Snyder's fantastic vision (as per usual) and Zimmer's cold, bright score helped breathe a different life into DC Comics' newest film feature.

While I'm familiar with only some films (and none of the comics) with Superman, I will say I enjoyed this one most. It is a wonderful, emotionally-involved origin story that leads you through the development of this Man of Steel quite well. Henry Cavill plays an extraordinary man learning what it means to be a hero. I appreciated seeing his normal human attitude shine through. After all, he grew up knowing no other way to act.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane didn't fit as I hoped, though she did fair. The Daily Planet group did well, but were slightly off-putting. I'm hoping they do more in future films, if they appear. Michael Shannon's was my favorite performance: a near-emotionless (yet obsessed) general with a greater good in mind, and nothing will stay in his way. The climax of the story was just as it should have been.

Here are a few ways Nolan's darker presence have seeped in. Krypton is seen as a plague, destroying to survive, but I won't go further into that. The threats in Man of Steel are very real, and have dire effects. This isn't Avengers. People die, destruction reigns. That said, the violence isn't blatant, but does happen. On that note, there is some language and frightening/intense scenes, but nothing more to worry about. I highly appreciate the lack of inappropriate material in this film.

In conclusion, Man of Steel has not let much in the past explicitly define it. A unique costume, altered chronology, real terror and threats, character accuracy and development, and more are all defined by this film more than the previous ones (or other superhero films). I recommend it to all fans and newcomers.

Rating: 8 stars

Friday, May 31, 2013

Merlin's Blade: review/giveaway

Merlin's Blade, The Merlin Spiral, Robert Treskillard, Zondervan, Fantasy, April 16, 2013, 432 pages.

Synopsis: Merlin's Greatest Weakness Could Become His Greatest Strength 

When a meteorite crashes near a small village in fifth-century Britain, it brings with it a mysterious black stone that bewitches anyone who comes in contact with its glow---a power the druids hope to use to destroy King Uthur's kingdom, as well as the new Christian faith. The only person who seems immune is a young, shy, half-blind swordsmith's son named Merlin. 

As his family, village, and even the young Arthur, are placed in danger, Merlin must face his fears and his blindness to take hold of the role God ordained for him. But when he is surrounded by adversaries, armed only by a sword he helped forge, how will he save the girl he cherishes and rid Britain of this deadly evil ... without losing his life?


My thoughts: Upon hearing of this book before publication, I was hoping it wouldn't be a simple retelling of the classic Arthurian tale. I am happy to report that it is not. Instead, Treskillard brings the perspective a few steps back, beginning with the humble Merlin and his story. The language differences don't just make an appearance to keep things in perspective, they occur often enough to make the reader uncomfortable enough to figure out what they mean. Also, he steeps the events that happen (not just the atmosphere) in the time period. Families, leadership, and professions all reflect the age, but at the same time deftly shape the course of the story.

Considering the people, Treskillard often found ways of skirting the recent character norms and cliched views of the medieval setting. ::SPOILER:: The only weak point I found was Vortipor's engagement to Natalenya, which didn't amount to much. ::END SPOILER:: Merlin was crafted well, with carefully-chosen words, as were Owain, Garth, Uther, and Morganthu.

Merlin's Blade doesn't drag at all. The pace is set very well, and a great deal happens. It's lengthy, honest, and a pleasure to read. As for the story elements that make up the Arthurian legend, Treskillard has included them soundly in the lore of this series. Many items/characters don't show up immediately, or are only hinted at, but I have little doubt they will come further to light soon.

*This book was provided free by the publisher in conjunction with The CSFF Blog Tour. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*

My rating: 5 stars

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Captives information and giveaway!

Captives The Safe LandsCaptives is Jill Williamson's newest release from Zondervan/Blink, and I am holding a giveaway for a paperback copy! (for United States residents only)

Unfortunately, I am not yet able to construct a fair review, as I need to finish reading Captives, but that review will come up before the week is out.


Synopsis: One choice could destroy them all.
When eighteen-year-old Levi returned from Denver City with his latest scavenged finds, he never imagined he’d find his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed, and many—including his fiancée, Jem–taken captive. Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Lands, a walled city that seems anything but safe.
Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Land has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago … and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar’s dreams.
Meanwhile, their brother Mason has been granted a position inside the Safe Lands, and may be able to use his captivity to save not only his people, but also find a cure for the virus that threatens everyone inside the Safe Lands.
Can Mason uncover the truth hidden behind the Safe Land’s façade before it’s too late?

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Now You See Me (film)

Now You See Me

Synopsis: An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.


Thoughts: It is very important to realize that this movie must not be spoiled. I will not be discussing anything not shown in the trailers, and I ask you not to go looking for such secrets online, but only by watching it yourself. This movie is designed to entertain, and to a degree it does just that.

I haven't seen many of Leterrier's films, but I enjoyed this about as much as The Incredible Hulk, but more than Clash of the Titans. There were still disappointments. Magic movies have been a great interest of mine, and from the trailer I had to wonder, does Michael Caine + woman in a tank = The Prestige? Truthfully, the similarities stopped there, including magic's screentime.

Despite magic taking up most of the trailers, it was too scarce in the film itself. I wanted more magic. I know that doing so would take screen time from Ruffalo, but he wasn't the best of the bunch. In fact, they were Freeman, Caine, and Laurent, respectively.

The screenwriting didn't allow for many to develop character well. The Four Horsemen were usually smooth-talking brick walls. And was that Dave Franco I saw? He had no screentime! (except for brief fancy dodging falling fighting)

These character holes would be acceptable if the movie were a large show. But as mentioned before, magic only came in smaller pieces, when at all. Some were amazing, some were old already, and some were hilarious.

It seems like I didn't appreciate the movie much, but I could only talk about what I didn't like. The rest, the secrets, I loved but can't talk about. Suffice it to say that many surprises are in store, and they're worth watching the movie for. That said, it's best to go in without guessing and predicting, because seeing the many reveals is where most of the entertainment lies. Don't spoil it for yourself.

This is a film some would be happier seeing in theatres, but if you don't think you'd spend ticket money for this, you'd probably regret it, so wait for dvd.

As a warning, there is a suggestive/inappropriate scene near the beginning that ends up going nowhere, but children's eyes should be turned aside. Also, there's a moment in a mardi gras parade that needs to be avoided, and minor language throughout. I'd recommend this movie for 17+, not only for these, but for the understanding of the secret material I can't bring up.

My rating: 7 stars