Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Review - Dauntless

Dauntless is a late-middle-grade / early-YA novel that takes elements from Robin Hood and medieval adventure stories and pairs them with a strong female lead akin to the Katniss or Pris characters of recent YA novels. The story follows the struggles of Merry Ellison, a young girl who's been hiding in the forests ever since John had her father and his household killed along with other supporters from his village. Merry escaped with the other orphaned children from the village. She's shunned her noble name "Lady Ellison" to live off the land and protect the children in ways reminiscent of the Robin Hood story.

Merry and the children have attracted some attention and been dubbed the "Ghosts of Farthingale Forest" but when they accidentally hijack a treasure chest filled with the king's gold they decide to relocate and find themselves suddenly receiving unwanted attention. Coincidentally, the nearest village to their new home is also the home to Lady Merry's once betrothed, a young man named Timothy Grey. Timothy is currently in the service of the local earl and has been tasked with hunting down the supposed Ghosts.

The novel was detail oriented and moved at a steady pace, albeit slower than the thrill-a-minute action of other recent YA books. Not surprisingly, we find our heroine caught in a romantic tangle of emotions as she tries to unravel her feelings towards Timothy, the man she once loved and the man currently tasked with bringing her to justice.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Books Read in 2015

For the past few years (2014, 20132012, 2011, 2010, 2009) I've had a goal to read and review a bunch of books over the course of each year.

My goal had been to average a book per week and end up with 50 books read and reviewed at the end of the year. I usually don't include smaller books (early middle grade, picture books, etc) unless I feel really strongly about them. For the past couple of years I've dropped well below my 50 and I'm starting off 2015 already a couple of months behind. Still, I'm going to try and catch up and at least get some books read and reviewed in coming weeks/months.

  1. Dauntless

Monday, April 27, 2015

Catching up on nearly a year in review of blogging

Well, once again I've been a slacker of a blogger over the past few months. Not only have I not posted any personal/family updates for 10 months but I haven't even kept up on my semi-regular book/movie reviews. I can't promise any long term changes towards posting regularity but at the very least there will potentially be an influx of posts over the next days or weeks. *grin*

So my last "personal" blog post was from last summer and basically summarized the events of the spring of 2014...which means I basically have one full year to catch up on. Away we go....not entirely in chronological order but combined in a way that makes sense to me. :-)

First, here's the "year in review" slideshow that Google automatically made based on some of the photos I've uploaded. I figured I'd start out with that and then drill into some of the events specifically (not sure how well or whether the Google slideshow thing will work, but it's worth a try).

Monday, February 09, 2015

Movie Review - Jupiter Ascending

From the initial trailers, Jupiter Ascending looked like a fun and exciting sci-fi flick with some refreshing new creativity and ideas. From the trailers, I knew that Jupiter Jones (a lower class girl in Chicago) has somehow been identified as "alien" royalty and as a result she has become the target of some very high profile groups in the universe. Beyond that, I knew very little. I didn't read or hear any previews or reviews so I went into the movie with moderate to high expectations for a good new science fiction movie.

The movie starts out with narration from Jupiter explaining that she is an illegal alien living in America. Not an "outer space" alien but she tells the story of her parents tragic life back in Russia and how she (Jupiter) was born while her mother's family were traveling across the ocean to sneak into America. We then have a few scenes showing her misery as she goes through her day-to-day life working with her mother and her aunt as cleaning ladies for homes around the city.

We then get a glimpse into the aliens. There are multiple races...some look distinctly "alien" ranging from reptilian to some sort of monkey like faces and other varieties. The main aliens we'll be dealing with in the plot are distinctly human in appearance. We are later told (spoiler) that they ARE human and that technically the Earth's human race is descended from this alien race.

The main group of space-humans we deal with are a trio of siblings from an ultra-powerful family called Abrasax who apparently owns a large chunk of the universe. Their parents have died and in stereotypical "rich family" fashion, the 3 kids are squabbling over inheritance and trying to figure out how to one-up each other and become the richest and most powerful. Apparently the Earth is one of the most valuable planets in their inheritance and as a result, they all set their eyes on it. Even more important than the value of the planet is the existence of Jupiter Jones...who we learn is the 'genetic reincarnation' of their mother and as a result she has the power to re-claim the inheritance that came from her death.

Each sibling has his or her own distinct plans and motivations ranging from the simple murder of Jupiter to convoluted psychological and political maneuverings. Each sibling has hired different forces and individuals to carry out their plans. Caine is one of the hunters and when he learns Jupiter's true identity he works harder to try and keep her safe from all of the other parties involved.

Right from the start I enjoyed the storytelling aspect of the movie. I really liked the way Jupiter narrated the early life of her parents and the way the movie transitioned to the story of her current life and the intrigue and plots of the Abrasax family. The transitions and the story felt very personable and "real" (as real as can be imagined in a sci-fi story like this). I was quickly drawn into the film and found myself excited to find out what was going to happen next.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Book Review - Forcing the Ace

As a kid, when asked "what do you want to be when you grow up," one of my answers was always "Magician." I had a collection of books on magic, magic props and often performed magic tricks in my elementary class talent shows. My goal never came to fruition but it did make the premise of Forcing the Ace appealing to me.

In Forcing the Ace, we follow the life of Alex, a teenage boy with aspirations of becoming a professional magician. He has significant enthusiasm and talent for magic but has less devotion or skills for the other elements in his life, particularly his schoolwork, much to the chagrin of his surgeon father.

In the first chapter of the book, Alex is performing in a local magic show with the hope of attracting the attention of a sponsor for a professional magician competition. Unfortunately, his act ends with a significant injury to his hand and it looks like his hopes for the prestigious competition are shattered. His luck changes when he is noticed by Jack, a retired magician who tells Alex that he'll sponsor him but only if he pairs up with Zoe, another teenage magician from the town. Alex has always been a solo act and has no desire to share the glory with anyone but he reluctantly agrees and they begin training.