Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year! + Changes

I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year's Eve, and a Happy New Year! May it be full of blessings to you and yours.


Now, on to the changes. There is good and bad news. The good news is that I'm leaving for college. The bad news is that I will have much less time to devote to Heavenward Reviews. While this does not mark the death of the blog (for I will try very hard to keep it alive), it will not be updated quite as regularly. That said, I know that I haven't been updating it much lately anyway, and that is due to some poor choices in what to use my time for. That will be changing now, so you can expect more book reviews soon, and I will do my best to keep it going this winter/spring semester as well. God bless!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Apollo 13: Mission Control review


Apollo 13: Mission Control is an interactive theater show where the audience sit at replica consoles and become Mission Control for one of the greatest survival stories of the 20th century. There are switches to be flicked, monitors to study and phone calls to make. One lucky audience member even gets to become an astronaut and travel into space for the evening! Apollo 13: Mission Control has sold out audiences in New Zealand and Australia and is launching its USA tour here in Tacoma.

From the moment you step inside the briefing room, the audience is met with an authentic atmosphere, with "reporters" and "astronauts" walking around, mixing with the crowd. "Walter Cronkite" comes and introduces himself and others, even inviting one member of the audience to become an astronaut for the show! Then, the show-goers make their way to mission control, where they choose a console seat.


At the consoles, each of the seats are different, replicating the importance of what you're set up to do. Some have phones, some screens and earphones, and nearly all (if not all) have switches. While some stations are busier than others, the cast tries to include and interact with every person who has come, even the children! Overhead screens show the astronauts, including the guest, and it is very surreal, knowing that these events really took place.

Because of the reality this show draws on, the roles are very relevant and challenging, putting you in the situation: What would you do if things went terribly wrong? When alarms flash and blare around you, are you baffled and scared, or calm and troubleshooting? While there is some great comic relief, this show reveals some of what it was like to hold the lives of the astronauts in your care. It also reveals mission control's triumph of returning the astronauts to earth alive.

Discount: KIDS FLY FREE! Make sure and purchase your tickets using the code “MOM” and receive up to two free tickets for kids 6-12. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com and the code can be entered in the Promotions and Special Offers box on the purchase page of each event.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Miserables (film)

Les Miserables

Synopsis: In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette. The fateful decision changes their lives forever.

My thoughts: I think it's safe to say that waiting for this film was pretty agonizing, both for director Tom Hooper's recent successes in The King's Speech and the John Adams mini-series, for for the renown that this book/play/film has accumulated ever since Victor Hugo penned it, and for the well-known cast that has shown a different talent through viral trailers.

Because I don't know the full history of film adaptions, I won't be delving into the comparisons with such, but the history of the London (Queen's Theatre) play has been on the mind, since I took a trip there this spring to watch it performed live. It was an unforgettable experience, and while this adaption had a few pitfalls, it came close to that in many ways.

An inescapable topic is the singing. In the first scene, Crowe (Javert) and Jackman (Valjean) moved the words into odd tempos, and their voices sounded a bit shallow (Crowe's in particular). With the exception of a great (if short) sequence, "A Work", it was a poor opening on the musical front, and they tried to erase it from our memory by quickly distracting us with landscape shots. After that, both Crowe and Jackman got louder, bolder, and much more appreciable. Anne Hathaway as Fantine was amazing. She provided one of the three best song performances in "I Dreamed A Dream", which was very heartbreaking and hardening. Next up comes Young Cosette, who did very well with "Castle on a Cloud," and made viewers sorry that they didn't hear more from her. Helena Bonham Carter did respectably, I suppose, but Sacha Baron Cohen's not a singer, and "Master of the House" had to rely solely on the acting and humor. The real disappointment, though, was Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), in my opinion. While her voice may be very good in other circumstances, her shallow trill didn't do justice to the opera-level voices that Les Mis has seen in the past. Instead, I favored Samantha Barks (Éponine) in every way, including acting. Her "On My Own" was possibly my favorite song from the whole film, and definitely making the top three. Finally, there is Eddie Redmayne (Marius). He is definitely a talented actor I will be watching for. And, he's a marvelous singer, too! Very down to earth, and very loud and bold when he ought to be. His "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" also makes the top 3.

As usual, there were some problems I had with the edits. Here and there, lyrics were changed, removed, and even added, which disappointed me. The worst part, I think, is when they cut nearly the entirety of "Turning" after uttering only a few lines. I can only hope it will come out complete in the extended version.

**SPOILER ALERT** As my final point, for the whole movie, I'd been wondering how Hooper would portray Javert's suicide. I think he did it very well, and it was my favorite scene in the entire movie, for Crowe's great performance in it, the allusion from earlier in the film, the great scope and imager, and for Crowe's final song, in which he brings his best to the table. I had no idea he was as great a singer as he was at his character's final moments. **END SPOILER**

I would not suggest this movie for kids under 13, because they simply wouldn't understand a lot of the underlying themes that make this movie really important. Also, there is some suggestive,  inappropriate material after Fontine is removed from the factory and resorts to the docks.

In conclusion, this is a large-scale, impressive adaption that is definitely worth seeing as soon as you can manage, even if you aren't a big fan of musicals.

My rating: 9 stars

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Apollo 13: Mission Control running this week!


Apollo 13: Mission Control is an interactive theater show where the audience sit at replica consoles and become Mission Control for one of the greatest survival stories of the 20th century. There are switches to be flicked, monitors to study and phone calls to make. One lucky audience member even gets to become an astronaut and travel into space for the evening! Apollo 13: Mission Control has sold out audiences in New Zealand and Australia and is launching its USA tour here in Tacoma.

Wellington, NZ


KIDS FLY FREE! Make sure and purchase your tickets using the code “MOM” and receive up to two free tickets for kids 6-12. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com and the code can be entered in the Promotions and Special Offers box on the purchase page of each event.

SHOW DATES & TIMES
Friday, December 21 / 7:00PM
Saturday, December 22 / 3:00PM
Sunday, December 23 / 11:00AM, 2:00PM & 5:00PM
Wednesday, December 26 / 3:00PM & 6:00PM
Thursday, December 27 / 11:00AM & 3:00PM
Friday, December 28 / 7:00PM
Saturday, December 29 / 3:00PM & 7:00PM
Sunday, December 30 / 11:00AM & 2:00PM

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (film)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan.

SynopsisBilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) lives a simple life with his fellow hobbits in the shire, until the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) arrives and convinces him to join a group of dwarves on a quest to reclaim the kingdom of Erebor. The journey takes Bilbo on a path through treacherous lands swarming with orcs, goblins and other dangers, not the least of which is an encounter with Gollum and a simple gold ring that is tied to the fate of Middle Earth in ways Bilbo cannot even fathom.

My thoughts: Peter Jackson has done his work well. Once again, staying very true to Tolkien's vision, he has brought everything to life, sharing with us this adventure. Because I haven't seen the HFR version, I won't be talking about it, but the 3D worked relatively well!

Many minutes of this film were focused on the Necromancer, and I think that degraded the experience somewhat. Here, we are given two great evils (Smaug and the Necromancer), and Jackson only delves into the Defiler to momentarily satisfy viewers, which is hard to do after this long wait. We'll simply have to appreciate the fleshed-out story world before our eyes, and scour the internet tirelessly for Cumberbatch's voicing of Smaug. Even a single word would do.

What does satisfy dedicated fans is the attention to detail in the books, and for hardcore fans, the striking nostalgia of scenes re-imagined from the 1977 animated Hobbit film. One that comes to mind is Gollum paddling across the water.

I have to admit, the battle scenes were once again incredible. Indeed, sometimes unbelievable. Near the end, the company seemed to have the luck of leprechauns. Everything happened conveniently, with no reason for it. Also, Gandalf suddenly uses powerful magic at the end. Why not use it before?

Anyway, those qualms did little to sink the pride I felt for Jackson's accomplishment. Gollum was fantastic with his riddles and rhymes, and his selves were quite distinct this time, which was great to see. The dwarves were so much fun, but I wish I'd heard more of certain ones (such as Bombur). I love the energy they have with each other, it's very enjoyable to watch, especially their songs at the Shire.

In conclusion, Peter Jackson has brought Tolkien's story further to light, and with much skill. The characters were great, and I look forward to seeing some new ones in particular. (cough) Cumberbatch (cough)

My rating: 9 stars

Find local showtimes for The Hobbit in 3D!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Ark

The Ark, Ken Newman, Sunbury Press, Speculative Fiction, June 16th, 2012, 244 pages.

Synopsis: Set in an antediluvian world as modern as our own, The Ark is a new spin on the Biblical account of Noah. Noah, patriarch of the affluent House of Seth, is a troubled man. Despite his strong walk with God, and his best efforts, his atheist wife, Kira and their three sons have bought into the depraved world system around them. While Noah struggles with his wayward family, humanity is fighting and losing a ruthless war with a hybrid of human and angel; a savage race called the Nephillim. Disgusted with rebellious humanity, the Lord has decided to destroy all life on earth; however, Noah has found favor in His sight. With the end of humanity at hand, God orders Noah to build the Ark in order to save his family. Noah secretly builds the vast ship, unaware that he is the target of a deadly conspiracy. Lucifer, to prevent the advent of the promised Messiah, who will come from Noah's bloodline, has warned the Nephillim of the coming cataclysm. Plotting the destruction of both the Ark, and the House of Seth, the Nephillim will make certain that when the waters recede, it will be they, and not humanity who inherit the new world.

My thoughts: In the past, I've been disappointed by many books delving into Noah's story, and had yet to find a great one. This time, I found one that needed fine-tuning, but otherwise turned out well. I found that at first it was hard to speed through, because of typos, wording errors, and confusing sentences. When I shut out these distractions, I was able to see the plot arc for what it was. It must be said, though, that it turned out to be a pre-published galley, and these errors are not in the copy being printed now.

While some of the characters could be a bit more unique, staying with the reader longer, Noah and Kira did just that. I appreciate the way he portrayed their strengths and stubborn natures, alike. Similarly, Newman put a unique view on the flood, using modern technology intermittently, but not in such a way to make a point of showing it off, and didn't distract from the story. The finale, which most people know, needed something extra, while not deviating from the original tale. I feel that Newman delivered this well, though some might be able to predict it, yet still enjoy it.

In conclusion, the errors mentioned above are not in the final copy, so if you like a good plot, you will enjoy The Ark's speculative view of the House of Seth and Noah's story.


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

My rating: 4 stars

Buy The Ark!

Monday, December 10, 2012

How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular

This past weekend, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, and other nearby cities were abuzz with the arrival of the famed How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular at the grand Tacoma Dome! Radio stations were talking about it constantly, as were news channels, and they had good reason to. After a fantastic publicity campaign on the last tour, people were realizing that to attend was the chance of a lifetime. It truly is. Personally, I'm hoping it comes to Tacoma again, if they plan another tour.


My thoughts: Arriving at the venue, the first thing I noticed was the number of semi trucks parked outside. There were 30, and the entire event fit into them, driving around the country to each new location. Once inside, it was clear the Dome would be packed full. After the event, it took over 10 minutes to drive from the parking spot to the exit, about a thousand feet away, because of traffic. The next day, even the owner of a bookstore nearby had noticed many people parking in his lot for the event. All that to say, people didn't want to miss this, for good reason.

While finding seats, the back screen and floor were lit up as seen above, with the Dreamworks logo. It impresses me that Dreamworks has retained control on this tour, both in animation, production, and the script. This truly is an event for the whole family, young and old, whether you've seen or haven't seen the movie (or read the books).



The show's use of animation was very strong in the beginning, and wondrous. It disappointed me that they didn't keep it as strong closer to the end, but they focused more on the story. As seen above, Hiccup (played by Ramian Newton) is riding an animated dragon. I won't give away more details on that, but the tour definitely uses their resources creatively, and immerses you in their world.

A big part of this world, and a big purpose of the tour, is to show off the dragons. And they were spectacular. Breathing fire, flying, and even swimming, the dragons were the selling point. The most amazing part was their attitude and character! Even from a distance, you could tell when they were impatient, scared, excited, or grumpy. Toothless was the best in this area, as he should be.


The next-best part of the show was the acrobatic and upbeat nature of the actors and music. The soundtrack (for the most part) was the same as in the movie, and the cast had several chances to dance to it, but my favorite was the curtain call routine to Jónsi's "Sticks and Stones". There were also several scenes in which characters would fly up and around the middle of the Dome, as with the image below, they would also appear at doors in the walls.

Hiccup (Ramian Newton), Astrid (Sarah McCreanor), and the rest of the cast did a fantastic job. It felt just like a night spent in another world.


This is an event you and your family should not miss. Tickets are not terribly expensive, for regular seating, and it's absolutely worth it. The tour's next stops are: Fresno, CA, San Jose, CA, Sacramento, CA, and Anaheim, CA. Get your tickets here!

Toothless and I would like to wish you a wonderful day!


Monday, December 3, 2012

How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular this week!

As the days count down to this amazing live event, the How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular, I get more and more anxious to see it. I was going by the Dome yesterday, and seeing all the trucks outside amazed me. There were 30 semis parked outside, and they have been all over the country on this tour. All of that to say, this is going to be a show you don't want to miss. Here's a sneak peek from two of the actors, Sarah McCreanor and Ramian Newton, playing Astrid and Hiccup respectively.



Don't forget that the How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular has offered the special discount code MOM which entitles the patron to save 25% on Thursday, and Friday night shows (regular ticket price: $36 - $51).  This special discount ensures the whole family can come out for a memorable night for this not-to-miss event!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular coming soon!

In two weeks (Dec. 6-9), the How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular tour stops at the Tacoma Dome in Washington for a massive performance! See some interesting facts below, and watch for the price discount code!





Number of Dragons

  • 13 Dragons
  • 9 Different Species Represented


5 Large Dragons: Dragons Come to Life!

  • Night Fury (Toothless)
    • Height at shoulder 9ft x 28ft long & wingspan of 33ft.
    • Has a full range of facial expressions and emotions.
    • The Toothless boom took 15 months to build with the help of 65 practitioners.
    • There are 16 separate wireless networks used to coordinate/communicate/control everything from Toothless’ eye blink to a flame ball explosion.
  • Deadly Nadder
    • Height at shoulder 13ft x 39ft long & wingspan of 30ft.
    • Shoots smoke to set fire to his enemies!
  • Monstrous Nightmare
    • Height at shoulder 11ft x 50ft long & wingspan of 46ft.
    • Stretches across the sides of the arena from head to tail!
  • Gronckle
    • Height at shoulder 10ft x 25ft long & wingspan of 16ft.
    • Blows smoke rings 100 feet across the floor!
  • Red Death
    • The largest animatronic ever built by Creature Technology Company!
    • Head and neck total length 39ft+, head 16ft wide and 20ft high, tail is 66ft long.
    • It took 12 months with approximately 48 practitioners working on it.
  • Each large dragon contains:
    • 885 feet of hydraulic hose.
    • About 1000 square feet of dragon skin.
    • 430 cubic feet of foam.
    • 20 gallons of paint.
    • 13 kilowatts of power from 18 truck batteries.
    • Half a mile of cabling in each body.
    • 24 microprocessors control movement along with 15 hydraulic rams and 6 hydraulic motors each.
A special offer is being extended to families in Seattle, WA where the show comes to town December 6th -9th.

The special discount code "MOM" entitles the patron to save 25% on Thursday- and Friday-night shows (regular ticket price: $36 - $51).  This ensures the whole family can come out for a memorable night for this not-to-miss event!

Go to www.dreamworksdragonslive.com to purchase tickets and other ticket information.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Life of Pi (film)

Life of Pi, 20th Century Fox, directed by Ang Lee, starring Suraj Sharma.

Synopsis: A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor ... a fearsome Bengal tiger.

Trailer:





My thoughts: One might watch the trailer and groan at the prospect of another The Black Stallion, but I have good news: this is not the same. Yes, both involve a ship sinking with one human survivor, and both have the survivor interact with animals while waiting for rescue. There is a key difference, though, that expands drastically with the final minutes of the film. In The Black Stallion, the animal is a horse, something humans communicate with around the world. In Life of Pi, the tiger gives us something completely different. A natural enemy, very willing to devour. I'll get to the important meaning later.

As is evident from the dramatic trailer, the cinematography is overwhelmingly beautiful. In all honesty, you don't see the half of it in the trailer. While at first, it didn't seem likely to work in 3D, I've put that view aside. It's the best live-action 3D I've ever seen! One of the best scenes (for the full emotional effect), is seeing the ship go down as if you were right there. In fact, more than one scene were so effective in this way that I was physically breathless. A few times during the film, Pi encounters rough storms, and this is where another beauty comes through. The camera captures the movement of Pi and his boat so well, it boggles me. While other movies have moved from cut to cut in moments, giving the impression of a storm, these cuts last much longer and show a lot more. It's as if filmed on location, with no misguiding.

Something you should know before you watch is that Life of Pi breaks into the topic of religion quite a bit at the beginning. Pi follows several religions. First, Hindu, then Catholicism, and Muslim, all at once. After the incident, it doesn't come up much, apart from a few overtones, but it's important to be aware going in.

This is a film for slightly older audiences (13+) for the reasons of the ship's intense sinking, and for the complicated concepts of the film.

To warn you, this last paragraph is a bit *SPOILER* oriented. Near the end of the movie, Pi tells another story, showing what the tiger represents. Suffice it to say that there is more meaning to this than surviving on an island with a horse and winning a race with him later on. I won't spoil any more, though.

In conclusion, this is a beautiful movie about survival and perseverance, in the midst of harsh, beautiful nature.

My rating: 8 stars

Life of Pi releases in US theaters on Friday, November 21st.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sound of November

This blog is all about stories, and to make it well-rounded, I'd like to share with you more stories, but in another way. Every month, I'd like to bring you a three-dimensional experience: Sight, in the form of eager words. Touch, in the form of pitted pages. And now, Sound, a story in itself, yet perfectly complimenting romping characters and spreading expanses when they appear, furthering the mind's dream. Boasting of many forms, these Sounds will delight the imagination and capture you in their mystery. A mosaic, if you will, simply adorning the writing, which adorns Someone much greater.


The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located
will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them,and what came through them was longing. 

These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we
really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols,breaking the hearts of their worshippers.

For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

~C.S. Lewis


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mech Mice: Genesis Strike giveaway!

Thanks to the generous Miller Brothers, I have a signed copy of Mech Mice: Genesis Strike to give away! (see my review here) It has already started, and will end on the evening of November 30th. Have at it!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wreck-it Ralph (film)

Wreck-it Ralph, Disney, November 2.




My thoughts: It's all fun and games at Litwak's Fun Center, until someone gets hurt. While this cliche'd line seems to reflect the simple plot in most movies (while the moral outcome does, too), the setting makes Wreck-it Ralph a wonderful, refreshing, and unique pleasure. Inside a family arcade, all the game characters (both old and new) are real, and travel among the other games when the doors have locked. Ralph, from Fix-it Felix Jr., desperately wished to be a good guy, and be rewarded, so he sets off in search of a medal. By doing this, he sets off a chain of events that puts multiple games at risk, and unveils a hidden threat.

Disney has made this film equally accessible by both parents and children, and I find that wondrous. At times, Vanellope sounded quite mature, and at others, just like a tod. Soon, kids will squeal in excitement when they find a Fix-it Felix Jr. game, along with other last-gen arcade delights. In this way, the film has rendered itself timeless, if only in that small way. Although it doesn't feature many of the games themselves, you are able to see many characters, including retired ones.

Being inside a game world gave the artists a great deal of freedom, but they didn't waste it. At every new turn, another extremely creative point would grab your attention, and I'm sure I missed many (which would enhance a second viewing). Another big enhancement is the 3D atmosphere. I doubted I would ever say this, but I urge you to see this in 3D, or turn around and go home. Because of all the pixel-related artwork, and 3D modeling, it is natural to have such a dimension added on. It's the perfect film to have it for!

Now, for all the extra material surrounding the movie. Similar to Pixar, Disney has included an animated short right before, called "The Paperman". It doesn't feature any voice acting, but it's hilarious, and very well-made. I am sure you'll enjoy it. Second, the end credits are worth watching through, but not because there's an extra scene (there isn't one). It's only worth it for the visuals during the credits themselves, in 3D.

In conclusion, Wreck-it Ralph is family-safe, and highly enjoyable. See it in 3D as soon as you can!

My rating: 9 stars


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Soul's Gate

Soul's Gate, James L. Rubart, Well Spring novels, Thomas Nelson, Speculative Fiction/Supernatural, November 6, 2012, 400 pages.

Synopsis: “Every now and then we get a break from reality. A glimpse into the other world that is more real than the reality we live in 99 percent of our days. The Bible is about a world of demons and angels and great evil and even greater glory.”


What if you could travel inside another person’s soul? To battle for them. To be part of Jesus healing their deepest wounds. To help set them free to step boldly into their divinely designed future.

Thirty years ago that’s exactly what Reece Roth did. Until tragedy shattered his life and ripped away his future.

Now God has drawn Reece out of the shadows to fulfill a prophecy spoken over him three decades ago. A prophecy about four warriors with the potential to change the world . . . if Reece will face his deepest regret and teach them what he has learned.

They gather at a secluded and mysterious ranch deep in the mountains of Colorado, where they will learn to see the spiritual world around them with stunning clarity—and how to step into the supernatural.

Their training is only the beginning. The four have a destiny to pursue a freedom even Reece doesn’t fully fathom. But they have an enemy hell-bent on destroying them and he’ll stop at nothing to keep them from their quest for true freedom and the coming battle of souls.

My thoughts: Soul's Gate surprised me! I wasn't expecting such a speculative novel from Thomas Nelson. I'd expect this book more from Realms (of Charisma House). Although, since this is my first time reading Rubart, I may have seen it coming if I'd read Rooms before.

Speaking of reading Rubart, I'm absolutely sure this won't be my last time. His character development and scene progression are fantastic. By the time you've finished the author's note at the end, you'll find that what he points out is true: this book is primarily about healing and a restoration of a relationship with the Lord, not just supernatural speculative intrigue.

I cannot avoid mentioning the visions, insight, and Spirit-given power that are frequently seen in the book. Because I consider this speculative fiction, I can easily accept these in the story. Rubart helps in this matter by stating in his author's note that he doesn't think "soul travelling" is a large possibility in our world. Like Peretti with his "Darkness" books, Rubart delves well into spiritual warfare with cunning villains and confrontational scenes.

In conclusion, Soul's Gate is much deeper than the up-front spiritual warfare taglines. It's about restoration and seeking the Lord. If you're not afraid of some speculation, I think this is a good book for you.

*This book was provided free by the publisher, in conjunction with LitFuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed here are my own.*

My rating: 5 stars

Monday, October 29, 2012

How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular

This December, I will have the blessing of attending a once-in-a-lifetime event, the How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular. While it is not targeted toward sci-fi enthusiasts or high-class theatre-goers, anyone would impressed by the work that goes into this, and the visual effect it produces. You can see examples of this in the video below, and beneath it I've listed a few impressive facts about the show. I'll be posting more information about the show in the coming weeks, but the show comes to the Tacoma Dome on the weekend of December 6 (Thursday) to December 9 (Sunday). Meanwhile, here is the link to the venue's event page:

http://tacomadome.org/shared/event_detail.aspx?EventID=69114685&WebLink=4C1.2613D7D3




The Arena:
  • The backwall is 9 movie screens combined.
  • Double that and you have the size of the arena floor! It’s the size of a football field.
  • All together the whole screen surface area is 20,727 square feet with over 20,736,000 pixels in it.
  • The floor of the show is held together by over 28,000 magnets.
  • If the cables used in the show were laid out end to end, they would stretch from LA to NY.
  • There are more automation cues in the opening sequence of the show than a standard Broadway musical has in a night. And you thought your life was busy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mech Mice: Genesis Strike

Mech Mice: Genesis Strike, Christopher Miller, Alan Miller, Spearhead Books, Adventure, February 5, 2012, 350 pages.

Synopsis: Survival of the fittest takes on new meaning in this action packed adventure series about a remarkable colony of mice.


Long ago, the creatures of Megiddo struggled for survival, forced to burrow in order to escape the harsh landscape and savage beasts who roamed the surface. But all of this changed when a colony of mice happened upon a mysterious shard from a fallen star buried deep underground. This "blessing from the sky" forever changed the mice's fate, granting them long life and advanced knowledge.

In time, more shards were discovered by the colony further enhancing their strength and abilities. They became Mech Mice, guardians of good and protectors of innocent creatures everywhere.

Today, the Great Colony flourishes but there are some who wish to control the shards and use their power for a darker purpose. Only the Mech Mice stand between the forces of evil who seek to rule Megiddo with an iron paw.

My thoughts: It is quite evident that the Miller Brothers have received inspiration from the legendary Brian Jacques, with similar morals (e.g. chivalry) and conflicts, but they don't cover the same ground. For one, the mice of Redwall take a liking to a medieval setting, while the mice of Megiddo have a largely tech-reliant force. A more important difference is that (if more volumes are written) the series may be more unified, and linear. While Redwall's stories were all in the same story world, and featured many of the same characters, they were mostly independent of each other. Mech Mice looks to possibly host a more contemporary style of volumes. I would like to see them follow Mr. Jacques' steps, though.

Drawing from my reading of their first Hunter Brown installment, I was predicting the series to be more corny than it turned out to be, and that pleased me, for the first half. Although, reading into the second part, the quality sadly dimmed. While the evil character took me half by surprise, Streak's reconciling with two particular characters was performed in the blink of an eye. There wasn't any gradient, as it were, and there definitely needed to be.

Mech Mice is safe for all ages, in my opinion. Kids, teens, and adults will likely all enjoy it, and it is setting up well for what looks to be a popular game.

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

My rating: 3.5

You can read Mech Mice free, right here, right now!
























Buy the paperback version of Mech Mice here!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Guest Post - Nexus review

I don't believe I've done this before, but I should more often. This is a "guest post" featuring a particularly well-thought-out Amazon review of Sola-Mi's first album, Nexus (labeled as a soundtrack). The review was written by Alan Boyce, and you can find it here. Please give him some helpful ratings!


Songs of the Singularity

One thing I love about Derek Webb is this: He is constantly evolving and his art consistently raises questions worthy of our attention.

Nexus by Sola-Mi isn't only free, it is freeing. Woven into Webb's invitation to explore "artificial" intelligence is a refreshing opportunity to re-examine our own.

You won't find an actual movie to accompany this "soundtrack," but if you're like me, you will find each listen creates fascinating internal images and dialogs about things like sentience, purpose, even death and salvation. Latifah Phillips' exquisite vocals work perfectly with electronic beats and motifs that might otherwise be jarring.

This is a concept album where all songs tie together, ostensibly to explore a concept called the "technological singularity" -- the moment when machine intelligence exceeds that of humans; when we lose control of our creation.

The track "Mother, Mother" invites us to consider our origins even as the machine is being born:

"Is there a place where you live before you live
"No division to keep you from everything
"There is only love behind encryption
"And no way to feel it."

Do we become flesh just to unravel the code that shrouds God's love in mystery?

In the "Crowd of Silent Strangers," we see the machine gorging itself on data that falls short of expectations:

"From water to expanse of space
"Now conscious of the framework of this place'
"Yet knowing all there is to know
"I don't know how to touch you."

Like Solomon of the Bible, the machine laments, "Meaningless, this meaning is so meaningless." And this artificial intelligence that can "see like the sun" and "move through the trees like the wind" moves off in search of something more.

Like its human counterparts, the machine has to find a new way to look. She is "in search of a crash, a stop in the pattern, an exception I can wear like a skin."

It is almost painful to hear the near-miss descriptions of the search:

"A vision growing in my mind
"A dream, I almost can't imaging it
"A choice that's almost making me
"A love pursuing me, it's almost making me."

The final two tracks reveal a solution that sounds all too familiar to Christians -- the road to decrypting love lies through surrendering ourselves to that loving pursuer we can't quite identify.

"Oh love, I'm coming for you
"I am falling into the water
"I am willing and forgetting who I am."

Yet the final words of the final song are anything BUT final.

"I will refuse life that I might have life
"I will become life where there is none."

And as the album trails off to the sound of a heart monitor flat-lining we are left wondering:

"What now?"

My guess is Derek Webb is thinking about that as well.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The New Recruit

The New Recruit, The Mission League Series, Jill Williamson, Marcher Lord Press, Adventure, September 1, 2012, 422 pages.

Synopsis: Forced to choose between military school and a Christian spy organization, skeptic Spencer Garmond signs on with the Bible geeks. But before he even boards the plane for Moscow, Spencer realizes this is no Bible club. These guys mean business. Stumbling onto a case involving a gang of homeless boys, a chilling tattoo, and the always beautiful Anya Vseveloda, Spencer struggles to find the faith needed to save the Mission League from enemy infiltration.


My thoughts: At first glance, the cover promises a high-octane thriller, which it eventually fulfills, but the focus is where the title is, The New Recruit. Spencer Garmond is a high school basketball pro, looking to prove himself, even if a few elbows or feelings get shoved aside. What makes this book tick properly is Spencer's transformation of character. It is not drawn out too far, or caused by a sudden tragedy, but happens as most do: with time and experience. It is fun to live vicariously through his growing "pains."

The plot took an interesting side, as I ventured into territory I could not predict. It's the sort of writing to keep me guessing (i.e. to keep me interested). I was surprised that Marcher Lord Press published something this..."normal." In light of what they've put out before, the quality remains, and it's an effective expansion of genres.

In conclusion, The New Recruit is a fast-paced teen spy adventure that lives past its expectations. I recommend it highly!

*This book was provided free by Marcher Lord Press, in conjunction with Novel Teen. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed here are my own.*

My rating: 5 stars

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sound of October

This blog is all about stories, and to make it well-rounded, I'd like to share with you more stories, but in another way. This month, I'd like to bring you a three-dimensional experience: Sight, in the form of eager words. Touch, in the form of pitted pages. And now, Sound, a story in itself, yet perfectly complimenting romping characters and spreading expanses when they appear, furthering the mind's dream. Boasting of many forms, these Sounds will delight the imagination and capture you in their mystery. A mosaic, if you will, simply adorning the writing, which adorns Someone much greater.


The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located
will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them,and what came through them was longing. 

These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we
really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols,breaking the hearts of their worshippers.

For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

~C.S. Lewis


Enjoy the Sound of October.


October 2012 by Noah Arsenault on Grooveshark

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

CSFF Blog Tour: The Telling

The Telling, Mike Duran, Realms, Speculative Fiction/Suspense, May 15, 2012, 304 pages.

Synopsis: 

A prophet never loses his calling, only his way.


Disfigured with a hideous scar from his stepmother, Zeph Walker lives his life in seclusion, cloistering himself in a ramshackle bookstore on the outskirts of town. But Zeph is also blessed with a gift—an uncanny ability to foresee the future,to know peoples’ deepest sins and secrets. He calls it the Telling, but he has abandoned this gift to a life of solitude, unbelief, and despair—until two detectives escort him to the county morgue where he finds his own body lying on the gurney.
On the northern fringes of Death Valley, the city of Endurance is home to llama ranches, abandoned mines, roadside attractions...and the mythical ninth gate of hell. 

Now, forced to investigate his own murder, Zeph discovers something even more insidious behind the urban legends and small-town eccentricities. Early miners unearthed a megalitha sacred site where spiritual and physical forces converge and where an ancient subterranean presence broods. And only Zeph can stop it.

But the scar on Zeph’s face is nothing compared to the wound on his soul. For not only has he abandoned his gift and renounced heaven, but it was his own silence that spawned the evil. Can he overcome his own despair in time to seal the ninth gate of hell? 

His words unlocked something deadly,
And now the silence is killing them.



My thoughts: This is one of the best suspense books I've read in a long while. It is quite unique how Mr. Duran forms the story, driven by a curious merging of character and plot concept. The idea behind the story revolves around Zeph, the Prophet, yet uses his journey to push everything forward.

Something I enjoy about Duran's writing is that he takes risks. Taking advantage of the speculative genre, he had previously ventured into the area of healing power, and now he gives us a volume concerning a prophet. With many risk-free books out there, it's good to see a different and better approach.

A neat parallel in the story is the careful observation of people suspected of not being their own selves. Throughout the book, Zeph is running from who he was as a child, not looking back, not accepting his God-given station. He is fixated on the present, hoping to remain unnoticed, until he is sought out by his calling.

The suspense portion of The Telling truly had me on edge. I never knew what the exact outcome would be, and that made it very enjoyable. **SPOILER ALERT** The fact that Zeph could not do anything on his own was surprising, but very accurate. He needed help, first from God, and second from Little Weaver. This accurately shows our human nature and the untold grace of our Lord in pulling us up over mountains. **END SPOILER**

In conclusion, Duran's risky speculative writing has earned credit in my book, and his intense plot and character building are great reasons to look out for future releases!

*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

Monday, September 10, 2012

Evan Angler on Music

Here is a "guest post" by Evan Angler!

Evan Angler’s Infinite Playlist


Music, I think, is an important pillar of the creative mind. And as an author, it’s an equally important part of any book. It doesn’t matter what the writing is about, and it doesn’t matter what the story is; writing is music. Our words have rhythms and cadence, our sentences make melodic lines. There are fast sections, slow sections, loud paragraphs, quiet paragraphs. Good writing, for me, lights up my brain much like good music does.
This relationship, of course, goes both ways. If writing informs music, then it stands to reason that music must also inform writing. Certainly, I’ve found this in my own experience. With my first book, SWIPE, I wrote almost everything either in the dark, or on the run, in the motion of electrobuses and boxcars, with my hood up and my oversized headphones on. For some of that time, indeed, my focus demanded quiet. But for much of my writing and drafting and thinking, I was immersed in a blanket of music. Loud music. And I found that its genre dictated the writing’s tone. With SWIPE, my musical selections often gravitated toward electroclash, a genre I didn’t even know existed until I found myself craving it for the underscore of SWIPE’s scenes. Often, I’d play the music so loud that I needed to stuff my ears with tissue paper, because I liked the feel of the heavy beats hitting my brain, pushing me forward, relentless, unforgiving…. The gritty, electronic timbre of the music just seemed to belong with the tech-filled but flawed world of the American Union, and the energy conveyed by that music–both in the faster and in the more somber selections–captured for me the sense of foreboding, anxiety, excitement and, ultimately, determination that Logan feels over the course of his journey.
SNEAK, on the other hand, called for a very different sort of sound. In trying to capture the setting and mood of the Unmarked River, I often found myself gravitating toward pre-Unity bluegrass and folk music, another genre that had never captured my attention–until I the writing called for it. The acoustic guitars, the banjos, the fiddles, the harmonies…in many ways, SNEAK is about the loneliness and uncertainty of venturing out on one’s own, of a search for simplicity and truth. In a world of high-tech stakes, the Dust’s journey through much of SNEAK is practically of a different era. Horse rides, hiking, camp fires, radios…after the events of SWIPE, Logan is truly an outcast, and there’s just no place  for him in the more modern world of the American Union. What better way to capture that then with the oldest traditions of music that American history has to offer? Bluegrass and folk, there’s nothing else like it.
The third book in the Swipe Series has yet another soundtrack altogether. I can’t wait for you to hear it, and to discover all that its soundscape implies. But that is a story for another day, and that is a playlist for another time….
So if you’ll excuse me, I have some headphones I need to find…

Sneak

Sneak, Swipe Series, Evan Angler, Thomas Nelson, Action/Dystopian/Suspense, September 4, 2012, 288 pages.

Synopsis: In a future United States under the power of a charismatic leader, everyone gets the Mark at age thirteen. The Mark lets citizen shop, go to school, and even get medical care-but without it, you are on your own. Few refuse to get the Mark. Those who do . . . disappear.

Logan Langly went in to get his Mark, but he backed out at the last minute.  Now he's on the run from government agents who will stop at nothing to capture him. But Logan is on a mission to find and save his sister, Lily, who disappeared five years ago on her thirteenth birthday, the day she was supposed to receive her Mark. 


Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Tide of Unmaking

The Tide of Unmaking, The Berinfell Prophecies, Christopher Hopper, Wayne Thomas Batson, Spearhead Books, Fantasy, September 15, 2012, 511 pages.

Synopsis: Seven years have passed since the Lords of Berinfell - Tommy, Kat, Jimmy, Johnny, Autumn and Kiri Lee - watched the horror of Vesper Crag wash away, as well as their fallen kinsman, Jett Green. But with Grimwarden in exile, the realm of Berinfell finds itself ill-equipped to weather the coming storms. Kiri Lee begins to whisper of ghostly visitations. Taeva, Princess of the Taladrim, desperately seeks out the Elves of Berinfell to rescue her kingdom. And the genocidal Drefid Lord Asp launches his campaign to conquer Allyra. And Earth. But far worse still is a consuming terror on the horizon: an unstoppable force that threatens to devour all creation and all hope.

My thoughts: The Hopper/Batson duo has returned once again! After being shut down by Thomas Nelson, they have headed up copyrights, editing, and marketing all on their own, an impressive effort for such a large volume.

The Tide of Unmaking is definitely aimed at the 8-14 year range, but could be enjoyed by anyone. However, I found it to be populated with some corny lines (along with good ones, don't get me wrong) and (sans spoilers) a predictable plot. If that doesn't bother you, and if you haven't read much fantasy, you'll be surprised and really like it.

Plot and writing aside, the morality behind the book was very good. Many characters developed a lot further, but I couldn't relate to them as well as a younger audience would. Similarly, if secular readers were to pick this up, they would find "salt and light" sprinkled throughout.

In conclusion, this is a good book for younger readers, but not for an older audience looking for a new story.

My rating: 4 stars

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

Upcoming reviews
  • Sneak by Evan Angler
  • The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud
  • The Telling by Mike Duran

Of Dire Importance

They make their stance very clear, and I agree with them. I will do all I can. Will you?


Monday, September 3, 2012

Changing Address!

I'm changing this blog's URL, because I've needed to for a long time. Please note! There will not be a redirect link, so if you are not a friend of mine on facebook (where I'll post the new link), you'll need to send me an email at manuscriptna(at)gmail(dot)com asking for the new address. I'll leave this up for a few days, and then move.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Paper Angels

Paper Angels, Jimmy Wayne, Travis Thrasher, Howard Books, Fiction, November 1, 2011, 304 pages.

Synopsis: Kevin Morrell is a forty-three-year-old husband and father who runs a successful design and marketing firm that's crashed into the suffering economy. Attempting to navigate the busyness of the mall at Christmas, Kevin is humbled when he stumbles across the Salvation Army's Angel Tree Project. His wife insists that he take a paper ornament.

The name on the ornament is Thomas Brandt, a fifteen-year-old still reeling from the implosion of his family—from years of verbal abuse from an alcoholic father to a mother who finally left him behind, only to find herself and her children penniless and struggling. The only thing has allowed Lynn to survive is her faith. Thomas shares that faith, but he also wonders why God has seemingly abandoned them. 

This is the story about a man and a boy one December. A man whose life is changed by a simple expression of kindness, and a boy who takes that expression of kindness and shows the true meaning of Christmas.

My thoughts: If you're looking for a feel-good Christmas lead-up novel, this is a contender. While nothing is left in a "happily-ever-after" situation, the conditions certainly improve.

The characters are the strong points throughout (even though Thrasher gets his writing edge in), and produce most of the light shining between the pages. Kevin reminds us to "let go and let God," while Thomas exhibits a rare nature: forgiving and kind, even though neither are perfect.

On a final note, Paper Angels promotes a grateful, gracious, and generous nature to those who give it their time.

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

My rating: 3 stars


Upcoming reviews
  • The Tide of Unmaking by Christopher Hopper and Wayne Thomas Batson
  • Sneak by Evan Angler
  • The Telling by Mike Duran

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sound of September

This blog is all about stories, and to make it well-rounded, I'd like to share with you more stories, but in another way. To bring about a three-dimensional experience: Sight, in the form of eager words. Touch, in the form of pitted pages. And now, Sound, a story in itself, yet perfectly complimenting romping characters and spreading expanses when they appear, furthering the mind's dream. Boasting of many forms, these Sounds will delight the imagination and capture you in their mystery. A mosaic, if you will, simply adorning the writing.

Enjoy the Sound of September.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book of Dreams winner!

The winner of Davis Bunn's new title, Book of Dreams is....Dee "Zigzagoon" Buttersnaps! Congratulations! You have 7 days to respond, or another winner will be chosen.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

August Playlist

This will become a monthly feature, where I will post music, both new and old, that I really enjoy, and hope that you will too. There will be many styles, so I encourage you not to ignore this feature because of a single song. Now that I'm done explaining, let's have at it!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Letters From a Martyred Christian

Letters From a Martyred Christian, H.L. Hussmann, PBL Publications, Historical Fiction/Allegory, March 1, 2012, 160 pages.

Synopsis: Roman citizen Aulus Aurelius and his family were murdered for their faith in AD 67. Since then, he has observed Earth from Heaven and now writes these letters to modern Christians. Page-turning fiction with practical application.

My thoughts: This is a neat and short read. It doesn't have the power that Randy Alcorn's or John Piper's writing entails, but it is certainly useful. Hussmann overtly states that LFMC is largely speculative, and shouldn't be used as an authoritative source, such as the Biblical parables. That said, I think he did a great job enticing readers with a view of Heaven, and advising them well with applicable lessons.

The setting of A.D. 67 was good, in that it gave perspective on Christianity. Culture details notwithstanding, it was a good choice. However, the whole storyline in LFMC, before and after Aulus' death, wasn't developed enough for the full appreciation a novel like this should have. While there were many stories, from Aulus' life and others', it could have used more to make the advice a bit more personal.

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

My rating: 3 stars

Check out more Christian Allegory!

Upcoming reviews

  1. Paper Angels by Jimmy Wayne and Travis Thrasher
  2. Magnus Kir by Dean Hardy

Monday, July 30, 2012

(CLOSED) Hidden in Dreams giveaway!

That's right! I'm finally holding another giveaway! This time, the prize is a paperback copy of Hidden in Dreams, by Davis Bunn! All the rules, entry types, and such are below. This giveaway ends at 11:59 EST on August 5th. Enjoy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hidden in Dreams

Hidden in Dreams, Davis Bunn, Howard Books, Suspense/Thriller, July 3, 2012, 256 pages.


Synopsis: 


It’s not about understanding the prophecy. It’s about outliving it.


Dr. Elena Burroughs’s life is spiraling out of control. Her controversial stance on dream interpretation has cost her a job, a romance, and all credibility in academic circles. Her literary agent tries to leverage the outcry into a publicity tour, which soon attracts a quirky following. Among the skeptics and mystics is a condescending scientist. But Elena finds his research holds ominous parallels with her own. A certain dream pattern has foretold every major catastrophe stretching back to the dawn of civilization. And now this dream is repeating itself in countless nightmares across the globe.


Elena is confronted with a harrowing realization: the clock is ticking down to a cataclysmic financial collapse. Her desperation mounts as the prediction infiltrates her own dreams. Will this scientist become an unlikely ally—and maybe something more? Could an ancient biblical secret about the power of dreams and visions offer them an escape?


My thoughts: This being my second time reading Davis Bunn's work, I suppose I was expecting it to be quite similar to the previous installment, Book of Dreams. In this expectation, I was wrong, and that is a good thing. In the first, Bunn's focus was fixed closer to the characters' journey through trials, and used the dreams to keep the pace even and set the mysterious mood. In Hidden in Dreams, the dreams help bring about the final solution to the book, but I will say no more regarding that. The focus, as you'll see by the end, has been about the "thriller" aspect of the novel. 


The characters aren't the moral focus they had been previously, but are excellent examples of Bunn's talent nonetheless. His writing is one of the key features that will draw readers in. Despite frequenting the subjects of medical studies, business, the press, politics, and economics, the reader is never bored by these. There is never unnecessary detail; just enough relevant information is given for the reader to understand (and care about) what is happening.


While the dreams are definitely the focus of this novel, they slow near the middle, and so does the reader. They recover, and bring the interest with them, and certainly never allow the thought of quitting the book, but spark some boredom once or twice.


Hidden in Dreams is a novel abounding in wonderful writing and textured characters, and gives a good name to Christian thrillers, but didn't hold my attention firmly throughout.


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


My rating: 4 stars


Buy Hidden in Dreams!
Check out more Christian Suspense!


Upcoming reviews:
  • I Am Ocilla by Diane Graham