Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sanctum - music

Sanctum, David Hirschfelder, Soundtrack, Varese Sarabande, February 1, 2011, 18 tracks.

Track Listing:
  1. A Sacred Place
  2. Espiritu Esa Ala
  3. The Doline
  4. The Dive
  5. Saint Jude's Cathedral
  6. Listen! The River Is Returning
  7. Flow Stone Falls
  8. Luko My Friend
  9. Through the Restriction
  10. We're Not Gonna Die
  11. The Sacred River
  12. I Can See You
  13. Push On? You Decide
  14. What About Carl?
  15. Help Me Into the Water
  16. Down to a Sunless Sea
  17. Are We Home Yet?
  18. Sanctum Suite

My thoughts: David Hirschfelder is a lesser-known composer, but I doubt he will be for long. This is his second soundtrack for a large-scale film (Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole was his first), and I believe many more will darken his doorway.

One of the many things Hirschfelder does really well is utilize the Papua New Guinea's feel in the music. You can hear a native chanting at times, and some cultural instruments were used. When the characters are in danger (which happens throughout) the music is really driving and intense (Flow Stone Falls is a good example).

All of Hirschfelder's music has become quite iconic to those who have heard it. However, the themes are much more complex, and can't be adequately replicated with a simple hummed line; much more is layered in.

Something I can't ignore about this soundtrack is the amount of references to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan. (the entire poem is below) These are mostly in the track titles, (A Sacred Place, The Sacred River, Down to a Sunless Sea) but there are several moments in the movie itself that reflect ideas in the poem. A sense of wonder and wild danger permeates the film and soundtrack, and matches well with Kubla Khan.

I recommend this soundtrack to those who enjoy complex, involved, and slightly dark instrumental music.

My rating: 5 stars

Kubla Khan

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games - movie

The Hunger Games, Gary Ross, Lionsgate, Action/Drama/Sci-fi/Thriller, Jennifer Lawrence/Josh Hutcherson, PG-13, 142 minutes.

Synopsis: In a not-too-distant future, North America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss' young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.

*fan poster from*

My thoughts: From a Christian perspective, this movie had me once again second-guessing what I would do in Katniss' position. Would I resort to killing to stay alive, and bless my district? It was hard to think about. So, I simply sat back and watched. Katniss and Peeta do most of that sort of thinking for you, but it makes you wonder about your own convictions if put into such a situation.

The filming was excellent, for the most part. Near the beginning, and a few times later on, the camera shook so much that it nauseated me, and I couldn't tell for the life of me what was happening. The broad contrast in colors from District 12 to the Capitol was really cool, and that leads me to my next observation.

The Capitol really showed off its pomp and reliance on style. There were so many crazy and absurd ways of showing off their "beauty" that it made me sick. It starts just by wanting to get noticed. Reminds one of hollywood, eh? *chuckle*

The gore was not very prevalent, which is good. In some cases, though (such as the death near the end), the violence is implied very intensely. That really bothered me, but it's a story to make you bothered at The Capitol. It did it's job well.

Peeta and Katniss' characters were done well. Peeta didn't seem to show much depth, however, while Katniss did. Her reaction to her sister was chosen as tribute was heartbreaking. Judging from her excellent work in X-Men: First Class, she will go very far.

In respect to the novel of the same name, it did very well! The slight few things that differed, improved the film. Seeing the book on the silver screen worked wonders, no matter if we knew the story already or not.

The length of the movie, nearly 2.5 hours, was actually quite necessary. The preparation for the games required lots of attention, as did the games themselves, obviously. The time spent in each area was well-determined.

I am pretty glad they didn't make this movie 3D. While it may have made it neat at times, there just wasn't enough reason to justify it.

My rating: 9 stars

Great Britain Tour

In thirteen (13!!!!) unbearable days, I will be taking off on a school trip to visit England, Scotland, and France! I won't be completely absent from the blog, though. Each day, I will (at least attempt to) blog about the day. I may or may not upload pictures, depending on the amount of free time I have. If I don't, worry not. I will put them up after the trip. Starting on April 9th, I will be using this blog as a trip journal, so come and enjoy it with me!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lifting the Wheel of Karma

Lifting the Wheel of Karma, Paul H. Magid, Point Dume Press, Fiction, March 25, 2012, 218 pages.

Synopsis: Joseph Connell is a gifted high-school athlete, loved deeply by his family, yet tormented by nightmarish visions he can neither explain nor escape.  
A horrific accident forever alters the course of young Joseph's life. Determined to find the magical elixir of knowledge he believes is possessed by an old wise man living deep within the remote Himalayas of India, Joseph embarks on a quest to find him.
The mystical old man he seeks will not so easily reveal what he truly knows. As Joseph must learn, the secret is not of the world outside, but rather of the world within -that resides in the heart of each and every one of us.

My thoughts: When I first agreed to read Lifting the Wheel of Karma, I must have thought it was from a Christian perspective. Now knowing that it was not, I honestly don't agree with what it's saying. But, I won't rant about that any longer. The writing is very unique, I think. On one hand, there were quite a few grammatical errors, misspellings, and so forth. I had an advanced review copy, so that is understandable. They won't be on the official copies. On the other hand, the writing drew me in instantly, and this perplexes me. Usually I don't like anything if the editing is bad.

In conclusion, I don't agree with anything that he said concerning worldviews. However, the writing was very good.

*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: 3 stars

Upcoming reviews:

  • The Paradise War by Stephen R. Lawhead
  • The Silver Hand by Stephen R. Lawhead
  • I Am Ocilla by Diane Graham

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ascent From Darkness

Ascent From Darkness, Michael Leehan, Thomas Nelson, Nonfiction/Memoir, October 4, 2011, 272 pages.

Synopsis: The redemptive story of one man's agonizing journey from the depths of Satanism to a radical new life in Christ.

A life of difficulty and disappointment set 33-three year old Michael Leehan up for the worst decision of his life-to make a deal with the Devil to follow and serve him. Practicing the dark arts that include ritualistic cuttings and blood sacrifices, while fine tuning his manipulation and control skills, Michael launched into a twenty year downward spiral that included job loss and detachment from loved ones, and even jail time.

But God had another plan that included a group of Christian men to love him and pray for him-even when it became evident his assignment from Satan was to kill their pastor, Craig Groeschel. 

The life Michael Leehan lives today is an incredible testimony of the transforming power of God's mercy and grace, but is also a wakeup call to the church to be fully aware of the spiritual war that is going on all around them, and to the ultimate battle for their souls.

"I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Acts 26:18

My thoughts: The material that lies in this book will be shocking to some. I didn't know what went on "behind the curtain," as it were, and it's pretty frightening. Still, the point that's being made is that God can take anyone, no matter what they've done, and change them. Paul, for example, had persecuted Christians enormously, but God still extended grace.

Leehan, by his own admission, is not a professional writer. He simply relayed the facts about his life, and did so in a good, straightforward manner. Knowing that he must have hated to revisit his past made me think about my own. Ascent From Darkness is very convicting.

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

My rating: 4 stars

Check out more books about spiritual warfare.

Upcoming reviews

  • The Paradise War by Stephen Lawhead
  • The Silver Hand by Stephen Lawhead
  • Lifting the Wheel of Karma by Paul Magid

The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm, James Horner, Motion Picture Soundtrack, Sony Music, June 30, 2000, 10 tracks.

My thoughts: James Horner is, admittedly, a master at composing music. Having composed the Titanic soundtrack three years earlier, it is no surprise he would be part of this oceanic disaster movie. Similar watery themes are found again in this work. While there is obvious danger among the waves, almost every track conveys and instills a wide-eyed fascination with the sea. Horner makes you long for something, and find yourself surprised that you do.

My rating: 5 stars

Listen to samples from the soundtrack!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - Music

I've not really done any music reviews, but I've been a grand fan of soundtracks, so now's as good a time to start as any.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders, Lakeshore Records, August 23, 2011, 21 tracks.

My thoughts: This is a spectacular album, especially coming from Beltrami. He has been composing soundtracks to suspenseful and creepy movies for a long time (The Woman in Black, My Soul To Take, and The Thing, to name more recent ones). This one works really well in giving the whole atmosphere an old yet electrically tense feel. (Gramophone Lullaby) Anything could happen at any moment, and things certainly do happen (in Bed Bugs and The Library, for instance). If you want just plain eerie, go for Goblin Trouble. Gramophone Lullaby and Main Titles are the two tracks that truly enchanted me and told the story. The others were subtle in supporting the film, and didn't often force the scary moment. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark has opened my eyes to Marco Beltrami, and I am looking forward to browsing his various contributions to the world of music.

My rating: 4 stars

Buy Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The New Design!

If you're reading this, you've already noticed, but I'll say it anyway.

The blog is restyled! Hurrah!

Let me know what you think!

(To celebrate, a giveaway is coming up!)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Could you use my help?

I've been working on something lately: photoshop and logo design. To increase my experience, I'd like to open up free commissions on a first-come, first-serve basis. This probably won't last long, since I will likely get swamped right away. Email me at manuscriptna(at)gmail(dot)com if you want me to create a logo or do some photoshop work. (but I do reserve the right to deny the request, if it's something I simply can't do because of inexperience) I will give first priority to people whom I personally know, since this is free. Also, understand that I'll be busy with school, college, and other things as well. I think this'll be fun!

If you want to see a portfolio of some things I've already done, head over to

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Illusion, Frank Peretti, Howard Books, Suspense/Mystery, March 6, 2012, 512 pages.

Synopsis: Dane and Mandy, a popular magic act for forty years, are tragically separated by a car wreck that claims Mandy’s life—or so everyone thinks. Even as Dane mourns and tries to rebuild his life without her, Mandy, supposedly dead, awakes in the present as the nineteen-year-old she was in 1970. Distraught and disoriented in what to her is the future, she is confined to a mental ward until she discovers a magical ability to pass invisibly through time and space to escape. Alone in a strange world, she uses her mysterious powers to eke out a living, performing magic on the streets and in a quaint coffee shop.

Hoping to discover an exciting new talent, Dane ventures into the coffee shop and is transfixed by the magic he sees, illusions that even he, a seasoned professional, cannot explain. But more than anything, he is emotionally devastated by this teenager who has never met him, doesn’t know him, is certainly not in love with him, but is in every respect identical to the young beauty he first met and married some forty years earlier.
They begin a furtive relationship as mentor and protégée, but even as Dane tries to sort out who she really is and she tries to understand why she is drawn to him, they are watched by secretive interests who not only possess the answers to Mandy’s powers and misplacement in time but also the roguish ability to decide what will become of her.

My thoughts: I'm quite amazed. Here, an author I grew up reading has released a new book! I started Illusion with high expectations, and I was not disappointed, even from the first sentence, "Mandy was gone." Frank Peretti has not diminished in writing, style, or imagination; Illusion proves it. My only qualm was that, while the magical descriptions at the beginning were wonderful, the story became somewhat boring from the middle to the reveal. It needed a bit more magic then...

I've always been a fan of books that make you think. Illusion is certainly among the best I've read in that category. The big reveal comes two-thirds of the way in, but it's better that way. Wrapping things up took a while, but it was still intense. I appreciate Peretti's approach concerning the ending, that is, not giving the reader an emotional high to boost their view of the book. He ended it very well, in peace and quiet, leaving the reader longing for more.

*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: 5 stars

Buy Illusion!
Check out more Christian Suspense!

Upcoming reviews
  • The Paradise War by Stephen R. Lawhead
  • The Silver Hand by Stephen R. Lawhead
  • Ascent From Darkness by Michael Leehan

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Land of Darkness

The Land of Darkness, The Gates of Heaven, C.S. Lakin, Living Ink Books, Fantasy/Allegory, October 27, 2011, 272 pages.

Synopsis: It is not the land that is dangerous, Callen. The danger lies in your heart. Others have lost their lives searching for the bridge. Are you certain you are prepared to pay that price?” 

Jadiel is twelve and things couldn’t get much worse—or could they?  Not long after her mother is killed in a tragic accident, her father, Ka’rel, marries a vile and abusive woman named Huldah, but Jadiel sees how he simmers under Huldah’s intoxicating enchantment. Jadiel’s wicked stepmother means to get rid of Jadiel, and sends her off with a threat and an impossible task: bring back the leaves from the Eternal Tree by the next full moon or her father will die. Heartsick and hopeless, Jadiel sets out alone and afraid.

Callen, a woodworking apprentice for Jadiel’s uncle in Wolcreek Vale, discovers some weathered drawings of an exquisitely detailed bridge made entirely of wood and embellished with mysterious symbols that appear to be ancient script. Obsessed with finding this bridge, he sets off seeking clues to its possible existence, unknowingly beginning a perilous and mystifying undertaking. On his journey, he rescues Jadiel from brigands and learns their quests are linked—as the elusive bridge Callen seeks is crafted from the rare tree Jadiel must find. The trail of clues leads them to the forbidden Land of Darkness, where they must face the greatest dangers of all—what lies in their hearts.

My thoughts: So far, Mrs. Lakin has made each of her stories different. After The Map Across Time, I was afraid the rest of the series would either run with that idea, or be meager in comparison. While The Land of Darkness isn't the best of the series, it passed my expectations. The allegory didn't come in thickly until the end, and it was hard to take in because I felt rushed to see how it ended. Be ready for a few "Huh?" moments, and give yourself time to re-read those parts.

Lakin's characters were once again deep. They weren't quite as personal to me, though, as those from her previous books. That aside, lessons could be learned through their mistakes and triumphs.

*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: 3.5 stars

Buy The Land of Darkness!
Check out more Christian Allegory!

Upcoming reviews:
  • Illusion by Frank Peretti
  • The Paradise War by Stephen R. Lawhead
  • The Silver Hand by Stephen R. Lawhead