Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Swipe

Swipe, Evan Angler, Thomas Nelson, Dystopian, April 6, 2012, 288 pages.


Synopsis:  


Everyone gets the Mark. It gives all the benefits of citizenship. Yet if getting the Mark is such a good thing, then why does it feel so wrong? 
Set in a future North America that is struggling to recover after famine and global war, Swipe follows the lives of three kids caught in the middle of a conflict they didn’t even know existed. United under a charismatic leader, every citizen of the American Union is required to get the Mark on their 13th birthday in order to gain the benefits of citizenship.  
The Mark is a tattoo that must be swiped by special scanners for everything from employment to transportation to shopping. It’s almost Logan Langly’s 13th birthday and he knows he should be excited about getting the Mark, but he hasn’t been able to shake the feeling he’s being watched. Not since his sister went to get her Mark five years ago . . . and never came back. 
When Logan and his friends discover the truth behind the Mark, will they ever be able to go back to being normal teenagers? Find out in the first book of this exciting series that is Left Behind meets Matched for middle-grade readers.


My thoughts: I've had quite a range of thoughts while reading this book. At first, the slow pace told me the book would be boring, but then it took off. Then....it lost me in slow movement again, and later recaptured me. While the storyline was fickle this way, the characters never made it far. Because of this, it was quite tempting to shut the book whenever the pages halted for the red light known as attempted pre-teen conversation. Swipe would have been better if it were filled with more constant action, while still making the point addressed next.

What changed my mind about not recommending this book (because I do, for some) is the originality and surprise of the plot. While I expected Angler to use a Biblical standpoint of the Mark and Pledging, he never did. Instead, he showed logical, secular reasons that the G.U. (Global Union) was immoral in using it to "weed out" those who would not "unify" the world. I am impressed by the skill he weaves this reasoning into the reader, no matter their views.

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



My rating: 3 stars


Buy Swipe!
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Friday, June 22, 2012

Brave

Brave, Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures, Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolley, Emma Thompson, Animation, PG, 100 minutes.




Synopsis: Set in Scotland in a rugged and mythical time, "Brave" features Merida, an aspiring archer and impetuous daughter of royalty. Merida makes a reckless choice that unleashes unintended peril and forces her to spring into action to set things right.





My thoughts: With its usual charm, Pixar delivers another fine movie, save for a letdown, which I'll explain later. Their animation captures the characters and their habits perfectly, and it couldn't be done any other way. They also continue their creativity, both in script and animation (which were yet again incredible), and had the audience laughing frequently!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Informative Design

Here is a great example of an Infographic (Informative Design).


The concept is very simple, and keeps the viewer's focus on the facts. The simplicity is also reflected in the color scheme: black, white, blue, and green. These colors seem to turn the viewer's thoughts more easily to night and sleep, and are good choices.

Most importantly, the information is the focus, and is very relevant and useful.


You Need More Sleep


Graphic created by: MedicalBillingandCodingCertification.net


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

See People Like Us before it hits theaters!

You may have heard recently that I've had a few chances to see movies before their theater release date. Now, you can do this too, if you live in the Seattle area! On June 26th (next Tuesday), you can go see People Like Us (starring Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, and Olivia Wild) free! Don't know what the movie's about? Just watch the trailer below.





If you've seen The Ultimate Gift, this looks to be similar to that. Here are your necessary instructions:

  1. Log in (or create an account) at http://seeitfirst.net
  2. Use the code "884944" to gain access to your ticket(s).
  3. Download and print your tickets, because you must present them at the screening. EACH TICKET ADMITS TWO PEOPLE.
  4. Show up at the theater that appears on your ticket, on Tuesday, June 26th, at 6 PM (movie starts at 7).


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Paradise War

The Paradise War, Stephen R. Lawhead, The Song of Albion trilogy, Thomas Nelson, Fantasy, August 24, 2010, 464 pages.


Synopsis: "When I opened my eyes, I was no longer in the world I knew."


Lewis Gillies is an American graduate student in Oxford who should be getting on with his life. Yet for some reason, he finds himself speeding north with his roommate Simon on a lark--half-heartedly searching for a long-extinct creature allegedly spotted in a misty glen in Scotland. Expecting little more than a weekend diversion, Lewis accidently crosses through a mystical gateway where two worlds meet: into the time-between-times, as the ancient Celts called it. And into the heart of a collision between good and evil that's been raging since long before Lewis was born.


First published almost twenty years ago, The Song of Albion Trilogy has become a modern classic that continues to attract passionate new readers. Enter into The Paradise War and experience the dazzling brilliance of a world like ours--yet infinitely bolder and brighter: a place of kings and warriors, bards and battles, feats of glory and honour. It is a place you will forever wish to be. It is Albion.




My thoughts: The Paradise War is a tough book to tackle, admittedly. Any book that comprises 464 pages is, but this one in particular was slow, despite being very interesting and intriguing. Though I haven't slogged through many of Lawhead's books, it seems that each of his series is quite unique from the rest. The first two novels in the Bright Empires series exhibited very good description (showing and not telling) but the characters were nowhere near as rich (and the writing style as a whole so captivating) as in this first volume of the Song of Albion.


While many fantasy books go the way this seems to be going (telling the story of the fall and redemption), this is a fresh relief in the genre. Everything is steeped in Celtic myth and lore, becoming vivid reality in the reader's mind. While still telling the story, it is not predictable, and the reader doesn't worry that Lawhead will take them somewhere they've been before. No, this is new territory, and he lets us blaze the trail with him.

The characters are wonderfully immature at first, showing us how much we are like them, and that we need to change. Then, Lawhead shows us the process of their maturing, either in good or in evil, as some characters choose. Some interesting persons show up near the beginning of the story, then disappear, when they could be great sub-characters during the war itself. However, they may appear in the next volumes, and that would be good to see.

In conclusion, while the writing is superb, the Celtic research is apparent, and the characters are quite helpful, the story slows down often, and that tires the reader out. It took me over two months from start to finish.

*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 The Paradise War!
Check out more Christian Fantasy!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Photography Challenge - The Golden Hour

Here is my entry for this week's contest at The Radical Measure, and the theme is: The Golden Hour.

This photo was taken while I was in Scotland, walking along Hadrian's Wall. I happened to have a sonic screwdriver on hand... ;)




Photo CHallenge


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Failstate

Failstate, John W. Otte, Marcher Lord Press, Speculative Fiction, April 1, 2012, 426 pages.




Synopsis: Robin Laughlin (aka. Failstate) is in a reality show to become an official, licensed superhero. But when one of his competitors is murdered, can Robin find justice? Or will his lunk of a big brother ruin everything?


My thoughts: I can understand if someone is a bit wary of reading this book, at first. The cover art, though talented and meaningful, is a bit cheesy in concept and, let's face it, cartoon-ish. But once it's cracked open, it is not nearly as bad. With a wonderful writing style similar to Travis Thrasher's, Mr. Otte captures the reader's attention and holds it in place.

The plot was mostly well-planned, and didn't appear too cliche at the end. In fact, it was a bit harder to predict than many sci-fi/mystery titles. However, near the middle, Otte begins to lose the reader's intrigue, by confusing them with so many details, and they don't know what to do with them all! Each person could be the true criminal, and the reader is left throwing his hands in the air, because they are all suspect. He must simply read on, not caring as much as before.

To end on a positive note, Otte did a great job incorporating Scripture into key parts of the book. When Rob would attend a youth group lesson, or talk with fellow Christians, there was always something he needed, which is likewise important to us.

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



My rating: 4 stars


Buy Failstate!


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

Photography Challenge

Hazel Ann at The Radical Measure is having a photography challenge! The theme is Spring, and here is my entry. :D




Photo Challenge


Monday, June 4, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman, Rupert Sanders, Universal Pictures, Action/Adventure/Drama/Fantasy, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Ian McShane, PG-13, 127 minutes.


Synopsis: Snow White is the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen. Unable to tolerate the insult to her vanity, the evil queen decides that Snow White must die. The queen sends a huntsman to kill Snow White. However the huntsman finds himself unable to murder the innocent young woman, and instead ends up training her to become a warrior capable of threatening the queen's reign.


*synopsis from IMDB.com*


*fan poster from http://bit.ly/KWQjdx*




My thoughts: 


Considering that this is Rupert Sander's first time directing a movie, I have to applaud his effort. How he landed some big names (Chris Hemsworth, Ian McShane, Kristen Stewart *ahem*) on his first film, I don't know. Something else that brought large attention to this curious collaboration was the good marketing. I didn't expect such a new director to have such a large impact the first time 'round. That was done well.


Despite the luring marketing, there were several problems with it once I actually saw the movie. There are various scenes in the trailers that never appeared in the movie (unless they will come in future editions or alternate endings). Also, it was falsely commended for having amazing, cinematic battle scenes. However, the reality is that the battles (save one or two) didn't live up to the cute title acronym (SWATH). They were very mediocre, compared to others from medieval movies.


While most battle scenes were not choreographed uniquely enough, the filming angles and cinematography were tasteful. Some scenes went so far as to make me beg for 3D, but there weren't enough to warrant the "upgrade." The CGI was amazing with the animals, fairies, troll, and shard soldiers. Now, the costume designers made a name for themselves. From the Huntsman to Gus, each costume was well-thought and gave each character good context.


Speaking of character, there were several golden eggs. Hemsworth, for example, proves his worth once again as the Huntsman, layering grief from his wife's death with his tired, unmotivated way of battle, until Snow White rekindles his hope in something beyond the black reign of Ravenna. Kristen Stewart's acting performance, however, closely resembles the previous sentence: long and eventually boring. She seems to tell rather than show, in many circumstances. While she certainly is pale, I believe Sanders would be better off having chosen a different heroine. (Hailee Steinfeld, who's proven wrong those concerned with her age, or, dare I say it, Saiorse Ronan, maybe? She'd look good in black hair)


While this is definitely not the style of Tim Burton, I still wouldn't recommend taking children to see this. There are several disturbing scenes near the beginning, regarding the Queen stealing beauty. There is likewise a lot of battle violence throughout the movie, and that is not good for young eyes. The Queen disrobes twice, showing only her upper back, so be warned.


Because of the 2D, and Kristen Stewart's performance, I'd say you won't miss much if you wait until it comes to dvd. It's worth it in theaters, but much, much more so at Redbox.




My rating: 7 stars