Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Review: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 4.5/5

From Amazon: "Intense is the word for Ender's Game. Aliens have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human species. To make sure humans win the next encounter, the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses -- and then training them in the arts of war... The early training, not surprisingly, takes the form of 'games'... Ender Wiggin is a genius among geniuses; he wins all the games... He is smart enough to know that time is running out. But is he smart enough to save the planet?"

As much as I don't tend to like political dramas (sci-fi or not), this book was super accessible and I could hardly put it down.  It was exciting, realistic, and heart-wrenching at times, watching everything Ender went through (socially, mentally, and physically) as well as his sister Valentine.  Every character was deeply explored to the point that I felt like I knew every one of them.  I got the feeling that the author didn't know how to write kids, but he got around this perfectly by writing children who are abnormally advanced and more adult-like than child-like.  I'm really, really excited for the movie now (trailer here: 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Movie Review: Beautiful Creatures

My rating: 4/5

From "Lena has just moved to the small, Southern town of Gatlin, where the only person who seems to understand her -- or dream of bigger places or ideas -- is a cute guy named Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), who recognizes her instantly from the cryptic dreams he's been having every night. Lena is an orphan, and she's come to stay with her mysterious uncle, Macon Ravenwood (Irons), the patriarch of her powerful family. Powerful, because The Ravenwood clan are Casters, born with powers that ordinary mortals don't have, like the ability to move objects, control the elements, and even step out of normal space and time to communicate only with each other. But just as Lena feels ready to open up to Ethan, she discovers that their love is in imminent danger, because when female Casters turn 16, their destiny as either good or evil is revealed. Unwilling to let her nature be dictated by forces outside her control, Lena and Ethan set out together to uncover the strange, secret lore of their families' intertwined histories dating back to the Civil War, and figure out how to grant Lena the power to choose her own destiny."

We weren't sure what to expect from this movie.  On the one hand, it looked like a Twilight knockoff with witches; but on the other, it had Jeremy Irons.  As it turned out, the movie was on the Jeremy Irons side.  I hate romance but loved the romance between the main characters.  They were both smart, weird, and just smarmy enough to make it totally enjoyable to watch.  The only reason I couldn't give it a full 5 was that it dragged towards the end quite a bit, and we didn't get as much of the smart-aleck quirkiness that we did in the first half of the movie.  Still, it was a great movie, and I'd really like to read the Caster Chronicles series now.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Review: The Dark by Lemony Snicket

My rating: 3/5

From Amazon: "Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark is not afraid of Laszlo.

"Laszlo lives in a house. The dark lives in the basement.

"One night, the dark comes upstairs to Laszlo's room, and Laszlo goes down to the basement.

"This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark."

This book might be good for little ones who are afraid of the dark, and that does seem to be the intended audience.  But as far as a Lemony Snicket book goes, this one lands pretty close to the bottom.  I expected more humor and weirdness (a la The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story), but it's pretty straight forward and quick.  It's not a bad book; I just expected more Lemony Snicketiness.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

My rating: 3/5

I can't say this movie wasn't entertaining, and I enjoyed the witches' characters a lot. James Franco's Oz, though, was always kind of smarmy and really never changed, which made viewers want to dislike the main character throughout the entire movie.  It was also too long (2 hours 11 minutes) for no good reason. If editing had been tighter I would have rated it a little higher.  And if Oz had been likeable, it could have come close to a 5.  It's still worth seeing, but... it's not worth much. Rent it for cheap or borrow it from the library.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Book Review: Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

My rating: 2.75/5

From Amazon: "Kira, newly orphaned and lame from birth, is taken from the turmoil of the village to live in the grand Council Edifice because of her skill at embroidery. There she is given the task of restoring the historical pictures sewn on the robe worn at the annual Ruin Song Gathering, a solemn day-long performance of the story of their world's past. Down the hall lives Thomas the Carver, a young boy who works on the intricate symbols carved on the Singer's staff, and a tiny girl who is being trained as the next Singer. Over the three artists hovers the menace of authority, seemingly kind but suffocating to their creativity, and the dark secret at the heart of the Ruin Song.

"With the help of a cheerful waif called Matt and his little dog, Kira at last finds the way to the plant that will allow her to create the missing color--blue--and, symbolically, to find the courage to shape the future by following her art wherever it may lead."

As much as I loved The Giver, to the point that it's still my favorite book, I was really disappointed reading Gathering Blue. The plot wasn't terrible, but it wasn't very exciting; no character ever quite seemed real; dialogue was meh and I never could quite understand the accents of some the characters; and I just plain old got bored and struggled to finish it.  I really wanted to read the whole trilogy, along with The Messenger, but at this point, I think I'm done. I would say that it's only because I'm older now and not as entertained by middle school reading, but I re-read The Giver just a few years ago and still loved it.  I don't know exactly what I was expecting, other than a lot more excitement and an actual sequel to The Giver, but this wasn't it.  I probably wouldn't even recommend it to a middle schooler.