Monday, February 28, 2011

Review of The 13th Reality: The Blade of Shattered Hope

Well, it's time to do another review. This review is for James Dashner's 3rd book in his 13th Reality series, The Blade of Shattered Hope.
The 13th Reality series is about a boy named Atticus Higginbottom (or Tick for short) who gets a mysterious letter in the mail with a series of clues he has to figure out. By solving the riddles, he will be able to discover secrets he never dreamed of. In the meantime, he has to avoid the dangers thrown at him.

In this book, Tick is learning more about the mysterious forces of quantum physics, but life takes an unexpected turn when Mistress Jane returns, having survived the near-apocalyptic disaster in the last book. Now she has created a new weapon called the Blade of Shattered Hope, which is capable of wiping out millions of people. However, something goes wrong and Tick and his friends must find a way to stop the weapon from doing something it wasn't supposed to.

Full of twists, turns, and unexpected encounters, readers will enjoy The 13th Reality series. I would recommend that people pick up a copy of the series and join the adventures. I look forward to the last book in the series, which comes out later this year.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Favorite Films of Studio Ghibli

Hi everyone, I was hoping to be done with a book I'm reading right now, but unfortunately I'm not. I did decide to blog about a certain company that I've been viewing the films of. That company would be Studio Ghibli.

Studio Ghibli has produced a number of great anime films since the 1980's, with their first official film being Castle in the Sky. The founder of the studio, Hayao Miyazaki, created the company following the success of his film, NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind. The studio has become to Japan what Disney is to the United States, a producer of great animated tales. I haven't seen all of Studio Ghibli's films, but those that I have seen I have enjoyed. My top five favorite films rank in the following order:
5. At fifth place comes Kiki's Delivery Service. This film is about a young witch who leaves home to do a year of training on her own. Settling in a big city, Kiki makes friends with Tombo and Osono, who help her to be confident in her skills and abilities. This film was good because it helps you to believe in yourself.4. Fourth place goes to Castle in the Sky. This movie is about a young miner boy named Patzu with a dream to find Laputa, a lost castle that floats in the sky. His adventure starts out when a girl named Sheeta falls out of the sky. Together, they must brave air pirates, soldiers, and the government to find this castle before its secrets fall into the wrong hands. An epic tale that anyone can enjoy.
3. Third place is taken by Howl's Moving Castle. This movie is based off the book by Dianna Wynne Jones and follows the adventures of Sophie, a young hatter who meets and falls in love with the wizard Howl. However, the Witch of the Waste curses Sophie into becoming an old woman. Now Sophie must journey to Howl's castle, which is constantly on the move, and help rescue her love before he loses himself. This film was great because it had an amazing story, wonderful music, and a delightful cast of characters.2. Coming up in second place is Hayao Miyazaki's world famous Spirited Away. The film is about a young girl named Chihiro who is moving to a new town with her family. However, they take a detour on the way and wind up in a place that at first looks like an abandoned theme park. However, Chihiro finds out this is really a world for the spirits of Japanese culture and she is unable to get home. After losing her parents (because they were turned into pigs for pigging out on spirit food), Chihiro is rescued by a spirit called Haku who helps her get a job at a local bathhouse where she must learn to be confident in herself if she wants to rescue her parents and find her way home. This film is definitely worth seeing and definitely deserves the Oscar it won.
1. The best film I've seen from Studio Ghibli, which earns first place here, is My Neighbor Totoro. This film follows the adventures of Satsuki and Mei as they and their father move into a new house in the country. Soon, Mei finds a huge furry creature called Totoro, and is told by her father that he's the king of the forest. Totoro helps Mei and Satsuki see the beauty of the woods around them. However, when Mei goes missing, it's up to Totoro to help Satsuki find her. This is the first Studio Ghibli film I've seen, and is the best in my opinion. Totoro is someone you can't help but like because he is such an awesome character.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review of Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison

Okay everyone, it's time for a new blog post, and this post is another review. However, this isn't a review for just any old book. This review is for the final book in one of the best series ever, Fablehaven!
For those of you not familiar with the series, Fablehaven is about these two siblings, Kendra and Seth, who have to stay with their grandparents for the summer. However, while they're there, they learn that their grandparents are the caretakers of a preserve for magical creatures. The preserve has many creatures that we're familiar with, like fairies, satyrs, trolls, goblins, and witches. However, the author did come up with some original creatures like the drumants, blixes, and nipsies. Kendra and Seth adapt very well to this new world, but like with many changes we face, danger looms around the corner.
As the series progresses, Kendra and Seth learn about this evil organization called The Society of the Evening Star who doesn't like the way the world works. They think the magical creatures are wrongfully imprisoned at the magical preserves (which is true for really dark creatures like demons) and want to overthrow them. Kendra and Seth must travel across the world to find five artifacts which are the keys to the world's survival or destruction from the hands of an army of demons.
In this exciting conclusion, Kendra and Seth continue to travel around the world, searching for the artifacts to stop the Society. The two of them will travel to new places like Australia and Europe while on this quest and they will encounter exotic and dangerous new creatures. Allegiances are confirmed in this book and the stakes have never been higher. The siblings must trust in their friends and themselves as everything leads to the ultimate battle between light and darkness.
I give this book five stars out of five. The author shows great humor and writes his characters in an incredibly believable way. It's almost as if you're there experiencing the twists and turns the characters must face. If the ending in this story doesn't satisfy you, nothing will. I highly recommend that everyone should pick up the Fablehaven series. I look forward to reading more of the author's works in the future.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Life, the Universe, & Everything

Okay, now for a quick blog update. This Thursday the LTUE was here, and I got to learn some new things about the world of literature. One of these things was the difference between a utopia and a dystopia. A utopia is basically a society where everyone is at peace. Some examples include Plato's Atlantis and James Gurney's Dinotopia (which wasn't mentioned at the discussion). A dystopia is when things look good on the outside, but on the inside it's not so pretty. A dystopia usually hides something ugly, like in the story The Giver, and there's usually someone or something that doesn't want to bring about change for the better. Other examples of dystopias in books are The Pretties by Scott Westerfeld and The Maze Trilogy by James Dashner. Speaking of James, I actually got to meet him!
How cool is that? I gave him a copy of The Myths of Dymos: Power of Vedion. Today was the last day of LTUE, and I was able to go and get my copies of James Dashner's The 13th Reality series signed! He also mentioned how he liked a question I asked during the utopia/dystopia discussion. My question was "What's the difference between a dystopia and a dictatorship?" He said that it made him think more deeply about it, kind of made you rethink the whole thing. The answer was usually a dystopia involves a post-apocalyptic event. I also ran into a reader of this blog, J. Scott Savage! My only regret was I didn't have copies of his books on me for him to sign. I have them now, but it's too late to get them signed. I'll just have to keep a lookout for the next time he's in town. There was also this great discussion on why we write about places that don't exist. Basically we do that to provide an escape for people who are prisoners. I think that's basically another way of giving people a temporary vacation.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine History

Hey sorry about this being a couple of days late, but better late than never. I know that all of you know what Valentine's day is, but do you know how it came about? Well, I was told this legend about the holiday a long time ago when I was still in elementary school:

Long ago, there lived an emperor who wanted to increase the number of soldiers in his armies. However, married men were reluctant to leave their wives and families, so the emperor passed a law that made it illegal for men to marry. Valentine, however, did marriages in secret, so young couples were still able to continue. When the emperor found out what Valentine was doing, he threw him into prison and ordered him to be executed. On the day of his execution, he gave what legend says was the first card to the jailer's daughter, which said "From your Valentine".

I did read that there were a couple of Christian martyrs who were named Valentine. One was martyred in Rome, the other in what is now Terni. The two of them are honored on February 14 because it bears their name (and was probably named after them). They were probably executed for their faith in Christianity instead of love like most legends suggest. However, the name Valentine has come to represent a day for people who love each other. Sorry about no pictures. Hopefully the next blog will feature some.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How Primeval

Everybody's familiar with the concept of modern people coming into contact with creatures of the prehistoric past. Authors and filmmakers alike have been doing stories about that for years, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World to Land of the Lost. However, there is one show that I have seen that takes this idea in a new interesting way. That show is called Primeval.
Scared yet? Good. The creature shown in the picture above is a Gorgonops (or Gorgonopsid in the show), one of the first creatures shown in the show. You're probably wondering why it is in the middle of a parking lot. These three options might come to your head as you look at the picture.
1. It was cloned back into existence and went on a hunting spree.
2. It escaped from its lost world and terrorized a small town.
3. It mutated from a dog and turned on its master.
If any of the choices were what you were thinking, you were wrong! The reason there's a Gorgonops in a parking lot is because it came through something called an anomaly.
Pretty isn't it? Well, they can actually be quite dangerous. According to the show, these anomalies are doors through space and time, and while they're open, creatures of the past can wander into the present. Of course not all of them are friendly (so few of them are). What's scary is that not only can creatures of the past come through, but animals of the future can find their way into the present as well.
Yeah, I know. This ugly thing looks like something that crawled out of a nightmare. This thing is what the people in the show call a future predator, because it's something that evolved after the time of man (and from what I've seen in the show, it's undoubtedly the top predator of it's time). Even though it's entertaining, I fail to see how something like this could come to be. The makers of Primeval did take some creative liberties with some of the creatures.
There's one example. That thing's supposed to be a mosasaurus, a sea going reptile that swam in the oceans during the late Cretaceous period, close to when the dinosaurs went extinct. What's wrong with this picture (apart from it trying to eat someone) is that the makers of the show gave it a back like a crocodile's. No fossilized skin has been found of a mosasaurus, but it's safe to assume that it did not have a bony back. The sea creatures of today (sharks, seals, dolphins, etc.) all have smooth backs, so it would make sense that prehistoric sea creatures had smooth backs as well.
Here's one thing the show did that I liked. Primeval featured the television debut of the predatory dinosaur Giganotosaurus! Giganotosaurus, whose name means Giant Southern Lizard, was a hunter from what is now South America. During it's time, it hunted large sauropods like Saltasaurus and other Titanosaurs. It was slightly bigger than Tyrannosaurus Rex (by a foot in length, with T-Rex being 42 feet long), but was dwarfed by the dinosaur Spinosaurus (which probably got up to about 60 feet in length). I thought it was good that this dinosaur finally got a place in a fictional television show.
So, if you want to watch a show featuring prehistoric animals and for it to not be a documentary, then Primeval is for you. Caution: Primeval has some graphic content and may not be suitable for all ages. Whether you want to see it or not however is up to you.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Torosaurus/Triceratops Debate

There's a debate going on in the world of paleontology right now. Recently, researchers Jack Horner and John Scanella have suggested that one of two famous ceratopsians (or three-horned dinosaurs), Triceratops and Torosaurus, may not actually exist. Before I go any further with this, I'll explain a little bit more about these two dinosaurs.

Everyone knows what a Triceratops. Triceratops was one of the last dinosaurs ever to have walked the Earth, living sixty-five million years ago during the late Cretaceous period in what is now western North America. It was discovered in the year 1887 as a pair of horns. Paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh at first thought they belonged to an extinct bison, but later realized he was wrong when a complete skull was found in 1888 and gave it the name Triceratops (Greek for Three-Horned Face). Ever since Triceratops has become a popular dinosaur among the people of the world, appearing in films and TV shows like Jurassic Park, The Land Before Time, and Dinosaur King. Triceratops probably lived in herds and lived its days eating, jousting with other members of the herd, and staying off the menu.

This next ceratopsian was known as Torosaurus. It's name, which means Perforated Lizard because of the holes in the frill (but some people think it means Bull Lizard), was given to it in the year 1891 by Othniel Charles Marsh (even though the original pair of skulls were found by John Bell Hatcher). Like Triceratops, Torosaurus also lived during the late Cretaceous period sixty-five million years ago in what is now western North America. The behavior was also most likely similar to Triceratops, roaming around in herds, flirting with and competing for girls, and doing its best to not end up as another dinosaur's dinner. The frill makes the head of Torosaurus about one-third the size of its body (a prehistoric big head). This was probably so it could easily attract females with bright colors (like most birds do today) and intimidate a predator by making it think that it was bigger than it really was.

The scientists Jack Horner and John Scanella have theorized that Triceratops and Torosarus were not two different dinosaurs, but one species. Their reason: The skulls of Triceratops get longer as they get older, and no juvenile Torosaurus has been found. Jack Horner in his studies found out that Triceratops skulls had two thin spots in the frill that correspond to the holes that are found on the skulls of Torosaurus (probably to help distribute the weight of the skull). After studying the skulls of twenty-nine Triceratops and nine Torosaurus, they concluded that Torosaurus was actually a fully mature Triceratops. Since the name first given to an animal is the one that prevails, it looks like that Torosaurus may vanish from the face of the Earth just like the dinosaurs vanished sixty-five million years ago.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review of Adventurers Wanted: The Horn of Moran

Okay, I've finished reading another great book, and it's time for me to give a review on it.

The Adventurers Wanted series is a new fantasy series that follows the adventures of Alex Taylor. In the next book in the series, The Horn of Moran, Alex reunites with some of his old friends from his last adventure, as well as meets some new faces. This new adventure presents a bigger challenge than his last one did: Two men are claiming the throne to the land of Alusia, and the only thing that can determine the true king, the Horn of Moran, has been lost. Unless it is found and returned, a civil war may break out. Alex and his friends will journey to Norseland, where the Horn was last said to have been seen. Not only are they in a race against time and in a battle against the elements, but this band of adventurers will come face to face with goblins, griffins, and a deadly sphinx.
I admit, I wasn't too impressed with the first book in the series, Slathbog's Gold. Even though the story had interesting ideas and fun characters, the story's plot reminded me too much of The Hobbit. However, I was extremely pleased with how The Horn of Moran turned out. The author M.L. Forman has shown great imagination in creating plot twists and building friendship between the characters. The wise choices of Alex and his friends are also to be praised, as they could have easily gone a different road, but chose not to. If there's anyone who has a deep love for fantasy stories, I say you should add this book to your collection. I look forward to reading more books from the Adventurers Wanted series.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Review of Z-Rex

Here's the update I promised on Facebook. Sorry about neglecting to blog, but I've been busy with tests and all that. I decided to do a review today, and the book that gets reviewed is Z-Rex.

Z-Rex is a science-fiction adventure book written by Steve Cole. The book follows the adventures of Adam Adler, whose father is working on creating the ultimate video game system. Think of a system that makes you feel like the star of the ultimate action adventure film and you've got it. However, constant bugs and glitches makes the progress slow. His father then leaves on a business trip to visit some people who are interested in financing the project and promises to be back in a few days.
A week and a half goes by and his father is still not back from his trip. Adam is getting worried about what has happened to his father. However, soon he's got bigger problems on his hands. His apartment gets attacked by a huge Tyrannosaurus creature and he is forced to flee for his life. He is soon captured and learns that the Tyrannosaurus was created by scientists (by accident of course). The Tyrannosaurus then takes Adam and sneaks into Scotland (where Adam and his father are from). Once there, Adam seeks to find help, but ends up in more trouble (and bigger problems) than he counted on.
I would recommend this book for people who love dinosaurs and video games, or just want something with action. This book is filled with unexpected plot twists and turns, and will leave you unable to put the book down. I look forward to the sequel to the story, which will be called Z-Raptor.