Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review of Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle is a fantasy novel that takes a different route from most fantasy stories. Dragons are absent, unfortunately, but the novel is so well written that they basically would've gotten in the way. I decided to read the book after seeing the movie, and I was not disappointed with the differences.
Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three sisters in the land of Ingary. Ingary is a place where elements of fairy tales do happen (like enchantments, rags to riches stories, etc.). Since she's the oldest, Sophie doesn't expect much of herself in life. On the holiday of May Day, she attracts the eye of the wizard Howl (although she doesn't know if it's him). Rumors exist that he eats the hearts of young girls and she runs in fear that they might be true. However, the Witch of the Waste (a very mean person) visits her hat shop and curses Sophie into becoming an old woman of 90 and leaves her unable to speak of her curse.
Knowing that she can't stay at home any longer, Sophie leaves to try and seek out her fate. She doesn't have much luck when she rescues both a scarecrow and a dog because neither of them give her advice (as things like that happen in Ingary). However, she does come across Howl's moving castle and is allowed in by the fire demon Calcifer, who promises to lift Sophie's curse if she promises to free him from the contract he made with Howl. She stays with Howl and his apprentice Micheal and cleans up the castle while Howl goes courting girls.
During a trip to Wales (where Howl originally came from), the Witch of the Waste puts a curse on Howl that will eventually result in him giving her his heart. Howl tries to hide from both her and the King of Ingary, who wants Howl to look for his lost brother Prince Justin. Sophie must find a way to help her new friends, or risk losing them to the evil of the Witch of the Waste.
I enjoyed watching the movie Howl's Moving Castle, and I was not disappointed when I read the book. Although there were great differences between the two, the spirit of the story remains the same. I enjoyed reading about this world of floating castles, wizards and witches, and talking fires, and I would like to read the two sequels someday.

Review of the Caspak Trilogy

The Caspak Trilogy is a series of books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of the Tarzan adventures. Edgar Rice Burroughs has written books with prehistoric animals before, like in his Pellucidar series, but this is a trilogy that goes for a lost world angle. The first book in the series is The Land That Time Forgot. During World War I, a German U-Boat sinks an American ship, and a man named Bowen J. Tyler finds himself with a woman named Lys La Rue and his dog, Nobs. They are rescued by a ship, but sunk again by the same U-boat. The surviving crew manage to capture the U-boat and work towards getting back home. However, they get lost and end up at a continent called Caprona (which was named after a fictitious explorer who discovered it). They enter into the continent to find themselves in a prehistoric world filled with dinosaurs and ancient mammals. The natives of this place call the land Caspak, and the people of the U-boat try to set up a colony. However, the German prisoners mutiny and leave the Americans and British on Caspak while they leave. To make matters worse, Lys is abducted and Bowen has to find her while braving the dangers of a primeval world.The sequel, The People That Time Forgot, takes place some time after Bowen's manuscript is found. A rescue party heads to Caprona/Caspak to try and rescue Bowen, Lys, and the survivors. Leading this expedition is Tom Billings, who is an old friend of Bowen's. Tom flies a plane over Caspak, but is brought down by a pterosaur. He rescues a native girl, Ajor, from a prehistoric cat. After being attacked by some ape-men, Tom decides to take Ajor back to her people, the Galu. While traveling, Tom learns that in Caspak, people obtain status through a type of evolutionary progression, with the Galu being the highest form of evolutionary people. Tom learns of a plan to try and conquer the Galu by people who had not reached that stage yet, but are not willing to wait, and must try to stop them before they destroy Ajor's people.The final book in the Caspak Trilogy, Out Of Time's Abyss, concludes the story of Caspak and the people who discovered its secrets. In this story, an expedition that left Fort Dinosaur is returning to its home. This company, led by Bradley, are constantly being visited by a winged human. Bradley is abducted by this human, which is known as a Wieroo, and taken to the Wieroo civilization. He also meets a native girl (who is also a Galu like Ajor) named Co-Tan, who is being held by the Wieroo because she is a cos-ata-lo, or someone who was born a Galu. According to legend, the people who can make cos-ata-lo are meant to become Caspak's rulers. The Weiroo are all male, so they abduct Galu women to try and get female Wieroo, but with no luck. Bradley rescues Co-Tan and escapes from the Wieroo. While falling in love with Co-Tan, Bradley must undergo a deadly journey with lots of twists and surprises to return her to her people.
I am a huge fan of dinosaurs and like to read stories that feature them. However, I think that these stories push things a little too far with the idea of an evolution that takes a lifetime instead of millions of years. The Wieroo are also just plain weird to me. I did enjoy the stories as a whole and wish that Edgar Rice Burroughs did take the time to create more stories in Caspak. I would recommend these stories to anyone who's a fan of prehistory.

Review of Cryptid Hunters

Cryptid Hunters is a book that features the topic of cryptozoology. This is the branch of science that deals with finding animals that people say exist, but haven't been found yet. Some examples of animals that weren't thought to be real but were discovered were the okapi and coelacanth. Some of the more famous topics of cryptozoology are the Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster. However, as this book shows, there are many more cryptids to think about.
The book follows the adventures of Marty and Grace O'Hara, who are at a boarding school when they learn that their parents disappeared while on a trip in the Amazon. They are sent to live with their uncle Travis Wolfe, who they know nothing about (they didn't even know he existed). While staying with him, they learn from a scientist about activities going on in the Congo that involve the Mokèlé-mbèmbé, a creature thought to be one of the last dinosaurs in existence. The twins accompany their uncle on a dangerous quest against an enemy who is determined to get his hands on the animal, no matter what the cost.
If you want adventure with unknown animals that no one has seen before, this is a book for you. It holds promise to become an epic series and will keep you entertained from page one all the way to the last page. I would recommend this book to anyone who's interested in cryptozoology.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" Trailer 1

For fans of the epic series known as Harry Potter, the end is almost upon us. Soon the story will be completed and one of the biggest blockbusters in film history will be finished. Here's the trailer for the second part of the final story if you haven't seen it already.

Epic, isn't it.
I admit, at first the only reason I read the books was because of the movie that was coming out. I didn't want to be clueless about the characters and story, and decided to take a look at the pages to get an understanding of what was going on. I enjoyed reading the book and felt like the movie stayed very true. It seemed like that a lot of what I imagined was taken from my mind and placed on the big screen.
As the years went by, I found myself waiting with millions of eager fans for the books to be finished and the movies to still be just as good. The first four films were great, but five and six didn't quite catch the feel of the story. The first part of the final film, however, succeeded in staying true to the book and for being great. Now with this next part, I'm sure we can expect nothing but epic-ness.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Day After Easter (some history and review)

Hi everyone, sorry about the delay with blogging for the last couple of weeks. I was really busy getting ready for final exams and visiting with family. Now that I'm back home, I can do my blog in peace. Although it's the day after Easter, I thought I should do what I did around Christmastime and do some history for the holiday.
For several people across the globe, Easter is a very important day for Christianity. Around this time, the Savior Jesus Christ suffered for the sins of the world in the Garden of Gethsemane and was betrayed by his disciple Judas Iscariot. He was found guilty of false charges and sentenced to be crucified. I'm not going to go into all the details because what happens is pretty sad, but happened on Good Friday (which, ironically, was the day that President Lincoln was assassinated). A few days later, on Easter, a group of women went to the tomb of Jesus only to learn from angels that He had been resurrected.
Although Easter is a special day for Christianity, another interpretation of the holiday came up over the years. The holiday spread away from religious meaning to have a more joyful look on the occasion. People use the time as an opportunity to paint eggs many colors, like oval rainbows, and put them in baskets with candy, from chocolate bunnies to jelly beans, to gifts. To entertain children, stories came up of a certain animal who delivers these baskets to people. That animal is Peter Cottontail, the Easter Bunny.
The Easter Bunny, like Santa Claus, first came up sometime during the time of the Holy Roman Empire. According to legend, the Easter Bunny would leave treats for children who had been good. I'm not exactly sure why a rabbit was chosen, but if I had to guess, I'd say it's because they can be quick when they want to and they are adorable to children. Although there haven't been many movies about Easter or that feature the Easter Bunny, this fellow is known by children across the world.
I did this review for this book a while back, but I thought that this would be a good time to blog about it. The book which I think is a good read for this time of the year is Sara's Journey by Patti Chiappa.Sara's Journey is a story worth reading because it is a tale that touches the heart. The story is about a man named Turner, who learns of a woman named Sara, who suffered damages in a fire and has lost faith in the Lord. Feeling abandoned, she secludes herself from the world and wallows in self pity. Through the efforts of Turner and the entire town, Sara begins to see the good in the world and learns that we are never alone. If you want a story that moves you and brings feelings of peace and happiness to you, this is one you must read.
So that's why I thought I should share this review for this time of year. It's a touching story about finding faith in yourself and the Lord. This story and this holiday are both to be remembered. I hope that all of you had a good holiday this year.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review of Pellucidar

I know you're all probably getting tired of these reviews. Writing a review can actually be good for an author because it lets people know what they've been reading, and can help you decide if you want to read the book or not. For today the book I'll be reviewing is Pellucidar.Pellucidar is the sequel to At the Earth's Core. In this story, David Innes, the protagonist from the first story, returns to Pellucidar after returning to the surface to gather supplies to help the people in their struggle against the Mahars, but upon returning finds that things have not been going well. The people are divided, the Mahars are seeking a secret that was stolen from them, and David cannot find Dian, the woman he loves. To make matters worse, a man named Hooja the Sly One has been causing distrust among the people of Pellucidar.
David manages to find his friend Perry, who accompanies him to the land where David's friend Ja lives. There they make plans to track down Hooja, who people suspect might be working with the Mahars. David makes plans to travel to the Land of Awful Shadow while Perry decides to stay behind. David must once again overcome prehistoric animals, bizarre interior races, and enemies to find Dian, stop Hooja, and overthrow the Mahars once and for all.
I am pleased with the way Edgar Rice Burroughs has created this world within our own. Burroughs manages to create a world that has been left behind in time, and still manages to create characters with strong morals. The way he uses prehistoric animals in this land is incredible too, for some are used in a way that people of ancient times used them. I can officially say that I am a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs Pellucidar series.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My Top 10 Movies to see Summer of 2011

Okay, I know that on Facebook I've said that I've read some books, but I've done so many reviews on this blog I figured that I'd give all of you readers a break. Summer's coming up fast and with it a lot of cool new films are on their way to the big screen. I'm sure that there are lots that you are all interested in seeing, but here are the films that are capturing my interest.
10. The Smurfs. This animated/live-action film is based off of an old cartoon show I used to watch as a kid. From what I can tell, the little blue people find a way to cross over into our world. However, the villain from the show (I never knew what his name was) also follows them. It looks to be a funny film and one that kids might enjoy.

9. Rio. The newest animated film from Fox, which is made by the studio that made the Ice Age films. This follows the adventures of a parrot named Blu, who is the last male of his species, and the last female in existence is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Blu is taken there in the hopes that he will mate with the female, but they are both abducted by poachers. To make matters worse (or funnier depending on your point of view), Blu has no idea how to fly. The trailers I've seen for this film make it appear to be one that will be enjoyable for everyone.

8. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. This film continues the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow, who's now on a quest to find one of America's greatest legends, the Fountain of Youth. Along the way, he encounters former love Angelica, the daughter of the most infamous pirate in history. Together, they must brave mermaids, zombies, and the most feared pirate in the Caribbean: Blackbeard. I've enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean films and have been looking forward to this one. However, if you like Ariel from The Little Mermaid, this might not be a film for you to see.

7. Mr. Popper's Penguins. Based off the book by Richard & Florence Atwater, the film follows Mr. Popper, a man who devotes his time to his work. However, his life changes when he gets an unexpected gift: penguins. I read the book when I was a kid, and was surprised to see that it would be coming to the big screen. I can only hope the film will stay true to the book.

6. Cars 2. The sequel to the popular animated film, the film sees the return of Lightning McQueen and Mater as they travel across the world in an international Grand Prix. Along the way, Mater gets caught up in the world of spies and he has to find a way to support his friend and save the world at the same time. I saw the first film, and this one looks like a tribute to the spy cars and vehicles you see in films. I'm sure that Mater will earn lots of laughs again.

5. Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil. The sequel to the animated film Hoodwinked!, the film continues the adventures of Red Puckett (based off of Red Riding Hood), Wolf, Granny Puckett, Kirk Kirkendall, and Twitchy as they work for a secret organization known as the Happily Ever After Agency, which is devoted to making sure the fairy tales all have happy endings. The group has to work together to find and rescue Hansel and Gretel, who have been kidnapped. They'll face pigs, four-armed green trolls, and more in this animated sequel. I thought the first film was funny, and will be going to see this new film.

4. Thor. The newest film from Marvel Studios, this film follows Thor, who is banished to Earth by Odin. While there, he falls in love with a woman and steps up to the challenge when Earth is threatened by evil. I haven't read the comics or the myths which may have inspired them, but my guess at who the villain is for this film would be Loki. I'll be going to see if I'm right, but the film also looks epic and one that will have a good story to it.

3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The third and final film of the Transformers universe, this follows the adventures of Sam Witwicky and the Autobots, who learn that there's a spaceship from Cybertron on our moon! From the first trailer, it appears that the real reason for the moon landing was to investigate this ship. The battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons will grow larger as they struggle to learn the secrets of the dark of the moon. I have seen some series of the Transformers, and each one was different. Although I've heard that the films have been given several negative reviews, I like to see the live-action films as just another series re-imagining of the Transformers. I'm interested in seeing how they make the new villain in this film, Shockwave. My only regret with this being the last Transformers movie is that we won't get to see the Dinobots on the big screen.

2. Kung Fu Panda 2. Yes, the lovable panda from the first film returns, and in an adventure bigger than before. When kung fu masters start disappearing across the land, Master Shifu fears that the powerful warlord Shen may have found a secret that could spell the end of kung fu. Po and the Furious Five must find out if this rumor is true, and find a way to stop it if they are true. The question is, how do you stop something that can destroy kung fu? This is one film I will definitely go see, but will this one really be better than its predecessor?

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. It figures this would be coming in at first place, seeing how this is the end of one of the greatest series of our time. Following the events of part 1, Harry, Ron, and Hermoine must continue the search to find and destroy Voldemort's horcruxes, which allow him to remain alive even when he's killed. However, Voldemort succeeded in obtaining one of the Deathly Hallows: The Elder Wand, which makes its wielder unable to be defeated in battle. The stakes have never been higher as the future of the wizarding and Muggle worlds hang in the balance of Harry and his friends. I have a lot of high hopes for this film, and have been pleased that for the majority of the first film they remained true to the book. I'm sure that they will make this an ending that you will want to see again and again.

Well, that's it. I hope that some of these films are on your list of films to see this summer. I hope all of you have great summers and have lots of fun.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How to Plan out a Story

Believe it or not, this is not a book review! It's been a while since I blogged about something other than a book or an event, and I hope this proves to be helpful. A few weeks ago a friend asked me some advice about writing a book, and I thought I should blog about some good steps to planning a book out.
1. Have an idea on what's going to happen. It's one thing to say that you're going to write a book, but another to actually do it. Wanting to write a book is also no good unless you want to know what you want to write about (do you want to write a science-fiction story or a fantasy novel?). Also you must have an idea on what you would like to have occur in the plot (like what's going on in the world that the characters are in and why is it up to them to meet the challenge).
2. Come up with characters for your story. One of the most important, and obvious, ingredients in a story. They're the people the reader will follow and will expect them to grow as the story progresses. You must know what they are like at the beginning of the story, and how they will change at the end. Also is there a lesson that the readers should learn from the character's journey?
3. Make a plot chart. This will allow you to place important events in a story in one place and gives a good map to look over and figure out where you are in your story. I know you won't be able to get every single event that you would like to have occur in your story on a plot chart, but it'll allow you to keep track of the main events. You can make notes underneath or on the other side of the paper of other events you would like to have happen in the story.
4. Do a rough draft. You're not going to get what you want on your first try, so you'll need to go back and rewrite. It's a good idea to read a rough draft out loud to someone, like a friend or family member, to see which areas still need work and which ones are okay. Be sure to make notes on what you want to keep and what you may need to work on some more. If an idea on how to make your rough draft better comes to you and you don't have access to a computer, then write you idea on a piece of paper and try it when you get to a computer.
5. Write the story. This is where your planning comes to. Now you write about the story you wanted with characters who will grow and change as the story progresses. You may need to edit and rewrite as you progress, but that's okay. When you rewrite, you can add events in that you may not have thought of before. Just remember that everything fits in or is needed in the story because if you add something that doesn't really help the plot at all, then you risk ruining the story.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Review of Beyonders: A World Without Heroes

You remember a couple of posts back I mentioned a new book by Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven series. Well, I've finally read that book, and here's the review I have for Beyonders: A World Without Heroes.
This is the first in a new series that follows the adventures of Jason, a boy from our world who finds himself in a place called Lyrian after he falls through the hippo tank. Lyrian is not a happy place because the evil emperor Maldor (who happens to be a wizard) has crushed all resistance and has defeated all the heroes. He didn't kill them, but he left them broken and humiliated. Jason instantly attracts the attention of Maldor when he learns a great secret: A word exists that if spoken in the presence of Maldor will end him.
There's just one problem: The word is broken up into several syllables, and they are scattered across the land. Jason decides to go and search for the word with Rachel, another Beyonder, which are people from our world who end up in Lyrian. Together they encounter lots of friends, many dangerous enemies, and creatures unlike anything you've seen before.
I've enjoyed reading the Fablehaven series, and when I read this book I enjoyed it just as much as Brandon's previous series. Brandon Mull is clearly a master of fantasy, and everything he writes turns out to be an enjoyable read. Whether or not you've read Fablehaven, this is one book you don't want to miss out on.