Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier is better than the first!

Hi everyone. I finally got to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night. I know by now a lot of you will have seen it, but these are still my thoughts.
The story revolves around Steve Rogers/Captain America working on adjusting to life in the twenty-first century. Difficulty arises when he starts to sense things are not picture perfect in S.H.I.E.L.D. Soon a mysterious assassin known as The Winter Soldier appears and a deadly enemy is threatening the world and its people. Steve will have to work with old and new friends to save not only America, but the world.
I loved how in the movie they made parallels with modern day politics and problems. It was good to see characters of fiction struggling with problems we're facing in the real world. I also liked how they incorporated hidden areas being associated with big secrets. The action also looked real and the characters, good and bad, were very believable.
Content advisory: Lots of explosions and shooting. A character's arm is broken. Several characters swear, though it's not very heavy most of the film. Some characters drink alcohol.
Lessons: Sometimes we must be willing to stand up for what is right even when others don't agree. Don't try to solve all problems by yourself. Find friends who will be true no matter what. Never give up on those you care about. If people in power are not protecting the rights of the people, it is the people's responsibility to take a stand.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kingdom Hearts fan fiction chapter 4

Hi everyone. I have something a little more fun for you. I had some free time this afternoon to work on this chapter. I hope you enjoy it. I learned a long time ago that working with a large cast is very difficult, so I hope my strategy at the end of the chapter will help make things more manageable.
Chapter 4: Enlightened by Truth
            Everyone stood there as the two kids started stirring. Jason could tell that the people who were not from Netokan knew who they were, and were quite shocked to see them. He was feeling pretty mind blown. There was no way that these two could’ve come from Sora and Kairi, yet the more he thought about it the more it seemed like it was the only explanation.
            As the two figures stirred everyone seemed to hold their breath. The boy and girl then opened their eyes at the same time. Clair was surprised at how blue their eyes were, just like Sora and Kairi’s.
            “Naminé?” The boy asked the girl.
            “Roxas?” Naminé asked the boy in return.
            “Welcome back to the land of the living,” Axel joked with them as he and Mika both extended a hand to help them up. AJ couldn’t tell out of the entire group who was the most surprised.
            “But how…” Roxas questioned.
            “Would someone please explain what’s going on?” Jason asked.
            “Gosh, I wasn’t expectin’ this,” King Mickey admitted. “But I know just who can answer some of our questions.”
            “Master Yen Sid?” Sora asked the mouse.
            “Yep.” Mickey said.
            “Who’s Master Yen Sid?” Stella asked.
            “You’ll see. Now everyone, hold on to each other.” Mickey instructed. Sora, Riku, and Kairi each held on to Mickey while everyone else found an arm to hold on to. None of them knew what to expect, but Clair, Netti, and Stella had their suspicions that magic was going to be involved. With his free hand King Mickey held up a blue gemstone shaped like a star.
            “Alakazam!” No sooner had the word left Mickey’s mouth than everyone found themselves being pulled along at what felt like the speed of light. All around them the stars whipped by so fast they appeared to be nothing more than blurs. Whether they were traveling through space or somewhere else wasn’t clear. All that many of them could feel was pure light racing by as they were pulled to their destination.

            Back in the (name of the room with the thrones) Xemnas looked troubled. He was sure that the children would’ve carried out the mission by now. He knew when it came to different worlds time was sometimes an issue, yet it shouldn’t have taken them this long. He suspected Sora might’ve overcome them, yet that didn’t feel right.
            “Report.” Xemnas said. A dark corridor opened in the middle of the room and from the oval-shaped door came Xigbar.
            “Bad news: the children were stopped by Axel and some girl he was with,” Xigbar explained.
            “Kamix has finally betrayed us,” Xemnas mused.
            “What’s worse is now they’re all with the rat king, and he’s probably taking them to see his master,” Xigbar finished.
            Xemnas’s eyes flashed angrily. “Master Yen Sid,” He growled.

            Everyone crashed into the ground with the force of a meteorite. Everyone felt like they had been accelerated into a brick wall. Jason complained about feeling like every bone in his body was broken. Ashley was sure she was going to have a headache for a month.
            “That was faster than the express monorail.” Phil said as he staggered to his feet.
            “You’ll move faster to the hospital unless you zip it,” Jason warned.
            “What is this place?” Clair asked.
            “Welcome to the Mysterious Tower,” Mika clarified. The Mysterious Tower certainly lived up to its name. The building itself was crooked and bent with windows shaped like stars and moons. The cone-shaped top made people like Clair, Netti, and Ashley think of a sorcerer’s pointed hat.
            “Why is it called The Mysterious Tower?” Stella asked.
            “If we knew that it wouldn’t be mysterious. Got it memorized?” Axel asked.
            Stella rolled her eyes in response.
            “Your Majesty!” Two voices called out. Everyone looked up to see an anthropomorphic duck and dog walking towards them. I’ll save you the description because you’ll soon know who they are.
            “Donald! Goofy!” Sora cried out as he ran up and embraced his friends.
            “You know them?” Phil asked.
            “Yeah. These are my friends, Donald Duck and Goofy.” Sora introduced them.
            “Donald’s my court wizard, and Goofy’s my captain of the guard.” Mickey explained.
            “I’m confused.” Jason said.
            “What else is new?” Aurora asked.
            “Come on. We’ve got answers to find,” Riku reminded them. With that everyone started towards the tower. Clair looked up the spiral staircase to see it appeared to only go up one floor. As they ascended the stairs she noticed a strange feeling. She felt open like there were no limits and no restrictions.
            “Can you feel it?” Netti whispered to Clair.
            “If you mean like nothing’s impossible, then yes,” Clair whispered back. “Do you think it’s magic?”
            “That’s what I would assume.” Ashley whispered behind them.
            “Private conversation,” Netti informed her.
            “Then you should talk softer,” Stella suggested.
            They would’ve started arguing, but they didn’t because at that moment Mickey opened a door at the top of the stairs. One by one they all entered to meet Master Yen Sid. Clair had seen pictures of wizards and sorcerers in her books and what she saw matched her imagination. Master Yen Sid was dressed in a blue robe with a forked beard and a pointed blue hat decorated with gold stars and moons. For those of you unfamiliar with the games Yen Sid was the sorcerer who was training Mickey in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia.
            “Master Yen Sid.” Mickey, Donald, and Goofy said as they bowed before the sorcerer.
            “Welcome all of you. I’ve been expecting you.” Master Yen Sid said.
            “Expecting us?” AJ asked.
            “Yes. I’ve seen that you would all come eventually. There is so much that you need to be made aware of if you are to find your way back home.”
            “Are you really a wizard?” Ashley asked.
            “Sorcerer, though that was a good guess,” Master Yen Sid corrected her.
            “The greatest ever,” Donald added.
            “That’s right. Yull never find a better sorcerer anywhere,” Goofy informed them.
            Master Yen Sid raised his arms to stop them. “We have more important matters to discuss,” He explained. “You all are aware that your school was attacked by Maleficent.”
            “Duh.” Several of the students from Netokan said in unison.
            “And not too long after we were rescued by Organization XIII,” Stella added in. That statement came as a shock to Master Yen Sid because his eyes widened.
            “Organization XIII? Are you sure?” Master Yen Sid asked.
            “That’s what that Xemnas dude said.” Jason said.
            “Xemnas?” Master Yen Sid closed his eyes. After a minute he opened them and said, “Yes, I see now. The darkness has been blocking so much from my vision lately. I knew something was amiss, but I did not expect the Organization was behind it.”
            “Why?” Aurora asked.
            “Because we thought they had all been killed.” Riku explained.
            “What?” Everyone from Netokan asked.
            “Are you saying we were working for ghosts?” Phil asked.
            “Ghosts don’t have a lot of power, and from what you told us earlier they seemed pretty powerful.” Mika said.
            “I’m afraid Organization XIII is back, and they will be seeking revenge on you and your friends.” Master Yen Sid said.
            “Xemnas did mention that the keyblade could plunge the universe into eternal darkness,” Stella mentioned.
            “Which is what he will undoubtedly try to do again. Xemnas cares nothing for the worlds or those who—“ Master Yen Sid began to say.
            “Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold it. Worlds?” Jason asked.
            “You mean like parallel worlds? As in other existences besides our own?” Netti asked.
            “Xemnas failed to mention that,” Aurora stated.
            “There’s a lot the Organization didn’t tell you. Got it memorized?” Axel said.
            “There is much you need to know.” With a wave of his hand Master Yen Sid caused a big brown book to float off one of the shelves in his round room and placed it on his desk. “Read from this book. It will give you the information you will need.”
            “Uh, slight problem? If we from another world what makes you think we’ll be able to read it?” Clair asked.
            “It’s a magic book. Whoever reads from it reads it in their native language.” Master Yen Sid explained.
            That seemed to satisfy the group as they all looked at the book to start reading. Jason was never a book person and Phil and AJ preferred their video games to reading. However that didn’t mean they were illiterate, and as they looked they saw the words appear as if they were written on Harthyn. These were the words they read:

Long ago, people lived in peace, bathed in the warmth of light. Everyone loved the light. Then people began to fight over it. They wanted to keep it for themselves. And darkness was born in their hearts. The darkness spread, swallowing the light and many people’s hearts. It covered everything, and the world disappeared. But small fragments of light survived, in the hearts of children. With these fragments of light, children rebuilt the lost world. It’s the world we live in now. But the true light sleeps, deep within the darkness. That’s why the worlds are still scattered, divided from each other. But someday, a door to the innermost darkness will open, and the true light will return.

            “Nice fairy tale.” Aurora said as she finished.
            “I don’t think it’s a fairy tale, Aurora,” Clair stated.
            “It’s not. We’ve seen the place where the light sleeps.” Kairi said.
            “Kingdom Hearts.” Sora and Riku said in unison.
            “Kingdom Hearts?” Netti asked.
            “The heart of all worlds. The place where the light still lingers,” Master Yen Sid explained. “It is that power that Xehanort seeks to control for himself.”
            “Xehanort?” Everyone from Netokan asked.
            “Let me explain.” Master Yen Sid waved his hand and an image of Jason appeared next to everyone. A second later it was replaced by an image of the black creature with yellow eyes and antenna. “Whenever a person succumbs to the darkness in their heart a Heartless is born. This form, called a Shadow, is the most common. They hunt in packs seeking to consume the hearts of others, and for every heart they take their numbers grow.”
            Pausing for a second, Master Yen Sid caused an image of the white flexible creature to appear. “If a person with a strong heart falls to the darkness their bodies will eventually start to move on its own. Eventually they fade back to darkness because Nobodies like the Dusk don’t really exist.”
            “Heartless? Nobodies?” AJ thought out loud.
            “Organization XIII is made up of Nobodies.” Sora added in, causing the students from Netokan to look at them wide eyed.
            “Those guys are Nobodies?” Ashley asked.
            “That explains why they’ve got a vendetta against you,” Jason remarked.
            “Organization XIII tried to recreate Kingdom Hearts to take its powers for themselves. They were stopped thanks to Sora, Riku, and their friends.” Master Yen Sid said.
            “Why do I get the feeling that if they succeeded they would’ve brought about Necrodies?” Stella asked.
            “What?” Roxas asked.
            “Death day, the end of the world.” AJ explained.
            “But who is this Xena-hart dude?” Jason asked.
            “Xehanort was a former apprentice to Ansem the Wise, the ruler of Radiant Garden.” Master Yen Sid continued as an image of a man with silver hair and a lab coat appeared next to the image of a bearded man with blonde hair, with a lab coat and a red scarf around his neck. “However Xehanort betrayed his master, took his name, and banished him from his world. Xehanort continued studies that his master had forbidden which ultimately led his heart to succumb to the darkness. He became the Heartless Ansem and the Nobody Xemnas.” The respective images appeared.
            “So what’s the deal with the keyblades and all that?”
            “Keyblades are powerful weapons that were once used to protect the light. However when people sought to control the light for themselves they made keyblades of darkness. Whoever uses a keyblade can use it to bring order to the worlds, or chaos.” Master Yen Sid answered.
            “So does your book give any idea as to why we got keyblades from Xemnas?” Stella asked.
            “It does not. No one knows how a person is chosen. All we know is that the keyblade choses who wields it.” Master Yen Sid answered.
            “Hold on. Are you saying these pieces of metal are alive?” Jason asked.
            “In a way, but not the way you think.”
            “What’s that supposed to mean?”
            “Only you can find the answer for yourselves.”
            “So if Xemnas and the Organization are back, will they try again to succeed with their plans?” Clair asked.
            “Yes, which is why all of you must stop them.” Master Yen Sid replied.
            “You can count on us. The Organization doesn’t stand a chance with everyone here.” Sora said.
            “You feel up to fighting against your former team with us?” Riku asked Axel and Roxas.
            “Sure. Not like I’ve got the heart to care about them anyway.” Axel said.
            “They treated me like a tool before and hurt innocent people. I will do what I can to help you.” Roxas promised.
            “Before you embark on your quest, I have some gifts for you,” Master Yen Sid said as he stood up. With a wave of his hand everyone noticed that their clothes glowed with a soft light for a few seconds. “Now whenever you visit another world your clothes will change to help you blend with the inhabitants.”
            “Why is that important?” Jason asked.
            “Because you must not let other people know other worlds exist. Knowledge like that would bring chaos. Keep all such knowledge secret,” Master Yen Sid explained.
            “Thank you.” Several people said.
            “Now for your second gift.” Master Yen Sid pointed to the window and everyone looked out to see several brightly colored spaceship-like vessels waiting for them.
            “Why is there more than one gummi?” Sora asked.
            “The Organization will be looking for you. A large group will attract more attention than is needed. Divide yourselves into smaller teams, then choose a vessel to transport yourselves in.” Master Yen Sid answered.

Now for those of you who are confused here are some images of that Master Yen Sid showed the group.
A Shadow Heartless
Ansem, The Seeker of Darkness (a.k.a. Xehanort's Heartless)
A Dusk Nobody           

Friday, April 18, 2014

Review of Spirit Animals Book 1: Wild Born

Hi everyone. I know some of you are looking for something a little more interesting in these blog posts. I'll try to do one sometime next week. In the meantime, I'd like to share with you my thoughts on the book Spirit Animals Book 1: Wild Born
Author Brandon Mull starts this new fantasy adventure series from Scholastic. In the world of Erdas the four lands of Eura, Nilo, Zhong, and Amaya have lived in peace for hundreds of years. In this world when people turn eleven they are allowed to drink a special nectar that can allow them to summon and bond with a spirit animal. In all four lands four children have managed to summon four spirit animals of legend: Briggan the wolf, Uraza the leopard, Jhi the panda, and Essix the falcon. Their coming is not a moment too soon, for an old evil is returning to the world and the only way to stop it is to find the talismans of the Great Beasts or risk losing Erdas to a single dominating rule forever. 
Again I've enjoyed Brandon's sense of humor in this book. You don't have to worry about it being a Narnia/Middle-Earth ripoff. The only magical creatures in Erdas are the Spirit Animals. Most of the time when you have humans partnering up with some special critters it's the critters that do the heavy lifting (like in so many of the Digimon series). However in Spirit Animals the humans work with their animals as a team. Both sides get new abilities thanks to their bonds. For further details I'll let you read the book.
Now for lessons we can learn from this book. Beware of those who flatter you because they may have hidden agendas. Teamwork is needed to overcome giant problems. Things may not go the way we want them to, but the way things turn out may be what is best for us. Put your trust in what you know is right.
Rating: Five out of Five stars. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review of Adventurers Wanted: Albrek's Tomb

I'm still alive! Sorry I haven't been blogging. We've come to finals week and I want to make sure that I do a good job on my exams. I did finish reading something this week, and since I said book reviews are coming back today I'm going to review Adventurers Wanted: Albrek's Tomb.
If you've been following the series so far you know that Alexander Taylor is the main protagonist who in the first book finds a mysterious sign in an old bookstore saying "Adventurers Wanted". When he goes in he learns of other lands of magic that he can go on adventurers through. In the third book of the series we find Alex preparing for another adventure. This time he and his friends old and new will be traveling through the land of Thraxon to find a magic ring that can help the dwarves find places to mine once their current mines run out. I don't want to ruin too much of the story, but as the adventure progresses the band of adventurers learn that other forces are at work in the lands, and something terrible is hinted at being in the works. In many of the challenges Alex and his friends face they solve old mysteries and uncover fantastic secrets that could change the course of the lands forever. 

My personal thoughts, I am still impressed at how M.L. Forman is getting better with his adventures and how he's making the plots of the stories more intriguing and complicated. He pulls plenty of surprises out of his sleeves both good and bad. There were some times that the story felt like it went a little too fast, but overall, I'm very impressed with this story and have enjoyed this adventure.

There's a study guide in the back of the book to discuss lessons from the story. However I decided to talk about some of the lessons I've seen from this book. Alex does have a problem with getting reckless feelings throughout the story, particularly if people do things he knows are not right. While there is a level of control that we need to have on our feelings we need to know when we need to stand up for our friends and for what is right. There are also offers made to Alex to tempt him away from his duty, but he refuses them. In several ways we are often tempted to do things we shouldn't or to compromise our morals and standards. However we do not have to yield to such offers. Alex also learns more about himself and learns to gain confidence in his abilities and accept who he really is. We may not have huge gifts and abilities that are widely known, but we can still accept ourselves for who we are and believe in our abilities. Last thing I wanted to point out is that throughout the series Alex seems to become more and more famous throughout the lands, yet despite all the attention he is given he does not let that distract him from what he really needs to do or change him from the person he is. Even if we are given attention and fame for our accomplishments we do not need to let ourselves get defined by them. We can still be happy by being the kind of person our friends and family know and love. 

Rating: 4.50 out of 5 stars

Friday, April 4, 2014

Summer Reading List

Hi everyone. I wanted to get this up before General Conference tomorrow. I am not going to be available at all Saturday through Sunday. Anyway, I think I've kept you waiting long enough for this: my summer reading list! I'll add books as time goes on, but this is basically what I plan to read. I did separate the books between ones I need to read and review and those I would just like to read at some point.

Books I need to read before summer’s end
1.     The Bifrost Bridge by Jim Clarke

2.     A Shadow of the Land by Kristen Kercher

3.     The Creation Chronicles: The Dragon Within by Cindy Lyle

4.     Troublesome Neighbors by M.K. Theodoratus

5.     Awakening: The Ydron Saga by Raymond Bolton

6.     The Page: The Year of the Dragons by James W. McAllister

7.     The Silverwolf Chronicles: From Darkness to Destiny by Crystal Tyler

8.     The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches by Robert Stanek

9.     In My Wildest Dreams by Larynn Ford

10. The Warrior Maids of Rivenloch: Lady Danger by Glynnis Campbell
11. Ambassadors of Love by Patti Chiappa
12. The Haunting: One Silent Night by Patti Chiappa

Books I’d like to read

1.     Spirit Animals: Wild Born by Brandon Mull

2.     Spirit Animals: Hunted by Maggie Stiefvater

3.     Spirit Animals: Blood Ties by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

4.     Spirit Animals: Fire and Ice by Shannon Hale

5.     Adventurers Wanted: Albrek’s Tomb by M.L. Forman

6.     Adventurers Wanted: The Sands of Nezza by M.L. Forman

7.     Far World: Air Keep by J. Scott Savage

8.     Ambush by Obert Skye

9.     Beyond Foo: Geth and the Deception of Dreams by Obert Skye

10. Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor’s Secret by Chad Morris

11. Cragbridge Hall: The Avatar Battle by Chad Morris

12. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

13. Kingdom Keepers: Power Play by Ridley Pearson

14. Kingdom Keepers: Shell Game by Ridley Pearson

15. Kingdom Keepers: Dark Passage by Ridley Pearson

16. Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar by Edgar Rice Burroughs

17. Tarzan the Terrible by Edgar Rice Burroughs

18. The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

19. The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

20. Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

21. The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

22. The Cave Girl by Edgar Rice Burroughs

23. The Eternal Lover by Edgar Rice Burroughs

24. Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall by Thomas P. Hopp

25. The Tin Woodman of Oz by L. Frank Baum

26. The Magic of Oz by L. Frank Baum

27. Glinda of Oz by L. Frank Baum

28. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

29. Janitors by Tyler Whitesides

30. Janitors: Secrets of New Forest Academy by Tyler Whitesides

31. Janitors: Curse of the Broomstaff by Tyler Whitesides

32. The Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

33. The Heroes of Olympus: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

34. The Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

35. The Heroes of Olympus: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

36. Satchel and Sword I: The Search for the Saluka Stone by Claudette Marco

37. Everville: The First Pillar by Roy Huff

38. Everville: The City of Worms by Roy Huff

39. The Sail Weaver by Muffy Morrigan
I know this is a big list and there's a very good chance I won't be able to read all of them before the end of August due to school and writing. However I will do what I can. Reviews will be posted on here and on and GoodReads. Until next time.