Monday, November 28, 2011

Popcorn and a Movie: The Three Musketeers

Storyline:

D'Artagnan is a young man who has always dreamed of joining the king's Musketeers. When he journeys to Paris, he not only insults three of the best musketeers (Athos, Aramis, and Portos) one after another, but also discovers that Cardinal Richelieu has disbanded the musketeers and is plotting to take over the country, while the young king fritters his time away worrying about clothes and how to win over his young queen.

Of course, D'Artagnan won't stand for that. He inspires Athos, Aramis, and Portos to work against the Cardinal. Along the way, they run into Athos' old traitorous girlfriend, Milady de Winter, and her new


MY THOUGHTS:

Cons: Um, plenty of them. The costumes are quite period, which (of course) means low-cut necklines for the gals. Milady de Winter's outfit of choice for breaking into the queen's chambers is...ahem...let's just say that it pushes the limits of what should be allowed in a PG-13 movie. (And honestly, that was the killer for me. If I'd known exactly how bad that outfit was, I wouldn't have gone to see the movie.)

My apologies to anyone who still likes Orlando Bloom, but...yeeeeuck. I could stomach him in LotR and PotC, but he just doesn't look good here. Especially in a bright purple brocade. Ick.

There are some suggestive comments, mostly involving the beautiful double agent Milady.

Overall, the violence isn't bad, until we get to D'Artagnan and Rochefort's duel on the rooftop of a church. D'Artagnon is repeatedly stabbed and grabs Rochefort's sword-blade a couple of times to prevent another wound, which is incredibly wince-inducing.

Quite a few cuss-words, and plenty of drinking.

Pros: After all that, it's amazing that I could find some good stuff about this film. But, I did. Whether or not it balances out the bad remains to be seen.

Portos, Athos, and Aramis (and later D'Artagnon) are a loyal team. They work well together and watch each others backs.

The storyline itself is entertaining and fun. Plenty of swashbuckling and sneaking going on here. I thought the beginning sequence with the musketeers and Milady de Winter breaking into Michalangelo's secret vault was pretty cool. And there were some added steampunk elements, like the giant airships built by the cardinal and the duke of Buckingham.

CONCLUSION: This one definitely isn't family friendly and, as much as I liked some parts of it, other parts force me to conclude that this is one I won't be watching again.

Two stars.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead

Storyline:

Ancient legend tells of an army of knights that will remain sleeping until the last days.

The knights are waking up.

A homeless man is stalked by a pale, wraithlike creature with a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth. Maimed animals and a host of suicides cluster around a mountain in Scotland. And deep beneath the cobbled streets of Oxford, a malicious hoard besieges a hidden city.

Freya Reynolds is a university student with a touch of OCD and an obsession with myth and folklore. Daniel Tully is living rough on the streets of Oxford, waging a secret war against an enemy only he can identify. Years ago, they found themselves in a world few know is real. They have since gone their separate ways and tried to put that adventure behind them.

But the mythical world is now bleeding into our reality-a dark spiritual evil that is manifesting itself in forgotten corners of the British Isles. Alex Simpson is a Scottish police officer who specializes in hunting mythical creatures. Together, they must confront the past, the present, and points beyond to defeat the ultimate threat to humanity.

MY THOUGHTS:

Cons: I didn't feel like Alex Simpson had enough to do in the story. I actually liked his part of the story best and wanted to know more about him and his work.

Ross Lawhead is, in ways, like his father Stephen Lawhead--he is pretty wordy and not all of it is necessary. I almost thought that this book might have benefited from a more minimalistic style.

The jumping back and forth from past to present was interesting, but a little confusing/annoying at times.

Pros: The storyline is really good. I just started reading urban fantasy this summer, and from what I've seen, this is a good example of the genre.

Normally I wouldn't compliment about how creepy the book was, but in this case I think it deserves it. There were just a few bits of the storyline that were creepy, but I thought they fit the storyline perfectly.

I thought the characterization was pretty good--I felt like I got to know Daniel and Freya as real people. Alex remains a bit of a mystery, but since it seems like they'll be working together, I'm sure the readers will have a chance to get to know him better.

Family Friendliness: Ehhh...don't give this to your 13-year-old. I think 15-16 and up is about right for this book. There weren't any cusswords, but the violence plus the creep factor would be a little much for anyone younger than that, I think.

Conclusion: I think that The Realms Thereunder is a great addition to urban fantasy. I enjoyed it and will be awaiting the continuation of the series.

My Rating: three out of five stars

**I received this book for free from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review**

Monday, November 14, 2011

Novel Spotlight: The Windrider: Divine Summons by Rebecca P. Minor


STORYLINE: When a dark plot to undermine the security of the elven nation emerges, Captain Vinyanel Ecleriast must decide. Will he allow his contentious relationship with his half-elven mentor, the Prophetess Veranna, to interfere with his sworn duty to protect his people and his homeland? Newly ordained as the future High Commander of the First Airborne Division of the Elven Cavalry, Vinyanel sets off astride his new mount—a silver dragon—to intervene before the elves’ enemies disappear into the wilderness not only with priceless artifacts pivotal to the elves’ safety, but the life of the elven king in their hands. Only if he can put aside his preconceptions and take full hold of Veranna’s teaching will Vinyanel find the strength to fulfill his Divine Summons.

MY THOUGHTS

Cons:

Too short! But I can live with that since there are two more books in the series. :)

It took me a bit to really get into the book. I think that was because of the situation the book starts with and the backstory needed to understand it.

While the characters certainly didn't feel two-dimensional, I found myself wanting more backstory on them. How did Majestrin and Veranna met? Was Vinyanel born a continually sarcastic grouch, or did he become this way because of an event in his life? I'm guessing that as the series goes on, we'll see a bit more of these characters' backstories.

Pros:

The lyrical writing style coupled with the first person point of view really pulled me into the story. It meshed very well with the more formal elvish culture, so that not only Vinyanel's speech but his narrative and thoughts matched his culture.

Like I mentioned above, the characters weren't two-dimensional.

And of course, I'm always partial to books that feature beautiful descriptions of riding dragon-back. :)

I'd say the family-friendliness of Divine Summons was pretty good. There's a part where Vinyanel's horse breaks his leg (which turned my stomach a little, but my stomach is weak when it comes to breaking bones anyway). Vinyanel gets captured and knocked around, and there's a near-sacrifice that might be a little scary for kids. I'd probably feel comfortable handing it off to a 13 or 14-year-old. No profanities (unless you count a dragon saying "Blast!" when he gets into a situation where he can't breath ice). :)

I really enjoyed this book! It made a quick, beautiful read. I'll definitely be buying the rest of the series as they come out.

My rating: 4 stars.

**NOTE: A week from tomorrow, on the 22nd, the third Windrider book will be available for purchase as an e-book. For those who don't do e-books, the print editions will be out next January.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

STORYLINE:

Incarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells and corridors, but metal forests, dilapidated cities, and wilderness. It has been sealed for centuries, and only one man has ever escaped. Finn has always been a prisoner here. Although he has no memory of his childhood, he is sure he came from Outside. His link to the Outside, his chance to break free, is Claudia, the warden's daughter, herself determined to escape an arranged marriage. They are up against impossible odds, but one thing looms above all: Incarceron itself is alive . . .

MY THOUGHTS

Cons:

Dark. Grim. Claudia and Finn both live in extremely hostile worlds, though Finn's is the more obvious one. The Prison is creepy and gruesome, with violence, strange beasts, and creatures called half-men (part human, part machine) part of daily life.

A couple of mild cuss-words.

Pros:

A very well-written story. Catherine Fisher developed interesting worlds, both the Prison and Outside.

She also knows how to create sympathetic characters. I definitely commiserated with both Finn and Claudia, even though he's a thief and she's a sneaky conniver.

CONCLUSION:

I wouldn't hand this book off to anyone under 16, mostly because of the darkness, gruesomeness, and cusswords. It definitely made me glad that we live in a very real, very free world.

Rating: three stars