Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: Introduction To Archaeology

I've always had a pretty decent interest in Archaeology ever since I was little. I absolutely love going to museums and lately I've decided to start over with my 'education.' I'm starting from the beginning and working my way up through time. I'll be reading everything from history, to folktales, to classics and the thinkers. Archaeology is a good place to start since it mostly covers the part of history that came before writing really started.

What I'm Listening To:

  • You're Hand In Mine by Explosions In The Sky
  • Hello Beastie by Hans Zimmer 


An Introduction To Archaeology
by Lesley and Roy Adkins
Rating: 3/5

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Blurb:

(As taken from inside jacket cover of book)

     "Archaeology has had an irreversible impact on how we think of the past: it alone has hugely extended our idea of how long people have been on the earth and its rigorous method has replaced speculation as a way of filling gaps in our knowledge  of previous civilizations.
     Although archaeology is often seen as an academic subject, it concerns us all: it is only through archaeology that we can answer the fundamental questions about humankind: where we came from; how societies evolve; why the majority of peoples changed from hunting and gathering to settled farming; why we lost our hair; when art developed; and the fascinating details of everyday life that even civilizations who had a script never wrote down.
     This book is an ideal guide to modern archaeology: it explains the techniques used by archaeologists, the detective work involved, and the surprising variety of evidence that can provide information about the past.      
     Finally the importance of archaeology in today's society is discussed and guidance is given on how to find out more or become actively involved in discovering the past of humankind."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This book was great for me to get my foot in the door. It gives basic, easily comprehensible information that was very concise. I learned quite a few new things. 7 quick chapters full of information (enough to fill 3 front and back pages of notes---with skipped spaces of course). This book covers everything from who studies archaeology, to how sites get buried and destroyed and even goes into the techniques of excavation, records taken and the process of post excavation analysis. I feel so much more enriched already. I'm hoping I'll be able to study archaeology a little more in depth with a couple of other books I picked up from the library. I'm more ready to learn than ever! 


Until the next review, 
Keep your brains open so knowledge can flow in! ^_^

Movie Review #10: Midnight In Paris

I heard about this movie from my last English teacher. She recommended it to me and when I saw it at the library, I jumped at the opportunity to watch it. It's been on my To-Watch list for a while now. Without further ado, I bring you:


Midnight In Paris
Release Year: 2011
Genre: Romantic Comedy
My Rating: 4/5

The Premise: 
(As written on back cover)

"This is a romantic comedy set in Paris about a family that goes there because of business, and two young people who are engaged to be married in the fall, have experiences there that change their lives. It's about a young man's great love for a city, Paris, and the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better."

Trailer: 

The premise and trailer don't really get the gist of the movie across. Gil Pender is a writer. He works in Hollywood and writes stuff for movies. He doesn't really like what he does, it was just something he ended up doing. Lately, he's been working on a novel. He never lets anyone see it. Gil is set to marry Inez. The more you see them interact, the more you realize just how differently they see things. At midnight in a certain place in Paris, a car pulls up and transports Gil back in time. He meets famous authors and artists who impact him in great ways. 
That's a better general idea. This movie left me feeling really good. It was simple and to the point. It didn't take too many unnecessary turns, but it wasn't totally closed at the end. It was cool to see all of the different authors and artists in their own elements. I've never been too fond of Picasso's work and Dali was really quirky. The Fitzgeralds were rather interesting. Overall, this was a nice film, nothing too major, but still good. 
I like the way this film used the different characters to portray the plot. Not everything was said, but everything could be discovered by actions and reactions (If you watch it, you'll see what I mean). The differing viewpoints between Gil and Inez were used well. I could understand why their relationship pans out the way it does.
<[This is totally unnecessary but I feel like telling this little story concerning an observation and connection I made. When Gil is talking about how great the rain is and Inez just wants to get out of it, I'm reminded of when we went on vacation this summer. We were in San Antonio at Sea World and it would randomly rain here and again. Whenever it would rain, you could see all the guests scrambling for cover. That kinda confused me and seemed a bit ironic. They paid to go to SeaWorld where its pretty much a given that you're going to get wet, but they run from free water. They didn't want to get wet but then you see them on water rides and sitting in the Splash Zone during the shows.]>
Anyway, this movie is definitely good. Sometimes it lacks a bit (like in Owen Wilson's reactions), but it is a movie that can be enjoyed for its overall simplicity. 


Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: Shakespeare For Dummies

For those who don't know, this fall I'll be a freshman in college. I was checking the textbooks I'll be needing and found out that for my theater class, I'll need Othello by Shakespeare. I decided to begin reading it a bit early. But before I read it, I wanted to brush up on my Shakespeare and get some background information.

What I'm Listening To:
  • Ain't Got Nothin' On Us by John Michael Montgomery
  • Love Story by Taylor Swift
  • Juliet by LMNT


Shakespeare For Dummies
By John Doyle and Ray Lischner
Rating: 4/5

Summary:

This book contains a background on the life of William Shakespeare, summaries for each of Shakespeare's plays, how to watch a play, where the best Shakespearean performances are, Shakespeare's poetry, and Shakespearean grammar and vocabulary.


This book was very easy to understand. It made Shakespeare enjoyable and approachable. It had lots of helpful tips for reading and watching Shakespeare's many plays. I really liked the play summaries. They're extremely useful for familiarizing yourself with Shakespeare's numerous works. I also was grateful for the explanation of Shakespeare's plots and the types of things he liked to use in his writing. A better comprehension regarding Shakespearean humor is also gained by reading this book. I read it cover to cover and I believe that it helped me a lot. I'll have a really easy time getting into Othello. 

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who has read or who is going to read Shakespeare. As one of the best playwrights, it is highly recommended that you be familiar with his work, since numerous movies, books, and songs reference his plays and sonnets. Definitely worth the time to work through. Great store of knowledge to be acquired here. 

Until our next meeting,
I bid thee adieu! 
^_^

Movie Review #9: Happiness Is A Warm Blanket Charlie Brown

I've always been rather fond of The Peanuts. I am a holiday special watcher. My sister checked this out from the library and at first I was excited. Tonight's Summer Movie Night is:

Happiness Is A Warm Blanket Charlie Brown
Release Year: 2011
Genre: Animated Family Comedy
My Rating: 2/5

The premise:
----As taken from the back cover

"Linus and his blue blanket go together like peanut butter and jelly, sunny days and baseball games, Snoopy and Woodstock. But when Linus discovers his Grandma disapproves of his childish attachment, he wonders if it's time to ditch that blanket. Linus enlists the help of best buddy Charlie Brown to keep the security object away form him. When that doesn't work, he turns to his older sister, amateur psychiatrist Lucy, for some tough love. Can Linus kick his habit once and for all? Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown is sure to snugly wrap your whole family in happiness."

The Trailer:


I was really disappointed with this Peanuts cartoon. The cover is so deceptive! It looks happy and sweet, like most Peanuts videos tend to be. I am used to Lucy being a jerk and Schroeder ignoring her. Charlie Brown always has security issues since everybody picks on him. But seriously? What happened to the Peanuts I used to know. I have never been so upset with a cartoon in my life! I am so sad that this is what the Peanuts have come to. Linus doesn't really even go to Lucy for help, she just butts in as usual with her mean-ness. What is so wrong with Linus having his security blanket? I didn't like his grandma at all. I can't imagine any real grandparents acting that way since I've only been around nice, loving grandparents my entire life. 
This cartoon just made me sad and a little mad. I have one question: Why are all the girls so mean?? I don't like that at all, because not all girls are mean. All girls can BE mean, but not all girls CHOOSE to be. That kinda upset me...besides the fact that everyone is insecure and they're getting onto Linus for having a way to get a sense of security. 
I guess this cartoon can serve as a way to teach a valuable lesson, but I don't really like the way the characters were presented. It was horrible and I can't sugarcoat it. 

If given the opportunity, I wouldn't take it. This is a definite miss and worth passing up. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Author Interview with Regina Jeffers

This is an interview with Regina Jeffers, Author of Vampire Darcy's Desire.  Originally it was posted along with the review for Vampire Darcy's Desire, but I've decided to alter a few small things. I think its so much more convenient to be able to access the interview apart from the review. So much easier on the eyes! Without further ado, let's get onto the interview!!!


     Q: What was the first Jane Austen novel that you read? At what age? How long have you been reading Jane Austen?

I have been in love with Jane Austen’s stories for as long as I can remember. When I was twelve, I read Pride and Prejudice and was hooked. Perhaps, it was being a product of the 1950s and 1960s. Those decades were a male dominated period (Have you ever watched “Mad Men”?). Jane Austen’s works looked at society through a comedic screen while examining issues found in a male dominated world. Charlotte Lucas symbolizes the prevailing attitude toward women, while Elizabeth Bennet does not condemn feminine “virtues,” but rather balances them with a sensible mind. In each of Austen’s novels, the main characters have experiences that create a profound and permanent transformation (Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice; Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility; Emma Woodhouse in Emma; Anne Elliot in Persuasion; Catherine Morland inNorthanger Abbey; and Edmund in Mansfield Park). Austen’s witty, satirical approach to her subjects resonates across the centuries.

Q: Have you read all of Jane Austen's Works? Which one is your favorite?

I have read all of Austen’s six novels repeatedly, but not equally. Emma and Mansfield Parkhave seen less “rereadings” than have Pride and Prejudice, which I read a minimum of twice per year. Pride and Prejudice is the one with which I deal the most often and by far, Austen’s most popular title. However, I am equally as fond of Persuasion, which was Austen’s last novel and the one with the most mature voice.

Q: What about Jane Austen drew you to become a Janeite? How long have you been a member of the Jane Austen Society of America? Do you have anything interesting to relate about your membership?


I seriously believe that Austen’s intertextual reinscriptions of Restoration comedy have echoes in contemporary literature. Being a Janeite allows me to share those beliefs with people of a like mind. Reading a historical novel in its period requires the reader to understand the period, as well as the social distance from the present. Despite Austen being a part of the Society of which she wrote, her works display a “distance” from the time period, and that “distance” marks Austen’s voice as one more distinct than others of her time. Jane Austen was sophisticated, subtle, and very intelligent in her handling of complex issues. Austen’s women were women of sense; they embodied the notion of rational love. Today’s audience has paradoxically maintained Austen’s “formula.”

Being a Janeite (a term coined by George Saintsbury in 1894) is not always easy, especially for an author of Austen-inspired adaptations/sequels. Those who love Austen feel she is their “best friend,” and they are very protective of her. For many years, ANY adaptation was treated as an inferior product of fan fiction. But, of late, several of those who specialize in Austen fiction have been featured as part of the annual JASNA programs. It is like “coming out of the closet.” For many years, we have kept our “secret” from other JASNA members. Now, we are “accepted” within the Austen community.

Q: Had you ever written in the Gothic-style prior to Vampire Darcy's Desire?

Truthfully, the initial concept came from the publisher Ulysses Press. When one of the editors approached me on the project, my rankles immediately rose because, to me, Pride and Prejudice is the most perfect novel ever written, and the thoughts of someone abusing that story line sent me into a state of amusement mixed with irritation. However, after discussing the idea with close friends and with my editor, I realized I could maintain integrity in the story line because of my love for and knowledge of the Austen oeuvre.
I could not abide conceptualizing Darcy as the vampire who seduces Elizabeth. If vampirism was to be added to the tale, I wanted Darcy portrayed as a poetic tragic hero rather than as an embodiment of evil. I also wanted to control the representation of sexuality, the combination of horror and lust. As in Austen’s work, Darcy would desire Elizabeth and would be willing to put aside his beliefs and lifestyle in order to earn her love.

Q: Is there anything in Vampire Darcy's Desire that you would change if you could?

The book is open at the end to allow a sequel. As yet, that sequel has not been commissioned. If I had to rewrite part of the book, I might tweak the ending to give the readers more closure.

Q: What was the hardest part about writing Vampire Darcy's Desire?

As I said earlier, this project was my publisher’s idea. Originally, I could not see Darcy as a predatory vampire. (Spoiler: In Vampire Darcy’s Desire, he is a dhampir; Wickham is the vampire.) Yet, once I had reconciled myself to the concept, I treated the project as I always do. I began with lots of research. As Dracula did not appear until the late 1890s, I needed to fall back on the traditional vampire legends–those steeped in Slavic folklore. Pride and Prejudice is set in 1811-1812. Therefore, the characters would still hold limited knowledge of vampires and how they operate.

First, I incorporated the legend of Cernunnos into the story line. Many experts believe Cernunnos’ image is the one upon which the Devil is derived. Cernunnos is known as “the horned one.” I added to that the mythical powers of the “Holy Island” (Lindisfarne), as well as the Baobhan Síth, and mixed in a traditional Scottish ballad, “Lord Thomas and Fair Ellinor.” The combination has been well received. Traditional vampiric tales do not cast the vampire as a deliciously handsome “bad boy” that we see in contemporary vampiric tales. The vampire is truly evil, and I tried to keep that in mind as I wrote the piece. For a woman who had read few vampire tales since she had devoured Anne Rice’s stories ofLestat de Lioncourt, this was a real challenge. For many of my fans, VDD remains their favorite book.

Q: Which characters are you most drawn to in Vampire Darcy's Desire?

I am desperately in love with Colonel Fitzwilliam. In all my other Austen novels, the Colonel’s first name is “Edward,” named for my father (Jane Austen never gives us a Christian name for the character), but in this one I wished to expound on that part ofPride and Prejudice where Austen hints that if the lady possessed a larger dowry, the good Colonel might be attracted to Elizabeth Bennet . (As a minor son, the Colonel must marry a woman with a larger fortune and is unable to act upon his interest in Elizabeth.) Therefore, in VDD, I gave the character a different name from my other Austen sequels because he was to act “differently”–act upon his interest in the woman his cousin desired. Colonel Fitzwilliam became “Damon.” The Greek story of Damon and Pythias is meant to symbolize friendship. My “Damon” is Darcy’s friend, but also his competitor.

Q: Which character in Vampire Darcy's Desire was the most fun to write?

George Wickham is so utterly despicable that one has to admire him. Fitzwilliam Darcy is the hero, but everyone loves a strong antagonist. Wickham comes up with delightfully evil ways to torment Darcy, but there is also a bit of vulnerability that makes him appealing to my readers. People cheer for his downfall, but they hold a bit of empathy for him because he is equally a victim in this tragic scenario.

Q: Can you briefly describe Darcy the Dhampir? How is he different from Jane Austen’s Darcy? 
A Dhampir, the product of the union between a vampire and a human, probably finds its origin in Serbian folklore. Modern fiction holds many examples: Blade (a Marvel comic brought to life by Wesley Snipes on the screen), the character Connor in the TV seriesAngel (the show’s male equivalent of a Slayer), and Renesmee (the daughter of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen from Stephanie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn). Traditionally, a Dhampir has the ability to see vampires, even when they are cloaked with the power of invisibility. They generally have similar vampire powers with only a few complications. 
This new Darcy possesses many of the qualities the reader notes in Austen’s character. He is “withdrawn” from society, is generous to those he affects, is protective of his sister and his estate, and has a sharp wit. He is amused by Elizabeth’s verbal battles and is attracted to her physically. Darcy denies this attraction initially and then makes changes in his life to win and to keep Elizabeth’s regard. 
In order to end the curse of vampirism passed on to the first-born son of each generation, Darcy the Dhampir has decided he will never marry. He considers it to be the honorable action. No previous generation has ever succeeded in defeating George Wickham, but this Fitzwilliam Darcy is less likely to succumb to the temptation of eternal life, so Wickham must resort to different tactics to exact revenge. 
Austen’s Darcy says, “I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit…. I was spoiled by my parents…allowed, encouraged, almost taught to be selfish and overbearing....” This characteristic plays well in the Dhampir Darcy’s pursuit of Elizabeth. He more aggressively persists in winning her affection.

Q: About how long did it take you to research and write Vampire Darcy's Desire?

I spent approximately three weeks doing extensive research on vampiric legends, as well as the ways to kill a vampire. Choosing the setting for the story also required a bit of luck. In Austen’s original storyline, Wickham and Lydia Bennet are sent to Newcastle. As Northumberland (in which Newcastle can be found) is the county closest to Scotland, the Scottish vampire legends became the basis for my story. However, the research did not stop at that point. As I write, the story sometimes takes a twist or a turn, and that requires additional research.

Q: Do you prefer to plan and outline before writing or do you just jump in and see where it leads?

I am truly a pantser. I have a “list” of events that will occur in my piece, but I do notoutline and plot each detail. I open a spiral notebook and begin to write. Often times (ALWAYS!!!!), the story takes on a life of its own. It plays (as if it is a movie I can rewind over and over until I get it right) in my head as I seek sleep each night. I’m constantly saying, “He wouldn’t say that” or “She would act more surprised” or “That would be so cool.” The plot is the key through which the characters are defined.

Q: What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

I do not write comedic scenes well. With comedy, a person must not only take note of those characteristics that define his subject, but he must exaggerate those qualities in order to achieve a humorous effect. I possess a very refined humor, one generally based on word manipulation (no bathroom humor for me), but I have difficulty bringing the situation to a “ridiculous” conclusion. I do not do exaggeration and distortion well. I suppose that the line between tragedy and comedy does truly run thin and indistinct.

Q: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I still hand write my novels. I write with a black ink pen and use a wide ruled spiral notebook. Then I word process the pages. By that time, the book has had several rewrites (arrows up and down the page, White Out, scratched out lines, inserted words, etc.). All these checks and rechecks affect the writing process. When the novel goes to print, there are few major rewrites with which to deal.

Q: Do you have advice to give young or beginning writers?

Writing professionally is more than “putting pen to paper.” The publishing world is in transition. It is more difficult to find a traditional publisher. Agents and editors are picking up fewer authors. There is also the number of hours that a person must spend in self-promotion. I spend a minimum of three hours daily on social media. Keeping one’s name in the public is essential, and publishers expect their authors to take some of the responsibility for the book’s success. We have seen phenomenal stories of success, but for each of those who skyrocket to fame, there are thousands of writers who struggle to know a modicum of success. There is little glory. One must write because he can do nothing else. It must be an “obsession.” One does not write for fame and fortune.

Q: What is your favorite Pride and Prejudice adaptation? Why?

I assume you mean the favorite from among my seven. This is a difficult question for I love each for different reasons. Darcy’s Passions was my first novel. It is a retelling ofPride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view and was the idea of my Advanced Placement students. Its sequel, Darcy’s Tempation, was a Booksellers Best Award Finalist in 2009. It proves that Darcy and Elizabeth are the perfect couple. Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion retells Austen’s novel from Frederick Wentworth’s point of view. I would love to do a sequel for this story line. Christmas at Pemberley is a finalist in Inspirational Romance for the Write Touch Readers Award. It speaks of the true meaning of Christmas.Vampire Darcy’s Desire provided me the opportunity to experiment with the paranormal genre, but I am most proud of how the characters stay true to Austen’s originals while delving in the bizarre. The Phantom of Pemberley was my first cozy mystery and is one of my most successful novels. I recently followed (April 2012) with another cozy entitled The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy. Ulysses Press has contracted for a third cozy for release in the spring of 2013. Needless to say, my publisher believes that I have a voice in this genre.

All that being said, I had the most fun writing The Phantom of Pemberley. I am a big mystery fan, and the challenge of writing a story where the readers did not figure out the ending prior to the last chapter appealed to me.

Q: What subjects, themes and dilemmas of the Regency period do you return to time and again?  What subjects have you introduced?

The true Regency Period lasted only nine years, from 1811 to 1820. Most writers of the period place their stories somewhere between 1800 and 1820; however, a few feature everything from the French Revolution to the Reform. When I am creating a Jane Austen adaptation, my setting is defined by Austen’s original story line. In my original Regencies, I tend to place my characters in situations that occur between 1810 and 1815. It is the time period of which I am most familiar.

The Regency is characterized by both elegance and vulgarity. Social norms and interactions were carefully scripted. Society’s tone was set by the ever-decadent Prince Regent. George IV was a man of intelligence and impeccable manners, when the situation so suited him, but he was also notorious for his appalling extravagances. Society in the early nineteenth century had become more egalitarian, and the nouveaux riche had loosened the standards of acceptance. It was a time of great transition. Yet, it was still a time when a pauper with a title had more influence than the richest tradesman. Women’s lack of choices remains a consistent theme.

I like to discover unusual facts and incorporate them into my story lines. The events of Peterloo appear in “His Irish Eve”; the efforts of Lord Cochrane to bring “chemical warfare” to the Napoleonic Wars can be found in Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion; the legend of the Shadow Man is a central part of The Phantom of Pemberley; well dressing ceremonies play out in Darcy’s Temptation; and the “rebirth” of St. Cuthbert in Vampire Darcy’s Desire; I also like to add what we think of as “modern” issues to the past: dissociative identity disorder; sexual abuse; OCD; and the infamous generation gap.
My latest book, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, includes the Scottish legend of Sawney Bean, the weather conditions at Waterloo, and the first railroad system in Scotland.





Book Blurb for The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy:
Shackled in the dungeon of a macabre castle with no recollection of her past, a young woman finds herself falling in love with her captor – the estate’s master. Yet, placing her trust in him before she regains her memory and unravels the castle’s wicked truths would be a catastrophe.

Far away at Pemberley, the Darcys happily gather to celebrate the marriage of Kitty Bennet. But a dark cloud sweeps through the festivities: Georgiana Darcy has disappeared without a trace. Upon receiving word of his sister’s likely demise, Darcy and wife, Elizabeth, set off across the English countryside, seeking answers in the unfamiliar and menacing Scottish moors.

How can Darcy keep his sister safe from the most sinister threat she has ever faced when he doesn’t even know if she’s alive? True to Austen’s style and rife with malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, this suspense-packed mystery places Darcy and Elizabeth in the most harrowing situation they have ever faced – finding Georgiana before it is too late.

Website – www.rjeffers.com
Twitter - @reginajeffers
Publisher – Ulysses Press http://ulyssespress.com/


Bio                                                                          
Photo 
Regina Jeffers, an English teacher for thirty-nine years, considers herself a Jane Austen enthusiast. She is the author of 13 novels, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation, The Phantom of Pemberley, Christmas at Pemberley, The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, and A Touch of Cashémere. A Time Warner Star Teacher and Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, as well as a Smithsonian presenter, Jeffers often serves as a media literacy consultant. She resides outside of Charlotte, NC, where she spends time teaching her new grandson the joys of being a child. 



Thank y'all for reading today's post.  HUGE THANKS to Mrs. Jeffers for taking the time to do this interview! =D
Until the next time, 
           Farewell!!

Movie Review #8: Back To The Future

Let's talk flux capacitors, shall we? With today's movie, I decided to take a little trip back to the 80's and from there head back to 1955. But we'll have to find a way to get back to the present. That's right, I'm taking you:

Back To The Future
Release Year: 1985
Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy Adventure
My Rating: 4/5

The premise:

"One of the top grossing box office comedies of all time! 
     Steven Spielberg presents an irresistible comic fantasy that accelerates beyond the time barrier with wit, imagination and infectious, wide-eyed wonder. Michael J. Fox stars as Marty McFly, a typical American teenager of the Eighties accidentally sent back to 1955 in a plutonium-powered DeLorean 'time machine' invented by slightly mad scientist Christopher Lloyd. During his often hysterical, always amazing trip back in time, Marty must make certain his teenage parents-to-be, Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson, meet and fall in love--so he can get back to the future. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, this delightful comedy-adventure will make everyone want to get Back To The Future over and over again."

The Trailer:


Wow. Talk about a blast from the past! This movie is every bit the classic that audiences for years have dubbed it as. The ultimate Sci-Fi Comedy that the family can enjoy together, over and over again.

The soundtrack is unforgettable. The main theme as done by Alan Silvestri has become one of the most well-known movie compositions and is nothing short of classic. & who could forget the Huey Lewis and The News track that tied in so well with movie?

Back To The Future Theme as composed by Alan Silvestri


Here is The Power Of Love performed by Huey Lewis and The News


I can't help myself, I have to include my favorite quote, because classic movies just have to be quoted.

George McFly: "Last night, Darth Vader came down from Planet Vulcan  and told me that if I didn't take Lorraine out, that he'd melt my brain."

Great stuff right there. 

Back To The Future has a lot of comedic value, but covers a rather serious problem. If Marty doesn't get his parents to fall in love, he won't be born. That's pretty heavy. (No, there's not a problem with the Earth's gravitational pull, just in case you were wondering.)

Definitely a movie that shouldn't be passed up. Classic Universal/Spielberg at its/his best. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Bullheaded Black Remembers Alexander

Today's book review won't be too long, I promise. I'll keep it simple and to the point.

What I'm Listening To:

  • He's A Pirate performed by David Garrett
  • You Raise Me Up performed by David Garrett


Bullheaded Black Remembers Alexander
The Story of Alexander the Great's Invasion of the Middle East
By J.L. Taylor
Rating: 4/5

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Blurb:
------as taken from back cover


Before there was Christianity, there was Alexander. Before there was Islam, there was Alexander. Unfortunately for the world, however, dreams like his did not flower profusely again until 1776 in the New World. Surely he would have been astonished to learn that today religious freedom and individual liberty only exist as green tendrils in much of the Middle East, sprouting here and there precariously following the American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. 




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I won this book from a Goodreads Giveaway. Normally, I'm not so great with history. Usually the things I enjoy reading about are ancient civilizations and medieval times. I've never been too good at history, but this book allowed me to have a much easier time getting interested in history and keeping my interest. 

In this book, Bucephalus/Bullheaded Black tells Pegasus all about his master, Alexander the Great. It is pretty obvious that J.L. Taylor did his homework. He displays a great show of historical knowledge. 

I also really liked the idea of having the story of Alexander told directly from the horses' mouth. Especially since the horse we're hearing it from is one of the most famous horses in history. 

This is a great choice of book for learning about Alexander's expeditions. I wish I could have had books similar to this in history classes I've taken. Bullheaded Black Remembers Alexander The Great is a great teaching resource and an extraordinary way to get children interested in learning about history. I would like to see more books like this get published and distributed throughout the public school system. 

Until the next time we meet, 
Farewell!

Movie Review #7: Dolphin Tale

This has been one of the greatest movies I've ever seen. There's so much heart. I am not gonna hide the fact that I cried... a lot. At least 4 different times (because that's the kind of girl I am).

Today's Summer Movie Night is:

Dolphin Tale
Release Year: 2011
Genre: Family Drama
My Rating: 5/5   (If I could rate it higher I would)---I'll just toss in an extra fish ^_^


The premise:
---As taken from back of movie cover


"In an inspirational story of the bond between animals and humans, a boy named Sawyer discovers an injured dolphin, who is brought to a marine hospital and named Winter. Unfortunately, her injuries cost Winter her tail, without which she may not survive. But with Sawyer's devotion, a marine biologist's (Harry Connick, Jr.) expertise and the brilliance of a prosthetist (Morgan Freeman) charged with creating a new tail, Winter may receive a second chance at life."

The trailer:

I had to put both. There was no way I could just pick one. I originally saw the preview for this movie when I went with my family and a friend to see The Zookeeper and Mr. Popper's Penguins. I cried. During a movie preview, I cried. It's never happened to me before and it hasn't happened since. Typing this through blurry eyes is a bit difficult. I still cry when I see the trailers. This movie just has that effect on me. 

Dolphin Tale is the story of a dolphin. Not just any dolphin either. This is about Winter. Winter got caught in a crab trap and her tail had to be amputated. This movie shows her struggle and adds in the love of a boy for his new friend and the lengths he will surpass to save her. 

I love this movie. I've watched it 3 times in the past week. Twice in English and Once in Spanish. All 3 times, tears...
This movie is a must-see. It is a tale of inspiration so epic, you have to see it to believe it. My heart was touched by Winter and she has captured the hearts of many others around the world. I wish I was actually able to do this movie justice, but the right words do not exist. It is incredible and heart-wrenching. 

Dolphin Tale is a story of survival, of trust, of hope. The belief that you can overcome any obstacle rings clear. All because of a dolphin. This is a movie no one will want to miss out on. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Review: H2O

Around January, Brannon Hollingsworth was kind enough to send me the book he wrote with Austin Boyd for review. I've been looking through my bookshelf and found H2O sitting there waiting for me to share my review of it here with all of my dear readers. I would like to thank Mr. Hollingsworth for giving me the opportunity to read such a good book and hope this review does it justice.

What I'm Listening To:
  • Somebody To Love by Queen
  • Don't Go Breaking My Heart by Elton John and Kiki Dee


H2O
by Austin Boyd & Brannon Hollingsworth
Rating: 4/5

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Blurb:
H2O the Novel by Austin Boyd
----Taken from the back of the book


She's lost control.
Kate pepper has it all...a razor-sharp intellect, perfect health, stunning beauty, a wildly successful career, and all the money she can spend. Or rather, she thinks she has it all. Despite the perfect shell, there's something dark inside Kate. Terrible visions send her into a deep depression and her world crumbles every time she gets wet. All her business savvy and elite connections don't make a difference; she has lost control. Who will save her? Xavier, her predatory boyfriend, Candice, the wholesome waitress at her favorite coffee shop, or a mysterious Internet friend? At the bottom of her dark well, desperate to get out of the water, there's nowhere to reach but up.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'll start by doing a quick character examination.

Characters:
Kate Pepper- A very likable, relatable heroine who seems to be getting deeper and deeper into trouble. She begins to have visions whenever water touches her. It seems like someone is trying to reach her, but who? I was cheering for Kate throughout the entire book. She definitely has her moments, and who can forget that Ice Slice?? Overall, I just adored her. She endures terrible relationships throughout her life and finally finds her escape...with the help of her new friends of course.

Xavier- The character I hated most of all. He is so....*exasperated sigh*...infuriating. He's only concerned with himself, his image and how people around him--Kate---are used to accessorize him. A man in need of serious help...as I'm typing, I'm just getting more and more disgusted. He redeemed himself slightly, but not enough to make me like him at all.

Andrea- Kate's best friend. I liked her, she seemed like a really nice girl who provided a stability that was necessary in Kate's overturned life. Not the main stability, but at least part of the foundation.

Hiram- A great character who pops up pretty frequently. He sells coffee at his shop that provides Internet to Seattle. Hiram provides Kate with guidance throughout the book that ultimately help lead to her salvation.

Now that I'm done with characters, we can move on.
The plot was wonderfully developed and I couldn't put the book down until I was done. I love the way Kate was shaped through all the event she went through. I also love that not everything was given away at the beginning of the book. Slowly, I was able to learn about and care for Kate. She wasn't just thrown at me all at one time. I really enjoyed not having her entire history laid out on the table. The mystery was kept and slowly unraveled. Good feeling of suspense there. Another one of my favorite points was that Kate was able to discover and love herself. She reached the point where she could forgive herself and be forgiven. There were no loose ends, which was absolutely awesome. This book is definitely a masterpiece. I'm glad I took the plunge.

Until the next review,
Take The Plunge!!

Movie Review #6: Hercules

Today for our Summer Movie Night, I bring you another Disney Classic. This time from the Masterpiece Collection.

The Cartoon for today is:

Hercules
Release Year: 1997
Genre: Animated Family Adventure
My Rating: 5/5


Here's the premise:
---Taken from the back of the cover


     "An outrageous odyssey of fun, fantasy and adventure unfolds in the hilarious hit film, HERCULES--Disney's 35th animated triumph 'brimming with comic surprise!'(Entertainment Weekly)
     Taken from the gods as a newborn, adopted on earth, Hercules becomes an awkward, teenage pillar of strength. Trying to fit in, he discovers Zeus is his dad and home is on Mount Olympus--if he can move from 'zero' to true hero! Hercules teams with babyhood pal Pegasus, the flying stallion, and Phil--a feisty personal trainer--for the mission. But it's no walk on the Acropolis. He must match wits with Grecian beauty Meg and a comical hothead named Hades, who's having a devil of a time with his hostile takeover of the Universe. He's armed with morphing morons Pain and Panic for help, and only Hercules stands in his way!
     With a bold animation style, colossal voice cast, and spectacular music, HERCULES is unmatched in strength--delivering something for everyone with 'pinwheeling, knockabout fun!'(Time)"

Here's the trailer:

What can I say about this movie? Hmm....amazing soundtrack for one. Let's see, hilarious and well thought out characters. Not to mention the awesomeness that comes with combining Disney magic with Greek legend. Hercules is a fun cartoon that is all about finding out who you are and where you belong. Its about looking deep inside yourself to realize where you fit in the big picture. It also shows how the little things can make life on Earth worth the while. 

I've always been rather fond of this cartoon (I like Greek mythology). Pain and Panic are some of the quirkiest henchmen/evil sidekicks I've ever seen. Hades' hot temper is unforgettable. Hercules is a lovable awkward guy finding his place in the world. Megara has her dark past and hidden secrets, but has a good heart and is rather seductive in certain instances. Phil is hilarious. Definitely one of the most fun characters in this cartoon. Pegasus acts so human, its madness. Not to mention that he's super pretty with his combination of white body and blue mane. 

Hercules is a cartoon that I don't believe will ever really get old storywise. It'll always be pretty relatable (and just look how long those Greek myths have been around). The music is great, I love to sing along. 

Overall, I would recommend that everyone watch Hercules at least once, because Disney did a wonderful job bringing Greek stories to life. 


Monday, July 23, 2012

Movie Review #5: Mulan

Welcome back to another Summer Movie Night here at The Real World According To Sam! So glad you could be here with us today! I've always wondered exactly what it is about a Disney cartoon that has such an impact on the audience. I, personally, have a tendency of tearing up with a smile on my face when it comes to the classics that I grew up with. Those older cartoons have the most heart, in my opinion. This Disney talk leads me to today's featured movie (or rather, cartoon.)

The Featured Film for today is:

Mulan
Release Year: 1998
Genre: Animated Family Adventure
My Rating: 5/5

Here is the premise:

     "Honored with legions of critical acclaim, Disney's 36th animated masterpiece magically transforms an ancient Chinese legend into unparalleled fun and adventure that comes along but once every dynasty!
     Embraced for her lovable, spirited nature, Mulan is a young  girl who doesn't quite fit into her tradition-bound society. When the invading Hun army comes charging over China's Great Wall, Mulan's aging father is ordered into battle! To spare him from harm, Mulan disguises herself as a soldier and secretly takes his place in the Imperial army, training with a comical, ragtag troop, led by the courageous Captain Shang. Never far away are Mulan's hilarious guardian dragon, Mushu, and lucky cricket, Cri-Kee. But Mulan will need more than Mushu's razor-sharp wit to defeat the ruthless Hun leader, Shan-Yu. Only by staying true to herself will she bring victory to her country and honor to her family!
     Triumphant across all fronts, including unforgettable, chart-topping music and rich Disney animation featuring a spectacular fireworks display, Mulan is in the finest tradition 'a total delight!'"

Here is the trailer:

This has to be one of the most amazing cartoons Disney has ever made. The animation is astonishing---especially the scene where they are fighting in the mountain pass. The animations in cartoons these days just doesn't match up to anything done in Mulan. The film score is incredibly dramatic. The featured songs in the movie are fun! There is such a variety of style, that I have a hard time picking a favorite. 

The story is one of the greatest ever told. A girl who feels like she dishonors her family just by being herself does the impossible. She dresses up as a boy and trains as an Imperial soldier...all to save her father from certain death. Mulan faces some of the toughest challenges ever presented to animated characters. She literally puts her life on the line to protect her family and friends. 

The characters are incredibly memorable. Mushu provides some much needed comedy relief to lighten up the otherwise serious mood. Mulan has to be one of the most serious Disney films I've ever seen. Most of the time, Disney likes to make things flowery and innocent. In this cartoon, we are presented with death and war. Several people die and scenes of destroyed villages fill the screen. Cri-Kee is so adorable. He makes a great sidekick to the sidekick. Its really hard to believe that he was ever unlucky (& that's when you have to go back and watch the Matchmaker scene again). Yao, Ling & Chin Po are incredibly funny and provide a lot of the male perspective. They keep the laughs coming. Captain Shang has high expectations to live up to, which in the end make him a good leader (although we all know that if it weren't for Mulan, he would be dead). 

All in all, Mulan is one of the greatest Disney Masterpiece cartoons and I'm so glad I've been able to enjoy it for so long. We're pretty old school when it comes to our videos. We still have a couple of VCRs and in case you haven't guessed it, our copy of Mulan is a VHS (as well as Housesitter, Soul Man, & Splash). Yes, we own a Blu-Ray and DVD player, but there is something wonderful about watching VHS tapes on a VCR. These videos have been with us for a long time. When I was around 4, we actually saw Mulan in the theater with my grandparents. We saw it on post (military base, etc.) and I will never forget watching it. It was incredible! Even watching it now, I still can't believe how much time has passed since Mulan was first released. 

Mulan is a must-see for everyone. It wonderfully depicts hardships and the bond between Father and Daughter. No video collection is complete without Mulan.

Book Review: Donut Days

Walking through the library, I was searching for books to read for my Summer Reading Challenge. Mom lent me a helping hand and spotted this one. This is book #3!

What I'm Listening To:

  • You Are More by Tenth Avenue North
  • Be My Escape by Relient K
Donut Days
By: Lara Zielin
Rating: 4/5

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Blurb:

What would you do for a chance at salvation?

Emma's life is a mess. Her best friend isn't talking to her and the boy she's known forever and dismissed has suddenly turned into a hottie. As if that wasn't enough, her parents have decided not to pay for college unless Emma goes to a Christian school, something she absolutely does not want. Enter the Crispy Dream---a new donut franchise in town, where people camp out waiting to be the first ones served. The local paper is running a scholarship for the person who writes the best story about the donut camp. This could be Emma's big chance to take control of her future. But can she rely solely on donuts for her salvation?
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Let me begin by saying that I like the cover. It's bright, it's fun and there are donuts. I'm rather fond of donuts (especially the chocolate coconut ones). As a matter of fact, the day before I finished reading this book, we made a run to the new Dunkin Donuts down the road. 

First thought after reading Chapter 1:
"Oh no! Not a bunch of those crazy Christians! Stop being so preachy through the book!" Yea...that was what I was thinking. Emma's parents are both pastors at Living Word Redeemer. Emma isn't the most gungho religious daughter. 

Basically, Emma is a very private girl. Her parents are private too. They keep things from her because they feel like they're protecting her, when she is already being immensely affected and knows more than they know. This book represents Emma's journey into finding her faith and strengthening the ties with those around her. She meets a biker gang and is constantly plotted against by a friend whose father is up to something sneaky and using the church to carry out his dastardly plans. 

Closing thought after finishing book:
"That was good! Nice ending...plenty of closure. Definitely worthwhile." 

I liked this book a lot more than I originally thought I would. This is why reading books completely through, even against first impressions, is extremely important and sometimes rewarding. I was taken by surprise by Donut Days. For this being her first novel, Lara Zielin did a remarkable job. The characters were relatable, well developed, and mostly likable. The plot had its dramatic points, a constant pace, decent flow and a good tie-up in the end. Everything about this book made sense once I had a grasp on the overall atmosphere. 

In the end, I would recommend this book to lots of people. It is a heartwarming story about family, life, spirituality and mostly about finding your place in the puzzle. Personal talents should be appreciated and used. 

Until my next review, 
I wish you all a wonderful day ^_^

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book Review: Chaos

I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway and I have to say it is one of the best books I've read. Here was my reaction to this book after completing it: "Oh-My-Gosh-My-Mind-Has-Just-Been-Hacked-And-Entertained-In-A-Way-I-Thought-Was-Impossible!!!"  Well let me tell you, dear readers, it was totally possible. Today's book, I would recommend to anyone! Most of all---to Indiana Jones fans or those who like NY underground, or adventurers and people who find history interesting.

What I'm Listening To:

  • Bullets by Creed
  • Signs by Creed


Chaos 
by David Meyer
Rating: 5/5

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Blurb:

New York City, 1976: Heavily-armed, masked men hijack a subway train...and its deadly cargo.

New York City, Present: An expedition vanishes while conducting a top-secret operation deep underground.

A Shattered Man With Nothing To Lose...
To locate his missing friend, former urban archaeologist Cyclone Reed must piece together his shattered life and return to the one place on earth he truly fears...Manhattan.

A Lost World Full Of Danger...
Soon, he's storming through flooded subway tunnels, discovering a lost laboratory, battling a mysterious man-eating beast, and scaling a mountainous skyscraper. But as he plunges deeper into strange and murky legends surrounding a piece of forgotten technology, he begins to untangle a staggering conspiracy.

A Shocking Secret That Will Rock The Earth!
More than sixty years ago, a Nazi physicist created a weapon capable of setting the world aflame. Now, a diabolical industrialist plans to finish the job. At stake is the future of a nation...millions of innocent lives...and one man's final chance at redemption.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------


I have a lot to cover in this review, so 
let's start with the cover.

Book Cover: This has to be one of the coolest book covers I've ever seen. The burnt/torn parchment border is amazing, the skull and cross-picks are eye catching, and the bold lettered all-CAPS title is definitely attractive. I like the shadow and mystery produced with the two characters on the front running down the tracks.     5 Stars for Cover Design.

Next, let's get a little profile of each 
character, shall we? 

Cyclone Reed: The perfect protagonist for this type of story. He is strong and smart but still imperfect and prone to feelings of failure. There really isn't a physical description of Cyclone. This has its merits since each reader can pick features they like most about people and apply them in this novel to create the image of their own Cy. The thing I really liked about Cyclone was his wit. It was awesome how he managed to keep his smart tongue going in the face of evil. Definitely well-written.

Beverly Ginger: I really love Beverly. She is a great character that manages to keep a dash of mystery amidst all the craziness that surrounds her and Cyclone. Right when I thought I had her character figured out to a 'T,' things changed on me and I was thrown for a loop.

Diane Blair: Diane is a star archaeologist who has a history with Cyclone Reed, although due to circumstances, it ended up coming to an abrupt close. I kinda consider Diane as just being an extra. She's that girl that always manages to get in the way. I didn't really like her, but I don't hate her. She's just a mediocre girl who was tossed into the mix. Due to her strict archaeological thinking, she has a distaste for treasure hunters...which ends up being ironic since that's exactly what Cyclone has become. Diane gummed up the works and I felt that the relationship between her and Cyclone was very underdeveloped. It could have been left out and I honestly don't think it would have changed too much.

Ryan Standish: Some characters I love...some I hate...this is one case where I am kinda neutral. Standish is a pretty bad guy, but he has been manipulated a lot. He was taken advantage of and severely misinformed. But at the same time, I don't really feel bad for him. He's just one of those characters...not much more I can say for him than that.

Jack Chase: This guy is the exact villain that this story needed. He is perfect in every villainy aspect. All his life, he has been fighting for an unjust cause. Hes lost just about every last bit of sanity going after a weapon of mass destruction. He lies, he cons people and does everything in his power to get what he wants. All of which is necessary to complete a good antagonist. I hate him so much, but that's the key. The villains are the characters you LOVE to HATE. Definitely well-developed.


Let's move on to the plot 
really quick.


This book is the perfect blend of so many things. I'll give you the recipe:
1 cup full of Indiana Jones blended with Tomb Raider
A pinch of Gregor the Overlander and Pyrates (Adult Style)
A dash of Michael Crichton's typical technothriller
100% original David Meyer brilliance
(This book is full of originality and provides feelings of each of the mentioned above involving science, underground NY and adventure)

I really loved this book. It took me on a roller coaster adventure. Each chapter left me wanting more. It was written so well, it was like having a movie playing in my mind. This book was gripping. It kept a steady pace, but whipped around a few unseen curves that kept the story moving forward. I laughed in joy, whimpered in angst, and smiled through it all. There really aren't enough words to do this book credit. 

Time to wrap this review up!
Amazing book...I wanna read it all over again, but can't because I have a bunch of other books to read. It kept me going for hours and I really didn't want it to end...but I still wanted to know what happened. Contradictory feelings really bite. I want to read more of Cyclone Reed. I'm really hoping for a sequel. I will definitely read whatever book Mr. Meyer has published next. Chaos is a definite revisit

All right, this review has come to an end.
Please join us for our next installment soon! =)