Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sandry's Book { Circle of Magic Book 1 }

Title:  Sandry’s Book {Circle of Magic}
Author:  Tamora Pierce
Ideal Age Range:  Middle School
Mass Market Paperback:  272 Pages
Copyright Date:  1997
Blurb: “With her gift of weaving silk thread and creating light, Sandry is brought to the Winding Circle community.  There she meets Briar, a former thief who has a way with plants; Daja, an outcast gifted at metalcraft; and Tris, whose connection with the weather unsettles everyone, including herself.  At Winding Circle, the four misfits are taught how to use their magic-and to trust each other.  But then disaster strikes their new home.  Can Sandry weave together four kinds of magical power and save herself, her friends, and the one place they have ever been accepted?”
My Rating:(★★★)  The first time that I read the Circle of Magic quartet, I wasn’t enthralled.  I was, in a word, disappointed.  Where was Tortall?  Why was Ms. Pierce writing about this new world?  I felt betrayed, and I’m sure my disappointment in the fact that her new books were not set in my favorite realm, Tortall, gave way to my disdain of the characters and my general dislike of the books.
Ten years later I went back and reread them.  All of them, though this review is only for the first, Sandry’s Book, and I was much more inclined to like them.  I knew that they weren’t about Tortall so there was no disappointment this time, and there was no comparing the Winding Circle books to the Tortall books, over and over again, like the first time that I had read them.
It bode well for a more enjoyable reading experience, to say the least.  Each of the books has a way of introducing you to a deeper part of the characters since each book is spotlighting one of the four main characters in the story.  Hence the naming of the books as Sandry’s Book, Daja’s Book and so on.  This first highlights Sandry, she is the wielder of weaving magic and a noble, but she loves her friends and is the diplomatic one.  All of the characters are smart, in their own way. 
I think that the fact that these books have a lot of character development would be my main compliment of the series, and considering that there are 8+ novels there is plenty of time to develop them!  Out of the series, The Circle of Magic, I think that Sandry’s Book would rank 3rd in the list.
Sandrilene as drawn by guardedcastle
1stBriar’s Book
2nd: Daja’s Book
3rd: Sandry’s Book
4th: Tris’s Book
Still, I don’t think that I have found a book that Tamora Pierce has written that I didn’t like, so as long as she keeps writing books will be as long as I keep reading them.
Quotes: "I am silly, now and then. My mother said I was, anyway."
Similar Titles:  Any other book by Ms. Pierce
Author’s Website:

My Rating System:
= didn’t like it
★★ = it was ok
★★★ = liked it
★★★★ = really liked it
★★★★★ = it was amazing
© demureconnoisseur/ Stacy Grey

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Twilight { The Twilight Saga #1 }

Title: Twilight { Book 1 of the Twilight Saga}
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Ideal Age Range: 14- Up
Synopsis: A clumsy self-sacrificing girl named Bella moves to the rainy town of Forks, Washington to live with her father, Charlie, so that her hair-brained Mother can travel with her new husband.  In doing so, Bella becomes the New Girl and seemingly along with that title comes the affection of all the boys in school, even though she thinks little of her looks.  Once there, and rebuffing all the attention of the other kids at school, she draws the scrutiny of the secluded Cullens, especially Edward, who turn out to be Vampires, but the good kind (AKA Vegetarians read: eat animals not humans)!  Edward and Bella cannot stay away from each other as he draws her in with his debonair good looks and brooding murderous intent for her that he restrains, and he can’t stay away from her “heroin”-like smell.  Soon his desire for her blood turns to a desire to protect her from everything and everyone else.  Bad vampires show up and they want her too!  There’s a fight to the finish and Edward has to make a decision to save Bella’s life.
My Rating:(★★★) I read Twilight right before the Eclipse book was to come out.  I resisted a long time.  I read and heard all the hype before going into it, I read some bad reviews, heard people raging against the clich├ęd storyline, and how lots of people think that the story promotes unhealthy relationships in teens.  I also have witnessed the absolute adoration of the book as well.  And absolute adoration of Edward.
What’s my response to that?  It’s a story.  It’s not real, and Edward isn’t real.  I found it to be a fun read, albeit not the next Gone with the Wind or anything.  But I love books about Vampires.  I love books about the Supernatural.  I didn’t even really mind the fact that the reason the Vampires in Meyer’s books can’t go into the sunlight is because they – sparkle.
“His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday’s hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface.”
Seemed a little silly at first but I mentally shrugged my shoulders and let it go, I would probably have never thought of such a reason for them to not be able to be out in the daylight.  So, she used creative license in that respect, kudos to you Mrs. Meyer.
What did I like about the book?  Mainly I liked the fact that it was so “normal” for being a Young Adult Fantasy book.  I do admit that a lot of the super romantic things that Edward says to Bella had me torn between earnestly wishing a boy would say that kind of stuff to me and gagging with the cheesiness of the lines said.
I didn’t like the ease with how I could see the danger of their relationship being a dependent/abusive relationship.  I understand, it is different because of the supernatural element, but if you took that out of the story?  It definitely would be one of those relationships.  That isn’t something that I want thousands of young impressionable girls to desire!
But like I said near the beginning, it is a work of fiction, only a tale, just like Harry Potter is only a story about a school of witchcraft and wizardry.  Nothing to get up in arms about and spout “devilry!” at.  Fiction.  Fantasy.  Equalsnot Real. I even capitalize the Real.  As long as we all keep that in mind, I think we will be a-ok.
Quotes: “And so the lion fell in love with the lamb.” –Edward, Twilight
My Rating System:
★ = didn’t like it
★★ = it was ok
★★★ = liked it
★★★★ = really liked it
★★★★★ = it was amazing

© demureconnoisseur/ Stacy Grey

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Robin Hood (2010)

Title: Robin Hood (2010)
Director: Ridley Scott
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content.)
Length: 2 Hours 20 Minutes
Tagline:  “The story behind the legend, the hero behind the outlaw.”
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett
Synopsis: Robin Longstride is an archer in the King’s Army, marching back from the Crusades, when the King dies, he and his men end up taking the crown back to the Queen.  They then go to Nottingham to return Robert Loxley’s Father’s sword to him, once there Loxley’s Father, Walter convinces Robin to pose as Robert so that when and if he dies then his lands won’t go to the crown but will stay with the people, namely Robert’s widow, Marian.
In doing so, Robin becomes part of a coming together of the northern barons that want a charter brought into being that will make the King’s will bound by the law and restricted.  A man who was raised with the new King John is a traitor to the crown and is working with France’s King, Philip.  The barons come together under Robin’s leadership to quell the French forces with the King in attendance.  When the French surrender to Robin instead of him, he goes back on his word about issuing the charter and instead names Robin and all his men as outlaws to the crown.
My Rating:(★★★★) So, I went to see this movie before it left theaters for a few reasons.
Number 1- Alan Doyle.  He plays the part of Allan A’Dayle, one of Robin’s men, an Archer from the King’s Army.  Alan Doyle is the lead singer from my favorite band, Great Big Sea.  They are from Newfoundland and play Celtic Folk Rock music.
Number 2- I have always loved any version of Robin Hood that I have read or seen.  Even Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Number 3- I love period pieces.  I love the costumes, the sets, the stories.  They are mostly epics, full of adventure and sword fighting.
I thought that the acting was superb, nothing that any of the actors hadn’t done before (at least the stars) so it probably wasn’t hard for them.  Alan Doyle was fabulous as Alan A’Dayle, he got to sing a couple of songs and play a lute.  He didn’t disappoint me in the least.  I was excited that I saw him right away in the first five minutes of the movie and that his character didn’t die!
This story was a lot different than any other Robin Hood tale I had ever come across.  It wasn’t so much about “Robin Hood” as it was about the person he was before he became the outlaw/hero.  He was a soldier that had the respect of his friends and comrades.  He was honorable.  The tale of him as Robin Hood doesn’t start until the end of this movie.
The fact that Richard the Lionheart dies near the beginning threw me off because I’m used to the tale being that Robin Hood is stealing from the rich to give to the poor while the Lionheart is still away crusading and he returns at the end to give laud to Robin for protecting his people, but King Richard isn’t portrayed in that good of a light in this version.  His brother isn’t much better.
Plus, he isn’t even “Robin of Loxley”.  He is Robin Longstride, the son of a stonemason.  I’m open to different interpretations of stories though that have no real documented proof.  There’s always a new way to spin an old legend or story and I welcome those.
The action sequences were classic Ridley Scott.  My favorite is the super slow motion shot of the arrow being released by Robin.  It was pretty awesome to watch.
In short, I’d recommend it if you like period pieces, or if you like Ridley Scott movies, and if you like Alan Doyle.  :) They are all the reason I needed.
Quotes:  “Rise, and rise again. Until lambs become lions.” – Robin
“Ask me nicely.” - Robin

My Rating System:
★ = didn’t like it
★★ = it was ok
★★★ = liked it
★★★★ = really liked it
★★★★★ = it was amazing
© demureconnoisseur/ Stacy Grey

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Eragon { The Inheritance Trilogy #1 }

Title: Eragon
Author: Christopher Paolini
Ideal Age Range: 12 and Up
Mass Market Paperback:  730
Blurb:  “One boy…One dragon…A world of adventure.  When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter.  But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself.
Overnight he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power.  With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds.
Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders?  The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands.”
Synopsis: Eragon begins the story living with his Uncle and cousin in the village of Carvahall, where he goes out into the wild hunting.  He finds a blue stone, thinking he can sell it to pay for food for the winter, but it hatches into the blue dragon, Saphira.  He ends up fleeing Carvahall when the king sends two monsters to capture him, when they fail to do so he loses much more than his freedom.
The old man from the village, Brom, joins him and they go in search of a rebel faction called the Varden.  On the journey he learns about the fabled Dragon Riders, and realizes that he must become one to possibly save the Empire from the evil reaches of the King.

My Rating:(★★★)  Eragon is full of fun fantastical imagery.  Paolini takes the things I like about fantasies in general and weaves an exciting adventure that made me want my own dragon hatchling and to become a Dragon Rider myself!
While I was reading the book though, I thought a couple of places were a little bit longer than was really necessary, mostly the journey across the desert.  I also found too many similarities between Star Wars and elements of Lord of the Rings in Eragon.  I’ll quickly list them here:
Eragon = Luke Skywalker
Eragon lives with his Uncle & Cousin, Luke lives with his Aunt and Uncle
Eragon finds out he is destined to be a Dragon Rider, an elite group of individuals with magic and special abilities and a Dragon, whereas Luke finds out he is destined to be a Jedi, an elite group of individuals with midichlorians and special abilities and a Light Saber.
Eragon is taught by an aging, in hiding old Dragon Rider, Luke is taught by an aging, in hiding old Jedi.
And that’s only the first quarter of the book.  I won’t go on, but I’m sure you can draw up more similarities for yourself as you read the book.
I loved the character of Brom.  I would have to say he was probably my favorite.  I enjoyed the story overall, and I found it an interesting and mind engaging read for the most part.  If you like fantasy novels, it’s definitely worth the time and effort, and if you have problems keeping names straight or pronouncing any of the made up places, there are helpful maps and a dictionary in the back of the book.
I have yet to finish reading the trilogy though; maybe I will pick those up at the library when I finish my current reading project.

Quotes: “What wisdom can I give people that they haven’t already learned? What feats can I achieve that an army couldn’t do better? It’s insanity!”

Currently Reading: Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

My Rating System:
★ = didn’t like it
★★ = it was ok
★★★ = liked it
★★★★ = really liked it
★★★★★ = it was amazing

© demureconnoisseur/ Stacy Grey