Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm not posting the lyrics to "Auld Lang Syne"...

Watch this space. At the beginning of 2008, I'll post some information on upcoming books and movies of the year. Celebrate New Year's as happily (or drowzily) as you like.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"The Circle Trilogy" review

Yadda yadda. You know the shpeel. Ted Dekker's done it again! Kept me riveted from the first page to the last! What a great writer! Yeah, same old, same old. Anyway, Merry Christmas. Here's my cumulative review of Black, Red, and White, the three volumes of the Circle Trilogy and the beginning of the Books of History Chronicles, which, at the time of my writing, spans no less than six books.

Black: The story begins as Thomas Hunter exits a coffee shop in Denver to discover he is being shot at. He is wounded and soon falls asleep... only to awaken in another world. This is Earth's future, where a plague has ravaged and eliminated most of the planet's population. The survivors live in a colored forest alongside white fuzzy bats known as the Roush. It is peaceful, and the humans are all under the great Elyon's protection. But across the river is the Black Forest, where the Deciever, Teeleh, lives. None from the Colored Forest can eat Teeleh's fruit or drink his water, or else they will die and the Colored Forest will be destroyed. One day, though, a man from the Colored Forest crosses over, and evil begins to creep back into the world...

Meanwhile, on present-day Earth, a man named Valborg Svensson plots to kill millions, if not billions, with the Raison Strain, a mutation of what was thought to be a helpful vaccine. It leaves its victims dead in three weeks...

Thomas Hunter discovers that anytime he is asleep, he travels from one world to the other. It seems only he has the ability to save both worlds...

Red: Fifteen years have passed in the Other Earth, though only a night has passed in the here and now. Thomas Hunter is the leader of the Forest Guard, who protect what is left of their home, from the attacks of the Horde. The Horde are those whom Teeleh decieved, who did not drink of Elyon's cleansing water, and they have sworn to destroy the Forest Guard. And there is a traitor in Thomas's midst...

On the Earth of today, the Raison Strain has been released. The clock is ticking...

White: It has all led to this. Thomas Hunter and his newly born sect, the Circle, have vowed to show the Other Earth Elyon's love, even if it means their deaths. And it very well may. Qurong, the leader of the Horde, has a plan to overthrow the Circle, and Teeleh is pulling the strings. It is this moment the Circle has been waiting for. It is this moment in which the fate of the world may be decided...

On present-day Earth, a possible cure to the Raison Strain has been found. But it might require the ultimate sacrifice...

I'll admit, I was skeptical. I mean, this sort of thing doesn't normally work. But Dekker's writing had me hook, line, and sinker from the beginning, and he kept raising the stakes until it became almost unbearable... the mark of a truly good writer. There is not enough praise I can give for this series. So I'll just say two words:

Dive Deep.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

"THR3E" and "House" reviews

Ted Dekker is known to be the master of Christian suspense. His books, some of which have been made into movies, are bestsellers, and they combine Christian themes with nail-biting adrenaline rushes. This is one of his books.

What would you do if you got a phone call from a man while you were driving down the road? What if that man told you to confess a sin you didn't know you'd committed? What if he told you the car you were in would explode in a few minutes? Of course, you'd be curious. You'd probably pull over to the side of the road and step out of your car for a while, just to be sure.

What if the car really did explode?

Such is the starting point for THR3E, a thriller that will keep you guessing until the last page. Filled with an unusual perspective on goor and evil, a twisting plot, and solid characters, this book is a must-read that will keep you up at night.

House's plot is as simple as the title. Four people get stranded in a house with no way out, no way to alert the authorities. A man named Barsidious White tosses in a can with the house rules. #1-- God came to this house and I killed him. #2-- I will kill anyone who comes into my house like I killed God. #3-- Give me one dead body and I might let Rule #2 slide. You have until dawn.

This book is a collaboration between Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, which is sort of a big deal. And I'd say it's worth the hype. The story takes place all during one night, which gives the feeling that time is running out with the pages. The characters all have radically different personalities, and it's always interesting to see them bounce off each other in a situation of full panic. Finally, in the end, decisions are made that show each character's true worth.


Monday, November 5, 2007

First Sentence?

"The man was wearing glasses, so he could see his death clearly."

So, is it an interesting way to start a book?

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Phantom of the Opera" review

Every once in a while, a new movie is made that leaves a lasting impact. Every once in a while, there is a really good musical out in theatres. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, directed by Joel Schumacher, fulfills both these criteria.

The film is a romance-- a love triangle, a swashbuckling action film, a musical whose songs soar to new heights of the imagination, and a thriller all rolled into one package. And it doesn't disappoint. The sets are lavish, the costumes are lavish, the singing is lavish, and it can't get much better than this.

There are many out there who have seen the stage musical in countries all around the world, and the plot isn't exactly a secret: a Phantom (Gerard Butler) lurks inside a Parisian opera house, where he finds a girl named Christine Daae (Emily Rossum) with great singing talents. He soon falls in love with her, becomes obsessed with her, and takes her down to his layer. He seduces her, sends her back, and pulls some strings at the theatre to ensure she gets the lead. About this time Christine's childhood sweetheart, Raoul (Patrick Wilson), appears and falls in love with Christine again. The Phantom turns murderous, and both he and Raoul begin vying for Ms. Daae's affections.

The acting is pitch perfect. Gerard Butler establishes firmly an inner torment that balances sympathy and fear in our minds. Patrick Wilson is not too good-looking to be real, and his singing is bewitching. But Emily Rossum's performance is truly the one that makes the heart soar, her vocals masterfully beautiful in every scene, and she steals the show, almost, from the Phantom himself.

The songs are as wonderful as ever. "Music of the Night" is lush and floating, "Point of No Return" is tense and gripping, "All I Ask of You" is sweet, lifting, and romantic, and the title tune is sung to an extent seldom matched in a musical.

The movie's on DVD now, and everyone should surrender to its darkly cast spell.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Isle of Swords" review

Wayne Thomas Batson unleashed his first non-Door Within book upon an unsuspecting populace this September. It's a move away from his original style of fantasy. It's Isle of Swords. It's about those OTHER pirates of the Caribbean, and it's Batson's best yet.

The book opens with Captain Declan Ross, an honest pirate. He doesn't hurt those he steals from, he's got a system of honor, and his crew looks up to him. His daughter wishes to be an official crew member, but he won't have it. Trouble is, they're low on loot, and there's a leak in his ship that will cause it to sink... in a week.

So they go to an island, where they find a boy, brutally injured, with no clue of who he is. Declan Ross and his men take him aboard, where they name him Cat. Eventually, they sail to an island with some monks who know the secret of a treasure. The treasure is located on the Isle of Swords, which is, of course, not on any written maps.

But there's a catch: Bartholomew Thorne, the most ruthless pirate on the sea, is after the treasure too.

This book is perhaps the grittiest and most intense of Batson's work, and in my opinion better than the Disney movies. They're a departure from the traditional Hollywood pirates, and more real and compelling as a result.

Hey, it beats the Disney ride, too.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"The Final Storm" review

It's hard to look back and see who Aidan Thomas was not long ago: a boy distraught about moving, overweight, unhappy. Now, he is one of those few who have been called to save Alleble, and the Realm, from the forces of Paragor. Antoinette Reed was a normal girl who lived a normal life, not quite fitting in. She too, is in the Realm-- now trapped by Robby Pierson's Glimpse-twin, Kearn at the Gate of Despair. Robby himself was a sports star, the ultimate "cool kid". Now, his future is in doubt.

It's time for the final storm.

Paragor has unleashed the legendary Wyrm Lord upon the Realm, whose fires are deadly in the extreme. Other forces are at his command as well, and Alleble and its allied kingdoms are suffering crushing blows. The future is uncertain, to say the least. It seems Paragor even has a prophecy that predicts Alleble's downfall. And yet, the war goes on. When it seems there is no hope left, Paragory and Alleble prepare for the last battle, which will leave an impact on the Realm forever.

This is the greatest and most emotional of the Door Within Trilogy. The characters do what the characters would do. The danger is more intense than ever. There are moments to make the reader cheer, and moments to make them cry, all executed pitch-perfect by Wayne Thomas Batson. You care intensely about what's happening at the moment. There is great fulfilling of foreshadowing, great moments from all the characters. This is the sort of book that makes you want to give the author a round of applause after you've finished.

Well done, Mr. Batson. Well done.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"The Rise of the Wyrm Lord" review

The Door Within was the first novel by Wayne Thomas Batson, and the first in his trilogy of the same name. It told the somewhat allegorical, but never preachy, story of Aidan Thomas, who was whisked to the Realm not long ago after finding a set of incredible scrolls that told its history. Upon leaving, successfully completing his mission and simultaneously saving his father and his father's Glimpse-twin, he saw his best friend, Robby Pierson, had red eyes. This meant he was a servant of the dark lord Paragor.

Now, Aidan is beginning to settle back into his normal lifestyle. One day, though, he meets a girl named Antoinette Reed, a magnificent artist, a skilled fighter, and a firm believer in Alleble and its king, Eliam. He realizes her Glimpse-twin is Gwenne, his love from the Realm. Suddenly, Antoinette is called just as Aidan was in the first book to go to Alleble as the Twelfth Knight, in a desperate attempt to stop Paragor from unleashing his greatest horror yet upon the Realm: the Wyrm Lord, an ancient dragon of evil.

Congratulations are in order for Mr. Batson, as his second book far surpasses his first-- and the first was good. The characters are more fleshed out, including the villains, the perils seem more real, and his writing style is better as well. Be prepared for a surprise cliffhanger ending, though-- you'll want to have Book III, The Final Storm on hand.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"The Door Within" review

I've posted on this book before, but seeing as there's a new book out by this author, Isle of Swords, I figured I'd do more substantial reviews for his past books.

The Door Within is a compelling fantasy novel by a Christian author who's getting bigger by the day: Wayne Thomas Batson. In it, he tells the story of Aidan Thomas, a teenage boy whose life has just turned upside-down. No, he hasn't found out he's king of the trolls or something ludicrous like that. No, he has instead moved hundreds of miles away from his old home and his best friend, Robby Pierson. He doesn't know anyone, and so has suffered a crushing emotional blow. In his new home he is living in with his grandfather, he decides to go searching through the house one day. That's when he finds the scrolls.

The scrolls contain the story of a magical kingdom called Alleble which exists parallel to our own world. Alleble is part of the Realm, where King Eliam reigns in peace. But one of his trusted men, Paragal, betrays him and murders him in front of his people. His name is then changed to Paragor, and he and his servant, Rucifel, go to make a kingdom in his own image: Paragory. But in Alleble, Eliam's influence is still strong, and his spirit still abides in his kingdom.

Aidan is stunned, and rightfully so. These stories, he feels, are true, although his parents say otherwise. Angry, he shuts himself away from them and sees the scrolls have more written on them. There is a poem, a riddle, and with the help of his grandfather, Grampin, Aidan figures it out. He then finds himself in the Realm where it seems he has a mission waiting for him. He is the twelfth in a group of Glimpse knights. (Glimpses are the "humans" of the Realm. They each have a twin on Earth, and each is affected by the other. Their eyes change from blue- servants of Eliam- to red- servants of Paragor- to green- undecided- depending on where their loyalties lie.) In this group are characters such as Captain Valithor, Grampin's Glimpse, and Gwenne, whom Aidan takes a liking to instantly. And he journeys to win over the Glimpses of the neighboring kingdom for Eliam.

There isn't a slow moment in this story, and for this I'm grateful. Only occasionally does the story show the trappings of a first-time author. Wayne Thomas Batson certainly has talent, and he uses it to create a whopping good yarn, one that makes one wish to instantly progress onto Book II, The Rise of the Wyrm Lord.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Belated June 2007 Book Reviews (with some July on the side)

The Name of the Wind: Wow. This is a debut from Patrick Rothfuss, a fantasy author who is absolutely amazing. I can't say enough about this book. Just read it, okay?

Thr3e: The first novel I've read by Ted Dekker, and it won't be the last.

Showdown: An epic novel by Ted Dekker, and very original. Even better than Thr3e.

House: Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti bring us a great standalone novel that also manages to fit inside Ted Dekker's compelling world of Showdown.

Saint: A great book by Ted Dekker, with touches of The Bourne Identity and The Matrix. One catch-- you have to read Showdown and possibly House.

Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon: A gripping book containing mention of the 600 Grand Canyon deaths.

The rest of July later!

Tomorrow, Tomorrow...

Tomorrow at midnight, the Harry Potter series ends. Spoilers are everywhere, and Harry's life is in doubt. The search for Voldemort's horcruxes, as well as the Deathly Hallows, is about to begin. Who lives? Who dies? Who falls in love? Will a rat's life-debt be repaid? Will an old man's life have been lost in vain? Does the title Harry Potter and the Forest of Shadows have anything at all to do with this? Will Bill and Fleur get married? Will Harry go back to Hogwarts? Will he go to Gordic's Hollow, and if he does, will he like what he finds? Will Voldemort discover a fate worse than death? What does Kreacher do? What was that gleam in Dumbledore's eye about in Goblet of Fire? And when Harry and Voldemort face off in the end, who will emerge victorious?

The answers come July 21.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Not to sound obsessed, but...

The fifth Harry Potter movie producer was coming very close to eliminating a certain... Kreacher... from the film. J.K. Rowling made sure he understood the house-elf was necessary for the plot of Deathly Hallows.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Book News

A few book releases in the not-too-distant future...

Enoch's Ghost: The second in the Oracles of Fire series by Bryan Davis. Comes out July 1.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: It's official! Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's magical Harry Potter series, will be released on July 21, 2007. In the February 1 announcement from the book's publisher, Lisa Holton, President of Scholastic Children's Books, said, "We are thrilled to announce the publication date of the seventh installment in this remarkable series. We join J.K. Rowling's millions of readers--young and old, veterans and newcomers--in anticipating what lies ahead."

First Among Sequels: It’s been fourteen years since Thursday Next pegged out at the 1988 SuperHoop, and Friday is now a difficult sixteen year old. However, Thursday’s got bigger problems. Sherlock Holmes is killed at the Rheinback Falls and his series is stopped in its tracks. And before this can be corrected, Miss Marple dies suddenly in a car accident, bringing her series to a close as well. When Thursday receives a death threat clearly intended for her written self, she realizes what’s going on—there is a serial killer on the loose in the Bookworld. And that’s not all—The Goliath Corporation is trying to deregulate book travel. Naturally, Thursday must travel to the outer limits of acceptable narrative possibilities to triumph against increasing odds. Released July 24.

Night of the Soul-Stealer: Third in the Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney. Thomas Ward is the apprentice for the local Spook, who captures witches and drives away ghosts. As the weather gets colder and the nights draw in, the Spook receives an unexpected visitor. Tom doesn't know who the stranger is or what he wants, but the Spook suddenly decides it's time to travel to his winter house, Anglezarke. Tom has heard it will be a bleak, forbidding place, and that menacing creatures are starting to stir somewhere on the moors nearby. Can anything prepare Tom for what he finds there? What if the rumors about the evil beast called the Golgoth are true? And how much danger will Tom be in if the secrets the Spook has been trying to hide from the world are revealed? Released September 1.

Isle of Swords: Wayne Thomas Batson's newest book. 'Nuff said.

Leven Thumps and the Eyes of the Want: Foo--the place between the possible and the impossible--is a realm inside the minds of each of us that allows mankind the power to hope and imagine and dream. The powerfully gifted Leven Thumps, once an ordinary fourteen-year-old boy from Oklahoma, has been retrieved from Reality and sent to stop those in Foo who are nurturing dark dreams and plan to invade and rule Reality. Hold on to your popcorn! In book three, the war to unite Foo and Reality has begun. Not only must Leven race across Foo to stop the Secret before the deadly truth is revealed, he must travel to the island of Lith, the home of the Want--the manic dreammaster who can give Leven the gifts he needs against a foreboding army of rants and other Foo beings. If you are willing and have the courage, you're invited for the next adventure in book three, Leven Thumps and the Eyes of the Want. Travel to Sycophant Run, survive the Lime Sea, and discover a new gateway to Foo and a threat beneath the soil. The fooseeable adventure will keep Foo fans captivated and wanting more! Released September 25.

Empire of Ivory: Fourth in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. Released September 25.

Snakehead: What goes up must come down, and when we last saw Alex Rider, he was as up as can be—in outer space. When he crash lands off the coast of Australia, the Australian Secret Service recruits him to infiltrate one of the ruthless gangs operating across South East Asia. Known as snakeheads, the gangs smuggle drugs, weapons, and worst of all, people. Alex accepts the assignment, in part for the chance to work with his godfather and learn more about his parents. What he uncovers, however, is a secret that will make this his darkest and most dangerous mission yet . . . and that his old nemesis, Scorpia, is anything but out of his life. From the slums of Bangkok to the Australian Outback to the middle of the Timor Sea, Snakehead is Alex Rider’s most action-packed adventure yet. Released November 13.

The Search for the Red Dragon: The second in James A. Owen's Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series. Some inspired plot elements and character elements. Should be a good read. Arrives January 1, 2008.

Attack of the Fiend: Fourth in the Last Apprentice series. Released March 1, 2008.

Let the Madness Begin...

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is coming in less than a month. The madness surrounding the series seems greater than ever before, and excitement is at its greatest ever for a 784-page novel. The book comes out July 21. Note: The picture to the right is the front US cover. The one top and center is the entire US cover. The one on the top left is for the US Deluxe Edition.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Movie News

On the coming soon lists:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The fifth movie installment in the Harry Potter series will be packed with action, suspense, and humor in its 138 minutes. The film is rated PG-13 and is to be released in the US on July 11, just 10 days before the seventh book arrives in stores.

The Bourne Ultimatum: The third Bourne movie will surely have the mental/physical flavor of the past two films. It will probably be rated PG-13, and the release date is August 3.

The Golden Compass: The star-studded film adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series is billing itself as the next Narnia movie. The release date is December 7.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets: The sequel to the 2004 blockbuster revolves around the Lincoln assassination. It is due to be released on December 21.

Inkheart: The first novel in the Inkheart trilogy is coming to cinemas soon! The release date is March 19, 2008.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: The second Narnia movie revolves around a usurped prince. The release date is May 16, 2008.

Indiana Jones and the City of Gods (working title): This movie is filming right now, and it stars Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchette, and John Hurt. It will probably be rated PG-13 and has a release date of May 22, 2008.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: It's coooooming... November 21, 2008.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Yes, it's been announced. The third Narnia movie is due to be released on May 1, 2009.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Writing and Reading

My writing has been a mess of ideas lately, but without too much actual writing. I'm some ten pages into a second draft of one of my books, but I had to stop when I got an idea for something that would happen in another. It's maddening, but it's me. And I'm special just the way I am! Whoa, that sounds creepy.

By the way, I read the third Maximum Ride book: Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, and it's great fun, action, adventure, suspense, humor... even a little romance, but not too much. Definately James Patterson's magnum opus, and I'm glad there'll be a fourth.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Belated May 2007 Book Reviews (with some June on the side)

The Door Within: The start of a great trilogy. However, this one is the worst of the three, and it gets better throughout the series.

The Rise of the Wyrm Lord: The middle volume of the Door Within Trilogy. While it is much better than the first, it still is not quite to the level of

The Final Storm: The conclusion of the trilogy.The best writing, the best story, and it may even have you crying a bit at the end.

Nightrise: The third book in Anthony Horowitz's Gatekeepers series is better than the others, building up to two climaxes, one in the far distant past. I'm ready for the fourth volume, City of the Dead.

The Pilgrims of Rayne: The eighth PENDRAGON book is the best of the lot (and the longest), but start at the beginning if you want to know what's actually going on.

Gregor and the Code of Claw: Starting where Marks of Secret left off, the fifth Underland Chronicles novel is the greatest of them all.

More Horowitz Horror: Yet another new book by Anthony Horowitz. The companion book to his Horowitz Horror, this is better in many ways. And the ending is pure Horowitz.

Charlie Bone and the Beast: Charlie Bone is back in his sixth novel by Jenny Nimmo, and it's one of the best, leaving readers right where they want to be-- waiting for the inevitable sequel.

Skulduggery Pleasant: This may turn out to be the next big fantasy-- you know, Harry Potter and all that. It deserves to.

The Secret Life of Bees: I was told to read this book. In the back of my head, there was some measure of enjoyment I had throughout, but I just wasn't satisfied.

The Historian: This novel didn't fully realize its own potential, a sad, yet common, problem nowadays. Still... it was worth it.

The Gunslinger: The first in the Dark Tower series. The shortest, too. And, you know what? I'm hooked.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

There's probably not much I can say here about this movie that hasn't been said at least a dozen times, but I'll say it anyway. This movie, clocking in at just under 3 hours in length, is a thrill ride (pardon the pun) from beginning to end. It shows some interesting new aspects of the characters, gives some great eye candy, and all the plot threads from the previous movies are resolved. That's right. All of them. We now know who Calypso is, how to free her, and how she played an important roll in the transformation of Davy Jones. We see all the troubles Will and Elizabeth are facing and how they try to solve them, testing their own love, even through tragedy.

Jack is in a strange predicament, sentenced to an eternity in Davy Jones's locker, where he becomes delusional, thinking up multiple Jacks to crew the Black Pearl (also in the locker). There is sand all around and no way to move the ship. Now, Jack is one of the nine Pirate Lords, the holder of oneof the nine Pieces of Eight needed to free Calypso. The Brethrem Court (of Pirate Lords) is about to meet, and they need to go get Jack. So Barbossa (yes, he's back), along with Tia Dalma, Will, and Elizabeth journey to Singapore to enlist the help of Pirate Lord Sao Feng (played by Chow Yun Fat). Sao Feng has the navigational charts necessary to get to World's End, the way to Davy Jones's locker. Also, Will is still trying to save his father and Lord Cutler Beckett is trying to get rid of every last pirate who sails the ocean blue. Savvy? And that's just the first ten minutes. Yes, it's complicated, but the action is inspired and the characters still aren't boring. Just go see it already.

Drink up me hearties...

The Beginning

Yesiree, this is where the fun begins. I'm a writer (and reader) of fantasy, and I'm currently in the middle of far too many projects. This will be a (fairly) frequently updated blog containing news of progress, other interesting literary and film news, and some jokes. Enjoy!