Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Books of 2008 (in my humble opinion)

Best Debut: Mistborn-- The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson*
Runner-Up: House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo*

Best Title: PENDRAGON: Raven Rise by D. J. MacHale*
Runner-Up: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins*

Best Series Starter: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Runner-Up: House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo

Best Fantasy World: Mistborn-- The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
Runner-Up: Leven Thumps and the Wrath of Ezra by Obert Skye*

Best Whimsy: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling*
Runner-Up: Children of the Lamp-- The Eye of the Forest by P. B. Kerr

Best Christian Fiction: Sinner by Ted Dekker*
Runner-Up: House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo

Best Movie Adaptation: The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black**
Runner-Up: Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis**

Best Fight Scene: Isle of Fire by Wayne Thomas Batson*
Runner-Up: Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke*

Best Penultimate Novel: Brisingr by Christopher Paolini*
Runner-Up: PENDRAGON: Raven Rise by D. J. MacHale

Best Finale: Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
Runner-Up: Artemis Fowl-- The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer

Best "To be continued..." Moment: PENDRAGON: Raven Rise by D. J. MacHale
Runner-Up: TIE!!!
Gatekeepers by Robert Liparulo* and The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan*

Book I'm Looking Forward to Most Next Year: The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Runner-Up: TIE!!!
PENDRAGON: The Soldiers of Halla by D. J. MacHale and Erec Rex: The Search for Truth by Kaza Kingsley

Author of the Year: Patrick Rothfuss (read his blog and you'll understand why)
Runner-Up: Brandon Sanderson

Book of the Year: Sinner by Ted Dekker
Runner-Up: PENDRAGON: Raven Rise by D. J. MacHale
Honorable Mentions:
Adam by Ted Dekker*
Charlie Bone and the Shadow by Jenny Nimmo
The Indigo King by James A. Owen*
The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson*
Chosen, Infidel, Renegade, and Chaos (The Lost Books) by Ted Dekker*
Watcher in the Woods by Robert Liparulo*
*denotes true literary merit
**denotes a really good movie

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!... and some reviews for you!

The day has come, at long last!

Here are a few quick reviews:

Germ by Robert Liparulo: A deadly strain of Ebola has been modified so it will target specific people. Be very afraid. Highly recommended.

My rating: 9/10

Dreamhouse Kings-- House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo: The old Victorian fixer-upper the King family moves into turns out to have a few mysterious (and dangerous) secrets. Even better than Germ.

My rating: 9.5/10

Children of the Lamp (whole series) by P. B. Kerr: John and Phillipa Gaunt find out they're djinn, and many exciting adventures follow. It gets better and better as it goes along. Definately worth a read if you loved Harry Potter (as I did).

My ratings:
The Akhenaten Adventure: 7/10
The Blue Djinn of Babylon: 7.5/10
The Cobra King of Kathmandu: 8/10
The Day of the Djinn Warriors: 8.5/10
The Eye of the Forest: 9/10

Friday, December 19, 2008

And Don't Forget...

I'll be posting the 2008 2nd Annual Writer's Notebook "Best Books of the Year" post early January 2009!

This was a great year for books, and there were some great award opportunities I saw when reading. I'll be reading a couple more books before 2008 ends for my own consideration. We've had everything from PENDRAGON's penultimate volume, to Artemis Fowl's final adventure, to high-profile books like Brisingr anf The Tales of Beedle the Bard (yes, I've read it). There will be categories as follows:

Best Debut (this includes if I'm reading the first book I've read from the author, and it was published in at least one edition this year)

Best Title

Best Series Starter

Best Sequel

Best Fantasy World

Best Whimsy (yes, I know)

Best Christian Fiction

Best Movie Adaptation

Best Fight Scene

Best Penultimate Novel

Best Finale

Best "To be Continued..." Moment

Book I'm Looking Forward to Most Next Year

Author of the Year

Book of the Year

Don't forget! Watch the skies... or something like that.

"Mistborn: The Well of Ascension" review

Before I dive into this review, let me warn you of this: the review of Well of Ascension (from now on referred to as WoA) will go deep into spoiler territory from Book 1, entitled Mistborn: The Final Empire,or Mistborn if you're short on time.

WoA picks up a year after where FE (heh, iron, metal joke) left off and where most fantasies end. The Ocean's 11-esque scheme worked exactly as Kelsier intended, including the death of a major character, and Vin, a Mistborn girl herself, killed the Lord Ruler and ended his thousand-year reign. Now she and Elend Venture, the man she loves, can rebuild the world, better than it was before.

Only it's not so simple.

Suddenly, three different armies attack the city of Luthadel, one of which is led by Elend's father, Straff. Not only that, but Elend begins to realize that giving power to the people just might not be the best thing just yet, especially since he isn't acting very king-like. And Vin starts to see phantoms in the mist-- one, an enemy Mistborn, and the other made entirely from mist.

The mists are starting to come out in the day now. And they kill people at random. Vin is on the verge of believing that the Lord Ruler may have been doing something right. And she, not he is the Hero of Ages. That's a lot on everyone's respective plates.

Maybe killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part, after all...

WoA pulls itself out of the muck that is normally reserved for the middle volumes in trilogies to deliver a sequel that is every bit as good as the first. In fact, some things are better. The book is bursting with action, suspense, romance, intrigue, and revelations, and I've just scraped the surface of the plot for this description. It's a satisfying read on all counts, and while it doesn't end as completely as FE, it gives enough closure to make it feel less cheesy and to make the wait for the time when I'm able to sink my teeth into The Hero of Ages, Book 3 in the trilogy, slightly more bearable.

My rating: 9.5/10

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Books you really should read-- Part Two

The Door Within: One of the most solid trilogies I've ever read, Wayne Thomas Batson's allegorical fantasy never fails to excite. This is one of those stories you look back on with fondness, years after you've read it. And absolutely splendid work.

My rating: 10/10

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: What if Greek mythology came to life? And what if you found out you were the son or daughter of one of those mythical figures? Rick Riordan's first-person narrative is fast-paced, heroic, and pure fun to read. The first four books are out, starting with The Lightning Thief, and the fifth and final volume, The Last Olympian, comes out May 5, 2009.
My rating: 10/10

The Inheritance Cycle: Christopher Paolini's first and only series is a love letter to the fantasy genre, with allusions to Tolkien, McCaffrey, and LeGuin contained in its pages (among others). The story is about Eragon, who becomes the last Dragon Rider, the only hope of defeating the corrupt king Galbatorix. The penultimate volume, Brisingr, was just released, and the last will come without too much of a wait.
My rating: 9/10

The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica: James A. Owen's writing packs a punch. He doesn't need a lot of extra words to make readers fall in love with his semi-real characters. The Archipelago of Dreams is an extremely fun place to visit, and one that requires multiple trips to explore properly. The first three books, starting with Here, There Be Dragons, is out, and the fourth will come soon.
My rating: 9.5/10

The Underland Chronicles: Suzanne Collins offers readers what at first appears to be a twisted Alice in Wonderland story, with hero Gregor falling down an air vent by a washing machine and ending up (or rather, down) in the Underland, a place filled with giant rats, bats, and cockroaches. But the story evolves into something much more original and gripping, sending the reader on an unforgettable journey. The entire series is out, starting with Gregor the Overlander.
My rating: 10/10

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Books you really should read-- Part One

Erec Rex: Simon and Schuster just bought the series with an eight-book deal. Yes, that means something. Kaza Kingsley's story of Erec Rex and his many trials in Alypium is what could one day be a huge thing. This series is for the ages-- and for all ages. The first book, The Dragon's Eye and its sequel, The Monsters of Otherness are already out, and the third volume, The Search for Truth, comes out June 30, 2009.

My rating: 10/10

Harry Potter: This goes without saying. Some day down the road, these books will be known as literary classics for their ability to enrapture the minds of readers all over the world. The entire series is out, and author J. K. Rowling's next book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, comes out December 4.

My rating: 10/10

The Inkheart Trilogy: An extremely solid trilogy by German author Cornelia Funke asks the question "What is books could come to life?". And from there, the story progresses. The final book, Inkdeath, came out just recently, but the movie of the first volume, Inkheart, will be released January 23, 2009.

My rating: 9/10

Charlie Bone (or Children of the Red King): While these books may look like Harry Potter, the story contained within their pages is quite fresh, original, and fun to read. The first seven books are out, and the eighth and final one, Charlie Bone and the Red Knight, is set to come out next fall.

My rating: 9.5/10

PENDRAGON: This series is massive. There are nine books so far chronicling Bobby Pendragon's adventures across all of Halla (the blanket term for all of the universes), and the story is upbeat and epic at the same time. Fantastic. There are three prequels set to come out next spring, and the tenth and final book, The Soldiers of Halla, will be released May 12, 2009.
My rating: 10/10

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Book reviews 10/12

Leven Thumps and the Wrath of Ezra: The fourth installment in one of the most original series I've ever read is perhaps the finest. I honestly don't have any idea how Obert Skye can invent as much as he can and still put it in a fun adventure that keeps the pages turning, but he definitely can. Skye has a real talent for what he does and it's evident from the first page. The story of Leven Thumps' escapades in the land where dreams are made is impossible to explain and impossible to put down, and I'm going to be the first in line to get Leven Thumps and the Ruins of Alder, the conclusion.

My rating: 10/10

Isle of Fire: It's a real joy to read one of Wayne Thomas Batson's novels, and this is a fine example of how diverse he can be. He moved from writing a magnificent, solid fantasy trilogy to a two-part pirate adventure. It's what a summer blockbuster would be like on the page. I can even imagine Hans Zimmer's bombastic score as the action escalates. Cat and Anne's journeys, as well as the journeys of Brandon Blake, Declan Ross, and Bartholomew Thorne are gripping from page 1 and just begging to be made into a movie (but The Door Within is much more likely).


My rating: 10/10

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mistborn: The Final Empire review

This is the first in a wonderfully original trilogy by Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time fans will know him as the guy who's working on finishing the series after Robert Jordan's death). Book Two, The Well of Ascension, is already out in paperback, and the concluding volume, The Hero of Ages, hits stores soon. I got this book because I wanted to see if Sanderson had the writing chops to undertake finishing a project so massive as A Memory of Light. And he does.
Mistborn is mostly about Vin, a street urchin and a member of the skaa (think slaves) race. The skaa serve under the Lord Ruler, who, after vanquishing the evil that threatened the land, became corrupted himself. Vin is spotted by a group of thieves led by Kelsier, the only man to ever survive the Lord Ruler's most devastating punishment. She's told she's a Mistborn, one of the uniquely talented magicians whose strength relies on metals, and recruited into Kelsier's plan to overthrow the Final Empire-- and the Lord Ruler himself.

Brandon Sanderson doesn't waste time getting to the heart of the story, and there are enough twists and turns in it to keep you on the edge of your seat. The Mistborn fights are a real treat to read. And the book gives a great deal of closure while still making you curious, anxiously awaiting The Well of Ascension.

My rating: 9.5/10
P.S. I apologize about the spacing problems. I can't get blogger to work right.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Book reviews 9/29

The Hunger Games: Suzanne Collins, author of the highly acclaimed Gregor the Overlander books, has done it again. This time, the story is set in a futuristic dystopia a la Last Book in the Universe where teens are forced to compete in the Hunger Games, a deadly contest where only one can survive. It's as gripping as Collins' other books, and lays down great groundwork for a sequel.

My rating: 9.5/10

Charlie Bone and the Shadow: The seventh (out of a predicted eight) in the Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo is perhaps the second-best installment so far. There's more meat to it than almost any other one before it, with the notable exception of Charlie Bone and the Hidden King. Not to mention its story is the most original. Not to mention it leaves some really juicy loose ends to be tied up in Book Eight. Long story short: if you've read the others, you'll love it, if you haven't, then start reading. I promise, you'll like it.

My rating: 9/10

Sinner: Ted Dekker's latest, the final book in the Paradise trilogy, is perhaps one of his best yet. You really should read it. Enough said.

My rating: 10/10

Brisingr: And here comes the highest profile review of the bunch. Book Three of Christopher Paolini's much-debated Inheritance Cycle arrived amidst an outpour of criticism and talk about the book being only a guilty pleasure. I personally disliked the way Eldest ended, feeling it to be far too cliche, so I understand the criticism. I came into it unsure of its worth. But I read it anyway.

And you know what? It's worth reading. It's really worth reading. Paolini (or Paolini's editor) is really stretching his wings now-- no pun intended. His story is starting to really take flight in new and more interesting ways. And yes, that pun was intended. I know, it's bad. So sue me.

Eragon's finally realizing that making all of those oaths he made in the previous two volumes might not have been a good idea, as he now has bargains he must uphold with Roran, the Varden, Elva, Oromis, Orik, and more. He has to juggle with the realization of his father's identity, putting his personal desires behind him, and becoming the Dragon Rider he was destined to be. Many revelations await him-- among them, perhaps, the secret of the evil king Galbatorix's power. But he still has miles (and many, many pages) to go before he sleeps.

It's almost as if Paolini has read all of the fan criticism out there and tried to do what it asks. This installment doesn't feel like a STAR WARS ripoff. Eragon isn't quite as pampered as he feels he should be. The characters feel more real. And amidst all of these feelings, there's a death scene which is executed (man, the bad puns keep on coming) in a fresh way. You'll actually be excited about this series again, and be able by the end to forgive Paolini for some of his past misdoings.

My rating: 9.5/10

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Book reviews 8/25

I've been to the bookstore!
The Running Man: The fastest book Stephen King ever wrote, he wrote under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. The premise is simple: in the not-too-distant future, the only way for someone in the bottom class to make money is to sign up for the games. The Running Man is the story of the man who lands himself with the worst game of all, whose title is the same as the book's. In it he must run from the omnipresent and corrupt law enforcement while being billed as a criminal. The longer he survives, the more money he wins his family. Good deal, right?

All in all, this fast read still manages to pack a Stephen King punch. It's a compelling read, impossible to put down, and has plot twists that only King could come up with. Buckle up tight. This one, Constant Reader, is a race to the finish.

My rating: 8.5/10

The Long Walk: Another Bachman book, this was a publication that wasn't accepted when Stephen King was Stephen King. Bachman was the perfect way to get some of his early stories out to the public. The plot: every May, 100 teenage boys gather around in Maine for a life-changing contest. All they have to do is walk at a sustained speed at 4 miles an hour until they find themselves unable. There's a catch, though. If they win they get the Prize: anything they could psooibly need money-wise and more. But if they stop walking, they get shot. The last one to survive wins the Prize.

This book isn't just a thriller. It's also a pageturner of a character study. You get to know everyone on the Walk, also knowing that only one of them will actually live to the end of the book. So, naturally, everyone on the Walk thinks they'll die, and it gives them interesting outlooks on life. All in all, a solid entry from Ki-- I mean, Bachman.

My rating: 8/10

Last of the Nephilim: The Nephilim, an ancient race of giants, are awakening, but which side will they be on? A plot is being hatched by the successors of Morgan Le Fay to combine Earth, Heaven, and Hades, and it seems unstoppable. The storm is coming, and it's time to call the dragons and Oracles of Fire to the fight. But they can't do it alone. They'll need the help of the heir to Arthur-- Billy Bannister.

I have to admit, while I enjoyed the first two Oracles of Fire books, I felt as if they didn't have much of a reason for their existence. But Last of the Nephilim proves that these books were a good idea to write. Maybe all it took was getting Billy and Bonnie back (say that five times fast), but I think it's more than that. Nephilim feels more like the epic fantasy that it needs to be, containing the spirit of Dragons in Our Midst while offering readers something new. I'm really anticipating The Bones of Makaidos.

My rating: 9.5/10

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Movie reviews 8/20

I've been to the movies!

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: The O'Connells are back, but Imhotep's not. Instead, Rick and Evie go to China because their son, Alex (now 21), has unearthed a different mummy. This one, played by Jet Li, has an army of terra-cotta warriors and mastery over the elements. So things could get kind of tricky.

While it's not as good as the other two, Mummy 3 has all the trappings of a mindless summer action blockbuster, and it pulls them off with relative ease. Besides, it's got Yetis.

My rating: 7/10

Journey to the Center of the Earth: Brendan Fraser's other mindless summer action blockbuster (but not quite as mindless as Mummy 3). This time he plays an unlucky professor named Trevor whose brother's project is failing. His brother was investigating volcanic tubes in 1997-- when he vanished. But the tubes are real, and when Trevor takes his nephew to investigate an Icelandic sensor, they fall into one and find themselves in an adventure that leaped off the pages of Verne's novel.

Honestly, I didn't expect this movie to be as good as it was, and it turned out to be one of the summer's biggest surprises. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see it in 3D, but it seems like it would have worked well in that medium.

My rating: 7.5/10

STAR WARS-- The Clone Wars: Okay, so skeptical doesn't quite cut it. I was more than skeptical about this computer-animated feature. Of course, it had no hype to live up to, so it was an easy feat for it to surpass it. Jabba the Hutt's son is kidnapped, and it's up to the Anakin and his new apprentice, Ahsoka Tano, to rescue it from the clutches of the Separatists, led by Count Dooku and his ruthless, force-sensitive assassin, Asajj Ventress.

For people who say it's too juvenile, watch the original (which I love) again. Some of the dialogue and jokes are so corny, it would almost hurt if you didn't enjoy it so much. STAR WARS is for the kid in all of us, and its essence is captured well in this inatallment. Well, it's more like a really long pilot that lets you know what's in store for the TV series coming out soon. And Kevin Kiner does a pretty good job of emulating, but not imitating, John Williams' powerful score. All in all, a fun way to pass an afternoon, and a nice antidote to The Dark Knight's grim masterpiece.

My rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"The Keys to the Kingdom" reviews

It's really time I reviewed these...

Mister Monday: On the first day, there was mystery. Arthur Penhaligon should have died, but instead finds himself in the midst of a time of great change. People in his city are getting sick. The virus seems uncurable. And Arthur finds an incredible House that holds the keys to it all (literally).

This book is a great intro to a fantastic series, and though it's not my favorite, it really deserves a mention. My rating: 8/10.

Grim Tuesday: On the second day, there was darkness. Arthur may have won the first key and the Lower House, saving his town, but there are still problems. Problems that threaten his family, the world, and the universe itself. Arthur must stop the greedy Tuesday before the Far Reaches are irreversably contaminated.

This book, while it is in my opinion one of the worst in the series, is still worth a read and an almost worthy followup to Monday. My rating: 7/10.

Drowned Wednesday: On the third day, there were pirates. Arthur is in the hospital, but that doesn't stop Lady Wednesday (who happens to look a bit like a whale) from sending Arthur an invitation to dine with her on the Border Sea. But now there are pirates after Arthur as well.

This book, while it is 50 pages longer than Tuesday, was a much easier and faster read, and it introduces you nicely to some important new characters and aspects of the House. My rating: 8.5/10.

Sir Thursday: On the fourth day, there was war. Arthur wants to go home more than anything, but he can't. The Skinless Boy is being used as a doppelganger, and it is up to Leaf to stop it. Also, Arthur is unwittingly pressed into service in Sir Thursday's army. It is up to him to stop Thursday from bringing his troops into a war they won't survive.

This is when the books in the series start getting shorter, but Thursday doesn't let up on you with the action, giving a solid middle installment. My rating: 9/10.

Lady Friday: On the fifth day, there was fear. Arthur and Leaf have been separated. Leaf finds herself in a hospital where the doctor is known as Lady Friday. Arthur finds himself in the middle of Friday's schemes. Arthur must find the fifth part of the Will of the Architect and wrest control of the Middle House and the fifth key from Friday, but can he do it in time?

I'm not sure why, but this book, while gripping and well-written, was a little weird for my tastes, but it leaves you still salivating for Saturday. My rating: 7.5/10.

Superior Saturday: On the sixth day, there was sorcery. The end game has begun. Lord Arthur is gaining control of the House, but as he does, he is losing his humanity. And Saturday is about to launch an attack on the Incomparable Gardens, Lord Sunday's domain. Can Arthur stop Saturday from taking control of the House... and the universe?

Garth Nix's sixth installment is his best yet: short, sweet, and impossible to put down, with plot twists galore and many questions on the verge of being answered, all the while leaving you waiting with bated breath for Lord Sunday. My rating: 9.5/10.

"Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox" review

Artemis Fowl is one of the most dynamic, changing characters I've ever read, and his story arc is one that doesn't fail to enthrall. It's been two years since The Lost Colony, book 5, came out, and this new one has a big job to do. Can it do it?
In a word, yes.

After disappearing for three years, Artemis Fowl has returned to a life different from the one he had. Now he's a big brother, and spends his days teaching his twin siblings the important things in life, such as how to properly summon a waiter at a French restaurant.

But when Artemis's mother contracts a deadly illness, his world is turned upside-down. The only hope of a cure lies in the brain fluid of the silky sifaka lemur. Unfortunately, the animal is extinct, due to a heartless bargain Artemis himself made as a younger boy.

Though the odds are stacked against him, Artemis is not willing to give up. With the help of his fairy friends, the young genius travels back in time to rescue the lemur and bring it to the present. But to do so, Artemis will have to defeat a maniacal poacher who has set his sights on new prey: Holly Short.

The rules of time travel are far from simple, but to save his mother, Artemis will have to break them all... and outsmart his most cunning adversary yet: Artemis Fowl, age ten.

This was an enjoyable thrill ride from start to finish, and I finished it in one day. Artemis's exploits never fail to entertain, and the action, humor, and drama are as fresh here as they were in book 1. This book also seems to tie up most of the loose ends in the series, and could function as a final novel if Eoin Colfer so desires. But I, for one wouldn't mind seeing the teenage mastermind once again.

My rating: 9.5/10

"The Dark Knight" review

So, here it is. The most hyped movie of the summer. It's rigorous advertising campaign, coupled with the massive viral marketing, makes it unique in sheer amount of hype. It has done better at the box office than Iron Man or Indiana Jones 4. It has broken records. THAT'S hype. And you know what?

It actually really lives up to the hype. All of it.

The story is fairly straightforward: Batman/Bruce Wayne sees Gotham in a period of time where he may no longer be needed. Gotham's new DA, Harvey Dent (who some of the police nickname "Two Face" because of his aggressive tactics) promises to really keep the scum off the streets. He is not afraid of criminals, so criminals are afraid of him.
But the Joker is all about chaos.

The Joker, played by the late, great Heath Ledger, is out to turn Gotham on its head. He is a firm believer that when the situation's bad, Gotham's people will turn on each other. And he's got a plan on how to show it. He's made a deal to kill Batman, and though I use the word plan, he doesn't really think of things like that. He wants to bring the world down around Batman-- and Harvey Dent.

"Wanna know how I got these scars?" he'll say, and you'll realize how truly evil, how truly insane he is. It's no wonder people want Heath Ledger to recieve a posthumous Oscar nod. Ledger's Joker takes over the screen (literally) and always keeps your attention. His ability to act out such a vivid and creepy character is a testament to his acting skills.
But that's not all. The filmmakers have thought of everything. Looking back over it, I have yet to find plot holes. Though it's the darkest comic book movie ever, it is hands down the best.

My rating: 10/10. The best movie of the year thus far.

Friday, July 11, 2008

More Book Ratings-- Fantasy and Espionage Edition

Erec Rex-- The Dragon's Eye: 9/10
Erec Rex-- The Monsters of Otherness: 9.5/10
**Coming Soon! Erec Rex-- The Search for Truth!**

A Game of Thrones: 9/10

The Eye of the World: 9/10

The Eyre Affair: 8.5/10
Lost in a Good Book: 8.5/10
The Well of Lost Plots: 8/10
Something Rotten: 9/10

The Gunslinger: 8/10
The Drawing of the Three: 9/10

The Cry of the Icemark: 8.5/10

The Lord of the Rings: 10/10

His Majesty's Dragon: 9/10
Throne of Jade: 9/10

The Crystal Cave: 7.5/10

The Wind Singer: 9/10
Slaves of the Mastery: 9.5/10

Cirque du Freak (A Living Nightmare): 8/10
The Vampire's Assistant: 8/10
Tunnels of Blood: 8.5/10
Vampire Mountain: 7.5/10
Trials of Death: 9/10
The Vampire Prince: 9/10
Hunters of the Dusk: 7.5/10
Allies of the Night: 9/10
Killers of the Dawn: 9.5/10
The Lake of Souls: 8/10
Lord of the Shadows: 9.5/10
Sons of Destiny: 10/10

Stormbreaker: 8/10
Point Blank: 8.5/10
Skeleton Key: 7.5/10
Eagle Strike: 9/10
Scorpia: 10/10
Ark Angel: 9.5/10
Snakehead: 10/10

Young Bond-- Silverfin: 7/10

CHERUB-- The Recruit: 8/10
CHERUB-- The Dealer: 8.5/10
CHERUB-- Maximum Security: 7.5/10
CHERUB-- The Killing: 7/10
CHERUB-- Divine Madness: 9/10
CHERUB-- Man vs. Beast: 9/10

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More Book Ratings-- Christian Fiction Edition

Raising Dragons: 8.5/10
The Candlestone: 8.5/10
Circles of Seven: 9/10
Tears of a Dragon: 9.5/10
Eye of the Oracle: 8/10
Enoch's Ghost: 8.5/10
**Coming Soon! Last of the Nephilim and The Bones of Makaidos!**

Beyond the Reflection's Edge: 9.5/10
**Coming Soon! Eternity's Edge and Edge of Chaos!**

The Door Within: 9/10
Rise of the Wyrm Lord: 9.5/10
The Final Storm: 10/10

Isle of Swords: 9.5/10
**Coming Soon! Isle of Fire!**

Thr3e: 9.5/10
Obsessed: 8.5/10
Blink/Blink of an Eye: 9/10
Adam: 10/10
**Coming Soon! Kiss!**

Black: 9.5/10
Red: 9.5/10
White: 10/10
Showdown: 10/10
House: 8.5/10
Saint: 9/10
Skin: 9/10
Chosen: 9/10
Infidel: 9/10
Renegade: 9.5/10
Chaos: 10/10
**Coming Soon! Sinner and Green!**

Friday, June 27, 2008

"The Eyes of the Dragon" review

Most people think Stephen King writes exclusively horror. But this idea is by no means true. The Dark Tower is a seven-book-long fantasy series. The Dead Zone, despite its morbid-sounding title, is more of a suspense/thriller book than outright horror. The Running Man, a novel which I will review here in the not-too-distant future, is more of a sci-fi/action blend than horror. And The Eyes of the Dragon is pure escapist fantasy.

The Eyes of the Dragon tells the story of King Roland the Good (though not great) and of his two sons, Peter and Thomas. Peter is a strong-willed boy who exemplifies all of Roland's best traits and seems to magnify them, to the happiness of the people. Thomas, however, is just like his father. Good, but not great. He longs for something he does to catch his father's eye in a good way, and for Roland to look at him as he looks at Peter.

The book also tells the story of the ageless magician Flagg and his desires to stop Peter from ascending to the throne. For what Flagg wants is chaos. Flagg has a plan to use Thomas to get what he wants. If Thomas was king, instead of Peter...

...if Peter were locked away in the Needle for a crime that he didn't commit.

The book tells the story of how Flagg, rejoicing at how well his plan is working does not notice Peter's subtle, but persistent struggle to regain the throne that was rightfully his.

The book is not one of Stephen King's longest, clocking in at just under 400 pages in length. The fast reader can finish it in a day. But King keeps the pages turning with the strength of his prose, and it's compulsive reading. Flagg, as you might have guessed, Constant Reader, is a villain whom King likes to write, and he wrote him fantastically in this gripping tale of kings and successions.

Go. Read.

My rating: 9/10

Monday, June 23, 2008

"The Stand" review

I've had a lot of reading time recently. During it, I read three Stephen King books. This is the first of three review posts.

The Stand is perhaps Stephen King's most popular work. It's long: in the paperback of the Complete and Uncut edition, there are 1141 pages. In other words, it's big, it's heavy, and it's epic. And it's very, very good.

A virus under experimentation for possible use in biological warfare is accidentally released upon the guards at a secret base. The base is put under quarantine, and the virus is almost contained with few deaths. But one of the employees escapes. He runs as far as he can get before the virus kills him and his family.

And the virus spreads.

A small percentage of Earth's population finds themselves immune to the virus. A group containing Frannie Goldsmith, Stuart Redman, Larry Underwood, Harold Lauder, and Mother Abigail, a mysterious black woman who appears in the others' dreams. Also in their dreams is the truly evil Randall Flagg, a man-- or perhaps something else-- who crucifies those who go against his will. And Flagg has followers, such as the Trashcan Man, a man who delights in the burning of things.

So the stage is set for a clash between good and evil of staggering importance, Mother Abigail's forces on one side, Flagg's on the other. It is time for a final Stand.

The book starts gripping and ends gripping. And everything in between is gripping, too. But that's not to say that the story is at the expense of the characters. The hefty page count gives Stephen King all the room he needs to tell the story at its fullest extent, with every aspect of the story playing out as King intended in his mind. There's very little criticism I can give to the masterwork of a master writer.

So enjoy, Constant Reader. Enjoy.

My rating: 10/10

Friday, June 20, 2008

Lots of Movie Ratings

The Mummy-- 8/10
The Mummy Returns-- 8.5/10

The Phantom of the Opera-- 10/10

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark-- 10/10
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom-- 8/10
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade-- 9.5/10
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull-- 9.5/10

STAR WARS Episode I: The Phantom Menace-- 8/10
STAR WARS Episode II: Attack of the Clones-- 7.5/10
STAR WARS Episode III: Revenge of the Sith-- 9/10
STAR WARS Episode IV: A New Hope-- 10/10
STAR WARS Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back-- 9/10
STAR WARS Episode VI: Return of the Jedi-- 9.5/10
The STAR WARS Holiday Special-- 1/10

Blazing Saddles-- 10/10
The Producers-- 9/10
Spaceballs-- 9/10
Robin Hood: Men in Tights-- 8.5/10
History of the World: Part I-- 7/10
The Twelve Chairs-- 6.5/10
High Anxiety-- 7.5/10
Young Frankenstein-- 9.5/10
Silent Movie-- 7.5/10

Airplane!-- 10/10
Top Secret!-- 9.5/10
The Naked Gun-- 8.5/10
The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear-- 9/10
The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult-- 8/10
Hot Shots!-- 8.5/10
Hot Shots! Part Deux-- 9/10

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl-- 10/10
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest-- 9/10
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End-- 9.5/10

National Treasure-- 9/10
National Treasure: Book of Secrets-- 8.5/10

Spider-Man-- 9.5/10
Spider-Man 2-- 9.5/10
Spider-Man 3-- 9.5/10

X-Men-- 7.5/10
X2: X-Men United-- 9/10
X-Men: The Last Stand-- 9/10

Batman Begins-- 10/10

Iron Man-- 9.5/10

Fantastic 4-- 6/10
Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer-- 4/10
Ferris Bueller's Day Off-- 10/10

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring-- 10/10
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers-- 10/10
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King-- 10/10

Dead Poet's Society-- 10/10

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe-- 8.5/10
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian-- 9/10

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone-- 8.5/10
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets-- 8/10
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban-- 9/10
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire-- 9/10
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix-- 9.5/10

Jurassic Park-- 9/10
The Lost World-- 8/10
Jurassic Park III-- 8.5/10

Monty Python and the Holy Grail-- 10/10
And Now For Something Completely Different-- 8.5/10

Friday, June 6, 2008

Lots of Book Ratings

In lieu of review...

Septimus Heap-- Magyk: 8.5/10
Septimus Heap-- Flyte: 9/10
Septimus Heap-- Physik: 9.5/10

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: 9.5/10
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: 9/10
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: 9/10
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: 10/10
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: 9.5/10
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: 9.5/10
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: 10/10

The Name of the Wind: 10/10

Eragon: 9/10
Eldest: 8.5/10

Children of the Lamp-- The Akhenaten Adventure: 7/10
Children of the Lamp-- The Blue Djinn of Babylon: 7.5/10
Children of the Lamp-- The Cobra King of Kathmandu: 8/10
Children of the Lamp-- The Day of the Djinn Warriors: 8.5/10

PENDRAGON-- The Merchant of Death: 8.5/10
PENDRAGON-- The Lost City of Faar: 8/10
PENDRAGON-- The Never War: 9/10
PENDRAGON-- The Reality Bug: 9/10
PENDRAGON-- Black Water: 7.5/10
PENDRAGON-- The Rivers of Zadaa: 9/10
PENDRAGON-- The Quillan Games: 9.5/10
PENDRAGON-- The Pilgrims of Rayne: 10/10
PENDRAGON-- Raven Rise: 10/10

Gregor the Overlander: 9/10
Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane: 9.5/10
Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods: 8.5/10
Gregor and the Marks of Secret: 9.5/10
Gregor and the Code of Claw: 10/10

Maximum Ride-- The Angel Experiment: 9/10
Maximum Ride-- School's Out--Forever: 9/10
Maximum Ride-- Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports: 9.5/10
Maximum Ride-- The Final Warning: 7/10

Artemis Fowl: 8/10
Artemis Fowl-- The Arctic Incident: 7.5/10
Artemis Fowl-- The Eternity Code: 8.5/10
Artemis Fowl-- The Opal Deception: 9/10
Artemis Fowl-- The Lost Colony: 9.5/10

The Lightning Thief: 8.5/10
The Sea of Monsters: 9/10
The Titan's Curse: 9.5/10
The Battle of the Labyrinth: 9.5/10

Stoneheart: 8/10
Ironhand: 9/10
Peter and the Starcatchers: 9/10
Peter and the Shadow Thieves: 8.5/10
Peter and the Secret of Rundoon: 9.5/10

Here, There Be Dragons: 9/10
The Search for the Red Dragon: 9/10

Raising Dragons: 8/10
The Candlestone: 8.5/10
Circles of Seven: 9/10
Tears of a Dragon: 9.5/10

Eye of the Oracle: 8/10
Enoch's Ghost: 8.5/10

Inkheart: 8.5/10
Inkspell: 9/10

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo: 8.5/10
Leven Thumps and the Whispered Secret: 9/10
Leven Thumps and the Eyes of the Want: 9.5/10

Midnight for Charlie Bone: 8/10
Charlie Bone and the Time Twister: 9/10
Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy: 7/10
Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors: 8.5/10
Charlie Bone and the Hidden King: 9.5/10
Charlie Bone and the Beast: 9/10

Abarat: 9/10
Abarat-- Days of Magic, Nights of War: 9.5/10

The Bad Beginning: 7/10
The Reptile Room: 7/10
The Wide Window: 7.5/10
The Miserable Mill: 7/10
The Austere Academy: 7.5/10
The Ersatz Elevator: 8/10
The Vile Village: 8.5/10
The Hostile Hospital: 8/10
The Carnivorous Carnival: 9/10
The Slippery Slope: 9/10
The Grim Grotto: 8.5/10
The Penultimate Peril: 9/10
The End: 9.5/10

The Magician's Nephew: 7.5/10
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: 10/10
The Horse and His Boy: 7/10
Prince Caspian: 9/10
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: 9/10
The Silver Chair: 9/10
The Last Battle: 9.5/10

The Thirteenth Tale: 11/10

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" review

To all those original Indy fans out there, it's been 19 years since the hero in the fedora graced the screen for what everyone thought would be the last time: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. And this movie has more skeptics than just about any other movie I've seen. But, hey, they haven't seen the picture. I have. I was standing in line at the box office. There are two groups in front of me. One says, "Two for Indiana Jones." The next says, "Two for the same." Then behind me, I hear an elderly man whistling that all-too-familiar Raiders March.

Hold on to your hats. This is going to be a wild ride.

Indiana Jones is back.

Summary: After a near-fatal (and very creative) run-in with Soviets at Area 51, Indy returns to the college he has taught at for all these years. And he finds out he's being put on an extended-leave-with-pay. The FBI had started snooping around, and they didn't seem to like Indiana Jones.

Indy is about to leave for Europe when, out of the swirling fog, rides Mutt Williams. Mutt finds Indy and tells him an old colleague of his by the name of Oxley has been kidnapped on a hunt for the Crystal Skulls and the Lost Temple of Akator.

Another person was kidnapped as well-- Mutt's mother, Marion.

Evaluation: Man, it's good to see Indiana Jones again. I was admittedly afraid of what would become of this new installment. Last Crusade had a great ending as it was. To be honest, though, I think I like Crystal Skull's new, more complete ending. And the moment at the end was a real kicker for me. The torch has almost-- but not quite-- been passed to the next Jones.

Of course, Henry III will have to finish school first...

My rating: 9.5/10-- The perfect summer blockbuster.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"PENDRAGON-- Raven Rise" review

It has begun.

After 8 books, the Convergence has finally arrived. Saint Dane unveils his sinister plan that we've been waiting to hear about for so long. The Battle for Halla has truly started in earnest. But is it as good as the others? Of course. Better, even.

Hobey ho, let's go.

Summary: This is where it begins. The showdown for Halla. At stake is nothing less than all that ever was and all that will be.

There's only one thing missing--Bobby Pendragon.

While Bobby remains trapped on Ibara, the battle moves to his home territory: Second Earth. Mark Dimond and Courtney Chetwynde are left on their own to defend Second Earth agsinst the forces of Saint Dane. They must face off against a charismatic cult leader who has risen to power by revealing a shattering truth to the people of Earth: They are not alone.

The Convergence has broken down the walls. The territories are on a collision course. The final phase of Saint Dane's quest to rule Halla is under way.

And Bobby Pendragon is nowhere to be found.

Evaluation: This series keeps getting better and better. Each book takes readers to a new level of suspense, mystery, and involvement in the story. You care about the characters. They're fleshed out, three-dimensional (no pun intended), and dynamic. And D. J. MacHale isn't afraid to kill some of them off. This raises the stakes even more. In PENDRAGON, anything can happen. But if you think it's going to happen, it probably won't.

I honestly wasn't expecting Second Earth to be the next territory fought over, though it makes perfect sense in hindsight. Sometimes, it seems there's no way the characters can make it through (and some of them don't). Sometimes, it seems that though what Saint Dane is doing isn't "the way things were meant to be", it's the way things are going to be. And, of course, there's a cliffhanger. The book's ending raises a LOT more questions than it answers.

Bring on Book 10. Next May can't come soon enough.

My rating: 10/10

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Indiana Jones" reviews

Well, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull hits theaters this Thursday. So I figured that it would be a good idea to review the first three movies in the series before its release. They are staples of summer blockbuster history and surely deserve a mention on this humble blog. So, here it is:

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark: Release date-- 1981. The opening sequence of this film is legendary. Indy tries to retrieve a golden idol in a booby-trap-infested cave, encountering traitors, spiders, a chasm, angry natives, and a huge boulder that chases him out and into his rival's hands. From there, he returns to his home in America, where he is an archaeology professor. He is called to a meeting where he learns that the Nazis are getting close to finding the fabled ARK OF THE COVENANT. This sends Indy across the world with his ex-flame, Marion Ravenwood, in an attempt to find it before the Nazis do.

In this film, there are some of the greatest action pieces ever recorded on celluloid: Indy shooting the swordsman, the truck chase, the bar fight, and the brawl on the Nazi landing strip. No moment is wasted, and it has a great, ironic ending.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Release date-- 1984. The fight at Club Obi-Wan kicks off this second, darker, more gruesome installment in the Indiana Jones series. Indy just barely manages to escape a plane crash, where he lands on a raft in India with his child sidekick, Short Round, and an annoying singer by the name of Willie. They arrive in a village only to find that all of the children have been kidnapped and forced into slavery by the evil Thuggee cult. Also, the village's SHANKARA STONE has been stolen, and Indy must bring it back with the children.

This film can be kind of gross at times, and it's in my opinion the worst in the series, but it still has it's moments, particularly in the incredible climax. If nothing else, it's good for nostalgia value.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Release date-- 1989. A glimpse into Indy's past launches viewers into his third adventure. In it, Indy is informed that his father (played by none other than original James Bond Sean Connery!) was getting extremely close to finding the HOLY GRAIL... before he was kidnapped by the Nazis. His searches bring him to Venice, Italy where he meets up with his father's assistant-- Ilsa. They face rats, a boat chase, a booby-trapped, Nazi-occupied castle, a fight atop a moving tank, and three dangerous challenges before they can reach the Grail.

Indy went out for twenty years with a bang. The series finished strong with some great action sequences: besides the ones mentioned earlier, a dogfight in a German plane and a motorcycle chase. Great fun with a good lesson learned by all the characters at the end.

My ratings:

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark: 10/10

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: 8/10

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: 9.5/10