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We went to see the Descendants last night, and I enjoyed it so much.  George Clooney is a favorite of mine, anyway, and it's my opinion that he very much deserved his Oscar nomination.  He played his character with such quiet desperation and anguish.  Really marvelous.  The actress who played his older daughter also did a very fine job.  The movies deals with a very sad situation compounded by an even sadder situation, and yet there are many laugh out loud moments in the movie that are so funny.  And while they could have gone for the emotional heartstrings many times, instead they chose the more restrained moments, which I really applaud them for.  I really loved the ending because it didn't go the much traveled and probably more common route of (no spoilers, so it's hard to speak in general terms here) tear-jerker (although I confess I did shed a tear or two), but left it very quiet and realistic, and full of unspoken hope. I think to combine comedy with drama is a tough thing to do and I thought they handled it with aplomb.  I don't want to give spoilers, so that's as many details as I'll give for now.  Highly recommend the movie.
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We went to see Cowboys and Aliens last night.  I found it very entertaining.  And I'd say the general audience consensus was a thumbs up.  There was applause in the theater last night at the end.  And I heard several people say "I liked it" on my way out.

Now for the unbiased version:  I read a review yesterday that disparaged the movie for, among other things, lack of chemistry between Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.  ... well, they were antagonists through most of the movie, so of course there was a negative chemistry.  The other thing they denigrated was the appearance of the aliens for being "stock".  And that the special effects weren't up to par for a movie of that caliber.  I thought the special effects were just fine.  And the aliens' appearance wasn't original (slightly reminiscent of the "Alien" movies), but so what?  It's not like anyone knows for sure what aliens really do look like.  Hey, for all we know, they really got it right in "Alien."  ;-D

But seriously, I was entertained.  And that's what I expected from a movie about aliens back in the time of cowboys.  No there wasn't a big message.  Does that negate the entertainment factor.  For me, it doubles it.  LOL.  I go to movies to be entertained and not to weep and cry over social issues. 

So, TWO THUMBS UP for Cowboys and Aliens.  And may I just say:  Daniel Craig in tight western clothes AND chaps!!!!!   Srsly.
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I've been trying to catch up on my short fiction reading.  Almost done online.  But I'm still 3 issues behind on Realms of Fantasy.  (I don't know how that happened!)   And oh yikes, and I never finished [livejournal.com profile] j_cheney 's "Iron Shoes!"  I don't do well reading on the computer -- too easy to forget about it!  Here are some stories I particularly enjoyed reading.  Maybe you will, too, if you haven't read them yet.

Meditation for the Dead, by [livejournal.com profile] jakobdrud 
Flash Fiction Online 

The Half Life of Chocolate, by [livejournal.com profile] nancyfulda 
Fae Publishing 

Writing on the Wall, by [livejournal.com profile] vaughan_stanger 
Daily Science Fiction  Not yet available on website

Life and Times of Penguin, by [livejournal.com profile] eugie  Foster
Farrago's Wainscot 

Breathing Sunshine, by Garth Upshaw
Beneath Ceaseless Skies 

Ghosts of New York, by Jennifer Pelland
Dark Faith, Apex Books
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A Review of Cold Magic, by Kate Elliott

I stink it up at writing reviews.  It makes me feel incompetent, especially when I read other in-depth, highly analytical reviews.  I guess, when I read, I just want to get lost in the story and not really pay attention to structure and symbolism and character development.  I do tend to notice prose for some reason, though, and that can draw me out of the story.  I want the characters to be believable and to act in ways that I expect, but most of all, I want to love the characters.  For me, reading is always about the characters, and the plot is secondary to that.  I can usually love the plot if I care about what the characters are doing. 

So that was my caveat about the poor quality of this review.  All you can expect from me is a basic, "Yes!  I liked it" or a "It was okay."  (I rarely hate a book -- I can probably count on one hand the number of books I did not finish because I couldn't get into them.  I guess I'm a book whore -- pardon my language.)  Now let's get on with it. 

I think I'm required by law to say here that I did win a copy of an ARC of Cold Magic in a contest at [livejournal.com profile] kateelliott  LJ.  But that in no way has influenced my review, nor was I required to post a review.  So there.

Cold Magic is described in the product review at Amazon thusly (and I quote):  A bold new epic fantasy in which science and magic are locked in a deadly struggle.  It is the dawn of a new age... The Industrial Revolution has begun, factories are springing up across the country, and new technologies are transforming in the cities. But the old ways do not die easy.  Cat and Bee are part of this revolution. Young women at college, learning of the science that will shape their future and ignorant of the magics that rule their families. But all of that will change when the Cold Mages come for Cat. New dangers lurk around every corner and hidden threats menace her every move. If blood can't be trusted, who can you trust?

The book is heavy on history, which was necessary to explain this alternate time period.  But at its core, it's a fun romp with entertaining and unusual characters, struck into an intricate plot with enough twists and turns to keep any reader turning the pages as quickly as possible.  Most people know I'm a big Elliott fan, because her books are always about the characters, and that's why I read books in the first place.  I was happy with this book, and am looking forward to the rest of the series.  

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A Review of Fur-Face, by Jon Gibbs

I stink it up at writing reviews.  It makes me feel incompetent, especially when I read other in-depth, highly analytical reviews.  I guess, when I read, I just want to get lost in the story and not really pay attention to structure and symbolism and character development.  I do tend to notice prose for some reason, though, and that can draw me out of the story.  I want the characters to be believable and to act in ways that I expect, but most of all, I want to love the characters.  For me, reading is always about the characters, and the plot is secondary to that.  I can usually love the plot if I care about what the characters are doing. 

So that was my caveat about the poor quality of this review.  All you can expect from me is a basic, "Yes!  I liked it" or a "It was okay."  (I rarely hate a book -- I can probably count on one hand the number of books I did not finish because I couldn't get into them.  I guess I'm a book whore -- pardon my language.)  Now let's get on with it. 

I think I'm required by law to say here that I did win a copy of Fur-Face in a contest at [livejournal.com profile] jongibbs  LJ.  But that in no way has influenced my review, nor was I required to post a review.  So there.

Fur-Face was a lark.  (An um, no, I don't mean a bird.  I mean a fun little trip!)  Although technically a YA story, it will appeal to readers of any age.  One of the MC's is a cute little kitty!  Come on!  What's not to love about that!  And the kitty can talk!  Well, he can be understood by a lad who's courageous and brave, and just a little bit lonely.  Hijinks and dastardly doings abound, and together, our characters must solve the mystery as to who the real evil-doer is, and put a stop to it.  Upon the way, they're helped and hindered.  And I won't give any more away than that.  You'll enjoy Fur-Face.  I'm sure any young readers you have -- or young-at-heart readers -- will be enchanted with the story!



For more info, go visit [livejournal.com profile] jongibbs !

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Look what came in the mail today from Hadley Rille books!  I've been wondering when it would come!  Now the only problem is I've still 2 books to go in Tad William's Shadowmarch series to finish first -- and they're long books!  *sigh*  As usual, too many books, too little time.  Maybe I'll take a break from Shadowmarch. 



Congrats to [livejournal.com profile] bogwitch64 !

Oh, and if you haven't yet registered to win a free Kindle from Hadley Rille books in their 5k giveaway, there's still time!  But hurry!



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I finished "Boneshaker" by Cherie Priest the other day and really enjoyed it.  I've never considered myself much of a steampunk-reading type of gal, but maybe I need to change that self-opinion.  Boneshaker was a fun romp of a story, even though it was filled with dangerous encounters, a mother on a desperate search to save her teenage, impetuous son who thinks he knows everything, the city of Seattle walled up and filled with blight gas which turns people into zombies, and an odd assortment of scallywags and airship captains who just may or may not be truly evil or truly good.  The story was told from alternating viewpoints of both the mother and son, and I loved how the author kept the tension up by having them come in close proximity to the other several times.  I kept hoping they'd stay put long enough for the other to find them, and wondering who was going to rescue whom.  It was a great adventure story.  The only thing I was unhappy with was the color of the typeface.  They used a lighter color to make it seem old-timey-sepia, but I found it hard on the eyes, especially at night with a book light, which is how I do most of my reading. 

For those of you playing the "How's-Pam-doing-today game" I am somewhat better.  But hubby got worse after 3 days, so not counting eggs here yet.
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Look what the mailman brought me yesterday:



The long awaited tale of [livejournal.com profile] ckastens  "The Fortuitous Meeting of Gerard Van Oost and Oludara"!  I read it last night and wasn't disappointed.  I expect we'll be meeting more of these brave adventurers.  Stop by Chris's LJ and congratulate him, and check out the website for Gerard and Oludara.

I'm also looking forward to reading [livejournal.com profile] mkhobson's story, "The Hag Queen's Curse."  I've been a fan since "Hotel Astarte" from the June 07 Realms.

Oh, and another story from Euan Harvey, too.  Yay!
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Look what came in the mail today! The new Realms of Fantasy with a story by our very own Aliette de Bodard (aliettedb). Can't wait to read this issue. Congrats, Aliette! (Yes, you can see her name in the pic under "New Fiction."

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When I read on Jim Van Pelt's - [livejournal.com profile] jimvanpelt - blog that he was offering AUP copies of his collection, "The Radio Magician and Other Stories", I was ecstatic that I happened along soon enough to score myself a copy.  I'd read the short story "The Radio Magician" in Realms of Fantasy's February 2009 issue, loved it, and knew I wanted to read more of Jim's stories.  I wasn't disappointed.  One thing I liked about this collection was the diversity of the nineteen stories.  None came in a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter mold.  Most were Science Fiction, and while I personally prefer Fantasy stories, I find Jim's stories well to my liking.  I like SF stories that rely on "magical" happenings and events--a touch of fantasy, if you will. 

 

Nineteen stories that will keep you entertained and give the reader plenty to think about.  Most stories raise an ethical question of some kind, without offering answers or solutions.  The characters are thoughtfully developed, and I truly cared about each and every one of them, which I think speaks of the author's ability to make each one seem real.  It's a hard line to walk to keep a character sympathetic without coming across too heavy.  I highly recommend this collection.  Nineteen great stories that give a great diversity of reading experiences, all thoughtful and thought-provoking.  Rather than list each and every story, I think I'll just list some of my favorites.

 

"The Radio Magician" is why I wanted to read this collection in the first place.  I read this story in Realms of Fantasy, and it charmed me beyond measure.  It's a heart-warming story about a boy's fear for his own future and how he finds the bravery to move forward despite it.  I can't say enough good things about this story.  It sucked me in and kept me entranced and desperate for good things to come for our little hero.

 

"Where Did You Come From?  Where Did You Go?" - Olivia knew she was going to have a bad day, but she couldn't have imagined a substitute teacher who might or might no be certifiable.  Thought provoking story about choices and free will.  Would you destroy evil if it meant you also destroyed something good at the same time?  What would you choose?  No judgments were given here, just offering up possibilities.

 

"Different Worlds" - Jenny's dad is hurt.  Jenny, only 10 years old, tries to make it through alien-patrolled streets across town to the hospital with the help of her dog, Robbie.  A story of a little girl's courage and love; devotion between girl and dog; and a question of the ethics of keeping pets and our responsibility towards them.  I liked Jenny a lot.  This was a well done character study. 

 

"The Small Astral Object Genius" - Dustin has a PeekaBoo device.  Does it really vanish and travel to distant galaxies, taking pictures and searching for alien worlds?  Dustin's mom and dad peek in on him now and then, but they are distracted by their marriage woes and leave him on his own to listen to the silence in the house.  This story speaks to that little spark within each of us that wants to discover the next big thing, that wants to make the world--and our own lives--a better place.  Are we alone in the universe and in our own homes?

 

"Tiny Voices" - A story about new life and impending death, inanimate objects made to "live" with sentient chips.  Because they have a voice, does that mean they're alive?  And is a person without a voice dead? 

 

"Echoing" - Laird is trying to get home for Christmas, but his semitruck is lost in a snowstorm.  Commander Tremaine wakes from a long sleep to find his spaceship off course, hurtling through the stars.  Brianna is lost in a full house, closed into her father's study, a half bottle of pills already in her stomach, while the Christmas party goes on in the other room.  What if each one were connected somehow and could save the others? Hurtling through the stars, traveling across time and the universe, seeing glimpses of other lives, and how it all comes together in the end. 

 

"Ice Cream Man" - Keegan drives an ice cream truck through the shambles of neighborhoods, serving ice cream to adults who bring him scavenged goods in exchange for ammo for protection against the mutoid monsters.  Everyone wonders how Keegan can make ice cream without cows or electricity, and where he gets all the ammo.  This post apocalyptic story raises the question of who the real monsters are, and judging on appearances. 

 

"The Last Age Should Know Your Heart" - Marvell wakes from sleep mode with only six minutes to do what he can on the aging power grid before he has to power down again.  But he wants to see Three Andrea.  He recites poetry, long stored in his memory banks.  This was bittersweet, a tale about the end of the world, devices left in place and now without purpose.  Who would have thought even an aging work drone can have a heart?

 

I guess by now you're getting the impression that it's hard for me to pick a favorite.  I could have easily listed seven or more other stories.  I liked them all, and that's not just empty words to entice you into buying the book.  As I read through my comments on each story to pick which ones to post about, I realized that it was hard to leave any of them out.  But if I related the plot of each and every story here, you'd not have reason to run over to Amazon and purchase Jim's book.  And I wouldn't want to do that.  So I've resorted to just a small sampling and encourage you to see the rest for yourself.  You won't regret it. 

Please visit his website here:  James Van Pelt
Amazon listing here:  Radio Magician and Other Stories

Here's a short sampling of the rest of the stories.

"One Day" - Redmond wakes up from coldsleep to find his brother Grant's sleep pod empty and still warm.  So proceeds a cat and mouse chase, brothers at odds, but in the end, can they destroy each other?  Or have they already?

"Where and When" - Jake and Martin activate Brownson's time device and travel back in time--only to find themselves aboard the ill-fated zeppelin, the Hindenburg.  They escape with only seconds to spare.  In their next time jump, they find themselves on Martinique, two minutes before the volcano explodes.

"Lashwanda at the End" The planet Papaver is trying to kill the human explorers.  It's already stolen their  water. 

"The Light of a Thousand Suns" - A security mall cop notices a trailer out in the back lot with a few people lined up outside.  Was it there earlier?  What he discovers inside is disturbing, to say the least.  This story gave me a chill with its message.

"Of Late I Dreamed Of Venus" - Elizabeth plans to remake Venus into a new and improved Earth.  In trying to seek perfection and control, she finds nothing is ever perfect and only when one loses control can one find true beauty.

"One Day in the Middle of the Night" - A brother wakes from coldsleep to find his brother's sleep pod is empty, but still warm. so proceeds a cat and mouse chase, and  brothers at odds.

"The Inn at Mount Either" A inn at the hub of alternate realities, where long hallways can take you someplace else.  So what happens when one becomes lost somewhere else? 

"Sacrifice" Jermone and Cynda are chose for the ritual, but Cynda has doubts about the gods, and whether the old abandoned rusty buildings are truly the homes of the gods.

"The Boy Behind the Gate" A father searches for his kidnapped son in old abandoned mines.  Two stories, two times, collide here in a heartbreaking story.

"Origin of the Species" Romulus's father tells him everyone is descended from mythological creatures which explains a lot about why his dad disappears on full moons, and why Smells are particularly enticing to Romulus--especially Fay's.  This tale doesn't take the normal route, and is poignant and sweet.

"Saturn Ring Blues" Ring racing in a buglighter, Virgil wants Elinor, but she's focused on racing.  How far will he go trying to rescue her from a mishap?

"How Music Begins" A busload of high school band students is captured by aliens.  How they band (pun intended by me) together and keep order, even after so many years, this is a sweet tale and I really enjoyed this one.  It was another of my favorites


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My subscription was due when Realms announced its closing--I just hadn't gotten around to renewing it yet.  The April issue was due to come out soon, but I figured I'd be able to buy the single issue somewhere.  Well, then the good news of Realms continuing under [livejournal.com profile] warrenlapine came out.  When the website came out, I was pleased to see I could renew my subscription.  I hoped that somehow, even with the change in ownership, that I'd be able to pick up the April issue I missed, but I understood that may not be the case.  But Yay! it did happen.  So here, slightly delayed, is my review of the Aprill 2009 issue of Realms.




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We went to see Clint Eastwood in "Gran Torino" yesterday.  I wasn't too keen on going to see it until I read a review earlier in the day.  Hubby definitely wanted to see it as he's a big Eastwood fan.  Me, not so much.  I mean I've always liked most of his movies but I wouldn't say I swoon over him.  Last night, I swooned.  I loved that movie.  Granted his character is a bigot that espouses racial epithets right and left, fast and furious throughout the movie.  A lot of people won't like that.  But I have to say once you get past the shock of the language, it's just so in character and you know right away that while there's no excuse for someone to be so bigoted, he also does not try to excuse it away, and there's a certain honesty in that.  The movie is about overcoming racial prejudice, although there are some who will say that it promotes stereotyping, in my opinion it was very true-to-life.  Well, except for the ending, but I'm not going to spoil that by remarking on it too much. 

Clint's character, Walt Kowalski hates the fact that his neighborhood is being overtaken by the Hmong.  He hates them and makes no bones about it.  He's mean, bitter, and outspoken.  He has no relationship with his sons and grandchildren.  The only redeeming quality about him to begin with is his honesty and his love for his recently deceased wife.  He is more than rude to the young priest who made a promise to Walt's dying wife to get the irascible fool to go to confession.  The priest is young, earnest, caring, and as stubborn as Clint himself. 

But the true joy of the movie is the Hmong family next door, teenagers Su and Tao (whom Walt christens "Toad").  Su is friendly and outgoing and the one who first makes contact with Walt.  Tao is quiet and bookish, and runs afoul of Walt when he is forced by his cousin's gang to try and steal Walt's cherry Gran Torino. 

I loved seeing the gruff Walt start to de-ice, the result of which were some of the funniest moments in the film.  I won't spoil the movie by going into it any further.  I will say the movie theater was loud with laughter during much of the movie, and at the ending, you literally could hear a pin drop.  The audience's silence at the end was filled with respect, and acknowledgement that they'd just see a great movie.  Or that's how I took it anyway.  It was the best movie I've seen in a long time. 
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My thoughts on the latest Realms issue -- Feb 2009

REALMS OF FANTASY - February 2009

 

"The Radio Magician" by James Van Pelt

I was utterly and completely enchanted by this tale of Clarence, a boy stricken with polio but not yet consigned to an iron lung, who spends his days and nights lying around with his legs encased in plaster, listening to the radio.  His favorite was a magic show:  Professor Gilded's Glorious Magical Extravaganza.  One day, Clarence's mother decides to take his recovery into her own hands, and removes his casts.  Possessed by a fever to see Professor Gilded and discover if somehow his magic is real, Clarence dons his metal braces and crutches and sets out for the radio station.  It's a heart-warming story about a boy's fear for his own future and finding the bravery to move forward despite it.  I can't say enough good things about this story.  It sucked me in quick and kept me entranced and desperate for good things to come for our little hero.


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Review of REALMS OF FANTASY - December 2008

Just because I enjoy the magazine and just because I find it good practice to try writing a synopsis about a short story. 

 


"Harry and the Monkey" by Euan Harvey

The story takes place in modern-day Vietnam and is interspersed with snippets of newspaper accounts of missing children and stories of urban legends.  A father's trick of distracting Harry, his four-and-a-half-year-old son, by telling him to look for a monkey backfires when the boy acts as if he truly can see the monkey and can point out the monkey's current location.  One day Harry disappears from the yard, and the father runs down the street, panicked.  He sees a black van, just like the ones that have been seen when the children went missing, and chases after it.  He finds it at the side of the road, his son standing beside it crying, and the door partially open with the handle bent around like a pretzel.  And leading away from the van and into a clump of bamboo, large footprints--not shoe prints, mind you, but footprints.  "Daddy, monkey," Harry calls out, pointing.  True story, the author claims.  I loved this story, it was a very entertaining read with a folksy story-telling voice to it, and the antics of four-year-old Harry were believable and cute, as were those of the father.  And doesn't every parent want to believe a five hundred pound gorilla is watching out for their child?  My favorite story of this issue, it was a good choice for the lead story.

 

"Achilles, Sulking in His Buick" by Jay Lake

In which Achilles and Agamemnon (Aggie), street general for the Achaens, square off, one with a '47 Buick Roadmaster, the other with a '51 Lincoln Continental with the "CLEOS" plates, because Aggie has two-timed with Achille's girlfriend, Brisei when Aggie's girlfriend Chryseis was grounded by her old man.  This was a short short, very entertaining, especially if you know your history.

 

"The Milagroso Trail" by Clinton Lawrence

Rumors of a strange village deep in National Forest land in northern California has two couples hiking into the deep woods during Christmas, everyone hoping to find a little magic.  They don't find the village, although they do find several people who choose to live alone deep in the forest, most in houses, one in a cave.  None of these people know where Milagroso is, nor even if it exists, although one of them does know the legend of its founding.  While they don't find Milagroso, they do find the unexpected.

 

"Late in the Day" by Gregory Frost

A man wakes up.  He has a list of questions, the first of which is, "Where am I?"  Hospital, he realizes.  Next item on the list:  "I did this yesterday, too."  The rest of the questions lead him to recall some of his surroundings, although he still doesn't know who he is or why he's there.  When he follows the instruction of item #4 and looks in the mirror, he discovers he's a very old man.  He has snippets of memory, but they don't mean much to him.  Item #5 instructs him to try to call again, but who?  After looking in the mirror again, he finds a small girl beside his bed, and she has small wings on her back and her eyes and face were the gold and lavender he's seen in a dream--or where?  In the process of finding his memory, he also finds his escape.  This story was my second favorite story of this issue.  I felt I was on a journey of discovery along with Marsh (he does recall his name along the way) and the ending was very fitting.

 

"Fragments of a Fantasy Mind" by Josh Rountree and Mikal Trimm

This story had one of the most unusual beginnings I've read, and it certainly drew me in right away.  Julia is following a path of body parts through the woods, picking up the pieces of her husband and son and stuffing them into her bag, not knowing why she does so, but knowing that somewhere at the end of the path, all that remains of her family will come together again.  As she picks up body parts, the memories come.  Julia doesn't know what is real and what is her imagination anymore, and her perfect life may not have been so perfect after all.  But the question remains:  Can she turn her back on it?

 

"Pumpkin Jumper" by William H. Wandless

When the Anderson family moved to Poplar Hollow, it was in the midst of a hectic harvest season, so their new neighbors forgot to warn them about leaving something out for Pumpkinjumper.  Nothing big or expensive, perhaps some knitting for the raven to unravel, or a pouch of acorn caps.  When Pumpkinjumper stops by and discovers nothing, he leaves a whistle on the front stoop so they can re-gift it to him if they choose.  Mandy Mae finds it and says, "Finders Keepers" and drops it in her pocket.  The next night, Pumpkinjumper gives the family another chance and leaves his own jack-o-lantern sweater, because it's a very fine sweater and he would be happy to receive it again.  But the next morning, Mandy Mae finds the sweater and takes it in because it's a perfect fit for Buster Bear.  The next night, Pumpkinjumper arrives again, and finding nothing on the stoop, flies around the house until he finds the article he wants to claim.  And so he taps on Mandy Mae's window. 

 

 

"The Olverung" by Stephen Wodworth

The Olverung is an ugly bird, entirely unremarkable, until it's tortured and hurt, and then it sings its pain in a voice so beautiful, the listeners weep in sympathy, and want nothing else except to hear it again and again.  The King owns the Olverung, but that doesn't stop others from coveting it.  A thief, who is also a magician, is commissioned to steal the bird from the king's banquet.  During the performance, the rogue witnesses the bird's torture and is moved by its song.  He manages to steal the bird, and although chased, does escape with it.  He refuses to give the bird to the man who commissioned its theft.  This was an entertaining story.  The ending was a trifle too realistic for my fantasy sensibilities though.  When the thief refused to turn over the bird for more torturing, I had high hopes he would rise above mankind's base instincts.  I won't tell you if he does or not, you'll have to read for yourself.

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THE BORN QUEEN, by Greg Keyes

The fourth and final book in the series, "The Kingdoms of Blood and Thorn."  A multicast of characters that began with "The Briar King," continued in "The Charnel Prince" and "The Blood Knight," complete their stories.  This book centers on Anne Dare as she takes control of her kingdom, determined to avenge the deaths of her father and two sisters.  Also key players are Aspar White, protector of the King's Forest and destined to help it return from the evil that has spoiled it; Stephen Darige, monk and historian, finder of lost secrets; Austra, Anne's maid and best friend, and her reality check and grounding for humanity; Cazio, swordmaster extradonaire, loyal to a fault; Neil MacVren, knight, protector, and honor-filled; and other assorted heroes and heroines, all who combine to bring the kingdom away from those who have only their own interests at heart.  There are villains galore, each with their own agendas, and they may or may not be all they seem.  While some of the characters were dispatched a little too easily for my taste in the ending, I heartily recommend this series as a real treat and a journey.  The struggle to triumph is never what it seems to be in the beginning, but well rounded by the end. 

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I don't aspire to be a reviewer.  I do aspire to do a better job of recapping stories.  So here's my take on the latest Realms issue.  Behind the cut to save your flist page.



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MAINSPRING, by Jay Lake [personal profile] jaylake
Mainspring is not a book I would have normally read. I like my fantasy to be epic and traditional. While Mainspring isn't traditional in my sense of the word, it is epic in nature. It has a humble main character, orphaned, friendless, and without resources, who is given a quest to save the world. Along the way, he is imprisoned, rescued, meets strange and fearsome creatures and people who may or may not be friends/enemies.  All this takes place in an Earth run by clockwork and Equatorial Walls and mainsprings and tracks and Christ's horofixion. 
 
Hethor, an apprentice to a clockmaker, is visited one night by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel tells Hethor the Mainspring of the world runs down, and Hethor must find the Key Perilous and set it right. Alone, penniless, and without a clue where to start, Hethor sets out on his quest to find the key. By chance and luck he is steered to board an airship and to cross the Equatorial Wall into the South, a land of strange magics and peoples. 
 
Hethor is an endearing character, and I was quickly drawn into his story. I found my first introduction into the world of steampunk (SF elements translated to the Victorian era), althernate 19th Century history, and clockwork to be fascinating. The way the concepts of the world were introduced and dropped seamlessly into the narrative made it easy for a novice such as myself to understand. I loved the language used in the book, simple and yet complex enough that I had to get my dictionary out a few times. I learned a lot of new words, which is always nice.
 
Hethor is a reluctant and somewhat incompetent hero, but he's loyal and courageous and I wanted him to have a happily-ever-after story. I won't ruin the story by telling you whether or not he does. I recommend you read his story to find out for yourself. 

I'm looking forward to reading Escapement, which involves the same world but different characters.

Hancock

Aug. 2nd, 2008 04:30 pm
musingaloud: (Default)
We saw "Hancock" with Will Smith yesterday. I really enjoyed it. I tend to like Will Smith's movies. There's something about him that is just so damn likeable. He brings a realness to his characters, and I never think of him as "acting." I wasn't prepared to like this movie. It wasn't even on my radar to watch it until we saw a preview, and then it looked pretty amusing and I thought that would make up for what I suspected to be a hokey movie. But surprise, I didn't find the super-being part of it hokey at all. Maybe I was just enjoying the characters too much. I love Jason Bateman. He was cute as a child/teen actor, but he's really coming into his own as an adult, IMO. His voice is so acerbic, and I really like that. In fact, I'd have to say that's my favorite thing about him, is his voice. And I don't know why. His character was so earnest, you couldn't help but believe in him. And I really liked the idea of the reluctant, cynical superhero. So give Hancock a chance.
musingaloud: (Default)
Lars and the Real Girl

I loved this movie. I highly recommend it, if you haven't already seen it. I've been wanting to rent the DVD for quite a while now, but it was low on a priority list of movies to rent, mainly because the hubby wasn't too hep on it and I really hadn't heard from anyone else if it was really any good or not. I'd read reviews, but I never know if I can trust those or not. But Saturday night we decided we had time for 2 movies, so hubby picked one and I picked Lars.

Ryan Gosling did an awesome job of playing Lars. I totally bought into his character. Lars' sister-in-law was great too, so sincere and caring. His brother was good too in his at-first horror and then bemused attitude toward Lars and "Bianca." The townspeople acceptance of Lars' "girlfriend" was outright funny. I especially enjoyed the scene where the older lady picked up Bianca to take her to her volunteer duty at the hospital and told Lars off for being macho when he became upset over Bianca's busy schedule and her lack of time for him. The way the townspeople accepted Bianca and how Lars needed her could be a lesson in tolerance for all of us.

I was amused, I was entertained, and I was touched by the movie. It goes up there with "Groundhog Day" as one of my favorites (Well, not counting any movie with Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart -- those are my all-time favorites).

Wall-E

Jul. 13th, 2008 04:02 pm
musingaloud: (Default)
After many recommendations from my flist, we went to see Wall-E today. I loved it. So cute, I chuckled and groaned in all the right places. It was definitely a heart-warming movie, and of course Disney doesn't do much wrong as far as my family is concerned. Yeah, I'm a sap. And I don't care.

What I noticed is how much music in a movie can contribute to the viewer's emotions. Especially in the first half, where there was no dialog at all, I was very aware of the music shaping the emotional reaction. (I don't mean that in a bad way). I think usually when there's dialog and action going on, the music acts in a more subliminal way. So I guess I'm trying to say I thought they did a great job with the musical score on this one too. Can't wait to see Wall-E at Disneyland when next we go.

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