Super Billy Goats Gruff: A Graphic Novel by Sean Tulien

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Title: Super Billy Goats Gruff by Sean Tulien

Premise:

Three goats want to get to the hillside to eat grass and grow fat.  Their way  is blocked, however, by a fearsome beast and his minions, whom they must defeat.

My thoughts:

I was surprised by how nicely they expanded and played with the Billy Goats Gruff story.  There isn’t a lot to it, but this author had the idea of turning it into an adventure like what you might find in a video game level.  Each of the brothers has a specific role (warrior, wizard and ninja), chooses a different route to take, has special powers, and fights different minions along the way.  At the end the brothers work together to defeat the “boss,” so they can get to the coveted field of grass.  😉

The story is really simple, but I enjoyed the characterization of the goats and the fun video game take on the story.  The artwork fit the theme perfectly.  You can tell the story premise came from the mind of someone who is into video games.  It takes subtle jabs at the genre and/or the way characters behave in those games.  My favorite character was Big Gruff and I thought his power up scene was hilarious!

I recommend Super Billy Goats Gruff to elementary-age kids who like fun retellings of  fairy tales.  I think boys would really get a kick out of this one.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories by O. Henry

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Title: The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories by O. Henry

Premise:

This is a collection of short stories by O. Henry.  It includes “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Cop and the Anthem,” “Springtime à la Carte,” “The Green Door,” “After Twenty Years,” “The Furnished Room,” “The Pimienta Pancakes,” “The Last Leaf,” “The Voice of the City,” “While the Auto Waits,” “A Retrieved Reformation,” “A Municipal Report,” “A Newspaper Story,” “The Ransom of Red Chief,” “A Ghost of a Chance,” and “Makes the Whole World Kin.”

My thoughts:

I read this book specifically for “The Gift of the Magi,” a Christmas story.  The book is so short, though, that I decided to just go ahead and read the entire thing.  A couple of the stories were familiar to me (“The Last Leaf” in particular), though I can’t think of where I would have heard/read it before.  Overall, I really enjoyed the book.  Most of the stories were well-written, clever, heartfelt, and several had twist endings.  Henry’s writing is challenging to read, so you’ll want to keep a dictionary at hand.  You will certainly expand your vocabulary!

You should know that there are three instances of the n-word in this book.  I believe they are contained in only two stories, but in any instance where an African American is included in a story, they are talked of in a condescending way.  For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone younger than an adult.

I recommend The Gift of the Magi to adults who enjoy short stories.  Most of the stories in this volume are satisfying reads.

Possible Objections:

  • There is a general air of condescension towards African Americans
  • Outdated/offensive racial language (3 uses of the n-word)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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Title: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Premise:

Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly old man who hates all things cheerful and unprofitable–including and especially Christmas!  Scrooge’s deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, sends three ghostly spirits to visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve.  Can they help him realize the error of his ways before it is too late and he suffers the same torturous fate as his partner?

My thoughts:

Initially I had thought I’d be able to read this book aloud with my 10-year-old son, but about halfway through the first chapter, I realized that his attention was waning.  The language was a bit complex for him and it just wasn’t holding his interest.  He doesn’t have much patience for stories which take a little while to get going.

I decided to read it by myself and it was a really nice story to complement all of the Christmas festivities going on around me.  The story didn’t propel itself forward for me, but it may have been partially due to the fact that I have a lot on my plate right now getting ready for Christmas, and my attention tends to wander to my to-do list.  My favorite aspect of the story is the way it makes you feel about Christmas–all the nostalgia and the appreciation for all of the wonderful things during this time of year.  Dickens’ story actually had an instrumental and lasting influence on our Western ideals about Christmas, the true meaning of the holiday and how we observe it today.

I recommend A Christmas Carol to kids in middle school and up, or to families to enjoy together during Christmas.  If you share it with younger kids, you’ll have to do some explaining about the more complex language.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

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Title: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Premise:

What will happen when the Christmas pageant is infiltrated by the Herdmans, the town’s most unruly and notorious kids?  Hilarity and the most unique retelling of the Nativity story you’ve ever witnessed!  Their unique take on the story ends up producing the best Christmas pageant the town has ever seen.

My thoughts:

My son and I just finished reading this book together for school and it was an absolute hoot!  We laughed so much at all of the Herdmans’ antics–Imogene as a hoop earring-wearing, cigar-smoking Mary, and Gladys as an Angel of the Lord who yells at the shepherds and stomps on their feet.  Though these kids may be lacking in the finer points of politeness, they latch right onto the Christmas story and internalize its true meaning.

If you’re really particular about not letting your kids read books with children who misbehave, this may not be the book for you.  The Herdmans smoke cigars, hit people, burn down a shed, steal and generally act “naughty.”  Their behavior isn’t glorified, though, so I’m not afraid of my kids following their example.

Throughout the book there’s a smattering of drawings which help bring extra life and humor to the story.  The picture of Imogene smoking in the ladies room while she’s dressed up as Mary is just priceless.

I recommend The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to children and families to enjoy together during Christmas.  It’s our family’s favorite Christmas read aloud!

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol by Harper & Almara

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Title: A Christmas Carol: A Graphic Novel by Benjamin Harper & Dono Sanchez-Almara

Premise:

This is a retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in the form of a graphic novel.  A miserly old man named Scrooge is visited by three Christmas Spirits who show him the error of his ways, and what awaits him in the afterlife unless he changes.  Scrooge vows to be a better man and spends the rest of his life being kind and giving to others.

My thoughts:

I really like being able to read a graphic novel version of this story with my kids.  It’s an awesome way to introduce them to the story!  I was a bit unrealistic about my childrens’ ability to understand the original story by Dickens.  I started reading it with my son and he was looking lost, so we opted to read the graphic novel instead.

You should know going into it, that this is a very simple telling of the story.  The language is quite basic and the retelling really just sticks to the main meat of the story.  I thought the illustrations were really nice!  Marley’s ghost and the third Spirit might be a little alarming to small children, but I don’t think they’re too bad.

I recommend A Christmas Carol to children and families to enjoy together during Christmas.  It’s short enough to read in one sitting.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Grandfather’s Dance by Patricia MacLachlan

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Title: Grandfather’s Dance by Patricia MacLachlan

Notable: Book #5 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series

Premise:

This story picks up a short while after the previous one left off.  Jack is now a toddler/preschooler and acts just like his grandpa, John.  Cassie has come to terms with the family’s new addition and she can’t help but love her little brother.  Anna and Justin finally marry, which necessitates a visit from the Maine relatives.  The joyous mood is short-lived, however, when tragedy strikes.

My thoughts:

Well,  I finally finished the Sarah, Plain and Tall series!  It’s a bittersweet ending because I always feel sad when a story featuring some of my favorite characters comes to an end.

In this book, little Jack fairly worships the ground his grandfather walks on and tries to emulate him in all he does.  Poor grandfather is finding it harder and harder to keep up with the rest of the family because of his failing health.  Each family member has to confront the prospect of a future spent without their father/grandfather, and come to terms with that eventuality.

This is a good story for introducing kids to mortality and helping them see that death is an unavoidable part of life.  For kids who might be facing the loss of a grandparent, I think this could be a very cathartic read.  I’ll confess–it made me cry.

I recommend Grandfather’s Dance to kids who are reading beginner chapter books, or as a touching family read aloud.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL SERIES POSTS:

The Littles Go to School by John Peterson

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Title: The Littles Go to School by John Peterson

Premise:

Lucy Little is worried about going to school for the first time.  Her family reassures her that she will enjoy it, but she’s still scared.  When Tom and Lucy find themselves accidentally transported to school in the gerbils’ cage, Lucy gets a chance to explore the school and find out how fun it really can be.

My thoughts:

My son and I just finished this chapter book for school.  I think we may have made it through all the Littles books we own!  For some reason this wasn’t my favorite Littles book.  I think it may be because the action and adventure was very tame, apart from their being transported to the school by mistake.

My son enjoyed it and got a kick out of the silly things Tom and Lucy did while exploring the school, so I suppose it’s a bit more appealing to kids.  It may have also sounded similar to our homeschooling experiences.  Just like us, Tom and Lucy do the majority of their school work at home through mostly child-led activities.  They go to the “big school” for one week per year to meet with their classmates and teacher, Ms. Beta Gogg.

I recommend The Littles Go to School to those who are already fans of the Littles.

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Caleb’s Story by Patricia MacLachlan

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Title: Caleb’s Story by Patricia MacLachlan

Notable: Book #3 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series

Premise:

Anna has now left home to finish school and work in town.  It is Caleb’s turn to write in the family journal and the new topic is the appearance of a mysterious stranger named John.  When the family finds out who he really is, it causes some major consternation and Jacob must learn to forgive if their family is to survive.

My thoughts:

The third book in the series is right in line with the previous two in terms of style and subject matter.  In this volume we get to see Cassie (the youngest daughter) as a young girl and Caleb has taken on a much more mature role in the family.  I loved the part that he had to play in teaching John a new skill.  Seriously, if I tell you want it is, I’ll spoil the book for you.

The same overarching theme of family is explored in this book, with the emphasis being on forgiveness and fresh starts.  I still don’t know how MacLachlan does it, but she packs very moving stories into small packages.  Bravo!

I recommend Caleb’s Story to young people who enjoy stories about early American settlers.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL SERIES POSTS:

 

The Littles and the Perfect Christmas by Joel Peterson

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Title: The Littles and the Perfect Christmas by Joel Peterson

Premise:

It’s Christmas at the Biggs’ house, but things aren’t so merry when Mr. Bigg loses his job!  Despite the depressing situation, Mr. Bigg works on a homemade gift for his son, which ends up being the answer to his employment problem.  The Littles are instrumental in helping to make sure the gift is perfect for when Mr. Winters, the toy company owner, comes to take a look at it.

My thoughts:

My son and I read this book together for school.  We didn’t like it as much as the other Littles books we’ve read.  It was probably because there was very little action in this story.  Mr. Bigg loses his job, the Littles fix a mistake on the toy Mr. Bigg made, and Mr. Winters comes for a visit.  The pace of the story is a bit slow, especially when reading it with a young-ish boy who wants a bit of excitement.

The story is cute and I like the angle they took with Mr. Winters, but I feel like the book would have been better if it were a little shorter.  It would be a fun story to read aloud to your kids during Christmas.

I recommend The Littles and the Perfect Christmas to kids who are reading beginner chapter books, or as a cute family read-aloud.

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

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Title: The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

Premise:

Colonel Percy Fawcett was a man with a mission–to explore the Amazon and find the lost city of “Z” or what the rest of us would call, El Dorado.  He believed that the Amazon was home to an ancient city of magnificent proportions and untold wealth.  Fawcett took several trips to the Amazon to carry out his explorations, but in 1925, he simply disappeared.  David Grann examines the mystery behind Fawcett’s disappearance and tries to discover what happened to this epic explorer.

My thoughts:

My son picked this book up at the library, but put it down after just a couple of chapters.  If the action doesn’t grab him right away, he’ll often abandon a book.  I read the synopsis and decided it looked really interesting.  I’m glad I decided to give it a go!

This is a truly dramatic story about what it was like to explore the Amazon towards the end of the era of Victorian explorers.  The unifying thread of the story is the adventures and disappearance of Colonel Fawcett, but in reality it encompasses more than just his story.  The reader gets a good overview of his contemporaries, the history of European relations with indigenous tribes, the perils of exploring the Amazon, and the state of anthropological exploration during that time period.

If you like detail and understanding a subject from many different angles, then you  will like this book.  If minutiae drives you nuts, then you will probably see much of this book as unnecessary and boring.  Personally, I enjoyed all of the background information because it gave me a greater understanding of the time period, why characters behaved in a particular manner, and other issues which had an impact on the story.

The story that specifically pertains to Fawcett left me feeling sad.  This man had amazing drive and abilities, and it seems to have been thrown away on his mad quest to find a magnificent ancient city.  Current information shows that he was correct in his assertion that the Amazon was home to an ancient, complex civilization, but during his lifetime he never had the satisfaction of finding conclusive evidence himself.  His life was consumed by this obsession to find “Z” and prove that his theory was correct.  His wife and family sacrificed for many years as he prepared for and went on his explorations.  I wondered about his children and how much time they missed out on with their dad.  That was the saddest part, to me.  While Fawcett made many contributions to the exploration of the Amazon, it came at great cost in his personal life.  I suppose that is fairly common with people who are obsessed with a greater cause.

One thing I’d like to warn you about if you’re thinking of reading this book, is that there are a good number of descriptions of fairly yucky things.  There are many diseases, injuries, and insect-inflicted ailments which are described candidly in the book.  If things like that bug you, you may not be able to stomach this story.  If that sort of thing intrigues you, then you’ll have a heyday!

Also, the narrative skips around between characters and time periods, so that can be a little disorienting.  Having made it to the end of the book, I think it worked in terms of showing how the past and present are intertwined.

I recommend The Lost City of Z to older teens and adults who enjoy detailed historical stories.  If you don’t appreciate a lot of detail, you might get lost in this book.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence
  • Cannibalism
  • Some discussion of sexual things
  • Frank discussion of some awful diseases and parasites

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Blind Colt by Glen Rounds

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Title: The Blind Colt by Glen Rounds

Premise:

A blind colt is born to a mare who is part of a herd of Mustangs in the American West.  Whitey, a young boy, and his uncle Torwal own a nearby ranch, and watch over the animals within their domain.  Uncle Torwal is in favor of shooting the colt, but Whitey pleads for his life.  He would love to own a horse like that someday.  Against all odds, the little colt survives the winter but gets lost and separated from his band.  He finds his way to the ranch’s other horses, and Whitey finally gets his chance to prove that his faith in the blind colt’s abilities has not been misplaced.

My thoughts:

I’ve had this book since I was a kid and I remember being enamored of it back then.  Though I never had a horse, I dreamt of getting one and even wrote a story in first grade about a horse that was mine (in reality it belonged to my cousins).  So yeah, horses have always fascinated me.  Interestingly, this book is based on a true story!

It’s a bit short for a chapter book, so a child could read it in a day or two.  There really isn’t much to the story.  A blind colt is born and survives in the American West with his mother and the rest of the Mustangs.  However, one day he slips down a ravine and can’t get back to the other horses.  In his wanderings, he finds his way to the ranch’s work horses and sticks with them until he is discovered by Whitey, the boy who kept him from being shot in the first place.  Whitey then gentles the colt and Uncle Torwal says he can keep him.  That’s it!

The writing itself is quality and I think that’s what makes the story enjoyable.  There is a lot of description about the wilderness and the discoveries that the colt makes while he tries to get by in the big, mysterious world.  He faces some perils along the way, such as a rattlesnake, mudhole, blizzard, etc., but with his heightened senses of hearing and smell, and the help of his mother, this tough little guy makes it through.

I recommend The Blind Colt to kids who are just beginning to read chapter books or as a cute family read-aloud.  It would particularly appeal to horse lovers!

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – Movie 2012

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Last night I watched Breaking Dawn – Part 2, the movie adaptation of the second part of the book by the same name.  And I’m finished with the Twilight movies!!!  Thank you Lord, I made it through!

Lucky viewers get to meet Bella–the baby vampire.  She takes to her new role like a fish to water and finally gets to meet her baby girl, Renesmee.  Unfortunately, the Volturi catch wind of this new super-human child and believe it’s their duty to destroy the danger.  The Cullens race to gather witnesses to Renesmee’s human development, hoping it will stop the Volturi from carrying out their swift “justice.”  Jacob and the pack side with the Cullens to defend Renesmee, since she has been imprinted on by Jacob.  Who will survive in the final showdown?  If you want to know more about what I thought of the book, check out my book review.

My thoughts:

I remember enjoying the Twilight movies when they came out, but now that I’m going back and watching them in quick succession, they’ve lost their sparkle for me.  First, I’m comparing them to the books, and they just don’t measure up.  Second, the movies weren’t that well done.  For a fan who isn’t afraid to point out the flaws in a franchise, there is plenty of cannon fodder in these movies.

I feel like this movie could have been really interesting.  It features a very tense situation and lots of cool and interesting vampires, but the acting and chemistry of the characters was subpar.  I don’t care how dramatic and beautiful you are, you still need to put emotions into your lines and interact with the environment and other characters around you in a believable manner.  It seems like Edward, Bella and Jacob actually lost some of their acting ability in this movie.  Don’t ask me how.  Bad script?  Lame lines?

Now let’s talk about the CGI.  It was painful to watch.  The wolves are just kind of meh, but I can deal with that.  The CGI baby was frightening.  I think they were just trying to give her more intelligent eyes, but they didn’t look at all natural.  Her hair was creepy, too.  It’s too bad that baby Renesmee’s CGI was so poorly done because it takes away from your ability to really believe in the story you’re seeing played out in front of you.

As far as the conflict with the Volturi goes, I think that was probably the most satisfying part of the movie.  There is a lot of theatricality packed into that snow-covered clearing as two formidable supernatural groups poise for battle.  My absolute favorite part of the movie is something that didn’t even happen in the book.  –SPOILER ALERT–  When they show the battle between the Cullens, etc. and the Volturi–THAT IS THE BOMB!  A-MA-ZING fight scene!  Unfortunately, it’s a haha–got you moment when you realize it didn’t really happen after all.  In reality Aro and company go home and everyone else lives happily ever after.

I’m sorry, but my brain rebels against that kind of conclusive ending.  You’re vampires, for goodness’ sake, not librarians!  There is danger involved in that kind of lifestyle.  Whatever–I guess it was an easy way to wrap up the series.  I suppose it’s just difficult to accept such a fairytale ending for a series which has been rather dark throughout the rest of its history.

To sum up, I’d say this movie is on par with the other ones.  Just okay.  The fight scene at the end is awesome, though.  Maybe you should watch it just for that.

I recommend this movie to ladies in their teens and older who enjoy a good paranormal romance.  If you are a fan of the Twilight series, I think you will enjoy this movie.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence, blood & gore
  • Suggestive sexual content & partial nudity (though you don’t actually see the private bits)

Rated: PG-13

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER TWILIGHT POSTS:

Breaking Dawn – Part 1 – Movie 2011

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Last night I watched Breaking Dawn – Part 1, the movie adaptation of the first part of the book by the same name.  I’m almost to the end of these movies!

Bella and Edward finally wed(!) and jet off to spend a relaxed honeymoon in the tropics.  While Edward follows through on his promise of intimacy, it comes with some unintended consequences.  Bella becomes pregnant, and the entire Cullen clan scrambles to keep Bella healthy, and do their best to help her survive the birth of the fast-growing fetus.  When Jacob and the pack find out that an unknown supernatural being is developing inside of Bella, they feel it is their responsibility to get rid of the abomination.  Will Bella and the baby survive?  If you want to know more about what I thought of the book, check out my book review.

My thoughts:

I really like that they opened with the wedding scene.  It looked absolutely beautiful and felt like the culmination of Edward and Bella’s relationship.  Unfortunately, I was rather put off by the emotions displayed by the couple during their wedding.  Pattinson did okay, with his subdued emotions possibly indicating nervousness.  Bella, on the other hand, looked like she was attending a funeral.  Nary a smile crossed her lips as she spotted her true love and walked down the aisle.  Dang girl–if it’s that painful, why get married at all?  It seemed very unrealistic to me and turned the wedding into just another awkward scene.

Bella’s ubiquitous lack of emotion came through in the rest of the movie, as well.  I can’t even complain about it anymore.  It’s just so bad and takes away any concern you might have for her character.  How can you care about a character who doesn’t excite any compassion in you?

Of the J/E/B trio, I’d have to say that Jacob is my favorite character.  He acts in a way that is at least familiar to the rest of us.  Which is to say, he displays the emotions of a normal human being.  Let’s not mince words though, his imprinting in this movie was slightly creepy.  Never mind the fact that he was in love with the mother of his new love, this new love interest is a baby.  I know there is an explanation which is supposed to clear the way and make it okay, but I can’t get over the fact that they are showing romantic attachment between adults and children.  Too icky.

One of the more disturbing things in this movie is the amount of blood and gore, especially when you compare it to the previous movies.  This one blows all the others out of the water.  Bella’s nightmare the night before the wedding is very disturbing.  Also, the part in which Bella finally goes into labor is very bloody and rather grotesque.  I tell you this not to dissuade you from watching the movie, but to warn you that it might not be appropriate for younger viewers or those with a touchy stomach.

There are also some very suggestive scenes between Edward and Bella.  While the nudity is tastefully done, it doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination.  I wouldn’t be comfortable with my preteen watching those scenes.

While I enjoyed the movie, the plot was a bit simple to make it terribly satisfying.  Essentially it’s the conundrum of a girl getting pregnant and how that is dealt with.  If you’re not into relationship drama, this movie could quite possibly drive you insane.

I recommend this movie to ladies in their teens and older who enjoy a good paranormal romance.  If you are a fan of the Twilight series, I think you will enjoy this movie.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence & gore
  • Lots of blood (especially during the delivery)
  • Suggestive sexual content & partial nudity (though you don’t actually see the private bits)

Rated: PG-13

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER TWILIGHT POSTS:

Eclipse — Movie 2010

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Last night I watched Eclipse, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name!

The vampires and werewolves of Forks, Washington form an uneasy alliance when they face a threat from an unknown source in nearby Seattle.  Bella is once again in the sights of a malevolent supernatural creature, and both the Cullens and Quileutes put their lives on the line to protect her.  Edward and Bella come to a new understanding in their relationship, and Jacob continues to vie for Bella’s hand.  If you want to know more about what I thought of the book, check out my book review.

My thoughts:

I can’t believe how long it took me to get my hands on this movie.  I wanted to review it when the book was still fresh in my mind.  Unfortunately, I probably missed some of the differences between the book and the movie because of the long interim.

The movie jumps right in with the action going on in Seattle.  I must say that they amped up the vampire on human violence in this movie.  The previous movies have fairly quick and non-gruesome killing scenes, but this one takes it to the next level with the newborn vampires attacking people.  I was startled and kind of looked away during the part with the mauling and the burning car.

Edward and Bella seemed to have more of a natural relationship; not quite as sappy as in the two previous movies.  That was a relief, however, there really didn’t seem to be a lot of chemistry between them in this movie.  Am I the only one who thought that?  It was nice to see them come to a concrete decision in their relationship.  Bella’s demand for after their marriage seems a bit petty and hormonal, though.  Such a teenager!

I really liked Jacob in this movie.  He was more mature and intentional in his pursuit of Bella.  He genuinely loves her and offers her a life which any woman would prize.  It’s too bad she loves Edward more.  You can’t help but feel bad for Jacob and root for him as the underdog.

It was also nice to get more of Jasper’s and Rosalie’s backstories.  Rosalie’s story was particularly disturbing, and I’m glad that they didn’t get any more explicit in that scene.  It was bad enough as it was.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie adaptation, but I still prefer the book.  There were some very cool parts–the vamp/wolf chase scene with Victoria, and the Cullen and Quileute training scenes in particular.  There were a few scenes which were just okay and I found my mind wandering and a yawn escaping my lips.  All in all, it’s not my favorite Twilight movie.  Sorry!

I recommend this movie to ladies in their teens and older who enjoy a good paranormal romance.  If you are a fan of the Twilight series, I think you will enjoy this movie.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence (including a strong suggestion of sexual violence)

Rated: PG-13

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER TWILIGHT POSTS:

Miss Bianca in the Orient by Margery Sharp

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Title: Miss Bianca in the Orient by Margery Sharp

Premise:

When the Ambassador from the Orient visits, Miss Bianca learns of an unfortunate page boy who is condemned to death for sneezing in the Ranee’s sherbet.  Miss Bianca and Bernard travel to “the Orient” to try and save the poor boy.  But will their plan succeed when nobody seems to know anything about him or his whereabouts?

My thoughts:

I just finished this book tonight and I came away disappointed.  I remember reading it when I was younger, but I must not have been quite as critical back then.  There were some things that I picked up on this time through which really put a bad taste in my mouth.

Let’s start with the good, though.  I love Miss Bianca and Bernard.  They have such lovely personalities and work very well as a team.  Bernard’s devotion to Miss Bianca is so, so sweet.  The premise of the story is also promising.  Our intrepid duo travels to “the Orient” to rescue an unfortunate page boy who has been sentenced to death.  The characters we meet in the palace court are interesting and fairly well developed.  While the plot is very simple, it’s quite adequate for an elementary chapter book.  And the illustrations by Erik Blegvad are very nicely done.

On to the bad.  Throughout the book, the language referring to “the Orient” is exceptionally outdated and imprecise.  Where exactly is “the Orient”?  Why can’t we name a specific country with a specific language?  What exactly is “Oriental writing”?  What does it mean to be “Orientally thoughtless”?  It doesn’t take a genius to pick up on the idea that the writer views “the Orient” as a generic group of people living in the East whose way of life is inferior to that of the West.  Based on the details contained in the book, I believe the author had India in mind as the setting, but it’s never actually stated.  Are we trying to make our children stupid by teaching them that the entirety of the East is one homogeneous and backward group of people?

Quite frankly, I won’t be keeping this book around the house because I would be mortified to have my children read the book and start talking about “the Orient” or “Oriental writing”.  I would rather they learn about specific countries, languages, and people groups.

I don’t recommend Miss Bianca in the Orient to children because of what I perceive as subtle prejudice.  However, if you’re an adult fan of Miss Bianca and Bernard, you might want to read this book to round out your knowledge of all of their adventures.


Possible Objections:

  • Prejudice against “Orientals”

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori