Book Review – The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

I liked this book so much, I listened to it twice. The first time was just for myself, and the second time I played the audible version for my son in the evenings before bed. Admittedly, the book is about a female magician, but my son liked it just the same.

Without giving spoilers – because I hate giving spoilers in fiction – I can tell you that this book is tightly written. The story follows Ceony Twill as she begins her apprenticeship as a paper magician.

The idea of magic being connected to different materials and crafts was interesting to me, and to my son. It was fun to “watch” as paper was made to do amazing things with magic, and in fact I believe this is what kept my nine-year-old son listening.

The magic system alone kept me fascinated, even if I did find some of the descriptions in the book a little clunky. This happened a couple of times in the book for me, drawing me out of the storyline because the descriptions seemed so odd, but it’s nothing to stop a reader from going on.

As an author, those descriptions are something that I’ve highlighted for further review and I’ll touch on them in a later post. Suffice to say, the book as a whole is excellent, Ceony is a relatable and proactive character that I was able to get behind and root for until the last page.

I’ll be grabbing the next book in this series and highly recommend it.

About Reviews – April Round Robin

My mother always taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. While I haven’t always followed that advice, I’m certain many authors wish critics would.

I’ve had one or two reviews that scoured my work to the bone, which … let’s be honest here … required a pint of ice cream to get me through. Mint chocolate chip is the greatest comforter in times like these.

But when push comes to shove, negative reviews are always the ones that I learn from. I’m not a world-renowned author, not yet, and I’m still honing my craft. So anything that teaches me how to be better is good.

Sometimes painful, but good.

Positive reviews help sell a book, but not nearly as much as word of mouth. Like it or not, people talking about your book is still the number one way to push those sales up – or so all the professionals tell me.

I’ve sent my books out to reviewers for their honest opinions and come back with some positive results there, but those results never last for very long. To be honest, sometimes the only result of a positive review is my own feeling of accomplishment; somebody read my book and understood what I was trying to say!

Since Sedition was first published eight years ago I’ve held a 4.36 star average on Goodreads and about the same on Amazon, which I suppose is quite good considering there are a lot of things wrong with my early novels. But the only thing this knowledge serves is to push me to become better.

Maybe it sells one book every three months or so, but at the end of the day it still only pushes me to be better. I don’t have time to check reviews every day or even every week. I check them once or twice a month, see if I have anything new, and then I get back to work.

See what some of my fellow authors think about reviews …

Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2017/04/22/how-to-get-reviews
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

X-Men Days of Future Past – Review

I’ve never been shy about my inner Geek.

Well, I can’t really call it my “inner” Geek, can I? I’ve posted about playing Star Trek Online with my kid (we’re watching Voyager now, by the way) and I’ve talked about nearly every comic-based movie I’ve gone to see in recent years.

So … the cat’s out of the bag, so to speak.

I am a Geek. I love comic books, super heroes, novels with magic in them, and the occasional game. And, of course, I love movies that highlight these things as well.

It’s no surprise then that I loved X-Men Days of Future Past. It’s counterpart – X-Men First Class – went a long way with repairing the whole X-Men mythos after the fairly disappointing renditions done earlier. (I’m sorry. Rogue is my favorite character and they sort of broke her entire story in those early X-Men movies, which made me hate them.)

In any case, X-Men First Class and X-Men Days of Future Past made my Geek-self happy. And, as was the case in X-Men First Class, much of this had to do with the casting of James McAvoy as the young Charles Xavier.

(Allow me a moment to fan-girl squee.) X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-character-bio-James-McAvoy-as-Professor-X

I know Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was sort of the main character in this film, and yes, I do so love that man as Wolverine but … If you can’t get Professor X right, then the whole X-Men regime falls flat on its face. McAvoy has this captivating voice, much like his counterpart in the film, Patrick Stewart, and it was fun to watch them play against one another.

I did have some consistency questions for the plot but in light of the whole I really don’t care. (It’s a movie about mutants with super powers, let’s not try and treat it as gospel, shall we?) All in all, I quite enjoyed this movie and look forward to any and all future installments.

Star Trek Into Darkness Review

That’s right.  This science fiction geek totally went to see Star Trek this weekend. I’ll admit that I sorta knew what was coming because I follow Tor.com and they had some reviews up there (they said not to read the bottom comments due to spoilers, but I read them anyway because … yeah … I just couldn’t help myself.)

Anyway, I enjoyed the movie.  No, scratch that, I loved the movie.  My mother and I had several debates about it because she is … Well, let’s just say I’m a Trekkie because she was a Trekkie first.  I was sort of born into it.

She was not so happy about certain plot elements that mirrored the old movies.  Me, I liked the fact that they did this.  As a storyteller myself I can see why they did it and where they were going.  My mother, on the other hand, was hoping for something new.

And, let’s face it, the whole point of Star Trek is to see something new.  They “boldly go where no man has gone before” and encounter “new life and new civilizations.”  So I do see where she is coming from.

(Mild spoiler: the very end of the movie seemed to suggest that any future movies within the Star Trek genre were going to head out into unexplored territory.  At least I hope that’s what that whole sequence meant.)

That said, I’m going to have to agree with some of the other reviews I’ve read on this subject and that is on the matter of James T. Kirk himself.  The last movie left his character rather smug.  I mean … of course, they were going to make him Captain.  He basically saved Earth.

This movie ripped that smugness away from him.  It helped him grow up.  The Captain Kirk that is now at the helm of our beloved Enterprise is one we can rally behind more fully.

So!

I loved the movie.  I loved the character growth within the movie.  I even loved all the tongue-in-cheek brushes we had with the older films.

The Hobbit Movie Review

My mother drove two hours up to my city so that we could go see The Hobbit yesterday.  We planned it for right after my first final — which was an oral exam that was quite terrifying, if I must be honest.

I was a little torn about The Hobbit since I didn’t like the book so much.  Bilbo drove me a little crazy with all his whining about home, which made it hard for me to get into the book.  But, I figured if anyone could make his character likable for me, it would be Martin Freeman, who I’ve loved as an actor forever.

And I was right.  Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo was wonderful.  He whined a bit, but Freeman was able to make me understand why Bilbo was so out of place.

The surprise for me was Richard Armitage as Thorin.  The man downright captivated me as Thorin.  As a writer, I am constantly watching for those things that really define a hero.  You know, the kind of hero everyone wants to rally for, who gets up after getting knocked down and faces a foe they know they can’t defeat but fights anyway.  Armitage made that kind of a hero.

I loved it.

There were some awkward moments in the beginning that felt far more comical than I was expecting, and I nearly face-palmed myself when Bilbo said he had to go back for his handkerchief (though, if I’m remembering correctly, that was in the book) but Freeman’s Bilbo made that an understandable moment for me.  Rather than being annoyed, as I was when I read the book, I was amused.

My Mom did mention that she should have taken a motion sickness pill before we went, though.  She loved the movie, too, but I just thought I’d warn everyone.  If you get motion sickness a lot, you might want to take a pill before.

So!  It’s a great movie.  I’m looking forward to the rest of them and, if I could applaud the actors and crew for their work, I would.

Snow White and the Huntsman

Fridays are normally my homework days while I’m in school, but this week was my first week on my little summer break (it’s only two weeks long before the Fall semester starts) and I decided I was going to treat myself to a movie.  (A three dollar movie, but hey, it’s the one I wanted to see.)

Why did I want to see it?

…. Uh … to be very shallow, because Chris Hemsworth was in it.  

Honestly, I became a fan when I saw Thor.  (Even though Tom Hiddleston, who played Loki, is sort of identical to my character Nelek Dyngannon.)

But to get out of the shallow waters, I tend to watch anything fantasy/fairy tale-ish.  I watched Mirror Mirror, too.  And have almost every version of Robin Hood that has been made in my lifetime.  So, Chris Hemsworth + Snow White tale = I should see this movie.  The only reason I didn’t see it when it first came out was because it looked too scary to take my 4 year old son to, and my Fridays were occupied with school work.

Let me first say that Charlize Theron was surprisingly terrifying.  I didn’t think she could pull off psycho-evil-queen, but she did.  And I actually felt bad for her (the character, not the actress) with the back-story they gave this lady.

I have long been a fan of Theron.  I think she’s absolutely beautiful, and in this movie she was able to turn that beauty into something really tragic.  Well, tragic and scary.  Let’s face it, she does some pretty nasty things in this movie in order to keep her vitality and all that.

Now … I have to admit that I twitched when I heard Kristen Stewart was playing the role of Snow White.  Especially when I spotted her in a poster wearing armor.  I could get Stewart as Snow White if the character was a little wimpy, awkward, and incapable of speaking above a whisper level.  But this Snow White was being portrayed as someone with the strength to fight the almighty Queen portrayed by Theron.    

This just didn’t work for me.  I can’t fully explain why, but something was off in this performance.  I fully admit that I am not a Twilight fan, but that has nothing to do with the movies and everything to do with the fact that I read the first book and didn’t care for it.

(Twilight fans, I’m glad you like them, they just weren’t for me.  They were a smidgen too angst-driven for me, and that always gets under my skin.  But then, not every book is going to appeal to every reader, so I wish you all well of them and sincerely hope you enjoyed the series as a whole.)

In any case, Stewart did manage to pull off one thing for the story as a whole, which is why I was still able to enjoy the movie.  Compared to Theron, Stewart was extremely small (and I mean that character-wise and not just physical attributes).  This made for a drastic sense of Stewart and her fellows being up against insurmountable odds.

And I do so love stories with insurmountable odds.

Now then, back to being semi-shallow … Chris Hemsworth pulled this movie together for me.  Not only because I loved him in Thor and was willing to see what else he could do as an actor, but because he put a real sense of “goodness hidden by grit” into the story.

Let me explain that ….

The story shows us a place where evil Queen Lady has overrun all the good people.  She’s sort of a disease that just infects the land itself.  Trees turn all black and dead, the castle walls suddenly look darker, and everything good is covered by this festering sense of death.  In such a place as this, you would be hard pressed to find someone of good moral character.

Enter the Huntsman, whose bitterness at a personal loss has managed to overshadow the real man he is.  He’s a mirror to the world itself, and you get the sense that if he can overcome his loss and break free, then the rest of the world can follow with him.  (I’m a writer, I read into things.  It’s totally possible that this isn’t what anyone else saw from his performance but … hey … it’s all relative.)

So!  I have to say that I enjoyed this movie.  If I were ranking it, I’d put about 4 stars on it.  I liked the concept — even if it was darker than my usual fare — and I enjoyed the performances.  It was just missing something to push it into the 5 star rank.  Nevertheless, I’ll probably buy it for my collection when it comes out for sale.

Jane Eyre

I have fond memories of this book.  I read it while I was in advanced training in the Army.  I even remember a Drill Sergeant seeing it in my locker and asking me what in the world I was doing in the military when I read things like that.  (That’s not to say that today’s military doesn’t read, just that this particular kind of book falls out of the norm for someone you’d see in training.)

When the movie came out last year I was so excited to see it … but didn’t.  You know, money, work, school, raising a child … oh, and writing … and I just couldn’t get out there to see it.  But I found it in the store yesterday and snatched it up.

Needless to say my four-year-old wasn’t all that into it, but I figured I’d suffered through a gazillion hours of Cars 2 and Monster’s Inc. to deserve this little reprieve.

And I loved it.

I understand that they can’t fit everything in the book into a neatly packaged 2 hour film, but they did a really good job of putting the core elements of the story up there.  I’m not going to give any spoilers or anything like that, but I am going to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s a “big girl” story, showing us the restraint needed to respect ourselves and the hope of something better for when we do.