Caroline Davis

Archive for 2010|Yearly archive page

Awesome Female Protagonists

In Books, Movies on May 12, 2010 at 10:09 pm

My final project for this class was to create a mini-collection of 15 titles and present them online.  Feel free to go check it out at Awesome Female Protagonists!

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Fearless by Taylor Swift

In Music on May 7, 2010 at 9:33 am

Summary: Taylor Swift’s sophomore album contains 13 tracks that describe the emotional highs and lows of high school and romantic relationships.  The country starlet sings about Romeo and Juliet in the lead single, “Love Story,” taking the star-crossed lovers and changing their fate.  Swift says of the song, “I just took my favorite characters and gave them the ending that they deserve.”  The song “You Belong With Me” captures the intense feelings of a crush on a boy dating someone else, and dreams that he will realize that they are meant for each other.  Swift wrote the sweet song “The Best Day” as a surprise for her mother, and the title track “Fearless” can be described as a thank-you letter to her fans (the music video contains footage of Swift on tour and interacting with her fans).  Fearless was the top selling album of 2009.

Highlights: This album is an encapsulation of the high school experience, and appeals broadly to those who are experiencing it, the tweens who are anticipating it, and the adults looking back sentimentally.  Swift, who writes all of her songs, knows what her fans are looking for and has a gift for writing catchy and relatable tunes.  The fairy tale imagery she uses in many of her songs will appeal to anyone who has dreamed of being a princess, and I think the message of having high standards and waiting for a deserving partner comes through.  While the subject is high school, younger teens (and pre-teens!) will love this song, and parents will be delighted that there is no objectionable content.  It will be exciting to see what Swift does next!

Extras:

Taylor Swift’s Official Website

Taylor Swift’s VEVO Channel

Other Reviews:

@ retroblog

@ FABTASTIC! Music

@ Holland, 2002

Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

In Books on May 3, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Summary: Three Oxford scholars – John, Charles and Jack – are strangers to each other until an unusual murder brings them together, and sets them on a voyage into the Archipelago of Dreams, a world comprised of all the lands of fantasy and legend.  John is entrusted with the task of Caretaker Principa of a mysterious book called the Imaginarium Geographica, the only collection of maps that encompasses the Archipelago.  The three scholars and their companions find themselves opposing the evil Winter King, who literally sucks the soul out of lands and their inhabitants, encompassing them in shadow (resulting in their disappearance from the Imaginarium).  Can they prevent more worlds from being destroyed?  More importantly, can they keep the precious Imaginarium out of evil hands?

Highlights: This fun fantasy adventure will be especially enjoyed by avid readers who will recognize the literary allusions in the Archipelago of Dreams – from Avalon to Prydain to Atlantis.  There are references to Greek mythology, Arthurian legend, and even Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.  Rather than finding it derivative of these sources, I found Here, There Be Dragons to be an original concept even as it nods to these inspirations.  There is much darkness and light in this book – there is real violence and death, but there are also many genuinely funny moments (it is rare to find a book that makes me laugh out loud – one of these moments explains how the Loch Ness monster legend originated).  The identities of the main characters, which I will not give away, are revealed on the last page and manage to give even more depth to the story.  I enjoyed this book and am not surprised that they are already planning a movie!

Extras:

Official Here, There Be Dragons Website

Interview with James A. Owen (Powell’s)

Interview with James A. Owen (AuthorHour.com)

Other Reviews:

@ Semicolon

@ things mean a lot

@ challenging the bookworm

@ Wands and Worlds

Animal Crossing: Wild World

In Video Game on May 3, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Summary: Start a new life in a new town with the Animal Crossing: Wild World game on your Nintendo DS.  Get to know your neighbors, decorate your house, work at the store to earn bells (money), catch fish, collect fossils for the museum, and more!  You can even connect with your friends and visit their towns by using the Nintendo DS WiFi connection.  Live your virtual life however you like in this fun and highly addicting game!

Highlights: The premise of Animal Crossing: Wild World may not sound like much on the surface – there are no objectives or mini-games, and the clock in the game passes in real-time (parents will be glad to know that the town shuts down after a certain hour, so there will be little incentive for late night gaming).  The basic story is that your character has moved into this town, and can expand their tiny house by working in the store and paying off their mortgage.  Perhaps not the most exciting plot, but it may come as no surprise that this game is very addicting – it combines the virtual life of games like The Sims with the real estate ventures of Monopoly, a potent mix!  I found that I enjoyed the freedom to do whatever activity I liked (my favorite is to wander around with a shovel, searching for fossils to dig up).  It gets a little monotonous to perform the same tasks repeatedly, but there is enough change in the game to keep it interesting (for instance, there are constantly animal neighbors moving in and out of town, and sometimes unexpected items – like a message in a bottle – wash up on the beach).  Very fun!

Extras:

Animal Crossing: Wild World (Official Website)

Animal Crossing: Wild World (Wikipedia)

Unofficial Fan Site

Other Reviews:

@ Game Revolution

@ One Duck’s Opinion

@ Ryanknight717’s Game Reviews

@ Save SMC

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

In Books on May 3, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Summary: Aleksander Ferdinand (who likes to be called Alek) is the prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – but when his parents are killed, his claim to the throne is threatened and he is forced to flee with a small band of faithful companions and a walking war-machine.  Deryn Sharp, raised in Scotland, just wants the chance to become a soldier, but as a girl she is ineligible to join the Air Service.  Can she fool everyone into believing that she is a boy named Dylan, so that she can have the chance to fly?  In this alternative history based on the start of World War I, the two sides are divided not only by existing alliances, but by the technology each side depends on.  The Austro-Hungarians and Germans are Clankers, relying on their advanced machinery for protection and defense.  The British are Darwinists, able to manipulate the life threads of creatures to produce living weapons and transportation – such as the Leviathan, an airship based on a whale that sustains a complete ecosystem.

Highlights: Scott Westerfeld, author of the popular young adult series The Uglies, takes on the alternate history genre in this steampunk novel for middle readers.  The two main characters are appealing, and even though we feel like we’ve heard their stories before (Alek’s plight reminds me of Prince Caspian, and there are scores of novels with young girls impersonating boys), we are drawn in and want to experience their adventure.  One of my favorite details were the subtle nods to the time period – for instance, one of the characters has a pet Tasmanian tiger, a species that went extinct in the 1930s.  The novel does a great job at contrasting the Clanker and Darwinist worldviews, and the open ending allows for sequels to continue the story of these two viewpoints (Westerfeld has announced that Leviathan is the first installment of a projected trilogy).  I know I’m excited to find out what happens next!

Extras:

Scott Westerfeld’s Blog

Book Trailer (Youtube)

Interview with Scott Westerfeld (Tor)

Other Reviews:

@ The Book Smugglers

@ the james review

@ Wondrous Reads

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

In Books on April 19, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Summary: Andrew “Ender” Wiggins is only six years old when he is recruited for Battle School, a training ground in space for genius children to become military leaders in time for the next attack of the aliens they call “buggers.”  Ender is quickly singled out because of his potential, which alienates him from his peers.  When he is given the chance to lead his own team in the simulated battle room, his novice soldiers quickly defeat veteran players, using Ender’s innovative tactics and strategies.  Ender is promoted to Command School where he runs simulations of battles, unaware of the consequences of his actions.

Highlights: Ender’s Game is one of my favorite science fiction reads.  Even though the protagonist is so young, I think that tweens will enjoy this entertaining and thought provoking book.  Even though he is isolated from his family for long periods as he goes through his training, readers can identify with his homesickness for his beloved sister, Valentine, and his anger towards his bullying (and sadistic) older brother, Peter.  The book has plenty of action, especially in the battle room arena, and there are some highly likeable characters (along with some cruel ones).  The story raises many issues, including the ethics of involving children in the adult’s war, especially when the full extent of their involvement is kept from them.  Ender also faces a difficult realization at the end of the novel.  Thinking about his situation may provide tweens a chance to think about the consequences of their actions and give some thought to the related ethical questions.

Extras:

Orson Scott Card’s Official Website

Interview With Orson Scott Card (Fiction Factor)

Other Reviews:

@ YABOOKNERD

@ As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves

@ ScriptShadow

Fantastic Mr. Fox

In Movies on April 19, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Summary: When Mr. Fox learns that he is going to become a father, he promises Mrs. Fox that he will end his dangerous career stealing poultry.  Two years later, Mr. Fox decides to move his family out of a hole and into a tree – which happens to be in the same neighborhood as three affluent farms, owned by Boggis, Bunce and Bean.  Mr. Fox decides to secretly plan one last heist, and raids each of the farms on sequential nights.  In the meantime, the Fox family is caring for their nephew, Kristofferson, who is naturally athletic and likeable, much to the envy of their son, Ash.  The three farmers plot their revenge against Mr. Fox and try to ambush him outside of his tree, but only succeed in shooting off his tail.  They determine to dig him out, forcing the Fox family to burrow deeper into the hill and cutting off the food supply of all the animal families in the area.  The situation seems hopeless, but Mr. Fox devises a plan to save the lives of the starving animals.

Highlights: This quirky, stop-motion film is based on a children’s book by Roald Dahl (my personal favorite of his collection).  Under the direction of Wes Anderson, the plot has been expanded in delightful ways, although I felt that it remained faithful to the book even as new characters and situations were added.  One of my favorite additions was the character of Ash, Mr. Fox’s son, who can never quite live up to the legendary figure of his father, and also feels inadequate when compared to his cousin, Kristofferson, but possesses eagerness and a brave heart and is given an opportunity to display his courage.  George Clooney was an excellent casting choice for the voice of Mr. Fox, and manages to portray him with the slight arrogance and egotism of his character while still remaining a fantastic hero.

Extras:

Official Movie Website

Movie Trailer (Youtube)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (IMDB)

Other Reviews:

@ Only the Cinema

@ THE REST IS CREAM CHEESE

@ Danland Movies

How to Train Your Dragon

In Movies on April 19, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Summary: In Hiccup’s village, there is nothing more honorable than becoming a great dragon killer, like his father, the chief.  But Hiccup is never given the opportunity to fight, so he can’t impress his father and his peers (especially Astrid, on whom he has a crush).  During a nighttime attack, Hiccup uses a contraption he designed to catch the Night Fury, the most mysterious and dangerous of dragons.  But when he tracks it down, Hiccup finds that he is unable to kill it, and releases it.  While most of the village is on an expedition to destroy the dragon nest, Hiccup is being trained to fight dragons.  He secretly returns to visit the Night Fury, and forms a companionship with the injured beast and names him Toothless.  Hiccup is worried that his secret might be discovered, and becomes conflicted when he realizes that the Vikings completely misunderstand the dragons.

Highlights: Based on the book by Cressida Cowell, the film version of How to Train Your Dragon is a visually impressive computer-animated feature (especially when viewed on a movie screen in 3D!).  There were some very thrilling parts, especially the flying scenes.  Aside from the technical aspects, this was a movie with a lot of heart that will resonate with anyone who has felt like an outsider.  The moral of the story was that Hiccup was able to become accepted, and even a hero, not because he conformed to what was expected, but because he learned to appreciate being different and use his unique gifts.  The relationship that developed between boy and dragon was particularly touching, and in many ways they had to rely on each other (for instance, Toothless wasn’t able to fly unless Hiccup was operating his prosthetic tail).  There are more books in Cowell’s series, and it will be interesting to see if they make more movies.  And I’m going to keep an eye out for the soundtrack, some of the Celtic inspired music was beautiful!

Extras:

Official Movie Website

Movie Trailer (Youtube)

How to Train Your Dragon (IMDB)

Other Reviews:

@ Row Three

@ Mendelson’s Memos

@ We Are Movie Geeks

Ballet Shoes

In Movies on April 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Summary: Eccentric paleontologist “Gum” (Great Uncle Matthew) has a habit of bringing home orphans for his niece, Sylvia Brown, and housekeeper, Nana, to raise – three girls, named Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil.  With Gum absent and money tight, Sylvia and Nana resort to selling specimens from Gum’s collection and taking in boarders, including a dance teacher named Theo Danes, who insists that the girls should be enrolled at the Children’s Academy of Dance and Stage Training.  Each of the girls has a different aspiration – Pauline wants to become an actress, Petrova longs to fly planes, and Posy wishes to train as a ballerina.  The family is still struggling financially, and depends on Pauline’s success as an actress for support.  After a dose of success brings out their worst, the ambitious girls learn lessons on how to use their talent with kindness and humility, and each of them are able to realize their dreams.

Highlights: Based on Noel Streatfeild’s beloved 1936 novel of the same title, this sweet film was very evocative of 1930s Britain, and the Fossil sisters and their guardians are convincing victims of the economic downturn of the time.  They approach their troubles head-on and are determined to support themselves while not compromising their dreams.  Although they are not biologically related, the entire family pulls together and supports each other.  The characters are not without blemish, so the story is not too treacly or sentimental, just perfectly nostalgic and relatable.  Originally produced for British television, the film is a little quickly paced and could be a bit more polished, but it is still a delightful story – and it is fun to see Harry Potter’s Emma Watson in a different role.

Extras:

Interviews with the actors (BBC)

Ballet Shoes (IMDB)

Other Reviews:

@ Judge By Reviews

@ janell the great

@ Literature Young Adult Fiction

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

In Movies on April 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Summary: Percy Jackson doesn’t consider himself to be particularly extraordinary – he struggles at school because his dyslexia and ADHD make it hard to focus and learn, and his home life isn’t much better because of his rude and boorish stepfather.  His life completely changes when he discovers that he is the son of a Greek god – Poseidon – and that Percy is accused of having stolen Zeus’ lightning bolt.  His life in danger, Percy escapes to Camp Half-Blood, a training ground for demigods, but not before his mother is taken by a raging minotaur.  After learning that Hades is keeping his mother as a prisoner, Percy and his friends Grover and Annabeth – a satyr and a daughter of Athena – take off on a cross-country adventure looking for Persephone’s pearls, which they need in order to safely escape the Underworld.  Can Percy save his mother and prove his innocence?

Highlights: I haven’t read the book (by Rick Riordan) yet, so I didn’t know much about what to expect when I went to see the film, other than connections to Greek mythology.  To be honest, I had pretty low expectations for the movie, so I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it was.  I particularly liked how they incorporated ancient mythology into modern America – such as turning the Island of the Lotus Eaters from the Odyssey into the Lotus Casino in Las Vegas.  The main trio reminded me of the Harry Potter crew – a protagonist with a revelation about his parentage and power, a strong female lead and a humorous sidekick – which I didn’t find too derivative, since they had their own story to tell.  My only issues with the film were more to do with Columbus’s direction, not the actors and plot.  All in all, I thought the film was fun and a good way to inspire interest in Greek mythology – and my 12-year-old cousin liked it too!

Extras:

Official Movie Website

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (IMDB)

Interview with Director, Chris Columbus

Other Reviews:

@ Speakeasy

@ MAVENity

@ THIS IS BRIANDOM