Blu-Ray Review: Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell

Synopsis:
In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: a human who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that her life was stolen instead of saved. Now, she will stop at nothing to recover her past while punishing those who did this to her.

Review:
I had low expectations of this film before watching, as I have seen all the negative reviews and anger at the “white-washing” of characters. Scarlett Johansson stars as Major, who’s brain has been installed in a completely cybernetic body. Her memories are spotty, but she makes for a perfect soldier. Though, her new enemy reveals the truth of her existence, and everything she knows she now has to question.

Ghost in the Shell is an action-packed, scifi thriller. While it’s not a bad movie, there isn’t much more than good acting and impressive CGI that stood out to me. The story has been done (Robocop had more of an impact), and nothing was surprising. And the futuristic world needed more backstory – it wasn’t confusing, but felt choppy. I’m not familiar with the source material, as I’m not a fan of Manga – so I can’t speak to that. But it was a fun, suspense-filled adventure.

SciFi Book Review: Invictus

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Synopsis:
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

Review:
Farway is a young man who’s dreams are shattered when he fails the final exam before becoming a Recorder like his mother. So when he’s presented with the job of leading a crew back in time to steal minor artifacts from the past, Farway sees it as the next best thing. And it’s also an opportunity to possibly find and rescue his mother who has been missing in time for years.

Invictus is an exciting romp through time. With engaging characters and an intriguing plot, this action-packed story was absolute fun. There were a couple twists I didn’t see coming. And a big finale that doesn’t disappoint. This is a standalone novel, but the fantastic worldbuilding left me wanting more.

Blu-Ray Review: Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island

Synopsis:
This compelling, original adventure tells the story of a diverse team of scientists, soldiers, and adventurers uniting to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful. Cut off from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong.

Review:
When I saw the trailers for this film, I knew I had to see it. John C. Reilly’s character alone added a lighthearted feel to an otherwise action-packed film. Unlike previous Kong films, this had plenty of humor which evened out the intense suspense. Tom Hiddleston was fantastic too, as a daring explorer. He’s the hunky hero, and plays it well – a nice diversion from everyone’s favorite Loki. Samuel Jackson plays his same type-cast character as usual.

Kong: Skull Island is a fun and exciting story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s surprising and unexpected. With a great cast, solid story, and filmed in stunning Vietnam locale, this film exceeded my expectations (as I didn’t care for the drawn-out Peter Jackson film at all). A post-credit scene hints to a sequel, that I really hope happens.

Blu-Ray and DVD Features:
– Director’s Commentary
– Creating a King: Realizing a Icon
– Creating a King: Summoning a God
– Monarch Files 2.0
– Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler
– Through the Lens: Brie Larson’s Photography
– On Location: Vietnam
– Deleted Scenes

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: STONE GIRL’S STORY

Courtesy of Clarion, I have an ARC copy of Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst for five (5) lucky winners!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends August 11. I’ll draw a name on August 12, and notify winners via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Cover Reveal and Giveaway: STONE GIRL’S STORY

Fantasy Book Review: The Princess and the Page

The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley

Synopsis:
A dark secret lurks in Keira’s family. She comes from a long line of Word Weavers, who bring their stories to life when they use a magical pen. But for generations Word Weavers have been hunted for their power. That’s why Keira is forbidden to write. When Keira discovers her grandma’s Word Weaver pen, and writes a story for the Girls’ World fairy-tale contest, she starts to wonder if anyone ever truly lives happily ever after. Inspired by the life and times of Gabrielle d’EstrĂ©es, a real French princess who lived during the 1500s, The Princess and the Page follows the mystical journey of a modern-day “royal” who goes from having a pen in her hand to wishing for the world at her fingertips.

Review:
Keira’s mother forbids her from writing – she dislikes all fiction. But Keira and her friend write a fairy tale anyway to enter a contest. But Keira’s story doesn’t have a happy ending. Little does she know that when she uses her grandmother’s magical pen, what Keira writes has an effect on the reality.

The Princess and the Page is an enchanting children’s fantasy. Farley’s take on a historical princess makes for a captivating tale. This fast-paced adventure contains plenty of mystery and suspense and colorful characters. The Young fantasy fans will enjoy this fun and story with an exciting finale.

SciFi Book Review: Dragon and Thief

Dragon and Thief: A Dragonback Novel by Timothy Zahn

Synopsis:
Jack Morgan has been framed for theft. He’s hiding on a distant planet with the virtual presence of his deceased Uncle Virge, a con man who has been his only family since Jack’s parents died. Jack knows he must clear his name before the cops catch up with him. A firefight among ships in the skies above leaves a downed ship near Jack’s hiding place, with a single unlikely survivor. It looks like a dragon, and it must join with a human host within six hours or die. The only available host is Jack.

Draycos, Jack’s new “companion,” is a K’da, a dragon-like species that lives symbiotically with the humanoid Shontine. The attackers, determined to exterminate Draycos’s people, will find them if they don’t flee; so the pair works together to escape the planet and begin a search for the truth behind Jack’s frame-up and the identity of the attackers.

With Jack’s future hanging in the balance, as well as the future of billions of Draycos’s people, the pair must track down the people who framed Jack, and prevent the destruction of the remaining K’da and Shontine. They’ll also discover whether their union was mere coincidence, or a friendship written in the stars.

Review:
Draycos is a two-dimensional being who needs a host in order to survive. When his ship is attacked, he vows to seek justice. Jack is a reformed thief on the run, after being framed. The two maintain their separate personalities and entities, Draycos simply needs to return to Jack as a tattoo to recharge. When Jack is forced to take a job for those who framed him, Draycos may be just the ally he needs.

Dragon and Thief is a reprint and first in a series. I read Zahn’s Star Wars novels years ago and loved them. The universe is creative and exciting. And the characters are fantastic. Full of mystery, action, and humor – this fun, space romp was over too soon. And I will now be picking up the rest in this Dragonback series.

SciFi Book Review: Exo

Exo by Fonda Lee

Synopsis:
It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose their rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience.

When Sapience realizes who Donovan’s father is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip. But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one.

Review:
Donovan is a young soldier, whose body has been fused with alien technology. While investigating a lead on a possible terrorist, he is captured by the enemy. The Sapience want an Earth free from the alien presence that invaded years ago. But both sides have a lot to learn from each other.

Exo is a standalone, science fiction novel with the feel of V. The story and future Earth is captivating and fascinating. The aliens are mysterious with cool technology. Yet readers can sympathize with both sides. The aliens have brought a kind of peace and superior technology, yet the humans-only club don’t believe humanity needs them lording over Earth. Full of suspense and drama, this exciting novel also deals with morality issues. I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced, surprising read.

Book Review: The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry

The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, Creator of Star Trek by Lance Parkin

Synopsis:
This book reveals how an undistinguished writer of cop shows set out to produce ‘Hornblower in space’ and ended up with an optimistic, almost utopian view of humanity’s future that has been watched and loved by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Along the way Lance will examine some of the great myths and turning points in the franchise’s history, and Roddenberry’s particular contribution to them. He will look at the truth in the view that the early Star Trek advanced a liberal, egalitarian and multi-racial agenda, chart the various attempts to resuscitate the show during it’s wilderness years in the 1970s, explore Roddenberry’s initial early involvement in the movies and spin-off Star Trek: The Next Generation (as well as his later estrangement from both), and shed light on the colourful personal life, self-mythologising and strange beliefs of a man who nonetheless gifted popular culture one if its most enduring narratives.

Review:
I didn’t know much about Gene Roddenberry other than the basics, so I was interested in learning more about the man and the history of my favorite futuristic universe. While Parkin didn’t have a relationship with Roddenberry, he obviously did extensive research and cited all of his information thoroughly. I was impressed with the amount of detail, all backed by other published works or recordings. This is not a book that idolizes Roddenberry or makes him a villain, but seems to be an honest look at a human man. And this is a detailed journey of the early years of Star Trek to The Next Generation. There was some jumping around, but for the most part the timeline flowed well. I appreciated this candid biography and enjoyed learning more about Roddenberry and the others who worked so hard on both the Original series and Next Gen.

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