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Blu Ray Review: World War Z

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World War Z (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)

World War Z stars Brad Pitt and is (loosely) based on the book of the same name by Max Brooks. Pitt plays a former United Nations investigator who hunts down a solution to the sudden zombie plague wreaking havoc across the world.

The first thirty minutes of the film had me on the edge of my seat, cringing and wondering how the rating was only PG-13 instead of R. It’s very intense with heart-pounding suspense and chase scenes. Though, unlike other zombie movies, the focus isn’t gore. Which is good as these zombies are FAST. And they can turn others within seconds of biting.

I had few expectations going in, other than knowing it was nothing like the book. So I was pleasantly surprised with the solid characters and story. The acting is outstanding. They did a good job making us care about the characters while so much is going on. World War Z is a global apocalypse meets zombie thriller.

WORLD WAR Z Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Includes:
Blu-ray:
• Feature film in high definition (Unrated version)
• Origins—The filmmakers discuss collaborating with renowned actor/producer Brad Pitt to create a Zombie film the likes of which have never been seen.
• Looking to Science—Explore the scientific realities of Zombie behavior in nature and learn more about Zombies in literature and film.
• WWZ: Production
– Outbreak—Go on set with Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster for a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s breathtaking first attack in Philadelphia.

– The Journey Begins—Delve deeper into Gerry’s fight for survival during the dramatic escape in South Korea.
– Behind The Wall—Explore the epic scene in Jerusalem and discover the incredible logistics of creating the elaborate stunts and crowd sequences.
– Camouflage—Experience the final confrontation between Gerry and the Zombies and discover the phenomenal scope of the film’s production.

DVD:
• Feature film in standard definition (Theatrical version)

Fantasy Book Review: Spirit Animals: Wild Born

Spirit Animals: Wild Born by Brandon Mull

Synopsis:
Four children separated by vast distances all undergo the same ritual, watched by cloaked strangers. Four flashes of light erupt, and from them emerge the unmistakable shapes of incredible beasts – a wolf, a leopard, a panda, and a falcon. Suddenly the paths of these children – and the world – have been changed forever.

Enter the world of Erdas, where every child who comes of age must discover if they have a spirit animal, a rare bond between human and beast that bestows great powers to both. A dark force has risen from distant and long-forgotten lands, and has begun an onslaught that will ravage the world. Now the fate of Erdas has fallen on the shoulders of four young strangers . . . and on you.

Review:
Four children from very different backgrounds and situations each find themselves with an amazing spirit animal and a heavy responsibility. While three are recruited right away, one (unknowingly) is taken by someone who works for the dark power seeking to destroy. And the children’s first quest is to recover a talisman from a dangerous protector.

Wild Born is the first in a new fantasy series by various authors. I never miss books written by Brandon Mull. And my only complaint is that the story seemed so short. It’s an easy, fast read for children. With an added bonus that children can login online and play a parallel game after reading the books. I haven’t tried out the game yet, because at the time of reading it hadn’t come out yet. However, this is a fun and exciting start to an interesting new series.

SciFi Book Review: Star Wars: Kenobi

Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller

Synopsis:
The Republic has fallen.
Sith Lords rule the galaxy.
Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has lost everything . . .
Everything but hope.

Review:
Obi-Wan Kenobi has delivered baby Luke Skywalker safely to a couple on Tatooine who will raise him. But as Obi-Wan is in hiding as well, he decides to stay nearby and watch over them yet not close enough to be in the way. Changing his name to simply “Ben,” Obi-Wan moves close to a small town with troubles of its own. And though he tries to keep to himself, Ben can’t help but stand up for those in trouble and do the right thing. Even if it endangers his identity.

Miller does a fantastic job of character development, even with the elusive and mysterious Sand People. The story is solid and interesting. Full of intense drama, mystery, and intrigue – Kenobi is a standout read for Star Wars fans. This was an impressive installment in the popular saga.

SciFi Book Review: The Inventor’s Secret

The Inventor’s Secret by Chad Morris

Synopsis:
Abby and Derick have been accepted to the most prestigious secondary school in the world Cragbridge Hall. Due to the inventions of their grandfather, Oscar Cragbridge, they will be able to experience history in 3D, use their minds to literally project visual interpretations of classic literature, and become animal avatars for zoology. But when their grandfather and parents go missing, Abby and Derick must follow clues Oscar left for them that will reveal a dangerous secret. Along the way, they discover there is much more to one of their grandfather s inventions than anyone has ever dreamed. Saving their family will take all of Derick’s mind and Abby’s heart as they come face to face with a crazed scientist who desperately seeks to change the past. If they fail, the world past and future will never be the same.

Review:
Abby and Derick are twins but don’t have a lot in common. Derick excels in academics and athletics. While Abby feels she got accepted to the prestigious school only because of her grandfather’s connection. Unfortunately, the other students find out and treat Abby horribly. Their grandfather is a brilliant inventor of many clever devices for the school. One of which leads to his kidnapping. But he has left behind clues for those in his trusted circle. But the twins aren’t sure who they can trust.

The Inventor’s Secret is first in a fun and exciting new series for middle readers. With advanced technology involving time travel and avatars, the science often leads to discussions on history and the philosophy of time travel. Questions are proposed about if changing the past would better affect the future or if we’re better off leaving the past alone. Hint: the author doesn’t agree with the show Quantum Leap. Yet I still saw his point. It’s a great and impressive start to a promising new series. I’ll certainly be following more from this author.

New TV Series Spotlight: Sleepy Hollow

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Sleepy Hollow premieres Monday, September 16th at 9/8c.

The legend of Sleepy Hollow gets a revamp in FOX’s new Monday night drama. The pilot was fast-paced, dark and exciting. The acting is fantastic. The characters are interesting. And the new lore is enthrallingly creepy. Fans of NBC’s Grimm should check out this latest mix of fairy tale fantasy, mystery, and horror.

About the show:
Welcome to SLEEPY HOLLOW, the thrilling new mystery-adventure drama from co-creators/executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (the “Star Trek” and “Transformers” franchises, “Fringe”).

In this modern-day twist on Washington Irving’s classic, ICHABOD CRANE (Tom Mison) is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers. Revived alongside Ichabod is the infamous Headless Horseman who is on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod quickly realizes that stopping Headless is just the beginning, as the resurrected rider is but the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and only one of the many formidable foes that Ichabod must face to protect not only Sleepy Hollow, but the world.

As Ichabod finds himself in 2013’s Sleepy Hollow, he discovers a town he no longer recognizes and grapples to understand. Teaming up with Lt. ABBIE MILLS (Nicole Beharie), a young cop who has her own supernatural experiences, the two embark on a mission to stop the evil that has awoken along with Ichabod and that now is seeping into this once-sleepy town.

Clues from the past enlighten mysteries in the present, as each episode features a flashback to Ichabod’s life in 1776. Ripe with untold stories from American history and cloaked in mythology, the divide between present and past becomes dangerously blurred. Lives are in the balance, including that of Ichabod’s late wife, KATRINA (Katia Winter), who is trapped in a mysterious netherworld. In his pursuit to save her, Ichabod uncovers secrets about her, leaving him with countless questions.

Not everyone believes Ichabod’s tales of 1776 and supernatural evils, especially the new head of Abbie’s police precinct, Captain FRANK IRVING (Orlando Jones). When faced with bizarre events he can’t explain, Capt. Irving reluctantly turns to Ichabod and Abbie to investigate.

Ichabod’s extensive first-hand knowledge of our country’s hidden history, coupled with Abbie’s superior profiling and modern threat assessment skills, make them a formidable duo. The complex pasts of the pair, from Ichabod’s inclusion in the powerful and secretive Freemasons Society to Abbie’s childhood visions, will help them solve the intricate puzzles of Sleepy Hollow in order to protect its – and the world’s – future. As history repeats itself, the oddly-linked pair will draw on the real stories and secrets this nation was founded on in their quest to stop an increasingly vicious cycle of evil.

Fantasy Book Review: Kitty in the Underworld

Kitty in the Underworld by Carrie Vaughn

Synopsis:
As Denver adjusts to a new master vampire, Kitty gets word of an intruder in the Denver werewolf pack’s territory, and she investigates the challenge to her authority. She follows the scent of the lycanthrope through the mountains where she is lured into a trap, tranquilized, and captured. When she wakes up, she finds herself in a defunct silver mine: the perfect cage for a werewolf. Her captors are a mysterious cult seeking to induct Kitty into their ranks in a ritual they hope will put an end to Dux Bellorum. Though skeptical of their power, even Kitty finds herself struggling to resist joining their cause. Whatever she decides, they expect Kitty to join them in their plot . . . willingly or otherwise.

Review:
Kitty’s latest adventure is her kidnapping by a strange cabal who seek to take down Dux Bellorum. Even though some of the group acts a bit crazy and the others pretend to be incarnations of long dead people, Kitty decides that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” At least for the time being.

This is the 12th installment in the Kitty Norville series. Kitty in the Underworld is decidedly more dark and dramatic than the previous novels. It’s not as fast-paced as the others in the series, instead most of the story focuses on Kitty’s kidnapping and mental anguish. Though there is a climactic, exciting final showdown. This urban fantasy series is one I often recommend. Amidst a popular genre, Carrie Vaughn’s werewolf stands out as one of my favorites.

Fantasy Book Review: Of Beast and Beauty

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Synopsis:
In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret…

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Review:
Isra may be a princess, but she feels like a prisoner – not able to leave, forced to marry someone she doesn’t love, and knowing she’ll be a sacrifice for her people. Gem is considered a mutant since his people’s bodies have adapted to the harsh land outside the dome. The two have every reason to hate each other, yet they form a friendship which leads to more.

This is an inspired retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale set in a distant, harsh fantasy land. The characters are vibrant and engaging. The narrative switches between the different characters and captures their distinct voices. Dramatic and unforgettable, Of Beast and Beauty is a captivating romance I thoroughly enjoyed.

Fantasy Book Review: Possession

Possession by Kat Richardson

Synopsis:
Harper Blaine was your average small-time PI until she died—for two minutes. Now Harper is a Greywalker, treading the thin line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And she’s discovering that her new abilities are landing her all sorts of “strange” cases.

When a comatose woman suddenly wakes up and starts painting scenes she’s never witnessed, with a skill she’s never had, medical science has no explanation. As more bizarre phenomena manifest, including mysterious writing appearing on the patient’s skin and strange voices issuing from her mouth, even her doctors start to wonder whether the woman may be possessed.

Frustrated, frightened, and at the end of her rope, the patient’s sister reluctantly turns to Harper Blaine to discover who—or what—is occupying her sister’s body. As Harper digs into this case of apparent possession, she discovers other patients struck with the same mystifying afflictions and a disturbing connection to one of the most gruesome episodes in Washington’s history….

Review:
Harper’s latest case follows the apparent possession of a woman in a coma. She then tracks down two other similar cases. Harper is in a race against the clock to discover how the three patients are connected and how to free them. The ghosts in this latest installment are eerie. And what makes the story even creepier is that a couple of the ghostly characters are based on historic characters.

Possession is the 8th novel in the Greywalker series. This urban fantasy series is always one I look forward to reading. The worldbuilding is richly creative. And the mysteries are fun and thrilling. This latest installment was impossible to put down with a memorable plot.