Saturday, October 25, 2014

{2014 TBR Pile Challenge Review} MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs

ISBN #: 978-1594746031
Page Count: 382
Copyright: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Quirk Books; Reprint Edition


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

A mysterious island.



An abandoned orphanage.



A strange collection of very curious photographs.



It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. 



A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.


Kathy's Review:
(Reprinted with her permission - Orignally published on her personal blog, Grown Up Book Reports)

I don’t know what I was expecting when I read this novel, but it wasn’t this. Not that this novel is bad – it’s not. It’s just that I was prepared for it to be way more creepy and strange than it actually was.

The creepy and strange aspect comes in part to the multitude of found photos the author has included in this book and weaved into his story. Riggs has amassed a large collection of odd black and white photos of mostly children, some adults, all with an inexplicable creepiness to them. The girl on the cover, who appears to be hovering above the ground, is one of these photos, and Riggs gives her life as a character in his story.

Jacob is our protagonist – a sixteen year old who has just witnessed his grandfather’s death after a brutal attack by … well, he’s not sure what it was. His grandfather, Abe, had told him countless stories as he was growing up about his life on this island, where he attended Miss Peregrine’s school. Jacob dismissed the stories as fantasy, but after he discovers some photographs and letters while cleaning his grandfather’s home, he begins to wonder whether there’s some truth to the stories, after all.

He uncovers the mysterious place, enters a new world, and meets the peculiar children his grandfather spoke of. How does he play into the fate of the peculiars?

This is an entertaining journey, filled with unforgettable characters, mystery and danger. It features a complex relationship between Jacob and his grandfather, as well as his parents. It sets up a tie between the past and the present, and of course, reveals that Jacob might just be peculiar, himself.

Not quite the Halloween read I was looking for, but a thumbs up all the same.  The photos really add to the story, and are in themselves fascinating.

By the way, this was part of my TBR Book Pile Challenge. Not like i have a prayer of finishing it this year, but I’m trying!!!!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

{Movie Review} Dracula Untold

Release Date: October 10, 2014
Rating: PG-13
Length: 92 minutes
Genre(s): Action, Drama Fantasy


Description:

Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes makes a deal with dangerous supernatural forces - whilst trying to avoid succumbing to the darkness himself.

Director: Gary Shore
Writers: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Bram Stroker
Main Cast: Luke Evans (Vlad), Sarah Gadon (Mirena), Dominic Cooper (Mehmed)


Mandy's Review:

The hubs and I went and saw this movie because I'm a fan of all things dark and creepy and he's a fan of action. When we can find a movie to fit both of our criteria, we have to go to the theater to see it. I wanted this movie to fulfill my internal bloodlust ... my desire for it grows during October, especially the closer it gets to Halloween. What I wasn't expecting was to have my heart wrenched in a few spots.

The movie begins as a narrative with action stills giving life to the words being spoken. Right away you can see the style and direction the film will take. The dark colors with pops of blood red accentuate the darkness of the film's premise. It reminded me a bit of 300 with how the movie was filmed.

Luke Evans portrayed the tormented Vlad wonderfully ... and I must say that the shots of his chiseled torso had no sway on my opinion of his acting abilities (insert innocent look here). He was scary violent when needed, but heartbreakingly sweet and tender when it came to his wife (played by Sarah Gadon) and child.

On the other hand, Dominic Cooper was too pretty to play the bad boy. Every time his face came on the screen all I could think about was how beautiful his skin was, how perfectly sculpted his eyebrows were, and how beautifully put-together he was. Personally, I think that distracts from his character and another actor should've been chosen to portray Mehmed.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. It didn't scare me as I was hoping for when watching movies during October, but it did have me feeling all the feels while watching. I loved it when Vlad kicked ass, I nearly cried when Vlad had to give his son away, and I was sad and proud of the choice he made to obtain the power to defeat the Turks attacking his land. This movie was definitely entertaining and action-packed. If you're looking for a more historically recognizable account of Count Dracula, you'll not find it here. All others who are looking for a movie to kill an hour and a half while being drawn into a character you think you know will enjoy Dracula Untold.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

{Article} E-books, Copyrights and Piracy. Oh My!!*

*This article has been re-printed with permission by the author, Dollycas. To view the original article, click here.


Remember back in 2001 the big scandal that hit when Napster was accused of copyright infringement and shutdown because record companies and artists were not getting paid their fair share for their music, opening the door to companies like iTunes and Rhapsody (the new Napster).

Since the creation of electronic books, copyright issues have also become a concern. With the recent updates of e-readers, like Nooks and Kindles and Smart Phones, “pirated” e-books and sites offering them have been springing up all over.

An electronic book (variously, e-book, ebook, digital book) is a book-length publication in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, and produced on, published through, and readable on computers or other electronic devices.   Sometimes the equivalent of a conventional printed book, e-books can also be born digital. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines the e-book as “an electronic version of a printed book,” but e-books can and do exist without any printed equivalent. E-books are usually read on dedicated e-book readers. Personal computers and some mobile phones can also be used to read e-books.

Authors can work for months or years on a book. They have many publishing options. Traditional Publishing in print, digital, or both. Self Publishing in print, digital, or both. Or as the paragraph above says they can “be born digital”.

The first “digital book” in 1971, Michael S. Hart was given extensive computer time by the operators of the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the University of Illinois. Seeking a worthy use of this resource, he created the first ebook by typing the United States Declaration of Independence into a computer. Various versions continued through the years but the “e-book” really took off in 2010 when Apple launched the iPad. Amazon wasn’t far behind with the Kindle and then others followed.

The benefits are wonderful. The “book” can be in your hands on your device in seconds, fonts can be enlarged for the reader, thousands can be kept on a single device. But the headaches for publishers and authors seems to grow each year as “pirated”/illegal copies of books seem to be popping up all over the internet.

This past week an author friend found a pirated copy of her best selling novel on a website called Scribd. Another site http://www.sharetermpapers.com/ (has now been updated to Perusing The Shelves) is also known for hosting pirated copies of books. There are several.



“Piracy is a serious issue for publishers,” said Hachette Book Group in a statement. The company that publishes Stephenie Meyer’s wildly popular Twilight teen-vampire series says it “considers copyright protection to be of paramount importance.”

Authors are concerned as well.

“I’d be really worried if I were Stephen King or James Patterson or a really big bestseller that when their books become completely digitized, how easy it’s going to be to pirate them,” said novelist and poet Sherman Alexie on Stephen Colbert’s show last month.

“With the open-source culture on the Internet, the idea of ownership — of artistic ownership — goes away,” Alexie added. “It terrifies me.”

And it’s not just bestsellers that are targeted by thieves.

“Textbooks are frequently pirated, but so are many other categories,” said Ed McCoyd, director of digital policy at AAP. “We see piracy of professional content, such as medical books and technical guides; we see a lot of general fiction and non-fiction. So it really runs the gamut.”

Some publishers believe pirating is just something to put up with. This again from the CNN article.

Ana Maria Allessi, publisher for Harper Media at HarperCollins, told CNN, “we have to be vigilant in our punishment … but much more attractive is to simply make the technology better, legally.”

E-book technology offers so many positives for both the author and the consumer that any revenue lost to piracy may just be a necessary evil, she said.

“Consumers who invest in one of these dedicated e-book readers tend to load it up and read more,” said Allessi. “And what’s wrong with that?”

What can we the reader do?




When Purchasing Electronic Books:

1. Start with the online store that sells you brand of e-reader. Kindle/Amazon Nook/Barnes & Noble

2. Check out the author’s website. They usually have buttons that say “buy here” or something similar.

3. Follow links on blogs you trust to make purchases.

4. Do a little research. The authors and publishers sometimes offer discounted or even free copies of certain books. There are a few sites like Ereader, News Today, and Pixels of Ink that allow you to sign up for daily newsletters about Bargain and Free Ebooks. I am sure there are others.

I am a very new Kindle owner so I am still learning “the ropes” about electronic books. I must say there are more than enough ways to obtain books legally that accessing pirated copies would never had occurred to me. My grandmother taught me at a very young age that “if the offer is too good to be true it usually is.” If you see the hottest new bestseller offered for free it is probably a pirated copy.

This list of sites to stay away from was compiled in 2010 by Digital Inspiration.


Websites Hosting Pirated eBooks 




Authors work very hard to not only write stories we love to read but to get them published. They are not all James Patterson’s with multi-million dollar deals. I am shocked at how little most actually make and even when the story is purchased by a large publishing company,  how much they are responsible for as far as travel and supplies to promote their books. It is one of the big reasons many authors are going the self-publish route. When you take all of this into consideration the idea that their books can end up being stolen makes me crazy. I am far from an authority on this issue but it prompted me enough to write this post to shed light on this growing problem.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself.

If an author learns their work has been illegally uploaded to one of these sites there is a form they can fill out citing the copyright law above demanding their work be removed from a site. If their demands are not answered or there are other issues the can seek further legal remedy.

If you see a book offered and the terms seem a little suspicious or it is on one of the sites listed above and you want to notify the author go to their webpage and to the contact info and send them a little note giving them the details of what you have found so that they can take action.

Also educate your family and friends about this very important issue. If people stop using these sites hopefully they will shutdown, but others will appear. I don’t think this is an evil we need to just let exist. We need to be diligent in our efforts to curb this problem. If someone stole your property you wouldn’t just ignore it so why should authors or publishers. Reading wonderful stories written by fantastic authors is a fabulous part of life. Let’s keep it legal. If you want to read a free book get it from the library.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

{Review} THE REFLECTIONS OF QUEEN SNOW WHITE by David Meredith

ASIN #: B00FLF4JAG
File Size: 4074 KB
Page Count: 155
Copyright: January 20, 2014
Publisher: David Meredith; 1st Edition


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

What happens when "happily ever after" has come and gone?

On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven's wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven's fiancĂ©, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White's own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:

The king is dead.

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what "happily ever after" really means?

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.


Mandy's Review:

We all know the story of Snow White. I don't know of any child, male or female, who isn't familiar with the recognizable tale. The Reflections of Queen Snow White is a story that takes place after the fairy tale has ended. Told in a series of reflections, or memories, we find out how exactly Snow White came to be in the forest, how Snow White and Prince Charming actually met, and what took place between the two of them after they were married.

While I enjoyed this more realistic tale between Snow White and Charming, I'm more partial to the fairy tale. I'd rather let my imagination determine what happened between the two after their marriage instead of reading about the problems they encountered joining their two countries. However, if you're the type that would enjoy the realistic version and reading about Snow White's naivety, her mental and physical anguish caused by her step-mother, or about her and Charming's marriage and their struggle to have a child, then this version would be for you.


*An ecopy of the book was gifted by the author via Amazon in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

{Review} FALLEN THRONE: THE FIRST ADVENTURE by Joseph Porthos

ASIN #: B00IXMWC8U
File Size: 459 KB
Page Count: 117
Copyright: March 10, 2014


Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

A dark cloud draws over the nation of Ramza. A mad king terrorizes a kingdom. Demons dance under the moon's light. And an assassin that wears the guise of those she meets once again stalks the land.

Aerika became an orphan the night her family was burned alive. Together with her friend, Khristian, the two children set off on an adventure to find her parents' killers. With the help of a master thespian and swordsman, a wielder of fire and lightning, and two street performers, they will try to uncover the nature of evil that corrupts the throne and bring the killers to justice.


Mandy's Review:

Khristian is a budding detective and he's studying as much as he can so he can be ready to become a member of the Watch when he's a little older. His father is a member of the Watch and that's where Khristian gets his love and initial knowledge for the job. Khristian takes his father's mentoring very seriously and applies the lessons to every day life.

Aerika is a friend of Khristian's. She was raised by a mother who thought bookish knowledge for a female to be useless. Why would a lady need to know how to read and write when her rich husband would be the one to take care of her? Upon the nightmarish death of her family, Aerika lives with Khristian's family and sees that a lady having book smarts is not a bad thing.

The two join forces fairly quickly and it's not long after that when Khristian's own family undergoes its own peril. Can Khristian and Aerika join forces to figure out what's going on?

I don't know that I would call this first novella in the series an adventure. It's more of an introduction of things to come. The entire time I felt that the story was building up to some event or happening. While there are benefits for authors to break up a novel into several different books, I really feel that this would be better as one novel. Right as I was becoming drawn into the story, it ended abruptly and left me feeling disappointed.

If the author ever puts all of the sections into one complete novel, I may pick this back up again. It definitely has promise.


*An ecopy of this novella was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
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