Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: The Musketeers is a "Must-See!"



It’s not often that I feel inspired to review movies or a series. However, The Musketeers is what you’d call a ‘must-watch’ series. I hesitated before picking this up. I mean, how many versions have already been done of Dumas’ story? But something said, go on, have a look. Well, I was riveted. First, the series is perfectly cast. I cannot imagine any other actors playing the roles that these performers filled. The costumes are perfect, the settings beautiful (even the grotty streets with mud, mud, and more mud), the action is real, and thankfully the fights are perfectly timed and do not go on so long that you’re mentally saying, “For pity’s sake, kill him already!”
The episodes pay homage to the original story, but veer off into great little side plots. Yes, you know that at the end of each episode things will be resolved in favour of the musketeers, but that’s fine, that’s good, and there’s none of this new trend of producers to lure viewers into loving and rooting for a character, only to have him/her killed off in a nasty “take that, suckers!” kind of attitude. In fact, the very lack of vicious, gratuitous violence, abusive kinds of sex, and needless nudity that sadly seems to be popular with a famous series (no names here) is part of the reason why I stuck with and so enjoyed this series. Everything that happened was meaningful, within context, and played a part in the overall story arc.
For once, I want to mention the villains more than the heroes. Possibly because I have stopped watching The Walking Dead because for some reason the producers or the scriptwriters have turned a fine actor like Jeffrey Dean Morgan into a leering “Mwahahaha” villain with the depth of a puddle and little or no intrigue or back story to make one want to watch further. The Musketeers’ villains are just wonderful. From the coldly calculating and Machiavellian Richelieu (superbly and intelligently played by Peter Capaldi) to the psychotically cruel but lovelorn Comte de Rochefort (a brilliant Marc Warren) to the horribly creepy and plotting Marquis de Feron (also brilliantly played by an almost unrecognisable Rupert Everett) to Milady, whose love for her husband was destroyed. These villains all have some redeeming quality – hard to find in some cases, but it’s there. Richelieu loves France; Rochefort loves the queen; Feron discovers that he is, in fact, loved and accepted by Louis, and that changes everything. A villain must have depth for viewers to want to keep watching. Milady is a study in complexity and far from the surface villainess one might initially label her.
Another character I thought really warrants mentioning is Louis himself, and how actor Ryan Gage chose to portray him. It’s hard to give life to someone who comes across as capricious, shallow, vain, and self centred. But Ryan Gage managed to imbue the character of Louis with a certain childlike charm, a naiveté, and even an innocence, sheltered as he was from the realities of life. I thought the actor brought tremendous depth to a character who might have been dismissed as annoying but necessary.
Last but not least, take the time to watch the Extras on the DVDs. They are informative and very enjoyable. Sword fighting and horse riding is not as easy as these fine actors make it look.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Book Review: Mary's Song


Mary’s Song, Book One of the Dream Horse Adventures, by Susan Count is a charming story sure to delight young readers and animal (especially horse) lovers. Young Mary is disabled and life offers very little outlet for her creativity and intelligence. She is a very talented artist and loves horses. Her doting and overprotective widower father spends a lot of time and money on various therapies to try to get Mary back on her feet, walking, running, and leading a normal life. Mary has resigned herself somewhat to life in a wheelchair until the day she meets her neighbour Laura (also twelve), and finds out about the lame foal she had seen hobbling around on the next-door property. Laura couldn’t be more different, but the girls strike up a firm friendship. Then Mary learns that Illusion, the lame little foal, is set to be euthanized because of her club foot, and because it’s not considered worth the time and money to save the little horse. Laura and Mary persuade Laura’s parents to give a six-week stay of execution to enable them to raise the money for Illusion’s very expensive operation. Can they raise enough money in time to save Illusion, and will Mary ever walk again?

There is so much more to this book than just the heartrending story of saving Illusion.  The healing of both horse and young girl finds a wonderful theme in their parallel stories. The backdrop is the 1950s, which casts a completely different light on what kids would be doing, how they would behave, think, and entertain themselves. I found it a refreshing trip back in time, back to when things were perhaps simpler in many ways, but harder in that medicine and science still had some developments to achieve.

There are excellent themes for young readers, and the main one being a love of horses gives readers an idea of various aspects of riding, training, breeding and competing with horses, but without shoving facts down the reader’s throat. The wonderful and strong theme of love and friendship continues throughout, with love of family, not forgetting those once loved who have passed on, discovering new love when Mary’s dad meets someone special, and forging bonds of friendship with like-minded people.

Although there is a Christian theme, I found the author wove it into the story very well, again without overdoing it. That and the concept of faith, not only spiritual faith, but faith in oneself and others comes to the fore. Finally, the idea that a disabled person is not a broken person is very well handled. Interspersed is the idea that less able-bodied people can also achieve as much in their own way as an able-bodied person. Last but not least, I liked how much emphasis the author put on the theme of books, the joy found within the pages of old favourites and treasured books, the pleasure in reading, and indeed the importance of books.

This is an enchanting and moving story in so many ways, and young (and older) readers who are sure to enjoy it will also be delighted to know that the story continues. As the author says, “Saddle up and ride along!”

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Book Review: The King's Ransom

When the King’s Ransom, a wondrous jewelled medallion, is stolen from Pembroke Castle in Wales, it is up to three young heroes to band together to solve this mystery and save a life. Prince Gavin (12), the youngest son of King Wallace and Queen Katherine, and his two friends, Philip (13), an orphan, and Bryan (15), a blacksmith’s apprentice, are an unlikely trio, uneven in terms of social status, but firm and loyal companions. Their friend, the Wild Man, is accused of murdering the king’s advisor and stealing the marvellous medallion, a symbol of absolute power and justice, but only in the right hands. Kings have enemies, and it soon becomes apparent that someone was after the medallion for the prestige it would bestow. Gavin, Bryan, and Philip race against time to find the medallion, reveal the true killer, and save the Wild Man’s life. They have only a few days before the arrival of King Arthur. If the medallion is not found, the Wild Man will be executed in front of Arthur. Can they overcome their fears and fulfil this momentous quest? Is it possible the Wild Man has tricked them all and simply used their friendship to get closer to the medallion?
 
What a delightful five-star story for young readers in The King’s Ransom. I am familiar with Cheryl Carpinello’s writing from reading and reviewing her first Arthurian book, Guinevere: On the Eve of a Legend. Then I was entranced by the author’s spellbinding descriptions of life in Arthurian times and her meticulous attention to detail. Cheryl’s skills have remained as bright as ever with the unfolding of this fast-paced tale, threaded with mystery, adventure, a bit of magic, danger, darkness, and lovely twists in the end. I so enjoyed the factual information about weapons, clothing, daily life, and places, cleverly interspersed in the text and dialogue to inform without overwhelming young readers. The author has a gift for delving into the depths of each young hero’s psyche. The way each one of the trio faces their fears, learns to believe in themselves, and finds their true meaning and path in life is moving. This is a superb coming-of-age story, set in a time of chivalry and pageantry, and harking back to an age when a hero was truly a hero. Fans will love that there is a FREE Study Guide to help expand their knowledge of King Arthur and his era. You can find out more about Cheryl’s books here.



Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Blast: The Gardenia Curse

BeachBoundbooks is pleased to be coordinating a Blog Tour for the middle grade fantasy The Gardenia Curse by C.M. Savage. The tour will run November 7 - November 28, 2016.

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About the Book

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Title: The Gardenia Curse | Author: C.M. Savage | Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy | Number of Pages: 158 | Release Date: October 26, 2015

Book Description: Thirteen-year-old Eva Thomas finds herself in a life threatening mystery when her dreams become real. Night after night, she is transported to Dreamland, where an evil being, the Shadow, wants her dead. Can Eva save herself and her dreams before it’s too late? Exhausted from troubled sleep, Eva stumbles through her days in a new town where her grandmother is known as an eccentric and in a new school where a bully has decided Eva needs to be put in her place. Eva is left feeling alone and uncertain until she meets Alice, a quirky classmate with non-stop questions about Eva’s family. Is Alice a friend or is she after something more? 

In Dreamland, Eva is constantly on the run from the Shadow, even after she meets Herman, her dream-guide. Will Herman be able to protect Eva from the Shadow and shed some light on why the Shadow wants her dead? Or are Eva’s dreams destined to remain a nightmare? 

Mystery, evil and a touch of romance—all in a night’s dream.


What others are saying...

"In The Gardenia Curse, Eva’s adventure unfolds like a gardenia blossom, a little at a time, getting more intriguing with each pedal that unfurls until finally the full thing is open to enjoy." - Amazon Review 

"The Gardenia Curse is an exciting middle grade fantasy that easily captivates readers with it's imaginative plot and interesting characters." - BeachBoundBooks 

"The author really captures your mind and heart. I am looking forward to the authors second book to see what happens next!" - Amazon Review


About the Author

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C. M. Savage began writing at a young age. She used a typewriter and crayons to write and illustrate her first book when she was in second grade and continued to write off and on through college. After traveling, she enjoyed working with birds of prey, mammals and endangered Hawaiian birds. She is a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, enjoys crafting and having fun with her family. She recently moved back to Bend, Oregon with her husband and two daughters. The Gardenia Curse is her debut novel. She is now working on the sequel.


Blog Tour Prize Pack Giveaway

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Prize: One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card or $25 PayPal cash prize(winner’s choice), a copy of The Gardenia Curse, and a Book Flower.
Giveaway ends: November 28, 11:59 pm, 2016
Open to: Internationally.
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, C.M. Savage and is hosted and managed by Stacie from BeachBoundBooks. If you have any additional questions feel free to send an email to stacie@BeachBoundBooks.com.

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