Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Paladin Prophecy - By Mark Frost

Will West does not stand out.  Rule #3 (don’t draw attention to yourself) doesn’t allow him to.  Will lives his life by a set of rules; every decision he makes is influenced by them.  Until he accidentally slips up.  Now there are people tracking him, monsters hunting him, and an elite boarding school recruiting him.  How do these fit together? Will must figure out not only how to save his parents, but how to save the world from the Paladins, without letting the school find out what is going on.  

This book has a little bit of everything.  Frost weaves mystery, comedy, and thriller together.  His characters are entertaining.  You have Nick, the man who lightens the mood; he is always cracking jokes or pulling pranks, and you can depend on him in battle.  There’s Ajay, the short genius who builds video phones from broken down TV’s for fun.  Elise has eyes that can see into your soul, paired with a stand-off personality and a huge brain.  And then there’s Brooke, the one who makes sure all the others stay in line.  These characters made me laugh out loud when reading this, at how Nick annoyed Elise with one of his rude jokes, or how Ajay used formal language for things not formal.  

Frost hooks readers from the first, when Will finds a creepy black car on the road that seems to be following him.  As Will finds out more about himself and his stalkers, the mystery behind the secretive Paladins unfolds, creating a kick-butt book.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Extracted - By Tyler Jolly and Sherry Ficklin

After reading the summary of this book, I was fascinated by the authors’ idea, and looked forward to reading about time travel and the war between two bands of time travelers, who wouldn’t? I was disappointed at how the story played out.

Lex and Amber are two Rifters (time travelers) with no knowledge of each other or what their lives were like before they were pulled into the time-traveling world.  Lex is part of the Hollows, a band of scruffy Rifters whose mission is to stop the Tesla institute at all cost.  Amber is a student at the Tesla Institute, run by the famous (or infamous?) Tesla.  Their goal is to preserve the time stream, or so Tesla claims.  But as Amber and Lex embark on journeys that lead them to each other, they will learn things that will change their views forever.  Will they save time, or destroy it?

Sounds interesting, right?  And it was good, after about 200 pages.  Since it’s set in a complicated world, the authors took fifty pages to explain what is happening, where they are, and the background.  Then they introduced the problem.  The complaint I have with this book is that it’s just not captivating until the end.  As a LitPick critic, I had to read and review this book, otherwise I would have abandoned it.  The beginning is very confusing, you have no idea what is going on, who people are, how time traveling works, etc.  I like the idea, they just need to pick up the pace.  The middle was slow.  

By the end, I was into it.  The last 100 pages were packed with action.  I wanted to know how Amber was faring, and whether Lex had managed to save Stein or not.  If only the rest of the book was like that.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Made That! - A Bit on 3D Printing

The age of 3D printing is upon us.  We used to manufacture solid objects, now we print them.  Printing no longer means just words on paper, it means objects with three dimensions.  We print in plastic, some colleges and labs print in metal (printed metal parts are now used in Boeing airplanes), and one company is attempting to print a liver from live human cells.  By the end of 2014, the world will see the first printed human organ, a liver.

The head of our 3D club printed a part for a dishwasher that had broken.  It worked.  The MakerBots (produced by Stratasys) can be tricky to work with, I’ve managed to mess up mine at school three or four times, but when it works, it’s rewarding to think I designed this!  Plus, you can say, “I made that.”  I printed a set of chain links and carried them around for the rest of the day (they became my good luck charm, until I lost them).  A friend is printing a 3D chess set, another a phone case with spinning gears, another a toy car with working wheels, and I am printing a plastic dragon.  Here’s a printed phone case:

No, I did not print this, but we are in the process of printing one just like it.  The gears actually spin!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Rangers Apprentice Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan - by John Flanagan

Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan had me laughing out loud, on the verge of tears.    

This book is for everyone:  guys, girls, and people of all ages will like it and end up laughing.  It’s fun to watch these characters solve mysteries and take on deadly missions.

The book follows the journey of a castle ward named Will, who knows very little about his past to include his last name.  The first twist happens early in the book when Will gets selected to be an apprentice to the mysterious ranger, Halt.  

Flanagan’s characters are well developed and their personalities make this book hilarious.  My favorite character, Halt, is not who he seems. Despite his gruff voice and tough reputation, he cracks many jokes at Will’s expense with a straight face, making fun of all the things he does wrong.  Flanagan pokes fun at teens through the character of Halt.  I ended up laughing at things I’ve done before.

You’ve got to love Baron Arold.  Because of his high-ranking position, everyone takes him seriously.  Arold enjoys making jokes and puns, but the others don’t get his sense of humor.  For example, Arold catches Will after he climbed up the outside of the tower into the Baron’s room.  Arold dismisses him and says “And Will? Use the stairs this time.” If it were anyone else, Will would laugh.  But he is puzzled and embarrassed.  

And Arold’s assistant is incapable of anything but yelling; Horace, Will’s friend, jokes around and teases Will and Halt about their secretive ranger ways; Alyss, tall and elegant, accompanies Will on journeys as a Courier; and Old Bob is the crazy farmer who breeds ranger horses.  The characters make this book.

And hey, if you read this and like it, you’re in luck, there are eleven more, book 12 just released this winter!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Divergent Movie - Veronica Roth

I saw this movie twice, once with my friend and once later with my tennis team.  The second time I fell asleep. 

I liked it the first time but it was not the best movie I’ve ever seen.  The actors were well cast and the costumes were what I had pictured from reading the book.  The producers recreated the dystopian world Veronica Roth imagined; the graphics and scenery were realistic.  They left out some of my favorite scenes and lines which made the book special for me (i.e. the spinning of the ferris wheel when Four and Tris climbed it).  I didn’t like Shailene Woodley. Sure, she looked like a good Tris, but her acting was subpar.  Ok, I’m a bit prejudiced since I’m not Woodley’s biggest fan, but there were scenes in the movie that you could tell she wasn’t in character.  I watched an interview with her, and she said “Tris is just a normal eighteen-year-old …”  Tris is sixteen.  Read the book Woodley!

The second time I saw it, my opinion dropped even lower.  The scenery, the graphics, and the simulations were well done, but the music did not fit with what was happening in the scene.  During a solemn scene there would be random techno music and I thought what? 

When I compare the movie to the book, I’m disappointed. The movie had the potential to be great.

If you haven’t read the book, go see the movie.  If you have, wait for it to come out on video.