Monday, June 30, 2014

Copper Descent by Angela Hartley - Book Review

“Copper Descent” is the tale of Nina Douglas, a Native American girl with a secret. She walks into the dream world, even though her mother forbids it. Nina and her family are the last of their tribe, their village destroyed by Sinuf, a dark god from before the beginning of time. Nina's mother is afraid that Sinuf will find Nina in the dream world and take control of her, turning her mysterious gifts into something dark and sinister. One night the dream world shows Nina a terrible vision of the future. Afraid her mother will be angry with her for walking into the dream behind her back, Nina keeps the vision to herself. Her decision ends up costing her dearly and turning her world upside down. Guilt forces her to make a difficult choice sacrificing a part of herself forever. At last she is safe from the dark wolf of her dreams… or so she thought. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's been a while since a book has really impressed me, especially a debut novel by a new author. This is the case with “Copper Descent.” Right away you’re drawn into the story, and your attention is held by the author’s creative attention to detail. She has a talent for blending the modern world and realistic settings with Native American folklore in a way that makes everything seem plausible. The pacing is great in this book. I never once found myself getting bored or wanting to skip ahead. As is the case with most books the best character is the Villain. In “Copper Descent”, Angela gives us Sinuf, an interesting twist on the classic image of Lucifer with roots in both christen mythology and Native American lore. The effect is an antagonist that is sexy, deadly, haunting and somehow likable in a bad-boy-kind-of-way.The kind of guy that lures women with tendencies towards fixer uppers. I found myself hoping that maybe Nina could turn this cold-hearted serpent around so that perhaps he could redeem himself in the end. At first I found that I didn't really like Nate, Nina's love interest. He came off very immature and just plain rude at first. Later on, when he came back into the story, he seemed to have grown up some and turned into my second favorite character. The story was never predictable and kept you guessing. 

My only complaints are these: The action seemed a bit choppy in the last couple chapters. This wouldn't be a big deal as most modern books seem to be written this way, except that this book was not up until the end. It's not really noticeable except in two spots where it took me out of the story. Perhaps in the excitement of wrapping up the book these moments were rushed a bit to render the scenes a little confusing instead of having the natural flow the rest of the book had. Secondly, the ending wasn't what I was hoping for. There was a bit of a Wizard of Oz ending to it, "You had the power within you all along." Although it was well-written and made perfect sense with the book, the final fight seemed to easily won for my taste and a was little anti-climatic. My last issue with the book is that I never fell in love with the leading lady, Nina. She was well-written and had complexity to her, and had some good dialogue and great hero moments, but for some reason I never really became invested in her. I don't think this is at all the author’s fault, just for some reason she just didn't resonate with me. 

Despite these minor flaws I still found “Copper Descent” to be a wildly creative, well-written, and exciting read! I give it five stars. I would recommend it to anyone with a love for Urban Fantasy, Horror and an interest in Religious Mythology and Native American Folklore.

Now go forth read, and decide for yourself if it's as good as I say it is. And if you love it, too, make sure to tell everyone you know about it. You can find the book or follow the author at the following links.


R.J. Craddock

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Maleficent - Movie Review

Society would have us all believe that every woman grew up dreaming of being a princess, Well, I for one, did not. As the youngest of eight children, five of which were boys, and with my sisters seven and eleven years older then me, I grew up, you guessed it, as a tomboy. So why is it then that even I loved Disney's animated film "Sleeping Beauty"? First off, I was raised to appreciate fine art and beautiful music by my parents and my own insatiable hunger for enlightenment. Naturally the advanced artistry in "Sleeping Beauty's" every frame caught my young eye and captured my attention. Borrowing from the ballet version of the tale and using Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's magnificent music for the score only heightened the intensity of the movie's beauty. Yet even the story makes it stand out from other princess tales. Although "Snow White" also features an evil female villain for some reason Maleficent with her iron-clad grudge always seemed more intriguing then the evil Queen obsessed with beauty. And let's not forget the fire-breathing dragon! Honestly how many of the old fairy tales have dragons? Even though the animated film came out in 1959, it has remained a huge favorite for fairy tale lovers.

Now fast forward 55 years to the year 2014. Disney releases their new spin on their old tale with a live action film called "Maleficent". At first I was just ecstatic that my favorite fairy tale Witch was being played by my favorite actress Angelina Jolie! As the trailers kept rolling out I got even more excited because it seemed the film would center more on Maleficent's perspective of things and might give us a whole new angle to the classic story. When the movie came out May 31st I had to go see it opening day. I usually wait a while till movies go to the dollar theater or red box, but no way could I wait another day to see this one! 

Brief synopsis: A human kingdom resides on the border of a magical one called The Moors. The two kingdoms are not friendly but stay to themselves. Until a young boy named Stefan sneaks into The Moors and tries to steal something valuable to improve his meager existence. Instead he meets Maleficent the strongest of all the Fairies who makes him return his stole trinket and sends him safely home. However, when he leaves he takes with him Maleficent's heart. They grow up and while he comes to visit Maleficent from time to time Stefan's ambitions lead him to the palace and make him the trusted servant to the king. When the greedy king decides to go to battle against The Moors he finds Maleficent and an army of tree warriors in his way. His altercation with the fully grown Maleficent leaves the king at death's door. When the king announces that he will give his throne to the man who avenges him and slays the Fairy, Maleficent, Stefan is faced with a difficult choice. Suddenly his childhood friend and first love is the only thing standing in the way of his ultimate dream, unlimited wealth and power. 

I won't give anything else away if you haven't seen it but let's just say that in this version of the tale Maleficent has plenty of reason to hold a grudge. You almost sympathize with her when Aurora is born and she crashes the party to get her own revenge. As The princess grows up under the care of three very poor Fairy caretakers, Maleficent is there all along just biding her time. But whilst Aurora's guardians are a bit flighty, Maleficent finds herself having to step in from time to time to keep the little "Beasty" alive. At least long enough for her prophecy to be fulfilled. However, by the end of the movie everything seems to change and the good guy is the villain and the villain the real hero.

For me this was the most satisfying movie going experience I've had in a long time. Too often then not the trailer for a film will be better then the film itself leaving me feeling let down and a little lied to. Trust me Maleficent does not disappoint. It is almost as beautiful as the animated classic with ten times the emotional impact and richness in plot. Angelina was Magnificent as Maleficent. The rest of the cast played their parts well. One of my favorite twists on the original tale is Maleficent's faithful crow companion Diaval. In the film he is a bird she saves and then enlists to serve her. When she wants to communicate with him she changes him into a man. At other times she changes him into a dog and even a dragon! I loved the banter and the relationship between the two of them as the story unfolds. He became one of my favorite characters.  Elle Fanning, who is Dakota Fanning's little, yet taller, sister played princess Aurora. She did a fine job portraying the innocence and sweetness of the character but in my opinion she is not a great beauty. Perhaps an equally charming but more stunning actress should have been cast in this role. Honestly that is my only complaint. The visual effects were breath taking, the writing and acting endearing, and the ending inspiring. 

I give "Maleficent" a solid five star rating. I enjoyed it so much I might just go back and see it in theaters again. When the movie comes out on DVD I'll be the first to rush out and buy a copy.  

Now go forth and see it for yourselves. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. See you next time.

R.J. Craddock