Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Short Review: Blood of My Blood

Blood of My Blood (I Hunt Killers) by Barry LygaLittle, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2014. Review copy from publisher. Sequel to I Hunt Killers and Game.

The I Hunt Killers series is the story of  Jasper Dent, son of the infamous serial killer Billy Dent. It asks the question -- is the son condemned to follow in the footsteps of his father? If nature (the son of a killer) and nurture (raised by his father to hunt and kill) conspire to create a path for a child, will the child follow that path? And what is the cost of not doing so?

What I liked best about Blood of My Blood is that it showed the trilogy to not be three connected stories about Jazz solving crimes, using his first-hand knowledge of serial killers (though it is that) but one story, told in three volumes, about Jazz coming to terms with his past and figuring out what his future should be. And, yes -- solving murder mysteries.

Also -- and I almost hate to say it -- twists! That I didn't see coming! And that were so satisfying as a reader! (I hate to say it because sometimes saying a twist means one expects and looks for any twist so it no longer is a surprise twist.)

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Monday, February 23, 2015

Short Review: Unmade, The Lynburn Legacy Book 3

Unmade (The Lynburn Legacy Book 3) by Sarah Rees BrennanRandom House. 2014. Sequel to Unspoken and Untold. Review copy from publisher.

I feel like I can't talk too much about the plot in Unmade because I don't want to spoil new to the series readers; and I don't want to spoil those who haven't read the final book yet.

Short version: Kami Glass discovers that magic is real and her small English village is the center of a war involving powerful witches. And I use the term "war" deliberately, because important things are at stake. Lives are at stake. Should someone take a stand and risk their own lives and the lives of those they love? Are some lies OK to tell, to try to protect others? When can those lies be forgiven?

I can also talk about characters more easily than plot, and I just love Kami and her friends and their growth during the series. I also love Kami's parents; the Lynburn Legacy series does a terrific job of incorporating adults into a teen-centered drama, in a way that is realistic yet keeps the spotlight on the teens. Plus -- there's a terrific mix of adventure, humor, love, friendship, twists, turns, and all the things that make a story worth reading. Because this wrapped up the series so perfectly, and because I want to be friends with Kami despite the risk to life and limb, this is a Favorite Book Read in 2014.

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Review: Kingsman

Some folks went to see the Fifty Shades of Grey movie this weekend.

I went to see Kingsman: The Secret Service, taking my niece and nephew (ages 14 and 12).

It was so much fun! Kingsman is about an independent spy agency, Kingsman, and how a street-smart kid is recruited to be a part of a group that so far has been strictly upper upper class.

What makes Kingsman entertaining are the performances and the action sequences. It's also got humor and fun references to other spy films or tropes.

Colin Firth is "Galahad" (all of the Kingsman Knights have names from the round table; the head of the agency is Arthur, the one responsible for training is Merlin) who recruits the son of a former member. Eggsy's father died in the secret service of being a Kingsman. Even back then, his father's admittance was a bit of a test, of whether or not someone of a lower class belongs.

Seeing Colin Firth as an action hero? Doing some amazing stunts and fights? Was terrific!

Harry bringing in Eggsy is more than just guilt over the death of Eggsy's father. While Eggsy doesn't have the credentials of the other Kingsman trainees, he does have the raw talent and the unpolished skills. One thing I like about Kingsman is how smoothly these things are shown or told: his driving skills and nerve and loyalty in a sequence where Eggsy steals a car and drives it backwards in a high speed race with the police; mentioning how Eggsy did well in school and initial military training before family complications (his mother's criminal, abusive second husband); his street smarts.

While I loved the movie trailers, part of me eye-rolled at the apparently all-boys club. Yes, I get that it's partly a love note to classic spy films and tropes, but still. Luckily, the movie addressed that within the text. The origins of the group are indeed exclusive, and people like Harry are trying to make changes. Eggsy has to go through an intensive training program (part of the post-movie talk about the movie was trying to figure out how long the program was), and there were two women among the nine trainees.

The big bad is played by Samuel L. Jackson and you can tell he had as much fun filming as the audience had watching. His evil plan is --  well, let's just say that he seems sympathetic until the bodies pile up. One of the bits of dark humor is that while he's the evil genius, he's a billionaire tech genius with big ideas who hires people to take care of business -- he doesn't kill himself, because he just doesn't have the stomach for it.

Kingsman is rated R mainly for the violence, and it's action-movie violence with spectacular fights and methods of people dying. There are also some sexy things. One bit I liked -- and I hope this isn't a spoiler -- is that Eggsy develops a friendship with his fellow trainee who is female, Roxy. It was actually respectful and nice to see.

BUT. BUT. At the end, there were a few jokes (based mostly on some Roger Moore Bond films) that were bothersome. Not because they were about sex or sexytimes, but because the "funny ha ha" was about offering sex to Eggsy as quid pro quo/ reward, eliminating any respect one could have for the character speaking. It turned what had been a strong, moral character into a sex toy. She was just there to be the prize, and the last images reinforced that.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) Poster

So, yes, there a few flaws with the film  -- but overall, it was fun and action filled. I'm hoping there's a sequel!

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy