February 13, 2011 – The Hunger Games Series
So as you may or may not know, I began the week by picking up the Book, The Hunger Games, by S. Collins. The reality is that I didn’t stop there. I did not do one bit of writing all week long as instead I spent the entire week reading the whole series which includes: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. So you get a three-for-one review.
This series I can tell you began as a series. Some books don’t. You can tell they don’t as there is a hesitation in the story at the beginning of the following books. These books you can tell began with a idea for a series. First and foremost, this series is awesome. I could not stop reading. I would finish one book and immediately pick up the next one as I HAD to know what was going to come next. S. Collins, you are my hero of the week. I haven’t felt that way about a series or a book for that matter, in a very long time.
The story is of Katniss Everdeen. She lives with her Mother and her sister, Prim, in a small, poor, mining town, known as District 12, controlled by “the Capital”. Her best friend is Gale, and you can tell that there just might be something there from the start. The story begins with a lottery, wherein one boy and one girl ages 12-18 are put into a drawing from each of the 12 districts. The winners of the drawing are then contestants in the Hunger Games. The game is survival of the fittest. The last one surviving wins. You got it, it’s a kill or be killed game. The boy from their district chosen for the games is Peeta. He is the son of the baker. Katniss’ sister Prim is chosen, but Katniss takes her place.
That’s where the adventure begins. I don’t want to give too much away, but know that there is a love triangle, death, murder, sickness, loss, and on and on, and you never actually know what is going to happen. Some books you can tell what is coming. These books, you are taken by surprise time and time again with the twists and turns and sometimes it frustrated the hell out of me. I was screaming, no, at times, and tears were misting my eyes, and oh these are a great read. The Hunger Games are well executed. The connection between the characters is wonderful. The fantasy and imagination left me in awe.
What didn’t I like? You have three books of detail and emotion and action working up to an ending that is too fast and maybe a bit unsatisfying in its quickness. Oh it ends, and it ties up all the lines for you, but it should have been a little bit longer. A little bit more time and detail should have been included. Maybe that’s just me being greedy in that I didn’t want the story to end, but it left me sad even though it had a happy ending.
So if you are looking for a recommendation of a YA read, this is a great one to pick up and enjoy. Loved it. Really.
Vacation Review 2010
January 3, 2011
Hotel: Portifino Bay Hotel in Orlando Florida
This hotel is lovely. It’s clean, spruced up nicely, and the staff is very friendly. Not the fake, I’m being paid to be nice to you, friendly, but the actual nice people type. It has a big courtyard, with shops, a café (Starbucks…ahhhh) along with restaurants and bars. The pool is HUGE with a slide and wait-staff. Nothing better than sitting next to the pool in the sunshine being delivered a nice cool drink without having to get up off my butt. That’s a nice perk let me tell ya.
Rooms were nice sized, they were not two beds crammed into a square closet. There were two queen beds, along with a huge bathroom (I could have had a party in the bathroom) and a two doored closet, Mini-bar that was stocked with anything and everything you could possibly need. I didn’t partake of the mini-bar but that’s cause I’m cheap. Nice bed sheets and coverings (although heavy – I felt like I was going to suffocate under the weight of the covers, I had to toss off the big comforter).
The hotel is within walking distance to Universal as it is one of their “resort” hotels, though you can stay there whether or not you intend to visit Universal. The pathway to Universal is a nice garden walk along side a waterway that is filled with flowers, palms, and décor. It’s not a short jaunt to the parks, but it’s not a long haul either. Also if you want they have bike carriages for you along with a boat ferry that will take you down. We took the ferry once, but it was too cold for that (we had to pick the coldest time to head down to Florida) so after the one ferry ride we walked.
All in all well worth the money of the resort hotel.
Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure:
Ever wonder what the big difference between Disney and Universal is? Well my guess would be….a lot. The parks in general are fine. They have some good rides, some bad, but there is just something missing from it all. First, they have come up with this great idea of forcing you to use their lockers ($20 a day by the way). You can not take anything on rides with you. If they see it, they push you out of line and head you to the lockers. “But they’re free” they say, oh that’s only for the first hour and fifteen minutes after that it’s three dollars every fifteen minutes…yeah really. So if you happen to be in a huge line that is longer than an hour and fifteen you are so screwed. We had a small stuffed animal won in a game that fit inside my pocket of my jacket, we were actually told to get out of line and go use the locker or we couldn’t ride. When I asked why, they just spouted out that it was their new policy. What a pain in the butt. The lockers, although located around all the rides, we always packed with people. The lines to get a locker were long as it was somewhat of a new concept for most. We are all used to throwing in a few quarters and off you go. No, not these lockers. They are finger print safe and credit card swipeable. Again, a pain in the butt. After that one day with the stuffed animals, we didn’t play any games unless we were on our way out. No lockers for us.
They have started using the “characters” as Disney does. They have spots set up for them which is great, but then they have people standing in the middle of walkways with signs, pointing to characters (get out of the way people!). The problem? Some of the costumes were dirty. Hello! Can you say gross? Not all of them, but ick in general. Now the Grinch was great. I assume his costume was a bit on the newer side or that because it was covered by a Santa Suit you didn’t see the filth. He was entertaining and Grinch-like. They also had “who’s” all over the place with the faces and everything. Those were great as well. The rest…eh.
The rides, as I said some were good, some we not so great. The Cat in the Hat ride is a fun and whirly ride and would have been wonderful but for the fact the Thing 1 and Thing 2’s were broken throughout and it was a bit distracting for me, also the Cat in the Hat at the end on the big machine….so needed a bit of Clorox taken to him. He was so dirty and old looking and really needed a good sanitation. Both it and the E.T. ride had trash tossed all over the ride. You look down at their scenery and see cups and straws and trash galore along with just plain dirt and grime. Do they not ever walk through stuff and clean it? I think not. It was gross. Why am I stuck on this? Because it wasn’t just a piece of trash here and smudge there, it was filthy here and filthy there and everywhere. It kinda took you out of the fantasy a bit. Some of the better rides? The Revenge of the Mummy….awesome. Spiderman….fantastic. Rockin Ride Rollercoaster…very nice. The Hulk ride was fast and furious and so wonderful. By the time we got off we all had tears running down our faces from the force of the wind. Doom was pretty good, could have been better but not bad all in all.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
This I have to say is a very good addition to Universal. They have gone all out for this. But….. the Wizarding World is at Islands of Adventure. When you get into the park they have a person directing you towards the Wizarding World. He stands there all day. The problem? They close off that island of the park once it reaches capacity, which is approximately one hour after the park opens. So all those people that get there after the island is closes force their way over there only to find that they have to take a ticket and come back in so many hours (three in our instance). Why is that ticket guy not at the front of the park? Why do you have to waste time and energy fighting over to the island only to be told, its closed off? It’s a real pain and aggravation as the area the ticket place is in is not all that big. Its full of people and I mean full. Body to body to body of people.
Pumpkin Juice? Ick. Bleack. Patooey. Nice bottle.
Butter Beer? Yummy. I had several of these. A bit like ginger ale with a nice vanilla-y foam and it was good.
Three Broom-sticks breakfast? Cold. Yeah. You wait in line, get your food, sit down and the food was cold. It could have been that it was 30 degrees outside but we were inside. Not a great fare to my way of thinking? The building though was very nice.
It was a bit hard to see everything as that place was packed. I have a few photos, but not much as it was hard to get anywhere and to try to take a photo…yeesh.
The Forbidden Journey of Harry Potter was a great great ride. They really did a nice job on it. The hippogriff ride was for the younger crowd which I didn’t know until I was on it and thought “That’s it?” We were not big enough to ride the Dragon Ride, but it looked really good. Hogsmead they did a great job on the buildings and signs and such same with Hogworts. The chimneys were crooked and everything. The shell of everything was very well done.
My complaint? They could have done so much more. As I said above the shell of everything was great, but the little details were missing. While waiting in line for the Forbidden Journey one of the rooms you go through is the herbolitry. The only thing they managed to do was to hang pitcher-plants from the ceiling and to put a small shelf along one wall with a few Mandrakes poking up. Oh what they could have done with that room and that was it. The Three Broom-sticks, they had the lay out pretty much written for them from the movies and it was boring. All they did was hang up the Antlers and have a shadow owl fly around and some wind and stuff upstairs. Come on, they had so much they could have done and they just didn’t. That was the wizarding world. Great shell, lacking middle.
That was pretty much the whole of Universal. The little details missing. They had these great store fronts, that you can look inside and see a pet store or a palm reader or a jazz band, but they put it all on a concrete floor that they didn’t bother to cover with anything. Who lives in a house with a concrete floor that they don’t put down rugs or something? Plus the dust….oh my gosh the dust was an inch deep in some of them. The New Years eve show? Pitiful. Piti-ful! What the heck, was my thoughts. As of 2013 Universal loses its rights to the Marvel Characters, which means they will have to revamp a good portion of their parks (okay a HUGE portion). I hope they take the time to wash and clean and pay attention to the little things. They want to compete with Disney? That is what they need to do. Otherwise, all they will ever be is bad copy cat park.
One of the great things that Universal has that Disney does not? An express pass. If you stay at one of their resorts it comes with your room and you get a special line you can wait in for all rides (except 3) and all those express lines were maybe 15 minutes. It was awesome. If you haven’t gathered Universal was packed full everyday and had we not had the express pass we would have spent out trip in lines from hell, but because of it, we were all in and out of rides all over the place. You can buy an express ticket but there are limitations to it that appeared to me to be aggravating from watching the people that had them. The resort one was as I said… awesome. Disney has a “fastpass” system that I hate. You tromp back and forth all over the park trying to get a fast pass and then waiting to ride and tromping all over the place again to get back there and it’s a waste of time and energy for me. The express pass from universal was so so so much better.
Our trip was fun and tiring, but I now know why people rave over Disney and Universal is just …eh. Don’t even ask me about the food….
Friday, December 17, 2010
Review: In the Company of Vampires, by Katie MacAlister
I am a big fan of Katie MacAlister. She never fails to make me laugh and she easily transports us into a world of fantasy and romance. She has several series books that I read (Yay to the Dragon Series). This book is part of the "Dark One" series. It it a continuation of a prior story featuring Fran (Francesca) and Ben. Ben the vamp and Fran the daughter of a wiccan, now Beloved to Ben.
It begins with Fran's mother coming up missing, and that's when the confusion and hilarity start, as Fran rushes off to the traveling "circus" in Germany where her mother, and Ben conveniently enough, live in hopes of tracking her down. This bring Fran and Ben back together. They had separated for a period so that Fran would have time to "find" herself.
Quite the confusing romp this book is. Along with the vamps, it brings in werebeings (such as lions and wolves): three randy viking ghosts with a penchant for wild dressage, fast food, and...porn; the Norse God Loki, and his son, Necromancers, witches, mediums, and many many more.
I admit to getting lost now and then, but only in all the backgrounds of the people, not the story in general. There seemed to be too many back stories going on in this book as well as too many unnecessary people. Fran does find her mother, and she and Ben do finally figure out that they are "meant for one another" so it ends happily enough but it didn't really have an ending so to speak, as the story continues on in the next installment of the series. Bummer. Sometimes I just want an ending. Oh well. Maybe with the next book, some or all of the back stories will get cleared up. I'm sure I'll look for it when it releases as all in all even within the confusion it was still a good read. Laugh out loud moments included.
Thought I would set up a separate page for any reviews I do, whether it be for books, movies, music or whatnot. This is a place to start anyway. So more to come in the future when I actually have something to review, which hopefully will be soon as I have a stack of books to be read that is about 3 feet tall at this point.