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J. H. Sweet

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West from Home (Little House)
West from Home (Little House)
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.69

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much More Than a Collection of Letters, 11 Sep 2005
In addition to Laura's detailed letters to Almanzo describing her adventure, this book includes over thirty photographs featuring Laura, Rose, the Pacific Ocean (ships, beachgoers, etc.), San Francisco, and many scenes of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition including an air show and night-lit festivities. Though in black and white, this pictorial insight into what was behind the letters is wonderful.
The book also includes an introduction describing how and where the letters were found and a lovely description of San Francisco at the time of Laura's visit. The letters themselves beautifully showcase the art of letter writing: Along with Laura's vivid descriptions of the technological marvels of the expo, her words are full of charming details to make us smile such as the price of eggs, hat shopping, and her favorite foods of the expo. Laura' expertise in writing compositions, as described in the original Little House books, is very much evident even in these personal letters.
This book is a must have for Little House enthusiasts. Also recommended: On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles, and longtime Little House fan
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2008 12:47 PM BST

Scrooge [DVD]
Scrooge [DVD]
Dvd ~ Albert Finney
Price: £5.58

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Flawed Hero, 8 Sep 2005
This review is from: Scrooge [DVD] (DVD)
I have read A Christmas Carol several times; and though this is a musical, I do not think it takes away at all from Dickens' classic story. Rather, I believe it is a wonderful tribute to it. Ebenezer Scrooge is one of my favorite literary characters of all time; and Albert Finney brings him to life perfectly, making the miser loveable and sympathetic throughout. As in the written work, I love Scrooge both before and after his epiphany. I was especially touched by his feelings of abandonment at being left at school for Christmas in his youth, and the deep regret he experiences over the breaking of his engagement to Fezziwig's daughter.
Tiny Tim is well cast in this movie. He has a beautiful voice and touching expressions, and is perfect in size, tiny, which is not the case in some other film versions.

Leslie Bricusse's song lyrics are every bit as wonderful as those written for Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The costuming, scenery, and props are very lavish and beautiful, adding to the richness of the story. The DVD version is perfect in this respect with good color and clarity.
The story is wonderfully staged in five acts (Introduction, Past, Present, Future, Conclusion), the first four building perfectly to the final, which is every bit as heartwarming as the conclusions of It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. It is impossible not to smile as Scrooge buys out the toy store, purchases other gifts, wipes the slate clean for his debtors, and makes charitable contributions. His transformation from miser and loan shark to a genuine Father Christmas is absolutely beautiful.
When I was growing up, we always decorated our tree on Christmas Eve; and I remember watching this movie many years in a row during that family tradition. I recommend this as a yearly family Christmastime movie, but it is also wonderful to watch at other times of the year, especially to cure a blue funk because it has the power to warm viewers all the way down to their toes.

Yours Mine & Ours [DVD] [1968] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Yours Mine & Ours [DVD] [1968] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Lucille Ball

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Close to My Heart, 8 Sep 2005
My parents went to see this movie on their first date and soon after blended two large families together, much in the same manner as the Beardsleys and Norths. I am extremely grateful to the tellers of this story for inspiring my parents to marry, thus giving me the best mother in the world.
Though this is a comedy, and bits of it are truly hilarious, it is not overdone and focuses well on important family issues. Lucille Ball is very much not Lucy in this film, and is the perfect blend of serious and funny. Many of the younger actors are very recognizable despite their youth including Tim Matheson and Tracy Nelson who, due to her smile and other facial features, is easy to spot as the approximately three-year-old Jermaine.
The dual narration, assembly line lunch making, industrial laundry chores, military-like logistics for bathroom sharing, and grocery shopping for an apparent army are all interestingly staged. The movie also includes a nice variety of settings including the crowded house, bar, aircraft carrier, clinic, navel base, school, commissary, and hospital.
This is an uplifting family story and a wonderful Christmastime feel-good movie, though it is fun to watch all year round.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles

The Best of Pippi Longstocking: Three Books in One
The Best of Pippi Longstocking: Three Books in One
by Astrid Lindgren
Edition: Paperback

53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest Female Characters Ever Created, 8 Sep 2005
It was very empowering for me as a child to read Pippi's adventures. Her independence, common sense, strength, resourcefulness, and compassion were a tremendous inspiration to me and continue to be very commendable qualities. I don't believe much was lost in the translation of these books because the storytelling flows superbly and is exciting, engaging, and enduring. As a youngster, my favorite elements of these stories included Pippi's hoard of gold, pet horse, physical strength, fantastic adventures, and red hair. As an adult, I am drawn to the heroine's wisdom and goodness of spirit. For adults who read Pippi as a child, I recommend a revisit to her world for a fresh view of her character as well as delightful reminiscing. This is terrific reading for all ages both girls and boys.

J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2008 4:18 PM GMT

Pitch Black [DVD]
Pitch Black [DVD]
Dvd ~ Vin Diesel
Price: £2.00

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Great Classics of Science Fiction, 7 Aug 2005
This review is from: Pitch Black [DVD] (DVD)
This is truly a masterpiece of Science Fiction and an interesting study in human nature with profound messages similar to those in films such as Fahrenheit 451, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Metropolis, Logan's Run, and Blade Runner.
The internal struggles of the characters (spirituality, self-sacrifice, temptation, suspicions, addiction, guilt, mastery of fear, human kindness, self-interest, resourcefulness, etc.) add a tremendous amount of depth to the story. The guilt of the captain over her early impulsive actions and the penance she ultimately pays for her mistake are deeply touching and almost made me cry. The stark landscape setting really allows us to focus on the characters - their personalities, motives, relationships, actions, etc. The emulation of Jack for Riddick is beautifully done, very quickly and easily charming us to both characters.
The story is very well written, with the acting equally well done, showcasing the relationships between the characters. The Riddick/Johns relationship is interesting, particularly their respect for one another: Some kind of "code of ethics" between bounty hunters and the convicts they pursue? Also of note is the hero worship of Jack for Riddick, and the hero's subsequent defense/protection of her several times, in various ways, against multiple threats. Additionally, the interplay between the captain and Johns (his manipulation of her, and her judgment mixed with empathy of him) really adds dimension to these characters and the overall story.
This is one of the few films I have seen that seems absolutely perfectly cast, particularly Jack who is difficult to distinguish between boy and tomboy - she is very believable. The creatures/monsters are extremely well done, both their appearances and movements. I think this is a much better story than the Alien and Predator movies, though I enjoy those as well.
The humor in this story is exquisite; the "looks clear" scene is one of my favorite bits of this movie. Given the intensity behind Mr. Diesel's acting, it is amazing that he is capable of adding this type of "lightness" to his work. And the tension present throughout the film is tremendous. We are literally "on pins and needles" as we watch the action from our observer position and instantly recognize the mistakes of the characters (delay, poor choices, etc.) leading toward their doom with no way to warn them or urge them to hurry.
I don't understand the term "cult" applied to this film because that seems to imply a select viewership; and I believe this movie has the power to please a variety of peoples, though especially fans of Science Fiction and human-interest stories.
I call this one of my "treadmill movies" (to watch while exercising) because the miles pass in a non-painful flash. A special thanks to the many people involved in making this movie for the wonderful quality of distraction and thoroughly engrossing entertainment.
I am unable to choose a favorite between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick. I am pleased they are remarkably different from one another. I believe they are both equally significant in their contribution to great classics of Science Fiction.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles

Silver Surfer Masterworks Vol. 1
Silver Surfer Masterworks Vol. 1
by Stan Lee
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Addition to My Collection: A True Masterwork, 4 Aug 2005
As a longtime Silver Surfer fan, who didn't managed to keep very many issues over the years, I am delighted to find a collection such as this. I am not at all disappointed with my purchase, but will have to struggle a bit to limit my reading of this to just a few times so that I can keep it in pristine condition.
The art of this collection is exquisitely beautiful, as always with Silver Surfer stories. "Masterworks" is truly an appropriate title because both the art and storytelling are masterful, treating Stan Lee's greatest character creation (in my opinion) with the loving care a masterpiece deserves.
The stories in this book very much embody the true essence of Silver Surfer and everything that is wonderful about his saga. Please excuse any gushing in my descriptions, but I am sure that many other female Surfer fans feel the same way I do about this amazing character.
Having read the six stories in this book without pausing, I am once again mesmerized and awed by the many exceptional qualities of my favorite superhero: self-sacrifice, insight, humanity despite not being human, kindness, trusting nature, sensitivity, the ever-cool surfing the solar winds skills, quick thinking, ability to look at the big picture, amazing speed, no apparent Achilles heel (other than a trusting and kind nature), purity of motives and spirit, no human flaws such as greed and pride, compassion, tremendous power, etc. Also, his expressions are often incredibly endearing; for example, frequent expressions of surprise and delight, which contrast nicely to his normal stoicism. The unique and engaging villains are also an interesting element in these tales.
The morals and values present in these stories are highly significant. I believe kids should definitely be encouraged to read them. Parents striving to raise decent human beings, and the heroes of our future, would do well to encourage this pursuit because the lessons in this book are well worth learning.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles, and Silver Surfer fan
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 31, 2008 2:31 AM BST

Yojimbo [1961] [DVD]
Yojimbo [1961] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Toshirô Mifune
Price: £8.05

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When Destiny is as Simple as the Toss of a Stick, 4 Aug 2005
This review is from: Yojimbo [1961] [DVD] (DVD)
The beginning of this tale, when our hero tosses a stick into the air to see which way it lands to choose his path, is just one of the many elements which makes this such an amazing story and one my favorites of Kurosawa's many masterpieces. What the bodyguard chooses to do first with his newfound independence is quite surprising and ambitious, like piecing together an amazingly complex jigsaw puzzle made of human nature, or staging a performance of an epic masterpiece with no previous management, production, or directing skills. But I guess he may as well tackle a mountain, since there is not much use starting small with his skills and personality. As he orchestrates the deception, our hero is much like a master puppeteer with exquisite timing and talent to incite the mayhem to achieve his goal.
While the basic theme of this story is not unique - the result of greed, manipulation of others, and the changing of the world (tradition vs. progression) - many factors add an interesting and unusual charm to this film. There are plots within plots, surprising deception, perfectly paced mounting tension, unpredictable plot twists, stories within stories, distinctive and amusing characters (the big guy with his huge mallet is a lot of fun), the seemingly never-ending face offs, backstabbing, character flaws; and our hero continually placed in the perfect position to observe, listen, and evaluate. Also, the bodyguard's impeccable timing in manipulation of both sides is nice, fulfilling our expectations and keeping the story moving along. What if bodyguards were really like this? (mischievous, brilliant, manipulative) The famous people of the world would be in terrible trouble.
The humor in this story is wonderful, even the macabre humor of the dog carrying the human hand in its mouth while trotting along to fairly spunky music. I also love the funnier fight sequences, which seem to come right out of clown school and resemble football skirmishes instead of battles. In several of the scenes, it appears that the swordsmen are miming roasting marshmallows instead of fighting with their weapons. Nice addition of lightness to a serious tale. Our hero sticking around after he has discontinued his services purely for "the entertainment" also accentuates the humor aspect of this movie.
The mix of character types is also interesting including a dominatrix, a prodigal son, a damsel in distress, several amusing drunks, and many bumbling idiots. The ease in which our hero is able to manipulate these human beings is extremely unbelievable; however, many aspects of this film fall into that category and it is still a wonderful story. This is one of those rare instances in which certain trite, far-fetched, and predictable elements are actually good and serve to enhance the story.
The nature symbolism is a nice addition to this film including the cleansing rain allowing us to shift gears from Act I to Act II, and the dust storm, which precedes the more unpredictable part of the story serving to unsettle and disorient us.
Finally, the shadowy, light dancing, night fires scene is amazing, intensifying the town's debauchery and our hero finally stepping up to get involved in the action before ultimately getting caught in his own web. This scene is perfect, like an expertly lighted stage drawing us into Act III.
I have only described a few of the wonderful features of this film. There are many others, which warrant several viewings to truly appreciate the complexities of this story. For those who enjoy this movie, I also recommend the sequel, Sanjuro, which is equally well done.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles, and Kurosawa fan.

Princess Academy
Princess Academy
by Shannon Hale
Edition: Paperback

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Girl is a Princess, 14 July 2005
This review is from: Princess Academy (Paperback)
This is a delightful tale for all ages, full of hope, exploring our hearts' desires, daily struggles, human relationships, and finding our way in this world. Soul searching, while attempting to discover meaning in life, is very much a part of this age-old story retold so beautifully by Ms. Hale. The girls' hope to be chosen by the prince as his princess is something we can all relate to.

While the story recognizes deeper and larger issues such as how society views differing classes and the often overwhelming and almost hopeless struggle to achieve success (or what we believe to be success), the fairy tale nature of this book makes it charming and engaging, presenting only gentle and subtle messages.

Though this story likely will appeal mainly to girls, it is an entertaining tale for all ages and peoples. Even boys and men should be encouraged to read this book, if only to gain a greater understanding of girls and women - their hopes, dreams, reasoning, and challenges.

Ms. Hale tells a timeless tale which proves that girls never really change. Times change, and surroundings change, but girls never really change. I truly believe that "a fairy lives in every girl's heart." Having read The Princess Academy, I now also believe that every girl is a princess, even grown up girls.

J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles

The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley
The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley
by Betty Dravis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing and Engaging, My Type of Story, 12 July 2005
I love all types of fantasy, but this tale is particularly close to my own heart. In fact, it is my favorite type of story: Vivid characters and events are first grounded in reality to make them believable so that the jump into the fantastical draws us in completely. After we are a part of the story, the imaginative events take over to both amaze and amuse us.
Ms. Dravis' ability to present real people, places, and things in the midst of a fantasy story is very close to what I strive for in my own writings. Characters with last names and problems who live in real places, but still have fantastical things happen to them, make for a wonderful story - truly a modern James and the Giant Peach or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory kind of tale. I am also impressed by how well a female author is able to portray such a believable boy character. All of the characters are engaging and real, with their daily struggles and triumphs; and this helps make the story real as well, though it is also a lovely escape.
In fact, it is so well done I am tempted to compare it to one of my favorite television shows - Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, which to me is entirely plausible, given the vast number of very real imaginary friends I have known in my life. This book has the power to appeal to all ages and types of people. I would definitely recommend it.

Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos
Silver Surfer: Rebirth of Thanos
by Jim Starlin
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Storyline, Appealing to Both Male & Female Surfer Fans, 29 Jun 2005
This is an amazing and almost fatiguing Silver Surfer adventure to read. Right off the bat we have sympathy for our hero: He hasn't slept for ages; yet, when he tries to take a nap, he immediately has a nightmare, which turns out to be real and engages him in a tiring quest to save billions of lives spanning the entire universe.
I found it interesting that Death is portrayed as a female in this story; I am glad the power of the feminine is not understated or underestimated in graphic novels.
Two endearing scenes in this tale add to the amazing sensitivity and compassion of the Silver Surfer character - the beautiful image of Surfer cradling the baby he saved from the volcano, and the gentlemanly way he reacts to She-Hulk clobbering him when she mistakes him for a bad guy intruder. (He is very polite and does not fight back. Not that he needs to since she obviously cannot do much damage to him. Still, his benign reaction to her assault is very nice.) Good job of appealing to female Surfer readers like myself.
One of my favorite recurring elements of the Silver Surfer saga also happens in this story: Additional powers are continually and conveniently revealed in his adventures - in this case, when our hero saves the Salarians. ("Good thing Galactus bestowed this useful power upon me; now I can save this entire planet.")
The only sequence I didn't like in this book was the encounter with the Impossible Man. I thought it was boring and was likely added as entirely useless filler to extend the story. But that is just my opinion. Some people might like the endless shapeshifting and pranks of the Impossible Man. I already think Silver Surfer has enough ability to understand humor, so I was puzzled as to why the need to develop more was stressed.
Overall, this is a great storyline; and I will enjoy reading this graphic novel again.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles, and fan of Silver Surfer

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