About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, was published in November 2018 and rereleased in Jan 2020. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.

Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This book has been on my “to be read” list for ages and I finally got my hands on it. There has been a lot of hype about it in my writer circles, so I was eager to see what all the fuss was about. Initially, I thought that this might be a steampunk story with a Cinderella twist because of the original cover – a woman’s foot in a high-heeled shoe that was transparent enough to show that the foot was mechanical inside.

Nope. Not steampunk. Not even close.

The newer cover which is a much closer fit to the elements of the story.

The Story

Cinder, is a gifted mechanic, which is good, and part cyborg, which is bad. As you can guess, she’s the Cinderella in our story and has a nasty stepmother as well as two sisters, one who’s kind and the other who is cruel. There is a ball, and a prince, and a lost foot, and even a special vehicle that get’s Cinder to the ball. But, there’s no fairy Godmother.

The other part of this story, strangely enough, is an Anastasia story. There is a lost heir to the Lunar throne, one who, if found, could remove the current wicked Lunar Queen and restore justice and ensure peace between Lunars and Earthens.

And then, there’s the world the story is built within. In this Cinderella story, we are taken to the future where there is a pandemic running wild with no cure. Yeah, I didn’t see that one coming either. Guess I should have read the back cover blurb… Oops. The story is set in New Bejing 126 years after World War IV.

All of these disparate elements come together in a cunningly woven story where Cinder is driven to desperate measures to escape her situation only to find she’s not only needed, but a vital part of solving a much larger issue.

My Review

This was a fun romp through an interesting and well-constructed futuristic world. Meyers has put a ton of effort to weave together fantastical ingredients into a realistic gritty world. Cinder takes the Cinderella role and pushes the boundaries further by first, being really good at something unexpected, and second, wanting something else than to go to the ball and be with the prince.

Part of the fun in this book is seeing how the Cinderella trope is turned on its head and which parts of the story remain faithful. Instead of cute cartoon mice, we have a spunky android helper who’s obsessed with fashion and Prince Kai. Instead of a pumpkin carriage, we have an old gasoline powered car that Cinder fixed herself as an escape vehicle to be able to leave the city, where hover cars couldn’t go. And instead of a huge search to find a missing shoe, Cinder loses her cyborg foot, revealing to the prince that she’s not quite human.

There are a few things that irritated me personally. Meyers doesn’t shy back from letting people who are important to main characters die. There are three instances where we as the reader are teased along that there might be a cure to save these people and it’s all a matter of beating the ticking clock. In most stories, one of these will survive in a dramatic scene where the cure comes at the last possible second. While I see why Meyers chose to not follow the traditional footsteps, as it makes for a much more devastating loss for Cinder, but as a reader I don’t like to be led along to then be robbed of a successful rescue.

The earlier cover with the high-heel shoe and reveal of the cyborg foot.

Recommendations

This makes for a great young adult sci-fi. It’s got lots of action, some tasteful romantic leanings, quite a bit of angst and drama, and great world building. Yes, there are some mild descriptions of blood and injury, mostly relating to the plague like pandemic that’s riddled through the story, but they aren’t excessive or over the top.

For those who love adaptations, this one does a solid job taking the Cinderella story and elevating it to something with more stakes.

I enjoyed Cinder and give it a 4 of 5 stars for being thoroughly entertaining but doing a few things that misled the reader in an annoying way.

One-Hit Wonder Syndrome

It’s a perfect day to talk about an interesting phenomenon – why one-hit Wonders are a thing. A one-hit wonder, is when an unknown band creates a song that goes wildly popular overnight and become instantly famous. They then go on to make other songs because their fans demand it, but those songs don’t catch on and the band slowly fades into obscurity. That band is only known for their one and only hit.

Here are some famous one-hit wonders:

  • “My Sharona” by The Knack
  • “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell
  • “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners
  • “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba

It’s been pointed out that several of these bands did later go on to have other songs hit the charts and rank in the top twenty, but in comparison to the one song that made them famous, the other songs never achieved the same popularity.

One-Hit Wonders in the Business World

The one-hit wonder phenomenon isn’t unique to just the music industry, a similar thing happens in the business world as well. We see it when someone who has never run a business has a great new idea for a service or product and it takes off. Suddenly they are famous for their awesome thing and everyone is talking about it.

What often happens next is that they get an offer they can’t refuse to sell the company for an ungodly amount of money and they return to square one – coming up with an idea for a new business. But this time, the world is watching.

Suddenly, there is a huge amount of pressure to come up with not only something good, but something that could take off again like what happened before. At this point, one of two things can happen, either they fold under the pressure and can’t come up with anything, or they hold this unfounded belief that creating a groundbreaking idea is fairly easy because they’ve done it already. The latter often will then create something uninspired or useless and fail spectacularly. With the world watching, it’s that much more devastating.

But why?

When someone unexpectedly finds success, but hasn’t yet racked up several failures under their belt, they never experience the hardships that give people perspective. The hard work they did must be all that is required to achieve wild success. Everyone else who fails must not be working at the same level. Sometimes, they even start believing that they have a special talent that granted them this success. Other people just aren’t as special as they are and that’s what makes them fail.

What they don’t realize is that wild success, especially in a business venture, requires more than just hard work. A series of uncontrollable factors must line up at the same time, such as what is popular in the market at the moment, what needs exist among buyers, and what has recently caught everyone’s interest. Should the timing be wrong and these factors not present to make a product look even more desirable, then no amount of hard work can make the product go viral. Yes, it can be successful, but not wildly so.

One-Hit Wonders in the Writing World

Yes, this is a real thing, although it presents itself differently. There are a rare few authors who find wild success with their first novel. The novel itself is something they’ve worked on for possibly years and years before going through the process to find the perfect agent and publisher who were willing to take a risk. As with businesses, the same uncontrollable factors are at play here as well. There has to be a significant group of people hungry for this type of book all the same time. Sometimes this is because a wildly popular movie has turned a new group of readers to the genre. Sometimes the global social climate makes certain titles much more appealing.

With authors, everyone who loved their first book are far more willing to pick up the second, which means there is already a certain level of success already baked in when they release that second book. But, there is also a lot that can go wrong. They had all the time in the world to finish their first book and no expectations. This can make writing easier and creativity come faster.

When writing a second book, often that same author will have deadlines and also the fear of trying to live up to the expectations of their fans. They have to produce something better, faster, and under pressure. While some writers can rise to the challenge, many end up creating a product that isn’t as good.

The moral of this story

The lesson here is that failure is a vital part of learning to appreciate success and being able to replicate it going forward. For those who had a lucky break their first time at the bat and perhaps hit a home run, that doesn’t make them the best player on the team.

Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s the best teacher of experience you could ever have.


Hi everyone! Jodi here. I’ve been enjoying writing these little Friday tidbits for the past while and sharing my thoughts on life, the universe, and everything. But, like all good things, it’s time for a change. At the end of October, these Friday notes will shift exclusively to my newsletter and this blog will be dedicated to weekly book and movie reviews and the occasional important announcement.

Don’t miss out – join my newsletter today. You’ll get updates, freebies, links, and all sorts of fun stuff.

Book Review: The Fork, The Witch, and The Worm, by Christopher Paolini

The full title of this book is as follows (this is important later, so pay attention):

The Fork, The Witch, and the Worm: Tales from Alagaesia, volume 1: Eragon

Pretentious much? Not only does this title promise that there will be more of these, but from differing characters as well. This book is a tiny thing, especially when compared to the other Paolini books. It’s slightly bigger than my hand and the text and margins inside are both abnormally large. The publisher wanted this to look longer than it actually is. I don’t know about you, but that feels a lot like lying to the reader. Not cool.

The book itself looks for all the world like it should be a novel – meaning a single cohesive story. It’s not. I should have read the title closer where it said “tales” as that was the only hint that this book is actually an anthology. This makes lie #2 in my book. If you read the title page and acknowledgements, you learn that Paolini’s sister wrote the second of the three stories.

The Witch part of the story, “On the Nature of Stars,” is hers and her name isn’t mentioned anywhere on the cover. Rude.

Do I have strong feelings about this? Yes. Yes I do.

The Story…?

There are three distinct short stories within this book and each one is named in the title. The first, “A Fork in the Road,” centers around a young girl who has been bullied and ends up telling her story to a stranger enjoying the fire at her parent’s tavern. The stranger ends up being something more than he seems and gives the girl a fork while teaching her a lesson that even the littlest things can make a difference. It’s a nice little story and has one of the main cast of the Inheritance series playing the role of the stranger, which isn’t revealed until the end.

The witch part, “On the Nature of Stars,” is a bit stranger. It takes the characters of Angela the healer and Elva, the girl Eragon inadvertently cursed, and fills in a chunk of the story where they go off together. So … it’s fanfiction. We get to see Angela get her own point of view, which is a nice change, and we see an effort to make things better for Elva, which was something I always thought should have happened in the original story. This story is one of the better bits of the book. Well done, Angela Paolini. Yes, Christopher borrowed her name when he wrote the character of Angela the Healer initially. I find it almost too on the nose that Angela, the writer, chose to dive deeper into that character. But that’s just me.

Then, there’s “The Worm of Kulkaras” which the scene depicted on the cover. I had high hopes that this would be an awesome dragon story. And … it’s not. The story is about Ilgra, an Anointed Urgal (they are the one’s with horns) seeking revenge after a dragon killed her father then took up residence on the nearby mountain.

These three stories are connected by a narrative led by Eragon himself as he works to make Mount Arngor the new home for the surviving dragons and to protect their eggs. Each of these stories are presented to him to help him cope as he struggles with the pressures of leadership.

My Review

I wanted to love this, I really did. I wanted to be able to fall into the story, or stories as it were, and relive a taste of the larger story contained in the Inheritance Cycle. Instead, I found the forced construction of having Eragon trying to fit these three stories into his narrative uninspired and clunky. He starts the story overwhelmed and tired and being a bad leader because he can’t take a break. The random stories are forced on him to teach him how to be a better leader, kind of, and he feels magically better for having experienced each one, even though we don’t really see him internalize anything. In the end, he’s a calmer, happier person but hasn’t overcome anything major other than being bad at managing his own time.

As for the three stories, the one that captured my imagination the most was the one written by Angela. There is an otherworldly quality to the descriptions and how the story unfolds as we are seeing the world from a character who has always been a bit of a mystery. The writing is evocative, the danger and stakes meaningful, and the characters interesting.

The other two short stories didn’t leave much of an impression. The main character of “A Fork in the Road” is a whiny girl who was forced to do a mean thing out of peer pressure and lost a friend for it. From the start, this isn’t a story I’m super interested in. I was supposed to get some lovely magic and wonder and instead I got a story that teaches young people to be brave by winning a barfight with magic and a fork.

As for the dragon story. Sigh. I get what Paolini was trying to do by writing it in a new voice to match the storytelling cadence of the Urgals, but it was downright irritating. Each sentence followed the same construction of using a prepositional phrase before completing the thought.

Literally. Every. Single. Sentence.

Sidenote: When I was a younger writer, I thought that particular construction made the words feel more important and artsy and tended to use it far more than anyone should. Several years and multiple editors later, I’ve learned better.

That, and I felt cheated by the climax. The story spent way too long building up to one ending and then pulled a rabbit out of the hat by throwing in something the reader had no idea was a threat. There was some nice action there, but the main character gets cheated by not getting the thing they wanted or the thing they actually needed. What she got instead was for the dragon to not think she was nothing, which was never an explored theme of the story.

My Recommendations

If you love Paolini and were hoping for something that broadened his created universe, this might book will leave you frustrated. There’s just enough there to tease at a few cool possibilities of something, but it left me wanting. For those diehard fans, the places it connects with existing characters were nice, but not substantial and not nearly enough.

As for it being an interesting fantasy book, if you hadn’t read the other Eragon books, the interconnecting narrative doesn’t have enough substance to stand on its own and the short stories aren’t super compelling.

It’s clean and the violence is typical for a YA fantasy.

I give The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm 2/5 stars for failing me on so many levels but having a few nice bits of writing.

Taunting Karma

Remember how last week I was so wonderfully excited about the coming of fall and how I loved all of the cozy comforts of snuggling and cocoa? Yeah, I taunted karma, and she came after me with a stick.

I forgot it would be midterms for my kiddos this week.

With virtual school this is a whole new beast to figure out. Some teachers are doing great and it’s easy to figure out what their expectations are. For these classes, its easy to have confidence that we are doing what needs to be done to stay on target.

Then, there are a precious few teachers who are trying really hard to teach virtually, but haven’t mastered communicating, well, anything. My kids want to do a good job, and heaven knows I want them to do a good job. But for a few classes, we aren’t sure what that looks like.

That means that this week I get to spend lots of extra hours helping kids write essays, research topics, learn Spanish, take videos for virtual PE, and for my youngest, stay on his Zoom calls.

And karma wasn’t done at that.

Several important appointments also ended up being scheduled all this week. These are the kind of appointments that in a perfect world I’d schedule at least a week apart because they really stress me out. But at least they’re over now, right? It’s like ripping off a band-aid to do them all at once, right? Maybe. In this instance it feels like the stress is cumulative. Instead of suffering low grade stress for longer, I get to have massive stress spikes that feel like you need to scream but can’t because it would freak out your family, so you push it all way back down instead.

Because that’s super healthy.

Thanks Karma. I know I brought this on myself, but the irony of it all is amusing.


Hi everyone! Jodi here. I’ve been enjoying writing these little Friday tidbits for the past while and sharing my thoughts on life, the universe, and everything. But, like all good things, it’s time for a change. At the end of October, these Friday notes will shift exclusively to my newsletter and this blog will be dedicated to weekly book and movie reviews and the occasional important announcement.

Don’t miss out – join my newsletter today. You’ll get updates, freebies, links, and all sorts of fun stuff.

Throwback Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean, At World’s End

There’s nothing more redeeming to an okayish sequel than to get another chance and make a trilogy. For those keeping track, this is the third Pirate’s movie and the one where Jack Sparrow is stranded on the Bonneville Salt Flats, erm, I mean Davy Jones’ locker. We also visit the foreign and mysterious South China Sea and Chow Yun-fat. Yeah, I don’t know how they talked him into the movie either, but it works.

Behold, Davy Jones’ locker. If you squint, you can see the Wasatch Range in the background.

The Story

We left the second Pirate’s movie with several unresolved issues. Will still hadn’t saved his father like he’d vowed. Jack was eaten by a Kraken, which simply cannot be because he’s the reason we watch these movies. Barbossa continues to have an unhealthy interest in the Black Pearl and since Jack is interwoven into the Pearl’s fate, is still part of the story. Davy Jones corrupted himself and Flying Dutchman and it’s crew by not fulfilling his duty of escorting dead souls of those who died at sea to the afterlife. Elizabeth feels horrible guilt because she believes she’s responsible for Jack’s death – which she is. Shackling someone to a mast while a Kraken is attacking tends to do that.

Meanwhile Lord Cutler Beckett, the project manager of the East India Company, has angered pirates far and wide by executing anyone associated with piracy in all of the Caribbean – which is literally everyone. This compels the Brethern Court, consisting of the nine pirate lords of the sea, to convene and find a way to stop him.

The former crew of the Pearl, now under Barbossa and on a boat from the South China Sea, rescue Jack from Davy Jones’ locker in what can be only called a cinematic extravaganza of special effects. One of those is finding Jack and the Pearl in the otherworldly white expanse of Davy Jones’ locker. If you ever want to see it, simply head 40 min west of Salt Lake City on I-80. Bizarre place, the kids love it.

Back to the story, Jack is needed to cast a vote at the Brethern Court, as he’s the pirate lord of the Caribbean and never appointed a successor before getting mixed up in Davy Jones’ affairs. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Swann inadvertently becomes the pirate lord of the South China Sea. They, and the other pirate lords, argue about how to handle Beckett and after lots of dialogue choose to go to war. They believe they’ll win because they have Calypso to do their bidding. And…they’re wrong. It seems no one told her that her love, Davy Jones was the one responsible for trapping her in a human body in the first place.

She causes a maelstrom, another wickedly cool special effect which draws the two hero ships into it’s spiraling waters. A great sea battle ensues, lots of crazy happens, and at this point is where the spoilers will get me into trouble.

The cover for Keira Knightly’s new album (no, not really)

My Review

This is my second favorite pirates movie after The Curse of the Black Pearl. We see some incredible new places, I particularly love the visuals of entering the ice cave into the upside down world. Is this still a complicated Pirates movie? Yes. There’s a heck ton of different storylines happening and I still haven’t quite figured out what Jack’s deal was with Davy Jones that started this whole mess in the first place.

For being complicated, at least everything feels like it fits. We know what Beckett is up do thanks to the second movie, so having him expand this role and become an even greater threat makes sense. The new characters introduced served an important role and were woven into the stories of the characters we already knew, which is fairly important. It’s what makes a sequel not feel accidental.

The only really weird part that should have been given a lot more attention is the strange relationship between Jones and Calypso. If her anger was to become a key element of the climax, then it’s important for the audience to understand where it was coming from on a very relatable level.

Yes, that is Keith Richards.

Recommendations

This is a solid movie that’s easy to like. All our favorite characters return and do fun things. There is action and cool places and dramatic effects. Yes, there is complexity, but for the most part, all of it fits together. As with all the Pirates movies, this is not great for young audiences due to the violence, dramatic explosions, and the whole bit about Will having his heart cut out, which is thankfully off screen.

As for objectionable material, yes there is a bit of kissy kissy there at the end, but all clothes stay on and it’s fairly chaste. There isn’t any swearing and everyone keeps their clothes on, although apparently ample cleavage is now okay for Disney so proceed with caution if that makes you uncomfortable.

All-in-all it’s a fun adventurous romp.

I give Pirates of the Caribbean, At World’s End 4/5 solid campy goodness with only a few weak spots.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list and get a signup bonus of one of my short stories for free.

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Book Review: The Diabolic, by S. J. Kincaid

This book was recommended to me by a friend in the writing world when I told her what else I’d been reading and happened to mention my random foray into science fiction. She thought this would be a great fit as while The Diabolic is set in space, it’s more of a suspense thriller than anything else. Thanks DawnRay for the suggestion, it was certainly an entertaining read.

The Story

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a creature made to serve as a bodyguard for Sidonia, a galactic senator’s daughter. The two grow up together and have become close. Part of Nemesis’s creation process made her completely loyal to Sidonia to the point that Nemesis expects to give up her life to protect Sidonia.

Nemesis is given that chance when Sidonia’s father angers the Emperor by acting against the decree of the Galactic Court with his interest in science. As punishment, Sidonia is summoned to the court, a vast city-like space station called the Chrysanthemum. To protect Sidonia, Nemesis is altered to appear like Sidonia and is sent in her place.

It is there at the Chrysanthemum that Nemesis discovers not only that there is more to the ruling class of the galaxy, but more to herself as well.

My Review

This story has a super cool premise where the main character is not quite human but is forced to fit into a human world. She literally sees the world from an alien perspective knowing she’s different from everyone around her and therefore shouldn’t expect to be treated the same.

So, by forcing her to pretend she’s a human is quite possibly the most difficult thing that could be asked of her – a brilliant plotting choice. Everything from that moment forward encompasses that struggle of how to act “normal” when you feel so out of place, and that someone else’s life depends on how well you succeed.

Clearly, it doesn’t go well. Nemesis makes huge critical errors that put her in the spotlight in more ways than one. She not only draws the attention of those she’s trying to hide from, but she draws their hatred as well. It’s the opposite of what she was originally sent to do.

For a character who is supposed to be emotionless, this is an emotionally driven story which makes it all the more engaging. The settings created within the story are places that I would love to visit if they were real, including vast gardens with opulent salt baths and domes that reveal black endless space.

While it’s an exciting book, there are elements that as a writer I felt could be stronger. The settings were really cool but there were plenty of scenes where once the setting was established, there was no further mention of the character interacting with the space. There was also plenty of what we call “filter words” where instead of just showing the reader what was being seen or felt, it’s dumbed down by first saying “I looked,” or “I felt,” or “I tasted.” It’s a little thing, but it reminds the reader that they are in fact reading.

My recommendations

Yes, this is technically a YA adventure thriller. However, it’s hugely violent and there are some pretty graphic descriptions of people literally being torn apart. With the main character being a professional killing machine, this isn’t unexpected, but it’s enough that I feel it appropriate to warn off younger readers and leave this one to the older teens.

Within all of this is a pretty turbulent romantic subplot that never steps into anything more than a kiss, but there is plenty of teenage angst wrapped up all around this, so if you really can’t stand that, you’ve been warned.

As for language and swearing, I have the hardest time remembering specifics, especially when I listen to the story as an audiobook. Nothing shocked me, but I want to say there might have been some PG-13 swearing.

I give The Diabolic a 3.5/5 for having some fascinating worldbuilding and characters but also having way more political drama than I was expecting.


The Sixth Month of a Crisis

September 2020 marks the sixth month that the world has been forced to adapt to a new way of life. Congratulations for making it this far, it hasn’t been easy. We’ve learned new ways to stay safe and still get the things done that need doing. It seems natural that at this point we should be coping fairly well with the situation.

But, the reverse is true. For many, this month marks the hardest struggle so far. Everyone’s emotional batteries are drained, the gas tank of motivation has run dry, and no matter how hard we push, it seems like we can’t get any momentum. We are all tired.

This is a well-known phenomenon that happens at the sixth month of a crisis. It is at this point that our reserves that we’ve been slowly chipping away at, finally run out. The well of our ability to handle change finally dries up.

Fear not. There is some good news. While we all might hit our lowest points yet this month, we aren’t condemned to stay there. Within a few weeks, the fog lifts and the energy and drive to get stuff done returns.

For me, this sixth month mark happened at the same time as the kiddos starting virtual school. These first few weeks have been a challenge as we are learning how to handle teachers expectations and complete assignments. I thought my frustration and exhaustion was a direct result from feeling like I had too much to do and too little time.

It’s a relief to hear that it’s not all because of a shifting work load. At least not all of it. The amount of stuff that needed to be managed quadrupled overnight while I’m still stuck with the same 24 hours that everyone else has. But, there was a very real sensation that I was scraping the bottom of the barrel while trying to juggle cats at the same time.

I’m glad to know that at least part of this struggle comes from the fatigue of hitting the sixth month.

So if you’ve found that these last weeks have felt harder, you aren’t alone. Literally everyone will hit this low point. Give yourself some grace, allow yourself to take the time you need to rest and adapt, this low point won’t last forever.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list and get a signup bonus of one of my short stories for free.

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Throwback Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest

Another weekend means another Pirates of the Caribbean movie viewing as a family. In the years since I’d seen Dead Man’s Chest, I’d forgotten how long of movie it is. We had to watch it in two parts. All the same, it is a fun romp with lots of action.

The Story

Just like the first movie, Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest revolves around an object instead of a specific main character. You guessed it, it’s literally the dead man’s chest or rather, the chest that Davy Jones keeps his heart in.

It seems Captain Jack Sparrow made a deal with Davy Jones and now it’s time to pay. Jack will do anything, including barter with other people’s lives, to escape his fate — one hundred years of forced service before the mast of the the Flying Dutchmen. He drags Will into this, hoping that Davy Jones will take him as a replacement, and fails.

Desperate to find a way out, Jack consults with the voodoo priestess, Tia Dalma, who reveals that Davy Jones weakness is the chest where he has placed his heart to escape the pain of love gone wrong. Whoever has the heart controls Davy Jones. If you can control Davy Jones, you control the sea.

Lord Beckett knows this and wants to use the heart as leverage for the profit of the East India Company. He arrests Will and Elizabeth just before their wedding and manipulates Will to go after Jack’s enchanted compass – the tool he believes will lead him to the secret hiding place of the dead man’s chest.

This is where Will is stuck in a giant knot of issues. He’s trying to get the compass so he can barter for Elizabeth’s freedom. While he’s at it, Jack shanghais him on the Flying Dutchman where he discovers his long lost father is one of the cursed crew on Davy Jones ship and wants to free him. Now he must find a way to save them both and he has zero resources other than his own courage.

Of course, Elizabeth isn’t going to sit this one out. The second she’s freed from prison by her father, she forces Lord Barrett to give her the Letters of Marque meant to pardon the individual who holds them. She then sneaks onboard another ship and directs it to Tortuga with hopes of finding Jack. If she can find Jack, she can find Will. Instead she finds Norrington, the man she was meant to marry in the first movie. He’s lost his commission and standing in the navy and hit rock bottom. He reasons that if he finds the compass for Lord Beckett first, he might win his position back.

All these story lines crash back together at Isla Cruces, where the chest is buried. A brilliant three way sword fight breaks out between Will, Jack, and Norrington to determine who ends up with the heart.

Did I mention there’s also a kraken?

My Review

Dead Man’s Chest has all the elements we came to love in Curse of the Black Pearl. There are lots of pirates doing their morally grey best to get by. There are also pirates who are monsters as they are more sea creature than human. There is an object that everyone has to get their hands on but for very different reasons. And, there’s a love story of two people trying to protect each other, usually by attempting to sacrifice themselves instead.

It’s still fun, but it suffers from sequel syndrome. The elements we love are there, but they aren’t new and exciting anymore so they can’t shine as brightly as they did in the first movie. There are fewer surprises as we know what to expect from the different characters. The characters themselves are stuck in a position where it feels like they they don’t have an important internal lesson to learn and instead are trying to fix a situation.

While it’s entertaining, it doesn’t have the wow factor of the first. The kiddos still enjoyed it but weren’t as into it as before. And, like I said, it’s really long.

Recommendations

If you liked the first Pirates movie, you’ll like the second. Probably not quite as much, but all the good stuff is still there. There’s amazing settings, great costumes, characters doing their thing, and enough complexity and conflict to keep things interesting.

I’d say it’s still better for older kids than younger ones because of the whole sea creature monster pirate element as well as a very realistic heart being in that box. Add to that the kraken attack scenes, and there is quite a lot of intense violence. That, and because the story is fairly complicated, younger audiences might struggle to know what’s going on and why it matters. But, that said, there’s enough action and crazy things going on that they might not care.

I give Dead Man’s Chest 3 out of 5 stars for being entertaining, but not surprising.


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Fear is the Mind Killer

The new Dune is coming out and I’m both excited and worried. With such a huge universe and, dare I say, cult following, the production company can’t afford to screw this up. The trailer I saw looked awesome, so my hopes are up. Then again, my hopes were sky high about the new Mulan, and the reviews are all pretty bad.

I’m crossing my fingers anyway.

That’s not what I wanted to talk about. Today, I wanted to talk a bit about fear as it relates to anxiety and all those other pesky negative emotions. The subject’s been on my mind off and on for a while now. I’ve used the whole “fear is the mind killer” spiel as part of my Writer’s Block class. Fear and anxiety are often a symptom of a larger worry that’s preventing someone from reaching their creative goals, and just like in Dune, you have to face it and let it pass through you.

It’s easier said than done. I know. Boy, how I know.

I got to stare down one such fear this week when I took on a new project. It’s wasn’t that I didn’t have faith that I could do it. With enough time and research I definitely could. The fear that was staring back at me was that it was new and there were too many variables that I didn’t understand yet. I was afraid that even with my best effort I was going to miscalculate and end up wasting a lot of effort creating something that couldn’t be used.

For me, time is precious beyond belief. The only thing more precious than time is the energy to be able to use it well, which is a subject for another day.

This stupid set of fears not only made finishing this assignment that much harder, it totally stressed me out.

Part of me believes that I’m the only one who rides this emotional roller coaster far too often for my own good. This isn’t true, of course. There are hoards of people who constantly push their limits and do amazing things. The difference here is that no one gets to see all the fear and anxiety behind their success. The part of the discussion about the price of taking even the smallest steps forward is often missing and all we see is how easy that success seems

Fun fact: Getting hard things done is, well, hard.

The great thing about facing challenge and finding success is that the next time you have to face a similar challenge, it’s that much easier.

I’m all for easier.

With each stair conquered there are less stairs to climb to reach the top.

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