Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review: Digital SLR Video & Filmmaking for Dummies by John Carucci

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Title: Digital SLR Video & Filmmaking for Dummies
Author: John Carucci
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Paperback: 416 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Step-by-step guide for using your digital SLR to make quality videoWith digital SLR cameras becoming more and more popular as replacements for standalone video cameras, this book helps photographers become better videographers and shows videographers how to incorporate DSLRs into their work. The book includes an overview of the DSLR video tools and process and shows how to establish camera settings for effective capture, light a scene, get sound, and achieve the film look. The book also offers the basics on editing footage into a final product using common video editing tools. Offers everything needed to shoot, produce, and edit a professional looking videos using DSLR video equipment. Written for both professional photographers and videographers and those just starting out. Includes the steps for applying information to a film project, including developing a screenplay, approaching shooting like a cinematographer, and directing. Contains a walkthrough of common video projects including making a music video, and a wedding video.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

I begged my parents for DSLR specifically because of its capabilities to capture high-quality still images and high-quality video. So, when I saw this at BookExpo America last year, I made a point to pick it up. DSLR  Video & Filmmaking for Dummies is a user-friendly reference book brimming with helpful information to make any video a success. As an amateur who wants to try her hand at making videos with her new fancy camera, I found this book to be incredibly helpful.

Carucci gives a comprehensive overview of just what's involved with using a DSLR camera to make a video. For the most part, I read the book straight through and found it easy to follow along. The information is presented in a logical format, with straight-forward chapter titles and headings, so it's easy to guess which information is covered where. And he covers pretty much anything you need to know, from the basics on how to use the correct shutter speed to how to edit the video using Adobe Premiere Elements. I especially found the audio and lighting section helpful, since I don't really know what I need, or how to find the best equipment for my limited budget.

What impressed me the most was the fact that this book doesn't even just cover the technical aspects of shooting a movie on a particular type of camera -- there are also sections about how to plan a movie, which I found to be a huge bonus. Carucci goes over the basics of writing a script, making a shooting log, and putting together a schedule. I really think that there's something for everyone in here, and for amateurs, it contains pretty much all the basics that you'll need to know.

It's hard to say much more other than: This book covers all the basic information you need to make any type of video you ever want with your DSLR. Want to make that home video using your new fancy camera? Read this book. Want to take your book blogging to the next level by becoming a BookTuber, but you can only afford a DSLR for shooting your videos? Read this book. Want to make a short film on your DSLR? Read this book. There's a lot of good information in these pages, and I feel more confident in my abilities to make a video knowing that I'll have this on-hand to reference.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Review: Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel

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Title: Palace of Spies
Author: Sarah Zettel
Series: Palace of Spies, Book 1
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Hardcover: 368 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
A warning to all young ladies of delicate breeding who wish to embark upon lives of adventure: Don't. 
 Sixteen-year-old Peggy is a well-bred orphan who is coerced into posing as a lady in waiting at the palace of King George I. Life is grand, until Peggy starts to suspect that the girl she's impersonating might have been murdered. Unless Peggy can discover the truth, she might be doomed to the same terrible fate. But in a court of shadows and intrigue, anyone could be a spy—perhaps even the handsome young artist with whom Peggy is falling in love...

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

I'm a sucker for orphan stories, especially when they involve spying, intrigue, and Georgian fashion. Peggy is an orphan who is living in her uncle's house and is completely at his mercy. When he tries to force her to marry a man who assaulted her, she runs away and does the only thing she can think to do: accept the offer of a stranger who promises her freedom from her uncle. This lands her the job of impersonating a lady-in-waiting at the palace who mysteriously died a few months previous. Peggy has to find a balance between doing spy work for her benefactors and finding answers to her own questions about the woman she is pretending to be.

The beginning started off wonderfully, and Zettel shows the stark reality of Peggy's situation as an orphan. She has absolutely no status as a woman with no parents to protect her. We see this clearly when she is assaulted at a ball, and when her uncle insists that she marries her assaulter for his money. She is completely at the mercy of the men she comes into contact with, and though she runs away from the situation, she finds herself in the same place when she is put under the care of two men to impersonate a lady-in-waiting at the palace. Of course, that simply won't do for a young woman as independent and clever as Peggy, so she learns to take matters in her own hands, and she does it beautifully.

I can't think of anything better to say other than it was a fun read and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. It's funny and a bit silly at times, but Zettel throws in a bit of darkness so that the characters really shine in overcoming all the obstacles that are thrown at them. The spy/impersonation aspect keeps things lively, and I was certainly always in suspense as to whether or not Peggy would be revealed to be an impostor. Peggy is lovely, and the passive hostility between her and another lady-in-waiting perfectly parallels many female-rival conflicts I've seen play out in middle school and high school.

As with any story like this, I wasn't sold on the idea of a sixteen-year-old girl being able to turn into a master spy and impersonator within a few months without raising suspicion. Yes, Peggy is spirited and capable, but if the princess and the ladies-in-waiting are supposed to be as clever as they are described, it would be difficult for that sort of scheme to pass. Despite this, the story was fun and full of drama and intrigue, so I decided to not let myself dwell on how "realistic" this concept really is.

Palace of Spies is an exciting story, with plenty of twists, and characters who are fun to get to know. I am eagerly awaiting the second in the series to see what sort of crazy adventures Peggy gets into next.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

This is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating  

Pre-order from the Book Depository
Title: Skin Game
Author: Jim Butcher
Publisher: Roc
Series: The Dresden Files, Book 15
Expected Publication Date: 27 May 2014
Hardcover: 464 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day… 
Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful. 
He doesn’t know the half of it…. 
Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever. 
It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry. 
Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance… 
Why Skin Game?

I am woefully behind on this series, but it is SO good. It's one of the best blends of fantasy and magic with real life. Also, it's set in Chicago and living around the city while reading these stories adds a fun element to the reading experience. Regardless of where you're currently residing, though, Butcher is able to keep it funny while constructing rather dark, serious stories. I always look forward to another Dresden book.

What are you waiting for this Wednesday?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Announcement - Sync YA Starts in 1 Month!

It's almost that time of year again! During the summer, Sync YA offers free downloads of two audiobooks a week -- one YA paired with one classic. Over the past couple of years, I've been introduced to some amazing titles through this program. Here are a few of my favorites: (links on titles go to Goodreads)

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (My Review)
The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
Rotters by Daniel Kraus
She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith (My Review)

This year, there looks to be a great line-up once again. There's an Eoin Colfer title being offered right away, Code Name Verity is up for grabs later, and a new Anne of Green Gables recording just a week after that. If you're an audiobook lover, or want to try out this audiobook thing, you should definitely check it out! There's not much risk to you, since they are being offered for FREE! Once this program gets started, I'll be posting weekly reminders for all of you to download these titles.

Start date: May 15

Click here to see the schedule of books being offered this year.