The Time Travelers (Gideon Trilogy #1) Book Review

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  • Star Rating: 4 out of 5
  • Kids: Yes!  This is a kids book, anyway.
  • Do I recommend it? Yes!  I love this story!  But, like Eragon (the Inheritance cycle), I don’t know if the series continues well.  I’ll update when I get there.

Part I: For y’all who have yet to read it

This is another book Ana was hooked on first.  My curiosity got the better of me, and once I picked it up, I could not put it down.  The author has an intriguing story and she presents it very well.  There’s enough mystery to pull the reader in, but not too much that it leaves the reader in the dust (which is what happened when I accidentally started with the wrong book of The 39 Clues).

The one major problem for me is that Mrs. Buckley-Archer cannot pick a POV (Point Of View)!  Oh my goodness, the POV changed so randomly.  First we’re inside Peter’s head, then Kate’s, then back to Peter for half a chapter, and then we’re with Gideon for a paragraph!

Peter, the main character who’s 12, is a bit of a brat, but it makes for a fun unfolding of a friendship.  Kate comes from a more traditional family, which is nice for a change in young people’s literature.  I love Gideon’s character (more on that in Part II).  We see parts of the villains’ backstories.  They are dreadful; they broke my heart.  Consider yourself warned.

The majority of the book takes place in 18th-century London.  It’s not too violent, but it is historically accurate (think crowds gathering for hanging, guns, and a fist or several).

Last warning:  You will want to read the next book!  Go ahead and buy the next one so it’s ready!

Part II: Some random analyses, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!

The characters were all well-developed.  There isn’t much of an arc with most of them yet, but there are two more books coming.  I really like how the book mainly focused on what Peter and Kate were experiencing, but how we know that the story is really going to be about Gideon.  For the record, Gideon is officially added to my mental book heart throb list.  He also had a dreadful backstory.  It’s interesting how both Gideon and the Tar Man both had such terrible childhoods, and how each came out of it.  Gideon, though he got into some trouble, has a great heart.  The Tar Man doesn’t know mercy.

The scene that Gideon, Peter, and Kate rescue the others from the highwaymen was interesting, especially regarding how Gideon presented his plan.  Gideon spoke so matter-of-factly, like there was no doubt the God of ancient Gideon really delivered the Midianites into his hands.  Then, the Parson used a scare-you-out-of-hell sermon on his captors.  Both I’d bet are historically accurate.  Add onto this how the Parson responds to one of them as he’s escaping.  The Parson did not show the love of Jesus at all, also accurate in the religious setting of the 1700s.

I could do a much better job of explaining how a phone works to Gideon than Peter did!  Just leaving that out there.

I wish that there was some more explanation to how this touching the king worked.  We got the information we needed but I don’t know how this king’s evil will go away.  Next book?

I did not see the ending coming!  I knew that the Tar Man made it to modern day, but I didn’t know that Peter would not make it.  It was annoying that he didn’t make it because of a sentimental hug, but I’m glad he’s flying with Gideon.  I can’t wait until I can get my hands on The Time Thief!

Photo cred:
http://www.amazon.com/Time-Travelers-Gideon-Trilogy-Book/dp/1416915265

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens Review

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens Review

The Force Awakens

  • My star rating: 5 of 5
  • Kids? Yes, but it contains violence (not much worse than the earlier films)
  • Do I recommend it? Yes!

Part I: A story

This was me this year.

counting-down-to-star-wars

I was SO excited for this movie.  Star Wars pretty much runs in my family.  My uncle is one of those (awesome) nerds who owns a “Revenge of the Jedi” poster.  My dad tells me how he and his brother waited in a line around the building to watch Empire Strikes Back with surround sound (a cool, new thing back then).  My mom saw The Phantom Menace while pregnant with me.

Who am I kidding?  I am still so excited for this movie!  I’m the second-generation Star Wars fanatic.

So we find out that our long-awaited-for Disney cruise vacation (more articles on this to come) falls on the premiere night for The Force Awakens.  We read that typically Disney cruises showed movies that were in theaters and/or to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray.  We (my mom and I) did all sorts of internet searching to find out if The Force Awakens would be shown on the ship.  If it wouldn’t be showing, I needed to buy tickets!  My mom called Disney, but received an automated message.  Finally, about two weeks before we embarked, we read on a DISboard (a Disney forum website) that someone as obsessed as us had emailed Disney and had received a yes: The Force Awakens would indeed premiere on the ship!

Once on the cruise, we learned that they were prepared.  There were lots of Disney Cruise line/Star Wars souvenirs.  All of the crew/cast members were getting ready (As the animation class instructor put it, “We’re having ten hours of meetings for a two hour movie!”).  There would be five showings: two in 3D, three in 2D, including one at 5:15AM!

Voyage Through the Galaxy

We had the early dinner seating, which was moved to 5:15pm (rather than the normal 5:45).  We skipped dessert, and headed up two decks to join the growing line of excited Star Wars fans.  We opted to watch it in 2D because we suspected more people would go for the 3D and because Mom and some of the girls were apprehensive about the motion of the 3D while on the ship.

At about 6:40 the doors of the Buena Vista Theater opened, and at 7:15 exactly, the LucasFilm logo appeared on the screen.  The theater went crazy when STAR WARS started sliding backwards.

Before Disney bought LucasFilm, I’d sometimes ask my parents, “What was it like to see ‘STAR WARS’ appear on the big screen for the first time?”  Now I know.

I had to pee for an hour and a half during the movie.  I was not going to miss a single second of the greatest movie of the decade, maybe of the century.  As soon as the director’s credit appeared, I shot out directly toward our stateroom.  Let us hope that they stuck to tradition rather than the Marvel trend of after-credit scenes.

After the movie (and using the restroom), I felt like I could do anything.  On the drive home the next day, despite the break we took in South Carolina for Papi to fix the van, I was in a fantastic mood.  “How are you doing?” people would ask me to be polite. “Awesome! I just saw Star Wars!”

Star Wars VII - The Force Awakens review and Disney Cruise story

Part II: A short spoiler-free review

Like I said, I’m a second-generation Star Wars fan, so I was raised on the prequels as equally as the originals.  The Force Awakens doesn’t leave story of the prequels, but it’s definitely more reminiscent of the originals.  Some say it was too reminiscent, but I liked it.

The acting was great.  The new guys (Finn, Poe, and Rey) are going to do well holding up the franchise in their own, new, ways.

If you can afford it, see it now!  The theater offered some cool force sound effects that I don’t think will deliver the same effect my home TV does.  Also, how long are you going to be able to avoid spoilers?

Speaking of which…

Part III: STOP SCROLLING AND GO PLAY MINECRAFT.  DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN IT YET.  Spoilers ahead!

Continue reading “Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens Review”

Why A Muppet Christmas Carol Is the Best Christmas Carol Ever

It seems that everyone has their own version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

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The classic from 1951
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A Christmas Carol starring Mickey (Bob Cratchit), Donald (Scrooge’s nephew Fred), and Goofy (Jacob Marley)
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That weird one where Jim Carrey was everybody
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Barbie’s was one of the worst

But the Muppets’ is the best A Christmas Carol.  When you pop a version of Dickens’s story into your DVD (or VHS if you’re cool) player, pick this one. Here’s why:

Gonzo quotes straight from Charles Dickens.
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Gonzo plays Charles Dickens (Rizzo plays himself), and not only does he tell the story, but he quotes so much from the book!  Other Muppets and Scrooge quote as well.  This movie isn’t just filmmakers telling a story from memory, but filmmakers striving to tell Dickens’s story.

The villagers
The Muppets do such a great job living with humans, and the humans do a great job living with Muppets.  It’s like that’s the way the world was made.  Below are three of my favorite villager moments.
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Exhibit A: The Baby Band during “It Feels Like Christmas”.  Check out the beginning of it here on Youtube.  Watch the two babies on the right in the front row, and you’ll see what I mean.

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Exhibit B: The classic singing vegetables. “If he could be a flavor you can bet it would be sour!”

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Exhibit C: The carolers. “He must be so lonely, he must be so sad, he’s really a victim of fear and of crime, look close and there must be a sweet man insiiiiiiiiide!  NAH!”

Heatwave
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“How would the bookkeepers like to suddenly be UNEMPLOYED?!”
“Heatwave!  This is my island in the sun!”
I’ve seen the movie a dozen times, but this part still makes me laugh.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
muppet
He’s super scary, but he doesn’t infiltrate your nightmares (like Jim Carrey’s).  He’s the best Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in A Christmas Carol‘s movie history.  He’s creepy and dark, but not downright evil (like Pete in Mickey’s).

Why do you think (or not think) that the Muppets have the best A Christmas Carol?

the-muppet-christmas-carol-poster

Photo cred:
Classic – http://derekwinnert.com/scrooge-1951-classic-film-review-552/
Mickey’s – http://amdoar18ani.ro/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/mickeys-christmas-carol-10.jpg
Jim Carrey – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kihm2da45sE
Barbie – http://www.amazon.com/Barbie-Christmas-Carol-Kelly-Sheridan/dp/B001B7CNZQ
Gonzo – https://www.pinterest.com/pin/552042866797617145/
Baby Band – https://muppetmindset.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/weekly-muppet-wednesdays-bobby-benson/
Vegetables – http://blogs.disney.com/oh-my-disney/2014/12/23/the-muppet-christmas-carol-is-the-gift-that-keeps-on-giving/
Heatwave – http://muppets.disney.com/muppets-most-wanted

Eragon Book Review

eragon_novel

  • Star Rating: 4.5 of 5
  • Kids: Yes, if their reading comprehension can take on this length
  • Do I recommend it? Yes, but I haven’t read the rest of the series yet.

**Update: I have continued to read the series, and I do not recommend the series as a whole.  The books go steadily, but drastically, downhill from here.**

Part I:  for y’all who have yet to read it

My sister Ana (my twin-not-twin) had read Eragon a few weeks before, and she was hooked.  So I finally I had to pick it up myself.

I, too, was hooked.  All of my free time went into finding out what happened next.  The ending was satisfactory (I can’t say anything more here), and I still wanted to read the next one (Eldest).

Now, I did not like the way the love interest was handled.  When I found out that Eragon was written by a teenage guy, Christopher Paolini, I was shocked.  The story is fantastic; I expected it to come from a old guy (just being honest).  However, when it came to the “love interest”, the author’s youth made sense.  Not only was the “love” not true love, but I don’t think that it’s good enough to be compared with chick flicks’ idea of love.

Paolini was obviously inspired by Tolkien.  The way the different races (dwarf, elf, etc.), the land, and the history are portrayed screams The Lord of the Rings.  Yet, Paolini writes like any modern author.  Eragon isn’t like The Lord of the Rings, don’t get me wrong, I just see the inspiration (Aragorn > Eragon).  Eragon is fast-paced and travels deep into the main character’s thoughts just like any modern novel.

Part II:  Some random analyses, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! 

Saphira is my favorite.  I loved getting to know the dragon.  She is fantastic.  I thought it was rather obvious that she would get to breathe fire during the climax, but it was cool nonetheless, with the Isidar Mithrim shattering and all.  I loved watching her and Eragon’s relationship grow.

I also really like Eragon’s family.  He’s an orphan, but he doesn’t live a rotten life like Annie or the like.  Garrow and Roran are rather normal.  They have great strengths along with faults.

Whenever a major character dies, I analyze the death to see how it contributed to the story.  I’ve found that many authors kill characters because they think they should or because they enjoy it.  Garrow’s death was done well.  His death really added to the plot and kept the story moving.  Without his death, there’d been no need to revenge it and go after the Ra’zac with Brom.  Paolini made a good choice, even though killing parents is becoming rather cliché.

Murtagh was an interesting character.  I had a lot of trouble understanding him.  As I’m reading through the rest of the Inheritance cycle, Murtagh grows even more interesting and I’m figuring out how he works.

As Ana originally pointed out to me, Eragon loses consciousness a lot.  It’s a bit annoying, but I don’t see much of a way around it.  Any ideas (answer in the comments)?  It’s about as annoying as the first couple of Harry Potter books.

What did you think of Eragon?  Answer in the comments!  Please don’t release spoilers without warning.

Counted Worthy Book Review

  • Star Rating: 4.5 of 5
  • Kids: No, but it depends on the maturity of the child. I do recommend it for teens, but be aware that there are some heavy death themes.
  • Do I recommend it? Yes.

Part I:  for y’all who have yet to read it

I decided to read Counted Worthy by Leah E. Good because I saw on therebelution.com where Brett Harris, co-author of Do Hard Things, recommended it. Do Hard Things changed my perspective on the rest of my teenage years, and my life as a whole.  Those of you who have read it can see the Harris brothers’ ideas all over my blog.  It’s like a Thomas Jefferson/John Locke relationship. I’m Jefferson and the Harris brothers are Locke: they inspired a lot of my thinking.

Counted Worthy is a great book.  I think it’s a good read for anybody, but especially Christian teens.  This isn’t an A-B-Cs of the gospel presentation; its primary audience is young people of the church.  It’s kind of like the film War Room.  While anyone could get something out of it, its primary audience is the church (Priscilla Shirer commanding the enemy’s presence out of her home isn’t what we typically jump onto unbelievers).

Those who are extra-sensitive need to be aware that it is an emotional story.  I didn’t cry because I’m not an emotional gal, but had I been, I would’ve caused a flood.  Leah Good does a FANTASTIC job with character developments and character arcs, which means that the intense emotions Heather (the main character) feels, feel real to the reader.

I’ve found that much of young adult literature written today isn’t wholesome or helpful.  It seems that many authors think that if the story is exciting or romantic, no matter  what the story line is, it’s good enough for teens to read.  Leah Good has written a solid book for teens.  It is exciting, but it also builds us up for our lives when we’re not reading.  Support quality Christian literature by reading Counted Worthy.

Part II: Some deeper analyzations (there will be spoilers)

Heather’s character was deep, consistent, and fairly realistic.  Inconsistent characters are my biggest pet peeve when reading books, and knowing that Good was a young author, I was extra critical.  She did a phenomenal job.  Heather’s arc about coming to peace with her mom’s death was executed excellently.  Heather’s arc about her place in society was also written fantastically, but it was slightly unfinished.

Counted Worthy doesn’t need a sequel, but the door was left WIDE open for one.  I saw this jewel on the Rebelution’s site:

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Whoo hoo!  That’s exciting!  I’m already looking forward to reading it!

Back to a review on what’s currently published:

Bryce was another well-written character.  We, the as the readers with Heather, were able to see both sides of him, yet I feel like there’s more I could learn!  His consistent mannerisms and quirks added to his loveable-ness.

I appreciated Heather and Bryce’s relationship.  It’s unrealistic to have two teenagers of opposite genders to have a close friendship without affection.  On the other hand, I don’t want to read a mushy “love” story.  Leah Good did an excellent job of showing the “affections” (for lack of a better word) Heather had for Bryce (and vice-versa) without diving into the dating game or drama.

Miss Lucy was yet another character who really showed Good’s skill at character creating.  The supporting cast were all well-crafted.  They blended together to represent the church, the government, or the slums, but they were also individuals with individual personalities.

I was confused for a while at the setting of the book.  Good did a great job of not being too descriptive and letting the story unfold slowly, but I needed a little more toward the beginning.  The opening scene of book-sorting sufficed for a little while, so I really shouldn’t complain.

Heather’s dad’s death was traumatic.  Part of me wanted to say that Good shouldn’t have gone that route, but upon further consideration, I realized that it was essential.  We, as the readers, lived what the population saw on television that started the next war.  We lived the completion of Heather’s character arc.  Then afterward, Good didn’t dwell in that devastation.  She picked back up two days later and went straight to hope.

Counted Worthy Book Review @ Unreached by the Frost

Counted Worthy on Amazon graphic and other Counted Worthy graphics from http://therebelution.com/blog/2014/11/introducing-counted-worthy-a-novel-by-leah-good/#.VjaFoPmrTIX

Prince of Egypt Movie Review

  • Star Rating: 5 of 5
  • Kids: Yes, but be prepared for the slavery and angel of death scenes
  • Do I recommend it? YES YES YES!

The Prince of Egypt is one of the best animated musicals ever made.

Ever.

I’m pretty skeptical of any non-Disney film, especially DreamWorks-produced films, especially ones made before I was old enough to be skeptical.  But Prince of Egypt blows me away, even more so the more I watch it.

The opening musical number with the people crying out “deliver us”?  Oh!  So good!  I mean, NOT good that a nation is crying out, but good in telling the story via song.

If you can’t tell already, I like stories.  I really like stories sung.  “Through Heaven’s Eyes” and “When You Believe” are my other favorites.

Seriously, y’all.  The last time I watched this, my sisters and I were snuggled up all comfy on our individual couch spaces.  But when Tzipporah and Miriam transition the sorrow to the joy of freedom in “When You Believe”, I just HAD to stand up.  Too many butterflies were flying inside me.  My sister Ana soon joined me.  It was so beautiful, intense… a story told well.  Here’s a good article on the writing of “When You Believe”: When You Believe. This article also explains what the kids sing during their chorus (so cool!)

Prince of Egypt is based off of the true Moses story, obviously.  I mean, it states so at the beginning of the movie… for the most part.

Yes, historical and artistic license has been taken, but I agree with that the film retains the essence of the story: God delivered His people from slavery.

The relationships developed in Moses’s 40 years as the Prince of Egypt aren’t told in Exodus.  It causes me to think when I watch the movie.  I’m reminded that Moses was a real person, he’s not just this bearded face on a Sunday School classroom wall.

Patterns of Evidence: Exodus, a documentary I found on Netflix, and Unwrapping the Pharaohs, a book by John Ashton and David Down, taught me a lot about Egyptian archaeology.  They both get a little too technical for me, but I still found the matching of Biblical and Egyptian timelines interesting.  Contrary to popular belief, more recent evidence has pointed to the fact that Ramses was probably NOT the pharaoh who Moses and Aaron dealt with.  I still enjoy watching Ramses’s character in Prince of Egypt.  This is just some random knowledge I’ve picked up. 🙂

I go back and forth on the burning bush scene.  Here I’ll write about the two things I don’t change my mind about.  One is about Moses taking off his sandal because he’s on holy ground. It’s so cool!  “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)  The second is about when God proclaims who He is.  It’s what really happened!  SO cool!  God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you’.” (Exodus 3:14)

The angel of death scene is an interesting take.  But hey, it lines up with the (limited) information Scripture gives.  Exodus doesn’t say what the angel looked like, but it says what happened.  The Israelites did put blood on their doors and every Egyptian firstborn died.  The movie portrayed both.

The “Playing with the Big Boys” sequence was also rather scary.  The Egyptian priests dealt with some scary stuff.  But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. (Exodus 7:22)  And just as it was portrayed in the movie, our God is bigger.

There y’all have it, a bunch of random Prince of Egypt thoughts.  Overall, one of the best musicals in the history of musicals.   Remember, don’t just take this movie for granted.  Go read where the story came from.  Read about its context.

Prince of Egypt @ Unreached by the Frost

AWESOME movie poster!  SO. COOL.  “The Time Is Now.”  AAAAAAAH!  Too. Awesome. For. My. Limited. Vocabulary!!!!

Screenshots photo cred:
Disclaimer: https://thimblerigsark.wordpress.com/2014/02/
Deliver Us: http://www.cornel1801.com/animated/Prince-of-Egypt-1998/Deliver-Us/videosong.html
When You Believe: http://kingofthewilderwest.tumblr.com/post/105891372557/the-music-of-when-you-believe
Playing with the Big Boys: http://imageck.com/121834285-the-prince-of-egypt-playing-with-big-boys-now.html
Poster: http://www.impawards.com/1998/prince_of_egypt_ver2_xlg.html

Strong Female Character Costumes

Strong Female characters are quite the trend today.  The public wants less kind and sweet Snow White and Cinderella types, and more Black Widow and Katniss Everdeen kick-butt, cool-story types.

A while back, I read this good article about character development for strong female characters: Strong Female Characters.  You can read about the way newer strong female characters fit into the stories there, because that’s not what I’m here to write about today.

I recently watched Avengers: Age of Ultron with my sisters (skip the rest of this paragraph if you haven’t seen it yet).  I enjoyed the film overall.  I haven’t read any of the comic books, so I really like Hawkeye’s family life twist.  The scene where the characters take turns trying to lift Mjölnir is one of my favorite movie scenes ever.  The scariest part for me wasn’t during the action scenes, but was when the new Vision guy held Thor’s hammer.

(You can come back now, no more spoilers.)  Black Widow and Scarlet Witch both fit into this “strong female character” category without being just cookie cutter molds.  They both have their own terrible backstory and have individual struggles as a result.  They each have super cool robot/alien fighting skills.

So why do they dress like this?

These costumes don’t give the independent impression at all.  They don’t tell us that these women stand up for themselves and that they don’t rely on others’ affections.  These outfits cry, “Look at me!”

Not only do these outfits disagree with their characters, but they’re impractical.  If I were to go into a high-intensity, super-dangerous situation like the ones these girls face, I wouldn’t wear a tight suit.  It could rip when shattering glass flies, or when I kick too high.  I’d put on as many layers as comfortable in hopes of impact protection, especially in a rather cold country in Eastern Europe.

These aren’t the only strong female characters that dress like this.  I’m just using them as my example.

I like J.R.R. Tolkien’s strong female characters.  The Middle Earth ladies, particularly Galadriel and Éowyn, exhibit dignity and respect.  Galadriel is married and Éowyn marries, but they both stand on their own.  And their costumes tell that story in Peter Jackson’s movies.

Eowyn

Éowyn has a rather tragic back story.  Her father and mother are dead, and her uncle, the king of Rohan, is possessed.  She has always lived under the shadow of her brother Éomer.  When the time comes, Éowyn is the one who kills the Nazgûl.  Yet, she wears a modest (and gorgeous) dress.  When she goes to battle, Éowyn goes all Disney-Mulan and dons the armor she finds.

Galadriel

Galadriel is the fairest of the elves living in Middle Earth.  She has powers strong enough to keep Sauron and his armies away from Lórien, the land she rules with her husband.  She is the Lady of Light, which her costume radiates.  It is as pure as she is.  Her dress is gentle, but not plain.  Galadriel and her dress speak the same message.

I’m not much of a fashion designer, but I love stories.  Clothing is a part of the story telling.  Right now I’m wearing jeans and a T-shirt.  I have a watch on my left wrist, and I threw a clip in my hair to keep it out of my face (my mom called it the ‘messy clip look’). You can’t tell my entire life story from it, but you can tell a few things about me.  You can see I like being productive, and that I don’t think through too much about what I wear on a normal day.

What does your clothing say?  It doesn’t need tell everything about you, but it shouldn’t contradict your story either.  Proverbs 31:23 says that the godly woman is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.  Do your clothes shout for attention from guys or do your clothes whisper confidence?

Strong Female Characters @ Unreached by the Frost

Photo cred:
Scarlet Witch: https://blog.adafruit.com/2015/05/05/assembling-an-avengers-age-of-ultron-scarlet-witch-costume/
Galadriel: http://peter-jacksons-the-hobbit.wikia.com/wiki/File:Galadriel_poster.jpg
Éowyn: http://www.zazzle.com/eowyn_with_sword_poster-228050378804375500