What 2014 Has In Store


Happy new year, merry late Christmas, happy really late Thanksgiving, and happy super late Halloween. Yeah, I’ve been kind of disappearing when it comes to blogging recently, but I just haven’t had the time to get on posting when I start having the craving to make comics and I have to get my creativity flowing and it just takes a while. Luckily, I’m back in time for the break of 2014, and let’s see what it has to offer.

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Let’s look at some movies.

  • Ride Along - What you’d get if you took Friday, turned it into another cheesy action comedy, and replaced Chris Tucker with Kevin Hart. (1/17/14)
  • I, Frankenstein - Rebooting the story of Frankenstein for a new generation, and now we have Harvey Dent as Frankenstein. (1/24/14)
  • The Lego Movie - You don’t need to check your monitor, this actually exists. And the trailer looks surprisingly epic. And the roster is pretty impressive–if you consider Channing Tatum, Will Ferrell, and Jonah Hill to collectively be “impressive”. (2/7/14)
  • Muppets Most Wanted - The Muppets go touring in Europe, and the most wanted criminal in the world happens to look just like Kermit. You can connect the dots. (3/21/14)
  • Divergent - The movie of the book. It’s the future, Chicago is split into five factions, Tris takes a test, she doesn’t fit into a faction cuz she’s Divergent, she discovers something sinister happening in her utopian society, blah blah blah. It has a budget bigger than that of The Hunger Games, so it better be worth its hype. (3/21/14)
  • Noah - Basically, when God was unsatisfied with the world and tried to bring apocalypse to it and Noah built that ark for all that animals: the movie. Just as it was told in the Bible. Oh, and Emma Watson shows up. (3/28/14)
  • Rio 2 - Apparently people liked that movie, and it looks like the same movie except it’s in the Amazon and we learn that Jewel has a dad and–incoming narrative hook–his habitat is in danger! “Le gasp” indeed. (4/11/14)
  • The Amazing Spider Man 2 - Electro and the Rhino. The only new things about this sequel. (5/2/14)
  • Legend of Oz: Dorothy’s Return - This movie tries to add something new to something that’s already perfect. Five new characters (a giant talking marshmallow, a china doll, a “tree-turned tugboat”, and an owl), and the biggest threat is that some Jester is going to turn iconic Ozzians (that’s what it’s called right?) into marionettes. Really? (5/9/14)
  • Godzilla - Finally, something that looks good. Godzilla ’98 was the Razzie-winning black sheep of the series (the only thing it got right was its visuals, and I think they screwed even that up), but luckily this cream looks big enough and strong enough to cover that nasty zit. Anyway, this movie is Godzilla vs. malevolent creatures “bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance”. Does this mean another Pacific Rim, or is this a metaphor saying that it’s Godzilla vs the real monsters–us? (5/16/14, which is two months earlier than Japan. Oh, the irony.)
  • Maleficent - A Sleeping Beauty prequel-reboot combo through the eyes of the bad guy. This is new. And what’s this, they cast Angelina Jolie as Maleficent? And what’s this…they made Sleeping Beauty a teenager? Uh… (5/30/14)
  • The Fault In Our Stars - The classic love story between a teen girl with thyroid cancer and an ex-basketball player who lost his right leg to osteosarcoma gets adapted to the big screen. It’s a freaking maple tree, it looks so sappy. (6/6/14)
  • How To Train Your Dragon 2 - I didn’t know you could Neville Longbottom so much in four years. (That’s right, it’s a verb now describing drastic changes in courage and heroism over time.) Anyway, Hiccup took a few levels in badbutt and new adventures with him and Toothless await. (6/13/14)
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction - It’s an entirely new arc and it stars an entirely new cast, so can you blame me for throwing it under the bus immediately? If it grosses over a billion, I will lose faith in the sci-fi action genre forever. (6/27/14)
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Caesar and his boys vs. the survivors of the virus. The prize? Supremacy as the dominant species of the world. (7/11/14)
  • The Boxtrolls - From the guys who brought you those scary stop-motion movies (Paranorman and Coraline) comes another seemingly-not-scary stop-motion movie where underground trash collectors called Boxtrolls who raised an orphan who now has to save them from an exterminator. What. (9/26/14)
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - I don’t even have to explain this. If you said you didn’t read that book as a kid, I wouldn’t believe you for a second. (10/10/14)
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 - Katniss leads the districts in a rebellion against the Capitol and has to make a lot of crucial decisions as the war of fate escalates quickly with horrific consequences. (11/21/14)
  • Home - I can’t believe what I’m about to type. They made a movie on The True Meaning of Smekday with Sheldon Cooper, Rihanna, Steve Martin, and they even got J.Lo! No, the real J.Lo! Words cannot express my elation. (11/26/14)
  • Exodus - Basically when all the Jews left Egypt and Moses led them: the movie. Just as recalled in the Bible (or The Prince of Egypt). In this case, all the Jews leave Egypt and Christian Bale leads them. Uh… (12/12/14)
  • The Hobbit: There and Back Again - Didn’t think the end of the Bilbo arc would be so near, would it? (12/17/14)

Most anticipatedHome (Mockingjay P1 was a close second)

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Now, some video games.

  • Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition - Basically Tomb Raider for next-gen consoles. (1/28/14; PS4, XBO)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z - 2012′s DBZ for Kinect was an embarrassment to the game series, so Namco Bandai wants to try to redeem themselves. If you liked Zenkai Battle Royale, the game mechanics aren’t too different. With a redundant name like that, it could very much be digging its own grave.  (1/28/14; PS3, X360, Vita)
  • Lighting Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - This game picks up where XIII-2 left off and ties up the loose ends of XIII‘s story, part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries later to feature the mobile Agito as well as FFXV. (2/11/14; PS3, X360)
  • Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare - This is the strangest art shift I’ve ever seen in anything. Looks to be an interesting shooter. (2/18/14; XBO, X360)
  • Thief - Master thief Garrett popularized the stealth genre just as well as Solid Snake could, and now he’s getting a reboot. However, it risks mimicking the already successful Dishonored, so let’s hope it has some fresh tricks up their sleeve. (2/25/14; PC, PS3, PS4, X360, XBO)
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth South Park has already made a huge mark on American animated television, helping codify the raunchy, off-color adult humor that we see in most animated sitcoms. Among many people, I first got a taste of the game via Game Informer, and it seems to be the RPG of the year…if it doesn’t get delayed again. (3/4/14; PC, PS3, X360)
  • Titanfall - Fast-paced action, cloud services, and robots. It’s not surprising that the game had a huge splash at E3 and won sixty awards at the show! People are already saying it’ll be the next big landmark in the FPS genre, and be the secret weapon for the One. Wait…it’s multiplayer-only? Uh… (3/11/14; PC, X360, XBO)
  • Dark Souls II - Dark Souls did pretty good a couple years ago, and this sequel appears to be just as hard. The game boasts a juicier graphics engine and better AI, and it might not even have an easy mode. So if you don’t like hard games, step away. But if you like challenges, be my guest.  (3/11/14; PC, PS3, X360)
  • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes - To hold you off until Phantom Pain, Konami has the first half of the MGSV arc for you. This picks up where Peace Walker left off, chronologically one year later and nine years before Phantom Pain. (3/18/14; PS3, PS4, X360, XBO)
  • Infamous: Second Son - The One has Killer Instinct, and the PS4′s trying to combat that with the new Infamous, with a new character and new twists on old powers. (3/21/14; PS4)
  • Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Apparently now Diablo‘s getting into the expansion pack game like Warcraft, and here’s the first of what could be a plentiful add-on series. (3/25/14; PC, Mac, PS4)
  • Destiny - Bungie’s first post-Halo game, and my most anticipated game of the year. (Plus it’s on 360, so there’s non need to upgrade!) A prosperous period of advancement has screeched to a halt with the Collapse, after which mankind could face extinction. You are one of the survivors, the Guardians of the City, and you must protect the little remains of humanity from demolition. (9/9/14; X360, XBO, PS3, PS4)
  • Sunset Overdrive - The game’s bouncy visuals and enthralling gameplay put it really high on my most-anticipated list–actually, it’s bested only by Destiny. It’s like Viewtiful Joe in 3D as a shooter. There’s gonna be ziplines and wall-running and even some acrobatics, so I expect some Mirror’s Edge thrown in the puree as well. It’s also gonna be using Microsoft’s cloud services a lot, but I’m not a cloud gamer. Still excited. (sometime; XBO)
  • The Sims 4 The Sims 3 and its umpteen expansion packs was one of the defining parts of my childhood, so I expect The Sims 4 to be way better. The PC sales of the past three games have been staggering, and I expect nothing less than true brilliance, whether it be better graphics or better mechanics. However, you do need an account on Origin (think EA’s take on Steam) and Internet access as the game initially installs. Kind of chips at my hopes, but it still looks awesome. (Q3/Q4; PC, Mac)
  • Watch Dogs - I’ve heard about this game for a while, and my thoughts of it have whittled down to “Dishonored with a hacker and none of the cool super powers.” There’s also some parkour promised to show up, and some cover-based TPS stuff too (Hitman much?). And for a game that has five collector’s editions (special, Vigilante, Uplay Exclusive, Limited, and Dedsec), it seems like it’ll match the hype pretty well. (Q2; PC, PS3, PS4, WiiU, X360, XBO)

Most anticipatedDestiny (Sunset Overdrive was a close second)

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Now, some upcoming books.

  • Hollow City by Ransom Riggs - In the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Jacob and his Welsh homies go to London where all those creepy children are at. Miss P’s bro Caul is able to steal the kids’ “abilities”. Cue another fight for survival. (1/14/14; 352 pgs)
  • Sorry You’re Lost by Matt Blackstone - Denny “Donuts” Murphy has just suffered the passing of his mom, and to cope with that he becomes a class clown. But in Donuts’ core is a happy place where his mother still lives and his dad doesn’t watch TV all day. Donut and his buddy try to score dates for the year-end dance, a mission in which Donuts learns some important morals that could change him for the better. (1/21/14, 320 pgs)
  • Almost Super by Marion Jensen - Each leap year at an exact time, each 12+-year old member of the Baileys gets a superpower. The two newest recipients, Rafter and Benny, get let down with suckish powers. The big bad of the story ends up sparking a war between her family and the Baileys. To be honest, I lost them at “superpower”. (1/21/14; 256 pgs)
  • Cress by Marissa Meyer - In the third entry of the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and her band of misfits are still plotting to overthrow Queen Levana. Their best hope is to go to Cress, an OP hacker who ironically is searching for them (eeeeviiillll). Stuff happens. (2/4/14; 560 pgs)
  • Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done by Stephan Pastis - In the sequel to Mistakes Were Made, there’s a school competition to find a globe for a cash prize, but someone’s trying to hijack. It’s up to Timmy and his polar-bear partner Total and his new eccentric ally Great-Aunt Colander to find an end to the madness. (2/25/14; 288 pgs)
  • Game Over, Pete Watson by Joe Schreiber and Andy Rash - A boy finds out his dad is a superspy that is trapped inside a game, so he has to use his gaming skills to enter the game and rescue him. To be honest, I lost them at “superspy”. (3/11/14, 224 pgs)
  • Sean Rosen Is Not For Sale by Jeff Baron - Y’know Sean, that guy who’s trying to pitch a movie idea to Hollywood? Alright, so now not only is he working on his script, but he has school, track, dog-walking, podcasts, and keeping his secret from his parents, all while a private detective has been sent to find out about Sean. To be honest, I lost them at “podcasts”. (3/18/14; 384 pgs)
  • The Ninja Librarians by Jennifer Swann Downey - It just sounds dumb, doesn’t it? Wait until you hear the plot. Alright, so a girl and her bro are chasing her mongoose through a library when they get into the janitor’s closet and fall into a secret pathway to the HQ of a society of…y’know. There’s a betrayal, she and her pals take the blame, and they need to clear their names. To be honest, I lost them at “mongoose”. (4/1/14; 384 pgs)
  • Poached by Stuart Gibbs - In the sequel to Belly Up, a horrible prank set up by a school bully leaves a koala missing. Teddy gets thrown under the bus since he’s the only one coming and going on camera, and he needs to find the real culprit and fast, because juvie is calling his name. (4/8/14; 336 pgs)
  • Renegade by Debra Driza - That android Mila I was talking about meets a boy who joins her to find some guy who knows about her past but people are looking for her. Basically, it’s the same book with some boy. (5/13/14; 448 pgs)
  • The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan - The fifth and final installment of Heroes of Olympus. Many are either fighting their emotions of seeing it go or complaining loudly about how they have to wait a year to see how it all ends. Mother Earth “Gaea” is still a strong foe and her giants must be stopped before the Feast of Spes where she plans to kill two demigods to receive (title) to awaken. To be honest, I lost them at “Gaea”. (10/7/14; 608 pgs)

Most anticipated: I don’t even know.

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Well, I think I did pretty good to sum up the year! Leave anything you think I missed in the comments. Here’s to a great new year that’s bound to be full of awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy,

~S~ 8-)

Video of the Week: “Why I love my Honda VT750” by Nick Bertke aka Pogo, the guy whose mixes I’ve been uploading and gushing about to a fault. In this video, he drives around on his motorcycle, talks about it, admires the vista, and explains why the original Star Wars trilogy will always be superior to the new trilogy. All while we get to see some beautiful Australian scenery.

My favorite video from 2013.

The cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

amulets, tall tales, and fast food


If you’ve been following me and my good friend the Jolly Good Bookie on Google+, you would already know of some grim news I must tell you. The Bookie found out that he wasn’t a real person and was just something I created for my own benefits, so he quit. That’s right, the JGB is no longer associated with Sammwak. Looks like I’m going to have to grab the reins and introduce something new. I know I haven’t made a review in a while–heck, I haven’t made a post in a while ever since school clogged my schedule. First off, I’m sorry. Secondly, I want to try something new. Once a month, I’ll release several reviews crammed into one post, alongside some news and upcoming titles in the bookverse. Welcome to BookBuzz.

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Reviews

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Fast food has received lots of osmosis in the pop culture of America. With thousands of restaurants around the country that serve millions (if not billions) of people and then plague televisions with their commercials, it’s very hard to avoid the growing phenomenon of unhealthy deliciousness. Some people love its taste, others hate its effect. But have you ever stopped to wonder how all of this came to be? In the novel Chew On This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson, you find out just that. The matter is broken down simplistically to give you a history lesson and a behind-the-scenes look at big fast food brands and what dark secrets they’re hiding from the public. In this book, you will learn about…

  • How the hamburger was invented
  • How McDonald’s was born
  • How McDonald’s inspired the birth of tons of restaurants in its wake
  • How chickens are slaughtered
  • How fries are made
  • Why meat grinding is a more dangerous job than you think
  • What E.coli is and how lethal it can be
  • And much much more!

Chew is one of the few novels that actually gives me information and not trivia. As the tagline says, this book taught me “everything you don’t want to know about fast food”. And after reading it, I frankly did not want to know this about fast food. The writing provides an honest and fascinating undertone as the book changes subjects, and it doesn’t feel droned. They didn’t just copy and paste their research, do a little paraphrasing, and publish it. Never once was it not interesting, and it was sapid enough to the point where I’d actually want to keep reading. Few nonfiction books can pull that sensation out of me. Definitely a book you should read if you’re addicted to fast food or if you’re in an on-off relationship with it, like me.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★

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“I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks.” Thus begins the most heartwarming story of the year. Now, before I even tell you what the book is about, look at the author of it. Katherine Applegate. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Now, take away the “therine”. Now you have KA Applegate. Yes, that KA Applegate. The lady who spent the 90s writing Animorphs went on to win the Newbery Medal. Wow.

Anyway, The One and Only Ivan is about the titular Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lives the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He has grown to living a life of people watching him all the time, and never once does he ever think about his old life in the jungle. His thoughts are about shows he’s seen and his friends Stella (an elderly elephant) and Bob (a stray dog). Above all, Ivan has a penchant for art and is always thinking about how he can capture the taste of fruit with crayons and an open imagination. Then as a baby elephant named Rudy is added to the Exit 8 crew, the tides begin to change, and Ivan must make sure the tides go in the right directions as he becomes a papa wolf for little Rudy.

As you can tell, Ivan is a very heartfelt novel that comes from a unique perspective. Never did you think a simian Shakespeare could swing in with such an amazing story. His streams of narration can hook a reader from page one and keep them there as the story unfolds in the next hundreds of pages to follow. Definitely a book that I did not see coming from the lady who wrote Animorphs, and definitely one that deserves the Newbery. Not only is it beautiful, but it also has its moments of humor. Ivan chucking “me-balls” of poop at people he hates will never not be amusing.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★

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James Patterson has a knack for just the right type of comedy — with the just right amount of heartwarming goodness. Whether it comes in a huge twist or a very subtle reveal, James does it right. And it’s epitomized in the first two volumes of the misadventures of Rafael “Rafe” Khatchadorian (pronounced “catch a door, Ian”). I mean, they were masterpieces! I’d love to go into detail, but I’ve already done that in some other reviews. Now, a big change is coming to Patterson’s third middle school story–Georgia’s taking the wheel. Yep, lil’ G has her own story to share in Middle School: My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar. And what a story it is.

G is starting middle school at Hills Village, the same place where Rafe left one heck of a mark. She plans to excel in all the fields her brother failed to clear the name of the Khatchadorians for good! G got so cocky, she even bet Rafe that she’d become popular. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, as everyone’s now adapted to make school a living hell for anyone with the last name of Khatchadorian. Plus, there’s the Princess Patrol, a trio of snooty mean girls who rule the school and look devilishly good doing it. They’ve got their crosshairs on G and are willing to bully her every time the chance comes.

In the wake of her troubles, G is also crushing on an adorkable boy named Sam (no, not me) and befriending a loud-talking girl named Rhonda. Out of school — get this — G plays electric guitar for a band called The Awesomes. (Rafe doesn’t think they live up to their name. Why? Because he’s Rafe.) But Rafe’s not quite done yet. He wants to make his burden of the bet a lot lighter and plans to humiliate G in the worst ways. But could G actually be able to fight her odds and emerge on top?

When I finished My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar, I was disappointed if anything. Why?

    • I finished the book the same day I started it. (I took a few days separately to read through Rafe’s books.)
    • I don’t think the book’s name is very appropriate. The Worst Years of My Life makes sense because Rafe explains why middle school was the worst years of his life. Get Me Out of Here makes sense because Rafe wants to get out of here and explains why. G does nothing to explain why her brother is a big, fat liar beyond one page; she’s too busy telling her story.
    • It has the most predictable setup of all time to the most generic ending of all time. I mean, you know the ending before it’s even close to arriving, it’s so foreseeable.
    • Rhonda is so annoying.

On the bright side, the book still have traditional Patterson gags and charm, and the climax is absolutely jaw-dropping. In Patterson’s trademark fashion, I did not see that one coming. Even though the story’s flaws are mortal in the end, it’s still a decent read to hold us by for Rafe’s next adventure.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★

The Scholastic Graphix graphic novel lineup is full of great authors. Jeff Smith (Bone), Raina Telgemeier (Smile/Drama), Doug TenNapel (Bad Island/Cardboard), among others. But a name like Kazu Kibuishi caught my eye as early as the fifth grade. I was a huge Bone fanboy at this time so I pushed the book aside. But after reading and reviewing all nine books in the series, I decided to give the first installment, The Stonekeeper, a try. Kibuishi is now on my “graphic novel authors to watch” list, because that book was grandiose.

Our story ironically begins with a bang as the main characters–Emily and her little brother Navin–are involved in a tragic car accident that kills their father. Two years later, Emily’s mom is struggling to raise her kids by herself, so she moves them into a spacious old house inherited from Emily’s great-grandpa Silas. As Emily explores her new home, she finds a stone amulet that warns her that her family’s in danger. Before she even knows what the amulet’s capable of, Emily and Navin are thrown into a mission to rescue their mother in a subterranean world full of friends and foes.

This book’s storytelling is absolutely pristine even in the limits of 192 pages; and the story’s emotions whiplash from exciting action to tearjerking drama within pages. Emily and Navin are ordinary children that you can feel for as they embark on a journey of such proportions. Also, the illustrations are crisp and beautiful and impeccably follow along the storyline. That being said, the story arc is very simplistic with not enough rising and falling actions to fill in the holes before and after the climax. It’s a book that I blazed through while at the same time understanding what was going on, and that sort of let me down. But The Stonekeeper‘s “and the adventure continues” ending paves the way to a lot of sequels I need to plow through.

FINAL SCORE: 

Remember back in May 2012 when I made a review for the last Bone book, saying that JGB Bone was coming to an end? Well, I forgot about one spinoff book (and the handbook and the prequel and the Quest for the Spark series): Bone Tall Tales featuring Tom Sniegoski. In this book, campfire myths from our old smoking pal Smiley are used to answer questions like how Boneville was made, and how the Bones got lost in the valleys.

The book was only 128 pages, so it didn’t take me that long to finish. I was very disappointed. The book is nothing but mildly entertaining stories that give me some exposition and context about the Bones, but I wanted more. More story, more action, more laughs, more pages, more Bone that I expected out of this! And to think I was so excited to read this book. Hopefully Quest for the Spark will be a saving grace, because Jeff Smith is dangling off the edge off of my “graphic novel authors to watch” list.

FINAL SCORE: 

the true meaning of smekday (review)

True Meaning of Smekday

True Meaning of Smekday

Gratuity “Tip” Tucci is an eighth grader at Daniel Landry Middle School, assigned with writing an essay with a minimum of five pages about the true meaning of Smekday. If her essay is chosen from thousands of entries, it will be buried in a time capsule to be opened a century into the future. It all began when we found out that there was intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Life of extraterrestrial proportions. Anarchy spreads like wildfire following the visitors’ arrival, discussing plans of renaming Earth to Smekland (to honor Captain Smek) and forcing the entire American population into one state.

If there’s someone who has a lot to tell about their experience, it’s Tip. First of all, her mother just isn’t herself lately. Maybe it has something to do with that strange glowing mole on the back of her neck. Then there’s a friendly visitor who becomes Tip’s friend, dubbing itself “J.Lo”. (I’m dead serious.) But the invasion quickly gives way to a cross-country adventure as J.Lo, Tip, and her cat Pig travel to find Tip’s mom at the Happy Mouse Kingdom. Along the way, they make friends including Chief Shouting Bear, Vicki Lightbody, and the Brotherhood Organized against Oppressive Boov (BOOB). The trio is going to need all the gas in their hovercar if they’re gonna cook up a plan to save the country, maybe even the world.

I think I came across this when I was looking for a good science-fiction book to feast my eyes on. The premise seemed promising and I quickly found myself wanting to read it. My English teacher had the book in his class library, and I found myself plowing through the book a little bit each day during our equivalent of study hall. I was more than elated finding the book at our school library, and days later I’d read the book cover to cover. All the time, all the hours I spent reading this story was definitely worth it. This is the best science fiction book I’ve read since Maximum Ride, and I can tell you why.

  • An exquisite sense of humor - Smekday has the freshest gags I’ve heard in a while, and it’s a good reality check compared to the book’s sci-fi intensity. Rex has a gift for proper comic timing that will leave the reader thoroughly amused.
  • It’s part-graphic novel Smekday tells us of the history of the Boov and the Nimrogs (plus other educational nuggets) via comics. It’s a nice art shift that goes beyond the pictures and newspaper clippings.
  • GIRL POWER! - Tip is a very empowering character that’s strong and sassy, and knows when and how to speak her mind. She’s like the Spice Girls smashed altogether into a little girl. Boys will hardly feel alienated with the BOOB as well.
  • Additional pictures to deepen the experience - Polaroids taken by Tip, newspaper clippings, Tip’s drawings, all of these show up in the book and add some sort of depth to the story so you know what’s happening.
  • A really shocking ending - Trust me, you will not see it coming even if you read all the exposition and context there is to read.
  • Vivid writing and dialogue - Through Tip’s eyes, it feels like you’re actually there. It’s always fun to picture what’s happening in your mind, from the little things to the more climactic events. Rex has the ability to turn a good laugh into a shocking tragedy with just a few sentences, and this shows as the book nears to its unexpected conclusion.
  • Lovable characters - J.Lo has been an adored character by lots of those who read the book. I mean, it’s hard not to love an alien who’s willing to make a car be able to fly, and then later unknowingly eat a urinal cake. Tip’s characterization is more evident since, well, she’s the one telling the story.
  • A unique structure - The book is split into thirds. Two thirds are written in essay form, and the third is the longest part of the novel as Tip convinces herself to come flat-out and finish what she started. “Odd”, I believe, is the wrong adjective to use. Well, when’s the last time you read a book like that?
  • The community loves it - Many people call Smekday one of their favorite books they’ve ever read, and they give away five-star scores like candy. And this book deserves it, since…well, I’ve already gone into detail. Check out snippets of some Goodreads community reviews:

“…loved the cat, loved Gratuity, loved everything about this book.” – Kaethe

“…Adam Rex’s delicious banquet of pop cultureskewers dipped in saucy social commentary and served alongside a heaping helping of warm, filling comfort food…” – Stephen

“Adam Rex rules.” – Ceridwen

“Pretty much my favorite children’s book of the past few years…” – Paul

“…one of the funniest, constantly entertaining books I’ve read in a long time…” – Chris

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Not convinced? Tip and J.Lo have a couple reasons of their own.

“BOOB is an…acronym.” [...] “Brotherhood Organized against Oppressive Boov. It stands for that.”
“Shouldn’t it be B-O-A-O-B, then?”
“We really wanted it to be BOOB,” said Marcos, and at the younger boys giggled again. (126)
*******
“Waitaminute,” I said. “BOOB?”
“It’s the name of our club,” said boy number two.
“Are you guys from Florida or something?”
“No,” said Beardo. “Why?”
“Nothing.”
Both boys shouted over each other.
“It stands for–”
“Backyard–”
“Shut up!”
“Backyard telescope Ob…Observation of–”
“Of Occupations by Boov!”
*******
“I don’t know why I ask,” I said, “but shouldn’t your acronym be like, BTOOB or something?”
“BOOB sounds better,” they said.
Boys. Honestly. (225)

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J.Lo and Tip

The True Meaning of Smekday is a gem among sci-fi books, with vivid writing and fast-paced action, all boiled down to a dramatic finale. Easily one of the best novels I’ve ever read. I hope I’ll see a story like Smekday in the not-too-distant future, if not a direct sequel. I’ll even accept a spiritual successor. But this is not the last I’ll see from Adam Rex. It’s like an alien-infused Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for kids. Yeah, it’s that good. Not only that, but there’s going to be a movie based off of the book. The name? Home (formerly Happy Smekday!). You’d think that maybe it would be called The True Meaning of Smekday, or even Smekday, but they settled with Home. You’ll never guess who’s playing the two main roles. Rihanna and Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. (It took me way too long to realize they’re just doing voices.) The movie doesn’t arrive until next November.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★

If you liked The True Meaning of Smekday, check out:

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I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing this! Well, you know the algorithm–tune in, well, whenever for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak! Be sure to Like this post, and if you’re new don’t forget to abduct that subscribe button! You can also find Sammwak on Google+ where you can get more news and stuff there!

Stay classy,

~S~ 8-)

This is where I usually put my video of the week, but I know that you probably don’t know that I have a YouTube channel. Check out my crap-res gaming videos of me playing games on old Nintendo consoles with the power of emulators. I don’t intend for these to catch fire very quickly, but they’re just out there. I think I got the mic working on this one. The computer fan’s a pain in the behind, and I can’t afford to shut it up, so try to bear with it.

Memory Lane: A Look At My Childhood


The nostalgic gremlin inside me is at it again, so I’ve decide to sate him with this week’s post: a glimpse at what my childhood was like. I never quite open up to my readers quite like this, and over 100,000 of you have bothered to show up at my site to read my posts, and sixteen of you have made it a weekly basis! So consider this a big thank you to everyone who’s been supporting me. Now, don’t expect this to be a tell-all about myself–I still shall keep personal information at bay.

Without a doubt, I have to dedicate a majority of my childhood to Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney Channel. In fact, the earliest memory I can recall is lying on the couch and watching GUTS from across the room. I was quite the fan of Nickelodeon game shows; the only other shows I watched were Naked Brothers Band and SpongeBob, which I also grew up alongside. I found myself playing SpongeBob games online for long stretches of time, and I can still remember the “Goofy Goober Rock” sequence from the movie like the back of my hand. Oh, and the NBB music wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t amazing either. Decent, you people call it.

But in 2008, my horizon changed completely thanks to three shows: Total Drama IslandChowder, and Flapjack. Yes, if it wasn’t for these shows, I probably never would’ve become the Cartoon Network fan I am today. And you can assure yourself that I just ate the next two Total Drama seasons up, because I did. Then there’s Disney Channel. I fondly remember watching Kim PossibleThe Emperor’s New SchoolThe ReplacementsSuite Life of Zack & CodyJonas, the list goes on.

Believe it or not, I was reading Goosebumps in the second grade. The first book in the series I ever read was Why I’m Afraid of Bees–an installment I still have today. Rarely did the books ever actually give me goosebumps–but the covers of Phantom of the Auditorium and Be Careful What You Wish For were enough to trigger a very unpleasant night’s sleep. I’m not going to lie. I have something of a Goosebumps collection today, and it’s a shame that Series 2000 and Horrorland will never match the authenticity of the original series. I’m sure many 90s kids are sure to say the same thing. What made the series so unpredictable was that some books were amazing, while others were terrible. I’m not being critical, I’m just stating the facts.

Another favored horror series of mine back in the day is the Chillers saga by Johnathan Rand. Now, Rand is working on two Chillers series: Michigan Chillers and American Chillers. As the titles imply, events within a Michigan Chillers book take place in the good ole Great Lakes State. But American Chillers books can happen anywhere in the fifty states. These books, to be honest, were awfully similar to Goosebumps, but they have covered more subjects that are common in horror literature: werewolves, aliens, zombies, ghosts, vampires, the list goes on. But then the new Chillers came and vacuums are coming to life and crickets are gaining a craving for human meat. But who am I to complain and criticize, old Chillers was the shiz back in the day. Heck, it gave me the inspiration to become a horror author–I’m not saying I am a horror author, I’m still working on it.

Nothing made a day complete quite like getting a couple laughs out of a Captain Underpants book. I was the biggest fan of this series back as a kid; I’d read and remembered each installment by heart, but unfortunately reality has ensued and I consider myself too much of a grown man to continue reading childish stories like Captain Underpants. But watching a video like this one makes me wish for younger days.

Never would I find a series quite like Captain Underpants, where a vile school principal could turn into a superhero who wore nothing but underwear and a cape. But the book I remember the fondest would probably be the third one–that’s where the game changed completely! But as a blogger, I shan’t spoil it for you. This series may have also given me the inspiration to become a comic writer, which is how many people remembered me by. I have to devote a lot of my childhood to Pilkey on this one.

I might as well take the opportunity to remember some more of my favorite book series as a kid:

  • Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel – A 2-time Newbery Honor-winning children’s book series starring a frog and a toad whose friendship take them on many adventures. Easy-to-read vocabulary, imaginative illustrations, and a great moral made this series an instant classic for me.
  • Franklin by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark – A classic children’s book series starring a group of anthropomorphic animals, but the spotlight is on a young turtle boy named Franklin. See as he learns the virtues of friendship and love as he goes through countless scenarios: a bad day, a thunderstorm, the first day of schol, etc.
  • Ready, Freddy! by Abby Klein and John McKinley – First grade is nothing short of a jungle for Freddy Thresher, first grader and amateur shark enthusiast. Read along as he deals with Max the bully, the talent show, show-and-tell competition, homework problems, bedroom horrors, and more. The series has almost 30 installments, so if you like the first book (Tooth Trouble) you can mow down the rest.
  • Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park and Denise Brunkus – 90s kids may remember this one, but I remember it from my elementary school days. It stars a kindergartner named Junie B Jones as she embarks on school misadventures from facing the “stupid smelly bus” to facing the monster living under her bed. Eventually she 1-ups to first grade, where she remains to this day.
  • Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca – Jack and Annie are siblings that live in the fictional Frog Creek, PA. They have a tree house that can magically whisk them into any time or place, from the prehistoric era to San-Fran in the middle of that gnarly quake. They are also assisted on their missions by Morgan le Fay. Like Junie B Jones, the series 1-ups and goes from “Morgan Missions” to “Merlin Missions”, where they remain to this day.

I have fond memories of playing Diddy Kong Racing down in my basement when I should be eating breakfast. It’s just, when I had that controller in my hand, and I was racing down the tracks of Fossil Canyon, it just conjured this feeling where everything in my world just felt right. Even if the game occasionally froze. To a lesser extent, I had that feeling playing Super Mario 64; I have both of the games to this day. But back in the day was the best when we had a little emulator called Project 64 that changed my life forever. I had every N64 game thinkable at my fingertips–the nostalgia would kill me if I had that experience to relive. But I still have an N64 console, a couple of controllers, even some paks. But I honestly have to say that not only was I a Nickelodeon kid growing up, but I sure as heck was also a Nintendo kid. The N64 stuck with me for literally my entire childhood, and then the PlayStation 2 came in and changed everything.

The PlayStation 2 picked up in my childhood where the Nintendo 64 left off, and it’s probably my most cherished childhood memento I have. (Too bad it doesn’t really function perfectly.) The games we had for the console just happened to kick major buttocks and conjure even more nostalgia for me as I type this post. One amazing game I had was SpongeBob: Lights, Camera, Pants, which was basically a SpongeBob-edition Mario Party game. But it was still superior whether I was amplifying the experience by playing with friends or soaking up the goodness by flying solo. I have great memories of knocking my friend out of the ring in the “Goo-ladiators” level, or performing SpongeBob’s solo in the “Rock Bottom” level.

Another great game I had was SSX Tricky, the first and greatest sports game I’ve ever played. My version of the game concept was simple: once you have some big air, Über Trick out to score as many points as you can before landing. When you’re not tricking out, you might be racing against competitive AI or helping upgrade your characters, unlocking boards, costumes, etc. I know the game like the back of my hand, and so do my siblings, who are equally good at it. (I think this game was the one thing we could bond over besides TV shows.) The game also had the best soundtrack:

I might as well recall another game that, while not as legendary as these other two games, was definitely a decent time-killer: Tony Hawk’s Project 8. I can just recall the game’s lenient physics that could allow you to perform a perfect half-pipe transfer or do a clean ollie over a fence. When I wasn’t skating, I sure as heck was bailing or unsuccessfully trying to perform rad tricks. The soundtrack for the game wasn’t half bad, but there’s only two songs I remember fondly: “Gone Daddy Gone” (Gnarls Barkley) and “Smack” (Ugly Duckling).

Oh, and one last thing. I also remember playing lots of music games back in the day: I had the Guitar Hero/Guitar Hero II dual pack, so I had two times the rock-star goodness in one 2-disc case. We also had the first two Rock Band games–no, not in a dual pack. Luckily, our Guitar Hero guitars worked with the game, and the only thing that was new were the drums and mic. Oh yeah, then there was that time where I may have broken the drum pad, but luckily lots of people face the same problem.

The Spy Kids series had my favorite movies ever when I was a kid. It introduced me to an entirely new world full of science-fiction gadgets and fantasy creatures, while still containing traditional laughs fresh for the whole family. I mean, what other movie features beings with thumbs for limbs and a head? I don’t remember Spy Kids all too well, but I can recall the sequel like the back of my hand. Remember, when all the kids fought against the Magna Men, and then Carmen and Juni were sword-fighting the skeletons on the edge of the cliff, and then they fell into that volcano, and then Carmen did a live concert at the end?

Oh, TMI? Sorry about that, I just had a lot to say. Oh yeah, and Lilly from Hannah Montana was in it OKAY I’M DONE! Then Spy Kids 3 came out, and that was an awesome movie too with the video game universe, but then Spy Kids 4 came out. Yeah, we don’t talk about that movie, it’s hard to even call it a Spy Kids movie. That’s why I look at the series as a trilogy with an extremely bad movie. Oh, and there was also Sharkboy and Lavagirl with the gosh-awful VFX, but the chance of it winning kids over is 9:1.

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I think that’s all I have to say about my childhood! Hungry for more nostalgia? Check out The 90s Are All That on TeenNick every night from 11:00 pm to 1:00 am ET! (I was not paid to say that.) Besides that, tune in next Friday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy,

~S~ 8-)

Video of the Week: “(Parody) Everything Wrong With Equestria Girls in 7 Minutes or Less” by LittleshyFiM. It’s a hilarious parody of CinemaSins, so I recommend you check them out too. Am I the only one who didn’t know this movie existed until now?!

Jolly Good Bookie DOUBLE FEATURE BABYYYYY


Hey guys it’s Sam, and welcome to the long-awaited return of Jolly Good Bookie! Now, Diary of a Wimpy Kid could easily be the most popular realistic fiction novel of all time; it has inspired a colossus of merchandise including a 3-part movie series, and it has inspired a countless number of realistic fiction titles in its wake. “Wimpy Kid clones”, I like to call them. I’ve read tons of them: Dork DiariesBig Nate, Origami Yoda, and pretty much every Andrew Clements book, most notably Lunch Money.

Now, few realistic fiction authors do it right like Kinney did; for example, Lunch Money is one of my favorite realistic fiction books. So is The School Story, also written by Clements. Most authors go wrong attempting to make their story as derivative as possible, while not paying any heed to flaws like a thin plot or poor characterization. I can list so many books that have failed to do exactly this, and most have ended up on my list of the worst books of all time. The Loser List by HN Kowitt was a standout example of this. Its plot practically screamed Wimpy Kid: the middle school misadventures of a boy obsessed with comics. I read this book a while back, and here’s what I had to say about it:

“This book is an average Wimpy Kid decoy, and believe me, I’ve read tons of those (Dork Diaries, Big Nate, etc.), so I feel almost BAD for Mr. Kinney that tons of publishers couldn’t come up with anything original. And that’s what makes The Loser List…well…a loser! The storyline is cumbersome, the illustrations are rough-felt if not violent (save for the picture where a kid got ripped in half), and it feels like just an average walk in the park, trip on the rock, and dip in the fountain.”

But I guess the story was successful enough that Kowitt made two sequels, turning Loser List into an official series. This is sequel #1, so let’s see if Kowitt brought homemade to the table, or just went out and bought some pancake mix?

“Ty Randall must die.”

In a world full of Wimpy Kid doppelgangers, there’s Danny Shine. He’s returned, he’s ready, and he’s out for revenge! In Revenge of the Loser, Shine has successfully gotten his name off of the Loser List in the girls’ bathroom. But he quickly discovers that the List has become the least of his problems–his radar is focused on Ty Randall, a new kid with two six packs–one of muscle, and one of green tea. He’s contributed to more school programs than Danny cares to remember, with the main focus being on helping the environment. So for good measure, Ty’s a hippie. He’s attracting all of the girls at lunch like a magnet with his handsome looks and his serious tone. Even Danny’s secret crush, Asia O’Neill, is falling head over heels. The jealousy just builds up to the point where Danny snaps and concocts a complex plan to do Ty justice, but unfortunately true colors are shown and Danny must desperately repair the damage before it’s too late.

Revenge of the Loser definitely has something new to offer, and the story does focus more on itself than some goofy drawings or copying and pasting from Wimpy Kid. The infamous bathroom wall graffiti does return, but that’s probably as rogue as ROTL ever gets. Well, Chantal is kind of a gold-hearted jerk who shows her true hero at the end. But besides all of these new concepts, Revenge of the Loser is almost the exact same as its predecessor. At least the plot is structured better.

It somewhat pains me to say it, but I think Danny Shine has finally done Wimpy Kid justice. There, I said it myself. Revenge of the Loser comes packed with humor and heart–albeit derivative humor and heart–and definitely puts its predecessor in the shadows. Now, let’s just see if they can keep that up for Jinx of the Loser, or better yet, Take Me To Your Loser, hitting stores this September.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★

IF YOU LIKED THAT, CHECK OUT:

  • Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald
  • Lunch Money by Andrew Clements
  • Big Nate In A Class By Himself by Lincoln Peirce
  • Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson
  • The Last Invisible Boy by Evan Kuhlman

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Because I love my fans, I’ll make this a Jolly Good Bookie double feature! Carpe diem, baby! Anyway, what if A Series of Unfortunate Events met Mysterious Benedict Society? The result would probably be School of Fear, the young-audience debut of Gitty Daneshvari. The novel takes place at a very shady institution that few people have heard of, called the School of Fear. Run by Mrs. Wellington and her assistant Schmidty, the main goal of the School of Fear is to eradicate children’s fears over the course of a summer using “unorthodox” methods. This summer’s students are Theo Bartholomew, Madeleine Masterson, Garrison Feldman, and Lulu Punchalower. Theo is terrified of general death, Maddie of bugs (notably spiders), Gary of deep water, and Lulu of confined spaces.

I loved the ominous and gothic feel of the story as it went along, and how it mixed its dark chills and clever thrills with some quality laughs to keep the prose fresh. The story is exciting albeit predictable and tedious, and definitely one I do not regret reading when I find myself awake at 7 in the morning. (No, it’s not insomnia.) It showed that a good way–if not the only way–to face your fears is to tackle them head on, and it shows how difficult life can be while crippled by phobias. This is a good book to relate to; all humans really are afraid of something.

However, to me it frankly started to fall apart around and following the shocking climax; I found myself lost in the prose quite frequently on numerous occasions. I also kept asking myself if they were ever going to conquer their fears, but luckily Daneshvari has several aces up her sleeve to shrewdly guide the story. Other than that, School of Fear is a pretty tense and exciting adventure with underachieving predictability and noticeable tedium. I would definitely read the other two sequels in the trilogy–in fact, I have my hands on Class Is NOT Dismissed as I type, and as you read.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★★

IF YOU LIKED THAT, CHECK OUT:

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket and Brett Helquist
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
  • The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
  • Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail and Matthew Cordell

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Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? Be sure to tune in same time next Friday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy,

~S~ 8-)

Videos of the Week: “THE PERFECT BOYFRIEND?” and “HOW TO BE A SALAD!” by PewDiePie. I wonder if he’ll become the most-subbed channel on YouTube by the end of the summer. I’M BETTING YOU, FOLKS!

Jolly Good Bookie: A Tale Dark and Grimm


Do you think you know Hansel and Gretel? They’re just the kids who drop the bread crumbs and then go to that candy house and eat a lot of food and get fat and almost get eaten by that witch, right? WRONG! Adam Gidwitz has just taken the Hansel and Gretel we know and bathed it in blood-soaked darkness that would make Goosebumps and Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark seem like nursery rhymes. This is definitely not your average fairy tale, and you can tell from the amounts of times Gidwitz jumps into the story to warn you about the most violent pieces of the puzzle, recommending to keep all small children at bay. This story doesn’t just include the candy house witch–it seamlessly intertwines that tale with seven others to create different chapters of the duo’s perilous life:

Faithful Johannes: This beginning chapter serves as a prequel to the rest of the story, revolving around a young prince that is promoted to king after his dad bites the dust, and Faithful Johannes–the late king’s most loyal servant–is tasked to show the new king his entire inheritance save for one room. Johannes was told that if he showed the king this room, it may cost the king his life. Oh, and ravens show up. If you believe in the omen you know something sinister will occur–but these ravens can talk.

Hansel and Gretel: This is where the story of the brother and the sister begins. In context (or if you read chapter one), this would make more sense. After feeling betrayed by their own mom and dad (aka the young king) after a big debacle, they run away into the forest where they come across a candy house. Starving, they proceed to help themselves to the treat, but are caught by the house’s owner, who warmly welcomes them in. She feeds them food to the point where they become fat and lazy, and although this looks like a dream come true, she has plans to make it a nightmare.

The Seven Swallows: You may better recognize this part of the story as The Seven Ravens, a fairy tale of its own. After Hansel and Gretel flee for the second time, they come across a husband and wife with seven sons and a longing wish for a daughter. The father sends his kids off to fetch water, but when his sons do not return, their father curses them so they transform into ravens and fly off. Hansel and Gretel embark on a journey to find the seven sons in a world where the moon craves human flesh, and the results of their adventure will shock you!

Brother and Sister: Picking up where 7 Swallows left off, this chapter follows Hansel and Gretel as they make shelter in Lebenwald (LAY-ben-vault), the wood of life. As Gretel befriends a talking tree whom is practically Lebenwald’s landlord, Hansel realizes he has an animal bloodlust, and he keeps on bringing an offering to the fire no matter how much Gretel tries to stop him. But when Hansel’s murderous mania gets the best of him, his altered beast is revealed.

A Smile Red As Blood: Gretel decides to hit the road alone, shaken and saddened by the events of the last chapter. She stumbles across Schwarzwald (SHVATS-vault), the wood of darkness, but visits the village right by it. When she is rejected by most of the village people (joke not intended), she sits down and mopes. Luckily, an old woman accepts her. Weeks later, Gretel becomes smitten with a dashing young man with red lips. Even if he’s a bit aggressive. One night, Gretel manages to flee from her home and follows the young man’s path into Schwarzwald. The following events are nothing less than grisly, and you’ll probably never look at doves the same way again.

The 3 Golden Hairs: This is probably the most horrifying, dreadful, and macabre chapter in the entire book. You have been warned. When a pair of huntsmen bring an ugly beast home from a hunt, the monster is skinned to reveal something other than flesh, blood, and bone (no Potter reference intended)–a boy. Not just any boy–Hansel! He decides to stay under the watch of the Lord and the Lady, but it turns out that the Lord is an addicted gambler. When he loses to an elusive stranger, he discovers he’s made a deal with the Devil and, to counter it, Hansel must travel to the place Down Under. No, it’s not Australia…

Hansel and Gretel and the Broken Kingdom: In all honesty, all they do is return to their home kingdom to their parents, tell them about their perilous journey, and discover that their home is in ruins due to a great beast. It’s reptilian, it’s fire-breathing, and it rhymes with “flaggin”.

Hansel and Gretel and the Dragon: Almost there. All that happens is Hansel and Gretel manage to start an army to face the dragon and then take it on, but it turns out they were a little unprepared and the results are actually more gruesome than you’d probably like. This is the one chapter all squeamish readers should skip.

Hansel and Gretel and Their Parents: This is it. The very last chapter. After their brawl with the dragon, despite the results not being too successful, Hans and G are still hailed by the kingdom as true heroes. We also see the true identity of the dragon, and then Hans and G become king and queen. Just thought you’d want to know.

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Yes, A Tale Dark and Grimm may be very dark, gory, and quite disturbing, but when you peel that layer of the story away it’s an exciting, enthralling, and surprisingly touching fantasy adventure that tells important truths wrapped inside the premises. The messages the story offers are mainly the virtues of forgiveness, love, and trust and how they’re worth all the work. Gidwitz’ dark but droll storytelling skills make Hans and G characters we can empathize for, and we can ultimately comprehend why they came home even after abandonment from their parents.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★

RECOMMENDATION: For anyone who loves fractured fairy tales or modern spins on old classics, but is willing to read through a couple of grisly moments.

IF YOU LIKED THAT, CHECK OUT:

(click on the images to teleport to their Amazon pages!)

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You know my algorithm: tune in next Friday at 1:00 EST for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy,

~S~ 8-)

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: “Harlem Shake” by VideoGameDunkey. Trust me, it’s not what it looks like, but it’s totally worth it.

JGB 2.0: Smells Like Dog


I love English. I’ve always had a forte for writing and reading, and I’ve been telling my own stories since the second grade. Back then all I did was draw superhero comics fueled by Captain Underpants books, but albeit it did make me iconic in the classroom, as I matured so did my writing. I went from writing superhero comics to writing real picture-less stories. Sci-fi, horror, fantasy, realistic fiction, the whole nine yards. But during my middle school years, I met a great teacher whose name was Mr. Principe. Also known as Mr. P, P Diddy, “the Fresh Prince of ELA”, and his mustachioed alter ego “Prince”. He (Mr. P) called what he taught not English, but ELA (English language arts), but he taught it well. He gave me counsel and tips of how to make my writing more exciting (hey that rhymed), and his classroom doubled as a welcome reading environment. He had not one but three shelves of books crammed with novels including The Ear, The Eye, and the ArmEnder’s Game, HolesHIVE, and the first two Mysterious Benedict Society books. A couple of months ago, after finishing Max Cassidy: Escape from Shadow Island as a read-aloud story, he introduced us to this novel. I’ll never forget it.

Smells Like Dog, written by the author of Coffeehouse Angel and To Catch A Mermaid, revolves around the wild misadventure-filled romp that is the life of Homer Winslow Pudding. Yes, his last name really is Pudding. Homer is a countryside boy who lives on a goat farm in Milkydale with his parents and his sister Gwen, who is an aspiring taxidermist. Homer’s uncle Drake was eaten alive by a carnivorous mutant tortoise, and he aspires to be a treasure hunter like his uncle was, much against his father’s preferences. A man named Mr. Twaddle shows up at Homer’s door with his condolences and a single keepsake to inherit–a basset hound named Dog who has a very special coin on his collar. The catch about Dog is that he has no sense of smell, but when Homer leaves for the city to search for Rumpold Smeller’s treasure, he discovers his buddy’s true powers as he searches for the answers with a single clue: L.O.S.T. However, the treasure will not be an easy sweep, because every Peter Pan has his Captain Hook. In this case, Hook would be Madame la Director, who wants the treasure all for herself. Along the way Homer meets three new friends: Laura Lee (a pink-haired tomato soup girl), Ajitabh the Cloud Man (you heard me), and Zelda. No, not Zelda from Legend of Zelda (I wish), but the tall deep-voiced Zelda. With a band of unlikely companions, could Homer defeat Madame once and for all to save the treasure? Or will her diabolical plans come to fruition?

 

“A fantastic tale in every good sense of the word…both exhilarating and soulful.” – Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Reach Me

“Full of fantastic characters…delightful humor, and wonderful adventures, this book is a treasure.” – Sarah Beth Durst, author of SFWA Andre Norton Award finalists Into the Wild and Ice

PRESENTATION: Smells Like Dog seemed like it was a modern-day Huckleberry Finn at first, but it turned into a fast-paced and mystery-filled adventure that had me second guessing along the way. Selfors molds her characters with astounding detail, well tracing Homer’s relationships with his friends in such a way that you’ll be mowing through numerous chapters at a time. (10/10)

STORY: A very unorthodox approach to the middle-grade adventure genre, both for better and for worse. The upside is, it’s a unique story with a staggering amount of detail that supports over 300 pages of story telling. The downside is, Selfors creates her story with so much detail that I very often found myself lost within the story’s events. I’m trying to recall a minor event as I type. Maybe that one time at the elevator where–er, maybe when Homer met Laura and–uh, see what I mean? Also, some of the story plot lines are just unrealistic. I’m pretty sure those cloudcopters should’ve been a red flag. (8/10)

FUN: Smells Like Dog is as fun to read as it is to picture, and with over 300 pages of adventure you can create a pretty good painting around that. Visiting the lair, the Realm of Reptiles, and other places is a blast with Selfor’s creative detail. (10/10)

STYLE: Aside from major detail and great storytelling, Homer’s adventure isn’t really that “stylish”. I’m not imagining like “James Bond walks away as an explosion occurs behind him” stylish. I’m imagining like “the story has some fluidity to it” stylish. However, it’s so heavily written that when I tried to swim in its seas of fluidity, I drowned. (9/10)

QUANTITY/QUALITYSmells Like Dog is nearly 400 pages long. Read my statements above and do the math. Alright, I’ll make an algebraic equation: say = story, = detail, = fluidity, and q = quality. If  sd – f + q = this book, solve for the variables.  (10/10)

FINAL VERDICTSmells Like Dog is one of the most innovative adventure novels you’ll ever read, a whimsical romp of an action-packed mystery that does heavy lifting with its detail for better and for worse. A rewarding read only for the most skilled readers, or those who enjoy stories about dogs and/or adventures. (9/10)

FINAL SCORE: Suzanne Selfors’ Smells Like Dog receives a 56/60, which is a 93% score that gives the book the final grade of an A.

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Well, how about that for a Sammwak double feature? Anyway, make sure to tune in next Friday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak! I say Friday because I’ll be leaving again this weekend to Illinois, and I don’t have anything scheduled for next Monday. If it’ll be another double feature, I don’t know. But it’s safe to say you’ll dig what we’re cooking up next!

Stay classy America,

~S~ 8-)

P.S. Want to check out some more Suzanne Selfors books?

  • Smells Like Treasure - When the moment Homer has been waiting for–finally becoming a true adventurer–arrives, he is set back by an unexpected foe who starts a battle where the one who solves the clues and finds the loot first will win the prize of becoming an adventurer.
  • Smells Like Pirates - In what could be the finale for the three-part adventure of Homer and Dog, Homer finds himself closer than ever to Rumpold Smeller’s treasure. But when a bitter enemy forms a villainous organization called FOUND, the duo is caught at a gripping decision: either join the dark side to find the prize, or ditch their lifelong quest to find the treasure.
  • To Catch A Mermaid - Since his mother died in a tornado, Boom Broom doesn’t think his life could suck any more. When he finds a baby mermaid that grants infinite wishes, his sister Mertyle is hit by the curse of the merfolk, and Boom and his friend Winger must return the baby mermaid to her mother before it’s too late to break the curse.
  • Fortune’s Magic Farm - When Isabelle discovers she is the heir to Fortune’s Farm, a place where magic remnants grow, she finds an opportunity to break away from her mundane life working at an umbrella factory. Isabelle’s new home full of curative cherry trees and flying fronds looks like paradise, she must harvest the powers of the farm to bring back the sun and stop the despicable Mr. Supreme, owner of the umbrella factory.

Video of the Week: Adande Thorne, aka Swoozie, is probably one of the greatest vloggers on YouTube. Ever since February 2006 he’s been uploading fragments of his life story, and since last year he began using animations to tell his stories. This way was much better for his channel and scraped together millions of hits. This is probably Swoozie’s first video ever that doesn’t tell some part of his life story. Here’s the setup: Swoozie plays the driver of a girl named Alyvia, and as he drives her to an undisclosed location he is suddenly confronted in the middle of the road by a duo of armed diamond thieves. You’ll never believe the ending.

One of the diamond thieves (the guy in the front seat) was Cameron Magruder (better known as Scooter Magruder), who is also a great vlogger. In case you don’t know him, he was a YouTube Next Vlogger who’s been featured on The Today Show, the Orlando Sentinel, the Huffington Post, and even NBA TV! Here are a couple of videos to get yourself recognized with him:

 

 

The Jolly Good Bookie 2013 Window


Hey guys it’s Sam. Back last year I made a post where the good ole Bookie made a post summing up all of the good books that were coming out that year. Now, I’m here to bring it again, and now you won’t have to wait for most of the novels–they will most likely already be out, and I want to introduce my comrades to some new books. So for now, enjoy this delicious smoothie of chopped, crunched, and blended book-world news of what’s cooking this year.

Mind Games (Mind Games, #1)

I’m a huge fan of fast-paced sci-fi thriller novels like Maximum Ride and Witch & Wizard so I think I’d dig this one. This one came out back in February, so it’s gotten lots of time to sink into the mainstream quicksand. You could call this the novelization of Inception if you wanted to, but the latest novel from young adult author Kiersten White really messes with your mind. Mind Games (or Sister Assassin for non-Americans) is a fast-paced psychological thriller starring Fia, whose first impulse to go with her gut is always correct. Annie, Fia’s sister, is sightless to her surrounding world–she only opens her eyes when her mind whizzes with odd visions of the future. The two sisters are taken into a school that uses superhuman females as weapons of corporate espionage, where they must decide repeatedly to use their strange abilities in horrific ways or to risk their lives and fight the system–no matter what the cost.

Young-adult authors might remember Kiersten White as the author of Paranormalcy, an urban fantasy trilogy that introduced her to the world of books and turned her into a NY Times bestselling author. The final novel, Endlessly (how ironic), concluded the saga last year and White is currently making plans for a Paranormalcy film. MTV Music Video Award-winning director Ray Kay is set to direct the movie.

The book received mixed reviews. High praise was given for its spy-fi elements and well-suited ending, but high criticism was given for pretty much everything else, most notably the plain characterization.

Mila 2.0 (MILA 2.0, #1)

Speaking of sci-fi thriller, that brings us to our next novel which came out back in March. In the writing debut of Debra Driza, Mila 2.0, the titular character lives with her mom in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her harrowing past of being created in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do the humanly impossible. But when Mila discovers her shocking secret, she must flee. Flee from the dangerous operatives who want her dead because she knows too much. Flee from the mysterious group that wants to capture her and unlock her tech. But Mila’s hidden powers will surprise you (and her), and they might just save her life. Her artificially intelligent life.

Mila 2.0 is just the start. Driza plans on making two more books starring Mila to form a Mila 2.0 trilogy. Goodreads described the book as “the first book in a Bourne Identity-style trilogy that combines heart-pounding action with a riveting exploration of what it really means to be human.” They recommended the novel for fans of I Am Number Four, and said that the book’s gripping ending would pave the way for Mila’s second adventure and have readers hungry for more. I guess there really was more to Mila than met my eyes.

The book received generally positive reviews. Its fast-paced action and heart-racing adrenaline rushes were lauded, but its romance overemphasis and lack of emotional connections were noted as something that could’ve been finessed.

Take Timmy Failure, the clueless and confident CEO of the best detective agency in the nation town. Throw in his partner, an imaginary friend in the form of a polar bear named Total. Throw in Timmy’s mom’s Segway the Failuremobile, and what you have is Total Failure Incorporated, a global enterprise designed to make Timmy wealthy enough to prevent his mom from stressing over bills. But of course, his plan does not include the 4′-tall lady who we shall call She Who Must Not Be Named. Nor does it include Rollo Tookus, who cannot carry out a super-easy spy mission due to his obsession with getting into “Stanfurd”. Stephan Pastis makes a stunning and charming departure from Pearls Before Swine with Timmy Failure: Mistakes Are Made, “the kids’ comedy of the year”. Here are a couple notable blurbs that would look great on the back of the book:

“Timmy Failure is a winner!” – Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

“Seldom has failure been so likable–or funny.” - Wall Street Journal

“…a great story starring an unforgettable protagonist whose unorthodox approach to detective work (and world domination) will have readers in stitches.” – Lincoln Peirce, author of Big Nate

“Readers should be simultaneously amused and touched by this quirky antihero.” - Booklist

“Pastis has assembled an eccentric and funny cast (running gags revolve around Total’s voracious appetite and a librarian who looks like one of the Hell’s Angels), yet there are also touching interactions to be found…” - Publishers Weekly

Timmy Failure received generally positive reviews. Its well-written humor and charm factors were positively recognized by critics, but some flat characterization and peculiar usage of archaic references were also dissected.

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)

You may recognize Marissa Meyer as the unique author of the sci-fi romance novel Cinder (the start of the Lunar Chronicles), which was one of Indie-Bound’s Kids Next List picks for last winter. But the story of our favorite cyborg heroine is not yet over, as her story continues into Scarlet, the thrilling sequel which came out in February. Now after discovering a shocking secret, Cindy’s trying to break out of the clutches of prison in New Beijing (this was after World War IV), but she’ll be the most-wanted fugitive of the Commonwealth even if she succeeds. Halfway around the Earth, Scarlet Benoit has a missing grandma. It turns out there’s a lot Scarlet doesn’t know about Grandma B, nor of the grim danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet meets a street fighter named Wolf who may or may not have the whereabouts of Scarlet’s grandma, she is reluctant to believe Wolf. However, the two are drawn together in some sort of relationship. After Scarlet and Wolf solve one mystery, they run into another when they come across Cindy herself. Now this misfit trio must stay one step ahead Queen Levana, female ruler of the moon colony Luna. That introduces the book’s side plot, where she is attempting to make Kai (the prince of New Beijing) give into his pressures of marrying Levana or evoking a World War V.

In spite of its slow start, the novel received critical acclaim for its deep and complex story, a shrewd and surprising backstory, and impeccable fairy-tale weaving that made it impossible for most people to put Scarlet down. People are still coming up with ideas of how the brand new characters could play vital roles in the final half of the four-part Lunar Chronicles.

Unremembered (Unremembered, #1)

Jessica Brody began writing and “publishing” novels at the age of seven, using materials like cardboard and electrical tape to turn her into an amateur bookbinder. She is no stranger to the world of young adult books–she’s written three already–but this story is her most stellar and unorthodox departure yet. In Unremembered, the beginning of Brody’s new sci-fi saga, a flight courtesy of Freedom Airlines ends horribly and unexpectedly with a crash over the Pacific. No one ever suspected to find survivors among the wreck, and that’s why the sole survivor of the crash has made global headlines. That survivor was 16-year old Seraphina. However, her body shows no signs of the crash, but here’s the kicker–she doesn’t remember boarding the plane. In fact, she doesn’t remember anything before the crash, let alone at all. No one knows why she wasn’t on the passenger manifest, nor can anyone locate her DNA or fingerprints in a single database on Earth. As this astray amnesiac attempts to piece together her empty past, befuddled by a world she doesn’t know and an ominous threat she can’t remember, she discovers an odd boy who claims to have known her before the crash. A boy who claims they were in a relationship. Sera must decide whether or not this boy can be trusted, and if he can protect her from those who have been making her forget.

It turns out you really can’t judge a book by the cover, as Unremembered turned out with very mixed reception. People praised it for having the elements of a sci-fi gem, but criticized it for being an orthodox story that brought nothing unique to the action-thriller genre,  and how its intellectual properties (planning and thoughts) were in over their heads. Oh, and it came out in March.

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

If you’re like me, you’re very familiar with the fantasy subgenre of “fractured fairy tale”. These kinds of books put twists on classic fairy tales and mend interesting and unexpected worlds around them, taking the original stories to whole ‘nother levels. Examples include Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted, and Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm/In A Glass Grimmly. Coincidentally, this story was made for fans of those books. Now rising fantasy star Liesl Shurtliff has given a twist on a classic Grimm story: Rump. This came out just a couple of weeks ago, so it’s probably ankle-deep in the mainstream quicksand. Now, Rump isn’t just short for Rumpelstiltskin–in a magic kingdom where names are destinies, he literally is the rump of everyone’s jokes. But his luck changes when he finds an archaic spinning wheel–he discovers he can spin straw into gold. His best friend whom we’ll call Red (hint hint) warns him of the magic’s darkest dangers, and she’s right. With each spun thread, Rump obliviously weaves himself deeper and deeper into a curse. To break the curse, he must go on a dangerous quest and fight off pixies, trolls, poisonous apples, and a maliciously foolish queen.

Rump got positive reception for having the fun side that most stories fail to have, full of delightful adventures and hidden messages such as greed and friendship.

Pulse (Pulse, #1)

From the look of this cover, you may already tell this has something to do with sci-fi. Well, if you guessed that, you’re right. This is indeed a sci-fi story called Pulse from the author of Skeleton Creek, which came out in February. 38 years from now, the world is still recognizable. No world wars, no apocalypse, no Republics or Capitols–I’m assuming. Well, the country has been split into two “super States” (what.), and protagonist Faith Daniels attends what is little more than a teenage daycare. In the future, select teens have “pulses” which grant them with the power to move things with their minds. In other words, they’re telekinetic. Faith discovers that she has a pulse with the help of a mysterious classmate named Dylan. Faith uses her powers against telekinetic masters so powerful they could pancake their enemies using uprooted street lights and shifted boulders. But even with a pulse, the mind can be hard to control. So can the heart. If Faith and Dylan want to combine forces and save the world of the future, she must harness both and discover that real power comes from within.

Reception for Pulse was mixed to negative. Its unexplained future was heavily panned alongside its conspicuous lack of action-packed adventure, plus its underwhelming characters and relationships and a greatly deceiving synopsis. In fact, here’s how one Goodreads user put it: “…almost non-existent adventure (unless you consider moving cups with your mind adventure), poor and mostly unlikable and under-developed characters and extremely unhealthy relationships.” Wow, is a story about telekinesis and saving the world that bad?

Also, the finale for Laurie Halse Anderson’s award-winning Seeds of America trilogy (started by Chains and continued by Forge) is forthcoming. It’s going to be called Ashes, and the plot is as of now unknown. The book may be releasing this year as opposed to 2014, but I guess we need to stay tuned for those news.

Ah, finally. We’ve saved the best for last. People who mowed through the Hunger Games trilogy and were starving for more turned Veronica Roth’s Divergent into an award-winning NY Times bestseller. When the book’s sequel Insurgent came out, people turned that into yet another award-winning bestseller. The two books became so successful that Roth is currently planning for a Divergent movie! (Check her Twotter feed to stay tuned. Yeah, I did that on purpose.) But now, after months of theories and guesses, Roth’s epic finale to her trilogy is coming this October–Allegiant. Yeah, Roth sarcastically gave the book the name of Detergent, but some people thought it was called Convergent, and that’s how this came up:

Anyway, check out Amazon’s and Goodreads’ summary to the explosive end to Roth’s smashing saga. (Oh, like my amazing alliteration?)

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth’s #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

Stay tuned and stay hungry for Allegiant when it hits stores October 22. But for now, here’s a link to Roth’s Twotter:

https://twitter.com/VeronicaRoth

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That was fun! If you plan on reading any of my recommended books, post it in the comments below. Make sure to subscribe if you’re new, and don’t forget–press the like button. Now just stay tuned until next time to get more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy America,

~S~ 8-)

Video of the Week: If you’ve stuck with me long enough, you probably know who Nick Bertke is. He’s the greatest mixer of all time, that’s who he is. He goes under the stage name Pogo (his channel’s called “Fagottron”), and although he has less than 250,000 subs, his videos have gotten millions of hits and millions of fans for his unique remixes of movies and TV shows. His best works include remixes of Harry PotterMary PoppinsAlice in Wonderland (1951), and Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs. Today’s video of the week is a Pogo remix from two years ago with nearly 750,000 hits. It’s a remix of HR Pufnstuf. If you don’t know what that is, sit back and enjoy this lesson.

Back in the 60s, there were these people named Sid & Marty Krofft. They made a show called HR Pufnstuf, which ran in 1969 on NBC. Yes, I said NBC. However, the show was so successful it stayed on the Saturday morning schedule until 1972. The show’s about a boy named Jimmy who takes his magic flute named Freddy and rides a boat to Living Island, where everything from clocks to houses are anthropomorphic. The island’s mayor is a dragon whom is the title character of the show, who takes Jimmy in to protect him from the show’s antagonist Witchiepoo. In a nutshell, it’s basically a psychedelic Sesame Street.

Because I love you guys so much, here’s the Bonus Video of the Week. It’s another Pogo remix, but you should be able to tell what got remixed from the name of the video.

Sam out.

3RD ANNUAL SAMMWAK CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR SPECIAL


Hey guys it’s Sam from the future, and I just want to apologize once again for the whole malware alert fiasco on Google Chrome. I made edits on most of the gaming sections of the post and it is now 100% officially available for all to see. I know this may have come up a bit late, and I can’t wish you a merry Christmas now, but definitely have a happy new year! See you in a few, America!

~S~ 8-) (Sent from the future on 12/29/12)

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Hey guys it’s Sam, and welcome to our third annual Sammwak Christmas/New Year special! But let’s start out with the Christmas half. There’s that one month of the year where the snow falls and temperature drops, but cheer rises. Yep, it’s the month of December, which means the month of Christmas. Most people believe the 24th and 25th are the two days where you hope Santa Claus will come and make your entire year worthwhile, but that’s not even the true meaning of it. It’s actually just a big birthday party for Jesus Christ, as the holiday is actually the “season finale” for Advent, as well as the beginning of the 12 days of Christmastide. (Yeah, I spelled it right, it’s not “Christmastime”.) But anyway, let’s get our party pumping with a nice spin on our trademark Christmas carol…”(Sammwak Wants You To) Deck the Halls 2012″!

Deck the halls with seas of presents,

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

‘Tis the season to be goody,

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

Santa’s coming, so please be good, or he’ll give you a big lump of coal!

One day a year is this jolly

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-LA!

Oh, I also planned to have some SpongeBob in there, so here ya go.

Oh, and here’s a cool song my English Plus class listened to the other day. Here’s the lyrics if you want to partake in a Minecraft Christmas Sing-Along! And since it’ll take too long to go through every word in the entire song, let’s do just the 12th day and work our way down the list of items.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my Steve gave to me,

twelve iron shovels,

eleven tasty cookies,

ten dancing zombies,

nine little saplings,

eight shiny diamonds,

seven golden apples,

six Ender chests,

FIVE GOLDEN PANTS!

four tasty cakes,

three anvils,

two diamond picks,

and a Creeper hissing at me!

Now for some tips to throw a great Christmas party!

  • Book a date. As December moves, people get busier by the second, so it’s good to have a date ready.
  • Send out invitations in late November or early December. This way you can drain out how many people to expect, and remember that this is RSVP only.
  • Plan your eateries in advance. Are you gonna host a relaxed buffet, or a more sit-down meal? Scrawl down your ideas on the shopping list and stick to them. Prepare as much as possible the day before the party, and make things easy and simple—-the last thing you’d want to do is be slaving your own self in the kitchen while guests are having a good time. Some good recommendations to fulfill hungers are cookies, cookies, and more cookies.
  • Welcome guests upon arrival. Be sure to make your guests feel good, and greet them at the door. Take their coats and escort them to the party area. Make introductions if guests aren’t acquainted with one another and strike the conversation. Arrange drinks to hand out to your guests, and the real icebreaker comes for shy guests.
  • Play music. The perfect formula to setting moods fast. Be sure to cook up a few CDs beforehand, but play it at a sustainable volume, since people will want to chat.
  • Host games (optional decision). The most classic party games in the book, like charades, are perfect for Christmas parties. More sophisticated get-togethers can host adult games, but just in case, have plenty of writing utensils, papers, and balloons.
  • Have fun! Don’t feel uncomfortable at the party. Your guests will be looking at you to set the mood, you being the host/hostess. If you lead the way of a fun time, all will follow.
  • Give the kids something to enjoy! Especially if you have children at your party, let them have friends invited. Give the kids something to do that will keep them entertained for a sustainable duration, so keep them busy.

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If you prefer some “picks for popcorn” to satisfy your yuletide needs, check out some of my most favored holiday flick picks!

Golden Tomato Award winner for Best-Reviewed Animated Film of 2011

“…a clever and earnest holiday film with surprising emotional strength” – Rotten Tomatoes

“Fabulous, funny holiday movie about the Christmas spirit” – Common Sense Media

In her film directing debut, Sarah Smith gives us arguably one of the best–if not the best–Christmas film released to theaters in years. The story revolves around Santa Claus’s titular yet maladroit son Arthur Christmas as he gets caught in the middle of yet another gift-giving spree on Christmas Eve. However, not even Santa’s high-tech ship has delivered every present that needed to be delivered, as Arthur realizes that one girl’s present has been left behind. In one of the wildest, riskiest, and craziest journeys yet, Arthur and his comrades must race against the clock to deliver the lone present and save Christmas. The film ended up grossing almost $150 million–$50 million more than the film’s actual budget. But hey, don’t be nervous because it didn’t win commercially. Grab your family and friends and check out how it can  really bring the “tide” back into “yuletide”…

2010 Kids Choice Award winner for Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie (Jim Carrey)

2010 Kids Choice Award nominee for Favorite Animated Movie

36th Saturn Award nominee for Best Animated Feature

Common Sense Media Editor’s Pick

“…dazzling special effects…an array of fine performances from Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman” – Rotten Tomatoes

“an exhilarating visual experience” – The Chicago Sun-Times

“a marvelous and touching yuletide toy of a movie” – Entertainment Weekly

From the director from some of history’s most groundbreaking films–Forrest Gump,the Back to the Future trilogy, and The Polar Express–comes one of the most unique animated holiday films of all time. Presented completely in motion-capture animation, Robert Zemeckis’ take on A Christmas Carolstars, as always, the cold and gluttonous Ebenezer Scrooge. In 1843, Scrooge shows true hatred for everything related to Christmas or even happiness itself, refusing to attend his nephew’s Christmas party and forcing his employee Bob Cratchit to beg to take the day off. That night, Scrooge gets an unexpected visit by the spirit of his former partner-in-business Jacob Marley whom had passed a week prior on Xmas Eve, now having to carry heavy chains forged from his greed throughout his afterlife. Marley gives off a premonition that Scrooge will be haunted by three spirits that will guide him to finally repent and prevent an even worse fate than himself. Indeed, Scrooge is haunted by the three ghosts Marley had foretold–the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. Through the spirits Scrooge witnesses visions of how he became the man he is now, the ways he will corrupt others, and–if he really doesn’t cooperate–even his own fate…

1995 Kids Choice Award nominee for Favorite Movie Actor (Tim Allen)

“…firmly rooted in the sort of good old-fashioned holiday spirit missing from too many modern yuletide films” – Rotten Tomatoes

“Heartwarming family tale for both kids and adults” – Common Sense Media

Imagine this: one night you cause Santa Claus to fall from your rooftop to his demise and you and your son must finish St. Nick’s gift deliveries, then you travel to the North Pole where you realize–much to your surprise–that you must actually become the real Santa Claus himself and, under the power of the Santa Clause, convince his loved ones that he truly is Father Christmas himself. But you’re not impersonating Santa, you’re slowly becoming him–you’re growing white hairs, you’re adding weight, etc. Well, that’s basically the entire concept of The Santa Clause. In director John Pasquin’s first collab with Allen since his days on TV with Home Improvement, this fictitious fantasia hosts Allen’s first real primetime trip to the big screen after working a minor role in 1989′s Tropical Snow and is sure to be a family hit for both the hilarity and the heart-warming it has to offer. And if you don’t think so, then ho ho ho boy, you’ve got some work to do! (Bonus: If you want to, consider the movie’s two sequels Santa Clause 2 and Santa Clause 3.)

Title-holder of history’s highest-grossing comedy film as of 2009

1990 Oscar nominee for Best Original Score (composed by John Williams) and Best Original Song (“Somewhere In My Memory”)

1991 Kids Choice Award winner for Favorite Movie

“a good-natured, albeit unrealistic, family film that both kids and adults will enjoy” – Common Sense Media

This is easily the most classic yuletide comedy in the book, the one movie that skyrocketed star Macaulay Culkin’s film career, and one that will always live in my heart. In this hilarious hijink, the McCallister family is preparing to spend their Christmas in Paris, but forget one tiny detail: Kevin, whom is one of the two sons. Now home alone, Kevin finds himself to experience true freedom by pigging out and watching mature films, but after an unexpected visit by the Chicago Police Department Kevin gets an even worse scenario where his house is under the besiege of two dangerous thieves…dangerously dull, that is. Once Kevin realizes he has to defend his home if he wants to emerge as the victor of the fight, he begins organizing an increasingly clever series of booby traps that the burglars mindlessly continue to fall victim to. That’s pretty much the entire film, but that premise alone–and how the film’s director, also responsible for Gremlins and Mrs. Doubtfire, pulled it off–grossed the movie an overall revenue of almost $500 million! No wonder it’s the highest-grossing comedy of all time!

2004 ASCAP Award winner for Top Box Office Films

2004 Golden Trailer winner for Best Comedy

2004 Blimp Award nominee for Favorite Movie

2004 MTV Movie Award nominee for Best Comedic Performance (Will Ferrell)

2004 PFCS Award nominee for Best Live Action Family Film and Best Use of Previously Published or Recorded Music

2004 Teen Choice Award nominee for Choice Movie Actor (Will Ferrell) and Choice Movie – Comedy

2005 Golden Satellite Award nominee for Best Youth DVD

Common Sense Media Editor’s Pick

“A movie full of Yuletide cheer…a spirited, good-natured family comedy…benefits greatly from Will Ferrell’s funny and charming performance as one of Santa’s biggest helpers” – Rotten Tomatoes

“Peppy holiday favorite for both kids and parents” – Common Sense Media

In Will Ferrell’s first primetime starring role for a family film, he portrays Buddy, a man raised among Santa’s elves whom discovers that in actuality he is the son of a father named Walter who likes in NYC and is on Santa’s naughty list. Ditching the North Pole to find his dad, Buddy only incorporates what he’s learned among the elves and elflike, which makes Buddy a snowflake decoration master and gives him expectations to the best from everyone. Which, in case you’re wondering, aren’t really crucial skills in the Big Apple. Buddy’s dad, who’s in the publishing industry, is slipping on thin ice because he needs to find a successful children’s book by Christmas Eve. Despite being skeptical that Buddy is his son, after a DNA test Walter finally accepts Buddy and brings him home to meet Walter’s wife and second son. However at Gimbel’s, Buddy stumbles across a pretty lass named Jovie. On his way to saving the holidays and creating happy endings for all from the North Pole to NYC, Buddy gets lots of opportunities to do idiotically fun activities as he experiences what the Big Apple has to offer, as well as getting more in touch with Jovie and her family.

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That’s enough movies for one special! Now, in reference to this year’s Halloween special, let’s tune in some of your favorite TV show’s efforts in making their viewers’ Christmases a very merry and holly jolly one! But before I tell you that, I need to tell you about the campaigning some of my fave channels have been doing. Cartoon Network has definitely got in the habit, changing their trademark jingle to fit the yuletide mood and even hosting the Naughty Or Nice Christmas event:

And Disney XD has also gotten in a yuletide mood, introducing their new “Shiver-Vision” campaign to support them kinda like how Disney Channel’s “Monstober” campaign kicks in for Halloween.

Now, let’s get to that TV!

Oh, Christmas Nuts!” from Kickin’ It - Yep, even the Wasabi Warriors celebrate Christmas. But Jack, Milton, and Jerry are more interested in getting presents from Santa than unlocking the true yuletide spirit, so Rudy makes the trio volunteer at “Santa’s village” for activities like gift-wrapping and the snowball toss. However, their intentions backfire when they are framed for stealing a bag of gifts from the village and become “the kids who stole Christmas”, becoming banned from the mall and the dojo. The three desperately attempt to show their innocence, targeting an elf named Tinsel, when they discover a shocking secret about the village’s wrapping paper that might just prove they’re not guilty. In the meantime, Eddie and Kim participate in the ultimate “fight before Christmas” by showing off their window displays in a contest full of envy and competition.

The Christmas Special” by Regular Show - For this simplistically titled half-hour holiday special, you might be wondering, “What’s the park doing to celebrate Christmastime?” Well, of course throwing a huge Christmas party! Unfortunately, at the same time Santa himself is getting himself in a lot of trouble. One of his own elves, Quillgin, has betrayed him and now they are fighting to what seems to be the death over a gift box. The clash ends suddenly when Quillgin fires three bullets into Santa and causes him to fall out of his sleigh, taking the box with him. He ends up making a crash landing in Skips’ garage, where Mordo and Rigs discover him while going out to get more drinks for the party. After being skeptical Santa proves to them he is not a scam by reciting the two’s Christmas wishes about invisibility cloaks, and he informs them about his purpose and why the gift box is so important. When opened, the box grants its bearers with what they want most–and it accepts anything, even the worst of occurrences. Worse yet, the gift can only be destroyed when thrown into a pit of lava, which means nothing like a chainsaw or a hammer can even dent it. The pair, now having gotten the rest of their comrades into believing their story, travel with Santa to East Pines to drop off the box in an abandoned mineshaft. However, when Rigby commits an act of vandalism by playing with the park’s snowman, they are held as captors by none other than their worst enemy–Gene. Initially Gene does not believe them, stating that they’re trying to pull a yuletide prank because Benson was mad about the quality of his sweater, but after discovering the box’s true powers he gives in. Gene manages to give the gang a ride to the mineshaft on snowmobiles, and warns the gang about a series of booby traps before heading away. It turns out that before they can get to the pit, they must go through three trials that are not as treacherous as the last…

Christmas” from The Amazing World of Gumball - As the series’ first episode to have a name without “the” in it, Elmore’s Christmas special is obviously a very special one. In what seems to be a reference to The Santa Clause, the Wattersons accidentally hit a filthy bum whom apparently looked strikingly like Santa. When they rush the stranger to the hospital, Richard worries that he will be on the naughty list and decides to do a few impromptu deeds that only manage to wreck the hospital. After Richard’s hospital havoc, the doctor finally gives the family the diagnosis of the situation: the stranger has no ID, no memory, clearly no chances of being Santa, but he does have one thing–he must be cared for by those who caused pain to him in the first place. The family definitely goes overboard with their planning, as Richard surrenders everything he owns to “Santa”, Nicole goes out of her way to ensure that everything “Santa”‘s  filthy fingers touch will be put in their place, and the family even takes “Santa” to the mall and replaces him with the mall Santa…

It’s A SpongeBob Christmas!” from SpongeBob – Remember back in 2000, during SpongeBob‘s second season, when “Christmas Who?” came out and literally redefined Nick’s ways to make a Christmas special? Well twelve years have passed since that, and seemingly to celebrate the success of the original SpongeBob Christmas special, Nick came back with something even bigger. And by big, we mean they took Bikini Bottom, turned it into stop motion inspired by the timeless Rankin/Bass specials, and added several songs to the mix. Yep, that’s a true SpongeBob Christmas. And this Christmastime definitely differs from the rest, as Plankton has his biggest scheme yet to both ruin the happiest day of the year for Bikini Bottom and all its Bikini Bottomites, as well as make himself look good for Santa to put on his nice list and deliver to him what he desires most–the secret Krabby Patty formula. And how does such an evil mastermind do that? Well, after thirteen years of failure Plankton has definitely taken notes, as his new plan is creating…fruitcakes? But these aren’t just any fruitcakes, these are fruitcakes laced with jerktonium, an element “fresh from the periodic table” as “Jt” that can make any consumer become the meanest and nastiest jerk of all. Pretty soon, Plankton spreads his baked horrors across the city and slowly turns everyone Bikini Bottomite around into a jerk. Every single one except SpongeBob. Apparently, his yuletide love is so strong not even jerktonium can reach his heart, so thanks to this Plankton has created a Plan B that will take SpongeBob’s Christmas cheer and crush it–a metallic Sponge-Bot that will impersonate the real being. With SpongeBob curious as to how the city’s gone mad–literally–he visits a cranky Sandy where he finally discovers the secret to the fruitcake’s power…

Note: This episode contains one major error–when in Sandy’s treedome SpongeBob does not wear his water helmet and is perfectly fine in air for some reason–the stop motion likely made it tough to create a helmet for his head, let alone having it stay on.

A Fairly Odd Christmas” from The Fairly OddParents - Now, this isn’t exactly what you’d call a TV episode, but rather a TV movie. But I still consider this a Christmas special, and it still technically is in the show’s canon. In this riveting holiday Odd Movie sequel to Grow Up, Timmy Turner, Timmy is traveling round the world with his girlfriend Tootie and his fairies. While on this magical trek the foursome are granting wishes for the people they meet, but Santa discovers that with these granted wishes Timmy’s customers automatically get removed from Santa’s nice list. After confrontation with a pair of elves, Santa directly explains to Timmy the true meaning behind “with great power comes great responsibility”. But at that very moment an elf informs Santa that the gift wrapping machine has broken, and when Timmy unwittingly decides to grant Santa’s wish, his fairy magic malfunctions and turns into a blast that sends Santa sailing into the machine. Worse yet, he suffered a blow to the head on the way in, and he has suffered brain damage. Luckily, Timmy’s beefcake companion Jorgen arrives and tells him–once again foreshadowing The Santa Clause–that he must become Santa since all godchildren must take the place of a holiday icon they have been damaged to the point where they can’t do their job. Unfortunately, Timmy can’t become Santa due to being on his naughty list, and Timmy’s fairy friends can’t do squat about it since the planet’s magnetic polarity at the North Pole invalidates this type of magic…

Note: This is Drake Bell’s second starring role to a Nick show’s Christmas special in the form of a TV movie. The first was Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh.

Mr. Claus” and “Mr. Elf” from Mr. Young - If you couldn’t already infer, this is indeed another reference to The Santa Clause. After Derby’s planned prank goes wrong, Santa ends up falling from his sleigh on Christmas Eve and his hard landing knocks out his memory! So now Adam, Derby, Ivy, Echo, and Slab must deliver the rest of Santa’s gifts to the entire world in just one sleigh! Unfortunately, upon coming back they discover something shocking about Santa that changes the entire Christmas for them. As for “Mr. Elf”, Santa is also a centric character in this episode as Adam takes a reindeer to the North and convinces Santa to automate the work, but now must care for all the unemployed elves. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but then again this episode has only aired in Canada…

Silent Punch, Deadly Punch” from Randy Cunningham - Norrisville’s favorite ninja is back to kick some yuletide butt, and he is looking for the Skunk Pine so his smoke bombs can be restocked. When Randy does find the Pine, it is stolen by Hannibal McFist to use as a Christmas tree for a party at McFist Industries. After discovering that Howard is also at Hannibal’s party when his company was bought by his industries, Randy disguises as a ninja Santa to infiltrate the party and restock his bombs. Even if it means fighting robo-elves and a robo-snowman…

Generic Holiday Special” and “Orange Carol” from Annoying Orange - Yep, Nerville and his flock of fruits have definitely got their hands full of yuletide spirit. But they have so much of it, they couldn’t cram it all into one episode–they had to knife chop it into two! Their first episode was the show’s first “generic holiday special”, highlighting things like how the Easter Bunny makes his eggs (ewww), Passion Fruit’s plan to outdo Orange’s “new friend”, as well as some celebrity appearances. And not celebrity appearances as big as the Rock Candy Monster (although he does nonetheless appear), these are actual celebrities–people like “Weird Al” Yankovic, Bret Michaels, and Alice Cooper, to be exact! Oh, there’s also famous vegetable guitarist Squash in there. But as for “Orange Carol”, it sounds pretty much 100% as it seems–Orange’s levels of annoyance have slowly begun to upset his fruity friends as they go Christmas caroling, and even Nerville has been infuriated to the point where he bans Orange from the group of carolers. But as he naps, he is visited by three spirits who will one way or another show him the errors of his ways. The first spirit is the Ghost of Annoyances Past (aka Midget Apple), who shows him how annoying he’s been for the past few Christmases. The second spirit is the Ghost of Annoyances Present (aka Pear), who shows him how his friends are doing without him around. And the third and final spirit is the Ghost of Annoyances Future (aka Marshmallow), who shows him how corrupted his future will be if he continues to be so annoying…

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But of course, I’d be a cold-blooded and cold-hearted blogger if I didn’t talk about the tragedy that occurred exactly a week ago. All was well on the 14th of December for Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. Almost 500 kids had enrolled in the school between kindergarten and fourth grade, and it seemed to be a pretty basic day…or so everyone thought. At exactly 9:35 in the morning, 20-year old Adam P. Lanza had just committed matricide and was driving his mom’s car to Sandy Hook, where he broke through a glass door at the front of the school. Sporting apparel fresh out of Battlefield, Lanza spent the 14 minutes he was inside the school shooting every child and teacher in sight. Lanza ended up robbing the lives of twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook before committing suicide with a headshot as soon as police authorities arrived. Add all that up with Lanza’s mother, and a total of 28 people lost their lives0 in the shooting. Despite the number the Sandy Hook shooting ranks as the second-deadliest shooting in America (behind the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007) as well as the second-deadliest mass murder at an elementary school in the US (behind the 1927 Bath School bombings). Enough gruesome details, let’s just dive into “moment of silence mode” to honor and remember those who were put to rest last Friday. Yes, from bystanders to heroes.

  • Charlotte Bacon (6)
  • Daniel Barden (7)
  • Olivia Engel (6)
  • Josephine Gay (7)
  • Dylan Hockley (6)
  • Madeleine Hsu (6)
  • Catherine Hubbard (6)
  • Chase Kowalski (7)
  • Jesse Lewis (6)
  • Ana Marquez-Greene (6)
  • James Mattioli (6)
  • Grace McDonnell (6)
  • Emilie Parker (6)
  • Jack Pinto (6)
  • Noah Pozner (6)
  • Caroline Previdi (6)
  • Jessica Rekos (6)
  • Avielle Richman (6)
  • Benjamin Wheeler (6)
  • Allison Wyatt (6)
  • Rachel D’Avino (29, teacher’s aid)
  • Dawn Hochsprung (47, principal)
  • Anne Marie Murphy (52, teacher’s aid)
  • Lauren Rousseau (30, teacher)
  • Mary Sherlach (56, school psychologist)
  • Victoria Leigh Soto (27, teacher)
  • Nancy Lanza (52, Lanza’s mother/killed at home)

“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

- Barack Obama in one of his many speeches addressing the Sandy Hook shooting

As you can see in my little blockquote, the shooting has triggered swarms of shock, surprise, and most of all grief across the country and even most of the world. It has gotten tons of reactions from people who took the gratitude to remember those who were put to the big nap in this tragedy. Smosh didn’t even release their usual Friday video one week because of the shooting! Luckily, I think all this was satisfied when practically all the artists and coaches on The Voice banded together to sing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with an array of lit candles organized to set the mood. Each artist and coach held a card which bore the name of a young victim in the shooting and their age. Here, it makes a lot more sense if you see it for yourself. (By the way this has over 4.4 million hits, so consider it viral.)

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And since you know how much of a Jolly Good Bookie I am–that’s right, I am the Bookie–let’s count down this year’s best and worst books of the year!

As I said before, and will say again, I’d be daft if I didn’t mention the first three Sisters Grimm books as some of my books of the year. I don’t know how Michael Buckley pulls it off, whether or not he has some sort of “magic touch” when it comes to writing. He has the humor, adventure, action, surprises, excitement, charm, awesomeness, character, fantasy incorporation, and about a million other things that made the original Sisters Grimm trilogy nothing less than a flawless hit. (Wow, I think someone would ought to say this about Ocarina of Time.) When I first read Fairy-Tale Detectives, all I recognized Buckley for was his NERDS series, which I had eventually gotten quite fond of. But as I read the book, it slowly changed my perspective of the fantasy genre itself, and when I put the book down I was almost itching to get the sequel. A few weeks or months later (remember people, this is an entire school grade ago, so I can’t recall much detail) I eventually got the second installment via “on-hold” and read that through like I’d read the first one. In a rather dimwitted act, I got so antsy for that book that I checked out both the third and fourth installments to try and hold me off. Unfortunately, I didn’t read a chapter of either books since I knew it wouldn’t make any sense, and simply refused to treat a series like this. Luckily when I read the third book, it blew its previous installments out of the water. And to this day, although I’m still waiting for my time with the fourth installment to come–I keep having dreams about it–let’s just honor the original trilogy in the meantime. Especially with our Fantasy Books of the Year honor.

Now, I bet you’re wondering, “Oh, of course Sam would put City of Ember as one of the top books.” Well, actually, I’ve got a pattern going on. I list a good book, and then I list a bad book. And as I already listed Sisters Grimm as a good book, then City of Ember inevitably has to be the bad book. Now I bet you’re shocked, flabbergasted, thinking I’m all hypocritical. But actually, City of Ember only messes up on the small problems that predictably grow bigger throughout the story. Speaking of story, the book’s storyline isn’t half bad: in a post-apocalyptic world, the city of Ember has reached its 240th year of existence and seems to be in more eroding condition each year. The lightbulbs that serve as the city’s only light source are beginning to die out, resulting in blackouts that terrify the entire city, but two kids will get to the bottom of it. Doon Harrow and Lina Mayfleet, to be exact. On Assignment Day–it’s sort of like a holiday where each young Emberite (I know it’s not a word, but it sounds right) receives a job requiring work around the city–Lina is given the dreaded job of Pipeworks laborer. Doon, however, gets the best job of all–the messenger–and shockingly turns it down. Eventually Doon convinces Lina to swap jobs with him, as Doon is interested in the Pipeworks due to them bearing Ember’s generator. Seems cool, huh? Not when awkward storyline and clunky perspective and dialogue get in the way. These are basically what makes City of Ember that much farther away from its true goal, and this is kind of sad to say. Ember had a great storyline and plenty of potential, but its problems in general prose is what corrupted the book. And it got turned into one of the most mediocre movies of 2008, as well as one of the year’s biggest box office failures. That’s corruption itself. Let’s give this book a Sci-Fi Miss of the Year honor just to accentuate the book’s imperfections.

You’ve probably never heard of this book. And that’s what makes it that much better. Paul Feig’s groundbreaking children’s literature debut, Ignatius MacFarland: Frequenaut!, practically takes modern science fiction and gives it his own unique twist. And as he was the true main man behind the notorious Nickelodeon show Freaks and Geeks, it wasn’t a surprise Feig didn’t back down in humor. In fact, all of Feig’s charm, adventure, action, and prose skills were conglomerated in this one novel, and it had an equally impressive storyline to go with it. You see–well, let’s just use the description I had in our last INSANE.

” As the titular star of the book, Ignatius “Iggy” MacFarland, achieves both. The premise of the story revolves around Iggy being the center of lots of teases and laughs from the meaner kids at his school (an example being “Piggy MacFartland”), and when he reaches the last straw he decides to do something that even Neil Armstrong considers bizarre. (Or should I say, considered, due to Neil’s passing earlier this year in August. Long live the man who showed us that it was possible to literally moonwalk. :cry: ) Iggy actually builds a rocket ship that he plans to launch to send him (and his friends Gary and Ivan) into outer space to another planet. Iggy has the metaphor that hopefully the extraterrestrials will be more nice to him, but when something horrible happens with his ship–with him inside–he is somehow blasted to…well, not outer space, but a parallel reality or “frequency” known as Lesterville. (And here’s where the science fiction comes in…)

At this twisted dystopian version of the real world, Iggy discovers a strange race of humans and their even stranger language (made up of the mere “puh” and “pah”), and discovers that the entire frequency is ruled by a man known as Chester Arthur–Iggy’s English teacher! He has now become the frequency’s dictator/president, and literally every brand in sight has been affected with Arthur’s name. Arthur Potter by J.K. Arthling, Artbucks, Art Wars: The Artpire Strikes Back, Art of the Rings, The Artfather Parts I and II, even Spider-Art, for Art’s sake! (Oh great, now they got me doing it.) In this frequency, Iggy meets Karen (another Earthling) who becomes his companion in solving the mystery of Lesterville and defeating this version of Mr. Arthur–and hopefully they can return home with their skins. Oh, there’s also a flying fairy-like girl in the story named Foo, which you could consider his second companion.”

I finished it a while ago, and it turned out to be one of the greatest sci-fi novels I’ve read since War of the Worlds. So with all this smashed together, it’s not a big mystery why I should give this my Sci-Fi Book of the Year honor.

Now, Dan Gutman’s always had a special place in the book section of my heart. From his Million DollarWeird School, and Homework Machine sagas to some of his standalones like Getting Air and Get Rich Quick Club, he’s always nourished his abilities with humor to fuel his prose. But this–I think he was still experimenting his writing skills with this one. I’m not saying that to insult the book, this is actually his second sci-fi book (after They Came from Centerfield, which is actually Gutman’s fiction debut) and arguably his most creative and unique one yet. It basically revolves around a boy named Lucas “Yip” Turner, named after George Lucas and nicknamed after Yip Harburg (responsible for the music from Wizard of Oz). Yip’s family is engulfed in film special effects–his father is a modern VFX expert while his grandpa is a more old-school junkie in horror film effects. One day, Mr. Turner introduces brand-new software that can create virtual actors to take the places of stunt doubles (known as “vactors”), so Yip and his sister create a vactor of their own. This vactor goes by the name of “Victor” (get it?), and he is pretty much intellectually, physically, mentally, and emotionally perfect. To sum all this up, Victor fulfills the book’s title of being “virtually perfect”. However, Yip makes a deal with Vic–if Yip could let Vic break the barriers of cyberspace and enter the real world, Vic could let Yip break the barriers of the real world and enter cyberspace. However, Yip realizes that the software–and Vic–have bugs, and soon Vic turns against his owner. Which is actually one of the most humdrum plots I’ve seen this year.

This is basically the exact same plot as the DCOM Pixel Perfect (see the similarities already?), except it’s put in a book. “Unfortunately, there were lots of bumps in the book, from prose to premises. And not even its endless consumerism mentioning can stop VIRTUALLY PERFECT from several death-defying imperfections.” That was my Google Books review, by the way. And I think you can tell that this is our Sci-Fi Flop of the Year already.

Historical Fiction Book of the Year. Nuff said.

Take the Boxcar Children‘s humor and character and smash it together with X-Men‘s heroism and action, and and what do you get? Booklist‘s formula for the kickoff to James Patterson’s Maximum Ride, The Angel Experiment. If you paid attention during my Middle School, Worst  Years of My Life review a few Fridays ago, you would know that James Patterson writes much more fantastical series. Witch & Wizard focuses mostly on fantasy, while Maximum Ride is Patterson’s taste of science fiction. Anyway, the book revolves around the flock. Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman, and Angel to be exact. Anyway, these six kids all share an amazing yet at the same time dark secret–as babies they were the test subjects of genetic experimentation, and because of that they became 98% human and 2% bird/avian! And with that 2% avian came their own pair of wings which actually allow them to fly! Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t spend the entire 400 pages with these kids frolicking and partaking in aerial mischief–they’re actually the prey of a fierce manhunt formed by the Erasers, a wolflike species which loves eating up winged kids like the flock for dinner. In fact, the Erasers had abducted the former youngest flock member, Ari, and turned him against his own relatives! The actual plot of the book mainly consists of the Eraser-flock battle, from the Erasers kidnapping Angel to a final subway fight with Ari to serve as the finale of the novel. And in case you didn’t know, that’s what makes the novel so exciting to read and picture [using Dav Pilkey's imagination theory]. Here’s what I had to say about the book in my Google Books review:

“James Patterson proves that his history of action and mystery writing from the 1990s is still intact with this engrossing read. THE ANGEL EXPERIMENT impeccably mixes Patterson’s trademark charm, humor, and action to make for one of the best sci-fi adventures in the past decade. Definitely a recommendation for people who love unique science fiction or don’t like science fiction at all, and for those who are skeptical about the series they can start off with the manga books.”

You don’t even have to read the book for the first hundred pages to see why it’s my Book of the Year.

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We’ve been through movies, we’ve been through TV, we’ve even been through the Sandy Hook sho–oh, what’s that? You want me to talk about video games now? If you say so! Here’s a highlight retrospective of what’s been happening through the fourth and final quarter of the gaming season!

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One of the most anticipated games of the year, Assassin’s Creed III, became Ubisoft’s biggest launching success yet. Its pre-order numbers alone drove both Brotherhood and Revelations‘ ratings into the ground, becoming the company’s most pre-ordered game ever. In its opening week the game topped the UK charts as the bestselling game of the week, boasting the best sales the series has ever seen to date. In fact, AC3 was actually the UK’s second biggest launch of the year only behind FIFA 13, doubling the launching week sales of AC2 and beating Revelations by over 100,000 copies! 3.5 million copies of the game were sold in the game’s first week of release! At the night of this year’s Spike VGAs, it received six award nominations: Game of the Year, Best Xbox 360 Game, Best PS3 Game, Best Action-Adventure Game, Best Graphics, and Character of the Year for Connor Kenway. It also was the centerpiece of plenty of critical acclaim from some of the biggest reviewers out there:

“A resonant story, compelling exploration, and tense oceanic battles make Assassin’s Creed III a rousing success” – GameSpot

“…delivers everything the series has promised, and throws in a little more for good measure” – Game Informer magazine

“…newly refined gameplay and incredibly rich setting are captivating stuff…” – Official Xbox Magazine

“…an impressive adventure that succeeds in most of what it attempts.” – IGN

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Of course, one of the year’s biggest anticipations finally unraveled itself last month, as Nintendo’s entry into the eighth generation of gaming and the first 8th-gen console to date. It already has the pride of its big brothers, the Wii, SNES, and NES, and I believe that it builds much more upon that. It indeed was the Wii U, formerly codenamed as “Project Café”, that I’m talking about. Just a few weeks ago this console finally hit the primetime, boasting jaw-dropping prices of over $300. Surprisingly, the console has already sold over 400,000 units as of December 1! I don’t know whether it’s the console’s backward compatibility with the Wii, or its new services like the Nintendo Network, or even the console-controller design that makes the Wii U so popular. In fact, maybe it’s merely just the games it has to offer! In fact, the Wii U showed both its upsides and downsides with select games that it had on its launch list, and I’m just about to tell you what those games were…

  • New Super Mario Bros. U, the first Mario game for the Wii U or in HD, was  arguably the console’s biggest hit. It was the center of lots of critical acclaim, getting compliments like it being “a great excuse for families to gather round the TV”, “an enticing glimpse of Mario’s HD future”, and that it was “an impressive step in the right direction.” To add to that, it even got luck at this year’s Spike VGAs when it was awarded with the Best Wii/Wii U Game award! And who else to accept the award like the big boss of Nintendo himself, Shigeru Miyamoto? Currently, the game has sold more than 200,000 units with an attachment rate of approximately 60%.
  • On the other hand, the console’s pioneering survival horror ZombiU didn’t do as good. And I could easily tell why–its London zombie apocalypse premise seemed pretty generic and cheesy to me. And to believe this game was supposed to bring back honor and homage to Zombi, Ubisoft’s first-ever game for consoles like the Commodore 64. The game only proceeded to get a mixed share of reviews overall. Reviewers like Eurogamer praised the game for displaying “the success or otherwise of ZombiU could be defining for the Wii U”. Reviewers like Game Informer and IGN strongly criticized the game for having “a clunky control scheme and annoying melee combat” as well as being “sloppy and poorly executed”. Now, if I were to be the tiebreaker of this skirmish, I’d say that the game isn’t an Operation Raccoon City kind of game, nor is it a Left 4 Dead or Walking Dead kind of game.
  • The Wii U’s pack-in game, Nintendo Land, managed to be a hit with most of the game critics out there. Nintendo Land, intended to create a carnival or theme park atmosphere, consisted of twelve minigames/”attractions” that each had roots of an old Nintendo game. Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Animal Crossing, Luigi’s Mansion, and Pikmin were just some of the games that were rooted into the attractions. The game was created mainly to display the quality and functionality of the Wii U and its GamePad, just like how Wii Sports displayed the abilities of the Wii. And look where that game is now–it’s the most bestselling game in history! Now, since Nintendo Land likely couldn’t achieve a prestigious honor like that, it got its run to glory started with plenty of positive reviews. GameSpot gave the game an 8/10 score and said the game had “plenty of family-friendly fun and [made] great use of the Wii U’s capabilities.” IGN was even more positive about the game, giving it an 8.7/10 score–making the game an Editor’s Choice pick–calling the title “the cream of the mini-game crop” and praising its variety and content. GamesMaster gave the game 86% and said it was “an essential purchase for party lovers that whets the Nintendo appetite.” To me, it looks like Wii Sports has met its match. No, seriously, that’s straight from IGN.
  • The Wii U’s first primetime enhanced game, Batman: Arkham City – Armored Edition, made the game look even better than it already is. It’s already won many prestigious titles, awards, honors, and accolades–in fact, so many that it had to release a Game of the Year edition! So how else to praise a good game by enhancing it exclusively on one console to make it even better? And that’s what Armored Edition‘s sole purpose was to do. One of GameSpot’s editors, Carolyn Petit, praised the game from its atmospheric open world to its amazing senses of combat, but only had two problems with the game–BAT mode, as well as the Wii U-specific settings and properties that put “a few chinks in the Caped Crusader’s costume”. IGN, once again, praised the game for the same fields that GameSpot did, and also criticized the game in the same fields that GameSpot did, but this time the game got off the hook with a 9.5/10 score! In fact, Armored Edition is one of the most praised Wii U games out there right now, so it’s definitely worth a glance or two.

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This month, Spike hosted its 10th-anniversary Video Game Awards. They got so in the mood that they actually renamed the award show VGA 10 for any purpose involving the anniversary. For his fourth time yet Samuel L. Jackson returned as the show’s host, the show had a first for presenting awards via Xbox Live, and also users could “play” the show while it aired. Audience members and users with Xbox Smartglass got an incomparable 2nd-screen experience that had real-time updates along with the show. And to add to that, Entertainment Weekly and the Spike VGAs banded together to make the show’s first “Entertainment Weekly and Spike VGA Best Game of the Decade” award. That is, in case you’re curious, a very prestigious honor. Many games that won’t be hitting retail until 2013 were debuted at the show in their exclusive world premieres, including South Park: The Stick of Truth, BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, and Assassin’s Creed III: The Tyranny of King Washington (the game’s first DLC pack). Wolfgang Gartner, Tenacious D, Linkin Park, and the Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla. For those who want the results of the show and couldn’t see them live, here they are now:

Game of the Year Nominees:

  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Dishonored
  • Journey
  • Mass Effect 3
  • The Walking Dead

Game of the Year Winner: The Walking Dead

Studio of the Year Nominees:

  • 343 Industries for Halo 4
  • Arkane Studios for Dishonored
  • Gearbox Software for Borderlands 2
  • Telltale Games for The Walking Dead

Studio of the Year Winner: Telltale Games

Character of the Year Nominees:

  • Connor Kenway for Assassin’s Creed III
  • Commander Shepard for Mass Effect 3
  • Master Chief for Halo 4
  • Raul Menendez for Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Claptrap for Borderlands 2

Character of the Year Winner: Claptrap

Entertainment Weekly and Spike VGA Best Game of the Decade Nominees:

  • Batman: Arkham City
  • BioShock
  • Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Portal
  • Red Dead Redemption
  • Shadow of the Colossus
  • Half-Life 2
  • Wii Sports
  • World of Warcraft

Best Game of the Decade Winner: Half-Life 2

Best Xbox 360 Game Nominees:

  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Borderlands 2
  • Dishonored
  • Halo 4

Best Xbox 360 Game Winner: Halo 4

Best PS3 Game Nominees:

  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Journey
  • Borderlands 2
  • Dishonored

Best PS3 Game Winner; Journey

Best Wii/Wii U Game Nominees:

  • The Last Story (Wii)
  • Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
  • New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)
  • ZombiU (Wii U)

Best Wii/Wii U Game Winner: New Super Mario Bros. U(by a landslide, I believe neutral)

Best PC Game Nominees:

  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  • Diablo III
  • Guild Wars 2
  • Torchlight II

Best PC Game Winner: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Best Shooter Nominees:

  • Borderlands 2
  • Max Payne 3
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Halo 4

Best Shooter Winner: Borderlands 2

Best Action-Adventure Game Nominees:

  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Darksiders II
  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Dishonored

Best Action-Adventure Game Winner: Dishonored

Best RPG Nominees:

  • Diablo III
  • Torchlight II
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

Best RPG Winner: Mass Effect 3

Best Multiplayer Game Nominees:

  • Borderlands 2
  • Guild Wars 2
  • Halo 4
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Best Multiplayer Game Winner: Borderlands 2

Best Individual Sports Game Nominees:

  • Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
  • WWE ’13
  • SSX

Best Individual Sports Game Winner: SSX

Best Team Sports Game Nominees:

  • Madden NFL 13
  • NHL 13
  • NBA 2K13
  • FIFA 13

Best Team Sports Game Winner: NBA 2K13

Best Driving Game Nominees:

  • DiRT: Showdown
  • F1 2012
  • Forza Horizon
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Best Driving Game Winner: Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Best Song in a Game Nominees:

  • “Castle of Glass” by Linkin Park for Medal of Honor: Warfighter
  • “I Didn’t Ask for This” by Austin Wintory for Journey
  • “Tears” by Health for Max Payne 3
  • “Cities” by Beck for Sound Shapes

Best Song in a Game Winner: “Cities” by Beck

Best Original Score Nominees:

  • Journey by Austin Wintory
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II by Jack Wall
  • Halo 4 by Neil Davidge
  • Max Payne 3 by Health

Best Original Score Winner: Journey by Austin Wintory

Best Graphics Nominees:

  • Halo 4
  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Dishonored
  • Journey

Best Graphics Winner: Halo 4

Best Indie Game Nominees:

  • Fez
  • Journey
  • Mark of the Ninja
  • Dust: An Elysian Trail

Best Indie Game Winner: Journey

Best Fighting Game Nominees:

  • Dead or Alive 5
  • Persona 4 Arena
  • Street Fighter X Tekken
  • Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Best Fighting Game Winner: Persona 4 Arena

Best Handheld/Mobile Game Nominees:

  • Gravity Rush (handheld)
  • Sound Shapes (handheld)
  • LittleBigPlanet PS Vita (handheld)
  • New Super Mario Bros. 2 (handheld)

Best Handheld/Mobile Game Winner: Sound Shapes

Best Performance by a Human Female Nominees:

  • Jen Taylor as Cortana in Halo 4
  • Emma Stone as Amanda Cartwright for Sleeping Dogs
  • Jennifer Hale as Commander Shepard (female) for Mass Effect 3
  • Melissa Hutchison as Clementine for The Walking Dead

Best Performance by a Human Female Winner: Melissa Hutchison as Clementine

Best Performance by a Human Male Nominees:

  • Dameon Clarke as Handsome Jack for Borderlands 2
  • Dave Fennoy as Lee for The Walking Dead
  • James McCaffrey as Max Payne for Max Payne 3
  • Nolan North as Captain Martin Walker for Spec Ops: The Line

Best Performance by a Human Male Winner: Dameon Clarke as Handsome Jack

Best Adapted Video Game Nominees:

  • The Walking Dead
  • Disney Epic Mickey 2
  • Lego Batman 2
  • Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Best Adapted Video Game Winner: The Walking Dead

Best DLC Nominees:

  • Mass Effect 3: Leviathan
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard
  • Portal 2 – Perpetual Testing Initiative
  • Borderlands 2: Mechromancer Pack

Best DLC Winner: Skyrim – Dawnguard

Best Downloadable Game Nominees:

  • Fez
  • The Walking Dead
  • Journey
  • Sound Shapes

Best Downloadable Game Winner: The Walking Dead

Best Social Game Nominees:

  • Draw Something
  • You Don’t Know Jack
  • SimCity Social
  • Marvel: Avengers Alliance

Best Social Game Winner: You Don’t Know Jack

Most Anticipated Game Nominees:

  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Tomb Raider
  • BioShock Infinite
  • The Last of Us
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth

Most Anticipated Game Winner: Grand Theft Auto V

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Pretty cool, huh? Unfortunately, this time of year isn’t all for fun and yuletide cheer. I think I’ve made it quite clear on both my blogs that I was a fan of two magazines. One was Game Informer. The other introduced me to reading game magazines themselves (the first actual mag I read was Nick Mag) and did it in such a unique and creative way. Sure, it was centric around just one company, but still. And, of course, that magazine was Nintendo Power. Since summer 1988 it’s been the one, only, and official Nintendo magazine for all Nintendo diehards’ gaming needs. Unfortunately, this August Nintendo revealed heartbreaking news–since they couldn’t renew their licensing agreement with Future Publishing, the magazine would not be making it to 2013.

Oh, come on Peach, don’t be sad. There are plenty of other Nintendo magazines out there!…I think. But then again, this is pretty much the only Nintendo magazine worth caring about. I can’t believe that this mag has to celebrate its 25th anniversary releasing its final issue! Most game series’ 25th anniversaries are times of celebration, but–sorry, I got a bit emotional there. Let’s not waste time trying to force me to give the saddest yuletide speech and let’s take a look at NP‘s final issue’s cover, and how it so gracefully reflects that of the first:

issue

Let’s all “get the power, Nintendo Power” one last time as this great big ship sails into the sunset…or at least, that’s how the magazine described it. :cry:

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Now, in the same fashion as last year, let’s get more into the “new year” spirit by introducing something that I’ve never really done before–our Channels of the Year. Not just videos of the week, but in my opinion are the channels that have brought the biggest and best stuff to their home pages for the entire year of 2012. And in addition to that, this might get you anticipated for those of 2013! Now, without further ado, here are the best channels of 2012!

You probably should’ve seen this coming, but indeed Tobuscus ranks among the best channels I’ve seen this year. As the fifteenth highest-subscribed YouTube channel of all time, Tobuscus just keeps getting better and better every year, even if it’s his vlogs we’re talking about! Toby already made a smash at VidCon 2012 (the audience actually sang “Dramatic Song” with him! :D) and got a smash for real in his infamous iPhone 5 breaking. His Minecraft song “I Can Swing My Sword!”, after two thirds of the year, became Toby’s second most-viewed video in history with over 20 million hits! (His literal Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood trailer still leads by five million hits.) Not even that, but I also got in touch with Toby more personally at his official Google+! I know for a fact that under all those pictures he takes of him and his fans, he will always be a humble YouTuber. After all, he does have over 500 million video views. So let’s give him the Veteran of the Year Award.

This is definitely one of the newer channels that I’ve been attracted to: Jacksfilms. Much like Toby, his highest video is at over 20 million hits, but he definitely doesn’t have as much subscribers. In fact, he’s only the 378th highest-subscribed channel. That makes me believes that Jacksfilms definitely wins the Underdog of the Year Award in my book. Jack Douglass, the man behind Jacksfilms, does lots of things from his notorious Your Grammar Sucks series to lots of multi million viewed sketch compilations and parodies. He is one third of the “Sideburns Crew” alongside Toby and fellow YouTuber Sean Klitzner, who collaborate in a number of videos. The most-viewed video involving one of these collabs was “TOBJACKSCUS” which got just over 1 million hits since its launch in May 2011. Some of Jack’s parodies also consist of him merely voicing over other commercials like the ShamWow and Snuggie commercials–ironically and coincidentally, these parodies are his top 2 most viewed videos of all time. Sure, Jack doesn’t impress me with every video he releases, but with the videos he does release with impression comes lots of interest. And it’s pretty cool if you’re friends with almost 20,000 people on YouTube.

The fan art Pewdie.
The real Pewdie.

This is probably one of the most famous YouTube channels out there, let alone within the top-10 most subscribed range, and one of those rare channels that manage to bring something great to the table every single dinner. That was a metaphorical statement, but you know what I mean. Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, better known by his YouTube alias PewDiePie or Pewdie, is a 23-year old YouTuber from Sweden who partakes in playing various video games and uploading his reactions to the web for all to see. Some of these games include Cry of Fear, Happy Wheels, PaRappa the Rapper, Shadow of the Colossus, Just Dance, and–easily his most famous one–Amnesia: The Dark Descent. He is the tenth-most subscribed YouTuber of all time, with over 3 million subscribers for his channel, making his channel one of the few fastest-growing ones on YouTube itself. Because of this, Felix definitely deserves a Man of the House Award. He also calls his subscribers “bros” or “the bro army”, which is accentuated by his tendency to perform a viewer-interactive “brofist” at the end of each video. I mainly take pleasure in watching most of the gaming montages he makes, as well as his Happy Wheels and Amnesia videos as standalones. I love PewDiePie so much because he portrays a very humorous but down-to-earth character that is fueled by curiosity and exaggerated human emotions like fear or sorrow. His real-life persona compared to the kind of persona that he portrays in fan art is very intriguing to witness. Speaking of character, sometimes in the games he plays he gives names and life to certain inanimate objects, and here are some of them:

  • Stephano - Arguably Felix’s primary companion while playing Amnesia. Stephano is a golden statue that Felix has speak in a French accent, and he also carries lots of leadership in his attitude and occasionally yells at Felix for being scared or not noticing a blindsighted clue. Stephano was apparently “born” and his birthday is on August 17, 2011, but I can likely infer that day was the first day he starred in a PewDiePie video. Felix usually sets Stephano down every now and then, but then promptly comes back to get him again. Some of Stephano’s trademark phrases are “Allos Pewdie!”, “You found meh!”, “This way, Pewdes”, or “Follow me, Pewd.” He can also hoarsely whisper whenever he is dropped by surprise or when Felix gets startled.
  • Gonzalez - The evil twin of Stephano, except he is bronze instead of gold which makes him easy to differentiate from Stephano. He often tries to trick Felix into believing he is Stephano, gives him good counsel, and is possibly related to Gonzales from the game Facade (another PewDiePie-played title).
  • Piggeh - Likely Felix’s secondary companion in Amnesia, Piggeh is a dead pig that has a birthday two days after Stephano’s, which somehow makes him older than Piggeh. Piggeh’s usual catchphrase is “I’m pumped!” and his humor is very creepy and satirical with a very wide topic range. He has very fluid movement whenever he is carried by Felix, and often says “You thought I’m a pig? No, I’m a snake.” because of this.
  • Jennifer - A rock that Felix sometimes comes across in Amnesia, and is often criticized for her weight due to being large when discovered. Jennifer actually loves Felix but is almost always rejected by him when he says “You’re too fat, Jennifer” or “I know, you’ve told me 1,000 times already”. Jennifer is one of PewDiePie fangirls’ most sympathized characters as her striving to finally win Felix’s heart seems to be very realistic–for a rock. Currently she does not appear in many videos except when Felix gets a rock thrown at him or is being chased by a rock.
  • Barrels - In Amnesia, barrels are Felix’s mortal enemy. When encountering a barrel or a number of barrels, he usually shouts “Barrels!!!” and proceeds to throw them around. Sometimes he yells at barrels in Swedish (most notably in Cry of Fear) and often comments about its look or what it says on it. One of Felix’s lesser-used companions, Mayo, actually works for the said barrels and Gonzalez often foreshadows that he is in league with the barrels.
  • Vespa - Also known as the Segway in Happy Wheels. When playing as the “Segway Guy” character in the game, he will usually refer to the Segway or any used vehicle as “Vespa”. Through Felix, Segway Guy seems to have emotional attachments or attractions to Vespa sometimes wanting to kiss it or cuddle with it. When he plays as the “Moped Couple” characters the moped is also considered “Vespa”.
  • Farsa/Farsha - What reads of all train destinations in Cry of Fear, and is mainly the moniker he gives to the in-game train(s). Farsa barely shows up but unfortunately committed suicide near the game’s end by driving off a cliff.

Sure, they’re only the 135th most subscribed channel of all time, but they’ve been among the prime YouTube channels to successfully make the Internet-to-TV transition that so many channels have failed to make properly. They are the comedy, filmmaking, music, and advertising duo of Rhett J. McLaughlin and Charles L. “Link” Neal, better known by their combined YouTube alias RhettAndLink. Ever since 2006, a year after YouTube was first born, these two have been working their butts off to make videos for our amusement and pleasure. But they’ve actually been pals since the first grade. On the first day of school in the said grade, the pair were forced to stay inside during recess as a punishment from writing bad words on the desks. When they were assigned to silently color pictures of unicorns, their companionship really sparked. They wrote their first screenplay, Gutless Wonders, at age 14. Coincidentally, they were Wolfpack roomies at the NCSU, where they studied engineering. Some filmmaking lessons and low-budget DIY productions later, they became Rhett and Link itself. But in the first year Rhett and Link became YouTubers (or, as they call themselves, “Internetainers”) they never got a single multi-million hit video. The highest they ever got was 100,000 with their song about velcro. The next year, however, their drive-thru rap video became their first video to exceed a million hits with 3.2 million views. Through 2007 lots of ups and downs went through the channel, with their BBQ song becoming their next multi-million hit and then their “worst commercial ever” becoming the next. You can clearly see that Rhett and Link have not always had it as easy as other more famous YouTubers like Nigahiga or Smosh. But today, they’ve gotten much more innovation, effort, and creativity woven into their videos, their success had led to a clothing line that accompanies their videos, and they have been sponsored by and working with a lot more YouTubers like Orabrush, Tobuscus, MysteryGuitarMan, etc. Because of all this, they definitely deserve an Innovation Constipation of the Year Award and a Diamond Award for being so unique. Some of their most famous videos include:

  • 2 Guys 600 Pillows” or “My Favorite Pillow” – Write a heartwarming song about one’s long-lived affection and feelings for one another. Take six hundred pillows, do crazy things with them, put in lots of backwards video editing and lots of backwards speaking, and even throw in a sponsor from SleepBetter.org, and you have Rhett and Link’s 2011 Webby Award-winning hit of 2010. To add to that, Rhett and Link were nice enough to throw in a bonus video highlighting most of the original video’s secrets as well as throwing in some extra goodies as well.
  • Epic Rap Battle” – The same year “2 Guys 600 Pillows” came out, the pair had also made a rap song made trying to get a restaurant waitress’ attention and affection. Like most of the channel’s songs, the rap contained lots of bizarre things about Rhett and Link that wouldn’t really occur in real life. Here are some examples right here. On the way to work, Rhett carpools a group of third graders and teaches them multiplication tables. Link can apparently speak sentences like “The square root of raspberry should be legalized” in Morse code. Rhett has his own yoga meditation DVD called Mind Reps. Link successfully performed the Heimlich on a horse choking on beef jerky, and it eventually went on to win the Kentucky Derby. Well, you see what I’m trying to say here? And coincidentally, back in September the two released what seems to be a sequel to the video, now centric to their masculinity and manliness, which was entitled “Epic Rap Battle of Manliness“. (And for those of you who are curious and/or skeptical, Rhett and Link were indeed in an Epic Rap Battle of History in case you mistook this one for it. They played the Wright brothers going up against the Mario brothers.)
  • 5-Word Songs” – Occasionally, the two might run out of song ideas and ask their fans what they think they should make a song out of. But here’s the rule–it can not be any more or any less than five words long. Currently there are two ideas that have been found and successfully made into songs: “rub some bacon on it”, and “Nilla Wafer top hat time”. Combined the two have over 3.1 million hits.
  • Good Mythical Morning” – Well, I have two things to say about this that differentiate it from the rest of their videos. 1. This is actually on Rhett and Link’s second channel, RhettAndLink2. And 2. This is not one video, it’s actually an entire show. As the title suggests, Good Mythical Morning (often abbreviated as GMM) is a show that runs every morning on every weekday, from Monday to Friday. Some of the topics discussed on the show include the greatest movie quotes of all time, the strangest name a human can receive, stuff you didn’t know about The Avengers, tips on bear attack and quicksand survival, what makes fire ants special, and if Furbies can really learn anything. It is one of Rhett and Link’s most famous series and their only regularly-airing show to date.
  • Dope Zebra” – What do you do if you take a zebra costume, put two people inside that know how to dance, and make that zebra do the most dope moves around? That’s pretty much the story behind Dope Zebra. Since its release a while ago it has 5.1 million hits, making for one of the channel’s biggest hits. But in a full background story on the video and its conception on an episode of Good Mythical Morning, it was told that the Dope Zebra had arguably become the two’s most famous video character yet. Not only did it get both Dope Zebra and Rhett & Link in the music video for LMFAO’s “Sorry for Party Rocking”, they also appeared on America’s Got Talent! Needless to say, the threesome were buzzed with the dreaded triple X before the Dope Zebra could even lift his hind legs off the ground, but luckily Rhett and Link did not expect to pass to the Vegas round, nor did they actually want to. How modest of them.

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Now let’s accentuate our new year celebration by nutshelling all the games you might want to check out!

  • After the first leg of Rayman’s rebirth plan (Rayman Origins) became a success, our limbless lad can continue his new console experimentation with the upcoming Wii U-exclusive Rayman Legends
  • After Lara Croft, one of gaming’s most famous heroines, disappeared from the limelight following 2010′s Guardian of Light, the Crystal Dynamics-Square Enix team reunites once more to bring us Lara’s first series reboot, Tomb Raider
  • After stellar success with the Sims 3 saga, Maxis has finally decided to revive the true genesis of the Sim world in the PC & Mac exclusive SimCity
  • One of the most popular FPS series in history, BioShock, gets a complete makeover from characters to setting in the 20th century-era BioShock Infinite
  • Isaac Clarke’s necromorph-filled bad day continues into a new installment, but now Sgt. John Carver gets to share the pain with him to stop the scourge permanently in Dead Space 3
  • In the city of Los Santos within San Andreas, three equally troubled men’s stories will intertwine in the pursuit of the “almighty dollar” in Grand Theft Auto V
  • Kratos still hasn’t made ends meet for Ares, the god of war, and now he’s on an ancient-Greek quest to defeat the Fury threesome to sever all ties in God of War: Ascension
  • Picking up where the first installment left off, the Palanai island in the Banoi archipelago has become the source of a zombie outbreak, and now after an unsuccessful escape our four survivors must relive their undead nightmare in Dead Island: Riptide
  • 20 years after millions within the human population have ceased from a cordyceps-type fungus, a black-marketeer named Joel and a young girl named Ellie make a dangerous and Infected-filled trek across post-apocalyptic America in The Last of Us
  • Epic Games reveals their newest in the Unreal Engine series, Unreal Engine 4, in an open world survival-of-the-fittest monster adventure known as Fortnite
  • Nintendo’s famous rural village full of personified animals has taken the big jump to the 3DS, and while Japan has already gotten their share us Americans and Europeans will have to wait a bit longer for Animal Crossing: New Leaf
  • Marvel’s ever-so-famous “merc with a mouth” is smashing through the 4th wall from Marvel vs. Capcom and into his own game known merely as Deadpool
  • After Skyrim and its DLC Dawnguard changed the perspective of the RPG genre forever, Bethesda plans to make the breakthrough accessible for PCs and Macs everywhere in Elder Scrolls Online
  • Luigi made a smash hit on the GameCube as the fourth Ghostbuster, and now he’s been sent on another spine-tingling mission from Professor Gadd to punish all the spirit scamps out there in the newly-named Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
  • After Mortal Kombat and the DC Universe collided in the greatly disappointing Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, NetherRealm and Warner Bros have teamed up once more in the 100% superhero-centric Injustice: Gods Among Us
  • One of TV’s most raunchy and beloved shows takes LARPing to an all-time extreme for not just consoles, not just computers, but clouds as well in the hopeful and hilarious RPG, South Park: The Stick of Truth

(Now let’s talk about movies…well, it won’t be much of a time saver to explain every single movie, let’s just nutshell a few that’ll be coming in 2013.)

  • The director of the original Spider-Man trilogy brings us a story about the Land of Oz older than the groundbreaking 1939 film or even the 1900 book, portraying James Franco as the new Wizard of Oz in Oz: The Great and Powerful
  • The director of Space Chimps teams up with the co-director of How To Train Your Dragon to create a story about a family of cavemen and cavewomen as a disaster leads to them journeying to find new shelter in The Croods
  • After the weight of An Unexpected Journey was finally lifted off Peter Jackson’s shoulders, he only had to enhance the LOTR world in preparation for the second installment in the Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug
  • One of Disney-Pixar’s most notorious films, Monsters, Inc, gets its well-deserved backdrop explaining everything from their first meet in college (even monsters have to go to school) to putting their bitter rivalry behind them in the prequel Monsters University
  • Gru, the three orphans, and his ever-so-lovable minions will be returning through a storyline that will seemingly be incorporating aliens into the plot lines in Despicable Me 2
  • The second “true blue” film of the trilogy chronicles Gargamel as he creates evil Smurf-like creatures called Naughties, and furthermore kidnaps Smurfette and takes her to Paris where he will use the Eiffel tower as an energy-generating antenna powered by Smurf essence, so the remaining gang must travel back to the human world and regain help from Pat and Grace in The Smurfs 2
  • Having shaken off the food storm that almost ate the world, Flint and friends are forced to flee from town where Flint accepts an offer from his idol Chester V to join the Live Corp Company in cleaning up the island, but he realizes that his FLDSMDFR is still alive and is now creating mutated food beasts in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2(formerly subtitled Revenge of the Leftovers)…
  • After starring in one of Martin Scorsese’s most successful movies, Hugo, Asa Butterfield has decided to reload and star in another film from the director of X-Men Origins: Wolverine which takes on yet another classic book but of way bigger proportions, Ender’s Game
  • When Anna is cursed by her sister, the Snow Queen Elsa, she must reverse the curse by surviving a trek across an icy landscape, but luckily she is joined by outdoorsman Kristoff as well as his one-antlered reindeer and a snowman, which may give her hope to finally melt Elsa’s heart in Frozen
  • After Katniss and Peeta manage to survive the 74th annual Hunger Games, they try to forget their time in the battlefield but are only reminded by it when rebellion is simmering across the districts, and while she and Peeta embark on the Victors Tour of all twelve districts President Snow is only crafting a 75th Hunger Games will be a much bigger and bolder affair in Catching Fire

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Surprisingly, Austin & Ally and Jessie even had their own plans set out for the new year! Actually, they did their first collab over it! And that created the one-hour crossover special “Austin & Jessie & Ally All-Star New Year’s Eve“/”Big Dreams and Big Apples“! I can’t believe they actually went through all the trouble to make this special, so say kudos to them as I explain the crossover’s plot:

To wrap up 2012 with a bang, Austin has got himself a gig in Times Square to play on New Year’s Eve in front of billions of people! Unfortunately, Sheri, Trish’s phone AI–think of “her” as a less-intelligent Siri–has mixed up Times Square with Tim’s Square Pizza! (But hey, it’s the best square pizza in Miami.) Luckily, the dilemma is erased when Sheri manages to book Austin, Ally, Trish, and Dez for the next flight to Times Square! Unfortunately, Sheri mixes the 1:00 pm flight with the 1:00 am flight, and now they’re really stuck. On the other side of the east coast, Emma is ecstatic to find out that Austin will be playing in Times Square, as she is an eccentric fangirl, and begs Jessie to take her. Despite initial rejection, she eventually gets convinced when she realizes that Ryan Seacrest would be there. (Ugh, media these days.) Austin, Ally, Trish, and Dez manage to get a taxi there, but cannot afford the ride and must hoof it to the Square. When they get there, they realize that full capacity has been reached and no other person can be let in, but Jessie uses her riches to hitch a helicopter to ride them. Unfortunately, Bertram has allowed Luke and Ravi to attend the concert as well, and worse yet they’ve abandoned Zuri! And I think you may already know by now that Zuri loves shiny things, and–well–the Times Square ball is pretty shiny…(and that’s only part one…)

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I think that’s a pretty good way to wrap up the year, so I’m Sammwak saying “ho ho ho” right before you go. :D

See you in 2013, America,

~S~ 8-)

And here’s for our super-special honor-filled and totally clean Videos of the Year! (Luckily, I managed to narrow down my choices so I didn’t have a list that went on for infinity. Enjoy! :D)

(Believe it or not, “TNT” is actually the fourth most-viewed gaming video of all time according to the YouTube charts. As the top three above it are all Angry Birds-related/themed, consider this the most bestselling gaming video of all time that isn’t Angry Birds-related. Shockingly, “TNT” actually beat out the official Minecraft trailer itself!)

If you want a more general video, here’s one that takes the most viral videos and stars 2012′s YouTube season had to offer and conglomerates them all into one amazing “Gangnam Style”-themed medley song/video. Can you name all the YouTubers in this video? If you think you can, comment me in the section below and get a secret prize…

INSANE #2 – Stranger In A Strange…Frequency?


Just in case you’re thinking to yourself, “When was the first INSANE?”, it was actually the first ever Super Awesome News Update I put up. I’ve been thinking about it, and Incredibly Noble Super Awesome News Expedition actually sounds alright. It rolls off the tongue kinda like “supercalafragilisticexpialadocious”, and it’s a pretty clever acronym at that. :) So, let’s start off our second INSANE (or is it actually the first? neutral) right with some juicy news that have the right to ooze! (Ooze also means “to give a powerful impression of”. :D)

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Let’s start off, just like last time, with the books I’ve been digging recently and some upcoming Jolly Good Bookie reviews that could be happening…

This first book is classified as a mix between comic adventure, science fiction, and fantasy. In fact, according to the library I found this I’m actually the first one to consider reading it! It’s obviously something truly new and unique in my reading styles, and it’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read where I really didn’t know what to read. It’s called Ignatius MacFarland: Frequenaut! by Paul Feig, and just in case you’re wondering consider “frequenaut” as a portmanteau between “frequency” and “astronaut”. As the titular star of the book, Ignatius “Iggy” MacFarland, achieves both. The premise of the story revolves around Iggy being the center of lots of teases and laughs from the meaner kids at his school (an example being “Piggy MacFartland”), and when he reaches the last straw he decides to do something that even Neil Armstrong considers bizarre. (Or should I say, considered, due to Neil’s passing earlier this year in August. Long live the man who showed us that it was possible to literally moonwalk. :cry:) Iggy actually builds a rocket ship that he plans to launch to send him (and his friends Gary and Ivan) into outer space to another planet. Iggy has the metaphor that hopefully the extraterrestrials will be more nice to him, but when something horrible happens with his ship–with him inside–he is somehow blasted to…well, not outer space, but a parallel reality or “frequency” known as Lesterville. (And here’s where the science fiction comes in…)

At this twisted dystopian version of the real world, Iggy discovers a strange race of humans and their even stranger language (made up of the mere “puh” and “pah”), and discovers that the entire frequency is ruled by a man known as Chester Arthur–Iggy’s English teacher! He has now become the frequency’s dictator/president, and literally every brand in sight has been affected with Arthur’s name. Arthur Potter by J.K. Arthling, Artbucks, Art Wars: The Artpire Strikes BackArt of the RingsThe Artfather Parts I and II, even Spider-Art, for Art’s sake! (Oh great, now they got me doing it.) In this frequency, Iggy meets Karen (another Earthling) who becomes his companion in solving the mystery of Lesterville and defeating this version of Mr. Arthur–and hopefully they can return home with their skins. Oh, there’s also a flying fairy-like girl in the story named Foo, which you could consider his second companion.

So far, Ignatius is one of the best 300+-paged novels I’ve ever read; it has humor, charm, eye-popping illustrations, adventure, and a surprising quantity of drama. However, I can’t review the book right here and now since I haven’t even finished it yet. 80 Oh, go ahead and gasp, but I’m almost halfway through the book FYI. Anyway, let’s see the next book I’ve been digging…

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Sorta like how I brought up Hunger Games in the last issue, you likely know what this is. Let alone very well.  If you don’t, think of it as the latest descendant of school story series like Wimpy Kid and Big Nate. It’s Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. Yeah, James Patterson being the guy that wrote Maximum Ride and Witch & Wizard and all those other books. And to believe this time around he’s writing a book that’s somewhat and somehow normal. This book concerns the life of Rafe Khatchadorian as he enters his first year of middle school, and he already has enough problems outside of school without throwing what happens inside school in the mix. Luckily, like Nikki Maxwell, he’s got an ace plan to make it the best year ever–if he can pull it off correctly. With his best bro Leo the Silent wordlessly cashing in points to Rafe (and in this game, points are not a good thing) he decides to go out on a limb and break every rule in the school’s austere Code of Conduct with arm & hammer. Chewing gum in class gets you 5,000 points, running in hallways gets you 10,000, and pulling the fire alarm gets you 50,000. However, when Rafe’s dirty deeds done dirt cheap catch up to him, he’ll have to make a finicky decision whether to believe that winning really is everything, or he’s ready to face the rules, bullies, and–worst of all–the truth that he’s been sidestepping.

So far, this book sounds really good, as I’ve been a bit overzealous in my wants of this book. Luckily I’ve got my hands on it and–like the first ever Nintendo Power issue I’ve ever read–I’ve been reading rather slowly to salvage every moment of the book, and that’s a challenge with so many descriptive illustrations in the book. It sounds seemingly like a new Big Nate-esque series, but let’s just not hope that it’s going to crash and burn like the actual series did. If you want to check out more of James Patterson’s books, suggest trying this list out:

  • Middle School: Get Me Out Of Here! - In this riveting sequel to Rafe’s first middle school adventure, Rafe has been accepted to an art school and believes he’s finally stepped into a math-and-history-free fun zone. Nope. It’s more competition than Rafe can handle, and to turn his humdrum life into an afflatus for an ultimate work of art, he decides to execute his biggest plan yet…Operation: Get A Life!
  • I Funny - In this spiritual successor to Rafe’s series comes the story about Jamie Grimm, a middle schooler on a mission to become Earth’s greatest and funniest standup comic. But unfortunately, his brutal life with his aunt and uncle and their evil son Stevie doesn’t give him much laughing matter. He practices his comic act day in and day out on his siblings, friends, and the patrons at his uncle’s diner. But when his uncle mentions the Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic contest, Jamie knows he has to enter but has to choose between sharing his dark past or hiding behind his comic act…
  • Witch & Wizard - The world has changed permanently with the government having control over the entire society and with kids frequently disappearing. For Wisty and Whit, sister and brother, their lives are changed forever when they get separated from their parents and thrown into a secret prison for no comprehensive reason. In this “juvie”, Wisty and Whit discover otherworldly powers they never knew they had, and now they must master their skills and save their parents–maybe even the rest of the world–as witch & wizard.
  • Maximum Ride - After mutants known as Erasers abduct the youngest of their group, the “bird kids” (results of genetic experimentation) take off in hot pursuit of the Erasers but find emotional brick walls in the way concerning the mysteries of their beginnings and intellectual purposes.

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“Not since Lord of the Flies has there been such a powerful story of children forced to survive in a world without adults.” That’s pretty much the slogan for The Girl Who Owned A City, a post-apocalyptic story by OT Nelson. The story concerns a killer virus known merely as the Plague sweeping through the Earth and taking the lives of all over 12 years old with it. In a Chicago suburb, ten-year-old Lisa Nelson and her brother Todd are among the youthful survivors of the Plague, but only make a living by looting off of abandoned homes and shops, like every survivor in the story does. Lisa pioneers the idea of driving cars despite being underage, as well as raiding a farm and to look at the diminishing supplies of stores. By now desperation has caused kids to form and join “gangs”, and to fight this Lisa becomes some sort of vigilante and forms a neighborhood militia. Inducting all of the trustworthy kids she knows, Lisa plans the militia’s defense methods from booby traps to throwing things off the rooftop. She also makes an arsenal for the militia in case of an emergency, mainly composed of guns and Molotov cocktails. Lisa and her militia eventually becomes enemies with one the many gangs, specifically the Chidester Gang from Chidester Avenue. And if you know how post-apocalyptic stories go, chaos eventually ensues…

I actually read this book as a class book (Girl Who Owned A City is a commonly used story in schools), and I’ve just recently finished the book. In fact, it’s not bad, but I still felt awkward reading the book considering it was the only one I’ve read to be in Times New Roman. There was also a lot of stuff going on within two mere pages–as the text was very tightly compacted together–so although it was a bit overwhelming at times I still managed to pick up my pace. In fact, the book is one of the best “oldies” that I’ve read recently, incorporating action, drama, alongside positive messages like leadership and survival. I definitely recommend this book to someone who’s just got fresh off of a post-apocalyptic story like City of Ember and is hungry for more.

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Speaking of recommendations, I’ve also got something big to tell you about–my Christmas wishlist. And when I say big, I don’t mean I have 10 things on it, I actually have 39 things on it. And they’re all books, because you know how much of a czar I am when it comes to reading. Although it would take too much time to list all of them, let me tell you about some of the books I underlined as “I want this especially badly” books…

Sisters Grimm 4-9 by Michael Buckley – The first time I ever read Sisters Grimm was in the fifth grade, as I’d heard about the series and was also very fond of the Brothers Grimm at the time–and the books seemed to show off some very promising characters. Needless to say, this is the best fantasy book series I’ve ever read–no, this is the best fantasy book series ever solely created. And that’s a very prestigious honor in my honor. Alas, as I progressed through the series the next installment became harder and harder to get, and by the time I was ready for the fourth book it never showed up, and I’ve never read a live book since. :( I say “a live book” since I was actually so desperate to read the fourth book that I even found the Google Play and Books samples for the book!

If you want to know what the series is about, it’s basically just about two girls named Sabrina and Daphne Grimm whom have been tossed between foster families like a yo-yo, only portraying niches like punching bags and servants. They reunite with Relda Grimm, the grandma they never knew, and are taken in by her. At her house Sabrina and Daphne realize the secret their family has kept for years–they are actually the latest generation of descendants from the notorious Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, and must take in the profession of “fairy-tale detective” as some sort of family tradition.

If you want to know just how promising this sounds to me, let me show you the premises of all six of the books I want:

  • Once Upon A Crime - Also known as The Grimms Take Manhattan. :D When the two main protagonists of the story, Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, finally go back home to the Big Apple to help their faerie friend Puck, Sabrina is ecstatic to be home. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of another fantastical adventure, as we realize that the fairy kingdom is within NYC. Puck’s father, King Oberon, has been slain and the Grimms are putting up every fairy-tale folk/Everafter in town on the suspect list. The culprit will almost always be the one you least expect…
  • Magic And Other Misdemeanors - When the past and future start playing unwanted games with the present, Sab and Daph get their first solo case with a little assistance from Puck, and the girls suspect that a rash of magical thievery might have surfaced at the root of the problem, but with Mayor Heart’s bizarre taxing and Mr. Canis still continuing to transform into the Big Bad Wolf, the Grimms have a lot of worries and little time to sort them out. Can they solve the crime and change the course of the future for humanity’s own good?
  • The Everafter War - Picking up where book six left off, the seventh installment of the story starts with Sab and Daph’s prayers finally being answered when their parents awake from their sleeping spell. But this little family reunion is cut off unexpectedly when they are caught in the middle of a war between Prince Charming’s army of Everafters and the villainous Everafter organization the Scarlet Hand. As the Grimms work to help Charming’s rabble rebels, Sab comes face-to-face with the darkest enemy her family has ever seen which uncovers a secret so shocking it’ll rock the family to the core…
  • The Inside Story - In the series’ penultimate eighth installment, again picking up where the last book left off, the book starts with Sab, Daph, and Puck stuck within the Book of Everafter. Inside the book, all the fairy tales are stored and their enchanted characters can convert their destiny at their own wills. The trio must pursue the mysterious Master from the last book throughout some of the most classic tales in the book (literally :D), willing to change anything to save their baby brother. Soon, they are caught by the book’s Editor/guardian who forces the three to stick to the stories, even threatening them with its army of Revisers. As they must now stay under the Revisers’ radars, they meet tons of classic fairy tale characters, but will they find their baby brother?
  • The Council of Mirrors - In the ninth and final book of the series, the Grimms and their friends must face off against the Master to ultimately decide the fate of Ferryport Landing, and the rest of the world. When the magic Mirror (by now an antagonist in the story) fails to make it through the magical barrier in Relda’s body, he decides to convert to his backup plan–going on a killing spree until all the Grimms are dead, allowing the barrier to collapse. As the Mirror creates his murderous plan to the last detail, Sab has recruited all the other less-evil magic mirrors to discover how to deal with their enemy. The mirrors suggest joining forces with the Scarlet Hand, in exchange for offering Ferryport’s citizens their liberty. Wow, it sounds a lot like a fairy tale-infused Deathly Hallows, don’t cha think?

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Powerless by Matthew Cody – Imagine a world where the greatest superheroes are actually kids. No, it’s not Chronicle I’m talking about. You’re likely imagining Matthew Cody’s groundbreaking novel Powerless. In the book, 12-year old Daniel, the new one in town, learns a rather ugly truth about his closest friends–one can fly, another can turn invisible, and another controls electricity. These super kids use their powers secretly for good in the town, but their powers do not stay forever–when they turn thirteen, their powers will disappear along with any memory that they ever these powers. Could their minds be getting drained by a memory-stealing villain? The answers lie in an ancient meteor strike, a WWII comic book, the fabled and green-flamed Witch Fire, a hidden Shroud cave, and possibly even “powerless” Daniel himself…

Young Samurai 1-3 by Chris Bradford – I’ve never actually read a Japanese-based novel before, but Chris Bradford defied the rule that most Japanese-rooted books are just manga. In the trilogy you see before you, we go back in time to 17th century Japan, where Englishman Jack Fletcher strives to be the first ever gaijin samurai. In case you’re curious, gaijin translates basically to “outsider”, so I guess Jack wants to be the first English samurai I guess. It wasn’t just the very intricately detailed illustrations that roped me in, it was the premise of each story itself:

  • The Way of the Warrior - Jack Fletcher is sailing with his father and crew in search of the fabled Japanese islands. After a nasty shipwreck off the coast of 1611 Japan in a village known as Toba, and subsequently the crew gets attacked by a ninja mistaken for a Japanese pirate or wokou. Rather traditionally for a book, only Jack [or the real main protagonist] survives the attack, which makes me wonder–how could almost an entire boat crew die at the hands of one ninja? Anyway, Jack’s dad leaves his son with his most prized posession, a rutter (a precursor to the navigation chart), and Jack is rescued by Masamoto Takeshi, a legendary samurai swordsman. Takeshi decides to take Jack under his wing and raise him until he is of age (16) to go on by himself, making Takeshi’s actual son Yamato jealous. After a heated spar with Yamoto and another ninja attack, Jack is enrolled in a samurai school in Kyoto to be raised as a true nin–sorry, samurai…
  • The Way of the Sword - After his first year at samurai school, Jack’s troubles only expand when the prejudice of his school classmates forms dangerous enemies, and Dragon Eye–the ninja who attacked the crew–is still after Jack. Jack’s only hope of victory lies in surviving the Circle of Three, a ritual that will test Jack’s intellectual, mental, and physical skills to their breaking points. For most, becoming one of the Circle is very prestigious, but for Jack it’s a life-or-death situation…
  • The Way of the Dragon - It is by now summer 1613, and Japan has been threatened with warfare and Jack is faced with his greatest fight yet, as samurai are siding against one another and Jack’s warrior training is tested as the blood begins to flow. His and his friends’ survival depends on him mastering the Two Heavens, the secret sword technique of Takeshi. But first Jack must recover his father’s rutter from Dragon Eye, which leads to these dramatic questions–will Jack defeat his enemy? Or will Dragon Eye finally fulfill his mission in slaying the young samurai?…

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Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman – 10-year old Gabe has just been accepted to the Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment, or the SCGE. This is a six-week sleepaway camp where he’ll get to write poems and perfect logic proofs. SCGE has been home to some fabled middle-school smarties (and forthcoming Jeopardy! contestants), but it has a real image of being the Nerd Camp. Another acronym for SCGE could be the Smart Camp for Geeks and Eggheads. But Gabe’s not really a nerd–at least, he doesn’t think so. But that was before he met Zack, his hip soon-to-be stepbrother. Now Gabe is in panic that Zack thinks of his formula as 100% nerdity (that isn’t a word? it is now :D), and with a wild summer to spend with a midnight canoeing ride to “Dead Man’s Island” makes Gabe realize something. Zack may not be the brother he’s always dreamed of, but that doesn’t mean they can’t even be friends…

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass – This kind of book could easily honor Roald Dahl even after his death, and it sounds like one of the sweetest and juiciest novels on my list. No, seriously. :D Anyway, this book is about four kids whom enter a national competition to discover the tastiest confection of the country. Who can create a sweet more sapid and savory than the Oozing Crunchorama or the Neon Lightning Chew?:

  • Could it be Logan, the Candymaker’s actual son, who can detect the color of chocolate just from the touch?
  • Perhaps it might be Miles, the boy with merry-go-rounds and the color pink on his list of allergies?
  • Or maybe it’s Daisy, the jolly girl who can carry a 50-pound heap of taffy off the ground like a feather?
  • Chances are it could be Philip, the boy in suit-and-tie who’s always jotting information down in a secret notebook?

Ghostopolis and Power Up by Doug TenNapel – Believe it or not, Doug’s the guy that actually created Earthworm Jim, one of the most iconic, memorable, and charming video game heroes of the 1990s. To this day, he’s done music, animations, books, Eisner Award-winning art, as well as essays. (Not the kind you do in school, more literary essays.) And since I haven’t looked at Bone ever since I read and reviewed its ninth and final main book Crown of Horns, Doug seems to be an intriguing replacement.

Let’s start off with the premise of Ghostopolis first. This graphic novel revolves around two protagonists: teenager Garth Hale, and middle-aged SITF agent Frank Gallows. SITF stands for Supernatural Immigration Task Force, a governmental organization with a heart set on tracking down ghosts and other apparitions that have gone amiss in the real, physical world and sending them back to their homes in the afterlife–aka Ghostopolis. Garth has a currently unidentified “incurable disease”, and it is also foreshadowed and mentioned that the relationship between Garth’s mom and late grandpa was a dysfunctional one. Agent Gallows uses devices called “plasmacuffs” to catch and apprehend ghosts, and on a call to apprehend a skeletal horse known as a Nightmare, Gallows accidentally transports Garth along with the Nightmare…(By the way, gallows are erect structures used for the purpose of hanging.)

Now, Power Up–just as it sounds–is a video game-themed book. The book’s protagonist, Hugh Randolph, is a family man who’s down on luck. He works as a drone at a local printer until he discovers a mystifying game console that gives him the power to produce riches to infinity, manipulate his work day, even cheat death. But of course, and as we all know, you can’t sidestep and hide forever…

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things (Alvin Ho, #1)

Alvin Ho 1-4 by Lenore Look and LeUyen Pham – Believe it or not, it’s actually possible to be scared of pretty much everything. In fact, it’s called “panphobia”. And there’s a little boy who could be summarized using that exact word. That boy is Alvin Ho, an Asian-American second grader. This poor little panphobic has fears from elevators to tunnels and girls and most of all school. He’s so fearful of school that he never emits a word through all the seven hours he’s there. Ironically, at home he’s a clamorous superhero named Firecracker Man, a brother, and a gentleman-in-training to follow in his father’s footsteps. In the four books I want–in chronological order–he goes to school, goes camping, attends a girl’s birthday party, and bravely attends his GungGung’s BFF’s funeral. And he’s just in second grade! Please take a break while you view these crying emoticons to applaud Alvin and all he’s done.

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Dork Diaries 4-5 by Rachel Renee Russell – I’ve already reviewed the second and third books of the series, so it’s not a big shock that I’d want to put up the next two. By now IMO, Nikki has gone from the super cliched girl-next-door to a more caring, loving, and heartfelt friend who still wants to blend in, but at times likes to shine her diverse colors. In the next two books of the saga–marking a first in the series to release two books in the same year–Nikki’s positive traits are put to the ultimate tests.

In Tales from a Not-So-Graceful Ice Princess, Nikki discovers that Brandon is doing volunteer work at a local animal shelter, which is to her not surprising considering how dreamy he–no, I am not going down that road! Then Brandon says that the shelter is in danger of closing, and Nikki knows in the name of dorkiness that can’t happen. Especially when a secret about Brandon is disclosed that makes saving the shelter that more important to Nikki. So Nikki recruits her friends Chloe & Zoey to enter an ice skating competition to assist in raising the money needed to save the shelter, but obviously Mackenzie has to butt her nose into a situation that could make or break the lives of tons of adorable animals…

 In Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All (also making a first for the biggest amount of hyphens in a title rolleyes), Nikki becomes very zealous into becoming a student journalist for her school’s newspaper, predictably as she’d already made the headlining story once…

…and it might or might not have something to do with Mackenzie becoming the newspaper’s “gossip girl” in her new scandalous column of tittle-tattle. And there could even be some succulent info about the Nikki-Brandon relationship that Nikki doesn’t enjoy Mackenzie telling to the school. So Nikki becomes a recruit on the paper’s staff and ends up as a columnist like Mackenzie, but she’s giving out counsel and advice! It’s initially a fun activity, answering letters and all, but when Nikki’s inbox becomes flooded with these requests and pleas for guidance, she may need her own help. But luckily with Chlo and Zo at her side and on her keyboard, it seems like Nikki can maintain the mess. Or will she end up as humiliated as she did on the newspaper headline?…

NERDS 1-2 by Michael Buckley – If you had to name a series that did Buckley that commercially and critically prospered as much as Sisters Grimm, it had to be NERDS. NERDS being an acronym for National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society. Sounds like a pretty boss acronym for a word that means “a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious”. The members of the NERDS organization are all normal grade-schooler kids that have conditions or diversities that have evoked the “upgrades” that make them NERDS nerds in the first place:

  • Jackson “Braceface” Jones - Formerly a cocky and arrogant football star that was so famous his teacher actually taught a subject solely themed on him, Jackson may seem externally tough, but internally he suffers from notable insecurity and a craving to be accepted. His football stardom and fame was stripped from him when he was given permanent braces, but these braces can actually transform into any mechanical device he wishes. Unfortunately, Jackson’s guzzle galluses must stay on his mouth at all times, even after transformation.
  • Matilda “Wheezer” Choi - A spunky Korean-American girl affected with bronchial asthma that makes her winded after not even walking her entire block, Matilda’s upgrades consist of two nano-enhanced inhalers that gift her with flight and the ability to blast baddies. Ironically, she’s rather tomboyish and actually despises anything “girly”. Also, she’s a great pro wrestling enthusiast and can equip anything and everything as a weapon.
  • Heathcliff “Choppers” Hodges - Actually, he has four nicknames, but I decided to choose one that actually made the most sense so I wouldn’t get the stress of having to write out every single one. Cliff is an intelligent kid that suffers from being the target of most bullies, and his upgrade seems to be the most awesome and rather scientifically classified. He has a psycho-hallucinogenic whitening treatment which gets further enhanced by a special kind of toothpaste that, when worn by his buckteeth, has powers of hypnosis and mind control.
  • Duncan “Gluestick” Dewey - Duncan is a chubby Afro-American boy that is a tech enthusiast and also a paste eater. This habit has actually backed up his upgrade–he can stick to any and all surfaces. He is one of the three NERDS nerds that have told his family about his astonishing secret. Without his abilities, Duncan is basically and generally feckless.
  • Julio “Flinch” Escala - Julio is a hyperactive Mexican-American boy that is described as a walking ball of energy, mainly spiked due to all the sugary treats he consumes due to his sugar addiction. Every single day, I should add.  His upgrade is a harness that burns his energy into superhuman speed and strength, and without it he is noticeably shaking and unable to stop himself. Due to his disliking of romance and everything lovey-dovey, he could be considered the asexual NERDS nerd. Julio also shares a strong friendship with Duncan.
  • Ruby “Pufferfish” Peet - This stubbornly smart Jewish girl suffers from the worst allergies in history. Seriously, documented history states it. Her upgrades enhance her allergies to where she can use them psychically to detect feelings like danger and dishonesty. She is also the head nerd of NERDS itself.
  • Mindy “The Hyena” Beauchamp - Formerly a junior beauty pageant queen, this freelance worker also doubles as a skilled martial artist aspiring to become a pro assassin. eek Don’t be scared, she doesn’t actually have what you’d call an upgrade, but she has a very contagious and obnoxious laugh. She is also Jackson’s love interest, hates it when people find out her real name, and currently works as a NERDS nerd on a classified project…

Should I even have to tell you what the two books are about?

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So now that you know every single darn detail about what I’ve been doing–oh, let me set you free from the hassle of reading this long post with all the videos I want you to watch. Consider this the Ultimate Video of the Week Compilation…well, besides our Halloween special compilation, but that’s another story.

Stay classy America,

~S~ cool