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Category Archives: Adventure


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.



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: 



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.



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?!



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!



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.



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.

……………………………………………

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:

 

 



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