Jolly Good Bookie: Book Thief (MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY)


Let me emphasize it one more time–this post is for mature audiences only. As this book is set in Nazi-time Germany, and it frequently shows praise upon the by-then German “Führer”, Hitler–among other reasons–it might be too much for the youngest of our audiences to handle. So I’ll mark this post with a Restricted for the Young seal, but for all the young walk away thinking this: luckily I didn’t say anything like “rated PG-13″ or “rated TV-14″. That would be just crazy…oh, and we should probably slap on a Spoiler Alert seal just to be safe.

Anyway, the book I’m about to talk about is probably the darkest title on the Jolly Good Bookie’s schedule. Yet it’s still been considered one of the best and most-talked-about novels of 2006. It’s an award-winning title in various fields: Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice of 2006, the 2006 Daniel Elliott Peace Award, Publishers Weekly’s Best Children Book of the Year, etc. And it’s been on the NY Times Children’s Bestsellers list for over 230 weeks. [I'll crunch that down to a comprehensible number: that's over 4 years.] Now what is this amazing book? One that’s got people on their feet? One that’s been considered the book of the year? Well, it all begins with the story of The Book Thief.

File:The Book Thief by Markus Zusak book cover.jpg

The two main stars of the story: Liesel (“the book thief”) and Death (“the narrator”).

Set in 20th-century Nazi Germany, The Book Thief chronicles the story of a young girl known as Liesel Meminger whom lives on Himmel Street with her foster parents, right outside of Munich. Now, “himmel” is German for “heaven”, and who in their right mind would mock a street named after heaven? :-? Now, the book takes place in Nazi Germany during WWII, but mostly the Holocaust, so that’s primarily why the book’s so dark. Unsurprisingly death is at its highest rush hour during the events of the book–actually, Death itself narrates the story. And like the Family Guy personification of Death, he’s surprisingly skilled and even pretty funny. The story begins for the most part with the death of Liesel’s little brother Werner (“His blue eyes stared at the floor, seeing nothing” narrated Death 8-0), and the title of “the book thief” starts at Werner’s grievous funeral. At her brother’s graveside, Liesel comes across a book called The Gravedigger’s Handbook, assuredly and mistakenly left behind by a gravedigger’s apprentice. Despite her age compared to the book, she decides to keep it as a final memento of her brother. Despite the compassion in this act, it is still considered a thievery, and that’s how Liesel starts off as “the book thief”. Soon, she starts working her life of crime as a literal part-time job, but her foster father/accordionist Hans Hubermann takes these books as an opportunity to teach Liesel to read. Pretty soon, she’s sharing her misdemeanors with the rest of the kids on the street during bomb showers as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. :) And plus she’s got plenty of friends:

  • Max Vandenburg - A Jewish fist fighter whom was taken in by Liesel’s family and sheltered in their own home. He is the son of a WWI fighter that actually faced Hans. He is described with “feather-like hair” and “swampy brown eyes”, and he was stowed away due to the relationship between Hans and Max’s father. Max and Liesel intertwined between their special affinities, and he even wrote two books for her along with a sketchbook that represented his life story. He was taken by the Gestapo to a concentration camp, but managed to reunite with Liesel after the war.
  • Rudy Steiner - The arguable deuteragonist–or at least the male protagonist–of the story. He was born eight months before Liesel and is her “bony-legged, sharp-teethed, blue-eyed, lemon-haired” neighbor. Despite being the German ideal, he is against Hitler and the Nazis. He suffers permanent hunger as he lives with six kids, and gained notoriety round the ‘hood because of “the Jesse Owens incident”, where Rudy painted himself with charcoal and ran 100 meters at the local sporting field. He was eventually caught by his father, anyway. He is “gifted” in academic and athletic fields, making him a Nazi Party target of attention, and end up plucking his father when he refuses to be recruited. As he eventually become’s Liesel’s closest friend, he frequently but always unsuccessfully asks her for a kiss. He usually uses this as a comeback when he does a compassionate deed for her, like fishing her most valuable book out of the water.
  • Tommy Müller - A friend of Liesel’s and Rudy’s. Due to being stranded in the snow, he has a hearing problem which has evoked various ear surgeries. One dramatic failure damaged his nerves in a way that caused him to have a permanent twitch. This defect has made him the butt of many classmate mockings, and is punished by the head of Hitler Youth for failure to follow instructions.
  • Pfiffikus - Not exactly what you’d call a friend, but let’s put him up anyway. He is known solely in the book as the potty-mouth of the neighborhood, and is also a good whistler. His name is actually German for “crafty thing”. Not a big surprise.

And Liesel’s doing the right thing, because some of those kids–well–might not be around after what happens near the end of the book to Himmel Street. :lol:

Now, before I even say if this book is good or not, I’m going to tell you why Death, out of all people and perspectives, was chosen as narrator. According to the readers guide at the end of the book, the book’s author Markus Zusak stated that he had made a final decision “with great difficulty”. Apparently everyone knows that war and death are BFFs, and as death couldn’t be more present during war, that was a prime factor in Zusak’s decision. At first, Death was a bit mean-spirited–even for Death. He was “supercilious” (def: Behaving or looking as though one thinks one is superior to others) and enjoyed his work too much. He’d put up hair-raising comments at the sidelines, and showed plenty of delight in his soul pickups. That was when Markus knew The Book Thief wasn’t working. So he went to the 1st and 3rd persons, and half a year later he came back to an exhausted Death; apparently eternity really does wear you out. He was written out to be an anthrophobic (afraid of humans), and his job in the story would say that humans are actually worth it.

Now The Book Thief isn’t actually a bad book, it’s pretty darn good–if not probably the only historical fiction book I really enjoyed reading this year (beside Avi’s Don’t You Know There’s a War On?). It doesn’t have the cleanest rep in various fields, but it’s got intriguing direction and perspective, fast-paced action, appropriate tongue-in-cheek statements or other laughs, and a really big heart to say the least. It goes through a typical day in the life of someone under the Nazis, and portrays messages like sacrifice, friendship, and heroism. All the rest of it–as dark as your usual World War II novel, but especially appealing at that. Now, roll that chart.

 4 1/4 out of 5 – Educational value –  The book follows the life of several ordinary kids that have had the Nazis brought down on their heads, and how arduous it was to live life without the risk of getting captured or getting roped into an equally dangerous scenario.   These “lessons” include how it was like to be part of Hitler Youth to several book-burning episodes. There are also passages from the “Duden Dictionary” scattered throughout the book, giving off the meanings and translations of German words like Lemony Snicket usually defines the “big words” he uses. The perspective of the book translates German statements into English, so it also teaches you a bit of German, like “Verstehst?” stands for “Understand?”, and “Alles gut?” stands for “All good?”

 4 out of 5 – Positive messages – Senses of the trials and tribulations people went through often back in the old times, through the powerful and well-played images of the characters. Its ensemble consists lots of characters that show gallant heroism in risking their lives to defend what is right, but also have you ever heard this phrase: “Stand up for what is right, even if you’re standing alone.” This says that you shouldn’t stop at anything to protect the truth.

4 3/4 out of 5 – Positive role models – Liesel is a compassionate, willing, and thoughtful girl that can leave readers thunderstruck and wonderstruck with her perspective on the events in the book, as she constantly switches from reader to writer. Essences of sacrificing, heroism, courage, friendships, sorrow, empathy, and sympathy are portrayed through the book roster. They’ll be moved by the events in the story just by the quality of the narration.

3 1/2 out of 5 – Ease of view – Book Thief isn’t the most comprehensible book, but that doesn’t take off any points in its final score. (Well, it might under Smarts, but…) Some author transitions between Death and Liesel might fool a few readers, but for the most part it has fast-paced perspectives, thoughtful story-lining, and a sweet-as-honey aftertaste.

5 out of 5 – Violence – And lots of it, as the book does take place in Nazi Germany and is very critical to the book’s impact. The large focus on the Führer of the story–Hitler–may leave a few people religiously on end. Hitler’s symbol does appear in various drawings, and there’s definitely a lot of “heil Hitler”-ing. A majority of the violence comes from the war, especially late in the book when Himmel Street gets bombed. Spoiler alert!–People like Rudy, Tommy, and Liesel’s foster parents die in the warlike scene; stomach lurching and/or tears are expected. Just to show she knows her right hook from her left, Liesel beats up a kid at school. Max also beats up his fighting buddy Walter Kugler with a jab to the nose, a right hook, and a punch to the ribs. As Kugler lay on the ground, tears flowed from his eyes but he wasn’t crying; “the tears had been bashed out of him”. Before I read the scene, I also read about lips discolored by blood that would eventually dry across the teeth. When Rudy fails to remember Hitler’s birthday, he gets an awkwardly horrific knife haircut. Before this occurs, with the knife and all you may have expect that Rudy was going to be killed. Liesel also tears up the pages of a book from the library of Ilsa Hermann, the wife of the mayor of Molching. (So I guess there’s “molch” ado about nothing there. :D) In one scenario, Rudy tackles Liesel to restrict her from running into a line of Jews to find Max from being led away. Another character named Frau Holtzapfel (known at first for spitting on the Hubermanns’ door every time she passed due to an old fight) has a son that hangs himself from a local laundry’s rafters. A bomber plane is downed at a river’s banks, and Rudy has the heart to console its pilot with a teddy bear as he thanks him with a dying breath. Hans also suffers a broken leg from a truck accident. Max develops an illness around winter 1942 and falls into a deep sleep that lasts for days that turn into weeks. A group of rowdy kids throw Liesel’s stolen book into a river, but Rudy is able to fetch it (remember that kiss he always wanted). One of the drawings shows two people standing at the peak of a mountain of dead bodies–this should remind you of Breaking Dawn. If it doesn’t, then good; you’re clean. :roll:

 4 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – There is one chapter called “The Thought of Rudy Naked” which literally contains 100% nudity. Three boys, one of them being Rudy, are forced to take off their clothes in front of a female doctor and perform their “first nude ‘heil Hitler’s”. As one boy undresses, Death states that “his self-respect was around his ankles”. “The thought of Rudy naked” then burns into Liesel’s mind, described as having “great dread”. The chapter uses uneasy words like “genitals” and “penises”. Rudy also keeps nagging at Liesel for a kiss throughout the book, and he never received that kiss for his entire life;–spoiler alert!–Liesel finally gives in and fulfills his wish after he dies in the street bombing.

4 3/4 out of 5 - Language – Lots of expletives in both German and English. “S–t”, “a–”, “a–hole”, “bastard”, “slut”, and more four-letter words roll of the tongue in various occasions. The German equivalents of all these words, and then some, are also used: “scheisse/scheiße” (also combos like “scheisskopf” » “s–t head”), “arschloch”, “saukerl”, and also the commonly used “saumensch”. Religious oaths like “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” and “crucified Christ” are also used, plus other anti-Semitic curses and racist African-American remarks. You may know from the “Jesse Owens incident” that Rudy charcoal-ed himself black and ran the hundred meters. Well, not only is this racist, but I consider it blackface. :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry:

 2 3/4 out of 5 – Product Placement – Book Thief is deemed “the most talked-about book of 2006″ and has won a bounty of awards, honors, and recognition, but the award that blazons several copies of the book is its “Michael J. Printz honor” title. The only consumerism you’ll ever come across is Hitler’s Mein Kampf (“My Struggle/Battle”) and its impact on the storyline.

3 3/4 out of 5 – Drinking, Drugs, and/or Smoking – Several characters (adults and kids 8-0) smoke and drink. One smoker blows his puff of smoke directly into Liesel’s face, and Holtzapfel once teaches forces Liesel to smoke. Luckily I hope she won’t be counting on it ever again.

…………………………….

Entertainment: A+ (5 points)

Fun: B+ (3.5 points)

Smarts: A+ (5 points)

Style: A- (4 points)

Read-Again Ratio: A (4 points)

Humor: A- (4 points)

FINAL SCORE: 25.5 out of 30 (heil Sammwak ;)), 85% out of 100%, 4 out of 5 stars

CONSENSUS: It may have a few smudges on its resumé, but The Book Thief is probably the most engrossing historical fiction book you’ll read, and it’s got the action, the drama, the heart, and the surprises to make sure it doesn’t go down when you first pick it up.

PRICE: (You should probably let your parents take the wheel on this one; I’m just saying.)

  • Amazon Hardcover: $10.98 (new: same price, used: $2.90) [45% savings]
  • Amazon Paperback: $8.41 (new: $5.50, used: $3.08) [35% savings]
  • Amazon Kindle: $9.99 w/ ready Whispersync (new-fangled tech these days allows you to swap between reading and listening) [23% savings]
  • Amazon Unabridged Audiobook, Audio CD: $32.13 (new: $26.71, used: $25.15) [37% savings]
  • Amazon Unabridged Audible Audio: $30.95, or free (w/ 30-day free trial membership @ Audible.com) with ready Whispersync [25% savings]
  • Barnes & Noble Reprinted Paperback: $10.98 (online price) [15% savings]
  • Barnes & Noble Marketplace: $2.91 [78% savings]
  • Barnes & Noble Nook Book: $9.99 (online price)

So, I guess that’s all for a week with Sammwak. Tune in next week (I really don’t what day I’ll release, so make sure you still have your subscription) for more entertaining romps and everlasting good times. This is Sam, signing out, and stay classy America.

~S~ 8-)

Video of the Week: I’ve already taken up enough space, and besides–nothing I found was dark enough to put up for my audiences. Scenario apologies. :(

Jolly Good Bookie: Big Nate on a Roll


Hey guys it’s Sam, and you might remember a time on this very site way back when* (*May 2011, to be exact) I put up a review on Big Nate 2, and I rambled on and on about it in one direction and one direction only: merely how horrible it was (and I wasn’t kidding). And you might remember how I concluded the post: hoping that the by-then-upcoming Big Nate on a Roll, the third entry, would invigorate the series and lift it from its many troubles. Well, now I’ve finally come to read it, and I’m surprised at how serious Lincoln took my information, if he even did. If there was a stream with stepping stones that worked as a reviewing system (the books that stay at the start are the worst, the books that cross are the best), Big Nate 3 would’ve already been almost finished crossing the stream. And why do I say almost? Well, read this review to find that out.

“The rest of the play is kind of a blur. I can’t stop thinking about Artur. Hey, that rhymes!”

- “Big Nate” Wright

(If you wanna skip to the real review, then ignore this paragraph and read the one below.)

The Big Nate series may have published its first full-feature book (not a lousy compilation of comic strips ripped off the web) 2 years ago in ’10, but Nate celebrated his series’ twentieth birthday just last year. If you do the math right, you should come up with the fact that Nate’s series started back in ’91. There have been eight other Big Nate books that weren’t full-feature novels, and almost half of them were cartoon compilations (see what I mean?): 1992′s Add More Babes!, 2008′s I Smell A Pop Quiz!, 2010′s Big Nate from the Top, 2o11′s Big Nate Out Loud and Big Nate and Friends. (Plus this years’s upcoming What Could Possibly Go Wrong?) The other three were what Lincoln Peirce himself described as “failed experiments”: his first 3 Big Nate eBooks from ’02. They were Dibs on This ChairPray for a Firedrill, and Big Nate…Makes a Splash.

Have you ever been itching to steal the first place title from your strongest rival? That’s what Nate’s dealing with in Big Nate on a Roll. Nate was always Joe #1 in his Timber Scout troop…that is, until Artur—aka Mr. Perfect—is newly recruited. Now Nate’s been degraded to 2nd place, and Artur means business even without his own knowing of it. But another problem kindles when Nate’s trapped in the center of a “dog-leash incident” and loses his skateboard in the process, landing deep in the waters of Beard’s Creek. Sooner or later, Nate and Artur are fierce competitors in a Timber Scout contest to see who can sell the most wall hangings and soak up the most greens. The prizes, from 3rd-place to 1st, are:

  • The 3rd-place winner will receive a Rockin’ Robot kit that allows you to build your own robot with the ability to play over a hundred songs.
  • The runner-up will receive a plain telescope with a celestial chart included…whatever that is.
  • The grand-prize winner will receive a “hi-flyin’” customized skateboard that allows you to design the board the way you want to! With 55mm wheels and a cast aluminum truck assembly, it’s no wonder why Nate’s fighting hard for this gift.

Will Nate put Artur in second for once in his runner-upping life? Or will he land with the silver medal while Artur gets the gold?

This book is a surprising step in the right direction for Big Nate. Plenty of laughs, drama, and action keep the book strung up and interesting to read. Colorful language (“that shut her up”), violence (ex: a woman is disturbed by the fact that Nate included “botched surgery” in one of his comics) and some lovey scenes do occur, but parental-wise, there’s not much to worry for about this book. Well, maybe except the violence part. Instead of shunning Lincoln, I’m actually coming to praise him for realizing what he’s doing to his fans and stepping up his game. Not by a little, but by a lot. And I swear, if Big Nate 4 can pull this off when it comes out in two weeks, Lincoln’s series is pretty much no longer in critical danger. I should know: did you see what I had to deal with for Big Nate 2? Anyway, I feel good that I had been anticipating my opportunity to read this book for so long. And, hey—I think it actually adds up evenly! Now that I’m feeling all happy, let’s roll the chart.

 2 3/4 out of 5 – Educational value – As Nate’s constantly updating his amount of money in the wall hanging competition, he uses a heck of a lot of math problems that readers can follow along to. For example, Nate calculates Artur’s amount of sold wall hangings (53) times the cost of the wall hangings apiece ($8) to get the total amount of money Artur has received for the competition ($424).

 3 out of 5 – Positive messages – Although Nate does show the competitive half of him throughout the book, it’s a good message that sometimes we all need to unravel our competitive sides every once in a while. Besides that, there’s not much messages to go around, as Nate’s best friends aren’t very “friend-y”, and his shown teachers have very snappy natures. Wall hangings do have kiddie but sometimes sweet messages on them. Examples include “Sharing is caring!”, “Don’t you love grandmas?”, and even “Follow your rainbow!”

 1 3/4 out of 5 – Positive role models – Nate’s sometimes disastrous, other times delightful life is perfectly related to that of real life. Life is almost everything or anything you’d want to call it: a disaster, a movie, a rollercoaster full of twists and turns, and even sometimes a box of chocolates. Nate may get competitive, but maybe that’s how you operate contests, too.

 3 3/4 out of 5 – Ease of read – Big Nate on a Roll is a great and invigorating entry into the series, full of humor, action, and plenty of surprises as well. Although the first time I read this book it felt empty at first, I continued reading on and I only rekindled with that feeling every once in a while. That means not all the time. Although this might be more than violent than past entries, it is definitely that one entry in the Big Nate as-of-now trilogy that lifted the series from the rubble and debris of its disasters and gently washed it off until it was clean. Weird metaphor, huh? I remember when I said in the finale of my last Big Nate review: “Hopefully, Lincoln can try again in his third book, which is already in production, due to release this August [I released the post by May '11, so book 3 hadn't arrived yet]. Maybe he’ll take back the innovation and get serious this time.” Well, past and modern Sams, you got your wishes.

4 out of 5 – Violence – This book has a baffling amount of violence. Nate mishandles a fake wooden sword and accidentally decapitates a garden gnome with it. One of Nate’s friends, Chad, is shown slamming into a wall via wirework during a play. In one illustration, Teddy and Francis [having come back from a scout camping trip] are in bad shape, Francis’ face swollen with hornet swings, and Teddy about to barf. Nate draws up a newcomer’s comic about a stuntman named Moe Mentum (get it?) that breaks sixteen of his bones, punctures one of his lungs, and has five heart attacks, all in one stunt. Another one of Nate’s comics about our favorite medical misfit Doctor Cesspool, along with his rival Dr. Arch Enemy and fellow nurse Maureen Biology (obviously a play on “marine biology”), shows Cesspool accidentally botching a man while performing surgery on him, putting his foot where his hand should be and his hand where his foot should be. A woman that Nate tries to sell this to is greatly disturbed by this fact. On a camping trip, Nate’s dad accidentally sets up everyone in sight to be skunk-sprayed. Nate pats himself on the back by making a comic about the super-heroic version of himself (Ultra-Nate), and he saves Jenny moments before a truck passes by. Spitsy the dog dive-attacks Nate and begins licking and slobbering all over him. A drop of stray paint lands in Nate’s eye, and he blindly crashes into a ladder that Artur is standing on, causing the two to fall onto the floor. Later, Nate gets caught in an incident where he skates right into an outstretched dog leash. Nate also makes the bad decision of tying Spitsy’s leash to his belt, as Spitsy drags him helplessly dead-on into a tree. And I don’t think I’m even finished with it all.

 1 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – Nate’s still trying to win Jenny’s heart, although for the first time that’s only minor in the book. The final panel of Nate’s camp comic shows everyone in their underwear (including the male adults) in the lake, washing off skunk smell.

0 out of 5 - Language – Nothing much.

2 3/4 out of 5 – Product Placement – Big Nate 3 doesn’t state much direct brand names, and although a competition’s prizes include a build-a-robot kit, a telescope, and a custom skateboard, there is nothing product-placing except the fact that Big Nate 3 belongs to a famous children’s book series.

0 out of 5 – Drinking, Drugs, and/or Smoking – This aspect is not featured.

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Entertainment: B+ (3.5 points)

Fun: B+ (3.5 points)

Smarts: B (3 points)

Style: A (4 points)

Read-Again Ratio: B (3 points)

Humor: A- (4 points)

FINAL SCORE: 21 out of 30 (…), 3 1/2 stars out of 5, 81% out of 100%

CONSENSUS: Big Nate on a Roll is the perfect apology to Peirce’s previous failure, bringing back all the good hijinks and heartwarm, but with some trip-ups stuck in the vat, Peirce’s series may not be risen from its rubble completely after all.

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Comment, rate, like, share, do this one new thing called “reblogging”, and draw on the subscribe button’s face, and a leprechaun will show up at your house and give you gold. I know, a bit too late for St. Patty’s references, isn’t it? Well, come back next Monday and I’ll have something perty good for you!

- Sam ;)

This week’s Would You Rather o’ The Week (weekly “Would You Rather”s to conclude every post) is: “WOULD YOU RATHER…be the protagonist in a terrible movie, or have a minor role in an amazing movie?” :D :D :D :D :D wt

Jolly Good Bookie: The Great Cow Race


Hey guys it’s Sam, back with yet another jolly good visit from the bookie of all bookies! (I should really alter next Monday.) But on 2Sam2Mwak (a site apparently no one feels like visiting), I released a JGB review about the first Bone book, Out from Boneville. (You can see that specific review here!) I won’t tell you how it broke down, but I can tell you how the next adventure starring our lovable Bone threesome broke down. It’s sweet with just as much sour, it’s The Great Cow Race.

The two covers of "The Great Cow Race". The left one is the 2005 in-color edition that I read. The right one is the 1996 original edition.

Released in 2005 (or 1996, if you want the actually old version) alongside the preceding Out from Boneville, this book revolves around the Bone cousins plan to return to Boneville after checking out the Barrelhaven village with Thorn and Gran’ma Ben. But Phoney risks everything on one final get-rich-quick scheme for the town’s annual Great Cow Race, and Smiley’s involved dressing up as the “ferocious and terrifying” Mystery Cow. As usual, Phoney’s plans backfire, making Boneville farther away than ever. Meanwhile, ominous signs indicate that warfare is brewing, and F. Bone finds himself helping his pals defend their valley from a formidable villain. The Thorn-Bone (or, if you enjoy “pairings”, Thone or Born) subplot features Thorn getting interested with a shirtless honey-seller named Tom, but F. Bone gets in an argument with him, ending in the fact that he has enormous muscle in his skinny arms.

What I meant to say about “sweet and sour” was that this book was definitely lighter on violence and other content than its last installment (Thorn and Bone’s relationship has finally been appropriately rekindled), but there are still appearances of the now-more-humorous breed of rat monsters, salty language (“shut up”s and “stupid”s, just like last time), and Smiley’s still smoking and handling a job at a bar like usual. Not much of a back-premise difference, is what I’m trying to say. Definitely more of a recommended book now.

 0 out of 5 – Educational value – This aspect is not featured.

 3 out of 5 – Positive messages – Phoney and Lucius (the old looking but buff meat link in the book) both say they have faith in Gran’ma Ben that she could win the Cow Race and to believe in herself, by far the most enticing and inspiring scene in the book.

2 out of 5 – Positive role models – Compared to the last adventure, Phoney may have actually lightened up. Gran’ma Ben still believes she has a chance of victory when almost everyone in the town refuses to bet on her for the Cow Race.

 5 out of 5 – Ease of read – The Great Cow Race definitely makes Bone a more recommended graphic-novel series (no wonder it’s a million-selling series!), considering the fact that it jumped out of the bushes with an amazing new story and technique that kindles the book (and a reader’s heart) even with the same old sub-premise. A great book that’s worth reading even if you’re younger than I recommended with Out from Boneville!

2 1/2 out of 5 – Violence – Ratlike monsters do return in this book, but in a more humorous matter. Lucius does slip down a roof, followed by 11 more panels of painful sound effects, but it is unknown if he survived. Phoney gets tied to a stake and bombarded with eggs, and they almost harden his mouth shut.

 1 1/2 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – Thorn and Bone’s relationship has been rekindled into an appropriate manner, so there’s no more sexual content between the two of them. A honey-seller named Tom does run his stand without a shirt (exposing humanly exaggerated muscle).

1 out of 5 - Language – “Shut up” is said about once, followed by several uses of “stupid”. That’s right. No more “oh my God”. OMG.

1 out of 5 – Product Placement – The Great Cow Race is the second installment in the Bone series, which would grow to become one of the most famous graphic novel series. No mentioning of consumerism in the actual book.

2 out of 5 – Drinking, Drugs, and/or Smoking – Phoney and Smiley work at a bar, and, like usual, Smiley is seen in almost all panels he’s in with a cigarette in his teeth. Right in between sessions of mad Mystery Cow “rampaging” in his hut, Smiley even stops to smoke his cigarette in one panel.

Entertainment: A+ (5 points)

Fun: A+ (5 points)

Smarts: A (5 points)

Style: A (5 points)

Read-Again Ratio: A+ (5 points)

Humor: A+ (5 points)

Final score: 30 out of 30!! (OH MY GOODNESS! THAT’S OUR FIRST PERFECT SCORE!), 7 stars out of 5, 96% out of 100%

CONSENSUS: The Great Cow Race definitely rights its predecessor’s wrongs, and with a new sweet-n-sour story of adventure, humor, and light violence and inappropriateness, this book may serve as the best book of the pack!

PRICE: You’re not slipping out of this one. You know you want this book. You just don’t know it yet. At Amazon, the book charges for a regular $6.24 with 43% of the savings. 83 new copies go for $2.50, 172 used ones go for a penny, and 5 collectibles go for $5.89. Barnes & Noble charges it (with a surprising 4 1/2 star rating) for the same big regular price, with the same big regular savings. But the used-and-new marketplace edition goes for $1.99 with 81% of the savings! What a righteous deal!

RENT, BUY, OR SKIP?: Reread this post about five times, and problem-solve this one yourself.

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First perfect score. Oh my goodness. 30 out of 30. That’s amazing. The rarest score. Anyway, while I’m busy being fazed by this book’s first perfect JGB score, you can go and subscribe, like, rate, and comment. That’s our usual routine, right? Anyway, go get this book. Seriously. Right now. Get off your chair and go get it. I’ll be waiting right here…

With all due respect,

Sam

p.s. Bet I can read number three before you!…

Jolly Good Bookie: Ghouls Gone Wild


Hey guys it’s Sam, and I’ve decided to take a break from all of this game talk. I have a lot of segments I do here, and every day a new post idea pops into my head. Anyways, there was one idea I got from a night-and-day evaluation, and that is known online as Jolly Good Bookie. I’ve decided to bring it back, especially with a book tribute to that ghoulish day of the month. Today’s book is, as seen above, is the fifth of R.L. Stine’s (Goosebumps, Fear Street, etc.) Mostly Ghostly series, Ghouls Gone Wild. (April 2005)

HOME, SWEET, HAUNTED HOME

Max’s parents are planning to sell their house and move the family far, far away. Max has to stop them! He can’t leave Nicky and Tara, the two ghosts who live with him. They need him. He’s the only one who can help them become real kids again! But Max has another problem right now–a figure dressed in black, with a face hidden in shadow. It’s a boy–or is it? That’s what Max needs to know, because this shadowy figure is following Max. Watching him. Waiting for him…

…………..

If you haven’t read the MG series (which is surprisingly good, hands down), this is what you need to know about it: there’s an 11-year old kid (by book 6, he turns 12) named Max E. Doyle. He’s an amateur magician with a buff meat link and a scrawny bird of a dad and mom, and Colin the buff brother who literally eats child abuse for breakfast. Apparently starting from book 1, he becomes haunted by two young “orphaned” ghosts, Nicky and Tara. They say they have no idea how they became ghosts, and they have no idea where their parents are. Max is the only one that can see them, which proves for a lot of mislead antics in the series. Why is Max the only one? That is revealed in book 3, but for now I must keep it under wraps.

He’s also haunted by another much more unfriendly ghost, named Phears (assuming that it’s pronounced “fears”). Apparently he knows how to get his hands on a Berserker ghoul (courtesy of book 2) and cannot quench his limitless thirst of destroying Max, Nicky, Tara, and parents once and for all. Even if he has to turn his dog inside out and drill his teeth in!

Anyway, this book may be the fifth, but it’s the fourth book I’ve read. It’s surprisingly good, on the bottom line, but some of Nicky and Tara’s antics do anger me. You see, when someone would laugh at a lame joke, I would anger myself over it. That’s why some of the worst books I’ve read are some of the worst books I’ve read. End of story.

1 out of 5 – Educational value – Max is known at school as “Brainimon”, being a good-brained, straight A student. Otherwise, there’s not really aspects worth giving points to even in school scenes.

0 out of 5 – Positive messages – Not really much.

0 out of 5 – Positive role models – Max does stand up against himself in problems even if he does it in a shade of fear.

4 out of 5 – Ease of readGhouls Gone Wild proves itself as an impressive age ranger for almost all ages. Its scares can revolve around jokes from a mile away, and besides being scary, it’s also impressively funny.

2 1/2 out of 5 – Violence – A mayor gets hit in the head with a trophy, and some rancid steaks do come to life and almost destroy Max.

1 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – Max has a crush on the school’s prettiest and coolest student, Traci Wayne.

1 out of 5 - Language – Colin fires all sorts of mean names at Max, including “stupid klutz”.

1 out of 5 – Product PlacementMostly Ghostly is one of R.L.’s many successful horror series.

0 out of 5 – Drinking, Drugs, and/or Smoking – This aspect is not featured.

CONSENSUS: Ghouls Gone Wild may anger the sensitive readers with its endless list of antics, but when it progresses, the skin of slow-downs unravels to find a terrific scream at its core.

Entertainment: A (5 points)

Fun: A (5 points)

Smarts: A- (4 points)

Style: B+ (4 points)

Read-Again Ratio: A (5 points)

Humor: A- (4 points)

Final score: 27 out of 30 (SO CLOSE!), 4 1/2 stars out of 5

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Best part: The best scene for me. Slap my rear and call me Paul Revere, was it funny! It started near the beginning of the book, the scene we all know as “Mayor takes the plunge”. This not only wins my award of “FUNNIEST SCENE IN A HORROR BOOK“, but it also wins the “MAYOR WITH THE FUNNIEST NAME” award (Mayor Stank). Max is chosen to give a speech to the mayor upon giving him a trophy, but Nicky and Tara sabotage his attempt and Tara clonks the mayor on the head with the trophy, sending him into the pool. The thing is, he can’t entirely swim, which makes it that more funny. In Max’s attempt to try and get him out, he accidentally takes off his pants! Har har har.

But I also give it points for its aftermath. You would expect Max to snap and yell at Nicky and Tara right? Well, that’s exactly what happened. This totally testified that part of the book, and not only was it justified, it was the truth.

RENT, BUY, OR SKIP?: Buy, buy, buy! If you like this, you should read the entire series, which is sadly eight chronicles long. You can fly over to Amazon and get it for, er, $7.00, or get it at Barnes & Noble for, er, $7.00.

This has been a shout out from the jolly good bookie, yours truly, and make sure to return two weeks from now, on Monday, October 31 at 1:00 pm, to witness Sammwak’s second annual Halloween special! Why didn’t the skeleton go to the prom?…He had no body to go with!

Jolly Good Bookie: One Day At HorrorLand


Hey guys. I’ve probably been making you undergo this formula every week on Sammwak: videos, videos, games, books breast cancer. Rinse and repeat. Well, now I’ve decided to rewind back to books, but I’m also rewinding back to a segment that I haven’t done in a long time on Sammwak. And that’s book reviewing. Considering the fact that I just turned out a couple books to and from Chicago just Wednesday, I’ve decided to bring them back right here on Sammwak. The one that I actually finished will be here today. This book was released February 1994, so that makes it approximately seventeen years old (older than my sister!). The next ride might be the last in the sixteenth installment in the popularly paranormal series, One Day at HorrorLand. (Fun fact: Do you know that Scholastic was 74 years old when they made this?)

SPOILER ALERT: For anyone who does not like their books spoiled, I suggest you roam elsewhere on the site.

RATED TV-PG: For people who don’t like severe horror and are easily nightmare-prone, I suggest you also roam elsewhere.

Front tagline: Enter if you dare….

Back tagline: The next ride might be their last…. (Which is a little old, but let’s go with them)

Description: The Morris family got lost trying to find Zoo Gardens Theme Park. But that’s okay. They found another amusement park instead. It’s called HorrorLand. In HorrorLand there are no crowds. No lines. And the admission is free. It seems like a pretty cool place. But that was before that heart-stopping ride on the deadly Doom Slide. And that terrifying experience in the House of Mirrors. Because there’s something weird about the rides in HorrorLand. Something a little too creepy. A little too real…

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This book was deeply squandered, repetitively and predictably unfunny, and…it breaks my heart to say this…scary. Perhaps this is one of the most original Goosebumps books to actually scare me even for a moment. As depicted in the description, it depicts around the Morris family: Dad, Mom, narrator Lizzy, her little brother Luke, and his friend Clay. This whole adventure all happens because a foolish dad forgot to pack the map. Driving out in scenic nowhere, they stumble across HorrorLand, “where nightmares come to life.” Just as they exit their car, guess what happens? It explodes. I’m not even joking. It explodes. Twisted metal and burning cinders are everywhere, much to Dad’s horror. He tries calling 911, but HorrorLand strictly prohibits phoning. Sad and unlucky day.

To save all the energy and muscle it takes to type out the whole literal story, let me break it down to you:

Doom SlideWarning! You May Be The One To Slide To Your Doom! – How is it scary? Take the unlucky pick, and you might slide to your infinite doom. Pretty cheesy, huh? Lizzy, Luke, and Clay are the participants. Considerably, the slide basically has you sliding at the speed of light (maybe even faster) through fake fire, and then out you go. If that were a cartoon, you’d literally be flying over HorrorLand at this rate.

House of Mirrors - Reflect Before You Enter. No One May Ever See You Again! – How is it scary? The walls cave in on you, crushing you into a perfect human square? Lizzy, Luke, and Clay are also the participants. There are a bunch of mirrors everywhere. That’s it. Also try not to hurt yourself.

Coffin CruiserA Relaxing Float To The Grave. – How is it scary? You apparently lie down in coffins as you float on a brown water river, then the lids suddenly shut on you. That’s it. Everyone is a participant here.

Bat Barn – How is it scary? How do you think it’s scary? In the dark, a bajillion bats. That’s how it’s scary. Lizzy, Luke, and Clay are also the participants.

That’s pretty much HorrorLand in a nutshell.

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The Ending: After realizing they were the victims on the candid camera show HorrorLand Hidden Camera (more like Punk’d Monster Mix) that airs on the Monster Channel after 30 Monster Meals and viewed by 2 million beasts worldwide, the family goes through an obstacle course and sets a new record of all five surviving. They hitch a HorrorLand bus to drive home, but a monster was in the back the whole time…just to award them tickets for next year.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending: Page 73, concluding chapter 15. The Morris parents have abandoned their children with a message: “Goodbye.”

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This book really had hopes and dreams. But how it turned out, those got roughly shattered. The premise got old fast (going to die? I prefer not, you’re OK), and so did its humor. The only thing that could stick around for literally half the amount of chapters was the horror…and I guess that’s a good thing. It just couldn’t last long enough to squeeze out the entertaining juices.

FINAL SCORE: 6.5/10 (a fair book)

CONCLUSION: If you know your Goosebumps, then this book would be more like One Day To BoreLand. But if you’re a newbie veteran, you might be interested into gazing at a few chapters. One Day To HorrorLand just fails to be fresh and entertaining, and that’s what so violently destroys it.’

- Sam

p.s. I like new challenges every day, so I’ve decided that a Spanish version of Sammwak may be launched sometime! (And yes, it will still be called Sammwak, because who’s heard of that word?) Even if it’s out for just a momento, I’m sure that any Spanish fans of this blog can understand it in their own lengua! (That’s Spanish for language.)