Update status: Complicated.

Monthly Archives: September 2013


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“It’s easy to lose your soul in high school.”

Maggie has been home schooled for years now, but now she’s a big girl. She’s going to make the transition from home school to public school as she goes into the ninth grade. She has three brothers that’s been watching over her for as long as she can remember, but Maggie just feels like she won’t be able to fit in. Maggie’s life has been stalked by a gray cloud of sorrow ever since her mom hit the road. Maggie’s never had any friends outside of family, but luckily she makes two friends, Lucy and Alistair. They eat lunch with her and take her on their adventures around town, but there’s one big secret she has.

MAGGIE IS HAUNTED.

Why she’s haunted, she doesn’t know. What it’ll take to free the spirit, she has to know. School hassles mixed with a harrowing haunting has Maggie’s hands way full. But in the end, she learns to see her brothers through a different perspective and learns the true story behind her sidekick in spirit.

I came across this on Common Sense Media, and it looked like a good read. It said something about “a ghostly twist”, so that hooked my attention. Some time later, the book shows up at the school libe and I decide to check it out. Ladies and gentlemen, I finished that book the same day. Doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment for a graphic novel, but still. I’ve read all nine Bone books, and each one took me a couple days to read to capture everything on the page. With this book, I could burn through it like I did The Tale of Desperaux. But we’re not here to talk about adequate graphic novel lengths, we’re here to talk about Friends With Boys. You have to understand that this is the full-length print debut of Faith Erin Hicks, author of another graphic novel called Zombies Calling. That sounds way more interesting than this. I was disappointed when I’d closed the book. Unsatisfied, like I was missing the main entree and being given just the sides. 

If I got this and saw that Jeff Smith or Doug TenNapel had written this, I’d be highly disappointed. But I have to lay off a bit of my flak since Hicks is a pawn at this game of chess. But I’m the chess-master. I know what and when things are coming. But I didn’t expect most of the things that occurred, but for all the wrong reasonsFriends with Boys, even on my belittled standards, was very mediocre. Maggie and her friends are lovable characters, I get that. It has all of the bullying and bad words of high school, and then it has a ghost. That’s how you describe the book in one sentence. The other thing I hate is that the ghost is mute. Maggie should’ve actually taken the time to talk to her and have her tell her story instead of having some boring exposition do it for her. That would’ve made her a much better character. I also would’ve preferred the ghost to be Maggie’s age, but that’s an unimportant complaint–also, it’s not my call.

Another pet peeve I have is that everyone seems to understand what Maggie’s going through. Imagine if someone said to you, “I’m haunted by a ghost.” Would you respond with “I completely understand”, or think that they’re sliding down the slippery slope of sanity? If you chose answer A, you’re just like the characters in this book. I loathe you for that. I know that other people have much warmer thoughts for this book, but I think I’ve just wiped Hicks off of my “graphic-novel-authors-to-watch” list. The only thing I’ll acclaim the book for is that it has darn good illustrations. Friends with Boys just fell flat in my opinion.

If you think that Ghostbusters tee was product placement, wait until you read the whole thing. (L to R: Maggie, Daniel, Lloyd, Zander)

Friends with Boys may be appealing illustration-wise, but it’s just a series of misguided plot lines and stale gags with little action. Hollow, but not with enough flaws to get you to shut the book. There are certainly better graphic novels out there, but I might be willing to give Hicks a second chance if she does release again in the not-too-distant future. But for now, she hasn’t hit that sweet chord yet.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★

If you liked Friends With Boys, 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 haunt that subscribe button! You can also find Sammwak on Google+ where you can get more news and stuff there! You can also share it to your pals on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, and more!

Stay classy,

~S~ 😎

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is considered by many to be the greatest video game ever made…now, let’s see how that holds up when I play it. This is just the beginning of a series that is currently six episodes long. The computer fan is still annoying as ever, and there’s also a watermark. This was the most primitive stuff I could find before upgrading to what I used in my Donkey Kong 64 video (which you can find in last week’s post). But nonetheless, enjoy, and if you like this one, knock yourself out with the other five.



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~ 😎

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.



Get a load of this while you guys wait for my next post. Great review.

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (author, illustrator)
Hyperion Books for Children, 2007.
hardcover, 425 pages.
It all starts with a school essay. When twelve-year-old Gratuity (“Tip”) Tucci is assigned to write five pages on “The True Meaning of Smekday” for the National Time Capsule contest, she’s not sure where to begin. When her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Eve, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended on the Earth and the aliens–called Boov–abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it “Smekland” (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod?
In any case, Gratuity’s story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo.; a futile journey south to find Gratuity’s mother…

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