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.
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: ★★★★★
“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: ★★★★★
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: ★★
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
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?”
Both boys shouted over each other.
“It stands for–”
“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)
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:
- Cosmic by Frank C. Boyce
- Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch
- Aliens on Vacation by Clete B. Smith
- Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
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!
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.
Back last year, I did a full review of the Bone graphic novel saga by Jeff Smith, one of the best graphic novelists I know. In case you don’t have time for playbacks, here’s what I scored each book (remember, this was the old template):
- Out from Boneville – “an energetic start to a great graphic novel series…” (20/30)
- The Great Cow Race – “…the best book of the pack!” (30/30)
- Eyes of the Storm – “…the darkest addition yet.” (24.5/30)
- The Dragonslayer – “…may not be the best Bone book since The Great Cow Race, but it’s a full-fleshed attempt at it” (24/30)
- Rock Jaw – “…great premise and dazzling excitements” (22/30)
- Old Man’s Cave – “…a barbaric warrior…with well-played action, adventure, and drama” (26/30)
- Ghost Circles – “…a good wallop of laughs, action, adventure, and excitement that will definitely go into the scrapbook.” (23.1/30)
- Treasure Hunters – “…solely the lowlight of the Bone saga.” (17.5/30)
- Crown of Horns – “…a mightily entertaining–and epic–conclusion.” (23/30)
Now I’m back to review another graphic novel, from the same Scholastic imprint that’s been with Mr. Smith since the start. This one has to be one of the most unique comic novels I’ve ever read–and it’s not just because it introduces a new writing style or has vivid pictures. It has both of those, don’t get me wrong. But here’s the reason why it really stuck out to me–it’s not a wild over-the-top fantasy like Bone or Amulet–it’s an autobiographical story, a memoir! Eat Pray Love, Diary of a Young Girl, Running With Scissors, Marley & Me: A Dog Like No Other, those are all memoirs. But none of those tell a story quite like this.
Released in February 2010 by Raina Telgemeier and Scholastic/Graphix, and based off of Smile: A Dental Drama, a webcomic created by Telgemeier, Smile is an auto-bio that takes place during the 1980s and early 1990s, following Raina’s years from a preteen to a real teen. One night after a Girl Scout meeting, Raina’s friends race her to the porch. However, Raina trips and falls right onto the side of the road, busting out one of her front teeth and jamming the other up into her gum. What follows is nearly five years of on-off braces, surgery, ignominious headgear, even a retainer with false teeth! However, Raina’s dental drama is only a portion of her problems–a gnarly earthquake leaves her town shaken and stirred, Raina begins to notice two big crushes, and friends who turn out to be not very friendly. The story evolves with Raina as she goes into high school, finds her true artistic voice and real friendship, and finds a place where she can really smile.
PRESENTATION: Smile was the breakthrough for an inglorious author, and it’s easy to see why. Raina tells her story clearly without any narrative exposition (okay, so a few helpful names here and there), and she writes it in such a way that you can feel the emotions she’s feeling. The terror in her eyes during the earthquake when the floor begins to tremble under her feet. The amazement in her eyes when she sees The Little Mermaid for the first time. The sorrow in her eyes when she has to replace her real teeth with false teeth. The anger in her eyes when she stands up to her not-so-friendly friends. Raina tells this story impeccably and powerfully, in a way that’s just as unique as the premise itself. The illustrating work done with Raina and Steph Yue (whom provided the pictures’ color) has to be one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in a graphic novel. Not as simplistic as Captain Underpants, not as detailed as Bone, but a nice balance in between the two. (10/10)
STORY: Same main ideas. Also, some people may be able to relate to the story such as people who are bullied at school, going through orthodontic treatment, and the like. (10/10)
FUN: Raina cracks a few jokes here and there to keep readers smiling. Also, since Raina’s story takes place in the 80’s and 90’s, there are tons of pop culture references, some more blatant than others. Raina owns an NES and is seen playing Super Mario Bros and Wizards & Warriors. Raina’s sister unsuccessfully tries to persuade her to buy DuckTales. Q*bert, Kid Icarus, and NES Soccer also make cameo appearances at the store. (10/10)
STYLE: Time for some restating. The humor and drama come in packs, and Smile puts up a fine balance between light-hearted humor and realistic drama. The book has ravishing illustrations that make everything look more down-to-earth. (10/10)
QUANTITY/QUALITY: Smile may not be told in real chapters, but it feels like Raina’s life is being told step by step, chapter by chapter, week by week. It has a great story to tell, and the quality of it is–dude, we’ve been over this. Giddy humor, raw drama, amazing illustrations, great connections, blah blah blah. (10/10)
FINAL VERDICT: Smile is one of the best graphic novels you’ll ever read, telling a powerful story mixed with giddy humor and realistic drama and emotion, topped off with great illustrations that make this book a true gem among Scholastic’s Graphix lineup. (10/10)
FINAL SCORE: I, Sammwak, am proud to give Raina Telgemeier’s Smile the first ever JGB 2.0 perfect score, 60/60, which gets it an automatic A+. Raina really deserved it, but hopefully after her Girl Scout meetings she remembers to walk to the porch this time. Heck, to show you how good this book really is, I’m gonna give it a seal of approval!
Anyway, that’s a wrap for this week here at Sammwak! Have an awesome Spring Break, and I’ll see you next week (hopefully)!
Stay classy America,
Video of the Week: I was gonna put up a Harlem Shake this week, but then today my art teacher showed me this. It’s a 6-minute short film called Pigeon Impossible, about a young man who is a rookie secret agent I’ll call Discount Jake Gyllenhaal. Now, Discount Jake here is dealing with a problem that most rookies don’t come around–what happens when an inquisitive little pigeon makes its way inside your nuclear, government-issued, multi-million-dollar briefcase? Find out in this video that’s already gone viral with 1.8 million hits.
Oh, what the hey, here’s the greatest Harlem Shake you’ll probably ever see in the history of the universe EVER. Also, it might be the final Harlem Shake. Take a click to see why.
I’ve already reviewed the first two novels in James Patterson’s bestselling Middle School series starring young troublemaker Rafe Khatchadorian. Now for some “I-don’t-mean-to-brag-but” fun facts. For his work, Patterson became the 2010 Children’s Choice Book Awards Author of the Year, and he received more than than 15,000 votes in a category shared with fellow middle-grade authors like Carl Hiaasen and Rick Riordan. His Witch & Wizard series was introduced to the biggest launch of a young-reader series in history, surpassing sales of the first Twilight, the first Wimpy Kid, and The Lightning Thief. Last year JP sold more books than Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, and John Grisham combined. He’s grossed over $3 billion in global sales, which is higher than the theatrical gross of Avatar–and that’s the highest-grossing movie ever! But Patterson stayed humble with his achievements, and last December–a mere two weeks before Christmas Eve 2012–he decided to shake things up. He released a brand new realistic fiction story that didn’t star Rafe. Yep, he incorporated an entirely new universe and one of the most unique plots I’ve ever seen. JP’s new book is totally funny–in fact, it’s so funny it even has it in the name.
What I consider to be the spiritual successor to JP’s Middle School series, I Funny is a unique story by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, who he also worked with for Armageddon, a novel in JP’s Daniel X series. This book centers on Jamie Grimm, a young lad about Rafe’s age who lives in Long Island, CA–more specifically, at Long Beach. He is an aspiring stand-up comic who’s been studying the techniques of classic comedians from Homer Simpson to George Carlin and probably every comic in between. His uncle Frankie runs a local diner (kind of like Swifty’s Diner, the place Rafe’s mom works), and he has a few pals at school–Pierce, Gaynor, Gilda, and Suzie (aka “Cool Girl”). But however, just like Rafe’s relationship with Miller the Killer, Jamie’s got a big bully on his back–Stevie Kosgrov, Long Beach’s bully of the year 3 years straight. However, what’s worse about Stevie is that he’s–er, for the sake of spoilers, I’ll just skip that one.
Anyway, Jamie lives with his adoptive family which he dubbed “the Smileys”–ironically, they haven’t cracked a grin in who knows how long. This is a perfect audience for Jamie’s jokes, because if he can get them to laugh, he can get anyone to. In fact, he tries out his jokes on everyone from his classmates to the customers at Frankie’s diner! Jamie has hopes of entering and maybe even winning the Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic contest. But when he goes up in front of an audience for the first time, the following events change his life forever–the most essential being meeting the girl of his dreams. Also, what makes Jamie such a character to root for is that he can’t walk, and takes his wheelchair everywhere he goes. Now, who can’t feel sympathy for that?
PRESENTATION: I Funny delivers an ingenious balance of humor and drama, the same mix that made Rafe’s first adventure a real home run. However, what makes this mix a bit more unique is that the humor and drama come in bundles, the humor is more genuine and easy to “get” (although some readers who are familiar with the comics may know some of the jokes). The drama is raw and emotional, and a few times in the story my inner self actually cried. Rarely in a book do I cry while reading it. Albeit Laura Park, JP’s long-time illustrator, draws the detailed pictures of the story, she gives I Funny its own special something, making pictures look more polished and realistic. (10/10)
STORY: Jamie tells his story with realism and cracks some jokes or introduces some scenic situations that actually make a story a bit “mushy”, just like Rafe would. However, aside from humor and drama, Jamie tells a very down-to-earth story that incorporates real-life things like bullying, friendship, a first love, and broken hearts. Jamie is a character most readers would root for, especially after all you see him go through in the book. Connections between characters are strong as well. However, there’s one thing that won’t make me give I Funny a perfect score in this category–Jamie uses Rafe’s same “fake reality” techniques to try and zest up the story. In this case, Jamie believes that most of the Long Beach community is made up of zombies, but they are shown to be more funny than freaky. The book feels a lot like Rafe had helped Jamie write it–for better and for worse. (9/10)
FUN: It’s entertaining to watch Jamie spin his tale in a way that tons of authors have done, but it’s still nonetheless very unique. It’s intriguing to picture the events that occur in the book from the factual to the fictional, and the vivid imagery–if you saw my last JGB 2.0, you’d know that was almost the exact same stanza I used for Rafe’s second adventure. I Funny and Get Me Out of Here share lots of the same jokes, sequences, and connections, which says something if JP wanted this book to stand out more. However, this book does lots of media referencing–comics like Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, Yakov Smirnoff, Steve Martin, Steven Wright, and Kevin James. Speaking of Kevin James, Jamie also references his star role in Paul Blart: Mall Cop several times. References to KGB, acme (a staple in 20th century comedy like Looney Tunes), Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Penn Station, The Brady Bunch, Harry Potter, and much more. Hey–I think all that referencing just won this book its half of a point back. (10/10)
STYLE: Time for some restating. The humor and drama come in bundles, the humor is more genuine and easy to “get” (although some readers who are familiar with the comics may know some of the jokes). The drama is raw and emotional, and a few times in the story my inner self actually cried. Rarely in a book do I cry while reading it. Albeit Laura Park, JP’s long-time illustrator, draws the detailed pictures of the story, she gives I Funny its own special something, making pictures look more polished and realistic. (10/10)
QUANTITY/QUALITY: I Funny has a great story to tell, and it took 69 chapters to tell it! In fact, the book begins with Jamie choking onstage (forgetting his setups and such), and then it flashes back a while. JP managed to tell enough story and pack in enough element, characterization and such, to meet up to that point in the book, which actually doesn’t come until very late. It’s great how you get to know people like Pierce, Gaynor, Gilda, and Cool Girl, and how they interact with Jamie. How their relationship with him changes as the book progresses and you begin to relate to Jamie more. This is the kind of feeling that I got when I reached the dramatic climax of Middle School, Worst Years of My Life where everything kinda reached its summit. (10/10)
FINAL VERDICT: I Funny packs the same wallops of humor and drama that Rafe would, but the humor is more authentic and the drama is more raw and tearjerking–never has Patterson told such a dynamic story that has the powerful plot lines that really make this the third hit of JP’s threepeat. (10/10)
FINAL SCORE: 59 out of 60 –> 98% –> A+
Check out some vids from JP’s official YouTube channel!
Ah, what a day. Well, make sure to tune in next week for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!
Stay classy America,
Videos of the Week: Check out these mind-blowing Nick mixes from my ole buddy Nick Bertke, aka “Pogo”. For y’all who don’t know who he is, he is literally the greatest mashup artist on Earth. He’s made groundbreaking remixes of Harry Potter, Dexter, Up, Toy Story, Monsters, Inc, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Mary Poppins, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the list goes on folks. Tragically, last Thursday Nick put up a 3-minute video explaining how and why he is no longer allowed to enter the USA for the next decade. I mean, the poor lad got sent to the big house for 3 weeks! Never would I think of Pogo as an inmate. Anyway, here’s the video…
…and to cheer you up, here are two amazing Pogo mixes you can jam to. The first one is an iCarly remix, made in honor of the series ending after five years of being one of Nick’s greatest hits. The music in the mix ranges from all of the show’s seasons, and you may be able to pick out some episodes. The second one is a SpongeBob remix, which also ranges from all of the show’s seasons, and you may also be able to pick out some episodes. ENJOY!
As you can tell, this is no longer the Jolly Good Bookie I’ve been using for a few years–this is JGB 2.0. I got rid of that annoying Common Sense chart and replaced it with a more simplistic chart designed after IGN’s. Also, all reviewed books will get graded on a scale from E to A+. Anyway, on a completely different note, back in December I reviewed Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, a novel by James Patterson who is famous for writing Witch & Wizard and Maximum Ride. Here are some of my most acclaiming snippets from the post:
“…one of the greatest school stories I’ve ever read…”
“…thorough, fleshed comedy with sincere, heart melting drama…”
“Patterson is clearly a unique writer as he actually manages to give us those pangs that make us feel like we’re on the verge of tears…”
“…makes a joke out of middle school in a way that is rare for most favored kids’ authors…”
“…a book that you can’t find around the corner.”
Now, three months later, I’ve read the sequel to this book and now hold the answer to this burning question: “Will Rafe’s second adventure build upon the first, build alongside the first, or build away from the first?”
Released last May, almost a year after the original bestseller, Middle School: Get Me Out of Here! is Rafe Khatchadorian’s second middle school adventure written by the well-renowned James Patterson and the not-nearly-as-popular Chris Tebbetts, alongside the book’s illustrator Laura Park. Anyway, if you read Rafe’s first novel, you’d know that his story isn’t as stereotypical and cheesy as most school stories are–his is deeper, more realistic, better to relate to. This sequel doesn’t pick up where Worst Years of My Life left off–it travels forward in time to the seventh grade. Now, for the sake of non-spoilers, let’s just say Rafe doesn’t hold a very great status at Hills Valley anymore. Now, after the fiery death of Swifty’s Diner, he’s moved on to a new life in a new city, now having been accepted to a fancy art school known as Cathedral Academy. But Rafe’s plans of living a worry-free life are down the drain–he has to keep his grades afloat, or else he won’t get accepted back into Cathedral for eighth grade. For Rafe’s first art project, he needs to turn his life into a work of art to show who he is. Instead of doing that, he teams up with his good pal Leo the Silent and creates his second mission, Operation: Get A Life. From playing poker to visiting an art museum, Rafe’s gonna have to learn the art of trying something new. But when Get A Life unravels secrets about the side of the Khatchadorians Rafe’s never known, his life takes a big detour…
PRESENTATION: Just like its predecessor, Get Me Out of Here is realistic and down-to-earth, with Rafe’s incredibly descriptive and always hilarious drawings put in alongside the story. Nothing has really changed since the original, which is kinda bad since the book needs to have some uniqueness. (9/10)
STORY: Rafe tells his story clearly and deeply, although he has high tendencies to exaggerate story elements like turning his teachers into monsters or going hang-gliding with Leo the Silent. This was kind of like in the original Dork Diaries when Nikki had an excruciatingly high tendency to say things in her head. This is a very annoying flaw, but otherwise the book’s storytelling ability is proficient. (8.5/10)
FUN: It’s entertaining to watch Rafe spin his tale in a way that tons of authors have done, but it’s still nonetheless very unique. It’s intriguing to picture the events that occur in the book from the factual to the fictional, and the vivid imagery makes the book feel less like something an artificial intelligence like Siri would cough up. (Not that I’m saying Siri would ever cough up such a thing.) (10/10)
STYLE: Rafe’s detailed pictures go great with his bubbly storyli–okay, now I think I’m just restating the same main idea. (10/10)
QUANTITY/QUALITY: This category just asks a book, “How much story do you have, and is all that story told well?” In this case, the story is abundant and told extremely well, although it’s almost as immersive as it could’ve been whatsoever. But hey–I’ve said too much good about the book to start getting bad. But speaking of which, the book kinda does get confusing with all these new elements added to Rafe’s persona, and I was wondering if James Patterson wrote the right story a few chapters in. But as soon as I saw Rafe pull an unsuccessful prank, I knew I was back in business. Thank gosh. (9/10)
FINAL VERDICT: Middle School: Get Me Out of Here! may be an unexpected new leaf for some old fans of Rafe, but they’ll appreciate the same deep storyline and playful imagery that was incorporated in Rafe’s first adventure. It’s an ingenious novel that will keep readers hooked and have them hungry for the next installment in Rafe’s middle school adventures. (9.5/10)
FINAL SCORE: 56 out of 60, which equals a 93% score which gets this book an A.
But the post doesn’t end there. Check out some juicy news about James Patterson’s plans for the future!
As you can see here, Mr. Patterson has already gotten the next two Middle School novels up for release later this year. The first book, My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar, tells the story from Georgia’s perspective instead of Rafe’s! Georgia plans to excel at all the spots Rafe failed at HVMS, and she makes a bet with Rafe that she’ll become just as famous as him. However, G may have bitten off more than she can chew–Rafe’s troublesome acts at the school left a big impression on the school, and no one’s even bothering to give G a second glance. However, things go from bad to worse when Rafe furtively signs up his band to play at the school dance! (Since when was Rafe in a band like Big Nate?) G refuses to make an ignominious impression on her crush as well as the school’s clique, but she’s determined to win her bet and prove Rafe wrong at all costs, even if it means putting her HVMS rep on the line. Will she succeed, or will Rafe win? Check out My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar to find out when it hits stores next Monday.
The next book, How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill, is indeed the third Middle School novel first foreshadowed by Rafe himself at the end of Get Me Out of Here. Rafe is stoked for a fun 3-month stay at summer camp–until he realizes that it’s a summer school camp. Luckily, Rafe manages to befriend his cabinmates and bunkmate, as well as a boy nicknamed Booger Eater. Rafe soon finds out that there’s more to BE than meets the eye, and maybe he’s just the guy you want to know when the Cool Cabin kids attack. Wow, this plot is very similar to Fred 3: Camp Fred, with the whole “good camp vs. lame camp” concept. This book will take a longer wait–it won’t come out until June, which is rather convenient.
We all know that James Patterson’s revered sci-fi adventure saga, Maximum Ride, came to an end when Nevermore came out last year. However, besides the manga series being still alive, Patterson knows the canon is not yet dead. And he’s deciding to honor one of his greatest hits with one of the biggest blowouts an author can produce–a Maximum Ride movie. That’s right, the flock, the Erasers, and the School are all coming to the big screen. News about a Max Ride movie began spreading as far back as fall 2007, and James Patterson would be the movie’s executive producer. Steven Paul is also a producer alongside Avi Arad, who has worked on films like Spider-Man and X-Men. Apparently, Arad got so full of himself he planned out a second movie as well. (If you’ve seen Anthony Horowitz’s scrapped plans for an Alex Rider film series, you know that pride like this is dangerous.)
Columbia Pictures bought screen rights to the movie in 2008, and the film was expected to release 2 years later. Twilight‘s director Catherine Hardwicke had planned to direct, and in 2010 she had requested that the movie script be rewritten to include more action. (Oh, gosh.) This delayed the movie’s release to this year. In February 2011, Maximum Ride‘s Facebook page asked fans who they’d want to play Max, and also stated that the movie would be released in 3D. Unfortunately, by last year Hardwicke dropped out, and Patterson said he was “very hopeful as opposed to mildly depressed.” Sadly, the movie is as of now cancelled, but we can only hope that by 2014 Patterson can get his chin back up.
Ah, so much info, my brain is hurting! Well, as my cerebellum cools down, let’s call it a week. But make sure to stay tuned for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak! Stay tuned for more James Patterson books, too!
Stay classy America,
Videos of the Week: The channel of the week award goes to TomSka for his latest episode of his gut-busting asdfmovie series. “asdfmovie5” back from May was kind of a letdown in my book–all of the skits were new, and not once did the I Like Trains Kid appear! Anyway, this new video is hilarious, and it’s really put Tom’s random humor skills to work. Hey–at least Mine Turtle shows up again and makes me realize that Tom has found a new running gag for his videos.
Menacing 8th graders who embark in daily manhunts for fresh cold cuts. 7th graders who are just as threatening just to get vengeance to what happened to them as 6th graders. And then are the real 6th graders who have to have their innocent bodies, minds, and souls mangled day after day. At least, that’s how most people think of middle school. Especially the protagonist of today’s book. The actual Google Dictionary definition of a middle school itself “a school intermediate between an elementary school and a high school, typically for children in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades”. A fearful environment for the squeamish and scared, but an interesting and rather intriguing environment for the brave and bold. And the main character of this story has just gotten his rank as the eldest knocked back down to the youngest. And even in school years it’s hard to climb that ladder.
Likely if you broke a rule or two in elementary school, you were likely punished through the step system, from assertive reminders to expulsion, although this was rarely common. However, in middle school that’s completely common–in fact, according to my school’s code of conduct, any form of assault, arson, illegal substance transferring or selling (aka drug dealing), sexual harassment, and vandalism are just some of the ways that you could get a one-way ticket to Expelville! But in this school, the only way to follow the rules…are to break them. In Middle School: The Worst Years Of My Life by James Patterson, also the author of Maximum Ride and Witch & Wizard, Patterson finally takes the route of a realistic fiction story in his most innovative concept yet. Well, you may be considering this ironic, but wouldn’t you find normality innovative when you write about kids with wings and magical powers? Anyway, the story revolves around Rafael “Rafe” Khatchadorian, a young kid who’s just been enrolled in Hills Valley Middle School, the former site of what Rafe believes was a prison for Pilgrims and is now a prison for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. (By the way, Khatchadorian is pronounced “Catch a door, Ian!”) But much like in series like Wimpy Kid and Big Nate Rafe finds himself trouble in the first few days of mid school. First off, he becomes the new victim of Miller the Killer, he has to face “Dragon Lady” Donatello every single day, and then there’s Jeanne Galletta whom is Rafe’s second-closest thing on the lines of a friend. Only behind his partner-in-crime, Leonardo the Silent. And he already has enough problems at home; there’s his “grizzly” stepfather Bear (his real name’s Carl), his tattletale sister Georgia, and then there’s his mom. There’s nothing wrong with Mrs. Khatchadorian, it’s just that she has to do all the work while Bear just catches up on football pregame shows. But there’s one way that Rafe discovered that will truly make his mark in HVMS history–making a little project known as Operation RAFE (short for Rules Aren’t For Everyone) and breaking every rule in Hills Valley’s despotic code of conduct before he loses his “three lives”:
- Talking in class – 10,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
- Running in the hall – 10,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
- Tardy for class – 10,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
- Gum in class – 5,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
- No electronics – 7,500 points with 4 witnesses required.
- Fighting – 25,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
- Skipping class – 20,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
- Minor dress code defying – 10,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
- Major dress code defying – 20,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
- Cussing – 20,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
- School property destruction – 35,000 points with witnesses required only afterward.
- Messing with fire alarms – 50,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
- School property theft – 40,000 points with 4 witnesses required.
And then there are the bonus points available…
- Jeanne sees it – 5,000-infinite points
- Sent to vice principal’s office – 20,000 points
- Sent to actual principal’s office – 30,000 points
- Detention – 50,000 points
- Talking way out of principal’s/VP’s office or detention – 100,000 points!!!
Now Middle School, The Worst Years Of My Life is actually one of the greatest school stories I’ve ever read. It does something that neither Wimpy Kid nor Big Nate nor Dork Diaries nor [insert school story series here] can do. It mixes thorough, fleshed comedy with sincere, heart melting drama. Because the deal with the series I mentioned is that it focuses too much on how good its jokes are than paying attention to its heart. Patterson is clearly a unique writer as he actually manages to give us those pangs that make us feel like we’re on the verge of tears, and he creates Rafe to greatly exemplify this. However, the book’s only fatal flaw is its jagged transitions between home and school scenarios, but it is something that will go over most readers’ heads. As for the book’s own comedy, it is just as incomparable as its drama. With hundreds of illustrations to go with or display gut-busting humor, the story makes a joke out of middle school in a way that is rare for most favored kids’ authors. And add up all this together, and you get a book that you can’t find around the corner. Chart, please.
4 1/2 out of 5 – Positive messages – Rafe has a hard life at both school and at home, but he never loses his prospect that one day he will be of great value. Leo is a good character that both helps Rafe with his plot and becomes the assertive head of it. This shows that sometimes you need to put certain people in their place, and you can’t merely give everybody the same exact perspective. At the story’s epic climax, Rafe also discovers that some people aren’t who they seem to be, and in their true form they can have unexpected abilities. Not that I’m saying they have powers. Operation RAFE also dictates that sometimes you have to be bold and stand up for yourself, even if it means some repercussions.
4 out of 5 – Positive role models – Despite Rafe’s image throughout the book as a rule-breaking and rebellious troublemaker, Rafe is an endearing, trustworthy, heartfelt, compassionate, and kind character outside of Operation RAFE–even towards annoying little Georgia. Despite not saying much, Leo is also a good character that serves as a good companion to Rafe and his scheme. Even Bear himself, one the book’s main “antagonists”, shows care and lookout whenever danger or injury is present. Jeanne is a nice girl who likes to say things to people without directly offending them, and she is also a very willing character in the story.
4 out of 5 – Ease of read – Middle School is definitely one of those school stories that makes it mark in my mind and my heart, being able to mix its unique senses of comedy with perfectly sincere drama and heartfelt moments, and with the character that it puts in, this book is easily one of the best realistic fiction novels I’ve ever read. Definitely a recommendation as some sort of survival guide to middle schoolers or soon-to-be middle schoolers. However, the book’s big transition flaw does take away a lot from it.
4 1/2 out of 5 – Violence – Miller the Killer and Bear definitely provide the two biggest sources of violence in the story. Miller frequently pushes, pummels, and picks on Rafe throughout the story, even going as far as to rob him of his Operation RAFE notebook! An illustration in the story depicts Miller towering over Rafe, whom is seen as “dead meat”. In the same illustration, Miller sports a bloody knife tattoo on most of his forearm. Rafe describes his relationship with Miller as “[selling his] soul to the school bully, one dollar at a time” since Miller had been forcing cash out of Rafe to give him back the notebook a page at a time. One dollar’s worth one page, if you didn’t already calculate. Bear is even ruder to Rafe acting as his own at-home Miller, frequently criticizing and yelling at the rest of the family. In pictures Bear is depicted as a live bear in “hibernation” on the couch. In the book’s tearjerking climax–spoiler alert!–Bear gets into yet another heated argument with Mrs. Khatchadorian, but goes far enough to shove her down the house’s front steps, hurting her wrist and likely breaking her heart. At this point, Rafe decides to jump in and save the day by yelling in Bear’s face. Bear eventually winds up in the back of a police cruiser, but is not arrested. Later near the book’s finale, Mrs. Khatchadorian reminisces a sad memory about how Rafe had actually had a brother back in the day, but a bad case of meningitis claimed him at a young age. (Kinda like how my brother got malaria as a kid–or so my dad says–but he’s still alive now, healthier than ever. My brother, I mean. My dad’s alive, too.) ***Spoiler alert ends here.*** Georgia and Rafe also get in heated arguments, mainly concerning Rafe’s school rebellion. A rather far-fetched illustration also shows Rafe’s bedroom, which appears to be a ragged and torn-apart place with liquid dripping from the ceiling and a raccoon as his “roommate”. In the picture, he is conversing with a rat about what fraction of a blanket he received. Rafe is wearing his blanket half like a straitjacket, and he seems very deranged and insane. Many illustrations depict Rafe’s teachers as demonic, monstrous, and vile creatures, most notoriously “Dragon Lady” Donatello, whom Rafe uses to make stories of him as a knight facing off against this “dragon”.
1 1/2 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – Rafe has a crush on Jeanne throughout the story, whom happens to be HVMS’s most popular female student. One of the rules Rafe breaks in the dress code is the clothes-size rule, and he breaks it (on Halloween, matter of fact) by showing up to school sagging. Georgia later references this as Rafe being “naked” at school.
2 out of 5 – Product Placement – One of the most centric elements of the story is an energy drink known as Zoom, which Rafe describes as “chocolate and Coke mixed together, and it has about eight cups of caffeine in every can”. As part of Operation RAFE, Rafe eats a Snickers bar in the school library.
1 out of 5 – Drinking, Drugs, and/or Smoking – Bear is a heavy drinker of Zoom and keeps a stash of it in the garage, which Rafe secretly steals from and sells to students at school like drugs, to make savings to pay back Miller.
Entertainment: A+ (5 points)
Fun: A+ (5 points)
Smarts: A (4 points)
Style: A+ (5 points)
Read-Again Ratio: A (4 points)
Humor: A+ (5 points)
CONSENSUS: Middle School, The Worst Years Of My Life has the unique sense of comedy and sincere drama that makes for one of the greatest realistic fiction titles of all time, showing both the upsides and downsides of middle school in Patterson’s own memorable and innovative way. Also for good use as a survival guide to middle school itself.
PRICE: On Amazon, the book costs $8 regular, $4 used, and $3.44 new. The Kindle edition costs $6. For those who say that hearing > reading, the unabridged audiobook version costs $10 regular, $6.23 used, and $5 new. At B&N, the book costs the same $8 regular, $5 used, and $4.49 new. The Nook Book edition is free. Does that help?
Subscribe, like, rate, comment, share, Press This, reblog, and stay tuned for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!
Stay classy America,
Video of the Week: Now I know all this likely took a lot of effort to read through, so here’s some relaxing music to help you regather your cerebral elements and chill out for a bit. By the way, this song is called “Gentle Breeze” by Manabu Namiki, and it’s from the OST for Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2. (It’s a 2008 medical sim game for the Nintendo DS.) This video, since its release in summer 2009, has over 80,000 hits with almost a thousand likes. Eh, I’d rather not keep rambling about the video–after all, it’s supposed to be chill-out music.
Just in case you’re thinking to yourself, “When was the first INSANE?”, it was actually the first ever Super Awesome News Update I put up. I’ve been thinking about it, and Incredibly Noble Super Awesome News Expedition actually sounds alright. It rolls off the tongue kinda like “supercalafragilisticexpialadocious”, and it’s a pretty clever acronym at that. :) So, let’s start off our second INSANE (or is it actually the first? ) right with some juicy news that have the right to ooze! (Ooze also means “to give a powerful impression of”. :D)
Let’s start off, just like last time, with the books I’ve been digging recently and some upcoming Jolly Good Bookie reviews that could be happening…
This first book is classified as a mix between comic adventure, science fiction, and fantasy. In fact, according to the library I found this I’m actually the first one to consider reading it! It’s obviously something truly new and unique in my reading styles, and it’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read where I really didn’t know what to read. It’s called Ignatius MacFarland: Frequenaut! by Paul Feig, and just in case you’re wondering consider “frequenaut” as a portmanteau between “frequency” and “astronaut”. As the titular star of the book, Ignatius “Iggy” MacFarland, achieves both. The premise of the story revolves around Iggy being the center of lots of teases and laughs from the meaner kids at his school (an example being “Piggy MacFartland”), and when he reaches the last straw he decides to do something that even Neil Armstrong considers bizarre. (Or should I say, considered, due to Neil’s passing earlier this year in August. Long live the man who showed us that it was possible to literally moonwalk. :cry:) Iggy actually builds a rocket ship that he plans to launch to send him (and his friends Gary and Ivan) into outer space to another planet. Iggy has the metaphor that hopefully the extraterrestrials will be more nice to him, but when something horrible happens with his ship–with him inside–he is somehow blasted to…well, not outer space, but a parallel reality or “frequency” known as Lesterville. (And here’s where the science fiction comes in…)
At this twisted dystopian version of the real world, Iggy discovers a strange race of humans and their even stranger language (made up of the mere “puh” and “pah”), and discovers that the entire frequency is ruled by a man known as Chester Arthur–Iggy’s English teacher! He has now become the frequency’s dictator/president, and literally every brand in sight has been affected with Arthur’s name. Arthur Potter by J.K. Arthling, Artbucks, Art Wars: The Artpire Strikes Back, Art of the Rings, The Artfather Parts I and II, even Spider-Art, for Art’s sake! (Oh great, now they got me doing it.) In this frequency, Iggy meets Karen (another Earthling) who becomes his companion in solving the mystery of Lesterville and defeating this version of Mr. Arthur–and hopefully they can return home with their skins. Oh, there’s also a flying fairy-like girl in the story named Foo, which you could consider his second companion.
So far, Ignatius is one of the best 300+-paged novels I’ve ever read; it has humor, charm, eye-popping illustrations, adventure, and a surprising quantity of drama. However, I can’t review the book right here and now since I haven’t even finished it yet. 80 Oh, go ahead and gasp, but I’m almost halfway through the book FYI. Anyway, let’s see the next book I’ve been digging…
Sorta like how I brought up Hunger Games in the last issue, you likely know what this is. Let alone very well. If you don’t, think of it as the latest descendant of school story series like Wimpy Kid and Big Nate. It’s Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. Yeah, James Patterson being the guy that wrote Maximum Ride and Witch & Wizard and all those other books. And to believe this time around he’s writing a book that’s somewhat and somehow normal. This book concerns the life of Rafe Khatchadorian as he enters his first year of middle school, and he already has enough problems outside of school without throwing what happens inside school in the mix. Luckily, like Nikki Maxwell, he’s got an ace plan to make it the best year ever–if he can pull it off correctly. With his best bro Leo the Silent wordlessly cashing in points to Rafe (and in this game, points are not a good thing) he decides to go out on a limb and break every rule in the school’s austere Code of Conduct with arm & hammer. Chewing gum in class gets you 5,000 points, running in hallways gets you 10,000, and pulling the fire alarm gets you 50,000. However, when Rafe’s dirty deeds done dirt cheap catch up to him, he’ll have to make a finicky decision whether to believe that winning really is everything, or he’s ready to face the rules, bullies, and–worst of all–the truth that he’s been sidestepping.
So far, this book sounds really good, as I’ve been a bit overzealous in my wants of this book. Luckily I’ve got my hands on it and–like the first ever Nintendo Power issue I’ve ever read–I’ve been reading rather slowly to salvage every moment of the book, and that’s a challenge with so many descriptive illustrations in the book. It sounds seemingly like a new Big Nate-esque series, but let’s just not hope that it’s going to crash and burn like the actual series did. If you want to check out more of James Patterson’s books, suggest trying this list out:
- Middle School: Get Me Out Of Here! – In this riveting sequel to Rafe’s first middle school adventure, Rafe has been accepted to an art school and believes he’s finally stepped into a math-and-history-free fun zone. Nope. It’s more competition than Rafe can handle, and to turn his humdrum life into an afflatus for an ultimate work of art, he decides to execute his biggest plan yet…Operation: Get A Life!
- I Funny – In this spiritual successor to Rafe’s series comes the story about Jamie Grimm, a middle schooler on a mission to become Earth’s greatest and funniest standup comic. But unfortunately, his brutal life with his aunt and uncle and their evil son Stevie doesn’t give him much laughing matter. He practices his comic act day in and day out on his siblings, friends, and the patrons at his uncle’s diner. But when his uncle mentions the Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic contest, Jamie knows he has to enter but has to choose between sharing his dark past or hiding behind his comic act…
- Witch & Wizard – The world has changed permanently with the government having control over the entire society and with kids frequently disappearing. For Wisty and Whit, sister and brother, their lives are changed forever when they get separated from their parents and thrown into a secret prison for no comprehensive reason. In this “juvie”, Wisty and Whit discover otherworldly powers they never knew they had, and now they must master their skills and save their parents–maybe even the rest of the world–as witch & wizard.
- Maximum Ride – After mutants known as Erasers abduct the youngest of their group, the “bird kids” (results of genetic experimentation) take off in hot pursuit of the Erasers but find emotional brick walls in the way concerning the mysteries of their beginnings and intellectual purposes.
“Not since Lord of the Flies has there been such a powerful story of children forced to survive in a world without adults.” That’s pretty much the slogan for The Girl Who Owned A City, a post-apocalyptic story by OT Nelson. The story concerns a killer virus known merely as the Plague sweeping through the Earth and taking the lives of all over 12 years old with it. In a Chicago suburb, ten-year-old Lisa Nelson and her brother Todd are among the youthful survivors of the Plague, but only make a living by looting off of abandoned homes and shops, like every survivor in the story does. Lisa pioneers the idea of driving cars despite being underage, as well as raiding a farm and to look at the diminishing supplies of stores. By now desperation has caused kids to form and join “gangs”, and to fight this Lisa becomes some sort of vigilante and forms a neighborhood militia. Inducting all of the trustworthy kids she knows, Lisa plans the militia’s defense methods from booby traps to throwing things off the rooftop. She also makes an arsenal for the militia in case of an emergency, mainly composed of guns and Molotov cocktails. Lisa and her militia eventually becomes enemies with one the many gangs, specifically the Chidester Gang from Chidester Avenue. And if you know how post-apocalyptic stories go, chaos eventually ensues…
I actually read this book as a class book (Girl Who Owned A City is a commonly used story in schools), and I’ve just recently finished the book. In fact, it’s not bad, but I still felt awkward reading the book considering it was the only one I’ve read to be in Times New Roman. There was also a lot of stuff going on within two mere pages–as the text was very tightly compacted together–so although it was a bit overwhelming at times I still managed to pick up my pace. In fact, the book is one of the best “oldies” that I’ve read recently, incorporating action, drama, alongside positive messages like leadership and survival. I definitely recommend this book to someone who’s just got fresh off of a post-apocalyptic story like City of Ember and is hungry for more.
Speaking of recommendations, I’ve also got something big to tell you about–my Christmas wishlist. And when I say big, I don’t mean I have 10 things on it, I actually have 39 things on it. And they’re all books, because you know how much of a czar I am when it comes to reading. Although it would take too much time to list all of them, let me tell you about some of the books I underlined as “I want this especially badly” books…
Sisters Grimm 4-9 by Michael Buckley – The first time I ever read Sisters Grimm was in the fifth grade, as I’d heard about the series and was also very fond of the Brothers Grimm at the time–and the books seemed to show off some very promising characters. Needless to say, this is the best fantasy book series I’ve ever read–no, this is the best fantasy book series ever solely created. And that’s a very prestigious honor in my honor. Alas, as I progressed through the series the next installment became harder and harder to get, and by the time I was ready for the fourth book it never showed up, and I’ve never read a live book since. :( I say “a live book” since I was actually so desperate to read the fourth book that I even found the Google Play and Books samples for the book!
If you want to know what the series is about, it’s basically just about two girls named Sabrina and Daphne Grimm whom have been tossed between foster families like a yo-yo, only portraying niches like punching bags and servants. They reunite with Relda Grimm, the grandma they never knew, and are taken in by her. At her house Sabrina and Daphne realize the secret their family has kept for years–they are actually the latest generation of descendants from the notorious Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, and must take in the profession of “fairy-tale detective” as some sort of family tradition.
If you want to know just how promising this sounds to me, let me show you the premises of all six of the books I want:
- Once Upon A Crime – Also known as The Grimms Take Manhattan. :D When the two main protagonists of the story, Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, finally go back home to the Big Apple to help their faerie friend Puck, Sabrina is ecstatic to be home. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of another fantastical adventure, as we realize that the fairy kingdom is within NYC. Puck’s father, King Oberon, has been slain and the Grimms are putting up every fairy-tale folk/Everafter in town on the suspect list. The culprit will almost always be the one you least expect…
- Magic And Other Misdemeanors – When the past and future start playing unwanted games with the present, Sab and Daph get their first solo case with a little assistance from Puck, and the girls suspect that a rash of magical thievery might have surfaced at the root of the problem, but with Mayor Heart’s bizarre taxing and Mr. Canis still continuing to transform into the Big Bad Wolf, the Grimms have a lot of worries and little time to sort them out. Can they solve the crime and change the course of the future for humanity’s own good?
- The Everafter War – Picking up where book six left off, the seventh installment of the story starts with Sab and Daph’s prayers finally being answered when their parents awake from their sleeping spell. But this little family reunion is cut off unexpectedly when they are caught in the middle of a war between Prince Charming’s army of Everafters and the villainous Everafter organization the Scarlet Hand. As the Grimms work to help Charming’s rabble rebels, Sab comes face-to-face with the darkest enemy her family has ever seen which uncovers a secret so shocking it’ll rock the family to the core…
- The Inside Story – In the series’ penultimate eighth installment, again picking up where the last book left off, the book starts with Sab, Daph, and Puck stuck within the Book of Everafter. Inside the book, all the fairy tales are stored and their enchanted characters can convert their destiny at their own wills. The trio must pursue the mysterious Master from the last book throughout some of the most classic tales in the book (literally :D), willing to change anything to save their baby brother. Soon, they are caught by the book’s Editor/guardian who forces the three to stick to the stories, even threatening them with its army of Revisers. As they must now stay under the Revisers’ radars, they meet tons of classic fairy tale characters, but will they find their baby brother?
- The Council of Mirrors – In the ninth and final book of the series, the Grimms and their friends must face off against the Master to ultimately decide the fate of Ferryport Landing, and the rest of the world. When the magic Mirror (by now an antagonist in the story) fails to make it through the magical barrier in Relda’s body, he decides to convert to his backup plan–going on a killing spree until all the Grimms are dead, allowing the barrier to collapse. As the Mirror creates his murderous plan to the last detail, Sab has recruited all the other less-evil magic mirrors to discover how to deal with their enemy. The mirrors suggest joining forces with the Scarlet Hand, in exchange for offering Ferryport’s citizens their liberty. Wow, it sounds a lot like a fairy tale-infused Deathly Hallows, don’t cha think?
Powerless by Matthew Cody – Imagine a world where the greatest superheroes are actually kids. No, it’s not Chronicle I’m talking about. You’re likely imagining Matthew Cody’s groundbreaking novel Powerless. In the book, 12-year old Daniel, the new one in town, learns a rather ugly truth about his closest friends–one can fly, another can turn invisible, and another controls electricity. These super kids use their powers secretly for good in the town, but their powers do not stay forever–when they turn thirteen, their powers will disappear along with any memory that they ever these powers. Could their minds be getting drained by a memory-stealing villain? The answers lie in an ancient meteor strike, a WWII comic book, the fabled and green-flamed Witch Fire, a hidden Shroud cave, and possibly even “powerless” Daniel himself…
Young Samurai 1-3 by Chris Bradford – I’ve never actually read a Japanese-based novel before, but Chris Bradford defied the rule that most Japanese-rooted books are just manga. In the trilogy you see before you, we go back in time to 17th century Japan, where Englishman Jack Fletcher strives to be the first ever gaijin samurai. In case you’re curious, gaijin translates basically to “outsider”, so I guess Jack wants to be the first English samurai I guess. It wasn’t just the very intricately detailed illustrations that roped me in, it was the premise of each story itself:
- The Way of the Warrior – Jack Fletcher is sailing with his father and crew in search of the fabled Japanese islands. After a nasty shipwreck off the coast of 1611 Japan in a village known as Toba, and subsequently the crew gets attacked by a ninja mistaken for a Japanese pirate or wokou. Rather traditionally for a book, only Jack [or the real main protagonist] survives the attack, which makes me wonder–how could almost an entire boat crew die at the hands of one ninja? Anyway, Jack’s dad leaves his son with his most prized posession, a rutter (a precursor to the navigation chart), and Jack is rescued by Masamoto Takeshi, a legendary samurai swordsman. Takeshi decides to take Jack under his wing and raise him until he is of age (16) to go on by himself, making Takeshi’s actual son Yamato jealous. After a heated spar with Yamoto and another ninja attack, Jack is enrolled in a samurai school in Kyoto to be raised as a true nin–sorry, samurai…
- The Way of the Sword – After his first year at samurai school, Jack’s troubles only expand when the prejudice of his school classmates forms dangerous enemies, and Dragon Eye–the ninja who attacked the crew–is still after Jack. Jack’s only hope of victory lies in surviving the Circle of Three, a ritual that will test Jack’s intellectual, mental, and physical skills to their breaking points. For most, becoming one of the Circle is very prestigious, but for Jack it’s a life-or-death situation…
- The Way of the Dragon – It is by now summer 1613, and Japan has been threatened with warfare and Jack is faced with his greatest fight yet, as samurai are siding against one another and Jack’s warrior training is tested as the blood begins to flow. His and his friends’ survival depends on him mastering the Two Heavens, the secret sword technique of Takeshi. But first Jack must recover his father’s rutter from Dragon Eye, which leads to these dramatic questions–will Jack defeat his enemy? Or will Dragon Eye finally fulfill his mission in slaying the young samurai?…
Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman – 10-year old Gabe has just been accepted to the Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment, or the SCGE. This is a six-week sleepaway camp where he’ll get to write poems and perfect logic proofs. SCGE has been home to some fabled middle-school smarties (and forthcoming Jeopardy! contestants), but it has a real image of being the Nerd Camp. Another acronym for SCGE could be the Smart Camp for Geeks and Eggheads. But Gabe’s not really a nerd–at least, he doesn’t think so. But that was before he met Zack, his hip soon-to-be stepbrother. Now Gabe is in panic that Zack thinks of his formula as 100% nerdity (that isn’t a word? it is now :D), and with a wild summer to spend with a midnight canoeing ride to “Dead Man’s Island” makes Gabe realize something. Zack may not be the brother he’s always dreamed of, but that doesn’t mean they can’t even be friends…
The Candymakers by Wendy Mass – This kind of book could easily honor Roald Dahl even after his death, and it sounds like one of the sweetest and juiciest novels on my list. No, seriously. :D Anyway, this book is about four kids whom enter a national competition to discover the tastiest confection of the country. Who can create a sweet more sapid and savory than the Oozing Crunchorama or the Neon Lightning Chew?:
- Could it be Logan, the Candymaker’s actual son, who can detect the color of chocolate just from the touch?
- Perhaps it might be Miles, the boy with merry-go-rounds and the color pink on his list of allergies?
- Or maybe it’s Daisy, the jolly girl who can carry a 50-pound heap of taffy off the ground like a feather?
- Chances are it could be Philip, the boy in suit-and-tie who’s always jotting information down in a secret notebook?
Ghostopolis and Power Up by Doug TenNapel – Believe it or not, Doug’s the guy that actually created Earthworm Jim, one of the most iconic, memorable, and charming video game heroes of the 1990s. To this day, he’s done music, animations, books, Eisner Award-winning art, as well as essays. (Not the kind you do in school, more literary essays.) And since I haven’t looked at Bone ever since I read and reviewed its ninth and final main book Crown of Horns, Doug seems to be an intriguing replacement.
Let’s start off with the premise of Ghostopolis first. This graphic novel revolves around two protagonists: teenager Garth Hale, and middle-aged SITF agent Frank Gallows. SITF stands for Supernatural Immigration Task Force, a governmental organization with a heart set on tracking down ghosts and other apparitions that have gone amiss in the real, physical world and sending them back to their homes in the afterlife–aka Ghostopolis. Garth has a currently unidentified “incurable disease”, and it is also foreshadowed and mentioned that the relationship between Garth’s mom and late grandpa was a dysfunctional one. Agent Gallows uses devices called “plasmacuffs” to catch and apprehend ghosts, and on a call to apprehend a skeletal horse known as a Nightmare, Gallows accidentally transports Garth along with the Nightmare…(By the way, gallows are erect structures used for the purpose of hanging.)
Now, Power Up–just as it sounds–is a video game-themed book. The book’s protagonist, Hugh Randolph, is a family man who’s down on luck. He works as a drone at a local printer until he discovers a mystifying game console that gives him the power to produce riches to infinity, manipulate his work day, even cheat death. But of course, and as we all know, you can’t sidestep and hide forever…
Alvin Ho 1-4 by Lenore Look and LeUyen Pham – Believe it or not, it’s actually possible to be scared of pretty much everything. In fact, it’s called “panphobia”. And there’s a little boy who could be summarized using that exact word. That boy is Alvin Ho, an Asian-American second grader. This poor little panphobic has fears from elevators to tunnels and girls and most of all school. He’s so fearful of school that he never emits a word through all the seven hours he’s there. Ironically, at home he’s a clamorous superhero named Firecracker Man, a brother, and a gentleman-in-training to follow in his father’s footsteps. In the four books I want–in chronological order–he goes to school, goes camping, attends a girl’s birthday party, and bravely attends his GungGung’s BFF’s funeral. And he’s just in second grade! Please take a break while you view these crying emoticons to applaud Alvin and all he’s done.
Dork Diaries 4-5 by Rachel Renee Russell – I’ve already reviewed the second and third books of the series, so it’s not a big shock that I’d want to put up the next two. By now IMO, Nikki has gone from the super cliched girl-next-door to a more caring, loving, and heartfelt friend who still wants to blend in, but at times likes to shine her diverse colors. In the next two books of the saga–marking a first in the series to release two books in the same year–Nikki’s positive traits are put to the ultimate tests.
In Tales from a Not-So-Graceful Ice Princess, Nikki discovers that Brandon is doing volunteer work at a local animal shelter, which is to her not surprising considering how dreamy he–no, I am not going down that road! Then Brandon says that the shelter is in danger of closing, and Nikki knows in the name of dorkiness that can’t happen. Especially when a secret about Brandon is disclosed that makes saving the shelter that more important to Nikki. So Nikki recruits her friends Chloe & Zoey to enter an ice skating competition to assist in raising the money needed to save the shelter, but obviously Mackenzie has to butt her nose into a situation that could make or break the lives of tons of adorable animals…
In Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All (also making a first for the biggest amount of hyphens in a title ), Nikki becomes very zealous into becoming a student journalist for her school’s newspaper, predictably as she’d already made the headlining story once…
…and it might
or might not have something to do with Mackenzie becoming the newspaper’s “gossip girl” in her new scandalous column of tittle-tattle. And there could even be some succulent info about the Nikki-Brandon relationship that Nikki doesn’t enjoy Mackenzie telling to the school. So Nikki becomes a recruit on the paper’s staff and ends up as a columnist like Mackenzie, but she’s giving out counsel and advice! It’s initially a fun activity, answering letters and all, but when Nikki’s inbox becomes flooded with these requests and pleas for guidance, she may need her own help. But luckily with Chlo and Zo at her side and on her keyboard, it seems like Nikki can maintain the mess. Or will she end up as humiliated as she did on the newspaper headline?…
NERDS 1-2 by Michael Buckley – If you had to name a series that did Buckley that commercially and critically prospered as much as Sisters Grimm, it had to be NERDS. NERDS being an acronym for National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society. Sounds like a pretty boss acronym for a word that means “a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious”. The members of the NERDS organization are all normal grade-schooler kids that have conditions or diversities that have evoked the “upgrades” that make them NERDS nerds in the first place:
- Jackson “Braceface” Jones – Formerly a cocky and arrogant football star that was so famous his teacher actually taught a subject solely themed on him, Jackson may seem externally tough, but internally he suffers from notable insecurity and a craving to be accepted. His football stardom and fame was stripped from him when he was given permanent braces, but these braces can actually transform into any mechanical device he wishes. Unfortunately, Jackson’s guzzle galluses must stay on his mouth at all times, even after transformation.
- Matilda “Wheezer” Choi – A spunky Korean-American girl affected with bronchial asthma that makes her winded after not even walking her entire block, Matilda’s upgrades consist of two nano-enhanced inhalers that gift her with flight and the ability to blast baddies. Ironically, she’s rather tomboyish and actually despises anything “girly”. Also, she’s a great pro wrestling enthusiast and can equip anything and everything as a weapon.
- Heathcliff “Choppers” Hodges – Actually, he has four nicknames, but I decided to choose one that actually made the most sense so I wouldn’t get the stress of having to write out every single one. Cliff is an intelligent kid that suffers from being the target of most bullies, and his upgrade seems to be the most awesome and rather scientifically classified. He has a psycho-hallucinogenic whitening treatment which gets further enhanced by a special kind of toothpaste that, when worn by his buckteeth, has powers of hypnosis and mind control.
- Duncan “Gluestick” Dewey – Duncan is a chubby Afro-American boy that is a tech enthusiast and also a paste eater. This habit has actually backed up his upgrade–he can stick to any and all surfaces. He is one of the three NERDS nerds that have told his family about his astonishing secret. Without his abilities, Duncan is basically and generally feckless.
- Julio “Flinch” Escala – Julio is a hyperactive Mexican-American boy that is described as a walking ball of energy, mainly spiked due to all the sugary treats he consumes due to his sugar addiction. Every single day, I should add. His upgrade is a harness that burns his energy into superhuman speed and strength, and without it he is noticeably shaking and unable to stop himself. Due to his disliking of romance and everything lovey-dovey, he could be considered the asexual NERDS nerd. Julio also shares a strong friendship with Duncan.
- Ruby “Pufferfish” Peet – This stubbornly smart Jewish girl suffers from the worst allergies in history. Seriously, documented history states it. Her upgrades enhance her allergies to where she can use them psychically to detect feelings like danger and dishonesty. She is also the head nerd of NERDS itself.
- Mindy “The Hyena” Beauchamp – Formerly a junior beauty pageant queen, this freelance worker also doubles as a skilled martial artist aspiring to become a pro assassin. Don’t be scared, she doesn’t actually have what you’d call an upgrade, but she has a very contagious and obnoxious laugh. She is also Jackson’s love interest, hates it when people find out her real name, and currently works as a NERDS nerd on a classified project…
Should I even have to tell you what the two books are about?
So now that you know every single darn detail about what I’ve been doing–oh, let me set you free from the hassle of reading this long post with all the videos I want you to watch. Consider this the Ultimate Video of the Week Compilation…well, besides our Halloween special compilation, but that’s another story.
Stay classy America,