Happy new year, merry late Christmas, happy really late Thanksgiving, and happy super late Halloween. Yeah, I’ve been kind of disappearing when it comes to blogging recently, but I just haven’t had the time to get on posting when I start having the craving to make comics and I have to get my creativity flowing and it just takes a while. Luckily, I’m back in time for the break of 2014, and let’s see what it has to offer.
Let’s look at some movies.
- Ride Along – What you’d get if you took Friday, turned it into another cheesy action comedy, and replaced Chris Tucker with Kevin Hart. (1/17/14)
- I, Frankenstein – Rebooting the story of Frankenstein for a new generation, and now we have Harvey Dent as Frankenstein. (1/24/14)
- The Lego Movie – You don’t need to check your monitor, this actually exists. And the trailer looks surprisingly epic. And the roster is pretty impressive–if you consider Channing Tatum, Will Ferrell, and Jonah Hill to collectively be “impressive”. (2/7/14)
- Muppets Most Wanted – The Muppets go touring in Europe, and the most wanted criminal in the world happens to look just like Kermit. You can connect the dots. (3/21/14)
- Divergent – The movie of the book. It’s the future, Chicago is split into five factions, Tris takes a test, she doesn’t fit into a faction cuz she’s Divergent, she discovers something sinister happening in her utopian society, blah blah blah. It has a budget bigger than that of The Hunger Games, so it better be worth its hype. (3/21/14)
- Noah – Basically, when God was unsatisfied with the world and tried to bring apocalypse to it and Noah built that ark for all that animals: the movie. Just as it was told in the Bible. Oh, and Emma Watson shows up. (3/28/14)
- Rio 2 – Apparently people liked that movie, and it looks like the same movie except it’s in the Amazon and we learn that Jewel has a dad and–incoming narrative hook–his habitat is in danger! “Le gasp” indeed. (4/11/14)
- The Amazing Spider Man 2 – Electro and the Rhino. The only new things about this sequel. (5/2/14)
- Legend of Oz: Dorothy’s Return – This movie tries to add something new to something that’s already perfect. Five new characters (a giant talking marshmallow, a china doll, a “tree-turned tugboat”, and an owl), and the biggest threat is that some Jester is going to turn iconic Ozzians (that’s what it’s called right?) into marionettes. Really? (5/9/14)
- Godzilla – Finally, something that looks good. Godzilla ’98 was the Razzie-winning black sheep of the series (the only thing it got right was its visuals, and I think they screwed even that up), but luckily this cream looks big enough and strong enough to cover that nasty zit. Anyway, this movie is Godzilla vs. malevolent creatures “bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance”. Does this mean another Pacific Rim, or is this a metaphor saying that it’s Godzilla vs the real monsters–us? (5/16/14, which is two months earlier than Japan. Oh, the irony.)
- Maleficent – A Sleeping Beauty prequel-reboot combo through the eyes of the bad guy. This is new. And what’s this, they cast Angelina Jolie as Maleficent? And what’s this…they made Sleeping Beauty a teenager? Uh… (5/30/14)
- The Fault In Our Stars – The classic love story between a teen girl with thyroid cancer and an ex-basketball player who lost his right leg to osteosarcoma gets adapted to the big screen. It’s a freaking maple tree, it looks so sappy. (6/6/14)
- How To Train Your Dragon 2 – I didn’t know you could Neville Longbottom so much in four years. (That’s right, it’s a verb now describing drastic changes in courage and heroism over time.) Anyway, Hiccup took a few levels in badbutt and new adventures with him and Toothless await. (6/13/14)
- Transformers: Age of Extinction – It’s an entirely new arc and it stars an entirely new cast, so can you blame me for throwing it under the bus immediately? If it grosses over a billion, I will lose faith in the sci-fi action genre forever. (6/27/14)
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Caesar and his boys vs. the survivors of the virus. The prize? Supremacy as the dominant species of the world. (7/11/14)
- The Boxtrolls – From the guys who brought you those scary stop-motion movies (Paranorman and Coraline) comes another seemingly-not-scary stop-motion movie where underground trash collectors called Boxtrolls who raised an orphan who now has to save them from an exterminator. What. (9/26/14)
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – I don’t even have to explain this. If you said you didn’t read that book as a kid, I wouldn’t believe you for a second. (10/10/14)
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – Katniss leads the districts in a rebellion against the Capitol and has to make a lot of crucial decisions as the war of fate escalates quickly with horrific consequences. (11/21/14)
- Home – I can’t believe what I’m about to type. They made a movie on The True Meaning of Smekday with Sheldon Cooper, Rihanna, Steve Martin, and they even got J.Lo! No, the real J.Lo! Words cannot express my elation. (11/26/14)
- Exodus – Basically when all the Jews left Egypt and Moses led them: the movie. Just as recalled in the Bible (or The Prince of Egypt). In this case, all the Jews leave Egypt and Christian Bale leads them. Uh… (12/12/14)
- The Hobbit: There and Back Again – Didn’t think the end of the Bilbo arc would be so near, would it? (12/17/14)
Most anticipated: Home (Mockingjay P1 was a close second)
Now, some video games.
- Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition – Basically Tomb Raider for next-gen consoles. (1/28/14; PS4, XBO)
- Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z – 2012’s DBZ for Kinect was an embarrassment to the game series, so Namco Bandai wants to try to redeem themselves. If you liked Zenkai Battle Royale, the game mechanics aren’t too different. With a redundant name like that, it could very much be digging its own grave. (1/28/14; PS3, X360, Vita)
- Lighting Returns: Final Fantasy XIII – This game picks up where XIII-2 left off and ties up the loose ends of XIII‘s story, part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries later to feature the mobile Agito as well as FFXV. (2/11/14; PS3, X360)
- Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare – This is the strangest art shift I’ve ever seen in anything. Looks to be an interesting shooter. (2/18/14; XBO, X360)
- Thief – Master thief Garrett popularized the stealth genre just as well as Solid Snake could, and now he’s getting a reboot. However, it risks mimicking the already successful Dishonored, so let’s hope it has some fresh tricks up their sleeve. (2/25/14; PC, PS3, PS4, X360, XBO)
- South Park: The Stick of Truth – South Park has already made a huge mark on American animated television, helping codify the raunchy, off-color adult humor that we see in most animated sitcoms. Among many people, I first got a taste of the game via Game Informer, and it seems to be the RPG of the year…if it doesn’t get delayed again. (3/4/14; PC, PS3, X360)
- Titanfall – Fast-paced action, cloud services, and robots. It’s not surprising that the game had a huge splash at E3 and won sixty awards at the show! People are already saying it’ll be the next big landmark in the FPS genre, and be the secret weapon for the One. Wait…it’s multiplayer-only? Uh… (3/11/14; PC, X360, XBO)
- Dark Souls II – Dark Souls did pretty good a couple years ago, and this sequel appears to be just as hard. The game boasts a juicier graphics engine and better AI, and it might not even have an easy mode. So if you don’t like hard games, step away. But if you like challenges, be my guest. (3/11/14; PC, PS3, X360)
- Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes – To hold you off until Phantom Pain, Konami has the first half of the MGSV arc for you. This picks up where Peace Walker left off, chronologically one year later and nine years before Phantom Pain. (3/18/14; PS3, PS4, X360, XBO)
- Infamous: Second Son – The One has Killer Instinct, and the PS4’s trying to combat that with the new Infamous, with a new character and new twists on old powers. (3/21/14; PS4)
- Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Apparently now Diablo‘s getting into the expansion pack game like Warcraft, and here’s the first of what could be a plentiful add-on series. (3/25/14; PC, Mac, PS4)
- Destiny – Bungie’s first post-Halo game, and my most anticipated game of the year. (Plus it’s on 360, so there’s non need to upgrade!) A prosperous period of advancement has screeched to a halt with the Collapse, after which mankind could face extinction. You are one of the survivors, the Guardians of the City, and you must protect the little remains of humanity from demolition. (9/9/14; X360, XBO, PS3, PS4)
- Sunset Overdrive – The game’s bouncy visuals and enthralling gameplay put it really high on my most-anticipated list–actually, it’s bested only by Destiny. It’s like Viewtiful Joe in 3D as a shooter. There’s gonna be ziplines and wall-running and even some acrobatics, so I expect some Mirror’s Edge thrown in the puree as well. It’s also gonna be using Microsoft’s cloud services a lot, but I’m not a cloud gamer. Still excited. (sometime; XBO)
- The Sims 4 – The Sims 3 and its umpteen expansion packs was one of the defining parts of my childhood, so I expect The Sims 4 to be way better. The PC sales of the past three games have been staggering, and I expect nothing less than true brilliance, whether it be better graphics or better mechanics. However, you do need an account on Origin (think EA’s take on Steam) and Internet access as the game initially installs. Kind of chips at my hopes, but it still looks awesome. (Q3/Q4; PC, Mac)
- Watch Dogs – I’ve heard about this game for a while, and my thoughts of it have whittled down to “Dishonored with a hacker and none of the cool super powers.” There’s also some parkour promised to show up, and some cover-based TPS stuff too (Hitman much?). And for a game that has five collector’s editions (special, Vigilante, Uplay Exclusive, Limited, and Dedsec), it seems like it’ll match the hype pretty well. (Q2; PC, PS3, PS4, WiiU, X360, XBO)
Most anticipated: Destiny (Sunset Overdrive was a close second)
Now, some upcoming books.
- Hollow City by Ransom Riggs – In the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Jacob and his Welsh homies go to London where all those creepy children are at. Miss P’s bro Caul is able to steal the kids’ “abilities”. Cue another fight for survival. (1/14/14; 352 pgs)
- Sorry You’re Lost by Matt Blackstone – Denny “Donuts” Murphy has just suffered the passing of his mom, and to cope with that he becomes a class clown. But in Donuts’ core is a happy place where his mother still lives and his dad doesn’t watch TV all day. Donut and his buddy try to score dates for the year-end dance, a mission in which Donuts learns some important morals that could change him for the better. (1/21/14, 320 pgs)
- Almost Super by Marion Jensen – Each leap year at an exact time, each 12+-year old member of the Baileys gets a superpower. The two newest recipients, Rafter and Benny, get let down with suckish powers. The big bad of the story ends up sparking a war between her family and the Baileys. To be honest, I lost them at “superpower”. (1/21/14; 256 pgs)
- Cress by Marissa Meyer – In the third entry of the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and her band of misfits are still plotting to overthrow Queen Levana. Their best hope is to go to Cress, an OP hacker who ironically is searching for them (eeeeviiillll). Stuff happens. (2/4/14; 560 pgs)
- Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done by Stephan Pastis – In the sequel to Mistakes Were Made, there’s a school competition to find a globe for a cash prize, but someone’s trying to hijack. It’s up to Timmy and his polar-bear partner Total and his new eccentric ally Great-Aunt Colander to find an end to the madness. (2/25/14; 288 pgs)
- Game Over, Pete Watson by Joe Schreiber and Andy Rash – A boy finds out his dad is a superspy that is trapped inside a game, so he has to use his gaming skills to enter the game and rescue him. To be honest, I lost them at “superspy”. (3/11/14, 224 pgs)
- Sean Rosen Is Not For Sale by Jeff Baron – Y’know Sean, that guy who’s trying to pitch a movie idea to Hollywood? Alright, so now not only is he working on his script, but he has school, track, dog-walking, podcasts, and keeping his secret from his parents, all while a private detective has been sent to find out about Sean. To be honest, I lost them at “podcasts”. (3/18/14; 384 pgs)
- The Ninja Librarians by Jennifer Swann Downey – It just sounds dumb, doesn’t it? Wait until you hear the plot. Alright, so a girl and her bro are chasing her mongoose through a library when they get into the janitor’s closet and fall into a secret pathway to the HQ of a society of…y’know. There’s a betrayal, she and her pals take the blame, and they need to clear their names. To be honest, I lost them at “mongoose”. (4/1/14; 384 pgs)
- Poached by Stuart Gibbs – In the sequel to Belly Up, a horrible prank set up by a school bully leaves a koala missing. Teddy gets thrown under the bus since he’s the only one coming and going on camera, and he needs to find the real culprit and fast, because juvie is calling his name. (4/8/14; 336 pgs)
- Renegade by Debra Driza – That android Mila I was talking about meets a boy who joins her to find some guy who knows about her past but people are looking for her. Basically, it’s the same book with some boy. (5/13/14; 448 pgs)
- The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan – The fifth and final installment of Heroes of Olympus. Many are either fighting their emotions of seeing it go or complaining loudly about how they have to wait a year to see how it all ends.
Mother Earth“Gaea” is still a strong foe and her giants must be stopped before the Feast of Spes where she plans to kill two demigods to receive (title) to awaken. To be honest, I lost them at “Gaea”. (10/7/14; 608 pgs)
Most anticipated: I don’t even know.
Well, I think I did pretty good to sum up the year! Leave anything you think I missed in the comments. Here’s to a great new year that’s bound to be full of awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!
Video of the Week: “Why I love my Honda VT750” by Nick Bertke aka Pogo, the guy whose mixes I’ve been uploading and gushing about to a fault. In this video, he drives around on his motorcycle, talks about it, admires the vista, and explains why the original Star Wars trilogy will always be superior to the new trilogy. All while we get to see some beautiful Australian scenery.
Hey guys, it’s Sam. Now, I know my recent post releases have been really out of order. Some come out on Mondays, some on Sundays, others on Saturdays, it’s a mess. I’ve been trying to get an every-Friday streak going on for a while, and my personal life has influenced my ability to blog frequently. I’m sorry there was such a delay in between my BookBuzz post and spark., I’ve just been really busy.I just suddenly realized I forgot to make a Halloween special and a Thanksgiving special this year. So, so sorry for that, and I’ll have to make the scope of this year’s Christmas/New Year’s special even bigger to make up for it.
Thanks for over 118,000 hits and fifteen subs! I know this sounds wussy for me to be getting excited over that, but it does mean the world to me that 15 of you have clicked that subscribe button and eagerly await a new post from me, no matter what day or what week it arrives. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without you, so I do thank you from the bottom of my heart!
This is also my 400th post on Sammwak. I did not even believe I was going to make it to 400, let alone 50. But thank you for making me want to make more posts and continue blogging for all of you.
Now, I’ve also been reading a lot, and here are the books I’ve been getting into:
- Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis – My sister shipped this book to me a few weeks back. It’s the autobio of the frontman of one of the best funk bands in the universe. Stadium Arcadium is legendary by the way.
- The Everafter War by Michael Buckley – My sister got me this one way back. Two sisters live in a town where fairytale characters abound. Prince Charming is plotting war against the Master, whoever he is. One major person has already died, so it looks like it’s gonna be a bloodbath.
- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame Smith and Jane Austen – It’s literally all in the name.
- Watchmen by Alan Moore – The quintessential old-school DC comic book. It takes place in the 1940s-60s in an alternate reality full of superheroes. When superheroes are outlawed, a murder brings them out of retirement for one last job.
I’m becoming slowly addicted to this website called TV Tropes. Have you heard of it? If so, then your life has probably been ruined too. It’s a place that uses “tropes” to tackle all of the ins and outs of television, film, and literature. Every scene setup, every character cliche, every stock phrase, if you can imagine it, there’s probably a trope for it. Trope makers, trope namers, trope codifiers, tear jerkers, nightmare fuel, YMMV (your mileage may vary), getting-crap-past-the-radar, the list goes on. And I’m naming all of these off the top of my head. I’ve been troping for at least two months now, and I can’t stop. If you want to join me in my downfall into mayhem, it’s at http://www.tvtropes.org, and if you come across a Stuffedninja on those haiku pages, that’s me. 😀
Thanks again for taking me on this wild journey.
Video of the Week well, I’m not sure if I’ll be publishing on time again, so let’s just call it Favorite Video: “YouTube Rewind: What Does 2013 Say?” by YouTube Spotlight. An awesome mashup of every meme, fad, hit, and popular thing of the year, featuring Youtubers such as Tobuscus, Pewds, Rhett & Link, Epic Meal Time, and more! 20.2 million hits in two days. Impressive.
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: ★★
“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 reasons. Friends 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.
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:
- Drama by Raina Telgemeier
- Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap and Mari Araki
- Same Difference by Derek K. Kim
- American Born Chinese by Gene L. Yang
- Brain Camp by Susan Kim
- Cardboard by Doug TenNapel
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!
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.
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.