Monday, November 3, 2014

Skin Game (Dresden Files #15) Review

Title: Skin Games (Dresden Files #15)

Author: Jim Butcher

Price: $27.95 ($16.42-Amazon)

Rating: 4 out of 5/ Double Agent

I find the history of The Dresden Files fascinating, and for those readers who don't know it I'll  try to give it a quick sum up. Jim Butcher began writing at age 19 and created 3 original, if not very good, fantasy novels. He then signed up for a writing class and was encouraged to write in a more formulaic manner, with the teacher citing Anita Blake as an example. Frustrated, Jim Butcher wrote a story about a character named Dresden whose manner was consistently sarcastic, and whose story poked fun at every fantasy cliche Butcher could think of. Butcher was once quoted saying, 

When I finally got tired of arguing with her and decided to write a novel as if I was some kind of formulaic, genre writing drone, just to prove to her how awful it would be, I wrote the first book of the Dresden Files.
— Jim Butcher in "A Conversation With Jim Butcher", 2004
The resulting book, instead of being the sarcastic jab it was intended to be, went on the become a New York Times best seller. The Dresden Files now has 16 novels, has spurred comics, toys, and was turned into a mini series on the Sci-Fi Network. (Just like Harry Dresden, technology hates me so sorry for the different font, I  can't get it to stop.) Anyway, Jim Butcher did make a point about what books sell. I'm just not sure it was the point he was going for...

Harry Dresden has come a long way from his barely functioning, freelance wizard-consulting days. He now has a steady full time job as the Winter Night. And like many of us, he also has a boss that is an insane psychopath who keeps asking for things that are (A) Impossible or (B) totally against any morals you've ever had. This is probably why you may find Harry currently planning a heist to steal the Holy Grail from Hades (God of the freaking Underworld), for his new temporary boss Nicodemus Archleone. And thats only the first few chapters of Skin Game...

I want you to take the next thing I say with a grain of salt because I am a self admitted big fan of the Dresden series. That being said, I usually fill this paragraph up with the complaints I had about a book. But even after playing drums on my laptop keys for 15 minutes, I still couldn't think of much to say. If you like Dresden then I believe this is one of Butcher's best books so far. If you don't like Dresden then you know everything you're not going to like already. Please understand that there has been Dresden books that I have really hated ( just ask me about Ghost Stories, that book was like a highway pileup of plot). But instead of feeling like the series is being dragged on just to bleed me a little more dry, it really feels like there's a ton of story left to tell. 

This is an incredible feat for any book that has a #15 after the title. Somehow Butcher is still making us burst out with a shocked giggles by using story plots that are so over the top that they seem to be written during some RPG writer's mad midnight tirade. Yet even when he treads the line between the believable and the over extravagant, the characters in Dresden still feel so human (even when they technically aren't). The struggles of these characters and their interactions are just so well done that the reader begins to unconsciously take these unbelievable scenarios for granted. A huge part of why this strange combination is possible is because of Butcher's gift with dialog. The dialog in these books feel natural, and that sarcastic humor works so well, that reading really become effortless. These books come alive in your head when you are reading them and if you can get your hands on the Audio version it's almost an out of body experience. I was listening to this book while running and a scene started in which a vigilante nerd, riding a magical rocket propelled skateboard escapes a hoard of cloned slender men. This picture was so prominent and crystal clear in my head that I ran into the lift of a parked truck like some sort of drunken par-core runner. So I guess what I am saying is if you decided to go with the audio book version be aware that your eye balls may stop functioning at some points. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Doctor Sleep Review

Title: Doctor Sleep

Author: Stephen King

Price: $30.00 ($16.50-Amazon)

Rating: 4 out of 5/ Double Agent

Doctor Sleep came about as most sequels do these days... through the power of fans using social media. In 2009 Stephen King had an idea for two new novels and turned to fans to see which one they would be most interested in. One was a new Dark Tower novel, while the other was a sequel to the classic book The Shinning. A war broke out between fans almost immediately and it was decided that the only fair option was to vote on which book King would work on next. After over a month of debating and some questionable tactics on both sides, Doctor Sleep won with 5,861 votes. It was an extremely tight election with Doctor Sleep winning only 49 more votes than The Dark Tower. However lovers of The Dark Tower need not to be disappointed. Stephen King ended up deciding to write both sequels and The Dark Tower: The Wind Through The Keyhole can be purchased almost anywhere books are sold.

Doctor Sleep picks up the story of Danny (now Dan) 30 years after the events in The Shinning. Dan's physiological trauma caused by the Overlook Hotel, continues to affect him into adult hood. He, like his father, is driven to a life of alcoholism. After hitting rock bottom Dan begins to heal while working in a hospice, where his shinning is able to help others move from one world to the next. No longer supressed by the effects of alchol, Danny's powers continues to grow in strength and he begins to come in phsycic contact with another child who's shinning is quickly growing out of control. Unfortunatly less friendly beings have begun to notice the child as well...

The largest problem I had with this book may well be my own fault. I was so excited for the release of Doctor Sleep that I read The Shinning immediatly beforehand. With the original book so fresh in my memory I dove into Doctor Sleep with the uncounsious expectation that the same author I had just read had also penned the newest installment. I realized quickly how impossible of an expectation that was. It's unfair to want or believe that Stephen King is the same man he was in 1977. His writing has evolved into something new, and everything from his narriation style to his writing voice is subtly different. What this essentially means is that, while the story is the same, the books are fundementaly different at a core level. The Shinning was a novel that fell neatly into a horror catagory. While moments in Doctor Sleep may be scary the book itself is a thriller. It is in this fact that my greatest dissapointments manifest. I wanted a horror novel, just as scary as the original, to haunt my dreams as the original did years ago. Doctor Sleep fails to deliver this kind of experience and I personally was not quite able to get over that fact.

The Good news is that the story of Danny's adventures in adulthood are still exciting. Stephen King was as creative as ever developing the monsters found within these pages. Some come from other worlds but my favorites are the ones that come from within the average man. The story itself is full of unexpected turns and misleading clues to keep you from predicting events. By far the most impressive thing about this book is how the characters sound exactly the same in their narration as they did over 3 decades ago. Stephen King proved that he is still as intamatly familiar with his creations in the way they think and talk as when he created them. If you found yourself scared and cheering by the side of the original cast you will still feel that level of attatchment in the new novel.

To sum up Doctor Sleep is a great story, it just isn't a scary one. Simply keep that in mind as you step between the bindings and you should have a good time. It should be interesting to watch how accountable the fans hold King for changing his classic formula, but I for one can't hold it against him as long as his books continue to be filled with new ideas.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Allegiant Review (Divergent Series #3)

Title: Allegiant 

Author: Veronica Roth

Price: $19.99 ($11.29-Amazon)

Rating: 2 out of 5/ The Mole

I've been pretty excited to write this review ever since I became aware of all the drama surrounding it. I have never been the biggest fan of the Divergent series but even I'll admit it's a pretty decent story idea. When this last installment premiered it immediately caused an uproar on the blog circuits. Teenage girls everywhere began boycotting the book, and its review on Amazon was dismal until a fans started coming to its defense and a war of almost 8000 comments broke out over review posts. One of my favorite pastimes has always been watching teenagers lose their minds over anything so, as you can imagine, this finale in particular has been very enjoyable. I will attempt to give an overview of the story and a comprehensive review without giving away any spoilers but it may not be completely possible. The best path of action is to read the book for yourself and come back to see if our opinions line up but if not than read on at your own risk. 

Tris and Tobias have helped to topple one tyrant only to find a new one has taken the throne. With the factions in chaos and the faction-less taking over, their choices of action are dwindling. In a last ditch effort for real freedom they have decided to be smuggled outside the fence and to start again in the unknown.  But destiny isn't ready to let them leave and the truths they find outside the walls and within each other will shatter both worlds. 

First lets address the biggest flaw found in the book, the duel perspective dialog. I checked in with some other readers to see if they were struggling with it as much as I was. What I found was a consensus that there was no way other than the chapter headline to tell from which character perspective you are reading. Tris and Tobias sound, think, and talk exactly in the same manner. This is not only confusing but incredibly boring as well, and many times I found myself double checking the beginning of the chapter to make sure I knew who was talking (most times I guessed wrong). To make matters worse the personalities of the two main characters undergo a drastic unexplained change, and many times their thoughts and actions are unrecognizable. When you combine all this with the epicly disappointing big reveal of what lies beyond the fence, the book becomes a struggle to complete. 

Ok 14 year olds get your angry emails ready because my favorite part of this book was... the ending. I'm not trying to be cynical or sarcastic or simply bashing the book more. It's just that I wasn't really engaged or paying attention until Veronica Roth deviated from the standard YA formula. When I came to the ending I was forced to sit up, pay attention and really think about what was happening. As undesired as the ending was, it is an ending that I will remember long after I forget hundreds more. Hopefully this story will make young readers stop and think about what they have read, and I believe that this is one of the greatest achievements a book can claim. I'm sure with a movie deal in the works, Veronica Roth was pressured to change her story to fit a more financially advantageous ending. I highly respect that she didn't cave from what she truly believed her characters would do and how she wanted to tell her story. 

It's disappointing that the momentum built up from Divergent and Insurgent derailed and crashed so badly in Allegiant. The confusing dialog and the strange unfamiliar way the characters seemed to act caused Allegiant to be the worst installment of the series with a score of 2. If you have read the first two books than I suggest that you go ahead and finish the series. Just don't let the fans make you feel guilty if you decided to pass it by. 

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Ambush Review (Pillage Trilogy)

Title: Ambush

Author: Obert Skye

Price: $17.99 ($14.85-Amazon)

Rating: 3 out of 5/The Mole

So we have come to the conclusion of Obert Skye's Pillage trilogy. It is true that while this book had a similar feel to his runaway success series Leven Thumps, Pillage stood out on its own as a very different type of story. Reality was reigned in to be... well much more real, and the story had less of a dream like quality to it. This being said don't expect to much normality from the man whose imagination is often a hilarious acid trip. Plants beat up angsty teenagers, dragons try to eat everyone, and adults keep coming up with hilarious explanations for obviously crazy situations. It's a book that always deserves being read out load and one that parents and children should find equally entertaining.

Beck Phillips has released many dragons on his poor unsuspecting town but he has finally sworn off egg planting for good. Unfortunately as the town tries to rebuild Beck seems to be under constant attack... from plants. Ambushed at every conceivable location he can't seem to escape his curse and the tab of his destructive escapes keeps on rising. To make matters even worse his father seems to have finally cracked and gone crazy. A fate Beck will share if he can't find a way to destroy the final dragon eggs. Beck thinks he may be able to destroy them... just as soon as he plants them to make sure they're defiantly the right eggs. You can never be too careful right?

The biggest complaint that I have with this book, and honestly the entire series, is the repeating of the plot. In each book Beck tries to resist the pull of evil, plants an egg, and destroys his town. The details may be different but the same sequence of events is always the same. This makes everything a bit predictable, especially for the older and more skilled readers. Another complaint, although very slight, is the intelligence of every person who is not a main character. I fully understand that the idiocy of the population of the town is a running joke within the series. It's just that these adults don't seem to even be able to achieve basic logic during most of the story. However, like I said, It's such a small complaint that you shouldn't let it deter you from reading the book.

Like all of Obert Skye's novels the dialog stands out as spectacular. It's a book that was written to be read out load and the experience is simply not the same without sharing it with someone. Every conversation is hilarious and every line refreshingly unexpected. I've always been overjoyed whenever some path of dialog went in a completely unexpected direction and these conversations bring up memories of favorites like The Princess Bride and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Possibly my favorite thing about this absurd adventure is its innocent absurdity. There is really nothing else like it in children's literature right now and as silly as the adventure is Im glad to have a break from the paranormal and apocalypses.

Ambush is a fun and silly tale, even more so when you start saying some of the lines out loud. Even though the story similarities of books in the trilogy caused this installment to slip to a 3 out of 5 you shouldn't let that deter you from an enjoyable and easy read. Or even better, grab yourself an audio version and have a fun car ride with the kids.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Ender's Drinking Game Christmas 2013!!!!!!

So maybe Ender's Game could have been better in theaters... and perhaps the non-Ender child actors could have stepped up and stopped acting like they were in a Disney Sitcom. But what do you expect from an adult book turned into a children's movie? Since us Ender lovers have to take what we get at this point we have created a drinking game to help ease you into the dvd release of Ender's Game!

1) Every time Ender gets picked on take a drink

2) Every time Harrison Ford is in a scene take a drink

3) Every time Ender wins a battle take a drink

4) Every time a child actor says some terrible cliche line take a drink

5) Every time you see an army symbol take a drink

6) Every time you hear the word bugger take a drink

7) Every time someone say's Enders name take a drink

8) Every time Ender cries take a drink. (puking counts as an extra bonus drink)

9) Every time Colonel Graff is clearly just messing with Ender's head take a drink

10) Every time Ender yells take a drink

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Hunger Games Drinking Game Thanksgiving 2013!!!!!

Exhibit 1

Hey Gang its Thanksgiving again and that means it's the one year anniversary of our "BOOKS THAT WE LOVE TURNED INTO MEDIOCRE MOVIES DRINKING GAME." This is an exciting time for us here at the office as we celebrate our first year of operation, and with the exception of our livers we don't think it could have been better. After much debate we couldn't think of a more appropriate way to celebrate a holiday of gorging except to take a page from the Capitol's book and drink while watching angsty teenagers kill each other. So gear up, sit down, and push play for this special edition drinking game, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

1) Every time the signature mockingjay pin is spotted take a drink.

2) Every time Katniss hits her target with an arrow take a drink.

3) Every time a tribute is killed take a drink.

4) Every time Haymitch takes a drink he better not be taking it alone.

5) Every time Katniss kisses a boy take a drink.

6) Every time Katniss gives "The Look" take a drink from intimidation. (If you don't know what The Look is scroll up and examine exhibit 1).

7) Every time the Capital theme music or propaganda is played take a drink.

8) Every time Effie Trinket says something totally inappropriate take a drink. (So pretty much whenever she talks)

9) Every time Haymitch stumbles or falls or pukes take a drink.

10) Every time the Capital throws something new and totally twisted at the tributes take 2 drinks!!!!!!

If you love our drinking games let us know! We are always looking for new films and rules for our games plus input from people who have played them and think they need to be tweaked. We test out all games but our bodies can only handle so much. So keep us updated with posts so we can continue to deliver the best bad decisions for fun nights in.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Beyonders #3 Chasing the Prophecy

Title: Chasing The Prophecy (Beyonders #3)

Author: Brandon Mull

Price: $19.99 ($14.78-Amazon)

Rating: 3 out of 5/ The Mole

It's a fairly well known fact that children's books are not very realistic. Most of the time a few lucky kids are plucked from their boring lives and have grand, friendly adventures before they are dumped back home with riches and stories. The parents (who are always stupid in one way or another) are never the wiser about the fact their children have gone missing or that they spend their time running around smacking things with swords. There's always that cliche happy ending, and all those inconvenient loose ends simply disappear or are tied up nicely. Thankfully Brandon Mull has decided to take a refreshingly different approach in his newest adventure. The kids go missing, the parents panic, and in each world not everyone has a happy ending. Sacrifice is the most prominent theme in Beyonders, and this honest approach to cause and effect will make children think twice about wishing for adventure.

After years of running, beyonders Rachel and Jason have discovered the long sought prophecy to save the world of Lyrian. Now they must each lead half of the surviving rebels in opposite directions to stop the tyrant Maldor. Unfortunately, the fact that each of their missions is knowingly suicidal isn't helping to inspire confidence. Now they must decide to trust fate or their own instincts as they chase fairy tales and rumors to find the artifacts that will keep a world from an era in darkness. Success means a ticket back home while death would be a kindness compared to the treatment they will receive if they fail.

The weaknesses found in this book are unusual for Brandon Mull. This is an author who's greatest strength lies in the development of memorable and unusual characters. It stand out even more then, that the characters in this novel are so badly developed. The characters, which are a little too plentiful, get lost in one another with their difficult names and similar attitudes. With the exception of the two main children, the other characters are bland and seem to only exist for the support of the children's roles. When characters begin to die, their deaths have little to no impact on the reader. Since there are so many dramatic death scenes in the book they become simply a pattern of chapter endings instead of having the emotional impact the author intended.

My favorite part of this book, as well as the series, is the unapologetic reality of the story. The decisions that the children make throughout their adventures have real impact and gravity. The characters make some terrible choices and mistakes, which have consequence on the people they care about. As you read the book it becomes clear that not everyone is going to have a happy ending, nor will everyone get what they want. Sacrifice is a common theme and the children are often asked to sacrifice things they treasure for the sake of the larger picture. This theme continues all the way to the finale of the series and it gives the reader an ending that is not entirely happy but still satisfying.

As a series Beyonders is a solid trilogy but it is far from the best on the market right now. Younger children might enjoy it but adults that have a love for children's books will find it lacking. It seemed that Brandon Mull was playing it safe this time. So I hope that his next series will be the risky, fantastic, and imaginative writing that we are used too.

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