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Merriska



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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:20 pm

I think I might read this, sounds like a good guilty pleasure. Also <3 at the Eragon shoutout.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Thu Jul 20, 2017 2:58 pm

I haven't really had much to review as of late. I've been focusing my time on finishing reading The Dark Tower series. As of right now, I am on Page 658 of the last book, so I have less than 200 pages to go.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Wed Aug 02, 2017 8:55 pm

The Waste Lands by Stephen King

Chapters: 6 (Divided into 2 "books" but are really just halves we like to call "parts")

Pages: 420

Warning: The following review may contain spoilers from the book.  If you wish to read the book, please proceed with caution!


I have really been slacking off on reviewing The Dark Tower series.  I’ve read other books, got sick, and just overall put off reviewing the entire series as a whole.  Well tonight that changes.  I WILL get all these books done before the movie comes out, and it starts with The Waste Lands, the 3rd installment of what is said to really be an ubernovel but is still a series.

So the book starts off not long after The Drawing of the Three left off with Roland teaching Eddie and Susannah how to become gunslingers and the struggles Eddie and Susannah have to go through to make it in the new world.  It also starts when, Spoiler Alert, a fucking bear goes fucking apeshit because its age has caused it to run mad, and this isn’t your average bear we’re speaking about (alright, hear me out before you go throwing your tomatoes).  This is a building-sized behemoth who foams and sneezes worms that are literally destroying its mind and happens to have this radio dish jutting out of its head.  
Spoiler:
 

So as this was the beginning of the book, you probably have an idea of how the end result of that encounter goes.  Sometime later as our heroes track the bear’s path down to the portal, they come across the Portal,
Spoiler:
 
 That’s pretty cool when you think about it because we are talking about something magical that has a power to make life serve it.  However, as we already from the state this world is in, these Beams are in need of some serious help because they are weakening with each passing day.  Also noted is because the world is in such disarray, time is useless, you can’t rely on a compass to take you anywhere because the directions are useless as a result of flying everywhere, and the size of Roland’s world is so bloated that it will 20 YEARS on a horse to cross a staggering distance of…. 1000 MILES!!!!!!!!!!!  That’s right boys and girls!  It will take you 20 years to go a distance of 1000 miles!  To put that in perspective, that’s like if you kept travelling on your faithful steed for a year and the distance you cross is LESS than a car in OUR world could go on the interstate in one hour, and that’s even if that same person in the car drove a few mph under the speed limit in most places!

The second chapter of the book features the return of none other than
Spoiler:
 
 It’s established that Jake and Roland, although in different worlds, suffer the same problem: their minds are at war with themselves because Jake is dead in one world and alive in another.  Because Roland meddled with Jack Mort in the previous book and kept Jack from getting Jake run over by a car, the eternal battles both Roland and Jake have to endure with themselves is slowly driving them insane.  This is seen in great detail from Jake’s perspective in that second chapter all while he is taking final exams at his school.  We get back story from Eddie during this beginning half as well as we learn that Eddie never allowed himself to be good at anything because he did not want his older brother Henry to fail him as a brother even though it was pretty clear that Henry was kinda bad at everything.  Susannah is not quite as prominent, but she is still there and she serves a genuine purpose.  Not only that, but Susannah is being primed up for something that will go on much later in the series, so it makes sense not to touch up on her quite so much.

So everything that was set up in the first 2 chapters comes together in a nice and intense bundle in the third chapter in which Roland and Eddie realize they need Jake to be drawn back into the gunslinger’s world because that is the only way Roland’s conflicting mind can come at ease, and similarly, Jake knows that he must go back to Roland’s world because that is where he belongs and will finally be at ease with himself.  Roland’s group comes into a place called Mid-World where we be spending a lot of the series in as Mid-World is a vast land along the Path of the Beam (their Beam in this case starts at the Bear and would go all the way to the Turtle).  Eddie is also featured in Jake’s travels in New York as he sets out to the mansion on Dutch Hill where the door to Roland’s world will supposedly show itself.  Now, when we get to the scene of Jake’s drawing, some pretty horrific and awesome scenes play out.  In Roland’s world, the group is attacked by a demon while Eddie tries to draw the door that Jake would be going through.  In Jake’s world, the mansion turns out to be a menacing monster who wants to devour Jake.  There is even a subchapter where observers are watching the mansion come to life and are like “We’re getting the holy hell out of here before that thing kills us!”  That helps capture just how urgent and gruesome this whole scene truly is.  You know that they are hard-pressed to get the job done.  And when the scene is finished,
Spoiler:
 

The second half of the book begins with how Jake deals with the transition back into Roland’s world and how the group starts to really come together.  You know Jake is adjusting back into the life he really should have never left back in The Gunslinger, but it’s subtle and isn’t in your face.  The first chapter of the second half of the book is really a chance to take a breather after the whole ordeal to get Jake back out of New York, kind of like how
Spoiler:
 
 Also, the ka-tet gains a new member.  It is Oy, a billy bumbler who Roland and Jake feed and because they fed Oy, Oy is now a member of their adventures.  Billy bumblers are basically a hybrid of raccoon and dog.  I don’t remember if any other animals were mixed in there, but raccoon and dog are the 2 we know of right away, and they tend to have gold-rimmed eyes.

After that cool-down chapter, we come to Lud, a city that plays Velcro Fly like it’s been Number-1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the last 1600 years as it is considered “The God Drums” and is basically what New York City would probably look like once we go extinct.



Yeah, try listening to THAT all day while you’re travelling along The Path of the Beam trying to get to The Dark Tower and you’re still a county’s length away from Lud and that song is coming from the city of Lud.  That will surely put your head at ease!  Oh, and
Spoiler:
 
 And while I’m at it, I should probably throw in another song that connects to this third installment that will be important once we get past Lud.



So when we get to Lud on the remains of the George Washington Bridge, this pirate-thing they call Gasher throws a grenade at our group and whisks Jake away, so Roland and gang must go into Lud and not only try to locate Blaine the train, but get Jake back from Gasher.  Eddie and Susannah decide to go looking for Blaine while Roland follows Oy to go fetch Jake.  Gasher leads Jake to a group of baddies led by The Tick-Tock Man, who judging from appearance, reminds me of the Minnesota Vikings logo.  So Roland tracks Jake down and in order to rescue Jake must do battle against the basically Minnesota Vikings, and we can pretty much figure out how that battle pans out since Roland and Jake ALSO have to go find Blaine.

The scene where we finally get to Blaine is where we learn that he, like the bear from the beginning of the book, has gone completely mad and has also become a sadistic train.  His only remaining interest that Blaine can take solace in anymore are riddles, and because of this, the ka-tet must solve some riddles in order to be able to board the train to escape Lud.  On board the train, the city of Lud gets wiped out and Roland makes a proposition to Blaine so that his ka-tet can have a chance to live the train ride.  
Spoiler:
 

Now here’s  kicker that is so polarizing you’d swear you made this up:
Spoiler:
 

So this was a really great book and improved on the series so much that it really made me fall in love with it that much more.  The world-building was even better, the adventure had a lot of heart, the horrors were genuinely intense and scary, and all in all, it was masterfully written.  The cliffhanger taking 1600 years to resolve was the book’s only downfall although it was a major one, so I think in the end, I would be best suited to give the book 9/10.  I loved the book, but that cliffhanger really should have been dealt with a lot sooner.

More Dark Tower is on its way.  And now, let's give this book a proper outro.

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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Wed Aug 02, 2017 11:02 pm

Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

Chapters: 31 (Divied up into several parts that includes a Prologue and an Interlude)

Pages: 668

Warning: The following review may contain spoilers from the book.  If you wish to read the book, please proceed with caution!


We continue on with Wizard and Glass, but before we get to the actual book, I should give a forewarning here that the page number might not be what you get in your copies, and I should really have pointed that out back when I did The Gunslinger.  The page numbers you see are the number of pages I read in the book to get to the end of my copy of the book, and in my case, Wizard and Glass lasted for 668 pages.  To explain what I mean, imagine this.  Wikipedia clocks the book at 787 pages, the same length as Stephen King’s book Insomnia, and in one edition of the book I have come across, it breaks the 1000-page mark.  So yeah, just because I put down 668 pages for Wizard and Glass does not mean your copy of the same book will ALSO be 668 pages long.  It could even be longer and the number only means my copy had that many pages in it.  It is also the last installment I read in which my copy was from Plume.  My copy of the final book is from Scribner, and the copies I read of Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and Wind Through the Keyhole are from Pocket Books.

So the book actually begins at the end of the last book.  Remember when Roland gives Blaine the desperation proposition to make a Fair Day Contest?  That same final scene from The Waste Lands is also the prologue to Wizard and Glass.  That actually has a lot of meaning and is the best way to start the book.  It is a refresher to set up the contest and is there to tell that hey, we have to go on with the contest, so let’s recap how we got there!  The only way it would be more epic is if it was done DBZ-manner and in that DBZ narration voice, we were introduced with “Previously, on The Dark Tower”.



Yes, I know it’s a “Next Time on Dragon Ball Z” video I’m using, but you get the gist.

So the book opens up with the contest between Roland’s ka-tet vs. Blaine, and at first, things go quite well for Blaine.  Every riddle that Blaine is thrown with, he answers almost immediately.  It doesn’t matter how good the riddles are, and considering they come from Roland’s Fair Days back in his dead hometown Gilead, one can assume they’re really good riddles.  For a long time, you really feel the hopelessness that Roland feels as he is knocked out of Fair Day riddles and when Jake runs out of riddles too.  If this were the end to The Waste Lands, you would have had a real feeling that they may just lose the contest.  But because it’s in the beginning of the book,
Spoiler:
 

Now, let’s talk about Eddie for a minute here.  As we already know, Eddie’s sense of humor is through the roof and sometimes, his sense of humor is too much for his own good.  However, this book is where Eddie’s sense of humor really shines.  When it’s Eddie vs. Blaine, there’s one part where Eddie imitates playing the world’s smallest violin, and I will always remember when he explained that as “the world’s smallest violin playing ‘My Heart Pumps Purple Piss For You’”.  That struck a chord and really made me laugh, and so I was laughing alongside Jake because in the book, Jake was laughing at this too.  In Topeka, Eddie breaks into a cheerful tone of voice exclaiming “Welcome kiddies to Wacky Tacky Geography in Mid-World” and goes on to recap the event from his drawing all the way to present in the form of a cheerful Geography lesson.  In some instances after I finished the book and went on to the following books, I actually tried to continue on where Eddie left off to see if I could capture the magic Eddie brought with that line.  At one point after they go through a place that looks like it belongs in The Wizard of Oz, Eddie simulates an ad where he says too good to be true points about Nozz-O-La, a soda that is akin to Coke if Coke were like root beer.  I mean, if what Eddie had said about Nozz-O-La in his humorous “commercial” and these drinks really did make me know God, give me the outlook of an angel or the balls of a tiger, I’d be trying to buy these drinks in mass quantities, and for good measure, I’d be saving up money in the meanwhile to be able to drive this car called a Takuro Spirit.  It is really in this book where Eddie’s humor evolves in a way where it humanizes the events that go down in The Dark Tower series, and once you consider that Roland has basically no sense of humor at all, Eddie really balances that out and it makes Eddie that much better as a character.

Now, there will be other films and what not that appear later on in the series, and we had Velcro Fly back in the previous book as well as Paint It Black, but the big one we get in this book is The Wizard of Oz.  One reason that is is because in this book, we introduced to The Wizard’s Rainbow, which are a series of glass balls, each a different color, that are magic, evil, and can drive one who peers into it for too long into madness or even cause death.  However, whenever I read about The Wizard’s Rainbow, I think of this song here:



Now, these glass crystal balls range colors from red to blue to yellow to even pink, which is the color we delve into towards the end of the book, and I will be mentioning the Pink Glass of The Wizard’s Rainbow later.  Another reason we deal The Wizard of Oz here is because, well, towards the end of the book, the castle the ka-tet ends up in is much like that in the movie, and there is even a “wizard” in the castle who goes by the name of Oz, although when Oz says his name, the font in which his name is referred to in the book is in capital letters, bold, and has a font size of about 1600.  The ka-tet can still see this castle behind them when they wake up after encountering Randall Flagg again, and so it basically makes The Wizard of Oz the halfway point of the entire series.  You should also note that Topeka is a city in the state of Kansas, and we all know the line “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” from the movie The Wizard of Oz.  It’s everywhere from Topeka to Oz’s castle that we deal with these portals known as “thinnies”, which are places where the dimensions of existence and other worlds are thin.  These are explained to be dangerous basically in the same way that quicksand would be dangerous, or alligators in a swamp, and that if you are unprotected from this warbling sound these thinnies make, it will draw you in towards the thinny.  If you really think about thinnies, they can be like the tornado in The Wizard of Oz.  If a thinny suddenly appeared in my room and I walked into the thinny and ended up in say Mars, wouldn’t it be suitable for me to say “I don’t think I’m in Connecticut anymore”?  So in that aspect, if someone from Kansas were to walk into the thinny and end up somewhere not in the state of Kansas, the movie line would make a lot of sense, especially if you were to go in said thinny with someone named Dorothy.  And in the book, our ka-tet leaves Topeka hiking on the Kansas Turnpike in the backyard of, you guessed it, a thinny.  Of course, they aren’t touched upon again in later installments, BUT thinnies play an important role in this book that more than makes up for the lack thereof afterwards.

However, where the magic is really captured in this book is in the story Roland tells the ka-tet while on the Kansas Turnpike, and it is a story I’ve been waiting to hear ever since the first book of this series.  In Wizard and Glass, we are finally told the tragic story of Roland and his long-lost love Susan Delgado, and to be honest, this spans for most of the book, but not so much so that we don’t have a segway from the beginning to get there, and it leaves enough room at the end of the book to give us one true final conflict that Roland and his ka-tet must face.  This flashback story also features Cuthbert Allgood, Alain Johns, Rhea of the Coos, Jonas Eldred, and a lot of other characters, and
Spoiler:
 
 Susan must prove her chastity and agree to marry this old guy, shave her head, and have that guy’s children.  That is her deal with Rhea, who needless to say turns out to be an evil fucking witch.  During Roland’s, Alain’s, and Cuthbert’s time in this same barony called Mejis, they meet Susan and it is throughout the course of the first half of the story that Susan and Roland fall in love with each other.  
Spoiler:
 

Now while we would have liked to see the story end with Susan coming back with Roland and his friends to Gilead, we should all know by now that that’s not how the story ends.  In fact, we are only on the Interlude.  After the Interlude,
Spoiler:
 
 It is also after the Interlude that we really begin to see the tragedy begin to happen.  
Spoiler:
 

It should be obvious though that Roland survives this trip because he is telling the story here, but everything that happens in Mejis works so well that it really helps me grow a new appreciation for Westerns.  It’s part of why I was sold on renting Rango the year after I read this.  It’s why Westerns I have watched so far from the IMDb’s Top Rated Movies such as Unforgiven and Once Upon A Time in the West have not disappointed when some other movies really have.  It’s why sometimes I need a fix of Western in my life.  Hell, this might EVEN be part of the reason I like this particular 2014 song from Pitbull:



The reason I bring all these other pieces of media up is because the whole story Roland has told about his tragic love life with Susan Delgado has given me a much fresher look at the Western genre, and so as a whole, Wizard and Glass may just be one of the best books I have ever read, and that’s saying a lot when you deal with such great books as Cloud Atlas.  Stephen King not only amps up the horror genre with Wizard and Glass, but it amps up the sci-fi genre, brings real spice to the fantasy genre, but most powerfully, it is what awoken me to the fact that I actually have a place in my mind where I can enjoy Westerns, and if you haven’t read Westerns on a regular basis, this book right here is a great way to enlighten the Western side of you.  It is that powerful!  The explanation for how Roland knew about all the scenes he wasn't in went really well.
Spoiler:
 

One last scene I really loved in Wizard and Glass was in the first half of the story where one of Jonas’s riders makes this bartender looks his boot and was going to kill that same person, but then Cuthbert points a stone from his sling at the head of the villainous rider in defense of the hapless bartender.  It leads to this Mexican standoff in which, in increasing fashion, Jonas’ riders defend the one who is being held at gunpoint, or whatever weaponpoint you want to give since technically, not everyone in the standoff had a gun with them.  And when Cuthbert was in danger, Alain came to his defense, and when Jonas points at Alain, Roland has a knife aimed at Jonas’ heart.  This whole Mexican standoff is not only yet another powerful scene that ripples onward from its time of happening, but it stands out to me since I am talking about it here and it really helps resonate how it works in the works of a Western.

So as you can see Wizard and Glass isn’t just the 4th installment of The Dark Tower series, but in every way, shape, and form, Wizard and Glass is a beautiful work of art, stellar, and honestly, while it is too early to say this, IF The Dark Tower series has at least ONE book that will be remembered for centuries, I hope that at least this book is one of them.  No question about it, Wizard and Glass is the first book reviewed here in this forum that I will be giving 10/10, and if I could have given this book a higher rating, I don’t doubt that I really would have done that.  Wizard and Glass is such an amazing book that I don’t know how Stephen King was able to come up with this.  I am in awe!
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Thu Aug 03, 2017 11:36 am

Quote :
Tammy had become a huge fad in the IMDb Games Community, much to mine and ESPECIALLY Tom Delonge’s chagrin. I did check out Tammy one night only because of how big it became in our community, and needless to say, it was god-awful and nigh on unwatchable. It was somehow the big takeaway from Trailer Idol, leaving many other more deserving movies in the darkest corners of forgotten memory.

Oh the memories...

I just read your DT reviews Mark. Very fun read. I think your final comments on WaG are spot on and really highlight the strength of King. For my money he is the best storyteller of all time. I can't use the word "author" because, as many pretentious critics have already harped on, he is not technically a brilliant wordsmith who dazzles with plot devices, figurative language or imagery (although I find he does way better than they give him credit for - especially in comparison with his "peers" like Dean Koontz, etc) - but his imagination knows no bounds, and the consistent quality and quantity of his work is astounding. Even his non-fiction "On Writing" (about writing) is a must-read.

Anyways, I digress. I just wanted to say a few things about the DT series specifically. It is quite possibly the greatest series ever written, and I know only a few weirdos out there agree, but when you consider the sheer scope of the tale, the depth of the characters involved, and the fact that it blends the styles of THREE massive genres (western, sci-fi, fantasy) into one, I don't care who you are that is magical. One could even say this is the best __________ (insert any of the 3 above genres) series ever written. The fact that it is all 3 just takes the cake. I have read the series twice now, and won't argue with your individual rankings. There were elements I loved and didn't love about each book. They are all great, undeniably.

I find it interesting that you enjoy the 4th entry the most. I have read many accounts of people disliking it the most of the series for it being one long flashback, but it also makes sense that today's audience appreciates a good origin story. I have heard that when (if? #sadface) they begin the TV series, it will begin with the origin story, setting up who Roland was before they tackle the journey of the beam. Sadly, I have also read that the movie coming out tomorrow is a disgrace, and I am not surprised. Reading your reviews, you must not have heard that it has very little to do with the cannon at all. Their initial effort here seem to be a "teaser" movie of sorts, in which they introduce the general theme(s) and characters (some of them) of the larger work, but encompass it as a "sequel" or at the very least a separate story arc from the series. This way, they can gauge (in their minds) whether the subject matter works with the test audience, before they commit the money to the TV series as a whole. I find this to be poor judgement, and that is putting it mildly. They have epic and endless source material, and they concoct some bastardized new arc for giggles just to screw around with fans who will expect something entirely different. It will leave readers of the story angry and new viewers confused as to what everything is all about. It will fail hard, and I hope someone sees through all the nonsense and still creates the show, which is the only way they can do justice to this masterpiece.

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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:13 pm

lol Thanks for reading my reviews Tom Smile Although, I really wish you had not told me how the reviews of the movie were doing at all despite the fact that I learned it wasn't doing well with critics when I was looking up tomorrow's showtimes for the movie. I really wanted to stay away from how critics and all the such were writing about it until after I watched the movie. I did this with the Transformers movies, and it's something I wanted to do here as well.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:14 pm

Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee

Chapters: 26 (Split into 2 parts)

Pages: 351

Warning: This review may contain spoilers about the book. If you plan on reading this book, please proceed with caution!


It’s not often I read Sport books. Sure, I read a book back in the 6th grade that was based on track and field because I was on the middle school track team when I was in the 6th grade, but other than that, I can’t really remember any Sports book I could tell you I’ve read, and I don’t even remember the title of the running book from 6th grade I actually know I’ve read. However, since sci-fi is up my alley, when I saw that this book was a sci-fi sports book, I was immediately sold into checking this out from my library. It was a chance to check out something different without completely stepping out of my comfort zone. Right before I began to read the book, I also gleaned something else: this is Fonda Lee’s debut novel, and after I read what she had to say about it on Goodreads, the fact she likens it to a firstborn child spoke to me. So alright Zeroboxer, I am giving you every chance I possibly can for you to blow me away. What kind of book are you and how good are you really? Let’s find out.

Not even 2 chapters into the book and I already have a gist of what I’m about to expect, and some people have picked up on this as well: it’s going to be Rocky in space. That is the first impression I get from this book, and that’s not the only time I get this feeling. Carr Luka, this book’s protagonist, has an upbringing akin to Rocky’s, Uncle Polly is Carr’s mentor (if you know Rocky, you damn well KNOW how strikingly same Polly feels to Rocky’s mentor “Paulie”), Risha, Carr’s brandhelm, is in all other essences Rocky’s Adrian and feels the same way with Carr’s relationship to Risha. I mean, this line I am about to share straight from the book will tell you how CLOSE it comes to ripping off Rocky’s “Yo Adrian” line:

“They all stared at him in awe, no one moving. Then they surrounded him, all at once, and lifted him. In the crush, he said, ‘Risha’, and held out his hand, and the warmth of her fingers slipped into his.” (Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee, Page 350)

That excerpt from the book could ONLY have been more Rocky had Carr Luka actually said “Yo Adrian”. THAT is how close this book gets to being a knock off of Rocky. However, as I am going to explain, there are key differences that actually differentiate Zeroboxer from Rocky other than this book taking place in space.

First, let’s look at the sport of zeroboxing. While this style of boxing looks really cool, it reminds me of MMA or UFC, except you’re doing these kinds of match-ups in zero-gravity, so you’re tasked to be scientifically imaginative and I really do think Fonda Lee pulled that off. She captured the idea of how boxing might work if gravity was just turned off for the match. Imagine you’re in an MMA match or a UFC match, and, all of a sudden, the gravity is turned right off. You are participating a whole new sport that is based on something we already know about in today’s society. That in itself is impressive and takes a lot of work visualizing.

Now, while I had the “Rocky in space” vibe almost all-exclusively for the first several chapters, the biggest difference comes when Carr is on-tour back on Earth. When he finally gets around to visiting his mother, the biggest gut punch of the book comes in brute force and it works greatly to Fonda’s advantage.
Spoiler:
 
The feelings of pain, betrayal, and having to live and be trapped in a lie are all very real and I felt very sorry for Carr. Because Carr has this monkey on his back he can’t get off, we as a reader begin to feel a lot of sympathy for Carr, and as I looked back into it, I actually felt bad for Polly too
Spoiler:
 
So with that kind of mindset, I not only felt bad for Carr, I felt bad for Polly too. That’s why this twist works. However, there is one fatal flaw as well as one other flaw with this that brings this otherwise masterful twist down, and the FATAL flaw is that the book drastically becomes more predictable. You met the criminal who is doing this kind of operation, and now by admitting he’s been messing around with people’s DNA’s when it is illegal on Earth, it now dooms him to being thwarted. It would be like if I told you that I went and forged your signature and then you laughed right in my face and said, “Well then good luck in prison, you nasty, tentacled, predictable lowlife who sucks at life because now that you just told me what you’ve been doing, you are inevitably going to be caught in your ‘oh so grand scheme’ that is really so bare bones that the fucking Sahara desert is wetter than you”. It does not take away from the fact that Mr. R aka “Kaan Rhystock”, the name of our villain in question, is a cringeworthy villain that makes the villainy he expresses in this book work. He really does work as a villain and I WANT to see him lose. But really, what is the pointing him to lose when really, now that you know he’s been doing this kind of stuff, you know from 1600 miles away how this story is going to end for him, and, here comes the other flaw I mentioned earlier, let’s not forget that Kaan sounds eerily similar to Khan from Star Trek. It’s a book that deals with space and you are going to give your villain a name that is basically the same name as a famous Star Trek villain? The fuck outta here with that shit! Granted his name is not revealed until considerably later in the book, but yeah, the naming really could have been more original here. All Fonda Lee did here was change out the “h” with another “a”. That is Grade-A laziness right there, pun intended.

Now we’ll be moving wholly away from Rocky now, although basically we are now at the level of Rocky Balboa had, before he was born, Rocky Balboa’s DNA was infused with boxing-induced steroids inside the bundle of cells he was as an embryo. See, before our little gut punch that sets the book truly into motion, Carr, Polly, and most of the rest of our characters are about as interesting as cardboard. Carr felt painfully one-dimensional before he made his tour to Earth. Polly felt too bland in the book’s early chapters. The chapter I met Risha, I immediately regretted reading about her existence. The only character I felt any life to them was Carr’s kid fan Enzo, which is ironic because Enzo couldn’t get the genes to deal with his asthma and was an all-around weak kid, but his personality almost gave me a bit of a Timmy Turner from The Fairly OddParents kind of vibe and was one of the only characters in Zeroboxer who was any fun to read about throughout the entire book. I also liked Bax Gant because he felt real as a mind for someone who really wants what’s best for zeroboxing, and I feel that vibe from him throughout the entire book. Enzo and Bax Gant are characters Fonda Lee succeeded with and really made me like them.

However, as the book grew, so did the characters. Carr grew on me as the protagonist, I began to tolerate Risha despite her still being flat at times, Blake, a non-entity in the early chapters, made an impact in the middle of the book that earthquaked well into the end of the book. But I think the biggest increase in quality in character for me personally would have to be Polly. Although he is basically Paulie from the Rocky movies, I didn’t feel that at all as the book went on. Actually, Polly reminds me more of the satyr Phil from Disney’s Hercules when it comes to coaching and was all-around much easier for me to envision than Paulie from the Rocky movies. But that wasn’t the entirety or even the bulk of it all. Polly’s emotions and development really helps this book as a whole shine as that’s where I really saw the father-son kind of connection Paulie has with Carr and it showed. They really cared for each other and would do anything they could for each other. Say what you want about the relationship between Carr and Risha, but you can’t honestly tell me that there isn’t a connection with Polly and Carr, or if there was, there was no life to it, and expect me to really believe you. Why? Because I read the book, saw the chemistry between Polly and Carr come to life, and hit me on an emotional level.

Another prop I will give to Fonda is that when she wrote this book, she did her research. She knew how different time on Mars was compared to Earth’s time because of how differently these planets work, especially in their rotations and revolutions. It should have been explained better so that those who didn’t pay attention to astronomy could have known the difference between time on Mars and time on Earth, but once I remembered the difference, I let it slide. So props to you Fonda Lee for doing your research on the solar system to be able to properly differentiate time from Earth and time from Mars to be able to write this book. *a real round of applause* Although we know this takes place in the future, we don’t know when in the future this takes place, but you can give a rough guess when you learn that Earth has become a tropical world and the city of Toronto has a population that exceeds 40 million people. To put that in perspective, there is not ANY city on Earth as of today with a population that comes within even 10 million people from that number last time I checked. The most I think I heard of was Tokyo having around 28 million people. The city of Toronto today is nowhere near even 20 million. It must also be considered that when the book takes place, the Moon and even Mars already has a government in place, there are colonies on the asteroid belt, yet it is still not so far in the future because science is still trying to bring a living ecosystem in Mars to a point where the Martians do not have to live inside domes. So what Fonda does is let us, the readers, use our thought processes to try to predict when in the future her setting of the book takes place and, in an under-the-radar kind of way, I think that’s smart. She isn’t trying to be in-your-face about the setting. Instead, it invites the reader to use their imaginations.

So, in the end, when this book had upsides, it really had its upsides. When the book had its downsides, it really showed. So when it comes down to it, it was a very human book. I did take time off of reading the book because I had gotten sick from a cold, but I think if you really have the time, this book can actually be finished in one day if you really get invested in it. The similarities between this and Rocky were so glaringly obvious that it was borderline painful, but it’s also much more than just its roots, there was at least some heart put into this despite some of the very lazy decisions the author made *cough* Kaan *cough*, the sport of zeroboxing itself is fleshed out in stellar fashion, and the setting is left to imagination in a way that although could have been better explained, does not insult the reader in any way, shape, or form. When everything though I had of this book comes together, it was actually a fine book with a fair amount of major flaws. So for my official rating of the book, I am going to give Zeroboxer 6/10. Maybe Fonda has grown as an author since this book since I do know she’s gotten other books published, but whether I read more of her work remains to be seen.

Next, I will be continuing on reviewing the Dark Tower series, AND, once I see the Dark Tower film tomorrow, I will be reviewing that as well, so be on the lookout for that as well. I have already heard it’s not doing well with critics, but remember that when it comes to movies based off of books, the best people qualified to review such movies are the people who were so deeply invested in the source material, so unless one of the critics reviewing the movie really has read the books faithfully, don’t take stock on what they have to say. So for those of you in this forum who are still on the fence about wanting to see the movie adaptation of The Dark Tower, let me or someone else who has read the source material be the ones to help you decide whether or not you should go. Because I have already taken on the project of reviewing the books and have been reading that series for a long time, I can rest assure you I would be a good judge of how good or bad the movie adaptation really is.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:28 pm

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

Chapters: 5

Pages: 336

Warning: This review may contain spoilers about the book. If you plan on reading this book, please proceed with caution!


After the 7 books of the series were published, there was a mass realization that there needed to be a bridge book that better explained some plot points of the series. Stephen King must have known this too as we can easily discern from the fact that this book even exists. However, due to how time passed between each book, the options of where to put this bridged book was, so to say, quite limited. It was so limited in fact that there was really only one place this book could fit in the timeline, and Stephen King KNEW this. So the one time setting that made sense to put this book chronologically was between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. Of course, because of this, after I had finished Wizard and Glass, I waited until this book hit the bookstores before continuing on with the series any further. It was published in 2012, but I did not find out about this until 3 years later in 2015, so this and the next 2 books afterward I did not read until 2015. That was a hiatus from the series that lasted for 5 years as the 3rd and 4th books I got to read in the summer of 2010. During that time, I had found another journey reading George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series that started with Game of Thrones, and who else can be thanked for finally getting me to succumb to THAT itch to check it all out than our very own Justin? Back in April of 2014, Justin suggested I get into reading Game of Thrones, and sure enough I did. The reason I mention this here is because when I got to continuing The Dark Tower series, I was also already reading Feast of Crows, so I read each of the books side-by-side, as well as one of 2 other books. When I finished this book, I moved on to the next book. When I finished A Feast for Crows, I went straight into reading A Dance With Dragons.

So onto the book proper, it starts with our favorite ka-tet traveling along the Path of the Beam after their trip through The Wizard of Oz and having made it through the halfway point of the series. The next REAL obstacle they have to overcome. Why it’s a starkblast of course! Now, let’s explain what a starkblast is: it is a storm unlike anything we would ever see in this world. In the days leading to the storm, temperatures will get unusually warm, and the closer the storm gets, the hotter it will get. Right before the storm, it will be uncomfortably hot. But once the storm hits, it will turn into the blizzard from hell, and it will do this almost instantly. Everything on the outside will freeze to death, so if you ever felt a starkblast come your way, RUN FOR THE NEAREST SAFE SHELTER YOU CAN FIND AND STAY THERE UNTIL THE STORM IS OVER!!!!!!!!!!! Hurricanes are less dangerous than these things! So considering that they have to live through this book to get to Wolves of the Calla, you know they’re going to find shelter. Now, when they do find shelter, Roland goes into storytelling mode again, just like he did with Wizard and Glass, so basically, there is a rehashing of Wizard and Glass that goes on in this book, but there is a twist we’re about to find out.

Alright people, get ready for some Inception level shit. What we are about to experience is a story within a story within a story. Don’t believe me? Why do you think this book has 5 chapters? The 2nd and 4th chapters of this book take place sometime after Roland got back from Mejis, but this time, he has to go with Jamie to slay a monster that has been terrorizing and killing residents of another barony. Once again this book successfully the essence of a horror story when it comes to describing this monster, and although I am reminded on the creature from The Black Lagoon when imagining what this monster looks like, it works because it is successful in inducing a sense of dread even though anyone with a brain knows Roland is going to come out of this alive and well. It’s like this summer’s hit movie Wonder Woman where you knew quite well who the one person that was going to come out of it alive and well was going to be, but you also saw how the movie worked in its sense of empowerment. That’s what you need to do to make a story that needed to get into its preordained followings work. And how it’s all resolved is done very nicely as well. Now, back to our little friend Inception, I mean Roland’s storytelling, our segue into the next story within comes when Roland agrees to tell a scared little boy about the story that bears this book titular name, The Wind Through the Keyhole, which suitably becomes the biggest part of this book.

So now we are in the story within another story within the main story of the Dark Tower series, and this one does not feature Roland Deschain at all. Instead, it is centered on a boy named Timothy, and every character in this story is new to the whole Dark Tower lore, so although this is a bridge book, it is another way to really incorporate suspense for your characters. So thank you Stephen King for this book! It not only was a necessary book for The Dark Tower series, but it was also what we needed to set an example of how books that are supposed to predate earlier published installment of a same series should work. So in this middle story that goes for about half the book, Timothy and his family are trying to make enough money to pay their taxes in this town that lies on the edge of a magical forest. Things go incredibly haywire when
Spoiler:
 
Now, we are initially told that a dragon did this. Oh, I didn’t realize Elliot from Pete’s Dragon was busy stalking the woods looking for people to kill. I mean, I’ve grown reading and watching about dragons, so to tell me a dragon is going to stalk the forest to kill one person and leave the other one alive, the one to go into said forest with the dragon’s victim no less, to tell the tale is going to seem very odd right from the getgo. If I were a dragon prancing around that forest and someone said to me “Here! Take this guy next to me and let me live so I can tell a very shoddy tale about how you killed my friend”, I’d be flame broiling them both, barbecuing the forest, and then laying waste to their village like what Smaug did to Dale at the beginning of The Hobbit just for the hell of it. So yeah, Bernie Kells is a glaringly obvious baddie who, quite frankly, sucks at life. And from here, we are about to get into one big spoiler, so if you plan to read this book, turn away from the review NOW!

Rightfully so, people catch on to the fact that Bernie is a nutcase and so we don’t see this guy for a good portion of this level of storyception and we know full well by that point that a dragon didn’t kill Timothy’s father.
Spoiler:
 
Rather, we get who we really want to read about, Timothy. So to help take care of his abused mother, he comes across the titular keyhole and picks up a few important items before having to go into the magical forest and journey for an antidote that would make his mother well again. Also, during this story, we encounter our good old friend the starkblast again as during his travels, the days get considerably warmer. So how is our hero Timmy supposed to survive this starkblast? He’s in a forest, so he can’t pull a building out of his ass like Roland’s ka-tet was able to. No. Instead, Timmy comes across a Dogan that leaves behind a number of items: a rug, a cage, and a tiger in said cage, which means that this story is now about to incorporate The Life of Pi inside its Inception. Timmy frees the tiger first as he has the key needed to free said tiger, and then, although this needed to be figured out and communicated, they take shelter under the rug which, lo and behold, is not only magic, but EXCELLENT cover when dealing with starkblasts! After they survive the starkblast, it is revealed that the tiger is really a magician who was trapped in the form of a tiger and gives the boy the antidote needed for his mother and turns the rug into basically Aladdin’s magic carpet, giving our good old Timothy an express ride back home to his village and to help his mother. This middle story ends with Timothy overcoming Bernie Kells for his and his mother’s sake and he becomes known from all over for his superior act of bravery.

That whole story was told in such a magical manner that I really came to really love Timothy as a hero in the story within a story within a story. Every reaction and consequence in the book was portrayed realistically and beautifully despite being a fantasy book. This totally makes up for the lack of Roland in the middle story, but you know it’s necessary since Roland told THIS story as someone still in their young years.

Now, I did not connect with this quite as well as Wizard and Glass, but that’s just fine. It didn’t need to be as good as Wizard and Glass. It just needed to be good enough to hold its own in this series, and truth be told, it does quite well. It’s nowhere near my favorite nor is it anywhere near my least favorite. It’s somewhere in the middle, and in regards to The Dark Tower series, middle ground means it’s going to get a rave review. I am going to give this book a 9/10 as it did feel slow at times, but it was still beautifully written and reminds us all just how good this series really is.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Fri Aug 04, 2017 9:39 am

So I was not able to finish the DT reviews in time for the movie, but I will finish reviewing the series, so do not worry! I also have 2 other books in line to review as well, one of which is the next Chronicles of Nick book!

For now though, I will be going to the movie. The next time I log on here, I will be posting my review of the movie adaptation of The Dark Tower. Depending on how my opinions go, prepare to either have me be an obnoxious fanboy or for me to turn into The Hulk and rip the movie apart. Too much time has been put into reading the books for me to feel any more apathy towards the series. The Dark Tower 2017, you are on the clock!
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Fri Aug 04, 2017 12:01 pm

Can't wait, I love hearing thoughts on book-to-film.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Sat Aug 05, 2017 11:26 am

Illusion by Sherrilynn Kenyon

Chapters: 19 (including a Prologue and an Epilogue)

Pages: 448

Warning: The following review may contain spoilers about the book.  If you plan on reading this book, please proceed this review with caution.


I’ve put it off for a few weeks, but now we finally have the 5th book in The Chronicles of Nick on the clock, and this was… interesting.  How so?

So back in the epilogue of the last book Inferno, Nick found himself in an alternate dimension where he and his friends are normal, but they have switched personalities.  However, this is going to prove to be irrelevant.  First, this is ALSO the Prologue to this book, so what more obvious way to start the book then say pretty much the same things in your Prologue as you did back in your previous Epilogue?  As we find out later, some of the people we actually woke up with in the new world are actually only in for 1 chapter.  In the case of Stone, his alternate identity is actually never seen again, which is actually a shame since this rendition of Stone seemed like a nice guy.  Another way this whole “normality” schtick turns out to be irrelevant is when Nick meets this dimension’s version of the Devereaux sisters.  They are still supernatural beings in this one, so this actually throws the entire premise of normality right out the window for that realm.  That’s right, this dimension is still as preternatural as the one Nick came from.  Our nail in the coffin will come a bit later in the book.

Meanwhile, back in Nick’s real world, Caleb, Zavid, and Kody find out that Nick is not himself and so therefore know something must have happened to the real Nick.  What ensues is that the book is mostly going to give Malphas a break, but Kody is going to have an extended role to make up for her mainly being absent last time around.  Kody is also getting her major road trip of the series as she is the first person outside of Nick to appear in the “normal” dimension and it’s when Kody arrives that we get our nail in the coffin that this new dimension really is a preternatural hot mess:
Spoiler:
 
 So yeah, the premise to this book is a misleader and FRAUDULENT!

So let’s actually get to how the rest of this book goes.  To be fair, I don’t really get it, and the biggest reason why is because the rules of this other dimension makes absolutely no sense!  Let’s start with our main protagonist, Nick.  He’s been sawseeing back and forth when it comes to how much control he truly has over his destiny as well as whether or not he actually has his powers and is somehow in Tobey MaGuire Spider-Man 2 mode.  Apparently, how Kody got to Nick’s new world is by “being summoned by him”, but then a few chapters later, we go back to him being a human.  Then he has to “believe his powers still exist” and he’ll get them back, but then that doesn’t work.  Then by the time his father SOMEHOW visits Nick’s subconscious, we get told that Nick always had his Malachai powers.  By this point, I stopped caring because I just wanted to get to the point where
Spoiler:
 
 Next, we have what one would need to do in order to get back home.  In Chapter 13, we get this story about a Magus Stone that can be used to send souls from dimensions K to T to Uwe Boll.  A few chapters later, this turns out to be redundant as you can just be hypnotized across dimensions. Then it’s back to Oh no!  You need the Magus Stone!  Of course, this is only to realize once again and for all that the Magus Stone is completely useless and serves no real purpose to the story whatsoever!  Well that was a complete and utter waste of my time!

Oh, and there’s throwaway characters we only meet for like one chapter, but that’s kind of to be expected when you’re 5 stories in.  The problem is, there’s too many of them.  And a lot of the names I can remember are god-awfully weird, especially the ones supposedly fighting for good but are for the most part the BIGGEST hypocrites I have ever encountered in the series!  Let’s take Ameratat for example.  He’s a powerful warrior fighting for Sraosha, but the name sounds similar to Rattata.  If that was your idea of a joke Sherrilynn, then what a sad, low way to laugh at us for all the times we made fun of a common weak rat Pokemon in Generation 1.  For demons, let’s look at Xevicon Daraxerxes.  Seriously?  Dara XERXES!?  *epic eyeroll at that name*  Oh, and the first name sounds like the name of another weird ass medication.  Thank you Galbatorix for leaving your unintentional thumbprint in the Chronicles of Nick!  We really needed that.

But by far the WORST part of Illusion was the way Kody was handled coming out of the book.  See, demons can be thrown on any round on the map.  Fine.  I am also fine with Kody performing a selfless act of love so grand that it not only cements her as a loving character, but
Spoiler:
 
 Really, I am.  In fact, at first, I thought this was sweet and, because there was no hint of it at all until it came up, I thought it was smart as well.  
Spoiler:
 
 That is something that should DEFINITELY have at least waited until the next book.  As it was, it made the ending of Illusion feel god-awfully rushed and I felt like I was robbed.  So not only did I feel robbed by the book’s premise, I felt robbed by the ending and it was a real big ruiner.

Now, with all that being said, there were some great positives with this book.  In the beginning, I really connected with Nick’s way of thinking, and considering Patrick Star from Spongebob looks like Einstein when compared to Nick Gautier, that really has to say something.  If you one day woke up in a world you didn’t know, how could you figure out what you needed to do?  It was also, like all the other CoN books, a lot of fun to read.  They only take a few days to read at a time, which for me means it was an engrossing book.  In fact, by the time I finished one night’s worth of reading, I got through around 270 pages out its 448-page length.  The most pages I have ever read in one day clocks in at 314.  From what I remember, that first day I read this book turned into one of the 5 fastest paces I have ever achieved in reading a novel, so needless to say, I’m glad I can still read through these books very quickly despite them being decent length novels.

Also, I did earlier make fun of the souls that supposedly fight for good and pan their names, but the fact there is discord amongst these beings, also known as the Arelim, is refreshing to see.  I know they want to fight for the greatest good, but to see it corrupt most of these beings is something I have not seen since I played Tales of Symphonia, so it’s nice to see this once again where the angels are not really the good guys after all.  Do note that I have also seen Legion in between Tales and this book and has Paul Bettany in it, but even though I actually liked that movie, I know a lot of people despised it, so for those people, I’m not really going to count it.  In fact, when it comes to demons and “angels”, this might just be the closest thing we are going to get to a role reversal as demons are hateful and evil in nature while an angel is supposed to be loving, caring, nurturing, and just all around beautiful souls.

All of this actually still made the vast majority of the book fun to read despite its very shoddy ending, and adding to this is that we finally get a generous helping of Simi again.  Until this book and after Infinity, Simi usually only just checked on in from time to time to remind you she still exists.  Here, we really get to see her shine again.  Simi has still always been fun to read and throughout all the ups and downs, I can't help but love the character.  Now if you can just hold back on the barbecue sauce so that you DON'T eat me, we'll be grand.  Very Happy

So really, it’s still a worthwhile read in its own right, but it’s not a phenomenal book, and when you compare it to the other books in this series so far, this really becomes apparent.  In fact, Illusion is, while the highest-rated book amongst fans, my least favorite book in the series of the first 5 Chronicles of Nick books.  It’s good enough where I will still read the next CoN book, but now, the hopes I have that Instinct is going to emerge as a new favorite with the direction this series has gone is pretty dim.  Like, I hope it’ll be really good as it’s the book they colored my favorite color yellow, but my expectations are now lukewarm at best.  With this book, I can’t give this a high score at all because there was so much that served to ruin the quality of the book, but I think I can meet in the middle and call Illusion a 5.5/10.

I do hope you all enjoy reading my reviews.  As sick as I’ve been, I’m putting a lot of time trying to write honest opinions about the books I read and I do hope this has shown.  I’ll see you all next time.


Now, with the books yet to be reviewed that I’ve finished, I will cover the first book in the Kingdom Keepers series, and of course, the last 3 Dark Tower books (Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower (NOT the movie adaptation, thank God)) will be reviewed here as well.  I also have an early unedited copy of The Salt Line, so that will likely be the next book I read so I can give you my thoughts on the book before it comes out on the market one month from today, and there is another Camelot book I will be including in the mix soon enough, maybe around the time I read Instinct.

Also, if you have book reviews to share yourself, everyone is welcome to share.  Until then, peace!
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Sat Aug 05, 2017 12:54 pm

But Mark, Ameratat is the number one ranked of all warriors Laughing
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:00 pm

Yeah, I looked that up after you brought it to my attention. I knew Ameretat (apparently that's how it's spelt in legend) had to be a great warrior, but I didn't remember if it was number one. Turns out this name is Iranian? I know now Ameretat is basically a god to those people. So I guess now the name makes more sense. Doesn't stop me from laughing at it for sounding similar to Rattata.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:50 pm

Well shit, I was just referencing Youngster Joey boasting his Rattatta is the number one ranked of all Rattattas. Razz
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Sun Aug 06, 2017 9:48 am

Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if Ameretat was actually what Youngster Joey named his Rattata. #TheMoreYouKnow


Anyway, onto the next book!


Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson

Chapters: 34

Pages: 325

Warning: The following review may contain spoilers about the book. If you plan to read this book, please proceed this review with caution.


Well, I’ve put this off for quite some time now. I actually was going to read late last year, but never really got around to reading it until sometime last month. Then after I’ve finished, I put off reviewing this in favor of reading and reviewing other books. Now, I am finally going to review this Disney book that I kept seeing for a while where kids seem to be running away from Maleficent.

First, to establish our setting, this book’s central location is Magic Kingdom in Orlando. Now, despite having used to have lived about an hour away from Disney World, I only ever went to Animal Kingdom, and that only once and I have not gone to Disney World in the last 15 years. Whenever I went to Orlando, it was always Islands of Adventure at Universal, but the closest amusement park from where I lived was actually Busch Gardens in Tampa, so there was never a need for me to go to Disney World. As such and despite the assumptions that I might know the area this book takes place in, I actually have no clue whatsoever what kind of place Orlando is other than the fact that it is a sub-tropical climate and there’s a lot of amusement parks in Orlando, and I sure as hell do not know shit about Disney World.

So we come into this book with our obvious main protagonist, Finn, meeting this old man Wayne who apparently worked for Walt Disney. Wayne, in a cryptic manner that made me yawn, tells Finn he is a DHI (this is basically someone who is a hologram in Magic Kingdom) and must gather the other 4 DHI together so that he can explain what it is he must do. Understandably so Finn gets confused but decides he’ll do it. Of course, we all know he’s gonna need some help, so he meets this new girl Amanda Lockhart who agrees to help him out and share in his secrets. Now, let’s take a moment to take this in. Just by the fact her last name is LOCKHART as well the fact she goes to a school in Florida of all states gave me a bit of an awkward flashback as I went to high school with a girl with that same last name before I graduated high school and moved out of the state. #RealTalk

The other 4 DHI’s are all just as confused as Finn is, and some more than others are even more hesitant to do this as Finn is. So here are the other 4 people Finn must work with: Philby (a red-headed kid who is smart and is the one we see go with Finn the most), Willa (a girl from Maitland who is the most forgettable of the bunch and the one I’m surprised whose name I could barely remember at all), Maybeck (a slightly less forgettable dude only because he sucks at not getting caught and is just one more dude), and Charlene (a girl who wishes she was as cool as Charlene Bradbury from Supernatural, but only has the same name. Also she’s shy as all get-out and is the most annoying of the DHI’s). Basically, these DHI kids are in reality one big cliché.

As the book goes on, we learn these kids have to return to Magic Kingdom every time when they go to sleep and usually, they have to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time. Although in theory I like the idea, it presents a few problems it calls itself out on. First, what happens if they want to nap during the daytime? What happens if you can’t all wake up at the same time? What happens if something that happens in the real world keeps you from being able to go to sleep? How does this all translate in real life outside Disney World? Thankfully it fills in those holes, and although it doesn’t do this all perfectly, it’s enough for me to go with it without much of a problem.

One thing I wish this book had that would have been great was if most of these characters and details got ample development. While some crucial parts did get adequate treatment such as the Stonecutter fable Wayne tells the DHI’s, what happens to the clothes everyone wears in their sleep, and the character of Amanda, our main group who we are supposed to care about are left one-dimensional as evidenced by my calling Willa forgettable, any development Wayne got if any made him look like a bonafide creepo that I’d probably want to keep kids I’d be responsible for away from, and the Disney characters outside Maleficent and a few pirates are pretty much swept under the rug. So let me get this straight. You give me a Disney book, but you’re actually going to swipe iconic characters such as Mickey, Donald Duck, and Goofy under the rug, but not a god-awfully confusing series such as Pirates of the Carribean that only started in this millennium? Do you even Disney bro? I can’t wait for Thanos or Anakin Skywalker to start showing up and overshadow half of the important characters from Disney obviously way more Disney than them.

Also, Maleficent can be confused for a lake she is so watered down! This is the witch who cursed babies, BABIES, all because she was not invited to a party where the fairies bless the baby! This witch can turn into a DRAGON! Instead, while she still is quite evil, what we get is basically someone who is as much Maleficent as say Eric Bana’s Hulk was actually The Incredible Hulk. I know Ridley almost certainly had to get everything in the book approved by Disney, but she is only a ghost of a shell compared to how Maleficent should be portrayed.

The supporting cast didn’t really do much to help the book much either. Dillard is useless and overall just someone I wouldn’t care was gone, Jez, although somewhat interesting, just randomly pops up out of nowhere at the middle of the book, and Finn’s mother is way too permitting for her to be realistic as a character. When push comes to shove, the only character I actually genuinely liked from the book is Amanda because she is the only one who is fleshed out enough and not to a point that makes me borderline cringe. Even Finn, although serviceable enough on his own, just doesn’t measure up when compared many other protagonists before him because he’s just flat. He’s been done before and better, but he also could have been a lot worse.

So if I had a problem with so much in the book, what else worked? For starters, I did like the world-building in this book. Sure, it did give a yawn-inducing explanation for a major storm that hit Orlando, but the rides affected by The Stonecutter’s Quill such as It’s A Small World worked to help set up what kind of world I’m looking at. It feels Disney enough, but it also feels enough like an amusement park ride that it sells the Disney World attractions just fine. Also, like I said, Amanda was the character who really stood out as the best, and Finn still held his own and Jez does have potential herself. If I do read a sequel, I hope the other 4 DHI’s were built upon as well so I can learn to like them more and not be forced to a handful of characters.

Another thing to note is that this is a kid’s book, so I can’t really go too hard on this. Actually, it’s not even bad if you’re just transitioning to reading novels and want to give reading a series a try, though Harry Potter and some others would be better choices. At not much over 300 pages, it’s not super long, so it can definitely be merciful if you’re having a bad time with this book, and it’s quick for someone who genuinely loves reading. Fans of Disney might or might not have been disappointed, but I digress. Depending on how you approach this book, it can actually be quite fun, and I felt like it was both fun and grating at the same time.

So by the end of the story, I’m left with characters who are, as a whole, sub-par, but the world-building and pacing make up for it. Besides, it’s Disney, and when you are given something like Disney, there’s almost never a dull moment. Also, Ridley did have to walk a tight line in making this book, so this book does manage to redeem itself in quite a few ways. Now, as to what to score this, it wasn’t exactly easy. I knew what kind of range I’d probably put this in, but I wasn’t exactly sure until after I got my thoughts together for this review. In the end, the best score would have to be a 5.5/10. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good either, yet I think I’d be up to read at least one sequel in the future.
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Merriska



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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Sun Aug 06, 2017 12:15 pm

Well that's slightly better than what I had in my head from that title and kids running away. I was thinking FNAF style animatronics of Mickey and the gang hunting down kids Laughing That is disappointing though, Maleficent would be hard to get just right without being too over the top or not evil enough.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Reviews   Sun Aug 20, 2017 12:18 am

The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones

Pages: 385

Chapters: 24 (Plus an Epilogue, divided into 3 parts (The Salt Line (Ch. 1-6), The Shaman (Ch. 7-15), Vimelea (Ch.16-24))

Warning: The following review may contain spoilers from the book. If you wish to read the book, then please proceed this review with caution!


One train ride home, I came across an uncorrected proof of The Salt Line, so maybe the final product will be so different this review might be moot. That’s not going to stop me though, so I am still going to go ahead with the review and hope that when the final book comes out, it might be different for the better.

The cover sure makes the book look pretty bleak with how the sky looks and the wall that is presumably the eponymy of the book, the titular Salt Line if you will. Basically, it’s a post-apocalyptic dystopia taking place in an unknown point in the future where disease-carrying ticks have drastically reduced civilizations to living in zoned areas surrounded by these walls. Of course, people can still go and see what is left of nature at a high price, and that’s pretty much how the story begins. Amongst the group we follow throughout the book are Edie, her pop-star boyfriend Jesse, a tech genius in Wes, and Marta, a seemingly simple housewife.

Now, before we go any further, let me just iterate right here that it is at Marta that this book earns my first epic eye roll. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read enough books, but it always seems when we get characters named Marta or Martha, they’re thrown into the trope of a housewife, a mid-wife, or a whatever word you want to use before inserting the word “wife” as your suffix to classify the Marta/Martha character. This book is no different in that aspect and that’s the first strike for clichés.

So anyway, when this group ventures beyond the Salt Line to have their tour through nature, they suddenly become hostages in a village called Ruby City, a place which could hardly be called a city of any sort. There, they find themselves in the middle of a deadly scheme (because that’s the most original basis for a plot in the history of ever) and must find a way to make it out alive and hopefully well. It is right when I look at this that this is definitely a dystopia, much like how The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, or Divergent are dystopian stories. How this book does as a dystopia though? Ehh…. It does alright. There’s things I liked about it and things I didn’t.

Let’s start with how these characters are portrayed in the book because that’s as good a place as any to begin. Now, despite Marta making me roll my eyes because she was the name selected for housewife status, she’s actually one of the best characters in the book. Her husband happens to be a very influential and conniving person, which in turn makes her one of the most important characters in the book. She acts like a motherly figure to Wes throughout the entire book and the chemistry between the 2 characters works quite well here. Furthermore, she has a lot on the line, but we know she’s got tricks up her sleeve and is under-the-radar very smart, so she’s someone definitely worth having on your side when in a dystopia. Speaking of smart people who end up being very important characters, Wes is CEO of a big corporation at a very young age, so you know he has the brains to do many things. Now, while his ex-girlfriend basically tells him he doesn’t have a heart, he actually is one of the most human characters we have and his reactions to everything we read about in the book are very real. He’s well-developed for those purposes and for the fact we get to experience how he feels about his decisions such as the one to go on this trip turned awry. He sees what his mistakes are and tries to work out the best solutions on how to make up for them. The characters of June, Violet, and even Andy are other examples of how fleshed out they are that their flaws are actually what makes them better characters.

Now, there when things irritated me about who the characters were, they really irritated me. Now, when they got rid of one annoying character, I at first thought it would be it. I would learn not to be annoyed by anyone else. However, the annoying character trope in this book is akin to the Hydra: whenever we lose one annoying character, more seem to take their place. This happens a lot throughout the book, but there were a lot of annoying characters! Mickey, Jesse, Lee, and Berto all were god-awfully annoying in what seemed to be their appointed times of the book. It’s like when one dies, another might as well look at their watch and go “Oh look at the time! Guess it’s time to be a pestilent annoying douchebag until I die or until the book ends, whichever one comes first”. While one might argue it might build on the story that these bad characters balance out the good ones, it really doesn’t. It’s more or less just a rinse and repeat cycle that grinds my gears like nails on a chalkboard.

The only character I felt neutral towards throughout the entire story that had a major role to play throughout was Edie. She’s alright in that she isn’t really annoying, but she doesn’t stand out like Wes and Marta do either, so I’m left in a lukewarm grey zone with her. This is not exactly great for the book since she’s the first person whose point of view we follow in the book and so is the first person to be established as a main character. She also is the one painted as the character who has already lost everything in her life and so has nothing left to lose. The fact she’s only OK and one of the least otherwise influential characters despite what she’s at going into the book is rather disappointing, and the chemistry between her and Jesse is about as cohesive as water and oil even though they are already dating.

But let’s get into my biggest complaint of the book, which is its pacing. My God is it ever slow! The biggest culprit, of course, would be the flashbacks, and when I say flashbacks, I don’t mean the number of flashbacks just on its own. It’s the frequent number of flashbacks that span throughout the bulks of many chapters throughout the book! By the time I got to The Shaman, there were already over 40 pages of pure flashback, some of which slow down the book to a point that it becomes unnecessarily hard to follow. If you’re slowed down to a point into which you make it hard to understand the story, you’ve got a real problem. There are some helpful side bits in the book to note, like the tale of how the salt line came to be (the fact it’s told in a fable-like manner I found really intriguing), but there are other times where it is hard to tell the flashback apart from random jargon (Violet’s flashback in Chapter 18 is a big example of this). So in those cases, I am left screaming in my mind to just get to the main story already because I swear to God if I see another page of that particular flashback, I’m going to lose my mind!

Now some parts I like include the problem about the ticks. These ticks, known as miner ticks in the book, are capable of strategizing and are hell-bent on destroying the human race. How they pose the threat is actually rather gruesome and horrifying. When I am described what miner ticks do to the human body, I am actually left thinking “Oh my God, they sound quite scary! Glad I don’t have to do deal with those things here in the real world!” Holly in that case does a brilliant job painting a picture of what the miner ticks are. Basically
Spoiler:
 
I also like how even in the heat of a hostage situation, we’re reminded that these guys are a threat in subtle manners. It’s not in your face about it and it doesn’t swipe it under the rug. You know that that danger will always be there in the book if you’re not careful, so kudos on that part.

Another thing that works well in this book are the red herrings. Just when you think one thing is going to happen, here’s another that changes the direction in which this book goes. It isn’t the most unpredictable book ever because I already knew I was going into a dystopian story where the group gets held hostage, but the ways it goes about it are at times quite unexpected, so you know the author is putting her effort into this book to keep things intriguing. It isn’t lazily written, but instead real flashes of genius show in the writing that went into this book. Also, there’s more than a few twists to go around in the book that changes the plot without ruining it, so it’s not a one-and-done thing. It recurs at a rate that it makes its presence known. There’s always that one more.

Overall, The Salt Line does what it can to provide a plot you can read and try to give a whole new take on dystopia, but it’s too fragmented by flashbacks to allow the book its own independent voice and instead depends on the past a lot. The characters were also a mixed bag. Some were fleshed out and stole the show in this book, yet others were like listening to nails on a chalkboard and the ones that annoyed me never fully went away because there was always someone to take their place. But its suspense is there as well as the terror the reality in the novel has. The miner ticks are done justice in all their dreadfulness, and everything that sprouts from that problem is given its own life. Overall, there were some big complaints, but it also had its rewards as well. As it is uncorrected proof of the book, I will be lenient with my score and give a 6/10.

So was this book bad? Not by any means. Was it spectacular? Not by any means. Is wat worthwhile to read? Well….. I think you can be the judge of that.
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