Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Tribute to Stargate

One of my favorite science fiction franchises of all time, Stargate, has come to an end. There is a chance that it may come back someday, but not for a long time.

The franchise has come to an end after seventeen years, without even a proper ending. This has upset thousands and thousands of fans, and in truth it was all the fault of the network.

But anyway, what's done is done and (the random part of this sentence:) what's written is written (hey, it's my blog's motto and I can say it if I want).



Stargate, rest in peace . . . until brought back. All we can do is stay hopeful. . . .

~Reuben/Arkatox~

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Number Fifty


Can you believe it? I've been blogging for 50 years! Oh wait, that's not right. This is my 50th blog post!

If you include my past three personal blogs, I've probably written at least 80 blog posts. But as I've mentioned before, my past blogs have all been deleted by stupid hosts. This current blog is the one that I am the most proud of, and that I've done the most with. Compared to when I started blogging, I have gotten at least three times as good at writing.

So what has happened recently in my life? A lot. For those who don't know, I was home-schooled through 8th grade and now attend a private high school. When I was twelve or thirteen I wrote a story, One Weird Gas Station, which made me (and other people who have read it) realize that I don't suck at writing anymore, and I believe it was that fact that eventually convinced me to start a blog.

Just recently I helped found a group on Facebook called "Authors for Elyon". It was and is a Christian writing group (has grown up to just over 80 members at present) for people who have been inspired by many authors, and especially Ted Dekker (the name of the group was inspired by his Circle Series). This has changed my life and added many friends to it. I'm now excited for reading and reviewing books again, and for possibly trying to write my own books once more. If anyone is interested, I run a public page for AfE on Facebook, though there is not much activity there, compared to the actual community itself.

One of the friends I met through Facebook, Evan Morgan, of whom I'm planning on writing a novel with, also introduced me to a website called BookSneeze, which is run by the Christian book publisher Thomas Nelson. What this website does is it lets people who sign up for it receive free books to review on their blogs. My first book from this website was The Lightkeeper's Ball by Colleen Coble, the review of which was the last post made on this blog before this one. There are specific guidelines for reviews of BookSneeze books, so you may be able to tell if books I review are from them or not.

I see lots of things happening in my blogging future. I'm currently reading the novel The Priest's Graveyard by Ted Dekker, and when I'm done with it I'll be sure to review it. I accidentally discovered a major plot twist in it while I was browsing forums on Facebook today, and that will ruin part of the book for me, though it's still a great read.

I also just recently picked up six books by James Patterson for a very cheap price. Secular fiction isn't usually as good as what I usually read, but it's still pretty good. But anyway, it adds even more books to my ever-growing list of books to read.

I also plan on conducting more interviews in the future. I've always dreamed of interviewing Ted Dekker, but that is going to be very hard to do. It's not as if I can just email him or send him a message on Facebook, like I can do with others. I think I need to actually go through his publisher. But anyway, other people I've considered interviewing are Charlie Dominici, Tosca Lee, Randy Alcorn, Aleena Korell, Kevin Kaiser, Matt Smith, and Casper Smit. I doubt I'll ever get to interview even half of them, but I can still try!

So yes, that was an overview of my past, future, and beyond. Okay, not really, but that sounded cool.

Now I can't wait for the 100th blog post!

~Reuben/Arkatox~

The Lightkeeper's Ball by Colleen Coble



It is the early twentieth century, and the Stewart family finds that they have been cut in a deal that economically changes their lives for the far better. It all depends on the marriage of Eleanor Stewart, a girl of twenty-some in the Stewart family, to Harrison Bennett, the son of Eleanor's late father's former business partner. All goes well, until Eleanor's body is found dead. Drowned. Eleanor's slightly older sister, Olivia, is next in line for the marriage, but she travels in disguise to the town of Mercy Falls, where the Bennetts live, in order to find out what really happened. She knew that Eleanor was afraid of water, and if she were to commit suicide, it would not be by drowning herself, and thus she suspected foul play. Before long, she is soon working with Harrison, of whom she suspects of assisting the possible murder, and of whom she is eventually supposed to marry, to reveal a much greater scheme than just one murder.

To tell the truth, the reason why I got this book, The Lightkeeper's Ball by Colleen Coble, was because it was for free. I just recently joined a website that is run by the publisher Thomas Nelson, which gives out free books for bloggers to review. I chose this book because it was one of the only fiction books available. It looked like a girly novel, sure, but it was fiction nonetheless. The thing is, though, once I started reading it, it was hard to put down.

I loved the story. This is truly a mystery novel, with elements of thriller and romance sprinkled in. Parts of the book were just downright creepy, and coming from a novel that is "officially" in the romance genre, that is just plain awesome. It is true, this was written by and for girls, but I enjoyed the whole trip through. I love thrillers, so the parts of the book that I would consider "thriller" almost made me visibly grin.

The Lightkeeper's Ball is many things. A story of finding truth, a murder mystery, a love story. I really recommend it to you if you're a girl. I would recommend it for boys, too, except I've learned from experience that it's awkward for a boy to walk around carrying a book that has a cover such as this one.

The Lightkeeper's Ball was publicly released on April 20, 2011.
This book was sent to me for free from Thomas Nelson Publishing. http://www.BookSneeze.com/

~Reuben/Arkatox~

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Just wanted to say Happy Easter! Just a heads up, my next blog post will be a review of an ARC (advanced reader's copy, aka a book that I got before it was out) that I have acquired, and after that will be my 50th blog post on this blog. In that post, I'm going to give a sort-of long update on my life. Look forward to seeing you then!

~Reuben/Arkatox~

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Metroid Fusion

File:Metroid Fusion box.jpg

Somebody find me a game series that I would enjoy more than the Metroid series (especially the 2D games). I dare you.

Chronologically, Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance is the final game in the Metroid series so far. The galactic bounty hunter known as Samus Aran was attacked by a strange organism on the planet known as SR388. This organism was later revealed to be called the X parasite. After barely surviving, Samus was dispatched to an abandoned space station orbiting the planet to find out what happened to the crew on board and to the X parasites.

Metroid Fusion Screenshot

What Samus finds on this space station, the Biological Space Laboratories, is a completely abandoned facility, with the exception of plenty of monsters, and X parasites all over the place.

This is a game that I loved since almost before I ever bought it. The actual story of how I bought it is interesting enough. I had to go through at least 10 different GameStops before finally finding one that had the game—and the store that finally had it was actually the one that I looked in first.

But that was, say, six months ago. I got about 3/4 of the way into the game before, and then got stuck. Here I came back months later and restarted, and this time I got through the game.


Why do I love this game so much? So many times you get struck for hours and don't know what in the world you're supposed to do, and then once you figure it out, you gasp at the ingenuity of the developers. When you get to a place where you have no clue what do to, it feels so good when you figure it out. For this reason, I would recommend you not use a guide at all for this game, even if you can't figure out what to do for, say, ten hours. The reward feeling you get when you solve the problem is worth it.

I loved the story of this game, I loved the characters (however very few there were), and I loved the progression. Throughout the game there is creepy music in places where it ought to be, making the game actually creepy. The bosses are impossibly fun, and by the end you start to get happy when you die while fighting one (because it means you get to fight it again).


There are a few minor downsides, such as not being able to explore the ship more with all of your recovered abilities once you beat the game, but the awesome parts of this game outweigh the downsides so much, that this game deserves a solid 5/5.

~Reuben/Arkatox~

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Humble Frozenbyte Bundle

The Humble Frozenbyte Bundle is a bundle of three very popular computer video games developed and produced by the independent company Frozenbyte. The games are Trine, Shadowgrounds, and Shadowgrounds: Survivor. As a bonus, the bundle also comes with a source file for an unfinished project, Jack Claw, an automatic pre-order for an upcoming game, Splot (to be released in about 2-3 months, according to a developer), and the soundtracks for each of the games (including a 3-track preview of the Trine 2 soundtrack).

Now this sounds just like a normal awesome game package, except there's one hitch: you get to name your own price. No, you can't get it all for free, but you could for something like $1. The thing is, that would be heartless. The money is divided between the game developers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a charity fund, and the creators of the website who make these bundles. So if you bought the bundle for $1, it would be like donating 25 cents to each of them, and that is almost nothing.

Though I have not played any of the games yet, partially out of fear that my graphics card isn't good enough to play them, I do know from hundreds of reviews out there that these are indeed awesome games. Check out the trailer below if you're interested in what they're about.



One thing I would also like to praise about this bundle is the customer service. On the Humble Bundle website there is a chat box at the bottom where they claim they always have somebody on the other end. I was a bit iffy about this, so I tested it out with a question that I had (I had to think it up first). The person on the other end was slow to reply to everything I asked or said, but they were still there.

I assume that the reason why they were so slow to reply was because it was during the first night that the bundle was available, and there were a lot of people asking questions at that time. Just tonight I had another question that I asked on this magic chat box, and there was an instantaneous reply from one of the developers, Joel. So by this time, you can assume that there won't be nearly as many people asking questions to the developers and moderators, because the rush to buy the bundle has quieted down, so you may expect an almost-immediate response (though it may depend on what time of day you ask the question).

So yeah, if you love the type of games that Frozenbyte makes, check out the Humble Frozenbyte Bundle! Just paying $5-10 is better than nothing. There are approximately 8 days until this deal ends, and all games are also redeemable on Steam.

The Humble Bundle's Humble Website

~Reuben/Arkatox~

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Eragon



No, I haven't read Eragon before now. Yes, I know, it's shocking. It's almost more famous than Harry Potter or Twilight (both of which I haven't read yet) . . . or so I wish! Eragon is a #1 New York Times bestseller, and it takes a lot of skill to do that.

One thing that makes Eragon such an awesome book is that when the author, Christopher Paolini, started writing the book, he was fifteen years old. One thing that makes it even more awesome is that at that time he was already graduated from high school.

. . . So yes, before I read this book I had seen the movie. Anyone, who has or hasn't read the book, would agree that the movie sucks. But I believe that watching the movie made me enjoy the book more. That very rarely happens.

Eragon is a book that takes place in the fantasy world of AlagaĆ«sia. This is a world populated by many races, including Humans, Elves, Dwarfs, an evil race called the Urgals, and Dragons. Three of these races have either gone extinct or gone into hiding after a monarch took over AlagaĆ«sia.

The story is about a farm boy, Eragon, who discovers an object that forever changes his life. He goes on an adventure filled with action, strength, and fear. I will not give away the story, as that is usually a stupid thing to do, but I will say that this book is indeed intriguing, captivating, and hard to beat in it's genre.

There are times you think the story could've been written better, such as major plot twists that are written to seem undramatic, but overall this is one amazing book. And to be written by a teen? Paolini got the entire book written and published in three years (it's nearly 500 pages), and he was still a teen through it all!

Eragon is the first book in a series. It is followed by the books Eldest, Brisingr, and finally Inheritance is coming out in November. I'd recommend you get them all, even though I've only read the first.

But anyway, that's it for now! I'm thinking of doing a game review next, because this time I've been posting too many blog posts about books, instead of vice versa, and I want it to stay even.

~Reuben/Arkatox~

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Queen - Coming Soon!



Just thought I'd post and say that this is the cover art for Steven James' upcoming novel, The Queen, that was mentioned in my interview. Pretty awesome-looking, eh? The book is currently set to come out September, 2011.

You can see all of the book covers of the novels in the Bowers Files series to date here.

~Reuben/Arkatox~

The Priest's Graveyard - Coming 4/19/11!



The Priest's Graveyard is a thriller novel by Ted Dekker that is being released in two days, which happens to be my brother's birthday. I figured I'd just leave some links and promote this going-to-be-awesome book! Also, you may remember me mentioning this, Ted Dekker is one of my favorite authors of all time.

Book Trailer on YouTube (embedding didn't work, for an unknown reason)
Official Promotion Page
Interview conducted at Fiction Addict

Anyway, talk to ya later! I'm going to finish the book I'm currently reading, Eragon (by Christopher Paolini), later today, so you can expect a review within the next few days!

~Reuben/Arkatox~

Eeeeeeedit: Shows how stupid I am! It's coming out on April 19, which is five days from now!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An Interview with Steven James



It seems that time again when I need to stop being lazy and interview somebody. Several people were inspired by my interview with Erin Healy, and they either interviewed her themselves, or interviewed someone else. But these interviews that I inspired (really, it was just one simple interview that I hosted . . .) actually inspired me to conduct another interview.

I thought about interviewing Ted Dekker, of whom I'm a great fan, and even co-founded a writing group on Facebook that was inspired by him (check the Facebook box on the right). I decided against it, because he's always super busy, and has someone else read his emails for him anyway.

Even though I eventually selected Steven James, I later found out that the same was for him. He is very busy, and has somebody read his emails for him. Well, at least he answered my questions. That's what I like about Erin Healy, she actually runs her own email.

But anyway, yes, I chose Steven James. James is one of my favorite authors of all time, having written (and currently being in the process of writing) my favorite series ever, known as the Patrick Bowers Files. These books are bestsellers, and for good reason. If you remember, I reviewed his novel The Bishop (book #4 in the series) a while ago.

Anyway, enough wait. Interview away . . .

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Reuben Horst: So how are you and your family doing, Steven?

Steven James: We are thankful that my daughter (who is 17) is recovering magnificently from her cancer that was diagnosed and treated last summer. Ballet and dance lessons, chorus, volleyball, class trips, student government, all fill the days of my three daughters.

RH: How old were you when you got into writing?

SJ: I’ve always like making things up, telling stories, etc… but it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties before I started sending in stories to be published. I always like to encourage young authors to get to work because some have a ten year headstart on me.

RH: What are your favorite authors of all time, Christian or non-Christian?

SJ: Peter Kreeft, Thomas H. Cook, Gillian Flynn, Guy de Maupassant, Mark Greaney

RH: In your Bowers Files series, who is your favorite character, Patrick Bowers not included?

SJ: I’d have to say I really like Tessa [Bowers, Patrick's daughter]. She has grown on me and watching her mature and change through the series has been fascinating.

RH: How do you think your upcoming novel, The Queen, is turning out? Can you tell us a bit about it, without giving too many details?

SJ: Well, it’s the most explosive one yet, with the biggest stakes. More like an episode of 24 than CSI—ecoterrosists, cyberterrorism, an internationally-wanted assassin, and Bowers trying to stop, well, all-out war in the Middle East.

RH: Of all of the books written by other authors in the Detective/FBI genre, which would you recommend the most?

SJ: I don’t read any. Sorry. I avoid them so that I don’t subconciously end up copying ideas, tone, voice, etc… Instead, I check out movies.

RH: Aside from the Bowers Files series, what is your favorite book that you have authored?

SJ: I’d say “Story.” It’s an exploration of the Christian story woven through the Bible. Wonder-based, somewhat poetic, when I wrote it I had the feeling that I was born to write that book. 

RH: Do you really think that the Bowers Files series could eventually go over eight books, like you mentioned in an interview with Family Fiction recently?

SJ: I’m hoping. I just agreed to write two more for my publisher—A prequel called “Opening Moves” and “The King.” If fans keep reading the books, I hope to end with “Checkmate.”

RH: This is kind of random, but are you into video games at all? If so, which ones?

SJ: I used to be, when I was a teen! However, most of the popular ones today are so addictive and complex that I’m afraid if I picked it up again I would get so involved I’d never finish my books on time.

RH: What’s your favorite brand of soda?

SJ: Root beer. Just like Tessa.

RH: Thanks for your time, Steven!

---------

The Patrick Bowers Files currently consists of four books, The Pawn, The Rook, The Knight, and The Bishop. The next installment, The Queen will be released later this year, and eventually will be followed by a prequel called Opening Moves, and then the story will be concluded in The King and Checkmate.

You may think that this series is Chess-related, and you are right in a way. It's not really about the board game, but more about the idea. Which moves you make affects your opponent's moves, and in the end it all comes down to brains and strategy.

The Patrick Bowers Files is about a detective, Patrick Bowers, and his adventures, if you'd call them that. I will not say too much, except that if you like the thriller genre at all, you need to read this series.

Thanks, Steven, for your time, and an awesome interview!


~Reuben/Arkatox~