Friday, July 29, 2011

Jett Rocket

I don't have many WiiWare games, but the first time I saw a trailer for Jett Rocket, I knew I had to get it. It's a cartoony 3D platformer from Shin'en, a game development company that is fast becoming one of my favorites.

The title character is a planetary defender, and he is asked by a... dolphin or something to save the planet Yoroppa from some sort of weird machines. Sound like an average cartoony 3D platformer to you? Well duh, it is! And that's what makes it so awesome! Well, there are other reasons as well.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nick of Time by Tim Downs

Never before have I ever been so ashamed to read a book. Yes, Nick of Time was a great book with unforgettable characters, but it's also smack in the middle of a series. I read it because I signed up to read it on a website, but now I wish I'd read the entire rest of the series first.

Nick Polchak is a forensic entomologist, which means he knows bugs better than pretty much anyone else on the planet. He has quite the messed up personality, too, so that's why everyone was shocked when he announced he was getting married.

Alena Savard is a dog trainer, but unlike any you've seen before. She's lived alone for most of her life, and there's no better partner for Nick. Yep, that's right, the Bug Man and the Dog Woman are getting married. There's only one problem: it's the week of the wedding, but Nick is nowhere to be found.

Nick went to a monthly convention—this much Alena knew—but it turns out a friend of his was recently murdered, so he set out to find his own answers—even though it was his wedding week and he had no way to contact his fiancée—and he eventually starts uncovering what could be a much more sinister plot.

Nick of Time is a great book. At times it had me shivering, at others it had me laughing. One of the plot twists you can't see coming, and when it's finally revealed, chances are you'll burst out laughing (if you're not the type to laugh out loud, then you'll at least chuckle in your head).

The characters were well-created, each with their own personality (it sounds like something that should always happen—and you're right—but some authors are just bad at doing it). The story was cool, and you could feel many of the emotions of the characters. Tim Downs is a great novelist, but I just wish I'd read the books in order.

Nick of Time was publicly released on May 17, 2011.
This book was sent to me for free from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Reuben Horst

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Blood Book

The Blood Book: Tales, Confessions and Rumors of the Worlds is a compilation of writings from various authors in Ted Dekker's fantasy universe in his mega-series, The Books of History Chronicles. This in-the-far-future world is mainly known as Other Earth, and the writings were compiled in-universe by Ba'al, the High Priest of Teeleh (Other Earth's version of Satan).

This book was a collaboration effort of Ted Dekker, Kevin Kaiser and Josh Olds. All three are followers of Christ and strong in their faith, though strongly oppose modern American Christianity. The writings of Thomas Hunter in this novel strongly suggests this, and many of Ted Dekker's other books plainly state it as well.

The Blood Book overall is amazing, though most entries are made by people who would fit only in the category of "evil". It contains writings from many characters, including Mustul, a warrior; Gushon, an alchemist; Thomas Hunter, a very great and wise man; Marsuuv, the queen of a bat-like race of creatures; and Lord Ba'al himself.

Many entries are about philosophy, while others are about the creatures and places of Other Earth and our modern-day world, called Ancient Earth. Though I know for a fact that the actual authors did not believe in the beliefs of their characters, Mustul, Gruson, Ba'al and Marsuuv all have twisted and evil points of views.

The Blood Book continues to expand the world of Other Earth, a bit like Cars 2 did to the cars world that it takes place in. I found it fascinating, and I also happen to be one of only about a thousand people who own it.

A great book and great idea, though possibly bad influence if taken the wrong way. I thought it was awesome, but I was taught well in my faith. You need to read many other books in the mega-series (I'd recommend reading all of them) before reading The Blood Book.

Reuben Horst

Saturday, July 16, 2011

If It Takes a Lifetime

I want to send my congratulations to Matthew Taranto and Chris Seward of the awesome, Nintendo-based webcomic series Brawl in the Family, on finishing their 350th comic. They celebrated by creating a unique yet amazing video.

"If It Takes a Lifetime" is a story. A story of a man who travels through eight lifetimes, just to save his beloved. It's a silly idea, each one of Mario's "lives" being a literal life, but it's true that we should and will do anything at all to save those we truly love.

The nostalgic music, a ten-song medley of classic yet somewhat sad Mario tunes, adds life to the video, no pun intended. Enjoy.

Happy 350th to Chris and Matt!

Reuben Horst

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cars 2

First off, I would like to point out that the original Cars was my favorite animated film of all time. Whether a movie is CGI, anime, or whatever other types of animation there are, chances are I like Cars better. It's just, you know, a classic. You just can't beat it. When I first heard there was a Cars 2 in the making, I was uninterested and figured I may watch it someday, but it wouldn't ever be able to compare to the first film. Then, during the previews when I went to see the Dawn Treader in theaters, I saw a trailer for it, and suddenly knew that I had to see it.

The movie begins five years after the previous movie; probably because it came out five years after the previous movie. Internationally-known race car Lightning McQueen returns home to the town of Radiator Spings after winning his fourth Piston Cup, and discovers that a famous inventor and implied motivational speaker Sir Miles Axelrod has announced the first World Grand Prix, taking place in Japan, Italy and England. McQueen was one of the racers chosen to compete.

Meanwhile at the same time, Finn McMissile of British Intelligence is undercover trying to foil a plot by the evil professor, Zündapp. When two agents are unmercifully murdered, he, along with agent Holley Shiftwell must put their trust in . . . the exact wrong person.

Tow Mater, Mater for short, is a tow truck and a complete goof. He is Lightning McQueen's best friend though, and McQueen was convinced to allow Mater to accompany him on the World Grand Prix as part of his pit crew. Mater is accidentally (and surprisingly) mistaken for an American agent, and is soon thrown into the world of spies and espionage. In the end everything depends on him, though he would wish anything otherwise.

I understand why some people did and will dislike Cars 2, but I certainly did like it. In my opinion, what makes a good sequel to a previously stand-alone movie or book is a story that takes the world that was in the first movie or book, but vastly expands it. Cars 2 does exactly that. Instead of being pretty much restricted to Radiator Spings as the first movie was, it takes place in over four countries and dozens of locations. It's an amazing and creative sequel, and takes a far more in-depth look at cars culture.

I can see how people could dislike this "action-packed spy movie" after the simplicity that the original Cars was, but that is precisely the reason why I like it. I have a dad who's over 50 and is a huge automobile geek ("geek" in a good way), and he pointed out so many awesome inside jokes and car parodies of real-world things that a younger person would just never catch.

Cars 2 is what I've called before "the Jason Bourne of Pixar." Though there were many parts in it that I didn't like, I overall enjoyed the movie. It was by far the darkest Pixar movie I've ever seen, and sometimes I was extremely surprised that it wasn't even rated PG. (Seriously, those two agents were murdered in cold blood. Does that sound like a G movie to you?) I was surprised and intrigued by the fact that it was an action movie; hardly the reaction that many other people would have.

-Fun, enjoyable cast of characters
-Likable soundtrack
-Amazing CGI animation
-Further explores the world of Cars

-Some parts were downright stupid
-Rated G when it should be PG

Overall Score: 7.5/10

The movie was fun, entertaining, sometimes downright hilarious, and overall a worthy sequel. Maybe it's not the perfect sequel to Cars, but it was certainly the sequel that Cars deserved. If they make a Cars 3, I hope it's as good as the first two.

Reuben Horst

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Art of Reviewing

Josh Olds, a friend of mine and a well-experienced book reviewer, recently moved his entire website to a new URL, His long experience as a critic and writer led to his writing of an article in two parts called, "The Art of Reviewing". I was intrigued from just the introductory paragraph.

Sticks and stone may break my bones but words can never hurt me. The man knows better. The phrase was created by those who, unable to avoid the power of words sought to minimize their effect by ignoring them. Words are quick and powerful, even to the dividing of bone and marrow. Now that’s more like it. Good words are incisive and cutting, having a lasting effect and imprinted on the soul. Words are powerful because Life is Story.

The article is well thought out and well written, and it includes a couple bits of story as they can be implemented. Josh Olds is truly a master storysmith, and his advice has been extremely useful to myself and many others. If you review books or want to, I strongly recommend that you read this article. It contains great knowledge that will be very helpful in the long journey to become a true writer.

Reuben Horst

Invitation to the Game

The thing about this book is there are almost no front cover images from the various versions that don't contradict the story in some way. That can be very annoying. Sorry, just saying.

Update: Turns out this novel was re-released in 2010 under the title The Game, and it actually has a cool cover image. You can check it out here.

For me, Invitation to the Game by Monica Hughes is a classic. I absolutely loved it the first time I read it several years ago, and this time I loved it as well. I actually reviewed this book on a past blog when I read it the first time. If you weren't around when I started this blog (shame on you!), the story of what happened to that blog can be found here. This is just a little bit random, but looking back, my writing skills have really increased in just nine or ten months.

I was first introduced to Invitation to the Game by my librarian. I instantly knew it wouldn't be a "regular" teen science fiction novel, because, well, my librarian introduced it to me! This is the librarian that doesn't really want any books about fishing in the library but has an entire section on quilting. She is definitely not a science fiction fan.

But, alas, she actually recommended the book. I believe she said it was the only science fiction book that she liked. I was a little unsure when I started reading it, but after a short time I realized that it really was . . . you know, cool!

In the future, 2154 to be exact, the world is practically run by machines. (Sound familiar? At first it seems like a typical science fiction story setting.) Thousands of occupations that were once filled by human beings are now filled by robots. This leaves thousands, probably millions across the world, of people unemployed, and they're pretty much dumped in a designated area (DA for short) and told to stay there.

A sixteen-year-old girl named Lisse, fresh out of school, fails to land a job, as does seven of her friends (which she's shocked about, since they're all such bright students). They are driven to a city (it never specifies which) and let off in their designated area. They are given just enough government credits to survive every month, and are told that if they ever leave their DA, the Thought Police will track them down in mere moments.

That's how Invitation to the Game starts out: a group of teens trying to survive in a dark and savage world. I believe if the author had spent more time exploring this world and all of the interesting pieces of future culture, then the book would've been a lot better, but it was written over twenty years ago, so I doubt I can change her mind.

The group actually fares well for a while, until in a night bar they heard of something called 'The Game', and it perked their interest. On a few occasional nights since then they go to taverns and such and ask about this 'Game' that has capital letters. Eventually they find something about it, but not in any of those dirty, scum-infested bars.

The Game is a treasure hunt. You're given clues every time you play, and the clues are all for a prize in the end, which nobody knows what it is. Only those invited can participate. It sounds sort of weird and maybe a bit boring, but the teens continue looking for information about it.

And then they get invited to it. They don't know how, or why, or even if they should accept or not. Soon they find it is amazing beyond what they had imagined before.

I'll stop the story synopsis at that point, as I don't want to tell you the entire story. Whether or not I made it sound great or horrible, I loved the book both times I read it. It's full of adventure, and jam-packed with various emotions such as intrigue, depression, joy, hatred, triumph, and realization that in the end it can all work out if you work together (the long version of saying "teamwork").

The plot was great, and I didn't really see the ending twist coming (though I'm the type of person who doesn't usually see twists coming). I've fallen in love with the author's portrayal of the future (though I certainly hope our future doesn't turn out that way), and if there were other books that take place in the same universe, I'd read them for sure.

Monica Hughes is a great author. There are many things that I think she could have done better, but altogether it was a spectacular novel. I'd recommend it to people at any age.

Reuben Horst

Friday, July 1, 2011

Two Giveaways

Now you're probably all surprised that I'm hosting not only one, but two, giveaways on my blog, but I'm sorry to say that these are not my giveaways.

The first one is being hosted by Merrie Destefano. If you remember, I reviewed her novel Afterlife back in January (it seems like it was a longer time ago, but that's what my blog says), and I loved it. At that time Afterlife was her only released novel, but now there is a new book on bookstore shelves, and it's called Feast. I'm very interested in what it's about, considering how much I enjoyed Afterlife.

Not only this this giveaway a chance to win signed copies of both Afterlife and Feast, but several other small "thingies" that are pretty cool as well.

Details on this giveaway can be found here.

The second giveaway has a much larger value (approximately $300), and is just plain huge. Why would I mention a 20-book giveaway right after a 2-book giveaway? Maybe to make the 2-book giveaway not seem as great? Hah! Don't act like I'm trying to insult Merrie Destefano's books! I love them!

This giveaway is hosted by bestselling author Robert Liparulo, and is, as I said, huge.

This giveaway is fairly confusing, but the prize is . . . just plain awesome. The confusing details can be found here. If you do enter, please enter my name (that would be Reuben Horst, thank you) in the area for "Friend 1" so we can both be entered another chance to win.

I like giveaways, because occasionally I win one (in the past I've won a total of three novels, two music CDs, and one VeggieTales movie). You should enter these giveaways here, because you may win too. :)

Reuben Horst