Books

Books

Mon
07
Mar

Maguire's AFTER ALICE Heavy on Weird, Light on Wonder

After Alice Gregory Maguire

I have a confession to make. I've never read a Gregory Maguire book before. I know the name, I know the fame, and I've even seen the musical, WICKED, based on his novel of the same name. But I just hadn't sought out any of his works to try them in their written form.

And then I saw AFTER ALICE. When it comes to Alice in Wonderland books, I'm much like Mel Gibson's character in CONSPIRACY THEORY who, whenever he saw a copy of CATCHER IN THE WRY, he felt compelled to buy it. So I picked it up and looked forward to another trip down the classic rabbit hole.

Mon
29
Feb

CALIFORNIA: THE MAGIC ISLAND - ABCs no 123 - Fine by Me

Now, I’m a East Coast boy, but I’ve visited California a number of times over the years.  I’ve seen some amazing things in the state, both natural and manmade, so a book dedicated to saluting the state is reasonable idea.  CALIFORNIA: THE MAGIC ISLAND is an interesting read unlike just about anything else on bookstore shelves.  Try to get your head around a book fusing myth, history, ABCs, the animal kingdom, and a tour through the Golden State.  This might seem like a bit too much to contain in the pages of one book, but it’s all woven together quite well for the elementary school crowd.

Mon
29
Feb

Superman is the worst thing that happened to Lois Lane, according to author Tim Hanley

Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet's Ace Reporter by Tim Hanley
Published by: Chicago Review Press
Cover Price: $17.99 (print or Kindle)

At the conclusion of his new book INVESTIGATING LOIS LANE, Tim Hanley writes, “Superman is the worst thing to ever happen to Lois Lane.  At the same time, he’s also the reason she exists.”  By the end of this excellently researched piece, I was forced to agree.

Wed
24
Feb

Fred Setterberg's SAM MALOOF a Clinic on Biographical Narrative

Sam Maloof 36 Views Master Woodworker

There’s a lot of ugliness in the world, as we all know. Missed deadlines and misanthropy. Bill collectors and bad attitudes. Snarled traffic and starving children. It’s enough to make a person want to crawl back into bed, positive that nothing you can do can effect change.

However, just as the seasons turn and their opposites are made apparent to the patient, there is also an opposite to the unsightliness of society, if only we can be bothered to actively look for it.

Tue
23
Feb

The Destroyer takes on religion, racism, and Jell-O Urinalism in his newest adventure

Destroyer 151 Bully Pulpit Warren Murphy Dick Sapir Remo Williams

The Destroyer #151: Bully Pulpit by Warren Murphy and RJ Carter
Published by: Destroyer Books
Cover Price: $8.99 ($2.99 on Kindle)

I love adventure "pulp" novels.  Series like THE DESTROYER feel like the adult versions of THE HARDY BOY CASEFILES books I grew up on.  I was surprised when Amazon tried to bring the genre back to life with THE DEAD MAN series a few years ago.  Sadly, these books didn't get all that much traction, but I did think they were worthwhile descendants of series like THE DESTROYER.   That said, THE DESTROYER is still the king to me,  151 books in the main series over the last 45 years. 

Mon
22
Feb

To All the Boys I've Loved Before - a cute but flawed YA romance

This was a really cute book that featured a really cute slow-burn romance. I loved the dynamic between Lara Jean and her two sisters and their father. I was happy to see that the book featured a functional, loving family (although I do get a little tired of the "dead mother" trope). The Covey family had their own holiday traditions and quirks, which to me made them jump off the page. Despite being close, each sister had secrets hidden from the others, which leads into the biggest thing I enjoyed about this book - the moral ambiguity. There were no clear answers, and lots of moral grayness.

However, I did have a lot of issues with this book. I think a lot of it is personal preference. There's nothing inherently wrong with it, this book was just not for me.

My biggest problem with this book was the misleading blurb. If you read the blurb of this book, you'd think the plot is this:

Wed
10
Feb

Scholastic to Publish Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and II

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

(New York, NY – February 10, 2016) Scholastic (NASDAQ: SCHL), the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, announced today that it will publish a script book based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II, a new play by Jack Thorne. The Special Rehearsal Edition of the script book will be published in print in the United States and Canada at 12:01 a.m. on July 31, 2016. Published in hardcover under Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books imprint, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (ISBN 978-1-338-09913-3; All Ages), the eighth Harry Potter story, will be priced at $29.99 U.S. and $39.99 Canada. The script eBook will be published by Pottermore simultaneously with the print editions by Scholastic in the US and Canada, and Little, Brown Book Group in the UK.

Tue
02
Feb

Critical Blast's Ballot for the Best of 2015

Critical Blast Best Of...

It's once again that time of year -- when we look back at the things we loved last year and try to determine which ones were the best of the best ("of the best, sir!"). The best movie, the best television show, the best books, the best comics -- and the people who brought them to us.

So, after a nomination process that makes the Iowa Caucus look like a standard up-or-down vote system, we've settled on the list of nominees below. But, we always recognize the fact that the readers may know better than we do, so each category has an "Other" option where you can put in what we missed.

Unfortunately, to avoid the potential for ballot stuffing (to the best of our abilities) the form below requires that you be logged into your Google account. If you don't have one (and why wouldn't you?) then you won't be able to participate.

So let the voting now commence...and good luck to all the candidates and write-ins.

Mon
18
Jan

Superpowered Teens Focus of Multi-Climactic ZEROES

Scott Westerfeld Zeroes Simon Schuster Critical Blast

When I first started reading comic books, one of my favorite titles was TEEN TITANS. Not because they were the sidekicks of the heroes, or even that they were close to my own age, but that they were kids with powers, and were prone to getting into (and reacting to) situations the way kids would react. There was impetuousness, recklessness, infighting, crushes, jealousies, and the formation of lifelong friendships.

So when I learned that UGLIES writer Scott Westerfeld (joined by Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti) had released a new book, and that this book was about teenagers with superpowers, how could I possibley resist? Hence, this review of ZEROES -- they're like heroes, only not.

Fri
15
Jan

STORM BUDDIES helps us realize: We ain't afraid of no storms!

Storm Buddies

Fear is a part of life.  Whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in between, there's probably something you fear.  As we grow older, many of these terrors are outgrown, although some stick with us throughout our entire lifetimes.  Conquering fear is a buzzword of the modern world, but in reality, management is truly the best medicine for those things that frighten us.  

Sun
10
Jan

Young Bruce Wayne Investigates Ducard Academy in Scholastic's Study Hall of Justice

DC Comics Secret Hero Society Study Hall of Justice

There's a new kid in school at Ducard Academy this year. His name is Bruce Wayne, and he's a little too curious for his own good. But he can't stop himself from getting involved from investigating the strange happenings: the bullies led by Bane, the gang of clowns who roam the halls, the always-angry Coach Zod, and the ever-present shadowy ninjas who stick to the shadows of the school.

Mon
30
Nov

Philbrick's THE BIG DARK a Big, Realistic Scare

Big Dark Rodman Philbrick Scholastic Critical Blast geomagnetic shift power blackout

Perhaps the most frightening book you'll read this year is Rodman Philbrick's YA novel THE BIG DARK.

Imagine the worst power outage you can think of. Now add to this the fact that the power is just not out, but that the very basics of producing electricity have been stripped away -- no batteries, no generators, no hand-crank flashlights. Every modern mode of transportation, communication and commerce are simply gone.

Tue
17
Nov

The Day the Internet Finally Passed Me By: The Emoji-to-English Dictionary

Emoji English Dictionary Critical Blast RJ Carter

A long time ago, at a PC far, far away (it was an Excel x286, and I sprung for the extra good SVGA card and monitor), I logged into the fledgling cyberspace. In those days you had to have a sheet of paper with the phone numbers for local Bulletin Board Systems and dial into them. If you wanted to go to another one, you had to hang up your connection and dial the next one. Your phone line stayed busy during all this, so the house was peaceful as nobody could call you. There wasn't much in the way of email, but there were lots of discussion boards.

And then came the day things changed. In a simple discussion filled with barbed sarcasm that would become the de facto method of communicating online, I saw two characters.

:)

Sun
15
Nov

Zoonicorns are Coming for Christmas

Zoonicorns Critical Blast RJ Carter

By this point, your house and emails have already been bombarded with Super Spectacular Toy Catalogs, Door-Buster Sales Schedules, Black Friday Secret Deals and Cyber Monday Email Tips for you to get the most out of your holiday shopping. And you've probably already noticed that the toy market has already been defined as to which toys are the ones you have to go get.

Lost in the miasma of metamorphing robots and not-quite-for-real pets is one of the simplest yet most enduring type of toy: the stuffed animal. But for a market that's been super-saturated with everything from the zoological to the crytpozoological to even the microbial, it takes something unique if a plush is going pique a child's interest.

Fri
13
Nov

THE SNOOPY TREASURES will delight any PEANUTS fan, which is everyone right?

Snoopy Treasures Nat Gertler

THE SNOOPY TREASURES
Written by: Nat Gertler
Thunder Bay Press
$34.95

Thu
12
Nov

BURIED IN ANGST Fun, Fantasy on Elemental Level

Buried Angst David Pedersen Critical Blast Chryslaenor Unsel

(Not Quite) The Hero's Journey

Joseph Campbell helped us to define the classic Hero's Journey. It involved someone reluctant to take up the call but eventually forced into it. (It involved a bunch of other things, too, but that's the Cliff Notes of the Readers' Digest version. Just watch STAR WARS Episode IV and you'll have the gist of it all.)

Tue
10
Nov

Crocheting with the Force

Star Wars Crochet Activities Art Crafting SW Yoda

So, let’s start this off by mentioning I’m a seasoned art teacher who’s extremely crafty and can basically figure out anything with good instructions and supplies. However, one thing I’ve never learned (and not for lack of trying) is crocheting and knitting. I’ve bought books, I’ve watched videos, and have created nothing but a tangled mess of string and pointy, steel weapons for my cats to bat around the house. When the opportunity to review Star Wars Crochet came up, I was all hero-with-a-cape-standing-in-the-breeze! I shall take on this challenge, learn to crochet, and create adorable, pint-size Star Wars characters while doing it!

Mon
09
Nov

Brush, brush, brush! Brush, brush, brush! Shake your toothbrush with Flossopher!

My two-year-old son Nathan absolutely loves to brush his teeth.  I know!  It’s that awesome!  He will say “toothbrush” or “brush teeth” and then patiently wait while my wife or I get him started brushing.  He takes over for several minutes and absolutely loves every moment.  Granted, he mostly chews on the brush but he still enjoys the idea of what’s going on.  Sometimes we have to stop him from brushing the furniture or other items nearby.  You know, for the sake of being sanitary.  It’s wonderful to know that Nate’s already taken to brushing.  There are so many things to worry about as a parent, here’s hoping trips to the dentist because of cavities won’t be an added trouble.

Thu
29
Oct

The Truth is in There: THE X-FILES FAQ

X-Files FAQ Book Review Chris Delloiacono Critical Blast

Within the last year I've finally gotten into THE X-FILES with a vengeance. I'm not a complete noob to the seminal series, but I had never been a regular viewer either. I had seen some episodes and caught both films in theaters, but that's about it. My wife was an immense fan growing up, and I had other friends that swore by the series, so I was pretty aware of much of the mythology, the best episodes, and even the big baddies like Krycek and Cancer Man (i.e. Cigarette Smoking Man). I always planned on hitching my wagon to the series and watching it through. A while back I purchased the first few seasons on DVD, but I never went on a huge run. Finally, Netflix made it simple to digest each episode.

Now, I don't want to come on like the mayor's wife or anything, but aren't you excited for the six-episode event in January?

Mon
26
Oct

STAR WARS ON TRIAL--The Blog Tour Charges Star Wars with Dumbing Down Science Fiction

CriticalBlast.com prosecutes the charge of STAR WARS dumbing down science fiction with the STAR WARS ON TRIAL BLOG TOUR

The charge is "STAR WARS has dumbed down the perception of science fiction in the popular imagination." Jeff Ritter of CriticalBlast.com represents the Prosecution. 

The very notion of STAR WARS being somehow responsible for “dumbing down” modern science fiction seems preposterous. Of course, the notion is not entirely objective—how does one quantify merit or mediocrity in art, which by its very nature is subjective? How does one quantify the tangible effect of a film from 1977, that wasn’t expected to do much business itself, has had on movies, television, video games, novels, graphic  arts, American and even global pop culture more than 30 years later? I’m sure somebody with a better mind for statistical analysis could find numbers to crunch in this regard, but I find it to be less of a matter of arithmetic and more of a matter of personal taste. Since I can only speak for myself, allow me to take you on a little flashback to the halcyon days of my youth.

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