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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
by Ishmael Beah
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.37
734 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A sad state of affairs, October 7, 2012
If you know nothing about child soldiers or the day to day realities of life in a warzone, this is the book to read.

While one is happy Ishmael was eventually freed from the battlefield, the tale of his journey to speak at various UN functions about "world peace" only serve to illustrate the impotence of words alone.

Many wars continue today with no easy answers. But it's Ishamael final words in the book that resonate with me the most. He described a, "no win" riddle given by those in his village. If you did not kill a monkey, it would kill your mother. If you killed it, it would kill your father.

Ishmael said if the choice was his, he would have killed the monkey, to prevent it from kill anyone else's parents.

I think many would agree.

Mass Effect: Deception
Mass Effect: Deception
by William C. Dietz
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
54 used & new from $0.01

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A terrible war crime of a book, but dang if it isn't funny!, February 15, 2012
For the truly uninformed: Mass Effect is a series of excellent role playing games by Bioware set in a science fiction future that is part hard science fiction, and part action packed space opera. It is witty, exciting, and fantastic reconstruction of many beloved sci-fi tropes and themes.

That being said, the grander Mass Effect Expanded Universe has not, sadly, been up to par.

To say this is true of Deception is like saying the Chernobyl disaster was as devastating as a glass of spilled milk.

Look, we know this book sucks. I know it, you know, the American people know. However, if we judge book by its entertainment value and not just it's prose, I think you'll find, viewed as what NOT to do when writing a book, Deception is immensely, side splittingly entertaing.

Others have already cataloged, indeed, assigned via phylum and genus the vast array of character, timeline, canon errors and all-round general insanity. Characters switch personalities, brain surguries are performed in back allys, autism is cured by aging and deadly assassins steal their target's cereal. It reads like parody, and that, perhaps is how the book is best interpreted. There were certain pages where, literally, I could not stop laughing. It is the same sort illicit thrill you get when laughing at some idiot's serious work of performance art involving man's inhumanity to man as depicted by sock puppets. You cannot imagine how anyone thought this was a good idea.

It may be fair to say this book is the Anti-Christ of video game tie ins. With good reason. I am sure William C. Dietz is a nice man, with a caring family. I admire his ability to get paid for his efforts. And to be fair, there is no way this book got past Bioware's editors/fact checkers without at least implicit approval. No less than Casey Hudson, his nose the size of a jumbo jet I'm sure, gleefully proclaimed via twitter he had just read the 'excellent' manuscript to Deception prior to the book's release. Let's not be to quick to shoot the messenger without aiming the blame back at Bioware/EA for allowing this abortion to come to term. Yet, again, I cannot bring myself to hate Bioware, their efforts fully focused on what will no doubt be another excellent addition to the Mass Effect story, the soon to be released Mass Effect 3.

Simply put, this is Mass Effect's very own Star Wars: Holiday Special. It's own Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Something so terrible it warps back in upon itself and becomes hilarious. So buy it, and revel in it's glorious awfulness. And never let yourself believe you cannot write a book after reading Deception.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 20, 2012 5:23 PM PST

Brothers of the Snake (Warhammer 40,000 Novels: Space Marine Battles)
Brothers of the Snake (Warhammer 40,000 Novels: Space Marine Battles)
by Dan Abnett
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
44 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars More than meets the eye, October 23, 2010
At the risk of comparing apples to oranges, Dan Abnett does equally as good a job humanizing and elevating the Imperium's Space Marines as in his own Gaunt's Ghost series about ordinary human soldiers. Like many of his books, Dan breaks up his story into smaller, bite size stories with the Marines of the Iron Snakes chapter zipping around the galaxy slaying Dark Eldar, Orks, and the forces of Chaos.

The battles are intense and awe-inspiring, with Space Marines cranked to 11 on the fluff scale. Even gods have limits though. There are still plenty of moments of humanity where the Marines panic, cry out for fallen brothers, and struggle against horrible injury. The final clashes against an Orkish horde shows both the bravery, and futility of attempting to bludgeon an enemy to death by sheer force of arms. I honestly wonder if those who rated BoS as, "just another boring Space Marine story" read the same book I did. It's a deconstruction in many ways of the simple, "kill em all" approach most Space Marines are stuck to.

What struck me though, is that the majority of Dan's Marines are not mindless killers. They care about civilians, each other, and of course their martial oaths to the God-Emperor. The image of a Space Marine, a pretty girl, and a war dog out for a cruise in a forrest hunting the enemy seems almost whimiscal by 40k standards.

Highly reccomended, whether you're new to the 40k universe, or a veteran.

Yakuza 3 - Playstation 3
Yakuza 3 - Playstation 3
Offered by DealTavern
Price: $18.00
39 used & new from $7.16

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even with trimming, Kazuma still brings the magic, March 11, 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
So, what is Yakuza? Is it the Japanese version of Grand Theft Auto? Or something else entirely?

The best way to describe the game would perhaps be a cross between an old school brawler like Final Fight, mixed with the depth and story of Grand Theft Auto. This game does have long story segments at times however, so enable cutscene skip in the game's options if you just want to skip to the fighting. However, that would be doing a diservice to the game's excellent story. The main thing here is that unlike say, Niko Belloc, Kazuma is a genuinely nice guy who just so happens to be the most elite former soldier of his old gangster clan. In classic gangster movie fashion, Kazuma is sucked back into a life of violence after the Orphanage he now runs is threatened by outside forces. What starts out as a simple crime story escalates into an incident with international ramifications, with Kazuma stuck in the middle and half of Japan trying to kill him. Our hero has to recruit new friends and old allies to cut through the lies and bring down a major conspiracy. Thankfully, the game comes with a full recap of the previous two games, so even newcomers will find a lot to enjoy in the story. The game also quite funny at times, with a highlight being Kazuma blogging absurd situations on the street with his phone to master new martial arts moves. Some of them really have to be seen to be believed.

However, you're also free to explore the cities of Tokyo and Okinawa at will. You can either advance the plot by completing marked missions, or take on the funny and rewarding side quests. If you wish, you can just relax around the city eating food to restore your health, buying weapons, playing arcade games, golf, bowling, baseball or whatever else strikes your fancy. And believe me, you haven't seen manly Kareoke until you've seen Kazuma sing.

There has been a bit of a hubbub about the Western release of this game due to some cut content. However, since most of this was esoteric in nature, (come on folks, how many people REALLY know how to play Majong?) and the game was so massive to begin with, it doesn't come across as a deal breaker. You're still looking at a 35+ hour experience if you want to complete all the quests, master all the mini-games, and face off against the ever deadly Super Hitman Amon Jo.

The GREATEST thing about this series is its signature brutal combat, and vicious it is. You have any number of normal attacks, heavy blows, blocks, counters, and the like which you gain by battling other gangsters and completing quests like an RPG. Things really get nasty though through the special HEAT gague which builds as you taunt enemies and pound them into the ground. You can throw enemies out of windows, crush their knees with baseball bats, and pin their hands to walls with kitchen knives. There are over 80 unique special attacks alone, so there's always something new to keep the combat flowing.

Simply put, if you like good characters, violent brawling, and a gangster story with more heart than most, you owe it to yourself to buy this game.

Red Sun
Red Sun
DVD ~ Charles Bronson
Price: $19.99
6 used & new from $19.98

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The holy grail of cinema awesome, May 21, 2009
This review is from: Red Sun (DVD)
Finding a copy of this DVD should be listed as one of the ten labors of Hercules or on par with finding the Holy Grail. Amazon is the ONLY place I have been able to find a copy of this film that will work on an American DVD player. For some idiotic reason, the film is out of print. I can say that THIS version of the film works just fine, and the picture and sound are more than passable for a movie that came out in the 70s. This movie has two enormous things in its favor:

#1: This is a samurai western staring Toshiro Mifune and Charles Bronson.

#2: If that didn't sell you on the idea of this movie, then you have no soul, and should resign yourself to a joyless existence.

Seriously, as a big western and samurai movie fan, this film sounded like a pipe dream or fan-fiction until I stumbled across it looking up old spaghetti westerns.

As to the film itself, it's pretty much what you'd expect, and it's awesome. Each character gets their own moments to shine in the spotlight as far as action goes. You get Cowboy vs Samurai, Cowboy vs Cowboy, Samurai vs Indian and Indian vs Cowboy and every other combination in between. There are quite a few funny bits throughout the film as well. Bronson's ambush of Mifune out in the woods resembles a certain skit from Robinhood: Men in Tights, and that's all I'll say about it. Oh yeah, and it has Ursela "Undress" as eye candy, seriously, I can't make this stuff up at this point.

This is the movie Quinton Tarantino wishes he could make today.

Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times
Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times
by Radu R Florescu
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.97
132 used & new from $1.45

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History is more compelling than fiction, August 26, 2008
A fascinating figure in history deserves a book as good as this. Immoral butcher, and defender of most Holy Christian Europe, murderer of the poor and upholder of absolute justice, war criminal and heroic defender of his people.

One could perhaps describe Dracula in simple terms as the Dr. Doom of his day. A horrible villain to some, yet a hero to his people and one who followed for the most part his own code of twisted, and very literal honor. In fact, half of the fun of reading this book is the way Vlad consistently deals out the most extreme punishments for minor and major infractions (and they are infractions make no mistake). Yet the way it is done is both so brilliant and logical to the extreme you can't help but applaud him for him being such a magnificent bastard.

Disrespectful envoys not taking off their hats? Nail their caps to their heads so they won't break their own rules by *accident*. Islamic armies oppressing your land and taking your kids to raise as their shock troops? Impale their prisoners of war and make a forest of them to send their greatest general a message. Poor masses and criminals dragging down your country? Give them a *banquet*, and then mercifully send them to God's kingdom by locking them in and burning them alive. Traitorous nobles kill your father and brother? Work them to death building YOUR fortress and then bury them alive. A visiting merchant robbed in your kingdom? Threaten to burn down the town unless the money is returned... and then give extra gold back to the merchant to see if he's just as bad as the thief (with equal punishments for both if guilty). Disgusted seeing a peasant with shoddy clothes? Impale the wife responsible and get the poor guy a new one (Good help is so hard to find).

Even Vlad's own people eventually tired of his reign towards the end of his life. But after the fact, it's amazing how many people thought he did far more good than harm in his life, saving his country from being humiliated and enslaved from outside powers and decayed from within from crime and lawlessness.

Of course, a modern prejudiced mind that thinks putting a rapist or murderer in jail for a few years before cutting them loose is a 'just' punishment, will instantly peg Vlad as yet another two bit Hitler or Stalin or warlord of your choice. This is an unfair depiction in my view, especially considering most of Vlad's bad press came from his enemies who were rightly terrified of him. Vlad comes off in these accounts as having far more courage, class and cunning than these hack jobs. If you consider Vlad a villain, at least give credit where its due.

Best said in the words of the author, Vlad was only occasionally guilty of bouts of random murder. His extreme killings were directed at three main groups, the Turks invading his country, the merchants squeezing the life out of his country, and the vagrants and the poor.

Dracula was by no means a nice person, but his contributions to history are really much more positive than most common histories (i.e. dumbed down garbage) would have you think. If you can be as bad mother as Vlad was, and STILL have your face on your country's currency and be regarded as a national hero, my hat's off to you.

It just goes to show that history is far more interesting than fiction. Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 5, 2009 3:16 PM PST

Anne of Green Gables Trilogy Box Set
Anne of Green Gables Trilogy Box Set
DVD ~ Kevin Sullivan
Price: $45.17
12 used & new from $43.74

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A guy's review of Anne of Green Gables, May 14, 2008
Let me preface this review. I'm a typical guy. I like movies about fighter jets, fast cars and ninjas that blow things up with their minds.

I also love Anne of Green Gables.

I grew up with this series when I was kid with my sister. Reading about Anne and her adventures lifted our hearts, and we used to spend hours reading stacks of the books. There are almost too many funny, moving, touching and tragic moments to count, but the one thing this story captures so well is the power of the human spirit. Anne changes everyone around her for better with her imagination, positive nature, and strength of spirit. She's not without flaws though, her independent streak nearly costs her her happiness on a few occasions, but she always finds a way to come through in the end. Also great is the supporting cast. Who else wouldn't want Matthew and Marilla as neighbors? Or Dianne or Gilbert as a friends or a girlfriend/boyfriend?

Looking back now, it reminds me of a simpler, purer time far removed from the grim and griminess of the cold, impersonal, so called, 'civilized' life now a days. My fondness for this series, the books, the made for TV films, and even the superb anime by Isao Takahata and Yoshifumi Kondo (who did the heart wrenching Grave of the Fireflies) hasn't diminished as the years have gone by. If you've never seen any of these before, you're cheating yourself out of a great experience. Read the books, watch the films, track down those anime episodes and get ready to be surprised with joy.

Sure, as a guy I can appreciate the carnage of a monster truck rally... but I get just as spell bound as Anne does picturing the White Way of Delight.

B.P.R.D., Vol. 5: The Black Flame
B.P.R.D., Vol. 5: The Black Flame
by Mike Mignola
Edition: Paperback
36 used & new from $3.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World War Frog begins, March 20, 2008
If you've come this far, you know what Hellboy and BPRD is all about, so onto Black Flame. It's probably the most action intense Hellboy story of all time, with oodles of pages of our heroes blowing frog demons to tiny pieces with very large guns. The scale of the story is impressive, and by the end of it the whole world realizes they are in some deep, deep trouble, hammered home by the death of a favorite character. It's got all the snappy dialog, character development, and 'feel' of prior stories turned up to 11. Some may say this story is too militaristic, but I disagree. Is the battle of Armageddon any less of a story than the ones Mike Mignola usually draws on? Plus, it's cool to see normal human BPRD agents carrying on the good fight which is rare indeed. Mankind makes its stand against the frogs here and now! So what are you waiting for? Read it!

Tales from the Emerald Sword Saga
Tales from the Emerald Sword Saga
Price: $16.64
24 used & new from $6.94

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Draw your emerald blade!, August 13, 2006
If you've never listend to Rhapsody, you're missing out on one of the most unique musical experiences of our time. The idea of composing and reinventing the 'bard's tale' of eras past is the unifying theme throughout Rhapsody's releases. Take one part Spinal Tap showmanship, one part Iron Maiden, the vocals of Queen, throw in some Bach and Beethoven, back it up with a full choir, have the band dress up like renfair geeks, hit blend, and you've got Rhapsody.

Yes, the high fantasy story is cheesy as hell, but it works and rather infectous too. It's part of their charm. On the music side, it's really amazing how well fast paced speed metal anthems combine with classical music (often with full choir back up singers and latin verses) to create one of the most epic and exhilirating modern 'symphonies' I've ever heard. Probably the best comparison would be Nobuo Uematsu's "One Winged Angel" remix for Advent Children. If you liked all that pomp, rocking speed and over the top craziness, there's no doubt you'll find Rhapsody a breath of fresh air from the staleness of the music scene in general.

Most of the songs are blazingly fast, with lots of screaming guitar and bass work and intense drums but can also be surprisingly melodic. The keyboard trumpets, organs, pianos etc punctuate key moments and set up the songs very nicely, while the violin work adds an eeire beauty to even the most hardcore tracks. The great thing is how the songs can change tempo, instruments, vocal range and style (alternating between classic and metal and sometimes playing simultaniously) on a dime seemlessly for a wonderful variety of sounds within a single song. Dawn of Victory is perhaps the best example of this along with Winds of Eternity. But ultimately, it's Fabio Lione's vocals and Luca Turilli's composing and guitar that hold this band together. Their enthusiasm and passion for what they do shines through in every one of Rhapsody's songs. It takes a brave man to rock it hard about dragons and dark lords, but if anyone is up to the challenge, it's these two. Turilli especially deserves a lot of credit for knowing when to go all out and when to be suble. Despite what critics have said in the past, Rhapsody does back off the gas... when it suits them.

The only thing that's criminal about this release is the exclusion of Eternal Glory, one of the strongest tracks of Symphony of Enchanted Lands. But that is what full albums are for afterall.

Still, if you're looking for a CD that shows what Rhapsody is all about, this is a good place to start. So, take a listen to the preview tracks listed on full albums here at Amazon, and take your first step into a larger music world.

Superman: Our Worlds At War - Book 01
Superman: Our Worlds At War - Book 01
by Various
Edition: Paperback
49 used & new from $2.19

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good story that's worth your time, January 8, 2005
Every so often, it seems the DC bigshots decide to scale up the traditional superhero battles between good and evil. Usually, this involves a sort of "mega villan" where every superhero, their cousin, the army, and their arch nemesis have to pitch in to avoid universal destruction. As Doctor Evil would say, pretty standard really. This is basically a in continuity version of Crisis on Infine Earths (which is great as well). Our Worlds at War part I & II continue this fine tradition of throwing out a huge, evil pinyata for our heroes, and villians, to wail on.

The two books are loaded with great action, but there are some very good character moments as well. Superman has to overcome his doubt and uncertainty in the wake of his (supposed) parents death. Surpisingly, some of the best moments are between Supes and his long time enemy Lex Luthor. While they still hate each other's guts, both men realise they have to set aside not only their rivalry, but their preceptions of each other to save the world. They actually have to *trust* each other and work together as a *real* team. The two might still hate each other by book's end, but you get the feeling they understand each other better. Lets just say by the end of the story, Superman gets mad, REALLY mad. People who value their lives should learn not to do that. Kudos to the team for bringing back a lot of interesting supporting characters back into the limelight. World War II veteran Frank Rock and telepathic British badass Manchester Black both make cameo appearences (with a pretty important impact on the war's strategy).

I find it a little silly people criticise these books because they're "rip offs" and "unorigional". Hello? The entire history of comic books is ripping off other people's work. The only good ideas are the ones you steal. These trade paper backs lose a star for not including the JSA issue of Our World's At War (which is a pretty important part of the plot) and for some inconsistency in the art work. Overall though, if you want to see some old fashion superhero smackdown, you really can't go wrong with Our Worlds At War.

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