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Christian Wheeler's Profile

Customer Reviews: 141
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Helpful Votes: 2794


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Reviews Written by
Christian Wheeler "Husband/Father/Gamer/Proud Geek" RSS Feed (St. Louis)

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Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess
Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess
by Matthew Paul Turner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.99
84 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uproariosly funny, November 1, 2008
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
What a funny, clever and enlightening memoir!

Matthew Paul Turner relates his extraordinarily unusual fundamentalist childhood with good humor, gently ribbing (in a respectful way) the odd habits and beliefs of the fundamentalist church in which he spent much of his young life. Everything from Barbie-burnings (choking an entire class of kids with acrid smoke) and the annual boxing match between the preacher and Satan to a terrifying trip in the preacher's car, the evils of Whitney Houston, Catholics, the ACLU, contemporary Christian music, and Geraldine Ferraro, plus multiple Baptisms (four or five by the time he reached his teens) are covered with glib, often sarcastic commentary and frequent laugh-out-loud humor. (However, his humor is never mean-spirited or angry).

Even though he looks back on those things with a degree of trepidation these days, Turner is respectful of the effort people were making to save his soul: As misguided as they may have seemed, they meant well and only wanted the best for him, even though at times the cure seemed worse than the disease. Those experiences, rather than turning him away from a religious life, have actually brought him a deeper and more personal understanding of his relationship with God and Jesus.

Overall, this is a fun and entertaining read (easily finished in an afternoon) with a few minor flaws, most notably in the sudden transitions from boy to teen to adult. How did he cope during his teen years? That territory could have been a rich goldmine of humor and observation, but it comes up short. We also never quite understand how (or why) he formed his current beliefs, and that represents the book's biggest flaw. There was a missed opportunity here to reach out to those who have had similar experiences with extreme fundamentalism and may have fallen away from their beliefs or are having difficulty coping with them.

Those are relatively minor quibbles and only detract slightly from the overall impact of the book. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a good laugh and an entertaining story.


Graceling
Graceling
by Kristin Cashore
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.82
151 used & new from $0.38

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive debut, November 1, 2008
This review is from: Graceling (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've read many, many books of fantasy fiction in my life, and since I count Tolkien, Jordan, LeGuin, and Brooks among my favorites, my standards are pretty high. It takes an exceptional book in this genre to grab my attention.

Enter Graceling.

I went in with no expectations--after all, this was a debut novel, geared more towards individuals much younger than me, so I had no familiarity with the author or any preconceptions based on prior works. So it was to my surprise that I found myself enraptured by this book and its clever, plucky, and engaging heroine.

Katsa is easily one of the best female characters I've ever encountered in this genre. Anyone who's been through their teens will be able to relate to her occasional awkwardness, her questioning of authority, her increasing awareness of her sexuality, and her difficulty in finding her place in the world and her path in life. She's an ideal heroine and a well-developed character. Cashore imbues her with plenty of personality, grit, and determination, along with a fierce--and sometimes violent--temperament as she learns to control and cope with the extraordinary abilities she was born with (her "Grace").

Katsa's interactions with a young man also gifted with an unusual Grace form the core of the story, and quickly turn to something that Katsa herself never thought she'd be able to experience: Love. The romantic portions are well-done, though some parents may object to the sexual nature of their relationship outside of marriage (Cashore keeps things discreet when it comes to sex). Her love of Prince Po keeps her grounded when some elements of her Grace--along with a sudden fight for survival--upend her life. There's a surprising twist near the end of the story that changes some things between them, but ultimately strengthens their relationship. Since sequel books seem likely, it will be interesting to see where they go from here.

The book is well-plotted overall, with a few minor stumbles here and there (one being an unbelievable coincidence that brings Katsa in contact with the execrable King Leck). Those can be attributed primarily to Cashore's relative inexperience and only slightly detract from the book as a whole. The elements of political intrigue woven throughout the story establish a solid groundwork for likely future novels. It would also be interesting to see more about the intriguing Princess Bitterblue, the ten-year-old girl that falls into Katsa's protection.

A note to parents: This book is geared towards young teens, and contains some elements of sexuality, a brief discussion of birth control, and some moments of descriptive violence. There's also frequent references to unsavory men leering at young women and teens. Recommended for 15 and up, or for mature early teens.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would also recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy yarn.


Creative Labs EF0210 Fatal1ty USB Gaming Headset with Sound Blaster X-Fi Technology (Black)
Creative Labs EF0210 Fatal1ty USB Gaming Headset with Sound Blaster X-Fi Technology (Black)

5.0 out of 5 stars Great headset for gaming and more, September 4, 2008
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Named after famed professional tournament gamer Jonathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel, the Creative Fatal1ty headset is a fine piece of gaming equipment. Wendel takes his gaming seriously, and it shows in the design of this headset, which has first-rate audio quality for both gaming and music.

For gaming, the headset was tested with the ne pas ultra of online gaming: World of Warcraft. Audio quality was excellent, owing in large part to the built-in 3D positional audio, which added depth and detail to the aural surroundings. Teammate voices were clear and easily heard. The microphone also performed well...my regular playing partners could tell I was using a new headset just from the voice quality. The noise-cancelling feature was definitely a plus.

Also tested with similar results on a friend's PC, also running WoW. The extra padding is a definite plus for long gaming sessions, and did not seem to affect audio quality or feedback at all.

The headset also performed well with music, even though that's a secondary use. Treble and pitch were somewhat limited, and varied a bit with different types of music, but a quick equalizer adjustment fixed that problem. Bass feedback was excellent, regardless of musical type. Not a bad alternative to my existing headphones for the PC. The inline volume control is also a plus.

As an added bonus, the included music software allowed my wife more options for her Creative Labs Zen MP3 player, above and beyond what was included with the unit originally.

Overall, an excellent value for PC gamers, especially those who take their online gaming seriously. Strongly recommended.


Darth Vader Episode V FX Lightsaber
Darth Vader Episode V FX Lightsaber

71 of 76 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The perfect gift for Star Wars fans (like me), April 16, 2005
We just started carrying these at my store, and I have to say that this is one expensive toy that is definitely worth the cost. Master Replicas consistently produces some of the finest reproductions and replicas on the market, and this is no exception. Powered by three AA batteries (which seem to last about 15-20 hours), the saber features some really cool effects: When you first toggle the activation switch, the blade lights up in a manner reminiscent of the films: The light travels from the pommel to the tip, rather than the whole thing just lighting up at once. The red blade has a nice glow, especially in lower light. Swing the sabre, and it hums and buzzes. Strike something--how hard is up to you, the sabre seems to be pretty durable--and it makes a clashing sound. Strike two sabres together, and the clashing sound is louder and more pronounced. The saber also has an auto-off feature to save battery life: Leave it alone for a few minutes, and it automatically shuts off. Some people may be concerned about how well this holds up over time and use, especially since this is no mere cheap plastic sword, but an expensive replica. Fear not. So far, our demo unit has seen probably a hundred hours of use between customers and employees, along with a few duels with our Anakin sabre replica. So far, so good. So it seems to be pretty durable. It's well-made, and the chrome handle is nicely detailed and closely modeled after the one Darth Vader carries in the movie. Highly recommended for Star Wars fans.


Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker Lightsaber Force FX Edition
Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker Lightsaber Force FX Edition
17 used & new from $600.00

137 of 143 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect gift for the Star Wars junkie (like me), April 16, 2005
We just started carrying these at my store, and I have to say that this is one expensive toy that is definitely worth the cost. Master Replicas consistently produces some of the finest reproductions and replicas on the market, and this is no exception. Powered by three AA batteries (which seem to last about 15-20 hours), the saber features some really cool effects: When you first toggle the activation switch, the blade lights up in a manner reminiscent of the films: The light travels from the pommel to the tip, rather than the whole thing just lighting up at once. The blue blade has a nice glow, especially in lower light. Swing the sabre, and it hums and buzzes. Strike something--how hard is up to you, the sabre seems to be pretty durable--and it makes a clashing sound. Strike two sabres together, and the clashing sound is louder and more pronounced. The saber also has an auto-off feature to save battery life: Leave it alone for a few minutes, and it automatically shuts off. Some people may be concerned about how well this holds up over time and use, especially since this is no mere cheap plastic sword, but an expensive replica. Fear not. So far, our demo unit has seen probably a hundred hours of use between customers and employees, along with a few duels with our Vader sabre replica. So far, so good. So it seems to be pretty durable. It's well-made, and the chrome handle is nicely detailed and closely modeled after the one Anakin carries in the movie. Highly recommended for Star Wars fans.

I hope this review was helpful.

--Christian Wheeler, Star Wars buff


Halo 2: The Official Game Guide
Halo 2: The Official Game Guide
by Piggyback Interactive Ltd.
Edition: Paperback
294 used & new from $0.01

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It has its uses, March 14, 2005
The Halo 2 campaign mode is simple enough that most players won't need a guide to negotiate it. The campaign is pretty straightforward in design; unlike some games (such as GTA), detailed level maps aren't really needed. However, the guide offers many extras that make it a worthwhile purchase.

For one, the detailed maps of the campaign mode offer weapon and vehicle locations and enemy weaknesses, useful when one's plasma rifle or SMG is running low on ammo and a pair of Hunters are closing fast. The detailed information on weapons allows newbies to acquaint themselves with Halo 2's large array of available armament and vehicles. Veterans of the original game will quickly become familiar with the new weapons of Halo 2. (Of course, there's something to be said for learning as you go). The guide also offers detailed information on the various creatures of the Covenant, adding to the ongoing story of Halo. A note of caution, however: If you don't want to spoil the ending, don't read the last chapter of the campaign mode. (I made that mistake...it was still cool, though).

The best reason to get the guide, however, is for the multiplayer maps, which include weapon and vehicle locations, strategic points for ambushes and sniping, detailed maps, and tips on setting up games and clans. Charging blindly into Halo 2's XBox Live levels can be suicidal; most of my friends who play on Live credit the strategy guide for giving them a heads-up on where to find what they need. So the guide does have its uses beyond the usual campaign walkthrough. Especially recommended to those who are new to the Halo universe.

I hope this review was helpful

--Christian Wheeler, gamer and games retailer.


MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf Limited Edition
MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf Limited Edition
Offered by Jared's Outlet
Price: $29.99
104 used & new from $0.02

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good sequel, plenty of action, March 13, 2005
The original Mech Assault was one of the first big hits for the XBox system. Borrowing from the old Battle Tech franchise, the original game was an excellent shoot-em-up that boasted destructable environments (ever take down a city one building at a time?) and first-rate action. Though repetitive, it was never boring, and I still play it from time to time. This sequel offers much of what made the original so much fun, and adds some nice new features that make this a slight cut above its predecessor.

For one, the designers borrowed an idea from the GTA series (or maybe from Metal Arms): Hijack an enemy's mech (or other vehicle) and use it against the opposition. Unfortunately, one can't pick just any enemy to hijack; the game's plot requires you to jack specific mechs or vehicles at certain points of the game. Granted, it's still fun to be able to sneak up on an enemy and steal his mech, but it would have been more fun to be able to do it at random (a la Metal Arms). That would have added a twist to the gameplay. Still, it's a welcome addition.

Like the original, the sequel requires you to follow a certain path: defend the Icarus, destroy enemy bases and equipment, and defend innocents from the marauding Mechs of the Word of Blake (yes, they're back). The unusual technology captured from the Word at the end of the original plays a key role in the plot, and the enemies you face are more difficult to kill as a result. Even low-level mechs are a little more challenging than before. And, there are the bosses. Mech Assault featured just one major boss, whereas Mech Assault 2 features multiple powerful bosses that are reasonably tough. I won't give away too much, but the first boss you face--a gargantuan spider-like mech--is easily one of the coolest things to grace any XBox game in a while. (To give you an idea of what it's like, think of the Scarab in Halo 2). Many of the original mechs are back, and one thing I like about the new mechs in this game is the greater combination of speed and power than before. For example: in the original, Thor mechs offered sheer destructive power, but moved so slowly that I sometimes found my thumbs aching after a showdown with multiple enemies. The new mechs offer both greater firepower and ease of movement--a definite (and welcome) plus.

While Mech Assault featured excellent graphics, with an emphasis on graphically realistic building destruction, this game offers sharper environmental design, more detailed mechs, and some genuinely awesome effects: When a mech explodes, the detonation now causes a ripple-like warp effect in the immediate area. The greater emphasis on these type of effects comes at the expense of some others: You can still destroy buildings and other structures, but the ensuing collapse is less satisfactory. Like the original, the destructable environments offer a tactical advantage--you can still drop a building on top of an unsuspecting enemy. Cutscenes and other graphical extras are well-designed and animated. It definitely showcases how much better console graphics have become in just a few short years.

Overall, this a solid sequel to the original, and is recommended.

I hope this review was helpful

--Christian Wheeler, gamer and games retailer


Wait Until Dark
Wait Until Dark
DVD ~ Audrey Hepburn
Price: $13.09
57 used & new from $4.09

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb suspense film, January 21, 2005
This review is from: Wait Until Dark (DVD)
A recently blinded woman is terrorized by a sociopathic drug dealer who is seeking packets of heroin mistakenly left in her apartment. The stunning Audrey Hepburn (in an Oscar-nominated role) shines as Suzy Hendrix, and Alan Arkin matches wits with her as the dealer (he also plays two other roles) in a game of cat-and-mouse that builds to a hair-raisingly tense and exciting climax. Hepburn is in top form in one of her better performances, a believable mix of vulnerability, terror, and gutsy, raw courage. Sweat-inducing and nerve-wracking at times, poignant and touching at others, "Wait Until Dark" still packs a wallop and is one of the best suspense films ever made. Recommended to anyone who likes a good thriller, and fans of "Panic Room" and "Blink" may also like this taut and well-made movie.


Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King
Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King
Offered by META Gaming
Price: $49.96
134 used & new from $1.30

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First-rate action game, December 8, 2004
The second Lord of the Rings game, "The Two Towers," belonged to that rare group of worthy film-based games. How many movie tie-in games have been less-than-stellar garbage capitalizing on a film's popularity? With "The Return of the King," EA follows up their excellent effort on "Towers" with one of the best games of the year. A warning to those who have not read the books and do not know how the trilogy ends: As expected, the game contains many spoilers.

The biggest difference between ROTK and its predecessors may be the amount of action: Fellowship was mostly plot-oriented, and Two Towers featured many small battles and one great action piece--Helm's Deep. ROTK, however, thrives on action. From start to finish, this game is non-stop action and adventure: gargantuan Siege Towers, monstrous trolls, bloodthirsty Uruk-Hai--this game gives you all you can handle, and then some. You'll be thankful for the occasional pauses to rest your thumbs--before the next attack begins. The game features voice-work from the film's actors and some of the most amazing backgrounds and environments I've ever seen in a video game, with perfect contrast between light and dark elements. Like the films, there's meticulous attention to detail. Character design and appearance is first-rate, and character animation (thanks to motion-capture technology) is smooth and even. In addition, the sound quality (THX, no less) is outstanding--every roar, every clash of steel resounds through your speakers.

ROTK features three distinct playable storylines: The Path of the King, The Path of the Hobbits, and The Path of the Wizard. One can play as Aragorn, Legolas, Gandalf, Gimli, Frodo, or Sam, and beating the game unlocks three new characters. Follow Aragorn on the Paths of the Dead and recruit the undead to fight alongside you, from Minas Tirith to the Black Gate. Follow Frodo and Sam from Osgiliath to Shelob's Lair to Mount Doom. Take the wizard's path, and have Gandalf fight from Orthanc to Minas Tirith. There are thirteen levels, and the three storylines converge in a final level only accessible when all thirteen are finished. Some levels are relatively easy (Shelob's Lair wasn't too tough) and some are barbaric in their difficulty (Paths of the Dead took me six tries before I beat it). Each character has their own unique style and weapons, with plenty of enemies to battle: Shelob, Orcs, Mumakils (Oliphaunts), Uruk-Hai, The King of the Dead, and more. Attacks are pretty straightforward: Quick attack, Fierce attack, parry, or fire (arrows and the like). As you gain experience points from defeating enemies, you can acquire better weapons and skills (such as invisibility and the truly awesome Balrog's Revenge) to combat the increasingly difficult foes one faces as the game progresses. And, one can choose to retain those points for oneself, or share them with other characters.

The game has three difficulty settings: Easy, normal, and hard. Easy is just that: easy. Normal is moderately challenging, but beatable for most average gamers. Select hard, and you're asking for it. The enemies seem to never end, and even the lowliest orcs take incredible amounts of punishment before falling. Hard difficulty may be best tackled with the game's Co-Op mode, which allows a friend to participate. A major problem with the game, however, is that you can't replay a level until you've beaten it. But once you complete it, every level opens up and can be played by any character--which gives the game better long-term replayability than most movie titles (and many non-movie ones, as well). One thing I didn't like was the occasional difficulty caused by the game's third-person perspective. Like most TP games, certain positions or angles create blind spots. In close combat, this can prove to be a major aggravation. But those are relatively minor things that detract little from the overall quality of this game. For anyone looking for an excellent action/adventure game, this can't be beat. Highly recommended.

I hope this review was helpful

--Christian Wheeler, gamer and games retailer


Xbox Live 12-Month Starter Kit
Xbox Live 12-Month Starter Kit
5 used & new from $42.95

232 of 235 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best value for XBox Live, December 8, 2004
XBox Live is Microsoft's online gaming service that allows gamers from all over the world to interact and play together. As of this writing, there are more than 150 games with XBox Live compatibility (including the dynamic Halo 2 and the popular EA Sports games), and more than 1 million subscribers worldwide. This starter kit includes everything one will need to enter the world of XBox Live: A one-year subscription card and a headset, plus a great game: Crimson Skies (rated Teen for some mild language, violence, and suggestive content). However, there are some things people need to know before they get started on XBox Live.

For one, XBox Live will only work with high-speed Internet connections, such as DSL or cable modems. Dial-up is not supported. There are a handful of options for connecting XBox Live to your high-speed service:

Direct connect is the simplest option. The XBox has an Ethernet jack on its back that takes a standard Ethernet cable. If the XBox is close to your PC, then you can simply disconnect the Ethernet jack from the PC and plug it directly into the XBox.

A better option that saves wear and tear on your cables and ports is to use a router. A router will take your incoming Internet connection and allow it to be split between multiple destinations. You can run one line to your PC, and one to the XBox. I recommend (from personal experience) a Linksys brand router.

Another option is to go wireless. If the XBox and the PC are in different rooms, then going wireless may be the best option, rather than run hundreds of feet of Ethernet cable or drill through floors and walls. Once you set up a wireless network in your house using a wireless router, buy a wireless game adapter and you'll be able to play Live almost anywhere in the house.

The Microsoft Wireless-G XBox Adapter is a good solution (Amazon ASIN: B0000C5FMJ). For a wireless network adapter, look again to Linksys; spend a few extra dollars and go with a wireless-G setup. It's about 5x faster than a wireless-B setup for just a few dollars more.

Once you're set up, logging into Live is pretty easy. Your XBox will do most of the work. Hook up the included headset (for talkback) and you're ready to go. I've played Halo 2 with or against people from literally all over the world; one memorable match was against four Marines somewhere in the Pacific. A warning for parents of kids under 17 or so: The language on Live gets pretty rough, with the "f" word being about as common as breathing.(I've been called things I won't repeat in public). There's little, if any moderation, and when it comes to language, anything goes. (Just a friendly warning).

This package includes a one-year subscription card. Once that expires, one can renew using an XBox Live Subscription card (Amazon ASIN: B00005BPJ5, about $50), or you can extend it with the XBox Live 3 Month Starter kit (about $40, ASIN: B00020DGMC; it also includes a headset, so you'll have a spare). Some games (such as Halo 2) include 2-month free trial cards, which you can also use to extend an existing account.

I hope this review was helpful.

--Christian Wheeler, gamer and games retailer


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