Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Review: "Punderdome" Card Game

Punderdome is a creative card game for at least three pun-loving people. Players can compete as individuals or small teams, as long as there is always at least one person or team to be the "Prompter" while at least two other individuals or teams can compete in the round.

Each round begins with a warm up question, where the first team to answer with a pun that fits  receives an extra 30 seconds to come up with their pun that round.

A suggested answer is provided, but any answer that fits is accepted and encouraged.

The round itself is played with the Prompter revealing a white card and a green card with which the teams have 90 seconds to combine into a pun and write it down. The Prompter votes on the best, and the winner becomes Prompter for next round. First team to 10 round victories wins the game.

This one took me more like five minutes than 90 seconds, but I'm proud to finally say my response to this is: Kung-Fu-cianism (Confucianism). I found it quite challenging to come up with something, so I could see wanting to play in teams especially at first, though you would need at least 6 players to do even teams.

An example given in the rules is Exercising Furniture:

  • You can only run sofa until you need to take a break!
  • Come on in here, pull-up a chair!
  • I never go to the gym--I'm more of a La-Z-Boy.

Winning the game involves choosing one of two mystery envelopes that the Host of the game has filled secretly before the game with a slip of paper that names a prize. The game suggests that one could be a good prize ("I'll buy you a drink") while one could be a rotten prize (a used napkin). A carry-over from the live game show the card game is based on, I'm sure it could be very interesting if you have great ideas for the prizes. However, as someone who plays games often, I could see it as being a hassle, a deterrent from playing, and frankly just unnecessary. Games don't need prizes to make them fun to play! I could see skipping the prize envelope entirely and just letting winning 10 rounds be the end of the game. If you had specific plans to play Punderdome, planning ahead could make the prize envelope part more fun.

This is the live game show the card game is based off.

All things considered, this could be a really fun game with the right group of creative individuals. Like any game, knowing your audience and their game preferences is important for knowing if this game would go over well. If you have a friend that is always inserting corny puns into everyday conversation like I do, you know this game would be a perfect fit.

A final note: as a game enthusiast/nerd, I have to express my appreciation that the box has dividers for keeping the two decks of cards separate. I love an organized game box.

I received a free copy of this game in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Can't Wait to Read: "This Is Not the End" by Jesse Jordan

"There's nothing I hate like arguments in the face of overwhelming logic. There are two reasons I know more than is possible about you. The first is simply that more is possible than you comprehend. The second is that we've been keeping track of you for a very long time, because you are a very special boy. I'm sorry--young man. A very special young man. You must excuse a certain amount of unintentional condescension from those of us who are very old. In any case, what I was beginning to say is that I've been watching you. And I've been waiting for this day, when I could finally meet you and begin." (44)

The biggest congratulations to Jesse Jordan on the release of his second novel:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Review: "The Never-Open Desert Diner" by James Anderson

Working a delivery route on a remote stretch of Utah highway, Ben Jones is just an eccentric character as the residents that he serves. Ben's cash is running low from the route that isn't profitable enough to pay his bills. The first half of the book gives an interesting peek into the lives of those societal outcasts, such as Walt who owns a diner that hasn't been officially open since his wife died, a preacher who carries a cross through the desert everyday, and a mysterious woman squatting in an abandoned house in a never-developed subdivision.

The woman, Claire, is hiding out avoiding her husband, whom she is in the process of divorcing. Though she at first threatens Ben to stay away, he's drawn to the mystery of her after seeing her play the cello through the papered up windows of the abandoned house. When people start snooping around the desert, he suspects it is Claire they're after, but he can't give her up--he's falling in love with her.

I absolutely loved the first half of the book because of the detail and complexity of the residents of the desert. I enjoyed reading how each one had a particular way of interacting with Ben, and he respected and understood the residents in a way that no outsider ever could. When he met the preacher along the road, they'd pretend to smoke a cigarette together. Walt, the owner of the diner always could seem to sense Ben's presence and was never particularly nice, but Ben considered Walt his best friend.

As Ben learns more through his customers and a police interrogation, things start to get muddled for Ben as he tries to sort out the right course of action.The second half of the book definitely holds more surprises, but for all the shock value they provided, it was ultimately not as interesting to me as the first part. The mysteries are resolved through an information dump at the end to explain all of the loose connections, which was not engaging or rewarding, especially after my initial excitement with this novel.

It's a decent read for anyone who likes in-depth looks at unique characters, combined with some mystery and suspense, but some parts were a little too dark for me.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Review: "Wonderland: A Coloring Book Inspired by Alice's Adventures" by Amily Shen

Wonderland: A Coloring Book Inspired by Alice's Adventures is more than just pages to color: there's also activities and a story. The papers is nice and thick, so no need to worry about markers bleeding through the double sided pages.

The book is divided into 9 sections, each beginning with a "title page" and a few paragraphs of story. The following 4-6 pages are beautiful designs related to the story just presented. For this reason, this coloring book is unusual in that you may want to go through the coloring pages in order, to fully experience the story.

There are several activities spread throughout, such as a maze, hidden pictures, and suggesting that you add your own drawings to specific pages. You also get to solve the mystery of who ate the Queen of Hearts' cakes. I wasn't interested in the activity parts of the book, but they are not overdone or obtrusive if you're only interested in coloring.

Some of the illustrations are single pages, while others run both sides. While it's nice to have a large and complex scene to color, this book has a lot of designs that are in the fold, making it extremely difficult and testing for the perfectionist in me that doesn't want any white showing in the middle where the pencils can't reach!

Other features of note are a to/from dedication page and the removable dust jacket that you can color the inside of for an extra long coloring experience.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Review: "Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown" by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown is the the best in the series thus far. The sixth of the series, this book contains major developments from the overall story running through the entire series. That said, it also may be the last installment, as things were wrapped up nicely at the end. That would be a shame, because this series is fantastic for getting children interested in reading and in science.

Nick and Tesla are staying with their Uncle Newt while their parents are missing. Everyone in the family is particularly interested in inventions and science, and Nick and Tesla use their skills to try to find out what happened to their parents.

Filled with illustrations and instructions to build gadgets along with the kid sleuths in the book, this book is engaging for a child to read with an adult's help for some of the tools needed in the inventions. A solar-powered hot dog cooker, a ping-pong ball signal cannon, solar spy birdhouse, and a solar-powered long-range rover are among the projects that you can build along as you read this mystery. The components needed for these gadgets (including mini-solar panels) may be less readily available than the materials for previous books' projects.

New characters introduced in this book seem to be less developed and really don't have any specific traits, but they have minor roles as Nick, Tesla, their friends, and their uncle are the main characters.

The story refers back to things that happened in all of the other Nick and Tesla books (with footnotes from the authors reminding you which story it was in). Therefore, this book is best read after reading everything else to fully appreciate it.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Review: "Remember to Forget" by Ashley Royer

Levi hasn't spoken since the sudden death of his girlfriend, Delia. After months of therapy, there was no improvement on his depression, or his refusal to speak. Out of ideas, his mother decides that he should move from Australia to go live with his father in Maine. Levi is rude, sarcastic, and even cruel to his father when he arrives and to everyone he meets. Neighbors Aiden and Delilah go out of their way to befriend him, despite his attitude. Even Deliliah's name is similar to his lost love, making it even harder for Levi to accept her offers of friendship. But when he realizes he may have feelings for the girl he once hated, he'll have to sort through his emotions and finally work toward healing and moving on.

Even though he is absolutely horrible to everyone around him, the chapters told from his perspective allow the reader to see why he acts the way he does and to know what he is thinking when he is not speaking. There's also chapters written from Delilah's perspective, but they really don't give a good reason as to why she wanted to be friends with Levi when he was downright hostile toward her. She apparently wants to solve the mystery that is Levi, but I don't buy it as a motivation because of the consistency with which he pushes her away, not giving her any hint that he could eventually become friendly. Delilah also just happens to work at Levi's new psychiatrist's office, going as far as to snoop in his records to find out more about him.

Though some parts were unrealistic and contrived, overall the story was interesting enough. The details surrounding Delia's death are revealed slowly through out the book, which added some mystery and depth. There's some great feel good moments to combat Levi's horrifying depression and self-doubt that is abundant in the first half of the novel. When I wasn't rolling my eyes at the cheesiness or unbelievable characters, I cried, I smiled, and I was decently satisfied with the read.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Review: "Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular" by "Science Bob" Pfugffelder and Steve Hockensmith

For any kids interested in movies and making their own homemade movies, Nick and Tesla's Special Effects Spectacular is the perfect easy-to-read novel.

Nick and Tesla are spending their summer living with their inventor uncle while their scientist parents are away on a mysterious work trip. To entertain themselves, the kids and their new friends begin filming their own action movie complete with homemade props for special effects. The kids even get a chance to visit the scene of a big-time superhero movie being filmed in town. However nothing seems to be going as planned, and the children believe someone is trying to sabotage the movie. Using inventions, cunning, and critical thinking, the four friends work together to solve the mystery and save the movie.

As in all books in the Nick and Tesla series, this story contains several inventions/experiments that you can do as you read along. All require an adult's help but are mostly able to be completed by the child. Learn how to build a device to keep a smart phone steady while filming, a robotic grabbing arm, a stunt dummy, a grappling hook (with wrist launcher!), and zombie makeup. The instructions are all clearly written and a list of materials needed is provided. The inventions are described right after they are mentioned in the text so that you can use them along with the characters.

The mystery was decent, even though it was predictable. The best part is always reading about which things Nick and Tesla notice and how that ends up helping them solve the mystery.

As a part of the series, this book spent very little time "at home" with eccentric inventor uncle Newt, and only briefly mentioned the larger mystery of what was going on with Nick and Tesla's parents. There is, however, new information at the end, setting up for the next exciting installment in the Nick and Tesla series.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.