FOTM Indie Book Reviews – The Pink Dolphin Tale by Ruthz SB

If you or your little ones are fans of more recent Robert Munsch stories, then ‘The Pink Dolphin Tale’ by Ruthz SB will fit nicely on your shelves. It’s a light, fantastical little tale about little ones reaching their potential, and has nice undertones for parents of knowing when to let their kids crawl out from under the umbrella and see the world for themselves.

Ruthz SB has a simple writing style that will appeal to young readers, with repeatable phrases and an engaging story. Bebe, the main character, is a likable little guy that kids will relate to. Parents won’t mind reading this one three or four times a night, as it is a quick read and won’t fall into the ‘not this one again’ trap.

The author illustrated the story herself, and the drawings complement the tale well. They are bright, open and full of life. A good effort all around by Ruthz SB.

Buy it here at: http://amzn.to/1B1xtOq

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Indie Book Reviews – Dark Prophecy by J.N. Colon

I am new to this series, and I didn’t even know there was a one and a two before it. I just plunged right into three, and if Greek mythology is something you like, then you’ll probably enjoy ‘Divine Darkness: Dark Prophecy’ which is actually book three of the series.

Hades and Zeus have fallen in love with the same girl: Hartley. She is tied to the Underworld in a way explained in the previous books, and I’m going to have go back and find out for myself what that’s all about, but the author does a decent job of bringing everyone up to speed. Hades and Zeus have real world alter egos: Hayden and Zeke. Zeke (Zeus) makes a deal with Hecate that Hartley can lead a normal life, but only if Hayden forgets about her, and vice versa.

I don’t normally read mythological romance, but I found myself enjoying this book. I loved the Percy Jackson books, and at times, this felt like a grown-up version of those. There are nice little touches throughout of the gods trying to blend in with the real world, such as Hermes wearing Chuck Taylor’s, and all of them having to rely on cell phones.

One thing that I could suggest for the author next time is more pith in the character descriptions. They were good, but leave a little more to the reader’s imagination. That might just be a personal preference, but it is my review, after all.

I can honestly recommend Dark Prophecy, even if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series. The mythology adds a nice layer to the love triangle that takes it out of the tried-and-true realms that so much YA falls into. Well done, Ms. Colon.

Buy it here: http://amzn.to/1G4ixis

Happy Reading!

Joshua’s Island by Patrick Hodges

This is an important book. Hodges has written a powerful, moving story, and done so in impressive fashion.

Joshua has suffered for three long years at the hands of Rhonda and her bully squad. Eve has just been drawn into Rhonda’s inner circle. Hodges tells the story in alternating viewpoint, which I was trepidatious about at first. Stories like ‘Sarum’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ work as multiple viewpoint tales, thanks to sweeping landscapes and epic timelines. ‘Joshua’s Island’ is an intensely personal tale, told from Eve’s and Joshua’s perspectives. The back-and-forth works wonderfully, and Hodges even doubles back from time to time, retelling events from the opposing character’s viewpoint. It was a risky move, but one that immensely paid off. It drives home the effects of bullying, and how one event can trigger countless others.

Another risk Hodges took was writing a teenage story with real kids. No one has secret powers, no one turns 13 and becomes a wizard/vampire/werewolf/alien, and everybody just tries to go about their regular, day-to-day lives. This feeds the emotional impact of the story to reach amazing heights. He’s made the conversations between teenagers actually sound like conversations between teenagers, which is no mean feat.

‘Joshua’s Island’ is not for the squeamish. There are scenes of intense violence, but none of it feels gratuitous. These are moments that countless kids experience across the globe every day, and they are too often sugar-coated and buried underneath political correctness and adult mishandling. Hodges has gone for it, and again, the book is made better and more impactful because of it.

This book would not be out of place in a classroom setting, serving as a wonderful way to show how important it is to speak up, build a community, and not be afraid to step in when you see something happening you know is wrong. Hodges has written a very powerful, important book that should reach a wide audience and be appreciated for the amazing story it is. Thank you, Mr. Hodges.

Buy it now on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Fg3qos

And check out Patrick Hodges’s Author blog:  http://bit.ly/1DWOD0k

Check out my book series, LYRIC!

Well, I haven’t posted here for a bit because I’ve been rather occupied with all things kid. Never a dull moment around here, let me tell you.

I’ve also decided to go the indie route for my two-part book series, LYRIC. I got it professionally edited and everything. I’m such a grown-up, I can’t even stand myself.

It’s a middle grade adventure story with a strong, funny heroine who has to use her music to save the world. Not exactly the kind of stuff that makes blockbuster-churners squeal with dollar signs in their eyes, but I’ve put it out into the world for all to see. It’s up at Amazon and Smashwords, and a print copy will be available soon.

Here are the links, if you are interested.

‘Lyric the Unknown’ Amazon : http://amzn.to/1xNeJM4

‘Lyric the Unknown’ Smashwords : http://bit.ly/16yJoqa

‘Lyric & Melody’ Amazon : http://amzn.to/16yJcqX

‘Lyric & Melody’ Smashwords : http://bit.ly/1CGZ3Sm

Thanks, everyone. Have a good one! If anyone does decide to read them, I’d love to know what you think.

The Three – Bad, Writer! Bad!

My wife and I adore watching movies together. Good movies, bad movies, and everything in between. We are always willing to suspend our disbelief for all but the most far-fetched of cinematic ideas, and have liked (tolerated) a fair number of films that were universally reviled.

That’s not to say we don’t watch with our brains in jars on the bookshelf. (We read, too. Aren’t we amazing?) We swallow a heaping spoonful of crap dialogue, and almost every movie made has at least a clunky line or two that doesn’t sound like actual conversation.

We are therefore proposing a list. A list of the most cliched lines that are trotted out in nearly every form of media, but stick out the most in movies because it’s a visual and auditory medium. In a book, you can just read the line and have done with it. In the film version, you have to watch it being spoken, hear it out loud, AND feel sorry for the poor actor that had to try to make it work.

I give you my top three most cliched lines.

1.) RUN FOR IT!

Honestly, if you’ve ever found yourself in a life-or-death, or even be-hurt-or-flee situation in your life, how many times did you take a full ten seconds to look at all your super-hot friends and scream ‘RUN FOR IT!?’

No times. That’s how many.

2.) YOU DON’T HAVE CLEARANCE!

But I bet you all the money that’s ever been made in the history of the universe that I’ll still get through that door somehow, because I’m either a plucky redhead who’s being forced to wear high heels in a job where I run everywhere, or I’m a rugged type that never shaves in a job that would have a strict dress and facial hair code in real life. Here’s my clearance right here!

3.) I CAN’T LOSE YOU AGAIN!

Then stop being a dick to her. End of chat.

There are countless others, and then there’s the whole wonderful world of just plain bad lines. The one-offs so stinky they have a bigger following than the movie itself. I would love to hear some of your favourites.

Saturday Reviews – InFamous: Second Son

I think I’ve developed a bad attitude towards movies as of late. I look at the running time and I think ‘ooohh, that’s over two hours long. Just think what I could do with those two hours.’ Unless it’s a movie I really want to watch, I nine times out of ten will choose the alternative.

Not so with video games. I could play a game for that entire two hours and feel like I’ve actually accomplished something. Is that the nature of games? Is it because I’m an active participant in the proceedings as opposed to a phantom merely observing the goings-on of the characters that I don’t notice the time sliding away?

Maybe I should go read a book. Or work out. Or write my daily thousand words.

Nope. I think I’ll review a video game. That’s productive.

INFAMOUS: SECOND SON

A game came out a few years ago called InFamous, and in it you played the character of Cole McGrath, a very angry young man who gains the ability to control electricity. Your powers grew as the game progressed, until you could grind along monorail tracks and launch yourself off of skyscrapers, using the electricity in the air to propel you along. It was a generally good time, but the protagonist left most (including myself) dissatisfied with the overall arc and journey of the game.

In nearly every aspect, InFamous: Second Son is a much better game.

STORY

Four F-Yesses out of Five

This time around you’re in the shoes of Delsin Rowe, a member of the fictional Akomish tribe of the Pacific Northwest. I found it refreshing to have a Native American protagonist, and even more refreshing that the entire game didn’t become about the fact that Delsin was Native American. Too often writers and developers that make the choice to feature something other than ‘rugged white man’ as their MC focus entirely too much on the fact that the character isn’t a ‘rugged white man.’ This was never a problem with Second Son, and Sucker Punch deserves praise for that alone.

Delsin lives in an Akomish village, and one fine day a bus containing so-called ‘bio-terrorists’ crashes just outside the town. The bio-terrorists, or ‘Conduits’ as they prefer to be called, escape and flee. One of them heads into the village, and Delsin chases after him. Delsin and the Conduit have a tussle, and Delsin discovers that he’s a Conduit himself. An incredibly powerful one to boot, as he can absorb the power of any Conduit he physically contacts.

Your main mission through the game is to pursue the head of the D.U.P., the group assigned with the round-up and capture of bio-terrorists. Delsin and his brother have a great relationship, and their banter throughout is some of the better back-and-forth I’ve heard since Sully and Drake.

GRAPHICS

Four point five F-Yesses out of Five

The graphics are, in a word, astounding. Seattle is rendered in breathtaking fashion, the power effects are animated beautifully, and the facial expressions during cutscenes are getting closer and closer to reality with games like this. There is the tiniest bit of slowdown during combat when every enemy in town is after your blood, but not enough to truly take you out of the game.

I particularly enjoyed the neon effects at night when Delsin is racing around with Fetch, another Conduit you meet fairly early in the campaign.

GAMEPLAY

The controls are well-mapped and easy to use. The light attack and heavy attack are the same buttons for each power, and the special moves are mapped the same way. You can switch powers fairly easily, simply by finding a source of the power you wish to use and getting Delsin to drain it.

I played the game on Normal which provided me a decent challenge. I enjoyed sailing around the city on the wings of various city-drained elements, and unveiling new skills and abilities with each power honestly gave me a little thrill of discovery each and every time. The RPG-lite skill tree was a nice addition, however completionists that race around looking for every ‘data shard’ will find the tree easy to fill and complete in relatively short order.

GENERAL RATING

Four point five F-Yesses out of Five

I had a great time playing InFamous: Second Son. Fans of the series, and fans of third-person adventures will have fun in the world of Delsin Rowe. It is a much better game than the original InFamous, and that was already a pretty darn good game. Delsin is a great protagonist, and no matter which karmic angle you choose, you’ll find yourself crushing the D.U.P. with a smile on your face.

World’s Dumbest Interview III: Tobin Smith, ACTUAL Father of the Millenium and Photographer Extraordinaire

Fridays are widely regarded as one of the greatest days of the week. They’re right up there with Saturdays. They might even be a little bit better, because you have all that delicious anticipation of Saturday all Friday long.

What that has to do with the third World’s Dumbest Interview, I do not know. But F.O.T.M. has never gone out of its way to make sense, and will continue to avoid logic for the foreseeable future.

Without further ado, because there’s just so much ado floating around these days, F.O.T.M. is proud to present the World’s Dumbest Interview III. Our victim guest today is Tobin Smith, father of two and co-founder of PhoTobin, a Vancouver-based photography company run by Tobin and his wife, Sarah. Check out PhoTobin at http://www.photobinphotography.com.

He also makes amazing waffles.

And now, the true reason anyone has ever gone to the Internet – the World’s Dumbest Interview.

FOTM: And a very happy Friday to you, Mr. Tobin Smith. Are you excited for this outstanding interview?

TOBIN: (silence)

FOTM: Are you prepared for just how dumb this is going to be?

TOBIN: Admittedly, I believe I am. Does that speak to success of your branding?

FOTM: You are an enigma and a mystery, all rolled into one giant question.

TOBIN: That’s true. Although the question has yet to be asked.

FOTM: If you could have a meal named after you, what would it be?

TOBIN: Well my wife would say they’d have to simply rename Dorito’s (or nachos) because I’m corny and cheesy, but I would prefer have something complex, delicious, healthy and light tasting, yet deceptively filling. That meal sounds like an enigma and mystery all rolled into one satisfied stomach.

FOTM: Most clench-worthy experience?

TOBIN: Probably being a parent, running my own creative business and taking care of my wife who suffered a brain injury a year ago (she is doing better, she is not yet recovered but it does take a lot less of me now). I still wake up almost every morning with a sore jaw. I think my dentist would have some choice words for me and force me to have some kind of mouth guard. Like sleeping has become a contact sport.

FOTM: You are an omniscient, all-powerful being staring down at the planet. What’s the first thing you do?

TOBIN: I’m assuming by “the planet” you mean earth and not Saturn or Uranus… there is that the level of humour we’re resorting to? The ‘first thing I do?” Is that like… I’ve just made this planet? Like I’ve made earth? Then I’m not just ‘an omniscient, all powerful being”. I’m God. Or are there many of us, like a society of omniscient beings? You need to be more clear. I’m not going to walk out of this, but… sorry you did say I should prepare for how dumb this was going to be. I guess I wasn’t as prepared as I thought. So forgetting that. If I’m an ‘omniscient being that just made the planet’, then wouldn’t this be the second thing I do?  Sorry overthinking your dumb question again. I guess my gut reaction was to go use go take a picture of it… but probably drink a big class of water to wash it down with. Yes, I’d probably drink the planet. Who knows what kind of universe may exist in my tummy.

FOTM: Best movie villain ever?

TOBIN: Not a movie but a TV series, I think Frank Underwood of House of Cards is the amongst the best villains I have ever seen.

FOTM: Last one. Would you seek refuge in the stars or go down with the planet?

TOBIN: From the TV/Movie villain? Or just ‘hey there’s an alien invasion’? I’m a survivor. I’d seek refuge in the stars.

FOTM: Thank you, me. This has been most insightful.

TOBIN: To us both. Now please stop calling and breathing heavy into my phone in the middle of the night.

This concludes the interview. Please tune in next week for even more outstanding dumbness.

Dad Lesson Thursdays – The Baby Lift

Instant, undying, forever love.

That’s the only way to describe the way I felt six times in my life.

Once each time I found out my wife was pregnant.

Once each time I first stared into the eyes of my precious sons.

There are no words that properly encapsulate that moment. It was like I’d been waiting to meet someone I already knew, each and every time, like my heart and soul were saying ‘oh, there you are. I have so much to tell you.’

I was terrified. Head to toe, up-and-down my body, wracked with fear. How do I pick this creature up?

When I was a kid, people just handed me the baby. Nobody ever let me pick up the baby. That was madness. A child picking up a baby? Surely not.

I had never done this before. And all the practice with dollies in the world of lamaze and prenatal classes mean diddly when faced with a nine pound squeaky potato that doesn’t like me yet.

So, for those of you who have never received training, or just need a refresher course, here’s how you pick up a baby.

1.) Ensure baby is flat on its back. This provides a good leverage foundation.

2.) Decide which arm is your crooking arm. This is the arm where the baby’s head will rest. I tend to go leftie, because then my stronger right hand is free to operate bottles, wipes, and any other baby apparatus so required.

3.) Slide non-crooking arm slowly under baby, being careful to keep the head and neck of the baby supported at all times.

4.) Once baby’s head is resting firmly in your non-crooking hand, and your arm is supporting the baby’s weight, lift the baby up and prepare your crook with your crooking arm. This is done by bending your elbow to a head-supporting angle. The bigger the head, the bigger the angle.

5.) In one motion, lower baby down to crook. Once the baby’s head is fully supported by your elbow, slide your crooking arm around until it is fully wrapped around the lower half of your child.

6.) DO NOT REMOVE NON-CROOKING ARM UNTIL CROOK AND CROOK SUPPORT ARE FULLY IN PLACE.

7.) Once you feel the baby and your arm are in sync, and the baby and the BABY’S HEAD are one hundred percent aligned, you may remove your non-crooking arm for various operational requirements.

I hope this helps. If anyone has any other baby-lifting techniques, please feel free to share them with the rest of the class.

Thank you, and good evening.

Question for the Internet – The Afterlife

Here we are, round-tripping back to another robust and joyous Wednesday. Mine has been just dandy so far, apart from dropping my darling wife off at the airport. The children wept, my wife wept, I wept…it was a salty, eye-juice-tainted, horrible mess in the Astro as we drove away from the runways.

My mind immediately went to ‘please let her flight go safely.’

INSTANTLY. Without hesitation, without entertaining any other possibilities, my mind went straight to a hellish inferno of fuselage and jet fuel spread across the Rocky Mountains.

I didn’t share any of this with the children, needless to say. I got them cookies at the first opportunity. Am I raising a generation of emotional eaters? You bet.

I often go down the dark and horrible path, seeing the worst case scenarios play out in the hellish trap that is the cinema of my mind. I put on the brave face, say all the right things, and smile along so the children don’t see the outward manifestation of my all-encompassing fear.

There was one thing I was so sure of, not too long ago, that I’ve been questioning recently. I knew it without a doubt, one hundred percent, and if you asked me what I thought, I’d say ‘that is the way things are.’

Is there an afterlife?

I’ve never been religious, and have never subscribed to any church or doctrine that set me on any path. I’ve always called myself a spiritual person. Our bodies – the meat, nerves, internal organs, spinal cord…that could all be explained away with basic knowledge of biology.

But why I like the things I like, why I love my children with my every moment, why my wife fills my heart with wondrous joy every morning – even long after our initial courtship, seven-year-itch, and all that other ‘science’ – I’ve never had that explained away with science in a satisfying way.

How can all of that just be a series of chemical reactions and electrical impulses? How can the overwhelming grief I feel every November 28th, even 18 years after the fact, still be called ‘just science?’

I don’t know if my doubts are a result of so much cynicism, so much negativity, so much desire of humanity to do what it wants without fear of consequence…but right now, the doubts are there. So I hate letting my children do anything more than play in the front yard. I hate dropping my kids off at school, I hate driving to get my wife, and I hate thinking about the future because the worst case scenario starts up like the red band trailer to the next Saw movie.

Maybe someone out there can shed some perspective on this for me. I’m still leaning towards there being an afterlife, but I just don’t know anymore.

So, Internet, I’m asking you…is there an afterlife?

The Three – The Best Times of Your Life That Really Weren’t

I would love to see just one movie about high school with a little grey thrown in the mix, as opposed to the black-and-white world so many screenwriters make it out to be. According to most films, books, very-special-episodes of sitcoms, and just about any form of media that is dubbed entertainment, high school is supposed to be the best time of our lives.

Except it isn’t.

It also wasn’t the worst time of my life. My brother and my father both died in horrible accidents. Not getting a date to the Spring Fling dance rather pales in comparison to those little episodes.

But to sit there and say to the universe ‘high school was the best time of my life’ would be a bald-faced, ugly lie. One that I am unwilling to spread any longer. With that, I give you this week’s Three: The Best Times of Your Life That Really Weren’t.

1.) High School

Your body’s weird. You have hair in places you didn’t know had pores or follicles. You smell terrible 90% of the time. You can’t stand the sight of your own naked body. You can’t stand the sight of your own clothed body. You think everyone’s thinking about you all the time, or even worse, you think nobody’s thinking about you all the time.

Yeah, that’s the best time of your life right there. Constant misery, worry, and self-inflicted pressure while being told from the adults what to do with your life, all under the guise of ‘career counselling.’ People do realize that we’re graduating high school at around seventeen or eighteen, right? The brain’s not quite fully cooked yet, yes? And this is the so-called best time of my life.

I can’t think and I’m having a blast. Right.

2.) The Other Night When You Got Sooooooo Wasted…

Overindulging on alcohol is the one time when you can do something to excess and get praise for it. You are revered if you drank fifteen beer, but judged if you scarfed fifteen chocolates. ‘I got thrown in the drunk tank’ earns you a round of high fives and back slaps, but ‘I stole a car for kicks’ gets you harsh judgey eyes and ‘what’s wrong with you, man’ headshakes.

I don’t believe people when they say they had the ‘best night last night’ when the story starts with ‘I had (enter excessively large number here) Jagerbombs.’ Wait. You got euchred before you even left the house, and then you went and had the most amazing, memorable and outstanding night the world has ever experienced.

And then you passed out.

Here’s what ACTUALLY happened.

You did drink all those shots. Judging by the fetid stench oozing from your mossy teeth, and the wrinkled, frumpled and overall disheveled look of your oversized hoodie, that part did happen. The rest of your night, where you ended up ‘dancing with all those amazing Australians at the top of a mountain, and then you saw a skunk wandering through a neighbourhood while you played football with Johnny’s shoes…’ I have some dube. I feel dubious about your tale.

You fell asleep in the taxi and ended up spending $130 on cab fare, didn’t you? AND you barfed in the ashtray.

BEST NIGHT EVAAAARRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

3.) The First Time…as in Your First Time

This is made doubly horrible if it’s both of your first times. Everything hurts, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, and you’re seeing stuff you’ve never seen before in real life. It’s like discovering that Santa Claus is real, and you’re the only one that knows about it. Both of you kind of wish it was all over, and if you actually manage to get Tab A into Slot B before Tab A makes things all messy, you’re ahead of the game.

The rare occasion where it’s both a night to remember and forget, all at once.

There you have it. The Best Times of Your Life you wish never happened. Are there any hallowed events that you’re told are supposed to be cherished that just made you miserable?