Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Review: Secrets of Deltora

Review: #89
Title: Secrets of Deltora
Series: Deltora Quest - companion book
Author: Emily Rodda
Read Before: no
My Comments: For a companion book, this is great, I had high expectations and it was lived up to. If only more authors put this much amount of effort into their companions, then I would not hate them so much. It is brilliantly written and illustrated; the many coloured illustrations really help you indulge into the text and the work. It's a bit of a story and guide of the Deltora world mixed together, and if you had read the full Deltora Quest series, then you get a lot of hints everywhere, and what’s more, there’s even a secret message which I thought was quite cleverly hidden. Takes you around ten or so mins to get it, and I guess it entertains you for just that extra bit. As I mentioned, a lot of throwbacks to the Deltora Quest series of books, yet, it does not provide a summary like many ‘guides’ do, it adds a lot of new stuff, which is why it makes this book just so much more interesting. I am hopeful that that the author will do one more of these, as there’s one more great story that the author can write about that I can think of. I like the way that you can see how Deltora was before the events of the story, it really adds a lot. Secrets of Deltora is a definite must-read for any fans of the Deltora Quest series.
Rating: 7/10
Rereadability Factor: 6/10

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: South Town

Review: #88
Title: South Town
Series: Tres Navarre - 5th book
Author: Rick Riordan
Read Before: no
My Comments: A really dark story, which seems really atypical of the author, particularly after reading his child-fiction books. The beginning was really interesting but it started to wane off a bit, but still remaining quite suspenseful, as the background of the crime is revealed bit by bit. It does get a bit scattered, and I’m not sure if reading the previous books in the series may help, as the names of characters starts to get muddle up in your head as there’s quite a lot of minor side characters in a short amount of time, causing you to flip back to the pages where they first appeared to remember why they actually were and how they are relevant. In this aspect, it gets better at the end as the core cast becomes much tighter, it might be me with the adult fiction genre, but I was surprised at the large amount of deaths and also the amount of swearing going on, at times, that I think unnecessary. It’s pretty good as far as adult fiction goes in my opinion (not that I have much experience in this) and I was eager to get through the book as its quite absorbing, especially without any fantasy elements in it. I managed to guess most of the ending before it happened as the author provided too many hints, which blew away the effect of the ending a bit. The final moments of the book that sets everything down is too long, I found myself wanting it to end, but overall, it is better than I thought.
Rating: 6/10

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Yamato Gensouki

Since I just finished Black Cat (which I thought was a decent manga, but wasn't particularly super duper awesome, and which I'll post up some comments later, probably much later) I wanted to read the other works of Kentaro Yabuki. I had a shot at his first work, and I was surprised at how short it was, only two volumes, but I do realise that he had to end it prematurely as it got rejected by Shounen Jump, which is a shame. The first volume is a write off, pretty boring and full of cliches, but it is the second volume where there's a lot of foreshadowing, and where it gets a whole lot more exciting and better. Why? Because all that talk about the hidden city in the first volume is starting to be realised here. Sure, the art isn't as awesome (he's really improved by the time of Black Cat and To Love-Ru), and the story is fairly average, it really shows that this is his first work, but it was just starting to get decent. The ending was too rushed and all that foreshadowing? We never get to find out anything, so sad, although the author had the intention of continuing, I doubt that would happen now, especially with the success of his other works overshadowing this one. Anyway, it was an okay read to pass the time, and I didn't regret reading it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Toy Review: Transformers Movie (2007) Blackout (Voyager)

Review: #42
Name: Blackout
Brand: Transformers
Allegiance: Decepticon
Line: 2007 Movie
Year of Release: 2007
Size Class: Voyager (Wave 1)
Variations: repainted as ROTF Grindor, and retooled with new head, hands and rescue raft as Movie Evac and ROTF Whirl


Blackout transforms into a fully licensed MH-53 Pave Low helicopter, as such, he is really accurate to the read thing. Some of the proportion is off, but it's forgivable given that this figure has to transform into a robot as well.

There is a 3pt landing gear, but for the life of me, I cannot flip the one underneath the cockpit out, nonetheless, due to the Scorponok cage at the back he still lays flat on the table. Something that is annoying is that the back section (the feet and the cage) of the helicopter doesn't like to stay attached, it is a bit too heavy for the friction pegs.

You might notice a weird thing at Blackout's back that is ruining the look of the helicopter, you would be look at the first gimmick, a cage for a mini scorponok figurine.

At the push of a button you can 'release' or 'send Scorponok into battle'. Most of the time, Scorponok will land the right way. The cage has a tendency to fall open on it's own due to the release clasp not being very secure.

The little Scorponok figurine is not transformable, sadly (it would been awesome if they could have added in a simple transformation into a robot), the tail is on a spring joint, but otherwise, it is a very immobile figure.

It's intricately detailed for it's size, but the only paint to be seen is a black paint wash (which is also present on Blackout).

The second gimmick is that when you press the plunger at the end of the tail, it's spins the rotor a few rotations. It's actually really fun when you keep activating it by rapidly pressing the trigger and the rotors keep spinning. It is a fun gimmick, too bad it compromises the figure so much.

The last gimmick, which I hadn't taken a picture of, is that you can attach the Deluxe class Scorponok toy to the underside, and their gimmicks are then geared together. So when you use the plunger, not only does it spin Blackout's rotors, but it also spins Scorponok's claws, this is a cleverly designed gimmick combination.

The rotor span is decent, and the helicopter feels good for it's size class. The tail rotor can also spin (manually).

The engineering that went into the transformation and the construction are definitely the weak points here. There are numerous reports of the cockpit not lining up (thankfully mine isn't one of them) and after a few transformations, none of the panels and parts fit together completely, there are very obvious seams everywhere the compromise the whole look. Anyway, I still like this toy as it was one of the very first figure I've picked up.


Transformation is simple, but messy and annoying. If you remove the rotor the process is a whole lot easier. You can feel that the transformation strains some parts, so they will break or loosen (a lot) over time. One obvious flaw is how they jointed the side panels to which he arms are attached to, they only allow one plane of rotation, up and down, when you need at least some sort of outward motion it plug in the peg. As such, you have to really force the plastic outward enough to snap it into the pegs, very easy to break the toy. As if this wasn't hard enough, it is difficult to align the panels properly as there are grooves and ridges on the inside that catch the other bits and pieces. Definitely not my favourite transformation by far, and Blackout it one of the few Transformers where I leave it in a mode for ages before going to the other mode.


Out of the robot designs from the first movie, I really like Blackout's, even though this toy has a lot of departures from the on screen model, it still looks great and impressive.

Sadly he has a huge chunk of kibble on his back, pretty much the whole top half of the helicopter. I love the idea of the rotor blades folding up like a cape on his back, and it's achieved to a certain degree here, but could be done a lot better.

Due to a lot of mass being on his back, his legs and arms can seem a bit skimpy from the sides. The big panels doesn't look good from any other angle than the front. One good note with the backpack is that because it is so big, it touches the ground, meaning it acts as a third leg, Blackout is nearly impossible to fall over his back.

I like the head design, it conveys the alien feel of the Transformers very well. The two panels boxing in the head does detract from the look. I also like how the cockpit contorts a bit to form his chest, one of my favourite aspects of the figure.

The Scorponok cage rests on his back now, and you can either store him there or take him out, but he seems tiny compare to Blackout. In terms of ranged weapons, he has two missile pods on each shoulder.

If you don't like the big backpack, it is actually detachable, freeing up the look quite a lot. Blackout has big sturdy feet so he's still as stable as ever.

Detaching the rotor also helps ease the transformation. There are a lot of ratchets on this figure, giving you a satisfying clicking sound whenever you're posing him.

The detachable rotor is not only just for show, you can use it as a giant slashing spinning weapon. Granted, he's not using the small tail rotor like in the movie, but this is a good approximation. It's very intimidating, but again, the weapon is a bit too big, he has to rest it on his shoulder (there a peg for a hole in the weapon to rest on), it's unwieldy at best.

The spinning rotor gimmick still works in it's weapon form, and that makes Blackout really fun when you have this weapon out.

In terms of height, especially with the rotor removed, it is very noticeable that he's short. The reason for this is there is a lot of folding panels in the transformation, coupled with one third of the helicopter ending up on his back, and Blackout was either going to be short or skinny. I still like the robot mode a lot though.


A decent toy, no means spectacular and quite a few flaws, the transformation can be annoying, but both the robot and vehicle mode are nice. This is an example of a toy with the gimmicks compromising the engineering, and as a result, the potential of the figure. I will always be partial to him as I loved his design, and one of the first Transformers that I've bought, but I wouldn't really recommend paying full price for him.


A nicer gallery could be viewed here.

Credits: linked a few pages in this review if you wanted more info on the respective links

Other toys reviews can be accessed on the 'My Transformers' page from the top of the blog.

Book Review: Eclipse

Review: #87
Title: Eclipse
Series: Twilight - 3rd book
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Read Before: yes
My Comments: I will say one thing before I criticize this book, and that is, it sure is addictive. Even though I cringe immediately from the descriptions and actions, the world of Twilight is really interesting, and it really hooked me in to find out more (even though I have read this one already, it still sucks me in). I do think that Eclipse started off as being one of the better books in the series (second best, after Twilight) but it was completely ruined once you went past roughly the halfway mark. What I find annoying is Bella and the way she thinks, and it isn’t good enough for the author to mention it once, she has to mention it again and again and again and again, and it’s not just this, it’s with practically everything, she repeats to the point where you cringe every time you read the same thing. I especially cringe and find annoying the way Bella thinks that everyone is weak and going to die, seriously, and thinks fully of self sacrifice when her ideas are really out of whack. The book expands a lot of the universe’s mythology and history, so that was quite insightful, but other than that… a strong beginning and a cringe worthy ending (the author had ruined it quite a bit with all the things that were happening).
Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Review: Black Heart of Jamaica

Review: #86
Title: Black Heart of Jamaica
Series: Cat Royal (not official name) - 5th book
Author: Julia Golding
Read Before: no
My Comments: Starts of a bit bland and doesn't really show much promise, but it does get better and more varied. It is one of those books where it’s best if you’ve at least read another book in the series in order to understand everything. There’s a lot of witty humour and tongue-in-cheek which is really amusing, although I do think the story sometimes gets a bit out of hand, like you don't know what the whole point of the thing that just happened was, or you’re wondering why that happened and that it doesn't really fit with the overall arc of the story. Nevertheless, it was a really enjoyable read, with the characters very interesting, it is a bit sad to see how many characters were kinda dismissed as soon as their uses were over, maybe in the sequels we get to see them again. Sometimes I can't guess or understand many of the characters’ motives, as it seemed to contradict something else they did earlier or go against their nature. Overall I think this series of books is more or less feels like bits and pieces bunched together with an overall story, not that it’s bad, but just that sometimes it feels unnecessary, but a book worthy of reading, especially since there’s not much action in this.
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Review: Saving Mississippi

Review: #85
Title: Saving Mississippi
Series: N/A
Author: Cornelia Funke
Read Before: no
My Comments: A surprisingly good book that I found myself easily absorbed in it. Thought it would be pretty weak, due to the whole cover and story being clearly targeted at younger girls. I only read this one because I like the author, she has managed to make a simple plot quite interesting, and it was even a little bit suspenseful for a time. It was a fun read and the characters were likeable, although very kid-oriented I really liked the ‘bad guy’ and how everything worked out, I kept finding myself looking forward to the next time I’m going to read after I’ve put down the book.
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: The BFG

Review: #84
Title: The BFG
Series: N/A
Author: Roald Dahl
Read Before: yes
My Comments: Not too bad a book but outstandingly simple, especially it’s plot, I think it’s because I’ve been spoilt by some really good books with complex plots, that this books feels childish to me. Credit must be given to the author for his incredible imagination though, most of the book has a lot of very interesting inventions from his minds, and that’s what makes his books so great. It’s only now that I see that they are aimed at younger readers, it really shows, but still an amusing read. I really like the illustrations that accompany the text and they provide a great visual cue to what is going on. I would only recommend it if you don't mind a straightforward story.
Rating: 5.5/10

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Toy Review: Transformers PCC Steamhammer w/ Constructicons

Review: #41
Name: Steamhammer w/ Constructicons
Brand: Transformers
Allegiance: Decepticon
Line: PowerCore Combiners
Year of Release: 2010
Size Class: Commander with Drones (Wave 4)
Variations: none as of this date


Steamhammer transforms into a bulldozer in the classic Constructicon green, the blade is disproportionally huge though, and takes up most of the mass. I love the silver 'grit' applications on the blade. The cockpit is a small affair, made worse by that only the front window is painted black, all other sides are unpainted green plastic (even though windows are molded in).

There are the characteristic PowerCore Combiner blue ports sticking out the back, the other two are right behind the blade, so they aren't too obvious there. There are some blades/hooks at the back and he features a Minicon port on top of the cockpit.

While a good looking bulldozer at first glance, due to most of the mass being shifted into the blade, the rest of the vehicle suffers. There are gaps everywhere, and looking from the top, you can see the arm joints, head and all sorts of other kibble. It's not a disaster, but far from the best alternate mode out there.


Being a 5-pack, instead of a Minicon, for the extra cost, you get four auto-transforming drones (too bad they don't have robot modes though). The first one I'm covering is a steamroller. I actually like this one, although it feels a bit cheap and hollow, the two wheels and roller spin. Again, there are silver paint wash on the roll which adds great visual appeal. The only bad thing is that it doesn't have a clearly defined driver's compartment.

The second is a front end loader. The scoop can adjust, but the degree of spread is very limited. This one is a bit bland but the details are adequately painted. There is a conveyor belt thing running through the middle and I love the look of that. I forgot to add that since these are the "Constructicons", they are all construction vehicles.

Next up is a plow drone, I think the most boring one of the set. There's a black paint wash on the plow, which is a nice touch, fairly plain overall. All drone vehicles have a Minicon port, but honestly, they're such a small size (about Legends) that plugging in a Minicon kinda looks ridiculous.

The last is a drill drone, my favourite of the set, primarily because of such a unique alt mode. This makes me want more than ever that they could have engineered a robot mode into these. The drill can tilt up and down, again, it is limited.

They look great together as a set, the construction theme works really well, and although they don't share any common colours, they still mash together okay.


A simple transformation, really simple in fact, but it works well. Unfortunately, this causes some kibble issues in the modes but I'll get into that later. The one thing that causes worry would be the hip tabs, it tabs really tightly for combined and vehicle mode, so when it comes to pull them off, since the tabs are thin, you're bending them and causing a lot of stress. I think, over time, they will snap off very easily. I like the transformation into torso mode, and how well everything clicks and pegs together, so it forms a very solid figure. Apart from the tabs, I think this is a nice transformation.


I like this robot mode, many people probably found faults in him, but for all his flaws, I really like it. I love his blade weapons on the underside of his hand, I like the kibble treads hanging out onto the sides (kinda look like jetpacks actually) and I like the chest design. The only thing I don't like about him is how small he is!

All that mass in the robot is situated on his back, in the form of the vehicle blade. It's such a shame as it's a huge chunk and ruins the look. At least you use the combiner plugs as solid heel spurs, he won't fall over any time soon.

The head is an interesting design, very tubular in shape, but he's got a nice grimace. It's only on a swivel joint, and he doesn't feature a lightpipe.

As I said, Steamhammer is really short, shorter than what a Scout should be. I know that the 5-pack commanders are usually smaller but this is ridiculous, he feels fragile because of this smallness.

Steamhammer has some great joints but the killer is that everything gets in the way of each other. The legs are relatively free, but the cockpit protrudes out of his elbows which hits the blade kibble on his back. The result is that he cannot put his arms in a normal resting position. I still love this robot mode, and for some reason, he reminds me of ROTF Dirt Boss.


Steamhammer's combined mode is the BEST out of the whole PowerCore Combiners line, I am not exaggerating, he is the only one in which I liked the instant I saw the first photos of him. He is well proportioned, he's also the only 5-pack originated molds to feature a Minicon port in his chest.

The drones he comes packed with are really stable and some of the best ones produced, and what's more, they're the only ones with dedicated thumbs!! Yes, as weird as the reason, this was why I was sold on this set, thumbs, it just makes him look so much better. I also like how in torso mode, Steamhammer doesn't have the feel of being too thin. One little complaint would also be that his chest unclips just a bit too easily.

He's a bit shorter than Bombshock but just looks so much better, the drones do a good job of acting as feet and arms, I think it's the blocky look that makes them so much better. Another reason would be that there isn't a weird 'spacer' gap between the 'knee' and the attached drone that is prevalent on other PowerCore Combiners. Steamhammer's legs pretty much look integrated instead of something tacked on.

Head is a bit unusual, but I've warmed to it. It looks menacing somehow, sad thing is that is it really limited in how much the head can turn. A few degrees and that's it, as his 'collar' gets into the way. I do like how he has antennas on either side of his head. Steamhammer manages to avoid looking like a Devastator rip off even though he is tributing that figure.

This is where having a few toys from the line can be fun, I've attached the three Minicons I had so far (during the time I took the photo) and Steamhammer looks quite cool with these 'power ups'. The possibility of this guy is decent, but the lack of elbows hurts, a lot, the way they are bent out the sides makes all these PowerCore Combiners look awesome, but that's the price you pay for automatic transformations.

Took forever for this guy to get to my place, and I wished he was released in the early waves rather than at such a late time where a lot of people's already viewing this line as something they don't like. Steamhammer is an excellent figure for the line, and shows how great PowerCore Combiners could have been, alas, it was not to be and even this guy was fairly difficult to find...


While I like Steamhammer, he is not my favourite PowerCore Combiner (Smolder and Undertow are better) BUT, he is the best 5-pack out there, with a good solid Commander toy and four well designed drones, it is the best value you're going to get with the options out there. If you're even a tiny bit interested in the concept, there's no better toy to start than this one right here, Steamhammer with Constructicons.


Credits: linked a few pages in this review if you wanted more info on the respective links

Check out other toys reviews in the 'My Transformers' page which you can access at the top of the blog.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Review: Egypt: A High-Speed History

Review: #83
Title: Egypt: A High-Speed History
Series: Horrible Histories
Author: Terry Deary
Read Before: no
My Comments: A fun book, although it is more of a graphic novel than the traditional text type with some pictures. I’m not even sure if it should be called a graphic novel, it’s more like a comic strip, a monotone comic strip (it’s completely in shades of blue and white). The stories are interesting, and the puns are well done, I quite enjoyed reading the book. The information it put across was something I hadn’t known before, and it’s quite unique at how they put it across, although some jokes are quite overused within the book itself (it’s great the first time but they just keep using it like two, three, four more times later on). If only more non-fiction books were like this, then I would honestly read more of them.
Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Toy Review: Transformers DOTM Crowbar

Review: #40
Name: Crowbar
Brand: Transformers
Allegiance: Decepticon
Line: Dark of the Moon
Year of Release: 2011
Size Class: Legion (Wave 2)
Variations: none as of this date


Crowbar transforms into an unmarked version of a Carbon Motors E7 police car, he's black with silver detailing, emphasis on the black.

Surprisingly the tail lights are painted red, and there's a molded license plate. There's also an out of place silver Decepticon logo on the roof, fairly random as it's not in an obvious place in robot mode either.

Crowbar has a lot of panel breaks, a lot more than you would expect, thankfully he's black, so you don't notice it that much. All his windows are unpainted, but being that the base plastic is black and the car is black overall, I don't mind, it works here.

What I found was surprising was that they painted the each of the side mirrors to be red and blue, a really nice touch, and secures the theme of a police car. The front grill has a lot of silver paint, but after Barricade from the first movie, a police car Decepticon just doesn't have the same stun factor anymore.

Panel lines here and there, it breaks up the whole car a lot, and that's the major flaw of Crowbar.

The underside doesn't give too much away in terms of transformation. Of course, all four wheels roll.

Just like other DOTM Legions, Crowbar feels smaller than Legends in the past, he's actually a bit smaller than DOTM Bumblebee, and feels noticeably smaller than even RtS Prowl. All in all, a good vehicle mode, I really like the front design, and the painted side mirrors adds that touch of realism.


A much more complex Legion classed transformation that you would expect, this is why there are so many panel lines in vehicle mode, as there's a lot of twisting and unfolding going on around here. The arms are easy, being the whole top part of the car, but the legs are interesting, and has a lot of joints (which comes in useful later on). You would have to be careful when going back into vehicle mode, Crowbar has more pegs than he needs, and I snapped a peg clean off when I tried to push his left leg into the car. Ironically, once it snapped off, that part fitted in way better, so I think my one had a manufacturing defect, the peg might be just a bit too big for the hole or skewed in angle, nevertheless, it still holds plenty well together. The transformation is annoying to start or finish due to the pieces pegging together, but I'm happy that we didn't the standard back as legs, side as arms, and front as chest transformation.


Crowbar's robot mode is one of the better movie Legions one yet, he looks really menacing with those bat like wing tips, long arms and long legs. The chest is the front of the car upside down, and looks great there, my favourite element by far (the two front wheels on either side of his head is a great look).

He has big flat feet, very stable to stand in a variety of poses. The arms are a touch bit too big due to it being formed by most of the car, but he gets away with it.

It is not all good news, he is extremely spindly, especially around the legs, this is the trade off you get from a design such as this... Crowbar pretty much only looks good from the front.

Not much to glean from the back. One thing to note is that you always have to put his arms in front of the legs, they have no way of sitting 'naturally' at the side due to how the shoulder ball joints are set up, this is mildly annoying. His left hand also has a 3mm hole to hold some Cyberverse weapons.

Being a "Dread", he has... dreadlocks! They flank on either side of his head, and I must say, what an ingenious place to put them, out of the way but maximum visual impact. The headsculpt is also very nice, but he has a gaping hole, which I guess is where his mouth must be. There are actually different base plastic used here, one is black, and the other is a dark gold used for the inside of his arms and his torso.

A close up of where I snapped the peg on his left leg (the 'white' circle), mildly annoying that I broke it on my first transformation.

He is tall for a Legions figure, but like I said, he is spindly and has less mass, so he feels more fragile than Prowl.

I am absolutely amazed at the leg articulation of this figure, he has a balljointed hip, BUT he has thigh swivels (required for his transformation), unbelievable, then there's the knee hinge and finally hinged feet, like I said, amazing... Compared to that, the arms are really static although they can tilt back, they can't tilt 'out' though, what's more, he also has a waist swivel... overkill, surely?!

A really rewarding robot mode, and he carries enough colours to look interesting and not like a plain lump of black plastic.


A cleverly designed robot mode, just need to watch out when you're pegging him together. Otherwise, an excellent figure, and the standout in the current Legions line!


Credit: the pictures and text are all my original work, but I've linked a few pages to

If you like my format, click here to browse my other reviews.
Blogger Widget