Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing With Fire

Review:  #236
Title:  Skulduggery Pleasant:  Playing With Fire
Series:  Skulduggery Pleasant - 2nd book
Author:  Derek Landy
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  A book that was immediately better than the first book.  The story was more absorbing this time around, and not surprisingly, still surrounded with the Faceless Ones.  However, it’s still not ‘up there’ with the best of the best, it just seems to be missing something.  It tries to be witty with many smart alec one liners, yet… they aren’t terribly funny.  Those one liners seemed overdone, and something you have seen before, granted, some worked (really well in fact), but the fact is, most failed.  The action was written well here, and the pacing was great.  There is a lot of foreshadowing and stuff happening behind the scenes (probably setting up for the next book).  Some events felt a bit unnecessary, and there were plenty of elements that were supposed to be neat and unexpected, but, once again, like many other parts, it was done before and was nothing new.  There’s some really interesting mythos here though, and it makes me want to find out more about them.  I was thinking of keeping the rating as a 6/10, but it was just so much better than the first book that I had to boost it up.  However, I wouldn’t say it was a great book, just a good one.
Rating:  6.5/10

Monday, July 30, 2012

Toy Review: Transformers Prime Commander Dreadwing

Review:  #101
Name:  Dreadwing
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Prime
Year of Release:  2012
Size Class:  Commander (Wave 2)
Variations:  repainted into Skyquake

Note:  technically this is the Japanese version, but there are no differences to the Hasbro version


Dreadwing transforms into a modified Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.  Sleek for the most part but for the slightly fat side bits the winglets are on (they're the shoulder armour for robot mode).  Under each wing is a weapon (a sword and a gun) of different size, unbalancing the look.

The rear of the jet is a bit messy where you can see the feet and arms.  There's also a spot of transparent yellow plastic in the middle of the fuselage.  Interestingly, he features the same Decepticon style insignia as ROTF Mindwipe and Skystalker.

Looking at the underside, you can pretty much guess the transformation.  Being such a small figure though, the obvious arms and legs can be forgiven.

He only has one landing gear underneath the nose, which seems odd.  It's also a very thick jet, basically a robot with a plane on top..

Dreadwing's even smaller (albeit slightly) than the previous Commander jet we've seen, Hatchet, *sigh*.

Still a great little jet that looks great and is fun to play with.


A disappointing one, basically just unfold the legs, fold down the cockpit and you're done.  The most interesting part is how the pieces with the winglets on either side of the nose form his upper chest and shoulder armour.  Too simple, and too bland, you would've expected a bit more.


Surprisingly a very screen accurate robot mode.  For such a tiny figure, this is amazing.  A lot of silver/grey appears in robot mode, contrasting the yellow and blue nicely.

He wears most of the plane (the only thing he's not wearing is the nose) on his back, but it sits close to the body, and doesn't cause any balance issues.

The head sculpt is detailed for it's size but it's static.  It cannot move at all, which, frankly, sucks.

There's a lot of paint on the figure.  Since the shoulder pieces are on a separate hinge, they can look odd from certain angles.

As mentioned, Dreadwing has two (awesome) weapons, a big gun and a sword.  Each has extra handles and holes so you can combine multiple weapons into one big one (but whether it'll look good is another matter).

Obviously, Dreadwing can wield them, and he's pretty articulate, featuring all of the standard joints bar any head and waist joints.  The shoulders are limited somewhat by the shoulder armour (but you can move that out of the way).

You can combine the two weapons to for a sort of bayonet type weapon (or gunblade) that looks menacing.

You can also store the weapon onto the peg on his back.

They really don't make Scouts/Commanders like they used to, Dreadwing does not only look tiny, he feels tiny.  It's really sad when the figure looks like a stick in your hand.

A great looking robot mode, the two weapons are a perfect match for him.


This is undoubtedly one of the better Commander figures out there.  Two great modes, but as per usual, the robot mode wins.  It's amazing how close this little figure looks to the character model, and he just oozes awesomeness.  Still, I wouldn't pay over RRP for him since he's no engineering marvel.


Many other Transformers reviews can be found at this page.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant

Review:  #235
Title:  Skulduggery Pleasant
Series:  Skulduggery Pleasant - 1st book
Author:  Derek Landy
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  Not quite the adventure I was expecting.  The concept itself has a lot of potential, being a skeleton detective, and taking on a new apprentice (or partner).  However, the story started off really slow, and once it got to the point where it was discussing the rules of the magic, it felt like many of the details were familiar.  It seemed to have combined how magic worked in other novels, as such, it felt uninspired.  What’s more, the three names per person concept (true name, given name, and the name you take) have been done before in other novels.  The plot itself isn’t too outstanding, one thing that did throw me off, was that the protagonist, Stephanie, didn't develop some awesome power herself (yet) to help defeat the antagonist.  The latter third of the book was where all the interesting bits happen, the plot moved faster, was more intense, but the climax left much to be desired.  It felt more like there should have been more, that there should have been something impressive, but it was simple and left you a bit hanging.  I expected more humour.  If I had to be frank with myself, there isn’t that crux that makes this a definite read.  Actually, I found the short story at the end of the book, The Lost Art of World Domination to be quite an amusing read, even though like some of the other elements in the book, done before by other authors.
Rating:  6/10

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: D.Gray-Man Vol. 21

Review:  #234
Title:  D.Gray-Man Vol. 21
Series:  D.Gray-Man - 21st volume
Author:  Katsura Hoshino
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  The things that happen in this volume… is so confusing.  You have to read through each frame carefully and study it to understand what is happening, and even by the time I finished reading it; I couldn't digest all of what had happened.  It was intense, and it kept your attention, the art is a bit confusing, you have to concentrate in order to pick out what is happening.  I feel that the story could have been fleshed out more, and explained a whole lot better, as things just kept happening that makes no sense.  It was a pretty cool volume though, and I liked the ending.  Not sure what happened to Allen though when the fourteenth actually awoke but then Allen went back to his old self when his eye act up (Mana’s curse).  The same can also be said for Alma and how his spirit (I think) is the woman that Kanda loved, it’s just so much to process and to try and sort it through.  Its personal preference, but I found that the originality and the mysteriousness that was present in the series before has disappeared now.  Whatever’s happening feel very weird, and less… elegant as before.
Rating:  6/10

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Fall of Cybertron Shockwave

Review:  #100
Name:  Shockwave
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Generations (Fall of Cybertron)
Year of Release:  2012
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 1)
Variations:  repainted into Fireflight


Shockwave transforms into a "Cybertronian mobile artillery" mode, basically just a spaceship with a cannon in front. Predominantly purple with silver highlights.

There is a thruster at the back, but you can clearly see the joints for his arms.  For a Cybertronian mode, it's very good and looks plausible.

Shockwave doesn't have any sort of landing gear, but he does rest flat on the table.  Everything pegs together nicely, there are no loose pieces anywhere.

The underside shows his robot legs and torso clearly, somewhat hard to avoid and it's not like you would look underneath anyway.

Size-wise, he's about on par with the smaller Prime First Edition Deluxes (but not to the point of the normal Robots in Disguise line), that said, he's still very small.  Compared to the first Generations line, he has noticeably less mass.

All in all, a much better mode than I expected, fairly static, but well executed.


Much more interesting that you would have thought by looking at the packaging.  You thought it'll be a simple affair?  Well it is, but it's intuitive and well-engineered.  It makes the transformation fun.  The legs pretty much just split apart, and the arms are simple, but there's just some charm about the way Shockwave transforms.  There's a head reveal gimmick similar to the Prime Robots in Disguise Deluxes, in that when you peg in his chest, the head automatically pops up.  The chest is bulky enough for this gimmick to be unobtrusive.


So we come to the main point of the review, the robot mode of Shockwave.  He has the classic look, from the chest to the one eyed head.  This nails the character well.

He has big shoulders and skinny legs, but Shockwave looks great.  The wings behind his back are a nice touch.

The headsculpt is wonderful, and there's a great lightpipe.  The eye glows even when he's not directly  in near the light source.  However, the head's only on a swivel joint, there's no up or down motion here.

His feet is angled downwards, which can be somewhat annoying when trying to make him stand up straight.

Focusing on Shockwave's gun, it's a single barreled cannon that's shaped like a triangle/flower.  You can also  pull the silver bit off for a three barreled gun, but what you do with the bit you pulled off I have no idea (attach it to his back?).  This gun forms an integral part of the vehicle mode, so don't lose it!

If you prefer to have your Shockwave to have two free hands, then you can attach the cannon onto his back for storage.

Or you can have Shockwave hold it in either of his hands.  I wouldn't recommend this as the handle sits too far forward and impeded Shockwave's elbow articulation.

Lastly, and it's probably the one that people will use the most (which, oddly enough, is not in the instructions, even though it's on the back of the packaging), is that you can fold Shockwave's hand in (either of his hands) and peg the gun directly onto it so it looks like his gun arm.

The articulation is decent, barring a waist joint, he has everything you would think he would need.

There's great sculpting on his body and if you look carefully, although he doesn't have too many paint apps, he doesn't need them.

The feet is too static for my liking, it's annoying to get a pose where he would stand properly, a ball joint of swivel ankle would do wonders.

Just like vehicle mode, Shockwave is extraordinary tiny.  He's a Deluxe in name only, compared to previously WFC toys, he's absolutely tiny and would not fit into any WFC collections.

What's more, Shockwave also feels very hollow, he has a fair few hollow parts, they've take cost cutting to the max now.

Despite all of that, this robot mode evokes Shockwave very well and is a great robot mode.


An excellent toy, if a bit small.  He's fun in both modes and the transformation is simple yet fun.  A much better toy than I expected and everyone should give it a chance (if you haven't already).


Other reviews can be found on this page.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Deltora Quest Volume 4

Review:  #233
Title:  Deltora Quest Volume 4
Series:  Deltora Quest - 4th volume
Author:  Story by Emily Rodda, Illustrator:  Makoto Niwano
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  At first I thought it was just going to be like the previous volume where it tries to put in all these awkward humour in, but it was actually pretty good.  The Jin and Jod arc finishes here and good riddance, because it wasn't done that well.  At around halfway into the volume, when the party gets to the Lake of Tears, it gets noticeably better.  It was faster paced, and although it never peaks to the level that other mangas do, it was more bearable.  One of the thing that stops me from fully enjoying the art is that the monsters are really different to the western illustrations (to which it’s burned into my mind are the correct ones), it’s not the fault of the illustration but I thought I would just point that out, since the two representations are really different.  In manga form, I thought the story wasn't that captivating.
Rating:  5.5/10

Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: Deltora Quest Volume 3

Review:  #232
Title:  Deltora Quest Volume 3
Series:  Deltora Quest - 3rd volume
Author:  Story by Emily Rodda, Illustrator:  Makoto Niwano
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  I am more used the art now; however, it’s still not what I like.  The biggest thing holding this manga back is that the style of art is not your typical Japanese manga, yet, it tries to incorporate the typical manga humour, but it just does not work, and does not feel like it fits in.  The story still feels very western, and the supposed serious tone is wrecked by the awkward humour.  Through this adaptation, the puzzles lost all their ingenuity and wonder.  Lastly, the main antagonists here, the monsters Jin and Jod, they are drawn so cute, and does not convey the ugliness and evilness of the siblings.  This is a boring volume, it’s hard to recommend when the books are so much better.
Rating:  5/10
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