Playing & Reading – Week of 5/1/16 to 5/7/16

P&RLogo

I lied earlier! I am gonna do it today. Its my blog and I DO WHAT I WANT

Seeing as how this will be the inaugural “Playing & Reading” I am not exactly sure how I want to format it. If you want to do these meme/post thing then I encourage you to do so. Perhaps I can make this a thing. That would be cool. But don’t be stealing my logo mate! I will rek you I swear on me mum!

*ahem*

——PLAYING THIS WEEK——

Firstly, I have been on a Hearthstone kick with the release of the Old Gods expansion. With Standard being a format I can get behind, I am having an ok time…generally. This game has reminded me however of why I hate RNG games at times: My horrid luck. Last night, for example, I had MULTIPLE instances of failing to draw any of my answers and losing games just due to poor draw luck. Or doing the current tavern brawl and getting crap beasts that are unusable. THE SALT WAS REAL LAST NIGHT HOLY CRAP!

I am also getting back into Fallout 4. Part of this is to reacquaint myself as I want to start doing some basic modding, maybe level designs and dungeons. Part of this is to prepare for Far Harbor which releases 5/19/16. The trailer was awesome, the new monsters look scary as hell, and hey, new zone with new settlements? Sign me up! I still haven’t really done either Wasteland Workshop (The Cages, Arena System, and new Building Options look amazing) nor have I gone very far in Automatron beyond getting access to robots on an old save. I started over, male SS, who is going to hang with Hancock and Curie

Still working on Dragon Age Inquisition as well, 40 hours into my current character. Dwarf Assassin Rogue who romanced Sera. So damn cute. I need to finish this. So many games, so little time ya know?

I am also debating getting back to Star Wars the Old Republic so I can finally get Vette back on my Sith Warrior in Knights of the Fallen Empire. I am going to discuss that with my wife as she usually plays with me, but given how Solo Focused KOTFE is…it will prolly not matter. And I know she aint that interested in SWTOR anymore hehe.

——READING THIS WEEK——

Since getting my library card back a few weeks ago I have been hitting the digital books HARD. I finished a couple of books this week.

Yesterday I completed Killing Pretty by Richard Kadrey. It is the latest Sandman Slim novel and I honestly enjoyed it quite a bit. If you like Urban Fantasy you should check out the Sandman Slim series, but be prepared for some violence, horror, and a generally unpleasant ride. But its damn well written, tight and focused and it gets the point across.

I also reread Truth of Valor by Tayna Huff so I could remember where Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr was going before I move onto the Peacekeeper series that just started. If you want some solid sci fi military action with a damn fine female protagonist you should check out the Valor series. Gunnery Sergeant Kerr is phenomenal. Honestly though I feel Truth of Valor is the weakest of the bunch as the romance between Kerr and the other MC (not gonna say his name) is the driving point for most of the novel…and I don’t like that.

Finally I read the Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross. Think Lovecraft meets IT with a dash of James Bond and you have the right idea. Its a very interesting book, more a collection of two shorter stories with the same characters and universe. I enjoyed it and honestly hope there is more out there, but you have to like these sorts of stories to enjoy it. If you liked The Rook by Daniel O’Malley you will probably like this. Its funny to see the idea that Math is basically magic and if you get complicated enough you can summon Horrors From Beyond the Stars. It makes me giggle…And of course there are sequels! Time to see if my library has em.

And that’s it for this week so far! I don’t see much changing but who knows! I might get interested in the Overwatch Beta for all I know!

Thanks for reading!

Storium Launched: Why should you care?

I know that the vast majority of my followers here on my blog are book lovers.  Readers, writers, ect.

Some cross over into my other passion, gaming, but for the most part, I got started here with my book reviews, and frankly I WILL be writing new ones in the coming weeks.  I just…need to get the inspiration to do so.

But I am here to talk about a game / site / thingy that combines the 2 passions I have, gaming and books, together.  And no, its not a choose your own adventure novel (although THOSE ARE MAKING A COMEBACK!) but something else.

Its called Storium.

Storium is hard to describe, really.  Its a Roleplay site, basically, but with some interesting twists.  Here is the official description from their help site.

“Storium is an online storytelling game, and that makes it different from most other games you’ve probably played. How so?

It turns writing into a game

In Storium you have the freedom to truly do anything that you can imagine. That’s because Storium is based around creative writing. As you play, the game helps you figure out what to write next and how to keep your story interesting.

Everyone gets a say

Storium lets every player share in the storytelling. Everyone gets their moment in the spotlight, their own chance to decide what happens next in the story.

Anyone can play

You don’t have to be a skilled writer to play Storium. The game gives you the kind of creative “leg up” that’s missing when you stare at a blank sheet of paper.”

You can check out the link I posted above for more info.

I have dabbled back in the closed beta, where the creators were nice enough to give me access when I was without a job.  I want to get back into it because, frankly, it was a blast to play.  Basically, its collaborative storytelling using mechanics.  I love the combination, and it can create some very cool stuff.  The whole system is free, but you can also subscribe, which I like.

I suggest everyone who has a passion for the written word check it out!  It can possibly help you become a better writer, maybe give you ideas, or hell, just create a really fun story that you yourself was a part of!

And no, this was not a sponsored post.  I am doing this because I want to.

Who has 2 Thumbs and his Library Card back?

THIS GUY.

I contacted my library recently, to see if the fines that I had mentioned back in an older post could be reduced.

And they were, by a LARGE margin. So tonight, I went and paid em and got my card back.

Part of it, of course, is to get books. Tasty EBOOKS! Cause my County Library actually does have a method to borrow Ebooks, with automatic returning of said books.

But one of the cooler features, which I learned about today, is a place in the Downtown/Main Library called The Dorothy Lumely Melrose Center, aka the Melrose center.

Whats cool about this you might ask? WELL! Its a giant 26000 square foot tech center. It has, available for FREE to Library Card holders (ie ME!) the following:

  • Record music or vocals in a professional-grade audio studio. Record podcasts and voice overs in individual sound booths. Access audio editing software in one of the editing bays or editing workstations.
  • Our contemporary studio is the ideal place to produce a video with professional chromakey backgrounds. Access one of the editing bays or editing workstations to edit your short film.
  • Select from a variety of backdrops for still photography or use the lightbox for product shoots. Use photo editing software to get that picture perfect finish.
  • Explore, innovate and create in hands-on classes such as 3D printing, electronics, basic engineering, computer programming, robotics and so much more. (yes, thats a freaking FABRICATION LAB)
  • Explore the worlds of flight, construction and driver education by attending one of our classes. Access these interactive simulators for an out-of-this-world experience.

Its madness.  You have to attend a “general orientation” class first in order to access the full suite of classes (free classes I MIGHT ADD) and the actual area, but I have this Thursday off.  I mean, just LOOK AT THE EVENT CALENDER!  Programming classes, sewing, just all sorts of shit.

There is an orientation class at 6pm on Thursday.

I know what I am doing that evening.  Oh yea.  This is gonna be awesome.

Things sure as hell have changed since the last time I went to a library…17 years ago.

Demonkin by T Eric Bakutis – A Review

This book was provided to me by the Author in exchange for an Honest Review

The Blurb from the Authors Site – “For years Jyllith Malconen ended lives and damned souls to avenge her family, only to learn all her victims were innocent. Now others like her, children twisted to hate, raise a new threat. Alone and haunted, Jyllith must infiltrate their Demonkin cult and stop them… even if it costs her soul.

Meanwhile, Kara Honuron’s journey to Tarna has taken its toll on family and friends. Before they can recover, an ancient demon attacks Tarna and scatters those she loves. Facing an enemy who seeks her complete destruction, Kara sets out to stop the demons once and for all. Pitted against each other on converging paths, these two young women will either save the Five Provinces …or doom them to a horrific fate”

This is the story of Jyllith. No. Really. She is the star. Well her and Ayrn/Tania.

I am going to try to be as spoiler free as possible with this review, as far as Book 1 goes. But if you have not read Glyphbinder, then stop right here. This book has nothing for you. Go and read the first, lest you be lost.

This book showcases Eric’s writing style, with fast paced action and well paced story. Again, much like before, not a single word is wasted nor a single scene pointless. Everything he does either builds up characters or expands on the world. And I absolutely love it.

The blurb really does explain this well without actually giving anything away. This really is the story of Jyllith. She is a main focus here. Kara actually gets very little “screentime” as it were till the end of the book. In fact, honestly, for me Kara was the weakest of the characters. She becomes more of a hormonal teenager then anything else, traumatized from the events in book one, and gaining a sort of “I have to save everyone alone” complex later on. Which honestly was what I was hoping to avoid seeing. She basically apparently decides that she is in love with Trell, and when he goes to sacrifice everything to save people, she flips out and tries to rescue him against something that she clearly has no chance of beating, and she knows it. But she does it for love! Love…for a man she has known at this point for 3 weeks, give or take.

See? hormonal Teenager moment. Blah.

Storywise, the book takes a breakneck pace and leaves you very little breathing room. Everything is tense, as it should be, given the circumstances. I found myself unable to put the book down, which is always a good sign.

However, the book has no ending. Its a cliffhanger. A hard, blatant, cliffhanger. It makes sense, in a way. This is the second book of a trilogy, but its hard for me to excuse it. The book just…ends, with a very clear “Join us next week as Kara continues to try to save the world!” with no real resolution of the events of this book.

Yes, Jyllith manages to do what she set out to do…partially. And Kara manages to do things…partially. But at the end of the book, nothing has really been resolved and things are even worse then when they started. And only Kara can save them, apparently.

This ending, combined with the fact that this is written as a squeal, are two problems I cannot forgive. For me, these things are a major strike against the book.

If someone had never read the first book and came to read this, they would have no idea why Cantrell, Jyllith, Byn, Sera, Aryn, Xander, Mellysa, and others are important. They would have no idea why they are connected, what made them who they are now. Nothing. It gets…somewhat explained in this novel, but in very small amounts and in passing.

And that ending. Ugh. That just aggravates me.

One thing I do want to point out involves the new character of Tania. And some parallels I noticed. Tania is a blind girl, who is an Earther. She specializes in Earth magic. Further, she is sassy, sarcastic, and learned how to see without using her eyes. Does this remind you of anyone reader?

If you said Toph, from the Last Airbender, you would be right! She is clearly inspired by Toph. Once I noticed this, well, I started noticing other parallels between these books and the last Airbender. Byn is Sokka, a solid physical styled fighter with a good heart and humor. Sera is Katara, a healer and fiercely loyal character. Kara is clearly Aang, mastering all forms of Glyphs/Bending. Aryn is Zuko, a scarred fire master trying to regain his place in the world. I started noticing these comparisons and have to wonder if Eric was subconciously influenced by Avatar. Granted, if you are gonna be inspired by something, you could do worse the The Last Airbender.

Overall, I would have to give this book a 3/5. For fans of Glyphbinder, its great. You get a real good look at Jyllith and learn a great deal more about her, and Aryn and Tania are fantastic as well. Hell, my personal favorite character was the demon general Abaddon and his interactions with Trell. Seriously. I need more Abaddon.

But the ending left me unsatisfied, and the lack of context for new readers is definitely an issue. So again, read Glyphbinder. If you enjoy that, then come and read Demonkin. And personally, I am excited for book 3. Get on it Eric!

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The Stolen Child by Peter Brunton – A Review

A Copy of this book was provided to me by the Author in exchange for an honest review.

The blurb: “There are roads that are not on any map. There are worlds beyond our own, where cities hang between the clouds and Guildships sail on steam and lightning.

There is a girl living on the streets of London, hunted by ruthless mercenaries and a boy made of shadows and smoke.

There is a place beyond the furthest edge of the Dreaming, where the Lady of The Falling Leaves is calling her home.

And there is a secret, buried in the heart of Rachael’s city, that will change our world forever.

The Stolen Child is a breathtaking young adult adventure that takes the reader from industrial chaos of modern London to the vast and impossible world of the Borderlands, a world of flying ships, floating cities, magical automata, and ancient wonders. Drawn together from across distant worlds by events that were set in motion before either of them was born, two young women discover a strange connection, and a friendship that will change their lives.”

This is a hard one to pin down for me. And there is a funny story to how I got a hold of this book. I use Reddit a lot both at home and work. I browse tons of subreddits on various topics. One of those was Star Citizen, and I ended up mentioning in a thread that I had started reviewing books. Then the author of this one contacted me, and here we are.

Strange places to get review copies. But I digress.

This is the story of two girls: Rachel, a homeless runaway living in London and Arsha, a girl living in the Borderlands, outside of our known reality and connected to a multitude of places via the Ways. You could get all that from the blurb, but the story is really hard to define, genre-wise. It has elements of Urban Fantasy, regular Fantasy, and a dash of what I can only call Steampunk, although its more like A Vanishing Glow as its magical tech not steam based (They use caged Lightning to power their airships, and the only magic they wield has to do with Fate).

First lets discuss the good aspects of the story. Firstly, it ENDS. That’s right, no cliffhanger, no poor ending. There is a solid ending that ties up everything about the primary conflict and story, and then leaves a door open for the inevitable sequel. Considering he calls this Book 1 its safe to assume there will be more adventures with Arsha and Rachel. Secondly, the world building is solid and the author is actually pretty solid at “show don’t tell”. He doesn’t drown you in exposition but instead focuses on the characters and story, letting the world build itself in your mind based on what is going on around everyone. And he does it well. Not perfectly, by any stretch. But well enough that it kept me turning pages and wanting to see where things went.

Also the world of the Borderlands is interesting to say the least. I want to know more about the Borderlands and how its structured, who the Guild really is and the various peoples of the world.

Now for a bit of the bad. And this is a personal issue rather then a technical one.

I cannot, for the life of me, stand Teen Angst. This book is a Young Adult novel. And its a solidly written one. But Rachel is a ball of angst and rage and issues. And it makes her, for me at least, unlikable. Arsha also frequently gets into fits of angst and “my life is terrible!”

Thing is, they have legitimate reasons FOR this angst. It makes sense in the context of the story. But I am not a huge fan of it, on a personal level. For Arsha, its not too frequent, but for Rachel? That girl is broken. She has had a terrible life and it shows. She has massive issues involving trust, and constantly tries to be strong and run from her problems. Every time someone tries to help she basically bites the hand that feeds, and it gets frustrating at times for me because I start to scream in my head “YOU IDIOT CHILD STOP BEING A NARDMUFFIN!”

Oh and there were a couple of grammar and spelling issues, but sadly I forgot to mark them down in order to send em to the author. Nothing major, and not really frequent. In a 400 page book I can recall 3 errors roughly.

Overall, this is a solid debut from a new author, and if you are interesting in a strange blend of Urban Fantasy and Magical Tech/Steampunk, you should give this a read. I rate this a 3/5. For me, it was pretty average at the end, but it was still a good story. And I am curious to see where it goes.

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Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum by Gregory Funaro – A Review

A Copy of this Novel was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

The blurb, as always: “When Grubb, an orphan and runaway chimney sweep, entered the wondrous world of the Odditorium, his life changed forever. Apprenticed to the mechanical marvel’s strange proprietor, Alistair Grim, Grubb unfortunately must settle into his new position on the lam, as the whole of London is convinced that Alistair Grim is a villain bent on mass destruction. Grim, however, has come up with a plan to expose the real villain: Prince Nightshade, a wicked necromancer who wants the Odditorium’s power source for himself.

With the evil prince hot on their trail, Grim, Grubb and the rest of the Odditorium’s crew embark on a perilous adventure to find the legendary sword Excalibur: the only weapon capable of penetrating Nightshade’s magical suit of armor. As expected, their quest turns out to be anything but ordinary. Not only can the Odditorium fly, but it can also swim! And so the crew battens down the hatches and sets off on an underwater voyage to the otherworldly realm of Avalon, home to Excalibur. Along the way, they must battle a banshee assassin, sea monsters, and a witch who seeks revenge on Alistair Grim for stealing her magical objects.

But that’s not all. Unbeknownst to Grubb and the others, their fate has been written in an ancient Avalonian prophecy—a prophecy that holds the key to a destiny not even Alistair Grim could have possibly imagined.”

So before I really get into anything here, be aware of this: This is a sequel. To a book I personally have not read. And unfortunately, this book reads as a sequel.  Go read the first one if you are even remotely interested.

Because honestly, here is very little time spent on character development or interpersonal relationships, because its obviously been built up in the previous book.  Everything in this book was setup in the first.  EVERYTHING.

My biggest issue here was the fact that I was unaware it was a sequel. The blurb kinda hints at it, but doesn’t really make it clear. However, within a few pages it becomes very clear very quickly that things occurred in a book prior to this, major things, and these things are never really explained or gone over in any detail for those of us who are coming in mid-series.

Now, I don’t mind this generally. Plenty of book do this, but the issue here is that there are also a ton of books and even long running series that do not do this, and are actually able to be read in really any order, as each book is a self contained story.

The Dresden Files are a good example of this.

But my personal favorite example is The Elenium Series, by David Eddings.

I actually received the 3rd book of that series as a gift when I was a kid and did not know it was book 3. I read it, loved it, found it there were 2 other books, and went and read them in order.

And I missed NOTHING.

Every major event from the first two was referenced perfectly in book 3.

Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum really does not do that. The author clearly assumes you have read the first book and just goes forward with the plot.

And truthfully, the plot is not that great if you have no vested interest in the characters. And if you have not read the first book, you won’t have that connection. And thus everything falls apart. Which is exactly what happened to me.

On a technical level, the writing is good. But I found myself rather bored with the whole thing. I didn’t click with any characters, and really did not see any reason to care. Nothing was bad, but nothing was really fascinating.

I am curious as to why the author felt he had to make up a word to replace Artifacts. Cause these folk refer to Artifacts…as Odditoria. And going on an Aquaticum refers the an underwater adventure.

Because WHIMSY!

I give this a 3/5. I would suggest checking out the first book before even touching this one, otherwise you will miss a whole lot.

And truthfully I most likely won’t bother with the first one simply because this one failed to interest me on its own.

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Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D Hammons – A Review

A Copy of this book was provided to me by Netgalley in Exchange for an Honest Review!

As always lets start with the blurb: “After ten years of being told she can’t tell the difference between real life and a fairy tale, Alice finally stops believing in Wonderland. So when the White Rabbit shows up at her house, Alice thinks she’s going crazy.

Only when the White Rabbit kicks her down the rabbit hole does Alice realize that the magical land she visited as a child is real.

But all is not well in Wonderland.

The Ace of Spades has taken over Wonderland and is systematically dismantling all that makes it wonderful. Plain is replacing wondrous, logical is replacing magical, and reason is destroying madness. Alice decides she must help the Mad Hatter and all those fighting to keep Wonderland wonderful.

But how can she face such danger when she is just a girl?

Alice must journey across the stars to unite an army. She discovers that fairy tales are real in the magical world beyond the rabbit hole. But they are not the fairy tales she knows.

Fairy tales have dangers and adventures of their own, and Alice must overcome the trials of these old stories if she wants to unite the lands against Ace.

With the help of Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Snow White and heroes old and new, Alice may have the strength to take back Wonderland.

I find myself torn with this one. On the one hand, I really honestly enjoyed myself with it, for the most part. The re-imagining of the various fairy tales were inspired and unique for one. The idea, for example, and Snow White is a booze runner was hilarious, and that she was having a feud with Red Riding Hood was just the right amount of insane.

The basic story here is that Alice in Wonderland really happened, and that Alice is not a girl from the Victorian era of England, but rather a girl from our time. Apparently, the “rabbit hole” that connects the dimension of Wonderland to ours is almost a wormhole, and echos of events that take place in Wonderland and its fairy tale neighbors escape to our world, and become the books we read. Because Wormholes don’t follow time and space laws, you end up with the story of Alice going to another reality and becoming a book written in the past, for example.

When Alice gets back home however, no one of course believes her in regards to her adventures, and they start drugging him with anti schizophrenia and ADHD medications. This was something I could understand, as today parents frequently heavily medicate their children.

Eventually Alice grows up, and around 17 years old sees the White Rabbit, who steals her meds, and drags her back into Wonderland, where all hell has broken loose…because Wonderland is changing.

From there Alice goes on a journey to find a way to save Wonderland. She meets a colorful cast of characters, deals with a few challenges, and then the one thing that pisses me off about the book occurs.

Romance happens. Suddenly, without warning, and without any logical reason I could see.

One of the first people Alice meets is Peter Pan, who tells her that she is a Fairy Tale to him as he remembers his book before he came to Neverland. She knows Peter Pan as a fairy tale.

She askes for his help and they team up after she helps him solve some issues. They act, for the majority of the book, as just a pair of friends. No real hints of romance or anything. Then suddenly after a major battle…Peter kisses her, and next thing you know the two are inseparable. I had to sit there and think for a minute pondering if I missed something.

I did not.

The ending in fact happens the way it does SOLELY because of the two of them being suddenly in love.

At least the ending did not sequel bait.

Overall I enjoyed the book but the ending honestly soured it for me. If the romance had made sense I would have been fine with it, but it did not. Not for me at least.

I rate this a 3/5 and suggest it to anyone who likes twisted fairy tales. Honestly, they are the best part. Alice is nice and all, but when you meet Pinocchio you will smile broadly, I promise.

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