Saturday, March 19, 2016

Wake of Vultures (The Shadow - Book 1) by Lila Bowen - Book Review

I have been following Delilah Dawson on Twitter (@DelilahSDawson) for a long time, and yet I had never read any of her books. As such, I was terrified to pick up Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (pseudonym for Delilah Dawson). Terrified, and it's all André the Giant's fault. Let me explain.

When I was a child, I loved wrestling (back when the WWE was the WWF, and wrestling was all about crazy make-up, over-the-top (and somewhat offensive) themes, and managers helping with the occasional chair thrown into the ring). Yeah, it was just a stage show, but I ate it up.

Half of my family had moved out of state when I was a babe. We took many trips to visit them. On one of these visits, little Doug was walking through the airport holding onto daddy's hand, and who is sitting but a few feet away? André the Giant. I had to hold back my inner Butabi. I was young, awkward, shy, there was no way I would be going over unassisted by a grown-up to say anything to the man.

But my dad knew my love of the big men "beating" on each other for sport. He took my little hand and prepared to walk me over to ask for an autograph. Someone got there first, a guy older than me (I was just a little thing) but not ADULT ADULT aged, and Mr. The Giant FLIPPED THE F**K OUT on the dude. I can understand as an adult now that there's some hassle to fame, and chances are that wasn't the first person to "bother" him as he wait for his flight. Maybe not the second, or third, or fourth. But little me just couldn't understand. DEVASTATED.

Never meet your heroes? Someone said that.

As I said in the beginning, I have been following Lila/Delilah on Twitter for some time. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned on here before I'm writing. Currently approximately 90,000 words into a projected 130,000 word novel, and Ms. Dawson has been (and continues to be) incredibly helpful with writing advice. She constantly tweets out stories of her own struggles in the process, tips and tricks, query advice, even advice on quasi-related things like self care, etc. etc. etc. etc.

So, why was I terrified to pick up one of her books? It's meeting your hero. What if it's bad? What does that say about all the advice I'd been absorbing into my own processes for so long? What if...?


Chapter One alone gave me cause to rethink my novel opener. Wake of Vultures was captivating from the get-go and was unrelenting from there. It's an Old West full of a fascinating take on various cryptids and those who hunt them.

It's a book of monsters and also a book of hart (see what I did there? No? The Hart Foundation? Brett the Hitman? Leave me alone.)  But seriously, there're some real feels in here.

You will not be disappointed.

I give it... This picture. I don't know who made it, but... OH YEAH!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Mice and Mystics - Board Game Review

I was a bit of a what you might call a "late bloomer" when it came to my geek cred. My youth was primarily spent playing video games (when I wasn't doing actual outdoors-y type things... Outdoors? Really?). It wasn't until only recently that I first played some Dungeons & Dragons. I was instantly hooked. Now, Dungeons & Dragons is fantastic, but the problem is you need a pretty sizable group to play. Let's face it, without a DM and at least three others, the game isn't going to far (this is in my experience. Not to say you couldn't play with three). My D&D group only meets monthly (if that) and there are just some times that I need a fix. That's where Mice and Mystics comes in. Mice and Mystics is a cooperative board game that is almost like D&D Lite.

What makes this like a lite version of D&D (or whatever your RPG of choice is) is that it is a cooperative game that is playing a story with combat resolved via dice rolls; however, it does not require a DM to moderate. In that respect, you can even play the game solo. Gaming group going to be short a few people? Bring out Mice and Mystics and play. No need to create characters or have someone tell the story. The rulebook creates the means for which the enemies attack and what your goals are. The story book creates the story. It's set up in Chapters, so you can play a little or you can play a lot. There are A LOT of components, so the game isn't too lite, yet the theme is cute enough to use the game as a gateway into the RPG world. Now, in order to get little ones involved they'll need quite a bit of coaching.

Now, last thing to note, just because Mice and Mystics is more or less a stripped down version of an RPG doesn't mean that the game is in any sense particularly easy. Easy to learn? Somewhat. However, someone somewhere said that coop board games should only be fully winnable something like 25% of the time, and while some Chapters of the game are easier than others, some are just plain HARD (as evidenced by all those sideways mice in the pic to the left there).

Definitely a great game with expansions already out to further the story of Collin and the crew.

I give it... a natural 20.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Betrayal At House On The Hill - Board Game Review

I find myself to be a rather interesting individual. Everything with me tends to fall into extremes. I just saw a meme about this...

I'm not sure who to credit for the pic, but it's not mine.

As a child, I needed all of the GI Joes, all of the Smurfs, all of the trolls. I needed to play hockey, watch hockey, play hockey some more, on ice, on the street, in gym. I needed to buy all of the guitar things, watch all the horror movies, all the anime, go to conventions, collect all the comics, go to more conventions, do all the Warcraft all the time, see all the movies (hell, I worked in a movie theater). I needed to read up on all the D&D, write my own backstory. No, I'm not just going to write backstory, I'm going to write a book! I needed to read all the books! and blog about them!

Well, my most recent crush is on board games.

I am just learning now about all these wonderfully complex games that aren't Monopoly or Risk or Sorry or Trouble or Pie in the Face. I started watching Wil Wheaton's show Tabletop, watching the Dice Tower reviews, making a profile on, and just devouring all things board game.

Enough with the chit-chat, this is a review blog (of sorts).

Betrayal at House on the Hill

I know at some point during my ramblings I must have mentioned my affinity for B horror movies. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Ghoulies. I love all of that stuff.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a board game that scratches my horror movie itch. It's a quasi-cooperative game for 3 - 6 players. We'll get back to the quasi-coop part in a bit. For those more experienced in board gaming, it has a traitor.

What's up with this game, you ask? Well, you and your friends have come upon a creepy, old house, and decide, "let's go explore that shit! What can go wrong?" (like you do).

Broken rooms, secret passages, bad omens, there are just so many interesting things happening as you go from room to room. You find items, and madmen, and creepy objects, and then the haunt begins, bringing this from a cooperative game to one versus the rest.

You see, someone in the party is a traitor who lured you to the house with nefarious intent, and it is incumbent upon the rest of the party to stop the evil plan or just flat-out escape. A guide in the book details out what the party needs to do to win, with a separate guide for what the traitor needs to do.

Picture snagged from
Instead of my usual gaming friends, I gave this its inaugural run with some extended family (who have only ventured into board gaming via the usual suspects; Monopoly, et. al.). Mother-in-law, aunts, and uncle gathered around and prepared to embark on some spooky adventure.

It was our first time (though I had knowledge of how to play from (a) reading the rules first (always good to do), and (b) watching Tabletop). The game went mostly smoothly. Hindsight, we made a few blunders, but our second go went better (and allowed me to have my MIL devoured by bloodthirsty bats (Ah, to be the traitor... and win. Sweet, sweet, death to all)).

Final thoughts: This was a ton of fun, to the tune of the Mrs. (who isn't typically into board gaming, nor "fun" things) said she would definitely join in next time. Now to just get that "next time" set up soon!

I give it... Old man Smithers.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Year In Review: 2015 Edition: Pokémon: Gotta Blurb 'Em All

I haven't posted on here since the end of March. On top of that, this is only three posts removed from last year's "What the Hell Have You Been Up To? (WtHHYBUT?)" post.

Why, you ask (even if you had no intention of asking)?

I am now roughly 80,000 words into the first draft of my work in process (an epic fantasy novel), and I estimate it will be somewhere around 144,000 words upon completion (goal: finish first draft in 2016 - preferably by August month-end).

It's been a light year for book-reading/movie-going. Let's Pokémon it! Gotta Blurb 'Em All!
Let's go with alphabetical order by title.


Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) - Jeff VanderMeer
Like an anime. Good all along, but gets all weird on you at the end.  Liked it, but not enough to bump up the sequels on my eternally growing to-read list (but they are on the list).

Armada - Ernest Cline
Another fun pop culture fueled outing. Not as good as Ready Player One.

The Autumn Republic (The Powder Mage #3) - Brian McClellan
That ride you were afraid of, but someone dragged you on anyway, and it was awesome.

City of Stairs (The Divine Cities #1) - Robert Jackson Bennett
REVIEWED The Hulk. Maybe you don't expect much from Bruce Banner, but once you get into it, you realize there's some good stuff buried under there.

The Emperor's Blades (Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne #1) - Brian Staveley
When your wife says "this is the best piece of cake I have ever had," but you really like your own cake so you just don't try it, but she keeps shoving it in front of you saying "try it, you'll like it," and you hate that goddamn song, and on top of that you're a stubborn ass, but then the veiled (and not so veiled) threats start, so you give in and pick it up, albeit resentfully, and grudgingly taste it, and realize that you owe her a really big apology for waiting so long.

Firefight (Reckoners #2) - Brandon Sanderson
REVIEWED Yippy kai ay. Sanderson dropped the major plot twist game for a more straight forward adventure. Still a good time. Waiting on Stormlight Archive #3 more than any Reckoners follow-up.

Last Argument of Kings (The First Law #3) - Joe Abercrombie
Ending the meeting on a high note (but deep down you secretly hope that the project manager calls the team together again for more).

Nemesis Games (Expanse #5) - James S.A. Corey
Continues to be my favorite Sci-Fi series.

Psycho - Robert Bloch
Seen the movie? Of course you have. It's that, almost exactly (in the book, he's chubby).

The Scarlet Gospels - Clive Barker
Sardines. People love them. Me, not so much. I want to like horror more than I do.

The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle #4) - Peter V. Brett
REVIEWED Like playing with Smurfs or GI Joe. Taking an existing world and going into much more depth for the characters, while not exactly advancing the plot all that much.

Unbound (Magic Ex Libris #3) - Jim C. Hines
KitKats (my favorite candy... hint hint).

Bonus! Movies!

Not that I doubted Marvel, but this was a lot more fun than I thought it'd be.

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Marvel. Check. James Spader. Check. Some weak spots? Forgivable.

Crimson Peak
Pretty. Eery. Not overly unique premise.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
I liked the movies more than the books. Not sure how much that is saying. The end DRAGGED like Peter Jackson and The Return of the King (how many endings does this movie need?!?!).

Inside Out
Quite surprised my daughter liked it (and she would tell me if she didn't... she HATED The Good Dinosaur, which she saw with her grandma, which I heard about for several hours upon her return home from the theater). This seemed a little slow and weird for kids to me. Remember that show Herman's Head?

I really wanted to like this. I didn't particularly care for it.

Shaun the Sheep
Love me some Wallace and Gromit. This was cute. Kept the kid's attention even without dialogue.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Do I really need to say anything here?
I haven't even seen the thing yet (tickets purchased, two days and counting), but I'm going to (not really) go on a limb and preemptively rate it amongst the top of the year. I'll come back and edit the post and eat crow if it's not.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle #4) by Peter V. Brett - REVIEW

Goodreads synopsis can be found here.
I got to be one of the lucky ones to get an ARC for The Skull Throne, thus shortening my wait to continue the saga (if only by a few weeks).

I haven't reviewed the previous Demon Cycle books. In (not so) short... if you haven't read them, stop reading this, get in the car, drive to your local bookstore, purchase all the books (heck, get two copies and give one set to your friend who also (for some bizarre reason) hasn't read them yet), and get reading. Now. Right now.

FYI: In the US, The Painted Man = The Warded Man
Review: (fear not, no spoiler for the end of The Daylight War mentioned)

Growing up I happened to have quite the collection of Smurfs (as any child of the 80's should be able to confess to). I just loved the Smurfs and the world they inhabited. Gargamel and his insidious plans to capture the little blue guys, Smurfberries, Azrael (all bad guys need some comic relief), the clever naming scheme (good thing mom knew Brainy would be so smart). I had the toys, watched the cartoons, bought the clay kits to make your own Smurfs (though those were never the same as the store-bought ones). I was a Smurfs fan. It was all just Smurfin' Smurftastic.

The cartoon brought a lot of life to how I would play with my ever-growing collection of Smurfs. You see, there was the over-arching plot from the TV show of Gargamel and whatever nefarious deeds he deemed necessary to capture and use the magical miniatures. I would carry that ploy into my playtime, but that was just never enough for me. So, what did I do?  Well, there had to be some additional turmoil in Smurf Village as Brainy looked to remove Papa Smurf from his seat of power. There was backstabbing as the Smurfs vied for the attention of Smurfette or over control of the Smurfberry hoard. Fights and turf wars broke out. Smurfs died (I was a weird kid). But to me, having that extra story, that additional background and motivation for each of the Smurfs served to enhance the overall story of whatever Gargamel was doomed to fail at on the next week's episode.

My gut tells me Peter V. Brett (Pete? Peat?) may have had a similar childhood to mine (at least toy-wise anyway). Maybe not with Smurfs per se (maybe it was GI Joe? He-Man? Transformers? Voltron? Did that too. And brought them all together to take out the Ninja Turtles. But that's besides the point). But the belief that there needs to be more to the world than the basic plot set forth in the earlier novels is clearly evident in The Skull Throne. Hell (or maybe that should be "Night"), the role of demons in this Demon Cycle novel is significantly less prevalent than any of the other books (that's as close to a spoiler as you're going to get from me). So, while this may not be the book you were expecting (isn't life better that way anyway?), it certainly adds quite a lot of flavor to the Demon Cycle world. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll have a bunch of other typical review-mentioned emotions, you'll Smurfin' curse Pete's name (again) (I didn't really mean it Pete, but...  shakes fist).

The Skull Throne amps up the political intrigue and espionage, deep-dives into character development, and demonstrates that the decisions one makes can have lasting repercussions.

Pete takes Smurf Village, turns the mushroom kingdom on its head, dissects it, removes its organs, moves the bits around into new, bizarre formations, and puts it back together in a way that will make the end product something to behold. Book five can't come soon enough.

I give it...  the goblin ball.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

City of Stairs (City of Stairs #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett

Synopsis per Goodreads here.

When I was younger and Richard Trevithick was busy inventing the first railway steam locomotive (ok, maybe not that long ago), I was really into gum. Loved it. Violet Beauregarde had nothing on me. Juicy Fruit, Bubblicious, Bubble Yum, Fruit Stripe, Big League Chew. You name it. I chewed it all (sometimes at the same time). So, one day I am out and about and what I really want is a stick of gum. And alas, there is no gum to be found. Can you imagine it? No. Gum. Anywhere. But. What I did find was a Blowpop. Now, I don't know how you were raised, but where I come from we do not bite our lollipops. That's a big no-no. So, I took the blowpop and I played the patience game. It's like the tootsie pop commercials. How many licks does it take? If you are actually thinking about this as you try to get to the juicy gummy center, that number is infinite! It is eternal. That is not to say the lollipop is not enjoyable in and of itself. Let's face it. It's a lollipop. It's candy. It's delicious. It's just not exactly what I wanted. So. I licked. I sucked. I maybe even nibbled a little. And eventually. Gum.

With City of Stairs I ran into the same problem. I was feeling an epic fantasy kick. I needed some swords and armor and naughty language and blood and maybe a dragon or two. Or three. But I am nothing if not indecisive. I didn't know what to pick up, and City of Stairs happened to be sitting around the house (probably on the dining room table or something - books abound in the house, so long as they stay out of giant schnauzer reach). So, I picked it up and started reading. Urban Fantasy is probably the best way to describe it. Sort of. Maybe. Regardless, it wasn't exactly what I was after. But, I almost never stop reading something. I can only think of 2 books I DNF'ed (and one was primarily because it was due back to the library and I had something else I was waiting for to read). So, I licked. Sucked. The story got going. Hmmm. I maybe even nibbled a little. Sigrud. Oh, Sigrud, you amusing amusing man. Gods and monsters. Gum! In the end I found the book to be rather enjoyable despite my reluctance to pick up a non-epic fantasy. It just took me some getting into, but that was mostly due to my own gum prejudice. But this shows that a good writer can make it so you enjoy the lollipop even when all you want is the gum.

I give it... puny god.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson

Goodreads synopsis here.

Note (incase you didn't read the title): This is book two of the Reckoners series. Review for Steelheart (book one) here.

M. Night Shymalan (I know it's been a while since you read one of my reviews...  stick with me, this will make sense...  maybe). Who doesn't remember that first time they saw The Sixth Sense?  A great slow build-up of a movie.  Then BAM, Shymalan gives you a roundhouse kick to the face with a crazy plot twist (I should totally swap out that picture for Chuck Norris now...  /sigh). How long did you talk about it? How long did the "I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING!" last?  And then you bumped into that one friend or relative who didn't see it and you had to bite your tongue. We all have that person who wants to talk about it, but doesn't want to know anything. Or you're watching it again with someone who hasn't seen it yet, and you just kinda keep glancing over at them over and over again, bouncing with excitement, because you have to see their reaction! I just gotta capture the look on his face.  Man, that was fun times.  Kind of like what everyone is doing with Game of Thrones these days.  I watched for people's reactions before it was cool, but then I took a mixed metaphor to the knee.


Appropriate picture is appropriate
A few years pass and he puts out Unbreakable. Bruce Willis, but this time we get some Samuel L. Jackson. He can do no wrong. Snakes on a Plane. FANTASTIC! So. Another slow movie. Crazy twist. Signs. Slow movie. Crazy twist. The Village. Slow movie. Crazy twist. Ok. We get it. Crazy twists.  Lady in the Water. I don't think I stayed awake. The Happening. Didn't bother seeing it. The Last Airbender. Devil. After Earth. I don't think they're even mentioning his name anymore. It's become a stigma. I know what I'm getting in a Shamalamadingdong movie. Not fun anymore.

Steelheart had a total WOAH moment in it (or two). So, my hopes for Firefight was that Sanderson wouldn't use the same tricks again. When you start relying on the same tricks, you become boring. Like when you do your reviews over and over again through some long, obscure, metaphor about how you feel instead of how the book actually is, people may just skip through what you're typing...  ignore that.

There are certainly a few surprises in Firefight, but Sanderson's story isn't one long string of events that have a sole purpose of wowing you with the bright, shiny plot twist. The characters are well developed (even if some of them stay home this time). The new characters are entertaining.  The mythology around the Epics only gets more interesting. Sparks, this is just a fun series. Like early Shyguy movies.  Mmmm. Maybe not right. Like...  Die Hard (Bruce Willis was in The Sixth Sense, so that works...  I said so).

Yeah.  I give this "yippee ki yay, mot*#($&5(*@".

Ah, hell.  I'm posting one anyway.