The Blog for What to Play Next

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bringing Fantasy Land Home: Dragonlover's Guide to Pern

Sometimes a series is so exquisite in its detail that you know there's a world behind it waiting to be explored. IRL- Neil Stephenson has notebooks full of research from old letters and history books to support his fiction, for fantasy worlds it's often the same.

It's fun to have a staycation, that's what travel lit is for, and you can do this with a handful of worlds through their compendiums- comprehensive hardcovers that study the world that is a series' setting, rather than the characters or any plotline. Historical timelines, character biographies, maps and - most of all - recipes, bring to life something that lives only in the mind of the author.

The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern is one of the best. While Lackey may produce quite a bit of music to illustrate Valdemar, McCaffrey created recipes for the food that she mentions so frequently in her books. This incredible twist took fantasyland into the kitchen and made for a fun spin that can be used at parties, holidays and gatherings that beg for a little novelty.

To fall in love with the world that supports more than twenty novels- try the Dragonlover's Guide to Pern.



Can't wait? Buy it Now :)

For more reviews of books, games and Betas, try Anne's Channel.

The Devil You Know: Mike Carey

Carey spent most of his career writing graphic novels, but his debut book is just as gripping, and just as adult.

Felix Castor can see things that other people can't- he's always been able to. While in modern day London that's more acceptable than you'd think, it still isn't a great way to make a living. But for a guy who's in a downward spiral, there's always one more job.

This one last job is in a museum and is fascinating in its twist and turns. Clues pop up as supernatural events challenge the happy little world of museum employees, and they're not nearly as amused by the occurrences as Felix.

The veil between worlds is ripping and the population is having a harder time maintaining their comfortable level of mild disbelief, and this final exorcism might be more than Castor can handle. In the style of the Constantine Comic Books, The Devil You Know is gritty, dark and gripping. Grab it if you want something a little different.



Curious? Buy it Here.

For video game, book and beta reviews that draw you in and won't let you go, check out Anne's Channel.




Monday, October 24, 2016

The Assassin in India (13) - Any port in a Storm



She looked a little confused, as though she'd maybe expected a visit, but not from him. Timmy smiled. She'd been expecting a soldier, and thinking about Sarge, her color was high. He hadn't given her two glances, that made him the safe one. No one had ever told her the line about the quiet ones then.

"I didn't want to interrupt you while you were sleeping," Timmy lied, his heart rate going now that it was on, but it was pretty easy not to let it show. Ennia's gun stayed pointed.

"If I were going to kill you, or hurt you in any way, I'd have used a silencer and taken you at the door," he kept on, letting his English slide a bit, the way he didn't usually talk. She was certainly beautiful. This should be easy. Pretty little tasty bits were actually the easiest- they couldn't puzzle their way around his reactions. She lowered the gun but didn't put it down. She looked about ready to spit, not that a woman of her class would. If he got real suicidal he'd ask her how a rich girl wound up an assassin, as it was he watched while she shifted slightly. It had thrown him at first, he'd gotten rich off of her before killer. She flicked her eyes along the length of him when she thought he wasn't looking, Timmy didn't react.

Good. Used to getting what she wanted and not really held down by the usual rules, although she'd pretend, for forms sake. He'd brought protection and he was betting he'd need it. Not that the boy's betting had riled him, he'd kept his matchsticks out of it. He slid a hand under the blanket and grabbed her foot, massaging it. Her gun came up.

"I can tell you're here on a diplomatic mission," Timmy told the barrel, his smart mouth working overtime, "Just like I'm intelligence." Tell 'em out loud- they'll never believe it. Rule number one of counterintelligence. Unless they were Americans- an American might take you seriously. Ennia laughed softly and lowered the gun. He had an Aunt who'd studied reflexology, seemed like a handy thing when you wanted to break down barriers, worked on hands too. He'd tumbled his fair share of handsome into bed using that particular trick, already her posture was relaxing.

"I'm not going to ask about who you're visiting, you don't want to tell us, that's your business." He spoke softly, like a confidante. Fancy french word there, he was still focusing just on her feet, and she was loving it, too. Had to prove you were one of the guys there way too often, didja bird, he mused silently. Had to be difficult, coming from power. He kept his eyes down and let her get her rush, that kind of feeling got you a little drunk.

"Do you rather, Ennia or Vyrennia," He asked, once he was through both feet and just as his hands moved to her calf muscles, interrupting the requisite protest before it even started.

"Either," she answered shortly. Vyrennia'd had time to think- she'd been expecting Sarge to come in and try to work her over- might even have planned a tumble from the way she'd tossed the pants aside. It was pretty obvious by now that he was going for the same, for all that he was polite about it. It set her off for a reason she couldn't figure out. He didn't seem to notice.

Timmy let the longing show on his face instead of the laughter. He would have laughed here if this were the real deal. He missed it, hadn't had a flatmate in months. The low laugh as he slowly got on top of someone made their blood run hot. This bird reacted to the longing, negatively. She tucked her feet back under the blanket and he looked up. She was interesting. But he'd spent his time in the kitchen reviewing a map that he'd stuck behind his kit, and he knew this kind of girl. Once the oven was prepped it was just a question of playing everything right. And he had an Ace up his sleeve. Bitch.

He smiled at her.

"You've got a bit of a walk home after tomorrow." She frowned and her hand twitched towards her gun. She hadn't been twitchy before, his heart started back up and he smiled at her a little more fiercely. Her eyes went dark. Most blokes would take it for a bad sign but he'd watched her watch Sarge, he knew he was winning. She didn't want to fuck him, but she did- control issues. Perfect.





Sunday, October 23, 2016

Let's Read (3): The Little Zen Companion

Question 2
"The world is it's own magic."
Shunryu Suzuki


When hungry, eat your rice; When tired, close your eyes. Fools may laugh at me, but wise men will know what I mean\

-Lin Chi

There is a Western style of Philosophy that holds that the only thing you can know is that you know nothing, it's an examination of deductive logic, that we study by taking what we know and deriving, so we theorize. This method, the Socratic method, recommends teaching by questioning a student, rather than offering answers. While I can't do that in a static medium, I CAN cause you to question your own answers. How do the two koans go together? Are they a path, or a question and answer? What happens when you combine koans, things that are, by themselves, meant to stimulate the mind and give you something to tie experience to- freeing the mind from its structure?

Do koans do anything other than allow us to understand that there is no box, by Becoming the box?

Question 3:

"I take a nap
Making the mountain water
Pound the rice"
-Issa


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Catfantastic (Yes, this is a real thing)

If you're just getting into fantasy, or if you want to step away from whatever niche in it your used to, an anthology is a great way to go. There were winters when I'd run out of books from my favorite authors and for a while I wasn't sure what to do to find new ones (of course, you can always read the reviews here- I only pick great books :).

Whether you just want a change or are shopping around for more, picking up an anthology is an awesome way to experience both. I first started grabbing them they were the only place to get extra material from some authors that I'd shopped out, then I realized I was running into other short stories in worlds I wanted to explore.

Catfantastic V features everyone from Mercedes Lackey to Andre Norton with more than ten other authors to check out as well. The stories are light and amusing, frightening, dark, classical. They're a wide range of short stories featuring one central theme- cats. Sometimes the cat is the main character, sometimes they're just pivotal to the story.

No matter how they're played, the anthology is a fun romp with new authors and stories that are fun and easy to read, at about 15 pages each. Try it out, anthologies are something different.



Curious, buy it Here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Assassin in India (12)- Gone Fishing

         (Chapter 11)

         "Nice scar, Sarge," Danny said, eyeing the long one down my back. Skiing trip with Karen, if you'd believe it. Ten years in the field and I got a gorgeous scar from a slope. I stretched, feeling the scar pull. You'd think we hadn't bunked together- oh, the bird. She was over with the boys, playing poker, and probably getting taken. I rubbed a hand along the back of my neck, considered shooting Timmy, briefly, and headed back to the bathroom to get dressed.

         I took extra time, it was petty, but Timmy deserved the boys up his arse some. He'd already made tea and showered, what was his rations kit even doing in the kitchen- making sure his teeth were less than white to dodge a bird? Hell, maybe he was smarter than I knew, I was avoiding her too.

         I came out at the end of a hand and Ennia looked put off. She didn't show much in her expression but her full lips were pressed slightly, her head tilted a bit at an angle, thick black hair struggling loose as always. I wondered if she were playing them, but she'd have to be damn good. My squad loved their poker.

         She glanced over at me and stretched. I glanced out the window. Still about three hours til full dark. I considered telling her to head to bed but Timmy started ragging on Mikey before I could open my mouth and I didn't want to shout. I was still on the fence about giving her our next location. She could flip on us, or she could get taken down and I could wind up texting it to someone with a major hard on for anyone who knew her. Life's a bitch.

         After a minute she stood and walked towards the back, I stepped aside and smothered a smile. She smelled like me. Not that the kits weren't uniform, but mine had apparently picked up a hint of the tiny bottle of aftershave I stored in there for when we weren't in the thick of it. I continued on into the living room after I saw she wasn't heading for the bathroom. I threw a marker on the table and got a handful of toothpicks. I looked at Timmy and raised an eyebrow as he dealt me in.

        "You're dealing the next hand, Sarge," Timmy said casually, "I'm just about out." I considered asking him if he was going to put away his damn shotgun, but that was a given. Danny turned up the TV some more and the guys exchanged wicked glances. I quit with playing give her the address or don't and told my worry to piss off, Timmy'd probably make the call in the next couple minutes. I took the hand.

          Timmy stood up and leaned Danielle over by his rucksack, disappearing into the back of the house. Nobody changed their conversation any but the betting got vicious. Dick swingers.

          Ennia sat up as the door opened. She was still wearing Sarge's shirt, but Timmy could see that the pants were tossed by the side of the bed. She had a gun in her hand, but he didn't let it bother him. He'd had guns pointed at him before. He shut the door and walked to the foot of the bed, deliberately rucking up the blanket as he sat. She hadn't said a thing so he wasn't about to freeze up. She looked a little confused, as though she'd maybe expected a visit, but not from him. Timmy smiled. She'd been expecting a soldier, and thinking about Sarge, her color was high. He hadn't given her two glances, that made him the safe one. No one had ever told her the line about the quiet ones then.





Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dance of the Dead: Ravenloft

She was beautiful, lost and alone and he adopted her as a small child, drawn in by her beauty and grace. Now, decades later he's come to collect.

They ride a riverboat run off of a secret magic that none of the cast and crew questions. All they know is that they're not allowed to sing into and out of port, or outside of the plays. It doesn't matter to most of them, until their Captain goes mad for his adopted daughter and she flees into the swamps.

She's older, but still gorgeous and talented, and she's determined to fight her way free from this nightmare, no matter what the cost- and it will be high. To pay it, she defies a terrifying Baron of the swamps and learns the Dance of the Dead. Magic itself falls in love with her, and might die to save her.

It's time for the secrets to be told...



Curious? Buy it Here.


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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sing the Four Quarters: Tanya Huff

Unbridled, free, wild. The Bards of Skoder have everything. They're the eyes and ears of their country, they bring the mountains to the sea and the sea to the mountains and they tie every little, personal melody into one larger song. Although the spirits of the elements are capricious and moody, being able to sing to them gives the Bards an advantage that is as magical as it is fulfilling.

And Annice wanted that. Wanted it more than she wanted her title as Princess, and everything else that went with it. She was born able to sing the kigh, and she could sing all four of the quarters. One element was considered a blessing, all four- she was meant to be a bard. But her brother didn't see it that way and had tried to cement his budding rule by marrying her off to the Prince of their natural enemy Cemandia, where singing to the kigh was a death sentence.

So she gave it all up, the right to marry, the right to bear children, her family. And now that she's knocked up, she might have to give up her life. Her love Stasya is her only ally when the father of her child is charged with treason. She's sure it's a Cemandian plot, but between the pregnancy itself being treason and the man who inspired the song "Darkling Lover" being charged with the same, she has no chance to plead her case. They flee back to his Duchy for answers.

If they don't find them, she, the Duke and their baby face a Death Judgement.



Already in love? Buy it Here.


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Friday, October 14, 2016

MoonCalled: Werewolves and Vampires and Walkers, ohhhh myyyy :)

Mercy is an automechanic- a strange job for a history major. But she's got the strength, the guts and the brains and when one of the fae (a metal working gremlin) picked her up as an apprentice, it turned into a career. Unfortunately the Grey Lords forced the less fae out of hiding and, when prejudices boiled over, onto reservations. Zee retired and gave Mercy the shop.

She's a walker, a Native American that can change into a coyote, but she's had no one to teach her how to use her powers. Even though her mother fostered her with werewolves, she's a loner, she never quite fit in. When a beat up were shows up on her doorstep she takes him in, and opens up a world of trouble.

The local Alpha, Adam, is retired military and is being eyed for the wolves' poster boy if they have to come out of hiding. But he's raided and his human daughter, Jesse, is kidnapped. He's been watching out for her for a long time and Mercy is all in, she loves Jesse.

She pulls out the stops and checks in with everyone she knows, from vampires to fae, to find out what's going on, and who's finally targeting the wolves.

An interesting look at the social structure that still permeates America, using werewolves as an example. You'll love the story, but stay for the characters, when the plot doesn't move quite fast enough. A romantic triangle doesn't hurt, when her childhood sweetheart shows up to help you want to scream Team Adam, like a tween. Worth the read.




Want to check it out? Buy it Here.

For more reviews on games, books and more, check Anne's Channel.



Thursday, October 13, 2016

Let's Read (2): Little Zen Companion

Question 1:
"Ah, but I was so much older than that then. I'm younger now."
Bob Dylan


Like most koans this is initially a contradictory statement. They're set up that way to allow you to think about them. Rather than being a direct communication, they are a point of interest. In Zen Buddhism the state of nothing is sought, where you are at peace, meditation can help you reach that as you contemplate a phrase and let your random thoughts that day cluster around the phrase, rather than your usual worries.

"A wise man is a happy child,"

Maybe this saying is not as confusing now. As I mentioned in the previous entry the book begins with the statement "In the beginner's mine there are many possibilities, but in the experts mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki.

What sort of things did you notice as you were thinking about Question 1? What changed in your thinking? And what did you make of the saying that may have been different from where I guided you?

We'll return to the beginning of the book now and expand. Since the question presented seems relatively easy, let's try something harder from Suzuki.


Question 2
"The world is it's own magic."
Shunryu Suzuki

What do you make of the question?



Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize while I was busy quoting him- if you're looking for a sign that it's time to practice a little Zen, that might be it :)


Let's Read: Throne of Glass Ch 18 & 19

Celaena is overjoyed that Prince Dorian is willing to spar with Nehemia- even though he chooses to spar with swords, rather than let her use her weapon of choice, a staff. She's enjoying watching the match when she's rudely interrupted by Chaol.

The Captain of the Guards is less than happy that the Princess and the Prince are facing off against each other. Although he's fairly liberally minded, he still believes that she shouldn't be fighting and throws Celaena out of the training grounds for it. She's furious, a year in the salt mines damaged her fighting skills and she's not going back. That means she has to be good enough to win whatever the next Competition is, and Chaol refuses to even give her a hint. They have a round of their usual dialogue that ends roughly the same as always, she storms off.

In the meantime Kaltain is hanging around the court, flirting with Duke Perrington and praying that she'll never have to make good on any of it as she trolls for castle gossip. She's fairly transparent but the Duke still lets her in on Queen Georgina's plans to marry off Dorian, and she tells him about Lady Lillian (Celaena)'s infatuation with the Prince. The two form a natural alliance.

Chaol and Dorain have their own back and forth, although it's less friendly, mostly about Celaena. Dorain's sure that Chaol is falling for her, but it might just be jealousy talking. The talk turns dark as they discuss the "Eye Eater"s murder, his innards and brains scooped out. Dorian seems to think it was a drunken brawl, which makes him either poorly informed or short on brains himself, Chaol doesn't have and good leads, but everyone appears confident in him, which eats at him.

Questions: What do you think Chaol's arguments against the Princess sparring are? Are politicians today trained in self defense- and should they be? How about celebrities like Celaena? Why do you think the death was so gruesome, what can you draw from that which lets you know more about the plotline?

Pet Peeves: Dorian says that Chaol's absence was inexcusable, but he was in the middle of a murder investigation- that's a little unreasonable. Celaena's temper is always a problem for me, she's close to slavery, she should be building alliances. Kaltain is way too see through to be a noble of any kind, especially one that wants to dabble in court politics.



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Assassin in India (11)- I'm betting on Danielle



       Johnny got up and walked over to his rucksack, pulling out a box of colored incense matches. The boys chuckled, except for Timmy, and got up for the same.
       
       "Bet he doesn't," Johnny said quietly enough that we could hear the shower turn on. Danny turned up the TV some. Johnny threw two orange matchsticks on the near side of the table. There was a shower of different colored matchsticks. Timmy hadn't moved, his face was expressionless. I admired his damn professionalism, but this could get ugly. My chaps were worked up, for all that they went for the usual betting. It was looking a bit like fucking Guy Fawkes day on the far side of the occasional.

       Timmy was a damn good soldier and he'd do his job. I didn't give a good god damn which side of his bread he buttered as long as he wasn't a bender and didn't make it my business. Fuck it.

       "Bet he does." I said, using my quiet command. I'd practiced it, not that I'd ever tell these fucking micks. I threw five red matches in front of Timmy and Danielle. The boys laughed and a couple matches joined the pile. They each had their way of it, where they bet some for and some against, seeing the scales tipped was odder than a three dollar bill and we didn't want that luck. I scooped the piles up into two bags once they got it out of their system, and tucked them away when they settled down again. 

       She didn't take long and I had some biscuits and jam and a hot cup of tea for us both by the time she was out. I'd pitched in a spare set of my clothes without bothering her too much. Timmy wasn't the only one with some training. You pushed at their barriers casually when you were working a contact. Not that I wanted her as a contact. Fuck, the last thing I wanted was an assassin for a contact, so she could get all twitchy and clean me off her witness list. But we were here to find Neha and I was shit out of leads if no one showed at that warehouse tonight. 

        The chairs hadn't been cleaned since the house had been abandoned. Someday I'd find out which sorry bloke went through in front of us and scouted out bunkers. I'd brushed off their upholstery and lacquered backs and gestured Vyrennia into one of them. She ate like a bird, quick, small  bites, but savored over the tea. At some point Timmy stretched before dealing the next hand and I waited a moment before taking a breath.

        "We're here til tonight." Always lead with your own intel, they said, it works every time, they said, "You?" 

        "Same," the word was soft, and she glanced out the window at the sun. It wasn't yet four, we had a long wait. I hadn't been sure she would answer at all. Joey went outside to switch off on watch and Marky came in a minute later.

        "We got a lead on a contact, we're here for an in and out," I hated to give that much but the bitch was tight lipped. She just nodded. I sighed. I could wait. She was obviously here to hit a mark, if she was going out tonight then she either was closing for the kill or she was meeting a contact as well. She looked knackered though, not riled up. My money was on a contact and we could sure use more information.

         "Looks like things went tits up for you," I let move voice get a little soft, not so much that anyone who didn't know me would notice. It would register. I sounded a bit snookered.

         "Meet us back at a different bunker after you go out?" Ennia hesitated and I kept my mouth shut, looking out the window. It would be dangerous to give her a location but I could send it to her phone. It was more dangerous to stay here longer than a few hours with the dead bodies. Instead I picked up my kit from the edge of the table and headed for the shower, passing Davey on the way. The punter was so big I had to turn sideways to get past him, he looked like a bloody shaggy bear. 

        "Shave next time," I told him as the door clicked shut for my two minutes of heaven. They were cut short with a crash in the kitchen. It turned out to be another kit hitting the ground, Timmy'd knocked it over as he was making a second tea. I was a sight, in a towel with a Glock drawn, and Ricky whistled at me.

        "Shove off," I told him, smiling, heart still pounding. 

        "Nice scar, Sarge," Danny said, eyeing the long one down my back. Skiing trip with Karen, if you'd believe it. Ten years in the field and I got a gorgeous scar from a slope. I stretched, feeling the scar pull. You'd think we hadn't bunked together- oh, the bird. She was over with the boys, playing poker, and probably getting taken. I rubbed a hand along the back of my neck, considered shooting Timmy, briefly, and headed back to the bathroom to get dressed.




Monday, October 10, 2016

The Secret of Monkey Island: How silly can you get?

After the Eighties exploded with Adventure Games (pause for happy nostalgia) there was, as always, a counter movement. Everyone under the sun was playing King's Quest, Black Cauldron, pretty much any adventure game that a company can release. Out of all of the pushbacks, Monkey Island was my favorite.

You play Guybrush Threepwood- one heck of a name for a main character. Your only aspiration in life is to become a pirate (Hey, take all you can, give nothin back!) and you wander the island searching for a ship's captain and eventually engaging in a thousand quests to achieve your goal.

So what makes it different? It's about the silliest game on the face of the planet. The irreverent way it treats it's own genre is refreshing and they frequently kick down the fourth wall. Rather than the slightly misogynistic twist that so many adventure games took, it's self-effacing and fun- even chicks don't mind playing Guybrush. (I just got that).

There are plenty of demos etc out there, so give it a try and see if you love it.



Want it? Buy it Here.




Or Better yet, BECOME A PIRATE with our instructional Let's Play.



Let's Read: Stormdancer Ch 3&4

Busting up a sake house is a great way to make friends. Not really, but it is a good way to introduce an interesting game. I've actually re-read it, trying to figure out the rules. Apparently it's a little like Texas Hold 'Em in that the cards on the table influence the cards in your hand but it's a lot more flexible than that. For instance Masura taps a "field" and has a card added. Three cherry blossoms are mentioned, but Jay doesn't specify if that's a card or a total of three cards. Masura's friend Akihito counsels him against "Letting the Dragon steer the ship", but he gambles and wins nonetheless.

The Yakuza are less than amused- his win means that all of the other card players win and gangs that run gambling houses don't really like to lose that much money. Again we have a bit of an allusion to Japanese culture- the Yakuza are a fairly infamous Japanese gang IRL.

Thankfully Masura is hauled out of trouble by his daughter, Yukiko, and the fact that they all work for the Imperial house. His luck is out for everything else though- something reflected in the gambling scene. She's carrying an imperial writ that dictates they're supposed to chase down and capture a Thundertiger- a mythical beast that doesn't exist (which certainly explains Chapter 1!). They leave for a ship to take them to the last wilderness, without much hope for their mission.

On the way we get a better look at the city of Kigen. A dangerous and polluted place, the different Houses are short of war but definitely represent political factions. The newest Lotus Guild is extremely powerful (they seem to sell most of the lotus drugs to the affected population and to be responsible for the industrial boom polluting the city), but not necessarily respected. The Purifiers may or may not be aligned with the Guild, but a frightening scene on the way to the harbor proves they are certainly not people you would want to cross.

Questions: We had previously mentioned that building a book on top of a culture, and modifying it might cause problems. There is a poster for the army advertising that one should "Join the Bushido". The Bushido was a warrior class in ancient Japan who believed that their souls were damned to hell for the violence they committed. As castes go, this placed them fairly high up. Would the poster appear crass, or is the modern day twist acceptable? Also, while scrappy Yukiko is presented as strong, the Purifiers go after a girl, and it seems that is normal practice. Are women considered equal in this world?

Pet Peeves: Besides the Bushido hiccup, I have a little problem with the amount of damage caused to the gambling establishment. I don't know how big Masura's winnings were but it seems that the dealer should have just payed out. Not paying up will also get you a bad rap. There tends to be an "Honor among Thieves" theme to most undergrounds, I'm surprised they deviated. Also they skip the part where two of the main characters face mask up to go outside, as well as every other mention of that- and Masura is smoking, so odds are he isn't wearing one.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Let's Read: The Little Zen Companion

I usually do fantasy, I know.

But here's something different.

Like a word a day- it's 350 japanese koans to meditate on (many from western thinkers). Or you could play the Little Zen Companion game and discuss them with others (I've done it, and now I can achieve mu shin :P)

Even more succinct than Nietzsche, the Companion offers short clips that are sometimes "...puzzling- when words are not used to communicate an idea, but as tools to plant a wordless truth,"

As it says "Sometimes strange things can happen."

I tried it with a math friend of mine- showing her "Water to pure has no fish." I took that to mean that ideas crashed when they were introduced to people, much to their creator's dismay, because there was no filter in the real world. But that the ideas themselves had no intrinsic value, they had worth due to the people they were shared with. Adaptation was incredibly important.

She said "I'll be sure to never put fish into distilled water." End of story. I laughed.

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few." is the first quote in the book.

Some of my favorite memories are of a friend's room, she'd print out quotes and hang them on the wall. We always had something to talk about.

It's not a coffee table book, but I keep it there.


#LetsRead

Question 1:
"Ah, but I was so much older than that then. I'm younger now."
Bob Dylan





Achieve instant and everlasting Enlightenment (ok- get smarter) Buy it Here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Let's Read: Stormdancer (Japanese Steampunk)

Yukiko is a member of the Fox clan, one of the four Shogunates of the increasingly industrialized Shima Empire. Those with Chi struggle to survive- both physically and spiritually. The rapid rise of machines, from airboats to gunpowder, has created a polluted environment that birds and beasts flee.

Once there were mythical creatures, but now these rumors are dismissed as legends by everyone but one very powerful Shogun of the Tiger Clan. His vision of riding a Stormtiger has become an imperative, much to his major domo's dismay. He's been ordered to find one, and no one even believes in them anymore.

Except poor Yukiko, who has every reason to both believe, and to regret having ever left the city for the last wilderness...

The first two chapters are richly engaging and set the stage for the epic that reviews promise.

A few questions: While spirit creatures are still a part of the culture, in fact each house has it's own guardian spirit, they're just starting to be dismissed as myths. How does this parallel religious views in modern day? While the Shima Isles closely resemble Japan, they're not the same- is it culturally acceptable to use a template and then take artistic liberties?

Pet peeves- Obsidian and pearl are not the most practical of building materials- obsidian is literally volcanic glass, so you can kind of fill in the blanks there. Also- it would be mother of pearl inlay, rather than individual pearls- unless it's a mosaic on the ceiling of Yoritomo-no-miya's home. Also a granite statue at each door with two guards equals a lot of guards and tigers, given that most houses are laid out in hallways, rather than great rooms.


#LetsRead






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Storm Front: Gruesome Vampires and Real Magic

          The hard boiled detective novel has been just as overdone as the urban fantasy book but, as is often the case, fusion makes the two of them fresh again. Wizards are old men with white beards who live in towers and heroes are young whippersnappers with dreams and ideals who head towards their goal with a mindless intensity. Detectives are alcoholics who have gone through a divorce and completely lack a social life. Vampires are hot undead people with a thing for southern waitresses. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden overturns these tropes with ease.
          He's an orphan, which is a bit cliche, and he's got ideals, but he is a far cry from the heroes that quest about for magic swords (or, if it's urban fantasy, for magic boyfriends). He's poor, he's realistic and he openly acknowledges that his beliefs, demeanor and appearance make him look spooky to the average person. Despite that knowledge, or perhaps because of it, he has a large circle of friends who are fiercely loyal and accept him for who he is, and his enemies- from vampires to wizards- are a little bit afraid of him.
          He also works for a living. His gifts and knowledge give him an edge, but a lot of his detective work falls out exactly the same as it would for a normal human being, with magic subbing in for technology. His constant struggle with average things like bills and getting his butt kicked make him an accessible character, a rarity in fantasy. There's no inheritance or magical ability to ken gold that fuels Harry's fight for good, he does it the hard way, by helping ordinary people who have run into extraordinary circumstances.
          He's persona non grata with the magical police, but he's still on their side. The role of renegade is pretty common in any fiction, but Harry is different in that he still believes in the people who are persecuting him. He's not exactly gracious to them, but he respects the Wardens as an institution, even though they have him under constant surveillance.
           And the Vamps? They're gruesome. The Red Court wears a "Flesh Mask" and only drinks blood when they can shed it- in the form of a grotesque demon. The White Court vampires look more like humans most of the time, but they feed off of your soul. The Black Courts are the literal dead, possessed by a demon. They're not friends with humans, their existence is predatory- or hellish (for those of them with a little humanity left).
           In addition to creating a unique and likable character, Jim Butcher gets major points for authenticity. Every type of magic presented in the Dresden books is culturally grounded and well researched. The temptation in fantasy fiction is to make it up as you go and call for a suspension of disbelief. Butcher ignores this easy shortcut and does his homework, looking up everything from Wicca to Haitian Voodoo and doing them justice.
           Intricate, three dimensional characters, a quick, engaging plot and historically based magic make Storm Front a great alternative to popular fantasy fiction.





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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Smoke and Shadows: Behind the Scenes at a Studio- Urban Fantasy

Lights, Camera, Action. Everyone knows the words, but Smoke and Shadows takes you behind the scenes in an Urban Fantasy Thriller. Life is good at CB Productions- or as good as it gets for an overworked staff in love with their work- and if you worked for Chester Bane you'd better be in love with your work. But when shadows start to bend from more than just special effects, a street smart PA finds himself speed dialing a number he was thinking about leaving behind.

It helps you keep your cool when your backup is a vampire. Henry Fitzroy moved to Vancouver to give his new "vamp kid", Vicki, some space and Tony Foster went with him. Vampires don't keep "seethes" or any of the other cliches that you might read about, but they've been around a long time and tend to be a little possessive. Once Tony was through a late stint in college and into a job, he got his own studio apartment. It's not that he wasn't grateful, it's that he was.

Still, moving shadows and black magic meant that his ego was going to take a backseat and he was going to call up all the help he could get- and that meant calling Henry.

Henry was about as badass as a Vampire could be. Born in Olde England, the bastard son of Henry XIII, he'd been raised to rule- and he did. He'd also been kicking around for over four centuries writing romance novels and learning control over his powers.

Their one ally on set didn't seem to think that it was enough- she was sure the ShadowLord would win out. Not with a name like that, in modern Canada. The fight was on, and Tony wasn't backing down.



Gotta know how it goes? Buy it Here.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Black Sun Rising: Magic, Belief and Vampires

They landed on a world with strangely swirling mists. Disembarking and beginning to build, the new colony slowly fell in love with their new home. Until the mists began to take form.

At first it was wonderful, odd and exciting things wandered out of the mists- anything you could imagine, but as the population slowly grew fearful, it devolved into madness. Even more than their dreams and hopes, their fears were so strong that they fueled the nightmares which became reality and in turn fed the horror of the magic that was native to this new place.

Technology began to fail, if you believed it would. Engines were openly examined, so that everyone would be reassured that they worked, people lost the non-tangible tech they had brought with them as it randomly became obsolete. Civilization devolved and their escape route closed before they realized it- the ships that brought them here no longer worked. 

He was a hero, fighting with everything he had to tame the mists, sacrificing anything for a better world- until the Church condemned him, and everyone believed it. Now he's no longer even a man, he feeds off of people and knows that on the other side awaits the lowest, burning hell. And a priest is going to ask him for help. Because believe it or not, inside the mists, things are getting worse...



Need to know what happens? Buy it Here.


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Monday, October 3, 2016

The Assassin in India (10)- The Bird with a Gun at My Head

(Chapter 9)

"If you'll not move, while I check on you," she ordered us calmly, producing an iPhone from a slit pocket and thumbing in a request. Could she possibly think she could take us all? Her attitude said, yes. For the first time since I saw her slide in against the wall, my blood started to heat up. That was stupid.

This was an assassin. We were SRR, better than the best, but the brutal training that we took up was on unit work, roughing it, extraction and get out. This bitch revised killing and that was about it. She didn't brush up on things like civilian interaction or- obviously- PR. I took a breath and reminded myself that I didn't want the boys knowing who she was. The Sig pointed at my head wasn't helping.

Timmy glanced at me again and I gave him the rudest British look I had- which was pretty much nothing at all. The bird probably missed the stand down, staring at her phone. We're not real expressive, and being military knocks a lot of the piss out of everything but your words. Still, I could tell Timmy was unhappy, and confused. A bead of sweat worked its way out of my buzz cut and down the back of my neck and my wrist throbbed. Finally, she looked up.

"Marigold," she said, the gun still pointed straight at my head.

"Fuck," I spat. It was a green light. That was the highest all clear MI-5 had given us. I'd have rather popped the fucking bint and called it a day. She holstered her gun and took a step towards us and Mickey got up a little too fast, moving towards the line of rucksacks. His gun swung towards her and her hand flicked up. A tiny dart appeared in his forehead.

"Oh for fuck's sake, Stand Down!" I barked. That was fucking stupid, to move like that, especially after getting a coded go ahead. Mickey deserved whatever tranq was pumping its way into his system. Served his hyper ass right. The boys didn't look happy, but they did as they were told, going back about their business.

Timmy leaned Danielle up alongside him, but gestured for our lady assassin to have a seat. She tilted her head a bit and looked at me. Mickey took up an armchair, twiddling the dart and relaxing into a stupor.

"He always keeps her next to him," I told her, sighing and scanning her up and down, "You look like you've been out for a while. Grab a shower and something to eat."

She didn't look happy that someone else had taken control of the situation, but she nodded sharply.

"It's not lethal, he'll just sleep," she confirmed for Timmy shortly. His posture shifted and she relaxed a little more. I'd missed that.

"Bobby, go stash the bodies," I told him, checking his outfit for any stains. The dark, heavy cloth of his top was a bit dusty, but that was it. His hair was dark enough to blend ok, too bad they didn't wear headresses.

"Fucking thanks, Sarge," Bobby bit off, rolling his blue eyes when he thought I couldn't see him. Body detail sucked, but he was the best at stealth recon. His bio said so, I thought sarcastically.

"What's your name," I asked her as she pulled off her hood. I was glad I was talking, I could keep my cool through anything if I was in charge of a situation.

She was beautiful. She was gorgeous. She was the type of bird that could get a man killed and he'd die happy. Five foot almost nothing, all curves, high cheekbones, pointed chin- eyes that set off something in a bloke that shouldn't be setting when you're trying to think. Her hair was half loose from a rough ponytail and the thick black waves curled around her face. Fuck. I wasted some time picturing her underneath me, cherry mouth open, eyes drowsy with the look that they get when it's really good. She'd answered me. Vyrennia. Right. Vyrennia.

I knew that my chaps had that horse kicked look that even a soldier gets when something tasty like that pops up in front of you so I opened my mouth back up, walking to my kit.

"Bathrooms that way, and here's some soap, razor, the usual. They're mine but it's better than nothing." I handed her everything, slapping a cool look on my face. Gun. She had a gun. I repeated it to myself. It made things worse. "You can take longer than two, but we all need to use it. Bedrooms down the hall."

I was talking out my arse, I hadn't had a chance to check the layout- but it had to have a bathroom and bed so I kept my gestures vague. She gave a cool smile and took my kit, heading for the showers. The door clicked shut and the boys burst out into a nice round of shut up. She was Timmy's then. I nodded at him and he smiled his crooked, why me, smile. Because you don't like birds, you cock. I thought at him. And because you're our Infiltration specialist. He adjusted Danielle and his mates stared daggers at him. He shrugged and dealt another hand of poker. Life is like that. I shook my head again at his fucking purple hair and headed for the kitchen to make up a meal for two. I hope she liked punkers.






October is Vampire Month: Dhampir

Dhampir is being a half breed vampire before it was cool. It sounds like a cursed life, but Magiere's turned everything to her advantage. She and her partner, the lovely Leesil, have traveled the countryside, playing 'vampire slayer' and collecting plenty of money from people who suddenly became haunted by one of the unearthly evils.

Set in a fantasy world, Dhampir is not to be confused with Vampire Academy. The one is poppy and fun, Dhampir is older, darker and way more emotionally intricate. Magiere is no hero, but she's given a chance to become one after she starts to get caught out for her crimes. It's not a grateful populace that gives it to her, it's the vampires she hunts- and they aren't making nice about it.

Her relationship with her partner is tangled, they stay apart on purpose, but they have no other loyalties. Her past is lost, even to her, but it holds a lot of secrets that other people are interested in. The places they go are rural, and uneducated and have the distinctly fantasy flair- this isn't about mythology that's hiding in the light.

For something completely different, and emotionally stirring, try Dhampir.



Walk on the Wild Side? Buy it Here.