Book review: The Radleys by Matt Haig

Wow. Okay, yeah, it’s easy to please me with a vampire story, but The Radleys has been one of the best I’ve read since Let The Right One In, and like that book, I feel a strong need to gush excessively about how very good this story is. It’s an examination of extremes, and it finds both lifestyles lacking while advocating something closer to moderation.

I realize this next comparison may offend some vampire fans, but from the start, I thought of Twilight. If the Cullens are considered vegetarians for consuming only animal blood, then the Radleys are strict vegans who have abstained from all blood drinking. Indeed, their daughter Clara has gone off of meat entirely in a misguided bid to get closer to animals, most of whom are deathly afraid of her. At the start of this story, parents Peter and Helen have yet to inform their teenage children that they’re vampires. This ends about as well as you’d expect when Clara gets a taste of blood and goes into a frenzy. The body she leaves behind is so badly mangled that Peter desperately calls in his brother Will for help with damage control.

There’s another Twilight comparison, but one more indirect in that these vampires are a departure from the typical mythos. For one thing, they aren’t immortal, only living a few centuries with a steady supply of blood. Also, in this world, the Radleys aren’t considered as radical as the Cullens in their approach to life, as they’re following a set of guidelines from a self-help book, The Abstainer’s Handbook (Second Edition) a dreadful tome advising never doing anything. Even using one’s imagination is warned against, lest it lead to actually living. Anyone practicing this lifestyle isn’t living at this point, and with each passage from the guide doled out, I felt awful for any vampire trapped in such a dreadful state. It advises a much shortened existence filled with headaches, skin rashes, and lethargy, and at one point suggests that maybe suicide is preferable to being a vampire. It’s a charming little pill, really. Continue reading

Book review: Salvage by Duncan Ralston

When I bought Salvage, it was because the blurb made me think of Harbour, and I hoped it might carry some of the same elements of humor, charm, and dread. Unfortunately, this book never really appealed to me. It lacks any trace of charm, the dread found within has no sense of impact, and the humor is mocking derision of stereotypes. I stuck with it, but every few chapters, I’d put it down and look for something to distract me. I finally forced myself to finish it so I could move on to something else, but the ending was just as dissatisfying as the start.

I suppose my first and biggest problem is with Owen, the main character, who has no personality. He has a job, but that’s about all there is to him, making his introduction flat and dull. His connection to his sister is supposed to be really important, but this isn’t shown during the early chapters. In fact, the opposite is shown, that despite his sister’s zeal for life, Owen himself is just going through the motions, waiting for old age to take him. Even her death is no catalyst for change. Rather it’s the appearance of her ghost beckoning him to follow her to the scene of her death that incites him to action.

He’s also got no sense of empathy, and this is a trait that seems to be shared by the narrator. Everyone else in the story is cast in suspicious shades by Owen and the narrator’s shared scorn or derision, and while I admit it’s a personal issue, that sense of cynicism kept me from getting into the story.

But there’s other problems, like the narration being inconsistent. As an example, during one scene Owen is asked to close the blinds in a hospital room. But as he’s leaving, the other character “looks out the window at the darkening sky.” Right, through the closed blinds, huh? There’s quite a lot of this, as if something that happened only a few pages before was already forgotten. Continue reading

Game review: Crashlands for PC

Crashlands gives me fits trying to decide how to score it. The biggest hurdle I have in giving it a better score lies in several glitches and in the lousy controls, problems that frequently and consistently plagued my playthrough even when they weren’t always fatal.

Before I begin my review properly, I want to mention two things that are slightly related. First of all, I picked up this game because Kotaku ran such a glowing review about it, and the activities they listed certainly made it sound funny, fun, and unique. But–and this is what irks me–what they mention is all stuff that happens in the first half hour of what is a very, very long game. This would be like me doing a book review based off the first paragraph without finishing the rest of the book. (I’ll be returning to that book analogy again later for another issue.) It’s a pretty lousy review that is written even though you’ve not even made it to the first boss of the game. I know y’all are in a rush to do these things quickly, but damn, this is some seriously lazy reviewing, ya know? At least beat the first boss before you rush to the keyboard to gush.

The second thing I want to mention is that this is a cross platform game, and someone pirated the Android version and is selling it on Amazon’s app store as their own game. Whatever my feelings for the game are, this is so not cool, even before you take into account that one of the three brothers who made it has cancer. It takes a special kind of scumbucket to steal the hard work of an independent artist, but this particular scumpuppy stole it and then sold it as their own product. What the ever-lovin’ fuck, y’all. Continue reading

Game review: Monument Valley for Win Phone

I’ve had Monument Valley on my phone since November, and I probably should have done a review of it right after I finished it the first time. But I got busy with other stuff for a little while, and by the time I thought of it again, I felt it would be better to play the whole game again, and then write up a review. It’s not a very long game at all, not even with the additional purchase of Forgotten Shores, a collection of eight new puzzles. It is also not very expensive, so the time to cost ratio is pretty good. Upon finishing all the levels for the first time, I likened the game to one of those fun-sized candy bars. It’s good, really good, but it leaves you wanting more. This isn’t a bad thing, either, and I think it’s one of the nicer kinds of complaints one can have about any form of entertainment, wanting more of the same.

Monument Valley follows a princess, Ida, through a strange world with beautiful puzzles that look harder to solve than they actually are once you’ve got a good grasp of the game’s mechanics. I might compare them to Escher’s Relativity, except they’re not quite that complex even if they are just as visually appealing. It helps that the game uses a colorful palette to render these monument castles and their surroundings. The designs are simple, but every bit as pretty as games with much fancier graphics. The music is very soft and relaxing, which fits with the relaxed pace of the levels.

As I said, none of the puzzles are hard to solve, although they do get progressively more elaborate with higher levels. You start out only needing to rotate a walkway to help Ida move from one checkpoint to the next, but soon the game expands so that you’re rotating the entire level to make walkways rise and fall to meet each other in ways that are both clever and charming. This is not a game you play to challenge your speed or smarts. It’s instead a nice casual stroll that’s perfect for passing a few minutes on a train or in the bathroom. Continue reading

Game review: LA Cops for PS4

“Zoe,” you say, “I thought you were broke, so how did you get a new game?” Well, faithful reader who always asks the right questions, I discovered I had 4.99 still stashed in my Sony wallet, and being desperate for a new game, I went looking for something on sale cheap. LA Cops was only 3.49, so I got it, and here we are, another review for you loverly peoples.

My first impression of LA Cops is that it’s very similar in design to Hotline Miami, with some minor improvements in a few areas. It unfortunately also replicates a lot of the problems and design flaws I saw in Hotline Miami, but I’ll hold off on listing those just yet.

First, let’s talk about what it does have going for it. One, it’s got a diverse cast of cops to choose from, with no need to mess around with unlocking. It’s got a neat visual style to its cut scenes, something I can’t say I’ve seen in any game in recent or even distant memory. The voice acting in the cut scenes is pretty good, and the story is…it’s okay, for what little there is to it. The music is very good, something my husband noticed after only a few minutes into the game and commented on. A couple of the songs don’t sound like the era they’re aiming for, and they’re more like an extended Pearl Jam solo. But eh, I like Pearl Jam, so this worked for me. Continue reading

My first review of 2016!

As I mentioned a few posts back, it’s been quite a while since I’ve had any reviews on my books to bring to your attention. As luck would have it, Eric Townsend of Frodo’s Blog of Randomness reviewed my super villain comedy Waiting for a Miracle, and it’s a great review, earning 4 out of 5 smiling Frodos.

You can check out the review here:

Waiting for a Miracle was one of the first books I’d ever written, and only the second I’d published. Like so much of my work, it was based on a simple question that somehow blossomed into something bigger. In this case, the question was, “What would a villain do if his hero went missing?” I’ve gone back and reread it a few times over the years, and I’m still proud of how it turned out even through it was written on a lark.

I want to thank Eric for reading my stuff, and for taking the time to give such a detailed review. I really appreciate it. =^)

Book review: Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns got pushed up higher in my TBR pile for the simple reason that I got the movie on Blu-Ray and wanted to read the book first. (So that way I can complain bitterly about any changes I don’t like. It’s a tradition for me, like relatives drinking and fighting during the holidays.) This makes my third book by John Green, and something I like is how each story is unique. There’s familiar elements, certainly, like the trademark sarcasm and humor displayed by all the characters, but each book is something new and unexpected.

Paper Towns has the feel of a mystery, one Quentin Jacobsen has to unravel surrounding his next door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman. Although these two initially started life as infantile and childhood friends, Margo went on to achieve a legendary high school reputation while Quentin became a nobody who can only watch his idol from afar and admire her for the crazy things she’s done over the years. But one night, Margo comes to him with a crazy plan, and Quentin goes along with it, never suspecting that Margo will very soon disappear again.

Which brings in the mystery, as Quentin and his friends try to piece together clues Margo left behind and find out if she has merely checked out of town or out of life entirely. The mystery itself is pretty good, and even when it gets slow or repetitive, it’s still a fun read. I like how Quentin begins to understand that his perception of his idol is nothing at all like the real person, and how this evolving view is what actually leads him to solving the mystery. Continue reading


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