Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ringworld Reading Progress - 03.31.2013

Book: Ringworld by Larry Niven
Current Page: 85, 31% done
Last Lines(s) Read: "Suppose Nessus and the Hindmost were of the same sex? Why shouldn’t it take two males and a nonsentient female to produce a baby?"

This book and I are in an eternal struggle. I appreciate Niven's world and species building. I can see why he'd be praised for that along with his hard engineered science. However, the narrator of this story, Louis Wu, makes me sick. I'm hoping Louis was intentionally made to be so aggravating and unlikable because I can't imagine anyone writing this and thinking Louis is an awesome protagonist. I think I spend every other page muttering about how much of a creep he is.

He is so grossly arrogant from the way he treats Teela to his entitled, superior attitude toward aliens, even though he's supposed to be BFFs with all of them. It just seems like every step in the right direction this story takes, it takes three more in the wrong direction because of Louis. I wish we could just stick with the journey, the technology, and the exploration without having to hear about how dumb and childish Teela is until it's time for sex, how much of a coward Nessus and his whole species are, and all this posturing for the Kzin to show he's just as brave and strong as he is.

In regards to the lines I included with this post, Nessus has never mentioned what sexes exist on his homeworld or how mating works. He did mention they had a nonsentient sex (as do the Kzin, but we know them to be female) but never said if it was male, female, or otherwise. In fact, Nessus doesn't even say how they define sex. "He" just seems to be pronoun taken on so Louis can stop calling Nessus "it." What if there is no "female" sex at all, but some other definition of sex. What if they all could be considered more than one gender? Saying two or more "males" of an alien race couldn't make a baby is stupid and lacks imagination in a highly imaginative world.

I'm aware that this isn't necessarily what it says, but it's been alluded to that Louis is incapable of grasping two "male" aliens being mates. He insisted at one point that one has to be a "she." They're aliens FFS. There's nothing you can't do with their biology including the exclusion of a female in the process. I know this was written in the 70s, and probably would've offended people, but Niven had already gone as far as making one of Nessus' mates "male." So, there's no real excuse. I want to see what happens on Ringworld, but I'm almost at my limit with Louis.
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

[Book Review] Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Crossposted at The BiblioSanctum.

It took me a while to finish this book. Two months to be precise. It wasn't because I disliked the book. I loved it from the beginning, but I could tell it might make a little more emotional than I wanted at the time, so I set it aside for a bit.

We follow the adventures of "R," a zombie who isn't decayed nearly as bad as some of the other zombies. He's described as being tall and dressed in business casual. Zombies can't remember their life before dying, but they take on the first letter of names that the might've had, names that are just beyond the reach of their thoughts. Communication is limited and very simple between zombies. They struggle with words to adequately express themselves and are often distracted away from their thoughts when speaking aloud, but "R" shows a crude complexity in his thinking, which is hinted at possibly being abnormal for a zombie.

The zombies spend much of their time performing a poor emulation of human behavior. "R" lives at an airport with a hive of zombies. They use escalators, have church, even get "married" and take care of children (young zombies given to newly married zombies). They attempt to do things like have sex, but their bodies aren't able to perform the act. "R" mentions it's like watching a pathetic imitation of bodies bumping against each other. There's also "school" where mostly children are taught to hunt by using live human prey. They also have a rough set of laws in place that they follow enforced by a group called the Boneys.

This book is unique because it tells the story from the point of view of a zombie instead of a human trying to survive in this world. It reimagines zombies as more than just mindless creatures. The need for flesh isn't as simple as a driving, animalistic hunger for it, but part of a craving for something lost, something they can no longer remember. I never thought I'd read a zombie book and use words like "heartbreaking" and "tender." But those are just two of the words that aptly describes this story.

R is presented in a self-deprecating, humorous way, but he's easy to connect to. However, this story is touched with a tinge of sadness that made my heart ache. He wonders about his former life and struggles with not being able to express his thoughts in more than a rudimentary fashion. He is already beginning to want something he can't quite grasp at first, but when he saves a living woman named Julie, things begin to fall into place.

It's never mentioned what caused the zombie epidemic, but personally, I was fine with that. I didn't need another rehash of a virus, God's wrath, or government experiments popping up. That would've taken up precious space in the book. R wouldn't know what caused it anyway, and even if he did, he might not have been able to really explain what happened to them. R is smart, but his thought process has its limits. But the cause is unknown to both human and zombie alike anyway.

One complaint I had was Nora. She just felt so out of place in the story. I liked the character, but it just seemed like she was in the wrong book. I was also a little surprised with her accepting attitude toward R all things considered, but that may apply to Julie as well. I'd read there was a novella out there about Nora, so maybe I can fill in the gaps with that and get to know her character a little more. She seems to be very optimistic despite their situation. She's very loyal to Julie, but that's explained in this book. And admittedly maybe the end wrapped up a little more hopeful than it should have, but I loved it. There's nothing "usual" about this book, so I don't necessarily see the ending being a problem.

Overall, I really loved this book. Marion took a genre that's so rife with clich├ęs and tropes (as with most supernatural/paranormal things these days) and found a way to make it his own. Even if I hadn't loved it so, I would've still applauded his effort to be different. Also, Muse provided the perfect musical backdrop for me while I was reading this. Uprising even started playing during the ending, and it was so perfect.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tempest Plays Final Fantasy XIII: And This One Time at l'Cie Camp...

Super Saiyan Goku-Cid
It's been a while since I last complained... I mean... talked about my latest adventure in Final Fantasy land. Work and family stuff made me take a brief hiatus on it. I haven't really been able to play anything for the past week or two due to life. I'm working my way through Mass Effect 2 on Xbox, too, but I've been trying not to get all tied up in it because it's easy for me to get into that game and just forget about whatever else I'm doing (case in point, I beat Mass Effect 1 on Xbox from beginning to end 100% over a weekend that was supposed to be dedicated to FFXIII), especially when pit against Final Fantasy, which is not my favorite gaming series ever--but I want to beat at least one FF game that isn't VII. But I love Mass Effect, and I regret nothing.

Since my last visit, I learned that I was not in the open world as I'd originally thought. I was evilly misled into believing that I was free only to end up fighting Barthandelus, who is one of the Fal'Cie... I think... I'm not sure. I think he told me Sanctum was also controlled by the Fal'Cie or something after he killed the C.Viper Cosplayer. I don't know her name, so she gets to be the C. Viper cosplayer. She's dead, and it doesn't matter what her name is. Anyway, he also thought it was perfectly okay for him to start changing all the rules of the game after all this time I've been playing, and then had the nerve to make me fight him in two different forms. Rude.

I played a ridiculous game of hide and go get with the baby chocobo. I may have done that before I faced Barthandelus, though. It doesn't really matter. It happened, and I don't know what that was even about. I had my heart trounced a little about Sazh and Dajh. As I said, that Sazh's story is one of the few character stories that feels real to me and not some overblown teen drama, but I was also a little nervous about what his reaction to finding out Vanille's part in Dajh becoming l'Cie.

It was kind of heartbreaking how there was just this moment of despair and Vanille just basically saying she deserves whatever revenge Sazh wishes to But Sazh doesn't, of course, and how she threw herself in front of him to protect him from his eidolon. Just feelings everywhere. I've come to the conclusion that the only people I care about in this game are Sazh, Vanille, and Fang. I've made my peace with this.

Also, I attended l'Cie camp. It was... I can't believe there is a bootcamp for l'Cie to be honest.

This time around things have been tolerable, though. There were a couple of wonky cutscenes, but over all there was less complaining from me, except any time Snow opened his mouth. Everyone else has kind of calmed that dramatic crap down, except him. He's still doing all these ridiculous gestures and thinking everyone is his friend, and I am just 100% done with Snow. I'm going to try to ignore him, but everything he does irks me. I just yell at the screen, "Can you just shut up and be cute for a little while? Dammit, man." Why are we still getting the dramatic air swiping noises and the struggle fists of WE SHALL OVERCOME FOR SERAH? So done. So very, very done. I need you to roll back a little, Snow... please...

I am very disappointed in the Cid Raines boss fight that culminated at the end of l'Cie camp (which was me running around some underground place killing things to become a better l'Cie.... in other words, grinding...). After that tricky battle with Barthandelus, I expected them to continue to throw challenges at me with the boss battles, but that fight with Cid wasn't even worth the words I'm wasting on it right now to type this. It only even took me six minutes to fight him because I was curious about his "shifting roles" to counteract my paradigm shifting and then, I tired of him and finished the fight. I mean, maybe I didn't expect the next boss to be ridiculous like Barthandelus, but I surely didn't expect a 6 minute baby fight. But they made up for it by following with Fang getting all bent out of shape (almost uncharacteristically so) emotionally and leading into her eidolon battle with Bahamut.

Let's pause a second. I didn't realize, until Fang said it, that supposedly the eidolons were supposed to show up when a person was in great emotional despair to "end" their misery. Obviously, that was the wrong line of thinking, but this belief seems to be that they grant you mercy through death. Was that really how I was supposed to view them? I never did. That thought never even came to me. I already talked a little about how I'd been viewing the eidolons. And I just never got the feeling that any of the characters who'd fought their eidolons before Fang felt like they were there to grant them death.

The eventual realization that they come to help you and show you another path when you needed them the most seemed like a given, that they pointed out some inner strength in the characters--yeah, that's how I always took it. So, not only did I not realize that they thought these things were there to kill them--even though their friends are, y'know, using them in battle--they apparently didn't think I understood what they were telling me when Hope had his eidolon battle not even 10 minutes after Fang's. So, we had to rehash the whole "THEY ARE NOT HERE TO KILL US!" thing again with Hope, even though there was a valiant discussion about all this and Fang's eidolon actually just saved your ass there, buddy, in that dramatic cutscene of the team ending up in yet another aircraft accident. Sazh, I love you, but you are banned from flying anything else.

And while we're on this eidolon stuff, why is Hope's so extra? We have Snow with his little Shiva bike, Lightning with her Odin pony, Sazh with his Brynhildr sports car, Fang with her Bahamut bird, and then there's Hope with... Is that a fortress, Hope? I mean, an actual building like... how do you ride it? You can't. It's stationary. Everyone else has something you can ride, and you have a fortress. That thing is astronomical. Who is going to carry that? Does that mean if you fall out of another plane that Bahamut bird will always have to come to your rescue or...??? One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong.

Anyway, I guess I really am in the open world now. There is nothing here, but grass and water and these Cie'th Stones. Poor things. Gran Pulse does not look like a fun place. It's in the middle of nowhere with roaming packs of things that can probably eat us, and I have a feeling that I'm going to want to fight these Cie'th Stones before this is all said and done. Stay tuned.
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Music Monday - 03.25.13

She's waiting to fall apart
Blind to how bad things are
And I know now
She won't last
&! She Won't Last, The Panic Channel

Whatever you want from me
I'm givin' you everything
and I'm your baby tonight
&! I'm Your Baby Tonight, Whitney Houston

It's all false love and affection
You don't like me
You just want the attention
&! I'm Not Your Toy, La Roux

Suddenly life has new meaning to me
There's beauty up above
And things we never take notice of
You wake up and suddenly you're in love
&! Suddenly, Billy Ocean

&! Organic Beauty, Govinda
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Sunday, March 24, 2013

[Book Review] Comes a Horseman by Robert Liparulo

Comes a HorsemanComes a Horseman by Robert Liparulo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A rash of seemingly ritualistic murders are being investigated by the FBI, but the connection between the deceased isn't clear at first. A man believing himself to be the antichrist attempts to prove to a "council" (dedicated to welcoming the antichrist) that he is indeed the man they have been waiting for, hoping to secure more of their trust and resources. All religious conspiracies worth their ilk are connected to the Catholic Church. This story is no exception.

I liked this more than The 13th Tribe, and people wanting to dip their toe in this genre might appreciate this one more than The 13th Tribe because it focuses less on debating about the nature of God and more on a religious conspiracy that's spanned back many generations. The story wasn't anything extraordinary for this one (where as The 13th Tribe did have a story that was different), but it is fast paced and engaging and presents an interesting POV on prophecies and the lengths that people will go into to secure their own safety even if it seems excessive.

The author has a bit of a formula for causing his characters to descend into the realm of uncertainty about their religious convictions. Seems his formula of choice is having someone close to the character die in a car accident due to a drunk driver and having said driver get off because something went wrong with the judicial process. So, the protagonist doesn't outright hate God, but the relationship has suffered from what is viewed as a betrayal from someone who supposedly loves and protects His own.

With that being said, I appreciate how the author tries to handle this as realistically as possible. He acknowledges through his writing that a person's relationship with God can be just as complex, just as much of a struggle, as relationships between people. And in the case of Alicia who is agnostic, she doesn't suddenly become on fire for God, but the possibility that she could is left there for the readers. The book doesn't condemn her for being agnostic or try to argue that this way of thinking is wrong as some Christian books do. It seems to illustrate the fact that the choice, the relationship, is up to the individual.

There were some loose ends and dangling plot lines that were highly unneeded, though. The Pip storyline that had taken up a great deal of the novel fizzled out to nothing. One of the councillors of the organization seemed bent on proving the new "antichrist" is a fraud, but that petered out to nothing. And it's not that I'm against these dead ends, but they weren't ended in a graceful manner. They were just cast aside and forgotten.

Also I wasn't feeling the whole idea about there being a group of Vikings who hated Christianity so much that they spent generation after generation helping the people who are trying to find the antichrist. They don't share any religious convictions with those people. I just found it hard to swallow that the Vikings would be that willing to help on the merit that Christianity equals bad. It wasn't explained well enough to make me believe, and the Viking himself just seemed out of place in the story when looking at the overall big picture of it.

I wasn't really sure how the guy claiming to be the antichrist actually found out about the council or that such an organization existed since I wouldn't think this would be something he could easily find out. And the ending was mostly a letdown after spending so much of the book on such a frantic note. But I still thought this story was much more engaging than The 13th Tribe.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

[Book Review] The Language of Flowers

The Language of FlowersThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

18-year-old Victoria Jones finds herself emancipated from the foster care system after "aging out." She'd been mostly in the system since her mother abandoned her at birth. She's hidden her troubles in caring for flowers throughout the years. She's well versed in the "language of flowers" and often uses them to communicate her feelings, taking a misanthropic comfort in the fact that most people have no idea what she is trying to convey. Her former caseworker takes her to a halfway house where she spends three months doing nothing with her life aside from planting flowers because she says there's nothing she "wants" bad enough to motivate herself, which turns out to be very untrue. After leaving the halfway home and becoming homeless, Victoria starts working with a florist and her memories, fears, and needs start to unravel.

I really struggled with what I should rate this book for various reasons. I thought it was very beautifully written and emotionally driven. but I guess some of my ill feelings come from the fact that Victoria drove me crazy at times. I couldn't figure out where her thought process was going with some of the decisions she made, and while I understand that's part of the point due to her life, it was just so contradictory at times (for me) that it made me lack empathy for her at some points. But a character in the book summed it up so well when she said that Victoria approached people already apologetic because she (Victoria) didn't feel she was worthy and would find some way to disappoint people. And Victoria spent a large bulk of her time pushing others away often brutally and with lack of emotion because of that. I had to stop at times and think about how I'd view the world if I'd lived Victoria's life. I had to remind myself that people are contradictory by nature.

I'm not a flower person at all, and I was afraid that I'd get bored with this book quickly. I was wrong. I was fully enthralled by what different flowers meant and the way the characters used this knowledge to communicate with each other. I even read the whole glossary of flower meanings in the back once I'd finished the story. I was emotionally invested in what happened to Victoria and the other characters overall and mostly rooted for them to find happiness, peace, and forgiveness. Finding about the one time Victoria almost had it all before it fell apart was tragic. And I appreciated that this book didn't end with "and they live happily ever after." You get the sense that, yes, the healing for everyone has truly begun at the end, but the ending makes it clear that it will be a process as each fear is released to make space for the happy memories to come.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Music Monday - 03.11.13

Like a moth to a flame
Burned by the fire
My love is blind
Can't you see my desire?
That's the Way Love Goes, Janet Jackson

And now I need to know is this real love
Or is it just madness keeping us afloat?
And when I look back at all the crazy fights we had
It's like some kind of madness was taking control, yeah
Madness, Muse

Call on me, spin spin sugar
Crawl on me, spin spin sugar
Stinks on me, spin spin sugar
Twist for me, spin spin sugar
Spin Spin Sugar, Sneaker Pimps

Pretty little thing
Hot little thing
Hot little thing who knows it
Don't supposed it would be cool if we hung out
Pretty Little Thing, Fink

Smokestack lightning
Shinin' just like gold
Why don't you hear me cryin'
Smokestack Lightning, Howlin' Wolf
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Friday, March 8, 2013

[Book Review] Tiger Lily

Tiger LilyTiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, I should say if you want a sweet, innocent Peter Pan story, this story isn't for you. This is nowhere near as dark as Brom's The Child Thief, but while Brom's book focuses on presenting Neverland as a very gray place where all sides do their evil in the name of some "greater good," this is a story about first loves, betrayal, yearning, and heartache mixed in with a bit of action. I think this book and The Child Thief are the only two Peter Pan retellings that have elicited such a strong emotional response from me. I wouldn't even try to write this review before I could stop tearing up about this story.

This story toes the thin line between magic and magic realism. While there are magical things in the stories like mermaids and fairies, many other "magical elements" have more practical reasoning behind them. One example being the belief that the lost boys fly being attributed to an elaborate rope system they've made in the treetops.

Neverland turns out to be an island nestled away in the Atlantic, protected by a treacherous sea that sinks many of the ships that dare to tread too close to Neverland, reminding me a little of the Tristanian Islanders. However, a few stragglers make it to shore from time to time. Most of them die of exposure or by some terror that lives in the forest. Other Englishmen that make it to shore are often cut down by Captain Hook and his ragtag group of pirates who hate their fellow countrymen. But even though most of the inhabitants there have a peaceful existence together on that island (however, peace between the pirates and natives is tenuous at best), they all fear the lost boys who most people never see. They only whisper about their evil deeds, but Tiger Lily learns better.

It is true that people on Neverland didn't age, but it seems that it seems mostly something that happens to the native people and beings on Neverland. It was never fully explained why it happened, but the people on the island aged until a monumental event happened in their life and caused their bodies to stop aging beyond that point and they never moved beyond that physically and perhaps even a bit mentally if we're to judge by Tiger Lily's actions even some 80 years after the events that changed her. And sometimes that meant children out-aged their parents and grandparents. It seemed like the island granted this "gift" to the natives, but not to the outsiders such as Captain Hook. The natives fear catching the "aging disease" from them. However, this could be indicative that nothing of extreme importance has happened to them or if it has, it happened in their lives before Neverland.

I'll be honest, while I did like the idea of a life changing event causing people to stop aging in response, as if this exact moment was the moment they were to remember forever, I don't know if I think it was well executed in the story. It came off a little dubious at best to me. Fortunately, it wasn't something that was talked about much in the story after the initial explanation. There was also bits of the storytelling that seemed a little out of place, and there were a few other places where something should've been explored a little more or explained a little better. But that didn't detract from the story for me.

The story is told through Tink's eyes. Fairies have evolved to be mute, but they learn to observe and listen to the feelings of others, giving them the uncanny ability to be able to look inside others and see all their innermost workings. Unlike her incarntations in other works, Tink is seldom acknowledged by humans, but still she clings to Tiger Lily, hitching rides in her hair or on her clothes as she watches a bittersweet love story unfold between Peter and Tiger Lily, a story that is set into motion when Tiger Lily begins to care for a shipwrecked Englishman who made it to their shores, an event that not only changes her, but her whole village. Tink falls in love with Peter herself, but knowing he can never be hers, she roots for Tiger Lily's love to flourish with Peter because she cares about them both.

Their love does and it doesn't flourish like most first loves. Lack of understanding what the other needs, the newness of a new love, works for and against Tiger Lily and Peter. Tiger Lily, who is an outsider in her own tribe rather than a princess (but still someone of status since the shaman is her adoptive father), has a hard time showing strong emotion even if she feels it intensely. She feels that she has to be as good as Peter, as fast as Peter, as strong as Peter, or he'll outrun her grasp and leave her because she's not his equal. Peter is a swell of emotions and inconsistencies who needs reassurance, who needs to know that she can love all of him, assurances Tiger Lily is unable to give due to not understanding the new feelings she's having, assurances that are given easily by Wendy when she arrives on the island.

As the story wears on it seems as if some of the magic begins to fade. More and more, wondrous creatures and things begin to retreat to safety. The mermaids swim deep within the ocean where they can't be found. Tink's own people move deep in the swamps where men fear to tread. Even people's perception of Tink, and even her perception of herself starts to relegate her to nothing more than a mere bug. All these things are responses to a changing world that magic no longer plays a part in. The world has been conquered, all except Neverland.

Tink warns in the beginning that the tale would not end happily ever after, so I expected something completely heartbreaking. However, I think the story ended in a way that was best for both Peter and Tiger Lily. What happened between Peter and Tiger Lily is painful yes, but what their lives become after that shows they both needed something different as much as they needed each other. Peter's decision also seemed to be a mix of sacrifice as well. He loved the lost boys. He worried about them, even though Tiger Lily was the only person to ever know that. He made a point earlier in the story that he wasn't a good role model, but that he tried to shield them by being carefree. So, I do believe part of his decision was for them to have something better as well. Despite it all, it doesn't mean that Tiger Lily and Peter stopped loving each other. They see each other in everything and will love each other forever, but every love is different. Every love fulfills a person in different ways. Love makes you do things you'd never expect.

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

[Book Review] Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile

Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile
Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've had friends who have been trying to get me into Fables for years, and I was very receptive to the idea because as a comic book lover I want to be introduced to new comics. However, the problem with being a bibliophile is that my "to be read" list is like a living, breathing, amorphous thing that is constantly changing and expanding. It's very easy for me to have the best intentions of reading something I'm very interested in sooner rather than later, but many times I end up being distracted by some other book and not picking up a planned read until much later. And I was very interested in Fables. I'm a big fan of imaginative retellings of stories whether it's about history, the gods or, as in this case, classic fairytales.

The inhabitants of fairytale land have been driven from their homes by a powerful force named Adversary. For centuries, these inhabitants have lived in New York City where they lead double lives. To the outside world, to mundanes (a word used for ordinary citizens in the same vein as the X-Men's term "flatscan"), they appear to be regular human beings. However, beneath the facade, they follow their own rules as handed down by the "permanent" mayor, Old King Cole, and his second-in-command, Snow White, who is often left to handle messes. King Cole is quite the merry old soul and prone to empathy while seemingly not having the stomach to handle the true pressures of being a leader. He leaves difficult decisions to Snow's discretion.

They try to rule the folk fairly and in ways that will keep them safe, adhering to very strict laws about what is and isn't tolerated. One of the first rules we learn is: to live in the city, they must look normal. Glamours are available that will make a creature look human. The creatures who can't afford a glamour are shipped off to a place called "The Farm" because there is no way to hide them from the mundanes, and many of the folk have lost their fortunes due to having to flee their homes. So, many of them don't have the resources to help.

I enjoyed the story. I wasn't bowled over by it, but that's often the case with many introductory comics. There's a little bit of build up that has to go into getting a story like this one running. However, while introducing readers to some key players and elements in the comic, Willingham does incorporate a story that showcases the personality of the characters by having Snow's rebellious sister, Rose Red, disappear with the presumption that she may be dead. Bigby Wolf (the Big Bad Wolf glamoured and I already have a soft heart for the redemption angle that's been alluded at with him) is the acting sheriff for the folks and investigate's Rose's death.

I enjoyed what Willingham did with some of the characters I met. Jack of the Jack and the Beanstalk fame is a con artist. I can't help but like him. He's that petty con that always gets into a scheme when it's too late to be profitable. He's more bumbling than dangerous, and it seems that him and Rose Red, who loves to party, often get into trouble together if I have to go by Snow's exasperation.

I really loved what Willingham did with Prince Charming. So many princesses in fairytales marry a Prince Charming. In this story, he's the same person and has been married multiple times and could charm the venom from a snake if you left him at it long enough. One of the three little pigs, the one with the straw house, regularly crashes at Bigby's place when he escapes The Farm as a "reminder" of Bigby's strive toward redemption. Snow is just all around great. Smart as a whip and willing to make the hard decisions as fairly as she can even if she has to tread some vague lines.

There's something dated about the art to me, though. I keep having 80's comics flashbacks. It's not bad, but it just sometime made me feel like I was reading a story that's much older than this really is. Anyhow, I'm intrigued at this point and I will continue to read the series and see if it becomes a "must read" for me.
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Sunday, March 3, 2013

[Book Review] Princeless Book One: Save Yourself

Princeless Book One: Save Yourself
Princeless Book One: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Princeless follows the quest of Princess Adrienne to free herself and her sisters from their fate of waiting for a prince to save them from their towers. From the beginning Adrienne has rebelled against the idea of princesses being passively saved by princes, asking her mother, "Who has the kind of grudge against this beautiful princess that they would lock her in a tower?"

Adrienne decides, after finding a sword after another failed rescue attempt by a prince (one who didn't even know the definition of fair, at that), that she is going to save herself. She doesn't need a prince to save her--no princess does. She decides that not only will she save herself, but her sisters as well.

This is a cute story, for sure, but it's so much more than that. Adrienne questions a world where women are expected to be second class citizen. They're not expected to rule or hold jobs that traditionally are for men (such as Bedelia secretly smithing in her father's place). They're expected to wait for their prince and depend on men to take care of them. A very touching moment came at the end when Adrienne's mother confides in the prince that she's treated her own daughter like currency rather than the child she loved. She's been groomed to behave this way.

But this story doesn't just point out the pressures that females are expected to adhere to. The male perspective is shown through the prince, Wilcome, who tried to save Adrienne. There's a brief look at how he went to Prince Charming school when he really just wanted be a kid. He was ripped away from that to become a Prince Charming and shown how prince's act--only to find out that being a prince was harder than it was made out to be, especially when he still felt like a kid. He says no one comes to save a prince when he's locked up.

Adrienne's brother Devin presents another view. His father pretty much says that Devin isn't fit to rule his kingdom because he's soft. He expects one of his daughters to marry a strong prince who will take over. He laughs away any talk of one of his daughters ruling because that isn't their place. Devin isn't good at sword fighting, preferring poetry to fighting. And he's never allowed to forget how much of an heir he's not by his father. And I appreciate this balance being added to the story.

Yes, this is a story about gender binary, but it's not preachy. It's a cute story whose moral simply is girls can be strong and boys don't always have to tough, that boys and girls aren't boxed in by their gender. This is exactly the kind of story I want to read to my daughter. I love comics, but it's often hard to find something age appropriate. And if it is age appropriate, it's very hard to find one where the lead is a character of color.

I posted a couple of the panels on Tumblr where I had a brief exchange with the author who expressed excitement that I was reading this with a friend and because I wanted to share it with my daughter. I mentioned that she was one-part princess and one-part tomboy, and I see my daughter in this story. I did a Google search on him after that and read an interview where he said he wrote this comic for the exact same reasons that I expressed in my post (he wrote it for his daughter when she gets older). I can't wait to read more of this story.

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Tempest Plays Final Fantasy XIII: For Love of the Combat System

Barthandelus from Final Fantasy Wiki

I thought I'd praised one thing I do like about the game... or rather, have come to like about the game: the combat system.

I know combat is something some people complain about in this game, but I can truly say that is the one thing I inexplicably enjoy about this game. I love the paradigm system especially. I love seeing what combinations I can come up with and tweaking the styles to fit a situation as needed. I love that I can't pick just one certain style and exploit it for the rest of the game. No, I have to actively change paradigms to suit the battle at hand. It makes things dynamic.

For example when I went into the battle with the Fal'Cie dude, Barthandelus, who revealed the Fal'Cie controlled Sanctum, I went into the fight with Light, Sazh, and Fang. The dynamics didn't work so well (for me) in the fight, so after being defeated twice and realizing that wasn't a fluke, I decided I needed to change my team dynamics. I went to my characters' abilities screen because I do forget who has what. I knew what I needed in the fight, but needed to see which teammates did what I needed.

I needed someone to be the main healer other than myself (playing as Light), I needed a sentinel to protect the healer more than to protect Light. I needed someone to debuff more than buff. I switched Sazh out for Vanille (who heals and debuffs). I almost switched Fang out for Snow because his health bar is way bigger but in the end I kept her because she could debuff and protect. I figured Vanille would be able to mitigate most of the damage Fang took and spot heal Light as needed which wasn't often.

That combination worked best for me, but in my quest to be cautious the third time, I ran out of time fighting him, which I didn't know was even possible. But apparently, he casts Doom at some point. But now, I knew I could handle him since I didn't die technically. The fourth time around I kept Vanille mostly in a saboteur or medic role while Fang and I dealt damage, switching all of us to damage dealers when he was staggered (after all his other parts were defeated), while destrudo was charging, and when it was safe to take Vanille out of the medic role for a bit.

Sometimes I'd switched both Vanille and Fang into their saboteur roles while I was the main damage dealer for a few minutes and let them addle him with some serious debuffs. Switching Vanille to healer and Fang to sentinel worked well after the bigger attacks like Thanatosian Smile and Destrudo. Combat Medic (two medics, one sentinel) proved to be something I only used one or twice when I thought I'd be spamming it, but it did come in handy in a pinch. I ended the battle with Odin.

The fourth time I got it, and it was a piece of cake. Then, it asked me for disk three and instead of opening the tray, I accidentally turned off the Xbox and had to fight Barthandelus a fifth time. I don't understand why it wouldn't save BEFORE I switched to disk three. Anyway, I had the fight down to a science by then, but it was still annoying as hell to have to do it all over again.

I'm not used to this swapping disks deal anymore. My original Xbox was modded and I could rip games, even those with multiple disks, to my hard drive and could store the disks away. I've owned a PS3 for years and everything is downloaded or on one disk there. I've only owned an Xbox 360 for one year, and sometimes, this is like having a newborn.

Anyway, the point was just to illustrate how flexible you have to be in battle, especially since you have no control over your teammates aside from what role they take (and the AI is fairly competent). You can't decide that you're just going to do this one thing and roll with it, which is what I mistakenly thought in the beginning of this game. Sometimes, I have to change paradigms fairly often and in rapid succession. And for me, that keeps the battle from being dull. I still wish some of the powers were flashier, though.

I'm hoping to have another post up soon about my exploits since everyone joined the BFF club.
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This blog is a mishmash of thoughts, pictures, and rantings among other things about games I've played, games I will play, and games I am currently playing. From time to time, I may post book reviews that I've written that are about different games and/or game worlds. Feel free to recommend games or add me on the platforms I've listed. I don't do competitive multiplayer much anymore, but I'm always down for some co-op these days. I'm usually DigitalTempest everywhere unless otherwise specified.



PSN: DigitalTempest | XBL: DigitalTempest | Steam: DigitalTempest | Raptr: DigitalTempest

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Tiara has read 6 books toward her goal of 52 books.

Tiara's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Elfstones Of Shannara
tagged: upcoming-reads, currently-reading, 2016-audiobook-challenge, classi...
Gardens of the Moon
tagged: currently-reading, fantasy, z-narrator-ralph-lister, 2016-audiobook...

Tiara's bookshelf: read

really liked it
Review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge and 2016-audiobook-challenge
The Girl from the Well
liked it
More reviews @ The Bibliosanctum TL;DR Review 2.5 to 3 stars. Not badly written… I’m just disappointed by the squandered potential. I’m going to reread Anna Dressed in Blood to make myself feel better about this Longer Review: T...
tagged: 2016-women-of-genre-fiction-reading, horror, and young-adult
Thirteen Reasons Why
I don't think this quite captures the complexity of bullying and suicide, and some of the issues that Hannah started facing toward the end of the novel really seemed to detract even more from the feelings she was going through by having ...
tagged: young-adult, popsugar-2016-reading-challenge, 2016-audiobook-challe...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
liked it
Spoiler free review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge
The Phantom of the Opera
really liked it
tagged: classic-horror, classics, audiobook, 2016-audiobook-challenge, horr...

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