Wednesday, June 19, 2013

[Book Review] Medicus

Medicus by Ruth Downie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Crossposted at The BiblioSanctum.

This story follows military medicus (doctor) Gaius Petreius Ruso who is a Roman man living in Brittania (England). He's escaped to the Brittania to heal from a disaster of a marriage that ended in divorce and the death of his father that left the family with many undue debts to pay. Brittania is considered a backwater town but important nonetheless. It's too small to be considered grand, but too large to be ignored by the Romans. As if going from everything to having nothing wasn't bad enough, women continue to bring trouble for Ruso after he examines a dead woman found in the river and rescues a slave from her callous owner.

This story takes place during a time when modern medicine was just beginning to emerge. Doctors were regarded as suspicious conmen and "healers" still ruled surpreme. I loved how Downie weaved that into the story, showing how doctors began to record treatment and discover new ways to deal with various medical ailments and conditions. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Ruso ushered around the new doctors in training and reveled in their naïveté after one fainted (and the others just barely made it out) when Ruso showed them a particular gruesome case. The description made me chuckle because it was just so Ruso-like.

Ruso is a bit cynical and serious, but he does have a little bit of a dry comedic side. He's very sure of his abilities as a medicus almost to the point of cockiness, but unlike his friend and fellow medicus, Valens, he keeps to himself in a world where knowing the right people means everything. He often feels awkward in social situations and almost always says the wrong things in his mind, so he tends to keep to himself. His bedside manners are cool because he's a man of logic, even by his own admission, but Ruso cares more about people more than he shows. This care extends beyond mere medical interest, but he's not sure how to "fix" people beyond what physically ails them.

Ruso complains that he shouldn't get involved in certain matters, but still he finds that his underlying compassion and concern causes him to do the exact opposite, which is how he ends up "investigating" a murder that he insists he's not investigating. He's also terrible at being a hard ass as shown when he became Tilla's "master." Tilla is just one of a group of ragtag friends he picks up during the course of the story which includes the charming Valens who thinks that Ruso needs a new wife, an overenthusiastic scribe named Albanus, and a dog he claims not to care for. He complains about them, of course, but I don't think he'd know what to do without them.

Despite all the elements that could make this a complicated story to listen to, it was very easy to follow. Nothing really went beyond my grasp or caused me to pause and rewind just to make sure I was understanding what I'd heard. Downie didn't use language that was too complicated, and the things that seemed a little unfamiliar she was able to explain in the simplest terms, even when it didn't really seem necessary. However, this was a surprisingly light listen. I was afraid that I would get partway in and decide that I need to read the book rather than listen to the audiobook.

One of the chief complaints I'd heard about this book was that the language was "too modern," but that's the usual complaint of many historical fiction settings ranging from books to television. I wasn't surprised to hear the complaint, but it just seems like old news now since many shows and books take this approach. I think that's because it makes it easier on the reader and the writer. How many people would really be interested in reading this if written in the style of that time? What writer would stick to writing a story in such a style? It would be tedious for both the reader and the writer. I agree that maybe some word choices absolutely were too modern, but that's such a nitpicky thing. However, I can only say that it doesn't bother me. Your mileage may vary.

My chief complaint is that, while I liked Ruso, he could be a bit annoying at times. I'd get mad at him for how he tried to treat Tilla, calling her property and trying to force her to call him master, even though he was terrible at being bossy--at least to Tilla. He does show a surprising amount of sexism that can be a bit annoying, too. Not because it's sexism, however. This is ancient Rome era we're talking about. It's annoying because it's obvious that he's not as sexist as most, but has defaulted to sexism because of his general disillusionment due to a bad marriage, which is understandable but so frustrating. Some of his actions were so obtuse to the point that I had to wonder if Ruso was okay mentally at times. An example being how he wanted the rumors about him investigating the murder to stop since he "wasn't investigating," but he made it his business to ask every person around if they'd heard he was investigating the murders. Really, Ruso?

As far as the narration goes, Simon Vance is quickly becoming one of my favorite narrators. He has a voice that is perfect for reading. This will be the third book I've listened to with him as the narrator and he never fails to impress me with his read. He's remarkable; his narration is always so impeccable. I have never encountered a narrator with such clean narration skills. Also, he understands that timbre not pitch determines how realistically a female voice will come across when reading, and even when faced with multiple female speakers in one scene, he gives them all their own personality that makes them easily discernible one from another.

The only real complaint I have is that he's a fast talker. I tend to speed up my audiobooks between 1.25 to 2.0 times faster than normal. With him, I have to get used to the pace he's keeping before I can speed it up, but that's really a trivial complaint when compared to how extraordinary he is as a narrator.

This was a great opening for the series, and I look forward to following more of Ruso's misadventures as narrated by Simon Vance.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday Tea with Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

What I'm Drinking: Mango Green, Passionfruit, and Hibiscus chilled with a side of mint and a squeeze of lemon for a summery, fruity taste

What I'm Listening To: Two Become One by Govinda

What I'm Reading: Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

Quote: "I strike the ground with the soles of my feet and life rises up my legs, spreads up my skeleton, takes possession of me, drives away distress and sweetens my memory. The world trembles."
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday Tea: The Garden of Last Days with a Sprinkle of Bloodlust

What I'm Drinking: A personal blend of blood orange, ceylon sonata, and pomegranate for a tangy, tarty taste that I've named Bloodlust.

What I'm Listening To: I Belong To You / Mon Cœur S'ouvre à Ta Voix by Muse

What I'm Reading: The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III

Quote: "But he has wasted time. And money. So much of it. It is this alcohol. He has become too fond of it. The feeling of freedom it gives to him, of floating above all that is here he cannot control. And it makes him more brave to talk to an uncovered kafir woman in a place of evil that holds him. When he approached her in the shadows, her body so close to his own, his heart was speeding and it was difficult to look at her face and into her eyes and request time alone with her. It was something he could not have done if he had not been drunk. Again the wisdom of the Provider and the Sustainer as taught by imams he had ignored. They know these vodkas and beer and cognacs and champagnes, they are the colors of water and earth but they have been made in the fires of Jahannam. They only cloud men's minds and weaken their discipline and turn their hearts to caring only for the flesh that does not last."

Note: Tea drinking, listening to music, and reading are some of my favorite past times, and I usually do them all at the same time. I've recently gotten serious about blending and brewing my own tea more often, so I'll post these occasionally on Tuesday.
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Monday, June 10, 2013

[Comic Review] Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection

Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection
Batgirl, Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Crossposted at The Bibliosanctum.

Full disclosure. I stopped reading the New 52 after four comics. I read Mister Terrific #1, Justice League #1, Detective Comics #1, and Swamp Thing #1. Out of those four comics, I was only impressed with Detective Comics and Swamp Thing. Justice League was only “meh” and didn’t feel like it was worth the trouble of continuing at that point, and Mister Terrific was terrible when it had so much potential to be great. Even though I did enjoy Detective Comics and Swamp Thing, I still put them on the back burner in favor of other comics that I wanted to catch up on. Admittedly, I was one of those people who wasn’t that excited to see Barbara assume the Batgirl mantle again. I love Barbara. I really do, but I always felt that she was a more formidable hero as Oracle than as Batgirl. That’s neither here nor there now, and there’s no point in rehashing old thoughts. Moving on...

I decided to try Batgirl for two reasons. I wanted to try another comic from the New 52 to see how I would enjoy it, and I wanted to read more Gail Simone after sort of shying away from her writing because of a volume of The Atom I read that made me want to run away screaming. Friends and fans of Gail assured me that I would enjoy either Birds of Prey or Batgirl much more than I enjoyed The Atom. After some resistance, I finally decided it was time to close my eyes and step off this cliff again.

The Darkest Reflection follows Barbara Gordon who has made her return as Batgirl after an experimental—or at least it sounded experimental—medical procedure returns her ability to use her legs. For those of you not quite familiar with what happened or only have a vague idea of what happened to her, refer to The Killing Joke pre-DCnU. After some downtime rehabbing while living in her father’s home, Barbara decides that it’s time to spread her wings, move out of her father’s house, and take up the mantle of the bat again. What Barbara didn’t count on was her survivor’s guilt and PTSD (which is triggered when she’s faced with guns) making her return to crime fighting more difficult than she’d expected.
I enjoyed this much, much, much more than I did The Atom.

At first, I was a little afraid that I might have to put this book down because it started a bit campier that I like. Actually, no, I should explain that better. I love when writers use campy writing to their advantage, but sometimes, I feel like writer’s try too hard with it. In turn, that turns me off because it comes off feeling so artificial and forced and makes it hard for me to enjoy the story.  This was one of the main problems that I had with The Atom. There were points in the beginning of this story where I worried I might be traveling down that road again, but after a while, the story found its footing and turned into an enjoyable read.

Barbara is a survivor struggling with the thought of having her legs back. She struggles with conflicting feelings that make her feel blessed for this miracle, but questions why did she, out of all the people in the in the world, deserve such a miracle. After thwarting a murder attempt on a family, Barbara’s next foe challenges her miracle as well and brings out deeper psychological fears.

I really enjoyed the portrayal of Barbara’s struggle. She’s of two minds for most of this comic. She’s a superwoman and a frail all in the same breath. One minute she’s praising herself for her strength and smarts, and the next minute, she doubts herself and if she’s even doing the right thing. She wonders if she’s squandering her miracle by pushing herself too hard, but then she feels that this miracle wasn’t given to her for her to sit by idly. A brief confrontation with Nightwing shows the feelings she stills hold for him while punctuating that she doesn’t want the others to believe that she’s not capable--to the point that she lashes out at him in order to show that she isn’t helpless. She doesn’t want their help. She wants to prove herself, her strength and ability to overcome, to the bat family.

Let me talk briefly about the ending of this comic. No real spoilers, but just some thoughts. When I realized that Barbara’s threat was eliminated in the fourth issues but there were still two issues left in this arc, I was thinking, “Okay?” It ended perfectly, and I was thinking that things were about to get odd since what could you possibly accomplish in two more issues? I was pleasantly surprised. You can say the next two issues in the arc were a mini-story, but still tied into the “reflection” theme showing Barbara what she could’ve been if she hadn’t had family and support.

The first part dealt with accepting that miracles happened to people whether they deserved them or not and that there’s no one who can decide that someone is undeserving of such a miracle, even if it’s a personal miracle. The second part dealt more personally with the idea that not everyone may see his or her miracle as a miracle. It showed how fragile the line between miracle and damnation is in some people’s mind, and it showed a thing about compassion and understanding, as well

Overall, this was entertaining. There were some hiccups for me, and I’m back to questioning why it’s so easy for some people to find out who the bat family is over other more intelligent criminals. That's a general annoyance of mine with Batman and the bat family, not something that's limited to Gail herself. However, I still enjoyed the story and appreciated it for showing Barbara’s return as a struggle that she’s working to overcome for physical and psychological reasons. I’ll definitely read more of the Batgirl books.

View all my reviews
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Tempest Plays The Walking Dead Season One: Episode One

I just finished up episode one of this game. I'm so sorry that I waited so long to play this game. Friends had been trying to get me to play this game forever, but I kept putting them off. Finally, I decided to blow these Xbox points I had on episode one. (And got the rest of the episodes free during the XBL Gold membership deal thing.) I'm enjoying this way more than I thought I would.

This isn't a terribly hard game, but they don't allow me eight million seconds like Mass Effect to make decisions, which makes me tense. I guess that's the point, though, to make the player make their first choice without mulling over it forever. This is a tense situation. You have to think fast.

I wanted to talk a little bit about the choices I made during the course of the episode, so if you're not trying to be spoiled, you may want to leave now.

Go ahead.

I'll wait.

Still here? Good.

My decisions versus other players

Lied to Hershel? You and 63% of players told the truth.

That’s not exactly true. I stopped one step short of telling Hershel the complete truth. Up to the point where Hershel asked who Lee was riding with, I’d been honest. Of course, Lee’s answers were vague, and perhaps mentioning he’d been riding with a cop would’ve been equally as vague. I just didn’t chance it, but I was mostly honest! That should count for something. I guess there's not anything Hershel could've done about Lee in a zombie apocalypse besides try to kill him like Lilly's dad.

Duck or Shawn? You and 47% of players chose Shawn.

I actually got to do this part twice because my game did something weird and I had to shut down the Xbox and all kind of stuff. I chose Duck the first time, thinking if I saved Duck first Lee would do it quickly and could help Shawn. Duck's a kid. I have a weak spot for kids. Talk about being horrified when Shawn didn’t live. My game must’ve felt my horror because it gave me a do-over and I chose Shawn this time. Only to be trolled by the game. We could’ve saved Shawn if Kenny hadn’t ran off with Duck. KENNY!

Side With Kenny? You and 48% of players defended Kenny.

Even though I was pissed off at Kenny because of what happened at the Hershel's farm, ol’ girl’s dad ain’t just about to go killing kids when he's not even sure the kid has been bit. There seems to be an adequate amount of time to observe someone to see if they've been bitten before they become dangerous. That shit dad pulled wasn't cool. I’ll throw his off the hinges ass out there first with his damn daughter before that happens. I know everyone’s tense, but Lilly’s dad is out of control and dangerous. He’s not the ideal person to have around in a crisis like this, especially after he tried to get Lee killed. Do you think anyone gives a damn about what Lee’s done when there are ZOMBIES trying to kill them and Lee has been nothing but loyal and helpful. GTFOH, dad.

Gave Irene the Gun? You and 55% of players refused the gun.

This was actually an accident. I wasn’t going to give it to her at first, but then, I’m like… man, she probably should put herself out of her misery before she turns. She says something about becoming a walker not being Christian, but neither is suicide, I thought? Either way, I was going to let her do it, but then chose the wrong answer. So, I just let it stand. I’ll do another playthrough.

Doug or Carley? You and 76% of players chose Carley.

Game, no. Why did you do this? I wanted them both. I WANTED THEM BOTH. In the end, I chose Carley, though, because of her expert marksmanship. The fact that Carley liked Doug and tried to tell him before he died…? A bloo bloo bloo

On to episode two.

Continue Reading…

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Things That Managed to Piss Me Off Today: Certain Book Readers

Just reposting this from my G+ account. No spoilers.

The thing that bothers me about this whole Red Wedding deal on Game of Thrones and the reactions is how snobbish many book readers are coming off right now to the people who DIDN'T read the books. This is a problem that I usually only encounter when my fellow comic book readers are being purist jerks to the point of needing to be slapped in the mouth. That is what's going on with so many of the book readers of A Song of Ice and Fire right now, and it's annoying me to the point on being downright combative toward them. Some readers are joking around and you can tell the ones who are just ribbing from the ones who are being openly snobbish because they read books and they just happen to have read these books.

1. "You know this was coming," is not an appropriate response to me. Book readers seem to assume because we (other book readers) knew this was coming that we shouldn't act all surprised. Just because I knew something was coming doesn't mean I'm not allowed to react with surprise, shock, and pain to the scene. I'm reacting to the scene as it was presented in this format, and it was an intense, emotionally driven scene. Knowing about the scene doesn't take away from the scene for me or many other people who have read the books. We live the experience as it is happening on the screen, not as it played out in our heads when we read the books.

2. "You should've read the books," is not an appropriate response to people who haven't read the books including other book readers and people who plan to only experience the world through the show. It is not okay to insert yourself into a conversation only to try to shame someone because they didn't read the books. That includes passive-aggressively using gifs and triple-play Scrabble words to basically call someone an idiot for not reading the books.

The one thing that I liked about this scene is that it fostered conversation between the book readers and the show watchers. It allowed a free flow of conversation where everyone could discuss how they felt about the scene and many of the show watchers were very receptive to what the book readers had to say about their experience with the scene in the book versus their experience with the scene on the show until the Book Reader Elite started coming in with their "read the book, didn't read the book" reaction gifs and just general boorish attitude that ruined a perfectly fine discussion between people.

Am I being testy right now? I might be, but this is one of my peeves when it comes to books/comics versus their tv/movie counterparts. The purists who feel their only goal in life is to disrupt conversation because "Haha! Read the book." You can't sit with us. Get out!

Continue Reading…


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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