Book review: Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith

Vampire Diaries: The Awakening had a hard time clicking for me. I wouldn’t say it’s atrocious, but it’s got a problem getting started or building sympathy for the main characters until well past the two-thirds mark of the book. I felt zero emotional impact from the romance, but unlike previous YA couples like the Hush, Hush series, the problem here isn’t with the male lead. No, it’s all on Elena. She’s introduced as the most popular girl in her school, a pretty pretty princess who instantly dumps her boyfriend Matt the instant she sees the new guy Stefan, and who compares boys to puppies. When he turns her down, she hatches a plot to make him jealous by inventing a fake older lover. This is really all you need to know about her because she’s lacking a personality to go along with her looks. She’s as shallow as a driveway puddle and only half as reflective.

Stefan makes a favorable comparison to Louis from Interview with a Vampire, a reluctant creature of the night looking for somewhere to get away from his past. There’s comparisons to Twilight for the high school setting (although in my opinion Bella comes out looking much better for lacking Elena’s ego), and more comparisons to Interview when Damon shows up acting very much like Lestat. But as the story nears the end, Damon really comes across as the stereotypical Hollywood vampire, the creature hundreds of years old who never matures, killing indiscriminately and leaving a trail of bodies, and always obsessed with fang-banging the hot chicks. Like a four hundred year old teenager, Damon’s entire purpose in life is to pursue his brother, like, “Looook, I’m bigger than you! I’m meaner than you! Looooook, bro! I’m so strong!”

Actually, I take back that comparison to teens, since that’s kind of insulting to the teenagers I’ve known. Damon comes across as an eternal eight-year-old brat, and his antics are probably the least interesting part of the story. Even the chapters with Elena’s hysterics over not being able to have her man candy are less grating. Continue reading

Game review: Resogun for PS4 and PS Vita

After getting my PS4, Resogun was one of the games that was supposed to be at the top of my must-buy list. Being made by Housemarque, makers of the fantastic Vita launch title Super Stardust Delta, and having garnered favorable reviews from so many sites, it stayed in my mind as something I HAD to play. But once I had my PS4, a lot of other bigger games stole my attention. It wasn’t until the release of Resogun on the PS Vita that I decided to get it. Cross-buying an arcade shooter that I could play on the big screen or on the go? Yes, please!

So I played it, and I beat it on the first couple of difficulty levels, and…and now I have no desire to play it anymore. It’s not a bad game, but it doesn’t feel nearly as satisfying as Super Stardust Delta does to me. Keep in mind, now going on three years, and I’m still playing Super Stardust. I have the high scores over all my Vita friends in most modes by a wide margin of several million points, and I still get jazzed when I hit a new high score record.

Why didn’t Resogun hit the same high notes for me? Before I get to that, I want to talk about what it did right. It’s pretty, and the design of the levels on a cylinder is clever and visually appealing. I like how blowing up enemies causes parts of the buildings and the platforms to collapse in a shower of cubes. The music is good, the sound effects are great, and the controls are easy to grasp. That’s about it. Continue reading

What’s been going on…

I know it’s been a while since I posted anything. and it may still be another week or two before I have any new reviews out. I’ve avoided posting here because I was hoping things would turn out better than they have, or at least get resolved faster. But…

Three weeks ago, hubby came home early on Friday complaining about feeling ill. He didn’t have a fever and said it wasn’t really a proper illness until he had a fever. The next night, he got the fever he wanted, and we couldn’t break it no matter how much aspirin or ibuprofen he took. By Sunday, he was complaining about pain in his ankle, and by Monday, he was mincing worse than me on my worst relapse day. I said he should go to the doctor then, but he said he “might be feeling better already.” Tuesday, he was worse, and when he got in the tub for a bath, it took both of us tugging and pulling for an hour to get him back out. I said that if he wasn’t better by four the next day, he would call an ambulance.

Well he was worse, and yet the damn dispatcher initially refused to send paramedics over for “just a fever” and hung up on hubby. So I got on the phone to call them back, and after making it clear that this was a high fever that had lasted four days combined with joint pain, weakness, and diarrhea I was told that this was most likely just a flu, but they would at least send a paramedic if he was too sick to walk to his regular doctor. I assured them he was too sick to make it to the bathroom without help, much less walk six blocks to his doctor, and the paramedics came and took him away. Continue reading

Book review: Into a Dark Land by Walter Shuler

Into a Dark Land picks up immediately after the events in Gods of Sand and Stone and follows Conn, Mur, and Aerlyn in their quest to find a way to destroy a mad god, Cernunnos. At the start of the story, I thought there might be the chance of a somewhat darker take on the classic four-person RPG party, but the sidhe warrior basically walks off after saying, “Sure, the gods might kills us, but they’ll kill you stupid humans first, and that won’t be so bad.” (I’m paraphrasing heavily.) So that leaves Conn’s party as a trio, who upon stepping out of the sidhe’s territory discover that they’ve lost two years in human time, and that things are going very badly for the locals.

While Conn and his friends stop in at a small town to get information, Cernunnos approaches a grieving king, Tigernmas, and seduces him with promises of power and a return to prosperity for his kingdom. The two sides amass armies destined to meet, and in the following weeks of training, Conn also learns the origins of his spear, the real reason why Cernunnos has become corrupted, and that there are many more gods involved in this war than he’d previously believed.

The book concludes with a massive battle between the two armies, though it would be hard to declare either the victor at this point. This sets the stage for book three, where I’m sure there will be more gods introduced, more bodies, and more revelations.

I’ll give Into a Dark Land 4 stars. It’s a short, fast-paced novel that should appeal to fans of dark fantasy, though I’d suggest reading the first book in The God Wars series before delving into this episode.

Game review: Project Diva f 2nd for PS Vita

Project Diva f is one of my favorite PS Vita games and remains one of the few I keep going back to whenever I need something to do for a few minutes of quick distraction. It’s also one of the few games I own multiple copies of, as I bought the English language version as soon as it became available in Europe. It’s just loads of fun to play with a simple “Simon Says” premise, and I’ve logged in well over 200 hours at this point. In my original review, I said that I might never unlock Hard mode, but I’ve been able to pass 70%, leaving only Extreme mode untouched. (Well, I did give the songs I unlocked an effort, but it was a bit like trying to dodge machine gun bullets…while swimming in a pool of molasses. In December. With lead boots on.)

I say this because I was extremely happy to see that Project Diva f 2nd would be getting an English language release relatively quickly, so I skipped the Japanese import and waited patiently, only to discover that I very much HATE the new game. I want to love it for many of the reasons I love the first, but the game steadfastly refuses to let me have fun with it. In fact it hurts me to play and insults me for not being fast enough to keep up with its unforgiving pace.

What this second game still gets right is the graphics and sound. The music is nice and varied, and the videos are all bright and flashy, if a bit surreal at times. Playing through the game on Easy mode, I frequently marveled at the number of songs available and their diverse range. There’s not quite as much variety as in the first game, but I didn’t mind losing a few of the pop metal styles in favor of some lighter synth-pop fare. Continue reading

Book review: Elven Blood by Debra Dunbar

Well! That certainly started off my new year of reading with a bang! I’ve very much enjoyed the first two books in the Imp series, but Elven Blood may be the best book yet. Maybe it’s partly because the first two books have me deeply invested in Samantha already, but I also feel like this was a solid story with plenty of twists and turns, many of them pleasantly surprising.

Samantha is now the Ha-Satan, but the demons of Hel aren’t exactly bowing down to her authoritai. Actually, one in particular keeps sending hired hit men to try and take her out. The angels don’t seem to care much for her either, with the possible exception of Gregory, and they don’t seem to like what she brings to their council meetings. Well I certainly did.

I can’t discuss much of anything without spoiling this book or previous books, but I will say that this had a lot of great humor. I was frequently reading sections to hubby to explain my outbursts of laughter, and near the end, I whooped over a borrowed line from Army of Darkness. I read it to hubby, and he got a big cheesy grin, too.

I like that the romantic triangle remains a triangle, and that even if Wyatt and Gregory don’t like each other, neither is asking Samantha to make a choice to stay loyal to them. Gregory even manages to show some signs of mellowing out, and Wyatt…well he’s still delightfully himself, even though at times it seems like his faith in Samantha has been shaken. Continue reading

Game review: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth for PS Vita

I’ve been playing The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth off and on between other games, with about 20 hours put into it at this point, and I still don’t know how to feel about it. Once I’ve got it started, I might play until I drain the Vita, or I might just play one seed and put it away for later. The controls are simple enough, and the enemies have a lot of variety. But the game’s setting is…well it’s a bit awkward.

Isaac is a young child of indeterminate age, but given his dream sequences in between levels, I’m not really sure if he’s a toddler or somewhere around 5 or 6. In any case, Isaac’s mother hears a voice that says he’s God, and he doesn’t like Isaac much. So after a set of severe punishments, “God” tells her that Isaac must be sacrificed. Isaac somehow figures out that he’s about to die, and he finds a trap door into the basement level of his room and must fight through a bunch of monsters and bosses, eventually leading to a fight with his mother using his only available weapon, his tears.

Right off the bat, I find myself asking what drugs the dude who made this must have been taking. There’s a kind of biblical tone to this story, and a little bit of Carrie as well, given the “they’re all going to laugh at you” dream sequences. I find myself asking if Isaac’s mother is delusional or really hearing God. Because if all these demons and monsters are hiding out in this woman’s basement, maybe the God of this world is petty enough to ask for a child as a human sacrifice. Then again, maybe’s she’s insane and it’s just a coincidence that her house seems to be sitting on top of a hell mouth. Continue reading

Saying goodbye to 2014

Here we are, the last blog post of 2014, in which I look back and try to decide if it was a good year or bad. But I think I’ve already made up my mind that it wasn’t so bad for me. This is not to say it wasn’t a shit year for a lot of folks, but with me locked away in my own little corner of the world, it wasn’t so bad. For every bad little thing that I can think of, I can also think of something good that kind of balances it out. And really, it’s not possible to make it through a whole year without some bad raining on the good, right? Right, one must look for balance of the two, not an overabundance of one or the other. Expecting a year to only be good is unrealistic, and finding a year to be all bad could possibly be a sign of too much cynicism. So, split the middle and take both in moderation, is what I say.

I wrote a lot less this year. It’s due not to a lack of creative energy, though, more like a lack of energy. I napped a lot, taking away from my writing time. And now that the weather has turned cold, I find it’s very hard to stay at my desk for more than a few minutes at a time before I want to run to the living room and shut the door to bask in the glow of the electric heater. It’s taken me two days to write this post with several escapes to the living room to that out, and I don’t see that improving until March, possibly even April.

I don’t really consider this a bad thing because I have a big queue of stories to release sometime next year, and when spring rolls around, I can get back to editing and writing to keep the backlog sufficiently full. I still don’t think I want to do anything with Mystical World Wars because of a lack of interest, but I might eventually return to it just to amuse myself. The muse seems content to leave that world alone to focus on smaller series, and I’m grateful that she’s no longer the relentless task mistress that she used to be. We’re in a good place, the muse and I, so I hope to continue that trend in 2015. Continue reading

Book review: Traitors by Carrie Clevenger

Crooked Fang was one of my favorite books this year, so I was excited to be getting back to Xan Marcelles and his complicated life. This outing however is very straightforward, and I feel a little let down. Traitors is not a bad story, but compared to the many twist and turns of the first book, it plays out pretty straightforward without any surprises. Xan is contacted about killing a group of vampires, and he does, and that’s the story.

Coming along on this bloody road trip is Nin, a vampire from the first book, who provides a bit of balance to Xan’s rough character. She’s an interesting lady, and I think she makes a fine partner for Xan. But I do admit, all throughout this book, I kept wondering, what happened to Tabitha? She’s briefly mentioned near the end, so I know she’s okay. But I rather liked her in the first book, and I was holding out hope that she might make an appearance this time around. Alas, no such luck.

The ending sets up the premise for the next book, a mission that Xan has no choice but to accept. I hope Nin will still be along for the ride in the next book, and I hope to see Tabitha again.

I give Traitors 4 stars, and I’d suggest it and Crooked Fang to fans of vampire fiction.

Game review: Tetris Ultimate for PS4

The other day I got a pleasant surprise browsing the PSN store for new games. Tetris Ultimate hit my nostalgia bone hard, so it became an instant buy as soon as I had some cash available.

You have to understand, Tetris was one of my first Game Boy games. It was the game I showed to my mother, who was always going on about games rotting the brain. But she liked Tetris so much that I had trouble prying the Game Boy from her at times. After moving back in with my dad, I showed him Tetris, and he became an instant addict as well. It’s a game with a simple premise and a wide appeal, and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like to waste some time with it.

This Ubisoft update brings in several co-op and versus modes along with the classic single player mode. I wish I could say it was all good, but some of the modes were a little annoying. I don’t have PS Plus (yet), and so I can’t play online with other people. Ubisoft’s answer to this is a set of bots of varying skill levels. All of these are fine for a basic battle mode, but they have some problems when it comes to co-op. The problem is, they slam tiles on their side of the “matrix” without consideration of what my half looks like, or whether or not I might need the pieces they’re taking at the rate of one per second. So by the time I’ve finally managed to set up even one tetris, they’ve filled their entire side of the screen, and we lose the game around level two. Continue reading