Game review: Rogue Legacy for PS Vita

I wanted to like Rogue Legacy, but I haven’t had much fun with it. At first, I thought that maybe I needed to invest a bit of time into upgrades and it would become fun, kind of like with Prototype, where extra powers make roaming the city a joy. But even after two days straight of buying upgrades and unlocking all the other character classes, I’m still not having fun.

I imagine a meeting at the studio behind this game, and one of the programmers said something like, “You know what the best part of those old NES RPGs was? The endless hours of forced grinding before you could work up the skills to take on the boss.” I wonder why no one said, “Uh, dude, grinding is a chore that most people hate.” But no, apparently a lot of people think grinding is awesome, and so here’s a whole game devoted to grinding one generation of heroes and heroines to death so the next generation will have the money to pay for more stuff. Each time you enter the castle, whatever funds you don’t spend get taken away, so hey, might as well shop between the looting and pillaging, right?

It’s a shame that none of this feels fun to me because the game has a lot of good points that should please me. The controls are simple. There’s a ton of enemy types to keep things from getting stale. (at least initially, that is. I’ll come back to this.) The music is good, and the graphics are crisp and bright.

But combat is a chore no matter what class I play, and no matter what level I reach. Part of it has to do with the number of enemies who shoot through walls and begin attacking long before I ever see them. Part of it is in the wimpy nature of every sword, even after upgrading the damage. There’s no sense of progression in that it takes roughly the same number of swings to kill bad guys no matter what sword I use or how much I upgrade my stats. And the thing is, the cost of upgrades becomes ridiculously expensive pretty quickly. So I might have several runs where I can’t afford to upgrade anything after dying and have to give up my money to Charon, the castle guard, before restarting a new level. I later upgraded one stat so he only took half my gold, but it’s still frustrating and it cost me a shit ton of gold just to upgrade five levels and max that stat out. Continue reading

Book Review: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Right, let’s get this out of the way first: I’m not a big zombie fan. I don’t hate them, and one of my favorite monster movies is the original Night of the Living Dead. But I don’t really get too worked up about most zombies either, and they’re not nearly as interesting to me as sentient monsters like vampires, werewolves, fae, jinn, and your mother. (Zing!)

Looking at the blurb of The Girl With All the Gifts at the bookstore, I’d passed this title over three months back. But then Maggie Siefvater, uber-author extraordinaire, got on Twitter to gush about how good the book was, and I thought “Well maybe I’ll give it a chance.” So I got the Kindle edition and started the first chapter, and within 10 chapters, I didn’t want to read anything else until I finished it. When I did finish it, my first words afterward were “Well, shit.” Not in a bad way, but more like a “I shoulda seen that coming” kind of way.

The Girl With All the Gifts is a zombie book that offers a scientific reason for the zombies emerging, that being the mutation of a cordyceps fungus that jumps to the human race. It’s suggested that this mutation may have been helped by a lab somewhere, but it’s never explicitly said that it’s the work of a terrorist attack. Instead of starting with the outbreak, the book jumps some thirty years after the world ends. It does go with another cliché by beginning in an outpost of civilization, and so of course you know eventually something will happen to force a group of humans out into the wild. And you know that at some point, the shit will hit the fan and one by one those humans are going to get picked off by the zombies. It wouldn’t be a zombie book otherwise. Continue reading

Book review: Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

I read The Replacement back in 2011, and I liked it for a number of things it did differently from most of the YA dark fantasy I’d been reading at the time. The biggest thing that impressed me was how the town where the story took place was very much aware of the supernatural creatures living among them, and they chose not to talk about it for some very unsavory but (in my opinion) realistic reasons. So when I read the blurb for Fiendish, I said, “Oooh, it’s another town like in The Replacement.”

Well…no, not quite. There’s still that same premise that the town is in the loop, but instead of fae manipulating the locals to buy their silence, this is a town where the locals are afraid of magic users, who they call “crooked people.” When the story starts, Clementine DeVore is a child who is put in a basement and sealed away during a riot, and she is not found until she’s…sixteen, I think. (I’m not entirely clear on that point.) She’s found by another crooked person, Eric Fisher, and he takes her to the wrecked house of her aunt and cousin, Myloria and Shiny Blackwood. And throughout the rest of the story, Clementine slowly uncovers what a crappy place she lives in.

There’s a lot to like in this story, and the first is obviously the way everyone knows what’s going on. I get so tired of the “what are these monsters?” trope, especially with something that’s so obviously a part of our modern culture like vampires or zombies. Here, people know what witches and warlocks are, and they’ve done a halfway decent attempt to wipe out as many crooked people as they could to avert a cyclical magic disaster called the reckoning. Continue reading

Really real randomness…

So yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “What the hell are you writing now that’s keeping your crazy ass so quiet?” Well I do have a project I’m working on, but this summer, the temperature has NEVER been stable, so I’m having a metric shit ton of fatigue attacks and brain fuzz to fight through. Where I normally bust out a book in three weeks, this one is likely to take me quite a bit longer. It’s also turning into a really big book. I mean, I’m 74K into it, and I’m only now getting around to the introduction of the bad guys. To add to my problems, I’m trying to do this whole series in one go, so when I’m ready to put out book one, I can promise the rest of the books are already done. Not that I think that’s going to help my sales numbers, but at least the few people who start the series will know I won’t leave them hanging.

So the new book is about a vampire princess and an alpha werewolf. It’s a lesbian couple, by the by. I wanted to do a story with real lesbians, since most of my stories where the women have sex, they end up being bi. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I realized I still had no L in my GLBT writings, and I thought, “I should fix that.”) I wanted this to be all dark and horror-y, and that’s not working out so well. I’m not really complaining, because I like the story. It’s just, I expected there to be more blood and bad guys, and instead, I’m getting Romeo and Juliet mixed with some romantic paranormal comedy. I even managed to turn a gory scene in a school restroom into something humorous, and I wasn’t even trying. I blame these damn teenage characters, always being so irreverent and stuff.

In reading news, I’m working my way through Brenna Yovanoff’s new book, Fiendish, which is awesome. I’m also reading Like No Other from Una LaMarche, but may very well skip the review and just go with a rating on Goodreads because this book is stroking my anti-religious buttons in all the wrong ways. The writing is good, and the story is too. But several of the characters have me thinking bad, bad things because of their views of women as breeding cattle with no rights. So…yeah, it’s probably best just to rate this one and walk away. Continue reading

About that Amazon letter…

Lots of authors have weighed in on this topic recently, so you might already know that Amazon sent all of us indie authors publishing through KDP an email asking us to write to Hachette and ask them to resolve this pricing dispute. I have to say, I don’t get why Amazon would ask me for my help on this when it’s none of my business. I’m not a Hachette author, and I can’t even recall the last time I bought one of their books. I absolutely do not care what they want to charge for their books.

You know what I do care about? I care about having the freedom to price my books however I want. I have a fan-fic book I’d love to give away for free on Amazon as a sort of loss leader like the big publishers get to do. But Amazon doesn’t let me do that. Kobo will let me give a book away for free. Gumroad will too. But Amazon will only grant me a few days for free as a promotion, and only if I agree to give them exclusive rights to sell my book. I don’t really like that deal, but Amazon is not open to talking to me about pricing because I’m not a big publisher. I’m just a little indie, and Amazon’s able to force me to agree to most of their terms. So, since I don’t want to give them exclusive rights, I don’t get to give books away for free. I don’t get to use Amazon’s shiny new Kindle Unlimited service. In several markets, I only get 35% royalties because I won’t work exclusively with Amazon. I don’t think any of that is fair, but Amazon is where I get most of my sales from, so I have to take whatever terms they give me and grin and bear it.

When it comes to pricing, I’m only allowed to offer what Amazon will allow me. So I can’t sell a book for 49 cents like I used to. If I wanted to sell a book for 99 cents, I’d have to accept a 35% royalty on all sales instead of just a few select markets. So what Amazon is really asking me is, “Please tell Hachette to take the same crap deal we’re giving you.” Uh, and what’s my incentive to do this?

What this is starting to remind me of is a pair of divorcing parents who both want their kids to get in the fight with them. Mommy Amazon doesn’t like that Daddy Hachette still won’t give in to her demands, so now it’s time to bring the kids in and make them repeat her demands. Well with all due respect, no, Mommy Amazon, I’m not going to do your job for you. I was never your favorite kid to begin with, and you’re not exactly doing me any favors with your constant demands that I be exclusively loyal to you. I do wish you and Daddy Hachette would come to some kind of resolution and stop all this useless bickering, because I hear a LOT of people talking about boycotting Amazon, and that could be very bad for me. So please, kiss and make up, or get the divorce over with and stop making your dirty laundry public. You’re just embarrassing yourselves at this point.

Book review: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

My feelings for Isabel Culpepper and Cole St. Clair’s relationship in both the previous books, Linger and Forever, was that I didn’t feel anything for them. However, in the finale of Forever, Isabel finally realized she needed to stop telling other people that they had to do something, and she needed to grow up and do something herself, which ultimately saved everyone from mass execution. So it was thinking on this change that I hoped Sinner would show a slightly more mature Isabel reuniting with a slightly less obnoxious Cole St. Clair.

But no, I only got half a wish granted. Or more like a quarter of a wish.

Sinner is about Cole coming to L.A. to reunite with Isabel, and since he kind of needs a job to afford living there, he agrees to do a web-based reality show with a woman famous for filming celebrity train wrecks in which he will make his return album. I kind of knew the tone and direction this story would take when, after finding out that Cole had a job, Isabel stomped off because darn it, he wasn’t really there just to worship her.

So this is the story of how a spoiled brat and a reformed drug addict crash into each other. And just as in previous books, I feel nothing for their relationship. Continue reading

Book review: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

The first Helen Oyeyemi book I read, White is for Witching, the blurb lied and I could forgive it because the story about a predatory house would be hard to sum up. This second time with Boy, Snow, Bird, the blurb lied and I not only can’t forgive it, the more I read past the point of revelation that the blurb was a lie, the more I hated everything about this story. I had already found my dislike of the main character, Boy Novak to be near disgust. But then…

Let me quote the blurb. “When Bird is born Boy is forced to re-evaluate the image Arturo’s family have presented to her, and Boy, Snow, and Bird are broken apart.”

No. Not even fucking close to the truth. Continue reading

Right, about that sales report…

As Nobody Special was published June 12, I ideally wanted to make a sales report of all four new releases following a full thirty days with the last book on the market. Well the muse came along and distracted me with a story, and then I finally got my season box sets of Teen Wolf. (All three boxes damaged, no less. But hey, the discs work, so I’ll let the mailman live.) I’m also working my way through three books, playing my way slowly through Transformers: War for Cybertron, and still trying to decide how I feel about Battleblock Theater for its review. What I’m saying is, I’ve gotten slightly distracted, and blogging a few random numbers keeps slipping my mind.

But so here we go…
Third Wheel Romance Blues: 4 sales
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: 18 sales
Adventures In Trolling: 6 sales
Nobody Special: 4 sales

If there’s a lesson learned here, it’s that I clearly have no business writing stuff outside of fantasy. Although that lesson is kind of ruined by the performance of the Tobe White books, I guess. The thing is, I spent the same amount of time promoting all of these books when they came out. I don’t know why Alice’s book got the extra boost in sales that it did. Maybe it was the people who’d read Peter the Wolf coming back to check on Alice. Maybe the blurb for Alice’s story was just better or more compelling.

I did get a good review on Nobody Special that called it mainstream, and that made me feel like I’d done a good job of telling the story I wanted to without getting preachy on any topic. Maybe in the future when I figure out how to write a bestseller, the long tail will bring more readers for the contemporary fiction books.

Anywho, that’s the sales report. Pretty crappy if I were a pro, but not bad for a nobody.

About that new story…it’s a lesbian romance that’s flirting with being dark fantasy or YA horror. The main characters are a vampire and a werewolf, and the fun part so far has been the contrasts between their perspective. The vampire is obviously a monster from the opening chapter, but the werewolf only gives subtle hints at first that she isn’t human. I like this, and I’m curious when the muse is going to let the fur fly and reveal the werewolf’s darker side to balance out the vampire’s creepiness.

There’s also soccer in this one. I guess I feel like maybe the jocks should get a chance to be something besides the de facto bullies all the time.

So, that’s it for now. I expect I’ll have new book and game reviews up soonish. But I’m now committed to a release vacation until at least the start of fall. I’m using this time to update some previous releases and fix typos with the help of a kind reader who’s been sending me mistakes during an impressive binge read of my titles. I’m also going through those books to look for anything else that sticks out, and between this and the writing, I just don’t have the energy to handle new releases or the promotions they require.

As always, thanks for reading my stuff. I’ll hopefully have something new for you soon, at least here on the blog, that is.

Book review: Roses White, Roses Red by Leigh Wilder

Roses White, Roses Red is a really short story, so short that I almost feel guilty calling this a book review. But what the hell, it’s an ebook no matter how short the story, so here we go. Oh, and this is going to be a really short review because I don’t want to give too much away, or no more so than you’re likely to see in the blurb.

It’s inspired by a fairy tales, which are also usually just as short. This one tells the story of Reynard, a young man who lost his mother at a very early age and lives in a cottage in the woods with only his father for company until his father also dies when Raynard is twenty-one. Loneliness weighs down on him until one night when in a fit of cabin fever, he wanders out in the snow and finds a strange bear with blue eyes, a bear who strangely transforms into a man every night at the stroke of midnight.

I can’t really explain any further without spoiling the story, so I’ll just stop there and say that I liked this tale. It’s just enough information to make Reynard a relatable person before it winds up to the ending and the explanation for Bear’s transformations. Oh, and there’s also enough time for a gay sex scene, which was also rather good.

So, I give Roses White, Roses Red 4 stars and recommend it to fans of gay romance, dark fantasy, or both.

Game review: Child of Light for PS Vita

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh God, another video game review from Zoe. I wonder how much she hated this game.” Well in the somewhat less than immortal words of Hatty Hattington, hold onto your butts, because for once I actually liked a game. YES. Shocking as it may seem, Child of Light is for me a highly entertaining and addicting game, and I say this because after starting it on Friday night, I played for something close to 36 hours straight with no sleep and only a few breaks for food. Then after sleeping to recharge, I went right back in for another 14 hour romp to the ending. And unlike most games that I binge play in one sitting (because I hate them and want to get done with them), I really loved every battle and puzzle in this pretty world.

It’s not a total love affair, so I can’t give this a perfect score. I had issues with the writing (big shock, I know) and the story, and I saw the ending coming from the opening scene and still hated it. But before I get to any of that negativity, let me talk about all the stuff I did like. That’s going to be a longer list than usual.

For starters, there’s the story putting a young girl in the protagonist’s spotlight, a welcome change of pace from all the growly-voiced middle-aged white psychopaths that usually take the top spot. (And yes, I mean psychopath. When you murder a thousand people to accomplish any goal and never consider any solution besides violence, you’re a psychopath no matter what side of the law you pretend to be on.) Aurora’s story intro is a bit of Snow White and Harry Potter, as her father marries a wicked queen to replace his deceased wife. (Though how he didn’t notice the obvious evilosity of his new wife eludes me. (Yes, evilosity is totally a real word.)) Soon after the new queen moves in, Aurora seemingly dies and ends up awake on an altar far from her familiar home. Here she learns that she’s no ordinary girl, and she has a special destiny to fulfill. Her quest to return home takes her through the villages of several fantastic peoples, and along the way she is asked to help with their plights. Each of these missions ends up bringing her another party member to help her in her fights, and each of these companions have their own unique skill sets. Continue reading