Reviews

Book Watch: FEED and DEADLINE by Mira Grant

by on Jun.06, 2011, under Book Watch, Books, Entertainment, Flash Fiction, Novels, Reviews, Short Stories

Double feature today. I was going through my Book Watch posts and realized I hadn’t posted my review of FEED by Mira Grant. Considering how much I raved about this book to my offline friends, I feel I’ve done a disservice not at least mention it here. The reviews below are non-spoiler reviews covering both FEED and the newest book in the Newsflesh series, DEADLINE. I highly recommend both.

Feed (Newsflesh, #1)Feed by Mira Grant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Easily one of the most entertaining books I have ever read.

The tag line is fun and confusing at the exact same time: A book about blogging, politics, and zombies. Of course it is much more than that. Mira Grant gives us a glimpse into a future where blogging has become a legitimate journalistic endeavor and threat of a biological plague which reduces people to mindless zombies keeps everybody well cloistered behind bio-hazard sealed doors and finger pricking locks. Yet in this future, America still lives, and it still needs a President, so campaigning must continue.

I waited to read this book because the premise sounded so far-fetched until a friend loaned me a copy. It is a stark reminder that any premise, no matter how odd or ridiculous sounding, can be made into a good story.

Deadline (Newsflesh, #2)Deadline by Mira Grant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Date Started: June 1s, 2011
Date Ended: June 4th, 2011

DEADLINE is the sequel to FEED, the book about Politics, Blogging, and Zombies. DEADLINE is not about Politics, Blogging, and Zombies. It is about Conspiracies, Zombies, and Blogging. The second novel in a trilogy, DEADLINE once again introduces us to a post-apocalyptic future where humanity survives, in fear, of a zombie plague. Where FEED introduced us to the world and it’s politics, giving us a glimpse into conspiracies that run a zombie infested America, DEADLINE jumps right into the conspiracy and hauls the reading along for the ride.

Where DEADLINE suffers, its suffers in being both the sequel to FEED and the second novel in a trilogy. The novelty of the world has worn off and we’re left with the characters and plot to drive the story. The plot is somewhat ham-stringed by the book’s status and the fact that the slow reveals of parts of the conspiracy were not as compelling as the further questions they raised. However, the characters, their insight, dialog, and interaction, manage to keep DEADLINE sailing smoothly in the compelling read sea.

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Interested in the books but not quiet sure if it is for you? Mira Grant, otherwise known as Seanan McGuire, keeps a live journal. During the month leading up to the release of DEADLINE, she posted a series of flash/short fiction set in the Newsflesh world. It is intended to be read after FEED but there are no actual spoilers. You can follow this tag to find them all but you have to scroll down to the first post, titled T-minus 29 Days to DEADLINE.

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Book Watch: Fables

by on May.13, 2011, under Book Watch, Books, Comic Suggestions, Comics, Reviews

Fables: Witches (Fables, #14)Fables: Witches by Bill Willingham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent story and well deserving of the Hugo nomination it is up for. I was particularly pleased to see more focus on the witches/magical characters of the regular Fable cast as that group has always interested me.

Fables: Rose Red (Fables, #15)Fables: Rose Red by Bill Willingham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fun read. I devoured it quickly. After the 11th graphic novel, I was worried Fables wouldn’t be able to recover the grand stories it had managed to tell under its original premise but this, combined with the prior graphic novel, proves the Fables story has plenty yet to tell.

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Review: Sucker Punch

by on Mar.28, 2011, under Films, Reviews, Visual Media

I’m not sure what I am supposed to tell you here. There has been a lot of talk about the movie Sucker Punch. I’ve heard glowing reviews from friends, bitter numbers from critics, and helter skelter from the internet. All of this was second-hand. I didn’t even really elicit these snatches of commentary before going to see the film but here is what I can say.

I very much enjoyed it.

With that out-of-the-way let me provide some context and clarity as to why everybody is so confused and sharply divided about this film. It’s marketing department pulled a fast one on us. They showed us the glitter, the special effects, we all went ‘oooh’, then gave us a teaser of what the premise was: hot women in an insane asylum and we let our imaginations run wild.

And honestly we did exactly what the marketers thought we would. We assumed a pretty but light action flick with fetishistic costumes. Instead what we got was a film that explored from a female perspective the struggle for freedom of choice in one’s life under an inherently overwhelming force.

(continue reading…)

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Book Watch: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

by on Mar.08, 2011, under Articles, Book Watch, Books, Entertainment, Reviews

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Date Started: Mar 5, 2011
Date Finished: Mar 7, 2011

A powerful trilogy was written here and I fear that its classification as young adult might keep it’s depth and story hidden from the world. I know this isn’t true as this series’ name is on everybody’s lips but my first reaction after finishing this novel was how I needed to shout its worth to the world. Sadly I was trapped on a plane so I began to write a full review of the series, which will be available at this address in the near future, containing spoilers.

It should say something that I finished this book in two days. Yes it is a young adult novel and somewhat short but I ate up every word whenever I could sneak in some time. The only novels I have read this voraciously in awhile have been Feed, The Dresden Files, the Legacy of the Aldenata, and the Harry Potter series and I will now be quick to add this series to the list.

This book picks up right where it’s predecessor leaves off, and weaves the wild and believable adventure of our sixteen year old heroine during a revolution of the remaining humans on earth. The book is an emotional roller coaster but I mean that in the best possible way.

Real.

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Book Watch: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

by on Mar.07, 2011, under Articles, Book Watch, Books, Reviews

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Date Started: Feb 27, 2011
Date Finished: Mar 5, 2011

Far more gripping than its predecessor, Catching Fire is probably this best title for this book ever. Not only does it allude to key plot points from the first book, and its own story, but the tale itself metaphorically catches fire, making it very hard to put down. The ending itself leaves you no choice but to find and read its sequel, Mocking Jay.
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Comic & Video Game Initial Review: CAD and Marvel vs Capcom 3

by on Feb.17, 2011, under Articles, Comic Links, Comics, Entertainment, Gaming, Reviews, Video Games

Ctrl+Alt+Del: 2011-02-16: Stratagem of Canon

So I recently purchased Marvel vs Capcom 3. This is my introduction to the series, believe it or not. The arcade machines I saw in the past didn’t attract my attention. Actually most fighting based arcade machines did not attract my attention, save for Street Fighter 2 when I was a kid. Mostly because I was not the kind of kid who could afford to spend enough quarters to get good at the games.

Then home consoles started porting fighting games into the living rooms, and ironically enough I still didn’t get into them very much. I rented a few here and there. I played them over at friend’s houses, but I’ve always been a casual Fighting Game fan.

My first real fighting game that I owned was Killer Instinct for the super Nintendo, followed by Killer Instinct for the N64. It’s use of a combo system really appealed to the precision gamer in me. Since then I’ve played several fighting games and owned very few. Tekken, Soul Caliber, Super Smash Brothers Melee, and the newer Street Fighters I played at friend houses. I made a point of owning Super Smash Brothers Brawl, which you can read my review of here. (Warning: It is rather long, boring, and lacking in visual appeal).

Sadly Super Smash Brothers series has a stigma of not being a “serious” fighter, since it involves Nintendo characters and you knock your enemies into the sky, rather than beat them to unconsciousness, or viciously tear out their internal organs and while I’ll argue that stigma almost any day, that isn’t what this post is about.

This post is about Marvel vs Capcom 3 and my initial impressions of it.

My first initial impression was: Wow. This game’s cut scenes are worth half the value of the game. That would be around $30 USD, in case you were wondering. While the game allowed you to slowly unlock these videos during play, I had some errands around my apartment I needed to take care of, and let the game remain on the title screen, where, much to my surprise, it began playing cut scenes and exhibition fights.

Yeah it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a video game do that too.

You can watch almost all the intro cut scenes via this method and it shows various Marvel and Capcom characters fighting in amazingly choreographed ways. The animation is cell shaded but somehow that lends itself to the aesthetic better than a more realistic rendering might have done. Here is the first of four or five videos of this type, the one that comes unlocked without even having to play the game:

(I very much suggest you turn on the HD for the above video).

So as you’ve by now figured out, MvC3 is about Capcom characters fighting Marvel characters. That is the basic premise and there are a lot of characters to choose from. A lot. That is because MvC3 doesn’t use the normal concept of ’rounds’. Instead fights only last one round, and you select a set of three characters to play with. During play you can select between the three characters as you want, mostly, or use them in ways to assist your main fighting character. This is actually an old hat mechanic from the prior games carrying the title.

To tell you the truth the above video plus the character list was all that was really needed to sell me on the game.

Gameplay

The above picture covers a majority of the characters available in the game but it isn’t by far a complete list. Like all fighting games, you unlock characters as you play. Every character has their own set of moves, based upon four key buttons: Light attack, Medium Attack, Heavy Attack, and Special Attack. And like almost all fighters, you can attack from standing, crouching, or by jumping, as well as executing “super” moves by inputting move and button combinations to make the characters do special maneuvers such as Ryu’s shoryuken or Deadpool’s teleport.

MvC mixes it up by including an energy bar that fills when you attack or when you are attacked. These fuel “hyper” combos that work similar to super combos. MvC also uses the assist system. As I mentioned above you select three characters per match. You can call one of your other two characters to attack, block, or do some kind of special maneuver to help you, or you can switch out your current character for a different one. The assist system is about as complicated as the combo system, neither of which I’m going to go into detail.

What I will go into detail about is the game play. I’ve only played about three hours of the game so far. I’ve gone through one round of the arcade mode on very easy and I spent time learning the ins and outs of one of my favorite characters. What I’ve found is that the game is perhaps not as smooth or as inviting in its single character complexity as games like Tekken or Soul Caliber. Characters really only have a handful of attacks and the focus on the combo system isn’t as complex as one might expect, until you add in the assists from other characters. That is where the system becomes complex. The game really does expect you to master at least three characters, and does so by making any one character pretty easy to learn after an hour or two of playing around in the training mode.

Good design.

One feature of MvC that I discussed with friends of mine who are fighting game enthusiasts dislike is that MvC’s combos system doesn’t have a very good counter-comboing system. This might be true of prior releases but I’ve found assisting to be key in stopping a harsh combo cold. The assist system was one that I wasn’t familiar with and I was hoping to actually avoid when I picked up the game but it has since proved to me to be an interesting way to play.

Gameplay in general is broken down into two modes. Online and offline play. Offline mode is broken down into arcade style play, training, and missions. I have yet to try out the missions but arcade mode on very easy provides a nice 20-30 minute game play run through, which I find appealing. Your own experience will differ but on very easy, the opponents were quickly defeated and I only really had significant trouble with the final “boss” character, barely defeating him before I lost my third-party member.

Visual Appeal and Storytelling

MvC3 also puts a lot of effort into visual appeal. Your character’s moves are always interesting. Combing multiple characters on-screen makes for a chaotic but colorful display of power and game play. Like the videos above, the game itself strives to give your eyes a feast, sometimes to its own detriment.

The game does appear to tell a story but how it plans on telling that story I am not sure. I have completed the arcade mode on very easy once, which unlocks a character ending. In this case it was in the form of a motion comic but the comic was only two panels long and seemed to be as if it was in the middle of the story. Perhaps unlocking more character endings will help explain all of this. I am also hoping that the mission mode will provide more story as well but I have yet to explore that aspect of game play yet.

My Characters

Like the above comic suggests, the game actually encourages you to select your favorite set of characters. It does this by letting you create a profile card, ostensibly used for online play, although it can be used for local play, where you can pre-define your team.

My team is currently Amaterasu, X-23, and Deadpool. I mean, the goddess of the sun, the one of the best sociopathic killers in the marvel universe, and Deadpool, the second best sociopathic killer in the marvel universe. What’s not to love?

She may not be the best at what she does, but what she does, she does with style.The Merc with a Mouth and the little yellow boxes.Wolf formed Sun Goddes. Watchout for her tail.

Is that not the dream team you weren’t looking for, or what? I don’t care if you even have Dr. Doom in your party, these guys can take ’em out. I mean ultimately it’d likely be a draw between Deadpool and Doom, of course, but then X-23 would regenerate and silently kill off Doom while he was trying to get Wade to shut the hell up. This is all really assuming Amaterasu doesn’t just paint doom into cage and blow him up.

Anyway that is my initial impressions of MvC3.

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My roleplaying games

by on Jan.06, 2011, under Articles, Gaming, Reviews, Roleplaying Games

I’ve been playing roleplaying games (RPGs) for more than half my life. Primarily tabletop roleplaying games, followed by online RPGs, and even snuck in a little live action roleplaying. I don’t categorize most video games which typically fall under the moniker roleplaying as roleplaying games.

For the uninitiated, roleplaying games are cooperative storytelling games. You play with them multiple people in an attempt to create some kind of story, usually by making up and then acting out some sort of character. The most popular RPG known in this day and age is Dungeons and Dragons, but there are many other games such as Vanished Lands, the World of Darkness games, Pathfinder, Exalted, Shadowrun, Eclipse Phase, CthulhuTech, and Dresden Files. Each of these games presents rules on how to play the game fairly and create certain types of stories.

I’ve been playing a lot of Dungeons and Dragons over the last year. Two of the latest edition (4th edition) and one of the prior edition (3.5). And while I still enjoy these games, I’ve been itching to try something new. One of the problems with roleplaying games is that it requires a significant time investment (anywhere from 8 hours a month to 3-4 hours a week) and that most standard types of RPGs require someone to play a Game Master (GM) position. The Game Master typically does a lot of the “work” necessary to help keep the game running and while it can be a fulfilling position, it requires even more of a time investment and there are less people willing to GM than to be a player, where you only have to worry about your own character, for the most part.

(continue reading…)

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FEED by Mira Grant

by on Dec.08, 2010, under Books, Novels, Opinions, Reviews

I just finished this book titled Feed by Mira Grant.

I listened to the audio book version and it kept me up past midnight last night.

Actually I listen to a lot of audio books ever since I discovered podcasting and authors who podcast their novels.  I listen to them on my drive to work and when I exercise, generally. I wish I could listen to them at work but more often than not, I actually want to hear what the story is saying which requires more focus than I can give.

I mentioned the above because I wanted you to understand my habits when listening to an audio book. And when I say that the book kept me up past midnight, that meant that I was actually listening to the book outside of my car or exercise routine. I was actively deciding to sit and listen to the book. Actually even prior to that, I was taking slightly longer routes to work in order to have more time to listen to this book.

It is a really good book.

So now you know my opinion. What about the book might make you you like it?

Well to offer an interesting tagline the book is about Zombies, Politics, and Bloggers.

Did that catch your attention? If not, there’s plenty more. The book is set in a post-zombie world where blogging was one of the few news outlets to actually report on the zombie outbreak as it happened, saving millions of lives and earning itself a place as a credible news and media source. Set in the not too far future, the story followed two journalist bloggers as they report on the presidential campaign race and follow one candidate campaigning across a zombie and stumble upon conspiracies and politics that could get them killer ratings. Emphasis on killer.

The book provides a new and interesting look at a possible zombie future. Great science fiction. Compelling characters, and an amazing story. I’ll likely be gifting this book to at least one or two of my friends this holiday season. I haven’t read a zombie book this good since World War Z.

If you want more information, the book has two websites. A semi-viral advertising site (http://www.thefeedbook.com/) which also has the first chapter available for free to read or listen. I highly suggest listening. The site also has links to where you can purchase the book, and lots of interesting tidbits which will be fun to read once you’ve read the book, although I can’t vouch for how interesting they are before. The author also has a website that has information on the book which can be found here (http://miragrant.com/index.php).

Even if you aren’t a fan of zombies or horror, consider reading the excerpt to this book. For those of you who love grounded science fiction and zombies, this book is completely for you.

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Board Game Geek Con 2010

by on Nov.21, 2010, under Articles, Board Games, Conventions, Gaming, Reviews

So I attended Board Game Geek Con this year for the first time. It is a convention hosted by the people who run the website Board Game Geek. The convention focuses on board games, card games, and war gaming, although there was token appreciation for poker and video games, the later in the form of Rock Band, if that counts.

So I’ll take you on a little ride and describe the convention and how it differs from most conventions, then give you a summary of what I did, including the games I played and possibly short summaries or reviews of these games, and then I’ll give you a review of the con itself. (continue reading…)

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RED

by on Nov.07, 2010, under Films, Reviews

Finally saw the movie RED. Hilarious, touching, and definitely up there as one of my favorite action comedies. Will likely purchase a copy so I can watch Bruce Willis pretend to be unsure about whether a girl likes him or not. And I didn’t know Karl Urban was such a versatile actor. Apparently he was just in a lot of semi-bad films or bit parts in decent films. This gives me a lot of hope for him as Judge Dredd.

The comedy and acting level was spot on. When the entire audience laughs just because of a facial expression, you know they did something right. Man the bedroom scene near the beginning of the film with him reading the book. And the bedroom scene later with her while he is visiting Morgan freeman? Hilarity. I can also see why the film is a hit with almost all ages from old to young. Good comedy, good acting, distinct messages that appeal to all types.

If you haven’t seen it, try and catch a showing. It won’t be in theaters for much longer.

I wonder how much it differs from the comics… probably a lot.

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