Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dark Souls III: An Epic Conclusion

​So I'm a rabid fan of the Dark Souls games. There's no denying this fact, not from me or anyone else. I was hooked the moment I played Demons' Souls so long ago, bought a Playstation 3 ​specifically ​to play Dark Souls, pre-ordered Dark Souls II without a second thought, and ordered a steam-controller specifically to play Dark Souls III, which I pre-ordered as well and marked on my calendar the day it was coming out.

Basically, if you're looking for an unbiased source on this game's quality, you will not find it here. If you're wondering what a diehard fanboy thinks of this game, carry on.
Spoiler alert: I LOVE it. From the lore to the gameplay to the design, I'm as much in love with this game as I was with all the previous Souls games. I love the dark, gritty, decayed worlds of lost sanity that make it seem like your character is wandering through a masterwork art piece. I love the hidden lore that is difficult to pry apart and uncover, granting only glimpses into a deep pool of history, like we're some sort of Dark Age's knight glancing at the ruins of the Colosseum, wondering what beings could both create such wonders and yet not avoid their own demise. I love the brutal, relentless combat that makes you fight for every inch and punishes you mercilessly for stepping a fraction out of line. That adrenaline rush when you're invaded, that sense of accomplish when a boss is defeated, that ever so slow but sure grind out of the pit of hell you've been thrust into only to find the pit never ends as you've become one with the madness.
Essentially, Dark Souls III brings back all the best parts of the Dark Souls series and adds some flair of its own. Firstly, it's easier to invade in this game than in previous ones, and covenants aren't as binding as they once were. Players can switch freely between covenants and play for whichever team they want. DS3 also did a better job than DS2 in allowing players to level up their weapons and gear more freely, granting them more options on a single play-through. DS3 eliminated the Soul Memory concept from DS2, which has allowed for twinking to happen again, but it's not that bad in my opinion. I kind of embrace the challenge myself, and even look forward to making anti-twinks, so to speak. DS3 has also added the new feature of weapon arts, which is really a great concept that I've quickly fallen for.
But beyond that, it's pretty much the same game, and I'm so, so happy about that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: The Black Company: The First Novel of 'The Chronicles of The Black Company'

The Black Company: The First Novel of 'The Chronicles of The Black Company' The Black Company: The First Novel of 'The Chronicles of The Black Company' by Glen Cook
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Black Company is a high, grim-dark fantasy that is almost but not quite in journal-entry form. It follows from the prospective of the company physician who tends to have more heart and soul than his comrades, and also an unhealthy dose of curiosity. I have to be honest. This book just wasn't written for me. I gave up about 2/3 of the way in because I just couldn't bring myself to care about what happened anymore. Let me try to explain in a way that hopefully won't dissuade you from giving this book a try.

What the Black Company does right: This book gets grim-dark well. Everything about this book feels gritty and harsh, and so morally grey that one can't tell the difference between good and bad to the point where it becomes simply "our side vs their side." This book also features some rather interesting god-like villains that are fascinating to watch and read about. Not to mention the plot. This book is straight up plot as you jump from event to event, leading down a long war of attrition being fought from within and without. It's almost "Game of Thrones light" if not for where it went wrong. Speaking of which . . .

What the Black Company got wrong (or at least for me): This book had zero finesse. I like lengthy descriptions, heavy world building, purple prose, and characters that are complex and draw me in. The Black Company pretty much falls flat on all of this as the story skips from event to event, hardly elaborating on anything in a style other than, "I went to the window. Outside I saw a mob. That's not good. I told Raven and we left." If that sort of thing doesn't bother you, than The Black Company is right up your alley but damn did it piss me off. This whole book was just a list of occurrences rather than an actual story in my opinion, and with that comes the inevitable problem I sometimes face: No character depth = no care about the characters. No care about the characters = no care about what happens to them.

And then I lose interest.

I still gave the book 2 stars because I'm certain there's a solid audience for this book out there somewhere. Not to mention I was enjoying myself for about the first half the book, so a 1 star just doesn't feel right. I should probably try Malazan.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review: The Forever War

The Forever War The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I hovered between 4 and 5 stars here, but I went with 5 because I really did find this book very interesting. Not gripping or particularly exciting, but certainly interesting and thought-provoking. Considering this was the goal of the book, to get you thinking, I decided to go with 5 stars.

So anyway, in case you didn't know, The Forever War is an allegory for the Vietnam War. Soldiers go to fight, come back to find a world changed forever, rinse and repeat. What I didn't expect but was pleasantly surprised to find is that this book features some incredibly hard science! And it uses that hard science not as world-building or "neat add-ins" but instead as true plot mechanics! For example, the entire reason the main character returns home from war to find the world forever changed is do to the time dilation of space travel. Like, really, so obvious and yet utterly genius! And that's just one example. I really do admire the author's erudition.

That said, there was some stumbling along the way. The main character doesn't have any real depth, and neither does anyone else for that matter. Everything was described in this sort of bland, passing way that didn't evoke much emotional response from me. As far as the story part goes, there wasn't much to hang my hat on. I read this book more as a nonfiction set in a fictional setting.

Which I think is actually the entire point of the novel. To read like a history book set in a scifi future, so hence the 5 stars. The Forever War nailed it.

And speaking of history, I think Egypt is calling me.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Review: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm really not sure where to start with this review. I feel like there's so many points to hit on that I've re-written this intro 4-times. I think I'll just give up trying to organize the thoughts in my head and just jot them down in a disorderly fashion. My apologies.

This book, in short summary, is about two art-loving teenagers falling in love San Francisco. What sets this story apart from other romance novels (or at least those I've read thus far), is that the characters are capable of empathy and communication, and the main character isn't some girl with obvious mental instability who falls for a wolf in sheep's clothing. At first, this seems like a surefire winner, but unfortunately I was soon discover there are many more pitfalls for a book to fall into.

I feel like this novel really lacked any kind of conflict. The characters worked things out so easily, just by talking things through in a matter of a few lines, that any tension in the book was quickly dissolved. On one hand, it made the characters extremely likable, and in my opinion, real. On the other hand, it made for kind of a boring read. I really think this book could have been drastically improved by throwing in a few jerks to antagonize the main characters, a few people who couldn't be reasoned with and were just plain awful people. It kind of opened my eyes a bit, realizing that a true-to-life romance probably isn't that exciting from the outside looking in unless it has a few stumbles along the way.

That said, there were plenty of things I did like about this book. Besides the interesting characters, there was also realistic portrayals of sex, interesting dialogue and descriptions, multiple sub-plots, and actually a decent storytelling ability, so hence the 3 stars. I couldn't bring myself to give it 4 though, because truthfully, it felt like a 3-star read. I never got disgusted and threw the book away, yet I never got enthralled and just couldn't put it down.

Part of me thinks this is a fault of my tastes. I knew going into this that I've never really cared for romance. I prefer to read about things I just can't go out and do, like throw fireballs from my hands or ride a spaceship. If I want romance, I'll take my wife out to dinner and experience something real. Perhaps this book is actually just amazing, and but I'm just not it's target audience. I have yet to read a romance story I truly enjoy outside of fantasy book, which makes me wonder what it is I'm actually looking for here.

Overall, I think this book actually taught me a lot as a writer. A story can have a great setting, characters, etc etc etc, but without a solid plot of tension and intrigue, that story just isn't going to do too well.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

World of Myth Release: A Legend Ascends

It's complete! It's complete! The series is finally finished. All six books are completely written, edited, and released. What a journey.

The sixth and final book in Emily's Saga is complete, and I've already compiled all the books into a single digital file, ready to download. As always, I give out a proud thanks to my editor, Patricia Hamill, and my talented cover artist, Jack Baker.

It's a bit crazy to think back on all that's changed since I started this series. I first thought about Beyond the Plains in July of 2010, sitting on my girlfriend's sister's couch in her apartment, recently graduated and unemployed at the height of the recession, using a combination of parting-time jobs and past savings to pay for my student loans while I desperately tried to figure out what to do with my spare time besides contemplate what a failure I was.

Now A Legend Ascends is wrapped up on March 28th, 2016, and I'm gainfully employed in a stable job I enjoy going to, student loans paid off, married to a wonderful woman, traveling the world once or twice a year, both bought and am now selling my first house for an upgrade, whilst reducing my debt at the same time, and I feel like I'm just getting started.

Emily has come a long way, too. She started out as a no-name youngster with nothing but a dream. No prophecies told of her coming, no birthright she could lay claim to; she had nothing to rely on but her determination and skill in a world far too harsh for reality. Undaunted, she pressed on, sometimes doubting herself but never letting that doubt hold her back. She rose from nothing to conquer what she set out to do, defying all those who thought otherwise and gaining an independence most only dream of.

In a way, perhaps my story mirrors hers, or at least mirrors most other Hero's Journey tales. As they say, fact is stranger than fiction, and perhaps the strangest of all is how often our fiction is nothing but a child of our facts.

So anyway, if you've stuck with me thus far, thank you. I hope you've found my storytelling well worth the time you've devoted to it. I hope to bring you more in the future!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

In short, I made it 36% in and I just don't care for it. I'm not going to do a huge long post tearing this one apart, though, because I have more than a few friends and family who did enjoy this book, and those are primarily the people who read my blog.

I'll just be brief and say that this book is, indeed, raw unapologetic mommy-porn fantasy. Grey's only feature seems to be he's good-looking (stated every page) and rich (noted every other paragraph), and he's a massive jerk by subjecting Ana to the same "abuse" (Ana's words, not mine) that he was subjected to when he lost his virginity. Ana speaks, talks, and acts like a mid-40's-woman who married and had children too young, now transported back in time to before she lost her virginity. The sex is unrealistic, yet also the only thing described in any sort of detail, leaving the narrative hopelessly skin deep. Grey is supposed to be this dominate, confident guy and yet the first 3 sex scenes are all about Grey pleasuring Ana specifically, with her only returning the favor on her own whim without any commands from him. Essentially, zero character dimensions.

I'm pretty sure the "love" for this novel is really just from a bunch of women who hadn't read any erotica for women before, then spread the word like wildfire, and a bunch other people bought into the hype. My advice? Read some other erotica. Though even if you do, you'll always look back on this novel with rose-colored glasses because it was your first time.

But that's enough. I've already spent too long talking about this. I'm going to try yet another romance. I just can't believe I've been secretly right all this time. There must be some good romance out there with real characters who fall in love and make me feel it. There has to be! I'm going to try a lesser known book next, then maybe a Nicholas Sparks book. Perhaps his popularity is more deserved.

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Review: Beautiful Disaster

Beautiful Disaster Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

If you're just tuning in to my reviews and wondering why I, of all people, tried to read this book, here's a quick summary: I'm currently trying to broaden my horizons by reading in new genres that I never gave a shot. First I tried thrillers, and they were alright. Now I'm trying romance, and this is the first romance I think I've ever tried to read.

So let me briefly explain why I chose this one before I rip it to shreds. I wanted a book that I had no prior bias against, that was modern, and seemed to be well liked in the romance community. So I search Goodreads for romance listopias and found this book, published in 2011, was at the top of categories "Best Book Boyfriends" and "All Time Favorite Romance Novels", with over 300k reviews and a 4.15 star rating. Solid choice right? Surely representative of the current romance market, right? I sure thought so, I dived in, hoping against hope that I'd been wrong about romances all my life and I would fall in love with this book like I was thirteen years old and born with two X chromosomes.

Nope, this thing was a train wreck. First's let's introduce the characters (I use the term lightly). Meet Abby Abernathy, a slut-shaming virgin with less depth than a proton, whose only defining features are that she won't IMMEDIATELY spread her legs for Travis and that her skull is so dense that it creates a tiny black hole that blocks out all sense and logic from reaching her. Next, meet Travis "Mad Dog" Maddox, a tyrannical, disrespectful, awful person carrying so much emotional baggage that it might actually explain how he's capable of maintaining such a level of physical fitness despite lacking any form of exercise, diet, or restraint.

Their "courtship" is a long-winded roller-coaster of watching Travis completely disrespect Abby in every single way except banging her with his STD-riddled body. She says she doesn't want to eat, well too bad! He takes her anyway. She says she doesn't want to sleep in his bed? Too bad! She agrees to sleep in his bed, but only if he isn't there? Too bad! She's taking a shower and asks him to leave when he walks in? Too bad! Every time she tries to talk to a guy, Travis gets protective, scaring the other guy off and proclaiming Abby is too good for any guy, like the possessive, insecure, LOSER freakshow that he is. Honestly, guys like this are the type of people everyone is laughing at behind their backs, rolling their eyes and seeing nothing but a tiny, pathetic, nobody trapped behind too much muscle and too little sense.

But he doesn't rape her. Oh, what a gentleman! And Abby swoons.

I made it about 46% into this book before I asked my wife to read it, hoping she would tell me this book sucked and I didn't have to continue. She said it "wasn't very good." She didn't hate it, but agreed the characters were awful. So I stopped reading and asked her to recommend a romance book I should read. She suggested 50 Shades of Grey, and let me tell you, after forcefully reading near-half this Disaster of a book, I'm looking forward to it.

Yeah, that's right. I'd rather read 50 Shades than another page of this trash.

But I will say this, Abby and Travis are perfect for each other; let me explain. As terrible as Travis sounds, Abby is just as terrible of a person. She judges the crap out of other women, looking down from her imaginary high horse at every single woman that dares sleep with Travis on the first date, yet meanwhile never blaming Travis for sleeping with them. I mean, really, Abby is a full-on, raging hypocrite, who's more of a misogynist than the entire community of the Red Pill movement. She uses sex to get what she wants, she doesn't care if people walk all over her or if she walks all over other people. Her entire purpose in life seems to be using people to suit her emotional needs, whilst proclaiming she's a "good girl."

Abby, on behalf of everyone who was bestowed an ounce of sympathy at birth (not you or Travis, obviously), I want you to know I'm 100% honest when I say that you and Travis were made for each other. Disasters indeed.

Mr. Grey will see me now.

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