February 16, 2017

Angels with Scaly Wings

I’ve been spending my latest bit of free time playing the dragon date game Angels with Scaly Wings. Dragons are slowly but surely becoming my all-encompassing brand, so I had no choice in the matter, but also, I was kind of intrigued. It was clearly a very passionate project. And in the end, having played it, I found it really interesting. I really enjoyed it, but I also think it has enough flaws that I probably wouldn’t recommend it. Still, it’s stuck with me, so I want to talk about it for a bit.

First off, I do want to talk about why the game is poorly constructed. The game is clearly pulling inspiration from the likes of things like Zero Escape and Danganronpa. It wants to create this deadly-feeling conspiracy in a world of dragons. The end result of this, though, is something that feels very disconnected. The dragons that you date are only really minimally connected to this main plot, which makes the characters you spend the most time with and care about almost completely incidental to what happens in the “plot” proper. Endings celebrate this plot, and not your connections with characters, which makes it even worse, honestly. And while the game attempts to create a sense of tension by having characters you could date die throughout the story, it doesn’t actually feel driven by the story proper. When someone dies in a Zero Escape game, it is basically straight up your fault, and you have to try to figure out what you could have done better. If someone dies in a Danganronpa game, it’s an important part of the plot. Here, it is literally just an indication that you did not spend enough time with them, and has no real effect on the route you’re working on. Because of how the conspiracy plot makes you loop, you’d think you might also be motivated by having to set up an exacting chain of events to save everyone, but no. Once you’ve seen a character’s good ending, which honestly only feels “good” in a few instances, you can ignore them. They’ll turn out fine.

Perhaps this would be fine if the suspense thriller detective whatever parts of the game were engaging without this character involvement, but it really isn’t. It feels like an author’s early attempt at writing one of those, and while we all have to start somewhere, because the game is set up so everything hangs on it, it just doesn’t land well. The game isn’t really that long, but it still feels bloated, with more ideas tacked into it than was really necessary to get things going. Perhaps this is a “me” problem though, as I’m very much a character over worldbuilding kind of person. However, even if you’re fine with that, there are still occasional immersion-breaking jokes that just should not be there. This whole world has been set up in a specific way, for better or worse. It makes no sense for your character to say lines like “my body is ready.” It’s not even played for humor, like the narrator is making a joke. It’s just kind of there. There are some good things in the writing too, though. The game does some really smart things to establish why your character is of an indistinct gender, for example. But overall: not great.

All that being said, once you finish the game once, a strange thing happens. Usually, in a visual novel, on future runs you can speed up the text to get through parts where you already know the outcome, but you still have to track decisions and many other things. In this game, once you’ve seen it, you’re just given the option to skip sections making all the right choices. It’s pretty fantastic, actually. And what happens is, all that stuff up there, that I wasn’t really excited about? Suddenly it disappears, and you’re just dating dragons.

The game does right by its five lead characters. Even some of the “side date” characters (which I get the feeling were probably kickstarter campaign rewards. I know this was crowdfunded) are treated well. But it’s leads are well thought out, they’re charming, and they feel, for the most part, fully-realized. The passion that I talked about earlier is very clear in these characters. Someone spent a lot of time thinking about them. I really like them all. Once they’re removed from the context of the “main” story, they really shine. Are they the best dategame people ever? No, probably not, but they’re fun.

I want to zoom in most specifically on Bryce, the police chief. I’m not sure if I’ve dated a character quite like him in a dating game before. He’s a horrible flirt and a huge bro, but he really cares about his job and doing well at it. He doesn’t want to settle for “not being good at things,” but instead wants to improve, even if it’s not by much. He’s nice. But what I found unique about him is that you aren’t really dating? I mean, you are. You go on dates, he is the character you most clearly and without a doubt fuck, but the way he approaches it, and the game lets you approach it, is extremely casual. Going on Bryce’s route is not “I’ve found my soulmate.” It’s “I’ve found a fantastic friend and every so often we’re gonna blow each other before cracking open a beer.” It’s this “friends with benefits” dynamic that feels like something that would actually work, and not involve anyone being mislead or being gross. And that’s so rare, I think. You don’t see that kind of thing a lot. I loved it. Of course, if you want more traditional romances, you’ve got those covered too.

Anyway, as I said, I really don’t know if I can recommend the game. If you’re obsessed with dragons like me, you can totally date some cute dragons here! Which is nice! And I really hope whoever made this makes another game, because I feel like there are so many lessons being learned from this that’s gonna make another dating game from them shine. But as it is, yeah. It’s a thing, and there’s some thoughts on it. If that still sounds good to you, go for it, and let’s talk about it!

January 1, 2017

Here Are The Video Games I Loved in 2016

Hi, everyone!
Oh geez, have I really not posted over here since LAST new years? Oh well. I’ve been posting lots of words over at poetfox.com, so, you know, I think I’m good.
BUT VIDEO GAMES! 2016 had some of them, in theory. Let me talk a bit about what I think about them. BUT FIRST:

Evergreen Games I Cannot Stop Playing
1. Granblue Fantasy – Granblue continues to thrill me with it’s fairly friendly F2P model (it’s still energy-based, but I’ve never felt like I had to spend money, just that it would be a nice bonus), it’s wonderful, cute characters, and it’s well-written storylines that are focused purely on fun. Every month there are new stories to read, new characters to recruit and fall in love with, and more loot to find. This year I recruited two trans characters in the game. Two! And both have been treated with respect! Can you even imagine? I’m at the point of the game where it’s getting really grindy, and I don’t play it constantly like I did when I started. But that’s okay. I come back for every event, and I always love booting the game up. Granblue Fantasy is AMAZING. If you can stand phone game mechanics at all, and love anime and Final Fantasy, you are doing yourself a disservice by not playing Granblue.

2. Hearthstone – At least once a week I try to clear out my Hearthstone quest queue. I don’t really care about being good at Hearthstone? I make decks I think are neat and then lose with them all the time. But playing the game is very relaxing to me. I just put on a podcast and sling cards without thinking too hard about strategy, and I have a great time. I have problems with the game, mostly just because man, Warcraft’s humor kind of sucks sometimes, huh? But I keep coming back. Hearthstone is really, really good.

Those games would have been at the top of the list just from pure playtime. They’re fantastic! But it felt like I should separate them. So there, I did. I’m sure I’ll keep playing those two forever, too. Fun times.

But now, let’s do a top 10 or something.

10. Stories: Path of Destinies – This is a game where you play a fox swordsman named Reynardo and Batman fight ravens. The combat and gameplay in the game is fine. But what’s been done here is just an impressive amount of storytelling. You have a narrator who is reading you a story, essentially. They do silly voices for all the characters. They crack dad jokes all the time that make you groan, and insert things into the canon that are obviously bad ad-libs, like “They, uh, met at Sword-Fu School”. It’s like you’re reading a story with someone, and the story itself is interesting! There are only like 4 characters, but they are very well fleshed out. As you see all the bad endings, you really get to know them all, and start to root for them (or against them, for the assholes). And Stories has done something no video game has ever done before: had enough joke lines. The game will make a joke when you do things like open a chest. I played this game a lot, and it probably played a joke when I got a chest 50 times at least. I cannot remember one repeated line. It was amazing. This game has an awful title, but it’s actually pretty fun. A good weekend game.

9. Overwatch – Can I nominate a game based on fanart? I probably spent way more time looking at cute Overwatch art than actually playing the game. I’m just not a competitive sort, and when the playerbase started getting good, I started having less fun. But that’s fine. The game is really, really good! And the characters are super good, for the most part! I really love them all, and I had a really fun few weeks with it, for sure.

8. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright – In this game I married a silly kitsune and had two perfect children. I also learned the lesson that if you get really mad, you turn into a dragon. I should be more angry more often, I guess? But yeah, Fates takes what I liked about Awakening and then makes it way more accessible through the Phoenix mode. I really do not care about difficult fights? I just wanna make the animes kiss. It made me happy that it rewarded me with a super casual difficulty so I could enjoy that part. I meant to play the other two versions as well, but I never got back to them, which is fine. I don’t play a lot of games anymore. But I really enjoyed Birthright. It was quite fun.

7. Hustle Cat – I really like Visual Novels and “dating sims” but let’s face it: a lot of them are kind of too long? There’s too much of them. Hustle Cat is short, and sweet, and very very gay. It is a fun delight, and I truly, truly love every single one of the characters. Some more than others, obviously, but they are all wonderful. Usually in a visual novel, I hate at least one of them! What a wonderful surprise. I wrote about Hustle Cat here, if you want to read more about it. But I love it so much.

6. Picross 3D Round 2 – Picross is the best. After the disappointing kind of bad free to play Pokemon Picross, it was refreshing for Nintendo to just randomly dump Round 2 on the states and get to play through the whole dang thing. It is the most relaxing way to spend your time. The only thing I was disappointed about was amiibo support, of all things. It felt like it would be obscenely easy to make a puzzle for every amiibo. But other than that, the game is just a delight. I mean, you know if you like Picross. If you like Picross and haven’t bought this yet, go get it right now.

5. Kirby: Planet Robobot – This is maybe the best Kirby game since Super Star? Maybe? Robobot takes everything that was fun about Triple Deluxe and then just flat-out improves all of it. The Robot riding mechanic is actually super cool, and gives you lots of good new powers to use. It makes you feel way more powerful, but not in a way that makes it less fun to play normal Kirby. The story is just perfect. It loves Kirby’s weird lore so much, and you can just feel it oozing from every bit of it. I loved every moment of Robobot!

4. Pokemon Sun – It was so refreshing to play a Pokemon game that felt like they had a vision for it instead of “just another one of those.” Sun (and Moon, I would assume, but I only played Sun) is Pokemon, of course, but with a fun, light storyline and a sense of playfulness in the very fights you do that pushes you along. The Trials have so much more personality than gyms ever had, and you get to know the Trial Captains as characters and actually like them! This was the first Pokemon story where I was actually really invested in it as well, which was kind of strange. I have always considered Pokemon stories to be “the thing I do to meet more cute Pokemon,” but I really cared about Lillie and Hau in a way that I can’t remember having ever done with a companion in a previous game. Anyway, Sun is delightful.

3. Stardew Valley – I remember when I first played Harvest Moon on an emulator and my mind was blown. Such a relaxing game of controlling your life and constantly improving, I really loved it. Occasionally I will play another Harvest Moon or a spinoff, and it’ll be fine, but they always feel very stuck in the past in some ways, too clunky to fully enjoy. Stardew Valley, though, takes everything I like about those games and brings them into the present day. It has that exact joy that Harvest Moon gives in working on crops and things, but on a massive scale. There are so many people to meet, and you can date most of them, and there are so many different ways you can build your farm, and so many other tasks you can dig into if you want to take a break from farming. Perhaps some people would find all those things to do overwhelming. But I found it as me never lacking for something new to dive into when I got tired. If I wanted a break from tending crops, I’d go dungeon crawling, or work on mastering the fishing minigame. I played so many hours of this game, and never tried to romance a single character! I skipped that whole part! And it was magnificent, all the way through.

2. Doom – Doom is an acceptable masculinity. It takes all these macho man tropes and then puts them into this ridiculous world where, instead of being horrific or bad, they are hilarious and perfect. I am not an old school Doom fan. I played it, of course, and I recognize how it was revolutionary. But this game transcends nostalgia. It is a game that constantly asks “can we make this more ridiculous? Can we make this more fun?” and then makes it happen. The game makes you feel like a elemental of pure death and then gives you lore files where demons literally describe you that way. It made me care about the story! I want to punch that robot! Oh my goodness, I do. That’s the depth of the story, figuring out who you want to punch, but it’s told so well, that’s just fine. If you have ever enjoyed a gunshoots game, even if you’re tired of them by now like me, you have to, have to play Doom. You will have a blast for like 6 to 8 hours. Trust me.

1. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE – I had to steal a console from my brother to play this game, and I don’t regret it. Tokyo Mirage Sessions is so polished and so smart, and so fun. It’s not serious, but avoids some of the grosser “not serious” anime things. It has a clear theme, and everything in the game is built around that theme. I ranted about all that over on OnTheStick, so take a look if you want? But I really think it is a shame this game is going to be lost to obscurity on the WiiU. It is probably better than Persona 4. I love it to death. If you like jRPGs and you haven’t played it, please, give it a try. Liking Fire Emblem helps, but is not necessary to love this game, so don’t hold back.

And that’s 2016 in games, I guess! Not a bad year at all. In games, I mean. Otherwise, it was a very bad year. But the games? They were pretty good.

January 12, 2016

Here are the books I read in 2015

Let’s store this here for posterity. I didn’t do as much reading last year, but hey, I read some real good stuff! If you want to see my short opinions on things, please take a look.

January (1)

    Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino

(Another random thing I grabbed in a sale, I think? The story it tells is just mind-boggling. Everything that happened, so much poor judgement, so much misplaced pride… it’s just quite a tale. A fine read if the subject is interesting to you.)

February (3)

    Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

(An amazingly true study on otherness of all sorts, perhaps by accident, but very powerful, emotional, and fun. I see so much of the trans experience in Phina. I wonder what you would see. There is no doubt that this book is excellent, though. Please read it.)

    The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

(The first book was a nice enough romp. This book was the same. Fun, with a cool world. I do worry about the lead’s thought process sometimes, though. Ceony is interesting, but… made a few decisions that felt more plot-motivated than her motivated in this one. Well, in my opinion anyway. Oh well. It was fun.)

    Eight Skilled Gentlemen by Barry Hughart

(Another fun ride. I felt a little less understanding of what was going on than the other two books. But the characters are still a blast. It’s a really fun book. Read this whole series. Thanks.)

March (3)

    The Dead Key by D. M. Pulley

(Oh my goodness this book was SO FRUSTRATING. So many good ideas done SO BADLY. I constantly wanted to slap one of the two protagonists and the author for squandering cool stuff! I can’t really recommend it unless you have a lot of forgiveness in your heart.)

    Prudence by Gail Carriger

(You know already that I loved this, but oh my goodness, already I am in love with many of these new characters just as before. Carriger’s mastery of characterization is just… inspiring. It’s the best. If you haven’t read everything she’s ever written, you are doing it wrong.)

    Shadow Scale: A Companion to Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

(Sometimes the benefit of finding a wonderful book late is that the sequel comes out a month later. Like Seraphina, this book is fantastic. It’s a YA book that brings up such concepts as picking your own pronouns like it’s nothing. The characters are wonderful, the story is sound… it’s just… damn. Read these books, please. Rachel Hartman is easily one of my favorite all time authors at this point.)

April (2)

    The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble

(I liked this book. It was small and self-contained and hinted at a wide wide world but was almost completely about character interaction and romance, despite being an adventure of sorts. The resolution of the romance angle was a little abrupt, but telegraphed enough I forgave it.)

    Bible Adventures by Gabe Durham

(Another Boss Fight book. This is one of the better ones. This blends information and personal reflection way, way, way better than some other books in the series. It’s really more about Wisdom Tree than just Bible Adventures, but it was a nice enough read.)

Months Of No Reading Because I Was Writing, Mostly

September (2)

    The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

(It was fun! It’s fun. The whole series is fun. It’s not the best? If I wanted to be mean to it, I could. But it’s cute, the world is very interesting, and despite how she’s written I like the lead quite a lot. There’s some cute smooching. It’s a nice little popcorn series.)

    Metal Gear Solid by Ashly and Anthony Burch

(A fun, lighthearted discussion of the many flaws and successes of the original game. It really pulls no punches on what was great and what was awful. They do a good job with having two authors by offering different reads on various elements, from a “as a guy/girl, this says” perspective, as well as just different readings. One of the good Boss Fight entries. Give it a read.)

October (2)

    Baldur’s Gate II by Matt Bell

(The author says this book was an attempt to make him less embarrassed about liking DnD. Good for him, I guess, but I wanted a book about Baldur’s Gate II that actually discussed the game instead of talked about how he writes DnD books? So, you know. I don’t recommend this one. A unfortunate Boss Fight entry.)

    The Chess Queen Enigma: A Stoker and Holmes Novel by Colleen Gleason

(I was pleased that this one didn’t waste as much time re-setting up everything as the last novel did. These continue to be a lot of fun: not particularly deep or groundbreaking, but completely enjoyable. The whole series so far is for sure a recommended read.)

November (1)

    Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger

(You know this is good, so just go read it. That being said, I felt some of the romance stuff ended up a LITTLE rushed. I agreed with a lot of it but felt it needed more time to percolate. Another post-school adventure would have let that go long enough! But eh, that’s a little thing. It’s all very nice. I very much enjoyed it.)

December 29, 2015

Here Are Games I Liked in 2015

I played some video games this year, and they were very good! Maybe give some of these a try, if you didn’t? Here are some, badly ranked from 10 to 1.

10. The Niflheim : I finally gave in and downloaded this phone Visual Novel and gave it a try. It’s very silly in its construction. There’s PvP? You’re gathering clothes to be better at PvP? It lets you read little tiny chunks of story? The story isn’t particularly deep and has lots of weird little tangents just to draw it out? It’s all a very odd experience. But there’s something very endearing about it. The people making it clearly believe in it, and thought they want my free to play money, they refuse to demand it from me. The characters in the game make it clear they’re happy to wait for me to get more Story Tickets without paying, but they’re excited for me to come back, so spend money, if I want? I haven’t, but I have been playing it for a couple months now, and I can’t imagine stopping yet.

9. Nintendo Badge Arcade : When Nintendo wants to, it’s real good at Free to Play. I love the pink shopbunny so much. This game is just incredibly adorable, and doesn’t pressure you into paying money. Whenever it asks you for money, and you say no, you’re told that that’s fine, no big deal, I’ll see you soon! And you want to come back, because of the cute conversations with this rabbit you have. Getting a Tom Nook to replace my 3DS Shop Icon was just icing on the cake. It’s a fun 5 minute experience every day I very much enjoy.

8. Code: Realize : A Steampunk adventure smoochy game? What’s not to like! This is a really great story that sticks to its premise, which I appreciate. The game is set up like an adventure novel, and while it is a romance, for sure, you have a series of adventures with your would-be boyfriends in true steampunk style, and you know I’m into that. The protagonist is fairly well realized in most routes, and they do interesting things with the fact that she’s made of poison, and can’t be touched, which I found really fun. I’m not hot on all routes *cough*Van Helsing*cough* but it’s all a lot of fun, and the big ending with the final route is totally worth the journey.

7. Tales from the Borderlands : Who knew I’d ever give a shit about Borderlands? I mean, I played the original because I was in long-distance relationships and it was co-op. It was fine. But this game is everything that truly makes Telltale great. It’s oozing with charm, and swapping between the two protagonists makes the whole scenario interesting. I genuinely like all the characters as well. This really raises the bar from the source material and turns it into a surprisingly inclusive and fun journey. I still need to play the last episode, but the first four were totally worth it.

6. Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls : This game is pure Danganronpa fan service, but I’m not complaining. It’s fun fanservice, and while the gameplay leaves a LOT to the desired, the dialog and everything is just as wonderful as the other games, and it’s totally worth your time. I thought the game did a fantastic job of making Toko into someone actually interesting instead of a weird joke, and I really appreciated that.

5. Read Only Memories : ROM creates a world filled with queer people that never questions why they’re there. They’re just part of the landscape. It’s pretty great like that. It certainly doesn’t hurt that these characters are very easy to like and interact with. Turing, especially, is really well written, and you care about your little robot friend a lot by the end of it, but every bit of the game is enjoyable. It’s a world I would for sure visit again, and a nice story that carries you through it.

4. Amnesia: Memories : Though less romantic than other VNs, this is a game with a great story. Having lost your memory due to a collision with a spirit, you find yourself in the world’s worst relationships, and have to figure out why you’re there and why they’re worthwhile. This game puts you into a murder mystery, a horror game, and just poor relationships. It goes really far with its premise, and it’s fun seeing how things are different and the same in the various alternate universes. I also really like how the game just says “Fine, just pick one,” at the beginning and is then free to tell a more fully-realized story without tracking stats with each guy. Each story is very self-contained and worth it, even the super creepy one with Toma. It’s a great play, especially if you want more depth in your VNs.

3. Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star : I LOVE THESE BIRDS SO MUCH. A collection of vaguely-holiday-themed short stories, Holiday Star is more Hatoful Boyfriend, and that’s a very, very good thing. The game is even more comedic than Hatoful Boyfriend, if you can believe it, since it’s playing with characters you already know, but it’s wonderful for it. It gave me emotions all over again, and I laughed a lot. Play Hatoful Boyfriend, and then for sure play this afterwards. And give Ryouta a hug for me. My poor sweet little birdie…

2. Hearthstone : Fuck, I played a lot of Hearthstone this year. I am the least serious Hearthstone player, though. I put on a podcast, and I play turns in three seconds, and I just clear my head. It’s perfect for that. There’s a lot of depth there I don’t always engage with, but I appreciate it’s there when I want it, as well. Since I got back into it this year, I haven’t spent a cent on it, but I’ve had a lot of fun slowly unlocking cards anyway. It’s just so polished, it’s hard not to like it, and it’s eaten TONS of my time this year.

1. Undertale : Pretend to be surprised. Undertale is amazing. Undertale made me rethink elements of my life. Undertale made me more emotional than any media experience I can recall. Undertale has created characters that I know will stick with me for a long, long time to come. Undertale made me laugh, but most of all, it made me invest in its world, more than any game I can remember. It asks that of you, and makes it so easy to do, and before you know it, you’re fully lost in it. I have had so many long discussions about Undertale and what it means and how to interpret it this year, something that so rarely happens with video games. Undertale is an experience I want everyone to have. Of course it’s the best game of the year.

October 31, 2015

Horror Game Curse Roundup!

Sorry I haven’t written in awhile, blog. I’ve been writing other things. Novels and such.

I’ve also been writing Horror Game Essays for On the Stick!
You remember how I’ve always done that, right? This year was no exception!

Anyway, I just wanted to put them all here, to have them all in one place, in case you missed some of them. I wrote a lot of nice things, I think!

First off, I wrote about Danganronpa 2, and how the game’s use of gamification in all of its interactions helps to create the proper sense of both closeness and distance for it to really make you care about everyone.

I wrote an article about Ultra Despair Girls, and how it works to turn a fairly one-note character of questionable stereotypes into a well-rounded character you care a whole lot for.

I wrote a very difficult and personal essay about UNDERTALE, specifically Toriel, and why the game reflected so heavily on some of the hardships in my life. This contains spoilers for a lot of the game, though I don’t get into a lot of specifics.

I wrote about the recent Visual Novel Amnesia: Memories, specifically one of the routes, Diamond World, and it’s fairly upsetting portrayal of Big/little, Dom/sub dynamics.

I wrote about Monsterhearts, a tabletop roleplaying game I really, really, really like. It captures that teenager feeling so well, and it plays with themes anyone can pick up, and I tried to explain why.

Finally, I wrote about Hylics, and why a game about face melting and weird creatures is really all about being able to relax.

Phew, that’s a lot of stuff to read, huh? If you go back and take a look at any of it, I hope you like it. It was fun, as always, to pretend to be a games writer for a month! You should also check out everyone else’s videos and essays and whatnot! Tons of cool stuff on there.
Anyway, back to all my usual writing. Short Stories and Novels! Huzzah!
Happy Halloween!

January 2, 2015

Here Are The Books I Read In 2014

Hey, here again are the books I read last year, along with some short descriptions of what I thought. If you are one to think I have even a vague good taste, maybe this’ll be good to look at? WHO KNOWS. Anyway, 31 books in a year! I guess that’s a thing I did! Whee!

January (2)

    Sorcery and Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede

(I started the year out with just a fantastic and fun novel. Some great, strong characters, and a just plain fun story. The whole thing is told through letters, and while that could be a really horrible gimmick, the book really makes it work. Apparently they wrote the novel actually sending letters to each other, with each of them roleplaying one main character, which kinda rules. But yeah, just a lot of fun. Don’t be shocked when the next two books on the list are the other two in the series.)

    The Grand Tour: or the Purloined Coronation Regalia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

(A fitting and enjoyable sequel. They had to get rid of the whole letter gimmick, in a way, but it was actually nicer to see the two main characters interact much more directly, so I minded not at all. Just a fun little story, seriously.)

February (4)

    The Mislaid Magician: or Ten Years Later by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

(Another wonderful book! And now the series is over. Aww. Apparently it seems this one was written second even though it takes place last in chronological order? And the ebooks I bought were ordered chronologically but I guess that was not how they were written. Eh, it worked either way. Anyway, this is a great series, with super-fantastic characters, and you should read it. That is all.)

    Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

(A book about James Bond’s fight against misandry and the idea that a woman might not be attracted to him. But luckily, Fleming has his back, and Bond gets to fuck the super cool lesbian gang leader anyway, because Bond has to get everything he wants, because he’s a man, right? Right. Uh, anyway, another Bond book, basically.)

    Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino

(This book is the best book. I wrote about why it is over here. But yeah, man, I would overwhelmingly recommend this to anyone. So fantastic.)

    Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson

(I think I bought this at some point because it was a dollar? I dunno. I would not call this book good. But it was kinda pointless fun popcorn fare and I wanted to read something meaningless in a fun way. I didn’t hate it. I wouldn’t recommend it. It just kinda stops at a place that makes no sense and says “BUY ANOTHER BOOK!” but the other books are not a dollar! So. Guess I’ll never know what happens! (Spoilers: probably sex with a cat))

March (4)

    Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

(Hey, look, it’s the other series by my new favorite author! This one is more YA, so it’s less steamy, and it’s a lot more fun times and less drama, but it’s still a fantastic read, and has some of the best-executed fanservice-y cameo type deals I have ever seen, so that’s pretty awesome.)

    Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

(Even more fun! I rather like Sophronia. Carriger is so damn good at this stuff. So much fun, for serious. It’s definitely got more of a YA bent than the Parasol Protectorate, but it continues to be fantastic.)

    Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick – Double D Double Cross by Christa Faust

(Oh man. Boyfriend linked me this and said “just read the sample, trust me” and before I knew it I had bought it and read it and it is just so much fun. Over the top from beginning to end. Just serious fun.)

    Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show by John Hench with Peggy Van Pelt

(Yeah, I’m still obsessed with this stuff. Basically a kind of “Imagineering Philosophy” book. Most of it I had learned about in bits and pieces elsewhere, but it’s kinda cool to have it all there, in one document. Really makes me think about the stumbles and successes of the parks throughout the years, and how most of them could be considered refusals to use these ideas, or at least the misapplication of them. But I dunno, I think way too much about this stuff in general.)

April (1)

    The Story of the Stone by Barry Hughart

(Another wonderful book. Silly, exciting, and extremely enjoyable to read. One more to go, but if the last book is as fun at the first two, I expect myself to be very entertained when I get around to it.)

May (2)

    Chrono Trigger by Michael P. Williams

(The first of the Boss Fight Books thing, Earthbound, was this horrible disappointment to me that barely talked about the game at all and used such quality sources as TV Tropes when it did. So I was worried I’d hate this one too. But no, this one actually did some analysis and stuff! I could imagine a version of the book that was better, and perhaps deeper, but it was an interesting read, and I certainly learned things I didn’t know, and thought about the game in new ways. That’s all I can ask for.)

    The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home by Dan Ariely

(I think I bought this for a dollar in a Kindle sale at some point. It was pretty interestingly put together. Very approachable. Gives you some stuff to think about. Not really a “self help” book but more a book sharing some interesting social science stuff. Almost all the examples seemed to be about a man dealing with a woman, though, which eventually got tiring when it got to a damsel in distress scenario and I’m like “Come on now, book. At least pretend to mix things up.” But yeah, can’t complain that much. Not a must read, but I enjoyed it.)

June (3)

    Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

(Mary Roach is the best nonfiction author. I love her to death. She’s willing to ask all the questions people want to ask but are too embarrassed to. She’s always a joy to read, even if she’s making you a bit squeamish. Another extremely engaging book by her. I need to get around to reading all her stuff.)

    ZZT by Anna Anthropy

(Another Bossfightbook, this one is very well put together. It’s a strange portrait of a game I knew nothing about and the people wrapped around that game. It’s a dive into an old internet community. I enjoyed it. I think it hit the “personal experience” side way better than Earthbound, which felt masturbatory, whereas her personal experiences helped shed light on why this thing was so important. Then again, I clearly connect with her past a bit more, so maybe that’s all it was.)

    Mary Poppins Comes Back by P. L. Travers

(Another part of a pointless reading quest I’ve embarked on. Someday I will complete all my reading quests and wonder why I started them at all. Anyway, it’s more Mary Poppins, only now I know she is literally so powerful that the planets themselves bow down to her and the seasons don’t change without her. She is literally a god. All hail Mary Poppins, lest she smite you down with her bird umbrella!)

July (0)

August (5)

    Shadow Magic by Patricia C. Wrede

(Checking up on the books that my literary hero when I was real small wrote. This book is alright? I don’t read a lot of pure fantasy, and I felt a bit overwhelmed by seeing fantasy jargon again, but I feel that’s my problem, not the book’s. The romance seemed a bit forced, too. But eh, it was fun enough.)

    “The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar” by Gail Carriger

(This isn’t a novel, just a short story, so I’m not going to count it, but I wanted to talk about it, so there. If I were to create a dream story starring Sandy, there would be way more smooching in it, but this is a fun look into his life for fans and will mean absolutely nothing to anyone else.)

    Galaga by Michael Kimball

(Well, this book is terrible. It has this horrible format with a ton of little one paragraph chapters that just jump about. Many chapters lie to you. Many chapters are lists of things the author saw on Google Images. It just… no, don’t read this.)

    The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

(I’m just kind of impressed that he keeps making sequels to books that don’t need sequels. I feel like a lot of this was a LITTLE forced. There was a bit of retcon feeling in there. But dammit, I love these characters so much it didn’t really matter and I really enjoyed it nonetheless. If you’ve read the last two, you’ll love it like I did.)

    Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones

(I think I got this in a random sale? I don’t know. In any case, a fun read. Very different from the film that I saw like a long time ago. I don’t know if I have a lot to say about it, though. It kind of just flowed over me, for better or worse.)

    The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

(Some things sort of rushed, some things kind of forced, but a really fun little read with some really fun ideas about how magic works in that world. A good time.)

September (4)

    Shotguns v Cthulhu edited by Robin D Laws

(I feel like I’m not much of a horror person, and so some of these stories fell flat for me. There was a lot of really fun stories in here though, and pretty well all of them were really well written. It’s probably worth your time if you like more action-oriented horror writing.)

    Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf

(Really, really fun time all around. Quite different from the movie in a way that almost makes the whodunit way way better. A lot of weird race issue sorta things in here though that I didn’t know what to make of. Probably part of trying to ape a style and a time, but man, it was REALLY going for it. I dunno.)

    Jagged Alliance 2 by Darius Kazemi

(Fantastic criticism from an historical perspective. The best Boss Fight Book yet, or at least tied with ZZT. Didn’t appreciate his pointless jab at Killing is Harmless and Reader-Response Crit, though. Reader-Response is my jam. But a fantastic book regardless.)

    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

(At first, the book is overwrought. It feels like a very fun idea given too much intensity, treated as something much more important than it is. But by the end, none of that matters. You are wrapped up, and it is lovely. I’m sure, once the moment of the end has past, I’ll pick at it. But it’s a lovely book, and a lovely read, and I am extremely happy to have read it. Thanks to shivam for suggesting it a long time ago.)

October (0)

November (6)

    For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming

(I feel like Bond short stories are worse than the novels because it has all the stuff I rant about being frustrated by, like how he complains constantly about his extremely affluent lifestyle and his feelings about women, front and center in every intro, and there’s little other stuff to make up for it.)

    The Clockwork Scarab: A Stoker & Holmes Novel by Colleen Gleason

(I think I’m training Amazon pretty well, because it keeps suggesting interesting things. The general conceit of the novel could have fallen flat on its face, as a gimmick, and at first it feels that way, but as the story progresses the characters find life, and I was pretty hooked. I especially liked how the book treated men as sexualized figures for the leads in a realistic way, especially in a YA context like this. Was nice to see. Will certainly read the sequel.)

    Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger

(I care about these characters and this world SO MUCH. SO MUCH. SO, SO MUCH. SO MUCH IT HURTS. The fact that this ends in the middle of things is frustrating because of this. But it’s a wonderful read.)

    The Spiritglass Charade: A Stoker and Holmes Novel by Colleen Gleason

(Goodness, did it really have to retread things very clearly established in the first book? Was I really expected to have forgotten like… every single thing that happened in book one? I mean, come on. It is quite fun, though. I enjoyed it.)

    Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

(I saw a lot of a past me in this narrator. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. It does that wonderful thing I envy where the book is about very little as far as plot is concerned, but is really about a lot. It feels significant, but if prompted to explain where the action comes from, it’s hard to explain. This is a book you should read.)

    Super Mario Bros. 2 by Jon Irwin

(The final Boss Fight Book of season one. It was alright. Certainly some interesting info gained from some interviews, though it lost focus near the end. But all that doesn’t matter. The author disrespected Birdetta by misgendering her, so I hate the book. (It’s honestly fine, but that was annoying.))

December (0)

Here’s to another year of me devouring books whenever I’m nervous yaaaaaaaay.

December 28, 2014

Here’s Some Other 2014 Games I Wanted To Talk About.

When I make a top ten list, I feel like it should be things I finished and came out this year or whatever? And it’s hard to make a list.

Anyway, here’s some other games from this year (or that I played this year, anyway) that I felt I needed to say a thing about.

South Park: The Stick of Truth
Can I just say that I don’t like that this is here, really? Like, South Park has done some REALLY GROSS SHIT. The game itself does some things that I don’t appreciate as well. Thanks for bringing up that dolphin episode in a throwaway joke, assholes. Yet at the same time, Kenny gets to be a Princess and everyone just kind of… goes with it? It’s a really confusing thing. I have confusing feelings about the game.
But let’s just be clear: the game is REALLY FUNNY when it isn’t trying to shock you. The combat is a fantastic version of Mario RPG and a lot of fun to play. And also you eventually get to the point where your character (who has to be male for like… absolutely no reason) can crossdress and fire pink heart arrows and nobody cares, and it’s kind of great. It’s great, and it’s awful. I had a really good time with it.

Mario Golf: World Tour
This is a really solid Mario Golf release. I love Mario Golf a lot. But man, the lack of a compelling single player RPG mode just really drains a lot of the fun out of the game, you know? The online tournaments are really welcome, but that just doesn’t do much for me. I’m not one for a lot of competition with others. Solid, but just… thinking of what could be, it’s sort of sad.

Murdered: Soul Suspect
This game is better than it probably should be. It’s charming, and though the hide and run gameplay is often kind of annoying, the mystery and elements like that are top notch and fun. It’s almost a shame there won’t be some sort of sequel, because I bet they’d nail it with another go around. Still, totally worth playing if you like mysteries. Pick it up on a sale.

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F
Originally I was all like “Ha ha, Hatsune Miku, how silly, how can people be obsessed with her and all this stuff!” and then I kept kind of digging into it to try to find the appeal and at some point this kind of spiteful research turned into a respect and a like, and then I got this game for cheap and played it, and OH MAN. It’s honestly a lot of fun playing dressup with the vocaloids and the songs are really charming! It’s really cute! I… quite like Hatsune Miku. Gotta play the second one. It’s on it’s way, actually.

Divinity: Dragon Commander
This isn’t from this year, but OH MAN did I love this game. Like, it would have been very high on my list if it was from this year. There’s some RTS stuff? Just put it on easy, that stuff is pointless. The real fun is that it’s this ruler simulator where you have to make all these political decisions that connect to the world today. It makes you kind of understand why it is not so easy to enact those things you want to enact. I really liked all the characters, and all the diplomacy. It was SO AWESOME. Get this for like 5 bucks.

Marvel Puzzle Quest

I am so addicted to this because the gameplay is so casual and fun and well-put together and I play it EVERY SINGLE DAY since I put it on my phone and I really wish it wasn’t so GROSS with how it treats real money transactions so I could recommend it. Don’t play Marvel Puzzle Quest. But if you do, let me know, because I’ll talk your ear off about it.

Broken Age (Part 1)
REALLY WANT PART 2. Part 1 is really charming and a really fun time and all the quality one would expect from Double Fine in their element. It’s really good stuff. But I mean, I want to see it all pay off, so I hesitate to toot its horn too much. Part 2 could fall apart. I sure hope not, though.

The Fall
GREAT STORYTELLING and a fun little time. It’s short. It’s clearly not complete. But what’s there sure makes one want to keep going. I sure as heck going to buy the sequels and whatnot.

Okay, there, that’s that. I’m sure I’ll copy over my book list sometime near the beginning of the year? So maybe look forward to that. But yeah, overall, 2014 sucked, good riddance, let’s hope 2015 is better, yeah?

December 27, 2014

Can I Make a Top Ten List for 2014? Apparently So.

Hi poor, neglected blog. I thought I’d try to make a top ten games of 2014.
Can I name 10 games that came out this year that I liked and finished? Apparently I can name 16. So let’s try to make a list, I guess. I’ll do it like I used to. I’ll do some runners up tomorrow, and a top ten today. How about that?

Okay, here’s my top 10 games of 2014 then, I guess.

1. Dangan Ronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
The first one was awesome too, but had… problems. Which I’ll talk about later. But man, the whole series is just MADE for me. Seriously. Completely. Dangan Ronpa 2 had some of the best characters I’ve interacted with in a video game in a long time, and I just love the detective gameplay. I really, truly do. The game also does its best to subvert and play with all the expectations you had from playing the first game, and does so masterfully. Just… a game people should play. Yeah.

2. Nidhogg
I didn’t play as much of this as I wanted, but every time I boot it up to fence someone, I’m blown away, again, by how fantastic of a game it is. It’s so well balanced and so well put together. It’s tense, it’s fast-paced, and it honestly isn’t that hard to get the hang of on a basic level. But it has depth, that depth that comes from needing to parry and fake out your opponent, that keeps one coming back again and again. I will play someone in Nidhogg ANY TIME. It is SUPER GREAT.

3. Freedom Planet
Sometimes I back “furry” kickstarters on a whim, because I want to, I dunno, support my sort of animal people? I don’t know. I can’t remember why I backed Freedom Planet, but I remember looking at some of the updates, and asking myself why I did, and feeling embarrassed.
Then it came out, and I couldn’t stop playing it.
Freedom Planet is not perfect, but it nails that sense of speed that Sonic tries for, and often fails at, and unlike Sonic, I always felt like I was in control. The game is just FUN, and I actually attempted a speedrun at it because I wanted an excuse to keep playing. Let me repeat that. I practiced a little at speedrunning this game because I liked it so much. I’m not much for the story, perse, though I appreciate it’s GAY AS HECK, but even if you skip all the story, it oozes charm, and it’s something I feel like you really should play if you have even the vaguest fondness for Sonic, or just want a good platformer.

4. Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

A way better Ace Attorney game than Dual Destinies, it was saddled with a lot of the Layton series’ ridiculousness in a bad way with a twist that kind of undermines a lot. But man, the witch trials are SO MUCH FUN in this. It’s great taking what you know from Phoenix Wright games and suddenly being without common tools, where you have to prove something without basic forensic information like fingerprinting. It wasn’t really more of a challenge, but it felt like it. There is some gender ick in here, but I feel like it’s extremely minor, as unlike a lot of these sorts of situations, the logic the game gives you makes PERFECT sense in the world of the story without being gross. But it would still be better if it weren’t there at all, you know? In any case, I really enjoyed it.

5. Transistor
What a beautiful game, from the gameplay to the story. I feel like I’m in the minority, but I really like the story elements of the game. I like the mystery, and how everyone in the game KNOWS what’s going on, so they don’t pointlessly spew exposition. That made my writer brain happy. I liked that to understand things, I had to connect more with the mechanics. And boy, what mechanics they were. Much like Bastion before it, there are so many ways to fight in Transistor, and you’ll find a combo that feels broken, and be shocked when you move to another combination that feels equally broken. AND THE SOUNDTRACK. Oh man.

6. Shovel Knight

As I’ve already said earlier, the best “retro” or “callback” games feel like it used to, but are actually way better, and smooth the issues your nostalgia forgot about. Shovel Knight does this perfectly. The difficulty is really well balanced, with the items you can use or not, and the checkpoints you can destroy or not, and it just has a lot of charm without being “meme-y” or something of that nature. The enemy knights you fight, like Mega Man bosses, just ooze charm. It’s a really fun time.

7. Jackbox Party Pack
IT’S MORE YOU DON’T KNOW JACK. And more fun games! What is there not to like! This isn’t higher, because I just don’t play this kind of stuff as much as I used to. It’s sad. But this is a REALLY quality release, and something everyone can enjoy. Using the phones is just a genius way to let many, many people play, too. It is very much worth your money.

8. Dangan Ronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
I really do love this game, but a lot of the second class trial just leaves a lot of bad taste in one’s mouth. It’s not SUPER bad? It’s not Dual Destinies bad. But it’s still not handled super well. That said, though, it’s a great game, just like the sequel. It’s so good, and it is worth playing. The characters are still fun (though 2 really tops all of them, I think) and it’s just quite a mystery. Also, it’s really necessary to play 2, and 2 is REALLY GOOD. So.

9. Kirby Triple Deluxe
You know what still fills me with joy? A Kirby game. I never finished Return to Dreamland. I wanted to co-op it, but people get busy, and it didn’t really drag me in. This, as a single player thing, using some of the stuff in Return to Dreamland and cutting what didn’t work, was a joy. Hypernova made for much more fun scenarios and puzzles than anything I saw from the “Supercharged” weapons in Return to Dreamland. It was also fun to see the developers really playing with perspective and stuff, since they could. It’s a Kirby game. You know what you’re getting. I love Kirby. It’s all I wanted.

10. Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!”
Look, okay, there is just so much LOVE put into this game. SO MUCH LOVE. It just oozes love, and fun, and happiness, and it makes me very happy to play. Someone set out to make this thing alone, a musical adventure game, and it’s just… it’s really charming. The singing could perhaps use a little coaching. But that’s kind of why it’s so charming to me.

Yeah, so… I guess I played a lot of stuff this year? I didn’t really think I had, but I showed me.

October 13, 2014

Here Is Why Bayonetta, As A Character, Rules.

In order to get it out of my head, I would like to tell you why I love Bayonetta as a character.

In video games, sexualization often exists without a story purpose. It is a marketing tool. It’s designed to draw you in and make you interested in someone who, perhaps, is not a deep enough character to deserve it. It’s a way to put some cheesecake on a game box and drag in just one more lusty teen.

I don’t personally believe that Bayonetta’s design is about that. Most sexualization for it’s own sake dis-empowers. It turns people into objects. But Bayonetta would not be herself without it. And that is why, at least in some ways, Bayonetta makes me jealous. I want to be like her. And in the game, I get to be here, and it feels fantastic.

In society, flaunting your sexuality as a woman is a dangerous move. It draws unwanted attention. There are leers and catcalls and who knows what else. Most female characters who wield their sexuality openly are eventually punished for it. The femme fatale’s wiles fail at an important moment, requiring a rescue. Or, perhaps, the heroine is targeted purely because of their sex appeal, more than anything else. Consider the controversy around the attempted rape in Tomb Raider for example. Lara was obviously a threat. She’d killed tons of people by that point. But no, it was her sexuality that was her weak point. There’s where she got in trouble.

At the same time, it is AWESOME to feel sexy. It’s great. Your self-confidence skyrockets. You can take on the world when you feel like you’re looking fantastic and everyone knows it. We’ve all felt that. We want to feel that regularly. The problem is, in reality, that sometimes comes with drawbacks.

Bayonetta has those drawbacks, but she could not even care. She does not have a love interest. (You could argue Luka, but no. He’s just fun to toy with.) There is no target for her sexuality. She looks hot as hell and she’s doing it because of the confidence that gives her. And as a witch, she can back that confidence up. She can summon demons. She can ice skate pirouette angels into a pile of goo. Every action she takes is full of strength, and power, and no fear. She has no fear. She is feminine and sexy and she has no fears because of it. And that makes me jealous.

An argument could be made that, because the camera shows her off so much, and because she often does things towards the camera, that her sexuality is for the player. She is seducing someone, and that is you, with the controller. I understand that, and you could probably make a good case for it. Personally, I think she’s doing that to make the player uncomfortable.

You see, the male gaze assumes a woman is for the viewer. That’s how male gaze works. But Bayonetta is over the top. She’s constantly losing clothing and poledancing and tying angels up and making them cum until they explode. This is not how someone designed to be lusted after acts, because one moment she’s enticing you, and the next she’s making it clear that you could never, ever be enough for her, and she is not interested. Or if she is, she’s going to destroy you and toss you away after that. Most guys I have talked about this game with, even if they like it, were, at the very least, borderline uncomfortable watching all this. That’s the point. You want sexy? Here’s so much it turns the mirror around on you, and makes you wonder why that’s what you were expecting. That’s what the game says. And by making it clear that Bayonetta does not need your approval or your lust, she breaks through that male gaze, at least for a moment.

The plot of the first game backs this up to some extent, as well. While most of the plot deals with Bayonetta’s past, a lot of it is her trying to learn to accept help, and accepting the idea that she can have friends. She wants to push people away, for the majority of the story. Isn’t how she’s dressing designed to do that?

In any case, there are many readings, of course. But I love Bayonetta as a character. Every new torture move in the first game had me cheering. Hell, I started wearing glasses again, because I say Bayonetta, and I wanted to be like that, a little bit. I love her as a character. I can’t wait to play the second game.

December 31, 2013

Here Are The Books I Read In 2013

Over on Talking Time, I did something I hadn’t really done before: I kept track of everything I read, and wrote little blurbs about what I thought every time I finished one. I figured I’d transfer it over here for safekeeping. So here’s all 46 books I read in 2013, and a little something about what I thought about them. Enjoy.

January (1)

    Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

(A… comedy? It was a strange little story. I stayed engaged the whole way through, but it didn’t totally rock my world.)

February (2)

    Hamlet’s Hit Points by Robin D. Laws

(A gift from the boyfriend, it’s a really interesting look at Tabletop roleplaying through an actor’s eyes, using acting-based analysis to offer tips on proper DMing.)

    A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

(I had like 5 students write about Lemony Snicket last semester, so I felt I needed to investigate. I would have loved these as a kid, if this is any indication. If they were cheaper to grab on my kindle, I’d probably devour the whole series. Just simple fun children’s lit, with a really strong female lead, which I appreciate.)

March (2)

    The Yoga Stripper: A Las Vegas Memoir of Sex, Drugs and Namaste by Laila Lucent

(I read a snippet on a website, and I love a good naughty memoir, but the writing teacher in me ruined a lot of this. I hated how it was laid out and jumped around constantly. But it wasn’t bad, perse. Just… rough.)

    Here’s Looking At Euclid: A Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of Math by Alex Bellos

(Completely amazing. Math written about by a dual major Math/English dude, it explains Math in a way that will get you excited about it, especially if you still have some math knowledge lingering.)

April (10)

    Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

(I love Fleming. He is so amazingly sexist and racist. I laughed the whole way through Casino Royale, and I did even harder in this one. It’s just amazing that someone once thought it was okay to write this way. How times have changed.)

    Needle in the Groove by Jeff Noon

(Jeff Noon is one of my literary heroes. In this book, he’s writing a novel, but it’s kinda poetry, but it’s kinda song lyrics? I thought it was a failure, in the beginning, but by the end, I was totally into his experimentation here. If you like his work, a must read. If you’re interested in him, start with Vurt.)

    The Key to the Kingdom by Jeff Dixon

(So terrible. So bad. And in such an unbelievable way. The book forgets its own plot points, has the dumbest hero I have ever experienced, and the “dramatic ending” is just so fucking off the rails I could barely breathe from laughing. It’s amazing to me that this book is like… well reviewed. Wow.)

    Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith

(Like, the entire time I was reading this book, I felt like I was becoming more anxious sort of sympathetically? I know how it feels to be really nervous and crazy, and this captures a lot of that perfectly. Wasn’t so much humorous as the descriptions claim, though. It was alright. No complaints.)

    Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

(It’s sort of attempting to be a murder mystery with a strange perspective, one of a character with dementia, but really it ends up just being kinda depressing. What draws you in is trying to understand the characters, less than the mystery aspect. They are some well-made characters.)

    Moonraker by Ian Fleming

(I want to give Fleming an award for “Most Improved Over Previous Novel.” Casino Royale was ridiculous because Bond did nothing but eat fancy food and get lovesick. Live and Let Die was ridiculous because AMAZING CONSTANT RACISM. This was… an alright little book. Not great, but a fine read. Good job, Fleming! I look forward to seeing if you go off the rails again.)

    How To Succeed At Aging Without Really Dying by Lyla Blake Ward

(Man, I picked this up as it seemed like an interesting little book of essays, but it was so weird. The first part was like… something such as “Have you noticed bubble packaging is hard to open?” for 4 pages, and then would end with a really painfully not good pun, and this coming from someone who likes most puns. Later, the essays got more essay-like, and were better, but overall, I wouldn’t recommend this.)

    Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc. by David Sedaris

(I love David Sedaris, and his new book is completely fantastic, as expected. It gets more political at times than he has in the past, and as usual, his fiction, this time in the form of several monologues by characters sprinkled throughout the book, didn’t do much for me, but damn. The man knows how to write a funny essay!)

    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

(Randomly inspired to investigate these classic books. Was a quick read, and fun enough. It was interesting to see how it deviated from what I knew of the story. We’ll see how completely strange the rest of the novels get, as I’m sure I’ll slowly work my way through them, knowing me.)

    The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum

(Man, the end of this book. Man, what? I had peeked at a plot summary before I read it, so I knew what was coming, but it was still kind of insane whiplash. Who allows their name and gender to be changed and just goes along with it, even though it wasn’t their will? Glinda, is it really “good” to change someone back who doesn’t wish it? Man, what. Such a strange look at gender politics in this book. I’m betting Ozma of Oz won’t deal with anything I’m having issues with, either. Ozma will probably be a totally different character. Lame!)

May (9)

    Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum

(Well, Ozma wasn’t a different character from Tip, perse, but seriously, no adjustment, no anything is seen, which just saddens me. What she went through at the end of the last book would really mess a person up! Outside of my personal holdups, though, this is more of the same, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, really. This book certainly has some very creepy moments, though. Enjoyable, to be sure.)

    Killing is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops: The Line by Brendan Keogh

(I want more long form close readings of games like this, and I want more games to aspire to be worthy of long form close readings like Spec Ops: The Line attempted to do.)

    Escape by Perihan Magden

(Really repetitive, but on purpose. The entire book is clearly supposed to make you feel on edge. And it did! I can’t say I enjoyed it, perse, but I’m glad I read it. It succeeded at putting me in the head of some really messed up people and drowning me in their world.)

    Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum

(The amount of overwhelming in-your-face retconning that happens in this book just feels insulting and stupid. I understand Baum says Oz and such is a “fairy land” and thus he can do whatever he wants, but that doesn’t involve rewriting the past stated in your own books! I lost a lot of respect for him as a writer with this one, basically.)

    Pixel Juice by Jeff Noon

(Collection of short stories. A few in, I realized I had read this before and totally forgot! A few of the best stories stuck in my head, but there were plenty that had totally slipped out. Still, with so many stories tying in to his other novels, this isn’t a place to start for people who haven’t read his stuff.)

    Storm Front by Jim Butcher

(Now everyone can stop telling me to read this book! I always resisted due to connections to exes of various sorts, and it certainly didn’t blow me away [IGN.com] but I understand why the series has fans, to be sure. The book felt very… over-inflated though. Like it needed to ratchet the danger up EVEN HIGHER constantly, which left it feeling a bit silly to me. But I bet that’s something that’s fixed as the book is no longer a one-off but a series.)

    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

(I have used Mary Roach’s essays in my classes often, and think she’s awesome, but never dove into her books before this. This book is fantastic, entertaining, and really interesting. I also had to take breaks and was really uncomfortable reading it, not because she did a bad job, but just because of the subject matter! She makes the subject matter interesting and sometimes funny, but it’s still kinda tough to read about some of these things. Still, if you can handle the topic, highly recommended.)

    Naked Came The Stranger by Penelope Ashe

(Oh man. Oh man. This book. Oh man. Written to mock and make fun of horrible, churned out “big money” writing full of terrible sex. A huge number of reporters wrote this in a week, each taking one chapter. It makes no sense, it’s offensive, it’s terribly written, and it was apparently a huge hit. Read this and despair… but in an entertaining way.)

    Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming

(My Bond exploration continues with another nice book! I really wonder what happened between Live and Let Die and Moonraker, as that book, and this one, almost seem like they are written by different people. Suspense, actually action… Bond fired his gun for the first time in this one! The action cut away when non-relevant things were going on! Fleming is learning! It’s neat to see.)

June (3)

    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

(You all were talking about it in the “Whatcha’ reading” and I realized I had never read it, and tried it, and HOLY FUCK WHAT A BOOK. What a hilarious and incredibly affecting and gut-wrenching novel. If you were like me and haven’t read this, you HAVE to. You just have to.)

    Air Force Gator by Dan Ryckert

(See, you gotta follow up something so literary and classic with something completely fucking stupid. It’s the only way, clearly.)

    [Citation Needed] 2: The Needening: More of The Best of Wikipedia’s Worst Writing by Josh Fruhlinger and Conor Lastowka

(A cheap, quick look at some really terrible writing and I was once again very entertained. Who wouldn’t be?)

July (2)

    The Disappearing Spoon And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean

(A title so long my Kindle cannot properly display it. This book starts out really slow, if you know your high school chemistry, but then quickly blossoms into awesome stories of scientists and interesting facts about the elements that I certainly didn’t know and found captivating.)

    Falling Out of Cars by Jeff Noon

(Was not expecting a weird post-apocalypse sort of scenario when I started the book, but that’s what I got. I thought the ending was weak, but I’m still in love with Noon’s writing. The narrator, Marlene, really connected with me. I’ve felt lost like that, with nothing to hold onto but words, and those too fading away…)

August (4)

    From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming

(Man, the beginning of this book is bonkers. Like over a third of it is just pointless backstory about people in SMERSH! It’s crazy. Overall, the actually story itself is not TOO bad? Not up to the improvement Fleming’s been having though. Also, dunno what’s up with the CLIFFHANGER ENDING.)

    The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

(Here’s a classic that’s been around my peripheral vision that I got gently pushed into trying, and it was quite nice! This was a weird deluxe edition with a little novella at the end and all kinds of extra material… it was a nice way to experience this story for the first time. Light, breezy, and fun. A good book, though I could poke at it if I really wanted to nitpick. Also, random thought, it’s kinda silly how much past me would think all the extra material (interviews and such) in this book was stupid, and how much current me enjoys it. Times change, I guess.)

    To Be Or Not To Be by Ryan North

(I’m sure I’ve missed a couple endings, but I’ve given it a thorough read, and it is quite a fun little book, and I am 100% glad I backed it. The end.)

    B^F: The Novelization of the Feature Film by Ryan North

(This came with the previous book! I had started reading that blog but lost track of it! So this was a good reason to just read the whole gosh-darned thing, and it was lovely, and hilarious, and [warm and] wonderful.)

September (6)

    Dr. No by Ian Fleming

(More Bond! It was… alright. This book is clearly where the concept of the crazy Bond supervillian with the evil deathtrap lair comes from. Bond, of course, had horrible sexist thoughts throughout, but the book omitted the scene from the film where Bond basically rapes a lady and laughs about it, so that’s nice.)

    Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart

(A friend of mine told me this was his favorite book ever, and I should read it, so I did, and it was cute, and funny, and fun, and lovely, and I would recommend it to basically anybody who likes to read a book.)

    It’s Kind of a Cute Story by Rolly Crump and Jeff Heimbuch

(Yeah, more Disney stuff. I’m still obsessed. Still, it was a pretty neat look behind the curtain of a lot of stuff I love, so I really can’t complain!)

    Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

(Man, this was weird. I really don’t know what to think about it. At the very least, it seemed to have very little thematic connection between the weird little stories that led up to anything. Glad I looked into it, but yeah… huh.)

    Soulless by Gail Carriger

(Oh man, shivam was so right about this book and me. Oh man. I have not read a book this fun and this sexy and this smart in a long time, and I am shocked and VERY pleased that they were somehow all in the same book. So good.)

    Changeless by Gail Carriger

(Yep, more of the same. I am pleased. Ending makes me annoyed in “I love the characters and am invested way” but not in the “I am someone who studies literature and this is not well done” way which I think is about the best way for something like that to be, even if annoyed. I feel for all these characters. That’s awesome.)

October (1)

    Blameless by Gail Carriger

(More fun. More awesome. I have not cared about characters, even fairly minor background characters, this much in a long time. They are fun to read about, and I care when things happen. These books are just completely awesome.)

November (2)

    Heartless by Gail Carriger

(The series continues to be lovely, though less sexy than before! Heh, though for good reason. Onward to the last one.)

    Timeless by Gail Carriger

(And now I’m out of this series, which is bittersweet. I can respect ending when things are done, and it feels pretty done! But I was having so much fun and want more. Oh well, so it goes. Heh. READ THIS SERIES, SERIOUSLY.)

December (4)

    Thy Neighbor’s Wife by Gay Talese

(What a strange book. While sometimes the tone of how it describes sex gets unquestionably hilarious, this is an extremely interesting and person book of history about the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s, and I’m very glad I read it. It’s dense and long, but good.)

    Felidae by Akif Pirincci

(That weird German cartoon you may have seen on Youtube is now a book! Well, uh, it’s the book that film was based on. It has an interesting tone in the narration, but wasn’t as divergent from the movie as I expected. I look forward to reading Felidae On The Road sometime.)

    Earthbound by Ken Baumann

(Baumann obviously should have written a memoir instead of trying to force all his memories into video game criticism. The amount this book is not about Earthbound, given it’s title, is ridiculous, and it’s kind of oddly organized besides. In no way recommended, especially if you want to, say, read a book of criticism about Earthbound that approaches that game’s text with any sort of insight or usefulness. I really hope the rest of the Boss Fight Books stuff is like… much much different than this.)

    Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O’Brien

(I had always meant to read this book, especially after I saw the movie after some prodding and had many issues with it. As expected, those were totally addressed and not issues in the book, and man, Mrs. Frisby is such a wonderful protagonist. A heroic mother in a realistic way. It’s such a fun book, and I would have loved it as a kid.)