Raves, Reviews and Rants

if I love it, hate it or want to rate it you’ll find it here.

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You might remember I leaped upon the PS3 version of Ni No Kuni when it came out, so it’s no surprise the same is true for the new one on the PS4.

I’m breaking this up into sections and keeping it brief but here are some main points of how I feel about the game thus far.

Nostalgia Factor

You start out in Ding Dong Dell, so straight into the nostalgia, but you don’t get much time to enjoy it because there’s a coup and you have to get out of there fast. The graphics are wonderfully reminscent of the first and still beautifully Studio Ghibli.

Icing on the cake: the fanfare theme plays plenty in this game too ๐Ÿ˜€ I walk around the house cleaning things humming or ‘do-do-doo-ing’ it.

Gameplay

I’ve noticed more and more games these last few years are putting multiple combat systems and gameplay methods into the one game. Used to be some of these gameplay styles were a whole game in and of themselves. It’s fun to have the extras, but sometimes they feel really tacked on – mostly that’s not true with Ni No Kuni 2.

The combat system is similar in that there are three people on your team and you face a group of monsters. What changed is the familiars are gone, replaced with spells and swappable weapons. I’m not anti-swapping weapons, but I am saddened by the loss of the familiars, they were one of my favourite things in the earlier game.

The skirmish battles that occasionally pop up as side quests (and once or twice right at the start as story requirements) are interesting, but they aren’t high strategy at the point I’m at in the game. At first glance I thought it was going to be full RTS style, but the units just stick by Evan’s side following him where ever he goes on the field. If a unit stands too close to a barricade they’ll attack that, not the enemy unit you’re aiming for. Also, it’s really hard to find ways to level at the start. I have to fight the two low-level whamster battles(lvl 3 and lvl4) like eight times to get my team strong enough to take on the next skirmish(lvl 10) and again before the next (lvl 17).

Running the kingdom is so much fun for me. I love that sort of stuff, particularly when there are in game boosts from all the work you do. I’m not sure if I hate the fact the kingdom upgrades run on their own currency not the standard in-game currency, or I love it. Sometimes I leave the game running while I clean or something else to earn more Kingsguilders ;p

 

Story

I’m not finished yet, but the storyline thus far is much less strongly about how ‘our’ world connects to the fantasy world, and so far Roland(the person from ‘our’ world) has a lot less effect on the story compared to Oliver from the original (though he’s cool and he reminds me a bit of Col. Roy Mustang, so it’s largely forgiven ;p ).

The story revolves more around Evan, the child-king, and the new kingdom he wants to make. It’s fun so far, but apart from the highly exciting chapter one (with Aranella) it hasn’t been gripping – perhaps because those life and death stakes, the desire to revive a dead mother, aren’t in this one. I’m hoping that since I’m probably not even half way done that there’s going to be some great twists coming, since the first game had some rippers. Verdict on the plot thus far: good, fun, but not gripping (yet, still early).

 

Overall, I’m having a lot of fun and as I often do getting distracted with side quests (which get you more citizens and build our kingdom ;p ). It’s not as good as the first one, but it is probably suffering a bit from comparisonitis, and since I’m still enjoying it (and nowhere near finished like I was when I wrote the review for the first one) I won’t hold that against it.

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My first 5 star book of the year, and I read it at 1.5x speed

One of my more casual goals for this year was to increase my audiobook and podcast listening speeds. Audiobooks already save me time by allowing me to read while walking, exercising, cleaning, and doing housework, but I also listen to 9 podcasts about writing craft/book marketing and 8 fiction podcasts (I also want to grow that fiction set). I want to keep reading 50+ books a year as well as consuming these (mostly) weekly podcasts, but I also want more time to write and sure as heck aren’t cutting into my time with my family. Increasing reading speed gives me the opportunity to try and have it all.

I’d set the goal aiming that in around 6 months I’d be listening to all my non-fiction podcasts at 1.5x speed and I’d *maybe* try audiobooks around that speed too by the end of the year.

I’m already listening to all my podcasts at either 1.5x or 2x, and have listened to most of the audiobooks I’ve read in the later half of this month at either 1.5x or 2x. I’ve already adapted. Only every now and again do I come across a narrator (or host) who speaks a little too fast to handle at the higher speeds.

T-J laughs at me. He teases me all the time about the not-quite-chipmunk sound of the voices. But while listeneing to the audiobook of Barefoot Investor and reading along with the print version my fab friend Jake bought me, I discovered listening at 1.75x speed is very close to my normal reading speed when reading a paperback or ebook (my reading is a tiny bit faster). This is probably why I’ve adapted so easily to the faster listening speed because my brain is already capable of absorbing this sort of information at this speed already, only my mode of consumption has changed.

If you’re in any doubt as to the improvement of my reading speed, I have kept up-to-date will all my podcasts and read 8 books this month. Also note this is during summer school holidays too! And my enjoyment of books hasn’t lessened; I read my first two 5 star books of the year already, Holly Balck’s ‘The Cruel Prince‘ and Naoki Higashida’s ‘The Reason I Jump’.

Do you love audio for reading or listening to podcasts, or are you hesitant to try it?

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I’ve never been one to cry at weddings before. I understand the emotion that leads people to cry at them and I have felt that culminating swell and flutter often, but never actually had the tears until today. I doubt there was a dry eye in the place.

Today our Aunt Trish and her partner Cath were married. It was a beautiful and touching ceremony and I’ve been told that it was the first same-sex marriage to take place in Queensland. The law passed allowing same-sex couples to marry in Australia on December 9th, 2017, but you must give your celebrant 30 days prior notice before the ceremony can legally take place – however, there are exemptions for every rule and Cath and Trish qualified for one(though a part of me wishes it wasn’t so considering their specific exemption).

The magnificent staff at John Flynn Private Hospital (where Cath worked for some 25+ years) went all out setting up and decorating marquees, putting on a delicious spread and making a wedding cake that will be the envy of many couples I’ve no doubt.

All our love to you both Trish and Cath and may you be together and happy far beyond this simple moment in time <3

If you’d like to see more photos than what I can fit in this tiny post those of us attending the ceremony today are using the hashtag #CathandTrish2018 on your poison, oops sorry, social media of choice.

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I tried to finish writing this post last year, but things have been hectic – no surprise there! But it’s done now so buckle-up and check out some of my favourite books and video games in 2017.

Books

I review nearly everything I read, and you can check out everything I read and reviewed in 2017 on Goodreads. If you don’t want the whole list some of my top books were:

The Heartstrikers series. It was sneakily addictive. They seem slow at first, but by the end of the first book, I thought I’d enjoyed it but wasn’t amazed and yet I went straight to Audible, bought the next one, downloaded it and started listening within ten minutes. I was like an addict who thinks they weren’t obsessed with crack and then finds themselves taking the next dose automatically ;p

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, once you get over the HP fanfic feel (which makes sense after having read Fangirl by the same author) it is frigging awesome and just so deeply satisfying. I will definitely reread this at some point

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal was a delight. A WWI setting but with a supernatural twist, countless strong female characters, and that plot, those feels – I highly recommend it.

Strange The Dreamer was so unusual I couldn’t help but love it. It has a great mish-mash of myth and fairy tale feeling but all in its own world. My only complaint was the in the same scene head-hopping that was used a fair bit in the later third.

I read a lot of books on the craft of writing also. My favourite craft books for 2017 were:
Half A Million Words In Nine Months by Talitha Kalago for productivity can’t be beat (and I read a few productivity books this year, not just writing productivity but general productivity)

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell is probably my craft content winner for this year, though Save The Cat Goes To The Movies had some very cool ideas/concepts in it which means the original Save The Cat is near the top of my to-read pile for craft books in 2018.

Also, an honourable mention to How To Write a Novel Using The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson for having such a unique spin on providing the information: telling it all in a story!

 

Games

Final Fantasy XV. Yes, I know, it came out in 2016, but I played most of my first playthrough in ’17, and all of my second playthrough, and let’s not forget the DLCs, Episodes Gladio, Prompto, and Ignis (<3), so IMO this is perfectly valid to be one of my favourite games in 2017.

OMG the chocobros! You could see the all male cast as being sexist, but I saw it as being fanservice ;p I mean, there was the tsundere(Noct), the beefcake(Gladio), the megane(my Ignis) and the shota(Prompto). I told one of my gamer friends this and he says he can’t unsee what I showed him, so he’s always thinking of them that way now ;p Also, that new game+, so generous. You keep EVERYTHING, level, EXP, AP, gear, items. I don’t think you lost *anything* except story progress. It took me months (in my fragments of time, late at night) to finish my first playthrough(admittedly because I love side quests), then I did new game+ and, with my level 80 characters, I just whisked through the story, crying just as much as the credits rolled (and that post-credits campfire scene!)

Also, the episodes! Gladio was just a bit of fun, Prompto was good fun and nice to live out his tragic past, but Episode Ignis! OMG. I mean, Iggy was already my fave (seriously, glasses, puns, the ‘mum’ of the group, and his scathing moments of sarcasm – how could he not be my fave?) but that episode! Not only was the combat style the easiest to adapt to for me (A results all the way through ๐Ÿ˜€ ), but the story was so good. And then, cherry on top, being able to go back and make a different decision which essentially creates a new ending for the entire game not just the episode. I was so happy. There may have been tears again. Anything that elicits this much excitement and tears deserves my #1 billing.

Atelier Firis: If you know anything about my gaming side, you know I’m a huge fan of the Atelier series. I even have the actual artbooks (not just those crappy free ‘art books’ you get in collectors editions(though I do have plenty of those too ;p )). For this one, I loved the focus on exploring. The portable atelier was soooo handy as well, (remember Totori where you had to return to base if you needed to craft anything?) but I hated the nebulous time frame. I didn’t know how long I had to complete my tasks and it stressed me because in older games you sometimes had to complete one task within a year to unlock the ability to stretch the game’s timeframe out to the more typical three years.

Then after all that panic, it turned out I could complete the storyline and *then* finish all my character events. In fact, several character events couldn’t take place until post game. It made things too easy. I like the ‘three years’ time limits the earlier ps3 games gave me, enough time to take things seriously, but enough time to explore. I still have some character endings to unlock, but the excess of freedom takes the ‘urgency’ out of the game, so I keep feeling like I ‘need’ to play other things instead.

Also, when I saw Monika in Atelier Sophie and she looked sooooo much like Linca I was expecting for there to be a tie-in where she’s the genetic donor to the Linca clones or something, but she wasn’t even referenced in this game :'( I also kinda wish they’d left Oskar large. There are very few positive portrayals of larger characters in games, and while he wasn’t 100% well treated it’s better than him magically losing weight ‘off screen’ and appearing in this game as a skinny character…

I did dig how different outfits affected things like alechmy, travel speed, drops, ect. But I often just wore whatever I found cutest ;p

Persona 5 Can you believe I didn’t find the time to play it sooner? I’m barely halfway through the second dungeon, I only just started it before Christmas. It came out within a week of Atelier Firis and close to when Zelda: Breath of the Wild did, so it got back-burnered. Then there was a month or two were health and work conspired to reduce my gaming time to zero. When I came out of that funk I forgot about P5 and started playing the FFXII Remastered for PS4 (because I never beat the final boss originally, I went off to grind with sidequests and then got distracted by other games and time got away from me to the point where I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the ending because I’d forgotten so much of the story). I got halfway into FFXII and realised I hadn’t played P5, but I knew if I stopped FFXII I’d never finish it either, again – so now Persona 5 became my candy for completing FFXII.

Thus far (as established I’m only halfway through the second dungeon, so I’m still getting tutorials every now and again ;p ) it’s got everything I love about the Persona series: crazy anime characters with big nutty personalities, familiar monsters (who you can capture and use to fight for you), hilarious plot (often wth very serious and dark undertones(not always undertones…)), the character interactions which increase friendship levels and power up their respective personas in your arsenal, and unique dungeons and an unusual way to access them.

It’s also got some new twists, like the way you enter dungeons, the way you capture your personas, and can essentially mug the monsters for money. I really love the post-battle roundup of what exp/money/items you got from the battle, it’s long, but hasn’t yet worn me out. I’m having fun thus far and looking forward to getting clear of this dungeon when time should free up a little more (in game ;p ) and I can start taking charge of my in game time better (one of the game mechanics the Persona series has is it gives you ‘free time’ to spend either upping stats by doing cool things like participating in eating challenges, going to movies, or making coffee/lockpicks; or deepening friendships to power your personas up; or go into the dungeons, and it’s always tough to try and get everything done in a single play through)

Other games I played:

I just started I Am Setsuna on the Switch. I was attracted by the dark love story plot, but I’m not far enough in yet to write a quality review.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild, while awesome reminds me I don’t really like open world stuff(as you might have guessed a bit in my comments about Atelier Firis). I far prefer a linear path that I have to follow. I don’t know if that’s me being old-fashioned, or because I have such a small amount of gaming time I don’t like to waste time making choices as to where to go, I want to be told instead.

I had a blast playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on my phone. I always love an Animal Crossing game, but the problem with phone games is to play them cheaply you have to play a lot, and … well… time – never enough of it.

And countless otome games ;p

LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2018:
Octopath Travellers, I played the demo on Switch. Lately I’m starting to play less of the 2d look games – only so many games I have time for and I want them to be pretty – but this one has surprisingly dark themes and plot lines and I’m liking the tweaks on ye old standard turn-based combat, so depending on price I’ll probably give it a go.

Finishing Persona 5

Atelier Lydie and Suelle – on Switch, yassss!

Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdoms – the PS3 Ni No Kuni was so good how could I not be keen for this one?

Did you have any stand-out favourites in books or games for 2017? Do you totally agree or disagree with me on any of my faves? Anything you’re looking forward to now we’re in 2018?

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A slide containing the post-it note listeners to The Creative Penn Podcast should be familiar with and Joanna discussing it.

Yesterday I had the distinct delight to go to a part speech part panel featuring the lovely and clever Joanna Penn.

It’s funny, here in Brisbane we get a bit ignored, we aren’t Sydney (who the rest of the world thinks is Australia’s capital, not merely a capital of one of our states) and we aren’t trendy Melbourne, so we get overlooked fairly regularly by celebrities(though perhaps not so badly as the other capitals ;p ). Thus I honestly never expected an amazing author like Joanna would come here. Naturally the second she mentioned on one of her podcasts she was coming here I was like ‘sign me up for whatever seminar she’s doing’.

And I did sign up. I went into the event thinking I’ve listened to so many of the podcasts (I started listening when Xander was still an infant, I’d do our daily walk with him in the stroller(so he would fall asleep) and my headphones in) that I kind of assumed I wouldn’t actually learn anything much new, maybe just one or two points I’d forgotten over the years. I was there for the sheer excitement of seeing THE Joanna Penn, not just hearing her voice like I do every week. At the end of the seminar I looked at the notebook I’d brought with me and saw I had four pages of notes! Some of it ideas that came from what she said or reminders to myself, but also a lot of fresh info.

One thing that surprised me a lot was how much Brisbane actually played into the early stage of her writing life. i mean you know the basic story from having read her non-fiction books and blog posts and having listened to the podcast, but it was one of those things that didn’t really sink in until I heard her talking about all these familiar things. I knew the suburb where she’d lived, her old house looked like it could have been down the street from any of the places I’ve lived, she did the ‘year of the novel’ course from QWC (which I’m a member of). Isn’t it interesting how these points of commonality make you feel closer to someone (even if you don’t actually know them ;p )

Joanna Penn, me, and Emma Lee Gough

There were plenty of laughs too, both in Joanna’s original presentation and the panel style chat that happened after that. The Q&A that wrapped the session up was informative and they took the time to answer pretty much every hand that went up – and those whose questions involved a more in depth answer they invited to come down and chat with them at the end for more details – and, best of all, at the very end Emma and I got a selfie with Joanna.

I absolutely recommend if you ever have a chance to see her speak you do so.

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What do I want for Christmas? I want anyone who has an agenda (be it good or bad in ANYONES view) on parents and children to stop using autism as a scare tactic. Anti-vaxxers have been doing it for ages, but a couple of days ago I saw a news article about research that proved if you took anti-depressants during pregnancy your child was 87% more likely to be diagnosed autistic by age 7.

Now my assumption is if your depression is so bad that your doctor actually prescribes you anti-depressants during pregnancy and you take them, that your condition is pretty severe, and you’re in danger of harming yourself and consequently your unborn child. Why put extra pressure on your already fragile self of fearing autism when death is a possible consequence?

The pattern I’m seeing here is people saying autism is a worse consequence than the possibility of death. Articles all over the internet are telling me my son is THE worst case scenario; there is nothing worse in the entire world than having a child like him. And that makes me pray he is never able to read these articles. Can you imagine what it would be like to be told death is preferable to the way your mind works?

To be clear, I’m not telling anti-vaxxers they have to vaccinate their kids. It’s your choice. I may disagree with it, but that’s your prerogative (though I’ll keep my too-young-to-be-fully-vaccinated daughter very far away from your kids sorry to say). I’m also not saying to take drugs if you’re pregnant and damn the consequences. I’m saying if you’re talking about these things(or anything else for that matter) with other people, trying to convince them to follow your way of thinking, don’t use autism as a way to frighten them into siding with you.

Late at night, after I settle my six month old daughter back to sleep after her middle of the night feed, I’ve been unable to fall back to sleep this has been stressing me so severely. I don’t ever want my child to learn that so many people consider him a fate worse than death.

Is autism REALLY a fate worse than death? Could you say that to anyone, child or adult, anywhere on the spectrum? Tell them better they died at two years old, gasping for breath, unable to understand what’s happening, choking as the coughing from whooping cough doesn’t allow them to breathe air back in before coughing again and again and again until there’s no air left to expel and everything goes black. Tell them better they died in utero because their mother was so despondent she cut her wrists and bled too much before changing her mind and trying to crawl from the bath tub to the phone, never reaching her goal.

tell him
tell him

Tell my son, only two weeks away from turning 5 that he, happy though he is, so adoring of his sister that he stresses strangers might kidnap her so pulls the shade of the pram down to hide her in large crowds, loving to dance, and play with robots and dinosaurs, but is unable to speak or understand much of what is said to him, that he would be better off dead.

Autism is not a fate worse than death. Don’t talk like it is. Don’t spread this heart-breaking lie around. Sure, debate your points if you want, tell people all the research you’ve done or about your friend or family member who had an unfortunate bad experience, but don’t ever say again that autism is a possible side effect with the intent to scare someone into following your advice.

That’s what I want for Christmas.

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As some of you know I have three email addresses which I refer to as my ‘spam email’ (for whenever you fill out a form and it asks for an email, it was made in computer class when I was fourteen and flies my Sailor Moon loving flag embarrassingly high), my ‘professional email'(for those signups which my embarrassing email address is not suitable as well as the newsletters I want to receive and more professional contacts such as doctors, therapists, schools ect) and my ‘writing email'(for submissions, competitions and this website).

Unfortunately of late I’ve been getting more and more spam that my spam filter isn’t catching, not to mention that the number of newsletters I’m subscribed to is getting crazy.

A lot of those newsletters used to give me great information, but after a year or more of subscription were either diverting from the information I wanted or were just repackaging the same info. This meant I kept avoiding reading them. Then I started avoiding checking my emails, which made a bigger back log and today I knew I had to take a stand.

I needed to unsubscribe.

But I felt (feel even) guilty unsubscribing from what used to be a great source of information, newsletters that have taught me so much. Yet my time is precious, particularly during the hectic fun of NaNoWriMo. So I had to say goodbye to these old friends. A fond farewell, acknowledging how much they had taught me over the years alongside a mental promise to keep reading the blogs that most of them originated from.

I can’t say for sure how much time this will have freed up for me in the long run, but at least my inboxes won’t be such a daunting prospect from now on.

the TL;DR lesson from this post is don’t feel guilty unsubscribing if newsletters are clogging up your time.

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I love gaming. As anyone who has read my bio knows, the only thing I miss from my pre-baby life is being able to waste a whole day playing games. I still can fit the time in, but often that means either not writing (ohnoes!) or not cleaning (not quite as bad, but you feel pretty guilty about it after a while ;p ). The lack of time means that by the time I finish playing a game it’s old news and I’d feel kinda backwards posting a review.

The solution: ‘first taste reviews’. Working in a video games store as a day job means I rarely miss out on a game on release day, and I’m usually so excited I find some time over the following few days to at least get a start in so I’m hoping to start writing some reviews on how the game feels at the start.

artwork used on the Australian cover
artwork used on the Australian cover

Fantasy Life 3DS is the latest offering from Level 5 (who gave us Ni No Kuni and the Professor Layton series). You reside in the fantasy realm of Reveria and the story unfolds in this land.

The game has a very MMO feel to it. After you customise your appearance (very similar to making a Mii) you then get to choose your job, known as your Life, with many options to choose from: alchemist, paladin, mercenary, hunter, magician, cook, tailor, blacksmith, woodcutter, carpenter, angler, and miner.

Unlike with some MMOs though, don’t feel too pressured by the choice, you aren’t locked in that job forever. Heck you’re only locked in that job when you’re playing a chapter of the storyline. As soon as the chapter’s finished you can change. And as many times as you want. I’ve already been a paladin, alchemist, miner, blacksmith, tailor, angler, woodcutter, and carpenter. And the game’s only been out three days ;p

Fantasy-Life-per-3DS-625x320Changing jobs allows you to satisfy all of the different requests from townsfolk (of course there are townsfolk requests, this is an RPG of course ;p ).

I’ve been so busy playing around with changing Lives(and leveling them up) and fulfilling requests I’ve only done the first few chapters of the storyline. The story still appears quite basic at the moment with certain ‘twists’ upcoming seeming pretty obvious(, but I’ll reserve ultimate judgement on the story when I’m a bit further along. The premise is interesting still, so don’t worry that it’ll be boring.

Napdragon and I chilling in the East Grassy Plains (actual in game image)
Napdragon and I chilling in the East Grassy Plains (actual in game image)

Skills you learn in one Life (like mining, woodcutting, fishing) can still be used when in other jobs(as long as you have lived the first life long enough to learn the skills before changing to the other job). So if you’re a paladin, but you’ve been a miner, and you come across a platinum ore deposit on the field you can just whip out your pick axe and start mining.

Because of this my personal recommendation would be to get to apprentice rank (or ideally adept) in miner, woodcutter, and angler Lives as early as possible.

The pretty forest spirit Elmie and I
The pretty forest spirit Elmie and I

You can also save yourself a lot of dosh (I love that they call the currency ‘dosh’) by using tailor, carpenter, blacksmith, and alchemist Lives. If you sew your own clothes, make your own healing potions, craft your own weapons, armor, and tools then you spend a lot less. I’m a money hoarder(at least at the beginning of games) but I hate to not have the best equipment possible.

I’d give anyone planning on playing the game the tip of: when picking your first Life pick one of the active classes (which includes woodcutters and miners, not just mercenaries, paladins, hunters, and magicians) because the others don’t have challenges to complete out on the field. If you pick a Life with challenges on the field you’ll meet some of those challenges just doing the storyline and level up that life faster. A good idea for anyone who doesn’t take their time with games (like I do) too.

largeI’ve yet to try out any of the Streetpass features (having not streetpassed anyone >.< ) so I can’t comment on them just yet, and I’ve yet to use the internet features also. If I’m particularly impressed or disillusioned I’ll report back for sure.

Overall I’m having a lot of fun with the game and unless the storyline really lets me down this will definitely be one of the best games for me this year.

fantasy-life-poster-concept-art

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kaleidoscopeFor the month of August I read Kaleidoscope.

I’ve been a fan of this anthology before I ever read it, before it was even compiled. I helped with the crowdfunding for Kaleidoscope – you can see my name on page 438 (second column near the bottom). What appealed to me about this anthology was the fact it would focus on a more diverse range of protagonists, both from the perspective of race, sexual preference and (my favourite) neurodiversity.

The anthology did not let me down at all. While there was one story that just didn’t fully click with me (the idea was awesome but the characters and the story didn’t move me), it was only one out of twenty, and it wasn’t bad, just not exactly my cup of tea. I really liked a lot of them, and really, really liked the rest.

Tansy Rayner Roberts’ ‘Cookie-Cutter Superhero’ had wonderful characters and an amazing concept, but the ending felt much more like the end of a chapter than the end of a tale – not that I didn’t enjoy it, and I would read the hell out of that book if/when she releases it.

Vanilla was definitely one of my favourites. I loved the hairies and her relationship with them, and her background was wonderfully detailed. The ending was certainly a surprise too ๐Ÿ™‚

The Chupacabra’s Song was probably my most favourite. The mixture of magic and the nuerologically diverse character and then add a legendary animal – you had me at hello ;p

Walkdog was really something different, and certainly impressed me – despite a regular desire to backhand the POV character.

I could keep going (and maybe I’ll come back and fill this up later) but I have a lot of stuff to prepare for my appearance at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival today so I’m pressed for time.

I really enjoyed the diversity of characters and very rarely did it feel like their gender preference or colour had just been painted on for the appearance of diversity. I NEVER felt that the neuro diversity was painted on – every single time it was integral to the plot and character both and I really loved that.

However I was mildly disappointed that nearly all of the homosexual characters were female. I’ve noticed a distinct tendency for lesbians to be more accepted than gay men. I’ve literally stood in the presence of a bigot (not entirely willingly) who went from whinging his fears about a rumour one of the men on his favourite sports team might be gay and how that ‘just wasn’t on, he should be kicked off the team’, and seconds later was commenting on how hot it would be if the two very attractive friends with me(both female) made out. While he’s clearly not the best example of a good person, he does effectively show my point. I’m now quite determined to write more gay men into my stories.

All up I absolutely adored the anthology and am so glad I donated during the crowdfunding phase. I recommend this anthology to anyone and everyone.

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trouble twistersA few months back the lovely Shaheen at Speculating On Spec-Fic ran a competition giving away a set of four books. For ages I’ve been wanting to read a Garth Nix book, but always ended up reading other stuff. The give away was offering the first four books of the Troubletwisters series, written by Garth Nix and Sean Williams (a double dose of Aussie authors!) so I entered and won!

Unfortunately, I’m not the target market for this series. This series is aimed at middle grade readers and I’m in my thirties, but I figured there’s been more than a few YA titles I’ve loved, so I might as well read them.

Before I start in on what I didn’t like let me assure you, there was plenty I did like, the only problem was, I had to wade through approximately 100 pages of one of my fiction pet peeves: the trope of the protagonist being kept in the dark by others with no more of a reason than the plot isn’t ready to divulge it yet.

‘Not now,’ says Grandma X.

‘Here, drink some memory erasing hot chocolate,’ she says.

‘You’ll find out when you’re ready to know.’

Are you kidding me? Please tell me I’m not the only person who hates this particular literary device. At the end of the book the reader is given a bit more of an answer as to why secrets couldn’t be revealed earlier, but even that answer is not very satisfying and it reeks ofย  the author needing a reason to have done it so coming up with a reason.ย  The book even ends with the twins being told there will be more non-answers in the future for the same frigging reason and I wanted to beat my head against the wall. No. None of that for me please.

Because of these non-answer shenanigans the first hundred or so pages plodded along, then we even got a dose of the old ‘thinking the person obviously helping you is a bad guy’ move. This is all right in my opinion if the reader genuinely thinks they might be a bad guy, but when the character is blatantly helping (despite being a douche about answering questions) it feels rather cheap.

Now to the good stuff. Once the action kicks in things get good. The slow lack of plot becomes a quick moving river of action and a certain amount of velocity kicks in. I’m certain I read the last two thirds in half the time it took me to read the first third. The kids start actually taking action to look for answers since Grandma X is the weird queen of being evasive, then doing something question provoking right in front of them. Actual problems kick in and things get really quite fun.

There was also some nice set up for a few things in up-coming books(or what looks like it at least), which promises some fun and pain.

The powers of the various gifted in the story (I particularly love the father) and overall ideas in the story are really cool concepts, and I can see this being something the target audience could really get into. If they can get past the start – which I feel might be even more maddening to them since it’s kids being told no by adults. Or perhaps they’ll sympathise and things will go swimmingly.

For my August read I’ll be jumping headfirst into Kaleidoscope(I’ve raved about how much I wanted this book to exist in this post) since it just arrived in the mail today ๐Ÿ™‚