Storybook Perfect

Always quirky, sometimes sweet speculative fiction

Category: Raves, Reviews and Rants (page 1 of 6)

Xander and How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

For those who’ve been around a long time, you may remember my post on how my son, Xander, reacted when seeing How To Train Your Dragon 2 in the cinema. He still sometimes refuses to watch the movie even now, four years later (we have it on blu ray and do watch it every now and again).

So when How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World came out down here in Australia, releasing on his birthday, we really wanted to take him, but weren’t sure if he’d want to go. After a long fun day of meeting Shaun the Sheep at Paradise Country and shopping for Bendy figurines, we showed him his cinema picture and the movie poster and asked him if he wanted to go. The answer was a resounding yes. We also showed Harley and she became super excited (she and I have been watching the tv series recently).

The kids loved it, and Xander has now grown enough to be able to understand that what he is watching is fiction, that the dragons being tied up and taken away aren’t real creatures suffering before his very eyes. You can still see him get tense and worried, but it isn’t the near meltdown levels of anguish he would experience before.

It’s wonderful to see him grow and mature, and it’s also fantastic when certain triumphant scenes happen he claps and cries out ‘yay!’ in the cinema he’s so happy. (and the patrons directly behind us thought it was cute <3 ). Also you should definitely check the movie out.

My Favourite Books Read In 2018

I read 101 books this year, so obviously I can’t rave about every last one of them here, but you can access any and all of my 2018 reviews by checking out this link to my Goodreads 2018 ‘Year In Books’. I am however going to highlight some of my stand out favourites here.

shut up and take my money memeMost of these books had premises that pretty much had me screaming ‘Shut up and take my money’ but there were a couple of surprises too, as well as an old favourite.

The Cruel Prince: It’s early January, and my good friend Jake messages me and tells me ‘shut up and read this’. So I do. And he knows me sooo well that it was my first five star of the year, and so early in the year ;p Wicked fairy people, half breeds, political machicinations you do (and don’t!) see coming and TWISTS. Damn son. The next one comes out soon(like seven days from today ;p ), and you better believe I have it preodered on Audible.

The Obernewtyn Chronicles: ok sure, it’s not ‘new’ but the audiobooks (most of them) came out this year, so you know I was there ;p Doubly because Isobelle Carmody read them herself and does a damn good job.

I got into this series when I was about 15 (not perfectly sure, mid teens ). Not long after I read the first book was when I learned that the author had been my age when she wrote it. It blew my mind and that was when I first realised I could actually write for a living, I wasn’t ‘too young’, because here was this amazing story written by someone my age, published and in my hands.

The Calculating Stars & The Fated Sky: An alternate 1950s timeline, a space race not merely against other countries but for the sake of humanity, and a super clever female lead – shut up and take my money. I was extra excited to find out that when I finally got around to reading The Calculating Stars, the Fated Sky had just recently come out, so I could binge them like they were a show on Netflix ;p

Girls Made of Snow and Glass: Such a good reimagining of Snow White, and expanded far beyond the originating fairy tale so you have so much more to enjoy, plus deep insight into the ‘evil queen’. When I was done I started scrabbling around for the author’s other books and… couldn’t find them. I want more of your stuff Ms Bashardoust!

To Kill A Kingdom: Funnily enough this one popped up as a recommendation after reading Girls Made of Snow and Glass. I read the description and promptly threw my money at it. A very wise decision evidently. Sirens instead of little mermaids, cursing queens, pirate princes, enemies to lovers, star crossed lovers – omnomnomnomnom.

The Poppy War: This one is going to sucker punch you. Even with this warning it will STILL sucker punch you. There are some serious themes in this one, severe violence, war crimes, drug use, but the character arcs and the characters themselves are amazing!

Stuff & Nonsense (The Threadbare series): I’ve finally started reading litRPG, after all this gaming, and loving anime set in game worlds, I finally started a few litRPG books, and for the most part I’m loving them. Especially this series! I seem to have a thing for typically non-playable races as main characters, perhaps because they’re so out of the box. Also,this one doesn’t go overboard with the stats, there will be regular level ups with little bits to follow, but no big character sheets slapped between every single chapter murdering the story’s pacing in cold blood. It’s hard not to love a book which is about an animated teddy bear who just wants to be with his little girl, and leveling up while doing it ;p

I also read the last of The Heartstrikers series that was in this same list for last year ‘Last Dragon Standing‘ and it is a smashing ending to the series, seriously that book is a masterclass on how to satisfyingly finish a series(though you’ll have to read the whole series as well to see what a bang-up job she really did – not that’d you’d be complaining).

In books on the craft of writing my stand out for the year was The Story Equation. There were some ones I know would be good for newbies, but for me this one had the most fresh information and certainly came at it all from a different angle.

I also read quite a few biographies of trans people so I could do better justice to my trans characters rather than just basing them on my trans friends. I especially liked Janet Mock’s, Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty (the second extra much because it’s focused on life post transition, whereas nearly every other book I read was very pre- and during with only a tiny bit of post). I also enjoyed Being Jazz and wish that every trans child’s parents could be as supportive as hers. I’ve still got a long-ish list that I want to read still too ;p

Were there any stand out books you read in 2018? Any recommendations for me to read in 2019?

My Top 8 Anime I Watched In 2018

Most people know I’m an otaku, and this year I actually had some time for anime. While this list will largely be 2018 releases, there will be a few anime that I only watched for the first time in 2018. Also, this is in no particular order.

Like a true anime snob, I watched most of them in sub form, but this time mostly because I was watching late at night after most/all of the family was asleep(and while I tried to get the final one down for the night) so I had the volume barely audible, and needed them. 

The Ancient Magus’ Bride

I’ll call this a 2018 one since it didn’t finish until early 2018 ;p

Y’all probably already know I love anthropomorphic skeletons (and this fact will come up again later in this post ;p ) and I was really intrigued by Elias’ design.

I was really into the way the story took actual myths and worked with them, embracing that many fairy stories are actually dark, eg/ I *knew* those little fairies were trying to trick her. I also enjoyed seeing Titania and Oberon and their interactions and Leanan Sidhe. The way the magic was worked into the real world was quite cool too.

I love unusual male leads for the romantic roles (hence casting a skeleton and a troll  as romantic leads in my own stories) so Elias is my kind of leading man, not to mention broody backstories are such a hit <3

Their romance is so cute and adorkable, but also they themselves as individual characters are so rich, as are the others around them.

If you don’t mind a bit of dark in your romance (a bit? scratch that, fairly sizeable is more accurate) and unconventional male leads then you’ll love this one.

Cells at work

I was LIVING for the vibe between White Blood Cell and Red Blood Cell.

I’ve never found something so educational to also move me. Seriously the number of times I was edge-of-my-seat during this show was surprisingly high, even moreso considering the content. I mean they’re cells – why was I so emotionally involved? Seriously, 2 million blood cells died inside me in the time it takes to put the period on the end of this sentence.

One problem though was I was constantly wanting there to be an opportunity for Red Blood Cell to save White, but thanks to my (limited) knowledge of biology I knew it was never going to happen and it was frustrating to know that but still have the want deep inside.

A slight heads up for those who aren’t a fan of gore, White Blood Cell spends half his screen time covered in blood, typically from slashing his way through various bacteria and germs.

Wotakoi

For serious, this was soooo good. It was my Friday morning treat for when I finished my word count and trust me, the words never flowed faster any other day of the week for those couple of months ;p

A gamer for the male lead and a fujoshi for the female – I was instantly connected to both of them. Every episode had both at least one ‘problem’ for the characters where they dealt with something nerd related that I almost always sympathised with fully, and one romantic moment which left me swooning. Such a good combo. I could watch this show forever, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll never get a second season, so I’ll just content myself with the manga.

Also, I definitely fell in love with Hirotaka <3 and that’s when it dawned on me: I have a type. My favourite characters in anime I watch consistently have:

  • glasses
  • dark hair (this is occasionally a missable option eg/ Shiho Kimizuki from ‘Seraph of the End’ and Yuta Sakurai from ‘Recovery of an MMO Junkie’)
  • adorakble

Extra points awarded for broody backstories and hyper-competence at something(especially if that leads to cluelessness in other things enhancing the requirement of adorkable).

Masculinity is not a requirement though, as I also love Mirai Kuriyama from Beyond The Boundary  (glasses + adorkable + broody back story).

See here for a small strip of some of my favourite characters.

 

*character walks on screen wearing glasses/puts on glasses*

me:

Violet Evergarden

Wow, the emotional depth in this one is amazing. The way it handles the effects of war on people, both soldiers and civilians and takes the care to show how not everyone responds and reacts the same too. I can’t even tell you how regularly I cried watching this.

I was fascinated by Violet herself, and wish we got to learn more about what happened to her before the Major came into her life (though maybe that’s covered in the light novels?). And what sort of stone heart wouldn’t be moved my her memories of him? *cue tears again*

Her mechanical arms were also really intriguing to me. I wanted to know so much more about the maker, the designer, whether this sort of prosthetic was common, or insanely expensive or unique to her alone. Some of the questions got a bit of an answer but largely even those answers felt a bit glossed over. Thinking about it all got me excited and gave me a story idea, though, so I’m not complaining.

I also enjoyed the special that came out after the series.

Magical Girl Ore

I do love me some magical girl anime, especially how more recent series are all trying to go in new and exciting directions. But lately the trend has been to darker paths, eg/ Puella Magi Madoka Magica, The Magical Girl Raising Project, and Magical Girl Site, which is all well and good, but I’m delighted to see some out of the box but still light-hearted fun.

It does lean a bit more toward the ridiculous though, with a yakuza for the ‘cute mascot’/guide, enemies with hella buff bodies but cute teddy bear-esque heads and the main two girls’ ‘singing careers’. There’s the trope of course of the lead girl being head over heels for a boy, but that boy, Mohiro, is hilarious oblivious and blase. Also, the magnificent tangled romance of it all, it’s like a romance dodecahedron rather than just a triangle XD

My Hero Academia

Ok sure this has been out a while, but I only just started. Considering my love for super heroes I should have been in on it earlier, I’ll blame the delay on my irritation with never ending series.

I binged the whole three seasons in four or five days. The kids were into it too and it was school holidays – that’s my excuse ;p

Something I really love though is how so many of the quirks are highly unusual and how quite a few have downsides and repercussions – something I love putting on my own super powered characters (read Short Circuit if you’re not sure what I’m talking about). It really makes me want to get back to writing in that world.

You can probably predict based on what I said about Wotakoi who my favourite character is (no prizes, cos it’s too obvious).

My one issue with the series though is even at the end of the third season they were still regularly putting the character names and their quirk up on screen for characters who had been primary characters from the start. I’m serious, yes, I freaking know who Todoroki and Ochaco are and what their freaking quirks are because I’ve been watching them for the last 60 something episodes.

Skull-face Book seller Honda-san

Obviously with my passion for anthropomorphised skeletons as characters I was 100% in for this show from the start, but add on how true to life the retail worker experience is between not just types of stores(Honda-san’s books store as compared to my video game store) but even in different COUNTRIES and I was impressed.

Honda-san sells comics, so there are lots of references and hilarious otaku characters, including fujoshi, in the show. All his fellow employees wear various monster ‘masks’ and are named for their masks, but as the character base expands they start to be almost anything sometimes, even a publisher asking ‘can i have a koala head’.

It’s also really fun to look at how book-selling works in Japan. I love learning about differences in industries like that, and would love to know as much about the Australian bookseller retail market as I’ve learned from Honda-san.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

I’m also enjoying a lot of the LitRPG style anime, like ‘That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime’. This goes back far though, to Konosuba, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, and Log Horizon (no prizes for guessing who my fave is in that either).

The opening episode is awesome both in watching him sacrifice himself, but also how every thought he makes as he passes factors into his ‘reincarnation’.

It’s so fun to watch him rolling around as a slime and solving problems. Since it’s still coming out while I’m writing this, obviously there’s much more fun to come, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

 

You’ve probably noticed I’m a bit all over the shop genre-wise, but to be honest that’s part of what I love about anime, so so so many sub genres for me to sink my teeth into and try out 😀

Were there any stand out series for you this year? Anything you’re hanging out to watch next year?

My Favourite Games In 2018

Games were the great escape for me this year. You get a lot of satisfaction out of gaming, and an unfinished game (at least for me) causes no pain, unlike unfinished books and (far, far worse) unfinished manuscripts. When I struggled with some personal life issues I did a lot more gaming this year. Not the best coping strategy, but fun at least.

So, my reviews:

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

Should be no surprise. I already wrote my review earlier in the year, here, and though that was written while I was still early on in the game, it all still holds true after having completed it: a cute , fun game, good story, but not totally gripping.

Octopath Traveler

I said last year this was one of the ones I was looking forward to and I was not disappointed. The many intertwined storylines is great fun, but can be a tiny bit frustrating when you only have so many people in your party at once but want to follow all the storylines, but don’t want to have to level all eight characters all at once. Also, the game didn’t make it easy for me to learn how to switch party members (I had to Google it ;p ) and your main character is locked in that spot until you finish their whole storyline. Lucky I took my time and chose who I thought would be my favourite character (and he totally is plus suits my gameplay style perfectly).

The art style harkens back to older days in the character and monster sprites, but the backgrounds are so lush, it’s an interesting contrast. I’m always a fan of traditional turn based combat(as you can probably tell by the fact the vast majority of games I play are) and I liked the boost mode and how you could carefully play the long game with some bosses by saving it up and them smashing them utterly. Also, secondary jobs always make me smile.

I’m not fully finished yet, but the story lines are all wonderful, and well intertwined, as to be expected of SqaureEnix when they’re at the top of their game (pun intended ;p ).

The World Ends With You

Oh the nostalgia. I played this back when it first came out on DS and it was awesome then and is still awesome. The graphics, THE SOUNDTRACK (damn if I’m not still singing some of the songs even now months later)(not to mention I bought some of the soundtracks back when I was in Japan ;p that’s my collection right there), and the story. Oh man, such a good story. Now as an older person I can read the other characters a bit better, and characters I though were shallow are much deeper now. Still not into the tin pin slammer mini game though. Bleh.

The controls were extremely awkward when the Switch was in TV mode, and were still a bit tough even in tablet mode since instead of using the touch screen for Neku and the buttons for his partner it’s all controlled on the touch screen(the downside of it being a port from the mobile game version, not the original DS). This meant that sometimes I couldn’t activate my psych or get my partner to drop in as I’d planned, but I was still usually able to come out of battles with As or at least Bs so not too bad. Also the rest of it is so good a few awkward moments with the controls is far from a game killer.

Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee

I thought this would be one of my top picks, but the continuation of using the mobile game Pokemon Go’s catching method is far too random and annoying for me. I mean my team are all significantly higher levels than the pokemon to be caught, I’m using a freaking ultra ball and razzberry, I got an ‘excellent’ throw when the circle was super teeny tiny, and still no capture? FU game mechanics, FU. I significantly prefer taking my time to whittle down health with a battle , throw an ailment like sleep or paralyze on it then catch it with a basic level pokeball. However, catching now nets noticeably more exp than fighting other trainers, especially if you’re clever and stack bonuses. The story is nothing new either, basically just a Yellow port.

I do enjoy the graphics style though, and I love that I can actually see the pokemon so I can run to or away from them. Ultimately though, I’m watching for the 2019 core game. Just please let it use normal capture methods. I don’t want to feel like I’m going to throw my precious Switch across the room in a rage quit.

Atelier Lydie and Suelle

While Lydie and Sue are both suitably cute, alchemy is still fun, and the new method of jumping into dungeons is clever and cool there’s one big issue with this installment in one of my all-time favourite series: They took away the time limit completely (or at least some 35+ hours in and still not even a whiff of a real time limit).

Removing the time limit, means there’s no sense of urgency for me, so I’m left with no feeling like I have to rush to finish the game IRL. This has led to the fact I still haven’t finished it. It released in April here, and I got it immediately. Since getting it I’ve completed, Etrian Odyssey V, Persona 4 Golden, Persona 3 Portable, The World Ends With You, a full replay of Fantasy Life and its DLC(God leveled most jobs), and played some of Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee, Persona Q, most of Octopath Travelers(not to mention all the little time wasters and Otome games on my phone). So clearly, I need my time limits back ;p

The Persona series (in general)

OK, none of the Persona games are 2018 releases (except the dancing games ;p ) but I went a little Persona mad this year so thought it shoud be included. I played Persona 4 Golden, Persona 3 Portable, and some Persona Q and Persona 5. It all started when I thought I needed to get around to playing P4g before my Vita died from neglect on the shelf. Of course the high I felt after completing it lead me to get P3p so I could finally play the female MC route (date all the boys!!), and then the high from completing THAT lead me to start Persona Q. The fact this was all during the time when I was struggling with a lot of other stuff and feeling like I was ‘getting nowhere’ I got a lot of satisfaction out of these games.

Etrian Odyssey V

Like with Final Fantasy XV last year, Etrian Odyssey V officially came out in November last year, but of course I didn’t get around to it until this year. I really loved the ability to not just change skin, hair and eye colour, but to even have two different eye colours. Guess how many of my team had heterochromia ;p

Etrian Odyssey games are always tough. You never know when your whole party will get hit with a bind or ailment you can’t shake and suddenly you can’t attack that round and your healer is bound and bam, next thing you know, you’re dead. But that toughness is part of the fun. However, I rarely complete Etrian Odyssey games for this precise reason. This rarely hurts, because the storyline is not a major selling point for most of these games, so I never felt bad. But I finished this one! OMG. And when I got to the end I got the storyline that was so weak earlier in the game. Still not the strongest story line, but cool none-the-less. Plus, the sheer satisfaction of beating the final boss of a game where you can easily die repeatedly in the first dungeon; soooooooo satisfying.

 

All up I think I earned my title of ‘Gamer mum’ quite thoroughly this year ;p (I’m a little too old to be a ‘gamer girl’ IMO

Titles I’m looking forward to in 2019:

The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince: oooooh, pretty, and I just love the fairy tale concept. I am keen to see how the story pans out(no spoilers please if you’ve already played it in Japanese).

Atelier Lulua: well duh.

Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists: a city builder in the Atelier world? Shut up and take my money.

Etrian Odyssey Nexus: another, well duh

The Princess Guide: looks like it could be good fun, but has a chance of going south if the writers do things too obviously. We’ll see, I’m willing to try for the potential alone.

Ragnarok Eternal Love: Ragnarok Online was my first MMO, sooooo many memories, I can’t wait to see what the mobile game is going to serve me.

Was there anything you particularly loved in 2018, or and 2019 releases you’re dying to play?

 

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom – Review

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 😀 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.

Upping My Audiobook Reading speed

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?

Happily Married: Cath and Trish 2018

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.

My Fave Books and Games of 2017

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 😀 ), 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?

My Review: In Conversation With Joanna Penn

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.

All I Want For Christmas

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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