Month: May 2014

Book Talk: Fight like a Girl

Posted May 28, 2014 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Fight like a Girl by various authorsFight like a Girl is an anthology I Kickstarted backed on Kickstarter… ages ago. I’ve just only recently gotten around to reading it. Thank you, Readathon, for pushing it up on my TBR pile!

Most of the authors in this anthology count this as their first (paid) published work and it’s a self-published work, but don’t let that deceive you into thinking that the anthology isn’t good! I had a lot of fun with a lot of these pieces and quite a few of them left me wanting more. I did skip more of the stories than I was expecting, but I enjoyed the vast majority of them. I really loved The Provenance Game by Freya Marske and Ursa Major by Meg Belviso. Ursa Major features an awesome middle-aged single mother protagonist and her teenage daughter. And mum kicks butt. It’s really, really neat. The Provenance Game features a fascinating library and a deaf protagonist. Black Dogs and Calico Cats has the best non-talking cat.

I had a lot of fun with this anthology and I’m only sad it took me so long to get to. I’d happily recommend it, especially if you’re looking for a variety of interesting female protagonists in secondary world fantasy that leans towards the adventurous.

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Game Talk: LOOM

Posted May 23, 2014 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Games, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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LOOM

I have entirely lost the games that I have and have not discussed and, for some reason, I can’t find LOOM anywhere. LOOM is one of my all-time favourite games, so I’m having a hard time understanding how I’ve gone so long without mentioning it. But hey it’s a fantasy game, so it fits perfectly within the Once upon a Time challenge for looking at games what I did love as a child. Maybe next year I’ll get to the films.

Anyway. In LOOM you play as the young Weaver Bobbin Threadbare. You’re an orphan, forbidden from learning the Weaver’s craft, because Reasons, but then everyone on your island gets turned into swans (except Hetchel, the woman who raised Bobbin, who becomes a duck) and everyone flies off. It’s up to you to find out what happened to your people (and save the world in the process).

There were plans to turn LOOM into the first of a trilogy, but no other games were ever made. I still don’t know how I feel about that. On the one hand, more of the characters and world I heart so much and on the other… how could it live up to LOOM itself?

LOOM is one of the most basic point-and-click adventures you’ll ever encounter. There is no inventory and there are only a handful of interactions possible, through the use of your distaff, which allows you to weave musical notes. The difficulty you select has no bearing on the puzzles and relies solely on your musical ability. At the easiest level, the game will give you a musical scale along with the names of each note, so you know which notes go together to make a weave/spell while at the hardest level you’re only shown the distaff and will have to figure out the notes entirely by ear. (Thankfully, you can repeat the sequences that teach you the spells as often as you like so you don’t have to worry about missing it on the first try.) If you look at the last two images on this page you’ll see the difference between ‘easy’ and ‘hard’.

LOOM is also incredibly linear. Many point-and-click adventure games are, but LOOM feels more restricted due to the nature of the puzzles. If you’re stuck on one puzzle, you can’t just go solve another and you can’t just go talk to someone just to give yourself a bit of a break. The game is probably responsible for my deep love of Swan Lake as the ballet makes up the score for the whole game. It’s not quite the Swan Lake you know, but it’s very recognisable all the same.

I love the story in LOOM and the open-endedness of it all. It leaves as many questions unanswered at the end as at the start and leaves a great deal for the player to fill in on their own if they’re so inclined. (And oh I was. I had a lot of fun imagining sequel stories to LOOM as a child.)

So there you are. Some brief thoughts on one of my favourite games. I always enjoy revisiting LOOM. It’s still different from any other point-and-click adventure I’ve ever played and I still appreciate that difference. I love the way it dares to leave so many things unwrapped at the end and the way the story goes. I love how you solve some of the puzzles and the way several little things can make a real difference to the feel of the game even though they have no other impact. It allows you just a touch of freedom in the kind of character you want to play, or it feels like it does. It’s really the latter, so I should stick to that.

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Book Talk: Little (Grrl) Lost

Posted May 21, 2014 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 2 Comments

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Little (Grrl) Lost by Charles de LintI think this is my least-favourite Charles de Lint to date. It’s not a bad story by any means, but it’s just not his best either. I’ll get to that in a bit. I read this book for the April readathon as well. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of it, but it certainly wasn’t what I got. Sometimes that happens. I’ve read some of de Lint’s urban-set fantasy, but so far I seem to have focused on the books set outside of a city. I’m still very new to de Lint’s work. I think this is the fifth or sixth book I’ve read so far. I’m not entirely sure.

When T.J. and her family are forced to move from their farm to the Newford suburbs, she makes an unexpected new friend — Elizabeth, a punked-out teen runaway with a big attitude — who also happens to be a ‘Little,’ standing just six inches tall. Her family lives inside the walls of T.J.’s house. T.J. and Elizabeth soon forge a prickly friendship that’s put to the test when each girl finds herself in dangerous territory, without any way to help the other. Both have to learn the hard way whom to trust, and how to rely on their instincts and find kindred spirits.

It’s one of the most accurate product descriptions I’ve seen for a while. This was a fast read, including much of de Lint’s trademark elements and the way he mixes magical different mythologies together and the characters bounced off each other so delightfully. I really liked de Lint’s depiction of the Goblin Market in this and the story behind the Littles.

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Game Talk: The Legend of Kyrandia Trilogy (sort of)

Posted May 16, 2014 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Games, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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The Legend of Kyrandia SeriesBefore I get into this too much, I’d like to point out that I haven’t played the third game in the trilogy, Malcolm’s Revenge.  So I’ll only be discussing the first two games.

In the first game, The Legend of Kyrandia, you play Brandon, a young and well-meaning woodsman who isn’t the smartest and sets out to save Kyrandia from the evil jester Malcolm. He’s aided by a magical talisman that gains in power as Brandon grows stronger. (In other words, as the player solves puzzles.) It is entirely possible to die, so always remember to stock up on berries when you have the chance! I really hated that puzzle, except some of the screens were so pretty…

Anyway. Storywise The Legend of Kyrandia doesn’t really have a lot to recommend itself. It’s your average lost heir story except with even less background than you’d get in a novel and the whole thing takes a fair amount of suspension of disbelief. It has several wonderful characters, though, and I think it’s worth playing through at least once just because the atmosphere is so lovely and the screens are so pretty.

If you’re under the impression that I don’t have a lot to say about the game because I’m not particularly fond of it, you’d be absolutely correct. But it was an important part of my childhood and I do like it. I just don’t think the things I look for in a story told in any medium is particularly good. (And the puzzles are evil. There’s the one I already hinted at and the ones where you really will just have to go by trial and error because there are no clues anywhere. Be doubly sure to save frequently!)

My love goes to the second game The Hand of Fate. The story isn’t much better, at least in how fleshed-out it is, but it’s a lot more lively and a lot more fun. Zanthia is a far more entertaining protagonist than Brandon. Also, she’s a woman who really likes her clothes. I WANT THAT WARDROBE SPELL. LOOK AT IT. (Just as a note, that links to a Let’s Play video, so expect player commentary.) She does this several times in the game so her clothes match up with the situation she’s in or the mood she’s in. (Have I mentioned yet I want that wardrobe spell? Think of how useful that’d be.)

Ahem. Anyway. If you keep watching the video until about the 4 minute mark, you’ll get a better sense of the kind of person Zanthia is. It only features one really evil puzzle (but mainly because you need the solution several times and you can only be at the point that teaches it to you once; if you lose your notes you’ll have to restart your game). But mostly I love this game because Zanthia’s wardrobe is awesome.

I know characters changing clothes to fit the situation isn’t exactly new — though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t as common in 1993 as it is nowadays — but I know that it was new to me when I played it. There are several puzzles here that I really love to play through. Half the puzzles consist of item gathering, which makes the game potentially a lot easier to play than a lot of other point-and-click adventures out there. (I mean, I could finish it without a walkthrough and I am not good at these games even as I love them.)

The Hand of Fate is probably one of my most played adventure games, straight after King’s Quest 7. I find it a lot of fun and a rewarding cast of characters. Also, lookit the dragon loving its bowl. And sheep. There are sheep.

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Buddy Review (Part 1): The Vintner’s Luck

Posted May 14, 2014 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth KnoxWelcome to my and Memory’s first ever buddy review! I’ve been very lucky in that I got to do a buddy review with Memory Scarlett, who is a good friend and an awesome person. We’ve both read and loved The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox and we decided it would be a lot of fun to do a buddy review of a reread. It was, indeed, a lot of fun as you’re about to see. We rambled quite a bit and we split our buddy review (or squeefest; mostly it’s a squeefest) into two. This is the first part. You can read the second part over on Memory’s blog here. (Don’t worry. I’ll link it again at the bottom, so you don’t have to scroll all the way up for it.)

So let’s start by telling you what The Vintner’s Luck is about. No, wait. Let’s start with this important notice: If you haven’t read the book before, Memory and I will be spoiling the heck out of you in our review. HERE BE SPOILERS. For they are crunchy and tasty with a pinch of salt and rosemary. You have been warned.

And now. What the book is about. I’ll nab the Amazon description for you all to peruse.

Burgundy, 1808. One night Sobran Jodeau, a young vintner, meets an angel in his vineyard: a physically gorgeous creature with huge wings that smell of snow, a sense of humour and an inquiring mind. They meet again every year on the midsummer anniversary of the date. Village life goes on, meanwhile, with its affairs and mysteries, marriages and murders, and the vintages keep improving – though the horror of the Napoleonic wars and into the middle of the century, as science marches on, viticulture changes, and gliders fly like angels.

And there you are. That’s what the book is about. That’s also what the book is not about, but we’ll get to that in due time. Also, notice that bit about the murders? WE SPOIL THE WHODUNNIT ASPECT. Just so you, you know, know. In case you didn’t want to know and didn’t care about any of the rest.

I should also introduce Memory to you! But I’ll let Memory introduce herself:

Hello, Lynn’s readers! I’m Memory, a writer, reader, and watcher of trashy television (and/or movies where lots of stuff blows up). Lynn was one of the first people I met when I jumped into the blogosphere in late 2008, and she’s introduced me to a fair few wonderful books over the years–including THE VINTNER’S LUCK. I’m so glad I got to read it again alongside her!

Note that I’ve formatted the buddy review a little differently from the interviews I’ve done, but that’s mostly because Memory and I rambled a lot and this hopefully gives visual-oriented people a bit more of a visual clue on who’s talking when. I hope you’ll all have as much fun reading our buddy review as we had in writing it!

!!! REMEMBER! HERE BE SPOILERS! THIS IS YOUR LAST SPOILER WARNING! !!!

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Once upon a Time Update!

Posted May 13, 2014 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Banner for the Once upon a Time challenge by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings.Since I keep on forgetting to set up mentions for the Once upon a Time challenge in the posts that relate to said challenge, I thought I’d put together a slightly-past-the-mid-point round-up of posts as well as some hints on what to expect popping up over the remainder of the challenge.

My introduction post! As I said there, I’ve signed up for Quest the First, which means reading a grand total of five books fitting into fantasy, fairy tales, folktales and mythology categories. And because I am me, I went ahead and tripled the count up to 15 books within the period. I have… no idea how well I’m doing. Let’s go and find out!

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Retellings and I

Posted May 9, 2014 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Other People's Creations / 6 Comments

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Thoughts. The text 'rambling thoughts' underneath a burning lantern. For rambles, thoughts, and not-essays.

A while ago (as I post this; not so much as I write this) I discussed some of my favourite fairytales. This time around, as I hinted at then, I’d like to discuss some of my favourite retellings as well as spend some time nattering about some of my own attempts. That’ll be interesting. For this post I’ll make things a little broader in that I don’t want to rely solely on retellings of Western European fairytales. For one this allows me to include Tam Lin retellings, which are some of my favourites. (I have a Theory about Tam Lin retellings. One day I will reassemble my collection, reread them all and natter about this theory. Maybe. We’ll see. But so far I have yet to read a retelling that failed to live up to the Theory.)

I feel a little odd naming these as my favourite retellings, actually, since by and large I often haven’t read these books more than once yet. I just fell in love with them when I did and I am filled with squeefulness that has me pass these suggestions on to everyone I can when the topic comes up. This post is still written in honour of Once upon a Time season. I hope everyone’s been having a great challenge! We’re… about halfway through when I’m posting this, I think? Time sure does fly! :O

Because this is a two-part post, I shall be using subheadings to divide the two. Fun times!

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Book Talk: The Emperor’s Soul

Posted May 7, 2014 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 16 Comments

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The Emperor's Soul by Brandon SandersonThe Emperor’s Soul is the first Sanderson I’ve finished. It’s also the second Sanderson I’ve read. I tried Warbreaker a few years ago and bounced off it hard. I was sad. I really love the sound of his world-building, but I didn’t get on with his prose. I got The Emperor’s Soul as part of a storybundle. It sounded, like so much of Sanderson’s work, fascinating and this way I’d get more books for the price of one, useful when you’re taking a risk. I went into this novella with a lot of trepidation, but I needn’t have worried.

Let’s take a look at what the book is about.

Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Though condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s sceptre, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Despite the fact that her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead from the attack of assassins.

Skillfully deducing the machinations of her captors, Shai needs a perfect plan to escape. The fate of the empire lies in one impossible task. Is it possible to create a forgery of a soul so convincing that it is better than the soul itself?

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Fairytales and I

Posted May 4, 2014 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Other People's Creations / 2 Comments

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Thoughts. The text 'rambling thoughts' underneath a burning lantern. For rambles, thoughts, and not-essays.

Like many, I grew up on fairytales. Inspired by a guest post on Tales of the Marvellous and because it’s Once upon a Time season, I thought I’d ramble on about fairytales and my relationship to them. I may, or may not, at some point make a list of favourite fairytale retellings. For the purpose of this post, I’ll stick to what are canonically considered Western European fairytales. A large part of the reason for that is that, though I grew up with some exposure to non-Western European tales (fairytale, folktale, mythology or otherwise) it wasn’t a lot and my favourites are all going to be Western European.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that, growing up, I was surrounded by many of the most well-known fairytales: Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. They’re stories that have endured and continue to endure for a reason. Some of that is that they’re good at what they do. They take a couple of fairytale elements and do them well. Unlike some other tales which gather up a mishmash and do them badly. Some of that is that they’re so well-known. Some of that is that they’re genuinely more coherent and possess more character than some of the others without needing too much adaptation to be suitable to small children. Jorinde and Joringel is lovely tale on its own, but it’s a bit sparse on motivation even for a fairytale and it’s not particularly memorable compared to some of the others out there. The Juniper Tree is one of the more detailed fairytales, but whichever way you twist it it’s a gruesome tale. It remains a story about a stepmother who beheads her stepson, makes her daughter think she did it, chops the dead boy up for supper, and then gets murdered by the dead-boy-turned-bird by having her head bashed in. There isn’t much you can sanitise and keep the plot intact. Sleeping Beauty is fairly easily sanitised and turned into a chaste kiss without touching much of the rest of the story at all. Rapunzel gets a little more complex. The story I grew up with took out the suggestion that she and the prince have had sex, but left in the kids she’s given birth to in the end. As a child I just rolled with it. As an adult, I kind of want to explore what happened to Rapunzel because she sure wasn’t pregnant when she parted from her prince. Perhaps one day I will.

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