Monday, October 31, 2016

Life Is Strange: A Choice Game With No Choice (Spoilers)

I know I don't normally make gaming posts, and that's because I'm not a big gamer. But sometimes, I like to immerse myself in a good game... or at least, watch someone else play it on Youtube. This is how I got to Life Is Strange - a choice game where your decisions effect the outcome of the story, butterfly effect style. Or do they?

Choice games are still a fairly undeveloped area of gaming, because despite the premise of having choice... most of them end up leading to the same place, with just slight branching changes based on dialogues you picked and choices you made. So you might determine how many people will survive the game (i.e Until Dawn), but it won't change the development of the narrative and its progression.
So this brings us back to Life is Strange, a game in which you play as Max - a girl who is obsessed with photography and attends a prestigious photography program in her home town after moving away years ago.

Max is your normal shy, geeky girl (who's also quite judgmental and prone to just staring at people really close to their faces as she inter monologues about them) who feels out of her element and has a hard time making friends.

One day, after witnessing a murder, she discovers she can control time (because plot) and here the game really starts, as you manipulate time to save people, make yourself look better in front of others, and possibly uncover something sinister going on in town, alongside with your childhood best friend Chloe.
The game is fairly interesting and has it's gut wrenching moments, and the story is quite good. At any given time you have a bunch of decisions you can make, and while they don't really affect the general narrative, they do affect your reception by other people, more than anything. However, there are some BIG decisions that can affect characters in the story. Or at least, the game wants to make you think so.

The entire game is based on you choosing what to do... but at the end of the day, none of it matters.

Your actions throughout the game - the multiple rewinds to change the outcome of certain decisions and the way you keep saving your best friend from death - lead to the town being wrecked by a huge tornado, as you've offset the balance of the world. Bringing us to the final decision Max is faced with... go back to the very first decision you made and let your best friend die, or say screw-it and let the whole town die.

Either option you pick, you're negating every other choice you've made in the game.

In one option you literally undo every decision as you go back to the start point, and in another you kill every person you've saved, befriended, or made enemies with throughout the game, making everything mute
You comforted Vicotia after she got paint splash all over her? Woopse, she's dead now so that don't matter! Maybe you should've taken that humiliating photo of her after all. You've prevented Kate from committing suicide? Joke's on her, she's dead anyways! You saved Alyssa from TP attacks, soccer balls to the head and falling into a burning building? You really shouldn't have wasted the energy. And Warren. Dear, sweet Warren... dead by the side of the road somewhere.

The final choice in the game leaves you with absolutely no choice but to erase everything you've spent an entire game to build.

This is a "choice" game where the player doesn't really have any choice at all. He can either choose to submit to "fate" and let it have its way, or measure the life of one girl to be worth that of an entire town and iron things out that way. That is the only choice the player can really make in this ten hours long game that pretends to be based on making choices.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Fire and Brimstone by R.L. Mathewson | Book Review

First Published: 2016
Adult, Contemporary Romance
What happens when a Bradford with questionable OCD, a tempter and a reputation for making his employees cry falls for the woman that refuses to accept the fact that he’s fired her and was terrifyingly more of a Bradford than he was?
Well, we can’t share that here, because it would be seriously inappropriate, but we’re sure that you can see where this is leading…
To the altar or a stint in the slammer, either one is possible when it comes to the Neighbor from Hell Series.
Author’s Note: This book along with the rest of the series is intended to make you smile, let you relax and forget the drama and stress that plagues our lives even if its just for a little while. This is a drama free book. My goal is to put a smile on your face and I hope this book does that.
After the last couple of NFH books, I was a bit worried about starting this one. They were fun and everything... but they really weren't all that great. But I really needed a fun book, and no one writes fun like Mathewson, so in I went.

And guess what? Fire and Brimstone is a complete return to form for Mathewson and the delightful NFH world, making this my favorite story in the series (alongside Zoe and Trevor's book).

First of all, Lucifer and Rebecca had palatable chemistry together that blossomed into an adorable relationship (or rather, was already kind of adorable even when it was purely antagonistic) and of course - many laugh out loud moments. This couple, and the gang around them, just put a smile on my face.

Their story was fairly angst-free, but by no means boring or even remotely close to that. They were entertaining as heck, and they definitely made each other better... although we kind of figured that out from the get go haha

The only issue I had with this book and prevented me from capital L loving it was Rebecca's backstory, because it simply made no sense.

SPOILER I can totally see her being misdiagnosed and considered a hypochondriac in her childhood when Coeliac wasn't all that known, but do you really expect me to believe that in our modern times with all those doctors that she saw, none of them did the needed checks to find this disease until Aiden? Who happens to be Lucifer's brother?

Very convenient, Mathewson. Too convenient. Especially considering the book itself acknowledges how gluten free products have gone a long way and how a lot of restaurants and shops have them? Coeliac is not an obscure condition! 

And, excuse me, you dumb parents, did you really just say Coeliac doesn't exist???? Are you fucking kidding me? END SPOILER

Now that that rant is over, I'll end this review by saying I really recommend this series. It is SO much fun, and we all need fun in our lives :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Christmas From Hell by R.L. Mathewson | Book Review

Christmas From Hell by R.L. Mathewson
First Published: 2015
Adult, Contemporary Romance
Duncan Bradford is used to putting other people first even the annoying little jinx that lives next door, but when the unexpected happens and he starts to see her in a whole new light, he decides that it's time that he acts more like a Bradford and takes what he wants.

By the end of The Game Plan, I was actually really interested in Duncan Bradford, the Bradford to drop anything and uproot himself to take care of his injured brother. This was so sweet and unexpected, especially since The Game Plan doesn't feature Duncan all that often, that I was immediately ready for his book.

Luckily, it was out.

Annnnnnnnnnnd... it was utterly forgettable.
I remember... I remember not being impressed. I remember.... I remember not liking Duncan all that much (oh, man! Really?? I was so looking forward to this!). I remember... she was accident prone? And he was mostly over her shit? Oh, and she baked! I remember that! And... Er... Er....

DID I REALLY READ THIS JUST TWO MONTHS AGO?? What is going on? Where did everything go? I just wrote three reviews about the rest of the series, even books I read after this one, and I can't recall almost anything from this one? Jesus. Maybe I just imagined I read this? Goodreads says I did, and so does Kindle, but maybe there're all wrong.

There is no way this book, about a character I was so looking forward, ended up being so mediocre my brain disposed of the information when I closed it. No way.

.... Right?

Technically, this is not really a review, but no one can convince me a book being this forgettable doesn't say a lot about the book in question, and its quality. No one. I honestly debated about the rating for this one a lot because apparently I gave this one four stars initially (or so Goodreads said), but then I looked at it after reading the eighth novel and I was certain I had meant to give it three, and now it feels like even three might be half a star too much. idk.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Double Dare by R.L. Mathewson | Book Review

Double Dare by R.L. Mathewson
First Published: 2015
Adult, Contemporary Romance
Marybeth still couldn’t believe that she’d survived this long with a friend like Darrin, but somehow she’d managed to beat the odds and not give in to temptation and smother him with a pillow while he slept.
Of course some days were more difficult than others…
For twenty years he’s been biding his time, waiting for the right moment to make his move and now that it was here…
He couldn’t seem to stop screwing up.
Oh no. This was my least favorite NFH book thus far.

One of the main things I love about the NFH series is how much damn fun it is. Every book is hilarious, with physical comedy, witty back-and- forths, and most importantly... almost no angst. All books need to have their "dramatic moments", but they tend to end quickly and efficiently in this series. Just like I love them to.

But no, not in this one.

This is the only  NFH novel where the main duo is already a closeted couple at the beginning of the novel... and herein lies it's problem, I think. Normally, Mathewson does such a fantastic job illustrating to us how two people move from contemplating to murder one another to passionately in love in a way that is absolutely delightful.

But in Double Dare, we have two people who are already in love... but aren't together properly. Because... reasons *ceue in drama. An endless stream of drama.*
While Mathewson had a plausible reason for why this couple is not together, she just didn't pull it off all that well. Instead of understanding the characters' plight, I was mostly annoyed with Merybeth's bullshit and wishing she'd cut it off by at least a half.

Maybe if Darrin and Merybeth stopped changing their minds every five seconds, maybe if they'd decide to be together and just be together, maybe if every moment of happiness wasn't followed by we can't be together...

Maybe then this novel would've been as enjoyable as the rest of the installments in the series. But it wasn't, so.... 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Game Plan by R.L. Mathewson | Book Review

First Published: 2014
Adult, Contemporary Romance
Spend the next 40 years in prison or break her lease early?
Normally she’d be able to say that this one was a no-brainer, but things have definitely changed since she was forced to move in across the hall from Danny Bradford.
A lot of things……
She wanted to get through one day, just ONE day without Danny Bradford doing something to test the limits to her control, but with that damn smile of his and his habit of leaving her contemplating manslaughter, she didn’t see that happening anytime soon.He loved his family, but some days…….
It was too much, but that was okay, because his small neighbor living across the hallway provided him with endless hours of entertainment. Not on purpose of course, but did it really matter as long she made him smile?
So this book is one of the better and more interesting installment to the fun and eccentric Neighbor from Hell series, and one I genuinely enjoyed very, very much.

First of all,loved Daniel, because here is the first NFH character that has real, tough issues. With his army background, his problems with his dad and his injury, Danny is less of a cocky, carefree hottie (although he is that, no doubt), and more mature and tortured.

But bear in mind, all of the NFH books are romantic comedies that are meant to put a smile on your face and make you laugh out loud, so don't look for too tortured or too serious with this one, but it was enough of both to make Danny a compelling main character and set him apart from the rest of the Bradford crew.

Jodi, on the other hand, is our comic relief. This girl is hilarious... but unintentionally so. If there is something that can go wrong in her vicinity, it probably will, and pain killers are always a big no-no. When you absolutely have to give her one, make sure to lock her in a room with Danny. He can handle it.... sort of.

The comedy in this installment is mostly slapstick, but it's such over the top, eccentric fun that I didn't mind (I'm not usually a fan of slapstick).

I've said it before and I'll say it again; I recommend this series for whenever you're looking for a fun, funny book to pick you up and leave you smiling.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks | Book Review

First Published: 2012
Adult, Historical 
Eveline Armstrong is fiercely loved and protected by her powerful clan, but considered "touched" to outsiders. Beautiful, fey, with a level, intent gaze, she doesn't speak. No one, not even her family, knows that she cannot hear. Eveline taught herself to read lips and allows the outside world to view her as daft, content to stay with her family. But when an arranged marriage with a rival clan makes Graeme Montgomery her husband, she accepts her duty—unprepared for the delights to come. Graeme is a rugged warrior with a voice so deep and powerful she can hear it, and hands and kisses so tender and skilled he awakens her deepest passions.
Graeme is intrigued by his new bride, whose silent lips are ripe with temptation, whose bright, intelligent eyes can see into his soul. As intimacy deepens, he learns her secret. But when clan rivalries and dark deeds threaten the wife he has only begun to cherish, the Scottish warrior will move heaven and earth to save the woman who has awakened his heart to the beautiful song of a rare and magical love.
Writing this review makes me want to re-read this novel RIGHT NOW. 

I've told you guys this before - while I have reached a point of strongly disliking all of Banks contemporary novels (minus perhaps that one KBI novel), I have yet to find one of her historicals lacking. And Never Seduce a Scot is one of her best works to date.

When I read this for the first time in 2012, and the second time a year later, I had no point of comparison with Banks's "bad books" (which, by the way, are hugely popular. I seem to be the one defective on that front). Looking at it now, I am more impressed with this novel than ever. Especially as I see in my original review words such as "outstanding--as always", when that's no longer the case.

I don't know what it is about historicals, but they bring the best in Banks. They make her beautifully paint the world and setting these characters are in, they make her convince us this couple is perfect for one another, they make her detail the whens and hows and whys of their love by showing us the process.

This book. THIS BOOK, you guys. It made me cry just by having a heroine that is so relatable and adorable that her hurts and insecurities make it impossible not to feel for her. Banks makes it near impossible to separate Eveline from myself.

Eveline simply made me happy. Her mannerism and the way she treated love interest and fellow MC Graeme got me grinning like mad. She is just the sweetest, kindest of souls, but she isn't weak or meek. Au contraire - her disability showed the vast inner strength of this character because of all she had to overcome and the way she never gave up. I loved reading of a disabled character, but I doubly loved reading about this disabled character.

Banks does this character justice by fitting the POV to her disability when we were looking through her eyes, even though the book is written in third person. We never knew what the people around Eveline said unless she knew. It was such a nice and meaningful touch to the whole package.

As for her partner in life, Graeme is the kind of historical highlander that makes me think it won't be all that bad to live in the middle ages and have one of my own. He is a warrior to his bones, but also a caretaker at heart. And the way he treats Eveline, even though she has been forced on him and he has no knowledge of her disability is just heartwarming - this is how man should treat women, even nowadays (ahemTrumpahem). Not to mention it was very hard to hold a smile back when he was overwhelmed by his lady love... either because of her cuteness, or her strength.

These two together is magic. I've always loved the trope of marriage-before-love, because there is something so compelling about the idea of fate conspiring to bring two people together because they are simply destined for one another. And Never Seduce a Scot does this trope down to perfection, with how they are around each other, how they support each other, and how they grow to love each other.

Around these dashing leads we get a glimpse of the rest of the Montgomerys and Armstrongs, who'll all have their own story eventually (if the publishing business gets its shit together). All of them sound promising and make one excited for future ventures, which is great in a series of standalones like this.

I highly recommend giving Banks's historicals a shot, even if you're like me and don't like her contemporaries!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wolf with Benefits by Shelly Laurenston | Book Review

First Published: 2013
Adult, Paranormal Romance
Ricky Lee has no plans of getting serious about anyone, but he will protect Toni Jean-Louis Parker. Not just because he’s been hired to do so, but because it’s the right thing to do. And if that means traveling around the country with one complicated She-jackal, dealing with chocolate-eating wild dogs, instigating trouble between his brothers, and having the most amazing sex he’s ever had…well, who said his job didn’t have perks?
Toni doesn’t know how she keeps getting herself into these situations. But even she has to admit there’s something about Ricky Lee Reed that she finds kind of interesting…and downright sexy. Now they just have to survive long enough to figure out if what they have is worth fighting for…
It's not a secret that I really love the Pride series by Laurenston. Whenever I need a funny, light, crazy romance to pick me up I know I can count on her because that's exactly what her books deliver!

Wolf with Benefits is perhaps the best example of that, as it's not only trademark Laurenston but my favorite book in the series so far! A big part of that is because the romance took more time to develop between Ricky Lee and Toni, which is the only major weak point in the rest of the novels. Not here. Here, we are able to grow comfortable with the idea of them as a couple as the novel gives us time of them just being around each other and talking with each other and not having sex with each other (lol).

And of course, they worked really well as a couple. They were cute, they brought each other up, they protected each other... the whole package!

Another subject that I liked a whole lot more in this installment was the family bonds. The Pride series features totally messed up families, and sometimes, it's just slightly too much. In Wolf With Benefits, the dysfunction is more outward than inward, albeit it's not lacking inwardly either.

However, this family units around each other (mostly thanks to Toni's mad organization skills) when needed and would die for one another, a vibe that is sorely missing from some of predecessors in the series.

Eight books in and I still look forward to more books and romances set in this world (and, possibly, more love stories set in this particular family!), which is quite the accomplishment!