Archive for June, 2019


Alright everyone! How’s your morning? Not started yet? Night not ended yet? Either works, both are fine, because here’s where I give you all the link to a fantastic giveaway courtesy of the folks at Berkley Publishing. You’ve got 24-hours from the start of today to midnight on the 28th to enter for a chance at a physical copy of  Kali Wallace’s up coming novel Salvation Day. I’m not sure what I’m expecting from this book, could be zombies in space, could be a horrifying man made disease, but I’m excited to find out. It’s worth taking a shot in any case, so here’s the link.

Salvation Day cover

They thought the ship would be their salvation.
 
Zahra knew every detail of the plan. House of Wisdom, a massive exploration vessel, had been abandoned by the government of Earth a decade earlier, when a deadly virus broke out and killed everyone on board in a matter of hours. But now it could belong to her people if they were bold enough to take it. All they needed to do was kidnap Jaswinder Bhattacharya—the sole survivor of the tragedy, and the last person whose genetic signature would allow entry to the spaceship.
 
But what Zahra and her crew could not know was what waited for them on the ship—a terrifying secret buried by the government. A threat to all of humanity that lay sleeping alongside the orbiting dead.
 
And then they woke it up.

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I’ve rewritten this at least three times. It was a lot of fun to think about and I kind of want to do a book vs series vs novella now, but I also didn’t want to just sit here comparing it to the web series. This one’s thanks to the awesome folks at Kids Can Press, via netGalley. Here’s Kim Turrisi’s adaptation of Carmilla. Enjoy!

Carmilla cover

When college freshman Laura Hollis’ roommate goes missing after a party she calls everyone she thinks might be able to help find her. Instead of help, she gets stuck with Carmilla, the roommate from hell, an aloof philosophy student who responds to seemingly everything with sarcasm. But the more Laura digs, the stranger things get. And the stranger things get, the more it seems like Carmilla knows much more than she lets on. The more it seems like Carmilla might be interested in her for less than nefarious purposes. What’s a girl to do with a mystery to solve, a very possibly vampiric roommate, and homework piling up by the day?

So, Kim Turrisi’s Carmilla is an adaptation of an adaptation, the Kinda TV web series of the same title started out in 2014 and has grown since. Being an adaptation can make things a little clunky at times, things that work well in video don’t always translate well to writing. But, it’s also not tied to a web cam anymore or just the initial script. The novel seems to tie in some things from parts of the web series’ setting that were introduced later as well as a few new scenes away from Laura’s updates regarding the missing girls mystery.

Not being tied to one web cam in one room is both a positive and a negative. The new scenes can be a lot of fun and add to the feeling of the setting and to Laura’s relationships with other characters. But, it can also feel like there’s just not quite enough to them or of them. The library scene stands out for me on this. We get Laura and La Fontaine and Carmilla breaking into the library and Carmilla knowing things that make getting where they need to be easier. That’s great, it adds to her as a character, it’s something new. Then they get into the library and things play out and are described nearly the same as they were in the web series. It didn’t feel as exciting as the characters being attacked by a flaming card catalogue should have been. It felt like I was being told what happened rather than seeing them experience it. There was a lot of room to expand or to fill things in a bit, and it feels like the author didn’t take it.

The exception to this feels like Laura’s crushes on both Danny, the TA for one of her classes, and of course Carmilla. Being in Laura’s head instead of just seeing her actress react, the reader gets a lot more details on how she feels about these two. Being into Danny because she’s sweet and straight forward in standing up for the missing girls and Laura herself. The attraction to Carmilla while still thinking she’s a terrible person and how that mellows into being into Carmilla the person. There’s a lot of internal stuff added here that makes it flow well.

There was kind of a weirdness about how some of the speech tags were done, especially when it comes to Carmilla. Maniacal laughter doesn’t really mesh with the whole disaffected philosophy student thing, or the whole aloof vampire thing, either way. Some things with Kirsch coming across as whiny, almost wimpy, in a way that feels odd given his whole friendly frat bro character. If I had to put my finger on it, I’d say that the tags that take me out of the narration feel too big for their moments or even their characters. It isn’t a huge issue, but it is a notable one.

It’s an interesting thing. I know that a lot of my enjoyment of the novel comes from my enjoyment of the web series. I know there were moments where I was left waiting for a particular bit or where something filled in a little bit more and it feeling better tied in for that. Turrisi’s adaptation does feel unfinished in places, possibly as a result of working from the script rather than the finished series, or maybe just as a result of things not translating well between one format and another. There are places where I felt thrown off by knowing there was more, and that does knock the book down a little for me. But I also want to see novels for the next two seasons and the movie as well. I’m left hoping that this is part of the lead up to something new coming, something more. I enjoyed Turrisi’s adaptation of Carmilla.

And that leaves the final score in a strange place. As a fan of the web series and knowing what they already managed, I would be inclined to give the novel a three out of five. But I also know that if I was just reading the novel on its own, knowing that the romancy aspect is a fair sized part of it, I would be more likely to bump it up to a four. So a four is where I’m going to leave it with the hope that, if there is a next book, it does all the things this one could have made this one fantastic.

Sort of a one more thing that I hope was a result of reading an ARC rather than the finished book. In the original season one of the web series La Fontaine isn’t specifically said to use they/them pronouns, it’s possible they aren’t entire out at that point, though they do go strictly by La Fontaine or Laf. As a result of this, she/her pronouns are used for them in the first season of the web series. The novel introduces them as gender queer, but still uses she/her pronouns for them in some places where the character speaking would know to not do that. It seems like the kind of thing that happened as a result of just transferring things over, but is also a sign that this could have been looked over again. That’s a big mistake to glance over.

House Keeping 6/25/19

So, the con was fun.

I finally have a dice tray and, thanks to Infinite Black running a special deal for Birmingham, a play mat. So I might start using one or both of those and filming my dice test rolls. It’d be kind of fun to ramble about the dice as I’m testing them. Not really a thing I’m finding super necessary lately, most dice sets I’ve gotten are pretty balanced. All the same, I know that’s a thing that can be a concern especially with more reasonably priced dice.

Jumping to the side of that, I should have a review done for Wednesday. Standard stuff there. It’s one that I’m really enjoying, but that also has some weird spots. Little stuff mostly.

I need to double check my notes for the “Sunshine’s Journal” post for this week with my DM. Spelling stuff mostly, but also we kind of ended the session still in a goblin pit with goblins still in it. Remember kids, when adventuring safety first is an optional rule.

But that should be about it.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here, feel free to leave a comment or a like. I feed on attention and it makes me likely to try new things rather than just talking about them. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. After people-ing for a full three days, I could use the caffeine. In either case, have a great rest of the week!

Yellow Sign of Hastur

Late again, late again. But the dice are worth waiting for. I should know, I spend more than a month looking forward to Magic City Con to check out the Infinite Black booth. The Yellow Sign of Hastur dice are from Infinite Black’s Unspeakable Tomes collection. Enjoy!

YSoH 4

These are a fantastically presented set of dice. The grimoire dice box looks fantastic with the Yellow Sign on its spine and cover and the printed on details of the metal latches to hold it closed and the magic symbols on the front cover. It even has printed on page edges, giving it the look of a worn and well read tome. There’s a little bit of resistance from the magnetic closure when you open it, enough to be felt but not enough to be annoying. There’s a fantastic piece of art on the inside cover that’s also used on the “White Night, Black Stars, Dim Carcosa” play mat. All fun stuff.

YSoH 3

Inside the box, there’s both the dice and a lore card. Describing the Yellow Sign and its effect on those not dedicated to the Yellow King, the madness it can bring, the lore card is well made. It makes me look forward to reading the ones on other sets of these dice.

YSoH 2

On to the dice themselves though. I love the look of these dice both the places where the yellow and black clash and the parts where the black just sort of seeps through like an infection or a creeping mold. It’s lovely and bright and just pleasing to look at. There is the downside of the coloring though, that the gold inking is really hard to read from any distance. There’s not really a good way to fix that though and, I admit, I like the gold for thematic reasons

The Elder Dice sets come with the standard seven dice as well as two more d6, for a grand total of nine dice. Which is useful. The dice are pretty standard as far as feel goes. The inking is even and the detail on the Yellow Sign on the high sides is fantastic. They seem to be well balanced, though I haven’t tested these as much as I want to yet.

YSoH 1

So, I’m definitely going to be getting more of these. This particular set I feel like I would use for a character who’s having a face heel turn or who’s being revealed as an antagonist. The packaging makes for a fantastic display piece, I like the dice themselves, and the issue with the inking is something I can work around. So, yeah five out of five.

I’m later than I wanted to be on this. No excuses there, I just didn’t get it done on time. That aside, this one is thanks to Entangled Teen. Here is A. M. Rose’s Breakout. Enjoy!

Breakout cover

Lezah doesn’t know what landed her in prison, or really much of anything else about herself. With six days left before her execution the only chance she has to find out is to escape. And her only chance of escaping requires relying on strangers, possibly dangerous ones, and her former school rival. Can she trust anyone long enough to get out or will they all fall prey to the prison’s formidable defenses?

A. M. Rose’s Breakout is a book that I bounced around on how I felt about it, especially early on in reading it. But once it hit its stride, it worked really well.

The start was a little rough, with what’s nearly a new world entirely in the form of a California that’s been separated from the rest of the US by earthquakes. Special standouts on that were the WALTERS or Walking Computers, essentially robots that are meant to have free will, and the SOULS that everyone is supposed to have that are ID and phone and personal entertainment all rolled into one. SOULS do everything from let their users keep in contact to changing their appearances pretty drastically to being the main way the government kept tabs on citizens. It was all fed to the reader pretty bluntly at the start, which was necessary to a degree but also felt incredibly clunky.

I had a bit of a similar issue when the male characters, Trip and Seph, were introduced.  It quickly became clear that Seph was our designated love interest, with his history with Lezah and his sad sad eyes and super competence. The build up to that felt like it took away from the immediacy of escaping the prison for a good bit. It felt like there were big neon signs telling me that this was going to be a huge part of the experience.

Here’s the thing though, both the rough bits from the start and Seph and Lezah’s whole thing, both worked out. The blunt early explanations felt weird because it was stuff that Lezah knew and wouldn’t have had much reason to explain to, essentially, herself but that smoothed out later once the characters were more in the action and things felt more focused. As to Lezah’s crushing on Seph? It wound up feeding character stuff for both of them as well as feeding in some bits of Lezah’s missing memories. The book hit a point in the action where the mystery and the full cast were more important than just those two characters, so it made the moments between Lezah and Seph feel more impactful. It wasn’t just the two of them and a world of card board cutouts.

This all said, the thing that made the book for me more than anything else was one of the antagonists. They were written in so well that I was genuinely caught off guard at the reveal. It was built in really well and makes me want to see how Rose handles other antagonists.

That’s about it. While I’m left wanting to see where things go for Lezah and company from the book’s ending on, it was still a satisfying ending that worked for the story. The things that didn’t work did well by the things I enjoyed. And, at the end of the day, I even wound up appreciating the romancey bits. So, Breakout earns a four out of five from me. I’m interested in seeing what A. M. Rose does in the future.

Guest Post Ian Jones

Alright, last stop on the North of the Rock blog tour. Here’s Ian Jones’ top five things about being an author. Enjoy!

North of the Rock cover

Top Five Things About Being An Author

  1. Give yourself a chance. If you have an idea, no matter how vague or incomplete make a note of it as soon as you can or it will be forgotten. I learned this the hard way. Once it is there in black and white, even if there are only a few lines it will always get you back into thinking about it again.
  2. Be confident, don’t let self-doubt get in the way. This happens to absolutely everyone and it has been a major factor in me never going into the public domain in the past. I believed that I was writing for myself, because I enjoy doing it. But then a couple of people read what I had written and I got good feedback, and I started to believe in myself more.
  3. I can write whatever I want. I can change completely whole areas of a city if I feel like it and nobody can criticize me for doing it, and this is a great thing about being an author. Anyone can come up with an idea and just write, real life facts become unimportant. My only exception to this is when I am writing about an action that is taking place, possibly the police or similar then I do try to be as correct as I can be. I really don’t want to upset anyone especially those who have difficult jobs to do!
  4. Try to write when you can. This is important as lots of great books get started and never finished, and it is often difficult to find enough time. I do have a ‘real’ job, which does make it difficult but I do work at finding time, even if it just an hour or so to write. Of course, there are times when I sit down and the words just flood out, then others when I struggle for a paragraph. But I think that is the nature of it. If I could have this as my sole profession I believe I could probably complete two books a year.
  5. Enjoy it. I have never wished to be a millionaire, or for fame. In fact I hope to spend my entire life in happy anonymity. So for me I am just happy to write and to eventually see it printed. Of course it could well turn out that ultimately In have sold very few books, well at the very least at least I have had a really good time doing it.

Ian Jones author picture

Author Information

Residing in London, Ian Jones lives with his wife and daughter, a cat Gloria, tortoise Gary and three fish; Daphne, Velma and Scooby. He currently works at a Taiwanese hardware company, looking after Europe and works as an Electrician in his spare time. Ian Jones has been writing since he was twenty years old, though he mostly wrote black comedies and seemed unable to finish a complete novel. Fortunately, ten years ago, Ian Jones tried his hand at writing thrillers and published his very first novel, The Handsome Man. Since then he has had many other books published via Kindle Direct. Lost in Vegas is actually the second book that he wrote.

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Lost in Vegas:           Amazon      Goodreads

North of the Rock:   Amazon      Goodreads

Heads Up

Sorry for running late all. I gave myself a head ache working in the garden yesterday and got nothing else done. I have, however, cleared a good chunk of my Mom’s herb bed, cleared the back yard stairs, and potted tomatoes.

I’m happy with that.

But, due to that and being a bit busy today, I’ve only got the review partially finished and no “Sunshine’s Journal” post for this week.

So, my plan right now is to have the book review up tomorrow and see about posting the “Sunshine’s Journal” post next Thursday.

House Keeping 6/18/19

Same as usual, not a ton here this week.

Dice Envy still has their PRIDE promo code thing going to benefit My Friend’s House. Definitely give that a check.

There’s still a number of stops on the North of the Rock blog tour, including the guest post for it this Friday. That’s worth a check and so are the other stops. I’m sure they’d appreciate if more folks stopped by.

I’ll have a review for you all up on Wednesday. I’m thinking that I’ll want to talk about some of the stuff from this book later on. Sort of a matter of things that didn’t work for me and things that really did feeling interestingly balanced.

There should be a “Sunshine’s Journal” post this week, though there won’t be one next week. Game night is on pause for this week due to Magic City Con.

I’m bouncing around the idea of talking about things from the con Sunday night. Or maybe next Thursday in the “Sunshine’s Journal” spot. It seems like something that could be fun, could work with some of the stuff I’ve been talking about lately.

And that’s about it!

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. I feed on that kind of thing. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. In either case, have a great rest of the week!

Hey all, running late because of job hunt related stuff. Things are turning out pretty well just now. In any case, it’s time for dice. This set’s a little different from others I’ve reviewed because it’s from the Dice Envy subscription service and isn’t available for ordering yet. I lucked into a subscription before car issues ate my savings, so I’m planning on reviewing the monthly set until the subscription runs out. Enjoy!

Cyclone 1

The Dice Envy Cyclone Dice set is an interesting thing for me. I’ve never done much with metal dice before this set. Ease of use on getting other materials and all that. Now, something that’s just really cool for me is that the mold on these is split between the Sixteen Candles set and the Oathkeeper’s Armor set. It makes for a fantastic design clash. The difference in the blue of the Oathkeeper’s sides and the purple and teal of the Sixteen Candles sides works really well for that.

These dice are super heavy compared to acrylic or resin sets. It’s a nice difference and makes them feel much different. Admittedly that’s kind of an obvious thing to note, but it’s still pretty nice.

Cyclone 2

I do admit that the weight is part of why I haven’t tested these as much as I usually do. I don’t currently have a dice tray and didn’t want to risk damaging my table. Four of the points on the d8, in particular, are very pointy. They still seem to roll just fine, from what I tested they don’t seem to get hung up on numbers. The big exception to this is the d4, it was miscast, but Dice Envy is already aware of that and is replacing that dice with the next month’s set.

Overall, I’m quite happy with the Cyclone dice set. They’re something very different from anything else in my collection and, while I don’t have any particular plans for a character for them, I look forward to trying them out. Just for the niftiness of design and that I’ve enjoyed what testing I’ve been able to do with them enough to be planning for finding a dice tray, the Cyclone dice get a five out of five.

Not much to say here this time. It was really hard to write this without including spoilers and I have enough left that I want to talk about that I might do an “And Another Thing” post about it some time. That said, this one is thanks to the nice folks at Entagled Teen. Here is Rachel Rust’s 8 Souls. Enjoy!

8 Souls cover

Villisca, Iowa is known for murder. For the deaths of eight people in 1912. For the Ax Muder house.  The house that seventeen year old Chessie has been dreaming about her entire life, sometimes new and lived in, sometimes as it is now slowly falling in on itself across the street from her grandparents’ house. Across the street from where she’ll be spending the entire summer while her parents work out the details of their divorce. Amid nightmares and ghostly voices, Chessie finds herself stuck trying to figure out her connection to the Ax Murder house and David, the mysterious boy who knows more than he lets on and so, so many secrets.

So, I make no secret of the fact that I love haunted house stories and horror in general. The promise of a small town with dark secrets and a house that can’t forget pulled me to Rachel Rust’s 8 Souls. It’s a book that was pretty good for what it is and than just misses the mark for what I wanted it to be. Notable differences there.

This being a book published by Entangled Teen, I knew to expect a fairly large romance side plot. That’s just what they do as a publisher. The mysterious boy is mentioned in the blurb. It’s something that I was going to have to roll with. My issue, of course, comes not from the existence of this romance plot but from how much feels underdone in the face of and about it.

There were a lot of ideas that could have been fantastic if they’d been given more room or if they’d been introduced earlier. Most of the stuff about the haunting and David’s whole deal could have worked fantastically if they’d been worked in earlier and given more page space. Make that a thing alongside Chessie thinking that David and Mateo were pranking her with the whole ghost hunting deal. Spend more time with Chessie trying to figure out what’s going on instead of avoiding David and watching Netflix instead of looking into the thing haunting her. Even the romance itself felt rushed along once Chessie decided that she could trust what David was saying.

The antagonist gets hit with this harder than most other details. There’s a thread throughout the book about these little girls having gone missing and that there’s more disappearances and strange deaths in Villisca than most cities its size. But there isn’t much done with that until right at the end. It was almost to the point that I’d forgotten about it in a couple of places. There were a couple of characters who might have been antagonists or, in a more horror focused book, solid red herrings. But nothing came of them and the antagonist was left feeling like they’d been brought in out of left field. A last minute, one more thing, secret that David hadn’t bothered to mention yet. It was an idea that got introduced and used within pages so the story could rush on to the climax. That was frustrating for me, because the antagonist and the climax both could have been so, so good with a little tweaking and a little more page space.

That’s pretty well where I land on 8 Souls. Rust did a good job with the setting, a small town that’s losing people as time goes on. The real world Villisca, Iowa was actually the scene of an ax murder of eight people, so that’s something that could be interesting to look more into after reading this. But it is very much a book that wants for a little more. A little more to the horror, and the characters, and the buildup. As a YA romance with supernatural elements, it’s functional. With more time to percolate it could have been fantastic, and for that I give it a three out of five. I would be willing to read Rachel Rust again, but I also want to see what she would do in another genre.