Archive for December, 2019


Jazz Dice

More dice! Always more dice, but I’m enjoying the chance to work through the ones I’d wanted to review while classes ate my life. It’s almost energizing in a way. These guys are from Dice Envy as usual. All the same, enjoy!

Jazz Dice 4

The Jazz Dice set is, all told pretty basic compared to some of the other sets I’ve reviewed. It’s a clear blue acrylic with swirls of opaque purple throughout. There’s a nice clean effect from that. The colors pop separately and blend where the purple is thin in a way that makes both seem richer. It’s a good combination.

Jazz Dice 2

The inking shows up well against both colors and I just liked the silver with them. There also don’t seem to be any thin spots, and the inking is cleanly done. My set of Jazz Dice had no bubbles, so the balance on them is good. None of them seem to have any favorite sides or anything. And, like most acrylic dice, these feel nice in hand and to roll.

Jazz Dice 3

So this one is pretty short. The Jazz Dice are a nice looking set. The combination of clear and opaque acrylic works really well for me and I really enjoy the color combination. I give it a five out of five. I’m thinking I would want to use these for a magic caster of some stripe, maybe a sorcerer or a cleric.

59th of Spring, Year 256

I have been at this translation job for the better part of the week.

Eebaku’s journal is largely megalomaniac babbling about his powers and the grand empire he will build to cover the worlds. It is oddly fixated on me as some sort of key to infiltrating dwarven society. Not certain if he realizes how little sway a Stonecask or a teifling has in greater society, but he also talks about having an agent in the fortress. Someone he seems to have been hoping could arrange for my use as a key. Need to find out who this agent is and how much of a threat they could pose to the fortress.

The references to an agent go back as far as when we were planning for construction and selecting a suitable location for Caskfire. That someone who has been here all this time is supposed to be one of his agents concerns me a good deal.

I reported to Churt on it and she is collecting a list of everyone it could be so we can start figuring out how to best approach them. She had the idea that I might act interested in joining Eebaku to draw the agent out and get them to confess, but I would rather wait and have a better idea of who our potential suspects. No sense in going around drawing extra attention to being the only demon blooded creature here or that the Goblin lord who burned down the elves’ city claimed to have sired me. That just seems like a good way to wind up studded with arrows from elves who cannot fight the one who actually hurt them.

There was another book Chonck had, some kind of compendium of anatomy and summoning rituals for various infernal creatures. If I turn my attention to that then I might be able to figure out a way to deal with Eebaku before he sends an “envoy” to invite Caskfire into his empire. It has to be worth trying.

51st of Spring, Year 256

After the Goblin horde left, we did comb the elven city for survivors or usable items. There were a handful of books that survived from being in a closed cabinet, they are a little toasted but otherwise in good shape. An enchanted long bow that Azurei has laid claim to, of our party she seems the most able to use it.

There was also the Arch Druid’s staff.

It would seem that he died when the Goblin’s lord first offered to take the elves into his empire. I am told that the Arch Druid dueled Eebaku one on one and held him off long enough for a warning to get out. The staff did not seem magic at first, though the elves have assured us that it is. It looks like a walking stick, nothing more. They were glad that no one in the party wanted to keep it for themselves though, it would seem that this staff has been passed down by many Arch Druids and will continue to be passed down as soon as they appoint a new one.

And, predictably, Eclair has been treating the corpses like her own personal butcher shop. The elves told her that eating the bodies of the fallen was acceptable so long as she did not waste anything, so at least this habit of hers is not offering offense. Chonck helped.

52nd of Spring, Year 256

When we returned to Caskfire Churt was outside. Outside in the sun. It was concerning to say the least. She said she needed to see us as soon as we arrived.

The Obcobra has been cursing dwarves within the fortress with little provocation. Made one fellow’s entire beard fall out when he took a bit of food from her. Turned another handful into a mix of dwarf and boar when they complained about not being strong enough. Then a fair number of other more temporary curses. Churt wanted us to talk the Obcobra away from all the cursing, unfortunately she is unwilling to stop.

Given that and that we want to keep her close enough to be helpful once the fight against the Goblin horde starts in earnest, we convinced her to move into one of the nearby empty Goblin warrens. We even had a crew of dwarves help clean it out for her. She seemed to like that idea well enough.

Problem solved for the time being I suppose.

Yule Love Her

I’m both more that a bit late getting this one reviewed and a bit early for the actual start of Yule this year. But this seemed like a good spot for something short and sweet. This one’s courtesy of NetGalley, here’s Jodi Hutchins’ Yule Love Her. Enjoy!

Yule Love Her cover

Artist and semi-recent transplant to Seattle, Joy hasn’t been in a relationship in the year since she found her previous significant other cheating. With a string of one night stands, she hasn’t really considered it. At least not until a chance meeting on the bus introduces her to harried personal assistant Bec. They quickly form a rapport and Bec soon works up the courage to ask her to lunch. When casual dates nearly turn into something more, Joy suggests taking things slow and seeing where things go.  As Christmas nears, neither can expect that an unexpected meeting and a misunderstanding might ruin their chances at happiness together. Can they make this work, or will Joy and Bec be spending the holidays alone?

In a lot of ways Jodi Hutchins’ Yule Love Her just feels like it doesn’t have enough space to develop the characters or to build any sort of conflict. It’s just one of those stories that really isn’t served by being as short as a novella is, especially with how much of the story’s content is covered by the blurb. It quickly becomes pretty obvious where most of the story beats are going to hit, if not exactly how, while leaving the characters oddly naked of development.

Put bluntly, there’s more built up to the sex scene than there is to the story’s climax. And that bothers me more than a bit since this is billed as romance rather than erotica. There are a lot of places where it feels like there should have been more. More build between Bec and Joy. More build up for the antagonist as the antagonist. That one especially seems like it had a skeleton in place that just never really got fleshed out. The lack of extra space to buff that out made the climax feel badly placed, like the antagonist wasn’t built up to that level of reaction.

More of the legitimately cute moments between the protagonists would have been fantastic. Or more character moments, show the two of them opening up to each other more. Joy could have talked to Bec about her art more or the kinds of people who order commission work from her. Bec could have talked more about the job she’s hoping to get or more about her boss beyond the aggressive need for control and being mad at her for being late. Because I wound up kind of feeling like these two got together because the story needed them to. Which is a shame, because with a little more time on page out and about doing things together Joy and Bec could have been a really fantastic couple. But it felt like it kept getting sidelined by physical attraction, which fair, but I still found myself wanting more meat to the relationship itself with the physical bits as a sort of dessert to that.

The pacing is what makes most of the problems I have with Yule Love Her. Like a lot of novella’s I’ve read, it feels like there was meant to be more but it needed to fit a word limit. So important things might have gotten cut. Which is a shame because I think this could have been a really nifty romance if it had been given twice as much page space so things could be built up better. And it isn’t bad, I would read a different book by Jodi Hutchins, just preferably a novel length one. I want to see what happens when she has space to dig in and do more with the surrounding plot rather than needing to dance around a reveal.

So yeah, there were definitely parts to Yule Love Her that I enjoyed. There were parts I would have liked to see more of, mostly character stuff. Joy and Bec dating and Bec and her job or her boss kinds of stuff mostly. There was some stuff that made the end feel not entirely genuine that could have been worked around a bit more. But, overall, it has a lot of promise and I want to see more of Hutchins’ writing to see her live up to the promise that Yule Love Her shows. So it gets a three out of five from me. Worth checking out if you want a quick read between celebrations.

Pumpkin Dice Latte

I return to the realm of talking about shiny math rocks with a set that I really wanted to cover back during pumpkin spice season, but I figure this time of year tasty coffee drinks are still appreciated. While these guys might be more fall than Christmas, they’re definitely a set worth taking a look at. Plus, they’re just fun to look at. Clumsy side bar, if you’re still looking for dice for a table top nerd friend’s gift or yourself, Dice Envy has 19% off of everything in stock until 11:59pm tonight, just use the coupon code “DICETHEHALLS”.

Pumpkin Dice Latte 2

The Pumpkin Dice Latte set combines two things that have been ongoing positives in all of my dice reviews, sparkles and interesting inclusions. In this case both the flakes of glitter and the micro glitter sparklies are gold colored to better emphasize the warm pumpkin orange of the acrylic. As with most uses of larger glitter pieces in dice, the flakes have mostly sunk to one side of the dice, which can create some really nice visual interest.

Due to the contrasting grey inking, the dice remain easy to read from across the table. In addition to the visibility, the inking is well done with no notable thin spots.

Pumpkin Dice Latte 4

As is pretty standard with acrylic dice, these feel nice in hand and roll well. None of the dice in my set seem to have favorite sides, so the balance is good.

While this set is aesthetically very different from a lot of the dice I usually go for the color works really well and the glitter flakes and sparklies enhance that rather than being the main feature. They roll well, as expected. And I just plain like them. So the Pumpkin Dice Latte dice get a five out of five from me.

Pumpkin Dice Latte 3

There was one more thing I wanted to cover with this one, while I’m here. The Pumpkin Dice Latte set is one of several that Dice Envy has customization options for. The options vary from being able to build a World of Darkness style set of ten d10s, to picking up extra d6s for your rogue, to just buying a standard set and adding on an extra d20 like I’ve done with these. Right now the individual dice range from around a dollar per to around five dollars per on some of the metal sets, so there are some limits to how viable it might be. I am personally hoping that they will start having sets of d6s and d10s  that are priced more like the standard sets some time in the coming year, largely because I would love to get a set of the Numa Blight, Mermage, or Wizard’s Unpaid Intern for my next World of Darkness campaign. It is definitely worth checking out though.

Parallel Excerpt

I get a lot of chances to introduce you all to new authors thanks to Authoright, which is always an exciting prospect. It might be a little late for the tour, but this time, instead of a guest post, I’ve got an excerpt of L. J. Bacon’s Parallel. Enjoy!

Parallel ebook

Have you ever looked up at the nights sky and thought, with so many stars we can’t be the only planet with life such as ours? What if I was to say our planet isn’t the only one with life, in fact what if I was to say we are living part of a parallel life on ours! Unbeknownst to us we have a second existence on another planet in another universe, and what happens there affects us here, and vice versa, how do I know this, you may ask, well, until a month ago I didn’t know any of these things, I was just like you going about my days like any other person.

I woke as normal, at 7 am Thursday morning, had a shower and then got myself dressed, then had a coffee with some toast and was ready for the day ahead.

I live and work in a Dojo, with Mr. Mechin, first name Sato.

After my parent’s deaths, when I was only six, he took me-in and raised me as his own son, he is a very wise older man with long grey hair and thin goatee beard, slim in build and only 5/6 tall, but what an amazing martial artist, very disciplined respectful and full of honour. If all men were like this man, the world would be a much better place.

I’m not too sure how old he is, he has never said, I’m not too sure how it was he became my surrogate father, all he has ever said to me is that he knew my parents very well, and that their deaths were devastating to him, and thought it the right thing to do, to take me into his care and raise me. I can’t remember much of my parents, even their faces are a blur to me now.

Anyway, I went downstairs to the Dojo, and as usual Sato was there preparing for the days lessons, he greeted me in his usual manner, “Good morning Jacob my son how are you this morning?” To which I replied, “I am very well thank you, apart from another strange dream last night!” Sato replied, “Oh really, explain it to me.”

I had been having strange and very vivid dreams for about a week, Sato was very interested in them, and would have me try my best to recall them for him in great detail; it was as if they meant something to him.

So I closed my eyes and began to explain what I could remember; “It seemed so real. I was on another world the sky was dark and seemed to have two moons, the land was mountainous and black, there were these creatures, they looked almost human but were deformed.”

“Their skin was dark and shining in the moon light, their heads were bald and disfigured, some had eyes of red and others of yellow, with bodies very muscular and powerful looking, with hands that have claws instead of fingernails.”

“There was one standing in the center of a silver circle, then there was a huge flash of light which came from the sky, almost like a bolt of lightning but it lasted about a minute! And when it had raised back to the sky the creature was gone!

“The rest of these creatures started to go crazy in celebration, then I was back in our world, but now I wasn’t me! I was a woman and I was fighting this creature that I had watched disappear into the light, I was wounded and running for my life! I had a sword in my hand, its blade was covered with what I can only explain as black tar, then the dream suddenly ended, and I woke sweating and feeling very afraid!”

When I opened my eyes, I could see Sato looked worried, almost afraid, his head and shoulders dropped as he said in a very quiet, almost a whispered voice; “Thank you for telling me.” I replied, “What is wrong, you look concerned by what I have told you, it’s just a dream!” To which he replied in a very soft but concerned voice, “Yes just a dream, a dream, a nightmare,” as he slowly turned and started to walk away with his head dropped and shaking from side to side, I placed my hand on his right shoulder and asked, “What is wrong?” He was silent for a few moments, then turned and said, “It would appear the time has come for you to know all I have to tell, I hope I have prepared you well for what is about to come.” Then he said; “We should sit and I shall begin,” as he said this I felt a shiver up my spine, I have never seen him like this, so much concern on his face and the tone of his voice was like that of a man who had the world on his shoulders.

We sat on a training mat, he looked at me and smiled saying; “Where do I begin?” Then continued; “This may be hard for you to except at first.” Then with a deep breath; “I am not from your universe, I am from another planet much like earth, but in another dimension, in the past we visited your earth, to help your people evolve as we have.”

I’ve got a bit of a treat for you all today thanks to Authoright and the author, Davide Cortellucci. As part of the The Red Book blog tour, Mr. Cortellucci has offered up a blog post talking about his own ten favorite books. Enjoy!

THE RED BOOK D.Cortellucci - Front Cover

 

I’m an eclectic reader. I can read non-fiction and fiction of many genres, from Schopenhauer to the IKEA’s Nordic cookbook. Making a list of my favourite ten books, it’s a list hard to create. I’ve read so many good ones, but I made the cuts, and here they are.

1) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I read this book multiple times when I was young. It was my favourite book, and it still has a special place in my heart. When I was young, whenever I felt a little down or my life wasn’t taking the direction I expected to make, this novella came to the rescue. This is a story that’s full of bright light.

 

2) Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Reading the life of Siddhartha from start to end, all surrounded with spirituality, human necessities, and a sense of individuality with the whole and enlightenment, unlocked within me a different way to see life and the purpose of it.

 

3) Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

One of the first books I ever read. Full of proper lessons that should be learned when you’re a child, from not lying to knowing that change is possible and that we can become what we desire to be.

 

4) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling

My favourite book in the H.P. saga. This book is the real turning point from the more innocent side of the collection to a side that gives a full dimension of its characters. The characters, due to the events in the book, are forced to mature before their time.

 

5) Neuromancer by William Gibson

To me, this book represents the epitomes of personal cognitive dissonance, because I like and dislike this book simultaneously. One moment I love certain characters, and the moment after that, I’m bored with them, and then I love them again. And of course, I appreciate this book’s high imaginary futuristic settings that have inspired several books and movies.

 

6) Animal Farm by George Orwell

The best allegory on how a dystopian society can become a reality. The shift from equality to power. The oppression of the individuals, the inequity and the lies. A top book.

 

7) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

This book made me look at humanity differently. Not as a mass of individuals, but as a group of beings from the same species that are evolving homogenously together. Seeing the point of view of humanity as one single operating force, it’s something that can help us in the decision making of the present.

 

8) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I love this book. I think this is a story that appeals to many people. I love the fragility and at the same time, the strength of its characters. This book made me think, made me laugh and pulled the strings of my heart. A beautiful book.

 

9) Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This book was an enjoyable read. I liked the clash between the two mothers and the juxtaposition of the perfect family vs the nomad and artistic one. Ng’s writing gives dept to all the characters in the story. A perfect little storm that fell upon a small corner of America and on its bourgeois inhabitants.

 

10) Wasted calories and ruined nights by Jay Rayner

This little book just put a smile on my face. It’s like combining the shadiness of a RuPaul Drag Race contestant with the Michelin Star’s dining world.

 

10+1 Bonus) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

42

Davide Cortellucci

Author Information

Davide Cortellucci is a writer and the author of The Red Book. He has spent the last few years working on an unnamed trilogy, friendly referred by him as Little Yellow Rubber Duck. The Red Book is the first book in the trilogy. He was born on the 25th of July 1978 in Belgium, to Italian immigrant parents. He grew up in Belgium, Italy, and in London, UK. Davide has done several jobs, from waiter to inventories, from sound engineering in shows to events manager, and many more. Davide is a college dropout with a couple of creative writing courses on his back. He has spent many years travelling around Europe, learning about cultures, and keeping an interest in the power of the mind. Davide loves writing stories that awaken the epic feeling within the reader. He now lives in South East London with his partner, he’s curious about life, and he also makes a great pasta sauce.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/D.CortellucciAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/d.cortellucci/

50th of Spring, Year 256

That was bad.

Most everything was burned. There was no one to save.

The only thing that still lived was a tree, tall and unmarred by all the horror around it except for the piles of dead Goblins surrounding it. Some kind of advisor tree according to the elf.

Chonck, of course, of course, licked the advisor tree in an attempt to communicate with it. It would seem that it had killed the Goblins surrounding it itself somehow. More importantly, it informed him that the Goblins’ leader was to the south with the bulk of the force he attacked the city with.

Silly as it may seem now, I think it wanted to keep fighting the Goblins that harmed its people, its home. When Chonck asked it for a twig so that he could keep talking to it, it lowered an absolutely massive branch into his hands. That branch was at least as big as his maul and I would swear thrummed with enough power that even I could feel it. Chonck seemed excited at the prospect of fighting Goblins with his new friend, so I can hardly complain.

[The next several pages contain a great deal of scribbled out text. A small number of pages are missing.]

The Goblins’ leader, their Lord Eebaku, claimed to be my father.

I would not have believed it from a creature that looked like his disguised self, a Goblin twice the size of any others wearing a finer version of the same black armor as the rest of his army. Having seen him take on a demonic form though. Having seen myself in the mirror. I cannot help but believe that he could be my father.

Why did I never ask mom more about when she found me? It never seemed important. It never seemed like it could be important. But to have something like this just show up, I want him to be lying. I want it to be a matter of some demon who looks close enough to right, or can shape shift to close enough, just trying to get me to turn on my family. That would make sense. That would be reasonable.

The things he said about my youth though, about trying to find me when I was growing up, and his claims to know more still. I can’t help but wonder.

It makes me feel a little ill honestly. He claimed that he had burned down the elves’ city and slaughtered so many of them was simply that they refused to join his empire. It seems certain that he would do the same to Caskfire.

I cannot let that happen.

We have something that might be useful. Chonck asked him if any books had survived the fires. The answer should be obvious, but Eebaku’s response to Chonck’s follow up request for a book interests me. He threw one to Chonck. Between all the talk of blood making the grass grow tall in the ruins of his enemies’ homes and the claims of tremendous power it looks like it might be his personal journal. It could be another resource for finding out more about our enemy, but as easily as he turned it over I doubt that it can be trusted.

I will work on a full translation once we have returned to Caskfire.