Category: Rating


Warlock’s Work Study

I’m pretty glad to be back to this. Not sure how long it’ll last this go round, but I’m going to do all I can while this little burst of energy lasts. Let’s go with a bit of a trick of a dice set, given that these guys aren’t available on Dice Envy anymore. Similar sets of the same style, Wizard’s Unpaid Intern and Mage’s Indentured Servant, are still available.

Warlock's Work Study 3

The Warlock’s Work Study dice set is one of those that my camera just doesn’t nearly do justice. Like a lot of the sets I wind up favoring lately, it is full of sparklies that catch the light even when it’s just sitting there and make it look vaguely like it should be a prop in a magical girl anime. The purple star glitter doesn’t hurt that effect either.

This is kind of a thing for me though, even with the sparkling and sort of business that glitter or confetti tend to bring to a dice set, the inking is still nicely clear and easy to read. The gold contrasts nicely with the purple and sort of silver/lavender, making them both enjoyable to look at and to use. And, of course, the inking is well done here with no notable thin spots or overfills.

Warlock's Work Study 2

As is pretty standard for acrylic dice, the Warlock’s Work Study set feels nice in the hand. In my set at least, there aren’t any places where the star glitter sticks out. The balance on them seems pretty good, no sticking or favorite numbers that I’ve noticed so far.

Warlock's Work Study 1

This is very much a set that leaves me wanting to collect the others that are similar to it, just so that I can compare them. I really like the Warlock’s Work Study set and feel like I’m going to wind up using them regardless of how appropriate they are for any given character. Which means that the Warlock’s Work Study dice set gets a five out of five from me.

Heart Dice

I get to talk about dice again, definitely excited for that. This is the set from September’s Dice Envy Originals box. I’ve been meaning to talk about it for the past couple of weeks, but work and classes and all that stuff. No time like the present to get to them, right?

Heart Dice 1

Not going to lie, the Heart Dice kind of threw me for a loop when they arrived. The theme feels a bit out of season and I had been hoping for something spooky going into October. That said, the inking is really clean on all of the dice and I appreciate the second d20 being a different color. It’s a little touch and not totally necessary, but I still dig the difference for advantage/disadvantage rolls.

Heart Dice 2

I do like the look of them, separate from seasonal expectations. They’re easy to read. The pattern is nice and simple, it doesn’t crowd out the numbers and gets the point across well. Something about how clean they look is just oddly nice.

Of note, this is a ten dice set rather than the standard seven. I like the novelty of that, it feels like a nice bonus to have the extra d20 and the extra two d6. It’s a set that I could roll up a new rogue with and use immediately without needing to pull more d6 from other sets.

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The Heart Dice set feels good in hand. Pretty standard there, but it always feels worth mentioning. I don’t know that I have a character concept that comes to mind for these. I mentioned a rogue earlier, but the theming seems a bit more appropriate for a cleric or a bard. I do know that I want to use these at some point. I really enjoyed the extra three dice and the second d20 contrasting the other dice. So, I’m going to hold these back until February and give them a five out of five.

Mammoth Bone d6

So, this one is a little different than usual, both because it’s a single die instead of a set and because the material is fascinating.

Mammoth Bone Dice 1

Back during Magic City Con in June Misty Mountain Gaming ran a charity drawing for one of two dice made from fossilized mammoth bone. All proceeds went to the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, so I figured I’d buy a few tickets. This is a d6 that I should by no means have been able to get my hands on, the tickets were sold all three days of the con and this one had two winners before I was drawn. Sometimes luck shines through.

Mammoth Bone Dice 2

This is a truly gorgeous d6. The colors are amazing and I love the way the brown peeks through the clear bits and the black banding throughout. That it’s all natural just adds to my appreciation of it. The only bit about it that I’m not entirely about is the numbering. While the numbers are well engraved, they’re also very thin and the red of the inking doesn’t show up well against the bone itself which makes it a little difficult to read.

The mammoth bone d6 is also a dice that I’m not likely to use much for a variety of reasons. Largely this is down to the material itself, being made of fossilized bone means that if anything happened to the dice I wouldn’t be able to fix or replace it. It also means that, with bone being porous and the stone filling in being stone, I don’t know how balanced a die like this could be. Testing so far suggests that it tends to land on the 5 side more often than the others, though I would want to do more testing before confirming.

Mammoth Bone Dice 3

That said though, I can’t really knock the die for being unbalanced because of its material. And, since I’m not planning on using it much, the numbers not being super visible is only a minor issue. Once I’ve got a good place to display it and a fine enough brush, I might re-ink it in a blue or something that’ll show up better. My score is mostly based on how cool I find the concept of a dice made from fossilized mammoth bone, and I really can’t say that enough because seriously, and how happy it made me to win something like a dice made of fossilized mammoth bone. So, all told, I’m giving it a five out of five.

Right, so this is a set that I’ve been looking for for months. It’s one of the newer Chessex sets, readily available at your local game shop, I just didn’t have the luck of finding a set until a couple of weeks ago. So, really excited for this.

Borealis Maple Green Yellow 1

The big thing that had me interested in the Borealis Maple Green/Yellow was, of course, the combination of that bright warm green and the almost holographic sparkles that shade whole sides of the dice a sort of red gold. It’s just really pretty and it photographs well and I already sort of default to green or blue for dice colors when left to my own devices. Those are the eternal favorite colors.

Ninety percent of my thought process dealt with for this one, these are pretty standard Chessex dice. They feel nice in hand. The inking is evenly done, and the yellow contrasts enough with both the green and the sparkles to be easily read. They roll reliably randomly. And this set is clear, so you can see if there are bubbles that might throw off the rolls.

Borealis Maple Green Yellow 2

My d20 for this set actually has a bubble, which worried me a little but it seems to roll fine all the same. I’ll test it more later, but the bubble seems close enough to the middle of the dice for it to sill be randomized.

Honestly, if it weren’t for the bubble this set would be a five out of five just for how excited I was to find them. Also, again, how nice they look. Unfortunately, they did have that bubble, so they get a four out of five instead.

Divination Dice

Running late, explanations for that tomorrow, tonight I’m gonna talk about dice. And these guys are gonna get a fair amount of talking about. Before that though, there’s a little time left on Dice Envy’s Dumbledice sale, use the code ACCIODICE to get 25% off your purchase. If nothing else, it’s worth checking out to see how they’ve renamed things for the event. Also,  Dougout Crafts is currently running a Kickstarter to do a restock of the Divination Dice, so now is a great time to check that out.

SE Divination Dice 1

These were a seriously nice surprise, when the last Kickstarter for the Divination Dice ended I hadn’t been able to back them and it was really disappointing because they looked cool. And I like dice with a nifty theme. So it was really cool to open my dice of the month and see these.

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The colors themselves are a special edition combination, purple dice with tan inking. It works really well with all the detail, they contrast enough for the details to stand out well and not get muddied. Even the really small details, like the d10s being individualized by having a sun on the tip of the planchet for one and a moon for the other. The d4 features each of the four suites for a tarot deck with crisp details on each side. Even the tiny planetary signs for the d12’s palmistry theming are nicely legible. This all, of course, means that the dice are also easily read even with all the detail work going on.

They feel nice to roll and seem well balanced. That second part is kind of impressive given the variety of pattern changes across some of the individual die. And, of course, the changes just makes the whole thing more fun.

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The Divination Dice are definitely a set that I would have gotten even if the Original box for July hadn’t had this particular variation on it. So a lot of my score here comes from having gotten something that really surprised and excited me. But I’m giving the Divination Dice a five out of five. If you like the theme and get the chance, check them out.

Way late on this. I took a nap earlier and slept through my alarm, so best laid plans there. This was the kind of read that I didn’t know I needed until I was midway through it and kept pausing to bother my poor mother about bits that I was really enjoying. So, with no further ado, this is Lily Craig’s Pretend Girlfriend. Enjoy!Pretend Girlfriend cover

The best revenge, they say, is living well. When Celeste Lamontagne receives an invitation to her cheating ex-girlfriend’s wedding she knows that isn’t true. The best revenge is being seen living well, and to do that Celeste will need a happy relationship to show off during the wedding cruise through the Mediterranean. A happy relationship with a girl outside the social strata she and her ex share so no one can discover the truth, that she hasn’t let anyone close since they broke up. That’s where free spirited stylist Lane comes in, all she has to do is play the part of Celeste’s loving girlfriend for the duration of the cruise and she’ll be set up with a second chance in New York’s fashion scene. They just have to convince a yacht full of people that they’re a couple for two weeks without getting caught. Two weeks without stumbling over each other, spilling the secret, or butting heads too hard might be manageable if they can handle the sparks stirring up between them.

A solid three quarters of the appeal Lily Craig’s Pretend Girlfriend held for me starting out was that it is built on the fake dating trope. That sort of deal where two characters fake a relationship for one reason or another but it’s obvious from the start that one or both of them are totally into the other, and of course they wind up together because it’s a romance trope. It’s meant to have a happy ending. I have no idea why I’m as about this trope as I am, but here we are.

Pretend Girlfriend has more than a fair amount of repetition and not a ton of plot. There’s some places where it feels kind of soap opera-esque, with really big reactions to things the reader hadn’t been in on either. Despite all that, it is a lot of fun. Celeste and Lane are two very different characters from two very different sets of circumstances. They play off each other well for a lot of the book and the places where they don’t do a good job of setting up a situation where their personalities would absolutely clash.

There is a lot of mutual pining and deciding that the other is just in it for the job. That, I admit, got a little old especially since it was intercut with the characters making huge strides in caring for and getting to know each other. It was never so bad that it became unreadable, but it did get to a point where it felt like it was being used to keep Celeste and Lane in a holding pattern longer than necessary. It also made the cruise feel like it had gone on for far more than two weeks by the time the climax hit.

Contrasting that though, I really enjoyed the bits with the two out and about at the cruise’s various stops. Celeste trying to show she cared and finding that she was enjoying herself while with Lane was pretty great. The banter between them was fun. And it actually felt like Celeste was loosening up and having more fun as the book continued.

So, yeah, Pretend Girlfriend was a lot of fun. It doesn’t need much of a plot because the focus is squarely on the protagonists getting closer and falling for each other. It’s fun and light and a little ridiculous, so Pretend Girlfriend gets a four out of five from me. It has a base trope that I really like and fun characters that I wouldn’t mind seeing more of.

Eureka! Dice

Excited to get back into the swing of things here. I’ve been meaning to talk about this set for the past couple of weeks. What can I say, I’m a fan of shiny objects.

Eureka 1

Given how much I liked the Confetti Dice, when I heard about Dice Envy’s Eureka! Dice I really wanted to check them out. Bonus fun there when the page for them contains a blurb about the Gold Rush of ’49 and description of why clear dice with gold flakes and black lettering.

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I really dig the look of these. The clear acrylic is clean and I didn’t see any bubbles. The gold flakes, while tending to gather at one end of the dice, are scattered well throughout and don’t poke through the acrylic. And the paint job on the numbers is well done, there aren’t any notable thin spots or anything similar. The clearness and stark numbering can make these a little hard to read if you aren’t paying attention, but that’s a matter of paying attention rather than a fault in the dice.

The dice also feel nice in the hand. That’s pretty expected with acrylic dice, but still worth noting. Special note here is the second 33mm d20, it’s way bigger than standard and nicely heavy as a result.

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I think I actually like the bigger d20 better than most of the dice I own because it feels nifty. I like the novelty of it and that it was made for this set instead of being a one off dice.

As usual, I find myself really pleased with this set. The quality is good. The set looks good. And the Eureka! Dice feel nice to roll. So, all totaled up, the Eureka! set gets a five out of five.

This is one that’s been giving me all kinds of trouble writing a review for. It’s one that I really enjoyed reading, but that is really hard to talk about without risking serious spoilers. Obviously something I want to avoid there. This one’s courtesy of netGalley. Here’s Mira Grant’s In the Shadow of Spindrift House. Enjoy!

In the Shadow of Spindrift House cover

Straight lines don’t exist in nature. There is no place for them among the curves, the twists, the softened edges. The House stands, all ruler straight lines and sharply measured angles, above a dying town that the sea reclaims street by street. The House stands, holding tight to its secrets and waiting. Harlowe Upton-Jones has been searching for answers for as long as she can remember. It’s what found her the teen detective group that would become her family. It’s what she’s good at. But a teen detective group can only stay teens so long and it’s all Harlowe can hope to do is find one last big case. One last big case to keep the band together or give the group a proper send off. One last big case that might find her the answers she’s been looking for since her parents’ murder. The legends surrounding Spindrift House twist in on themselves bending the Answer Squad’s story into something it was always meant to be, something it was never meant to be.

In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant is decidedly Lovecraftian in its horror, which in a lot of ways makes it kind of hard to talk about. The house itself is this inescapable thing for Harlowe, something she’s been keeping back from showing the other members of the Answer Squad for years but that she also knows is the big mystery. The one that could make them hit the big time, the one she hopes will keep her friends together for a little longer. The book is a story of losing battles and inevitabilities, buried family secrets and friends growing up and growing apart.

A lot of the story is driven by Harlowe being desperate to hold on to her present, to avoid facing the future for just a little longer. She doesn’t see any prospects for herself, no colleges that would take her that she could afford to go to, the girl she loves is planning on moving on with her life now that the mysteries are drying up. It’s that desperate fear that takes them to the Spindrift house and let’s Harlowe make excuses to just stay a little longer and a little longer. After all, Addison would be so mad if they left  and missed out on the reward money. Or maybe she just imagined the truly creepy things going on, they should just take a little longer and keep looking. There’s a fair amount of that.

In a lot of ways, the atmosphere of the story builds on mundane fears and frustrations. The Answer Squad are at a point in their lives where they can’t really be teen detectives anymore, and Harlowe feels more than a little trapped by the changes she’s staring down. She’s the one with no plan. She’s the one that weird things are happening to in Spindrift house. In a lot of ways it feels like the mundane is the root of all Harlowe and, by extension, the Answer Squad’s troubles within the story. They’re high school graduates, so the local authorities don’t have as much patience for them solving mysteries the police couldn’t. There aren’t many mysteries headed their way anymore, so they can’t support themselves with it, so Addison is getting ready to go make something of herself and start a career. Harlowe feels adrift and scared that she’s going to lose the people closest to her, so she pulls out the nuclear option of final mysteries.

Then Spindrift house itself has this fantastic oppressive atmosphere. The weight of time and all the fears that have driven Harlowe to lead her friends here. The things that are just off, that are wrong in little ways that add up. Then, there’s a reprieve, a moment with the Answer Squad just being a group of friends. It eases up for a little while to let the reader breath and to restart the cycle of rising tension. The writing in In the Shadow of Spindrift House is tight and satisfying even as a number of things begin to feel more and more inevitable.

This is much further on the horror end of things than a lot of things I read. But a slow creeping sort of horror, an internal horror that’s too big to properly fight, as opposed to something more action oriented. That is absolutely to its credit. Grant did a fantastic job here, especially with regard to the atmosphere. So, of course In the Shadow of Spindrift House gets a five out of five from me. It makes me want more of this setting and this type of horror.

It’s the first of July, Summer is happening, and you know what that means? That means it’s time for the same thing that happens every Monday. Dice! This is another set from the Dice Envy Original subscription box. Enjoy!

Acid Splash 1

Right, so the Acid Splash dice set’s June’s Origin box dice of the month. These are black dice, with sort of a goldenrod yellow paint, and reverse engraving to make the details pop and add an interesting texture to them. I really like the contrast and the bubbling effect.

That said, since the effect is reverse engraved and stands level with the face of the dice, there’s a lot of places where the paint isn’t even. It’s either too thin or it looks like the dice were turned while it was still wet and it flowed around the design. On it’s own that isn’t a big deal, a lot of dice need a paint touch up, but there isn’t a good, simple way of touching up the paint on these.

Acid Splash 2

Surprisingly, with all the extra detail, the Acid Splash dice are easy to read. That’s definitely helpful. The texture is pretty nice, it adds to the way the dice feel in hand. They roll well, as expected with acrylic dice.

That’s about the size of it. The Acid Splash dice are a solid set of dice with nifty decoration. The only real issue I’ve found with them is the paint being uneven and hard to fix, but that’s pretty minor. I really like the aesthetic of the Acid Splash dice, the bubbling controlled chaos. It makes me sort of wish I could get a set of d10s in this mold, so I could use them for World of Darkness, roll up some horrifying thing beyond the ken of modern mortals to throw at my players. So, yeah, they get a four out of five. I’m looking forward to building a character to use these with.

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.