Category: Five Star


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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!

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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.

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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.

Magic Missile Infinity D4

Running late this week, but I’m doing something a little different this time. When it comes to dice, standard d4 are probably my least favorite. They’re odd little caltrops of dice that function fine but just don’t quite work for me. So of course I wanted to check out Dice Envy’s Infinity d4, and since they have a fantastic sale on a set of the Magic Missile Infinity d4 this seemed like the time to give them a try. Enjoy!

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I’m not super sure how to talk about this set exactly, but I do like them quite a bit. The dark blue and gold is a pretty standard color pairing that works really well together. I like the way the magic missiles are engraved into the dice rather than painted on. Both the decoration and the numbers are fairly deeply engraved and have awesome visibility.

Now, the big thing with these dice is that they aren’t standard d4. Obviously. A standard d4 is, of course, a sort of pyramid with the numbers assigned to each angle. I’m not a huge fan though I’d be hard pressed to say why exactly, I think part of it might just be that they aren’t as satisfying to roll as other dice. That’s not a problem with the infinity d4 because they roll a lot like a d6 and just feel nice to roll.

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I like how clear the numbering is on these, even with the decorations, they’re super easy to read. I like how they feel in the hand and just enjoy rolling them. This is a set of one single type of dice that makes me want to find an excuse to use them, like I found myself wondering what kind of character I could use these for while I was playing with them for the review. For the feel of them and the novelty of how they’re shaped, the Magic Missile Infinity d4 get a five out of five.

This feels like way more of an accomplishment than it really should. But, for this week at least, I’m back to book reviewing! This one’s courtesy of the nice folks at Entangled Teen. Here is T.H. Hernandez and Jennifer DiGiovanni’s Prom-Wrecked. Enjoy!

Prom Wrecked cover

Prom wasn’t supposed to end in a jail cell. Riley Hart is the co-chair, the vice president, the planner for more clubs and student organizations than anyone cares to count. But when senior prom is cancelled due to lack of interest and funding, she has to step up for the first time in her high school career. With the help of her gaming buddy, the utterly off limits Owen Locklear, she’s going to make prom memorable for everyone involved. Missing deposits, elderly musicians, uncertain community donors, missing deposits, or even venue destroying acts of nature or not there will be prom.

T.H, Hernandez and Jennifer DiGiovanni did a number of nifty things with Prom-Wrecked. The split point of view between advertised protagonist Riley and her former best friend Catherine showing the reader different aspects of prom planning and the various characters is used fantastically. Add on to that, both points of view feel like very different coming of age stories that complement each other well. It was a really fun read.

One thing that I think worked to the book’s favor was the bit at the beginning where the reader is shown how prom ended. All the major characters are in jail, a number of them are roughed up, and the reader knows nothing about how a high school prom went so wrong that it ended up like this. Roll back to the day that prom’s cancelation is announced and read every bit of everything going wrong and the kids in the jail cell trying to make it work anyway. It simultaneously takes away the worry about Riley and company failing while also promising ridiculous events on the way there.

The two separate coming of age stories thing that I mentioned earlier is also worth noting. Both Riley and Catherine are sort of stuck in their respective social niches. Riley is in everything but avoids leading anything until the prom committee, while Catherine is one of the popular girls but stuck with friends she isn’t really friends with and trapped by her mother’s expectations. One has to learn to lead and deal with other people’s expectations, the other has to learn to embrace what she enjoys despite expectations. It works. More so, it works while still feeling like a single cohesive  story rather than two partial stories stitched together.

Extra special bonus points to the Catherine chapters. As the former best friend who dumped the protagonist to hang out with the popular girls, she could have easily been a one note mean girl character. Having her be the deuteragonist neatly avoids that, gives the story a character who’s invested in prom happening and has the connections to attempt things that Riley couldn’t, and makes the love story bits more interesting and satisfying. She might actually be my favorite character.

The romance aspect that generally is something that elicits an eye roll and a fair amount of disinterest in both YA and contemporary novels is present here. And it did initially get an eye roll. But then something happened. Riley kept a lid on her crush on Owen and was as good a friend as she could be, supporting his relationship with Catherine and joking around with him, listening to his ideas for Morp and spinning them into something workable. It’s a lot of fun and leaves him the one pining for what can’t be. More even than that, on Catherine’s side of things we have her realizing that her relationship with Owen isn’t what either of them really wants. The lack of an antagonist within the romance narrative works for me really well, as does the way Riley and Owen and Owen and Catherine feel like friends who care about each other instead of points on a triangle.

If I have one quibble, it’s with a bit towards the end where better communication could have avoided a lot of stress for a number of characters. But that feels both in character and like it paid off pretty well, so it’s kind of a nothing issue. If I have a second one, it’s that some of the music references felt kind of forced. That might have just been because I’d only heard of a third or so of the artists referenced though.

So, Hernandez and DiGiovanni’s Prom-Wrecked is very much not my usual cup of tea, being a YA contemporary romantic tragicomedy about the rise and fall of a canceled senior prom. It’s not the kind of book I would usually pick up or, really, give much thought. But it was absolutely the book I needed to break myself out of my reading slump. Prom-Wrecked was just fun and I’m ready to look for other things either author has written. Five out of five.

Happy Monday everyone! It’s been a busy weekend with game night and the War of the Spark pre-release, but I’m back with another set of dice. Bit of a heads up, Dice Envy is having their Spring Sale right now. They also have a new set of Your First Set of Dice out, King’s Heath, they’re pretty nice looking. But, for now at least, forward to today’s dice!

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Now, I’m pretty sure that this is the Spark Brook set of dice, something that I think was only recently posted up to the Dice Envy website. They have a lot of design aspects in common with the Kosmos Mars set, with the glitter and the combination of a lighter main color and a darker color sort of swirled in. That said the glitter in this set is finer adding more of a light sparkle to the dice rather than bold sparks, and that adds a lot I think. The main color of these is this sort of really pale light blue and the glitter makes it look almost ethereal. The darker blue is just a touch of another color, it adds interest to the set without distracting from the main color or the glitter.

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The hand feel and balance on these is good. The numbers are cut reasonably deeply. There are a few places where the paint on the numbers is a bit thin and the acrylic can be seen through it. It doesn’t stop the numbers from being legible at all and it can look pretty cool.

There’s something about this set that makes me think of spring days and the start of an adventure. I think it’s the color combination and that I’ve started trying to figure out what kind of character I would design for them. The gold and darker blue make me think of a classic hero type, with the sparkly lighter blue giving it a sense of freshness. I’d probably roll a character on their first adventure, a straight forward hero type.

In any case, these dice are nice. They feel good, they look good, and they roll reliably randomly. I would happily add them to my collection, five out of five.

This one was a bit difficult to get written. I enjoyed it a great deal, but didn’t have a ton to say about it. That said, this one’s thanks to the awesome folks at First Second. Here’s Hope Larson’s All Summer Long. Enjoy!

All Summer Long cover

Bina and Austin have been friends forever and with summer vacation starting she’s excited to get started on their yearly Summer Fun Index. At least, she’s excited until finding out he’s headed to soccer camp instead. There’s a waiting list and he’s super excited, but that leaves Bina alone for a month with nothing to do. She practices her guitar and watches way too much tv, but the summer doesn’t really get started until she finds herself hanging out with Austin’s older sister Charlie. When Austin comes home, he’s acting weird and distant and embarrassed. They’ve been friends forever, but are Bina and Austin growing apart or just growing up?

All Summer Long is an interesting slice of life, a school summer vacation from the middle of middle school. The time where things start changing super quickly and the people you’ve always known start growing into new versions of themselves. It’s a nifty coming of age story with a focus on music that makes me want to look up the bands mentioned.

All Summer Long is comparatively short, hitting the high notes of the summer rather than the entirety of it. Though, in a lot of ways that feels a lot like my memories of summer vacation. Bina’s friends are all away, her best friend isn’t texting her back, and her parents want her to do homework instead of watching tv. She’s in for a boring one until she starts hanging out with Charlie and listening to the Steep Street album Austin lent her before he left. She’s got family stuff happening, but happy family stuff, with her older brother and his husband adopting a baby. It’s coming of age stuff, and most of it’s cute. The parts that aren’t are the kind of arguments that come from growing pains, for all the characters involved.

I don’t have much more to say about this one. I enjoyed it a lot and, like a lot of First Second books, think it would be a great fit for a middle school library. Hope Larson did really good work here, this is something I’ve read multiple times leading up to reviewing it. I give All Summer Long a five out of five.

This was later than planned, still working on fixing that. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time. Thanks to  James Aquilone, here is Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher. Enjoy!

Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher cover

Dead Jack, the best zombie detective in Shadow Shade, saved Pandemonium from certain destruction. It was totally him. The cost was high though, Oswald hasn’t woken up since her took the blast from the Pandemonium Device exploding. Without Oswald there Jack’s fallen off the wagon, spending his days in a haze of dust and Devil Boy. He hasn’t had a case in weeks. Lucky for Jack an old army buddy from his living days, Garry, has tracked him down with the promise of finding their souls. Just, get someone to translate the diary Garry stole, find the alchemist who has their souls, and dodge the neo-Nazis that want to use his sidekick to wipe out Pandemonium. Nothing difficult for the best zombie detective in Shadow Shade. Right?

Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher follows a book that I enjoyed a great deal, removes a big chunk of what I liked about it, and still leaves me waiting for the next book. The last book gave us a noir style detective with all the tropes associated, but then never tried to make him right or to present his behavior as correct. Dead Jack is a massive jerk, and that’s great because he gets called on it. Here though, Oswald is out of the picture so that element of humanization is absent. Instead we get more of Dead Jack the character instead of Dead Jack the plot device, we get into his history as he’s forced to deal with feelings and memories and a lot of things that he generally doesn’t.

A lot of Jack’s memories tie into his time in World War 2, particularly dealing with his death and the horrific experiments visited upon him. The way he became Dead Jack. This works pretty fantastically to show the reader more about the man Jack had been, especially when that man and the zombie we know don’t line up quite right. That’s a fantastic draw for me. Tie it in with Dead Jack seeming to soften up to his companions a little and I’m excited to see where his characterization goes from here.

Now, the group of neo-Nazis who had been experimenting on him follow Garry into the story. They’re after the diary and him again, but more than that, they want Oswald as part of a plan to steal all the souls in Pandemonium. They are the biggest threat of the book, bigger than dark elf prison guards or giant spiders or the devil himself. They have the ability to potentially bring Pandemonium to its knees. They’re weirdly obsessed with their uniforms and how nice they are. The book manages to strike a balance between making it clear that they’re fanboys for the original Nazis and that that is ridiculous and making it clear that they are an actual threat to Pandemonium and very dangerous. It also makes it incredibly satisfying when they get punched.

Much like Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device this isn’t a super serious book and it plays with familiar tropes. I enjoy it all the more for that. This was a fun read, it maintains the quality of the first book, and it leaves me impatient for the next one. So, yeah, Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher gets a five out of five. If James Aquilone keeps this up he’s going to wind up one of my favorite authors.