Category: Four Star


Monday again, and that means I get to talk about dice. This set has a kind of funky name and a gloriously glimery aesthetic, it’s Dice Envy’s Happy Birthday, Katie! dice set. Enjoy!

Happy Birthday Katie 1

My adoration of sparkly things is, at this point, well beyond well documented. I like dice with colorful glitter in them. I like dice with nifty inclusions in them. I like dice with interesting color combinations. These have all of the above. The Happy Birthday, Katie! dice set are split between one side that has clear blue acrylic and star shaped confetti and the other side that is absolutely packed with purple micro glitter. The pairing really shouldn’t work together, but the effect is really fun.

The inking is, per standard, well done. I didn’t see any thin parts or over filled places and the silver ink is readily visible regardless of which side of the dice comes up.

Happy Birthday Katie 3

Rolling the dice feels nice. There don’t seem to be any places where the confetti sticks out. Despite having what seems like two very different sets of inclusions, none of the dice in my set have major bubbles visible. The d10 did have a few very small ones, but that does not seem to have effected how it rolls just based on my testing. None of the other dice showed favorite sides either.

Happy Birthday Katie 2

Which brings me to this bit.This is a dice set that makes me think about the Jem and the Holograms comics and the fun of sharing terrible 80’s video clips with my friends. It’s bright and happy looking and rolls well. The part of me that says good enough is good enough gives the Happy Birthday, Katie! dice set a five out of five. But, given that there were bubbles on the d10, regardless of how minor, I’m going to bump it down to a four out of five and suggest giving your set a look over and a few test rolls for these.

As to what sort of character I would use these for, I’m split between wanting to just roll up one of the Holograms as a bard and wanting to use the incredibly sparkly dice for just the dourest basic fighter I can work up. The more I think the more I lean towards the bard, never played one before so I might as well give it a try.

Vibe Check Dice

I am later on this than I would have liked to be. Things have been wild recently and I do not know when they will slow down. But I’m doing what I can as I can. Today though, I’m here to talk about dice. Specifically Dice Envy’s Vibe Check dice because I like sparkly things. Also, Dice Envy has a coupon active right now, FEBRUARYCURSE, that will net you 25% off your next order. But on to the dice!

Vibe Check 1

So, Vibe Check is definitely a set of dice where what you get can vary greatly from the display set pictured on the site. The set there has a much more even split of the sparkly peach color and the yellow-green. This is, for people who are me, kind of a cool example of how the acrylic pouring process works. But I also think that the colors work much better either blended more evenly or dominated by the sparkles. That said, I am certain that if my set had been mostly the yellow-green with a largely peachy d20 I would be saying the same thing in reverse.

Vibe Check 2

As ever, I am a massive fan of sparkly things and the peach works really nicely here. Also, while the gold ink does work better with the peach it is nicely visible on the yellow-green as well. That isn’t as obvious as I would like in these pictures, but it is nicely visible. No obvious thin spots. Just all around well inked.

The Vibe Check dice set also, as expected for acrylic dice, feel nice in the hand and roll well. There don’t seem to be any bubbles in my set, since the dice don’t seem to have favorite sides. Yeah, just in general these are enjoyable to roll.

Vibe Check 3

I am at a bit of a stand still on how to rate this set. With exception to the d20 having such a wildly different blend of the two colors I really like the look of the Vibe Check set that I got. It isn’t quite what was advertised, but that is somewhat to be expected when a set is a blend of two acrylics. That’s the thing I keep coming back to. I think this set, rather than the Vibe Check dice as a whole, gets a four out of five from me. If Dice Envy added these to the al a carte dice and I was able to order a d20 that might better match the rest of the set it would probably bump up to a full five out of five. I’ll just have to wait and see on that though.

I think this book might have kicked off my recent reading streak. I enjoyed it a great deal and very much appreciate Entangled Teen’s providing me with a copy for review. Here’s Pintip Dunn’s Malice. Enjoy!

Malice cover

In a shattering flash of electricity Alice was visited by a voice claiming to be from the future. A voice that would go on to inform her that one of the students at her school is the creator of a virus that, in her time, has killed all but a third of the human population. A voice that charges her with finding out who this person is and stopping them before it is too late. But the voice’s orders often feel contradictory or nonsensical and Alice finds herself questioning if following its orders is really the best way to save the future. Is there anything that she can do to save the future outside of the voice’s orders? And why is it so insistent that she avoid one specific boy?

There is a lot to recommend Pintip Dunn’s Malice. The concept is interesting, the idea of a sort of indirect time travel and the implications of that fascinate me. So does the way the story was laid out, with Alice being pulled in different directions by the voice and her own feelings and fears, but it does so while laying out a solid path to who the virus maker might be and building layers of characterization for most of the cast.

The characters for the most part felt like characters. They felt like they existed for more reasons that to support the romance sub plot between Alice and Bandit and, more importantly, most of them felt like they could have been the protagonists of the book if it had been written from a different angle. Even the nameless background students feel like they could have been characters. Alice notes people interacting in the background as part of describing her surroundings. The only real exceptions here have their reasons for being comparatively out of focus, though there were a couple of characters that I found myself wishing we had seen more of.

The plot is well laid out, a reader can pretty easily catch on to where things are going. Though enough unexpected happens that the book never gets boring. Even the romance subplot is well done, it feels like Alice is actually getting to know Bandit rather than just them suddenly being in love. It fits well with the plot too, supporting and complementing it rather well.

One of the only things I have a real complaint with is how the confrontation with the virus maker was handled. It felt rushed in an odd way, almost like Dunn only had so many pages she was allowed and was running out of them. There was all this set up baked in for the virus maker, right up to the climax where the virus maker sounded both heartbreakingly young and so far gone that it sort of made the rest of the ending not work for me. It was not the worst ending that I have ever read by any means, but I would have liked for it to have been given a little more space to settle in.

I had a lot of fun with Malice. There were moments when I wanted Alice to go ahead and figure out what was going on so that we could get into the fighting back part. There were moments where something clicked and I just knew where things were moving. It was a book that I was willing to go with the flow on and see how things fell into place. The writing was well plotted and, while Malice is vehemently a standalone book, I find myself looking forward to what Dunn writes next. So, this earns a four out of five from me.

 

Vespertine Dice

Got a lot of excitement tonight, I’ve been given a coupon code by Dice Envy to share with you all. It’ll get you free shipping on your order, just type in Tympest10 at checkout. I suggest checking out the Vespertine dice that are featured here but they have a lot of sets to check out. Regardless, enjoy!

Vespertine 1

I am, as ever, a fan of interesting dice so a set of smokey grey dice with sparkly gold flake and micro glitter sprinkled through is definitely a set that I wanted to check out. The balance of the grey and gold are really nice together and the purple micro glitter complements both well. On the sides with a great deal  of gold flake the darker purple inking stands out well and looks really nice. It’s all together a nice looking set of dice.

There is a bit of an issue with visibility on the set though. With the acrylic and the inking both being as dark as they are, especially when set on a table, and the visual confusion caused by the gold flake and micro glitter they are a bit difficult to read at any distance.

Vespertine 2

Now before I go too far with the inking, it is well done. There weren’t any thin spots that I saw or places where the paint went over the edges of the numbers. The color itself is quite nice and, as much as I love the purple used for it, I think I want to try re-inking them in a lighter shade of it. Save the overall aesthetic but also increase the readability.

As can be expected of acrylic dice these feel nice in hand and roll well. Despite the gold flake inclusions there do not seem to be any bubbles in my set. They seem well balanced, none of the dice have favorite numbers as far as I’ve seen.

Vespertine 3

It’s really easy to think of this as a sort of sister set to the Celestine dice I talked about a couple of weeks ago. Both feature a clear colored resin and gold flake as major parts of the design, and of course that means that both have the same visibility issue in common. That’s a pretty easy fix though and one that I’m excited to try out. Plus I really enjoy the aesthetic of the set and have found myself using them for my online game regardless of readability. So, all told the Vespertine dice set earns a four out of five from me.

So, here’s a review where I dip my toe in a setting that I know not a ton about. I feel like the book stands well enough on its own to be enjoyable even if you aren’t super familiar with the rest of the Star Wars extended universe. This has sort of inspired another thing I want to talk about. For now though, enjoy!

Star Wars Queen's Shadow cover

On the last day of her rule Queen Amidala stayed ensconced with her handmaidens and trusted guards, relaxing on the one day she could before trying to build a life as Padmé Naberrie. A life she would have to put off building once the new Queen asked her to continue serving Naboo. The planet needed a new representative in the Galactic Senate, who could be a better fit? Who else loves Naboo and its people well enough to fight for them? And so Padmé agrees to take up the mantle of senator, to remain Amidala for as long as she is needed. A senator needs to be a much different person than a queen though, Padmé and her handmaidens will need to figure out what that means if she is going to navigate the Galactic Senate.

I confess, I started E. K. Johnson’s Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow because I wanted something science fiction but with little to no narrative consequence. So a book focused on a character who, while I’m certain other aspects of her personal arc have been covered on other books, by definition cannot be allowed to do anything that would have consequences for the greater Star Wars narrative seemed like it would fit the bill pretty well. The blurb suggested that it would be mostly character work, something that sounded really good honestly. It was pretty well exactly what I was looking for.

As much as this is a book about Padmé, and her change over from Queen to senator, it’s also very much about her world and the people she surrounds herself with. Early on each of Padmé’s handmaidens get a fair amount of focus all the better to drive home how close they all are and how much they care about Naboo, how idealistic Naboo’s culture is even after the Trade Federation’s attack. It gets the reader attached to everything Padmé is about to leave behind. Gives a taste of her relationships and the rules she’s lived by before leading into a place where those relationships and rules are not nearly as effective as they had been at home, are in fact detrimental in some ways. I adored that. Having the protagonist not only very clearly relying on others, but having that be a core feature of how she is able to accomplish things and adapt is something that I had not really realized that I miss in a fair number of other books. Because Padmé’s handmaidens are more than just her staff, she trusts them with her life and there’s this support structure there. Especially with Sabé, Padmé’s best friend and bodyguard and body double, very nearly the deuteragonist in some places where she acts as an agent outside of the happenings directly in the Galactic Senate.

I found myself wanting to see more of the handmaiden characters as the book went on and focused more on Senator Amidala. I find myself wanting to see more of them having finished the book, it left me curious about how they would deal with the Empire but not doubting for a moment that each of them would rebel in her own way be that art or politics, providing space for those displaced or fighting directly. I want to know where they went from the last chapter of Queen’s Shadow and where that took them.

That also leads me to one of the only issues I had with Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow.  The ending, specifically the epilogue, just completely took me out of it. The final chapter wrapped things up on a low note but left the reader with a sense of hope. Padmé and her team are going to keep fighting for what’s good and right in the galaxy.  The Epilogue shattered that in a way that starts off beautifully mirroring the first chapter but that also feels unnecessary and almost mean spirited in how it deals with some of the characters. It took me from knowing that cannon will still happen with everything that implies and hammered it in like a crooked nail in an otherwise fantastically built piece. It killed the sense of hope that the final chapter ended on and that’s what I find myself coming back to over and over like a missing tooth. The death of hope and how very out of place it feels in the context of the rest of the book.

That’s my only big issue and, aside from a couple of odd romance-ish moments that felt a little out of place, I think it was my only real issue. If not for the epilogue Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow would be a five out of five for me. It leaves me wanting more from the characters and I am definitely planning on looking for more of E. K. Johnson’s work. So, all told Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow earns a four out of five.

Celestine Dice

New week, new dice review, and this is a set that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a little while. So, thanks to Dice Envy, here is their Celestine Dice. Enjoy!

Celestine 1

This set is one of those instances where I really dig each part individually. The soft clear pink of the acrylic is a nice color, readily complemented by both the gold leaf and the pink micro glitter. The gold leaf is a really cool idea for an inclusion and the way it settles through the acrylic gives the dice a nifty effect that is only enhanced by the micro glitter. Even the inking being gold complements the pink of the acrylic and offers a good visual follow through to the gold leaf.

The inking is, as usual with Dice Envy, well done with no notable thin spots on my set. The only issue I have with the inking is a largely personal one. Because the inking is gold and the dice have gold leaf scattered through them some of the sides where the gold leaf has settled can be a little hard to read from the table. It isn’t a really big deal, but if I was going to use them as my main dice for a campaign I would probably either use a dice tray and keep them close or consider re-inking them. Possibly just re-inking the sides that I was having trouble with, because that could also be used to good effect.

Celestine 2

Also as expected, the dice roll well and do not seem to have favorite numbers. Considering the gold leaf inclusions and some of their crinkly shapes, this impressed me a good deal more than usual.

The Celestine set is something of an oddity, being a nine die set rather than the seven or eleven that seem to be standard. Part of this is likely due to the inclusion of the extra large 33mm d20 which I admittedly have a fair amount of affection for, so it isn’t like I’m missing there being more d6. I like the chonky dice, it’s fun to fiddle with.

Celestine 3

Which brings us to the last bit. I like these dice, not unexpected, they’re sparkly and visually interesting. I do wish that it was a little easier to read all of their sides, but that’s an easy fix. And the extra large d20 just makes me kind of happy. So I feel like the Celestine dice earn a four out of five.

The more I play with them the more I want to use them for a character that’s just Sailor Moon but in D&D, maybe some kind of celestial warlock bound to the long dead Queen of the Moon or something to that effect. I would have to think about it. Think about it and probably home brew some stuff for how her patron would even work.

Never Just Friends

So, this got delayed a little. Got some stuff going on that made it a little harder to write than I’d like to admit. But this was a book I had a really good time reading. So here is Lily Craig’s Never Just Friends. Enjoy!

Never Just Friends cover

Having feelings for your best friend, as Georgie knows well, is terrible. Having feelings for a best friend who has not only just come out to you, but also assured you that she would never date you, is worse. So Georgie does the only thing she can to deal. She leaves town, finds a new job and tries to start a new life. Through a year of distance and worry Madelyn has come to realize that the love she holds for her best friend is romantic. She hopes that she can take time during their yearly cabin trip to mend the rift that has opened up between her and Georgie. Mend the rift and make her feelings known. But Canadian winters can be brutal and a sudden snow storm traps the two together in their cabin. Trapped by the weather the two will have to deal with their feelings and the distance created by miscommunications.

I feel like, before digging into the review here, I have to admit that friends to lovers is one of my favorite fictional romance tropes. I like the history that it can give characters and the familiarity that it tends to bring which, at its best written, can make the evolution to romance feel more natural or can bring really good drama. In most ways Lilly Craig’s Never Just Friends delivers on that.

Something that really worked for me in Never Just Friends was the way the chapters alternated between the present, with the events in the cabin as Georgie and Madelyn try to work around their feelings, and the past, showing bits of their friendship from when they first met right up to the year before. It does a good job of keeping the characters’ history and the reasons why two people who are as totally different as Georgie and Madelyn would still be sticking together after years and years. It also gives a really nifty look into who the characters were and who they became as they grew up. These looks into the past are really something that it feels like the book needs to work, the characters’ attraction could feel a little one sided and shallow without it. Georgie is shown to be more than a little emotionally shut off, not really willing to put herself out there, especially after having her heart broken by Madelyn at the start of the novel. The sections of their shared history help keep Madelyn going after Georgie so doggedly from feeling forced.

There’s actually a lot baked into Never Just Friends that really works for me, though a lot of it also verges on spoilers to talk about so I won’t go into it here. Similarly, there is not a lot that I find myself wanting to complain about. There are some places where either protagonist could have been toned down a little. Georgie’s temper flares up more than feels entirely reasonable a couple times and Madelyn can feel almost a little manic pixie dream girl desperate in her attempts to get Georgie to hear her out. Neither issue is a major one and both fit pretty reasonably with their respective characters, but there were spots where it felt more like an awkward necessity to move the plot along or maintain drama than something that was natural to the moment.

So, where does that leave me? I really liked this book. The characters were a little more complicated than I’m entirely used to in romance novels and the chapters that covered their history together was a really nice touch. While there were bits that felt like they were pushed a little further than necessary for the sake of the plot, they didn’t distract terribly from the narrative flow. For me, Never Just Friends earns a four out of five. I also admit that I did not realize that I was reading another Lily Craig novel until I was most of the way through and needed to redownload the book after clearing space on my phone, so points to her for range. I’m likely to seek out more of her work at this point.

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.

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.

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.