Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: Of Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt


Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and The People Who Play It
by David M. Ewalt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ebook copy from Netgalley.

Description

HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS.

Ancient red dragons with 527 hit points, +44 to attack, and a 20d10 breath weapon, to be specific. In the world of fantasy role-playing, those numbers describe a winged serpent with immense strength and the ability to spit fire. There are few beasts more powerful—just like there are few games more important than Dungeons & Dragons.

Even if you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, you probably know someone who has: the game has had a profound influence on our culture. Released in 1974—decades before the Internet and social media—Dungeons & Dragons inspired one of the original nerd subcultures, and is still revered by millions of fans around the world. Now the authoritative history and magic of the game are revealed by an award-winning journalist and lifelong D&D player.

In Of Dice and Men, David Ewalt recounts the development of Dungeons & Dragons from the game’s roots on the battlefields of ancient Europe, through the hysteria that linked it to satanic rituals and teen suicides, to its apotheosis as father of the modern video-game industry. As he chronicles the surprising history of the game’s origins (a history largely unknown even to hardcore players) and examines D&D’s profound impact, Ewalt weaves laser-sharp subculture analysis with his own present-day gaming experiences. An enticing blend of history, journalism, narrative, and memoir, Of Dice and Men sheds light on America’s most popular (and widely misunderstood) form of collaborative entertainment.

Review

What first drew me to this book was the title. Then I read the description of the book and I knew it was a book that I should read.  I consider myself a mini-geek.  I enjoy playing D&D but I'm by no means a hardcore player. I get lost easily with the rules and I know I don't play well crafted characters.  I love the storytelling aspect of the game, but I'm a horrible Dungeon Master. All this being said, I know very little about the history of the game. Of Dice and Men, is the kind of history book I like to read.  It approaches an interesting topic in an entertaining way.  David Ewalt's background in journalism helps gives this book an easy nature that made it enjoyable to read.  

David includes stories about his own game play and experiences in playing role playing games.  As someone who plays the game, I found the stories enjoyable and on some level relatable. For someone who hasn't played the game, I think the stories add to the description of the game development and play.  As discussed in the book, the game hasn't always been shown in the best light.  Many people don't understand and make stereotypical judgments about the game and the players.  Let's be honest, the players are heavily male and even though I am a female player I know I'm a minority in the make up of those who play. I think David's personal stories also show that players come from all different backgrounds and live all sorts of different lives.  David writes for Forbes, I'm a librarian, my friends work in retail, computer programming and a range of different professions. 

The history of the creation of the game was enlightening. I knew Gary Gygax is listed as the creator, the game came out in the 1970s, and it has gone through a few editions.  The history is so much more than that with a number of lawsuits, internal management issues, bad publicity and a number of other situations.  As TSR (the company that produced the game) grew so did their problems and eventually they sold the game to Wizards of the Coast.  As someone who only started playing since WotC ownership I was interested in knowing how the game progressed from it's humble start to the powerhouse game it is today.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in Dungeons & Dragons whether they are a player, a non-player, and especially those who have someone who plays and they want to know more about where their loved one disappears to on game night. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Review - Once Upon a Wallflower by Wendy Lyn Watson

Once Upon A Wallflower by Wendy Lyn Watson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ebook copy for review from Netgalley.

Mira Fitzhenry is the poor relation.  She lives with her uncle and his family and is made to feel sub par in every way.  She doesn't fit in with society's standards and has grown to accept how everyone views her.  She has the misfortune of sharing a name with her cousin and therefore becomes a pawn in her uncle's plan to get out of debt and save his own daughter.  Her uncle has promised that Miss Mirabelle Fitzhenry will marry the Viscount Ashfield in exchange for his gambling debts to be cleared by the Viscount's father the Earl of Blackwell.  The Earl is a scoundrel and the Viscount is rumored to be a murderer, to dabble in the black arts and a number of other unsavory things.

Nicholas, the Viscount Ashfield, reminded me of a romantic version of Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights.  They are both dark, brooding men who spend their time roaming the moors.  He despises having been called to London by his father and plan on using his unsavory reputation and skilled dark looks to scare away the unlucky women.  That was his plan until he met Mira.  The fact that Mira is everything that society is not, attracts him to her almost instantly.  It helps that she feels almost the same attraction. Their plans to end the engagement falter as they get to know and like each other.

When the story moves from London to Blackwell Hall, is when I started to have some issues with the story. Mira's desire to solve the mystery of the deaths of two local girls and Nicholas' first fiancee, turned this story from a more Gothic mystery into a historical cozy mystery. I would have preferred if the solving of the mystery to have been more subtle than her outright investigation.  I would have also liked a bit more of the scenes with Mira and Nicholas alone to have focused on who they are than on solving the mystery. Their romantic story lacked a little something for me, and I really liked them together.

I think this book is perfect for those who read cozy mysteries and would like to venture into romance, especially historical romance.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ebook copy from Netgalley.

This book is so many things and all of them add a different element that makes it hard to put down.

This story is a glimpse into the life of a troubled teen who has figured out how to slip through the cracks and play the system.  He is alone in the world, dealing with some major issues and feeling as if no one cares.  He uses the fact that his birthday has arrived and no one seems to know or remember as an excuse for what he feels must be done.  He must end his life and the life of his former best friend.

We are on the journey with him as he goes through his day saying goodbye to the four people who he has connected with in the past few years.

There's Walt, his elderly next-door neighbor, who has introduced Leonard to Humphrey Bogart movies. The two will spend full days watching the movies and quoting lines back and forth. Walt is the first to notice that something is wrong with Leonard but he lacks the means to do more that voice mild concern.

There is Baback a fellow loner student.  The two have an odd sort of friendship.  Leonard spends his lunch period (and his lunch money) listening to Baback play the violin.

There's Lauren, a devout Christian who tries to bring the light of Christ into Leonard's life. His recounting of how he met Lauren is in a way absurd but completely fitting with Leonard's character.

Herr Silverman, Leonard's Holocaust class teacher, is probably the most important person in Leonard's life.  He's the kind of teacher we read about in books and wish we had in school.  Like Walt he notices that something is not really right with Leonard on this day and he tries, as best he can, to reach out and offer help.

Leonard is that smart ass kid who thinks he's smarter than his classmates.  He's got a sense of humor that I love seeing in characters, but it's shadowed by this darkness. You see this in the letters written to Leonard from the future (that's all I'm going to say about them because I don't want to give too much away).   As the story progresses we learn about the cause of his darkness.  It was at this revelation that and the following events in the book that really made me feel as though this was the best novel I've read so far this year.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Review: Pirates and Prejudice by Kara Louise (#AustenInAugustRBR)

Pirates and PrejudicePirates and Prejudice by Kara Louise
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I fist saw this book I got excited.  The first thought that crossed through my head was "OMG please, please, please let it be a cross between Pride and Prejudice and The Princess Bride."

 If that wasn't your first thought take a moment and think about.

Okay done thinking? Good!

If you have a similar imagination to mine, then this book pretty much lived up to your imagination.  Instead of being captured by pirates, Darcy is mistaken for a pirate. He can prove he's not the dread pirate but the officials need his help to capture his pirate double.  Now you might be asking how distinguished Mr. Darcy was mistaken for  pirate. Darcy really let himself go after Elizabeth turned him down.

It is while he is disguised that he is reunited with Elizabeth, who has been on the Isles of Scilly with her father visiting his sick sister.  On their return trip to England a bad storm hits, their boat is blown off course and hit some rocks causing it to become stranded.  There is an island near by and women are taken over to the island.

And that's when the pirate adventure begins!

With out spoiling the adventure here are some of my favorite things in this novel as they relate to The Princess Bride
-As with Wesley and Buttercup it is a common phrase spoken my Mr. Darcy that alerts Elizabeth to his true identity.
-Just as Wesley bluffs his way out of a sword fight (since he is still paralyzed from being mostly dead) there is a great bluff during a sword fight.
-Just as Inigo and Fezzik go from kidnappers to good guys there are a few very likable "pirates" that turn into good guys.

While not related to The Princess Bride the new situation with Lidya and Wickham was wonderfully re-imagined to fit in with the new story line.

I will be reading this one again, and I suggest you pick it up to read too!


View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book Crafts in the Library

Last night I did an adult craft of origami flowers. I had fun and they seems to enjoy playing with glue (they kind of overdid the glue part of the craft).

First I cut up an old book that was falling apart:
video
video

Once I had the book pages cut it was just time to wait for the day of the program.

Last night was craft night:
 I was all set for my crafters!

Here's how to make the Kusudama Flowers:








For full written instructions you can visit


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Austen in August Reading Event - Kickoff!

Austen in August Reading Event hosted by Roof Beam Reader
I have a lot going on in August so I'm not going to push myself. I plan on reading two books, both by author Kara Louise





August is also the month of CNJ JASNA's yearly Box Hill Picnic. The Box Hill Picnic is one of the most famous scenes in Emma.  We enjoy gathering together and having a strawberry dessert.  This year in honor of 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice we are picking our favorite passages from the novel.

I'll have my favorite passage posted a few days before our meeting. What's your favorite passage or quote from Pride and Prejudice?