Sunday, May 29, 2011

Library Book: Networking for People Who Hate Networking

I am planning a trip to a conference in the near future. Somewhere during my planning, I realized that I have never been to an actual networking event (especially with the intention of networking). So I ran off to the library to grab a few books. I immediately gravitated towards Devora Zack's Networking for People Who Hate Networking because I know I am an introvert; I'm uncomfortable with the traditional networking "rules."

Luckily, Devora Zack provides some great alternatives which work with an introvert's strengths. One big tip is that introverts need to work in some time to themselves so they can recharge their energy reserves. I really enjoyed her book, and I can't wait to give some of these tips a try at my upcoming conference!

Also, I liked the book so much that I decided to buy it on my Kindle! Now I'll be able to bring the book with me and go over things on the plane!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nonfiction: Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing

I made a real push to finish Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing tonight. I started reading it a few days ago. While I did persevere, I quickly did realize that it's a bit more advanced than where I'm at. I'm going to need to go and read some of the other books on game writing that I have (which are more basic) before possibly re-reviewing this one. But I am really glad that I read it. I now have a lot more knowledge and insight into video game writing than I had before.

Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing is a book full of articles written by actual game writers. It covers a whole range of topics, from writing game manuals and tutorials to writing for all audiences and for new intellectual properties. I read it from cover to cover, but it's the kind of book you can easily peruse, reading the chapters that pertain to you. Reading the whole book all at once is a bit overwhelming, especially when you are new to game writing. But this is definitely a good book to digest in smaller chunks.

Oh, and my favourite chapter was by Andrew S. Walsh on Writing Tutorials. It was funny and super informative!

Monday, May 23, 2011


I've been reading a lot of nonfiction book lately. I was going to bring one of them to work with me yesterday when I changed my mind, opting to bring a fiction book instead. I was going to bring Mogworld, but at the last second changed my mind, choosing Masques instead. And I'm completely glad that I did!

Masques is Patricia Briggs' first book. It's been out of print for years, but was finally reprinted this past fall. Masques is the first book that takes place in Briggs' Sianim world. And while Briggs might think the book isn't as polished as her newer stuff, it was still fantastic to read! I didn't want to put it down!

Masques follows the adventures of Aralorn, a half-blooded shapeshifter, and her mysterious companion, Wolf. Employed by the Spymaster of Sianim, Aralorn is sent to spy on the ae'Magi, the head mage of the land. The Spymaster believes there is an assassination plot against the ae'Magi. But Aralorn uncovers something much worse - that the ae'Magi is not at all what he seems and is using dark magic to fuel his plots. So Aralorn finds herself and Wolf helping a dethroned King lead a ragtag army against the ae'Magi.

As I already mentioned, I really enjoyed reading Masques. I loved the characters, particularly Aralorn and Wolf. Aralorn was a young woman who wasn't afraid to stand up for herself (and who "Does not take orders, [but] will occasionally listen to suggestions"). She was funny, strong and just a joy to follow throughout the book. Wolf was in some ways her opposite, but he was still interesting. Together they were quite a pair! So if you're looking for a good tale with quirky characters, Masques is for you!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nonfiction: The Woman in the Story

I bought this book on the advice of a friend from the screenwriting class I took last summer. When my first draft of my screenplay sort of fell apart and I decided I should restructure it with one of my female characters in the lead, I decided it would be a good idea to look The Woman in the Story over.

I have to admit, I had a bit of a hard time getting through this. Yes, I got some good ideas for some things to consider when reimagining my screenplay. But the book seemed to really drag on with lots of lists and parallel lists. And even though I'm not normally bothered by the odd awkward phrase in a book, I found a few too many that they really started to annoy me. Maybe it's the fact that I've been marking papers for a few years. Or maybe I just expect better proofreading from a published book. But either way, if this book is ever republished in a second edition, I hope it's better edited.

My honest opinion is that this is a good book to peruse if you are interested in screenwriting. You should definitely look it over if you want to write heroines. Informative but a bit dense, this is a hard book to read from cover to cover.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grimm Fairy Tales: Inferno

I found this series at Chapters the other day. I've never heard of it before, but it seemed really interesting. I decided to buy Inferno because it seemed to sort of stand alone from the others.

Grace Dante suffers from amnesia. She was told she was in a car accident; she can't remember her life before that time. Grace has started having schizophrenic hallucinations. She's also being sexually harrassed by her boss, abused by her boyfriend, and over-medicated by her therapist. But then she meets Sela Mathers, who promises to help Grace see the world more clearly and remember her past.

There's a lot of really cool stuff that happens in Inferno. But I kept feeling like I was in the middle of the story, and that I was missing some major pieces of what happened before this. Inferno helps a bit with that by reprinting a couple of the missed bits at the end of the story, so when you're finished reading this volume you have a pretty good idea of what happened. But I think you'd be better off starting at the beginning of the Grimm Fairy Tales series before jumping into Inferno.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Halo: Helljumper

I was hoping to learn a bit more about the Rookie from ODST for a blogging project I'm planning. So I decided I'd read Halo: Helljumper in the hopes that I would. Unfortunately Helljumper isn't about the Rookie at all. It's about Dutch and Romeo, two of the other Helljumpers from your squad in ODST.

Romeo and Dutch are best friends. But Dutch's girlfriend, who is also an ODST, was injured and is stuck planet-side. She wants Dutch to take a different position so they can be together. Unfortunately, Dutch doesn't tell Romeo about this (or about his decision) until they are fighting for their lives.

I also have to add, my favourite part of the graphic novel was when a pair of jackals was trying to figure out what was being said on a Helljumper's comm. They don't realize that "blow" means more than just "a strong breeze."

Overall, while I've never really liked Romeo (moreso from the game. He was okay here), I thought this was a great story that doesn't take long to read. It gave a little more background to the game and was just plain fun.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ever World: Entertain the End

After everything that happened, the end of Ever World was a bit of a let down. Entertain the End itself was pretty good, but the very end seemed to come too soon. It was like the series should have kept going for a few more books.

Senna is dead, killed by April. And with her death, the group can no longer get home to the "real world." To make matters worse, they are fading; they have to choose: Ever World or the Old World. To David it's a no brainer; he is the first to disappear entirely. Christopher is now tied to Ever World because of Etain. And Jalil is free from his OCD. Only April is left wanting to go back. But even her conviction is waning.

With Senna dead, her army now has no leader. Like the group, they are trapped in Ever World. But they came prepared with heavy weapons and machine guns. They are a rogue force marauding the countryside. And the group is afraid they will join Ka Anor.

So they hatch a desperate plan to create the beginnings of a grand army to eliminate first one threat then the other. Etain's mother will gather the elves. Merlin will go find Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. The group will go to the Dwarves (who hate them because they destroyed their dam on the Nile and killed a few dwarves in the process) to make a deal: Etain's hand in marriage for the dwarves' help first in hiring fairy archers, and in tunneling into Hel's domain to free Thor and Baldur. Jalil sweetens the deal by offering to make the dwarves more technologically efficient. Of course, Hel won't be too happy with this, especially since the group escaped her before. Oh, and Christopher isn't happy with this plan either because he's in love with Etain.

April, David and Christopher succeed in freeing Thor and Baldur. But then Hel appears. April, like a lunatic, attacks Hel and is captured. Just when she believes she is doomed to be tortured by the death-goddess for eternity (and believes she deserves it for killing her half sister), Loki appears, accompanied by Merlin and Odin. The three demand that Hel release April, and then the four return to the dwarves. The book ends with a newspaper clipping, saying that the four kids have disappeared in the wake of Senna. So they all chose Ever World. But you don't get to find out what happened with the grand army. It's kind of a let down of an ending: while they succeed in their immediate goals, you don't get to know what happens in the end. I guess you have to use your own imagination to decide what happens.

So that's it. That's all of Ever World. Overall, the series is definitely worth reading. I really liked the characters (even if I wasn't very fond of some, like April, narrating). The group worked really well together, with their own strengths and weaknesses. It was a lot of fun to figure out what was going on in Ever World and how they were going to get out of the messes that seemed to spring up around them. I also loved how certain characters, like the Norse gods, kept recurring. Loki in particular was a great villain.

On the negative side, some of the things that happened (like the African adventure in Brave the Betrayal) didn't really fit and seemed to come out of nowhere. It was neat that Applegate used many varied religions and deities in the books, but some of the adventures, particularly near the end, seemed to be added on with no real reason or advantage to the plot. Both the African adventure and the Atlantis adventure fit this bill. They both just sort of happened to the group without fitting into the overarching plot. And what did happen in them could have come up in some other way. These adventures were like busy-work (like in the video game Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance 2 where bandits or trolls or something attacks every single time you travel from one city to the other), detracting from the main story. The books that were really good, such as Mystify the Magician, dealt very explicitly with the main plot.

Ever World: Mystify the Magician

Wow. Mystify the Magician was fantastic! I didn't want to put it down, it was just so good!

Mystify the Magician starts off where Understand the Unknown leaves off: Christopher is being eaten by a giant. The gang has found themselves in Eire, where giants guard the coastline. After escaping the giant, they meet Etain, the daughter of the king. And for Christopher, it is love at first sight.

Eire is the most civilized land in Ever World. Etain's father rules Merlinshire, which has electricity and even a street car. But during their first night, the gang is awakened: the giant they encountered is dead. Dead by gunshot. To everyone's horror, they have discovered that Senna has brought people into Ever World; people with guns.

Using her army, she besieges the castle. But when the gang manages, through the real world, to stop her from bringing a mortar into Ever World, she changes the game by bewitching Christopher into opening the gate for her army. They take over the castle and leave Christopher for dead. Luckily he encounters Merlin to help him be the hero and stop Senna. But the bad news is that no man can kill her.

Oh, and for more bad news: Loki is here. And he brought Fenrir.

This really was a fantastic read. Hands down, this was the best book of the series. But you need to read everything that came before Mystify the Magician to really appreciate it.

Only one more to go!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ever World: Understand the Unknown

This time around it's David narrating once again. After leaving Egypt, the group found a boat that would give them passage back to Greece. A little way into their journey, they realize they're being followed by a magical boat: Merlin. Merlin is after Senna, but not to use her like Loki wants, but to lock her up so no one can use her. Merlin is about to catch them when Neptune appears, upset that the wizard has used magic and in so doing challenged the God. Neptune then throws a hissy fit, sinking the two boats and sending all of the occupants into his city beneath the waves.

After escaping Neptune's wrath (and city), the group finds themselves in Atlantis, where they meet another man who has crossed over from the "real world" (the mayor of Atlantis). He tells them about the Great Scroll, which has all of the rules of how Ever World works written on it. Whoever has the scroll can rewrite the universe. Senna now wants it so she can seize power. April, Christopher and Jalil want it so they can go home. And David, unknown to the others, has a sneaking suspicion of where it is.

I'm approaching the end game of the Ever World series now. Understand the Unknown is book 10, meaning there are two to go. It was also the only book the library was missing from the series, so I'm going to donate it now that I've read it. Understand the Unknown wasn't the best of the bunch, but it was full of important revelations, making it a must-read.