Friday, March 19, 2021

Dungeon Born

 A friend of mine really wanted me to try Dakota Krout's Dungeon Born, the first book in the Divine Dungeon series.  It tells the tale of a soul that gets sucked into a soul gem and becomes a brand new dungeon.  The dungeon, names Cal by Dani, his wisp servant/friend, needs to grow and evolve, attracting adventurers to attempt the dungeon (and hopefully die along the way, feeding Cal energy and new toys to play with like weapons and runes).

Dungeon Born is also the tale of Dale, one of the sheepherders who discovered the dungeon (and the only one to live to tell the tale).  Dale ended up selling all his belongings to buy the entire mountain the new dungeon is on, knowing that all the people who will be interested in the dungeon will make him rich once word gets out.  This leads him into the Adventurers' Guild and training to become an adventurer.  It also leads him into politics as all the people who want to use the dungeon don't realize that he owns the entire mountain.

I'm not going to lie, the beginning of this gets a bit rough.  Krout's world is very much like an RPG system, complete with leveling of the characters, and for awhile Dani's explanations to Cal about everything really made me feel like I was reading an RPG rule set rather than a fictional story.  But once you get past that, the story gets super fun!  I'm quite excited to see where things go in Dungeon Madness, the second book in the series!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Outer Order, Inner Calm

 I saw Gretchen Rubin's Outer Order, Inner Calm at the library and thought it looked like it might be an interesting little read.  It's a super fast little read full of Rubin's helpful decluttering tips.  It's based on the premise that our inner feelings reflect our outer environment, which I agree with: there have been so many times when I was feeling overwhelmed, and simply cleaning up can really help!

There's nothing really new or earth-shattering in this book, but I found it a helpful refresher.  I actually started looking at my books last night when I was in the middle of reading this and removed a few from my bookshelf, either that I've read and have no intention of rereading, or ones that I honestly don't intend to read. So while it wasn't exactly pack full of new tips, I found it helpful! :)

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Life of Pi

I've had quite the history with Yann Martel's Life of Pi.  Every time I was thinking of reading it over the last several years, I'd end up talking to someone who ended up spoiling the ending for me.  So I'd wait for some time to pass, and just when I was ready to read it, that would happen again!

But finally, back a few months ago my brother mentioned rereading it, and I decided that I was going to finally read it once and for all.  I started it in early February, got through the first part (about 100 pages), and just sort of stopped reading.  It was very similar to another book I started this year, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern; in that one I also read about 100 pages, then stopped for a few weeks because I just wasn't interested in it at all.  I found Life of Pi was holding my interest a bit better than The Starless Sea did, but it still wasn't great.  So after a few weeks of it sitting and me having no interest in it anymore, I told first my mom, then my brother that I was giving up on it.  I hung up the phone with my brother, then like immediately grabbed it and started reading it again.  This time I made it to the end (although at times it admittedly was a struggle).

Life of Pi tells the story of Pi Patel.  Born in India, his family owned a zoo, where Pi spent many happy days whiling away the time.  But as he got older, his family decided they wanted to move to Canada.  They sold their animals and were on a cargo ship with them travelling across the Pacific Ocean when the ship sinks.  Pi is the lone human survivor, who finds himself on a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.  Over the course of their first few weeks, the other animals are killed until it is just Pi and Richard Parker left.  Pi determines that he must tame the tiger in order to save them both.  

Life of Pi reminded me of The Martian (although Life of Pi was written first, so I guess The Martian drew inspiration from Life of Pi?) in that it is a castaway story of extraordinary circumstances (although I felt like less went wrong for Pi than it did for Mark Watney, while also Pi got incredibly lucky at eventually finding land where Mark Watney just had to survive for his crew to return).  But while I don't remember The Martian very well, I think I enjoyed it a lot more than I did Life of Pi.  Not only did I have a hard time getting through this book as already mentioned, but I found some of the descriptions of what happened far too graphic for my liking.  The book itself was also very slow going; there were multiple points through part 2 (the actual being stranded part) where I kept flipping ahead wondering how much more of this is there? (And then wondering how there could possibly still be so much of the lifeboat adventure to go???)  My brother also mentioned to me that I missed the cultural moment when everyone else was reading it, so I don't even really have that happening in its favour either.  But I am glad to finally be finished it (and that I actually DID finish it); now I can move onto something else - hopefully something more light-hearted!

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones

Atomic Habits
by James Clear was recommended to me....somewhere.  I don't honestly remember where I heard about it, but I heard it was a really good read so I got it from the library to give it a try.

Clear breaks down a habit into four parts: cue, craving, response, and reward (which he adapted from Charles Duhigg's book The Power of Habit).  He uses these parts to look at designing good habits (making the habit obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying) or to break a bad habit (you do the reverse: make it invisible, unattractive, difficult, and unsatisfying). The bulk of the book looks at all of these parts in greater detail.  Clear's writing is really accessible, and he makes all of this sound straightforward and easy (but of course, reading the book is only the prep work - you still need to put in the harder worker of actually using everything you learn!)

While I enjoyed the majority of the book, I will admit that Clear lost me at the very end (in the final "Advanced Tactics" section).  I thought it was me, that I pushed myself a little too hard to finish the book today (I had been reading a section a night, but then today pushed through a few sections to finish); I was also fairly tired today, which didn't help.  But it looks like other people have taken issue with the end section too, so perhaps it wasn't just my tired brain?

Either way, the bulk of this book is solid.  Clear beautifully demonstrates how always seeking to improve by just 1% can compound over time and deliver great results to your life.  And his framework is the perfect way to help you build the healthy habits that will aid you in achieving your goals.


As a side note, I'd also like to mention that the end of Clear's book made me think of the tag line from Popstar: "Never Stop Never Stopping."  Never stop learning and striving to improve your life! :)


Friday, March 5, 2021

Starcraft: Survivors

 The reason I (re)read Starcraft earlier today was I mistakenly thought it was volume 1 to a newer graphic novel that I saw at the library, Starcraft Survivors.  But no, these two are totally different storylines!

Unfortunately the library doesn't have volumes 1 and 2 in this series, so I had to just jump into volume 3 and hope I could figure it out.

Starcraft: Survivors starts directly after a Dark Templar woman has killed all but one member of a Terran ship.  She spares Caleb's life as long as he is useful in her search for great power.  One of his crewmates' thoughts provides a clue: an Umojan Lab; this leads the two of them to a planet under the Umojan Protectorate.  Caleb is sent to fit in with the locals and find this power.  But he's hindered by the impatience of the unnamed Dark Templar. She kills someone as a warning to Caleb to hurry up, and threatens to kill more within five days if he cannot find the lab.

While it took a bit to get into the story (again, volume 3 in the series), Starcraft Survivors was really good.  The ticking clock from the murderous Dark Templar set the stakes high as Caleb is trying to blend in and keep his head down, all while the other workers in his factory try to befriend him (and he gets drawn into their friendship despite attempts not to).  Gabriel Guzman's art is the perfect compliment to Houser's text.  And just look at that cover image by Guzman - it's creepy, and perfectly encompasses the story!

I really liked the characters (and would love to know more, especially about the mysterious Dark Templar woman - what was she trying to do?  Why did she need great power, and who was she trying to get revenge against? Unfortunately this story didn't shed light on it (I was hoping for some sort of afterword, but no such luck!)

I did spend a bit of time Googling Dark Templar though, because part way through this story I noticed the unnamed Dark Templar's face - and it looked like she had a hydralisk-style jaw!  That did not seem right to me, and I originally figured she might be some weird kind of Protoss-Zerg hybrid (which might also explain her wanting revenge...), but a Google search turned up other images of some Dark Templar with that style jaw bone.  So that's neat, I had no idea that was a thing! 

I also want to note, I love that they're doing these kinds of stories with Starcraft now!  None of these characters are part of the games, or interact with major characters from the games, which I liked because this story helps to expand the world of Starcraft, showing that it really is a universe with all kinds of people in it.  I hope they continue making these kinds of stories - while I do love many of the main characters, it's nice to see new ones added, too. :)

Starcraft (Reread)

Lol!!!  So apparently I read Simon Furman's Starcraft graphic novel years ago, but didn't remember it at all!  The only reason I discovered it was a reread is because I marked it off on Goodreads!

This story follows a band of mercenaries who were sent to do the Terran Dominion's dirty work.  They're betrayed and scatter.  But two years later, they're given the chance to clear their names if they do one more job: kill the mercenary leader Jim Raynor.

The beginning of the comic is really hard to follow, especially when you're trying to figure out who all the characters are (I got hung up for a long time on trying to figure out if someone was left for dead but survived and came back, or if it was another character coming after them). I also had no real connection to any of the characters and didn't really care what was happening.  But by about halfway through, I started to put the pieces together a bit better and found myself caring about what happened to them.

Of course, the story was greatly boosted by Jim Raynor appearing.  He's such a great character and really added the touch that was missing, particularly for Cole Hickson's backstory (that they knew each other from before, and that Hickson helped Raynor get through an ordeal at a POW camp they were both in).

Unfortunately the series was cancelled before the second arc was finished, so I don't get to read more about these characters. :(