Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: August 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

August 2014

Last month I read a total of seven books: Half A King (Shattered Seas #1) by Joe Abercrombie, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Dragon Age: The World of Thedas by David Gaider, Red Moon by Benjamin Percy, Roomies by Sara Zarr, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Dead Angels by Gunnar Roxen.

So I didn’t have as much time to read this month, what with starting university! I’ve finished one book, and completely read another since I got here almost three weeks ago. It hasn’t been a great month for ratings; my standout book this month was We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Not quite as amazing as people said it was, but I did enjoy it – even if I guessed the ending.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read zero books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge. Oops. Next month’s villain is Magneto, but if we’re talking about 1970’s era Magneto then I’d rather recruit him, thank you very much.
  • I have currently read 104 books towards my Goodreads goal. I changed my goal from 100 to 125 this month.

 

Currently reading:

The Martian by Andy Weir Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

How was August for you?

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Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #5: Beginner’s Guide to Video Games & Novelisations, Part 2

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Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Today I want to introduce some video game series, and their novelisations.

This is Part 2 of a post I did in July, and I’ll probably post on this topic several more times as there are so many novelisations! This post is mostly aimed at people who are new to video games, or those who are interested in playing but don’t know where to start. I’m listing some well-known series, as well as their novelisations, in case you want to try the books out too!

The Dragon Age series

Dragon Age Origins

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

A sprawling epic fantasy series, currently with two main games and tonnes of DLC plus the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquistion, where every choice you make counts. In the first game, Dragon Age: Origins, you play a Grey Warden, part of an elite force who protect the word from evil known as ‘the Blight’. You can choose from a variety of origin stories which also have an impact on the conclusion of the game, combined with the choices you make throughout. You also have the option of pursuing a love interest – ALISTAIR EVERY TIME. In Dragon Age II, you play as a character called Hawke (either male or female, but always human), who begins as a refugee in the city of Kirkwall, but gradually works their way up to become a champion. Like the first game, you have choices to make which affect your playthrough, and you can have a love interest (Anders every time!). And finally the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition promises to be bigger and better, where the player takes on the role of the Inquisitor and can explore a huge, ever expanding world. I can’t wait!

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Rather like Mass Effect, which I discussed last time, Dragon Age is a game where your every choice matters. Plus the cast of characters is just adorable and you really, really don’t want to lose any of them. Bioware are especially talented at creating something with a great narrative (you won’t skip a single cutscene) as well as a wonderful mode of play.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

There are both novelisations and graphic novels for Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, The Calling and Asunder by David Gaider, The Masked Empire by Patrick Weekes and Last Flight by Liane Merciel (novelisations), The Silent Grove, Those Who Speak and Until We Sleep by David Gaider (graphic novels).

Deus Ex

Deus Ex

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

The original game was released in 2000, with a sequel entitled Deus Ex: Invisible War in 2003, and a prequel (Deus Ex: Human Revolution) in 2011. I’ll just talk about the most recent game here as that’s the only one with a novelisation. Set in 2027, mechanical augmentation has just been introduced and many people have replaced or improved parts of their body with cybernetics. The player takes on the role of Adam Jensen, an augmented security consultant. The game focuses around the idea of cybernetics and control over humans through them, as well as cyber-terrorism, technology and conspiracy theories.

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Okay I have to admit, I haven’t yet played this one myself. But it’s in my Steam library and I’ve heard SUCH good things about it. I remember that we had the original on PC, and I did try it one time – but at ten years old, I didn’t really know what I was doing! It’s one of those games that isn’t afraid to explore loads of different themes, no matter how controversial, and it really makes you think. And like many amazing games, it has a gorgeous soundtrack.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

There is one novelisation, based on the most recent game: Deus Ex: Icarus Effect by James Swallow.

The Halo series

Halo

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

I haven’t really played much Halo, I have to admit, so I’ve grabbed a synopsis from IMDB: Mankind is being destroyed by a conglomerate of alien races all under the flag of the Covenant. A human spaceship is under attack and has no chance to survive, and now the only hope for mankind is for the Spartan-II forged Master Chief to make sure the Covenant do not get a hold of the ship’s AI, and thus discovering the location of Earth. But the survivors of the ship are stranded on a strange alien planet called Halo, and everything is stacked against them. It becomes a desperate battle as the brave crew, lead by the Master Chief and the AI Cortana, try to survive the Covenant’s assault.

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Even if you don’t play video games very often, I’m sure you’ve heard of Halo. It’s a HUGE franchise: video games, TV shows, films, action figures and more. If you want to try out a FPS (First Person Shooter), this is the place to start. I’ve only ever played Halo with some friends, and the co-op mode was hilarious – particularly as me and one friend had never played before.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

Novelisations include: Cryptum and Primordium by Greg Bear, Glasslands by Karen Traviss, First Strike, The Fall of Reach and Ghosts of Onyx by Eric S. Nylund, The Flood by William C. Dietz, Contact Harvest by Joseph Staten, and far too many more to list!

Are you new to video games, or have you played any of these? Have you read any of the novelisations?

Review

Review: Dragon Age Library Edition (Volume 1) by David Gaider

Just like when I spot a Mass Effect book on Netgalley, I can’t help myself if I see anything related to Dragon Age either! This book is actually a collection of the three current graphic novels, with extra notes and annotation. I’m going to split my review and discuss each chapter separately – but firstly I have to say how much I LOVE the cover. It’s so wonderful seeing those familiar characters in a different style of media, particularly as when I imagine them in my head, all I can see is their pixelated selves. And not only that, but I would happily frame and display the full page art in between chapters on my wall, it’s so gorgeous.

The Silent Grove

Firstly, THIS BOOK CONFIRMS KING ALISTAIR AS CANON. YES. GET OUT, ALORA. That’s the only way it should go. Narrated by King Alistair of Ferelden, a character who should be familiar to anyone who has played Dragon Age: Origins, the story follows our bumbling former Grey Warden as he investigates a rumour. Except he’s not so bumbling any more. He’s quite a different character from the one in the game, but I interpreted that as having to adapt once he became king – and losing his lover. He mentions something about how he shouldn’t ‘be here alone’, which was a nice little nod to all who chose the route of marrying Alistair, and then frustratingly found out in the epilogue that their character ‘disappeared’ months later… There is one event in particular that truly confirms how much Alistair has changed. He’s still a gentleman, shown by a moment where he gives Isabela his cloak to keep her warm, but he is now rough and rugged, and has lost his baby faced looks.

But Alistair is not the only character in The Silent Grove! He is accompanied by Varric Tethras, a party member from Dragon Age II, and Isabela, who makes an appearance in both games. The dynamic between the three was pretty great, particularly Varric and Isabela’s friendship. There was one scene where the two dismantle traps together that clearly shows how easily their friendship comes to them, despite appearances. There are also references to other Dragon Age characters, for example Alistair noting how he is unable to buy a Qunari off with cookies – a direct nod to Sten.

Those Who Speak

Those Who Speak is the turn of Isabela, who narrates the events of this particular book, which immediately captures her character. She’s a tough lady with a hidden weakness, who doesn’t find it particularly easy to make friends. She’s comfortable with her sexuality, and also comfortable flaunting it. She even likes to tease, making regular digs at Alistair’s weight (I guess he did get beefier…), which shows she is at ease with him. However, she also has a dark side that she keeps hidden from sight.

This chapter involved a ball, which was a chance to show off some formal outfits – and truly wonderful they are too. Isabela’s in particular was a fantastic design, and I just cannot emphasise how much I absolutely LOVED the artwork of this entire book. It was consistently beautiful and detailed, even in action sequences and very brief shots.

It was actually particularly interesting to read about Isabela for me, as she’s never been a character I really connected with. I turned down her ‘offer’ in the first game, and actually killed her in the second after she betrayed me… so now I feel I know her a little better, and should perhaps give her another chance during my second playthrough of Dragon Age II.

Until We Sleep

Unfortunately, my galley copy actually stopped halfway through this chapter. I did get in touch with Netgalley, who contacted the publisher for me, but they never heard anything back which is a shame. So the rest of my review is based on what I could read – I do plan on buying this book one day, so I’ll finish the story off some time! Until We Sleep was narrated by Varric Tethras, another one of my favourite characters. This story revealed a transgender character, and the situation was dealt with well – no-one batted an eyelid at Mae’s decision or lifestyle, and neither should we.

If you know Varric, you know Bianca, his beloved crossbow. This story reveals the origins of Bianca, a sad tale that I’d like to read more about – even if it makes me sob! It was nice to see the back story of someone who might be considered a less major character (although Varric will be making a reappearance in Dragon Age Inquisition, yay!). Unfortunately, it didn’t feel as well ‘held together’ as the other two, and I don’t think that had anything to do with the fact that I only read half of it. That doesn’t mean it was in anyway bad though!

Overall

This is a series that is not afraid of showing its protagonists doing bad things or making bad choices – and for that, they seem all the more real. In true Dragon Age style, it features characters that you can’t help but feel attached to, and this time we get to learn even more about them. It tips its hat to the series in every way, making frequent references back to various parts of the games (“No-one flirts as badly as Alistair!”). The extra annotation and notes in this edition add a lot of depth to the creation of the series, and I can truly say it is an absolute treat for Dragon Age fans – highly recommended. Now roll on Dragon Age Inquisition!

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: September 2013

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks. This is replacing my Exciting New Releases feature, which may be integrated into this one.
 
 
I read ten books this month. Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne (Dragon Age #1) by David Gaider, Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer, Every Day by David Levithan, Fire (Graceling #2) by Kristin Cashore, Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas, Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence, Guardians of Paradise by Jaine Fenn, I Am Venus by Barbara Mujica, The Daylight War (Demon Cycle #3) by Peter V. Brett and Article 5 (Article 5 #1) by Kristen Simmons. Which meant that by the end of September, I had read 68 out of 75 books for the 2013 Reading Challenge!

 

Currently reading:

 

Reviews on the blog this month:

Book group related posts:

Other stuff on the blog:

Upcoming:

  • A couple of reviews, including Every Day by David Levithan and Aphrodite: Goddess of Love by George O’Connor.
  • My Horror October posts, every Tuesday this month! My schedule is here.
  • My account of the Cheltenham Literature Festival – this weekend I’ll be seeing/meeting David Levithan, Sarah J. Maas, Maureen Johnson, Patrick Ness and Meg Rosoff, then Mary Beard next Sunday!
Past Features

Weekly Roundup #28

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My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.

Bought

  • Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne (Dragon Age #1) and Dragon Age: The Calling (Dragon Age #2) by David Gaider – so I recently finally played Dragon Age: Origins after owning it since it was released, and I LOVED it! I’ve been fangirling over the series (and Alistair) with Paola from A Novel Idea, and she said she enjoyed the books. I haven’t been impressed with Bioware’s previous books (Mass Effect ones) but… when I love a series I kind of soak up everything to do with. Even if it’s bad. But I’m hoping I’ll enjoy these ones! Now I’m onto Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, and then Dragon Age II (and a long wait for Inquisition…).
  • Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence – this is the Fantasy Book of the Month for my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks. I bought it before the result was chosen though, because it was half price on Amazon and I’ve wanted to read it for a while.
  • All Our Yesterdays (Cassandra Chronicles #1) by Cristin Terrill – so I kept seeing this book everywhere, with such good reviews. I got approved for it on Netgalley but when I went to download it, it had been archived… so I bought it instead! And it was worth every penny.
  • Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas – I own Throne of Glass but haven’t read it yet… and even so, I bought the second book. It’s another series I’ve heard such good things about – and my friends Charlene and Paola got to meet Sarah recently! I’m hoping I’ll get to meet her in October, at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2) by Patrick Rothfuss – the sequel to the aaaaaaamazing The Name of the Wind (I’ve done features on the book here and here), I want to read this as soon as possible!

 

From the library

  • Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer – so I picked this up forgetting the order of the books, and I haven’t read Cinder yet – but I’ve ordered it from the library to read first! Marissa is taking part in my Sci-Fi Month event, as Nara from Looking for the Panacea is interviewing her.
  • Article 5 (Article 5 #1) by Kristen Simmons – I’ve wanted to read this one for a while, and spotted it in the library – not my usual one, but one a little further from home that I should visit more often!
  • Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld – this is another one that I’ve seen around the blogosphere quite a bit. It’s an alternate history, which sounds pretty interesting as I haven’t read too many of those.
  • Guardians of Paradise (Hidden Empire #3) by Jaine Fenn – I’m interviewing Jaine for Sci-Fi Month, and read one of her books, Downside Girls (review here) at the beginning of the year. I thought it would be good to check out some more of her work!

 

That’s everything from last week! I bought more brand new books that I have in a long time – what did you get this week?

Thoughts

Thoughts #6: Video Game Novelisations

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I love video games. I’ve always played them, ever since I was a kid. My dad has always worked in IT, so we always had a PC at home. From a young age I was playing Doring Kindersley games, Mia Mouse – and Tomb Raider, Return Fire, Thief or Age of Empires.

It’s a hobby that has continued throughout the years. Some of my favourite games include the Mass Effect series, Tales of Symphonia, The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker, The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim, Borderlands and most recently, L.A. Noire.

       

I am, or more aptly was, a big online gamer. I’ve been playing Lord of the Rings Online on and off for two years, and have played so many different MMOs in the past. That was why I was so excited to read Ready Player One, a truly brilliant and completely geeky novel based in our future, where almost everyone escapes from their miserable real life to the online universe known as OASIS.So really, what could be better than combining two interests of mine, video games and reading?

Well, in all honesty, it hasn’t been quite the successful venture I’d hoped for.

As I wrote in my review of Mass Effect: Ascension, when the Mass Effect series finished I was pretty disappointed. If you’re a fan of the games you will understand, but if you’re not: the premise of the game series is that every choice you make has a consequence. You are essentially in charge of the path the game takes, your actions have a real effect. So when Bioware promised that there would be over sixteen different endings for Mass Effect 3, and your actions throughout the entire trilogy would affect it, fans were excited. But what we actually got was essentially three endings that were exactly the same, apart from being different colours. There was so much backlash that Bioware released a patch to improve the ending and clear up so many unanswered questions.


Genuine reactions to the game ending.

It really wasn’t enough. I was left with this need for more Mass Effect: so what better to turn to than the books?

It would have been better for me to turn to fanfiction.

I’ve read some brilliant Mass Effect fanfiction (Garrus and FemShep. I ship it. Hard.) – and I plan on covering the subject of fanfiction in a future ‘Thoughts’ post. The writing in the four Mass Effect novelisations that I devoured soon after the series ended was clunky, the plots were paper thin and so full of holes, the characters (even those fleshed out in the games themselves) flat.

And honestly, video game books, just like the film adaptations, have a pretty bad reputation. I was surprised by the average rating of a lot of the novels on Goodreads. But despite all this, despite knowing that the quality won’t be great, that the authors are most likely in it for the money and link to an established series more than a love of the series itself, I will probably read more of these. I know that I’ll read any Mass Effect book I can get my hands on – and I’m keeping my eye out for Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim adaptations too (though I’m interested to see how a Skyrim book would work, since the main character is completely your own). It’s probably for the same reason that I’ve stuck with a series like the Sookie Stackhouse novels, even when the quality has gone downhill – I have some great memories and feelings associated with the series, and through reading the books I’m hoping to get them back. Mass Effect is truly one of those games where you get really attached to certain characters – especially as you can be responsible for their deaths if you’re not careful.

However, I’m sure there are plenty of gamers out there who aren’t readers. Seeing a novelisation of their favourite game series might encourage them to pick up the book – and maybe more books after that. If a book gets someone into reading, then who cares what that book is? It doesn’t matter what they’re reading, whether it’s good or not (although that is completely a matter of opinion), what matters is that they are reading. The reverse may be true also: although you’re less likely to pick the books up if you haven’t played the relevant game, as many assume a basic knowledge of the game’s plotlines; a video game novelisation may introduce someone to the game series who would not have played it otherwise.

And now I turn to you, my dear readers: do you read video game novelisations? If so, what have you thought of the ones you have read? Are there any video games you’d love to read a novelisation of? Please leave your thoughts and comments below, I’d love to hear them!


Atlas and P-Body hugs for anyone who comments!