Thoughts

Thoughts #46: I Don’t Get ‘Book Boyfriends’

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Unpopular opinion time: a lot of book bloggers talk about ‘book boyfriends’, e.g. characters in books that they would date if they could. I don’t get it.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a ‘book boyfriend’. I have never, ever encountered a book character who makes me feel that strongly about them. I have characters of both genders that I’d love to meet, be friends with, hang out with, but never one I could consider a ‘book boyfriend’.

Interestingly, I do get ‘video game boyfriends’. My holy trinity of Alistair Theirin, Anders and Varric Tethras from the Dragon Age series are all perfect (damn you Bioware for making Varric unromanceable!). I get really attached to characters in video games when the story is very detailed, and you are given a chance to really get to know them.

Varric

In fact, I think I feel more strongly about video game characters than book characters in general. And for some reason, this feels like a betrayal! Perhaps because the characters are more ‘visible’: no matter how detailed an author’s description of a certain book character is, obviously in a video game you immediately see the character AND (most of the time) gain a sense of their personality much more quickly.

Both the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series have made me cry multiple times: they both contain characters I love and hard decisions I have to make regarding those characters. I think ultimately, that’s why I often feel closer: because MY decisions impact those characters. I can’t control what happens to a character in a book, it is set in stone and has already happened. With many of the video games I play, however, I can be responsible for whether someone lives or dies, and it is that tie that draws me to them.

Do you have ‘book boyfriends/girlfriends’, or are you like me, a little bit mystified by it all? What about ‘video game boyfriends/girlfriends’?

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?

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?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #19: My Favourite Fantasy Characters

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: my favourite fantasy characters.

My Favourite Fantasy Characters

1. Tyrion Lannister (from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire)

I pretty much loved Tyrion from the moment I first read about him in A Game of Thrones, and that grew with every chapter, every book of the series. It’s a series without any clear-cut good characters or bad characters; everyone is pretty much in the ‘grey area’ (with perhaps the exception of the Boltons…). You might think someone is evil, but you can guarantee that a later chapter will reveal WHY they acted as they did. Tyrion seems like the lesser evil of the Lannisters, despite his own family’s attempts to portray him otherwise. He may make some questionable choices later on in the series, but ultimately he’s just doing what he needs to in order to survive. His wit and intelligence are a shield blocking out the constant insults and prejudice he’s had to put up with for his entire life – and these are the sorts of characters I like. Ones that don’t have it easy, but they push on through and make the most of a situation.

2. Frodo Baggins (from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings)

I’ve previously discussed in this feature why I have so much love for The Lord of the Rings, but I never really went into much depth about the characters. I don’t like it when people say Frodo whined the whole time, and that he wasn’t the hero of the story. Samwise may have carried him up Mount Doom in the end, but Frodo volunteered to take the Ring to Mordor – he didn’t have to. He completely turned his life on its head, going from a comfortable life of leisure to one of perilous adventure. And then, after everything he went through to get to Rivendell, he was still prepared to carry the Ring further, even knowing that the path would be much more treacherous. A wimp? No, I don’t think so. More like a completely selfless hero.

3. Luna Lovegood (from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series)

There are a LOT of lovable characters in the Harry Potter series, but Luna has got to be my favourite. She’s adorable, funny and she really doesn’t care what other people think of her. She’s totally herself, even if that means a lot of her peers find her strange, and that is something I really admire. I wish I could be more like Luna, and just not care when I think people are judging me (I think that a lot…). She’s not only honest to herself, but also her friends, and one of the loyalest people you could ever hope to know.

4. Alistair Theirin (from Dragon Age: Origins)

Ahh sweet sweet Alistair… apart from being completely gorgeous and lovable, as well as complete klutz in social situations, Alistair is someone who isn’t afraid to accept their own destiny, even if it’s not what they really want. For the good of the people, Alistair will make so many sacrifices. But actually, the main reason he’s one of my favourites is because of the romance you can pursue with him on Dragon Age: Origins… it gives me the warm fuzzies. You sort of forget he’s a video game character, because so much thought has been put into how he reacts to everything your character does. Like Luna, he’s loyal to the extreme.

5. Morrigan (from Dragon Age: Origins)

Morrigan is a bit of a dark horse. She reluctantly joins your party near the beginning of Dragon Age: Origins, and responds to most of your questions with a dry wit. She’s not exactly easy to warm to and she certainly tries to distance herself, but like Alistair, she is prepared to make some big sacrifices if it means saving thousands of lives. She’s also an incredibly skilled mage (watch her in action in the Dragon Age: Origins cinematic trailer) and is just generally awesome in every way. Earning her respect is tough, but worth it.

Who are your favourite fantasy characters?

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!

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #14: Fantasy Holiday Destinations, Part Two

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: fantasy holiday destinations.

This is a subject I have covered in the past, but it’s also one I can expand upon – there is an endless number of fantasy worlds out there to visit, after all! Last time we visited Middle-earth, Hogsmeade and Westeros.

Thedas, from the Dragon Age series

Thedas

  • Climate: Variable. Temperate in places like Kirkwall and Denerim, arid desert in the Anderfels, a warm climate in Antiva which contributes to the wine trade, whereas the climate in Orlais is very mixed.
  • People: Humans, descended from several different tribes; elves, who are often treated as second-class citizens and sometimes slaves, those that break free from human civilisation and live a nomadic lifestyle are known as the Dalish; dwarves, who are normally only found underground, those who venture above are known as ‘surface dwarves’ and are often disowned by their family for this; the Qunari, a terrifying horned humanoid race who religious teachings mean more to them than anything. And beware the darkspawn – humanoid creatures who have been a major threat to the people of Thedas for thousands of years.
  • Language: Ander (Anderfels), Antivan (Antiva), the ‘Common Tongue’ (Ferelden), dwarven dialects, Elvish language (much is lost but they still use some words and phrases), Qunlat (Qunari), Orlesian (Orlais), Tevene (Tevinter Imperium)
  • Notable landmarks/places to visit: Well first of all, feel free to visit my castle in Ferelden. Denerim, the capital city of Ferelden, is a busy place with a lot of trade. Val Royeaux, in Orlais, is renowned for its beauty, and it is also home to the Andrastian Chantry. Within the Free Marches, you’ll find Kirkwall, home to the legendary champion Hawke. The Korcari Wilds to the south of Thedas provide a challenge for any intrepid adventurer – watch out for that sneaky Witch of the Wilds! Or for those who like a bit of history, the Tevinter Imperium is one of the oldest countries in Thedas – but I wouldn’t advise going there if you are in any way magically inclined. Bad idea.

Ankh-Morpork, from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

Ankh Morpork

  • Climate: A temperate zone, but next to the most polluted river in the Discworld. It is equidistant from both the tropics and frozen wastelands.
  • People: A large population of roughly one million people, including fifty thousand dwarves. The people of Ankh-Morpork are rather… eccentric. There is also a large number of witches and wizards residing in the city, thanks to the Unseen University.
  • Language: There appears to be a common tongue in Ankh-Morpork, but there are a few other languages, mostly demonstrated by Rincewind: Trob, Sumtri, Black Oroogu, Chimerian and Vanglemesht.
  • Notable landmarks/places to visit: The Unseen University, with its eight hundred foot tower, is certainly a sight to see. And why not take a tour of the library, given by the university’s very own Librarian? It’s only five bananas each! Be careful when venturing around The Shades, the slum of Ankh-Morpork… lots of shifty characters around there. And if you like history, why not visit the Dwarf Bread Museum?

Which of these two would you rather visit? Is there a particular fantasy world you’d like to visit?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: April 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.

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Last month I read a total of twenty books, which sounds like a lot but many of them were graphic novels: After Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #13.5) by Charlaine Harris, Mass Effect Foundation: Volume 2 by Mac Walters, Red Country by Joe Abercrombie, Glow (Sky Chasers #1) by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1) by Morgan Rhodes, Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) by Laini Taylor, X-Men Forever 2, Back in Action (X-Men Forever 2 #1) by Chris Claremont, Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 2 by Stan Lee, This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, Civil War: Marvel Universe by Ed Brubaker, A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, Behemoth (Leviathan #2) by Scott Westerfeld, Goliath (Leviathan #3) by Scott Westerfeld, Wolverine Noir by Stuart Moore, Wolverine First Class: Ninjas, Gods and Divas by Peter David, Wolverine First Class: Wolverine-By-Night by Fred Van Lente, X-Men Legacy: Emplate by Mike Carey, The Avengers: Volume 2 by Brian Michael Bendis, X-Men: Worlds Apart by Christopher Yost, The Kill Order (Maze Runner #0.5) by James Dashner.

I was so happy to finally finish the Leviathan series, and it’s now one of my favourite Young Adult series out there. I read some other great books this month: Days of Blood and Starlight was just as gripping as Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Falling Kingdoms was a wonderful fantasy read. I also went crazy on the graphic novel front, ordering as many Marvel comics as I could through my county library service. And there are still plenty more to read! I also read most of Dragon Age Library Edition: Volume One, but unfortunately my ARC stopped about three quarters of the way through. I did email Netgalley, who contacted the publisher but sadly I haven’t heard anything and the title has now been archived. I will just rate and review it based on what I did managed to read.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge, so unfortunately I didn’t do as well as last month, and I also didn’t quite manage to defeat April’s villain, Kingpin. Better luck next month! May’s villain is Bullseye, and he looks to be quite a challenge.
  • I’ve already beaten my goal of fifty books for this year on Goodreads. I’ve raised the goal to seventy-five, which I think will still be manageable – I may even reach that before August, and I can raise it again!

 

Currently reading:

>The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black The Quick by Lauren Owen

Off the blog:

The majority of April was fairly quiet, but this past week has been pretty busy. I’ve been off work since last Tuesday, although I’m back today. On Wednesday night I went to the Glamour Book Club to see Laini Taylor and Lauren Owen, and I also met up with some fellow book bloggers! I will cover the event in detail in a future post. My friend joined me in London, and she stayed until Tuesday. On Thursday night, we went to see Jace Everett in Bristol. It was a TINY event, with about one hundred people – but the venue put out chairs, so no-one was dancing and I felt like we gave off a bad impression. But despite that, I loved the music and got to meet the man himself afterwards, and get a CD signed. Then on Friday we went to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which I really enjoyed, Saturday was Free Comic Book Day which meant a trip to Forbidden Planet in Bristol, as well as Bristol Zoo because it was a lovely, sunny day. Oh, and a few weeks ago my Dragon Age: The World of Thedas book arrived, which my fellow Queen of Ferelden, Paola, convinced me to buy. I was just a *little* bit excited by its arrival, as you can see…

Some highlights from April 2014.
Some highlights from April 2014.

 

How was April for you?