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review 2017-07-24 00:01
Visual novel review - Mermaid Splash! Passion Festival

 

Mermaid Splash! Passion Festival (MSPF) is a “pay what you want” f/f visual novel.

CiCi the mermaid has decided that she’s going to finally take part in the Passion Festival. There’s only one problem: although CiCi has many interests, she’s never really focused on one particular hobby. In order to make a good showing at the festival, she’ll need to pick an interest (martial arts, gardening, dance, or painting) and stick to it. Will she be able to hone her skills in time, and maybe even find love along the way?

When I first heard about this, it sounded like it could be my next Robo-Tea, cute, sweet, and relaxing. While I did end up liking the game overall, it didn’t quite turn out to be what I’d expected. Almost all of the character routes involved jealousy of some sort, usually creative jealousy. As a result, MSPF wasn’t quite as fluffy and relaxing as I’d hoped.

When I first started playing, I was worried that this would be a stat-building game like Roommates and similar visual novels. It wasn’t, despite the “plan out CiCi’s week” screen. Gameplay was pretty simple. The entire thing took place in the space of four weeks, and each week you could choose which hobby CiCi spent time working on and who she’d spend time with on the weekend. After you made your choice, it was time to sit back and read as CiCi interacted with one of her four friends - there were absolutely no decision points or conversation choices.

This threw me off a bit, because almost every route had a tense moment that made me feel like I’d done something wrong, even though there were no conversation options and therefore nothing I could have done differently. Angie the anglerfish responded badly to gentle criticism of her habit of never finishing her comics writing/illustrating projects. Delora the sea slug was upset when CiCi told her she should quit her day job and pursue her true passion. Bea the cuttlefish didn’t take well to being defeated in a practice bout. The only one who never got upset with CiCi was Maka the shark, which was a large part of the reason why I liked her route the best. Although CiCi and her friends made up on the weekend or at the start of the next week (if you were focused on one particular hobby and friend), I still found myself wishing there were dialogue options that could allow me to handle those conversations differently.

Although a single playthrough didn’t really take that long, I’m the sort that likes to try to get all of a visual novel’s endings unless I get emotionally invested to the point that hunting down the “bad” endings becomes too painful. In this respect, the game turned out to have far more to it than I originally realized. I hadn’t bothered to reread the product page, so I missed that there were 23 endings, 8 unlockable outfits (which had no effect on the story, but were cute), and 52 random events. The unlockable outfits were easy enough to get, and I didn’t have the patience to try to get all 52 random events, but I really, really wanted to get all 23 endings. This wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

Each playthrough usually resulted in two endings: the Passion Festival ending (how CiCi did in a particular Passion Festival event) and the romance ending (whether CiCi ended up in a romantic relationship with someone). Each of the four romance options also included “friendship” endings, which, sadly, I disliked. It wouldn’t have been hard to write these endings as true close friendships, but instead every single one of them included CiCi feeling like she’d missed out on something and thinking she’d have preferred her Passion Festival outing with her friend to be a date. It was a little depressing.

The gardening route was probably the biggest stretch for me. I found it hard to believe that CiCi could produce a prize-worthy specimen in only four weeks, even considering that it was a transplanted plant. Still, since I loved Maka so much I was willing to ignore that. I initially found her multiple rows of teeth to be more than a bit off-putting, but she was so cheerful and awkward that I ended up loving her anyway. I also enjoyed her romance ending: her choice of date activity was wonderful and very fitting. My second favorite route was probably martial arts and Bea, my third was dancing and Delora, and my least favorite was painting and Angie.

Bea was a little too prone to bragging for my tastes, but her story was one of the more interesting ones. CiCi struck me as being way too immature for someone like Delora to be happy with for long, and Angie’s route reminded me that it is often a bad idea for friends to critique each other’s creative works. It bothered me that, after Angie got mad at CiCi the first time she attempted to voice a bit of criticism, CiCi censored herself during a later scene and said that she wouldn’t change a thing about Angie’s work. I also worried about CiCi’s repeated insistence that she and Angie collaborate on a project - Angie didn’t seem to be completely on board but at the same time appeared to be unwilling to say so and, plus, I felt the two of them would be better off doing their own thing, artistically.

Art-wise, MSPF was absolutely wonderful. All the sprites were cute and pretty (although, if the product page hadn’t said that the characters were 24, 26, 35, and 43, I’d likely never have guessed it, since the sprites usually made them look much younger). The event art was great too, although I could tell it had been done by a different person, and I loved the pretty backgrounds. A couple routes seemed to reuse artwork more often than the others, but there was so much artwork packed into this game in general that I didn’t mind.

It was clear that a lot of work had been put into this. There were a few spots where I felt the writing could have been tweaked and the jealousy moments bugged me a little, but it was generally a fun and slick visual novel with lots for “ending hunters” to dig into. I was so proud of tracking down those final three endings! (Hint: the last ending can only be achieved after finding the other 22.) It’s too bad that the only romantic option I 100% enjoyed was Maka, but the others weren’t necessarily bad, just not my cup of tea.

Additional Comments:

 

- This probably counts as a spoiler since it isn't mentioned on the product page and doesn't come up until several weeks into CiCi's interactions with the character, but I feel I should mention that one of the romantic options is a trans woman, since this will probably be an appeal factor for some players/readers.

 

- Each character had their own dialogue sound effect, which I usually thought was a nice touch. Unfortunately, something about Bea's sound effect grated on my ears.

 

- I wish that the text colors had occasionally been a bit darker - sometimes the text was a little harder to read than it should have been.

 

I'll close with a screenshot of Maka being sweet, friendly, and helpful. She's the best. ♥

 

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-04-12 02:29
Dancing in the Rain by Kelly Jamieson
Dancing in the Rain - Kelly Jamieson

Kelly Jamieson’s DANCING IN THE RAIN is an incredible heartfelt read.  NHL star, Drew Sellers, is forced to retire due to a knee injury.  He discovers he has a twelve-year-old daughter, a result of a one-night-stand in college. Then he reluctantly finds himself attracted to his daughter’s aunt, Payton Watt.   This contemporary romance takes place in Chicago and New York.  

 

I adored DANCING IN THE RAIN.  The story was genuine and profound.  I love how everyone grew and seems to learn from each other. 

 

My heart went out to Sara; she was a good mother to Chloe and sister to Payton.  She is a strong heroine with wonderful values. 

 

Chloe is an amazing girl.  I love that she fights for what she believes in.  My heart broke for her loss.  I was glad Drew came into her life. 

 

Peyton is a wonderful sister and aunt.  She is a determined business woman who ends up reevaluating her priorities.  She is smart and determined. 

 

Drew is a great guy.  He has a difficult time with having to retire early and having gone through a divorce.  He understandably goes through an identity crisis.  Sara, Chloe, and Payton seem to come into his life at the right time.  He grows tremendously throughout this story.

 

Drew and Payton have amazing chemistry.  It is understandable why they are reluctant to get together.  They are an amazing couple.

 

Kelly Jamieson did an astounding job with DANCING IN THE RAIN.  It had me laughing and crying.  I was invested in the characters.  I enjoyed the plot.  The story dealt with hard issues and had worthy life lessons. The ending was perfect.  I loved this story.  I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.

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review 2017-04-07 21:19
Dumpy La Rue (Owlet Book) - Elizabeth Winthrop

Dumpy is a pig who loves to dance, but everybody tells him that pigs DON'T dance. Dumpy doesn't listen to them and dances anyway. Soon after Dumpy has inspired the rest of the animals whom after watching Dumpy dance have come to love dancing themselves.

 

This would be a great book for career day. This can be used to tell them the message that they can be whatever they want to be.

 

The lexile level of this book is AD380L

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review 2017-03-23 00:02
For fans or people looking for a general introduction.
Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating Your Way to a Leaner, Stronger, and More Graceful You - Misty Copeland

I'm somewhat familiar with Misty Copeland after reading her autobiography, watching a documentary on her (have never seen her perform though), etc. I was curious to see what this book was about since she told her life story before. What could be new here?

 

Turns out she jumped on the fitness/book writing trend among celebrities/well-known figures. Copeland takes the reader through the story of her life as well as expanding on exercise, diet, meditation, recipes, etc. There are pictures of her performing and posing as well as how to perform the various exercises, motivational tips and more.

 

I liked the book but I figured it wasn't going to be something that I'd want to keep or really read in-depth. Her story and background was already known to me so that information was a bit repetitive. And while I like the concept I could have used a few less photos of her eating or performing and more of the exercises she was doing. 

 

Still, it's a nice book for fans of Copeland or aspiring ballerinas. I don't know how effective or useful her tips for exercising and diets are but it would probably make a great gift. I borrowed this from the library as it's out now and would recommend you do the same to see if it's really for you.

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review 2017-01-30 00:00
Wildwood Dancing
Wildwood Dancing - Juliet Marillier I have not hated a character as much as I hate Tati in a long while. She is a complete idiot and way too-stupid-to-live. Apart from the insta-love, her sheer egoistic behavior throughout the book, and thoughtlessness towards her sisters, her then literally wasting away for no good reason and almost killing herself in the process cemented my hatred for this character. Really there should be limits to stupidity, had I been her sister, I'd have washed my hands of her, good riddance in my opinion.

Unfortunately the whole story was ruined by Tati and her stupidity and by the one-dimensional villain of a cousin, who was so over-dramatically mean and overdone. We get it, he's an asshole, you don't need to rub it in our faces quite as much.

I did enjoy the story overall, my main disappointment lies with my not absolutely loving a book by Juliet Marillier. I hope that I'll enjoy the next book in the series a bit more, since there is much potential here, with interesting characters and an amazing magical world.
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