logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: FF
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-10-09 04:31
The Dark Victorian: Risen by Elizabeth Watasin
The Dark Victorian: Risen Volume One - Elizabeth Watasin

The Dark Victorian: Risen is set in a steampunk London with magic and paranormal aspects. Jim, an agent of Prince Albert’s Secret Commission, is given a new partner: Artifice, a Quaker and artificial ghost (meaning that she can turn incorporeal at will). All agents of the Secret Commission were once criminals - they were executed and then brought back to life, bound into service, with no memory of who they once were. They are able to guess some things about their past selves, but that’s about it. It generally isn’t a good idea for them to find and communicate with people they once knew.

Artifice, who chooses to go by the name Art, and Jim begin investigating their first case, the disastrous reanimation of several corpses. The culprit started with animals but appears to have moved on to humans. In each instance, the corpses manage to kill someone before either being destroyed or escaping.

It took me a bit to get my bearings in this story. The Secret Commission wasn’t really a secret. Everyone seemed to know who and what they were, even if they weren’t always comfortable around them or happy about them. I also initially had the impression that Art was supposed to be an unusual sort of agent, but that didn’t seem to be the case either. She had special abilities, just like Jim, although hers were of a different sort, and she had the same limitations. Her primary oddity was that she was a Quaker, someone Jim would have thought would be unlikely to become an agent of the Secret Commission.

The world and setup were pretty interesting. Jim and Art each had their own abilities, and both were technically immortal as long as they consumed enough of whatever their particular bodies needed. Jim, a disembodied skull, could feed off of fire and smoke. Art needed raw seafood.

The story was a fairly simple one and would have worked fine in several urban fantasy and steampunk mystery series I can think of. The problem was that it was a bit buried. I understand that this is the first work in a series and is meant to whet readers’ appetite for more, but there were lots of details that were unnecessary for this particular story and could easily have been left out. As it was, it felt too large for its page count.

The pacing was a bit strange, too. Jim and Art would be chasing after the killer and investigating the murders, only to stop for a bit in order to make sure that Art was properly clothed. Okay, so she needed to be properly dressed for propriety’s sake, but it killed the flow of the story and made it easy to forget what the point of it all was. By the time one particular character made her second appearance, I had already forgotten who she was and why she might be important.

Despite my issues with this work, there's still a chance I'll continue on with this series. The second work is much longer and might therefore give everything more room to breathe - it’s possible that Watasin is one of those writers who does better with longer works than shorter ones. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jim and Art in action a bit more, and Art’s potential romances intrigue me, even as they worry me a bit. At this point she has two potential love interests: Manon, a “sapphic performer,” and Helia, Art’s lover in her past life. Both options are potential minefields for Art, Manon because she isn’t human and I suspect Art could end up wanting more from her than she’s willing and able to give, and Helia because of her curse.

 

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

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-10-01 12:54
CAST FROM THE EARTH by Leandra Vane
Cast From the Earth - Leandra Vane Cast From the Earth - Leandra Vane

Cordelia ends up at the poor farm when she is accused of begging.  There she meets Sara, Dan, and Grace.  They flee the farm after destroying people who have become monster cannibals.  They travel to a town further west where Jack, a man from Sara's past, lives.  He helps them to establish themselves in his town.  But the monster cannibals, now called zombies, come calling causing their lives to disrupted again.

 

I enjoyed this story and I am not into zombies at all.  But this book is more than that.  It is a story of people overcoming disabilities and society's disapproval.  Sara, Cordelia, Dan, Grace, and Jack are outcasts by societal standards--some because of physical/mental disabilities, other by their sexuality.  I loved how they showed their strengths and became a family that protected, took care of, and loved one another.  They are a unit.  They worry about each other and, when circumstances cause them to be separated, they strengthen their bonds with each other.  I also liked the honesty and openness they show one another.

 

This is well done.  I was pulled into their world and story and read it in one sitting.  I would read Ms. Vane again.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
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.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-07-06 12:55
The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie
The Edge of the Abyss - Emily Skrutskie

This review will include spoilers for the first book. You’ve been warned.

At the end of The Abyss Surrounds Us, Cas decided to stay with the Minnow and her crew. I wish I had written down her reason for doing so, since one of my problems with The Edge of the Abyss was that I couldn’t remember why she’d have wanted to stay when staying seemed to cause her nothing but grief.

At any rate, she stayed - I think because she wanted to get more evidence on the guy who was trading Reckoner pups to the pirates, and because she loved Swift so much? Except the latter reason turned out to be less than wonderful, because right after deciding to stay with the Minnow, Cas learned that Swift had personally been responsible for Durga’s death.

So that’s Cas’s emotional state for much of The Edge of the Abyss: upset at Swift for what she did, upset at herself for essentially turning traitor and staying with pirates, and perversely drawn to Santa Elena and whatever scraps of praise she was willing to give out. Bao is somewhere out in the ocean, and Cas mistakenly thinks he’s the only free Reckoner. He very much is not - the crew of the Minnow discover others, which they nickname Hellbeasts. Every last one of them was a Reckoner pup illegally obtained and improperly raised by pirates, and they’re complete destroying the ocean ecosystem. If life in the ocean is to be saved, the pirates, all of them, will somehow have to band together, admit their mistakes, and defeat the Hellbeasts.

Considering that I disliked the first book, I should not have continued on with the series. However, I did, because I wanted to find out what happened to Bao. He was literally the only character I cared about - all the humans could have gotten eaten, for all I cared.

Unfortunately, it took half the book for Bao to show up. Until that point, I had to deal with Cas and Swift’s relationship angst. First Cas would be angry at Swift for being directly responsible for Durga’s death. Then Swift would be upset with Cas for effortlessly becoming Santa Elena’s favorite. Occasionally things would be okay between them for a short while, but it was never long before everything got fouled up again. All it took was one wrong look, or someone waking up on the wrong side of the bed, or Santa Elena smiling at the wrong trainee. I think Cas and Swift only had maybe 10 pages total in this whole book where they weren’t hurting each other in some way.

That’s really not what I want from a romance, and it didn’t help that Cas’s situation seemed more and more like Stockholm syndrome to me. Santa Elena had been manipulating Cas’s emotions from day one, and I hadn’t forgotten that Cas and Swift’s relationship had gone from dislike and wisps of something nicer to full-blown “I’m throwing away my entire former life for you” in the space of a day. I spent so much of this book wishing that Cas and Swift would just break up already. Cas had enough on her plate just trying to figure out what to do about the Hellbeasts and processing her dawning realization that she’d made a terrible mistake by staying on the Minnow.

Even though this book had more Reckoners and Reckoner battles, it was somehow more boring that the first one. I missed Bao, and Skrutskie’s decision to write this series in first person present tense sucked the life out scenes that should have been exciting or painfully intense. Unfortunately, things didn’t improve much once Bao was finally found again - watching Cas remind him of his training wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as watching her train him in the first place. Also, one revelation about him really bugged me. If there was anyone I’d have liked to be exempt from this book’s great gobs of relationship awfulness, it was Bao. At least Cas treated him better in this book than she did in the first one.

I wish I had liked Skrutskie’s writing more, and I wish I had been more invested in Cas and Swift’s relationship. Since I didn’t and I wasn’t, The Edge of the Abyss was a drag to get through and an absolute relief to finally finish. However, I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first book and wanted Cas and Swift to work out as a couple. Cas and Swift had some really good scenes near the end, ones where they actually worked together. For me, it was too little, too late. I did at least appreciate that none of the characters I kind of liked died.

 

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

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-07-01 17:19
Sweet finish
Memory: Volume 3, How Far We Have Come, A Tale of Pride and Prejudice - Linda Wells

Rosy conclusion to this feel-good saga.

 

It was nicely done, with the end at the beginning, and through the novel, time-wise.

 

Exactly the amount of sappiness I needed to put a smile on my face.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?