Saturday, June 28, 2014

1000 Piece Ravensburger Dragon Puzzle

Well, I promised I'd review jigsaw puzzles as well on this blog, it's about high time I delivered. I've loved jigsaw puzzles since I was a kid. I was the only child that grandma would ever let touch her 1500 piece puzzles.* I've always believed that you can tell a lot about a person by how they solve a puzzle. Let's see what we can find out about me. Please note, this is not a new puzzle. I've put it together once before.

It should be noted that I begrudgingly wear reading glasses. I am naturally far sighted so I need to wear these when I cannot hold a computer or book at arm's length. I also wear them for puzzles though because of things like this: 

So close!
So, back to puzzles showing you things about people, let's look at the types of approaches there are to puzzles. The vast majority of people, myself included, like to start on the outside and work our way in. Others prefer to group the pieces first by color, shape, or something else. Others prefer to just grab a bunch of pieces of and work with what they get. I like to set up my borders, get some parameters and structure in place, then go for more substantive** aspects of the puzzles.

Setting up the borders.
After the edge pieces are all in place, some people will go after the big sections of the puzzle. In this case, they'd focus on the dragon, get the big stuff out of the way and then work on the details. I'm too much of a procrastinator for that so for the next several hours of puzzling, I worked on the sea, the clouds, the sky, the rocks, everything BUT the outlines of the dragon.

This was taken right before I was done for the night.

Progress on the beautiful sunrise/sunset.
 Finally, it became time to work on the dragon! I found this part of the puzzle to go quickest because of all the details in the dragon. So while working from the outside in may have been slow going at first, it is fast running from here in.

Dragon's outline.
Finally I have removed all the pieces from the box. But what's this? I am missing one piece and have an extra of another!

Missing Piece

Extra Piece
I've completed this puzzle before so the missing piece is on me, but the extra piece? The one that caused hours of contemplation and cursing the first time I assembled the puzzle? That's on Ravensburger. I just hope there isn't another puzzle out there that is missing this piece!

Finally, I am done with this puzzle for the second time:

I have to admit, I do enjoy this puzzle. It's nowhere near the brain-wracking mess that is the Krypt Puzzle, and I'm grateful for that. I am very happy with this gift from my husband, Fluxxdog. I find that it is a beautiful picture, well structured and, aside from an extra piece, very straightforward. I give it 4 hoots!


*It greatly surprised her that I was so good with puzzles because my mother was always the type to pound pieces together if they didn't fit like she thought they should.
**I actually wrote this word before I was certain of what it meant. I'm pretty sure I'm using it right. Hit me with a comment if I haven't.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

The Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent

I do not get to say this often, so please listen well. I actually like the second book better than the first.

The fact of the matter is, though Tropic of Serpents is written in the exact same style as Natural History of Dragons and has two of the same characters, it is its own story. It takes place in, what has to be, the geological opposite of the last book. Goodbye cold Vystrana, hello hot and muggy Eriga. The two characters from the first book have matured significantly in the three years interim. And the new breeds of dragons of just as intriguing as the rock-wyrms of Vystrana.

In all honesty, I find this more mature Isabella to be significantly more relatable. Worries about her son holding her back. Worries about never being taken seriously for her own scientific work. These are concerns that still plague women, though not always as obviously as they are for Isabella. I also found that I was yelling at the main character less than I did in the first book. She made significantly fewer silly mistakes and was more prone to thinking before acting.

Another aspect of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed was the unforeseen consequences of trying to do the right thing. The main characters are always trying to do the right thing and it almost always comes back to bite them in some way or another. Many of these ways are only obvious in hindsight. Others are obvious from the get-go but only cause rumors and gossip that any person strong enough can rise above. Seriously, once Isabella and Natalie traded in dresses for pants, there really was no falling back on the "what will people think" excuse. I LOVED that.

Overall, this is a wonderful book with a never tiring or boring story. It has thrilling adventure, light comedy, quick wit, and everything you could hope for in a romance story. I'm giving this book 5 Hoots!


Monday, June 16, 2014

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent is a book that, for me, is reminiscent of the Pride, Prejudice and Zombies in that you have a Victorian England vibe mixed with an element of fantasy that would normally seem out of place. The book is a fun read that had me so invested in the characters that I was yelling at the author not to kill any of them. As my husband pointed out, though, even if that happened, I would still read the next book because it was clear I was invested.

Even though the setting for Natural History feels like Victorian England, the maps in the first few pages clearly show you that it is not. With that in mind, I appreciated that it was still easy to get into this world. When Isabella begins her search for a husband, the rites and rotes of it are explained quickly enough to provide understanding without sacrificing the reader's attention. I also appreciated the narrator's own confusion when discussing problems communicating with Drustanev's natives. It lets the readers know just how the main character is better with science than with people.

On occasion I did find the narrative voice distracting. The main character's narration of her activities as a young woman are filled with notes about past events that are yet to come to her younger self. These left me feeling like there was another book that I was missing out on. They didn't always have relevance to the story and seemed more like either filler or establishing that there would be more books to come. In either case, I'm just glad they were kept to a minimum.

All in all, A Natural History of Dragons is a fun adventure filled with scientific notions and social etiquette. Though the latter is generally disdained. It was a fun read and I'm finding the second book, Tropic of Serpents to be equally as fun, though for different reasons. All in all, I give it four hoots.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Talisman Review

Talisman Revised 4th Edition

Let me start out by saying that this was not my first time playing Talisman with my husband, Fluxxdog, and my brother-in-law, Veon'oss. In fact, we've played it so many times, we've acquired 6 expansion packs*. And there are still more to get. So, if at any point you find the gameplay too confusing or if you buy the game and it's more simple than you expected, remember that we used 6 expansions and 4 pages of house-rules.

The Board Set Up
So, to start out with, someone shuffles up the character cards and deals out three piles of three, face-down. We each choose which pile we want to and select our character from these. We hold onto the other character cards because, regardless of what ending is randomly chosen, until someone gets into the center of the board, if you die, you can come back as a new character. You have to drop all your stuff, objects, gold, followers, but you get the chance to pick them up as a new character. My first character is the Dervish. I chose this character to start because no one had played as him yet and I get a free sword and water bottle to start with. Fluxxdog will be playing as the Prophetess and Veon'oss will be playing as the Warlord.

My First Character
My First Character

Revealed Ending

To determine the ending, we first flip a "coin" to determine if the ending will be revealed or hidden. It came up "revealed" and then we had someone draw the ending at random. This time we have drawn an ending where, in order to win, you have to collect 13 fate and then get to the center of the board.

So, we roll to determine who goes first it comes up Veonoss. We play as normal for several hours. Whenever someone rolls a 1 for movement, they need to roll two dice, one to move the Werewolf, the other to move the Reaper. When you encounter the Werewolf or the Reaper, you have to roll a die for their respective charts and determine if you lose a life, get in a fight, become a werewolf, or get a prize. 

We generally roll die of different colors to differentiate Reaper and Werewolf movements.
I encounter the Werewolf! I rolled a 5 and sent him to Fluxxdog.

Sample Prize

Another aspect of gameplay that has picked up with the inclusion of the expansions is getting Warlock Quests for rewards other than the Talisman required to get to the center of the board. Because getting to the center requires getting through a lot of stuff that require a lot of stats, when you start out, getting a Talisman is not nearly as important as getting tools to survive. As such, we've went through a lot of Warlock Quests this round. Many of the quests may seem simple, i.e. Visit the City, but when you spend 15-30 minutes hanging around the City waiting for the die to roll in your favor, you see how tedious these quests can be.

Of course, when playing, you have to remember that it is advantageous to NOT pull punches. Fluxxdog is notorious for this! Apparently I got too powerful and he slammed with me a cursed follower:

I can now only move 1 space at a time.

I've got to go through 3 monsters to even get close to a bridge!

I ultimately decided that I was not going to get rid of this cursed followers and opted to die with dignity. I walked onto a space with death AND a face-down Nether card AND a dragon.**

Needless to say, I died in a blaze of glory and chose my next new character, the Leprechaun. I get to teleport if I roll a 6 and I get three gold whenever I visit the woods.

Character 2
On occasion we get a prize of teleporting on our next move. To help us remember that we're not rolling, we resort to "hiding" our die. 

Fluxxdog rolled a 6 for the Shrine

After a while the board and table start filling up with stuff:
Board after 2 smoke breaks for Veon'oss

All my things!

At some point I complete a Warlock Quest to get a Talisman. I felt I had enough fate and stats that I can make it.
Talisman Card
Unfortunately, Fluxxdog decides he wants the Talisman and hits me with a Toadify Spell. I am turned into a toad for three turns. I can only move one spot at a time, I have a strength and craft of just one, and I have to DROP ALL MY STUFF.***

Toad Character Card
Toad Character
Then I encounter a Nether card and get saddled with this:

My enemies get a bonus and I don't get rid of him until he takes a health.
After approximately five hours, we have to call it a night. It's late, Veon'oss has to work in the morning, and we're all on our last nerve because Veon'oss and I are tired and Fluxxdog, so close to winning, got turned into a toad by an enemy.

When we get back to playing, things go as expected. I get turned into a toad AGAIN. I attempted to use a Warlock Reward to turn Fluxxdog into a toad, and he countered with a curse to make my roll a 1 that would turn me into a toad.

Cursed by the Black Cat.
Fluxxdog gets back to the inner region and faces off with a Nether monster in order to progress to the center. Just to mess with him, I use a spell to bring the monster back to life so he has to wait an extra turn before he can win.
For the lols.
Fluxxdog does eventually win and the game is over. Now it's time to shuffle ALL THE CARDS.

All in all, Talisman is a lot of fun. If you can handle a board game that takes more time than Monopoly and is more cutthroat than Risk, this can be a lot of fun. There is a lot of strategy involved and timing is everything. It's pretty good for mental stimulation. I also recommend this as a workout for someone interested in D&D. It's a great introduction to building up stats, rolling for attacks, and seeing how alignments affect characters. This is also a great game for learning a friend's limits on not taking things personally and whether or not you are actually friends. Because of all of this, I am giving Talisman 4 Hoots.


*Expansion Packs Used: The Firelands, The Frostmarch, The Sacred Pool, The Blood Moon, The Reaper, The Nether Realm
**Sidenote: Don't let the calm tone fool you. I wanted to hit the man and hard.
***Fluxxdog indicates I get more of his aggressive nature than Veon'oss because I am the greater threat.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Kickstarter Promo - The Adventures of Aero-Girl: A Girl and Her Gorilla

Earlier today I was asked to look at Issue 1 of The Adventures of Aero-Girl in an effort to raise support for Issue 2 on Kickstarter. As someone who doesn't have much money, I only support those causes that I feel are worth my time and the time of others. With that in mind, I highly encourage everyone who enjoys a good romp on the silly side, or who likes comic books with female leads, or who likes just plain old fun to go to Kickstarter and support this.

Issue 1 was an absolute delight and did a brilliant job setting up the world it takes place in. The work of all four artists only adds to the joy of reading. After reading the bad guys' names and getting a look at them I was worried that the story would only be a family friendly version of The Goon by Eric Powell, but I was happily proven wrong. It's a great story in its own right and I would love to read more.

Now, I know the tone of this post may seem incredibly calm, but don't let that fool you. I want this Kickstarter campaign to succeed as much as Bronies want Season 5 of MLP on Netflix.

Princeless by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin

I know it's about a decade since I was a teenager but OMG!OMG!OMG!OMG! I LOVE THIS BOOK!

Ahem. Sorry about that.

The fact of the matter is, this story is amazing. The first few pages set up the entire thing perfectly. A queen, reading a stereotypical fairy tale to her daughter, and the daughter arguing with every little thing. To quote the Queen, " You are determined to take everything from this story except what you are supposed to." When the daughter, Princess Adrienne, finally gets old enough to have a tower and dragon of her own, she is so completely against the idea that her parents have to drug her food!* After some time, and many dead princes, Adrienne finds a sword hidden underneath her bed and decides to take action. She has the dragon burn the tower, making it look like the "wild beast" killed her, and then sets off to free her sisters.

Unfortunately the armor she has was designed for guys that weren't quite her size, so she has to get something new. She goes into town and finds a Dwarf Blacksmith. Turns out, the dwarf just drinks at the tavern. It's his daughter, Bedelia, who does all the smithing, but if anyone found out, they'd be run out of business. No one wants armor from a female blacksmith. After getting her armor and accidentally getting the shop burned down, Bedelia joins Adrienne on her quest. Thus ends the first book.

I am so glad that this series is garnering a lot of attention. There are a lot of people, kids and adults, that I think would benefit from reading this. The fact that the book is so popular is a positive sign that the comics industry and girl geeks are ready for a change. We can start replacing all the stereotypical princess stuff with actual, cool, relatable princess stuff. Adrienne and Bedelia are the type of heroes I'd still love to aspire to be. Confident, strong (physically, emotionally, etc.), talented. These are traits that we're told are associated with Disney Princesses, but they all still needed a prince to come and rescue them.

Though I will say this, those kids who go through Prince Charming's Charm School for Future Kings do NOT have it easy! Everyday having to make sure your hair is perfect, fighting in a style that could easily get you killed "How will anyone even know you're sword fighting without our arm up?". And then your only choices are to either go slay a dragon, or go fight in wars for king and country. I'd have rather stayed playing in the mud, too. Clearly royalty ain't easy.

So I will be eagerly searching my comic book store's shelves for this book and any other issues Whitley and Goodwin may have put out in the time it for this one to get published and get in my hands. This read was over with far too quickly and I'd LOVE to find out what happens next! This book gets a top rating of 5 Hoots!


*Sidenote: As a fellow carnivore, I'd have fallen for the drugged steak as well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Whole New Start

So I've decided to change up a few things about my blogging. I've decided I'm going to do one central blog instead of my previously separated Book Reviews and Baking Recipes. I will also be doing reviews of puzzles, games, restaurants, whatever catches my fancy. I hope you enjoy the new look/feel of my reviews.

And yes, I drew this myself :)