Friday, August 31, 2018

Early Halloween-Themed Art Trade

My half:

Spencer as Marty McFly
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Their half:

[H-AT] The Foulest Fellow
by Obieros23 on DeviantArt

The Vanishing Tomb

Aerwild Adventures #1 by Madison Trupp

Canadian author Madison Trupp dedicates the first entry of her Aerwild Adventures series to CJ and Dana for their patience, alongside Matthew for support and critiques. The story opens with a prologue in the world’s year 316 in the winter, when a dog named Tobe has a mysterious dream of being a fish swimming upriver. Each of the main chapters opens with a tidbit about the novel’s world, such as the river Weywater feeding the Northern Foothills, and the village of Fellriver being a riverside hunting community founded a century before the book’s time.

In the beginning, Tobe seeks his lupine friend Hila Hangmaw, with the two talking about the novel’s chief backstory involving the Great Mage, a stag named Pyr Firebolt, who killed the Titan Snake with the power of the Aer, sort of analogous with the Star Wars franchise’s Force. Tobe’s father Luka Sunshard stopped returning home from missions with Pyr seven years before the narrative’s timeframe, the Great Mage himself dying a week before.

A raccoon named Maho of Gilderill comes with a message from the cougar Shego the Sage for the bear Roark Bravehunter indicating that some of the sick and elderly are missing from the village, and many graves from the cemetery being suddenly empty. Tobe wants to help solve this mystery, facing initial discouragement from his mother Kora Sunshard. The adults gather at the Fire Hall to discuss action to take, while Tobe and Hila visit the graveyard at night, seeing the specter of a hunched bison and seeing a vixen in the flesh named Rishrim Swiftfoot, one of the Great Mage’s apprentices.

Tobe, Hila, and Rishrim ultimately summon a tracking spell to find the lost visitors, crossing the Weywater to find the titular Vanishing Tomb, where they find the diary of a supposed squatter named Kimer, and encounter the necromancer Krolius, serving as the story’s chief antagonist. Overall, aside from some stylistic choices the author made, such as never referring to Rishrim as a vixen despite being vulpine, this is an admirable start to the series, which this reviewer definitely hopes isn’t stillborn.

Kingdom Hearts OST

It took me a few playthroughs of the original game to really appreciate the series, although it definitely has its flaws such as feeling "kiddy," lacking Parental Bonuses for older gamers, and so forth, and its music by composer Yoko Shimomura is definitely good. Each Disney world has its own non-battle and battle themes, which keeps the soundtrack from getting too old, with some central themes with remixes such as "Dearly Beloved," and non-vocal interations of "Hikari" ("Simple and Clean" to North American players). Definitely worth a listen.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Voltron: Legendary Defender

Voltron - Legendary Defender logo.svg
A remake of the '80s anime where five Earth space cadets find themselves embroiled in a conflict in the far reaches of the universe and fight with the help of five robot lions that can form the titular robot with great power. Delves into the backstories of the Paladins later on, and features nice action, though the Voltron-forming sequence gets old after a couple of times, and there is a bit of deux ex machina at some points. Syfy's news wire also spoiled a character's sexuality before I got to watch the episode when it was revealed. I do look forward to the final season, though.

Piano Collections Final Fantasy VIII

The game itself is polarizing, but most can agree that the soundtrack is good, with this piano collection featuring piano versions of tracks such as "Eyes on Me" and "Silence and Motion," the latter having a less alien feel than the original piece. There's also the Triple Triad theme and the Final Fantasy series overture, with this album definitely being recommended to fans of the series and piano music in general.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Claire's Dad Spotlight

Book Details:

Book Title: Claire's Dad: How I Earned the Title by Shad Arnold
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 132 pages
Genre: Self-help, Parenting
Publisher: Pinpoint Innovation
Release date: February 1, 2018
Tour dates: Aug 20 to 31, 2018
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

Like everything worthwhile in this world, the title of “dad” isn’t given—it’s earned.

Society hasn’t done a great job preparing men to raise daughters. That’s a shame, as daughters have a deep, often unacknowledged need for their fathers to take an active role in their growth.

In Claire’s Dad, author and father Shad Arnold offers an engaging look at the difference a father can make in his little girl’s life as she grows into a mature, responsible, and self-assured young woman. Using his own experiences as a touchstone, Arnold explores the principles and standards a father can model for his daughter.

The author is donating a portion of the sales of this book to aid children around the world via the Novitas Foundation.

Buy the Book:

Meet the Author:

Shad Arnold is an author, entrepreneur, inventor, strategic consultant, public speaker and humanitarian who has founded three companies and two non-profit charities. He has worked as a volunteer and advocate for children for over 30 years. He currently serves as the International Executive Director of Novitas Foundation, the charitable organization he founded in 2013, volunteering his time to raise funds and directly oversee relief and sustainable development initiatives to benefit children in need around the world. Visit or for more information.

Connect with the author: Website

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Re:Birth II/Romancing SaGa Battle Arrange

Another series of arrangements of the various battle themes in Square-Enix's Romancing SaGa trilogy, this time with all the tracks, except the last, having a rock-and-roll feel. The last theme on the CD oddly is in jazz style, and somewhat clashes with the previous themes in the soundtrack, but otherwise, this is a great album. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II

In Japan in 1987, Namco released the very first installment of its long-running Megami Tensei series for the Famicom (the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America), although gamers outside the franchise’s motherland wouldn’t see a game in the series, let alone a mainline installment, for nearly a decade. North American gamers too missed out on the first sequel in the series, Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II, also released on the Famicom and like its predecessor ahead of its time with a monster-collecting focus, and towards the end of the sixteen-bit era an enhanced remake part of the collection Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei saw its release on the Super Famicom, too remaining in Japan, and a good game North American players missed out on.

The sequel opens a few decades after nuclear doomsday decimates the world and opens up a gate into the netherworld, with the player initially playing what seems to be a top-down version of the original Digital Devil Story, although the action eventually regresses back to real-life, with the male protagonist and his friend exploring post-doomsday Tokyo, a woman ultimately coming between the hero and his friend. The narrative is a slight improvement over its predecessor’s, with some occasional variations and different endings (and luckily, especially if the player is using a guide, they don’t have to play through the whole game twice just to see them), but is thinly dispersed, and lacks clear direction.

The gameplay, fortunately, is on par with its predecessor, largely being the same mechanically, except for the apparent inclusion of higher-level monsters the player can potentially fuse, and the two human characters the player has at one time able to fight with melee weapons or firearms. The protagonist can negotiate with enemies to get them to join, although since some seem to have a habit of bailing out when they’ve paid money, using the intimidate option is usually preferable and has a decent chance of working, with failure meaning all monsters of the same type will attack the player before they have a chance to input commands or retry negotiation.

The biggest issue with combat is the late-game expense of some of the stronger equipment, with gear upgrades being generally cost-prohibitive beforehand, although there are many occasions where monsters drop weapons better than any purchased from shops. There’s also the matter of the inconsistent encounter rate, which can stem to really high, especially when passing through doorways in dungeons, to minimal at best, although if the player has a demon of an encountered type, they can talk, except during full moons, their way out of combat. Despite these issues, combat serves the game well, with the auto mode making fights with weaker foes go by quickly.

The game superficially interfaces well with the player, since the menus are easy to navigate and automaps can be helpful, although there are issues such as the lack of direction at many points on how to advance, with the collection of certain MacGuffins being necessary early on, the lack of indicators of weapon and armor strength when changing gear, the lack of descriptions for spells, and so on.

As with the first game, music is the high point, with a nice variety of tracks, some from the sequel’s predecessor, among the highlights of the soundtrack being the overworld theme for the netherworld.

The graphics also look nice, with a wider variety of demon designs (albeit with some palette swaps), nice overworlds indicative of post-doomsday Japan and Hell, and so on, but fights remain first-person.

Finally, given the lack of in-game time, total playtime is indeterminate, although the second game is much longer than its predecessor.

Overall, Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II is for the most part a worthwhile sequel that was well ahead of its time during its original incarnation’s release, given factors such as its demon-collecting and fusion systems, the solid audio, the pretty visuals, and so forth. There are issues such as a lack of in-game direction on how to advance the primary plotline, which itself is thinly spread out, and the lack of replayability (given that the player can possibly see both endings in a single playthrough), although those who enjoyed the first game will likely enjoy its successor, which in Japan was an important milestone in the history of roleplaying games.

The Good:
+Fast and enjoyable battle and monster collecting/fusion systems.
+Nice soundtrack.
+Good visuals.

The Bad:
-Parts are hard without a walkthrough.
-Story thinly spread out.
-Little replayability.

The Bottom Line:
A good sequel.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Super Famicom
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 5/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: No in-game clock.

Overall: 7.5/10

Final Fantasy XII OST

The first mainline Final Fantasy soundtrack composed mostly by Hitoshi Sakimoto, it definitely sounds different from Uematsu's compositions, and has a sweeping epic feel that fits the game's atmosphere. His versions of traditional Final Fantasy tracks such as the Chocobo theme, victory theme, and "Clash on the Big Bridge" from the fifth game are actually better than Uematsu's, and this reviewer actually considers this soundtrack to be on par with something John Williams would compose. Definitely recommended.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Shadow Rising

WoT04 TheShadowRising.jpg

The late Robert Jordan dedicated this fourth main entry of his Wheel of Time saga to Robert Marks, a writer, teacher, scholar, philosopher, friend, and inspiration, following it with the fictitious prophetical writing that “inspired” the book’s title. Unlike its precursors, however, there is no prologue, the first chapter opening with the same windy motif that opened the main chapters of prior books, the action opening at the White Tower in Tar Valon, where Min goes, using her full first name Elmindreda to get the attention necessary to meet the Amyrlin Seat, Siuan Sanche.

Meanwhile, Perrin Aybara is at the Stone in Tear, fearing that his friend Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, has lost interest in him, with Rand having sporadic episodes whilst channeling the saidin, the tainted half of the One Power, with the aid of the mysterious crystal sword Callandor. Perrin wants to summon the Aes Sedai Moiraine for want of healing Rand from his episodes of rage, with Moiraine Sedai actually encouraging the Dragon to channel the Power.

Thom Merrilin is also at the Stone, writing a message whilst pretending to be High Lord Carleon, with Mat visiting him and telling that he’s considering departing the citadel. In the meantime, Egwene is aboard a vessel awaiting Moiraine’s return, with the Accepted interrogating two rogue Aes Sedai of the Black Ajah, Amico and Joiya, who are being taken to the White Tower. Elayne and Egwene offer to help Rand with channeling, although his temper gets the better of him.

Trollocs ultimately invade the Stone, with the enemy fearing Callandor, the attack quelled. Several times throughout the novel, Egwene and her fellow Accepted Nynaeve visit the Heart of the Stone via the World of Dreams, Tel’aran’rhiod. Perrin, alongside a companion named Gaul and the Ogier Loial, also leave the Stone and travel the lands via Waygates. The Sea Folk play a minor role in the storyline, as well, having their own Jendai Prophecy of Coramoor.

Prophecy also suggests that Illian is fated to fall, with the Dragon himself leading the Aiel, from whom he is descended, through Tear and teleporting with them through a Portal Stone to the Aiel Waste. There, Rand has several visions of Aiel history, with competing factions among them. Another mystery briefly touched upon in the story is that of an individual named Slayer, whose identity is revealed late in the narrative. Dain Bornhald, in the meantime, leads the Whitecloaks, keeping prisoners deemed Darkfriends, while Rand is reluctant to follow prophecy to break the world again as Lews Therin before him had done.

A visit to Tanchico occurs as well, with a brilliant description of the city in the one chapter in which it is most prominent, and Perrin returns home to Emond’s Field, having a wolf-dream about the Whitecloaks and the destruction they leave in their wake. The action culminates in Aes Sedai infighting, Elayne and her friend Egeanin plotting infiltration of the Panarch’s Palace, and a brief conflict with the Forsaken Asmodean, accounting for a satisfying story. As with its predecessors, Jordan does take some inspiration from Star Wars, although those who enjoyed prior books will likely enjoy this one.

The Adventures of Puss in Boots

The Adventures of Puss in Boots intertitle.jpg
Not sure if it takes place before or after the DreamWorks film featuring the eponymous feline character from the Shrek films, who unintentionally breaks a spell protecting the hidden community of San Lorenzo, and he must find a way to restore it. Definitely full of colorful characters and good humor, and there are occasional plot arcs, particularly towards the end.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Life and Lessons of a Young Author

In this brief book, the eponymous young author, Sunayna Prasad, opens with a short introduction reaching out to fellow writers old and young who have or may not have had experience in publishing in any form, assuring that choices made in writing and publishing will make a difference. She opens the main text by stating that she has been writing since six and had dabbled mostly in various juvenile picture books. She gave up writing for around five years when becoming a teenager, although she resumed upon getting an idea upon turning sixteen.

Prasad suggests not submitting works-in-progress to friends and family for feedback, which would likely and consequentially be biased unless they were professional editors or were completely honest, and that people not known personally would be better critics. She indicates that professional feedback received indicated her story would not sell well, although she went against it and attempted publishing her book anyway, finding it did indeed not fare well on the market; critiques from a writing forum further affirmed that her initial story was a turkey.

Upon turning eighteen, Prasad rewrote her book while still remaining true to her original ideas in accordance with the feedback provided by professionals, and found that while her new revised story received better reception, it still did not sell well due to the writer not building an effective platform before publishing. She suggests that reading books in an author’s own genre is necessary towards becoming an effective writer, and proceeds to detail her experiences on being a self-published storyteller, with her stories still not selling well and even receiving many average reviews.

Prasad suggests in her section about writing sequels that they must stand on their own, and that information-dumping tends to be off-putting, prologues in general being difficult to write. She indicates that manuscripts should be error-free, and that reading hardcopy stories tends to catch more errors than doing so in word processors. The penultimate section details with the difficulties of brainstorming, the last indicating the author’s removal of her books from the market due to the mistake she made of not building a fanbase prior.

Overall, being a fledgling author himself, this reviewer definitely appreciated reading about the process through which Prasad went when formulating and self-publishing her series, and has had similar experience considering his series his “baby” before ultimately removing his own books from the market due to negative feedback and weak sales. This reviewer will admit that he somewhat enjoys reading other authors’ stories more than writing himself, although given inspiration from a fellow young author, he might just take another crack at working on his magnum opus in the future and would recommend this brief but informative book to other fledgling writers.

Book Details:

Book Title: The Life and Lessons of a Young Author by Sunayna Prasad
Category: YA Non-fiction, 19 pages
Genre: Writing
Publisher: Amazon KDP
Release date: Sept 1, 2018
Format available for review: ebook (PDF)
Tour dates: Aug 13 to 31, 2018
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

Whether you are young or old, The Life and Lessons of a Young Author can offer those who dream of finding the right path in the world of writing and publishing. Sunayna Prasad shares her experience as a young author and discusses what went well for her and what she suggests to those who long for success.

Talking about her life as a published writer, Sunayna Prasad teaches you the rules of the writing craft and the standards of the publishing world, as well as additional tips and tricks. The Life and Lessons of a Young Author can help you choose your own writing and publishing paths.

To read reviews, please visit Sunayna Prasad's page on iRead book Tours.

Buy the Book:

Meet the Author:

Sunayna Prasad has been writing since she was six. She continues to write fiction and non-fiction today and has even won a Pacific Book-Review award. She lives in New York, and when not writing, likes to create art and cook.

Connect with Sunayna: Website ~ Facebook