Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Severed Souls


In the penultimate entry of the Richard and Kahlan tetralogy following the main Sword of Truth books, the Lord Rahl and his forces continue to battle the Shun-tuk, accompanied by the resurrected spirit king Emperor Sulachan and Hannis Arc, who seeks to augment their forces. The book features some commentary, particularly due to a conversation between Richard and a Shun-tuk prisoner of war, of the nature of the human soul, with Sulachan seeking a union of the worlds of the living and the dead. Lord Rahl and the Mother Confessor still have the taint of death resultant from the death of the sorceress Jit, and will die without the cure of a containment field.

The forces of D’Hara have a fight with the Shun-tuk lasting several chapters centered on a chasm, and Kahlan befriends a friendly predatory creature she names Hunter. Meanwhile, Hannis Arc and his servant Ludwig Dreier continue to conspire in the city of Saavedra in the Fajin Province of the D’Haran Empire, both obsessed with torturing prophecy out of their victims. At one point, Richard’s grandfather Zedd suggests that his grandson’s battle with the half people is futile, and that he and Kahlan should simply give everything up, run away, and live their lives as they please.

The clock continues to tick on Richard and Kahlan’s lifespans, with the D’Harans traversing a system of caverns to an oracle named Red, who wishes to converse with the Mother Confessor alone, and shares their goal of sending Emperor Sulachan back to the netherworld, though she adds a prophetic warning. Due to distance of the People’s Palace that awaits the invasion by the antagonistic forces, Richard and Kahlan make it a point to try using a containment field supposedly at the citadel in Saavedra to lift their death taint, and eventually reach the city.

As with most selections in the Sword of Truth series, things intensify in the latter portion of the book, culminating in several plot twists and a cliffhanger ending. Overall, while author Terry Goodkind could have certainly combined many of the brief chapters into longer ones so the story wouldn’t feel overly-fragmented, this reviewer definitely enjoyed it, although not everyone will appreciate its ending, and it’s scarcely a good starting point for those who are new to the franchise, given its direct continuation of the plotline present in prior entries of the Richard and Kahlan subseries.

Art of the Day, 30 April 2019

Porcine Park Ranger
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Monday, April 29, 2019

Our Planet

A British nature documentary series that luckily avoids any kind of political references and is definitely educational and worth a watch.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Orville

The first-season episode "About a Girl" really hit home with me, and an episode in the second season sort of follows up on the events with feminist overtones. This show was sort of a competitor with Star Trek: Discovery, and in my opinion has better sociopolitical commentary regarding things such as drawing the line at respecting certain traditions, genocide, and the like, with an occasional comical flourish.

Art Trade with Sooty Brassworth

My half:

Sooty in Peril (Art Trade)
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

His half:

1556128609.sootybrassworth 33d19a23-9806-4508-955b
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Monday, April 22, 2019

Earth Day 2019 Art

Earth Day 2019 Pic
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

The Tick (2016 TV series)


A comedic superhero Amazon Prime series about the eponymous hero and his sidekck Arthur, who deal with an adversary called the Terror in the first season, before moving on to face Lobstercules in the second. Definitely an enjoyable romp.

Mortal Engines

Definitely has a good steampunk atmosphere, and seems a bit allegorical to British imperialism given the antagonistic nature of the London vehicle-city, but the screenplay writers seemed to borrow a bit from Star Wars.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Third Kingdom

At the beginning of the second entry of the Richard and Kahlan tetralogy serving as a follow-up to the main The Sword of Truth books by Terry Goodkind, the two characters find themselves in the captivity of cannibals ultimately identified as Shun-tuk, the two finding themselves unable to use their powers. Residents from the nearby village of Stroyza rescue them thanks to an errand by the young Henrik, and Richard and Kahlan soon find that they each have a taint of death inflicted by the death of the Hedge Maid Jit, found when the young sorceress Sammie attempts to heal the latter.

Only the containment field at the People’s Palace back in D’Hara can cure the two of their taint, although both the Shun-tuk and the revenant half-people divert their attention, with Richard, Kahlan being unconscious at the time, needing to deal with him somehow whilst rescuing friends such as his grandfather Zedd and Nicci. Sammie, eventually referred to as Samantha, accompanies the Lord Rahl, venturing to the eponymous third kingdom to the north, separated by a massive wall, the term itself referring to the gray area between life and death, and the main antagonist of the tetralogy, Hannis Arc, yearning to take D’Hara for himself.

Richard and Samantha later on find themselves to be Lord Arc’s captives, and Kahlan that of Abbot Ludwig Dreier once she comes to, the long-deceased Emperor Sulachan receiving some attention as well. Overall, this is an enjoyable follow-up to The Omen Machine, given its graphic detail at times and plentiful action, though at times it puts the quantity of its countless chapters above quality. Regardless, that makes the novel digestible in fragments, with The Third Kingdom being notably shorter than the main Sword of Truth stories, sure to please fans of the series.


Definitely an enjoyable lighthearted superhero film about a Philadelphian boy who gains the power to transform into the eponymous character and battles a villain who was refused as a child the character's abilities due to not being good of heart.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Art Trade with Moufy

My half:

Arthur (Art Trade)
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Her half:

1555626178.moufy At - Kingodin
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Star Trek: Discovery

The second season picks up where the first leaves off with the crew of the Discovery meeting that of the Enterprise, headed by Christopher Pike. Spock receives a great deal of backstory throughout the season, and an entity called the red angel plays a significant role, with another called Control engaging in a battle with the two vessels, and the last episode explains why Spock never references Michael Burnham in The Original Series.

Definitely as good as the first season, with the only real issue being that the technology in Discovery is clearly superior to that in The Original Series, although the second does an okay job replicating the visual style of the interior of TOS's version of the Enterprise. I hate to make the analogy, but the Star Wars prequels are more believable chronological predecessors than Trek's, largely due to the fact that Wars is more about the worlds and their people than the ships and their crews like Trek.

Regardless, it's good that Star Trek is semi-back on television.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Phillip K. Dick's Electric Dreams

An anthology show with ten standalone episodes featuring celebrities such as Bryan Cranston and Steve Buscemi loosely based on the literary works of Phillip K. Dick. The one that probably resonated with me was the last episode, "Kill All Others," with a candidate for political office advocating the eponymous position, although for some reason, no one but the protagonist bats an eye, and everyone else thinks he's crazy. Definitely a recommended watch.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Red Dead Redeption: Game of the Year Edition

There is debate on when the concept of the open world saw its introduction to the videogame industry, although some games as early as the 1970s such as the text adventure game Colossal Cave Adventure featured elements of the genre. Not until Rockstar Games’ 2011 title Grand Theft Auto III for the PlayStation 2 did the open-world concept see its influential codification, with the developer during the seventh console generation producing the American West-themed game Red Dead Redemption in 2010. The following year saw its enhanced rerelease Red Dead Redemption: Game of the Year Edition, proving an enjoyable game in the genre.

Redemption focuses on protagonist John Marston as he traverses the declining American frontier, with the former outlaw able to ride horses (ultimately obtaining a wild one as his own sometime into the game), drive or ride along in wagons, and wield different types of firearms. A mechanic somewhat difficult to master is Dead Eye, where the player can mark multiple targets to shoot in slow motion, though fortunately, becoming proficient in this regard isn’t wholly necessary to complete the game. Combat while controlling a horse or wagon can be somewhat tedious, too, but the game luckily gives player some room for error at least on Normal difficulty, and in the end, the game mechanics very much work well.

While Redemption does an excellent job for the most part pointing players in the right direction, indicated by letters on the in-game maps, other areas of control could have definitely used more attention such as the inability to view the world’s map at a campsite for fast-travel, the fact that saving the game manually always passes time, and the aforementioned issues with engaging in combat whilst controlling a form of transportation. Hearing-impaired gamers, moreover, certainly won’t appreciate the inability to fast-forward through text during cutscenes (although they’re entirely skippable), and generally, interaction doesn’t severely hurt the game, but isn’t perfect.

The game’s storyline focuses on the aforementioned ex-outlaw John Marston visiting the American frontier in the year 1911 as an age of industrialism is shaping, performing tasks for the U.S. government whilst is wife and son are hostage. The story is mostly enjoyable, given its endearing character cast and development, although the text is full of errors, and a sizeable excursion into Mexico is accompanied by plenty untranslated Spanish dialogue, with no in-game translation guide. Many gameplay clichés such as mandatory side-tasks necessary to advance the storyline also play part, but regardless, the narrative is a good driving factor.

Redemption features a fitting Western soundtrack, along with superb voicework and sound effects (as is expectant of a game of its generation), although there are minor glitches regarding voices during travel.

The game’s weak point is perhaps its graphics, which do a nice job reflecting realism for the most part, although the framerate is frequently choppy, along with pixilated texturing, frequent pop-up of environmental elements during travel, and occasions that affect gameplay such as attempts to domesticate horses where the camera constantly jerks around.

Finally, the game took around eighteen hours to complete with this reviewer largely shunning sidequests, although acquiring every Trophy can easily boost playtime well beyond that range.

To conclude, Red Dead Redemption is for the most part a solid open-world game that hits most of the right notes regarding its enjoyable gameplay systems, difficulty of getting lost, good narrative, superb Western soundtrack and voice acting, and plenty reason to keep on playing even after finishing the central storyline. There are areas, however, that leave room for improvement such as the frequent finnicky control, the need to sit through voiced dialogue with no option to fast-forward through it, occasional irritating gameplay clichés, the untranslated Spanish during Marston’s adventure into Mexico, and the unpolished visuals. Regardless, fans of open-world games in general will definitely find the game a worthwhile purchase, especially at its discounted Greatest Hits price, if they still have their PlayStation 3’s.

The Good:
+Solid open-world gameplay.
+Mostly-clear direction on how to proceed.
+Good storyline.
+Great soundtrack and voicework.
+Trophies add plentiful lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Control can be a bit finnicky.
-No option to fast-forward through cutscene text.
-Some irritating plot/gameplay clichés.
-Spanish dialogue untranslated.
-Graphics haven’t aged well.

The Bottom Line:
Not one of the greatest games of all time, but still an enjoyable romp.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 5/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable, relatively easy on Normal mode.
Playing Time: 16-24+ Hours

Overall: 7.5/10

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Memory of Light

The concluding entry to the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, completed by Brandon Sanderson, opens with a fictitious excerpt about the Breaking of the World, following which is a prologue spanning the perspectives of multiple character sets. The main chapters open with the same wind motif that commence those of the book’s precursors, with a gathering far north of Caemlyn, and the world in decay. The Last Battle officially begins with Trollocs storming the aforementioned city, with the militaries of the various nations needing to mobilize, and one of the characters, Androl, receiving a demotion to a regular soldier.

King Easar of Sheinar leads the Borderlanders against the Trollocs and their allies, and the Dragon Reborn, Rand al’Thor, vows to kill the Dark One, even if it costs him his life. There is debate about who will lead the forces of good against those evil, with Lan leading the Borderlander Asha’man and having occasional nostalgia as the heir to the deceased Kingdom of Malkier. Matrim Cauthon at one point breaks into the Tarasin Palace of Ebou Dar, with his wife Empress Fortuona of Seanchan yearning for offspring, and his friend Rand training with his adoptive father Tam to ready for the Last Battle.

The Dragon himself parleys with the Seanchan leader, wishing for her to relinquish the captive damane in her country. Gawyn, the Aes Sedai, and Queen Elayne seek to stem the advances of the Trollocs, with contemplation by Rand on when to break the remaining seals on the Dark One’s prison. New enemies from the country of Shara east from the Aiel Waste collaborate with Shai’tan’s forces, with the upper hand in combat sporadically undulating between the opposing factions. Some characters allegedly fighting for good are suspected to be Darkfriends, whilst Perrin battles Slayer within his wolf dreams.

Sanderson dedicates an extremely-lengthy, hundred-plus-page-in-physical-format chapter to the climactic events of the Last Battle, which begins on Polov Heights, and Rand confronts the Dark One himself, who tries to distract him with illusions. Several important characters meet their deaths, with several smaller conflicts between luminaries of good and the remaining Forsaken following the chief action of the Last Battle, the Dragon Reborn continuing his crusade against Shai’tan. The remaining chapters, including the epilogue, settle the fates of the various characters once and for all, with the final entry cleverly concluding with the same windy motif that begins all books but the prequel.

Overall, the conclusive Wheel of Time novel is definitely a satisfactory ending, with plenty of action nonstop at many points, although Sanderson could have definitely broken down the chapter entitled “The Last Battle” into multiple subsections, since most readers will need plenty of spare time to read it through from start to finish. This reviewer also took minor perplexion at the abrupt introduction of the Sharans, driving him to look on the Internet, and the conclusion definitely shows its inspiration by the Star Wars saga, with occasional reference to being “turned to the Shadow.” Regardless, the author definitely did justice to the late Robert Jordan’s work, and this critic definitely doesn’t regret reading the sometimes-verbose epic.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The High Court

The second entry of author Chris Ledbetter’s Sky Throne series opens with protagonist and first-person narrator Zeus wandering the school from which he received expulsion in the first book, the Eastern Crete Lower Academy, and afterward giving his friends and revealed siblings a tour of the cave where he grew up. Then Zeus travels to the Orthys Hall academy to confront Kronos in hopes of confronting the suspected murderer, although others quickly bully him away from its campus. Sure enough, Zeus’ mother Rhea cautions her son about taking matters into his own hands.

A new girl from Kithira named Aphrodite begins attending the Mount Olympus school, with Rhea ultimately returning from an excursion to the Pantheon League Headmasters’ Summit retreat in Babylon, and Zeus receiving his schedule for his next term of school, attending classes such as Leadership, where he and fellow students must ponder strategies for War Games. Although Zeus receives accusations of cheating during an exercise in the wilderness by transforming into a bird, an attack from an animate volcano quickly gets the classmates on the same side, with Headmistress Rhea tending to her injured son.

Zeus soon experiences his Intro to Strategy class, a pre-graduation requirement, where its teacher, Pontus, allows his students to ponder strategies for fighting a theoretical battle on a bridge. Rhea further informs that pantheons are under attack from internal and external threats, with some pupils such as Hera wanting to honor Ouranos, killed in the first book, with a Symposium. Yet another class Zeus takes is Oceanography, with he and other students seeking to obtain the Sky Throne’s power by sitting in it, among them being his friend Poseidon, or Don as he’s colloquially referred.

Zeus’ friends, including Metis, ultimately notice that he has a bit of an issue with his attitude, with the reason being a neuro-poison from a barb inflicted by Campe, and the students planning to visit the Hearthstone Forge at Mosychlos for want of equipment to be ready for the threats posed to their school. When it eventually comes to dealing with the aforementioned venom, Zeus learns that to be cured of it will be a risky endeavor, with a proposed surgical procedure having the potential to render him unable to walk, with the process coming a bit at a bad time, given the attack of monsters from the sea including the animate rock volcanos.

The sequel ends with trials for Hyperion and Kronos in the eponymous High Court, with the second book in Ledbetter’s series ultimately being enjoyable, although there are occasional obscurities such as the confusion as to when exactly the venomous barb inflicts Zeus, not to mention some stylistic choices with which this reviewer disagrees such as the use of the term “great-father” when “grandfather” would have done just fine. Regardless of its various issues, those who enjoyed the first book will most likely enjoy its successor, especially those who have enjoyed fantastical stories such as those in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians franchise.

Book Details:

Book Title: The High Court by Chris Ledbetter
Category: YA Fiction, 290 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Month 9 Books
Release date: October 16, 2018
Tour dates: April 1 to 30, 2019
Content Rating: PG (some profanity (damn, ass), no f-bombs, some kissing, no sex scenes, some violence, nothing gory or graphic)

Book Description:

High atop Mount Olympus, dawn breaks on a new academic term. Normalcy has returned to campus following a harrowing expedition into The Underworld to rescue kidnapped students by Zeus and his fellow Olympians. Now, as they prepare to testify in The High Court, Hyperion will be tried for the attack on Crete and death of Anytos. Kronos will stand trial for the murder of Mount Olympus Prep’s Headmaster Ouranos.

As the trials draw near, Mount Olympus Prep students and faculty are besieged repeatedly by a race of gargantuan stone and earth giants. Under heavy assault, the Olympians are forced to flee to the volcanic island of Limnos to regroup. Meanwhile, a toxic poison Zeus has carried with him since a prior fight with a dragoness, creeps toward his brain.

In a race against time and beasts, Zeus and his friends must find a way to survive not only the toxin ravaging Zeus’ body, but also the giants who grow stronger after every attack, and somehow make it to the The High Court alive.

To read reviews, please visit Chris Ledbetter's page of iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

Watch the trailer:

Meet the Author:

Chris Ledbetter is an award-winning author of short fiction and novels for young adults. “Jason’s Quest,” a short story retelling of the Jason and Medea Greek myth was published in the anthology, Greek Myths Revisited. His first full-length novel, Drawn earned him two awards, Library of Clean Reads Best YA 2015 and Evernight Publishing Readers’ Choice Award Best YA 2015, as well as a USA TODAY “Must Read” recommendation. His second novel, Inked, concludes that duology. The Sky Throne is his newest young adult series. It includes, thus far, The Sky Throne and The High Court.

He's a proud member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and a strong supporter of the Need for Diverse Books. He now writes and lives in Wilmington, NC with his family, including three cats.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

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