Books and Board Games


I’m up to 10 books read for the year so far, which puts me 3 ahead of schedule for my GoodReads goal of 50 and leaves me with 152 (I moved a few books from the wishlist over and added a few shorts, so the math doesn’t match up with my last progress post). Looking at a big number like that, 10 books read doesn’t seem like a big deal except I’ve finished two series in those ten, Lindsay Buroker’s excellent Emperor’s Edge series and Glen Cook’s wonderful Garrett P.I. series, which actually makes it feel like a lot of progress.

Board Games

I bought Pathfinder ACG last October and wasn’t really impressed with my first two plays. My first game I made the mistake of playing solo using only one character, which really limits game play. I also made the mistake of using Ezren (a human wizard) and one of the first cards he encountered was a barrier requiring a strength check which was impossible for him. My second game was with a buddy where we each ran one character, and that was quite a bit more fun, but it wasn’t until I recently got the game out again and played with four characters that it was really fun.

The other game that’s been sitting on my shelf for a long time which I finally got out is Thunderstone Advance. This was fun but very difficult at least for the card draws I was getting. I need to play some more but right now Pathfinder is keeping my interest much more.

Before my recent resurgence of interest in Pathfinder, I’d been playing either Marvel Legendary for the Online League I’ve been participating in on BoardGameGeek or Sentinels of the Multiverse.

Other Stuff

I’ve unfortunately done very little with my comics or movies lists, I’m still working on training myself to switch back and forth between my different goals for the year. Multitasking like that is not something I’ve ever been good at. I’m much more of a serial obsessive, where I go on a month-long kick of just reading or just playing games.

I have been playing some MMOs a bit more regularly though. Star Trek Online has been a nearly daily thing. I’ve been making sure to at least hop in long enough to do the daily for the Anniversary ship. While I prefer the old way where you just have to finish a mission, I do understand that it makes more sense for Cryptic to entice people to logon more regularly. At least the Q daily missions are quick so it’s a pretty painless grind.

I’ve also picked Neverwinter back up, it was surprisingly easy to pick back up where I left off.  This is one of those games that I don’t think I stopped playing for any particular reason other than I got distracted by something else. I started back up both because of that and because the Multiplaying group is having a weekly Wednesday night game. In typical fashion though I’ve not actually joined in on a Wednesday night yet.

Despite getting back into two MMOs, I still don’t feel like I’m really back into the genre and I’m ambivalent at best about the new games that are supposed to release this year.

Happy Birthday Professor

Happy birthday, Professor Tolkien!

I’ve been a Tolkien fan since I read the Hobbit at 8 years old. He’s shaped my reading life more than any other author I’ve read. This year should be especially good with the first Hobbit movie coming out on December.


Still Buying Dead Trees

I haven’t done a post about my Kindle experience yet, well I have but I’m not ready to published it yet. The short version is: I like it. The tricky thing about owning one has been deciding whether to buy the electronic version of a book or the paper one.

The decision is easy for some books. Technical books, TV tie-ins, and the occasional non-fiction are all guaranteed Kindle buys. These are books I’ll either only read once, become outdated after a year or three, and/or are books that I’ll want to makes notes in and be able to search easily.

Fiction books are more difficult for me to decide on. There are some series that are no-brainers, like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. These are also books that I get in hardback if possible because they’ll last longer.

Other books aren’t as easy though. For instance, I love Glen Cook’s Garrett, P.I. series. I discovered the fantasy noir series a few years ago and have working on collecting the entire series. Gilded Latten Bones was recently released and I was standing in the bookstore yesterday trying to decide if I should buy it or go out to the parking lot and buy it on my Kindle or do both.

I am really really really resisting buying both editions of any book, even though I did make or exception to that rule recently (that’s a post for later though).

The bookstore copy will go on my shelf when I’m done and, unless there’s a fire or burglary, I know I’ll be able to take it down and read it again five or ten or more years from now. The Kindle copy won’t contribute to the epic clutter of my office or the overloading of my bookshelves, and it’s easier to sneak reading time in at the office too, since I can read on my phone or laptop in addition to the Kindle itself.

In the end, I decided to get the dead trees and am continuing to resist urges to go ahead with the Kindle version as well. Besides trying to figure out which location in the Kindle matches up to whatever page I’m on would be a pain. My decision came down to the fact that besides reading them, I’m also collecting them and I don’t want to have a gap in the series on my shelf.

Game Tie-in Books

I finished two game tie-in books, recently. I know it seems like tie-ins are the only thing I read, first there were the Burn Notice novels, and now Mass Effect’s third novel and the Elemental novel. I do read more than that, but usually my non-game/TV related reading are trilogies or series and those are much harder for me to write about.

Mass Effect: Retribution

Let’s start with the sci-fi book. Like the previous two  novels, Retribution is written by Drew Karpyshyn who also writes the dialog for the games and it shows in the quality of both. Set sometime after the second game, Retribution picks up with most of the same characters from Ascension but puts them into a conflict that picks up from the end of the game.

Side note: I don’t think this is a prequel for Mass Effect 3. I can’t be sure but Ascension was not directly related to Mass Effect 2, except for the fact that it featured Cerberus, so I’m guessing it’s not.

As the books opens, we find that Cerberus has acquired Reaper technology and plans to test it on humans. The Illusive Man has a particular human in mind, Paul Grayson, who’s on the run for betraying Cerberus and the Illusive Man. During the course of the book, Kahlee Sanders finds out that Paul’s been abducted and enlists David Anderson to help find him and possibly take down Cerberus.

These books are a bit different from more game tie-ins that I familiar with, because they don’t involve the main protagonist from the game or ever do more than peripherally reference events in the game. Instead these books are more about filling on more of the background of the Mass Effect universe and developing some of the ancillary characters. This is nice since, if you have read them, then the world in the game is that much more alive and there are some oblique references to book events, but they’re not required reading by any means.

Destiny’s Embers

Leaving aside all of the drama around the game it’s tied to (you can Google it), I thought that Destiny’s Embers was a fun book. It’s written by Brad Wardell, whose the programmer for the game Elemental and the CEO of Stardock. So while it’s not a great book; it isn’t an awful book either. It was a fun read that kept me interested enough in the characters and plot to overlook any rough edges, and that’s not something I can say about every fantasy book I’ve picked up recently.

I would caution anyone who’s grammar sensitive that you’ll probably not enjoy this book as Brad’s style includes a frequent use of commas. This is not something that bothered me, but it is something to keep in mind. If you’re curious but not sure, then check out the except on Amazon’s site (or get the Kindle sample).

The plot itself is fairly standard epic fantasy: good versus evil. Most of the characters are either good or bad with few shades of gray. There’s a hero’s journey in search of a mythical item, a big battle scene at the climax, and an ending that sets up the game.

Burn Notice Debrief

Like I mentioned when I talked about The Giveaway, I’d ordered the other two books based on the Burn Notice TV series, The Fix and The End Game, to read during my vacation earlier this month.

I could definitely tell that The Fix was the first novelization from the series. Having read the third book in the series already, it was noticeable how much more comfortable Tod Goldberg has gotten with the characters. Most of the issues I noticed were small repetitions and odd word choices in the dialog, nothing that interfered with my enjoyment of the story.

The one major problem I had, with The Fix, was a difference in how Tod handles changes in perspective from Michael to Sam and Fiona. The book sets it up like Michael is still narrating based on what Sam told him afterwards, but it didn’t feel quite right to me and leads to some confusing chronology.

The End Game was much closer, in quality, to the third novel than the first. Tod drops Michael as narrator when switching to sections focuses on Sam and Fiona. There were also less of the small repetitions and odd word choices in dialog that popped out at me in the first book.

Despite the small problems mentioned above, I would still recommend these books to anyone who is a fan of the show and wants to experience a bit more of Michael Westen’s life. They are all quick reads and make excellent vacation reading. Tod has a fourth book The Reformed due out in January, according to Amazon, that I’m looking forward to picking up.

Burn Notice: The Giveaway

There are two bookstores between the office where I work and most of the places where I eat lunch. This means that usually once a week I stop in at one or both places and browse the shelves. This is a bad habit of mine because of have a pile (which is not an exaggeration) of books that I want to read but haven’t gotten to yet, so buying more books is really not something I should be doing. Still, it’s a daily temptation to stop in and see what’s new and twice in recent weeks I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

My latest surprise was finding a Burn Notice novel called The Giveaway. Partially because it was in the Science-Fiction/Fantasy section (I’m guessing someone changed their mind and left it there). The show is one of my favorites, but my initial reaction was, “Bleh, a novel?” Out of morbid curiosity, I opened it up and read the first page to see what it was like. It starts out with, “When you’re a spy…” and then goes into one of the show’s trademark voice-overs by Weston. So now I was curious and decided to buy it and give it a read.

It was a quick read, took me a day or so, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Enough, actually, that I ordered the other two books The Fix and The End.

The plot is a typical one for the show. Friend Barry, the money launderer, needs a favor. He has a friend, who’s a retired bank robber, that did one last job but ended up ripping of a motorcycle gang and now needs help cleaning up the mess.

The dialog, monologues, and action are all very true to the show. The book does bring something new to the series though, there are a couple of chapters written from Sam and Fiona’s viewpoints. This is not something that the show does and I’m not sure it would very well if they tried it, but it worked well in the book and made for interesting insights into the characters.

New Ethshar Serial

I’m a long-time fan of the Ethshar series by Lawrence Watt-Evans. The first book I read, With a Single Spell, is actually the second in the series, and I picked it up as a kid during a regular scouring of a favorite used bookstore. I never ran across the other books, and it never occurred to me to look and see if his other works were part of the same world or not until rereading it a few years ago. Thanks to the magic of the Internet I found his site, a whole series of stand alone novels set in that world, and went on an Ethshar binge.

There are ten published novels, starting with The Misenchanted Sword and finishing with The Vondish Ambassador (the linked page is slightly out of date as VA is now published). The interesting thing is that the last two books: The Spriggan Mirror and The Vondish Ambassador were originally published on-line as serials.

In 2005, a combination of lack of publisher interest in continuing the series and fans clamoring for additional books led Watt-Evans to try an experiment. He wrote The Spriggan Mirror as a serial. To his surprise, it was successful and was completed and published. Since then he has completed a second serial, The Vondish Ambassador. It’s an interesting variation on the normal author/publisher model and apparently a good way to prove to a publisher that there is a market for stories they’re not otherwise interested in.

So, I was excited when I saw recently that he was working on a new serial called The Final Calling. I’m especially excited for this one since it deals with Warlockry, which has been a long running mystery in the series.

The details about how serialization works are here. The short version is: the first chapter is posted for free, each chapter after that is $250, and one chapter posted per week or more slowly depending on donations. Donors over $25 get a printed copy.

Of course there’s no guarantee that enough donations will come in to cover finishing the book. But, Watt-Evans is three for three so far and good at keeping to a schedule as well. Based on his last serial status update, the story is paid up through Chapter Seven (which he’s currently writing), Chapters One and Two are posted, and Chapter Three is scheduled to post on June 30th.

Lone Wolf Collectors Editions

There was a white box waiting for me when I got home from work tonight. I had no idea what it was until I saw the word Mongoose in the return address. I didn’t expect the books to get here so quickly, but I am completely ecstatic. Check out the slide show below or the album here.