Books

A Heartstrikers Book 4 preview Has Been Released and It’s Amazing

I was going to write about something else today, but when I opened my email, I saw that I got one from Rachel Aaron’s newsletter.  The title and release date of Heartstrikers Book 4 – A Dragon of a Different Color – was dropped about a month ago, but I wasn’t expecting anything else about it until release.  Today, I got a link to an extended preview of the book, and man am I even more pumped for this book AHHH!  I haven’t been this excited for a series since Harry Potter, so pumped!
I don’t want to talk about too many details, because the author specifically states in the newsletter she doesn’t want that.  If you’d like to read the preview, go subscribe to her newsletter.  But, without spoilers,   it’s safe to say A Dragon of a Different Color picks up right where we left off with Julius and the Heartstriker clan.  From the exert, it seems like we’re going to have a book full of mystery, action, and drama, and ayaaah I just can’t wait!  Two of my hunches already have been addressed in the first 2 chapters and ugh it’s just sooo good.  The writing is still on point, the characters are still amazing, and I’m beyond excited to hop back into the Heartstrikers series.  I’m going to drop everything to read it, like seriously!
I’m hoping that the Audible release is going to drop the same day the physical book drops.  From the release schedule of Caraval though, that seems to be the case with audio book releases now – something that didn’t happen when I used to read books, so it’s a really nice convenience to have now.  This is a series that I adore so much in audio form.  I read the exert with my screen reader, and I still love the book but the narrator is just so good at performing the book, that I really don’t want to experience it any other way. So fingers crossed it’s released at the same time as the book, ayaaaah!!!

 

A Dragon of a Different Color is coming out on July 28.  If you’d like to read an extended exert of the first few chapters of the book, subscribe to Rachel Aaron’s newsletter for updates.  And, if you’d like to pre-order the book, you can do so at Amazon!

Cartoons

A Musical Moment: Here Comes a Thought – Steven Universe

There’s so much good music in Steven Universe, that it was hard to pick a track from it.  I’ll probably spotlight some more tracks from here, but I really wanted to avoid any spoilertastic songs in case you are reading, and haven’t seen the episode.  So no spotlight of Stronger Than You even though it’s an awesome song, sorry~

 

 

 

Here Comes a Thought is very self-contained, and it’s message is so beautiful.  It’s the perfect anthem for anyone who suffers from anxiety and depression, and I constantly sing it whenever I’m feeling overly stressed and apathetic.  The word play in it is so clever also! Just this section alone portrays the struggle anyone with anxiety has.  Just this simple phrase means so much:
“It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok” the amount that that’s said has so many meanings.  The first “It’s OK” – calming yourself down, telling your mind to shut off.  The next two, calming you down further.  The final section you slowly believing the words you’re saying, and that whatever internal crisis you’re going through actually will be ok.  The melodic structure of that section too, how it starts higher then descends down the scale – as if it’s you coming down from yore anxiety attack, it just speaks volumes.
Another section I love that I’d like to highlight is this one:

 

“You’ve got nothing, got nothing, got nothing, got nothing to fear.

I’m here, I’m here, I’m here.”

 

Those three “I’m here’s” all have different meanings as well.  But before that, you have to tell yourself not to be afraid of what’s happening to you, that what you’re going through is normal and ok.  That not only are your friends and family here to support and protect you, but “I’m here” literally – I’m here, I’m not lost in my head worrying.  I’m here, and I’m grounded, and I’m going to get through this because I’m also here to live my life and these thoughts aren’t going to stop me from doing that.  Or, as the final section of the song says:

 

“And it was just a thought, just a thought just a thought, just a thought, just a thought.

It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok.

We can watch, we can watch, we can watch, we can watch them go by.

From here, from here, from here.”

 

I love this song.  In my eyes, it’s perfection.

 

Editorials/Opinion Pieces · Video Games

What An Accessible Video Game to the Blind Means to Me

Disclaimer:  This is an opinion piece, I am by no means an expert and am just voicing my viewpoint on the subject.

 

I see it often, as news on Twitter and Facebook.  “A game fully accessible for the blind!” and I go check it out, and it’s a game that’s just a completely black screen, with auditory feedback only.  Perhaps some tactile feedback as well, but to me, those games don’t quite cut it.  I won’t say it’s not accessible, because it is, but at the same time it feels like it’s still limiting the amount that the blind can play with their sighted peers.    Before I get fully into this post though, I’d like to say I’m super happy with the headway accessibility has gotten in the past ten years.  The fact that it’s something game developers are even thinking about, and implementing in their games is amazing, and makes me want to get back into gaming again.  I saw that even big companies, like Microsoft and Sony are putting text to speech controls in their consoles, and I’m hoping that the Switch will follow suit (though the HD Rumble is a step in the right direction).  Indi developers that think about how to adapt their games, and create games specifically for the blind isn’t something that I would see when I was a teenager and pre-teen, and it warms my heart to see that people are even thinking of how to make things easily available for everyone to play.
With that out of the way, I feel like making games without graphics isn’t exactly the right way to go with making games accessible.  I know being legally blind is a rather blanket term, but being legally blind, or visually impaired, doesn’t always mean someone is 100 percent blind.  There are people who have full sight out of one eye, have light perception, tunnel vision, peripheral vision, and so many other visual spectrums, that developers should account for.  Sure, a legally blind gamer who has sight in one eye but none in the other may like to play a game that doesn’t have any visuals, but they also may not care for that sort of game and want to play something that has graphics they can see to the best of their ability, to immerse them further in the gaming experience also available to their sighted peers.

 

Blindness is a term a lot of us use because it’s easiest to say instead of something like “I’m actually visually impaired, I can see colors and light perception” because to a lot of people, that’s hard for them to grasp.  I know I’ve seen a lot of blind gamers just say, give me good sound design in a Triple A title I’ll do the rest with my other senses.  For some, being able to magnify things is enough, while for others, the text to speech menu options are all they’d need.  Others would just need inverted color schemes, while others may prefer a fully audio, fully tactile game.

 

What I prefer in a game, is just to have the entire experience, like any normal game.  Sound design is fantastic nowadays:  I watch videos of games on YouTube, and can tell what’s going on just by the placement of the sound.  I don’t have any new gen consoles, but I can only imagine how easy it is to play and how immersive it is for a blind gamer.  I memorize where things are, or get sighted help from friends and family when something is too difficult, but overall that’s usually my gaming experience.  That being said, I love fighting games for how easy they are to just pick up and play.  Pick a mode, pick a fighter, and you’re good to go XD

 

Like I said, I’m super impressed, and happy to see the strides that developers, both big and small are taking towards gaming being doable for everyone.  But when I see a game that says it’s fully accessible, but is lacking in features, I’m always so conflicted.  I love that people are doing it, but at the same time, why not do it so it’s literally accessible to everyone?  Games like 1, 2, Switch are doing a good job of being playable for everyone, while not looking like it’s excluding anyone from being able to play, and I think that’s more what developers need to stride for as far as making a game fully accessible goes.  A no graphics, audio only game may be interesting, and a good game to have out there but at the end of the day it’s very niche and won’t be as interesting a game to play as say, a Final Fantasy game and I’d overall just like to see more access to games that are more mainstream.  Good steps in the right direction on all fronts though, very interested to see where game development for the blind and visually impaired will be going in the next few years.

 

Have any thought’s on the subject?  Would love to hear in the comments!

Editorials/Opinion Pieces

A Musical Moment: Searching for Friends from Final Fantasy VI

Welcome to the first post of my new blog feature, A Musical Moment!  I’ll be talking about tracks or albums of music that I love from video games, anime, and other nerdy media I watch and going in depth about why I love them so much.  For my first feature, I wanted to do a track from my favorite RPG of all time:  Final Fantasy VI!
This particular track is from the 3rd disc of the soundtrack, which I find to be the most neglected disc from the OST.  I find all of the World of Ruin music to be amazing, but this piece in particular from that section of the game is one I adore.

 

Picture this:  You’re in a baron wasteland of a world, and barely realized that at least a few of your friends are alive.  But you still have to stop the mad man who sent the world into chaos.  To do so, you need an airship to get to the big bad’s airborn tower, which, the only airship was destroyed when the world was.  But, hurray!  You find out your airship pilot was hiding a second pair of wings (attached to a tragic backstory, because of course) and had to go to an underground crypt to get the new airship.

 

Cut to outside.  The baron wasteland is still prominent, but amongst the murky waters of the ocean, you see a cresting wave.  It’s your airship bursting out of the water, taking its first flight, and the first few chords of this play:

 

 

 

I LOVE THIS THEME!  It captures all the hope your party is feeling in that moment.  There are still some unsure, melancholy chords in it, but the main melody soars it the absolute joy that is realizing it’s alright to hope again. And, as a bonus, this is your new world map theme!  What impresses me about this song is it’s chord structure, as well.  I’ve been transcribing different Nobuo Uematsu tracks on piano, partially to learn piano and particularly because I was curious.  Most, if not all of his melodies, are all done entirely in one scale!  Searching for Friends has 2 sharp notes in its melody structure, but the rest are white keys.  It never strays out of the scale it starts in, and that always amazes me.  It’s fantastic how many melodies you can make with only one octave  at your disposal, and even when Uematsu-sensei goes outside of the octave in other tracks, it’s still just transposed notes.  It’s something I’ve been mirroring in my compositions, because if you’re going to learn how to make music, why not learn from one of the greats?

 

When I think of all that Final Fantasy VI captures for me, I think of this song.  Simply a gorgeous piece of music, wonderfully written.

 

And that was my first musical moment!  Hope you enjoyed it.  What’s your favorite track from Final Fantasy VI?  Let me know in the comments below!

Books

Caraval by Stephanie Garber Book Review

This book is good.  If you want the short and sweet version of this review, I’d say read it.  It has flaws, sure, but it’s pros outweigh its cons for me and the mysteries, characters and world are worth getting through them because there’s major payoff at the plots conclusion.  Plus, the sequel book sounds like it’ll be great after the epilogue!  I just wanted to get that out of the way:  This is a good book, if you like fantasy, romance, and mystery, check it out.  But for those of you who want a more in depth review, keep reading!

 

Plot summary

 

Welcome, welcome to Caraval – Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful – and cruel – father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the faraway once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year Scarlett’s long dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever. – From Audible

 

World Building

 

The world building is done interestingly, though I won’t say it’s perfect.  We see the world through the main characters eyes, and due to her upbringing, she has a very narrow world view.  We get a description of how the world works, and the way finding out the basics of the world is done in a well rounded way that isn’t just an exposition dump.  There are a lot of vague descriptions when we get to Caraval that I felt tried to lend to the mystery – but at the same time, parts of the book were really frustrating to read because of how vague the author kept descriptions.  The magic system in Caraval alssso…doesn’t really make sense, in all honesty.  But if you ignore that and just come along for the ride, the book is enjoyable.

 

Plot Progression/Pacing

 

The pacing is the biggest issue for me with the book, along with Scarlet in the first half of the story (we’ll get to that in the characters section).  I was so frustrated with how the book was progressing, and where it was trying to go in the first half, that I had to go read some reviews with minor spoilers in it.  They really just mentioned what characters would be popping up, and when I saw that my interest in the book was re-engaged.  But, the book doesn’t get interesting for me until around chapter 17 to chapter 20 – that’s when the book starts to get really good, and super engaging.  I marathoned the 2nd half of the book in 2 days, it just was really great.  The stakes were raised properly, it got really intense, and the characters all had mysteries I wanted to see solved.  Scarlet is amazing in the 2nd half of the book as well, and her character development had me rooting for her the entire book.

 

The plot was…well, the plot threads aren’t all answered, but the plot threads for the first book are.  I don’t think the multitude of plot twists at the end were all good, some of them felt like they were just thinly vailed reasons to keep characters in the game for a sequel novel.  Although all the plot twists weren’t welcome for me, the overall progression of the plot was slow in the first half, fast paced in the second.  When Scarlet couldn’t figure out obvious clues though, I was banging my head against the wall!  It’s a major irritant of mine when a character can’t figure out something that is so freaking obvious!
There were a lot of predictable plot threads, and a lot of convoluted plot twists, but if you suspend your disbelief and just enjoy this book for what it is, it’s tons of fun.

 

Characters

 

This is where the book shines.  The characters are great!  All well fleshed out, very realistic characters you feel for.  Scarlet, as I said, really annoyed me in the beginning:  but, the reasons she acted the way she did in the first half of the book were well explained, and her character arc was masterfully done.  I’m always annoyed with characters who are indecisive, but knowing what Scarlet has gone through her entire life, I felt awful for being annoyed with her because I know why she was acting the way she did.  And, that frustration had major payoff, because when Scarlet comes into her own, wow is she fierce!  Like I said in the above section by books end I was rooting for her, and absolutely adored her.  I really hope she appears in the sequel books, she’s so great.
Julian is another example of how well Garber writes characters.  He has secrets to hide, but the person we see is the person he is, and he’s a great foil for Scarlet.  Their relationships progression is one of the gems in this book.  No cases of insta love:  Their relationship grows from distrust, to trust, to friendship, to love and it’s throughout the entirety of the book, so once again, really realistic.  When he finally spills the beans about his true identity, I wasn’t really surprised to be honest.  The two things he wound up being, were two of my theories very early on in the book, but I thought what the final reveal was was a great way to subvert the readers expectations of what the reveal was going to be.
Scarlet and Julian are the perfect couple, and that’s not to say they’re both perfect.  They know how to push each other to be the best people they can be, accept each other for all of their flaws, know how to make each other brave and strong and it’s such a breath of fresh air to see a grounded relationship in a YA novel.  10/10, OTP!

 

 

Donnatella, much like Caraval, is a bundle of magic and mystery.  She does something that you’d originally think was horrible and selfish, but when you see the consequences of her actions, you see her in a whole new light.  Tella is selfless, brave, and just as strong, if not more so, than Scarlet and we see this both in the beginning, and end of the book.  But to say any more about Tella would be a spoiler, so I’ll stop there XD
Governor Dragna is the worst you can get.  The perfect villain, because you hate him from the start and want to see him get his (luckily, we do).  You see the effect his abuse has had on both Scarlet and Tella, and it makes you hate him even more.  That’s part of why Scarlet’s development is so amazing:  She escapes her Father’s control, by openly defying him, and it’s soooo amazing!
The supporting cast is all great.  I’m especially fond of Dante and Iko, but Legend is the perfect anti-hero, who by books end you still don’t really know anything about.  I hope the next book in the series explores the mystery of Legend a lot more, because seeing him in this book was interesting but made you want to see more.  No matter how big, or how small the cast member is in Caraval, they’re all wonderful to watch.

 

Writing

 

This is the one hit I’ll give the book. The writing tries to be whimsical with flowery pros, but all it does is frustrate the reader at points.  Scarlet feels her emotions attached to colors, which I thought was interesting in the beginning because I thought that would somehow link to the magic of Caraval.  But nope:  It’s just how she feels emotions, so throughout the entire book we get to read things like “The gray ash of disappointment” “the violet danger” “the emerald greed” and to me, it just felt like a lazy way to not have to actually explain to the reader what was going on in any detail.  Along with that, descriptions are made into vague pros like “Our kiss felt like the beginning of something and the start of something new”, “It tasted like midnight”, “her dress was periwinkle, the color of happy endings” and none of those things equate to anything in my mind other than vague, non-descript descriptors that are just there to try and make the book sound a lot more introspective than it actually is.  Would it be so hard just to say Scarlet tasted something, and it was spicy?  I don’t think so!  I know Garber was trying to have “The magic of Caraval” apparent through her pros, but really it just got annoying after reading through the 100th metaphor.  I really hope in her next book, she uses these in moderation and gives us a bit more of a grounded sounding narrative because there were so many times I just went “There’s no way I would even know what midnight would taste like because it’s not a sensation attached to taste”.  Using a completely opposite word to describe another sensory detail isn’t good writing, it’s just overly involved writing that’s distracting.

 

Julian had a “nickname” for Scarlet the entire book that was super annoying too.  Crimson.  Crimson?  That isn’t a nickname, it’s a synonym!  Once again, another thing thrown in that makes absolutely no sense and adds nothing but irritation to the narrative.
But I will say:  I freaking adore how every one of Scarlet’s dresses were described.  That was perfectly done.  I could totally picture each gown, and ugh it just made the fashionista in me squeal:  all so pretty!

 

Overall/Final Thoughts

 

In the end, I loooooved this book.  It’s a great tale of two sisters who love each other so much, that they fight to keep the other safe in their own way.  It’s also a tale of two abused young women fighting to come into their own, and be free of their Father, both in very different ways.  The backdrop is the magical game that is Caraval, full of magic and secrets, and secrets and magic!  But in all seriousness, this is a really great first book in a series.  If you’re ok with a good magical mystery, wrapped in romance, and fantasy, pick up this book.  As long as you’re willing to turn your brain off for a while and just enjoy the ride.

 

The epilogue is pretty clear in the character who we’ll be following in the next book, and I really can’t wait to read it!

 

To me the mark of a good book is a book that has you thinking about it days after you’ve read it.  Thinking about what parts in the book now make sense after getting to the end, how the characters will be in the next book, things like that.  I’m still thinking about Caraval days after I read it, and finishing it left a really good feeling for me.  So despite any flaws I see in this book, or any discrepancies’ I have with the writing, I think Caraval is an amazing story that deserves to have been told.

 

Have you read Caraval?  Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment’s!

Uncategorized

Blog Updates – Some Content Updates and Format Changes

This blog has been up since last November, which makes it about 7 months since I started it.  So crazy, considering I had been waffling back and forth about making a nerdy blog for years and then bam on a whim I just made it and the rest is history.  I’ve enjoyed the ride so far, but along the way I’ve realized there are some posts that I’d like to be doing I haven’t, some posts that I know I won’t frequently make even though I said I would, formatting changes etc etc.  So, I wanted to make a post addressing said changes, just to keep you guys up to date.  With that intro out of the way, here we go!

 

Anime Posts –  In all honesty, I don’t watch as much anime as I thought I would.  It’s not that I don’t like it, but I’m much more of a casual viewer of anime, where I’m far more of an avid fan of other things like books, video games, western cartoons, super hero media, and anything fantasy.  Anime posts will occasionally happen, just not in any sort of frequency:  If I watch an anime, and think I can write a blog post about something in it, or a general review about it, I will.  Take my Magic Knight Rayearth and Miss Kobayashi posts, as good examples.  So if you popped over here because you wanted to see a lot of posts about anime, my apologies!  Like I said they’ll be scattered around here and there, but not as much as say, my book reviews.

 

Book Reviews – I’m going to make 2 different formats for book reviews.  I’ll still keep my in depth, analytical posts about books that I have a lot to say about, but when a book comes along that I don’t have much to comment on, I’m going to be using the “Mini Review” format – a format where I just talk about my general impressions of the book, instead of break down each aspect of the book.  The mini review format will allow me to review a few books I’ve read that I haven’t been able to fill a full analysis post with.

 

For an example of a mini book review, check out The Siren Book Review

Longer Form posts, pretty much any other book post but here’s the last one I did on The Heartstrikers series of books.

 

Shorter posts, more frequent content – There are a lot of smaller posts I’d like to make so I can post twice a week, instead of once!  I’d like to start some character spotlights for characters in certain shows, some of what I’m calling “Musical Moments” where I spotlight a track or OST from a video game, anime, TV Show, cartoon etc etc, and also do some more lists (my Yugioh one was tons of fun). I’m going to work hard to get some content written so I can post more often, so stay tuned for that!  I also need to get back to doing my Disney Deconstructions, I really enjoy writing those.  General opinion pieces and possibly some tags will pop up here too!

 

 

More Posts About Being a Blind Nerd – Since it’s the name of the blog, I really need to get on this.  There are a lot of posts I’d like to make about being blind and playing video games, card games, blind representation in media, accessibility in certain mediums, and overall talk more about my experiences being a blind nerd.  I have a few stories from my high school/college years I could share, so let me know if you’d be interested in hearing any.  I’ve had to adapt a lot of things to be able to do them and sharing how I’ve done them I think would be tons of fun (playing the Yu-gi-oh TCG is a story all it’s own haha).

 

More Episode Recaps – I really Enjoyed writing up the Iron Fist episode recaps as I watched the show, so I’m definitely going to be doing more of those.  They’ll be more infrequent content, because they’ll be happening when I watch shows I’d like to do that format with.

 

Those are pretty much all of the updates I wanted to share!  Be on the lookout for some new blog features, and some old retooled ones.  Now, I’m off to write a book review, see you all on Wednesday!

Books

My TBR List for June and a Very Mini Review of Blame

I was going to write up this intense review of this anime movie I watched a few days ago, but honestly I don’t really have much to say about it.  It was called Blame, it was fantastic, if you like a character piece with a really slow burn that still is interesting, go see it.  I don’t have anything constructive to say about it, because I just loved it so much.  So, if you’re looking for a good anime movie that’s sci-fi cyberpunk, check it out!  I heard it was a really long running manga, and I hope this means we get some OVAs of it because the ending was so open ended but I want more so bad.  Such an amazing movie!

 

With that out of the way, on to my TBR list!  I’ve gotten a pile up of books that I really need to read, so much so that I’ve canceled my Audible subscription until I finish them up, because I don’t just want a ton of Audible credits piling up while I have books waiting in the wings I need to read (that may work for some people, but for me it drives me nuts and puts pressure on me to read super quickly or spend all of my credits and ayaaah the pressure!).  I’ve picked a lot up from sales, some were on my wishlist, some just books that sounded interesting so I picked them up.

 

  • Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan:  Picked this up on a Audible 2 for 1 sale.  The summary sounded ok enough, but when I listened to the book preview the writing and characters sold me.  The world building and characters are great, but my main issue with it is the issue  have with epic fantasy:  it moves so slowly!  I’m up to chapter 6 in this book, and am hoping I can finish it before the month is up.  I’m enjoying it so far, just wish it were a bit faster.
  • On the Edge by Illona Andrews: One I picked up on a sale a long time ago, just haven’t gotten to it yet.  Want to get to it this month!
  • Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margret Weis and Tracey Hickman: The 2nd book I got on the 2 for 1 sale.  I’ve only read a little bit of the prologue and sounds interesting enough, but I hope it doesn’t fall into the slow epic fantasy pacing that I don’t like.
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber: I’ve been wanting to read this one since it came out, and when I was needing to use my last credit before cancelling I looked at my wish list, saw it and went “Oh yeah, I need to read this!” so picked it up.  Can’t wait to start it!

 

That’s everything I got, I’m hoping I can get through these books in the month!  What’s on your TBR list?