music review · review

Music Minute | The Untamed on the guqin and flute

This particular arrangement is from the Chinese drama, The Untamed, about two young men who are “cultivators” or magic users charged with the protection of their communities from the forces of evil. Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji are unlikely friends, but together solve mysteries that eventually unveil a much larger plot to subdue all cultivators and control the world!

This song is played many times throughout the series and is so perfect for these two characters. Lan Wangji playing the guqin (a traditional, seven stringed Chinese instrument) with Wei Wuxian accompanying on a Chinese flute.

Have a listen and, if you like this song, maybe check out the show? It is currently available on Netflix and Rakuten Viki, which is where I watched it because I enjoy watching Asian dramas, lol.

blog · book review · review

Two Book Tuesday

I continue to struggle with some writer’s block in regards to blogging, but I have hope that it’ll work it’s way out of my system. It strange but it seems as if the more my brain works, the less ability I have to put thoughts into writing.

I’ve only just begun listening to The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd, but a chapter in and I’m already interested in where the story will go…

I first learned about indigo dye by way of Japanese indigo, or aizome, a number of years ago and found the topic to be absolutely fascinating!

What is really cool about The Indigo Girl is how such a young woman was able to use both her intellect and the resources around her to make an impact on history. Being a “northern girl,” it’s only been in recent years that I’ve taken an interest in biographical material on Southerners other than major historical figures or entities.

From what I’ve learned, what’s left of Eliza Lucas’ writings are a highly detailed look into the life of an elite colonial woman. I would love to get my hands on a reproduction of her letters. ❤

Eliza Lucas’ story is sure to be a good one and I look forward to sharing my thoughts in a full-length review as soon as I’m finished with it, lol.

I swear that I’m going to read Wesley the Owl even if it kills me to do it!

Truly, I’ve been trying to sit down and crack this book open since I added it to my July TBR list and it just keeps slipping away from me.

Owls are one of my favorite birds of prey and I’m really looking forward to reading about Stacey O’Brien’s life with baby barn owl Wesley. Y’all cross your fingers that I can actually read it sometime soon!

blog · book review · review

Book Review | Dawn of the Future by Jun Eishima

Title: Final Fantasy XV: The Dawn of the Future
Author: Jun Eishima
Publisher: Square Enix Books
Release date: July 14, 2020
Format: Hardcover
Page count: 400
Genre: Fantasy
My rating: ★★★★★

Okay, spoilers ahead and a LOT of rambling because

Also, if you’d like to join in on the FEELS trip,
I live-stream FFXV on my Twitch channel, HERE.

All are welcome, though tissues will not be provided in the case of heartbreak.

The Dawn of the Future shows how rich the universe of Final Fantasy XV was meant to be. There was so much more to see in Niflheim and with Aranea and her band of merchs. Luna actually had a mission of her own and it was not an easy one, her mind and body were worn down by her entreating the gods to form a covenant with the chosen king.

The first part of the book deals with Ardyn and, while I have already played his DLC (which was the last to be released), the novel gave me a deeper look into where his mind was really at after being imprisoned in Angelgard for so many years.

His vicious nature almost makes sense, when you see all that he endured during his time as a healer and then was cast aside by the crystal because he’d taken care of his people and removed the scourge from them. That, and the betrayal of both his brother and the gods, is what set Ardyn on his journey to destroy all things related to the Lucis Caelum line.

Moving on to the second part of the book, we meet an entirely new character! Solara Aldercapt Antiquum, or Sol as those close to her call her, is eight years old when Niflheim falls to demons and the long night begins. She is the heir to the Empire of Niflheim, though her grandfather has kept her existence secret, which makes me wonder if he started to fear what Ardyn’s plans actually were and tried to protect his legacy as best he could.

Anywhos, Sol is rescued by Aranea and is raised by the woman as her own daughter, learning to fight and survive the long night and the wait for the chosen king. I really enjoyed this part of the book, because it shows more of Aranea’s caring side. You get to see a bit of this in the game, when you go on missions with her and see how she interacts with Biggs and Wedge, but Aranea clearly becomes an amazing leader and mother.

As you would expect from any child of Aranea’s, Sol wants to prove herself and show that she is capable of taking on solo missions. So, of course, she sneaks away from her watchers, Biggs and Wedge, to do exactly that. Which is when she meets Lunafreya Nox Fleuret…

As Oracle, Luna believes that the gods want only the best for Eos and the people who call it home. After surviving the attack on Insomnia, Luna continues her quest to speak with the gods on Noctis’ behalf, to ask them for their blessing for the chosen king so that he will have the power he needs to rid Eos of the starscourge forever.

What’s really sad about this, is that she succeeds! She manages to forge the covenant between Noctis and Leviathan in Altissia (where they were supposed to meet and be married) before Ardyn kills her. These two star-crossed lovers meet only once as adults and then are torn apart by forces greater than they could ever imagine having to face.

But that’s not the end for Luna.

Oh no, Bahamut has grander things in store for her, as he resurrects her near the time Noctis is to be released from the crystal and informs her that she is now to face the Accursed. Without question, she obeys, fighting demons as she travels with her new friend, Sol, towards Insomnia and the seat of Ardyn’s power.

As their journey continues, Luna experiences visions of the first Oracle and her ancestor, Aera, who tells her that things are not as they seem and who pleads for Luna to save Ardyn from himself and the cruel fate the gods have in store for him.

Luna begins to wonder if all of the gods have the best intentions.

Turns out, Bahamut is tired of dealing with humans and their free will and wants to destroy them all, leaving Eos a destroyed wasteland. He’d previously attempted this with Ardyn as his pawn, but was unsuccessful and lost control of the Accursed (and so had him imprisoned by his own brother on Angelgard).

Needless to say, Bahamut is not successful this time either. Luna learns of his plans and chooses not to follow them, Ardyn is his typical self and doesn’t do what anyone expects of him, and Noctis and his friends continue to fight even when the odds are stacked against them.

In the end, when dawn breaks, Luna, Noctis and crew, Sol and her family, and the survivors of the long night are greeted by the sun and the chance at a new, more prosperous life.

Ultimately, my takeaway from this novel is that the Final Fantasy XV story actually exists across multiple alternate timelines. This can be seen in the DLC Episode Ignis and which is even more noticeably in this novel. I think it’s an interesting position to take, where the ending in the main game isn’t the only ending out there. Noctis and Luna don’t have to die, Ardyn can be redeemed, and Bahamut gets his butt kicked… these are all things I can get behind, lol.

Fandom has a mechanism in place for this, the “Everyone Lives, Nobody Dies AU”, but it’s not so often that the actual creators offer the same. I’m just sad that we didn’t get to see the final three DLC released for this game.

Find it at…

blog · book review · review

Book Review | Carthago by Christophe Bec

Title: Carthago

Author: Christophe Bec, Eric Henninot, Milan Jovanovic

Publisher: Humanoids, Inc.

Release date: August 6, 2019

Format: Paperback

Page count: 288

Genre: Science-fiction

My rating: ★★★★☆

Carthago contains the first five issues of the popular French comic book series all in one convenient paperback edition.

I requested this title through my library’s Inter-Library Loan service and it came from the Las Vegas – Clark County Library District!

My mother was a travel nurse for many years and when she was working in Las Vegas, we had a card for the system. When we visited a couple of years later, we made sure to stop by the library just because we could, lol.

I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I added this to my to-read list, but I knew I liked sharks and oceans are a great source of mystery… so I was pretty sure I’d enjoy at least a little of this comic.

Having just completed Carthago, I can say that it’s well worth the read. From the moment I opened the front cover to turning the last page, I could not put it down!

The novel starts as it means to go on… bloody. An older whale, trailing behind it’s pod is attacked by a shark, bitten in half, and it’s body left to sink into the forgotten waters of the deep. And this is just the first victim of these larger than life sharks!

And then we begin to meet our human characters, of whom I was particularly drawn to Donovan, a man serving out a life debt to the insanely rich (and old) Mr. Feiersinger, and Lou, let’s just call her a child of the sea, shall we. 😉

The story jumps around, visiting different locations and different moments in the character’s many varied histories, but it never once was confusing or difficult to follow.

It was like peeling back the skin of an onion to discover one new piece of information at a time. And I really liked the effect!

The other thing I really enjoyed in this series (and I can’t wait to get my hands on volumes 6-10) was the sheer scale of it all. When the humans are in the water or the when the sharks (and other creatures) are drawn in close to boats, you can practically feel the size differences.

These sharks are immense.

There is no other way to describe the Megalodon. It could bite a whale in half and swallow a human whole without batting an eye and Carthago brings this fact into striking reality time and time again.

The mysteries of an ancient, underwater civilization, the tempting intrigue of the human-like being that saved a diver, and a little girl who is of two worlds is just the very tip of the iceberg for Carthago.

Find it at…

blog · book review · review

Two Book Tuesday

I’m sitting here, enjoying the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, waiting for my coffee to finish brewing and thinking about the books for today. It’s the kind of morning where you could easily have slept in, or pulled yourself from that comfy place under the covers and enjoy the sun coming up on a new day.

Tuesday just might be my favorite day of the week.

But you’re not here to listen to me go on and on about days of the week, lol, you’re here for the books! Rather than including a book I’m reading and one I’m about to read, this Two Book Tuesday is about two books that I am reading. They’re a little behind from their original TBR month, but life has conspired to keep me from my ‘4 books a month’ goal, lol.

I hope you enjoy my rambling about two really good books!

Now that I have a computer again, I can spend money during the Steam Summer Sales, lol. One of the games I purchased was the Windows version of one of my favorite PS4 games, Final Fantasy XV.

Between fighting zombies in 7 Days to Die and the Covenant in Halo: Reach, I started a brand new game in Final Fantasy XV and it felt a little like coming home, which is the best way to tell if the game was good for you. 🙂

The Dawn of the Future begins near the end of the game, but before the final battle and epilogue.

We get to see Ardyn as the healer king and his tense relationship with his brother Somnus, learn more about Niflheim and it’s people, and we get to see Luna in her wedding dress, yay!

I’ve really only taken a nibble of this book, but I’m already hoping for a happy ending.

Oh, and the artwork is absolutely breathtaking! There are images of characters both known and unknown, illustrations of events past and future, and towards the back of the book a collection of promotional pictures.

I’m half-listening and half-reading Undetected by Dee Henderson, lol.

Purchased as a title from Kindle, I decided to try out the Audible Whispersync function. Basically, you get to listen to someone reading you the book while it follows along by highlighting the words being spoken.

So far, it’s a pretty fun book.

I really enjoy the camaraderie the captain and crew of the USS Nevada have for each other and the rivalry they have with the blue crew, with whom they share joint custody of the submarine.

It’s fun and believable and really helps to show the family that these crews become to one another whilst aboard their ship.

This bit made me laugh out loud when I read it…

We’re going to snuggle with the Seawolf. Let’s remind them who’s the better boat.

Mark Bishop captains the USS Nevada, spending months at sea before coming ashore to watch another captain take the submarine out before he gets to return to her. Mark desperately wants to find a wife that he can build a relationship with, honor as God requires, and love for the rest of his days. But he’s still not 100% over the death of his first wife and it’s made him skittish to try his hand at dating again. He’s looking for serious and isn’t sure he’s going to find it.

And Gina Grey? Well, she’s a wicked smart woman who dreams of being married before she’s thirty. After a bad break-up, she moves out west to be with her brother, to work, and hopefully to find the man of her dreams. She’s been praying for the right man to come into her life and maybe, just maybe that man is the one she meets when he’s buying ice cream after returning to shore.

These two are super cute together, their love for God and for each other is refreshing to see and I look forward to reading more of Dee Henderson’s works in the future.

music review · review

The Cloud Atlas Sextet by Tom Twyker

Sorry, this post is getting out a little later in the day than I usually publish them, been dealing with headaches ALL weekend and just haven’t had the energy to put my thoughts into words.

Now, let’s see if that Ibuprofen helped enough for me to be literate, lol.

The Cloud Atlas Sextet for Orchestra is from the movie Cloud Atlas, based on the novel by the same name. I’ve not yet read the novel, because I remember hearing it’s a doozy to get through (not bad, just sometimes confusing) and I haven’t put in a great effort to get my hands on a copy.

The movie was great fun, if a bit odd. Entertaining and romantic, nerve-wracking and inspiring, and all together unique in the way each story line comes together in the end.

Just very good.

And the soundtrack was perfect for creating the right atmosphere for each story line. My favorite track, The Cloud Atlas Sextet for Orchestra, is absolutely heartbreaking on screen, but grows to be something inspiring and hopeful towards the end. I have a ‘driving playlist’ that consists mainly of orchestral type music and, as soon as I heard the sextet, I knew it was getting added to the playlist!

I’m not very musical, so my descriptions are probably WAY off, but I love how, as the song progresses it waxes and wanes, how you have these moments where a single instrument or section will stand out, and how they all come together in such a beautiful way.

Anywhos, hope you all enjoy this as much as I do. 😀

What’s your favorite song to commute to?

blog · review · video game review

Mass Effect (Renegade Play-through)

The Mass Effect trilogy of games is, hands down, my favorite video game series of all time. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve played it, either on PC or PS3, and I continue to hope that we will get a remaster or remake sometimes soon. However, in all my play-throughs, I had never played as a Renegade.

Having just completed a Renegade campaign, I can now tell you exactly why that is…

My absolute favorite thing about this trilogy is how the writing makes every play-through feel like coming home to friends and family. Each mission is like visiting a familiar place and each battle feels like you’re making a difference as you fight to protect all that you love.

Playing as Renegade Shepard felt like I’d effectively neutered the trilogy of this experience.

While most of the overarching plot plays out similarly to a Paragon or even a Paragade play-through (choosing between Kaidan or Ashley, working with Cerberus, getting the galaxy to band together), the moments that make the game so memorable to me were gone.

The moments that hit the hardest didn’t exist.

Helping Mordin in his personal quest to make things right for the Krogan and his involvement with the Genophage (a Salarian-made bio weapon that causes stillbirths); fostering Legion’s self-awareness and individuality, agreeing that yes, that darn unit has a soul; being the voice of reason that helps broker peace between the Quarians and the Geth, seeing Tali and her people regain their home world; and supporting Wrex as he unites feuding Krogan clans in the hope of a better future for his people.

All gone.

When you play as a Renegade, these beautiful character moments are all lost in your blind quest to defeat the reapers. Building relationships with the people and races you meet is no longer an option, as you ruthlessly put down any opinion that you don’t agree with, bully those weaker than yourself, and ignore the fact that your actions WILL have consequences.

I was forced to shoot Mordin before he ascended the tower. He knew that I had sabotaged the cure and because he wouldn’t stand for such an atrocity, he dies, dragging himself forward as he tries one last time to cure the Genophage. He fails, dying within an arm’s reach of the console.

I had to watch Tali commit suicide after Shepard allows the Geth to destroy the Quarian’s Migrant Fleet. Immediately after Legion sacrifices himself so that the Geth can know true freedom, Tali throws herself off a cliff, overcome with grief at the loss of her people and their only chance to return home.

And Wrex? Well, I got the distinct displeasure of a fight to the death when he confronted Shepard on the Citadel about the Genophage. Even after I lied about my role in the cure not being viable, he knew something wasn’t right, and so I killed him. He never has children, never gets to see the Krogran start families and rebuild their world. Without him or Eve (who also died), the Krogran have zero chance of surviving long enough to see the Genophage cured.

I’m not going to lie, I cried a lot during this play-through. In real life, I’m generally a nice person and that usually translates over into my style of gaming, so it was really difficult to be an asshole who didn’t give two shits about the people they were hurting.

I made the mistake of saving Ashley on Virmire during my Renegade play through and hated it.

As Renegade Shepard, you don’t really care about your crew or how they are doing. I never connected with Ashley about her family history with the military, her sisters, or even the way her views on alien species change over time.

When she was injured on Mars, I never even visited her in the hospital.

As such, I never re-connected with Thane (who is one of my favorite characters). His final prayer for Shepard felt like a desperate plea for me to see how far I’d fallen and how little I cared about those I claimed to be fighting for.

I really hate this because I had been excited to see Ashley’s growth as a character. Usually, I save Kaidan, because he’s always been more relatable to me, but I wanted to give Ashley the chance for redemption… I just shouldn’t have done it on a Renegade campaign, because you never get the chance to get to know her.

Shepard’s own body begins to show the effects of his actions.

The scars on his face are vicious wounds, red from (probably) infection and the rejected cybernetics underneath his skin.

In a nightmarish vision, his eyes begin to glow, visible in the dark and through his face shield in a way that leaves no doubt…

He is no longer a hero.

At the end of the day, Renegade Shepard is a thug and a bully. Does he still defeat the Reapers and save the galaxy? Yes, but for me the cost is too high.

While it was interesting to see how truly loathsome Shepard could be, I probably won’t play as Renegade again and I can’t say this one time was worth it.

The story deserves better. The galaxy deserves better. Shepard deserves better.