Review: “Welcome to Night Vale” by Joseph Fink


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Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale
by Joseph Fink
Kindle Edition
Published:  October 20, 2015
Pages:  416

My first introduction to the “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast was through a friend (isn’t it always?).  I’m not really a podcast person but I found myself charmed with the 20-odd minutes spent with Cecil Baldwin – the voice of Night Vale’s community radio.  I was excited, therefore, when the book was announced.  I mean, quirky, supernatural, AND tongue-in-cheek?  What’s not to like?!

Well, I didn’t really enjoy the novelization of “Welcome to Night Vale”.  It has its moments, it made me laugh, but it just seemed like such a chore to read.  Working against the book is Joseph Fink’s writing style.  It’s cute and charming for a bit, however, it quickly begins to grate on the very fabric of your well-being.  After reading a plethora of sentences that read similar to:

The car was red.
The car was not blue.
The car was not an armadillo.

One begins to froth at the mouth and muttered an embittered “Oh, S.T.F.U.” towards poor, defenseless inanimate objects.  Keep in mind, this is the same style that makes the Podcast so successful.  This brings me to the real issue with “Welcome to Night Vale” book.  It’s too long.  The podcasts last around 20-minutes and are narrated beautifully.  The have just the right amount of quirk and don’t stick around long enough to piss you off.  The book, however, is 400 pages long.  I would recommend reading it in small doses, however, it reads as a continuous story.

I know it sounds like I am completely bashing this book, but that’s not entirely the case.  I love the town of Night Vale, I love the characters and the subtle supernatural quality to it all.  Maybe the problem is that I wanted this book to be “Sideways Stories From Wayside School”.  Maybe it would have been more successful as bunch of short stories that are related and that have reoccurring characters, but are not dependent on one another.

REVIEW:  3 out of 6


Project Aon


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I know that I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite series while growing up was Lone Wolf by Joe Dever.  I even owned the entire collection of books (the ones that were released in America) and they were all in mint condition.

Sadly, I recently discovered that someone has made off with my entire collection of books.  After some initial research of looking to replace my copies, I realized that since the books are out of print, they are also way out of my price range.

This is not a sob story, though!  While searching for replacement copies, I happened to stumble upon Project Aon.  This group is dedicated to preserving the Lone Wolf legacy and offers downloads of the entire Lone Wolf series (complete with the proper permissions).  The best part is that they even have e-book versions of the entire series.  Let me tell you: reading Lone Wolf on a Kindle is AWESOME.  I might even go as far as to say that it’s BETTER than reading a paperback copy since the choose-your-own-adventure style choice prompts are completely interactive.

I realize that this is probably old news to most Lone Wolf fans, but I just wanted to say Kudos to project Aon and to thank them for helping to take the sting out of losing one of my most prized collections.

You can check them out here.

Slightly Delayed…

A slightly delayed Happy New Year to you all and my apologies for being M.I.A. for the latter half of 2015!

Here’s a slight recap of my year:

I challenged myself to read 100 books in 2015.  Sadly, I only read 79 of the 100.  Since I have unrealistic views of how quickly I read, I figured that I could breeze through the last 21 books on the 6 flights that accompanied my holiday vacation.  Guess how many books I finished?  Did you guess NONE?  ZIP?  ZILCH?  ZERO?  Ding, Ding, Ding!  You are correct!  That did not stop me, however, from setting my 2016 reading challenge at 100 books😉

Another exciting change for me is that I finally quit my second job at Gamestop.  I realized that the little bit of extra money I was pulling in was not worth the lack of free time I had.  Furthermore, we went through 5 different managers in a year span and it got to a point where the job stopped being fun.

I Kickstarted a ton of stuff in 2015 (mostly board games) and now those projects are starting to arrive at my doorstep.  The great news is that there should be some board game reviews coming your way!

I was also fortunate enough to do some traveling in 2015.  Christmas was spent in Berlin with my entire family.  The days following Christmas were spent in Amsterdam with my mom and my sister.  Then the three of us hopped a flight to Reykjavik and rung in the new year Icelandic style.

Overall, I would say that 2015 was a fantastic year and I am excited to see what 2016 has in store.  Here’s to wishing you all the best in the new year and in all the years to come!


The Best Thing: May Edition


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Please forgive me, I’m a little late with this month’s Best Thing Post!

The Best Thing I Read:

Lock In

Lock In by John Scalzi

After a virus dubbed Haden’s Syndrome sweeps the globe, 1% of the world’s population suffers from lock-in, a condition which renders its victims mentally awake but completely unable to move.  Within the survivors of Haden’s syndrome are a handful of individuals who become intergrators – people who are able to open their minds to a person suffering lock-in, allowing them the use of their body.  At its core, Lock In is a detective novel, however, the futuristic twist makes it a refreshing read.

The Best Thing I Played (video game):

Bloodborne by From Software

I feel kind of like a fraud saying that this is the best thing I played for the month of May.  It’s true that I have played Bloodborne.  It is also true that I have yet to make it to the first boss.  Even still, Bloodborne contains such a rich, fully imagined world that it is difficult not to be completely drawn to it.

The Best Thing I Played (tabletop):

red dragon

Red Dragon Inn

Winner by default, but still a fun game to play with the right group of people.

The Best Thing I Watched:

mad max

Mad Max: Fury Road

Crazy fun and Charlize Theron is such a badass.  Mad Max: Fury Road is equal parts WTF and OMG making it hard not to enjoy this action flick.

theory of everything

The Theory of Everything

I tried to stick to only one movie for my Best of May post, but The Theory of Everything was such a moving movie and Eddie Redmayne completely blew me away – I simply had to include it.

Top Ten: Books From Childhood


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In no particular order, the following books are ones that I read in my youth and that can still be found on my lists of favorites:

1.  Lone Wolf Series by Joe Dever

Lone Wolf

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Choose Your Own Adventure books.  The Lone Wolf series kicked that love up a notch by adding a bit of role-playing to the mix.  I even remember the special trip I took to the local hobby shop in search for 10-sided die.

2.  The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Westing Game

This book blew my mind as a kid to M. Night Shyamalan Sixth Sense proportions.  It was such a cool mystery and unlike anything I had ever read before.

3.  The Forbidden Game Trilogy by L.J. Smith

Forbidden Game

L.J. Smith was one of my go-to authors during my high school years.  Her books always had just the right blend of supernatural and romance to them.  Smith is probably best known for her series The Vampire Diaries, but The Forbidden Game was always my personal favorite.

4.  Remember Me by Christopher Pike

remember me

I first discovered Christopher Pike at my middle school’s book fair.  His books were dark and surprisingly adult and I was instantly hooked.  I truly loved all of his books but Remember Me is the one that sticks out.

5.  Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Sideways Stories

I received this book as part of a monthly book club my mom had enrolled me in.  The stories are downright weird and the illustrations are fantastic.  I adore this book so much that I still have my original copy as part of my collection.

6.  Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Johnny Tremain

This was another book club selection I received.  I’m kind of ashamed to admit this, but I probably enjoyed this book because I was slightly smitten with the boy on the cover.  As far as historical fiction goes, Johnny Tremain is a great read.

7.  Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Where the Sidewalk Ends

If this book was checked in at my school library, then it was pretty much a guarantee that I was going to check it out.  This book was something of a sensation among my elementary school peers.  I’m pretty sure it’s because one of the poems had the word “pee” in it.

8.  D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

Book of Greek Myths

In my opinion, this is still one of the best books on Greek Mythology ever made.  It may not be as comprehensive as a college-level Greek Mythology compilation, but it makes up for that with its beautiful illustrations and readability.

9.  Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol

Encyclopedia Brown

This is the book that made me open up my own detective agency when I was a kid.  I had a drawstring bag with a magnifying glass, a pen and a notepad and I would solve cases for 25 cents apiece.

10.  Choose Your Own Adventure Series by Various Authors

Choose Your Own Adventure

Want to teach your children the importance of the choices they make?  Make them read a Choose Your Own Adventure Book.  Oh, you want to go explore that dark, mysterious cave on yonder?  Guess what?  You’re going to die.

Too Many Hobbies, Too Little Time…



I missed a couple of days of work last week while recouping from my yearly cold.  It’s interesting, you would think that being off from work would allow you time to catch up on “lazy” activities – reading, watching movies, video games.  This time, however, my body just wanted to sleep.  I am sure that rest is what I needed, however, I just felt like I was wasting time.

I have never been much of a sleeper, even when I was in elementary school.  Before my father retired, our paths would often cross at 5 a.m – his day was just beginning and I would on the couch engrossed in a book, trying to squeeze every possible minute from the previous day.   Now that I am older, the hobbies have expanded, while time devoted to them has decreased.  Part of me wants to cry, “STUPID WORK!”  Fist raised to the heavens, just imagine the time I could devote to things if I didn’t have to work.  The more adult, more grounded part of me, however, reminds me that I really enjoy both of my jobs – full-time at a library and part-time at a video game store – and that I would probably be miserable without them.  Granted, the weekly hours devoted to working ARE significant, but the real problem may just be that I have too many hobbies.

Let’s go over the list, shall we!

  • Games.  lots and lots of games, of both the video and tabletop variety.  I also have a never-ending backlog like a MF’er.
  • Cooking…and eating.  If I’m being honest, I probably enjoy eating more than cooking and I love trying new foods and restaurants.
  • Learning languages (I studied Spanish in High School and Russian and Japanese in college.  I am known to sometimes have the odd habit of buying completely random language learning books and software.  What?!  You’re telling me that I can learn Swahili in just 30 minutes a day?  Sign me up!
  • Traveling.  Can you locate it on a map?  Then I want to go there.
  • Knitting and crocheting.  I am pretty good at crochet, my knitting could use some work.
  • Geocaching
  • Writing
  • Going to concerts and live theater
  • Reading.  Did I mention that my to-read list just topped 500?
  • Watching movies.  I pretty much want to see all the movies.

To make matters worse, I am an impulse hobbyist and I am always looking for something new to try.  I often laugh about the time my sister and I took cake decorating classes and I improvised and turned my “cute” clown topper cake into a crime scene complete with blood red frosting (let’s be real, clowns are creepy).  Or the time we took sewing classes and I learned that it is impossible for me to cut in a straight line.  My tote bag remains unfinished.  The awkwardly shaped pieces (closer to rhombuses than squares) shoved into finished portion, their only hope is that one day they will be attached and completed.

My whims have always abundant and often fleeting.  When I was 5, I took break dancing lessons.  I was obsessed with skateboarding for a good portion of my middle school years.  More recently, my coworker was almost successful in convincing me to try out for roller derby.  For a month, I was obsessed with trying out a raw diet (I’m pretty sure I still have the a food dehydrator on my Amazon wishlist).  I blame my spontaneity, I blame boredom.  At least there are not many repercussions to these whims.  Sure, I might have an abandoned bin of scrapbooking supplies and a pathetically lonely yoga mat, but meh.  Luckily, I am able to laugh these things off.  I just know I will be able to turn to my sister (my partner in crime), one day and be like, “Hey, remember when we tried to learn Krav Maga?  HILARIOUS.”

So here’s my dilemma.  How does one find time to do all of the things they love?  Do you schedule time to do specific things or do you live impulsively and just do what you’re feeling for the moment?  Have you ever had to give up something you enjoy because you didn’t have the time to devote to it?  What would you do with more time?

The Best Thing: April Edition


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The Best Thing I Read:

World War Z

World War Z by Max Brooks
Told via interviews with survivors of World War Z, Max Brooks’ second book covering the Zombie apocalypse is a very successful retelling of a fictitious war.  Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  In my opinion, the book does suffer slightly in that many of the interviewees speak in a similar voice.  With contributors such as Simon Pegg, Martin Scorsese and Nathan Fillion, this is one instance where I think that the audio book version might be more successful.

Honorable Mention: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
I technically gave this a higher rating than World War Z, but I tend to be more lenient with YA Fiction reviews.  Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Naturals is the first installment in a series in which gifted teenagers use their skills (profiling, statistics, lying, reading emotions) to solve cold cases.  It’s a little corny, but a fun read.

The Best Thing I Played (video game):

story of seasons

Story of Seasons by Marvelous
Technically this game wins by default.  I didn’t get a chance to play much during the month of April – I was still trying to finish up Assassin’s Creed II and I didn’t give Bloodborne enough attention for it to qualify for my Best Thing list.  Don’t misread the disclaimer, though.  I find Story of Seasons to be quite delightful!

The Best Thing I Played (tabletop):

Sheriff of nottingham

Sheriff of Nottingham
If you haven’t had a chance to play Sheriff of Nottingham, I would highly recommend doing so.  This game is fun to play and is such a successful mix of both strategy and bluffing.  The rules are simple:  players must smuggle goods through inspection and earn points.  The catch is that you can only declare legal goods and you can only declare one type of good per round (apples, cheese, chickens, etc.).  Since you want to try to get as many goods through as possible per round, this poses a problem.  What I enjoy most about Sheriff of Nottingham is that there are several different strategies you can employ.  For example, you can attempt to score big by sneaking through as many illegal goods as possible.  Contraband items are worth big points, but they are a risk.  If you are caught trying to smuggle illegal goods through, your items will be confiscated and you will have to pay a penalty.  On the other hand, if you are falsely accused of any wrongdoing, then the player acting as the sheriff for the round must pay up.  Apparently, I must always appear as if I’m up to no good.  Last time I played, I was completely honest throughout and won the game due to the number false accusations I received.

The Best Thing I Watched:

Big Hero 6
I missed out on seeing Big Hero 6 at the theater.  I finally got around to watching it in April and it was everything that I hoped it would be.  This movie is so funny and endearing and Baymax is just downright adorable.

Review: “Liv, Forever” by Amy Talkington


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Liv Forever

Liv, Forever
by Amy Talkington
ISBN: 9781616954796
Published: January 6, 2015 by Soho Teen
Pages: 280

When Olivia “Liv” Bloom receives an art scholarship to the prestigious Wickham Hall, she never expects that her world will collide with Malcolm Astor – boys from distinguished, wealthy families like Malcolm Astor don’t mingle with plain, foster care rescues like Liv.  She also never imagines that only weeks after arriving at Wickham Hall she will be brutally murdered.

I try to give authors the benefit of the doubt.  For me, mediocre writing can be overlooked if a story is solid and well executed.  Within “Liv, Forever” lie the bones and flesh of a decent story.  They never quite come together, however, to form a cohesive or enjoyable story.  The end result is a painful and tedious read.

One of the biggest setbacks for “Liv, Forever” is its poor character development.  It has been awhile since I have encountered characters that were so one-dimensional and interchangeable.  Throughout the book, the reader even encounters girls from different time periods (not a spoiler) and they might as well be the same girl.  Sure, Talkington describes what kind of music the girls like, what they’re wearing, and even makes them throw out some random era-appropriate slang but these are superficial and lack the depth needed to create a unique individual.  The sideline characters aren’t the only ones who suffer as Malcolm, Olivia, and Gabriel are also downright boring and completely devoid of personalities.  These wooden characters only serve to enhance another of the books flaws – the dreaded, yet often present, Insta-Love.

For the record, I am not always opposed to Insta-Love in a book and I am especially more forgiving when it comes to YA Fiction.  The Love at First Sight (literally) that occurs between Olivia and Malcolm, however, is completely unfounded since there is ZERO chemistry between the two.  Even if their attraction was solely physical, Talkington fails to convey it to the reader.

Another reason this book annoyed me was the overuse of “namedropping” artists and works of art.  I get it, Liv is a art student.  It is an authors job to create a visual for the reader, though, and Talkington uses references to famous artists and their works as stand-ins for descriptions.  For example, when Liv encounters some of the woodwork at Wickham, she narrates, “The style reminded me of the etchings from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”.   Following are my issues with this style of writing:  First, if I had no clue who William Blake was, this description tells me NOTHING.  Second, if I am familiar with The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, I am now removed from the book and am thinking of William Blake and his etchings instead.  Third, letting established, honored works of art speak for you is just lazy writing.  If this was something that occurred once or twice throughout the book it could easily be overlooked, however, “Liv, Forever” is abundant with these types of references.  When not using Van Gogh and Michaelangelo to do her dirty work, Talkington’s writing came across as sterile and lacking emotion.

In conclusion, Amy Talkington’s “Liv, Forever” is a YA murder mystery/romance that never “Livs” up to its potential (Ha!  See what I did there?).  The story is disjointed and the back story – the big reveal at the end – is so underdeveloped that it leaves the reader with too many unanswered questions.  The result is a book that feels incomplete.

REVIEW: 2 out of 6

May Anticipation


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May is going to be a big month.  It’s the start of summer blockbuster season and the month of some long-awaited releases.  Here’s just a taste of what I’m most looking forward to.

Video Games


The Witcher 3:  Wild Hunt (Releases May 19, 2015)

If I disappear for awhile, at least you’ll know what I’m doing.  This game looks both beautiful and massive and I seriously cannot wait to get my hot little hands on a copy of it.  I have it pre-ordered for the Xbox One but could easily be switching now that I have a PS4.


Splatoon (Releases May 29, 2015)

I’m still on the fence about this one.  It definitely looks like tons of fun and my poor WiiU could definitely use some love.  I will have to check out some reviews before I pick it up, though.



Avengers:  Age of Ultron (Releases May 1, 2015)

This movie just screams SUMMER.  I’m not hard to please when it comes to action flicks and I don’t think this one will disappoint.

Board Games

No definite plans to purchase any new board games in May (haha, I have too many already).  Here are a couple that look interesting to me:


Chew: Cases of the FDA (Expected Release: May 29, 2015)

Based off the comic book of the same, in Chew you play an agent of the FDA whose job is to investigate food related crimes.  Solve cases by recruiting allies, finding clues, and sabotaging your opponents – you have to work quickly before the other players can steal all of your glory.


Cacao (Expected Release: May 20, 2015)

A Tile placement game akin to Carcassonne.  In Cacao, you play as a tribal chief who must lead your people to prosperity through the cultivation and trade of, well, cacao obviously.


Walking Dead

The Walking Dead, Vol. 23: Whispers Into Screams by Robert Kirkman (May 12, 2015)

Collects issues #133-#138.

Lois Lane

Lois Lane: Fallout (Lois Lane #1) by Gwenda Bond (May 1, 2015)

The first book in a new YA series that centers around Lois Lane.  I’m pretty excited about this one.  It’s getting good reviews so far and at least it’s something slightly different for the YA genre.


The Desired Effect

Brandon Flowers – The Desired Effect (May 18, 2015)

This will be the second solo album for The Killers’ front man Brandon Flowers.  I have seen The Killers in concert a few times and they’re always pretty amazing.  I enjoyed Brandon Flower’s first solo album and I will definitely be checking this one out.