• The Worried Man by Lisa M Lilly (Book Review)

    The Worried Man Book Cover The Worried Man
    Q.C Davis
    Lisa M. Lilly
    Mystery
    May 1, 2018

    The night before they plan to move in together, Quille finds the body of the man she loves dead in his apartment.

    Police point to his failed medical career and past alcoholism as evidence of suicide or accidental overdose. His ex-wife agrees.

    Marco’s son insists his father was stable, sober, and excited about his future with Quille.

    Suspicious of the police based on bitter experience, Quille vows to find the truth and help Marco’s son. Using her skills as an attorney and former stage actress, she investigates a world filled with fraud and corrupt Chicago politics.

    The closer she gets to the truth, though, the less likely she is to survive to tell it….

    The Worried Man Book Review

    The Worried Man by Lisa M. Lilly is the first book in a series about Quille/Q.C. Davis, an attorney in Chicago, whose boyfriend commits suicide on the night before they move in together. The book is anchored in Quille’s POV headspace as she mourns her lover, deals with the stress of handling his estate, and holds on to the hope that he didn’t kill himself. She takes up the task of not-so-quietly investigating either what could have triggered his alcoholic relapse–or who staged a potential crime scene to look like a suicide.

    Quille, as a young female attorney, is a very relatable character. She’s copes with the only tools she has– a keen eye for details that just seem off, her knowledge of the legal/political ties that Marco (her boyfriend) may have been tangled in, and her network of friends lending what they can (fellow lawyers and several close friends from her acting days).

    Lilly does a fantastic job showing the frustrating process of Quille’s investigation. Nothing is ever easy! As someone who’s worked in local government, I related to how Quille does her best to keep a smile on her face (despite the deep sadness she’s working through) while navigating red tape and people who don’t particularly feel like helping her out. The Worried Man weaves in a lot of secrets, many that Quille didn’t know about Marco, and we go on a journey as she tries to unravel which of these led to his death. The author demonstrates that no matter how well we know someone, people are complex. There are very plausible reasons why they would try to keep certain details of their life locked away, as Quille discovers.

    I generally stray away from mysteries, because I get frustrated and want to skip to the end! But the pace of The Worried Man, while slow in spots, did keep me engaged. With both a slice-of-life perspective on Quille’s day-to-day and the fascination of watching possible leads rise and fall… Quille’s persistence to find just one more lead left me rooting for her the entire time.

    The Worried Man is perfect for those who love a mystery anchored in reality (malpractice suits, political machinations, legal layers) with a heroine who is complicated, stubborn, smart, and struggles with her pursuit to prove that her boyfriend didn’t leave a loving son and herself behind.

    * * *

    I want granted a digital ARC of The Worried Man in exchange for an honest review. The Worried Man will be released on May 1, 2018 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

    If you would like me to review your book, you can email me or contact me on GoodReads.

  • Tips for Conquering WGU’s C708: Principles of Finance

    Hi, this post kind of delineates from this blog’s primary geek culture posts, but it’s been stewing in my head for the past month. I attended WGU to complete my Bachelor of Science in Marketing Management (just passed my capstone, wahoo!). The biggest conflict on earning my degree, even over completing my capstone, was the dreaded C708: Principles of Finance class. I mean, I was a decent student. I accelerated three years of courses into one year to get my degree. I did most classes in 2-3 weeks (some in 2-3 days!).

    C708 took me 9 dang weeks. :/ I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.

    First, Breathe

    Many, many students have trudged through this class. You can do it. You absolutely can do it. There is simply a ton of material that you might not be familiar with. I definitely wasn’t! I survived! If I can survive it, you can do it. You can gather the right tools, and excel. 🙂

    Note: If you find a tool that helps you out, and it’s not listed, please let me know so I can add it to help other students!

    Take a Few Days to Really Learn Your Calculator

    This is the calculator I purchased for the class: Texas Instruments BA Plus II Financial Calculator. I know there’s another option, but I bought this one off another student and it worked just fine for me. You can even shop around different vendors because it’s a little pricey (if you’re lucky you can find a decent used one for $22-25).

    I actually recommend studying your calculator and how it operates BEFORE you crack open the book. Why? Some of the material in the book isn’t very intuitive when it introduces the calculator. And knowing your financial calculator like the back of your hand is KEY in passing this class. I honestly cannot stress this enough. I wish I had focused more time on this in the beginning and not the middle. I could have saved 3 weeks, easily, instead of having to trudge along and re-learn stuff as I went.

    I’d say, after you get the general set up and some of the initial formulas down, you can start studying and just refer to TVMcalcs or YouTube to get instruction on working through the problems.

    Calculator Study Source 1: TVMCalcs.com

    TVMCalcs.com is a fantastic resource that walks you through using your calculator, especially WHY some formulas work they way they do (and when you want to switch certain functions). It will feel like a different language. Don’t panic. It will start clicking soon when you work through problems in chapters.

    Just hit the calculator you’re using (in my case, BA Plus II), and slowly go through the instructions.

    Calculator Study Source 2: YouTube

    A Redditor shared the following and I really liked them (short and week vids!):

    Key Study Points

    Know the Formulas

    Here are some flash cards! Understanding the formulas and terminology in this class is key. There are some problems you will freeze on, but then you’ll remember the formula and everything will click. With some problems, being familiar with the formula helps you fill in the blanks.

    To note: they do supply formulas but don’t describe them. If there are any formulas you have an issue with, jot them down for memory before you start the OA.

    Areas To Focus On + Practice Problems

    The key parts of the test that I remember are: Time Value of Money (TVM), Ratios, DuPont Analysis, ROA/ROE,  Stocks and Bonds, Statement Analysis. Generally, it’s really good to master an area to the point where you start to enjoy solving the problems. It’s a lot of material, so break it down into edible chunks.

    The study sheets below are directly from this Reddit post. If they disappear, let me know! I’ll take this part down.

    Don’t Kill Yourself on WACC

    If you learn it, and can do it without an issue: GOOD! I didn’t do so well in this area, but there were only a few questions in the final exam. (2-3 if I remember correctly). Instead, I used my extra study time on another weak area of mine, Stocks/Bonds, which proved to be more valuable to me because the exam had more questions in those areas.

    Study Advice

    Get the Study Material from Your Class Mentor

    Email the Principles of Finance general inbox and ask them for their class engagement study guide. Work through it as you do textbook problems.

    Do the Textbook Problems

    The class mentor will make you do them anyway if you fail your first attempt. (Which I did.) So, go ahead and work through the book problems. Try to get an 80% at least for each section and each end-of-chapter quiz. If you feel stuck, use the supplemental information in this blog post to help you study!

    Attend the WGU Weekly Study Halls

    This helped me a lot. Some of the material just did not stick when I started studying off the pre-assessment. You can actually copy/paste those questions into the weekly study hall (linked in the class resources). They will walk you through it!

    Join a Study Group!

    We started a Facebook group here in case you’d like some in-person support!

    Practice, Practice, PRACTICE

    Practice on your calculator AND on the whiteboard you will be using for the exam. It helps with your muscle memory.

    PA vs OA

    I do feel that the OA is slightly different from the PA. YMMV. Don’t just memorize/practice off the PA. The OA did switch up the focus of some areas. But if you know the formulas, calculator, and book questions, you have a pretty safe bet of surviving the final.

    Last Tip

    They give you a 15 minute break on the final. USE IT. 🙂 In the middle, at a good stopping point. Get us, shake your body, get some water. The final exam, for those struggling in the class, is definitely an endurance exercise. Take care of yourself and you will make it!

     

    If there is anything I can add in here to help you out beyond this start, let me know! I’ll keep an eye out for additional resources to put in this list.

    ***

    WGU Referral

    If, for some reason, you found this blog post through a general search about WGU… If you’d like to apply or learn more about WGU, you can use my referral code here. (They give me a store credit if you talk to them :)). Its competency-based learning structure helped me cram three years of study into one, saving me a lot of time and energy. I am super happy to refer folks to it (and using my link waives your application fee).

  • Iron Cast by Destiny Soria (Book Review)

    Iron Cast Book Cover Iron Cast
    Destiny Soria
    Amulet Books
    October 11, 2016
    336

    In 1919, Ada Navarra—the intrepid daughter of immigrants—and Corinne Wells—a spunky, devil-may-care heiress—make an unlikely pair. But at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, anything and everything is possible. At night, on stage together, the two best friends, whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art, weave magic under the employ of Johnny Dervish, the club’s owner and a notorious gangster. By day, Ada and Corinne use these same skills to con the city’s elite in an attempt to keep the club afloat.

    When a “job” goes awry and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes they’re on the precipice of danger. Only Corinne—her partner in crime—can break her out of Haversham Asylum. But once Ada is out, they face betrayal at every turn.

    Iron Cast Review

    Iron Cast that takes place in an alternate 1919 Boston, where certain creative types (poets, musicians, artists, etc.) are seized by an affliction called hemopathy. Hemopaths are adored and feared. From creating realistic illusions by tricking minds with charged poetic language or even plucking objects out of paintings, the gifts are easily exploited for crime.

    Ada and Corrine are close friends and powerful hemopaths who use their double-edged gift working cons on unsuspecting civilians. They raise funds for the Cast Iron nightclub, a sanctuary for them in an era where their talent has been outlawed. Iron Cast anchors its magic against the majesty and social conflict of its pre-American Prohibition historical backdrop. This strikes especially for Ada, as a young black girl who isn’t afforded the same privileges outside the Cast Iron that Corinne is, hailing from an affluent family.

    I absolutely loved the beautifully indulgent language Soria uses. She make us feel like we’re alongside the characters, feeling their unique talents come to life from the softest poem, to the subtlest shift in appearance, from the loudest performances, to the monstrous illusions (especially in the desperate, dark moments of the story). I found myself buried into the book, captivated by just how much an underground society of artists are willing to risk to to continue their craft even when all odds have been stacked against them.

    While the novel starts slow, the build-up is worth it when the pieces come together. Soria is a fantastic writer and the twists tugged at my heart. The ending was also more satisfying than I anticipated. If you want to dive into a world where artists are infected by magic, working among gangsters and fleeing from a deadly police force, Iron Cast is your read. It weaves a wonderful world of suspense, magic, gorgeous writing, well-rounded female characters, and a few sucker punches along the way.

  • Give Blood, Get a Ticket to the 2018 Arizona Renaissance Festival!

    I am refreshing this article from 2017, because the deal is happening again!

    All United Blood Services Center Donors who make a MAX donation (Power Red, Platelets or Plasma) before the end of February will receive a voucher for a FREE adult admission ticket to the 2018 Renaissance Festival!

    Want to know more about MAX donation? Click here!

    To schedule an appointment, visit their site
    or call 1-877-UBS-HERO (827-4376)

  • The Shape of Water, Love Unites the Lost (Review)

    The Shape of Water

    I’d been curious about The Shape of Water, but I stayed away from most information about it to keep it a surprise. Last night, I discovered I had won a pair of tickets thanks to Geeks Who Eat! I met up with some other friends who had won passes, then crossed my fingers and prayed that the film would hold up to my expectations.

    I am very, very picky about the movies I see. Allen and I have a tradition as we drive home from screenings; we dissect what we saw in the car on the way home. And, for the first time this year, we left a movie screening completely devoid of a single bit of critique. Nothing about the movie stood out as superfluous. This is one of the few movies I can give a solid recommendation, especially to women, to go see. It works as a del Toro movie, it works as a romance, it works as a movie with a captivating atmosphere and story. Go see it!

    Notes

    • Tone: Dark comedy, tender romance, some disquieting parts.
    • Sex: The romance is passionate and not crass. There is nudity but it’s not for shock-value.
    • Good Ending: Not a typical depressing del Toro ending.

    (further review, minor spoilers)

    Story

    I went in blind, not knowing a lot about the story, but the pacing folded me right into it. Elisa works for a secret government organization and has a hum-drum janitorial job. Her personal life is barely fulfilling and monotonous; she has a best friend, her own place, lovely daydreams, but she’s trapped. Part of her yearns for an escape that she’s not sure she’ll ever find.

    Eventually, one of the labs she cleans acquires a new “asset,” a Creature From the Black Lagoon-esque creature. Long story short, they feel a kinship and start an endearing friendship. When she realizes the officer overseeing the creature wants to dissect it, she decides to risk it all to save him with the help of her friends and a scientist.

    Sexiness/Romance

    A few of my friends joked about fish-dick before seeing it. The intimate scenes did not detract from how beautiful their relationship was. Elisa and the creature has a wonderful chemistry in The Shape of Water and you are genuinely happy for her and not creeped out.

    Art & Design

    The Shape of Water’s creature was emoted incredibly well by Doug Jones when it was injured, frightened, scary, and tender. I was completely astounded by the work on the creature design, which was meticulously executed and absolutely flawless. The world was wonderfully crafted to feel like a modern fairy-tale film. The filmography weaved in dark and unsettling moments, and kept me on the edge of my feet at times!

    Conclusion

    In the end, I would love to see it again just to experience the art direction, characters, nods, and incredible beautiful romance with a twist fairy-tale all over again. 5/5

  • Mafia III: Plain of Jars Review + Meeting the Authors!

    Mafia III: Plain of Jars

    (Don’t read this summary if you want to go into Mafia III: Plain of Jars blind.)

    Mafia III: Plain of Jars

    Teaming up with his CIA handler,  John Donovan, Lincoln Clay leads a secret mission to take down a communist warlord on the edge of the legendary Plain of Jars in Laos. But he can’t do it alone. First, he has to win over the people of the village of Vang Khom, including the beautiful Sho. Then he has to form them into an army that can defeat the warlord’s superior forces, using nothing but his street-honed wits combined with the guerrilla tactics he’s learned in the jungle. Victory seems to be finally within his grasp when he is betrayed by one of his closest allies, leading to a wild chase and an epic confrontation out among the ancient monuments, where his former friend becomes one of the first to discover what grim fate awaits those who cross Lincoln Clay.

    Book Preview

    AKA: How Our Favorite Murder Husbands* Met

    As I’ve already discussed, Mafia III was one of my surprise gaming hits of this past year. It had fantastic writing, fun gameplay, complex characters (Lincoln Clay and John Donovan in particular!), and the political climate (Civil Rights Movement, dealing with racists, etc.) was very topical. I wanted more content, but the game wasn’t well-received due to some minor issues (that were later amended). Which meant fans like myself have been sitting idly by and wondering if there was going to be any additional content beyond the additional DLC (Faster Baby!, Stones Unturned, Sign of the Times).

    I’ve played through the entire game twice (working on a third in the future to get my platinum), and wanted more from the world: What about more war stories that show how Lincoln and Donovan met? Why not some stuff after Lincoln’s canon ending (ruling New Bordeaux with all 3 under-bosses working together)?

    Well, the fandom gods have been merciful and there is a Mafia III book out!

    Meeting the Authors

    Facebook’s creepy algorithm caught wind of my interest and showed me an ad from the official Mafia page that they had a dang NOVEL that had just released! (They’re also doing a giveaway on the publisher’s site, heads up!) On top of that, the book’s authors (Marsheila Rockwell and Jeff Mariotte), were scheduled to attend Tucson Comic-Con as guests! It was like the universe had shined down upon me as a Mafia III fan. 🙂 After confirming on Rockwell’s FB that they would be attending on Sunday (Rockwell and Mariotte are a married author power couple), I made plans to get the book in time to get signed by both of them.

    I made it about 7 chapters on the way down to Tucson (my husband was driving), just at the part where Lincoln meets Donovan. Using Brick Cave Media‘s awesome booth as a landmark, I made my way around the corner. Marsheila was there, and told me Jeff would be back soon. I said that I had the Mafia III book for them to sign, and she was excited to see it. She explained that they hadn’t received their copies from the publisher yet, and my copy was the first one they had seen in the wild. Awesome!

    Meeting the Authors

    Mafia III: Jar of Plains team Marsheila Rockwell and Jeff Mariotte (Photo from Rockwell’s official FB page)

    Great Writing Team to Tackle Lincoln’s Mafia III Prologue Story

    Some authors just kind of sign and let you go on your way without engaging. Jeff and Marcy were the opposite — they were interested to see what I thought about the book so far, as a fan of the game. I, conversely, was really curious about how they got to learn about the world as they wrote the book. How did they research the era, the characters, etc.–and they explained a lot behind the process, from watching the YouTube clips of dialogue and cutscenes to get a feel of the characters and finding more in-depth collective knowledge from the Wiki. They also did a lot of research into the era and military stuff, to cover operating in the middle of the Vietnam war coupled with the Civil Rights Movement at home (which they go into a little bit with Ellis in New Bordeaux).

    It took a few drafts of notes from the liscencer to hash out what direction the book should go. They also explained their take on some of the characters. They wanted Donovan to be more lawful-evil, the way the game highlights his darker moments in the name of “doing it for his country,” and I appreciated that they picked up on that from their research!

    It was just wonderful to know that the book was in good hands and not just rushed through, the way some other video game properties have been handled.

    Mafia III: Plain of Jars Review

    For those who haven’t played the game, Mafia III features a bi-racial protagonist, Lincoln Clay, who returns home to New Bordeaux (the game’s New Orleans) from Vietnam War. Lincoln, the adopted son of the leader of the black mob, goes on a vengeance spree with his war buddy, a CIA operative named John Donovan, after the ruling mafia kills his family and leaves him for dead after a successful heist. Mafia III: Plain of Jars covers how exactly Lincoln made his way through the Vietnam War on a Special Forces team before the game’s events, trying to find a semblance of belonging in a place of death and darkness.

    Mafia III: Plain of Jars kicks off with Lincoln as a private, right in the heat of the action in the jungle and doing what Lincoln does best–thinking fast and acting fierce in the heat of battle. His attitude draws the attention of his superior officer, starting a series of events and actions that gets him special training to run covert ops in a joint DOD/CIA collaboration that starts his friendship with CIA agent John Donovan. As we know from Mafia III, Donovan is the perfect handler and intel man for Lincoln, precisely because he is willing to break rules without a shred of guilt and has no issue helping Lincoln with civil warfare. Mafia III: Plain of Jars expands upon how this relationship developed.

    Impressions

    The story starts a little slow, building upon Lincoln’s POV as he works to gain his footing in Vietnam. For those who aren’t used to war stories, it takes a little adjustment. I was able to pluck some extra Vietnam War knowledge from Allen, whose dad served and flew Hueys. Stick with it! It’s a slow burn as the book works into what propels him to meet and work with Donovan, but once things get rolling the wait is ABSOLUTELY worth it.

    As a fan, there is a kick-off moment that expands upon some game POV that really delighted me. Honestly, after the initial world-building of Mafia III: Plain of Jars, the game tie-in moments are really fun. More like “Oooooh, the authors totally caught that Lincoln tends to do XYZ in game and found a way to expand upon it and make it part of his character development!”

    High Expectations Met

    Honestly, I had high expectations after how solid the writing and characters in Mafia III were, and Mafia III: Plain of Jars was a pleasant surprise.  Game novels can be hit and miss, but the writing flows well and feels well-researched. There are some bits that may seem redundant to veteran Mafia III players, such as some tidbits from Lincoln’s boyhood in New Bordeaux and being raised by Sammy and Father James, but I think it helps the readers who never finished the game or simply want to revisit those integral pieces to Lincoln’s evolution. It was also great seeing those in a new light, and tying them into Lincoln’s experience in Vietnam.

    The only item that appeared random to me was that Ellis (Ellis!) had some POV in the novel. I wasn’t expecting that, but Rockwell explained to me that Ellis was a way of fleshing out the novel with some of the Civil Rights Movement, which played a prominent role of the era and game. The moments are short and sweet, the primary focus of the novel is definitely Lincoln/Donovan.

    Cover Art

    Joe Jusko did a beautiful “pulp cover” style design for the Mafia III: Plain of Jars novel. It also ties into the art book style very nicely!

    Verdict: Highly Recommended

    Remember that excited pit in your stomach when Lincoln survived his coma, went to the burned-out husk of his childhood home, and you thought “oh, man, shit is going to go DOWN” when he pulled out his survival knife and cleaned up for urban warfare? Mafia III: Plain of Jars builds directly off of this. Lincoln has a history the game only showed us glimpses of, through Donovan’s hearing and Lincolns tactics/body language, and we finally get to see more through his own eyes.

    The novel holds up wonderfully for Mafia III fans and those new to the series who like the era/Vietnam war stories, especially for those who want enjoy how Lincoln and Donovan’s friendship developed before the events of the game!

     

    *If you played the game you know why I call them that. 😛 It’s our inside joke as we played.

  • Girls Rule!: 15 Kid-Friendly Comics Starring Bold & Brilliant Ladies

    Want to get a young girl into comics, with heroines that she can relate to?

    Well, look no further! It doesn’t take long to find an awesome series to show young women that girls kick plenty of butt (or use their wits to get out of shenanigans) in comic books!

    Recently, I was asked for recommendations on comics for a five-year-old girl that featured ‘female protagonists “that were fun and had adventures.“‘ Most of the comics I read are for an older audience, so I put an inquiry out and was blown away at fantastic recommendations that many friends shared. It was hard to narrow it down to fifteen, but I finally came up with a list.

    Please note, while this list links to Amazon options, I highly encourage you to shop at your local comic stores instead. Bring your daughters, involve them, and pick up cool swag and other recommendations from the store staff!

    Disclaimer: This list covers a range of young ages. Check it out and make sure what you select fits the bill for your kids. 🙂

    Recommendations (Ordered Alphabetically)

    Brave Chef Brianna

    #1 Brave Chef Brianna

    Brianna Jakobsson works to impress her ailing father, but her only customers are monsters!
    Author: Sam Sykes
    Illustrator: Selina Espiritu

    #2 Courtney Crumrin

    This is a fan-favorite for folks who want to shake some Disney out of their fairytale adventures. Courtney is an isolated outcast at school, but when her parents move in with her Uncle Aloysius she discovers she can do magic.
    Author & Illustrator: Ted Naifeh

    It is also highly recommended that you check out Polly and the Pirates and Princess Ugg, also by Ted Naifeh.

    Ladycastle

    #3 Ladycastle

    What are the women of a fantasy story to do when the king and his men die and are left to fend for themselves? Easy! Take up arms and kick butt themselves.
    Author: Delilah S. Dawson
    Illustrators: Ashley A. Woods, Rebecca Farrow 

    Gotham Academy

    #4 Gotham Academy

    Who doesn’t love the DC ‘verse? Meet Olive, a student at Gotham Academy, a prestigious institution with lots of shenanigans and dark stories lurking before every corner.
    Authors: Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher
    Illustrator: Karl Kerschl

    #5 Jem and the Holograms

    Jerrica Benton is a girl with a secret–she, alongside her besties, transforms into Jem and the Holograms! Yep, a fresh new take on our favorite 80’s cartoon!
    Author: Kelly Thompson
    Illustrator: Sophie Campbell

    Lumberjanes

    #6 Lumberjanes

    Five best friends won’t let supernatural misadventures get in the way of having an amazing summer camp!
    Authors: Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis
    Illustrator: Brooke A Allen

    #7 Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur

    Lunella Lafayette is a genius who wants to change the world and finds herself matched up with… well, a giant red dinosaur sent to the present day!
    Authors: Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare
    Illustrator: Natacha Bustos

    Ms Marvel

    #8 Ms. Marvel

    What list would be complete without Ms. Marvel? Kamala Khan is fangirl-turned-superhero in the Marvel Universe.
    Author: G Willow Wilson
    Illustrator: Adrian Alphona

    Nimona

    #9 Nimona

    Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter who aims to prove, alongside her partner-in-crime, that the “good guys” aren’t exactly what they appear to be.
    Author & Illustrator: Noelle Stevenson

    #10 Princeless

    Adrienne Ashe challenges her parents, the King and Queen, and chooses to pursue her own destiny.
    Author: Jeremy Witley
    Illustrator: M Goodwin

    #11 Scary Godmother

    The spooky and whimsical adventures of Hannah Marie and the Halloweeny creatures on the fight-side of her bed!
    Author: Jill Thompson
    Illustrator(s): Various

    Space Battle Lunchtime

    #12 Space Battle Lunchtime

    Earth baker Peony gets the deal of a lifetime when she agrees to be a contestant on the Universe’s hottest reality TV show, Space Battle Lunchtime!
    Author & Illustrator: Natalie Riess

    #13 Spider-Gwen

    In an alternate Spidey-Verse, Gwen Stacy is Spider-Woman after being bitten by a radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker.
    Writer: Jason Latour
    Illustrator: Robbi Rodriguez

    #14 Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

    A girl with the powers of a squirrel who fights crime. What more could you want in a comic?
    Writers: Ryan North
    Illustrator: Erica Henderson

    A Wrinkle In Time

    #15 A Wrinkle in Time

    Yep, that’s right: there is a graphic novel version of this ground-breaking novel!
    Author: Madeleine L’Engle
    Illustrator: Hope Larson

     

    Good luck on your comic hunting! Let me know if you have any other recommendations in the comments. 🙂

  • Mafia 3 Review: A Story of Vengeance in the Bayou

    Short and sweet review: Mafia 3 is surprisingly mature and progressive. A three-hit punch of some of the most fantastic writing, character development, and world building that I have seen in a recent title.

    This is a one-way road, Lincoln, and once you start down it, there ain’t no turning back.
    -Father James

    Why Mafia 3 is My Current Favorite “Underrated” Game 

    Okay, this is the weirdest review I’ve ever had to write, and it’s completely about me, a simple otome-and-adventure-game-playing fangirl, completely adoring freakin’ Mafia 3 by Hangar 13 (published by 2k).

    I have never been overly fond of mobster films or stories. My husband, on the other hand, loves them. So how do I, the fangirl who usually goes for titles in franchises like Assassin’s Creed or Mass Effect, and artsy walking sims, end up falling in love with a Mafia game?

    Because this game surprised me in all the right ways. 🙂

    In fact, how did I even get the idea to play Mafia 3?

    My friend Christen first planted the suggestion in my brain, explaining it had a really good story and that it was worth giving it a go. And then my author/history teacher friend, Don, praised the game multiple times on Facebook, especially about its portrayal about racism (and setting racists on fire) in the deep south in ‘68. (Quick shout-out to his book The Token Black Guide: Navigations through Race in America).

    Best Buy had a copy for $16 on sale, Allen gave it a shot, and then when I saw the Collector’s Edition on sale for $40 (a STEAL), I decided to give it a go.

    Okay, so what the heck is Mafia 3 about anyway?

    Long story short: You play the entire game as Lincoln Clay, a Vietnam vet who returns home from war and gets mixed up in a revenge plot.

    (Minor Spoilers) The story unfolds in New Bordeaux, a direct homage to New Orleans. Lincoln’s family (they took him in after he was orphaned) happens to be the leading black gang in New Bordeaux, controlling Delray Hollow’s criminal activity. Lincoln is initially torn when he returns home from war. He’s delighted to see Sammy (his father figure and the leader of the black mob), but wants to move on. He doesn’t feel ready to tell his family, just yet. How do you tell your criminal family that you maybe just wanna have a simple skilled laborer job?

    But Lincoln’s main weakness is his loyalty to his family. When Sammy finds himself in debt with Sal Marcono, the head of the Italian mob and the boss of all the districts, Lincoln volunteers for an impossible heist to clear Sammy’s debt. Unfortunately, Marcano betrays them, killing everyone and leaving Lincoln for dead.

    The only two people Lincoln has left in his life are his local pastor, Father James, who gives Lincoln a place to recover and seek spiritual guidance, and his CIA ops buddy, John Donovan, who offers to help him enact his revenge.

    Leaving Lincoln with an angel and a devil firmly on each shoulder.

    Despite the challenges and the long road ahead, starting with almost nothing but the burned-out bar that Sammy owned, Lincoln is ready. He’s done more than his share of violence in Vietnam, and his experience in warfare enriches the story as he prepares to wage his own war over the districts Sal Marcano owns. Just like he and Donovan did in their ops missions, they’ll chip away at Marcano’s resources until he has nothing left.  

    Sal is a cancer. A leech. The only way to make that right is by killing every cocksucker who’s ever looked at that piece of shit.
    – John Donovan

    Fangirl Impressions

    The main characters are written well and incredibly engaging, but the standouts in the game are definitely Lincoln and Donovan.

    First of all, I would like to raise my arms in the air and praise the developers for putting so much love into all the characters; the underbosses you recruit, the leaders you take down, and many of the side characters. The cutscenes are cinematic with some fantastic mo-cap performances. The voice acting is top notch. Additionally, the characters are deliciously complex; it’s a crime story, and nobody is coming out of this with their hands clean. And the game doesn’t shy away from this fact. But two characters in particular hit just right for my inner fangirl.

    The main character, Lincoln Clay, is A+.

    Lincoln is charming as hell and it’s a blast to play him. He’s not the typical Hollywood black gangster stereotype (Lincoln is bi-racial). He’s a complex character who left me constantly surprised. Lincoln is open-minded, charming, and displays a disarming patience in dealing with racist assholes of the deep south. He’s loyal to his family and friends, and later earns the trust of major gang leaders (while making sure they know he means business if they decide to screw him).

    But then the switch flips. Hangar 13 does a great job of showing us how brutal, efficient, and tactical Lincoln is, and we discover it’s how he was in the war; that he has a gift at controlling the battlefield and getting the job done with overwhelming odds. Lincoln’s life as a soldier and now a rising mob boss work very well in the narrative, and it helps the construction of the tale and why he’s able to pursue a problem in a way that other criminals may not have considered. Especially with some particularly brutal public executions to get his point across throughout the game in a shock and awe scheme. 

    I also loved how he treats groups differently in his kill moves. Racists get stabbed 6 times in the face. Others get a quick throat slash. And for a few ladies I meleed, he punches them in the face before politely laying them on the ground to nap. 😛 Lincoln has a soft side and doesn’t like murdering women (though you can override this and shoot them/knock them over in the street). The gameplay itself adds just the right details to understanding who Lincoln is as a man.

    John Donovan is fantastic as a handler and… well, utter psychopath.

    When Lincoln is nearly killed, he utters one name: Donovan. And immediately, we know that the dude’s going to be fairly important. John Donovan is a product of the CIA, and the one person Lincoln clearly trusts as brother throughout the entire game. Donovan realized Lincoln’s combat skills in classified missions they ran in Vietnam, and for inexplicable reasons (likely how well they operate together), he seems willing to drop everything to swoop in and act as Lincoln’s handler again. Donovan coops up in a nearby hotel room with stolen FBI surveillance equipment. So as Lincoln seems to pave down anyone in his way, it’s Donovan that helps him learn who to target and what their weak point is.

    Donovan is also absolutely fucking nuts. In all the best possible ways. He clearly loves being a tool in war. He convinces himself that he’s just willing to do what it takes to serve his country (and seemingly his best friend, but he takes such deadpan delight in it that it’s really hard not to fall in love with his personality. His voice actor seriously gets major kudos from me for absolutely nailing it. Donovan is the perfect character to act as Lincoln’s “man in the sky,” and provides excellent comedic relief.

    He’s also happy to accept that he and Lincoln are fucked up in their own ways, and are just doing what they have to do.

    It doesn’t shy away from the racism of the era.

    The game has a pretty cool disclaimer before it starts, saying that in an effort to have an accurate time piece, there is going to be a lot of content that is offensive.

    You play a black dude in the south in ‘68.

    Folks are going to do more than yell “nigger” at you.

    I feel that Mafia 3’s treatment of this reality, especially today where there are still countless racist injustices, is a positive over a negative. It acknowledges that racism is an issue, and we know Lincoln would be able to eradicate it, but at the very least we can run over racists motherfuckers with their own confederate flag-waving trucks. In fact, Lincoln has much more violent kill animations with the racist assholes of the Southern Union gang in the game.

    You can even set set racists on fire with molotov cocktails.

    It’s encouraged in a mission and it’s very therapeutic! (AND you get to gun down a KKK rally!)

    The location, music, and all that A+

    New Bordeaux is beautifully crafted, and seizing control of the districts is pretty satisfying.

    While there are flaws in the sandbox of New Bordeaux, is still stands out as its own character piece. The lighting and game rendering suit the landscape, and the districts stand apart. Downtown, suburban, bayou, slums, industrial; everything is there and the era is reflected in every corner, from the roads to the architecture.

    Every district has its own lifeblood, and the game adds an extra layer of complexity as you get to directly decide which of the three underbosses – Cassandra, Vito, or Burke – get to control the districts and rackets within. You can even choose to let one underboss has sway over all the districts, but naturally that’s going to lead to strife and possibly betrayal.

    The soundtrack is gorgeously curated and really enriches the game.

    It’s super satisfying to hear House of the Rising Sun, Paint it Black, or Sympathy for the Devil as I wage war on rival mob members and roll around New Bordeaux. 🙂 I’m very happy I splurged on the Collector’s Edition (which was on sale for $40), which included some actual vinyl records.

    Great DLC content adds to the story

    The DLC is absolutely worth it; if you can afford it, you should get it. I mean, the game’s on sale for $20 at this point, and if you’re lucky the Collectors Edition or the Deluxe Edition can be snagged for dirt cheap too.

    Faster Baby and No Stone Unturned should be be played during the main campaign. Faster Baby allows you to help the game’s equivalent of the Black Panthers in a sundown town, and No Stone Unturned gives a side story with my favorte character Donovan as he tries to stop a former operative who left him for dead.

    Sign of the Times is suited for post-game, and it’s a nice send off because the DLC allows you to (minor spoilers) restore Sammy’s bar. It’s also a gameplay departure, as it walks you through a cult story with some fun murder-investigation mechanics and some freaky-ass scenes.

    Honestly, the game did have some minor flaws (and glitches).

    I wanted more customization for Lincoln. Watch_Dogs 2 is exemplary in how it handles character customization. Lincoln is an awesome character, and I wish I had a ton more to dress him up with to make him look fine as hell as we drove over racists.

    I wanted fast travel. Driving gets old at some points. I mean, this one is a hard one to complain about, because the driving around does flesh out the districts (as you drive from on to another), but after doing that 40 times….

    I wanted more customization for his car. Because there’s no fast travel, you have to drive. I wanted a killer car customization system, and the game’s was a little lacking for me.

    I wanted more variety in side missions. With the Faster Baby DLC, I decided to say “screw it” to the side missions that allowed my district bosses to generate income and just hover around my weed house with MJ.

    Glitches were frequent. I know patching games aren’t easy; I did experience a few graphical glitches, but thankfully it didn’t kill my experience.

    New Bordeaux can feel lifeless at times. Again, I wish the Ubisoft devs on Watch_Dogs 2 could help them flesh out the interactions in the world the way they did for San Francisco.

    If these issues didn’t exist, Mafia 3 would have almost held a GOTY spot in my heart.

    Problematic Content Warnings:

    • Lots of violence. In-your-face-I-have-to-look-away-for-a-sec-wow violence. Lincoln is BRUTAL. Other characters are also brutal.
    • Some rape content, but nothing directly shown (not glamorized like Game of Thrones). Addressed respectfully. 
    • Many, many adult themes. Drugs, human trafficking, sex, murders, super violent murders. Not a kids game. 🙂

    The game is on sale, so at this point.. you should get it. 😀

    Seriously. Minor issues aside, it’s wroth $20 for the story and characters. Give it a go!

  • Alien: Out of the Shadows (Audiobook Review)

    Allen and I desperately needed an audiobook to fill the silence of our road trip to SDCC this past weekend. I realized that I have been neglecting my Audible account, and had 5 credits available. Whoops! In order to meet a middle ground (we have different tastes), I decided to learn towards an Alien movie-verse book that had a performance cast– Alien: Out of the Shadows.

    Impressions

    Alien: Out of the Shadows occurs between Alien and Aliens and answers some questions about what took place behind-the-scenes. Additionally, it features how Ash, the Weyland-Yutani loyal science officer/android, wont surrender his objective of obtaining a sample of the alien.

    During Ripley’s slumber on the Narcissus, something directs her off-course and not directly to Earth, putting her in reach of a mining operation that is neck-deep in trouble with aliens. On top of this, there are collisions with some of their vehicles, making a quick escape unfeasible. Instead of waking up on Earth to unite with her daughter, poor Ripley has to walk from one trauma to another; realizing that she’s been sleeping for 37 years, and discovering that she just can’t escape these acid-blooded murder machines. With the expertise she developed in Alien, Ripley assists the miners the best way she can. It’s not easy with a Machiavellian android who wont leave her alone, but she and the miners have hope of finding a way back home in the abyss of space.

    The audiobook has some stellar performances. All of the voice actors are distinct, and the sound effects are top-notch! To fill in gaps of confusion, Ash does “mission reports” at the end of each chapter. He keeps the reader apprised of where his current objects of manipulating the situation to get his sample (including how Ripley stands, mentally and physically, in the face of more trouble).

    Overall, we enjoyed the story and managed to finish the book on our trip. The adventure does have it’s slow bits (for character development), but we grew attached enough to the characters to feel tension when they were in death traps and dire situations. If you’re a fan of this franchise, I definitely recommend a read!

  • Guide: How to Ask Your Friends to Get You Swag Last Minute at SDCC

    Don’t Do it.

    But, I am a fan too. I get it. I’ve also been that person asking for friends to get stuff at con for me. Here’s why your friend might not respond. Or may give you the side eye, even if they love you. SDCC swag/exclusive hunting can be… well, a challenge.

    Why not?

    1. SDCC is a nightmare to traverse.
      Sometimes, a “t-shirt at a small booth” can end up being 2-3 hours of effort to get to the con, crawl through the snail-pace of the con, find the dang booth, and then wait in line for a shirt… to discover they don’t take cash. Ouch.
    2. Exclusives sometimes require overnight waiting to get.
      And even that’s not a guarantee. Read the sad Twitter stories of people in line for 12-14 hours to get denied last minute.
    3. Sometimes people ask for something and don’t pay.
      Wasting your good faith effort and precious SDCC time (because you went against your judgment and got them something without payment first because they are a good friend and you trust them). Bye bye friendship.

    But what if they offer?

    1. Don’t over-ask.
      If you’re asking, imagine that 10+ other people are asking them for help too.
    2. They might not realize how time consuming it is.
      It might be their first SDCC and they wanna help their friends. Then they realize what a nightmare it is but feel guilty pulling out.
    3. Make it easy for them.
      Always ask for things in a manner like this if they offer (YMMV), give them as much information as possible AND GIVE THEM AN OUT:

      Hi!

      Since you’re offering: I would love XYZ exclusive at XYZ booth, I have circled it on this map for you. Their booth should be right next to Square Enix. The item shouldn’t sell out, but it is only available at SDCC and I really need it for my husbando collection. I am happy to Paypal you right now if you can provide me your info, as well as a tip to get some Tin Fish after because you seem to love that place.

      I really appreciate your offer to try to get this for me, but if anything comes up, I completely understand. Have an amazing SDCC!

      Cheers, Your Friend

    And if they do help you out..

    If your friend is nice enough to get you something, and they are successful, please consider the following:

    1. Tip them for their time. Well.
      I had a friend tip me almost 15 bucks as a surprise to get them something that cost $20 at Star Wars Celebration, because they understood the effort involved. Please be that friend, and not the cheapskate to stiff them a buck or two.
    2. Cover the shipping. 
      SDCC has a FedEx. Pricey but convenient. The stuff you want might not fit in their luggage. Yes USPS can be cheaper but FedEx is right there. If they are willing to deliver or allow pick up in person, read #1 again. (And pick it up. Don’t make then come to you back in your home town.)
    3. Pay it forward.
      Do something incredibly nice for someone at another show. Pay the good con geek karma forward.
    4. Give them a good swag item in return.
      If you are going anywhere or have access to something they wont, see if you can pay them back this way.

    Thank you for reading and understanding. 🙂