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I think I'm just about striking a balance between work and play - I am currently undecided about participating in 40 fandoms in case that sends everything off-kilter. Will decide at the weekend I think...

Video Games

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay – There is a certain entertainment value in how dated some games have gotten - they remain fun in their own way but the difference between them and current-gen games is so large that it seems bizarre to think that they're only on the previous console generation. Chronicles of Riddick comes in two parts - this is the Xbox version remastered for Xbox 360. Playing as grumpy Vin Diesel running around a prison and killing people to get favours off of other prisoners is highly entertaining, made all the better by the limitations of the time. For example, there's a prisoner who, in a continuous cycle, has what appears to be horrific stomach cramps that cause him to writhe on the floor in pain, then get up a minute later, walk around for a moment and then do the same thing again. It's very entertaining.

Gears of War 4 – JJ and I got this on release day and then ended up being kind of disappointed by the fact that we were killing robots rather than the monsters of the previous games. There are enough sci-fi games about that Gears didn't need to go down that route. We booted it up again this month and were happy to finally progress to a part where it's started to feel like the previous games in the series with some decent overhauls. Some of the creatures are serious bullet-sponges but the game now has variety back in it rather than facing robot after robot. I'm even quite excited about multi-way battles where the Locust attack the Robots and our characters at the same time. So we can shoot them. With Boomshots. Which blow their faces off.

Pound of Ground – This was the very first game I bought on Steam...and I have not completed it. It has been sat uncompleted in my Steam library for about five years. So I decided to play it. I forgot how weird it was. It's a really strange and over-the-top zombie killing game with characters that don't even try to hide the fact that they are ridiculous stereotypes and cliches. It's...interesting. On the plus side, you get to score home runs by smashing zombies with a baseball bat and run them over in your car as they flee for their undead lives.

Aquaria - This has been the big obsession this month - I have spent hours on this game. You play as a sea person who discovers (slowly) that the ocean used to be populated by other civilizations who were killed in various ways. The storyline gets darker the longer you play, the world is huge, and there's such a huge variety of gameplay between the different forms your character can take, the creatures that you come across, and the different parts of the ocean they inhabit. Plus you can ride seahorses and shoot mutant crabs in the face. It's so much better than I can explain.

Project Highrise - You build a highrise? Basically. You get little challenges and missions and you have to build your skyscraper and move in business and tenants, then try to keep them happy and keep everything running without going bankrupt. It's alright - I don't have any burning desire to return to playing it (unlike Aquaria which has taken over my life) but it's an inoffensive enough game. That's hardly a stellar review though I suppose.


A is for Alibi (Sue Grafton) – I did not realise whilst reading this book that it was written in the early 80s - which I think is quite a decent testament to the fact that the author did not include too many details that became dated. It was alright - there were moments where it feel into the whole "even I could see that one coming" and the ending is anti-climactic. I'll probably read the next book in the series though.

Postmortem (Patricia Cornwell) – Another book series I read when I was younger (although less recently than the Rizzoli and Isles books) - and my memories of this are so vague that it was like reading a completely new novel. Which is kind of fun. It is strange reading crime books written in the 90s though because there has been such a huge advancement in technology and techniques within the field that it can be quite jarring to read older books. This was a really strong start to the series, setting out not just the bad guys in the form of more obvious criminals but also as the corruption within organisations like the police, law firms and political offices. One thing that stood out a lot in this book (and many 80s/90s crime books) is how much everyone smokes! Seriously - they all seem to live in a cloud of cigarette smoke.

Body of Evidence (Patricia Cornwell) – In the second book in the series there's more murder and more corruption, along with deception and lies from many people in protagonist Scarpetta's life. I remember this becoming more and more of a theme in later books, where Scarpetta (who's the medical examiner) gets shut out more and more by people around her in the police and the FBI. Lots of people die in this book, and it gets quite dark reading when every single person close to the victim seems to eventually drop dead or get killed. Some of the body counts in crime novels seem excessive now that I think about it...

All That Remains (Patrician Cornwell) - Much like the last book, we continue with the theme of "everyone dies and life is bloody terrible". It's heavy going in that sense, but again brings in more of the theme of corruption and lies and cover-ups. This book also takes a serious look at how loss and grief can affect someone's mental health, and how there are organisations who are not above using that to their advantage.

Vanish (Tess Gerritsen) – This book is awesome - there's someone being misidentified as dead waking up in the morgue, hostage situations and a dark and twisted trafficking storyline that structures the whole book. The focus is more balanced between Rizzoli and Isles in this book and I think that helps keep Gerritsen's novels on track - when it focus too much on one of them (although more so with Isles) it gets a bit off-kilter.

The Mephisto Club (Tess Gerritsen) – There are sections in this book where I find new characters utterly infuriating. I think you're meant to think of them like that so it works really well. The storyline gets a bit...convoluted in the middle - partially because the titular club are a bunch of amateur crime-solvers who believe in demons - but this book sees Rizzoli getting to be a serious badass and that helps a lot so I can forgive some of the convolution.

Keeping the Dead (Tess Gerritsen) - Mummies, secret identifies, stolen identities and rich people trying to cover up the horrible crimes that their children commit. This is the first book which dedicates chapters to characters other than Rizzoli and Isles; in this book there are sections from the point-of-view of one of the would-be victims. It works well because she manages to still keep suspense going. One of the characters from The Mephisto Club makes a reappearance, cementing himself as a permanent character - he's less annoying without the rest of his club. The only issue I have is the on/off conflict about the developing relationship between Isles and priest Father Brophy - I just don't care about that particular storyline (and it threads through multiple books) so I find myself skim reading those sections.

Ice Cold (Tess Gerritsen) - This is definitely one of my favourite crime novels ever, and that is surprising given what I said previously about books focusing on Isles tending to be less engaging for me. This one is really good, but then again there's cults and mass murder and cover-ups and a wild boy called Rat with a pet dog called Bear. Isles is infinitely more awesome in this book than in previous books. Does go down the route of "everyone dies, everything is horrible, everything sucks" - there's a lot of death in this book.

The Silent Girl (Tess Gerritsen) - Monkeys warriors, ninjas, samurai, lots of death and people with bounties on their heads. Plus there are girls being kidnapped and abused, people running away from home, changed identities and lots of secrets. Then there's all the background tension involving Isles testifying against a police officer so being stonewalled by the officers she normally works with, and a new character who is very cool. This is another great book - although there's very little follow-up from the previous one apart from a passing mention. Considering Isles experienced great trauma in that book (including discovering a mass-murder sight, nearly being shot, and having a friend and his thirteen-year-old daughter murdered), it could have done with some more page time in this book. Perhaps the stronger focus on Rizzoli was just to balance out the focus on Isles in the last book and we'll see more of the aftermath in the next one in the series.

The Experiences of an Extraordinary Autistic Man (Hans-Martin Ramsl) – This is terrible - so terrible. It's like someone took all the cliches of Aspergers, hiked them up to 100, and then added ridiculously stupid scenarios. One section involves the character just rocking up the Chinese Embassy strolling past security and stealing documents from their hard-drives. It's so stupid it's not worth anyone reading ever.


Writing Effective Social Stories (A.A. Mahmood) – This was just a waste of time reading. There's better information online and this book completely misses some of the key factors of writing social stories and how to make them effective.

An Exact Mind (Peter Meyers and Simon Baron-Cohen) – The artwork (by Meyers) in this book is really good - the style is a lot like the mandalas and adult colouring books that have become so popular. Unfortunately the writing that isn't to do with Meyers life is all about trying to insist that the Systemising theory of autism is the only one that possibly makes sense and this is done by portraying the other theories incorrectly. Great pictures, mediocre text.

Autism Supporting Difficulties (Gaynor Jackson) - I actually know the author of this book - which means that I will probably never share the fact that I think it's decidedly average with her. It was an okay read and there were sections where I could identify the (anonymised) children used in the Case Studies because they were children I supported when I worked with her, but as my various rantings on my blog have no doubt indicated - the people from my last job did not know as much about autism as they thought they did.

Autism Heroes – Whilst I think it's kind of cringe-worthy to refer to parents and families of autistic children as "heroes" this book was better than the title suggested and was mostly just a collection of photographs and vignettes about families and autistic people and their experiences of life. It was okay.

Games played in 2017: 8
Fiction books read in 2017: 15
Non-fiction books read in 2017: 12

Date: 2017-03-04 07:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yay for balance!

I mostly notice these days how books in the 80s and 90s, the characters can't just google things and they can't call each other on their mobiles. Considering I can remember both of these things coming into existence it's a little scary how I keep assuming they'll be there!

I always find both your analysis of the autism-focused stuff and your comments on the video games very interesting.

That last fiction one has a... well, that title is something special, for sure! :-/

Date: 2017-03-05 09:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The whole googling/mobile thing really gets me too - in my head I find myself going "They could just they can't" - and with the new common usage of Mobile data to be able to Google on the move, books from the early 2000s are going to become dated soon.

Date: 2017-03-06 03:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh man, yes. I think as I don't have a smartphone yet I forget this is a thing, but it's becoming so much more prevalent all around me...


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