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Video Games
Final Fantasy IX – I have been neglecting my RPGs in light of other, easier and quicker access games. Which is practically sacrilege I know, so partially remedied by starting to play one of the Final Fantasy games I have never actually played. It’s an odd game – contrasted to the relative seriousness of the style of Final Fantasy games that came immediately before and after it, especially with monsters and animals as common place as NPCs as human characters. I’ve already character swapped quite a lot within the first hour and a half, which is again a slightly different experience to usual. It’s fun so far, but - as is par for course with RPGs – I estimate I probably have another two hours before I actually get to the main game.

Poly Bridge – You build bridges and then try to drive vehicles over them without them collapsing. That’s basically it. I haven’t played with it much yet so can’t say whether it’s an engaging puzzler or whether it goes more down the route of “My god why are you so annoying”. You can launch little farmers on scooters off of ramps though so that’s cool.

Room13 – Horror-inspired shoot-em-up where you run from room to room in a haunted house, collecting different power-ups and different masks which give you different powers. Very addictive in a “just one more run” sort of way. Also, quite cute in a creepy kind of way.

Valhalla Hills – This is some kind of Viking game and I completed the first two levels but I’m not actually sure how because I didn’t seem to do what the instructions were telling me to do and then there were Vikings and then hurray! I won! Why did I win? What happened? This requires further exploration.

Assassin’s Creed IV – This month’s big time-sink. The assassins in the series have always been reasonably balanced as regular people with flaws – Altair with his arrogance, Ezio with his immaturity, Connor with his perpetual bitterness and grudge, Aveline with her naivety. This is the first time I think where the main Assassin has spent most of the game not giving a damn about being an assassin and doing things for the good of other people, instead the pirate Edward Kenway does what pirates do best and leaves disaster and ruin in his wake. It is really fun playing the character, the ship battles are much better than they were in ACIII and the whole game is amazing to look at from oceans to islands to mainlands. The first time I saw a whale emerge from the ocean as I sailed past I waved frantically at JJ to come and see (she stared at me like I had lost the plot, but that’s another matter).

Books
Fiction
John Doe (Tess Gerritsen) – I don’t know if I should really count this since it was about 30 pages long. Gerritsen’s mini-fics are a little odd, because they veer more towards the characterisation of Rizzoli and Isles in the tv series and not the characters from the books. It was alright.

Last to Die (Tess Gerritsen) – I am not fond of the characters from The Mephisto Club, but in a way that they’re so well written that I dislike them and find them oily and slippery like you’re supposed to. If that makes sense. Anyway, they are a key part of this novel, but so is Rat (first appearance in Ice Cold) and his character development is good. The crime around the three kids is a little convoluted and confusing, and it doesn’t get tied up quite as neatly as Gerritsen usually does it.

Die Again  (Tess Gerritsen) – This was really good. Based on the idea of a human hunting over humans, stolen identities and being out in the wilderness surviving alone. The jumps between the current case and the backstory of the surviving character from an expedition in Africa works really well and I read this in about half a day so that’s usually a good indication of how much I enjoy a book. Sadly I now have to wait until AUGUST before Gerritsen’s next book is out so I had to go and find another book series to read.

When the Bough Breaks (Jonathan Kellerman) – One of the few well-known crime series that has a gay main character, and he isn’t a giant stereotype. Milo manages to avoid too many stereotypes of both “stock gay character” and “stock cop character”, and is very well written as a result. His working partnership with Alex Delaware (the protagonist) is entertaining. The actual crimes involved in this first novel are pretty grim reading – it takes some self-confidence to start your book series off with a collective partnership of paedophiles molesting disabled children.

Deja Dead (Kathy Reichs) – I thought I had read the Temperance Brennan books before (I’ve watched the TV series) but I don’t remember the story in this book at all. My god is it filled with hopelessness and despair. In between the details of the work of the forensic anthropologist (which I find fascinating), there is misery and death and unhappiness abound. It’s incredibly well written but does leave you feeling like you’re not sure if you dare to read the next book.

A Perfect Evil (Alex Kava) – A new crime series to obsess over! There is a certain pattern to my fiction reading that I’ve never really been able to break out of – I start reading other genres and then lose enthusiasm. Anyway – new book, new series, new protagonist. Little bit confusing because the main protagonist of the series (Maggie O’Dell) is not as well written nor as well rounded as the first character we meet – Sheriff Nick Morelli. O’Dell is a profiler brought in to help solve the murders of young boys in a quiet Nebraska town. The storyline and the crimes are great, Morelli is an interesting character, and the tension fed in by other characters made this a good start even with the protagonist confusion.

Split Second (Alex Kava) – O’Dell’s personal monster – serial killer Albert Stucky – escapes from lock-up and leaves O’Dell in a state of constant terror and paranoia as he leaves calling cards for her in the form of dead bodies in everywhere she goes. This book deepens O’Dell’s background, vastly improving the character from the first book and brings in new characters and deepens existing ones. Good follow-up book.

The Soul Catcher (Alex Kava) – This one was a bit confusing, partially because it marks something which soon becomes a problem with the series – that of jumping perspectives every chapter. One, two – hell – even three perspectives are manageable but when Kava is jumping between two or three “good guys” and one or two “bad guys” and one or two “no-idea what side you’re on guys” it gets confusing very quickly. O’Dell’s mother takes front stage in here and we do get to meet some more recurring characters who are well rounded and interesting too so it’s not all bad. Plus cults almost always make for interesting crime novels.

At the Stroke of Madness (Alex Kava) – Perspective jumping aside – this was really good up until the last fifth of the book. The serial killer in question had a fascinating backstory that fed really well into the crimes committed and the involvement of a character with early stage Alzheimer’s was very sensitively done. The book kind of fell apart when O’Dell just decided to run off and confront the serial killer with the afore mentioned Alzheimer’s sufferer as her only back-up. It ended up being a bit of a mess which was tied up very clumsily. Also beginning to move towards the concept of the FBI profiler not doing much in the way of profiling and doing more in the way of solving the whole damn crime herself.

A Necessary Evil (Alex Kava) – This one links back to the very first novel (hence the titles) and is travelling a somewhat well-worn path involving priests and paedophiles and cover-ups. It’s well written and the twist at the end was genuinely surprising. Nick Morelli makes a re-appearance and has been rewritten in an odd way (I think so we’re meant to find him creepy and overbearing but it clashes with his previous character appearances so it’s jarring), but overall the characters and the plotline in this are well done.

Exposed (Alex Kava) – This one is a move away from the more physical attacks and murders of previous books and into the realm of biological warfare – which of course the unfortunate protagonist is stuck right in the middle of. We meet some more new and interesting characters, and O’Dell actually does some profiling since she cannot run off and get into any more trouble whilst in quarantine. The final confrontation with the antagonist is again rushed and poorly tied up which is a shame, but there is a final shock at the end when O’Dell kills off a recurring character for the first time (and in crime series, this is quite unusual). I also now know why we were meant to read Morelli as creepy and weird (it continues a little here) because there's a new love interest on the horizon for O'Dell....I find it hard to care about those plotlines in crime books really.

Black Friday (Alex Kava) – It does seem a little like Kava is moving through all the main tropes for crime novels – Paedophile priests (done), biological warfare (done), cults (done), serial killer returning to target protagonist (done), and now we’ve got terrorism in the form of bombings. It’s not hugely surprising I suppose since FBI profilers would be called out to these kinds of cases and again O’Dell does a bit of profiling this time before all of that goes out of the window completely. Morelli reappears and again is not characterised consistently to his previous appearances, and the endless perspective jumping caused me massive headaches in keeping track of people.

Damaged (Alex Kava) – This one was pretty damn cool. Even the ending is done better (although it’s a little scrappy and untidy). In the midst of natural disasters, someone is murdering people and harvesting them for body parts. So O’Dell is called in to try and sort out who and why all whilst a hurricane is moving in for the mainland. Same issue with the perspectives – I think there were about six or seven people whose heads we jumped between – and the slow writing out of other supporting characters is a shame because O’Dell isn’t quite a strong enough character without them. Still – definitely better than the previous book.

Non-fiction

London Call-Out (Alex Rudd) – A quite standard account of the cases an out of hours doctor dealt with whilst working in London. Rudd is pretty blunt and straight-forward in what he writes and seeing him describe situations, where people are dealing with one of the worst days of their lives, can be quite stark reading. It never really gets to a point of being really good, but it’s interesting enough and a quick read.

Riding the Bus with my Sister (Rachel Simon) – This book would have been so much better is they had cut it down by about a hundred pages. Essentially Simon bonds with her disabled sister by engaging with her in her favourite activity – riding the city buses all day. Along the way, many different bus drivers are met. It’s a very human book, with many different characters (not all of them likeable), and it raises a lot of conversation points about things like ‘How much should we accommodate people with disabilities and at what point do we say “No – now you’re being an asshole and I know you know what you’re doing, so stop”’ and ‘When should we intervene and make choices on people’s behalf because they don’t understand the consequences of their actions’ or ‘Where is the line between making someone do something and providing encouragement’. The problem is, after the third monologue from an “inspirational” bus driver, I started to skim read monologues. Took away from the reading experience a bit.


Games played in 2017: 13
Fiction books read in 2017: 28
Non-fiction books read in 2017: 14
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