Seance on a Wet Afternoon (Review)

1964
Directed by:
Bryan Forbes
Staring: Kim Stanley, Richard Attenborough, Nanette Newman, Mark Eden & Patrick Magee

Description: A medium and her husband stage a kidnapping in order for her to pretend to solve the crime and achieve fame.

I’m currently just finishing up the second week of our social distancing here in Ontario Canada. My husband is working from home in the basement and I’m trying to stay occupied. Low and behold while scanning through channels I landed on this doozy of a move on the TCM channel. I might have missed the first ten or fifteen minutes, but I had no issues catching up and getting completely drawn into the plot.

To start with this movie stars Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough (you know John Hammond from Jurassic Park). Kim’s character, Myra Savage is a medium and does seances in her house. Somehow, again I missed the opening, she persuades her husband Richard, William Savage, to kidnap a child so that she could solve the crime and achieve fame – just as the description of the movie about says. However, as the movie progresses you get to see that Myra Savage isn’t all there up in the head.

So when I started watching I was at the part when William is in the process of kidnapping the young girl. He must have drugged her, given how lifeless her body was as he moved her from a car to a motorbike with a cab on the side. They bring the child home to their house and pretend to be doctor and nurse while locking the girl inside and claiming she is sick and in a hospital. Actually, that’s not a bad ruse for a child, though when the girl does awake she is very sharp and points out a lot of inconsistencies. Like, Myra, playing the nurse, doesn’t leave the thermometer in as long as her past doctors, and later says that William doesn’t smell like a doctor. So it sounds like the girl has been sick recently and even tells them she already had the measles as they tried to use that as justification for her environment. 

So while they keep the girl placated as much as possible, Myra starts playing her role as helpful medium to the child’s missing parents. She arrives at their house maybe a day or two later – after the newspapers announce the disappearance/missing child claiming to have a dream concerning their child. The mother is quite upset and is taken in quite quickly, especially given Myra’s comforting words that the girl is alive and well taken care of. The father is defiantly on the skeptic end and waves of her vision. But the seed has been planted and Myra has put her name out to the family, which seems to be step one in the plan.

Of course there is so much more to this. The Savages create a ransom note, and set up a scheme to do the drop off and pick up of the money as well as moving the child so that the police would not suspect anything when they came around for an initial interview. Yes, that bit was interesting. So when Myra visited the family of the missing girl, it was already swarmed by police and detectives and she left her card behind for them to call upon later. As much as Myra seemed a little crazy in her planning and set up of the crime, she did think a lot of things through and prepared for it. Her poor husband on the other hand was tasked on doing all the dirty work. Eventually everything works out and they bury the money in the back yard. There is nothing else mentioned about the money or ransom, it was never about the money, but the fame Myra wanted, but any kidnapper would ask for a ransom.

Let’s take a break here and talk about Myra’s character. Boy did that lady ooze psychotic. From when I started watching, Myra always assured her husband that they were only just ‘borrowing’ a child, and repeated that nothing bad was going to happen. There were also times when she mentioned that the girl will settle down eventually like a pet in new surroundings. They way she waved things, serious things and crimes off were quite unreal. She also continued around the house with a smile, edging on devious, but also angelic as well that really freaked me out whenever she tried to calm her husband’s growing nerves and worry. You could tell things were starting to get off track when on the first meeting the child in the nurses outfit – her face covered by a mask – when she leaves and the husband asked why she didn’t say to the girl that she’ll be going home soon. She claims she forgot, but I think that is a pivotal step that already then her plans were changing in her mind. I’m not sure if it was because the girl asked too many questions and poking holes in their hospital ruse, or if she realized this was never going to end well.

Let’s get back to the plot of the movie. So they managed to get the ransom  money and escape without detection. Myra showed a detective around an empty house to their satisfaction before William returns with the child. However, twist, the girl now starts to show a fever. Myra again waves this off, refuses to call a doctor, and decides to handle it on her own. Yes, she did get medicine but she didn’t seem overly concerned or worried, especially when the girl’s fever gets worse.

By now we reach another of her seance circles and the mother of the missing child arrives looking for answers. Which is exactly what Myra desired. As centre of attention she does a marvellous show of telling the mother a little of the person who took her, the motorbike she was transported in and that she was surrounded by three people, laughing and playing. Giving the mother hope that she is alive and well. All the while the girl in the next room over, being watched by William starts to call out for her mother. Unsurprisingly nobody in the next room hears it. Myra ends the seance with a fainting scene, announcing someone is dying. However when asked as she is escorted away, she shakes her head and says nobody’s dead.

William escorts everyone out of the house and turns to find Myra coming downstairs looking proud, happy and excited. She mentions Arthur – who we take as her son – who loves the girl staying in his room, and that she doesn’t want to leave. Well, William starts to realize at this point his wife has gone off the deep end, or maybe I learn that as I’m watching. She goes on to say that they must give her to Arthur. We learn in this highly emotional scene that Arthur was a still born baby of them, and that Myra had never seen him, that he never grew up in their house and that everything she says Arthur says is really her. Everything was her. 

Yup that’s right this has turned a kidnapping crime into a murder. Well attempted murder.

Their conversation is cut short when the girl calls down to them, appearing at the top of the stairs. William quickly ushers her back into her room, telling her that she’ll be going home soon. Well, Myra stares up at William and with a pleading, crazy look tells him he has to do it now, she’s seen his face.

OMG, I don’t know if Myra’s just crazy or manipulative. I think a little of both. Her facial reactions, her candidacy about killing the girl is just way too much for me. I couldn’t help but just drop my jaw when that scene finished. 

We next see William dropping the girl, drugged once again, in the middle of the woods. Thankfully not far from a camp of scouts nearby. We learn later that he did this on purpose. Back at home Myra is once more in happy spirits, telling him it wasn’t that hard, and that she’s now with them forever, and that she promised to do everything to make him happy from here on out. She also starts discussing moving away after all this has ended. Which again leads me to think she’s not completely crazy? Just somewhere in between? Her whole demeanour is just jarring.

It’s raining and the police come once more to talk, and in fact to do a seance with her given the information she had given the mother just the other day. Myra is a little startled but I don’t think anyone could say no at that moment. William is completely worried and doing his best to hold things together. They do the seance – thus the title of the movie – and well, this is when Myra completely goes unhinge. I’m not sure if it’s a mental breakdown or what, but she starts to talk like a child, about not wanting to leave, not wanting to go downstairs, about staying and then she starts rocking what looks like a baby in her arms. Yeah, completely unhinged.

It seems the police already knew everything, just looking for more evidence or an admission which through Myra’s seance they seemed to get everything they need. When William asks about the girl, they said she is safe and that is when William tells them that he placed her there to be found on purpose. 

There isn’t much more to this movie, it ends with that last scene. Which I think is a powerful ending. Though part of me wanted to know what would happen to Myra, obviously William will be tried and found guilty of kidnapping, but to all of us he was completely put up to it by his wife. Still, what’s a movie without some form of question at the end?

I loved this movie. I love it what I find these older gems, which is why I like to scroll by TCM while looking for movies to watch. There’s always that one that you shrug and watch and find out how amazing it ends up being. I would definitely suggest watching this, if only for Kim and Richard’s acting. Their scene together are amazing and can really show you how much of an unreliable narrator we have with Myra Savage. 

With this social distancing and quarantine going on, I hope everyone is staying safe, washing their hands and maybe finding some new gems of movies to watch on their own time.  

BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! – Review

I don’t know if this is a confession or just another accepted way to play games, but there have been a few mobile games that have really caught and held my attention. In this blog post I’m going to discuss one of these games called BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! Created in January 2015 by Bushiroad, with original story by Ko Nakamura and original character designs by Hitowa.

This game showed up on my facebook pages as a sponsored ad, as many of you know that stuff happens a lot, and typically I just ignore them and scroll right through, however…. There are a few that do peak my interest and BanG Dream was one of them. What can I say,  you show me cute anime girls, and J-Pop music and I can’t help but be intrigued. 

BanG Dream is a rhythm style game that almost looks like guitar hero. You choose a song and tap the buttons as they reach the bottom in beat with the music. It also reminds me a little of Dance Dance Revolution, again, using your fingers instead of your feet. To be honest if it was just that I’d be okay, a quick, casual game to play during a few down time during the day. But there’s more to it. There’s a bit of a story line.

Remember when I mentioned cute anime girls? Well, turns out they have a storyline to go with the game. When you start the game you get to choose the name of your personal character who turns out to be an assistant to the local music house – a place where bands, musicians, and singers come to practice and preform in sound proof booths. From there, you are tasked to get a group of bands together for a promotion of the music house. Every band you talk to are made up of all teenage girls and each band has their own unique story on how they became a band and what type of music they play. That’s when the girls are introduced, and the game is on. As you play the rhythm songs with a particular band, and get good marks and scores you level up, and so does the characters in the band you choose to play with. As they level up, you unlock story chapters which goes into detail on certain aspects of the band’s history, current position, and future goals. 

Basically you come to play the rhythm tapping music tracks, but stay for the interesting stories that include some drama amongst the characters of the multiple bands.

There are five bands in all, and each band has five characters. Popping Party, Roselia, Afterglow, Hello, Happy World, and Pastel Palettes. Each character is unique and brings a different character type and arch to the mix. For example Afterglow is made up of a group of childhood friends who formed the band in order to stay connected as they entered high school and got separated into different classes, where as Pastel Palettes is an Idol based group that was initially going to fake playing instruments but due to technical difficulties got caught and choose to learn to play the instruments for real. There are several high-energy girls who look through challenges in a positive light like Kasumi from Popping Party and Kokoro from Hello Happy World, but they are balanced out but a number of more serious, goal oriented characters like Yukina from Roselia and Ran from Afterglow. Besides that, you’ve twins Sayo and Hina who are in two different bands and are somewhat competitive or perhaps envious of the other. And then there is Eve from Pastel Palettes who moved to Japan from Sweden and is almost obsessive about the samurai from history and their ‘Bushido’ mentality. Basically they tackled several arch types in this game and really gave them all time to dive deep into their connections, passions, goals, and life challenges that would connect to everyone. In the end, friendship is the main theme that unites them all in their own individual ways. 

The game and storylines are very light hearted and upbeat, giving us glimpses into real challenges of teenage life, the struggles that go into either making a great band, writing a song, or even deal with personal and family issues and the balance to do it all. 

So that’s the basic from the story side, let’s get into the music end of this game. Like I said, the rhythm type genre of this game isn’t new, but still just as addictive. There is a rating scale for each song you play, starting from C and going up to SS (a Japanese rating system a believe as I’ve seen that in other anime shows). When you first start out, you can barely make it to level B in a song, but you get rewards at the end that can help upgrade both the character and their instruments to boost the skills and gain even more points for every note you hit correctly. You also can spend some star points in obtaining the characters at higher stars. You first start with one of every character at a 1 star level and you can only level them up to 20, but gaining extra characters from certain challenges you can find characters at 2, 3 and 4 star levels to upgrade and train to be even more ‘powerful’. They also have different ‘moods’, like; pure, cool, happy, power – so you do have to switch out the characters at times. Sorry, that does sound a little confusing, it took me a while to figure it all out myself.

There are typically 2 types of playing the game, Live mode and Multi-Live mode. Live mode is like a single player game. You pick your song and play what you want at whatever skill level you want – there are four – easy, normal, hard, and expert – which some songs having a five called special but I have yet to pass that one successfully. You have a stamina bar at the top of your screen that gives you 10 stamina at a time (it does recharge during the day). You can also chose how much stamina you use per a song, up to 3. You’ll get higher points the more stamina you use, but you will also decrease the bar further. That’s where special items like boosts you earn through challenges come into play. 

Anyways, the multi-live mode pairs you up with other players online. From there you all pick a song you want to preform and the game randomly chooses one of them for everyone to play. It can be fun and you also sometimes are able to play songs you don’t have access to yet in your own library. You can friend request players and have a list of friends that you could set up your own private room in the multi-live section. There are also different rooms in the multi-live section that is only available to you if you have a high enough power score of your band. There’s a public room which has no limit and everyone can play in, then there is the ‘regular room, that needs a power limit of 70,000. Those are definitely the two rooms I frequent the most. The next room is called Veterans,  and after that there’s Masters. The bars and ranks in these last two rooms I think are different. I’ve gone into the Veterans before and noticed that what would be an A or S rank song completed in the lower rooms just passes for B and barely hits A. It’s defiantly there for people who have maxed out a lot of characters, equipment and are much better at this game than I.

Now let’s talk about the Challenge section. Every couple of weeks or so a challenge will happen. Basically it surrounds a story that contains 5 chapters, plus a beginning and ending chapter. The story will focus on two characters, sometimes from the same band, sometimes from different bands. After the beginning or intro section, the rules of the challenge come up, there are three or four different types of challenges that I can remember. They give you bonus points if you have particular characters in your band, as well as characters with a particular mood as mentioned above. Thus, gaining these extra characters comes in handy in these sort of situations. Some challenges have you compete with others in the  multi-live area, while others are more skill focused, giving you a chart of challenges to complete that can be done either in the multi-live section or the regular Live section. These challenges include getting full combos on a level 14 song, ending the song with 70 Great hits or less, or even just completely a song in Hard mode. 

But fear not! If you were not able to unlock all the chapters of the story, there is a section where it will eventually be placed in where you can go and read the story at your own pace and get caught up on all the side stories you missed. 

So, time to come down to the voices in this game. If you’re like me and living in the West, you’ll notice that despite having english subtitles, all the voices are still in Japanese. But that’s okay, it doesn’t hold you down, and to be perfectly honest the game does this on purpose giving you are playing whole whack of Japanese pop songs. There’s more to it though, in the loading screens you see the bands with their names and under that, the voice actresses being them. Many of these are well known voices from anime, and some singers in there too. Pretty cool if you ask me!

The songs are also fantastic, there are some originals from each band and then the cover songs which I’m sure more of you will recognize than me. There’s A Cruel Angel’s Thesis, from the Evangalion anime, This Game from No Game No Life anime (which I just finished watching). A lot of the songs span the cutesy pop, to a bit more rock and roll. Besides that, recently the game has released music videos of some of the original songs with characters from the game. Playing the song with the music video in the background is much more difficult, but you do have the option of just watching the video on it’s own – which is so worth it!

There’s a lot to unpack in this game, and I really hope I was able to explain and highlight what made it feel special to me. I’ve never played a rhythm game like this before and it’s become a lot of fun to me, especially now that I’m trying the harder modes for songs. So, if you enjoy the style of anime, the rhythm games, and a bunch of cute anime girls going through life and playing great music I highly recommend this game to anyone who has been on the fence like I was. I’ve had this game for over a year now, and have up to 180 characters, but I’m still far from the best, still at times this is all I want to do for thirty minutes, to distressed, listen to some music, or just catch up on the many band stories that I’ve yet to go through.

Horizon: Zero Dawn Review

I picked up this game without knowing anything about it except for the artwork on the cover. I didn’t see any prior reviews, perhaps only hearing the hype and noticing the acclamation associated with the game. Either way, I saw the box cover and I was hooked, I had to play this game, and I’m so glad I did. Horizon Zero Dawn is to me an amazing, creative and entertaining game. From the plot, to the setting, to Aloy’s internal character arc, the game hooked me from the beginning of Rost’s info dump.

So let’s start with the setting and the beginning of Aloy’s arc. The game starts with a beautiful cinematic tone where we see a middle aged man named Roast, dressed in tribal cloths carrying a baby on his back. As he traverses the wilderness, you get sneak peaks into what is to come. The machines who have risen to be not only humans number one predator, but also prey. Rost explains to the baby how the tribe hunts and harvests the parts of these machines (which take the form of futuristic animals) to make weapons, gear and even trade. The tribes of this world even use these machine parts as armour, accessories, and currency. Despite these machines being dangerous, they are the heart of ‘commerce’. 

Eventually Rost succeeded in delivering the baby to what appears to be a temple, where an elderly woman steps out and ushers him along. It is the naming day and there seems to be a small ceremony about it all. What makes it different and unique is the hint that this isn’t supposed to happen, that the baby is different and already considered an outcast amongst the tribe. Rost announces the baby’s name “Aloy” and the ceremony is able to proceed. But we learn Rost is an outcast, as will Aloy. Rost isn’t even Aloy’s father, but was given the task of raising the girl in some sort of penance for whatever action he took to make him an outcast in the beginning.

I will say right now, that the fact we never learn what he did to earn the title of outcast is a bit of a let down. I was highly expected it to come out, but it is waved away and we never seem to ask or figure it out during the rest of the game. 

Anyways, we pick up on Aloy’s outcast status as she ‘grows’. As a child she is shunned, and all the children are taught not to touch her, or speak to her, even the adults turn their backs on her. Which is as cruel as hell! Still, the story and game progresses when she falls down a ‘hole’ and into what appears to be some long forgotten fallout shelter of some kind. There she picks up the triangle shaped ever piece that proves to be the best bit of technology of the game. It shows holograms, identifies weak points on machines, not to mention their routes and paths, and helps Aloy learn about the past, even giving her a bit of intelligence leap over the others of the Nora tribe. 

After that discover, and the way Rost reacts to the forbidden tech, it’s defiantly something the tribe avoids and gives her the bit of hope that by participating in Proving when she’s of age, she could overcome her outcast status of the tribe and be welcomed in with open arms. Giving her the chance to finally find out who her mother is and where she comes from. So enters the training montage, which at leasts fast forwards us to the current Aloy we play as.

From here, the Proving turns disastrous, as the Nora Tribe and those participating in the Proving are ambushed by an outside tribe of cultists who all have the same triangle shaped tech in their ears. Aloy is the only one that survives and when she wakes up is confronted with the truth of her mysterious birth by the elders. With even more questions than answers, the elders give Aloy a treasured title of Seeker when it is revealed she was targeted by the cultists (Later revealed to be a group called the Eclipse), because of her resemblance to a Elizabet Sobeck. Fueled by her desire to know more about this Elizabet, and granted permission by the Matriarch of the Nora Tribe, as Seeker Aloy is now free to leave the Nora lands and travel anywhere in the world to find these answers. Which is want she does.

With most of the introduction out of the way, we can finally get into some real game play. As Aloy you search around both the  Nora lands and that of the Carja, Banuk, and Oseram. You meet up and find quests, make allies, and hunt down a number of different machines. You also start to piece together what happened to the ‘old ones’. There are a number of data pads scattered about that showcase random information from people prior to this post-apocalyptic setting you’re currently in. There are remains of old cities to explore, underground bunkers, and even what is called ‘cauldrons’. Cauldrons are underground vaults (?) where machines are built. Typically at the end of each Cauldron is a boss battle with one or several massive and difficult machines that you must destroy before being able to upload new data into your spear that will help you override other machines to fight for you.

I’m not going to go much further into the story aspect of this game. I feel it’ll be like spoilers for a good book – or movie. The pace of what you learn and discover is well done that leaves you itching to continue on to the next main question point. You eventually figure out what happened to the old ones, and why the world is the way it is, and even the grave danger everyone in this world is in. Again, no spoilers from me, if you want to know, play the game. 

Horizon Zero Dawn feels very much like an open world game, but a little more streamlined and story centred. Which, if I can be honest, I enjoyed a lot more than my attempts at playing Skyrim and Fallout 4. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to go back and work my way through those games, but having not have the experience in an open world style of game, they feel very overwhelming. Now, after finishing Horizon, I feel I have a better mindset and patience for something like Fallout 4. 

Let’s get into the game play now. This is an action adventure game, a first person RPG that reminded me a little of the Uncharted series. You control Aloy through a third point of view, never getting into the ‘head’ of the character, but having to use the controls to swing the camera angle around you to take in any hostilities you may have missed. And that does happen. Fighting one group of machines will and have in my case caused myself to be prime target of several other hostile machines. Thankfully the warning sign is always given, especially if a machine out of view is about to pounce. 

Aloy is equipped with two main weapons (or at least the two main weapons I ended up using). That of her spear and bow. There are upgrades to the bow that gives out different types of damage and attack which is helpful, but there was only one or two bows that I stuck with that seemed to get the job done. Other weapons include a slings, tripwires (if you’re into setting traps – which for me saved me ass on several occasions), Rope-casters (useful for the bird type machines), and a Rattler (which I don’t think I ever used). So the opportunist are there to use different types of weapons depending on the opponents you’re fighting. 

Besides the taking down of machines for parts, to clear an area, or for a quest, another useful skill in the game is that of overriding machines. There are at least three that I can remember that if you override these machines you are able to ride them, and thus travel faster across the world. Be warned, it does not protect you against other machines when you ride through their area. As someone who focuses a lot on stealth and setting traps, I found I didn’t ride machines that much. Still, it’s useful. What’s even better is when you unlock the ability to override the aggressive/predator type machines. Then you have something on your side that can hit just as hard! Of course there’s a time limit, but when there’s like a herd, or group of some heavy hitters, getting one on your side can really even the odds. 

I had no issues with the gameplay as I played. I read up as I was playing (and looking for tips and trick to difficult areas), that there were issues when trying to make Aloy climb mountains. Some mountains are set up to climb and have those specific coloured lips that you can grasp and climb up on. Other times it’s a jumping game to see how high you can go. I guess some people messed about and have image captures of Aloy or the mount she’s using pretty much perpendicular to the mountain cliff. I never ran into this, but I can see where that could come into play. For me, and I was playing on a PS4, I had no issues with the game and enjoyed ever last minute of it.

To finish off, I’ll talk briefly on the machines and share some images of them below. As I mentioned above, most of the self-aware AI machines that inhabit this world seem to imitate animals of the past. Which is to say that the only actual biological animals that you see are the small ones, squirrels, rabbits, boars, turkeys, foxes and geese. For example the “Striders” have a very horse like appearance to them. Glinthawks are birds, almost vulture-like, even the Stalkers have a cat-like cheetah or cougar feel to them. Then what I laughed at when I first saw it was the Rockbreakers that remember the creature from Tremors. Yet there are other machines that are very unique and unlike any creature I’ve seen, become more war like than animal like. Most notably the Thunderjaw – which still scares me whenever I see one in the distance, and Deathbringer. 

Pretty much each machine you come across in this world was well thought out. They all have their strengths and weaknesses and some a few tricks up their sleeves. They defiantly keep the game interesting! 

Overall, this game is a true gem! Even halfway through I knew I had to replay it, knowing what I know now. I’m the type that is always pulled into a good story for a game, and this did not disappoint. So my first play through was defiantly for the story, but I know my second will be to explore all the other areas that I just didn’t get to in my first run. There are still several data pads and holograms that I was not able to find, which I still feel sore about knowing that not all of the ‘collections’ are finished. I’ll be for sure tackling this game a second, if not a third time in the future and I hope to be able to return to it many times and have it still be just as good and gripping as the first. 

If you have not played this game, I highly recommend it. If not for the rich story aspect, then for the multiple and unique machines you get to hunt down with just a bow and arrow.

The King’s Avatar

(Note: There is also an anime based on the same material. This review is solely on the Live Action Drama only.)

There’s one thing I don’t think Netflix will ever let me down and that is bringing me new and interesting shows and movies from all over the world, in particular shows from Asia. For the past few months I’ve found a wonderful new show called The King’s Avatar. A show that showcases eSports, and one particular pro gamer as his life gets turn upside down and we follow him as he tries once more from the beginning to reach the top. 

Based on a Chinese webcomic of the same name created by Hu Dielan, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into until after the first episode when I knew I was hooked. From then on I binged five to seven episodes a night for a good chunk of time before real life got in the way and I’ll have to binge once more a few days or a week later. With 40 episodes in the first season, I was quite impressed and surprised at the daunting task ahead of me.

So, let’s get into the plot. Like I said early the show focuses on Ye Xiu, a top-tier player of a fictional online multiplayer video game called “Glory.” We start the first episode at a championship challenge with Ye Xiu and his team called Excellent Era facing off agains another team. We see how amazing Ye Xiu and his online character “One Autumn Leaf” is as he leads his team to an overwhelming victory, putting Excellent Era one top as the best team in the game of Glory. However, the victory is short-lived when the team returns to their headquarters and Excellent Era’s manager Tao Xuan takes Ye Xiu aside and basically tells him they are replacing him with a new team Captain, Sun Xiang. The reasoning is a little muddy, basically Ye Xiu hides his face during games and does not do any promotional services to the team, keeping himself a real mystery to the fans. Not only does this upset Ye Xiu, it also means he must give up his One Autumn Leaf account (as it technically belongs to Excellent Era). The manager does offer to let him stay on in a coaching role, but states his contract is not up yet and if he retires, he will not get any of his earnings. 

In the end, Ye Xiu resides to take early retirement, leaving Excellent Era, and his account behind. This wasn’t an easy choice to make, in the rules taking retirement means he could not enter the pro-gaming/eSports lifestyle again for one year. He also leaves behind a good childhood friend, Su Mucheng, who offers to go with him, but he insists she finishes her contract with Excellent Era first. I will admit she’s one of my favourite characters in the series, always sticking by Ye Xiu’s side during and helping along the way.

Now homeless, Ye Xiu wonders into an Internet Cafe called Happy located just across the street of the Excellent Era’s building. It is the eve of the launch of a new server for Excellent Era and after talking to the owner, he manages to secure a job and living arrangements in the Happy Cafe. Of course the owner, Chen Guo is a huge fan of Glory and One Autumn Leaf, but doesn’t recognize Ye Xiu and puts him in his place for the first handful of episodes as he tries to figure out how to fix computers and work at the internet cafe.

But this is remarkably the beginning of the story. From here on out, we learn more of Ye Xiu’s past, in particular about another childhood friend and Su Mucheng’s brother Su Muqiu who was building a unique weapon in Glory to go with the “Unspecialized” character. Ye Xiu has no intention of just giving up on Glory – it is his life. Instead he decides to play the way he wants to, making a new character called “Lord Grim” in the “Unspecialized” class with the hopes of proving to his childhood friend that his weapon can make it to the top.

Along the way there are hurdles and challenges. The other pro-gamers, especially Sun Xiang who once they discover that Ye Xiu is playing Glory as a new character does their best to knock him down, attack him and his new friends in the game. However, they are all surprised by the weapon of the Unspecialized and even starting over he proves how much of a legend and expert in the game he is. It also starts him off on creating a new team filled with rookies, beginners and veterans. 

There is of course more to the show, a lot of it has to do with connections and using the game Glory for metaphors that helped the characters come to grips with certain aspects of their life. Many of the side characters are struggling with aspects of their life, yet Glory and playing Glory together helps them overcome these struggles and grow from them. 

To be honest, to see a show about eSports and pro gamers there is a lot of face to face discussions, encouragements, and friendship.

Another aspect of the show is how they split the show into the live action scenes and the CGI used to represent the game Glory. Half the story does surround this online game and I think they did a wonderful job creating the visuals of the game that almost makes it look like a real game. I had to ask my husband about the keyboard and mouse usage they did to make their spells and perform actions in the game – if they were real. To my husband they keyboard punching didn’t make much sense to him lol. Still they were able to create a CGI character that closely matched the appearance of the people playing the games and the special effects and action in the game is extremely entertaining! 

In the end, I highly recombine this show. I love the story, the plot, the characters, the aspects of this Glory game and all the energy that you feel when the characters are competing. I hope there is a second season, but I’m not going to hold my breath. They did a wonderful job wrapping everything in the last couple of episodes that I don’t want it all ruined.  So, please take the time and watch this series and let me know what your thoughts are.

‘Tis the Season

Christmas is only a week away, meaning that everywhere you look it shows. Stores are full of seasonal decorations, toys, gifts, etc., and even on TV holiday themed movies line the cue. I’ll admit i’ve been indulging in some of these Hallmark movies lately. They’re a bit corny and mostly predictable, but call it a guilty pleasure of mine.

At least I have finished all my shopping and baking for the season. I decided to go simple this year and focus on home-made gifts. So my sewing machine was working at full blast these past couple of weeks. I’ve created a number of triangle shaped Santas out of fabric, some Christmas tree shaped decorations with a cinnamon stick as the stump, and stuffed bird ornaments that seemed to be a tradition of mine now, (i’ve made them for three years now).

As for baking, I went all out! Fruit cake, gingerbread house and cookies, two different types of shortbread, one of which has lavender and two different types of truffles. I do find baking being one of the main events that helps me get into the spirit of the season. I’m not sure if it’s the sugar or the nostalgia feeling that comes around to make me feel that way, but i’m glad I had the time this year to really go at it and make several containers full of goodies.

Part of my baking and home-made gifts this year was to hand out flavoured butters instead of traditional gifts to those family members that i’ll be seeing on Christmas day. I’ve never made flavoured butter before, but thanks to Pintrest I’ve found four ‘easy’ recipes to try. The one good one I know turned out well was the cinnamon one, but I hope the other three turn out to be just as good to those who receive them. If it does turn out well, i’ll be sure to do it again for other get-togethers.

So now that I have Christmas all looked after, it’s time for me to get back into my writing and sending queries out to potential agents. For the past almost six months i’ve probably sent out a good 15-20 queries… and so far i’ve received rejections from almost 10 of them. The rest I’ve still haven’t heard either way. I’m sure most of those are instant rejection as i’ve heaven’s heard back in three months. Not only that, but the rejections i have received have all been the basic response – the whole ‘just not the right fit’, and to ‘keep trying’. I have to say it’s not just disappointing but frustrating that I don’t know if it’s just not the agent’s style or it’s my writing that are getting rejected. If it’s my writing… i’m not sure how to fix it.

In the mean time, i’ve completed another 50k novel for NaNoWriMo and i’m currently working on the sequel of the novel i’m currently seeking agents for. I hope I can get the sequel in better condition before sending it out to beta readers. I also have an adult fantasy novel in the works that I hope i can focus on in the new year as well. Until then, i’ll be trying to keep sending queries out and writing as much as I can. I’ll also try to keep up with my blog more in the new year.

I hope everyone else is having a good lead up to Christmas. It’s a time for kindness and giving and I hope that despite the commercialism, the stress and business of the season that spirit can still seep through.

In a state of Limbo

Thanksgiving is over here in Canada, meaning there is only a couple of weeks left between now and the start of NaNoWriMo. Many who are participating, including myself, are busy prepping their upcoming novel. My prepping started a couple of months ago, the idea coming to me a year or more ago and I am now getting down to the outlining.

Or was? My outline is done, my characters are created, even the side ones. I’ve outlined my scenes, worked on clearing up whatever plot holes I came across while outlining and here I am, trying to decide what to do or work on until November 1st.

I’m not twiddling my fingers, not all the time at least. I am busy querying my Paranormal Novel that i’ve completed and edited to the best of my capability. I’ve been querying off and on for the past four months – at least. It’s a slow process and the few rejections i’ve received so far has kept me back from sending out a slew of more. I am trying to send out at least three a week. Hopefully someone will see the promise in my work and i’ll find an Agent willing to represent me. Until then, it’s slow going in that area of my life.

A part of my brain is telling me to go back to the sequel to the paranormal novel, start my editing and re-writing process with it. To be honest, I need a new structure design as it keeps ending up being shorter than 50k in word length. The fact that I need to go back to the drawing board to figure out what side plots I should add in and focus on, as well as finding a way to draw out and add the required suspense has kept me away from the book. I hope come December I’ll be willing to take another deep dive into it and work it out as I did the first one.

In the meantime, I’m trying to look forward to Halloween. I have my 1st year Anniversary coming up on November 3 with my husband, which will put a kink in NaNo, but I’m willing to work around it. I’m filling my days watching horror and halloween movies on TV. I may start posting some more blog posts on the interesting ones I stumble upon. Unfortunately my husband is not a fan of horror or scary movies so I don’t get a partner to cuddle with during the frightening scenes.

I’ve also been going back into my archive and digging around in some of my old novel ideas i’ve written down. Done some outlining for another supernatural story surrounding a half-human, half-spirit (or demon) character, a witch, and an oracle/seer at the end of the WW1. Sort of a rescue mission across the war torn fields of Europe littered with necromancers, zombies, ghouls and of course Vampires. That requires a lot more research, but the basic story is at least written down.

So that’s the state of my brain at the moment. Eager to start my NaNo novel, but must wait until the start of November. Trying to fill my days with something productive and enriching so that it doesn’t seem i’m glued to the TV. I definitely feel that i’m in a stat of limbo, or the calm before the storm that is National Novel Writing Month.

Kings of the Wyld – Review

Kings of the Wild
By Nicholas Eames

I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to pick up a recent fantasy book. It’s not that I’m not looking, but with the mountain of books at the bookstores I feel at a lost on what’s the newest hip and hopping trends. I know I need to get back into the scene, learn who’s the new popular sellers and what is being written these days. That’s not to say I’m not reading, in fact I’ve been more interested in going back to the beginning and reading more of the classic authors of the genres. My husband has a great collection of these old books and I’m starting to build up my own library with classic authors I’ve never had a chance to read before. 

So, it was a surprise when a friend of ours started going on and on about this new book he purchased. Given that we are all into the fantasy genre, and our friend has recently been introduced to Dungeons and Dragons, the way he described this book was infectious. I was able to borrow it and man, I think I read it within a week or two.  Full of non-stop action, humour and adventure, I’m so excited to review it for you all and hope that I can convey the same infectious excitement around it.

Back Cover Blurb:

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renounced crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. Their glory days long past, the mercy have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help – the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for. It’s time to get the band back together.

Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames

Already, right from the back cover blurb we are dealing with ‘retired’ adventurers, all grown apart, living their own lives, getting drunk, old and fat. I mean, that in itself is so different from every other fantasy book out there. Maybe I’m stuck in my YA fantasy faze back in high school, but I don’t think there are a lot of fantasy books that deal with adventures, I mean the entire group of adventures all past their prime.

So, as it states above, Clay Cooper is a retired mercenary, he has a wife and a young daughter, and is currently working in his home town as a guard. He has an aversion to helmets – which is hilarious and makes perfect sense, and a shield made out of an Ent called Blackheart. His past returns when he spots his fellow ‘bandmate’ Gabriel on the the step of his house. Warn, dirty and looking like he is starving, the two reminisce about the ‘good old days’.  That’s when Gabriel lets out the reason why he showed up on Clay’s doorstep. His daughter, Rose has become a mercenary just like him, of course against her mother’s wishes. But it is worse. She has joined a number of bands of mercenaries to cross the Wyld west to the Endland to help the city Castia who was currently berated by a word of monsters all from the Wyld. News of the onslaught, followed by the city now under siege has spread and many believe those trapped inside the city will soon be dead, if they aren’t already. Therefore, to Clay, the mission his friend brought to get the band back together and rescue his daughter was a suicide mission, however, in the end he agrees.

The majority of the book follows Clay and Gabriel as they try to track down and reform their band called Saga. They soon reconnect with their wizard Moog, even older than Clay and Gabriel, and who’s magic never seems to go off correction and usually causes more harm than good. Moog is also the one with the ideas that are quickly followed by him saying: “It’s risky.” 

I will say this, Moog was my favourite character throughout the book. Full of humour, he breaks every tension with a wrong spell, an eccentric personality, and quick wit. I love him!

Back to the band, the next member they collect is their rouge, turned King Matrick who is fat, a drunk and has six children – none of whom are biologically his. It turns out to Clay that getting these two on their side for a suicide mission was much easier than ever imagined. Their finally member, Ganelon, their barbarian if I’ve ever heard one described. Turns out getting him is much more difficult since he was sentence to years as stone for killing a prince. However, the band is successful, if only temporarily on resurrecting him, thanks to Moog, but having to fight in an arena to fully gain their freedom.

Of course there are more plots to this book than just trying to get the band back together. There is a Durin (humanoid rabbit, with an immortal lifespan) wanting revenge against them and also trying to rule the world and destroy Castria. There is the Wyld itself, a massive forest full of dark and dangerous creatures, and a disease called the ‘rot’ that can be caught within the forest. Our ‘hero’s’ are out of shape and are robbed more than once, and the newer, young mercenaries are more about appearances than achievements. Then there is also a winged humanoid bounty hunter called Larkspur after Matrick (given that they faked his death and now the queen is after him). Not to mention that everywhere Saga seems to go, so does violence and destruction. 

Needless to say the book is full of action. Nicholas Eames does a great job and weaving action, comedy and consequences through the book. At times I feel I’m reading a D&D adventure in the works, or a blockbuster movie. This is high fantasy as it should be. Tackling some great themes of friendship, loyalty, and family along with well written 3 dimensional characters full of past guilt, trauma, and pain. Eames also has a very unique ways of ending a chapter and starting the next… some chapters end on a high conflict note, but the next chapter will start with a overview of the aftermath of such a fight or conflict. At first you may feel cheapened out of an experience, but the way Eames describes the outcome makes satisfying enough that you just laugh out loud. For example one chapter ends with a group of younger mercenaries who insult Clay and Ganleon, ending with a ‘shouldn’t have done that’ feeling. The next chapter states that the pub/inn they were in burnt to the ground that night in an epic brawl. I think that’s genius. 

It’s hard to wrap up the rest of this book. All I can say that the epic battle you expect to happen at the book more than just delivers, it makes you cheer and yell with excitement and sadness. If you are in search for some high fantasy epic, packed with humour I highly recommend this book. Be warned, it’s hard to put down and I had a number of late nights reading. I’ve been recommending this to everyone I see, now I recommend this to all of you. 

Love Alarm – TV Review

What can I say, yet again I find myself falling in love with a South Korean Romance Drama. Released on Netflix, where I seem to find all the best Korean and other Asian TV shows, Love alarm is actually based off a webtoon by Chon Kye-young. This live adaptation hooked me on the first episode and I binged the entire first season in less than a week.

So on with the Review. The basis around Love Alarm is that of your typical high school romance love triangle. Though, very unique and full of emotion and angst. Love alarm itself is an app that “downloads/scans” your heart to match you with someone you like. Basically, if you and someone you like have the app on, and you are within 10 meter radius, their Love Alarm with ring out saying “Someone in a 10 meter radius loves you”. 

As you can guess, a technology like this can be both wonderful and disruptive at the same time. While watching the show, I could see the benefits if someone is shy, or recluse and wanting to tell someone they like them but is too afraid. This app would do it for them without them having to say a word. On the other hand, the dangers, disruption and turmoil can have very negative connotations that are semi explored in the episodes. For example; because the app ‘scans’ your heart, if you are LGBQT it may set off the alarm of someone of the same sex who does not identify in that way. There is one or two examples of this in the episodes where kids are getting beat up on because of this exact thing. It would also diminish the person right to come out on their own if the app does it for them by accident.

Another negative that is briefly explored at the end of the first season, which I hope will be continued on in the second (hopefully), is that of people who never have their Love Alarmed dinged their entire life (well four years in the show since it was first launched). Going through life, never finding someone who loves them is painfully depressing and in the episode, there is a mass suicide because of it. 

So, that is the basis of the Love Alarm App, and we can see the teenage angst that can go along with it. The show does a little back and forth with the timeline, but the first half to 3/4 of the forest season is set in high school, with the app just being launched two weeks ago. 

But let’s get to our main characters. First we have Kim Jo-Jo. Orphaned and living with her aunt and cousin Park Gul-mi. She works not only at their variety store, but also at a barbecue restaurant as a waitress. Also working at the same restaurant is Lee Hye-yeong who secretly likes Jo-jo, but is nervous/afraid to put his feelings on the line. He also starts off a little stalker-like in the first episode following Jo-jo after her shift to the bus station and watching her with obvious ‘love’, but still not approaching her. Then there is Hwang Sun-oh, a handsome model from a rich family (where Hye-yeong and his mother live and work). He too falls for Jo-jo.

So we already see the love triangle put in place. Two best friends in love with the same girl. The girl dealing with a lot of stress from her unhappy home life and also trauma from her past (which is explained later in the first season). Both guys I feel are a little stalker-like, but Sun-oh comes off as the more ‘aggressive’ in the relationship. Maybe because of his confidence, he steals a kiss from Jo-jo to prove a point and when he and Hye-yeong realize they both love Jo-Jo, decide to let the love alarm app to choose. 

I felt this very unfair, as Jo-Jo, as much as working with Hye-yeong, never noticed him or knew anything about him. However Hye-yeong takes the challenge and defeat as a gentleman when Sun-oh wins and his love alarm app dings by Jo-Jo. From there Hye-yeong avoids entering Jo-Jo’s 10 meter radius, and when they do accidently meet up, hides her before Sun-oh could catch them. He then deletes the app entirely, which I feel was an awesome choice.

However, the relationship between Jo-Jo and Sun-oh soon falls apart. I won’t go into detail as it’s a great scene and couple of episodes that I don’t want to ruin for anyone. Basically there is an accident and Sun-oh’s parents refuse to let their son see this girl, and threatens to send Sun-oh back to America because of his behaviour. Jo-Jo is worried about not only her heart from breaking but the pain she caused Sun-oh. She receives an app from a fellow student, who tried to showcase his love towards her cousin Gul-mi, who flat out refused him in a painful verbally abusive and public way. He gives her a “shield”, an addition to the Love Alarm App that would block her app from ringing anyone she loves. But, there is a risk. The app is permanent, and can only be removed by the developer of the app. In a weak moment Jo-Jo enacts the shield, and pushes Sun-oh away.

We now fast forward to four years (I think?), the main characters have grown and are now out in the world. Jo-Jo is saving for college and working at a hall that does weddings. Sun-oh not only moved back to America but has recently returned with a new girlfriend and Hye-yeong after running into Jo-Jo again after so long starts to asking her out and continues to do kind gestures for her when he sees her. Since he has deleted his Love Alarm app, he tells her he wants to get to know her the old fashion way, going out on dates and such without an app to tell them if they are in love or not. Again, bringing around to the fact of humanity wanting an app to do all the stuff for them.

There are other issues going on, like I said earlier there is a mass suicide discovered by people who have never had one person ding their Love Alarm app. On the other hand there are now boutiques and cafes designed for people who have had their Love Alarm go off by thousands. In a sense, only those in that specific club may enter. There are also now protests happening against the Love Alarm App, crying that it is creating discrimination given these cafes and such opening, and the desire for people to have their app dinged by more admirers. 

Then there is Love Alarm itself. It is releasing a new version 2.0.

If that’s not all, Jo-Jo is reunited with Sun-oh, who despite hating her for breaking up with him, still sets her Love Alarm off whenever they are in the 10 meter radius. Which doesn’t bode well given that Sun-oh’s new girlfriend whom he has never been able to ding her Love Alarm app. 

As you can see, drama is happening! I won’t go into any more details of the series, but highly recommend everyone to watch it as it is so wonderful and I cried so much  near the end of the sacrificial love that Jo-Jo does to Sun-oh, and how much I wish for her to find someone who will love her no matter what. I am defiantly a fan of Hye-yeong and really hope the two of them finally get together, but the history and love is still there between Jo-Jo and Sun-oh, so we’ll see how that turns out. The series does end on an amazing, nail bitting cliffhanger that made me scream when I realized there wasn’t any more. I really hope Netflix can get a second season soon because I am dying to find out what happens next!

July Camp NaNo

That’s right, it’s Camp NaNo season again. For me, July is always that pinnacle month full of heat waves, summer vacations, beach trips or just laying back on the patio. It’s also my first summer that I am not officially working since high school. That means I have no excuse to write a full book this month for Camp NaNoWriMo.

Thankfully I’m set. I’ve been planning this book for almost a year? Maybe closer to eight months, but I’ve taken all the advice, suggestions and tips given to me over the years by previous NaNoWriMo members, authors, and bloggers. My book is officially outlined, my characters designed and ready, I’ve even managed to work out my magic system ahead of schedule. I’ve drawn maps of the city, even an overview map of the content with neighbouring countries. This book is in the bag.

It also means, given my focus on Camp that I’m once again setting my quarrying aside. Recently I sat down with a friend and beta reader and she gave me some excellent suggestions, even agreeing to certain scenes I pulled in the latest draft to be inserted. It seemed we were both on the same mind track and I was glad to bounce ideas and scenes off of her to get an honest reply. Because of that I want to hold off on sending any more queries out. I want to work on those pulled scenes and do another run through before gathering my courage once more to send things out.

July is going to be a busy month more so as it’s also the Shop Hop month. I might have mentioned it in the past, but Shop Hop is a month were selective quilt stores in Southern Ontario get together and create a block with the same colour scheme. I did this maybe 2 years ago? Anyways, 15 stores design a block, and you travel to each store and pick up their block for free. There are typically door prizes and ballets at each store with bigger prizes for those who traveled to all fifteen stores and placed their final ballot in. Those grand prizes are usually a massive sewing or embroidery machine, along with threads and other higher end quilting related prizes.

I just picked up my first block from one of the local quilt stores participating. I’m in a bit of a funk as the theme is winter and the colour scheme seems to be light blue. My last shop hop quilt was in blue, arguably more on the darker shades, but still blue and white. I was really hoping for a different colour this year, like green or purple. So I’m on the fence if I want to participate or not. I might go to a few more and let it all sink in further. 

So, until July ends I may not be around – not that I’ve been around lately either. But I’ll try to get some posts ready for August and the Fall. Maybe I’ll finally be able to announce my podcast this fall…. That could be stretching things, but I’ll keep working. For the others who are participating in Camp NaNo, good luck and I hope you reach your writing goals.

The Querying Process

It is with great excitement and trepidation that I’m ready to start querying my novel. After almost ten years of working on it, 2 editorial reviews, and at least 3 beta readers, I feel it is time to start sending it off to literary agents.

It’s a frightening process for me – and I thought sending my manuscript off to editors was frightening, but this takes it to a new level. For the first time I’m actually pitching my book, or trying to at least. I’ve tackled maybe half dozen websites on how to write a query letter, and also been trying to scour the internet for possible agents. 

I’m having a rough time finding agents power. I don’t know if it’s my genera or age group. I’ve decided to try promoting my work as New Adult. From the concusses on Twitter, since my MC is eighteen and in University, along with the rest of the gang being at least 19-23 years old, YA may not be the right age group – however I do encourage cross over between the two groups. My other issue is the genre itself. If I had my way I would all it a Paranormal Adventure – hands down. However, I’ve yet to see that label on any agent’s list. Instead I’m labeling it an Urban Fantasy – which in the broad sense of the word, it is. It has to do with a psychic girl, an shape shifting evil spirit, and occult magic, all set in a modern day University. 

So I’m holding my breath. I’m going to send my query out to hopefully the two so far on my list of agents this weekend and wish for the best. I’ll be participating in #pitmad – a pitch wars setting on twitter this June. Which means I need to edit and condense my pitch. 

In the mean time, I’d be all ears if anyone knows of a good site with a decent list of literary agents to visit. I also hope to share good news in the future if this querying goes well.