Archive for September, 2012

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The Pet Hunter Diaries: Thrill Of The Hunt

September 12, 2012

Dear Diary,

New Acquisitions: 9
Current Total: 151

Every time I write to you I feel like a big nerd. Oh who am I kidding, I am a big nerd.

As you can see, I’ve reached my pre-World of Warcraft expansion goal of 150 unique pets. One reason for that is I made out like a bandit leveling the last 16 points I needed to max Archaeology. It was a pain in the ass, but I managed to score two pets and a mount out of it. Not bad for about an hour of work.

Another factor which helped a lot was the Darkmoon Faire which was in town last week. Can you believe it’s only been my second time at the Faire since it moved to Darkmoon Island? And the first time didn’t even really count because I was only able to catch the tail end of it for a day or two. And yet I’m pretty sure I can play all the effing games there in my sleep now, seeing as I did them every day on no less than six characters to be able to get all the pets at once (now that they’re account wide). It didn’t exactly happen this month, but it sure as hell will next month.

Of course I’m ecstatic about my achievement, but at the same time…I’m getting this nagging feeling in the back of my mind like I cheated a bit because three new additions were actually redeemed through loot cards from the WoW Trading Card Game (TCG). I debated, I debated, I debated, and finally caved and just bought these dirt cheap common cards off eBay.

Okay, so I know it was the wise choice. It’s really not much different from buying aesthetic items from a game’s item shop, no? Probably cheaper too. Prices ranged from $0.99 to $4.50, and as several people have pointed out to me already, considering the time investment and effort it requires for me to gain one pet in game these days, the price is definitely worth it.

Still, I’m loathe to spend real money on vanity pets, because if I didn’t I would have all the ones from the Blizzard store already. Right now I only own Lil’ XT because he was a free gift for being a former WoW Mobile Armory subscriber as well as the Pandaren Monk and Moonkin Hatchling because when I bought them a part of their proceeds went to charity. Otherwise, I would generally prefer to leave “buyable” pets out of my collection as that just feels a little like an easy way out. After all, it’s the hunt that counts, no? Although, I guess one can argue that the bidding war I had over a couple of these cards can also be considered a chase of sorts.

Dear Diary, not saying I won’t continue to pad my collection in the future with more real life purchases, but how ’bout we just promise not to make a habit of it? Okay, sounds good to me.

Happy hunting,

MMOGC

Latest field notes and recently hunted pets:

Curious Wolvar Pup

Am a big moron. Not really “new” pet, but missed being counted after patch 5.0.4 (this is why I write, D.) Thought only had Oracle pet, forgot had done Children’s Day quest a million years ago for this little guy on alt. Which alt? When? Who cares! Was nice surprise “bonus” pet, reward for helping some orphans.

Sea Pony

Nothing more irritating than fishing pets, but surprisingly painless. Random guy on dock beside me hooked him in 5-6 casts, made me want to jump and beat snot out of him to steal sea pony. Luckily fished up my own in about 60-70 casts. Urge to kill gone immediately. Only available during Darkmoon Faire from fishing off shores of island.

Darkmoon Monkey

Between this month’s tickets and last month’s paltry haul on main, had just enough to buy one Darkmoon pet before Faire left town. Chose monkey, because everybody loves monkeys. Especially monkeys wearing red fezzes. This is truth.

Clockwork Gnome

AKA Jeeves’ lazy cousin as he will not fix your armor, sell you stuff or do banking, just stand there looking pretty. Unbeknownst to me, project had been sitting in archaeology queue under Dwarf artifacts for who knows how long.

Voodoo Figurine

Another archaeology find, troll artifact. From description: “Often powered by flasks of mojo, troll sweat, the flesh of tribal enemies, or by DEVOURING TINY PORTIONS OF THEIR OWNERS’ SOULS.” Uh, crap, what? Wait, there’s more: “But don’t worry. Teeny, tiny little portions. You won’t even notice they’re gone.” Oh, good. Was worried for a sec there.

Sand Scarab

From WoW TCG expansion “Tomb of the Forgotten”. Very common and also cheapest of pet loot cards purchased. Maybe people don’t particularly like bugs? Admittedly, little guy is sort of creepy. Takes certain kind of love to appreciate insect bigger than your boot.

Purple Puffer

From WoW TCG expansion “Throne of the Tides”. Looks horrifyingly ugly on card illustration, but surprisingly cute in-game. Like Sea Pony, swims around in own little bubble which floats after owner, quite cruel if you think about it. Am disappointed that despite name, little guy does not have “puffing up” animation. Missed opportunity.

Gregarious Grell

From WoW TCG expansion “Crown of the Heavens”. Sports mullet, lots of piercings, and will look fantastic and right at home running beside warlock alt. Wait, Sand Scarab, Purple Puffer, Gregarious Grell. Purposeful alliteration? Or myself just slow to pick up on “old news”? Either way, I shall dub him Grayson.

Celestial Dragon

Received this latest escapee from the celestial menagerie for completing “Littlest Pet Shop” achievement, requiring possession of 150 unique companions. Since Patch 5.0.4, pet achievement rewards apparently no longer mailed as he appeared automagically in pet journal. Reward for collecting pets — even more pets. Go figure.

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KoM Does Ascalonian Catacombs

September 10, 2012

Last Saturday night, the stars must have aligned because I finally managed to cobble a Guild Wars 2 group together for Knights of Mercy’s first completed run of Ascalonian Catacombs. Ultimately we had one level 80 (Kahill), one 60ish (Bippa), one 40ish (Kriin), and two 35s (myself and the mister) but in keeping with the game’s philosophy of level and adjustment we were all scaled down to the story-mode dungeon’s appropriate level of 30.

Before I begin, I want to separate and make a distinction between the overall experience I had (it was a blast!) from my thoughts and opinions of the actual instance itself (on this matter I have a lot on my mind).

I’ll just start by saying this — whether you will enjoy AC (or I guess GW2 instances by extension) will be heavily dependent upon your personality type and on the reasons why you choose to do group instanced content. If you like the traditional order and planning that goes into an instance run, can appreciate the beauty of everything running smoothly like a well-oiled machine and the myriad steps coming together just perfectly to culminate into success…well then, you’ll probably find GW2’s instances lacking. In contrast, if you’re the more laid back type, enjoy working creatively with others, are less achievement-driven and don’t mind too much the occasional randomness or when things get chaotic…you’ll love it.

Myself, I think I fall right smack in the middle of these two extremes, which is why I’m not surprised I came out of AC with mixed feelings. As someone used to playing support roles like healers and tanks, I have to say the experience distressed me — but not for the reasons you would think. In fact, I initially thought that getting used to not being part of a trinity would be a problem for me, but here I surprised myself because in reality, moving past that was so very easy.

Yes, in most games I’m usually a healer and more often the tank — but do you know why? It’s certainly not because I particularly relish the role of being the meatshield and taking damage for others, and I was actually more than happy to shed that responsibility. While I like playing support roles, they’re definitely not as fun as being DPS and being able to pew-pew-pew-pew-pew to your heart’s desire. Plus, as any experienced tank or healer will tell you, sometimes it’s stressful as HELL. But I do it anyway, because what I really love is helping others. As in having the ability to keep others, especially my friends, alive.

Now I’m not saying you don’t have that kind of dynamic in GW2 groups, because if anything, you’ll find that pretty much everything you do will be helpful to your party, just in more subtle ways. The only difference is, there will be nothing like an “oh-shit heal” or “snap aggro” to save the day. Chances are, you will be watching your fellow friends and adventurers fall to defeat like flies around you, time and time again. In the end, it was this nagging guilt I ultimately found to be the most distressing, because I am used to being able to “rescue” others, not because I missed not having a role.

Fallen.

The good news is, I got over it quick. I had no choice, because the truth is, you will probably die in AC. Not only that, you will probably die a lot. You get used to it, and that’s just the truth of it. In fact, I see many indications that this is actually meant to happen, which I will go into later.

Like so many aspects of GW2, when it comes to the matter of difficulty, the first instance also serves to illustrate an example of yet another duality — in some ways it’s so easy, in other ways it’s so hard. Initial trash mobs actually gave us more trouble than two of the bosses, namely Master Ranger Nente and Kasha Blackblood, as we took both of them down first try without anyone being defeated. Other encounters, like the lovers Ralena and Vassar required our group getting a little creative. Having no tanks and aggro in this game, we instead relied on knockbacks, roots and boulders to separate them and keep them apart.

King Adelbern was another story. There really is no other way to put it, he was a bitch of a fight. We fell to the final boss again and again and again. And yet, there was actually never any uncertainty that he was going to go down and we were going to come away with a dead, grumpy ghost at our feet. Not once did we ever have to stop and say to each other, “Oh crap, guys, there’s a real possibility that we might not be able to do this,” the reason being a waypoint located a mere hop-and-a-skip away from the encounter. Yes, during the fight it’s best to try and stay alive, but if defeated, continuing the fight involved no more than warping back up and running back in again.

Once again, I thought I was going to hate this aspect of GW2’s dungeon fights, but in the end I found myself strangely fine with it. As one of my guildies said, “EMBRACE THE ZERG!” That became my mantra. Not only that, these instances were tested extensively and I have faith in ArenaNet’s competence that I do not doubt that the encounter would have been what it was if they hadn’t intended for things to be like this. I truly believe everything is the way it is for a reason.

I have some thoughts as to what those reasons might be, of course. For one thing, taking the away the “fear of wiping” allows the group to become more confident in experimenting with their abilities — an important effect, considering this is story-mode in a starter instance. With experience, I’m sure the reliance on zerging will go away, but at this point, without that threat of failure looming over our heads it was amazing how much of the pressure was lifted. It made us more relaxed and apt to get creative, encouraging everyone to look around and try to string combos with our fellow group members.

Speaking of combos, all I have to say is: learn them, try to remember them. After Kahill primed our group on combos, we all took a moment to inform each other of our builds and skills, as well as learn how to recognize what to watch for from others and how to follow up with our own set of abilities. I won’t go as far as to say combos will make the instance easier, because with constant movement, issues with positioning, and just in general random unforeseen circumstances happening all around you (not to mention that most combo effect durations are very brief), chances are you won’t be able to pull off most of the ones you attempt. But, it does make things infinitely more fun!

Utilizing combo fields.

So that’s what I was doing during the last fight when we weren’t worrying over wiping or failing — experimenting, getting creative, messing about, thinking, observing, learning. Admittedly, it does take the fun of organization and execution out of group play, but then again, the type of freedom I just described would not have been possible in a million years if the encounter had been designed any other way. At one point, Blue Kae (Kriin) mentioned that the fights actually reminded him of those from Champions Online, and I have to agree. That was another MMO which allowed you to embrace “the self” and superhero-dom, relying more on simply letting you enjoy your own skills, and less on adapting them to roles.

That said, I shudder to think what my experience in AC would have been like if I had been with a PuG. At least in this learning phase, I highly recommend going with a guild group or people you know (but then again, I advocate that for all group content anyway, regardless of game/instance/experience!) because the more you communicate and learn your own and each others’ play styles, the easier and more predictable things will get, not to mention the many more opportunities you will get to synergize. It’s much better than trying to second guess or anticipate a stranger’s actions every time.

Ultimately, my AC run with my guild has been an eye-opener. There were aspects of it that pleased me greatly but at the same time things that irked me to no end. Going back to what I said at the beginning of this article, how you personally feel about them will depend on who you are. I for one would not get too hung up on people’s claims of what GW2 did “right” or what they did “wrong” when it comes to their instances. To me, that’s akin to debating what thunderstorms do right, or what the color red does right, or what the taste of pickles does right. GW2 dungeons are different, but they are what they are.

I also meant it when I said that I believe everything is the way it is for a reason. Whether you like them or not is going to come down to taste, which is as personal as whether you like piña coladas or getting caught in the rain (and in case you’re wondering, I think piña coladas are too sweet, though I don’t mind getting caught in the rain. It’s incidentally why I also like thunderstorms, though I am ambivalent towards the color red. Pickles, on the other hand, I happen hate hate hate hate hate hate HATE the taste of them).

If you’ve stuck around this long and are still reading, I just have one final thing to say: if you find yourself heading into AC for the first time, the best advice I can give, and that I personally followed, is: 1) play with friends! 2) stay flexible and keep and open mind! 3) Just sit back and enjoy this gripping tale about a fallen city — being a fan of the Ghosts of Ascalon novel, being able to stand amidst the ruins of this significant place was especially poignant. Do all this, and it won’t really matter how you feel about the instance or its fight mechanics or its design and all that crap…because you will be having too much fun to care.

Group shot.

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Sims 3 Saturday: The Summer Of 69

September 8, 2012

69 babies, that is. It’s Saturday, so you know what that means — time for another installment of the Sims 3 “Family Man” Challenge series. Warning: we are in for some drama this week.

As you know, last week I broke my previous record for this challenge. I mean, at 50 children, I practically blasted it away (old record was 37). However, this doesn’t mean my Sim is going to stop trying for more, because I’m still very interested in seeing how much higher this number can go. It’s just that, you know…we can relax a little. Have a bit of fun.

My Sim joyriding in his expensive car. Cue “Night at the Roxbury” music.

Another thing — my Sim also became an elder last week. He’s nearing the end of his life and can get a visit from the Grim Reaper at any moment — and since this is The Sims, I mean that quite literally! The poor guy has spent the bulk of his life in his bedroom between the sheets, I figured it’s high time for him go out and live a little. As well, I’m looking forward to stirring the pot and causing some drama in the neighborhood worthy of The Young and the Restless. Mark my words, before my Sim dies, he’ll be sure to throw a party inviting all his children…and their mothers. It’ll be like Fight Club.

As usual we start off with the announcements of a new wave of latest births: Juliet Stump gave birth to twins, bringing our count up to 52. Madison VanWatson gave birth to a boy, making it 53. Sharla Bills gave birth to a girl, 54.

After getting pregnant again, neither Madison or Sharla will be able to have any more babies, since their households will become full (8 Sims per household is the max). Once again, my Sim is going to have to go out and meet some potential new mothers if he’s going to keep the birthrate up. This is starting to become a problem. Quite frankly, the neighborhood is starting to run out of eligible women that my Sim hasn’t already romanced (and/or knocked up).

It’s so, so wrong (well, kind of wrong in the real world, but not one bit in the Sims world) but I had no choice but to do it. Rewind back to the Sims 3 Saturday post four weeks ago, when my Sim experienced the most awkward and derpy moment of his life after he invited a Sim named Kaylynn Langerak over to romance only to find out she was still a teenager and in high school. Of course, once he realized his mistake, she was promptly showed the door.

Kaylynn’s first kiss. My Sim’s 348,325th kiss.

Well, many Sims days later, little jail bait Kaylynn is all grown up. The game now classifies her as an adult, and thus is fair game for my Sim to romance (so wrong). In fact, my Sim has been waiting for this moment for a while, maintaining a not-creepy-at-all friendship with Kaylynn even after all this time so that when she has her birthday he can jump right in (even more wrong). My grey-haired Sim and young, vivacious Kaylynn shared their first kiss after he confessed his attraction to her at her house, right in front of her parents because she still lived at home (wrong, wrong, wrong)! She’s always had a crush on me, okay? That’s the story I’m sticking with!

The thing is, I really like Kaylynn. A neat freak and a perfectionist, her personality simply jives with my Sim’s. He has not felt this way for another since Ayesha Ansari. Throwing caution to the wind, he decides to ask her out on a romantic date, hoping for an opportunity to get to know her better without her family around getting in the way. But to do this, my Sim still had to keep Kaylynn from knowing about the other women whose children I fathered, so we chose to meet up at a secluded fishing pond nestled in the hills.

First date out in the middle of nowhere. Watch out for that poison ivy.

It was exactly the thing they both needed. After making out in the woods, they went home to my Sim’s house and woohooed for a baby.

However, to make up for both Sharla’s and Madison’s full households, ideally I needed to romance one more woman. My Sim looked up his contact list to see if there were any other lady Sims on it that he hadn’t made a romantic interest yet. As it turned out, the only other woman I could call over? Iliana Langerak…Kaylynn’s mom. Dun dun dun.

We’ll be right back after the break, because it’s time to update with another wave of babies (because all this time my Sim has been keeping busy): Jess Eastman gave birth to twins, bringing our total to 56. Toya Reid also gave birth to twins, making that 58. Madison gave birth again, to a boy (her last child), 59. Monika Morris gave birth to a boy, 60. Another cycle later, Toya gave birth to another baby boy, 61. Monika gave birth to another boy, so now it’s 62.

“So you’re sure Jared doesn’t suspect a thing?”

A funny story with Monika — when I tried for a baby with her afterward, the option was greyed out, telling me her household was too full for her to become pregnant right now. But that didn’t seem right, as by my calculation there should be one more Sim slot available. A quick check told me that she was actually married, to Jared Frio. Jared and his wife lived in their house with six children — yep, all of them actually mine. I had Monika kick Jared out, forcing him to move in with his brother Connor Frio, thus freeing up the vacated last spot for Monika’s and my Sim’s final child. By the way, don’t bother feeling too bad for Jared, he’s a jerk.

Back to the babies. Bless that fertility treatment lifetime reward, because it’s a parade of twin girls! Tracy Connor gave birth to twin girls. 64! Juliet gave birth to twin girls. 66! And finally, my Sim’s new love Kaylynn Langerak ended up giving birth to twin girls! 68! It was a happy day indeed.

I guess now is a good time to reveal another shocking event — Agnes Crumplebottom, my Sim’s fiancee and only long-term steady relationship, decided to move to another town. Basically, the game took her away, along with her and my Sim’s seven children. Apparently, these moves by the game are completely random, but I personally like to think that she finally got tired of waiting around for my Sim to marry her, grew a backbone and dumped his ass at last.

My Sim actually let Iliana sleep over? Wow.

We now return to the Langerak Saga. With Agnes now gone, my Sim feels he needs a new steady girlfriend. Could Kaylynn be that special someone? After the birth of their daughters, he moved her into her own home so she could start her own household with their new family.

Still, despite his deep feelings for Kaylynn, my Sim, horrible person that he is, could not help himself and invited Iliana, Kaylynn’s mother, over for some romancing. Needless to say, things got out of hand when the evening ended up with the two of them in bed, and Iliana pregnant. Her little boy became baby 69 for my Sim, the half-brother of Iliana’s daughter Kaylynn, as well as the half-brother of Kaylynn’s own children, hers and my Sim’s twins. Confusing, isn’t it?

Poor Kaylynn. What ever will she say about this? Or should the better question be, will she even find out?

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Back To Queensdale

September 6, 2012

I think I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that out of all the starting areas I experienced in Guild Wars 2, my favorite was Queensdale. Well, I’m very happy to be back there now, working my way through the map and enjoying its bucolic picturesque landscapes.

No, I haven’t started playing on an alt. In fact, I’ve pretty much lost all motivation for alting in this game, for two reasons — 1) because if I’m on an alt that means my husband isn’t around to be playing together on our mains, and I’ve discovered that unlike other MMOs, I just can’t seem to enjoy GW2 when I’m by my lonesome. And 2) that my alting time is usually limited to during the day when the in-game population is low, and as some of my friends on Twitter have already noticed and pointed out, it becomes nigh impossible to do some of the better and bigger group events when there aren’t enough people around.

So I’m actually back in Queensdale on my main, Kilioe the Sylvari Guardian. I admit I was first lured there by copper. I need tons and tons of it for crafting! Not to mention some lower level gems. I don’t usually craft when leveling up in an MMO (it’s not my favorite thing to do), but GW2 has been different — the experience you gain for doing it is significant enough that I actually feel compelled to. I’m so ambivalent towards this aspect in games that I don’t think I’ll ever decide to craft for crafting’s sake, but I have to say that GW2’s crafting has done more to appeal to me than any other game, even if crafting is still bleh and I and am being solely motivated by the experience gain alone! It’s something, right?

And that’s not all — I love that I can go back to lower level zones for whatever reason — gathering starter crafting materials, in this case — and still feel like I’m accomplishing something, because my level is adjusted and doing the hearts, dynamic events, farming gathering nodes, etc. all give me experience, plus I’m also working towards completing the map. What is that, like, two, three, four birds with one stone?

So that’s what I’ve been up to in GW2 lately. We’re into September now, when gaming life is starting to get a little crazy. While I’m usually terrible at juggling games, I have to say GW2 is working out very nicely as a casual and fun diversion, just as I’d intended. Having no subscription fee, I certainly don’t feel pressured to play it as much as I can, but at the same time I’m also playing more than I expected, despite not having that sense of that “urgency” tickling at the back of my mind.

Just the other day, in fact, I discovered I’m not going as slow as I thought I was. In a guild discussion about organizing runs for Ascalon Catacombs, I could have sworn my character was barely high enough, hovering in the high 20s. To my surprise and embarrassment, I logged in and discovered I was actually level 31! Methinks the scaling down of levels has been screwing with my mind.

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Read Lately…

September 4, 2012

Instead of “Read Lately…” the title of this post should more accurately called “Read In The Last 15 Months” because it appears it has been that long since I last wrote a book post. It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized how long it has been, when some of my guildies and I started chatting about books over vent while playing Guild Wars 2. That’s right, conversations here at Knights of Mercy do occasionally revolve around intellectual topics. What? They do! Stop laughing!

No matter how busy I am with gaming, I always find time to read and I am never without at least one book in my currently-reading list. Since I didn’t quite make it last year, I’m still trying for my Goodreads Reading Challenge of reading 100 novels this year (currently up to 77 now, in case you’re wondering). By the way, if you’re an avid reader and still haven’t joined Goodreads, what are you waiting for? I practically live on there.

Needless to say, I’ve read a ton of great books in the last year or so, and I had a hard time picking only a handful to talk about for this post; that will teach me not to wait so long again. But since I love sci-fi and fantasy, those are the genres I mostly stuck with. The following is just a small sample of the books that have resonated with me, or have been memorable in one way or another, and that I would recommend.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Like the legions of people who have picked up this book lately, I was first intrigued by the trailer for the upcoming film based on it. Now that I’ve read it, I’m more curious than ever. It’s not particularly an ideal book to make an adaptation. It’s like six separate stories all nested within each other like a Russian matryoshka doll, its characters only having a tenuous link to each other. Like six novellas, the first five split in half, interrupted right in the middle, only to be continued after the sixth story is told to completion. Does this even make sense? Every time I try to explain it, I’m given arched eyebrows and the nod-and-smile-at-crazy-MMOGC expressions. You can see why I am curious how this will fly as a movie.

The stories are set in different times, different places, each has its own themes and even its own written style. As such, I don’t even really know how to classify this book — it is science fiction, it is fantasy; it is also historical fiction, and it is mystery. It also has a dash of romance and a bit of thriller. David Mitchell has done something amazing, giving each of his six protagonists a distinct voice and personality. The book is thematically quite heavy, with lots to think about during and after reading, but ultimately also very enjoyable to read.

Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

On the opposite of the spectrum, you have Monster Hunter International, which is what I like to call a “guilty pleasure book” or “popcorn book” because it’s so full of mindless fun. It’s full of cheese and cliches, but I would also recommend this series to fans of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, especially if you’re looking for a lighter, happier read because of how sort of dark and heavy Dresden has gotten lately. On the other hand, MHI is a bit goofier, but possesses the same kind of humor and action one would desire.

For example, the book begins with the following two sentences: “On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window.” And it just gets crazier from there.

Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey

In recommending this book, I am also actually recommending Leviathan Wakes, of which Caliban’s War is its sequel.

Both books start off kind of slow, but like a rollercoaster ride makes up for it in spades after a gradual and steady build up. Definitely read Leviathan Wakes first before taking on Caliban’s War, as the events of the latter relate to those of the former. If you’re looking for a good space opera, this series is shaping up to be a mighty fine one. Expect a horror element, but that’s all I can say without spoiling anything.

Redshirts by John Scalzi

No one does humorous sci-fi adventure action like John Scalzi, and over the past year I’ve become quite the fan of his with Fuzzy Nation and two books in the Old Man’s War series under my belt. He has a way of making me laugh, even when his characters are dying horrible, gruesome deaths.

Take the good old Star Trek gag about redshirts, give those poor disposable crewmen their own personalities and lives behind the scenes and you’ve got this book. It’s hilarious, but also be prepared for some mind-bending stuff. It can get pretty abstract. Pretty meta.

If I have one gripe about this book, is that I feel it wasn’t particularly well-written as a novel. As in, in some places it read more like a screenplay. It definitely does not have as much detail as his other books, like hardly any character development or any sort of descriptive writing at all, but it’s heavy on the dialogue. But perhaps this was intentional — this is a fun yet bizarre book. If you do read it, you’ll see what I mean.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Urban fantasy normally isn’t my thing; not that I don’t like reading this sub-genre, it’s just that it’s so bloated right now that finding a good series to stick to is like wading through a morass of confusion and despair. It’s especially difficult these days to find an urban fantasy series with a female protagonist who I don’t feel like strangling on sight. However, I’m quite happy I found the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, thanks to a bunch of people on my friends list who have read it and gave it good reviews on Goodreads.

Character development is superb, and so is the world building. Plot falters a little, especially in the next couple of books, but I have to admit this isn’t atypical when it comes to urban fantasy, and in any case I don’t read this genre for award winning story lines, just a good time.

Master of Crows by Grace Draven

Speaking of a good time, here is an indie for those looking a traditional sultry romance that takes place in a fantasy setting, like with mages, magic and all that good stuff. There aren’t too many of those out there, which was why Master of Crows was pretty much guaranteed a high rating from me. Yes, it’s a little cheesy (but if you ask me, all “good” romances kind of have to be, you know what I mean?) and the hero-as-the-master and heroine-as-the-apprentice love story is a theme that has been done to death, but the archetypal romance novel in a fantasy package was what I wanted and it was what I got.

Plus, the story was pretty good. And HOT too, by the way. So I really can’t complain.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

If you’ve even had a tiny glance at book news around Christmas time last year, you probably would have noticed the hype around this title. After reading it, however, I have to say all the praise, the accolades, the acclaim — they’re all well deserved.

I don’t want to say anything more about this novel. The less you know going in, the better this book is. Sure, go to Amazon or Goodreads or whatever to read the synopsis, but nothing else! Anything more will just spoil the experience, since so much of my enjoyment came from not knowing what was going to happen or where the story was going to take me next.

This is probably the best Stephen King novel I’ve read in a long time. Perhaps the biggest surprise — and the biggest treat — for me was the emotion and feeling he achieved in this book. The last few pages had me bawling my eyes out, and me being seven months pregnant at the time probably didn’t help; I was crying so hard my husband got alarmed and wondered what had happened. I told him that it was nothing, I was just on the last page of 11/22/63. Since he’d read it too, his response was, “Oh, yeah.”

Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno

Darth Plagueis is probably worth reading simply if for no other reason other than how “canon” it is. Like, if you’re a big Star Wars fan, this is pretty much a must-read. I’d heard somewhere that this book was highly anticipated and that the author worked really closely with LucasFilms to get it just right because it ties in with a lot of the events in the prequel movies. Indeed, now that I’ve read it, I feel I have a much better understanding of the backstory behind those films.

But I don’t want to make it sound like that’s the only reason to pick up this book, because there’s a lot more that makes it a worthwhile read. I was especially impressed by the quality of the writing; sorry to say, but it’s almost too good for a Star Wars novel. It’s obvious that the author put his full heart and soul into writing this. Unlike many other Star Wars books, Darth Plaguis is also less action oriented, and instead focuses more on subterfuge and political intrigue.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This is a novel any geek or gamer can appreciate, especially if you were a teen or in your twenties in the 80s. Hell, I was about a decade too late to understand all the references in this book and yet I still enjoyed it immensely. The entire novel reads like a geeky love letter to the era, quoting music, games, movies, TV, and other pop culture. When I first heard about it, I thought it was just a flimsy and self-indulgent excuse by the author to relive the nostalgia of his youth and spout off 80s trivia. But no, all those references actually tie together and have a purpose.

I think the biggest reason I found this book appealing is the virtual world that features in it, called the OASIS. The main story is actually quite simplistic and straightforward, but since much of it takes place in this massive virtual world, as an MMO player I was just a huge sucker for all of it. Definitely recommended for online gamers.

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Sims 3 Saturday: An Even 50

September 1, 2012

It’s Saturday! Screw the pleasantries, let’s get right into our progress for the Sims 3 Family Man Challenge.

When we left my Sim last week, he was the proud father of 21 children. This week, Sharla Bills gave birth to twins right off the bat, bringing our total up to 23. Ayesha Ansari (my darling, darling Ayesha) gave birth to her and my Sim’s seventh and final baby, a beautiful boy, making that 24. Oh, how I wish more than eight people can reside in a household, but I suppose the game is challenging enough as it is. I can’t imagine how much harder it would be to keep track of any more Sims than that, to make sure they all eat and sleep and go to the bathroom in time before messing themselves.

Meeting Monika Morris. Alliteration is fun.

Monika Morris also gave birth to twins — 26. I don’t believe we’ve met Monika on this blog yet, but she was a spirited young woman I met at a remote beach one day. I have taken to visiting community lots that are more out of the way; less chance of getting caught cheating by any of my dozen or so girlfriends this way!

Bebe Hart gave birth to twins. 28! Agnes Crumplebottom — my “official fiancee”, I guess you can say — gave birth to twins. 30! Madison VanWatson gave birth to twins. 32! Jess Eastman gave birth to twins. 34! See, now the multiples are starting to roll in; that’s what I’m talking about. By now, three days have passed (the gestation period of a Sim, I believe) and we’re now back to Sharla, who got pregnant again after her twins and ended up giving birth to a baby boy, making that 35. By the way, I feel obligated to remind everyone that we are now two babies shy of my last record of 37, from when I did this challenge way back in the day.

But here, something strange happened. The game suddenly informed me that the Hart family has decided to move to another town. Wait, WHAT?! Bebe! Our kids! Bebe et mes bébés! Seriously, I didn’t know this was possible. Is it a way for the game to regulate my neighborhood population? Is the town getting a little too full with my Sim’s children? I sure hope not, because I’m nowhere near done.

The last time I saw Bebe Hart, *sniff*.

Thankfully, Bebe’s and my Sim’s children remained in the family tree so they still count in the record. Unfortunately, I’ll just never see them again. That’s quite a depressing thought, actually. Regardless, Bebe Hart’s departure was a pretty big setback, along with Ayesha’s household being too full now for her to become pregnant again. Two Sims I cannot romance anymore! Once again, I had to go out and meet some new people.

Enter three women my Sim met at the local library: Toya Reid, Juliet Stump, and Tracy Connor. I met them all on there on a single trip and congratulated myself on a successful outing. It wasn’t until later when I opened up neighborhood map that I discovered all three of them lived in the same house, right across the street from me. ARGH! I told myself I wasn’t going to date roommates anymore! It’s a damn good thing that Sims apparently don’t talk about their relationships at home, because they’d certainly realize they were all dating the same guy…because in a few days, the size of the Reid/Stump/Connor household is going to double with the addition of my babies.

Toya with her healthy green “glow”.

That was my first date with Toya Reid when she came over to woohoo. Um, apparently those fumes wafting off her body is supposed to be her bad BO. Luckily, my Sim didn’t seem to mind. I mean, considering that it was HIS fault she smelled bad in the first place, since it appears she neglected to take a shower after he talked to her so much at the library yesterday that her bladder exploded and she peed herself amongst the books.

Something momentous also happened — my Sim had a birthday! He is now an elder, which means there will be no more life stages after this. Still, I’m very sure I’m going to break my record of 37; now it’s just a matter of how much we can break it by before my Sim arrives at the end of his life and is visited by the Grim Reaper because he’s not gonna stop adding to the family ’til his ticker stops tickin’. Now that’s dedication.

He’s still looking quite dapper, though, isn’t he? Er, except for the default clothes. Dear lord, we’re going to find a better outfit. Back to my regular suit I go.

Sims 3 has awful taste in senior citizens’ fashion.

Toya ended up having twins. We’re up to 37 and tied for the record! We’re going to beat it real soon though, because her roommies should be about to give birth too.

Indeed, Tracy gave birth to a baby boy for the tie breaker. 38! Juliet gave birth to a girl, making it 39. Didn’t I warn you that the Reid/Stump/Connor household was going to be exploding with my babies? Time to split them up. Thus, I moved Toya and Juliet out into their own households.

At just shy of 40 children, I think it’s high time I started visiting some of my offspring.

Haven’t you ever heard of a crib?

First, I hit up the Crumplebottom household. As you can see, Agnes had our youngest infant daughter swaddled and lying on the floor when I got there. Oh you, Agnes!

By the way, she has been my fiancee for weeks now, which I guess for a Sim is like, half a lifetime. I feel kinda bad that I haven’t married her after all this time, and it’s probably never going to happen now. After reading her Sims wiki page, this made me feel even worse. Haven’t you ever wondered why she’s always wearing black? Well, now I know, and it breaks my heart. I should never have read that site, but it does amaze and amuse me that all these well-known Sims NPCs have their individual back stories. Some developer spent a lot of time and effort writing all of these.

Begging forgiveness.

Next, I visited Jess Eastman’s house, which just happened to be right across the street from the Crumplebottom house. It didn’t go well. Jess must have caught me walking across the street right after visiting Agnes, because she gave me a huge scolding for being a cheating scumbag as soon as I stepped up to the door. She got so mad she even put our newborn baby on the wet grass to shout at me more effectively.

Poor sleep-deprived Sharla. I totally understand how you feel.

Sharla Bill’s house is next. All I have to say is, she seems overworked.

Time for another wave of new babies! Monika Morris, who was pregnant again after her twins, gave birth to a boy, bringing us up to an even 40. Agnes also gave birth to twins, making that 42 little ones. And with this latest set of twins, that makes eight Sims for the Crumplebottom household. Now I can never marry Agnes. Like, I literally can’t. The “have a wedding” option was conspicuously greyed out when I talked to her afterward, because there is no more room for the two of us and our seven children to live together. So sad.

Madison gave birth to a boy — 43. Jess also gave birth to a boy — 44. I tried for another baby with her right afterward, but she was still too angry at me from our fight outside on her lawn. I will have to romance her again when she forgives me. As if Sharla wasn’t stressed enough, she gave birth to another set of twins — 46. Toya gave birth to a boy — 47. Monika gave birth to twins — 49. Tracy gave birth to a boy — 50!

Okay, I think that’s enough for this week. Aaaand I’ll just leave you with these screenshots of my family tree at this point (it’s so long I had to split it up into two parts).