03.22.12

Should games have a fast forward button?

Posted in Video games at 2:09 am by kyrias

Let me preface this entire post by stating that I believe the entire hoopla over Jennifer Hepler’s comment that she would like there to be a fast forward option for video games to be mostly angry male reactions to what they perceived as a female coming into their territory and daring to tell them that what they loved and knew best should be changed — for what they see as for the worse.

That said, back to the question at hand: should games have a fast forward button?

I believe that they should have that option, but possibly with certain caveats, such as having previously unlocked the game or having to jump through some hoops to unlock the game in such a fashion as to render that option not easily accessible.

At the very least, if I’ve run through a game once already, it seems utterly reasonable that I should be allowed to go through subsequent playthroughs with the option to skip all non-essential combat.  As more and more modern games seem to be going the route where the plot branches out into radically divergent paths — I find that it kills the fun of replay when I need to whack my way through trash mobs two or three or four or (god forbid) more times just to see alternate possibilities.

What I don’t understand is why the backlash?

Iddt, my friend, says that having easy access to the ability to god-mode the game kills enjoyment for many people. Lack of effort put in makes the result not as worthwhile to these people and they would essentially be cheating themselves out of their fun without even realizing why.

To put it bluntly?

I don’t really care if people manage to ruin their own fun by doing things that kills their enjoyment. I suppose we could attempt to save people from themselves by making the fast forward mode something that needs to be unlocked rather than having it simply right there as a button you can hit without thinking twice about it. Then again, it’s not like engaging god-mode via the console is actually hard. Hence my not caring if there’s an even easier way to let the people who would find ez-mode not-fun to get into ez-mode.

Next argument?

It makes the game shorter. It’d kill the game because then the devs wouldn’t bother balancing the game so that it skirts the line between too hard and just challenging enough to pique people’s attention. It’d take the meaning of games right out.

Where to start? There’s nothing wrong with a shorter game. As I grow older and gain more responsibilities and leave the age where all I had to do was to show up for class and do my laundry once in a while behind, the less inclined I am to grind my way through endless mobs in a long-ass dungeon just so I can get to the nitty-gritty of what I want. Killing mobs that don’t actually offer any real challenge doesn’t actually improve my enjoyment of the game and I see no reason to do it, much less repetitively.

To be clear, I do not advocate skipping boss fights. Those are usually worth it and where real gameplay comes in. Trash fights which can pretty much be done while eating, fapping with one hand, and afk-auto-shotting? Not particularly useful to anyone and hardly what I would call a shining example of the gameplay that certain people seem to be holding up as some sort of sacrosanct trust.

Also? Dude, if say, Bioware decided to do this, and decided to shit on their main, devoted, established fan base in order to pursue the potential business of the *girly girl useless gamers* — I highly doubt this, by the way, since I doubt they’re that dumb — then people would just quit buying their games, which should send them a really pointed message. Are we really worried that Bioware is going to shit in their pie, so to speak?

In response to someone’s statement that perhaps there should be a fast forward button for those people who have actual difficulty playing prolonged games, such as those people with carpal tunnel, cerebral palsy, and so such, here’s this gem by a certain Dan:

If you are unable to play due to a disability, then hey, that sucks, but lets not obliterate the challenge for the majority. Perhaps you should play something that you are physically able to? I’m not fit enough to climb Everest, should the mountain shrink, or perhaps I should be carried up and back? I’m not skilled enough to play in the NBA, perhaps they should adjust the rules in my favor?

There are _many_ gaming alternatives out there for individuals with physical and mental handicaps, that will offer them a compelling challenge, use what is accessible to you.

Uh-huh.

This argument is sort of along the lines of the one that says that people who cannot manage to eke out the time from chores, childcare, two jobs to pay the bills, laundry, dishes, and so forth should just GTFO and find something else to entertain them.

Well.

Surely, if we’re going to decide that only those who are truly fit for some form of entertainment then we shouldn’t stop at just video games. For that matter, forget about DVD fast-forwarding. If we cannot desecrate the vision of the artists of video games by speeding through their opus, then surely it’s some sort of sacrilege to skip past the boring parts of a movie you’ve seen a couple million times over as well.

In that case, I vote that we should do away with wheelchair accessible basketball courts. Or we should get rid of all subtitles for movies. If you can’t watch a movie in its original language, then clearly either you need to learn that language or you shouldn’t be able to get some sort of magical ability to gain access to content you otherwise wouldn’t have.  Oh hey, why don’t we disable all forms of locomotion not our own two feet or what we can reasonably propel via human methods? Surely if evolution/god wanted us to be able to see places further than what we could travel to on our own, he would have given us wings, right?

Any other arguments? Any other petulant “we don’t want change” whiners?

Guys — this would be an option. Furthermore, since not all game companies do the same thing or have the same systems — not even all game companies would necessarily pick up this idea unless it was statistically proven to give them more sales.

Just how is this very reasonable suggestion going to throw your world into chaos?

11.15.11

Amazing Grass’ Amazing Meal (Chocolate infusion)

Posted in Reviews tagged , , at 4:47 pm by kyrias

I was running late today and didn’t have time for a meal, so I grabbed a container of Amazing Grass’ Amazing Meal off the shelf at Harvest Co-op.

*shell-shocked face* It was 47.99 for a mere 15 servings. I knew it was that expensive when I took it off the shelf, but I didn’t expect the container, which is pretty big, to be only about half-full.

To be perfectly frank, I am feeling a wee bit cheated. I honestly probably wouldn’t have bought it if I had known.

At 15 servings, it comes out to slightly over three dollars per serving. Bit pricey.

On Amazon, it’s 31.03, which makes it slightly above two dollars, which is much, much better.

Harvest Co-op, you’re making me sad with how much I want to support you and how much your prices differ from everyone else’s. More than 15 dollars more expensive? Really? :(

I mixed it with organic whole milk, not using the full 10 ounces, and thought it was pretty drink-able. Not amazingly chocolate-y, but enough that I could chug it without feeling too “healthy”. Definitely not something I’d savor though.

It did mix up pretty smooth, with little of the icky things like clumps that just won’t die and had a good texture.

All the reviews I read said that they felt energized and full for a long time after they drank it. I drank it at about 2pm and didn’t feel particularly full afterwards and now at near 4pm I’m feeling positively hungry. Meal replacement? Perhaps not.

Also, I’m still feeling really sleepy so that whole energizing thing? Nah.

Noting, a lot of the reviews I read were done around 2009 and were done with free samples. I’m wondering how much of their glowing reviews was based off of psychosomatic happy feelings on getting a relatively good tasting drink to experiment with, how much of it was due to them being people who were already pretty healthy to begin with ( also known as the raw/vegan/scary type who CAN easily subsist off of meal replacement shakes) and how much of it was that Amazing Grass had a better product back then and has since declined in quality.

Not to be cynical, but I’ve noticed that the first year or so of a company putting out a product, they tend to have amazing stuff, and then it usually goes downhill after that. And then there are the others that get bought out and just suck after that. Naked Juice, Burt’s Bees, I’m looking straight at you.

Meh. I guess I’ll finish this container since I already paid for it, but I doubt I’ll be back for more.

Two stars for taste and convenience.

11.13.10

Rise of the Queen — Annette Shelley

Posted in Books, Reviews at 11:28 pm by kyrias

I honestly debated posting this because it strikes me that if someone said something like this about my work — I’d be pretty torn up and possibly not want to ever write again.

Then, on the flip side, I thought that the public has the right to know, for one. Clarification: the public has the right to know that really, such things are actually published and people pay for them. Like me.  For two, this person is already published and I’m not so I guess she can choose to take what I’m saying with a metric ton of salt and then some.

One sentence review: This person took her National Novel Writing Month novel and submitted it and somehow through amazing luck got it published, probably because her editors fell asleep and went blind.

I have a friend who commented that if we ever manage to finish our novels, we’ll get published because so many people are so demoralized by the current state of affairs that they can’t write that publishing houses have to be pretty desperate. I wasn’t so sure about that before this, but now I think there might be a kernel of possibility in that.

Heres the synopsis:

After devastating cataclysm destroys the much of the Earth’s population in the year 2012, Devlyn Marinos is the only person to survive. She escapes her small island home, commandeers a small boat and sails over stormy seas to Athens where all the boats are toppled over in the water and she must fight for her life to climb to higher ground before the next cataclysm takes her life. She eventually finds solace in the hills above Athens in the sacred ground of Delphi, hoping to find other survivors. There she meets Nelek, a reptilian from another world who captivates her heart and soul and creeps into her dream state, sending her into erotic visions and situations. Will their connection ultimately repopulate the Earth or destroy hope for any future?

Note, all grammar mistakes are taken directly from the book.

Let me recap the story:

Devlyn is the daughter of an alien man with birdlike features and a (so far as I can tell) human mother. No mention is made of how her father managed to woo her mother and stop her from running screaming or how he manages to not get kidnapped by a country’s government and dissected.

The world as they know it ends. Apocalypse now, triggered by an alien in a spaceship. No good reason is given except that it is part of a plan. Destiny.

They are part of a race called the Reptilians. All I can say is — why is a  member of a race of creatures with scaly skin, ancient features, protruding jaws with short sharp teeth and round beady eyes the male character lead? Can I just say there’s little I can think of that less hot? I know that there should be a backlash against the hot, hot, amazingly attractive alpha males strutting around modern erotica stories, but this is really taking it way too far.

Devlyn’s father somehow manages to get teleported up into the spaceship, kills the alien responsible for setting off this event whilst much talking about plans and betrayal and new plans and so such is mentioned without actually revealing anything useful. The alien’s son kills Devlyn’s father, even as Devlyn’s father tells him that he really should keep him alive so he can help the son fulfill his destiny. The son doesn’t even really try to figure anything out, just shoots him. Dumb as a rock, he is.

Son, who appears socially inept and a failure at commanding, decides to destroy Earth utterly in retaliation instead of just precipitating the end of humanity.

Son, Nalek, picks up a cube that Devlyn’s father dropped. He sees a woman in it, falls in love, and orders the ship to go back so he can find the woman and rescinds his order to annihilate Earth. The woman with pointed features, scales, claws, black lips,  and black lined eyes. Can I also mention that Devlyn, for that is who she is, sounds incredibly libido killing as well?

Nelek goes back to Earth to find this woman. He finds her.

Devlyn has been hiding in a cellar for a couple of pages now, with lots of talking about how she’s injured and has a broken rib and so forth.

Suddenly, when Nelek and his man find her, she’s able to take out the man and act all threatening and no more mention is made of her broken, “loose” rib. Nelek disarms her and they have a prolonged “conversation” about what he wants to do with her. It’s apparently supposed to be one of those “I hate you so much but I am oddly attracted to you but fighting it” conversations.

Side note: apparently there is a violet eye on the left side of her head.

Devlyn stabs herself in the heart to escape him. Nelek goes exploring, upset at what she has done.

POV shifts back to Devlyn and she find that her wound has miraculously healed because hey presto, she’s IMMORTAL. I’m going to point out her incredible healing powers apparently couldn’t manage to heal her broken ribs or wounded leg or whatever — but it works on knife wounds.

Boring stuff happens. Boring, suspension of belief killing things happen.

Devlyn has an erotic dream involving Nelek and wakes up to find herself pregnant.

Yes. Pregnant.

Devlyn realizes that the pregnancy is proceeding at a grossly accelerated pace. Think bulging 9 month tummy in a matter of days.

More weird unimportant shit happens.

Nelek and a friend of his father’s, Salok return to Earth to find Devlyn. They get there just in time for her to give birth.

After she gives birth, Nelek gives pure corn fructose, because that’s what these reptilians eat, to the only other survivor of the apocalypse in the entire world, and he dies. Because he’s diabetic.

Amazingly enough, she gets extremely horny after giving birth and Nelek has sex with her again and she’s pregnant again and the baby bump immediately balloons up to being months along even though he’s just had sex with her.

There’s a brief interlude somewhere in here where Devlyn goes hysterical over the fact that they don’t believe that there is a God. Talk about weird ass shit.

Also a mention about how earthlings were given warnings about how they’d be cleansed from the earth if they kept up their horrible polluting ways and etc etc and how they never listened.

Nelek gets summoned back to his home planet by his mother. Salok remains behind to look after Devlyn.

Devlyn give birth and of course, gets horny, so Salok has sex with her. She immediately falls pregnant again and then has a heated argument with Salok about how they don’t believe in God.

Nelek returns to his home planet. We find that his mother is the Queen of all reptilians and spends all her time laying eggs. Eggs from sperm that all the men of their world donate to her. Eggs that will all hatch into males.

POV shifts back to Devlyn where we find that she has had children endlessly since Nelek left. They’re running out of food and Devlyn has been doing nothing but lie on her back and have sex and pop out children.

POV shifts back to Nelek, who is being rather nasty to his mother about her being the slut of their race. She claims it is necessary for the survival of their race, because if she hadn’t their race would have gone extinct. Nothing is explained about that statement.

His mother informs him that his Devlyn, who spawns only girls, has betrayed him.  She also informs him that Devlyn’s girls will the the mates of all the males that she has spawned so they can create a better race. Then she finally tells him that a “holographic wormhole” has been created to link the two planets together. He’s to use a …conveyor belt to transport her eggs to earth, via this holographic wormhole. She dies, and so he does.

Nelek gets back, catches them in the act, and rips Salok apart.

By the way, this is all where it gets even more weird. Yeah, I know, I didn’t think it possible either, but hey.

Nelek has plans for all his daughters and treats Devlyn poorly. Devlyn comes up with a plan to keep him from harming her daughters with him. This is confusing because there’s no clear indication of why he would harm them. Devlyn succeeds in sending away her children with Nelek, telling them to stay away and take care of each other. I’m not sure how this makes sense because now they’re 5 girls, living with only each other, out in the wilderness with no one else except them.

Devlyn goes back and somehow negotiates with Nelek with information she mysteriously, miraculously obtained. She ends up sending him back to his home planet.

The story ends with her staring at him through the cube. The same cube Nelek used to see her and fall in love with her in the first place.

As an aside, the way the cube ends up being said to function doesn’t make muh sense for what it does in the beginning of the book, but there’s so much wrong with the book already that this is almost negligible, all things considered.

——-

Whew.

I have to say, I’m really surprised that eXtasy Books published this. Even if it was supposed to be brainless erotica, this is really a whole new low. Then there’s the fact that apparently she had a content editor and an editor-in-chief. All I can say is: wat?

Even more amazing, this is book three and this author has other books published.

This book is riddled with grammar mistakes, plot holes, plot inconsistencies, and makes no sense. The characters are not at all sympathetic and their “love” is not only fucked up, but it doesn’t make any sense and has no basis at all.

The plot is so wrong that there isn’t even that much else to say.

Even worse, it appears that although this is book 3, it might serve as the prequel to the other two books.

In short?

Stay away, and if you’re an author, take heart for now I have seen just what can be published in these days.

05.24.10

13 reasons why — Jay Asher

Posted in Books, Reviews tagged at 11:08 pm by kyrias

As usual, there will be spoilers. Do not continue reading if you dislike spoilers.

I was asked to provide the Chinese titles of some English books for my father and one of them was “13 reasons why”.

I was immediately intrigued. 13 reasons why what? I will admit that in the course of looking to see if there was a Chinese title, I stumbled across an online pdf version of the book — so I downloaded it and devoured it over the course of yesterday afternoon.

I’m going to have to buy copies of this book and hand them out to all the pre-teens, teens, and children that I know.

13 reasons why… Hannah Baker killed herself.

The story starts off with the main character, Clay, receiving a box in the mail containing cassette tapes. Curious, he starts playing one and finds that the cassette tapes are from Hannah Baker, the girl he had a crush on who committed suicide. The tapes are to be sent to each of the people mentioned in the tapes in turn, because they all had something to do with why she killed herself.

Asher does a brilliant job of re-creating our world — one of peer pressure, casual cruelty, and devastating negligence. In Hannah’s words, we see exactly how what may have seemed like throwaway actions can have long lasting, horrific consequences.

Hannah talks about how rumors can hurt, how they can so easily shred a young girl’s reputation and her life with it. Her comment on how when a woman is reduced to a body-part, even through something seemingly flattering as “Best Ass”, men start to objectify and disrespect her was achingly true. The descriptions of how, when the world just stands by and watches you sink, can make you want to efface yourself in turn were haunting.

I think that this book should be a must-read for all people. Perhaps then we can catch those children who might grow up to be one of the by-standers and make them realize that they are just as guilty in their own way. As my brother pointed out though, those who would grow up to be rapists are probably irredeemable. There’s a certain sort of sickness to being a rapist that is more twisted than I think can be remedied by reading a book. Even asides from the “teaching-story” aspect, it’s just brilliantly done. Hannah’s voice is the voice of so many teens who suffered the same through middle school, high school, and perhaps even college.

I ended the book feeling betrayed in a way, by Hannah. Then again, isn’t that the point? That who commits suicide is always the betrayer in the end, almost regardless of what drove them to it, because dammit, why did they give up? Why didn’t they try harder to get help?

For Hannah though, I don’t think I’m just indulging in the “blame the victim” game. I sat through the book, wincing and cringing whenever she chose to do something that she knew would be a bad idea. So often she saw the consequences, and yet she plunged ahead anyways.

Why? Why, Hannah?

When she went to the party with Courtney, knowing full well what was going on. When she allowed herself to be raped by Bryce Walker. When she talked to the counselor, using all those vague terms but never touching on anything important — that was especially frustrating.

I think I would have understood better if she had killed herself after she “allowed” that girl to be raped. If she had killed herself in a fit of guilt over being in the car when Jenny knocked over the stop-sign, causing that car accident which led to a death. Even if she had just looked at the rapist, at the girl’s boyfriend who allowed the rapist to rape the girl, at Jenny, at Zach who tore away her last hope and just decided to screw it all because the world was too ugly a place. That would have been understandable.

I don’t entirely understand why she pushed Clay away. Even taking her story at face value at how she wasn’t good enough for him because of her undeserved reputation, I didn’t understand. She knew that the stories were lies. She could have said something. But then she just slipped into a self-destructive mode where she allowed herself to be raped, to use Bryce as the instrument to make herself the kind of girl she was reputed to be. Where she went to the counselor and her conversation went almost exactly the way it would have been if she had planned for it to fail.

I’m going to be brutally honest and say that she didn’t want help. She didn’t want to be saved. She was out to prove that people sucked and so when she gave them that road and they took it, she saw it as justification for her to kill herself. I can’t get behind that. I’ve been suicidal. I’ve been to counselors, sympathetic and non-sympathetic alike. I know that when you don’t want to die, you say certain things that will lead to at least people keeping an eye out on you to make sure that you don’t hurt yourself.

For me, the ending of the book was not as good as all the parts before because of that. Those last few reasons why? She did it to herself. Oh no, I’m not excusing Courtney or Bryce or saying that Mr. Porter and other people couldn’t have done better. She didn’t have to give Mr. Porter those vague terms that led him to tell her to move on and then just repeated it at him like she didn’t actually have cause to have problems. She didn’t have to let Bryce rape her just to prove a point to herself.

In the end? I was just mad at her. She gave up. She gave up on herself. She also gave up on humanity long before that when she didn’t tell anyone about the stop sign or the girl getting raped or even when she couldn’t allow herself to see having a better future with Clay or even after leaving high school.

01.30.10

2010: Finances

Posted in Money, Reviews at 11:45 pm by kyrias

I downloaded YNAB the other day to test it out at the suggestion of a financial blogger, I forget which one, and totally geeked out over it. Now I’m just having way too much fun slotting in numbers and watching the other corresponding numbers change. 

What I really like about it isthat I can download my statements, import them into YNAB, and then be able to slot transactions into different categories with a few clicks of the mouse. After I verify and categorize the transactions, then the program automatically calculates for me how much money I’ve spent in each category, whether or not I’m under budget in each category, and if I’m over-budget for the month. 

It’s true that I could do all this with my spreadsheets, and I have in the past — but honestly, this makes everything so much faster and easier. I have all of my accounts linked and all of the transactions in each account inter-linked so that I can see at a glance where exactly each transaction went and what it was for. 

Caesura mentioned that he didn’t think that this was a good vehicle for tracking long term investments and so such, and I think he’s right. However, the beauty of this program is that it’s really simple to use, you don’t even really have to download the bank statements if you don’t want to — it’s ultimately just really useful budgeting software. Which is fine — it’s exactly what I need. 

What I thought was unfortunate was that there is no way to sync between copies of YNAB on different computers — which means that if there’s only one person doing the finances in the house then everything’s fine, but if there’s two people trying to track things at the same time then there might be unfortunate discrepancies. 

Anyways, our finances look pretty grim:

Student loans:    $19419.04
Credit cards   :      $9176.29
ROTH IRA       :     $3677.66
+ various bank accounts 
—————————————–

Net worth =   – 21332.87 

With my new job and Caesura’s overdue raise, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to make significant inroads into the debt this year. If we stay within budget and our plans, then we’re due to pay off the credit card debt in May 2011 and the student loans in March 2013. 

Of course, that’s worst case scenario — which I’m desperately hoping won’t happen. To think that we might not get either a raise or bonus in 24 months is kind of depressing. 

Tally ho, onwards and all that.

01.09.10

Twilight intersection with Arisia and Facebook

Posted in Books tagged , at 1:30 am by kyrias

Friend links me to someone’s status on Facebook: 

“Just finished reading the 4th and final Twilight book today. What a wonderful series! I completely fell in love with all the characters, even the ones I started off not liking. Two thumbs up!”

My comment: 

“This is the series with the guy who watches his crush sleep whilst thinking about how tasty she might be who tells her she’s stupid for liking him who sparkles who then fathers a mommy-mutilating baby who will become pre-birth-engaged to a guy who wanted to be her father, right? I should read that series — I haven’t yet. The library is out of copies *sad face*”

So this reminds me of the topic I saw in the Arisia event listing yesterday: “How fans hurt and help public faces of fandom”. 

“Last year, Stephen King said Stephenie Meyer “can’t write”, and the “Twi-hards” came to defend her. Twilight boards were filled with reasonable discussions of the criticism, while sites like the Entertainment Weekly blog were filled with ill-informed attacks on King. Many fans have said they would never read the Twilight books because of the public image of Meyer’s fanbase. How does the public face of fans help or hurt an author? Can fans do anything to change the perception of their fandom?”

I don’t think I would go so far as to say “I would never read any of ___ because X and Y loves it and they’re blooming idiots”, but I have to agree insofar that I probably would never be encouraged into reading a book by someone I think is an idiot, and that I might even be less likely to want to seek it out. 

The fact is,  a lot of people read certain books because their friends or people they identify with and like read them. One phrase: Oprah book club. If prestigious or popular people come out as saying they like an author, then that’s going to be a huge boost to their sales. I can’t say how many books I’ve bought even when I didn’t like the blurb simply because one of my favorite authors had something favorable to say about it. The flip side is certainly true. I’ve put down books even when blurbs sound attractive because an author whose writing I loathe praises it. 

I don’t know how fans can actively help matters, however. After all, I don’t think it’s possible to actively control how stupid you appear. Nor can you help just how loony or ridiculous you appear to other people. Of course, it doesn’t help if a person engages in a immature flaming war on the internet — but it appears that the stupid is like life itself in that it will find a way out. 

On the other hand, I know almost first-hand just how stupid some of the people who read my favorite authors are, and I think at some level, it’s not really the author’s fault that they attract the stupid. 

The real problem, I think, is that Twilight is perhaps a bad example. After all, people who are intelligent, respected, and otherwise known as more sane than not have come out and said that Twilight is laughable. It’s not exactly a neutral landscape which can be littered upon or cleaned up by passersby. The plot is terrible, the writing sophomoric, the language overdone and purple, the premise disturbing, and it isn’t even redeemable by lovable characters. In fact, even if the characters didn’t make me want to fall upon a sword with their sheer Mary Sue-ness, I’d despise them for going along with such an atrociously bad plot.  I think that its almost to be expected that anyone with a modicum of taste and intelligence would see it for what it is. 

If you tell me you absolutely adore Twilight, I’d probably lose a ton of estimation for you. I don’t think our relationship or potential for one would go unblemished by this admission. In fact, one of the main reasons I really hate Twilight isn’t even because it’s a fucking trainwreck — it’s actually because the fact that so many people have gone gaga over something so awful actually dents my faith in humanity. Not that I had particularly much to begin with, but every little bit counts when you’re sliding into the hate zone.

12.31.09

Review: Dave’s Fresh Pasta

Posted in Reviews tagged at 11:12 pm by kyrias

EDITED for clarity. 

I got ravioli and some sauces from Dave’s for our New Year’s feast at home. Caesura had to go in to work today and so we decided to keep it low-key. 

Sauces: Lobster cream, marinara, and mushroom cream.

Ravioli: Lobster, porcini, goat cheese and caramelized leeks, meat, and duck w/ blue cheese.

I am still not a huge fan of the meat ravioli, although Caesura really likes it. For some reason it strikes me as more of a one-dimensional salty taste than anything else. 

The lobster ravioli was very good, with bits of lobster meat instead of just a puree, especially with the lobster cream sauce. Mr P and I did manage to choke on pieces of shell in the ravioli, so I’d recommend caution whilst eating these. The word I’m thinking of is xian 鲜, in Chinese, which has connotations of being a “clean” and “fresh” taste, particularly with regards to seafood. The sauce was creamy, with a strong flavour of lobster without it being cloying or bland. I think that the sauce is probably good enough to go over pasta if you’re going for a cheaper dinner. 

The duck, which I think is either a new addition or something special for the season since it’s not on the usual menu, was voted the favorite of the night. The flavour of the duck was complemented by the blue cheese without being overwhelmed by it. 

Mr P and I thought that the goat cheese with caramelized leeks was rather bland, with the goat cheese being overly dominant and making it a one-dimensional flavour. I was looking for the caramelized leek taste and was disappointed. Caesura did manage to get a chunk of leek in one though, so I guess it depended a bit on luck. He, on the other hand, wanted the goat cheese to be more goat-cheesy and liked it whilst complaining that the leeks were too dominant. YMMD… but I wouldn’t want to get this again, simply because it didn’t seem worth it for the price. 

The porcini was surprisingly good, especially with the mushroom cream sauce. That combination was not overkill, by the way. Even Caesura, who doesn’t usually like mushrooms, thought highly of it. The filling was light, savoury, and unlike the other kinds, probably something one could make an entire meal of. Although I really enjoyed the other kinds, I thought that they were a bit rich to have as a full meal.

10.03.09

Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman (4 stars)

Posted in Books, Reviews tagged at 12:01 am by kyrias

First off, this will be rife with spoilers. I don’t like vague general book reviews and I tend to not want to write them unless it’s for NOR in which case it’s different because then I have to have some modicum of professionalism. 

Secondly, I haven’t actually finished the book. I might at some later point, in which case this review should be updated, but I really wouldn’t hold my breath. 

What worked:

Brilliant, incisive glances into the psyche of a character. Lev Grossman does quite a lot of telling, which could be irritating except that he often carries it off because the entire story is somewhat reminiscent of being very British and the writing style reflects that. The narrative voice, as such, also reflects that. So I suppose it could even be seen as stylistic rather than a writing flaw in some cases — if I were to wish to be generous. 

Engaging, utterly out-of-the-blue concepts. That period up with Mayakovsky? Brilliant. I also liked the portrayal of learning magic as hard work — it’s been getting fluffy and it’s nice to revert back to where it’s not just waving a wand around and babbling bad rhymes. 

Believable, flawed, albeit quite unsympathetic characters. I didn’t really like most of anything in the book except Alice. Quentin, who I shall dub the quintessential hero-in-need-of-being-saved worked to a certain extent, but I felt that his flaws might have been carried just slightly too far. I’ll admit that Alice’s end was perhaps the most fitting and it would have been masturbation to have allowed Quentin to have saved her — but still depressing and I wished it didn’t need to happen. I suppose I’m a bad person that way — I can forgive Sue-ish elements for the sake of a relatively happy ending. 

What didn’t work:

None of the characters were that likable except Alice and I felt that could have been remedied with a little more fleshing out of the characters, but as it was, I just couldn’t identify with them that much. 

I thought that the punishment far exceeded the crime in terms of a lot of what happened in Fillory. Towards the end it was just depressing and I honestly couldn’t really get through it. Quentin never really learns his lesson although multiple times it seems like he does except then he goes off and does something even more spectacularly horrible. Regarding that bit with Janet? I just never saw the attraction or the sexual tension or anything that intimated at that. 

I thought the book should really have been extended. I usually argue that authors should know where to stop and when to stop but in this case the story probably would have benefited a lot more from being fleshed out more. 

Conclusion: 4 stars

I think I’ll pick up the sequel when it comes out, just to see if Quentin improves with further acquaintance. I might or might not re-read the first “book” to pick up the stray bits that I missed the first time in my hurry to see what would happen next, but I don’t know if I’ll end up finishing it.

08.18.09

Monsoon Fever – Lisabet Sarai

Posted in Books tagged , at 12:01 am by kyrias

Synopsis given:

Divine temptation lies in wait in an ancient and mysterious land.

In their first years together, Priscilla and Jonathan enjoyed a marriage based as much on physical passion as on love. However, the travails of business and the tribulations of the Great War have taken their toll. When Jon’s father dies in faraway India, the couple travels to the father’s isolated Assamese tea plantation to settle his affairs. Far from the bustle and distraction of London, left alone to endure the monsoon rains while Jon struggles to complete the final harvest, Priscilla realises how much she misses Jon’s touch.

Anil Kumar arrives with business documents for Jon to examine. The charismatic native enchants both Priscilla and Jon with his god-like beauty and charm. In separate incidents, each of them succumbs to Anil’s lustful attentions. Will the illicit desires excited by the handsome Indian be the final stroke that destroys their marriage? Or the route to saving it?

Plot? There was none.

I realize that this was a short story for an anthology, but that doesn’t really excuse any of the problems that I saw. 

Asides from my previous complaint that there was no real plot, I was also really put off by how implausible the entire sexual situaiton unfolded. The strange, almost mystical sexual attraction that just seemed to spring up out of nowhere and which — this is the really disturbing part — seemed to spring almost entirely from the fact that he was exotic and a native. 

Entirely setting aside how disturbing, almost racist, and wrong that portrayal was, I didn’t like how both Priscilla and Jonatha just fell in lust with Anil and started doing entirely inappropriate things with him without even a convincing reason for it. Then there’s how Anil had little to no characterization except descriptions about how exotic he was and how he was oddly elegant and well-dressed for a native and apparently is very comfortable with just getting hot with a married couple like that. 

All other problems aside, the sex wasn’t even that good. 

I was not entertained, and actually ended up fairly repulsed and disturbed by this story. I’ve read a good deal of Lisabet Sarai’s works and I have to admit to being pretty horrified and surprised at her handling of this story. I will probably give her work another chance, however.

08.17.09

Snow White and the seven hunks – Kimberly Zant

Posted in Books tagged , at 12:01 am by kyrias

Synopsis given:

How bad could it be, Nicole Martin asked herself when she discovered her options were to take the role or face criminal charges with her ‘big’ sister, Brandy? Actually, it didn’t sound nearly as bad as she’d expected once the producer/blackmailer explained. The filming would be done in low light situations. No one would ever get a really good look at her face. And it was just acting anyway, right? They weren’t actually going to do all those things ….

Interesting idea, but I felt like it flopped. 

The sex could have been interesting, but I really felt that a lot of the sex was lacklustre and I was really distracted by the incessant whining about how “small” Nicole was. There seemed to be a lot more description and discussion devoted to how small she was than there was hot sex. If there was any sizzle, it was pretty much doused by the amount of stress over sizes. 

Nicole and Brandy’s relationship was interesting and it could’ve been played up more to pump up the plot. However, their relationship was never really clarified in the entire story, which was a pretty big letdown. The wierd fascination that almost all of the men had for Nicole was also never, ever explained or even built upon. Brandy’s villainization seemed to be a bit too easy, bit too pat so make it plausible that all the men were after her — which was not interesting. 

Lastly, the whole four men being pseudo-married to one woman thing? I would have loved for that to have been played out a bit more. I really felt that the story could have been much richer and well plotted but it was just a letdown. When even the sex fizzles out — I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »