Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Book and Author Spotlight - Kellyn Roth

Hello Blogsphere and internet in general. Today, I'm helping Kellyn Roth with a blog tour. Yes, this woman right here.


My part of this is a spotlight for her and her new book, At Her Fingertips. This is a piece of Realistic Fiction, and furthermore it is Clean Romance. She asked me to share the book's blurb, a couple excerpts, and tell you about the prizes she's giving out. First, the blurb.
At Her Fingertips (Book #3)
Alice Knight is looking forward to her debut as it means she will be able to carry out her plan. She will have her first Season in London, she will meet her husband, and she will marry him. However, Alice struggles to make her feelings reconcile with her goals.
Alice is sure that, if she can only cling to her plans, she will manage without help from anyone — including God. A childhood friend returning unexpectedly, a charming gentleman who is not all he should be, and an American author with strange ideas about life all make her question the plan.
With the life she longs for at her fingertips, can Alice grasp it?
If you're interested, CLICK HERE for the excerpts.
I read them and they're good. I prefer the first one because of this line, "
Mr. Knight had a brain that worked just like a semicolon; he was forever remembering something new that needed doing and asking Kirk to write it down". I can see in my mind how such a scene plays out. It makes me smile, and it works as quick characterization for both characters.  


Author Bio

Kellyn Roth was born and lives on a cattle ranch in North-Eastern Oregon. Always fascinated with telling stories, she created crazy games to play with her little brothers as a child. Today, she writes Christian and Historical Fiction with a focus on truth and family. Find out more about her and her novels at kellynrothauthor.com
Social Media
Facebook: @krauthor
Twitter: @ReveriesofRuby
Goodreads: krauthor
Instagram: kellbellroth
Pinterest: krauthor
YouTube: Kellyn Roth
Personal Blog: kellynroth.wordpress.com
Book Blog: reveriesreviews.wordpress.com

Monday, April 16, 2018

Read for Fun: No Game No Life Volume 4

No Game No Life Volume 4

I was a fan of series before I picked this book up. It is the first volume I've read. After watching the anime, I wanted to see more. Naturally, the animation crew had great material to work with because this volume delivers on the appeal of the series.

It was fun and satisfying to see the aftermath of the events of the anime. It turns out the stinger for the anime occurs in a later light novel. It was a great cliffhanger, definitely, but caused some confusion on my part. Anyway, the ongoing process of it merges the real-life-implications of such an event and the games-resolve-conflicts rules of Dishboard.

The game of the Sirens is a real-life Romance game (dating game), which is one of the few that the gamer siblings have not mastered. Far from being afraid, they are so proud of the fact that they are socially incompetent shut-ins that they emit a battle aura. Furthermore, the mystery of the nature and victory conditions of the Siren's game is intriguing and compelling, especially given that it is the gamer siblings' logical weakness.

The deviousness and cunning of the gamer siblings also continues to impress. One would be surprised at how much of their silly antics are actually a cover for plans, and how much of it is both. They certainly surprised me with their exploitation of the Beach Episode trope.

I want to focus on that. Beyond the lighthearted and fanservice of the trope, and even beyond the covert deviousness, it specifically deals with the gamer siblings' opinion of beach vacations. Due to their backstory as Hikikomori, they see this common vacation destination as too messy, too hot, bad for one's hair etc. It's pretty deep given the archetypal form of this trope.

Also worthy of note is that Steph does something awesome, proving that she is not "a steph" once and for all, while simultaneously exploiting her reputation as such.

The new character, Plum, is definitely a Woobie. The circumstances of the Dphamir race elicit much sympathy, and Plum makes a great Straight Man for the stupidity of the Siren race as well as the silliness laid-backness of the main cast.

The ending was both satisfying and exciting. It achieves all the advantages of a cliffhanger without actually leaving anyone hanging, as well as the advantages of a resolved conflict while still going full steam. It is impressive.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "No Game No Life volume 4" an A+

Click here for the next book review (for fun): Dungeons and Dragons - Complete Divine

Click here for the previous review book (also for fun): Dungeons and Dragons - Heroes of Battle

Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Read for fun: Dungeons and Dragons - Heroes of Battle

This is a supplement to the main Dungeon Master's guide which is specific to war-theme campaigns. It offers campaign advice, sample missions, new prestige classes, new feats, new items and new spells. The idea is provide aids for a campaign other than dungeon crawling.

 The differences are quickly made apparent. Four adventurer PCs in a large army of NPCs against another army of NPCs in open area instead of an enclosed one with far more going on than a single encounter at a time; how does one manage that? The answer can apply not only to board games but to video games and adventure novels too, "Think big, play small". After reading this section, I started seeing it in a lot of plots, such as Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon.

There is this chapter in the game which revolves around a huge siege of Dragon City. There are a lot of humanoid moles defending the walls and the gates (competently, I might add) and four big and powerful dragons. In all of this, how do the programmers make Spyro and Cynder relevant here? Before you say "exploit protagonist powers and take on the entire army in the field", let me pre-empt that by saying this is not a game where the main character can kill any number of mooks; take on too many and you will die. Maybe you could do it using cheat codes to get fury breath early and unlimited mana but even then an enemy could get the drop on you from above.

Instead, the game guides the players through scenario. The dragon pair put out fires, defend a wall-mounted cannon, help the guy reload, destroy siege towers, and defend the front gate. All of these are singular, specific, important areas where PCs can make a significant difference in at least one section of combat, and through it, the overall battle.

Also, this book is not all about pitched battles or sieges. There is variety. A DM can plan covert stuff like intel gathering and rescues missions. There are escape-the-siege-and-bring-reinforcements missions. There is infiltration and La Resistance type missions. There is lots of potential fun suggested apart from dungeon crawling, and that can be included too (Ex. "The general has received word of special combat-power-enhancing herbs that only grow in this haunted forest".....).

In addition to campaign and encounters, there are also new prestige classes ranging from Combat Medics, mixing fighter and cleric, to War Weavers who are basically wizards geared around team-playing, to Legendary Leaders, who milk all the advantages that come from having many cohorts and can make the morale checks easier to manage.

Speaking of which, the morale rules are interesting. Losing too much health or seeing a bunch of their comrades die can lead an NPC to fear and panic, but seeing a hero doing something awesome or giving a rousing speech can embolden them. This is another way that PCs can influence battles. It also adds another layer of realism and strategy, which aids immersion and rewards those that can effectively utilize the system.

I tell you, I'm going to refer to this book when designing my own war-themed campaigns as much or more than a textbook like The Medieval Siege. What's good for the Dungeon Master is good for the Author.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes of Battle" an A+


Click here for my thoughts on other D&D manuals: Player's Manual 3.5 and Complete Divine

Click here for my next book review (for fun): No Game No Life volume 4

Click here for my previous book review (a request): Song Hereafter

Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Answering review request: Song Hereafter

Jean Gill asked me to read her novel, "Song Hereafter". It is the fourth book in her "The Troubadours"  series and the fourth book of hers that I have reviewed. I wished I had a Hall of Fame on my blog because this is also the fourth book of hers that I find excellent. I will examine Plot, Character, and Polish, and then assign a grade.

The overarching plot here is that of Dragonetz and Estela's relationship trouble; not with each other but with their situation. They are effectively a married couple (common-law marriage?) but for previous-book reasons, they can't be officially married. This causes certain problems in 12st century European society. These problems take the form of several, smaller, more concrete arcs. The biggest of which, and what is the meat of this book, is a stealth-diplomatic mission to Gwalia (i.e. Whales).

Upon initially reading the book, it can come off as disjointed because certain plot points are set up and then resolved shortly after (with exception, of course, to the main plot in Gwalia) without any obvious connection. However, one soon sees how they are all connected to the larger plot and build off on each other. It can sometimes be surprising just how well they connect. It is a tapestry of life, sort of thing.
I like what Jean Gill does with scenery and other landscape details. It is a great balance of what is beautiful and what is necessary. When the leading couple approach the Palace of Joy in Zaragoza, there is this depiction of its splendor. The natural landscapes in Gwalia are similarly attentive but not every location is described. That would be exhausting. Reaching this balance is something I try to do in my own writing, but I am not as consistently skilled  in this area as Miss Gill.
Question: "What's in the bag?" Answer: "A badger." WHACK. Simultaneously, this scene is funny, serious, and an establishing character moment for two critical characters and their society.
Over the course of this book, Estella writes a travel guide she calls "The Wise Traveler". Not only does it show another development of Estella's creative nature but it also serves as a handy and non-intrusive way to provide exposition. It is actually a meta device because the information provided about the places Estella visits also informs the person reading Miss. Gill's book about Estella's point of view and audience.
There is a satisfying conclusion, both to this book and to this series. The Romance Genre aspect of the series is fulfilled in full and many plot threads are tied. It is a good place to stop in the lives of Estela and Dragonetz, though there is definitely more to them.
Estela's character continues to develop as her character arc takes a new turn. This book places a special emphasis on the roles of wife and mother, which unfolds in how Estela is vs how the society at the time and place expects both to act. There is patience and understanding but also stubborn support (whether he likes it or not). There is also a heightened contrast with Alienor that was previously absent.
Contrasting this is her coming into her own as a healer by saving her own medical mentor from a disease that is really tough to cure. It turns out that her first task with a patient is convincing the family that A.) it is not yet time for Last Rites and B.) she, personally, can heal them.

Then there is writing "The Wise Traveler", which shows another facet of her artistic side, apart from writing and singing.
It is interesting to note that despite getting beaten over the head with social norms like wives being absolutely obedient to their husbands, Estela is not portrayed as a feminist. Sure, she doesn't want to "count to four" whenever her husbands commands it of her, and would really appreciate it if people didn't assume that her man was responsible for her lyrics, and bristles when a court lord forbids her from singing because of her gender, but she is also totally on board with supporting her husband's goals even if she doesn't agree with them, making sure her children are taken care off even if it precludes other opportunities, and generally putting family first.
As for Dragonetz, the self-flagellating continues. He is a complex chivalric character. It's like he is a Knight in Sour Armor that aspires to be a Knight in Shining Armor but has too many human frailties and too much disillusionment to do so.
Despite all the good he does, he never feels like it's enough. There's this scene where he goes to a notary to legally designate the son he sired with Estela as his heir and make sure they're both provided for in the event of his untimely death (which, considering his line of work, is a very likely thing) but leaves it feeling like he's betrayed her since she's legally his mistress instead of his wife (incidentally, this is also his fault due to a previous  attempt at helping her).
Also, there's this running gag where he jokes about using his sword on any warrior or bard that Estela shows too much admiration for; Estela hopes he's joking. It turns out to be another human frailty that he feels a need to metaphorically whip himself for.

The third character that I want to focus on is John Halfpenny, a master minter. He's mostly here for comedy, whether it is rants about how he hates working with gold, clowning around as the Lord of Misrule, or standing perfectly still while Estela practices knife-throwing on him. Yet he, too, is a complex character, with his backstory regarding The Anarchy in England at the time, and the role he plays in the stealth-diplomacy mission.

There isn't really a villain here. It's more like a series of grey-scale antagonists. Here are people who could be allies or enemies. It is part of a general greyness that is upheld well through all of Miss. Gill's series. Lords Rhys and Marredud are like neutrals who could go either way depending on the actions of their guests/captives, Patronella doesn't do much more than sniff disdainfully at how the lead couple is living in sin, and Miquel, despite being a stellar example of Faux Evilly Affable, thinks he's doing the right thing.
I didn't see any typos or grammar errors. That's a difficult thing to do with a novel.
I also like the glossaries and maps that are included at the start of the novel.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Song Hereafter" an A+

Click here for book 3 in "The Troubadours" Plaint for Provence

Click here for my next book review (for fun): D&D Heroes of Battle

Click here for the previous book review (for fun): Resisting Happiness

Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).