My Dragon Age Obsession

All DAI characters

Companion Cast from Dragon Age: Inquisition. From L to R: Sera, Cassandra, Solas, Varric, Dorian, Blackwall, Iron Bull, Vivienne, and Cole

For the past couple of months, I have been completely obsessed with the video game Dragon Age: Inquisition (DA:I), the third game in the series. I currently have about 200+ hours of game time on it so far and four characters (two mages, a rogue and a warrior). I’ve finished it twice and we have the Game of the Year edition, so I am attempting to play through the Trespasser DLC but have gotten stuck. I have started a Pinterest board to keep up with the obsession. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, I recommend you check out the Dragon Age universe wiki. This will give you a detailed description about the storyline of the three games if you so wish. For a briefer description, check out the edited comic below (which is linked on the Pinterest board) from Erika Moen & Matthew Nolan.

Edited Explanation of Dragon Age

Bioware, the company that also creates the Mass Effect series (another fantastic series if you love great storylines), has created the Dragon Age games. I love the series because they have great narrative storylines, the player can get really invested in the characters (both the main, as you can minutely create your hero down to the last physical detail, and secondary ones), and yeah the fighting is cool too. Plus there are progressively better graphics (really the difference between the first and third games is staggering) and hilarious companion conversations before/during battles really crack me up.

My favorite characters in DA:I are Iron Bull, Dorian,Solas and Cullen. Iron Bull and Dorian because their witty random comments are very entertaining, Solas because the intellectual/nerdy side of me loves his character and wants to do him even though he is kind of a bastard, and Cullen because he’s so awkward and shy it’s freaking adorable. Needless to say, these are also the characters I have romanced in-game.

I discovered fanfiction and have been reading that for awhile now too. It’s cool to see what other people can create from a beloved video game or TV show. Some of the writing is horrible (not just badly written but also bad grammar – sorry but the grammar nazi in me is coming out here). Some, however, is really good and you can tell that people put a lot of effort into writing good stories/books (some with over 100,000 words – the same as a PhD dissertation, in the UK at least) and genuinely want to hear feedback/comments from the people who read their works. I also discovered that the game series has released five books and a series of graphic novels. So excited to read them!!

I just finished The Last Flight (Dragon Age #5) by Liane Merciel and thought I would share my review on here. The book is set half during the Fourth Blight and right before the Fifth. The Blight is basically when the darkspawn (a group of tainted creatures like ogres – think of orcs and goblins from The Lord of the Rings trilogy) who corrupt an Old God and turn it into a dragon called an Archdemon, which in turn causes all the darkspawn to come up from underground and raze the countryside of Thedas. The Grey Wardens are the fighting force sworn to protect everyone from the darkspawn and kill the Archdemon. The story starts out with Valya, an elven mage coming to the Grey Wardens to help research info from the Fourth Blight as the darkspawn are stirring for another uprising. The book switches between the main storyline happening right before the Fifth Blight (which occurs during the first Dragon Age game, Origins), and the end of the Fourth Blight (about four hundred years earlier). While researching, Valya discovers a hidden diary from Isseya, a Grey Warden mage and twin sister to the hero of the Fourth Blight, Garahel. The symbol of the Wardens has always been a griffon, but I had no idea that they actually rode them into battle and Isseya’s diary is full of the battles with the darkspawn as well as how her brother managed to kill the Archdemon. Will the diary be able to help the Wardens on the onset of the Fifth Blight? 3 stars.

ThedasPoliticalMap.jpg

Map of Thedas

I was so excited to get the book because it has Wardens flying and fighting on griffons, which is pretty badass. It was cool that they described a bunch of cities/countries like Antiva, Nevarra, Starkhaven, and the Anderfels, which get only a casual mention in the games. I’m actually hoping the next game will be located in these areas. I liked Isseya’s character, though I would’ve liked more information on the mage Calien and being a member of the Crows, as well as being a blood mage in general. My biggest gripe was that the story was a little bit long in its grinding descriptions of the Wardens killing the darkspawn, which took up a significant portion of the book and just glossed over most of the characters, including the hero of the Fourth Blight, Garahel.

This is how I feel about video games, in particular playing a really good one like DA: I. Add in staying up till 1-5am because I’m so involved in the story that I completely lose track of time and you’ve pretty much got me.

Video Games Then and Now

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Jane Steele

Jane Steele

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Published: March 22, 2016

Jane Steele’s father died when she was very young and she and her ailing mother have been living under the good graces of her haughty aunt and cousin. Once her mother dies, and her lecherous cousin tries to attack her, she accidentally murders him in self-defense. Her aunt sends her to a boarding school with a lecherous and abusive headmaster that frequently starves the girls under his care for the slightest infraction. So she murders him and escapes to London and tries to make it on her own for awhile. One day she sees an ad for a governess position at her former estate, Highgate House, and forms a plan to get the house back for herself as the heir. Who are her new employers and what is their interest in the house? Will she be able to succeed with her plan? To find out, read this exciting twist on the classic Jane Eyre. Recommended for ages 15+, 4 stars.

Jane Eyre re-imagined as a teen serial killer historical fiction? Yes please! Ok it’s not exactly a redone Jane Eyre,  but it heavily influenced by the book and the story is supposed to be a confession of the main character written after she has done her “righteous” murders. I’ve never really had the patience to read the original, mostly because the story is so slow moving (though I enjoy the movie versions). Mostly I just wanted to shout at Jane for being an idiot and way too meek. This version of Jane was like Jane Eyre on steroids. She was balls-to-the-wall, not taking crap from anyone and I will eliminate my enemies if they cross me. It was a dark, sexy book and I enjoyed it! I loved it when she was writing last confessions of the recently hanged in London.

I know a lot of people have complained about how boring the second half of the book was, but I really enjoyed all the parts on India, the Sikh Wars, and Charles Thornfield’s back story. The story did slow down a bit as Charles took over the narration, but the ending was rather exciting and made up for it. It was nice to see that Jane wasn’t the only one with a shady past, but I was glad that her and Charles were able to look past it enough to have a little romance of their own.

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Readers Copy from Random House on Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

The Summer Before the War

The Summer Before the War

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

To be published: March 22, 2016

The story is set in the town of Rye, England and is set during the summer of 1914, right before the start of WWI. Beatrice Nash, a writer, is on a train heading for Rye and a job teaching Latin at a local grammar school. This is a time when being a female teacher was still a relatively new thing and patron Agatha Kent fights to get her the position. Mrs. Kent takes her under her wing, setting her up at the local boarding house and introducing her to her nephews Hugh Grange, a promising young surgeon, and his cousin Daniel Bookham, a handsome young poet. Beatrice is plagued by financial issues and must rely on a local slimy law clerk to free up her inheritance and try to get her father’s academic work published, a job she can do herself but must rely on the town’s local author to do for her. As the war breaks out, both Hugh and Daniel enlist, much to the dismay of the aunt, who has always treated the boys as her own. When Germany invades Belgian, refugees are soon added to the town and Beatrice’s interactions with them will forever change her life. 3-1/2 stars.

I was very excited to read this book because I absolutely adored Simonson’s first book Major Pettigrew’s Last StandIt reminded me a lot of Downton Abbey, which I started watching a little before starting this book. Especially Hugh’s character who reminded of Matthew Crawley, not so much because of his profession, but personality-wise. Overall, I enjoyed the book but I thought the story went on for way too long and the story was very slow-moving. I loved all the social interactions between the different classes of people and the varied views on what was deemed proper for the time period, again very Downton Abbey in that respect and especially the relationship between Hugh and Beatrice. Daniel’s story was very sad but true to what would happen to a man of his particular situation in the turn of the 20th century. Agatha Kent was a lot of fun to read about too, and I loved her character, even with the flaws.

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Readers Copy from Random House on Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Read Across America Day

Read Across America Logo

Today is Dr. Seuss’s 112th birthday! To celebrate it, the library celebrates Read Across America Day today as well. This event was created by the National Education Association in 1997 to “help build a nation of readers,” so it makes sense for them to use Dr. Seuss as a jumping off point for activities and getting kids to read because as President Obama said in his proclamation today:

“Through a prolific collection of stories, he [Dr. Seuss] made children see that reading is fun, and in the process, he emphasized respect for all; pushed us to accept ourselves for who we are; challenged preconceived notions and encouraged trying new things; and by example, taught us that we are limited by nothing but the range of our aspirations and the vibrancy of our imaginations.”

Plus if you are an adult reading to a child, it is just a lot of fun to read. As Dr. Seuss said “Or at least I think they are, but I might be partial to them as I’m a pretty huge fan and a Children’s Librarian at that. I have copies of Green Eggs and Ham (did you know there is a beat poem version of this?), There’s a Wocket in my Pocket (which I read to my son’s 3 yr old class last year on Dr. Seuss Day), and Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now? (which I learned today is apparently about Richard Nixon needing to leave office after the Watergate scandal) in my personal collection at home. Today the branch that I’m working at showed the movie The Lorax and did a craft about Truffula trees. The central library in our system has a Dr. Seuss event the weekend before his birthday and gives away 500 free books.

Theres a Wocket in My Pocket

Here are some cool things for parents/caregivers to do with their kids. Here is a booklist of Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children. I especially like this list of 50 Multicultural Books That Every Child Should Read.

Finally, here are some cool facts about Dr. Seuss, taken from here , here, and here:

  1. Dr. Seuss created Cat in the Hat because he was worried that children weren’t learning how to read. A publisher reportedly challenged him to “write a story that first-graders couldn’t put down.”
  2. Dr. Seuss won 2 Oscars, two Emmys, a Peabody award, and a Pulitzer Prize.
  3. He wrote Green Eggs and Ham after a publisher bet him he couldn’t write a book using only 50 different words.
  4. During World War II, Dr. Seuss created war propaganda cartoons. He also made animated films for soldiers.
  5. Dr. Seuss is credited as the first person to use the word “nerd”. He used it in his book If I Ran the Zoo from 1950.