Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness

 Another bestseller I've been meaning to get to for some time, set in a world populated by witches, daemons and vampires, living in secret among humans. A witch whose pedigree goes back to Salem, but who has tried to give up witchcraft, discovers by accident a hidden and bespelled book that may hold the secrets not just to her personal past, but to the origins of all the supernatural creatures in her world.

 Along the way she also discovers a star crossed romance with a vampire, and faces persecution by a secret supernatural society that controls conduct between the races. Which sounds a little "Twilight"-esque, but is actually done much better. Oh, and there's time travel. The book is a little long, but the action moves along pretty well, with just enough revelations doled out to keep you turning pages. The book is the first of the "All Souls" trilogy, so of course it ends on a cliffhanger. Now to get my hands on book two.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Level Up! Blogfest

 So, I found out about this blogfest at the last minute, which is my excuse for posting this blog today, when the blogfest was technically yesterday. Anyway, the idea was to write about your favorite game, be it board, card, video or otherwise.

 This seemed easy at first, until I thought about the sheer number and variety of games I've enjoyed over the years. I had a '70s childhood full of the classics: Monopoly, PayDay, Trouble, Clue and Battleship, among others. Then came the '80s and the Atari 2600: Pitfall, Breakout, Asteroids, Pong - too many to count. Not to mention the arcade. I could make a quarter last 20 minutes or more in my Ms. PacMan heyday. And the '90s and 2000s brought customizable card games, new console gaming systems, new role-playing games...

 Eventually, I narrowed myself down to table-top games. They never go out of style, they're good for any generation, and they don't take batteries. (Well, actually, some of them do take batteries now - and what's up with the Monopoly that uses debit cards instead of cash? Wasn't the point of Monopoly to teach kids how to count money? But I digress.) Instead of picking just one game, I picked two: a classic and a new one.

 The best classic board game ever is Scrabble. The rules are simple, it never needs to be "modernized" for a new generation, and anyone who can read can play. Online versions are great, too, (I enjoy Words With Friends on my iPad) but nothing beats sitting at the board, staring at those wooden tiles, then laying down the perfect Q word on a triple word score box. Just the smooth feel of that wooden tile, like a touchstone of literacy, can bring back memories of late nights and rainy days spent arguing the validity of an obscure word.

 For the best new table-top game, I picked Dixit, sure to be a future classic. If you've never heard of it, it uses a deck of 84 cards, each with a beautifully drawn, slightly surreal and enigmatic picture. Each player gets a hand of six cards at a time. The person whose turn it is chooses a card from their hand and makes up a sentence, word or phrase that describes the card, then puts it face down on the table. The other players must choose a card from their hands that they think also fits the description, and put their choice face down on the table. The cards are mixed, then turned face up, and the players must guess which is the original player's card. Points are awarded based on guessing correctly, and on fooling your fellow players.

 This game is great for all ages, and any type of group. If the players all know each other well, it becomes a challenge to fool each other. If the players are acquaintances, or only just met, the game is a great ice breaker. The game changes with each new group you play with, and if you get tired of the cards, there are expansion sets out with plenty of new drawings to choose from, so the game never gets old.

 Suddenly, I'm glad today is a snow day. I'm going to play Candy Land with my 6-year-old, and maybe tonight I can talk my DH into a game of Scrabble...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review: Attachments

by Rainbow Rowell

 Been meaning to get to this book for some time, since I used to work with the author. It's always fun reading books set in your hometown, reading about familiar places and events. Set in a newsroom in the lead up to the Y2K non-event, this book took me back to where I was at that time of my life. Rowell does a great job of evoking that not-so-long-ago time.

 This is a cute story,  a love story about about a newspaper movie reviewer and the IT guy who falls for her through his job of monitoring her flagged emails. Rowell does a great job of creating characters we care about, believable dialogue, and a story that moves along at a good clip - no dead spots. She's got a unique voice, and this isn't just good for a first novel, it's a good novel. Can't wait for her next ones, she's got two due out later this year.