My roommate got a job working there, so I was in the store at least once a week or every other week. I got to know the owner, who is one of the coolest guys in the Winona area. I was opened up to a world of a different type of gaming.
I’m creating a Bucket List of Board Games that I haven’t played yet, but I intend to. I will sticky this to the front page of the Gaming Section and I plan to update it as I play new games. Also I hope to post a review on some of these board games especially the ones with the strike out through the name. In the meantime, enjoy my bucket list! Also feel free to comment with various board games that I can add on the list.
I was first introduced to Riley Sager after I read Final Girls last year. Final Girls was my favorite book I read in 2020 partly because it felt like I was reading a slasher movie. Sager seems to have found his niche in writing psychological thrillers with some horror or supernatural elements thrown in. Lock Every Door was on my TBR (to be read) for a long time as I was saving it for Fall/Spooky season. Lock Every Door was another captivating and eerie read.
Jules Larsen is down on her luck. She’s lost her job, found out her boyfriend was cheating on her, and she’s homeless. Jules finds an ad in the paper about an apartment sitter at a notorious New York ritzy apartment building called the Bartholomew. Jules is interviewed by the luxurious Leslie Evelyn who decides Jules is the perfect pick. As Jules moves in, she starts to notice strange occurrences at the mansion. After one of the other tenants moves out unexpectedly does Jules decides to do her investigation which leads her down a dark path.
This book took some sharp turns where I wasn’t sure what Jule’s fate would be. Jules was a protagonist I was genuinely rooting for. She has been through so much trauma at a young age and knows what it’s like to be close to giving up. I read some negative reviews of Lock Every Door and they stated that Jules is naive and a bit reckless for moving into an apartment buildingshe doesn’t know anything about. However, I think it’s made clear that Jules needs the money. She is living paycheck to paycheck and she needs money fast.
Lock Every Door wasn’t a supernatural thriller like I had originally anticipated. It’s more showing how evil humanity can be and how some in society view others as less than due to income level. Each villain in this story was someone I hated, so kudos to Sager for making me hate everyone who had a hand in hurting Jules. While reading Lock Every Door, I kept thinking this reminded me of American Horror Story: Hotel. All I pictured was the rich aura of the Hotel in AmericanHorror Story and how Leslie Evelyn could be a Lady Gaga Esque type woman.
I have now read two of Sager’s books and I’m starting to notice a pattern. Earlier in this post, I mentioned how Sager has a niche. Each book stars a female protagonist who has been hit with some kind of personal tragedy or trauma. The female protagonist is put in danger and has to fight her way out using her trauma to provide fuel to fight back. I have liked Sager’s books, however, I can understand why some readers don’t. I find it’s worth mentioning because while I liked this book, I do find that once you read one Riley Sager book, you have the formula for the rest.
Lock Every Door was such an engrossing read. I’m a bit skeptical to read more Riley Sager books as I’m finding they are becoming a bit formulaic.
One of the ways I bond with my brother is by playing board games. I’m often exposed to new and intriguing games when my brother brings them to the table. One of these games is Bullet. I first played this game on my brother’s birthday and honestly, I wasn’t a fan of this game. Bullet seemed extremely confusing and I felt it was a bit too fast-paced for me. However, after playing Bullet for the second time, I found my opinion regarding this game completely flipped. Bullet isn’t my all-time favorite board game, although it’s one I would play again.
Bullet stars various female protagonists as they attempt to save Earth from evil. They do this by erasing bullets. Bullets are each categorized by different colors and numbers which tell the player where bullets go on their character card. Bullet‘s turn style is a bit unique as each player takes their turn at the same time. Each player pulls bullets out of a bag and places them in their card. To clear bullets, players use pattern cards to erase bullets. If bullets pile up on the character card without being cleared, the player loses. The final player standing wins.
One of the reasons I found myself enjoying my second playthrough was the character I picked. My character, Ling-Ling Xiao required a bit more mathematical calculation, however, I thought she was really powerful. I could plan out my patterns and clear multiple bullets off my board. She also has four bullet spots on her character card which allows her to survive for a bit longer. I can’t remember the other character I played in my first game, however, I think Ling-Ling will be my go-to character from now on.
The biggest challenge of Bullet is the Tetris style of how bullets fall on a character sheet. It was difficult to wrap my brain around how the bullets fell and how I wanted to move them around to create patterns. In my first game, I was feeling frustrated and in my second game, I felt more empowered to try and win.
Bullet is the perfect game for any retro video game or Tetris fan. It feels similar to an arcade game. I’m glad I gave Bullet a second chance.
I go through phases when I listen to podcasts. Sometimes, I listen to podcasts daily or I go months without listening to a single episode. I’m in a phase where I haven’t been listening to podcasts as frequently as I used to. When I drove home from Kansas City, I found myself getting bored by listening to the same music. Instead of listening to music, I decided to get caught up on one of the most entertaining DnD roleplaying podcasts, Ain’t Slayed Nobody. Ain’t Slayed Nobody kept me on the edge of my seat while I drove through Iowa which is quite the achievement. I actually got to the point in my drive where I didn’t want to get home because of this podcast.
Ain’t Slayed Nobody is a Call of Cthulhu podcast. Ain’t Slayed Nobody takes place in the Wild West in the 1800s. There are five characters within this game: Sheriff Ellie Bishop (played by Alex McDaniel), Outlaw Lance Kilkenny (played by Jay Arnold), Priest Father Flint Westwater (played by Brandon Wainerdi), Miner Jeremiah Fensworth (played by Wes Davis), and Nomadic Drifter Johnny Rhodes (played by Chuck). The centered story arc is solving the murder of Ellie’s father. As the investigation continues, the group stumbles upon several bizarre incidents that test their sanity.
Ain’t Slayed Nobody does a brilliant job at storytelling. Immediately after listening to episode #1, I was hooked. The episodes often end on cliffhangers meaning I’m forced to wait until the next episode airs to find out what happens. As I listen to each episode, I feel like I’m in the Wild West with the characters as they learn more about each other. Eventually, Ellie does realize what happened to her father which leads to a shocking twist I didn’t see coming.
With the characters, it’s tough for me to pick a favorite. Jay’s Irish accent attached to Lance is so well done. Jeremiah is another fan favorite with his one-liners including “I’m going to turn his femur into mist”. Wes attaches an accent to Jeremiah as well which helps solidify his character. I’m listening to the season finale of Ain’t Slayed Nobody and it’s clear there are major character deaths. Out of all the roleplaying podcasts I have listened to, Ain’t Slayed Nobody feels like there are actual stakes. These characters could become insane, die a painful death or have another horrific event happen to them.
Listening to a role-playing podcast, the keeper or the dungeon master can make or break a podcast. For Aint Slayed Nobody, cuppycup is the keeper and he does a great job narrating the podcast. He speaks clearly into the mic along with talking at a steady speed. He doesn’t talk too quickly, so I never felt myself not being able to follow the story.
Ain’t Slayed Nobody made driving through Iowa fun which is not something I thought I would say. The last episode in the first arc is releasing on Tuesday, August 31st, and I have never been more excited for a podcast episode to air.
For Planet Comicon, I set a budget. I knew if I didn’t set a budget for myself, I would overspend. Before the convention, I pulled out $100 in cash and told myself that I would only spend this much unless I saw anything I had to have. While roaming around the con, I made mental notes on anything I wanted to revisit. This allowed me to stick to my budget and purchase merch I was satisfied with. I wanted to share my haul from the con.
Plume by K. Lynn Smith Volume #1
This was my first purchase of the con. I’m a big fan of K. Lynn Smith and her work in comics. I helped back For Goodness Sake on Kickstarter which is a series I adored. Smith is mostly recognized for her webcomic, Plume which exploded in popularity. At Smith’s booth, she had the omnibus of Plume along with each printed volume. I decided to purchase the first volume to see if Plume is a series I would be interested in.
Not Topic is a fashion & collectibles online shop selling merchandise primarily from Harry Potter and Supernatural. I saw that Not Topic had these Harry Potter windbreakers featuring the Hogwarts houses. I walked by their booth several times but wanted to hold off from making a purchase. Ultimately, I couldn’t resist the Hufflepuff windbreaker especially because I don’t have a windbreaker in my closet. The attendants at the booth were kind enough to let me try on the windbreaker before purchasing. I ended up with a medium. I have broad shoulders thanks to years of upper body weight lifting, so it’s tough for me to fit into a women’s small. The medium fit me perfectly. I did check Not Topic’s website and I didn’t see that any of the Harry Potter merchandise was licensed by Warner Bros.
Unstable Unicorns & Llamas Unleashed
My final purchase was at Teeturtle’sbooth. I had been eyeing purchasing my copy of Unstable Unicorns after playing it at a game night with friends. Unstable Unicorns is a game that’s perfect to bring to a brewery because there isn’t a lot to set up along with being easy to teach to friends. I bought the NSFW (not safe for work) edition. Along with Unstable Unicorns, I also bought Llamas Unleashed. I have no idea what the game is about, I saw it and wanted it because who doesn’t want a game featuring Llamas?
Attending Planet Comicon meant a lot to me. In addition to being able to go to a con post-2020, it was nice to be able to support smaller businesses and creators.
As someone who collects board games, it’s normal for me to have an unwrapped board game waiting to be played. My brother gave me Mysterium two years ago as a birthday present and until last weekend, I never opened it. I was determined to finally open this game especially because it’s going to be Fall / Halloween season soon. Mysterium is one of my favorite games I have ever played and as someone who’s a big fan of Clue, Mysterium adds a supernatural element to the classic game.
Mysterium is a collaborative game meaning all players will win or lose. Mysterium is set in the 1920s with the characters playing as psychics performing a seance. One of the characters will play as the ghost who will display visions to relay to the psychics who killed him at this mansion twenty years before. The objective of the game is for the psychics to guess correctly what the ghost is trying to say in seven in-game hours. The ghost wants the psychics to guess correctly, so the murder can be solved. If the psychics cannot guess correctly within the seven in-game hours, everyone loses as their spiritual connection to the ghost is severed.
This is where the inspiration for Codenames comes in. The ghost has vision cards that the ghost will play in front of psychics to try and get the psychics to guess the correct person, location, or object. In all the games our group played, I was always in the psychic role. The toughest part is trying to put the pictures together to then make a correct guess. Both roles whether they be the psychic or the ghost are challenging for different reasons.
One of the major highlights of playing Mysterium is the art. The art on the vision cards was ethereal and mysterious. Each card genuinely fits into the setting of the game. The vision cards had so many artistic details to them that I wasn’t sure what on the card was important. Another highlight was the level of detail in the rest of the components of the game. On the front page of the rules, each psychic character has their own back story which I loved. I changed characters throughout our playthroughs to have someone different to play as.
In our three total games, our group only won one game. In Mysterium, there are three different difficulties. Our group played on easy and that still was tough. I like playing tougher, collaborative board games because when our group does win on a higher difficulty, it’s so satisfying. In future gameplay, I do want to try playing on the medium or the hard difficulty.
Mysterium was a blast to play! Everyone in our group had a fun time learning the game, setting it up, and making the guesses. Being a fan of both Codenames along with Clue, I felt Mysterium embodied both.
Every booktuber I follow raved about The House in the Cerulean Sea. My local bookstore had this book on display as one of the best books released in 2020. I couldn’t be left out of the bandwagon. I purposefully planned to read this in summer because of the gorgeous cover along with the lighthearted premise. The House in the Cerulean Sea is a slow-burn fantasy novel about love, happiness, and fighting against prejudice.
CW for discussions of genocide against indigenous people.
Before I write my review, I do want to mention one more thing. T.J. Klune, the author of the book, based this book off of the “60’s Scoop”. The “60’s Scoop” is a real-life genocide where children were kidnapped and mistreated. There has been discussion about this and whether Klune is profiting off of a horrific event. I didn’t know this before reading The House in the Cerulean Sea. If you would like to read more, I suggest starting here: https://www.reddit.com/r/romancelandi…
Linus Baker lives an ordinary life without much excitement. Linus works as a caseworker, visiting various orphanages along with writing reports about what he sees. Linus is sent away to spend a month on a rather unusual assignment. At this orphanage, he discovers the “anti-christ” lives there with other magical children. Linus’s goal is to write weekly reports, get to know the children, and decide if this orphanage should be shut down.
The character development in this book was heartwarming and emotional. Linus was somewhat unlikable and scared to break away from his mundane life. Towards the end of the book, he starts to defend himself and realizes that he has the control to decide what will make him happy. Linus develops a deep relationship with Arthur, who cares for the children at the orphanage. Each of the children have their own background and personality. In stories like these, it’s easy to have some characters blend into the background, but that wasn’t the case here.
When reading fantasy, I want to feel like I’m in this world. TJ Klune’s writing made me feel this way. I could close my eyes to picture the seaside town, the color of the water, and the little cottage where Linus stays.
The messaging throughout this book was lovely. There were various themes subtly presented throughout the book. One example was how children are taught hatred, they aren’t born with it. Another message in this book was self-love. Linus has a lot of insecurity over his weight. All of the characters reinforce the fact that Linus doesn’t have to change and he’s fine exactly the way he is. I also loved the fact that this book confronted how a society can be destroyed when we let preconceived notions get the better of us. This book had such great messages and it helped to read this at a slower rate, so I wouldn’t miss it all.
The House in the Cerulean Sea was such a lovely book. It was a feel-good fantasy I was really invested in. The House in the Cerulean Sea lives up to the hype and might be my favorite book I read this year.
Last weekend, I drove to Kansas City, MO to attend Planet Comicon. This was my first convention since Covid hit back in 2020. Before the pandemic, I attended C2E2 in February right before lockdown began. This trip was a bit spontaneous as I only planned it a couple of weeks prior. While I understand the pandemic isn’t over, I felt this was worth the risk. I was vaccinated, wore a mask the entire time, and tried to limit the time I was nearby people. I felt Planet Comicon did the best they could and I was grateful that this con was able to run. If there’s anything I missed in 2020, it was conventions.
Planet Comicon required masks. I didn’t see anyone take off their mask or wear it down to their chin. It seemed everyone took the mask requirement seriously. The only other improvement I could see was Planet Comicon could have required vaccinations. I brought my vaccination card in case someone wanted to see it. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect everyone including the immunocompromised. I know Lollapalooza required vaccinations or a negative Covid test, and I wish PlanetComicon did this as well.
My favorite part of Planet Comicon was the photo ops! There was a display of Predator, a Lego Baby Yoda, and the Ghostbusters were there with the Ecto-1. There were cars from Supernatural, however, I had to pay extra for that and I’m not a big fan of the show. I had a fun time running around taking photos and endless masked selfies. I will say, I found myself taking fewer pictures of cosplayers. I think the pandemic had something to do with that. With the masks, it’s more difficult to go up to someone or get their attention. I had more than enough fun hanging out by myself and doing what I wanted to do.
I would say the only disappointment was the lack of panels. I like attending panels because it allows me to sit down and relax. I walked 17,500 steps on Friday! I did sit in on the Star Wars Costuming panel about putting together Star Wars cosplays, but nothing else in the programming caught my eye. After spending my cash, I ended up leaving early because I didn’t see anything else worth staying for.
Reflecting on Planet Comicon, I’m thrilled that this was able to happen. I felt hopeful for the future of conventions. I felt so happy waiting in line and walking around the show floor. Conventions are my happy place and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
In one of my recent posts, I wrote about having a free weekend and being able to unwind. During this weekend, I devoted some time to watch whatever I wanted to watch on Netflix. One documentary I had my eye on for a while was Pray Away, a documentary detailing the rise of Conversion therapy and why it’s so psychologically damaging. For those who are unfamiliar, Conversion therapy is a form of “therapy” (I put therapy in quotes because I wouldn’t call this therapy) surrounding the idea that gay people can be cured and converted back into being straight. Pray Away was a heartbreaking documentary, but one I would highly recommend watching.
Pray Away interweaves the stories of survivors of conversion therapy along with several prominent Conversion therapy activists. As the history of Conversion therapy unfolds, it seems that what was being sold to the public was completely false. John Paulk was a major voice in Conversion therapy as he was a “former” gay man who was now married to a woman. His wife, Anne, also went through Conversion therapy and that’s how John and Anne met. John mentions in the documentary that he, “ached to be loved by a man”. Hearing him tell his story about how he was selling something he didn’t believe in made me feel for him. Today, John has divorced his wife and is now openly gay.
Another story that the documentary focused on was Julie Rodgers. Julie came out to her family at a young age and was taken to Conversion therapy. She was there for many years and was encouraged to speak at various religious conferences. During Conversion therapy, she was coerced into telling a deeply personal story in front of many people. Julie eventually was able to get out of therapy and has just married her lovely wife. This story showed clips of her wedding and how she was able to get married in a church. I will admit, I sometimes have a negative bias towards religion, however, seeing Julie reclaim her religion for herself was so endearing to me.
I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to not be able to love the person you’re meant to be with. As I spent time writing my vows this week, it made me think back to the lives shown in Pray Away. While many who survived Conversion therapy went to live long and authentic lives, so many didn’t because of the psychological damage of not being able to cure being gay. Suicide was prevalent amongst Conversion therapy, and I’m glad to see strides being taken to ban this form of “therapy” altogether.
Pray Away was a well-made, engaging and thoughtful documentary. This documentary did take an emotional toll, so I would only recommend it if you’re in the mood for something a bit more emotional. Pray Away can be watched on Netflix.
As mentioned in one of my recent posts, I was able to use my free weekend to finish The Shadow Mission by Shamim Sarif. This is book #2 in the Athena Protocol series. I read The Athena Protocol last year and I loved it. I had high hopes for the sequel. The Shadow Mission was another fast-paced outing, however, there was one scene in particular that didn’t sit right with me. I do discuss this scene in quite detail and I have attached a content warning as well.
After Athena’s mission in Belgrade, Jessie Archer is debriefed for her next mission. The Athena team is tasked to take on a far-right group known as Family First who feel women shouldn’t be educated and belong in the home. After a terrorist attack at an all-girls school, Jessie is thrown into the investigation and connects with Riya, a detective who is also investigating the bombing. Together, they uncover another terrorist plot on a different all-girls boarding school, can they stop it in time?
Originally when reading The Athena Protocol, I wasn’t a big fan of Jessie. However, I felt Jessie has grown quite a bit since the first book. She seemed more calm and collected. She was more aware of the consequences of her actions. I found myself growing attached to her story and why she is the way she is. Caitlin and Hala, Jessie’s fellow Athena agents, were still as intriguing as ever.
While Jessie grew on me as a character, I found a certain scene in this book that made me uneasy.
CW: Outing of an LBGTQIA+ character *read at your own risk*
There’s a scene where Jessie and Hala follow this politician who they think has affiliations with Family First. As they approach, they recognize that this politician is having an affair with a man. To gain intelligence, Jessie blackmails the politician into helping them and threatening to release photographs to the media. Jessie isn’t straight, so I’m surprised Jessie doesn’t see this as being hypocritical. Additionally, this scene takes place in India which in some ways isn’t as progressive as other countries on LGBTQIA+ rights. This politician isn’t a good person, however, this crossed the line for me. I felt this scene left me with an icky taste in my mouth. I wish Sarif didn’t write this scene in the book to begin with.
With this being said, I did enjoy reading The Shadow Mission. When I wrote my original review on Goodreads, I ended up only rating this four stars. With the scene I discussed above, it felt out of place enough for me not to give this a full five star rating. Overall, I’m still excited that this series exists and I can’t wait for book #3
The last movie I saw in theaters before the pandemic was Birds of Prey. It seems fitting that the first movie I see in theaters is The Suicide Squad. My fiance was all about watching this on HBO Max, but I missed going to a movie. I convinced him to see this last Friday and get out of the apartment. The Suicide Squad rocked and it’s probably one of my favorite movies DC has ever made.
The Suicide Squad is a ragtag team of supervillains sent out on literal suicide missions for the US government. Led aggressively by Amanda Waller (played wonderfully by Viola Davis), Waller puts chips in their necks. Any deserter gets their head blown off which is featured quite gruesomely in the first half of the film. The squad is sent to Corto Maltese to investigate Jotunheim where something of alien origin is supposedly housed. Their mission is to find what’s there and destroy it, so Corto Maltese doesn’t have access to it.
This movie is downright ridiculous. Harley (played by Margot Robbie) is flirtatious and fun to see on screen. Robbie does such a great job and seems to genuinely enjoy playing as Harley. While Harley is the one to watch, it feels like each of the main Suicide Squad members gets their time to shine. Ratcatcher 2 (played by Daniela Melchior) is one to keep tabs on. While controlling rats may seem like a silly power, she plays an important role later in the film. I found myself drawn to her when I didn’t think I would be. If you think controlling rats is silly, wait until you see Polka Dot Man. Yes, James Gunn the director of Guardians of the Galaxy brought Polka Dot Man into this movie. Polka Dot Man (played by David Dastmalchian) serves a purpose here. There are several hilarious scenes with Polka Dot Man that I won’t spoil.
John Cena plays the Peacemaker who is obsessed with peace and will kill for it. Hypocritical much? Peacemaker was written for Cena as he seems at ease playing this character. Rick Flagg (played by Joel Kinnaman) has a much bigger role in this film than the previous Suicide Squad movie. He comes off as a born leader and helps bring the team together to rely on each other, so they can all survive. As a fan of the Harley Quinn animated series, I was elated to see King Shark. King Shark is the MVP of this movie. He tears through enemies and gets to feast on flesh as he does so.
James Gunn does a marvelous job at balancing all these characters. There are several story lines going on simultaneously until everything converges at Jotunheim. This easily could have been a mess, but Gunn adds in various hints to keep the watcher aware of where everyone is at. There’s jumping around at certain times, but it doesn’t feel out of place. The Suicide Squad can be a lot to handle, and James Gunn was the perfect director to make this film.
Without spoiling, there’s a certain character death that completely shocked me. I was fully expecting this to be a joke and the character would get up and walk around, but no. This character was DEAD. This threw me for a loop.
Both me and my fiance were blown away by how good this film is. As many know, DC’s films are a hit or a miss. There’s no in-between. I’m happy to say that this is so worth the watch. I’m excited to re-watch this on HBO Max. Let me know in the comments who your favorite character is from The Suicide Squad.