Wedding Winery Trip

In less than 6 months, I will be getting married! These months will go by in a blink of an eye and I still have a lot of planning to do. This past Saturday, me and my friends drove down to the winery to see the venue. It was such a fun time and I constantly think about how fortunate I am that I have the best of friends.

Leading into the day, my fiance dropped me off at my friend’s apartment. As we walked by her apartment, I saw that my friends had rented a luxurious SUV! They rented the car, so we can all have a couple of glasses of wine and no one had to worry about driving home. My friends brought two bottles of champagne for us all to share as we drove up to the winery. It made the day feel so special.

If I haven’t mentioned this before, I’m getting married at Four Daughter’s Winery in Spring Valley, MN which is south of Rochester. It’s located on the border of Minnesota on the southeastern side of the state near Wisconsin. Me and my fiance picked the venue because everything was on site, there was plenty of parking and it’s a gorgeous place. They have done many weddings at the venue before and it will be nice to not have to worry about doing all the set up myself.

Of course we ended up taking pictures as we always do for any girls’ day extravaganza. The pictures give a hint of how beautiful this venue truly is. The place where we had our wine is the room where we would be having dinner for our wedding. I love how rustic the barrels feel in the space. We are getting married in Fall, and I think the barrels add to the Fall feeling I’m going for.

Planning a wedding makes me truly thankful for my friends. They have gone above and beyond for me as far as planning little surprises and making this feel like a once-in-a-lifetime moment in my life. I know they have something up their sleeve for my bachlorette party and I’m excited to see what they have planned. I love my friends, I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

Nancy Drew Secrets Can Kill

I’m back with another Nancy Drew video game review. I still have four other Nancy Drew games I purchased that I haven’t played through yet. I tend to play each Nancy Drew game on Sundays because I usually have a couple of hours I can spend playing the game before I go to bed. Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill is the first installment of detective games. While Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill was released in 1998, the game was re-mastered in 2010 and released on Steam. This was another fun outing, but it’s a bit clunky as the Nancy Drew video game formula hasn’t been established yet.

Eww what a jerk.

Nancy Drew visits her Aunt Eloise in Florida. Her aunt is the librarian at a high school and Nancy is looped into investigating the murder of one of the high school students, Jake Rogers. Since Nancy is in high school, it’s assumed she can get information from the students. Nancy is introduced to the staff, several students, and works with an undercover detective to gather evidence as to who murdered Jake. From Nancy’s investigations, it seems every person Nancy interacts with would have a reason to want Jake dead. Who killed Jake and will Nancy be able to solve the mystery without putting herself in danger?

Oooh creepy.

The answer to the above question is no. There are several instances in this game where Nancy can die if she doesn’t solve the puzzle in time. This includes being trapped in a boiler room and accidentally setting off a gas explosion in a diner. Both puzzles weren’t tough to solve, and while I died at least once, I was able to figure out the puzzle rather quickly. There is one broad puzzle that encompasses the entire game which involves searching for periodic elements Jake has hidden on student boards. The puzzles were fun to solve, and it helps to have a notebook handy while playing through the game.

I will say, this game does have a twist ending I didn’t see coming. There’s a videotape Nancy discovers that illustrates the conclusion as to who could have been involved with Jake’s murder. I had my mouth open for a little bit because it genuinely came out of left field. This bad guy suddenly appears behind Nancy which did give me a bit of a scare.

Although this was a fun game, I wouldn’t start playing through Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill first. While it’s the first game released in chronological order, it’s a bit clunky and the graphics while re-mastered are still not the greatest. I would recommend trying Nancy Drew and the Haunted Carousel or Nancy Drew Ghost of Thornton Hall first before starting this game. I think I liked this game more because I had played other Nancy Drew games first.

Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill was worth playing through. Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill can be purchased and downloaded on Steam.

Fangirl Revisited – 6 Years Later

When I was in college, I went through a major reading slump. With all of the studying and textbook reading I had to do, the last thing I wanted to do was read for fun. I pulled myself out of my reading slump thanks to friends and rediscovering what I liked to read. One of the books I credit for pulling me out of this was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Fangirl had been on my list to re-read for a while and it seemed like every time I wanted to start the book, something would get in my way. Since this is a re-read post, I won’t be covering the plot of Fangirl, however, you can read my original review here: https://bizarrebrunette.com/2015/04/03/fangirl-review/

Fangirl will always be a five-star book for me however, I had a couple of critiques I had this time around with this book. I do think Fangirl is a bit too long. The first half of the book tells the reader about Cath’s routine at college. She’s locating where her classes are, she’s writing a fiction story in the library and she’s too afraid to go to the dining hall. I found this part of the book to be boring to read. There easily could have been sections taken out without the book’s plot suffering. Fangirl is 433 pages and it felt long to read. The second half of Fangirl does pick up, but the first half took me a long time to finish.

Originally when I read Fangirl, I loved Cath as a character. I felt like I identified with her being introverted and her love of fandom. This time, I started to notice how judgemental Cath is. She makes negative comments on how much Wren likes to party. Now, Wren was a bit out of control in some ways, but it felt like to Cath that if Wren was living her life differently than her, it’s wrong. Additionally, Cath seems to have this pretentious attitude because of her scholarship and intelligence. This can be seen in her relationship with Levi who struggles academically and finds it challenging to read a physical book. I do think Cath grows up a bit towards the end of the book, but I was surprised at how some of her statements made me resent her a little bit.

Finally, I noticed Rainbow Rowell makes some weird comments about race in her books. There are examples from both Cath and Wren regarding how they comment on race. Wren comments later in the book how she doesn’t realize a certain race lived on one part of campus. I’m not sure if Rowell wants to hammer into readers how Cath and Wren growing up in Omaha have interacted with people from different races, but the statements come off more cringey than anything else. There has been some controversy surrounding Rainbow Rowell and how she writes characters from a different race specifically in her book Eleanor and Park. It’s interesting reading Fangirl and noticing some of these comments even though this controversy is with a different book that she wrote.

Fangirl will always have a special place in my heart. I read this book while I was going through a identity/insecurity crisis and reading about Cath helped me accept myself for who I am. I can understand why other readers would rate this lower than I did because of some of the points I made above. I’d love to hear any additional thoughts regarding Fangirl, let me know in the comments section below.

Invested in Critical Role

The first time I heard Critical Role mentioned was at Gen Con in 2019. The cast of Critical Role was appearing and my friend was thrilled. He had tickets to go and he said it was the highlight of his convention. Earlier this year, I figured I’d watch the first episode on Youtube because why not? I was still at home and wasn’t sure when I was going to be vaccinated. I can’t believe how easily I have become invested in their campaign. For the past month, all I have been watching is Critical Role.

For those completely new to Critical Role like I was, it’s a D&D campaign show hosted by voice actor, Matthew Mercer, and his other voice actor friends. Every show is streamed live on Thursday nights Pacific Standard Time and uploaded to their Youtube channel. Originally, Critical Role was a private campaign Mercer had, but they decided to partner with Geek & Sundry and start airing their episodes on their channel in 2015. All of the episodes of Critical Role can be watched on Youtube.

When I started watching Critical Role, I went back to the beginning with episode #1 of their first campaign, Vox Machina. There were some recommendations to start with campaign #2 Mighty Nein since it was more refined with better video quality, however, I wanted to start from the beginning. From my watching experience, I would recommend watching Critical Role from the start. It’s fun to witness the chemistry the players have with each other. It’s tough to pick a favorite character because all the characters serve a role in the story.

Another reason I’m enjoying Critical Role is that it’s easy to follow along. I have listened to other D&D podcasts where I couldn’t quite keep up with the game. It helps that Critical Role has a recap told by Mercer and story introductions narrated by each cast member. I usually skip over their backstories, but every ten episodes or so, I will listen to them in full just to keep their stories fresh in my mind. I also prefer watching Critical Role on their Youtube channel versus listening to the podcast.

Additionally, I love how Critical Role gives back to their community. In the beginning, Critical Role was taking donations for 826LA which focused on creating opportunities for younger kids. Now, they have their non-profit that’s launched. I think it’s admirable since they have gotten so popular to start giving back to the community.

I wish I started watching Critical Role sooner than I am now. It’s such a fun group to watch and they all seem to get along with and care for each other. Critical Role has gotten me through some hectic workweeks along with making me look forward to the end of the workday. It’s been a true escape to leave the stresses of work in my office and come aboard Vox Machina and their adventures through Tal’Dorei.

Nancy Drew & the Haunted Carousel

The Nancy Drew computer games can be a huge hit (Ghost of Thornton Hall) or pretty mediocre (Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake). I’m determined to play through them all and officially rank them once I do. It still surprises me how challenging the Nancy Drew games are. The puzzles require some in-depth thought and it’s easy to get stuck not knowing what to do next. Nancy Drew & the Haunted Carousel was one of my favorite Nancy Drew games I played.

In this game, Nancy is recruited by Paula Santos, the owner of Captain’s Cove Amusement Park in New Jersey. One of the horses from the Carousel was stolen and some of the rides seemingly begin to move on their own. Nancy is introduced to several employees of the park who each have a motive as to why they would be interested in the park shutting down. Since this game is set at a carnival, this game is a bit heavy on mini-games especially when Nancy is exploring the arcade. Nancy Drew & the Haunted Carousel is one of the better games to start with because Nancy isn’t at risk of dying in this game. If Nancy makes a wrong choice, it’s more likely she’s fired from the case than perishing. There are also fewer “jump scares” in this game than other Nancy Drew games I played.

I liked how this game had more suspects. It made it that much more intriguing when it was finally revealed who the culprit was. I liked the setting at the park. Certain areas in the game were super creepy. I was a little anxious going through those areas because I was convinced something would jump out at me. The soundtrack to this game complemented the haunted theme.

Overall, this would be a good beginner Nancy Drew game. It’s less scary, and the puzzles while challenging are doable. I have five other Nancy Drew games installed on my computer, so it’s safe to say another Nancy Drew review will be written soon.

PEEPin at a PEEP Art Exhibit

I hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend! For Easter, me and my fiance visit his family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With Covid, we would normally quarantine at his parents and watch TV. However, with both of his parents being vaccinated, we decided to go do something. For the Easter weekend, I convinced the fiance to go to the 11th Annual PEEPS Art Exhibition at the Racine Art Museum. From the title, all of the art pieces were made out of PEEPS.

The exhibit was open from noon to 4 PM. We arrived at the museum at 12:15 and there were already people waiting outside of the museum. Each ticket was $7 which I thought was a good price to see the PEEP room along with the whole museum. As we paid for our tickets, there were dots on the floor representing where to stand to be socially distanced. The museum had a cap of 50 people, so someone was counting how many people were being sold tickets. The PEEPS exhibit was in one room with a walkway with various art pieces. My favorite had to be the Baby Yoda made of brown and green PEEPS glued together. There were also several Bernie sitting on a chair PEEPS along with a Harry Potter-themed one as well.

With Covid, I missed going out and doing random activities. I would happily go to this exhibit next year. It was such a fun way to spend the Holiday.

Intergalatic Cooking in Space Battle Lunchtime

With starting a pull list, I have been reading more single issues than trades. It’s funny because when I first began reading comics, I heavily relied on trades to continue in a series. The latest trade paperback I read was Space Battle Lunch Time published by Oni Press. Imagine if Top Chef took place in space and that’s the synopsis of Space Battle Lunchtime. This had such a fun premise and left off on a big cliffhanger.

Space Battle Lunchtime is an intergalactic hit! It’s a reality cooking competition featuring chefs from a variety of different galaxies. Peony a human from Earth is in the right place at the right time when she is zapped from her bakery to appear on the show. Peony is replacing another contestant who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Peony has never used galactic cooking ingredients which makes her at a serious disadvantage compared to her previous opponents. Will Peony fall under the pressure? or can she cook up to the competition.

This graphic novel was such a lighthearted read. I liked reading about their challenges and how Peony has to quickly adapt. While Peony is the main character, I would say I liked both Neptunia and Aris. Neptunia is a fellow contestant and has to work with Peony on a cooking challenge. There’s a budding friendship between the two and I liked seeing it unfold. Aris is a cameraman on the show and he’s always in Peony’s corner wishing her good luck. Both characters added to Peony’s journey throughout the show.

The art in this graphic novel complemented the story perfectly. I liked how the beginning of each issue had a recap page which felt in line with other reality TV shows or cooking shows. I also liked the logo of Space Battle Lunchtime with the pink spatula and the star.

Additionally, Space Battle Lunchtime is an age-appropriate novel. This would be great for kids to read. There were so many good messages in this story including highlighting teamwork, emphasizes the negatives of cheating, and how hard work can pay off. It can be intimidating to find graphic novels for kids, however, Space Battle Lunchtime would be perfect.

I have nothing bad to say about Space Battle Lunchtime. It was a fun departure from other graphic novels I tend to read. This is the first graphic novel I read from Natalie Riess and it won’t be the last. Space Battle Lunchtime can be purchased directly from Oni Press’s website or through a local comic book store.

Computer Games From My Childhood

My mom has been doing spring cleaning at my childhood home. The latest find was old computer games I used to play. My mom was planning on donating them to Goodwill, but I insisted she give them to me instead. I’m not sure if I ever plan on playing them again, but I don’t think I can get rid of them. I’m not sure if they would even work still considering on the disc itself it lists Windows 97/98 as being the running system. I wanted to share the computer games that made up my childhood.

Carmen Sandiego Math Detective

I loved the Carmen Sandiego computer games! My dad bought them for me because technically they were educational. I liked the overall plot of the games and how the main goal was to capture Carmen even though Carmen would escape every single time. I have played through each Carmen Sandiego computer game at least five times throughout my childhood.

Backyard Baseball 2003

My dad bought me this game to help teach me the rules of baseball. I would watch Minnesota Twins games with my dad and constantly be asking questions about the game, the rules, and the players. In the Backyard sports games, it would take professional players and make them into little kids. I could pick the players I wanted to create my team to get into the World Series. The Minnesota Twins player included in this game was pitcher, Brad Radtke who played on the Twins from 1998 – 2006. I never played any of the other Backyard sports games, but I know there was one for Football as well.

Clue (1998 Hasbro Interactive)

This Clue game freaked me out as it was very dark. Once you navigated around the Boddy mansion and started accusing people, it would show a clip of the person you accused murdering Mr. Boddy with the weapon. I probably shouldn’t have been playing this game at a young age, but me and my friend had the best time. We would always turn out all the lights and play this game in my basement.

The Game of Life (1998 Hasbro Interactive)

Besides Clue, I would always play Life. I tried to have the most babies in one go through of the game. I liked how I could customize my character and change the color of the car I drove. I found myself constantly playing this interchangeably with Clue.

Computer games from the 90s were my jam. As mentioned, I don’t think I can get rid of them because of the many memories attached to playing through each game. I may try and buy a CD drive and run them on my Windows 7 laptop to see if they will play. Let me know in the comments if you still have any old computer games and if so, have you gotten rid of them or keep them to play later.

Justice League Snyder Cut

My fiance took off work on the release date of the Justice League: Snyder Cut. My fiance is a big DC fan. While I didn’t hate the original Justice League, the movie felt like a mess. There were rumors of a “Snyder Cut” however, with DC’s movie track record, I didn’t get my hopes up. After my fiance finished watching the movie, he came into the office where I was working and couldn’t stop talking about how good this film was. I was still skeptical, but I agreed to watch it with him the following weekend. I was pleasantly surprised because Justice League: Snyder Cut was amazing. It was way better than WW84.

My expectations into watching the Snyder Cut was Joss Whedon’s movie with more scenes. To be blunt, this was a completely different movie. Cyborg (aka Victor Stone) in this full version had much more of a character arc than in the theatrical release. In this film, Cyborg’s origin story is told on screen. The relationship Victor has with his parents, how Victor’s father ends up helping the League, and Victor listening to a recording from his father saying how proud he is and how he is fortunate to be given a second chance. Ray Fisher (who plays Cyborg) has been the most vocal about Joss Whedon and his abuse of power behind the scenes. I can understand Fisher being upset after the theatrical release because his character’s backstory was erased. Cyborg is easily the MVP and his role in splitting the mother boxes was crucial to prevent Darkseid from coming to Earth.

The return of Superman is so much more satisfying in the Snyder Cut. As Cyborg is pulling apart the mother boxes, Steppenwolf comes up behind him about to deliver a devastating blow when Superman appears blocking the attack in his black suit. Superman pummels Steppenwolf buying more time to assist Cyborg. I could feel myself getting amped at seeing Henry Cavill back in action at just the right moment.

Another surprising moment for me was the role of the Flash (aka Barry Allen). In the theatrical release, Barry seems a bit incompetent and immature. In the Snyder Cut, Barry is much more aware of his powers and the speed force. In the final battle, Cyborg isn’t able to pull the mother boxes apart in time leading to the Justice League losing. However, Barry notices this and can run back in time to produce the energy needed to split the mother boxes. This moment was special to watch because, without Barry’s help, Darkseid and Steppenwolf would have won. In this version of the Justice League movie, each member of the League has a role. Without one of them, they would have failed at various steps of their plan. In the theatrical version, this wasn’t laid out.

If I would have been told months ago that I would have liked the Snyder Cut better than WW84, I would have laughed. The Snyder Cut was everything I would have hoped for from a film adaptation of the Justice League. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. was trying to control Zach Snyder’s vision leading to the theatrical version. Justice League Synder Cut was amazing and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was my favorite movie of 2021.

Sunshine Blogger Award #2

This is my second nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award. This time I was nominated by Stephen over at Honest Gamer. I’m awe-struck as to how he can play so many video games in one month. I have been trying to play more video games throughout my week, but I somehow seem to fall short of my gaming goal. Here are my gaming answers and thanks again to Stephen for nominating me.

If you could have a new entry from your favorite video game franchise, but in a new genre, what would it be?

Image from Bioshock Wiki

The first idea that popped into my mind was a Bioshock Big Daddy parenting simulator. Bioshock is easily one of the video games in my life that has the most meaning to me. It would be a fun spin on the franchise to make a horror game into a parenting simulator.

What video game crossover would you love to see happen?

I think an Uncharted / Lara Croft crossover would be neat to see. When I purchased my PS4 back in 2017, one of the first games I played was the Uncharted franchise. Nathan Drake and Lara would have great chemistry together and I could see them balancing each other out in combat.

What platform did you start gaming on?

I started playing PC. My dad felt at the time that having a PC was all we needed. My first console was an Xbox 360 in 2007 which brought me to the world of console gaming. Now, I mostly play consoles with a little bit of PC gaming thrown in here and there.

There is often talk about difficulty vs accessibility in video games. Do you think that developers should include difficulty settings in their games?

I think game developers should have the freedom to do what they wish as it’s their game. At this point, I don’t like to play extremely difficult games. Gaming is a relaxing hobby to distract me from my daily life stresses, so I don’t want a game that emphasizes that. I tried playing Cuphead last year and while I think it’s a well-made game, the difficulty turned me away.

Which legendary video game franchise do you think has the better music, The Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy?

I’m not a big Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy fan. Right now, I’m listening to the Spider-Man Miles Morales soundtrack on repeat.

What popular video game, movie, or book series could you not get into?

Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Mass Effect were three that I couldn’t get into. I respect why these franchises are as big as they are, but I am unable to get in on the hype.

Serious question now….dogs or cats?

I grew up with cats, so I always will prefer cats over dogs. My rescue kitty, Athena is eight years old now and we love her to pieces.

What three indie games do you recommend and why?

I’m not sure if the games I’m describing count as “indie”, but here goes. Costume Quest II, Life is Strange, and Hidden Through Time. Costume Quest II is a Halloween-themed game where kids have to save Halloween from this evil dentist. Life is Strange is a story about love and friendship, and Hidden Through Time is a hidden object game I found on Steam.

What do video games mean to you?

Video games to me are a visually stimulating experience. Playing a great video game can be emotional, invigorating, and memorable. Gaming is a hobby above all else, but it’s also gotten me through tough times in my life. I think back to getting through middle school by playing Halo 3 and getting through a breakup by playing Batman Arkham City on a snow day. Gaming will always be in my life in some capacity.

I tag anyone who wants to complete this challenge. I’m going to use the questions Stephen originally came up with in case you would like to do this along with me:

  1. If you could have a new entry from your favorite video game franchise, but in a new genre, what would it be?
  2. What video game crossover would you love to see happen?
  3. What platform did you start gaming on?
  4. There is often talk about difficulty vs accessibility in video games. Do you think that developers should include difficulty settings in their games?
  5. Which legendary video game franchise do you think has the better music, The Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy?
  6. What popular video game, movie, or book series could you not get into?
  7. Serious question now….dogs or cats?
  8. What three indie games do you recommend and why?
  9. What do video games mean to you?