Tag Archives: New York City

1931: Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum (Visual Novel)

By Black Chicken Studios

My rating: 4 of 5

1930, New York City: Prohibition is in effect, and the Great Depression is making itself known across the country, but for wealthy heiress Scheherazade Keating (Sadie to her friends), other things are much more immediately important. Having just graduated valedictorian of her high school class, Sadie is ready to make her mark, embarking on a whirlwind college degree in archaeology that includes on-site work at a variety of digs around the world. Incidentally, she’s following in the footsteps of her parents, a pair of famous (now missing) archaeologists . . . . She’s also following a trail of clues that may (she hopes) lead to more information about what’s happened to her parents. And she’s not afraid to break a few rules of society if that’s what it takes.

How to describe Scheherazade . . . it’s honestly a pretty unique experience, although there are similarities to a lot of other stories and games in certain aspects. It definitely plays like a visual novel–nice backgrounds, music, character pics, text describing what’s happening, and choices for the player to make that influence how the story progresses. You could, I suppose, even compare it to an otome visual novel in some senses; there are certainly several romance paths that can be pursued, if desired. But it’s entirely possible to play with purely platonic relationships as well. I actually loved how much good friendships were a part of the story. Mechanically, the game is also almost a princess-maker sort of game in that you have to choose how to spend your time, different choices build different skills, and your skills influence how certain challenges resolve. There’s actually a good bit of challenge to the game mechanics if you really want to play to meet certain goals; however, there’s also an easy mode that basically lets you focus on the story. And Sadie’s story is pretty interesting in a pulp novel sort of way. She’s a very strong character, and an amusing one to read–even if her ridiculous wealth tends to make you forget how bad life is in the world at large for a lot of people. But then, she’s more ridiculous than even her wealth, getting caught up in chases, digging in the dirt, getting into arguments, and suchlike. And there are actually a lot of interactions with people of a variety of stations in life–lots of interesting relationships to build. On the whole, I really enjoyed playing Scheherazade and found it to be an interesting slice of an era as well as an exciting romp around the world and a fun exposition of a fascinating character.

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Rosemary’s Baby

rosemary's babyAuthor: Ira Levin

My rating: 4 of 5

Life is glowing with promise for young couple Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse. Guy’s just waiting for his big break to launch his acting career. Rosemary is excited by the prospect of making a home and someday soon having a baby. And the both of them are thrilled at the opportunity to move into the exclusive Bramford apartment building. Rosemary’s friend and mentor Hutch, however, isn’t so excited when he hears they are moving there, citing numerous stories of strange, dark happenings in the building. Rosemary and Guy aren’t about to be put off by some stories, though, especially not after Guy hits it off so well with the neighbors. But as time goes on, those neighbors and various occurrences begin to seem more and more off . . . especially after Rosemary becomes pregnant.

Rosemary’s Baby is something of a classic horror novel–and I’m exceedingly glad that I knew that going in, or I would have been very confused. Because at first, it reads like period-typical literary fiction: young couple settling in, starting a career, making friends, that sort of thing. It’s only as you get further into the story that the atmosphere becomes more tense and the signs that something’s very, very wrong begin to show up more and more frequently and obviously. And it’s only in the climax of the last chapter or so that you get a truly apparent horror vibe, although it’s been building for a long time before you actually get there. Rather than being some intense, jump-scare filled thriller, Levin gives us a gradual build of tension with plenty of hints that (if you know what you’re looking at) point rather clearly to occult, dark influences. I would actually recommend reading the introduction to the 50th anniversary edition prior to reading the story if you get a chance, because David Morrell does a great job of pointing out some of the concepts to be looking for and points out the way the story’s focus changes from a very outside, dispassionate observation to a very narrow, emotional view from Rosemary’s perspective as the story develops–all of which add a lot to the horror aspect. On the negative side, this was written in the 1960’s, so there’s a certain amount of period-typical racism (and kind of sexism) that’s present . . . not in a way that’s central to the story, but still. But on the whole, this was an enjoyable read that I would recommend for those who enjoy a slow-build, atmospheric sort of horror.

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The Trash Krakken (Graphic Novel)

Created by: Thomas Astruc

Miraculous Adventures, vol. 1

My rating: 3.5 of 5

In this adorable graphic novel, it’s business as usual for Paris’s favorite superheroes. Hawkmoth’s sending weird akumas after their miraculous. Chloe is being a spoiled brat. Master Fu is wise and enigmatic. Chat Noir is hitting on Ladybug. Marinette still can’t speak to Adrien without turning into a beet-red, stammering mess. Oh, and the superheroes of America are calling these two heroes in as backup against a creepy monster that’s terrifying New York City.

In The Trash Krakken, we are given new stories that are very much in keeping (generally speaking) with the original cartoon version of Miraculous Ladybug. The stories, villains, and sometimes settings are new, but the style, the age level, all of that sort of thing are consistent. You even get the set phrases and transformation sequences from the cartoon, just in graphic novel format. I do think that the second half of this book, featuring the story set in New York, is a bit different in style, but it’s neat in that Chat Noir and Ladybug are still very much in their usual character, and the different setting only serves to emphasize the cool aspects of said character. The art style is very cute. I admit, I don’t care for the art in the prologue (although the story is cute), but after that, it settles into the style featured on the cover which, while a bit “looser” and “sloppier” that I typically prefer manages to be pretty adorable, dynamic, bright, and fitting with the characters and the story. Recommended, and especially nice if you’ve got younger readers who like the show and/or want to read more graphic novels; it’s actually age-appropriate for anyone who’s old enough to watch the cartoon.

Written by Nolwenn Pierre, Bryan Seaton, Nicole D’Andria, Thomas Astruc, Mélanie Duval, Fred Lenoir, & Sébastien Thibaudeau/Illustrated by Brian Hess/Lettering by Justin Birch/Coloring by Darné Lang

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White Collar (2009-2014 TV Series)

USA Network

Status: Complete (6 seasons/81 episodes)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Notorious con artist and forger Neal Caffrey has been caught again after escaping from a high-security prison with only months to go on his sentence. Caught, no less, by FBI agent Peter Burke, the only one who has ever been able to get in Neal’s head and track him down. Now, Neal has talked Peter into making a deal, letting him out of prison on an ankle tracker for having him help Peter on his cases. An insider’s view, if you will. And although trust between them comes at a premium for a while, these two unlikely partners quickly develop a close working relationship and one of the highest close rates in the bureau.

White Collar is one of those shows that I would have (did, actually) write off as another of those boring police procedural shows–probably still wouldn’t have watched it if it weren’t for some awesome fanfic writers who love other shows that I enjoy also writing fic for this one. And I am so glad that I decided to give it a try. (And not just because Matt Bomer’s gorgeous, although yes, he is that.) Seriously, the show manages to be smart and funny and angsty and full of the best sort of bromance. It wrestles with issues like trust and true friendship. The characters grow and develop over the course of the show. And they’re pretty awesome right from the start, whether you’re talking about Neal’s suave, smart, sharp-dressed culture or Peter’s baseball-loving, down-home feel that will surprise you with moments of absolute brilliance or Mozzie’s conspiracy theories and undying friendship or Elizabeth’s warmth and insight. I can honestly say that I fell in love with these characters within the first episode, and that love only grew with time. The bromance between Neal and Peter warms my heart, the way they pick at each other incessantly, yet have each others backs when it counts, the adorable little-boy smiles they get when they’re together. It’s fabulous and heartwarming. The individual episode plots are more your standard procedural stuff, but they manage to be smart and interesting, allowing the characters’ individual traits to shine and grow, while also mixing in bigger long-term plot elements in the midst of each individual episode’s plot. I would highly recommend White Collar, and not just to those who like police shows, but to those who enjoy intrigue, great characters, bromance, angst, high-class suits, and guys who look great in them.

Created by Jeff Eastin/Produced by Jeff Eastin, Jeff King, Mark Goffman, Nick Thiel, Margo Myers Massey, Matt Bomer, & Tim DeKay/Starring Matt Bomer, Tim DeKay, Willie Garson, Marsha Thomason, Tiffani Thiessen, Natalie Morales, Hilarie Burton, Sharif Atkins

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When You Reach Me

Author: Rebecca Stead

My rating: 5 of 5

Growing up, Miranda’s life has been pretty normal. Her childish yet bright single mother falling in love, wavering over whether to give Richard (Mr. Perfect) a key to their New York apartment, getting all excited over entering a TV game show, making plans for what to do with the winnings before she ever gets on the show. Her best friend Sal who has always been there for her, growing up together, like two sides of the same coin. But her sixth grade year, Miranda’s life begins to fall apart. Sal stops talking to her for no obvious reason, and suddenly nothing seems certain anymore. And then she starts getting these messages, small notes giving her instructions, telling her things about the future that no one should have known, claiming that the writer has come back in time to prevent something awful–and that her following these instructions is vital to this happening.

When You Reach Me is one of those unexpected, brilliant finds that just go to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Although the whole Newbery Award should have probably been a good indicator of that. It’s like this fabulous mashup of the things I love best of the writings of Madeleine L’Engle (no surprise, since she’s clearly an influencer of Stead’s writing), E. L. Konigsburg, and Frank Cottrell Boyce. The writing itself is just really good, for one, with layers of depth in the characters and little observations of the everyday thrown into the mix and with a lot of character development and growth and self-realization over the course of the story. That in itself would make for a great story, but then you throw in all the time-travel stuff and the mystery surrounding that, and the book goes to a whole new level in my mind. I liked that attention was given to the effects of time travel, but essentially zero mention was made of the actual mechanics; it wouldn’t work in every situation, but for this story, it was the best possible way to handle the topic. The inclusion of all the references to A Wrinkle in Time really helped to set the stage and explain the time travel better, so that was nicely done as well. Oh, and this is an actual instance of first-person, present-tense that actually works; it feels like reading a letter for the most part, maybe that letter Miranda was supposed to write. Recommended particularly for middle-grade readers, but this is one of those stories that surpasses its recommended grade range, so if you like the above authors’ works and are interested in time travel-related stories, When You Reach Me may be worth trying.

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Psychic in the City (Psych/White Collar Crossover Fanfic)

Author: DTS

FanFiction ID: 10162083

Status: Complete (8 Chapters)

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Shawn Spencer and Neal Caffrey first met in a museum in Chicago when they were both still just teenagers, striking up an unusual but lasting friendship. Nearly a decade later, Shawn finds himself in New York, pulled into the FBI’s White Collar division as a consultant in the search for an international art thief, forger, and con man–only to quickly discover that the man in question is his old friend, at which point, Shawn quickly removes himself from the case. Years later, Shawn and Gus are once again in New York, and Shawn stops by the White Collar office to say hi, finding himself unexpectedly face to face with none other than Neal Caffrey, now a CI for the FBI! Happy reunions are had, new friendships are made, and stories are told all around . . . but it appears that these friends aren’t the only old acquaintances in New York, and someone has ill intentions towards Shawn and Neal.

These two stories are ones I’ve wanted to see a crossover fic for basically since I first discovered the shows. And DTS does a great job melding these stories in Psychic in the City. I love the way the author builds up this backstory, using a series of unrelated encounters that inevitably bring them all together in the end–the history and the time factor add a nice touch to the story. The author does a good job with the characters as well, although in some ways I wish they had been a bit more strongly characterized, if that makes any sense at all. Shawn and Neal are a lot alike, but they’re also really different, and although I can see them bonding over their similarities, I can also see them exasperated/baffled by their differences. But I guess I also like the idea of them finding someone in each other that they can be themselves with, sans all the acting and the fronts they both put up generally. What I’m trying to say is that, although the characterizations weren’t exactly what I expected or would have done myself, I liked them and found them to be credible and in-character–and what more can I ask than that? The plot was also interesting and entirely plausible for these guys, but warnings for a major cliffhanger ending. There’s a sequel, though, which will probably be reviewed here shortly. Psychic in the City is definitely a recommended story for those who enjoy these two shows.

Note: You can find Psychic in the City at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10162083/1/Psychic-in-the-City.

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A Game of You (Graphic Novel)

Author: Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, vol. 5

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: Mature Audience

Barbie used to be married to Ken, and now she lives in a New York apartment building next to her best friend Wanda who used to be a guy. Barbie is a princess traveling with her animal friends on a quest to save her kingdom from the evil Cuckoo. Both worlds are real . . . or maybe neither is? But as her two realities bleed into each other, Barbie finds herself locked in a fight for survival and depending on her friends in both her worlds.

A Game of You is definitely a trippy ride, perhaps the most trippy of any of the Sandman books I’ve read so far. Which isn’t to say that it’s not good; it most certainly is. It’s just that describing or defining it presents a share of challenges. For one thing, this whole volume deals with a lot of symbolic significance that I am wholly unqualified for (and uninterested in) discussing, so on that topic I’ll just say to read the preface by Samuel R. Delaney in the 2011 edition. It’s brilliant and really helpful in understanding a lot of the symbolism. But even if you don’t feel like delving into all that, A Game of You is just a great story, taken simply at face value. You’ve got interesting characters, an almost Alice in Wonderland sort of feel to parts, plots, magic, worlds ending, ancient promises being honored–with Morpheus watching over it from a godlike position. I can’t explain it properly, but this volume really feels like a Gaiman story in the best sense; the writing, the characters, all of it has the flavor and depth that I really love in his writing. As for the art, it still holds to a more traditional comic book art style, so I don’t exactly love that. Not that there’s anything wrong with that style; it’s just never been my preference. Having said that, the art is certainly well done, and the style works well with the storytelling, plus there’s some great use of coloring and lettering styles to emphasize the meanings in numerous places. Overall, A Game of You is an excellent addition to the Sandman stories, and I continue to look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Covers & Design by Dave McKean/Illustrated by Shawn McManus, Colleen Doran, Bryan Talbot, George Pratt, Stan Woch, & Dick Giordano/Colored by Danny Vozzo/Lettered by Todd Klein/Introduced by Samuel R. Delany

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