#TVDChicago Mini-Update

Hello! I am alive! I even got two books read this week, so go me!

Anyway, the reason I’m posting something on a not-Friday is that I wanted to provide some updated thoughts to this review of Creation’s Vampire Diaries Convention. While I do think the bulk of the post remains relevant, there are some things I want to touch on and I thought a new post would be cleaner than cluttering up the old one.

First off, in a February 2016 update to the original post I recommend against signing-up at con for the next tour stop for reasons you can see there. Between what we’re seeing (Creation now announcing that this will be the last TVD Con in all cities except Chicago and New Jersey) and what the rumor mill is saying (that the two cons next year are the last stops ever) with the source of the rumor being someone in a position to know, it throws this whole “should I or shouldn’t I?” debate for a loop.

If your reason for going is strictly guests and you want to see new people, I’d say that advice still stands. Otherwise, if you want to go because there’s a good chance that it’ll be the last time you can, absolutely sign up. Personally, I didn’t expect to renew because I did find the line-up to be a bit of a bummer. That said, despite that and despite the fact that I don’t even really watch TVD anymore, I still had an absolute blast and so I signed up for 2017 for that reason. When it doubt, just open yourself up to making your mind at the convention itself and see how you feel.

Second, in my 2015 review I called the panels PG-PG-13. This year’s con was much more PG-13 (or, if you go by MPAA guidelines for swearing, R rated). The actors remained cognizant that there were kids around, but there was more swearing and more innuendo than there’s been in the past. Some of the guests were also definitely drinking at the convention. While always lucid, there was no hiding what they were doing either. I know my friends pretty much found it hysterical, but I can also see how some would find it offensive and it’s something to keep in mind if you’re bringing the kiddies around.

On the plus side, I suppose one of the nice things about having fewer guests is that for Chicago at least, the only double panel was Ian and Paul. I don’t think we really were hurt for it either, though having so many guests were double panels are necessary is a problem I kind of wish we’d had.

Finally, I do want to give a heads up about the concert: in 2015, it lasted until about midnight. This year, it didn’t quite last until 11:00. Some are saying that the hotel told them to end it early. I’m not quite sure what to believe (especially since karaoke went past 11:00 the night before) and I do hope it’s something fixed for upcoming shows, such as starting earlier if necessary. The concert is free for Gold and Silver, but knowing it may be short is something to keep in mind if you were considering paying the $30 as Copper or GA.

Personally, I think this is the most fun I’ve had at any of the shows, and I wrote a more personally-focused piece on that here and for all my quibbles, I really am glad I went back.

Long, long story short: if you’ve ever thought about going to any of their shows, just do it. It’s definitely something you should try at least once.

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Bookcase.Club April 2016 Review

Hey all,

Since this review is actually meant to be timely, I thought I’d post it (and going forward other non-book review posts) on a Wednesday! I’m posting this today because I have some additional thoughts on the BookCase Club that I wanted to put out there about the service itself. For the record, the books I received were “Shattering the Ley” and “The Word Exchange.” I have some interest in the former, and DNFed the latter back when it was out as a DRC.

  • Shipping was much faster this month. It shipped on the first and arrived on the fifth. I’m going to assume that this would be closer to the norm and last months was delayed due to weather.
  • I think they either need to do an overhaul on the card or jettison it all together. As it stands, this is difficult to read, looks amateurish and provides the subscriber no real useful information. As I said last month, I’d love for this card to be used to have the “expert curator” provide a few words on why they chose this book instead of simply copy and pasting the abbreviated synopsis. Even if you don’t, at least go grab something like GIMP and some free fonts and modernize it. It feels like a project I’d do in High School…and I’m the class of 1999.20160405_164645-1.jpg

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  • The website is a bear to use. Although told that you don’t need to select a subscription option to change the category of your box, you can’t save your changes without picking a category. After last month’s box, I tried to update my theme to the paranormal romance box. My account shows that I did…but I still got the fantasy box. I suspect it has to do with the fact that I immediately cancelled my subscription after making the change so that I wouldn’t have to remember to cancel down the road. I’ve e-mailed the company to see if they can at least ensure that my final box is what I asked for.
  • The genre tally this month was essentially two more sci-fi novels (some do label it as urban fantasy, but 2-1 have it shelved as science fiction). That makes 4 science fiction books in two months. This is supposed to be science-fiction/fantasy. Where’s the fantasy?! The disparity is very disappointing to me, and if you’re more a fantasy than a sci-fi fan, keep it in mind if you’re considering this box.

As I stated, I did cancel my box because I don’t think this box is a right fit for me. It may still be worth checking out to you, but right now I’d say just go on Book Outlet and buy yourself two books a month instead. It’ll set you back about the same and you’ll have two books you know you want!

Odds and Ends

*waves*

In some ways, this blog seems to have lasted a bit longer than average, I suppose burn out is kind of unavoidable. On the other hand, burnout makes me sad because reading (well, non-academic/work-related reading) should be, above all, fun and lately I just wasn’t having any. Outside of The Crown’s Game (which I definitely recommend you go pre-order if you haven’t already) ARCs just haven’t been doing it for me lately. So to that end, I think I’m going to really pull back on those, and not just grab them because I can and I’m going to reduce posting to once a week, aiming for Friday’s, I think.

In other news, I’ve been putting even more time into Digimon Cyberstories and have some further impressions of the game:

  • There are some randomly included anime cutscenes that make me go 1) where are these the first twenty hours and 2) can I just have more of them? More would have really elevated the presentation, as it is they feel incredibly random and almost distracting because they’re so infrequent.
  • The depth of the Digi-volution/De-digivolution system is really quite deep, but also easily exploitable.
  • The game doesn’t get hard, it gets cheap – think spamming attacks to raise Speed to the point that you can’t even get a hit in. Thankfully, as far as I can tell, the worst offenders are all optional. Sadly, they’re also the only way to unlock the ability to obtain some of the most powerful forms in the game, which is a disappointment. Thankfully, you shouldn’t need them to actually beat the game (you can, in fact, beat the game without doing them.)
  • The free DLC is nice, though definitely aimed at end game layers. Casual fans not apply, because the majority of those cases are those cheap bosses I mentioned above.

All told, my main recommendation stands – it’s a good game to pick up only if you’re into classic JRPGs (it wouldn’t be my first recommendation for a newbie and certainly won’t convert fans of Western style) – but I am a bit more impressed with the game than I was when I initially wrote my review, so there is that 🙂

BookCase.Club March 2016 Review

So. I think we can all agree that subscription boxes are a thing now, and there’s practically nothing out there that doesn’t have an affiliated box. Last year I broke down and gave Ipsy (a make-up based service) a try for five months. Although I ultimately decided that I wasn’t getting enough products that I liked to continue on, I never did shake the desire for another service. I knew that if I wanted to try again, that I would absolutely go for a book-based service. Problem is, I was having trouble finding one that met my needs because I had a couple of concerns:

  • Price – Book based boxes are not cheap with most boxes going for anywhere from $20-$30/box before the cost of shipping
  • “Bookish items” – Quite frankly, I don’t really care about these extras. Most of them will either end up gathering dust as clutter or just getting thrown out. This ties back to price as well, as they do increase the cost of the box itself.
  • Genre Limits – The boxes mostly serve the biggest genres – contemporary, romance and young adult. Problem is, I don’t really read much in those genres (outside the YA books that are mostly review copies) so a box that is for them doesn’t really appeal.

Enter Bookcase.club, a box that seems almost tailor made for me.

  • Price – a very reasonable $9.99/month +$5 SH for two new books which may include hardbacks! The focus seems to be on backlist titles that maybe didn’t get as much fanfare, which is a bonus.
  • No bookish items. I can see how that would be a deterrent to some, but I honestly rather the money go towards books, so I see this as a big plus.
  • All the genre choice. As of the writing of this post, you can pick from: romance, paranormal romance, sci-fi/fantasy, young adult, mystery/thriller, or children’s picture books (of which you get four). As an added bonus, you can change your genre at practically anytime – or so the website claims. I’m finding the process a little confusing (a bit on that in a moment) but I do like the promise of flexibility.
  • Bonus charity support: they donate one new book for every new/recurring subscription.

So how did my first month go?

I placed my order on February 28th. Given the way these things normally work, I have expected to be told I’d start with the April box, but nope! On February 29th I received my tracking number! The box didn’t arrive until 3/8, 8 days since tracking went out. A bit on the long end, but there was weather back east and it did seem to delay other packages from the East Coast so I’m hoping that it doesn’t normally take quite that long. I will say that their support team is pretty fast to respond to inquiries, which is a nice plus.

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The box

The packaging isn’t as flash as Ipsy’s signature hot-pink bubble mailers, but it’s definitely nice and sturdy. For the crease on the front, the books arrived in pristine condition. The books themselves were surrounded by some heavy paper to keep them from slipping and sliding. I’ve got no complaints.

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Not shown: the included card that has a quote and a listing of the month’s selections on it.

The box is definitely as advertised: no frills here. I do wish the card that was included with the box gave a reason for the selections, instead of an abbreviated synopsis. This box is touted as being “personally curated”, so I’d love to know what the curator enjoyed about these particulars books.

Especially because…well…I’m kind of underwhelmed by the selections this month.

The Gillian Anderson co-authored book is about a child psychologist who happens to get embroiled in some very X-File-esque things. Mmmhmm. It also holds a 3.30 on Goodreads right now which is pretty terrible by the unofficial rating scale of under 3.5 = fail.

Fortune’s Pawn seems to hold more promise – female driven space adventure – but hardly mold-breaking science fiction. While clearly neither book was a huge hit, there’s nothing about either book that necessarily makes me feel like these were overlooked gems – and I think the cards talking about why they picked those books could help with that.

All told, while I might give Fortune’s Pawn a chance, A Vision of Fire doesn’t call to me at all and I’ll probably be giving it to the Goodwill the next time I do a shelf-clean up.

I’m also not entirely thrilled that both books were science fiction, as I was hoping for some fantasy this month.That aside I do like that this box sent two first-of-series books, and I wonder if they’d do the same with their other boxes. It’s part of the reason I wanted to give the paranormal romance box a shot, the other reason just curiosity to see what they would send. The website is a bit confusing though, and it appears that if I want to change the theme that I’ll need to do a new subscription. I’ve reached out to the company and will update the post when I figure out how that works.

Finally, as far as a value goes it’s okay, it’s nothing to write home about, as you’d pay the same amount or a little less for these books through other book jobbers (think BookOutlet.com). You’re paying for the curation, so if the picks are underwhelming, you lose the value of a box like this.

Since I did do a pre-pay for three months, I’ll go ahead and see how these play out and reassess. Hopefully next month will have books that feel like they were worth picking up, as opposed to books that just happened to be cheap for them to get their hands on. I’m a bit underwhelmed, but there’s still time to change my mind!

Do you subscribe to a book club? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments below!

 

New Page – Alex Verus Capsule Reviews!

So when I sat down to write my review of Hidden, I realized that I was starting to struggle with what to write. When I really thought about it, I realized one thing:

By book five, most reviewers are preaching to the choir.

I would imagine that most readers make up their mind in the first book or two as to whether or not the want to continue on. I’d say the vast majority have it all settled in three books and there are maybe a few stragglers who take four or more, so by that fifth book? Yeah. You’re pretty much talking to fans who have already decided that they’re in this for the long haul which means that either:

a) they stick with the series through to the end.
b) they get bored and/or rage quit if the series seemingly jumps the shark.

A person who is in it to the end probably isn’t looking at reviews at all. A person who is getting bored will probably go more by plot synopsis than reviews to determine whether they keep going and shark-jumping is more often in the eyes of a single reader and not the whole readership.

Of course, there are those who will get into a series in the middle – but that person who starts there probably isn’t blogs or Goodreads anyways, or else they’d realize that they weren’t picking up that first book. Maybe the review might help them, but it’s going to be a tiny majority.

So what’s the point of all this rambling?

I decided that from here on out, I’m no longer going to post full reviews of this series since it would only interest anyone on my list who is actually reading these books too.

Instead, I have published a new page of capsule reviews for each book, and my current ranking of the series as a whole. I do reserve the right to publish full reviews, but I’ll probably save that for a jump the shark moment (which I hope doesn’t happen) or the final book in the series as I’d probably want to look back on the series as a whole.

Either way, if you’re so inclined, please give the page a look!

Unpopular Opinions Book Tag (YA Edition)

I guess this was supposed to be for Halloween, but timing didn’t quite work out, so instead, I decided to give it a YA focus!  Anyway, thank you to Denise at Dandelionn Wine for the tag!

Let’s get started!

Popular Book or Series That You Didn’t Like

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I thought about stealing Denise’s answer of Uprooted (I had many of the issues she did), but I refuse to cop out on one of these things that early, so I’m going to with The Dream Thieves instead. Now let’s be clear: I enjoyed the Raven Boys quite a bit. What it took me The Dream Thieves to realize is how much of my enjoyment really did stem from Blue and her family. When the point of view shifted, I realized that I was left with a bunch of trope-y, rich and broody YA guys that I cared not one whit for. The plot should have been more interesting than it actually was too as you can’t really call this books a character study. So, yeah. Dug The Raven Boys, but The Dream Thieves put an end to my interest in these books.

Popular Book or Series Everyone Else Seems to Hate But You Love

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I really couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head to answer this question, so I decided to run down my ratings on Goodreads versus what the overall community said and this is about the closest thing that I was able to find. I gave it 5 stars, and the average on Good Reads is something like 3.48. In the real world, that’s a good number. In Good Reads land, where people seem to think that a 3 is evil, it’s kinda low. While I don’t think people hate it per se, it does seem to be very hit or miss book: you tend to love it, or find it an absolute slog and/or don’t finish it all. I still love it and am very looking forward to the sequel, but it’s one of those books that I think might have fared better had it been marketed as adult instead: it doesn’t really FEEL YA, despite being marketed as such.

OTP You Don’t Like

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Alina/Mal. They are a couple that remain in love through out the books (even if they can’t be together) because the author says they should be. Mal is an absolute brat throughout the second book, and forever wants her to be the way she was not the women she became. Ultimately Alina/Mal remind me of Hermione/Ron in Harry/Potter: I don’t care that the author says that they’re meant to be together in the long term, I don’t buy it because they’re just such different people.

Popular Book Genre You Hardly Reach For

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YA Contemporary

I almost picked this book for the first question, but realized that that was really unfair to the book: this book, and by extension the whole genre is just Not For Me. I don’t recognize the kids, I hate the tropes and I have just no interest in picking up books in this genre on my own. Are there ones out there that I might actually like? Probably. Does that mean I want to go seeking one out? Nope!

Popular or Beloved Character You Do Not Like

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Celeana. She exists. She’s a little too damn good at everything she does. While I’m not going to hurl the dreaded Mary Sue label on her, she’s certainly walking on that path. I don’t get the fuss. Of course, I also think that she isn’t really all that different than most other YA fantasy heroines either, which leads me to be even more confused about why there’s so much love for her. I don’t hate her, but meh.

Popular Author You Can’t Seem to Get Into

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Yep. I’m going there. As I indicated before, I don’t get the fuss about Celeana, ACOTAR didn’t grab my eye at all and I’m just not seeing whatever it was that helped elevate her to the immense popularity she currently has within the YA sphere.

Popular Book Trope You’re Tired of Seeing

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I picked a couple of titles to try and show that this is a thing across YA in general and not limited to any one part of YA: the absentee/scatter brained/neglectful parent. Yes, I know that parents having healthy relationships with theirs is oh-so-boring, but authors, they do actually exist, and iwth a bit of effort, I think you can even use such a dynamic to enrich your story. Far too often the trope is used as a means of letting the protagonist do whatever the heck s/he wants or needs to to without having to deal with the obstacles that having concerned parents brings. But those same obstacles can be opportunities to show off your characters creativity and I wish some would give that a chance.

Popular Series You Have No Interest in Reading

 23437156A Darker Shade final for Irene

Technically A Darker Shade of Magic is adult, but it’s got a huge crossover appeal, so that still counts, right? But basically I’m in the same boat on both series: authors who’ve written books I’ve love write super anticipated new series that just don’t work for me on one level or another, even though they are well written. I know, I’m going to get shunned from the blogging community for these picks, aren’t I?

Movie or TV Show Adaptation You Prefer More Than the Book

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I thought this was going to be hard, but when I actually stopped to think about it, these popped into my mind instantly. Again, True Blood (Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries) isn’t exactly YA but pfft since The Vampire Diaries unquestionably is. Both shows borrow heavily from the books in early seasons and drift further and further apart as time goes on. I personally prefer the shift in focus that comes with the changes and while both shows definitely have issues, I think they take the source material to a better place overall.

So those are my unpopular opinions, what are yours? As usual, I don’t tag. If you want to do it, go for it!

How to Convention – EyeCon Edition

5/12/17 – Hey everyone! I just want to make an amendment to this old post of mine. When I wrote this initial post I’d say I’d very cautiously recommend this con. Now I’d say go into this convention with a bit of a Buyer Beware. Between the OTH con where they charged $200+ for the best seats for a concert…only for the fans in the cheap seats get invited to join those who paid for the best seats on the floor (and no, those who paid full price didn’t get a partial refund) or the difficulty in getting refunds for cancelled guests, it’s clear that not a lot has cha nged. There’s one incident, however that pushed me over into writing this update: it’s called Genesis.

At some point EyeCon introduced a convention called Genesis. It purposed to be a 90210/Gossip Girls/Gilmore Girls event. They had less than 100 people sign up for tickets so they did the honorable thing and cancelled the event. The less honorable thing? Look at the relevant portion of the cancellation announcement below:

For those 100+ attendees, we apologize and ask you for your understanding. Full refunds are available upon request, you wont have to fight to get a full refund. Were happy to do it. For those of you willing to transfer to one of our other events, you may simply request the transfer to the show of your choice. For now, we have our nearly sold-out event for One Tree Hill in May and Autumn is organizing the first ever North American Greys Anatomy themed event for which we will have information very soon. Any attendee who chooses to transfer to another event will receive a free gift (that wont be available to anyone else) as our token of appreciation. Please forward any and all requests to eyecongenesis@gmail.com . Refund requests will be honored within 14 business days.

Hey! They’re giving refunds! What’s so bad about that? You have to ask. When an event is cancelled, refunds should be automatic. Period. Exclamation Mark. Beyond that, this whole “refund requests will be honored within 14 business days” bit? The convention was cancelled in February. I know someone who as of the writing of this post was still waiting for her refund and now was having to get her bank involved to try and get her money back. They’re so happy to refund your money, amirite? Just be careful, okay? It’s now clear their problems are long term and deep-seated. There are so many good convention companies out there, it’s just hard to recommend one with so many continued problems.

Now back to my original review 🙂

Hey everyone! No new book review today, I’ve been on a bit of a dry spell when it comes to reading for about the past week and a half or so. Things will pick up again as they always do, but in the mean time I decided to do a post about part of the reason there’s no review today: the past several days I’ve been in Atlanta, Georgia for the #TVDLastRide, EyeCon’s final Vampire Diaries convention.

If it’s the last convention, why am I writing a review ? Because EyeCon as a company is still very much around and kicking. Currently there are two One Tree Hill conventions on the docket, and they’re looking to expand into other shows which means they’ll be around for some time to come. I found myself wishing I could have found more information about the company before I made the commitment especially given how expensive this convention is and thought that others might appreciate having it as well.

I’ve been going to cons off and on for almost twenty years now, and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned that the con’s management is vital: you make your own fun, but a well-run con gives you the solid bones needed to let you have fun. I’ve done enough of these to have a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. My primary comparison will remain Creation because that is the niche that these conventions are in and Creation does remain the big player in the market.

This post is mainly going to focus on how the convention is run and if the various add-ons are worth your money. Hopefully by the end you’ll know what to expect and where I’d suggest spending the extra money on if money is indeed a concern.

Let’s get started. And yeah. This is easily my longest such post I’ve ever written. Be warned.

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