Book Baubles: Fitch Edition

White Oleander is a story that is going to rip out your heartstrings, and your intestines, especially if you have a complicated relationship with a parent. Find some version of the following items at home and you’ll be ready to dive neck-deep into this one  – although if you’re choosing between reading on your couch, or snuggled into bed, pick the one that’s more comfortable so you can squirm all you want.

1. A warm, fuzzy blanket to hide yourself from the thoughts that the book brings up:

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Get this warm yellow beauty here, from Etsy Shop WoolCoutureCompany! She also offers it in a ton of other colours, so something’s sure to catch your eye.

2. A delicious, warm cup of tea, and keep your thermos on the nearest  available surface:

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Get a Tea Trio in beautiful glass jars here, from WinterWoodsTeaCo.

3. And of course, a copy of the book. Hit up the used bookstore in your neighbourhood that you’ve always wanted to explore and ask the friendly shopkeeper if they have it in stock.

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Or to get your copy from Book Depository, click here.

 

Book Baubles: Gaiman II (Graveyard)

It’s a strange mix of winter and spring right now in Toronto, and The Graveyard Book is a few wonderful hours of entertainment if you’re in the mood to stay in all warm and cosy while looking out at the wind wreaking havoc on the city. Here are a few items to really get you in the mood:

  1. Your own copy of The Graveyard Book, The Book Depository:
    9780747594802 If you can’t borrow one from a friend, this edition of the book is one I’m really partial to – the cover is eerie, and the illustrations by Chris Riddell are gorgeous! Order it online from Book Depository here (it’s 20% off and shipping is free!), and have a wonderful surprise mailed to you in a couple of weeks. Totally worth it.
  2. Brown sweater dress, Starlet Vintage: il_570xN.908480640_9x6jThrow on this sweater dress to really get into the character of Bod Owens, who was there and not quite there, but in the end, really was. Get this dress here, from Etsy seller Starlet Vintage.
  3. Jack of All Trades card holder, BalsamRootGlass
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    If you, like me, became mightily intrigued by Jack, you can pick up this card holder from BalsamRootGlass and subtly announce your interest. Of course, that might lead to a few nondescript men paying you a rather unexpected visit.
    Get the cardholder here.

(Featured image credit: Illustrations from “The Graveyard Book” by Dave McKean)

Book Baubles: Wizarding Edition

Khairete! This is long overdue, as the semester has been a battle! Mikaius here, victoriously marching in with games, fresh booty from the War of Sales (not to be mistaken for the War of Sails, which I lost miserably)!

Yer a wizard e’rybody! Or rather, you can be, with these games!

(1) Rogue Legacy by Cellar Door Games

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This game is something special. I can play it and play it and play it forever. It’s a simple Metroid-style game with RPG-Roguelite elements: run around the castle, get gold, lose gold, buy things, kill things, repeat until you can fight a boss. Do this for every section of the castle, then do it all again! The sheer volume of character classes, upgrades, and other items, ensures that the game doesn’t get old. The downside is that you can also get very stuck, very easily, if you’re not making enough gold in your runs to meaningfully spend it before the next run. Eventually though, you reach a point where you will obliterate everything that crosses your path, as you upgrade, even in New Game ++etc. mode. When you get to that point, mindlessly slaughtering monsters may lose its charm, but might also be a great way to get through that massive backlog of podcasts we both know you have.

Grab it on GoG or Steam!

(2) Hocus Pocus by Moonlite Software

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Yer a wizard! No, really. A straight up wizard. You shoot lightning bolts at monsters. You platform. It’s an Apogee platformer for the PC! This is a great little game, loads of fun. Not much to say, but being able to pick it up as part of the 3D Realms Anthology on Steam was fantastic. However, the Duke Nukem portions of that anthology will be stripped out as of next year, so it may be better to spend less on Hocus Pocus itself over at GoG.

(3) Torchlight/II by Runic Games

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What to say about this series? It’s a Diablo clone. It’s Diablo. It’s even got some of the developers from the original Diablo working on it. Hit the dungeon, fire off your magical bolts, have an adorable pet ferret, beat the big bad! In the first game, you have three classes: a wizard, barbarian and rogue. The correct choice is the wizard, of course, because he is a steampunk wizard that shoots magic from his giant gloved hand. It’s a solid play, the animation is beautifully fluid, the mechanics are top notch and the aesthetic is right on.

Torchlight II is a step up, but if you’ve already gone through Torchlight, it just may not hold the same weight. The step between them is the same as Diablo to Diablo II, single-town-hub with a dungeon to overworld in traversing many environments. Now the classes are wizard, melee-rogue, ranged-rogue, magic-barbarian. Torchlight II also introduces multiplayer to the game, so now you can adventure with your own personal Hermoine and Ron!

GoG has the first one, also on Steam, but Steam has the second game as well.

(4) Magicka by Arrowhead Game Studios

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I don’t have much to say on Magicka. I haven’t really played it myself, but I have watched lots of it be played. What a manic time it looks like! Absurd and fun! Combine all kind of magical elements and blast your enemies, your friends and yourself into the next life! Looks like madness!

Go ahead and grab it on Steam – go crazy and set everything on lightningfire!

(5) Trine by Frozenbyte

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This is an interesting game. A puzzle platformer in 2.5D, with three playable characters. You can play in co-op or by yourself, switching between any of the three characters at will (but only one player can be any given character at a time). A wizard, good for moving objects around and making magical boxes to stack up, a rogue to flit about and swing with a grappling hook, and a warrior to punch skeletons real good and use his shield for protection. Good design, cute aesthetic, fairy tale all around. Fully recommended you hit up Steam or GoG for a copy, or for the whole trilogy! (Though fair warning, the word on the street about the third game is not pleasant.)

(Header image designed by Thomas Taylor, taken from Hypable.)

Book Baubles: Carter Edition

Fairy tales are best to read on days when the sun is bright outside, and there are kids playing on the green grass. The fairy tales from Angela Carter‘s the Bloody Chamber are better read in the dusk and twilight, and best in the middle of the night. Try not to listen too closely to that little kid’s giggle coming from the back of your closet.

Here are the baubles I recommend for you to get into the macabre mood of this beautiful little book!

1. A pretty, princess-y dress! This one is the Star Chaser Dress from Etsy shop PennyBluBoutique.
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Before you sink into that couch and immerse yourself in the experience of the Bloody Chamber, throw on a pretty dress that has you feeling like a princess. It’s just in keeping with the fairy tale theme of this week, wouldn’t you think? Get this gorgeous, bohemian-princess racerback here, from PennyBluBoutique.

2. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.
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It wouldn’t be a proper Book Baubles list if the post didn’t have a copy of the book itself, now, would it? I recommend this particular one because of the inner cover/bookmark flap. Now if that isn’t deliciously macabre, I don’t know what is! Get your copy from bookdepository – free shipping is always great!

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3. The Company of Wolves, directed by Neil Jordan.

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Okay, so you might think that this movie looks a little too cheesy to be enjoyable, but I assure you that it is! I saw this in an English class, and while the special effects might not look very appealing, give it a chance. And bring lots of popcorn. Get it from Amazon here.

(Featured Image taken from: Helen Nowell Illustration, http://www.helennowell.com/the_bloody_chamber.html)

Book Baubles: of the Dead Edition

Starting with an anti-recommendation, a condemnation. Do not watch the World War Z movie, it is a sham and it is terrible. It is not a good adaption of the source material, it is not a good horror or action movie, and it is not even a good movie. I love Brad Pitt, I love the WWZ book, I love zombies, I love horror movies, I love action movies, but I hate this stupid movie. Pirate it if you want to see it; do not let any money change hands towards this refuse.

With the damnation out of the way, it’s time for damned great materials! It isn’t hard to find zombies in any medium these days, but it is a little harder to find good works amongst that. With that said, here’s a starter’s guide to zombies in games, books and movies:

(1) Zombie Survival Guide

The Zombie Survival Guide

The Zombie Survival Guide is the comedic companion piece to the stern World War Z. A trip through tropes, providing a background and insight into the functional zombie of Max Brook’s fiction. A little piece of work that exists the fiction of World War Z, and establishing a history and world for the zombies to inhabit. Easily available at the Book Depository.

(2) Day of the Dead

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Now this is a movie. A dyed in the wool, festival of undead horrors. As ever in a Romero zombie movie, the threat isn’t the zombies, but the people. Night of the Living Dead saw the beginning of the outbreak, Dawn of the Dead the spread and attempt at containment. With Day of the Dead, the apocalypse is over, and all that remains are ghouls. A group of scientists desperate to understand the zombie plague, a group of soldiers that don’t care, and civilians that just want to be left alone.

Amazon carries it nice and cheap, but you can walk into any place selling DVDs and Blu-Rays to get a copy.

(3) Dead Island

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This game is a special thing. It isn’t good. In fact, it’s a terrible little thing. It’s ugly, the story is so bad you’ll want to tear off your ears, and the latter half of the game is beyond tedious and boring. The start is fantastic, the atmosphere is tense, and the gameplay is fluid. If you have a gamepad plugged in (played this on PC), there is an option for “Analogue” control, which allows you to finesse your swings and strength. It’s an interesting system, and before the game burns itself with Dead Rising-type weapons and crafting, the more simple “real” weapons offer the closest I’ve felt to being in a zombie movie of any game.

It’s incredibly cheap now, and frequently on deep discount if you use Steam. Also comes with all the DLC in tow. Absolutely worth a couple bucks, crack some skulls and lop off some limbs.

Runner-up anti-recommendations: Everything George Romero “of the Dead” post-Day of the Dead. Dude lost his touch. The Walking Dead series is boring and not worth seconds let alone seasons (no idea of the comics, never read ‘em, not interested, but I hear they and the TellTale games (currently in its second season) are great).

Honourable mentions: Shaun of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead are top of their class zombie movies, the two former being great fun and the latter a little sad, a little funny, pretty cheesy and real great.

For anyone looking to get their hands on World War Z itself, Book Depository is still  the place to be.

(Header image taken from Hardcoregamer.)

Book Baubles: John Green Edition

Spring has finally shown her face in Toronto! Of course, we had a little snow last Saturday, but that didn’t stop people from stepping out and enjoying what little sun we had – I think I even saw a good number of people wearing shorts. You do you, Toronto. You do you.

But if I may make a recommendation, now is as good a time as any to relax for a little bit. I know that my fellow uni/college students are uber-stressed and in a bit of a time crunch, especially my brothers and sisters from York and UofT who were affected by the strike. As my co-workers continually remind me, though, “always make time for self-care.” So take a three-hour break, pick up the TFIOS book (or watch the movie, which was pretty good!) and settle in with a nice deep mug of hot chocolate. Don’t forget the whipped cream!

Here are this week’s Book Baubles:

1. The Fault In Our Stars, John Green

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Let’s face it, if you haven’t yet heard of this book you were living under a rock. Or maybe you have heard about it, but don’t quite get what all the hype’s about. Either way, reading a book is good for your health – buy it here, and sink once again into the little infinity that Gus and Hazel shared, or critique the book and decide for yourself whether it deserved all the good reviews. Enjoy!

2. A racerback tank, because we’re hopeful that summer is just around the corner!

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Feeling that summer-yearning really bad? Buy this tank (here) and layer it with a cardigan while we wait for the weather to hit the positive double digits! Summer’s almost here, guys!

3. A necklace, because I love necklaces. This one is handmade by Krysten Sherwood.

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Get this necklace here for that John Green fan in your life whose birthday is coming up soon!

Bonus drink recommendation: Green Tea Latte! I love the ones from Second Cup – it’s the perfect treat drink, and would go so well with this book. Make like a person who has all the spare time in the world, grab TFIOS (or any other book you’ve been meaning to get into, really), head out to your neighbourhood coffee shop, and settle in for a good long read with a latte.

Book Baubles: Coraline Edition

I’m really loving all the different Coraline-themed things that can be found out there! It was almost a little too hard to narrow down, but here are my three favourites!

1. A graphic novel of the story, if you can’t get enough of the movie and/or the book.

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I’d say 4 1/2 stars means it’s a pretty good edition. Get it here!

2. A necklace, from AnyShapeNecklaces.

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This one’s just awesome, and distressed enough to be believable! Get it here for that awesome little Coraline fan in your life – or get it for yourself. You deserve a treat, it’s Hump Day!

3. Or if you want something a little out of the ordinary that you can hang on your college dorm’s wall, here’s a print from HeadOnAPlateArt.

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Get this spooky little print here.

Book Baubles: Star Wars Video Games Edition

Khairete! Mikaius again, bringing you the best Star Wars games of my youth!

Star Wars was my entire childhood. I wasn’t into Star Trek then, I didn’t find Doctor Who until I was 18, and Middle-Earth was a second-hand love. That I grew up in the 90’s meant that I could combine my favourite things so easily at home: Star Wars on the TV screen, on the computer monitor, in my hands with toys and LEGO. Today, in fond remembrance of the child that I was, I’m going to prattle about Star Sars on the computer monitor.

(1) Jedi Knight series, developed by LucasArts (& Raven Software for the last two)

Jedi Knight Collection

The Jedi Knight series, starting as Dark Forces, was a defining force in my childhood. Not only did I love the games, which handled as good as any PC shooter but with great swordplay, but also the Kyle Kataran-books, which are terrible in hindsight. The latter parts of the series, Jedi Outcast and Academy are the best ever lightsabers in gaming for your money. It’s the Jedi as I remember them to be, enhanced knights and samurai, not Force Unleashed, Prequel-fueled bombastic nightmares. They’re powerful and they jump real high, but it’s reasonable Force-powered acrobatics and nimble swordplay. Not sure if multiplayer is still big for Outcast/Academy, but the latter brought in dual wielding and double-ended sabers that were tons of fun to use. Highly recommended, especially if you have friends to set-up some matches!

Easily obtainable on Steam.

(2) Galactic Battlegrounds, developed by Ensemble Studios & LucasArts

Galactic Battlegrounds

I didn’t really have a console as a kid. I mean, I had an IntelliVision, and it was neat and all but it wasn’t cool. PC was where it was at for me: my dad needed them for business, so it meant I’d always have access to a middling PC and some hand-me-down PCs, so I grew up on PC games. Age of Empires blew me away as a kid and is easily responsible for my love of both history and media set throughout history. When Galactic Battlegrounds came out, it combined so many of my interests, it could have easily just given me a stroke! It is an RTS (my favourite!) game, using the Age of Empires engine (oh boy!), with Star Wars (yay!) history (YES!) as its setting. Play through the grand wars of Star Wars, from the Battle of Naboo to freeing Wookies and being Vader!

An expansion pack, the Clone Wars was eventually released. They are now both easily and readily available (thank you, Disney!) on GoG.com as the “Galactic Battlegrounds Saga”!

(3) Empire at War, developed by Petroglyph Studios

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Wow. Just wow. This game takes Galactic Battlegrounds and just about makes the concept perfect. There is a pedigree to this game, developed by Petroglyph, the studio founded in the collapse of Westwood under the villainous Electronic Arts. It isn’t a perfect game, by any means, but it takes a great concept and just runs with it headlong into funtimes. The basic premise is a Galactic Map (think Risk), on which you are either Rebel Alliance or Galactic Empire, which is also a third faction the “Zann Consortium” in the Forces of Corruption expansion. Each faction plays a little differently: the Rebels are actually quite stealthy and make their way by stealing from Imperial planets, the Empire on the other hand plays classically, massed and brute force. You can even construct the mighty Death Star, going planet-to-planet obliterating each, supported by fleets of Star Destroyers and being your very own (but successful) Grand Moff Tarkin. Planets can be taken over through land battles, and protected through space battles, both of which allow for orbital bombardment joy. The map runs in real time, so you’ve gotta keep moving, keep fighting, keep researching and keep your enemy on their toes.

For the Zann Consortium, they are a criminal empire and play a little differently. In the Star Wars universe, criminal empires are as powerful and legitimate a force in their sectors/regions as the Galactic Empire. The Consortium is strong and hits hard, but is not as able to take a hit like the Galactic Empire can, and they work on the Galactic Map by obfuscating and hiding things from the Rebels/Empire.

Both games have enjoyable little campaigns, but unfortunately Petroglyph (between these games and Universe at War) has made slightly awkward land battles. They don’t feel quite right: they aren’t broken or terrible, just unpolished. The meat of the game is by far the Galactic Map and the space battles.

If you can, grab it on GoG.com, as the game has a bit of trouble working on modern machines and you can expect full support from them in making it work. Steam isn’t as reliable, but is a totally viable option and far better than having discs lying around. Both are the gold-pack with the expansion included.

Guys, I would recommend the KOTOR games, but I cannot in good conscience subject other human beings to those buggy things. I could never even get KOTOR to run, and KOTORII was half-finished and barely playable, though what was playable was fantastic, and I understand there are restoration mods out there to complete the game. Sorry, but I cannot recommend spending money on those two, despite how good they are when they do function.

As a bonus, here’s a link to the big-daddy on Steam. Disney taking over Star Wars has been a good thing, if for nothing else that they have been proactive in getting the games on digital store fronts from GoG.com to Steam. This package includes the aforementioned KOTOR series and the absolutely delightful LEGO games. Honestly, when you can, go with GoG as their versions are more likely to run on modern machines, they’ll refund you (if they can’t get it to work) and the customer service is better. They also have also have some games (such as the Tie Fighter series) that Steam does not, but Steam has more modern Star Wars games.

As for that lovely encyclopedia from Literature Monday, here’s a link to a more recent version and the original.

(Header image taken from ThatFilmGuy.)

Book Baubles: Graecian Edition

Khaírete (greetings!), Mikaius bringing you today’s Book Baubles.

Considering the theme of this week’s Literature Monday, I wasn’t entirely sure how to do Book Baubles today. I could make a bunch of stuffy suggestions and condemnations about philosophy, or I could tell you to go watch Brad Pitt in sexy leather armour. I’m going with the latter. Here’s a bunch of items that are tangentially related to Hellenism!

(1) Troy

Troy2004Poster Troy, set in the Bronze Age of Mycenaean Greece, the backdrop of the famous epic poem “The Odyssey.” Troy is a loose retelling of the poem, but it is a far better retelling than the awful Alexander was of known history. This movie is a timeless tale and a fantastic aesthetic, carried out by a great cast. It’s real cheap these days, and it’s real good. Available at Amazon.

(2) Total War series, developed by Creative Assembly Romebox This series has had its bumps and bruises, and for me personally, it’s in a coma at the moment*. However, it’s been made into an amazing product through its community. Rome: Total War and Medieval II: Total War are absolutely fantastic games, with complete overhaul mods ranging from Europa Barbarorum (an intensely realistic overhaul) to The Third Age (an amazing overhaul set in Middle-Earth). The core games are set in a turned-based campaign across (typically) a map of Europe, leading into the Near-East and the Maghreb. The key to the game, which separates it from other turn-based campaign titles, is its real time battles, with potentially thousands upon thousands of soldiers pitted against each other in forts, keeps, castles, plains and any number of scenarios. There is no other historical series like Total War, and it’s also incredibly easy to catch ’em all now thanks to Steam (this whole package, or at least its parts individually will almost always go for 75% off during any given Steam sale).

The series recently celebrated it’s 15th birthday. Happy birthday, Total War, I hope there’s more on the horizon for you.

*I feel the need to qualify this statement because it’s such a storied series. Since the introduction of the Warscape engine, there have been a number of issues that unfortunately cannot be sorted out by modders. Likewise, it has become tiresome to turn to community members to fix the developers’ problems, and more is expected now.  Empire and Rome II are blunders beyond reckoning and the abandonment of both to their name-based successors (Napoleon and Attila, respectively) is a huge sore spot. However, it must be said that Napoleon and Shogun 2 were fantastic games in their own rights.

(3) Ptolemy’s Map Harley 7182 ff.58v-59 I have a certain fascination with ancient maps. Medieval maps are nice and all, but  cartography had kicked in by then and more or less accurately displayed the world. The mystery seemed a little lost. It’s amazing to see how without personal voyages, various ancient cartographers had managed such accurate representations for their times, and were also able to see the follies or end of their knowledge. I could not find any actual reproductions of Ptolemy’s original map, there seem to be posters (Amazon) and sellers (Etsy) out there with recreations of a 15th century reproduction of the original.

(Header image taken from TWCenter.)

Book Baubles: GRRM Edition

For this week’s Book Baubles, the focus is George RR “Evil Santa” Martin. As his works love getting into detail and describing things overlong, it’s only fitting that detailed works represent him in today’s Book Baubles. Let’s get to it!

(1) Fevre Dream, by George R.R. Martin

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If you wanted the full story, here’s your ticket!

(2) Beautiful Woodblock Interpretations of Game of Thrones in Feudal Japan, by Sei-G on RedBubble.

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If you’re one for visual reinterpretation, these sets are for you. Think of them as alternative history.

(3) Not really into reading? Hate visual arts? Love talky-talky-games? Then Telltale Games has you covered! Telltale’s games are known for their accurate portrayals of the material their games are based off, and for the quality of their writing. Pick it up from their own website linked above or grab it from Steam.

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(Header image taken from Sei-G.)