April 2022 Illumicrate

Illumicrate is a UK based fantasy and science fiction book box that has monthly boxes or just a monthly book only subscription. Each box also includes a selection of bookish goodies some more practical, others more decorative set around a monthly theme. April’s theme is Nothing But Thieves.

The items included in this box are an Art History book pot, a Song of the Sprits Papercraft Kit, a print album, and fa Gilded Wolves Bookmark set.

Illumicrate, like other book boxes, include a new hard cover each month and most months a letter from the author. This months book is Portrait of A Thief by Grace D. Li which follows Will a senior at Harvard who is contacted by a Chinese benefactor to help steal back five Chinese sculptures. If the crew succeeds they earn fifty million dollar but it they fail they could loose everything. This edition also has sprayed edges, foiling on the hardback, and art on the reverse of the dust jacket.

May’s theme is In the Dark.

April 2022 Monthly Wrap Up

In April I finished three books and two video games. I’m working though the Kingdom Hearts series and I’m making good progress. I also enjoyed watching the Youtube show In Space with Markiplier. The next couple of months post will probably be a little sporadic as I have several major commitments coming up that will take up a lot of time but I will try to post as much as possible.

Books:

The first book I finished this month was Egypt’s Golden Couple: When Akhenaten and Nefertiti Were Gods by Colleen and John Darnell. I received an early review copy through Netgalley. This is a nonfiction book about the reign of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. The authors reconstruct what is know about these two and how they became gods on Earth. Great book for those interested in Ancient Egypt and Akhenaten and the cult of Aten specifically.

Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix is a nonfiction book about the art of horror paperbacks from the 1970s and 80s. It focuses on the art but also on the how stories and certain novels changed the horror landscape. I don’t have a lot to say about this book but I enjoyed it.

The last book I read in April was Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. Mistborn is a fantasy novel where a thousand years ago the hero lost and now the evil overlord rules everything. But a rebellion is building. Kelsier who survived the worst punishment is getting a crew together to kill the Lord Ruler. Vin a young street urchin and thief has the power of a Mistborn that allows her to burn different melts to gain powers joins this crew to hopeful change the future. It took me a while to finish Mistborn but I did enjoy the characters and world and I plan to continue with the series.

Video Games:

In April I finished both Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Recoded which I do have full reviews posted for. Birth by Sleep is a prequal game to the original Kingdom Hearts game where we follow three keyblade wielders as they try to become keyblade masters and defeat the evil that is threating the worlds.

Recoded was a movie version of the Nintendo DS game. This game focuses on finding out the missing information that was in Jiminy’s journal and who Soar needs to help. I can’t say much about this one as I just watched the movie version but I do like the fact that we get information on what the note form Mickey was about at the end of Kingdom Hearts 2.

April 2022 Fairyloot

Fairyloot is a Young Adult book subscription box focusing on fantasy based out of the UK. Each month you receive a new Young Adult hardback book and 5-6 bookish goodies. Like most book boxes the hardback are special editions and the items are a combination of both practical things and more decorative items. April’s theme is Bittersweet.

The bookish items included this month are a Night Circus tray, a set of heart shaped fairy lights, a Strange the Dreamer enamel pin, a canvas basket, and the set of playing cards that was delayed from March’s box. The tarot cards include character art from Daughter of the Moon Goddess. This month there is also an extra paperback book, An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan. This book is a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet with Chinese mythology.

All Fairyloot books come with exclusive covers, signed by the author and include a letter from the author. This month the book is Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye which also has blue sprayed edges, artwork on the back of the dust jacket, and art on the hardcover. Inspired by Yoruba-Nigerian mythology Blood Scion follows Sloane who who incinerate an enemy at will. She has hidden her abilities but on her fifteenth birthday she is conscripted into the army where she might be able to destroy her enemies.

May’s theme is Cloak and Dagger.

March 2022 Monthly Wrap Up

This month I only read three books but I also binged watched the last season of Doctor Who and finished Kingdom Hearts 2.

Books:

The first book I finished was Fullmetal Alchemist Fullmetal Edition volume Six by Hiromu Arakawa. I’m rereading the series as I buy and collect these editions. This volume starts setting up plot elements that will become majorly important later. I love Ling and how the character is introduced but this is a sad volume overall because of everything with Hughes.

Next I read Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston. This is a young adult Star Wars novel that follows Padme as she first become a Senator. I loved getting to see more of Padme and learning how exactly the decoy system worked. I do wish we had gotten a little bit more of Sabe as I was interested in the work the character was doing. Overall, I glad that through Star Wars novels that some of the women of the series are being more fleshed out and given more attention.

The last book I read this month was Why the Titanic was Doomed by Bryan Jackson which is a nonfiction book about the Titanic. I received an early review copy through Netgalley. This book details all the circumstances that came together and caused the sinking of the Titanic. Most of this information was stuff I already knew as an avid reader of nonfiction Titanic works. However, I was a little surprised that there was no mention of the coal bunker fire that many believe contributed to the sinking. Overall, this is a good book for those interested in the Titanic.

TV:

The only thing I really watched this month beside YouTube videos was the last season of Doctor Who. Doctor Who Flux was the most recent series of Doctor Who. I generally wait to watch Doctor Who when the season has finished airing as I haven’t been a big fan of the stories being told the last several years and if I want to finish it I have to binge watch it. I wanted to like this season and I did like some of the ideas but overall it felt rushed and liked there were too many story lines. I also watched the New Years special which I liked the take on a time loop but one that get shorter each loop.

Video Games:

I also finally finished playing Kingdom Hearts 2 and was able to continue the story of Sora and his friends. I love how the game play took what worked from the first game and add to it. I have a full review that goes more in-depth but know that I love the series and I’m working trough the next entries.

March 2022 Illumicrate

Illumicrate is a UK based fantasy and science fiction book box that has monthly boxes or just a monthly book only subscription. Each box also includes a selection of bookish goodies some more practical, others more decorative set around a monthly theme. March’s theme is A Life of Its Own.

The items included in this box are a Gideon the Ninth Mug, a Deathless inspired cushion cover, a Murderbot quote headphone case, a notepad, and a Howl’s Moving Castle motel keyring.

Illumicrate, like other book boxes, include a new hard cover each month and most months a letter from the author. This months book is Gallant by V.E. Schwab. The story follows Olivia who is sent a letter to return home to Gallant. But secrets are hiding and she ends up in a place that is Gallant but not. Olivia might find out the truth that has been plaguing the family for generations but she might not like what she finds. This edition also has foil embossing on the hardback, artwork on the endpapers, and digitally printed edges.

April’s theme is Nothing but Thieves.

Video Game Review: Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Re:coded

Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is a prequal game set about ten years before the events of Kingdom Hearts. However, to understand the story the game expects you to know and understand the events of Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories, and Kingdom Hearts 2. Originally on the PSP I played the Final Mix version of the PlayStation 4.

The story follows three key blade wielders Terra, Ventus aka Ven, and Aqua as they are working to become Key blade masters. After Terra and Aqua’s Mark of Mastery test new enemies called the Unversed are seen throughout the world and Master Xehanort is missing. Terra and Aqua are charged with traveling the different worlds to stop the Unversed and find Xehanort at the same time Ven is told that something horrible is going to happen to Terra and goes after his friends. I don’t want to go into more of the story if you haven’t played but its an emotional journey that has call back to events in the other games.

Instead of playing just once you play though each characters storyline. Technically you can play in any order that you want but the expected order is Terra, Ven, Aqua. The game play is different from the previous games. This time there is no MP just a command deck that charges magic and specific attacks overtime. Each character has a different play style to get used to and different strengths. The only thing I personally didn’t like was command melding as I feel like it is a little complex and confusing.

While I loved the characters and story the game does feel a little bare bones probably because it was originally created for the PSP. Each Disney world is only a couple of rooms and there are very few NPCs to interact with. However, I can’t wait to see these characters and continue their story in the next games.

Kingdom Hearts Re:coded is a Nintendo DS game following Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Jiminy Cricket after the events of Kingdom Hearts 2. They are trying to figure out the mystery of Jiminy’s journal and why it says to Thank Namine and the message “Their hurting will be mended when you return to end it.” To do this they digitize the journal and awaken a Data version of Sora to go though the journal and figure everything out.

As I’m playing Kingdom Hearts from the 1.5 and 2.5 collection on PlayStation 4 Re:coded is not actually playable. Instead its a movie version of the cut scenes with text to add any needed information. So I can’t say anything about how this would play as a game but I loved where the story is going. I loved the ending as we are finally given information of who are all the characters hurting and connected to Sora’s heart and hint to where the story is going to go next. I also love the fact that we get to know what was in the note to Sora from the end of Kingdom Hearts 2.

With the 20th anniversary and the announcement of Kingdom Hearts 4 I plan of finishing the rest of the games in the series as soon as I can.

March 2022 Fairyloot

Fairyloot is a Young Adult book subscription box focusing on fantasy based out of the UK. Each month you receive a new Young Adult hardback book and 5-6 bookish goodies. Like most book boxes the hardback are special editions and the items are a combination of both practical things and more decorative items. March’s theme is Threads of Fate.

The bookish items included this month are a Circe woodmark, a Raven Cycle Sticker Sheet, a Raybearer cushion cover/pillow case, and a tea tin inspired by this months book. There was also supposed to be a set of playing cards but they have been delayed in will come in the next box. The monthly tarot cards feature characters from Daughter of the Moon Goddess.

All Fairyloot books come with exclusive covers, signed by the author and include a letter from the author. This month the book is The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh. This edition also has stenciled sprayed edges, artwork on the endpapers, and foiling on the hardcover. This story is a retelling of the Korean folktale Shim Cheong.

April’s theme is Bittersweet.

February 2022 Monthly Wrap Up

In February I read six books, most of them eBooks and started working my way though the next Kingdom Hearts games.

Books:

The first book I finished was Boys, Beast, and Men by Sam J Miller. I received a review copy from the publisher. This is a collection of short stories of primarily queer speculative fiction that is loosely connected through brief interludes between two strangers. While the collection is well written I didn’t enjoy most of the stories. The two issues I had were I felt like I was being dropped into the middle of most of these stories which caused me not to connect to the story or the characters. Also I found most of the stories somewhat depressing which is not what I wanted.

Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films by Nina Nesseth is a nonfiction book about the science of how horror movies work and how they scare us. I received an early review copy through Netgalley. I found the book a little technical in terms of the scientific explanation at time but its a great book for those who want to know the science behind why they like or dislike specific horror films and why ones are scary and others are not. I loved the explanation on the how and why different horror movies effect us in different ways.

In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park is the heart breaking true story of Yeonmi Park’s live first growing up in North Korea to her and her mother’s escape when she was just 13. This book takes us through everything that happen to Yeonmi and her mother in China while they where trying to not be sex trafficked and find a way to South Korea. The book ends with Yeonmi becoming a human rights activist and realizing that her story can help others. This book is one of those that because of the topic its hard to say that its enjoyable but I feel like this is one of those important books that many people should read.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh is a young adult fantasy novel where every year a girl is sacrificed to the sea to be the sea gods bride in order to stop the storms. Mina decides to sacrifice herself in order to save the life of the girl her older brother loves. When she arrives in the spirit realm the sea good is in an enchanted sleep. Mina with the help of Shin and several other spirits, demons, and gods has one month to save herself, the sea god, and her village. However, there are those who don’t want the sea god to awaken. This story remined me of the movie Spirited Away and if you like that movie you will like this book. I did figure out the twist fairly early but I still liked the story and the characters. I received an early review copy through Netgalley.

Classic Monster Unleashed is a horror anthology that takes the stories of classic monsters and reimagines them and turns them on their head while also paying homage to them. I loved this collection overall though I didn’t want some of the stories to be longer but all of them had stratifying endings. Some of these stories make the monsters not all that monstrous but others take them to another level. Most of these takes were not one’s I was expecting which I loved and I loved how many of the authors gave voice to characters that didn’t have much agency in the original stories. I received an early copy though Netgalley but I plan of buying a physical copy as well.

The final book I read in February was Harry Potter A Magical Year by Jim Kay and JK Rowing. This is a collection of Jim Kay’s art work and illustration with quotes from the Harry Potter books. Each day of the year is given a quote and has some added information about characters such as birthdays. This is a book that I bought and read for the artwork as Jim Kay’s illustrations are wonderful.

Movies:

I only watched one movie this month which was the 2021 Dune movie which I also have a full review posted. Dune is visually one of the best movies I seen lately but can be confusing for those who haven’t read the book. It follows the story of Paul Atreides, a young man whos family has been give control of the desert planet Arrakis better know as Dune. Dune is the only place where the spice that gives people different abilities can be found. However, Paul’s family is betrayed and he and his mother much escape into the desert to survive. I really liked this movie but I think it will be much better when part two comes out so we have the full story.

Video Game Review: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts 2

As I have been playing all of the Kingdom Hearts games on the 1.5 and 2.5 collection on the PS4 not all of the games are playable but are movie versions of the cut scenes and story information. This is how Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is in the collection. Now, Days originally released after Kingdom Hearts 2 but the collection put Days first as the story timeline has Day occurring before the main events of Kingdom Hearts 2.

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So if you look anywhere on the best order to play Kingdom Hearts in some will say to play Days before 2 or after 2. I feel like most of the time its better to play in the order that the games where released in but Days doesn’t matter as much. The game focuses on Roxas and his relationship to Organization XII which does give clarity on the events of the three hour long prolong to Kingdom Hearts 2 but not much other important story information that is directly needed to play Kingdom Hearts 2. In terms on how your play through will change depending on what order you play in the major is how confusing the opening prolong to Kingdom Hearts 2 is and how much of the mystery of Roxas do you want. Days chronologically is set after the first game but before 2 and is set both during and after the events of Chain of Memories. For me I knew information about the later games anyways so I don’t think it matters much which one I played first but I do feel like the relationship between Alex and Roxas is better understood and you get more out the open of Kingdom Hearts 2 with the information in Days first. However, you do loose some of the mystery element that starts the game and is throughout with the Organization.

Before I get into Kingdom Hearts 2 I will make a note that I generally play on Beginner mode as I don’t feel that I’m all that good at these games but I love the story. Any information I miss playing this way, such as the secret endings I look up after I’ve finished playing the game. Most people will say this is not the best way to play these games but I just want to enjoy the story and get through the games in a timely manner.

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Kingdom Hearts 2 starts off with a prolog that is about three hours long focusing on Roxas who has a connection to Sora but its not explained until much later in the story. When we start playing as Sora he has been a sleep for a year and now must travel the worlds again to find Riku and King Mickey as well as stop the evil plan of Organization XII. I love these games but its in Kingdom Hearts 2 that you can tell the plot does start to get a little confusing if you aren’t paying attention as there are hints of where major plot points and events are headed.

In comparison to Kingdom Hearts, I find Kingdom Hearts 2 a much more enjoyable experience to play. Though you can tell the game was created for the PlayStation 2 the movement of the characters and the gameplay overall is much better. The Drive Forms are a great new way to add to the gameplay even though I don’t like things like double jump being connected to the Drive Forms. Overall, Kingdom Hearts 2 is one of the best games in the series both story and gameplay wise from what I’ve played so far.

I’m currently making my way through the rest of the series and since 2022 is the 20th anniversary I hope to have finished most of what we have currently before the end of the year.

February 2022 Fairyloot

Fairyloot is a Young Adult book subscription box focusing on fantasy based out of the UK. Each month you receive a new Young Adult hardback book and 5-6 bookish goodies. Like most book boxes the hardback are special editions and the items are a combination of both practical things and more decorative items. February’s theme is To the Moon and Back.

The bookish items included this month are a pair of Starless Sea socks, a Crescent City necklace, a Wicked Fox art print, a set of celestial bookends with the moon, sun, and starts, and a Daughter of the Moon Goddess tote bag. The monthly tarot cards feature character art from the Red Rising series.

All Fairyloot books come with exclusive covers, signed by the author and include a letter from the author. This month the book is Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan and also has digitally sprayed edges, artwork on the endpapers and foiling on the hardback. Inspired by the legend of Chang’e the Moon Goddess, the story follows Xingyin who has been hidden from the Celestial Emperor and raised on the moon. When her magic is discovered she flees and must leave her mother behind. In disguise she ends up training with the Emperor’s son but to rescue her mother she must challenge the Emperor and could lose all that she loves.

March’s theme is Threads of Fate.