August 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. August’s theme is Knowledge is Power.

The items included in this box are a reading journal/planner, a pencil case inspired by the Atlas Six, a Dark Academia stamp set, a set of Babel bookmarks, and an enamel pin.

Illumicrate, like other book boxes, include a new hard cover each month and most months a letter from the author. This months book is Babel by RF Kuang which is a dark academia historical fantasy novel at Oxford. The story follows Robin Swift an orphan from Canton who is brought to London to attend Oxford’s Royal Institute of Translation better known as Babel. The special edition is a naked hardcover with a slipcase, has digitally printed edges, a bound in letter from the author and is signed.

September’s theme is Book Devourers.

Book Review: Small Favor by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #10)

Small Favor by Jim Butcher is the tenth book in the Dresden Files series. This book follows Harry as he is working for Queen Mab who has called in a favor that he owes her and he is tasked with protecting John Marcone. This is one of the most action packed books so far in the series as it starts and doesn’t stop.

I read this back in July 2022 and I’m now playing catch up on post and reviews so I don’t remember much except that I liked this book and I seem to like the Dresden series more and more as I read them.

July 2022 Monthly Wrap Up

July was a petty good month for me. I was comfortable with what I was doing at work and I was allowed to listen to audio books while I was entering data so I read a lot this month. In total I read nine books and one short story and finally got around to watching The Batman.

Books:

Dooku Jedi Lost is the story of Count Dooku during his time as a Jedi and what caused him to leave. Originally a audio book/drama I read the scripts. While still good as an eBook and think I would have loved listing to this story. We follow Asajj who has been ordered to find Dooku’s sister while she learns about his past and what lead him to leave the Jedi. Not what I was expecting but I still liked the story overall. I do feel like fan ideas about Dooku made it a little harder to enjoy this story as I had preconceptions on who I thought Dooku was.

I also read the next two books in the Dresden Files White Night and Small Favor. White Night is the ninth book in the series and follows Harry as he tries to find the culprit to a series a murders targeting the magical practitioners in Chicago. Small Favor is the tenth book in the series and focuses on Queen Mab calling in a favor from Harry and all the deadly hijinks that ensue. I liked both of these books and plan to have full reviews posted soon.

The short story I read was also set in the world of the Dresden Files. Mike is a short story that shows us an interaction between Harry and his mechanic Mike who is the one that always fixes up the blue Beatle. Very short but it was nice to see a part of the universe that is mostly only talked about.

Boys, Book Clubs, and Other Bad Ideas is an anthology book where each story took the same ideas but told vastly different stories. Each story uses some form of a book club to center the story while also taking that idea in places that I didn’t expect. I liked all the stories but some I liked more than others.

The rest of the books I read this month were all nonfiction and mostly historical nonfiction. Of these I did rereads of Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs and From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty. Though this was my first time reading these books as audio books, which I feel like the one advantage of the audio books is that Caitlin reads them and you can here the love she has for her advocacy.

Titanic: A Very Deceiving Night by Tim Maltin is a nonfiction Titanic book that focuses on the scientific reasons behind the sinking of the Titanic. Specifically the how and why the lookouts didn’t see the iceberg until the ship was right on it. While this is interesting information its a very technical book at is not written with lay people in mind.

Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials by Marilynne K Roach is a nonfiction book about the Salem Witch Trials. The author uses six of the accused women to showcase and explain the crisis of Salem and how the witch trials happened. This book is very well researched with a great amount of historical detail but it is dense and at times boring. Best for fellow historians and those who want all the details.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold is a nonfiction book about the women Jack the Ripper killed and the misconceptions that are now part of the popular myths. The focuses of this book is the women, who they were and the lives that they lead that has over time been distorted and overtaken by Jack the Ripper. This is a great book to learn the truth about these women.

Movies:

The only movie that I watched this month way The Batman. The Batman is the most recent DC Batman movie and has Robert Pattinson taking on the role of Batman. The story follows Batman, who has been fighting crime for two years, as a series of murders happen with a series of cryptic messages being left for Batman. It becomes clear that the villain is the Riddler but different from other interpretations. While I liked the movie and felt like the acting was good, it was a darker and more depressing take on Batman than I prefer. I feel like while Batman and most of his villains these days are darker characters there could be more levity in the movies with out it being too humorous.

August 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 4-5 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. August’s theme is Tell Me Lies

The bookish items included this month are a tote bag, a note pad with a Shakespeare quote, a jewelry box, a Gilded enamel pin, and mythology bookmarks. The monthly tarot cards feature character art from Only a Monster.

All Fairyloot books come with exclusive covers, generally signed by the author and include a letter from the author. This month the book is Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen which is a fantasy about a morally grey witch, a prince with a cruse and a prophecy that connects them both. This edition also has sprayed edges, and art work on the hardcover.

September’s theme is Farewell My Love.

Book Review: White Night by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #9)

White Night is the ninth book in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. This installment follows Harry as he investigates the killings of different Chicago magical practitioners. Something is killing those who can do magic but aren’t full wizards. Though some are just disappearances and others look like suicides’ at one scene a message is left for Harry which points to a serial killer and Thomas might be involved.

As the story progresses we find out that the killer is dressing like a warden of the White Council to instill fear as the war between the Red Court Vampires and the White Council continues and the plan to use Harry to tip the balance of the war. Thomas it turns out is protecting and hiding those who are being attacked and Marcone ends up helping out to protect the citizen of Chicago.

Like many other urban fantasy series the Dresden Files has a formula at this point but I find that is what makes urban fantasy enjoyable and allows for changes to be that much more powerful. At this point the Dresden Files has found its footing and just keeps getting better.

Video Game Review: Kingdom Hearts 3 and Remind

Kingdom Hearts 3 and the Remind DLC are the last games in the Kingdom Hearts Dark Seeker Saga. This game follows from the previous games where Sora and everyone are training to stop Xehanort from foraging the x-blade and destroying the world to create a new one. Before getting into it, this game is for fans and expects you to both know and understand all that has come before. The game does try to inform new players but your really not going to completely understand things if you haven’t play all the pervious games. Especially the emotional moments and how certain stories are brought together and concluded are best experienced with this prior knowledge.

The story starts off with Yen Sid prepping the seven keyblade wielders as the guardians of light and Sora going off to regain the power of waking. As they travel the Organization XII members that have returned are targeting the new princess of heart to make sure everything goes to plan. Finally, Riku and Mickey are in the realm of darkness trying to find Aqua while Kairi and Lea train as keyblade wielders.

In terms of gameplay I love it. The basic magic and keyblade attacks are still there but we are given situation commands, different keyblade forms, and attraction flow which summons park attractions to hit enemies with. I can see that not everyone will like all the different combat forms so I would try all of them and then just use the ones you like the most. Overall, Kingdom Hearts 3 is not my favorite game in the series its a fun ride and a good entry that answers many questions and ends this saga of the story while also leaving enough mystery for future games. My only criticism is the fact that Kairi still doesn’t have much agency in the story and is more of a plot device than an actual character. I would have also liked to have seen some Final Fantasy characters at least show up as cameos.

Now to talk about the Remind DLC I will have to spoil the ending of Kingdom Hearts 3 so now is the time to leave if you haven’t finished it.

So near the end of Kingdom Hearts 3, Xehanort provokes Sora into attacking him by destroying Kairi’s body this forges the x-blade and unlocks Kingdom Hears. Sora, Donald, and Goofy do defeat him and Xehanort gives the x-blade to Sora to seal Kingdom Hearts. However, Sora decides to use the power of waking to save Kairi though it will have grave consequences. In the scene on Destiny Islands everyone is there including Kairi and Sora but Sora disappears and it is clear that finding Sora is where the story will go next.

The Remind DLC better explains the ending as Sora is using the power of waking to save Kairi. The power of waking allows Sora to essentially travel back in time during the final battles with the Organization member by entering the hearts of his friends and allies. In terms of gameplay this allows the player to control and fight as other characters. While the concept of Sora travel in time is a little confusing I do love the extra scenes and character moments that we didn’t see before. This also better explains that Sora is breaking the laws of the universe to save his friend and love the fact that we finally get to play as Kairi. The DLC also gives us more of a glimpse of where the series is headed in the next games.

Movie Review: Jurassic World Dominion

Jurassic World Dominion is the last movie in the Jurassic World trilogy and it feels like the last movie that is going to be made for the Jurassic Park franchise. This was the first movie I’ve seen in theaters since February of 2020 so I had a great time going back to a movie theater.

The movie is set four years after Fallen Kingdom and the dinosaurs being released onto the main land. I initially thought that this movie would be more about the world learning to cope with dinosaurs being in the modern world. The company Biosyn now has a nature preserve for the dinosaurs and might be genetically engineering crops and locusts to control the food supply. At the same time Maisie Lockwood is being hunted because she is a clone and Blue, the raptor, has a baby without a male raptor. When Maisie and Blue’s baby are kidnapped Claire and Owen plan to rescue them. While that part of the plot is happening Malcolm has been working at Biosyn and contacts Dr. Sattler who also brings Dr. Grant to help expose what Biosyn is doing.

This is one of those movies that if you focus too much on the plot or the “science” your not going to like it but if you treat it like a fun action/popcorn movie I think you will enjoy it. The only things that I didn’t like is how they portrayed Biosyn’s CEO as an evil tech guy as it felt a little on the nose, and how Dr. Wu some form of redemption when he was very much portrayed as a villain in the pervious two movie and there is no explanation for the change of heart. However, I did love all the call backs to the original Jurassic Park movies and it feels like a good send off for the series. I liked the movie overall and I loved seeing some of the original actor come back.

Book Review: Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #8)

Proven Guilty is the eighth book in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. This one follows Harry, who is now a warden of the White Council and has been tasked with looking into rumors of black magic being practiced in Chicago. When Molly, the daughter of Michael Charpenter, gets involved it seems like entities taking on the appearance of horror monsters are attacking people she knows and it turns out that she has been dabbling in magic.

Harry is trying to do the right thing in this one by wanting to protect Molly but also needing uphold the laws of magic. This story shows us that Harry has friends and not just colleagues and I definitely understand the animosity to the White Council based on how they are willing to kill those who don’t understand that there are laws of magic that can be broken. I love that Molly ends up becoming Harry’s apprentice but I’m glad that Butch didn’t write it as a romantic or sexual relationship as that would have caused me to stop reading the series.

At this point I’ve both physically read books in this series and some as audio books. I feel like the audio books are the way to go as James Marsters is an amazing narrator.

July 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. July’s theme is In Too Deep.

The items included in this box are a Folk of the Air inspired towel, a travel toothbrush holder, a glass water bottle, and a set of metal straws.

Illumicrate, like other book boxes, include a new hard cover each month and most months a letter from the author. This months book is The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones. The story follows Mer who is the last living water diviner who has spent years running from the prince who used her powers to kill his enemies. However, her old handler now has a proposition for her to use her powers to bring down the prince. This edition also has stenciled edges, art on the revers of the dust jacket, an exclusive cover and foiling on the hardback.

August’s theme is Knowledge is Power.

Book Review: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #7)

Dead Beat is the seventh book in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. This one follows Harry as he must find the word of Kemmler to give to the vampire Mavra to keep Murphy safe. However, multiple people want the Word as it would grant the user power.

I find this book harder to summarize then other books in the series because the plot requires you to know events that have happened in the other books. That being said I do think that this is really where the series has comes into its own and is not bog down as some of the earlier books were. I would say that this is one of the funniest books in the series with Butter having a larger role.

This story brings in elements that were introduced in pervious book and its starting to become clear that there is something bigger going on in this world and Harry is currently on the outskirts of it. I loved the ending and I can’t help but think that Harry threating Mavra that he will use everything at his disposal if she threatens those he cares about again is going to come up in the future.