Tag Archives: gaming

ARC Review – Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Title: Chaotic Good

Author: Whitney Gardner

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious. 

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Full disclosure: I am a D&D fan and a role-playing game fanatic. I live and breathe RPGs, so of course I was going to read a book about a girl who loves cosplay and geek culture.

Chaotic Good looks at Cameron, a cosplayer who gets into a bit of a nerd-fight when she cosplays Cloud from Final Fantasy VII and tells everyone she has never played the game, but loved his design. This starts flame wars and troll battles on her cosplay blog, and Cameron has to deal with the fallout. On top of all that, she is applying to a costuming department and has to create five original pieces of her own, and Cameron feels like this is impossible because she only knows how to craft characters she is familiar with.

What a mouthful! But seriously, this was a fun and easy read. It was a book I found myself relating to, especially in situations when Cameron would go to the comic book store and get told she was a “fake geek girl” (which honestly, whoever coined that needs to be slapped — hard). Whitney Gardner does an amazing job of showing and telling her readers about how toxic comic book and geek culture can be, or how it’s male dominance has always tried to keep women out. She also shows constructs for how we can change this perspective, which I thought was admirable.

Plus, it’s about Dungeons & Dragons! I love D&D, and I have so much fun playing it. I loved the artwork that was present, showing off how the campaign would be imagined. I also loved the characters, both in-game and in real life. I found them all to be flawed, but fun none-the-less. I really adored Cooper, as he made me laugh, and his storyline with Cameron’s is one I think many people may be able to relate to.

Anywho, Chaotic Good is a cheeky, sassy, fun read. It was a book I gobbled up because I am a sucker for books that look at gaming culture in any way, and this hit the sweet spot for me.

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Late to the Party ARC Review – Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anna Priemaza

Title: at and Meg Conquer the World

Author: Anna Priemaza

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Kat and Meg couldn’t be more different. Kat’s anxiety makes it hard for her to talk to people. Meg hates being alone, but her ADHD keeps pushing people away. But when the two girls are thrown together for a year-long science project, they discover they do have one thing in common: They’re both obsessed with the same online gaming star and his hilarious videos.

It might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship—if they don’t kill each other first.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

One thing I’ve often disliked in contemporary YA is the lack of friendships between girls. I mean the genuine, well-meaning, kind of friendships where there is mutual respect between the characters. Stories about friendship often have more to do with romance, but what I loved about Kat and Meg Conquer the World is that the friendship is the large focus, while the girls also attempt to conquer their mental illnesses while maybe like-liking a cute boy here and there.

Priemaza’s debut is wonderful. There’s a distinct difference in Kat and Meg’s voices, and I found myself able to visualize what the girls were doing, how they were behaving, and of course, the video game they are both obsessed with. It is so AWESOME to see girl gamers being represented in stories without it being a quirk in their character. There’s a lot of care and attention to detail in the way in which the girls interact with the MMORPG that they play online, and how online culture can feed into mental illness, in Kat’s case anxiety and depression, and Meg’s ADHD. Even the way in which mental illness is represented in this novel is just very thoughtful and mindful of those who suffer from them.

I adored Kat and Meg Concuer the Universe because it’s such a true-to-life story with fangirls who want to be accepted by others, but ultimately themselves. Kat and Meg’s friendship is easily one of the strongest and most complex part of this story, and it’s so easy to fall in love with the characters and root for them when they succeed and feel empathy when they fail. I urge people to check this book out, especially if you’re looking for a story with complex female friendships and ya don’t mind a dash of gamer culture.

ARC Review – In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

20575446Title:  In Real Life

Author(s): Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang 

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing. 

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer – a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake. 

Huge thank you to First Second and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review: 

This likely won’t be the first time you’ll see this book listed for me as it will be appearing a feature over at RPGamer.com in the near future. For now, this will be a more general review as In Real Life tackles one of gaming’s worst social economic problems to date.

For those who don’t play a lot of video games or MMOs, this book will likely open your eyes to an issue within, particularly the free-to-play MMO market, though a lot of pay-to-play are equally involved, which is people farming for gold and treasures and then selling them to those who want to fast-track aspects of their game so they can focus on other areas of the game. The people forced to do this are paid little money and give up the majority of their lives to play a game for work.

This is not a new or ground breaking idea, as Doctorow has tackled this topic on numerous occasions. There is a preachy element to this book that I do think a good chunk of reader’s will find off putting, I think issues of race, particularly the white girl trying to save a Chinese gold farmer in game might be interpreted in a lot of negative ways, but I don’t think that’s the real intention of this story.

Doctorow wants to highlight an evil that exists within the realm of gaming and one we often choose to ignore because “it doesn’t effect us.” He’s also trying to show a positive for how gamers work together in games to solve problems of injustice and morality. While Anda and Raymond likely would have never met in real life, I feel like their interest in each other is well thought out because it does give Anda a sense that the game she loves so much isn’t entirely what it seems, and that the balance between reality and virtual reality isn’t as clear-cut a line as we are lead to be.

Moreover, while I wasn’t entirely in love with how female gamer’s were portrayed in this, I really appreciated the inclusion. Woman are slowly becoming the more than 40% in gaming, and we still often get treated by our counterparts that we can’t be strong and confident within our gaming selves. The females in this book wanted to show it was okay to be a female and a gamer, but it’s a bit problematic on the other side of the coin that they only want female inclusion. I see both sides of the coin even if I struggle to agree with it.

I really did love the interaction between Anda and Raymond and I thought it was quite lovely. I felt it was sweet and genuine. I thought the artwork was lovely to gorgeous in quality. I think In Real Life will delight gamers, and I think it will teach teens about an issue that they likely wouldn’t have known anything about. There;s a powerful idea in this book, but because of how heavy handed it comes across, I do think that will alienate some readers. Personally, I enjoyed the book a great deal, and I loved the flow and tone enough that I am forgiving of the preachy aspects. In Real Life is powerful, and will challenge readers to go beyond their comfort zone when it comes to their hobbies having real world consequences.