Posts Tagged With: review

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Year 1 Review

As someone who grew up with the Harry Potter books, I was understandably thrilled to hear about the new Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery mobile game. Since its release on April 25th, I’ve played through Year 1 (there are 7 years in total), and had a pretty fun time. The graphics are lovely, the storyline is intriguing, and some of the dialogue made me laugh out loud. But the game also has some glaring issues — namely, the energy system. So here’s my breakdown of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Year 1.



The Good

The start of the game is just magical — you get to live out the fantasy of getting your acceptance letter, going to Diagon Alley to buy supplies and get your wand, and then hop the train to Hogwarts to attend the feast and get sorted into your house. I liked that you get to choose your house, although I would have preferred a bit more of a “personality quiz” style of questioning before you make your decision.

The plot wasn’t brilliant, but it did keep me interested. Your avatar (you choose the name and gender) is a bit of a pariah at Hogwarts because your older brother was expelled for breaking school rules in an attempt to find the “Cursed Vaults,” which are hidden somewhere within the castle. The other Hogwarts students constantly bring it up, and the teachers judge you by your brother’s actions, so there’s a thread of “having to prove yourself” that runs through the narrative. As you progress through the first year, you get a mysterious vision of the vaults, along with a quest line to open a door that’s blocked by cursed ice. There isn’t really a resolution to the “cursed vaults” plot in Year 1, but I’m looking forward to finding out more as I progress through the years.

The lessons are very entertaining, mostly because of the dialogue. You complete normal tasks, like “Study” and “Listen to Professor”, but then there are other options like “Pass Notes,” “Gossip,” and “Insult” — the latter always involves Merula, the Slytherin bully whose insults are delightfully relentless. My favorite bit of dialogue comes from Flying class, in which every piece of flying advice that Madam Hooch gives ends with “or you’ll fall to your death.” You have to wonder how many casualties she’s suffered over the years, and why no one has thought to put levitation charms on the hapless first-year students.

There’s lots more I enjoyed–the graphics, the supporting characters, getting to duel other students, and so on. All in all, it has the potential to be a fantastic game that any Harry Potter fan would happily devour. There’s only one problem …



The Bad

The energy system is just plain stupid.

It’s a pay-to-play game, so basically you have an energy bar, and you expend energy every time you do a task. The problem is that you use up your energy bar incredibly quickly, and it takes 4 minutes to replenish one energy charge — a full energy bar is ~25 charges. That means you have to wait ~100 minutes to recharge your bar. Most classes take about 2 full energy bars to complete — sometimes more — and you go through all your energy in maybe 5 minutes, tops. So you’re playing for 5 minutes, waiting 2 hours, playing for 5 minutes, etc.

Now, I get it. The game is free, and they have to make money somewhere. And maybe there are people out there who will happily spend money to recharge their energy bar over and over and over. But frankly, it just pisses me off. I would have gladly laid down $20 as a flat fee to play the game. But pay-to-play is so open-ended, with potentially no end to the investment you have to pour into the game. If you could just pay to get vanity items, like cool robes or a swanky broom, that would be different. But when your actual ability to play the game is impeded by long wait times and prodding to purchase more energy … not cool.

Implementing a flat fee is probably impossible at this point, since that’s not how the game was designed. But I think a very easy fix would be to shorten how long it takes for energy to recharge. Cut it from 4 minutes down to 2, for example, and suddenly people are playing twice as often, getting twice as involved in the game. Get the players to love your game first, then try to cash in, not the other way around.

I’ve been skimming reviews for this game, and most of the reviewers end off by saying “it’s a good concept, but I got too frustrated and stopped playing.” I’m really hoping that Jam City (the game developer) recognizes this as a serious problem and addresses it, because I’ve been dreaming of a Skyrim-style Harry Potter game for years, and if this mobile game fails, it might discourage future Harry Potter games from being developed.



In conclusion …

I love Harry Potter, and when I’m actually able to play the game (and am not just sitting there waiting for more energy), I genuinely enjoy it. So I will keep playing. But I categorically refuse to support micro-transactions of any kind, and that’s not going to change no matter how long it takes my energy bar to recharge. It might take a bit longer, and I might forget about the game after a while if it drags out too much, but for now, it’s on to Year 2! Time to solve the mystery of the Cursed Vaults. Wish me luck!


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Awesome Review-That’s-Not-A-Review

I’ve been meaning to share this for a while now, but I keep forgetting. Anyway, today’s the day!

Back in April, I got a new review for Imminent Danger, and I basically died laughing because it was so ridiculous. Here it is, in all its screencapped glory:

silly review

I wish they’d attached more stars to the review, but it’s still pretty phenomenal the way it is.

That’s all, folks! Happy Canada Day for all you Canadians out there, and for everyone else, have a sunny and wonderful Wednesday!


Unrelated media of the day:

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I just found the stupidest 1 star review …

I know I said I was busy packing and moving to Halifax, but I just stumbled across this one star review of Hush Hush and I had to share it because it’s so stupid. Here it is:

This book was for my daughter’s summer reading. She is still not done with it but hates reading. I’m sure the book is a good book but just not something that I’m interested in. I really didn’t rate it farely since I haven’t read it.

Who the hell leaves a one star review for a book they admittedly haven’t read and have no intention of reading? She says at the end that she didn’t rate it fairly, which is at least an attempt at sanity, but why on earth would she leave a review at all? Grrrrrrr.

Just needed to share this insanity. That is all.


Unrelated media of the day:

I’m currently in love with this song …

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Book Review: The Seventh Spell (Danielle E. Shipley)

Note: I won this novella as part of a contest on the lovely Danielle E. Shipley’s blog — not only did I get a signed copy of the novella, I also got some truly excellent artwork based on the novella, done by the author herself! Thanks so much, Danielle!!!

The Bookseventh-spell-cover-front

The Seventh Spell (Book 3 of the Wilderhark Tales)

The Genre

Fantasy / Fairy tale Novella

The Author

Danielle E. Shipley

The Plot

A witch’s attempt to cast one spell too many casts everyone touched by her previous spells into chaos. Scattered throughout each other’s pasts, Sula and Edgwyn, Villem and Rosalba, and the rest of the magic’s affected have a single chance to break this last enchant- ment before their “happily-ever-after”-s cease to have ever been.

The Review

I really enjoyed this fairy tale! I’ve read the second book in the Wilderhark Tales series, so it was really fun to see many of the same characters in this story — not to mention some new and intriguing faces! I loved the concept of the seventh spell re-setting all the witch’s prior spells and having all the characters revert to their pre-happily-ever-after states. It was such a fun twist, and something you don’t come across a lot in fantasy series. The writing itself is charming, and there are lots of unexpectedly funny laugh-out-loud lines.

I was also a huge fan of the storyline between the enchanted harp princess and the wandering minstrel — which is great, because I’m pretty sure the next Wilderhark Tale is about them! Speaking of the characters, I’d suggest reading the other Wilderhark Tales before you read this one — having missed the first one myself (soon to be corrected!), I felt I was missing a couple of important story elements, although the author does a great job of filling in the gaps for those of us who may not have had a chance to read all the prior books in the series.

A quick, cute, romantic read — check it out!

The Rating

Five out of five stars



Danielle E. Shipley’s blog

Buy the novella on Amazon

Check out the novella on Goodreads


Unrelated media of the day:

I may have shared this already, but it’s tons of fun, so why not give it another shot?

It’s “Akinator, the Web Genius”, which is basically a website that plays 20 questions with you to guess which person/character you’re thinking of. I’ve played it a bunch, and it’s fairly alarming how quickly it can guess some extremely esoteric characters.

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So I got my first 1 star review …

That’s right — Imminent Danger has officially acquired its first 1 star review. I won’t post the link here, but if you hop over to the Imminent Danger Goodreads page, you can check out the review for yourself.

As you can probably imagine, it makes me sad that someone out there paid money for my book and didn’t enjoy it. It also sucks because no one likes to hear their work merits a mere 1 star rating — essentially, that if the book were graded as a test, it would get a measly 20% and flunk the course.  And I’m not going to lie — it kind of crushed my emotions when I first saw the review. But then I remembered that I’ve weathered much worse than this — namely, receiving a bad review in person to my face — so I think I’ve calmed down. More or less. Mostly.

Now, it’s not very classy to go line by line through a bad review and dissect it, potentially shaming the reviewer in the process, so I’m not going to do that. The only thing I’m going to bring up is this — that I really don’t understand why people feel the need to leave nasty reviews when they haven’t even read the entire book. The reviewer admits they stopped at chapter 10 … which is like reviewing a song when you’ve only heard the first 45 seconds. I just don’t get it.

I mean, yes, if the book is truly so horrendous that you literally can’t bring yourself to read any further, and feel it’s your civic duty to warn off other readers before they spend their hard-earned free time and money on a disgusting and despicable piece of literature … sure, go ahead and leave a review without reading the whole book. But I’m pretty sure (like 90% sure … maybe 85% …) that Imminent Danger isn’t a hate-filled, vitriolic piece of filth.

Okay, fine, I’m a little upset. But I guess that’s what happens when you get a bad review. I’ll get over it! I had some gravy-smothered mashed potatoes and watched an episode of Chuck, so I’m well on my way to recovery. Just needed to vent a little bit. I’m better now. I just need to remember that different people are different, and that there’s no such thing as a book everyone likes.



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Book Review: The Amber Ring (A.L. Walton)

The Booktheamberring

The Amber Ring

The Genre

Fantasy Novella

The Author

A former network administrator and software developer for the U.S. Department of Defense, A.L. Walton (otherwise known as Piscis – or simply “the fish”) currently resides in Boise, Idaho, where he spends a good chunk of his time making stuff up and putting it on paper. And writing music. But mostly the other thing.

The Plot

At the age of ten, Sofia Corona saved the Fairwoods from the malevolent grasp of the Cedar Witch and her goblin army.

Two years later, she drowned unceremoniously in the lake behind her Oregon home.

In the months following the Heroine’s death, when the Fairwoods face a resurgence of goblin attacks, they are forced to turn to Sofia’s cynical twin sister, Maya, for help. Although she wants nothing more to do with her sister’s fanciful adventures, Maya comes to realize that this one last favor could give her the closure she needs to put Sofia’s memory to rest and move on with her life.

With her twin’s magic ring and faithful gryphon companion, Maya embarks on a reluctant journey of whimsical antics and unwitting self-discovery in this stark but humorous fairy tale.

The Review

I loved this novella. It’s short, it’s sweet, and it does a glorious job of turning the traditional “hero” story on its head. One of the things I loved about this book is that there’s your classic heroine destined by fate to save a magical world of zany fantasy creatures … except that she drowns in a pool, and suddenly it’s up to her emotionally detached sister to save the day instead. 

The character of Maya is so fun, precisely because she is so far removed from what a heroine is supposed to be. She’s rational and cynical, so rather than reacting to a whimsical forest creature with delight, she gives it this “you’ve got to be kidding me” look and then tries very hard to be polite while inwardly bemoaning the ridiculous situation she’s in.

The novella is packed with a variety of whimsical forest creatures, my personal favorite being a tribe of trolls who consider themselves expert hat makers (they’re not), and are convinced the rest of the world are set on stealing their hats (they’re not). Sometimes the “whimsical encounters”, as I like to call them, seemed a bit tightly packed together, but it’s a novella, not a rambling 100k word fantasy novel, so allowances must be made!

All in all, a delightful little read!

The Rating

Five out of five stars



A.L. Walton’s blog

Buy the book on Amazon

Check out the book on Goodreads


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Book Review: Saving Saffron Sweeting (by Pauline Wiles)

The Booksavingsaffronsweeting

Saving Saffron Sweeting

The Genre

Contemporary Romance

The Author

Pauline Wiles. British by birth, Pauline moved to California eight years ago and, apart from a yearning for afternoon tea and historic homes, has never looked back. Her work has been published by House of Fifty, Open Exchange, and Alfie Dog Fiction. Saving Saffron Sweeting is her first novel.

The Plot

Grace Palmer’s British friends all think she’s living the American Dream. But her design business is floundering and when she discovers her husband is cheating with her best client, she panics and flees home to England.

The tranquil village of Saffron Sweeting appears to be a good place for Grace to lick her wounds, but the community is battling its own changes. Reluctantly, Grace finds herself helping her new neighbours as they struggle to adjust and save their businesses. However, not everyone has the same opinion on what’s good for the village. The charismatic new man in her life may have one speculative eye on Grace, but the other is firmly on profit. How will she navigate the tricky path between her home and her happiness?

The Review

This was a cute little romance with fun characters, a great and engaging setting, and an extraordinarily satisfying conclusion. I had a wonderful time following Grace through the trials and tribulations of pulling her life back together, navigating her various romantic entanglements, and saving her new home from the ravages of modern industry. Grace is witty, and feisty, and just a delightful protagonist in general. The cast of supporting characters were entertaining and well rounded, making for an engrossing read.

The titular Saffron Sweeting is where most of the book takes place, and the author describes it exquisitely. I could picture myself sitting outside the bakery sipping Earl Gray tea and munching on a sausage roll with Grace, or walking up the twisting, tree-lined path to her little cottage in the middle of nowhere. This is one of those books where the setting becomes a character all its own.

All in all, a quick, fun, romantic read. Fire up your kettle, select your tea bag, and cuddle up with this book today!

The Rating

5 out of 5 stars.


Click here to visit the author’s website and learn more about Saving Saffron Sweeting!


Unrelated link of the day:

Marvel as the killer whale follows your cursor!

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How to Deal with Harsh Criticism

As you may have guessed from the title, I recently received some fairly harsh criticism about my debut novel, Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It. I’m not going to lie — it really bummed me out. But that happened last Wednesday, and I’ve since rallied. Well, enough so that I’m able to write a post about it, anyway!

Here’s what happened: I recently started attending a local writer’s group, and one of the gentlemen in the group bought a copy of my book and read it through. When he finished, he invited me to have coffee so he could share his thoughts with me. What followed was … kind of brutal.

Basically, he didn’t like the book at all — he thought it was unoriginal, boring, and lacking in “fangs”. He  classified Imminent Danger as “juvenilia” — quoth Wikipedia, “a term applied to literary, musical or artistic works produced by an author during his or her youth”. As in … it’s a decent attempt for a first novel, but actually it’s pretty bad and you should probably forget it ever happened and move on. He also told me that if I want to seriously be a writer, I need to abandon self-publishing and aim for traditional publishing, with self-publishing as only a last resort.

In his defense, the criticism wasn’t all bad and soul-slicing. He did say he found parts very funny, that he quite liked a few of the characters, and that he thought I had great potential as a writer. And he was very kind about it — he ended a lot of statements with “I don’t know — just a thought” to lessen the blow. And obviously I appreciate the feedback, especially from someone who has studied literature as extensively as he has. Still … brutal.

Not a fun experience. And he wasn’t entirely wrong — Imminent Danger isn’t a hard-hitting, super-intense, hard-core science fiction story where everything goes to hell in a handbasket and people get their limbs blown off and have their minds blown by crazy metaphysical questions about life and the universe and whatnot. That’s because it’s not meant to be. It’s fun, flirty, and silly. It’s the kind of book you bring to the beach and read whilst sipping a pina colada and basking in the tropical breeze.

I forgot that for a while after the coffee chat — I was really down on myself, thinking, “He’s right, this story is awful, why on Earth did you ever bother self-publishing it?”

And then I remembered that different people are different, and everyone has their own opinion, and that not everyone is going to like my book, regardless of how much I wish it were otherwise. My book may not be a ground-breaking, Earth-shattering book that will radically alter how we humans perceive of ourselves for decades to come … but hey, I like it! I like the characters, I like the world I created, and according to the reviews, I’m not alone in that.

So … I guess the moral of the story is this: different people are different, and you will never write a book that everyone likes. So if someone gives you a harsh review:

  1. Extract the good advice from the bad, and apply it to your future writing as necessary.
  2. Remind yourself of all the reasons why you wrote your book, and why you love your book.
  3. Get right back on that writing horse and keep going! You’re an author, dammit! Giving up is for lesser beings!


Totally related media of the day:

From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success!

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Book Review: The Friendship of Mortals by Audrey Driscoll

Next up in the awesome self-published authors series, I present to you my review of Audrey Driscoll’s The Friendship of Mortals. By the way, this book is currently FREE on Smashwords, so if it sounds intriguing, give ‘er the old download!

The Bookfriendshipofmortals

The Friendship of Mortals

The Genre

Literary Fiction / Sci-fi / Fantasy

The Author

Audrey Driscoll – a librarian and cataloguer, gardener and writer. She discovered the writings of H.P. Lovecraft many years ago, and after reading his story “Herbert West, Reanimator”, she began to wonder about Herbert – what motivated him to reanimate corpses? And thus the Herbert West trilogy began!

The Plot

Herbert West can revivify the dead – after a fashion. He persuades Miskatonic University librarian and aspiring alchemist Charles Milburn to help him, but risks their friendship for the sake of his experiments. When West prepares to cross the ultimate border, only Charles can save his life – if his conscience lets him.

The Review

The cover of this book does not do the story justice. This was one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking stories I have ever read. It’s told from the perspective of mild-mannered archivist Charles Millburn, but the real story revolves around the incredibly fascinating, mysterious Herbert West and his necromantic attempts. I absolutely loved this setup – Herbert West’s story became so much more intriguing when viewed through the eyes of another. This is definitely what the author intended when she wrote this gorgeous piece of literature, and I feel she pulled it off beautifully.

Herbert West alarmed, enchanted, and terrified me all at once. He is ruthless in his ambitions, confident that he will not be discovered, and willing to do whatever it takes to get his way. He should have been the villain of the piece but, perhaps because the story is told through his loyal follower Charles Millburn, I was instead sympathetic for him, and wanted him to succeed despite the fact that what he was doing was morally questionable at best.

The only complaint I can really make is that I felt the story dragged in places. The first half of the story was absolutely gripping, but once the characters separate and go their own ways for a bit, I wasn’t quite as enthralled – although once they get back together, the story picks up pace again.

Overall, a gripping and fascinating insight into a brilliant and disturbed mind (Herbert West, not the author!). I would definitely recommend this to any fan of H.P. Lovecraft, fans of sci-fi/fantasy, and anyone who just enjoys excellently written literature.

The Rating

5 out of 5 stars

Click here to visit Audrey Driscoll’s blog.

Click here to check out the book (currently free to download!)

Unrelated video of the day:

Thor 2: The Dark World trailer came out today! Words cannot convey my excitement for this movie.

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Book Review: A Sense of Light or Darkness by Lizbeth Wright

The lovely Lizbeth Wright sent me her poetry collection … in physical form! Woo! I just feel so much more legit as a reviewer when I can hold the actual book in my hands. Points for style, Ms. Wright!

And now … THE REVIEW! Dum dum dummmm …

The Booka_sense_of_light_or__cover_for_kindle

A Sense of Light or Darkness

The Genre


The Author

Lizbeth was born and raised in Las Vegas, where she graduated from UNLV with an English degree in 2010. She loves to write, her favourite colour is brown, and her main forms of entertainment are video games and movies. Several of her poems have won awards and been published in both print and audio collections.

The Plot

Since it’s poetry, it doesn’t really have a plot. All the poems do, however, have something to do with either light, or darkness, or both — hence the title of the collection!

The Review

The poems in this collection are beautiful. The imagery is at times haunting, at times ethereal. I love the theme of these poems — light and darkness. It’s very Kingdom Hearts (video game), which the poet mentions in the preface was one of her inspirations. I’m not a huge poetry fan, but I definitely enjoyed reading this collection.

Several of the poems in this collection really stick out in my mind — namely, Full Moon, Shadows, and The Tower Window. My favourite is definitely The Tower Window — it’s creepy, it’s intriguing, and I feel like there’s some moral to the tale, although I can’t imagine what it might be. I love when a poem really evokes emotion in you, and tells a story that you remember long after you’ve read it. That’s what The Tower Window did for me.

The Rating

4 out of 5 stars for the collection as a whole ( but 5 out of 5 for those three poems I mentioned!)

Check out Lizbeth’s blog here.


Unrelated media of the day:

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga apparently sang a duet together. Did anyone else know this??? Anyway, here it is. I like that Tony’s just rolling with it and having a ball.


Shameless plug of the day:

The Goodreads Giveaway for Imminent Danger is on until April 11th. Enter here!

(Open to CA, USA, UK)

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