Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tales of the Arabian Nights (Board Game)

Each year whooshes by faster and faster. The last few months have been a whirlwind and the next couple don't look much better, but I did take some time off to hang out with my family.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and got to spend time with those you care about. 

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a cool board game called Tales of the Arabian Nights. When I first hefted the gift, I thought it was filled with bricks, but it wasn't. It was full of pages and pages of game material. It's like a choose-your-own-adventure on steroids.

Unlike most board games, this one is about the story and less about the winning. If you're the kind of person who MUST.WIN.GAME. then you might not enjoy this. To be honest, I'm fairly competitive but I'm able to turn that off for this game. It's really fun to see all the crazy things that happen. Sometimes the fates are on your side, sometimes they're not. 

I enjoy creating a story as I go along. Here's how it works. Everyone starts the game with a random quest. You can ignore this quest if you want, but I like to build my whole character around it. Last night I discovered my father was the King of Thieves and I had to steal some awesome loot in order to take over as his heir.

I traveled through the desert and mountains to Constantinople. The first person I tried to rob enslaved me, then I had to go searching for money to buy my freedom. After many turns, I escaped slavery and obtained one of the quest relics. Huzzah! On my way across the sea to India I aided a prince and successfully escaped a merman attack. The next person I robbed threw me in jail where I rotted for many turns. But it turned out to be a good thing because I met a jailer who taught me some skills that I used to get the last relic and claimed my title.

I didn't win the game, but I had a blast trying to fit the crazy encounters into a cohesive story.

If you like stories and board games, and have a couple hours to play. You might enjoy this game. I know I do. And my older kids do too.

* The image of the cover of the game belongs to Z-Man games.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bound by C.K. Bryant (Book Review)

I know I promised shorter posts, but I had a hard time cutting this one down.

Bound by C. K. Bryant is like a YA Paranormal with romance, tension, action, and suspense. It also adds elements of magic, alchemy, and pseudo-science fiction to create a unique backdrop that shows off strong characters and compelling scenes.

The story starts with Kira—your typical high school girl—and her best friend Lydia, then continues to grow in scope all the way through to the end.

As a debut novel, Christine delivers a good story. She has strong scenes and does an excellent job evoking emotion. For me, the story slowed down in the middle, but it picked up at the end in a big way. Christine writes strong, complex characters with internal motivations and feelings.

If you're not into indie published books because of the low quality, you don't have to worry about this one. The whole book from cover, to layout, to editing was clean and very professional.

(Warning: A few minor spoilers ahead.)

There was one aspect of the story that bothered me so much, I almost didn't write this review. Octavion, the male lead in the story, has several weaknesses. One of them is physical aggression. This is not new to the YA Paranormal genre, but in this story it crossed the line to physical abuse.

I've known several women who have lived through abuse, and I guess that makes me especially sensitive. It is devastating. The women I know still feel its effects many, many years later.

I'm not telling you these things to scare you away from this book, but I need to tell you a few more things.

During the story Octavion shoves Kira several times, slams her against a tree, chokes her, holds her bodily against a car while she tries to escape, drugs her, kidnaps her, takes her to a place he knows is dangerous and she ends up breaking her arm, etc. After each of these episodes, he is extremely apologetic and even ashamed. Which is pretty typical in an abusive relationship.

With all this in mind, I was surprised to read the following reviews:

"Octavion . . . gives opportunities for swooning if you're the swooning type." - Mere Motherhood

"Believe me, Octavion will make you swoon." - Writing 4 Me

"Favorite moments involve a waterfall and a shirtless hottie named Octavian, . . . and some great kissing scenes that leave Kira—the main character—and the reader breathless." - Randomish

"Octavion . . . is a total hottie." - Rachelle's Writing Spot

"Octavion from Bound is one of my favorite new heroes, and I have to say, I'm a happily married woman, but he did make my heart go pitty-pat at least a couple of times." - Tristi Pinkston

"Octavian is a hot bundle of man that I'd love to meet one day." - Cindy M. Hogan

Then I realized something. Christine got it right.

There is something in the psyche of a woman that is drawn to the dangerous man. Just like there is something in the male psyche drawn to the mean girl. It's not an admirable part of us, but it's there. And Christine captured it in her story.

The real world is not a perfect place, and neither is Bound. I know Octavion can find redemption someday, but I hope it's with someone else and after he spends a couple years in prison because Kira deserves so much better.

It's not often that a fiction story (and a YA Paranormal at that) makes me think about a topic this deeply. I've wrestled my thoughts and emotions for weeks. I feel I have a better understanding why women stay in these dangerous relationships. So, I encourage you to go out and read the book, then let me know what you think in the comments.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

After Dynamic Views (Technical Tuesday)

Life after NaNoWriMo is finally getting back to some kind of normal. I'll be posting a few of my thoughts on NaNo later, but for this Technical Tuesday I'm going to report on my other grand experiment: Dynamic Views.

I switched my blog over a few months ago. During that time I tried most of the different views. In the end, I decided to go back to my previous template. Here's why.


From the moment I switched to Dynamic Views my page count skyrocketed. I expected this.

Take a look at a normal template. When you visit the main page it shows the latest 10 posts all at once. This counts as 1 page view. You see, Blogger doesn't know if you read one post or all 10. It just knows you loaded the page.

Dynmic Views are different. They only load what they need to. As the user scrolls down, it loads more and more posts. Each of these count as a page view. This means that if the person scrolled down through your first 7 posts, Blogger would count 7 page views.

I'm sorry to burst your bubble if you thought your blog became 10x more popular after switching to Dynamic Views. It probably didn't.

The real problem for me was the stats for individual posts didn't work the same. In other words, Blogger was counting how many total page views, but not which ones belonged to which post. This was annoying because I like to see which of my posts are most popular, but I couldn't figure out a way to do that.

For example, I had several thousand page views in October, but my most popular post was visited only 85 times. Really? Compound that with the fact that I had less than 40 posts published and you begin to see the problem. Where were all those "total page views" going?


I'm not a big fan of sidebars, but they do serve a purpose.

It may surprise you, but I don't blog just to see myself write. (Okay, maybe that wasn't a big surprise.) I want to build a platform I can use for other pursuits. I use the sidebar for that. My sidebar has an overview of the blog and information about me.

Also, my sidebar is used to spotlight posts and other places I think deserve a little extra attention. I have a place for my most popular posts, my friends and followers. In the future, I plan on featuring books and articles I've written.

The Dynamic Views didn't have any of this. They allowed my posts to be front-and-center, but they didn't allow for much else.


The Dynamic Views didn't look enough like a blog. Sure they looked cool, but they were different enough that some people had a hard time figuring out what they could click on and what they couldn't. 

Sometimes readers had to click to read the entire post. A lot of people didn't do that. I know, that's mostly my fault. I could write posts better to have a hook "above the fold", but I didn't.


There you have my biggest concerns with the Dynamic Views.

From a technology perspective, I thought they were pretty cool. I like the dynamic loading, and if the stats issue could be resolved that would be a great thing. I think I could live without the sidebar if there were more ways to customize the layout and the look.

All in all, I enjoyed this little experiment and I hope to try more things like this in the future.

I can see why this castle is in ruins. Who knew it was built on such a slope? Babak Fakhamzadeh did a great job of "framing" it though. You can find this and other photos with frames on Flickr
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* Background image based on Night Sky theme by Ray Creations