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Dangerous Games: How to Play
Publisher: Full Moon Enterprises
by Manda C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/09/2013 18:50:20

I picked up an ebook of one of Matt Forbeck’s recent 12-for-12 novels that he funded through Kickstarter last year, titled Dangerous Games: How to Play and let me tell you, I think that this is poised to become the gamer holiday classic we’ve been waiting for.

The premise is simple: ’twas the eve before Gen Con and all through Indianapolis…well, you get the picture. It’s the Wednesday night before Gen Con kicks off officially and a well known game designer is found dead. When it’s clearly a murder, industry hopeful and recent graduate of police academy, Liam Parker, is called in by the convention organizers to serve as a liason to the police and help crack the case. Though it’s the first in a series, the book very much stands alone…and will make you want to keep reading the rest.

The plot is a little silly—at times there are some very geeky jokes and case connections that only a gamer would pick up, but more importantly it’s a fun read. Forbeck perfectly captures the Gen Con experience, from piling into the hotel with suitcases full of games and waiting in line for that must-have new release to the late night shenanigans and the overwhelming feeling of stepping into the convention hall for the first time. Last year was my very first Gen Con, so the memories were still very fresh in my brain, but the descriptions of Liam’s first encounter with the massive event were enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside…you know, despite the whole chain-of-murders thing.

One thing that struck me as rather odd toward the beginning, however, was getting used to seeing the names of real people show up in the text. Right away we’re introduced to folks like Matt Forbeck (yes, the author himself,) Kenneth Hite, Lisa Stevens, Robin Laws, and so on. On one hand, it was fun to laugh at the descriptions of people I knew, on the other—the story is fiction, and the lack of fictitious characters was jarring at first. Not to mention the fact that the main character is fictional, it left a strange feeling of curiosity as I considered what was real and what wasn’t.

The book also does start out with a small amount of game jargon—if you aren’t familiar with some game design terms, you might be a little confused as to what Liam Parker’s new game is about, but that passes quickly and it’s easy enough to fall in step with the story. Another interesting aspect to this is how the fictional counterparts to real life game designers are full of actual, good advice for aspiring industry professionals. Notably, at times it feels like we’re beaten over the head with the reminder that game designers aren’t paid very well, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does often walk the line between a recurring joke and a somber reminder of what game design is really like.

As always, Forbeck’s writing is very engaging and well paced, with a detailed setting that shows his experience with worldbuilding and game design, even in a book that is set in a world unlike our own. Not only did he capture the Gen Con spirit perfectly, but has a fun, engaging story that keeps you guessing and interested at every turn. Whether you’re a Gen Con veteran or only dream of setting foot at a gaming convention, it’s a great, quick read for anyone with a love for gaming. I have no doubt that it will quickly become a must read around convention season, and I know I’ll probably be picking it up again next year when the mood strikes and I get that Gen Con excitement all over again.

Since this is also the first in a series, I’m looking forward to reading the rest. While the first was certainly wrapped up well, I love the idea of returning to Liam Parker’s version of Gen Con…though I might save the sequel for after this year’s convention, to help recover from the woe of returning to the real world!

If you’ve read Dangerous Games: How To Play, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Likewise, if you’d like to check it out for yourself, you can find a Kindle edition on Amazon for $4.99, or visit our friends over at DriveThruFiction for a multi-format digital bundle (also $4.99) or a hard copy, if you prefer keeping it on the shelf.

I really recommend this book to anyone who’s a fan of gaming, conventions, or anything even kind of like that. Reading it really made me feel like a kid again, reading books about summer camp in the weeks leading up to my own trip…except, again, aside from the whole chain-of-murders thing.

See you in Indianapolis—either in real life or between the pages of Dangerous Games: How to Play!

Originally posted on 8/6/13 at http://charismabonus.com/cha/2013/08/book-review-a-gen-con-murder-mystery/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dangerous Games: How to Play
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Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror
Publisher: FR Press
by Manda C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/15/2012 21:21:23

Originally posted at: http://charismabonus.com/cha/2012/03/19/book-review-haunted-anthology/

Ladies and gents, I will be completely honest with you – I do not read anthologies.

Well, no, that’s not an entirely fair statement – instead let me say I do not finish anthologies. I enjoy reading, and I also enjoy doing things en masse. If I am going to have a snack, I eat a lot of things. If I am going to write, I write a lot. If I am going to code, I do it in a 10-hour marathon.

So, naturally, if I am going to read I am going to read for awhile or read a lot. Anthologies do not ordinarily lend themselves towards this kind of reading, instead I find that they’re best swallowed in small bites but still often feel unfulfilled by the end of the story. Usually anthologies do not do it for me for this reason – I want more than just a short story, I want an entire novel. I want more. I want to know what happened before and after and maybe during, should the story lend itself in that direction.

Haunted completely blew those ideas of how I feel about anthologies out of the water.

For a brief overview, Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror is one of the first offerings from FR Press – that is, the publishing side of FlamesRising.com. It features a collection of authors who seem to have ample experience with the supernatural, many of whom have also worked on role playing games like the ever-creepy World of Darkness, so these guys (and gals) know their stuff.

The first thing to note about the book is that it’s kicked off with this absolutely wonderful introduction by Jaeson K. Jrackman, a real life ghost hunter.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Jrakman sets the stage perfectly for the rest of the book, easing us slowly in to the darkness and spine-tingly mood that comes with hearing (or reading) a good ghost story – or experiencing the supernatural first hand. To my surprise and enjoyment, the tone – not just the theme – of the forward seemed to carry on through the entire book.

Though the anthology is compiled of the stories of eleven very different authors with very different writing styles, it felt more as if I was reading eleven slices of the same story. It’s not often that I feel compelled to comment on the editing of a book (particularly a work of fiction rather than a game), but it was so very obvious that great care was taken to place these stories in an order that was comfortable to the reader. Though we are introduced to many, many different protagonists and antagonists throughout the various tales, they seem to slide in and out of each other’s radar as each story follows the other. Awkward teenagers and solemn adults, the long dead and the fresh kills, the amateur hour contestants and the seasoned ghost hunters – each lend to tell the greater tale that arcs through the whole collection: the supernatural is everywhere, and all around us, with ghosts in all shapes and sizes.

I am not going to lie to you – it would be an absolute shame to pick out a particular story that stood out as a favorite because they were all equally brilliant. Each story complimented the next, and despite the obvious changes in tone or perspective between the authors, everything still flowed smoothly. All of the stories were equally creepy, though some endearing – Georgia Beaverson spun an oddly adorable tale about a young boy towards the middle of the book – and others that left you wondering exactly what happened by the end.

All in all, as what I can safely say is the first anthology I have read to completion – and in order – this was a favorite. I have no doubt that I’ll be pulling it out next time I want to share a spine-tingling story with a friend – or if I just want to curl up with something spooky.

Whether you’re a fan of anthologies or not, it would be a crime for you not to pick this up if you’re at least interested in ghosts and other supernatural beings, especially if you love seeing fiction from folks who have written for role playing games previously – you’ll be getting stories not just by Georgia Beaverson, but also Alana Joli Abbott, Jason L. Blair, Alex Bledsoe, Bill Bodden, Richard Dansky, Preston P. DuBose, Nancy O. Greene, Jess Hartley, Jason Sizemore, and Chuck Wendig – a pretty stand-up team as far as storytelling goes, all corralled and edited by Monica Valentinelli.

If you’d like to pick up the anthology, DriveThru Fiction has digital copies for just $4.99 and hard copies for $14.99 – or a combo of both versions for $15.99. For less than a couple of movie tickets, that’s a pretty good price for an afternoon with ghosts – you may just find yourself wanting to spend the money saved on an EVP detector of your own one you’re done.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror
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