Wednesday, July 31, 2019

My Reading Challenge: 50 Books in 2 Months

Hey all!

So I am relocating to the Netherlands in two months. I have sold my car and also will be spending the next two months at home, sorting out life stuff.

I have decided, partly for my own sanity and partly to get rid of my teetering TBR pile, to try and read 50 books in 2 months (60 days). This might seem impossible for some, but I was taught to read from a young age and, when I am on form, am capable of reading a 350-page book in 2 hours. I am fairly confident I can make this number before getting on a plane.

I plan to record my progress and review all books read here. I am not going to be reading any books longer than 400 pages to keep this challenge within reach, so that means loads of YA!

Books I don't finish because I don't like them will not count towards this.

Follow along on my socials with the hashtag #50books2months .

Let's do this!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Magic 101: Upgrading Lord Windgrace (Nature's Vengeance - Commander 2018)

In this post, I am going to be chatting about one of my favourite Commanders, Lord Windgrace. He was one of the Commander 2018 decks, but unfortunately, the deck out the box needs a lot of work in order to be consistently competitive.

Windgrace is a deck that cares about lands. From the number of lands you have to effects that happen when a land hits the battlefield. Fortunately, this is also one of the most straightforward C18 decks to upgrade and there are a few cards that, once included, can turn this into a potent deck.

Before we go into these additions, remember that Windgrace is responsible for sending land to your graveyard for card draw and then bringing that land back to the battlefield in subsequent turns. Whatever you add is of huge benefit if it can playoff with this interaction.

1. Ramunap Excavator

A 2/3 Naga Cleric which has an ability that states "you may play land cards from your graveyard".

With this on the battlefield, you can keep sending the land card you put there with Windgrace without ever using his minus ability and keep taking advantage of card draw for as long as you have a land in hand.

2. The Gitrog Monster

A 6/6 deathtouch frog who can keep Windgrace safe from harm as well as allowing you to play an additional land each turn providing you throw a land into the graveyard as a "tax" for keeping his froggy face around. But. he also states that every time a land hits the graveyard from anywhere, you may draw a card.

Super useful to play with Windgrace and a great blocker too.

3. Ob Nixilis, the Fallen

A 3/3 demon with landfall. So when you play a land, Ob says you can have a target player lose 3 life. If you do this, he gets three +1/+1 counters.

Now, imagine doing that with a card like Scapeshift...

4. Sword of the Animist

Equipment that gives a creature +1/+1 but also states that whenever the equipped creature attacks, you can search your library for a basic land card and put it into the battlefield tapped. Imagine this on Ob Nixilis, for example. He will get bigger before his damage is dealt!

5. Burgeoning

This is a useful green enchantment which allows you to play a land whenever your opponent plays one. You can easily drop this on your first turn and be sitting pretty with loads mana before anyone can do anything about it.

6. Sylvan Awakening

A sorcery which turns your lands into 2/2 Elementals with reach, indestructible and haste. They are still lands.

This is really useful for a targeted attack to clear some pesky tokens or knock down the life total of the biggest threat in your pod.

7. Crucible of Worlds

An artifact which allows you to play land from your graveyard, similar to Ramunap Excavator. Again, you need never to use Windgrace's minus ability to fetch lands you threw there in previous turns.

8. Mina and Denn, Wildborn

This is a 4/4 that also allows you to play extra lands on each of your turns. Also useful to equip with Sword of the Animist or protectors for Windgrace.

9. Titania, Protector of Argoth

a 5/3 Elemental who allows you to return a land from your graveyard to the battlefield when she comes into play. She also states that whenever a land is put into the graveyard from the battlefield, you get a 5/3 Elemental token.

Having both Titania and The Gitrog Monster out, then, is a combination made in EDH heaven.

10. Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar

A gift to Windgrace players from Dominaria, Multani is an Elemental Avatar who has both reach and trample. He starts as a 0/0 but gets +1/+1 for each land you control and each land in your graveyard. You can also fetch him from the graveyard with his mana ability.

There are a lot of other additions you can make, but hopefully, these 10 cards are a great start to start winning some games with this fun deck.

Honourable mentions:

  • Scapeshift
  • The Mending of Dominaria
  • Omnath, Locus of Rage
  • Nissa, Worldwaker
  • Asuza, Lost but Seeking

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Opinion: Stranger Things and its Popularity

3 years ago, Netflix released the first season of a weird show called Stranger Things. It is a blend of horror and sci-fi set in the 80's created by the Duffer Brothers. It is the sort of show that would have gained a cult following if it had been released before the days of streaming media.

But, for reasons I will attempt to unpack now, Stranger Things is immensely popular with a wide audience. The release of Season 3 broke records for Netflix, hitting 40.7 million households within the first few days. That is simply insane, considering the quirkiness of the show.

Set in the town of Hawkins, the first season of the show focuses on the disappearance of a child, following his friends, family and a burly police chief as they try to uncover what happened to him. It doesn't make things easier when weird things start to happen around the town.

I think one of the huge appeals for viewers is that the show is set in the 80's, complete with ridiculous fashions, neon and other memorabilia cleverly and authentically utilised in every scene. It is a nostalgia trip for many and a look into the past for others. The show even makes use of a synthesized soundtrack mixed with iconic songs from the time. The references to D&D will warm the hearts of many a geek.

In keeping with this, is the story itself. Told in the style of movies of the time, it reminds me a little of the Goonies and Gremlins.

Another aspect of the show is that it has heart. The majority of the characters are children and I think the experience of connecting with them and their friendships is something not many tv shows can offer these days. In addition, this is supported by fantastic secondary characters, some of whom have amazing character development arcs.

There are serious moments balanced out with clever dialogue that is perfectly delivered by the cast. The acting is so on point at times, that one can easily forget these are not real people. Each character has a unique dynamic with every other character and this is consistent throughout all three seasons.

There is also loads of mystery and action in every episode that will keep you guessing what is really going on. I am also going to warn you now about cliffhangers. You will need to give up a weekend for binging it all.

Without trying the first episode, I imagine it is easy to bypass this series on your passes through what Netflix has on offer and I strongly recommend you don't. It doesn't matter if the genre is not something you would normally watch, as Stranger Things has something for everyone.

I love these kids. I love the story. And I miss them already.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Review: Wait For Me by Caroline Leech

Title: Wait for Me
Author: Caroline Leech
Publisher: HarperTeen (January 2017)

“I am German, yes, but I am not a Nazi. There is a difference, and one day I hope you understand that.” 

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country? 
But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

Wait for Me is one of those random second-hand buys that intrigued me because it is set during WWII. This period has inspired some excellent YA books that are both inspirational and educational (A blog post for another day, maybe?).

I binged this one in an afternoon and really enjoyed what it had to offer. Wait for Me is a romance at its heart, set in rural Scotland away from the frontlines. Lorna is an interesting character, who is at first very influenced by what she has been told about the Germans and the War. When Paul, a German prisoner of war, arrives at the farm to work, she is at first disgusted that they have a German on their doorstep.

Obviously, her boundaries and perceptions are pushed by Paul, who is an amazing, well-rounded character to learn about.

I absolutely loved this novel. I feel that it deals with life on the edge of war well. Loved ones who might not return home and the threat of being drafted are part of Lorna's friends and family's lives.

The romance is tender and develops well with the progression of the story and Lorna's own maturity.

You will feel all the emotions reading this and I cannot fathom why it is not more talked about as it's a stunning debut that is wonderfully written. Leech is a very competent writer who never over- or under tells her story.

Obviously, it is not the gritty war tale that is like Rose Under Fire, as an example. I did see a review which commented that this romance makes light of war. This completely untrue and, in fact, I feel that this is a story that shows hope blooms in the unlikeliest of settings.

Recommended for YA romance fans and anyone who enjoys character-driven stories set against the backdrop of war.

Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Title: Radio Silence
Author: Alice Oseman
Publisher: Harper Collins (February 2016)

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong? 
Frances is a study machine with one goal. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside. Then Frances meets Aled, and for the first time she's unafraid to be herself. 
So when the fragile trust between them is broken, Frances is caught between who she was and who she longs to be. Now Frances knows that she has to confront her past. To confess why Carys disappeared… 
Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has. 

Radio Silence is one of those books that I have seen but wasn't really convinced of reading it basically because so few people were actually talking about it. I happened to find a copy at the Exclusive Books warehouse sale and picked it up with very little expectations.

Oh, boy. Was I glad I did. This is probably going to be one of the best books I have read this year.

Radio Silence is a YA contemporary that stands head and shoulders above a lot of the generic John Green wannabes. It puts the themes of friendship and self-discovery above romance with realistic characters.

The book is also diverse without pushing diversity if that makes sense. Like, diversity is just THERE.

I feel like the author also gets what teenagers go through. It's been a while since I have been a teen, but I hate these books with overdeveloped teenagers who quote Faust and are so enlightened. Frances is real because, most of the time, she is lost and hiding who she really is from the rest of the world.

Basically, this book is what all YA contemporaries should aspire to be. I read it in one sitting and actually got super emotional in some parts.

If you want something to get lost in for a few hours with characters you won't forget any time soon, get a copy of Radio Silence.