Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Books Reviewed in 2021

Each year I try to read and review a bunch of books. Some years I do better than others. Some years life gets too crazy and I either don't read as much as I'd like, or I don't write reviews on as much, or a combination of both.

Below are the books reviewed during this year.

Here are links to the past few years (202020192018201720162015201420132012201120102009)

  1. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse
  2. Codename Danger: Unmasking a Villain
  3. The Pillars of the Earth
  4. Real vs Rumor: How to Dispel Latter-Day Myths
  5. Dandelion Wine

Friday, December 10, 2021

Board Game Review - Viscounts of the West Kingdom

I recently had a fun time learning Viscounts of the West Kingdom from Garphill Games and Renegade Game Studios. This is the third in the "West Kingdom" series and yet another amazing game from Shem Phillips.     

As with the other West Kingdom games, players strive to earn the most victory points by hiring various workers and using their resources to advance their goals. Similar to the first two games, you must work to build a deck of workers that will best help ensure you have the right resources and influence to carry out the tasks at the right time.    

Available actions are determined by moving your Viscount figure around a Rondel that outlines a specific path around the board. The amount you can move depends on which worker you play on your turn (though you can adjust this slightly by paying coins or building a certain building). When your Viscount ends movement, you are presented with a handful of different actions. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Book Review - Dandelion Wine

When I think of Ray Bradbury, I usually think of science-fiction or at least fantastical-fiction. Dandelion Wine captures the magic and fantastical of his other writing but it does so in a much more subtle manner. 

This book is a story of the summertime adventures of Douglas Spaulding, a 12-year old boy in the small town of Green Town, Illinois in 1928. Douglas' experiences vary wildly in scope and nature but from a high level, they could mostly be considered fairly ordinary. And yet, Bradbury weaves them into magical tales of growth and imagination. 

The title of the book comes from the story of Douglas' grandfather bottling dandelion wine throughout the summer and Douglas presenting it as a metaphor for bottling up the various experiences and memories of each summer day. Each golden bottle represents a different memory, tucked away to be retrieved and savored at a later date. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Book Review - Real vs Rumor: How to Dispel Latter-Day Myths

Growing up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I heard many rumors ranging from the mundane to the outrageous.  Some were presented by people trying to convince me that the church was lead by wicked frauds and others were presented during Sunday classes as potential faith building experiences.  Still others were just presented as random nuggets of information just considered interesting.

When I picked up this book, Real vs. Rumor, I mostly expected it to be a listing of dozens or even hundreds of stories that would then either be proven as fact or debunked as fake.  What I found was somewhat different.

The true content and intent of the book is elaborated by its subtitle: "How to dispel latter-day myths".  While the book does use a handful of rumors and stories as examples, the real purpose of the book is to present readers with a sort of blueprint or methodology for evaluating these stories and rumors on their own to try and determine their veracity.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Board Game Review - Nidavellir

Nidavellir is one of those games that I kept seeing on the ‘Hotness’ list but never really took the time to learn anything about it. I finally decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did.   

Thematically, Nidavellir is the name of the Dwarf Kingdom and the kingdom is being threatened. Your goal is to hire up an army to help repel the threat. Honestly, the melding of the theme is pretty tenuous but the art and style is fun.  
At a high level this is an auction game where you bid coins to try and hire cards from three different taverns. The cards interact in a set collection / combo method to score points and give some unique bonuses and abilities. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Book Review - The Pillars of the Earth

I heard many people praise The Pillars of the Earth when it was released 30+ years ago and so I eventually bought a copy, fully intending to read it quickly.  I even bought the sequel at a thrift store with the expectation that I would fall in love with the story.

After sitting on my shelf for nearly a decade, I finally dusted it off and dove into this sweeping tale of cathedral building in medieval England.  Sadly, It took me nearly a year to finish reading the novel, not necessarily because it was a slow read but because I actually put the book down half a dozen times and intended to NOT FINISH the book.  I'm still not sure what compelled me to power through and finish it, but I picked it back up multiple times and eventually finished it (even though I skipped numerous passages here and there, as I'll explain later in this post).

The first thing I noticed while reading was that even though this was represented as an ambitious book with enormous scope (over 1000 pages covering 50 years of medieval life) the book seemed to take an almost microscopic view of events.  Rather than giving us an overarching history of nations, towns or events, Follett picks a handful of characters and lets us walk alongside their day to day life for decades.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Board Game Review - Running With the Bulls

Have you ever had a desire to throw yourself in front of a bunch of charging bulls?  Well, Calliope Games has a way to do it that’s safe for you and for the bulls.  Their game Running With the Bulls lets you help direct your own group of “runners” as they try to race across the city of El Toro to a variety of possible destinations. 

The runners and the bulls are represented by colorful dice and the city of El Toro is filled with whimsical artwork with lots of little nuances to make you laugh. 

The game is played over three days (rounds).  Each day, all players roll their dice to determine their starting point at the top of the city.  The larger bull dice are also rolled and will start alongside the runners.