Review: The Woken Gods

The Woken Gods coverThe Woken Gods
Author: Gwenda Bond
Publisher: Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot
Genre: YA
Release Date: September 2013
Formats: Paperback and Ebook
Blurb:

Five years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke around the world.
This morning, Kyra Locke is late for school.
Seventeen-year-old Kyra lives in a transformed Washington, D.C., home to the embassies of divine pantheons and the mysterious Society of the Sun. But when rebellious Kyra encounters two trickster gods on her way back from school, one offering a threat and the other a warning, it turns out her life isn’t what it seems. She escapes with the aid of Osborne “Oz” Spencer, an intriguing Society field operative, only to discover that her scholar father has disappeared with a dangerous relic. The Society needs it, and they don’t care that she knows nothing about her father’s secrets.
Now Kyra must depend on her wits and the suspect help of scary gods, her estranged oracle mother, and, of course, Oz–whose first allegiance is to the Society. She has no choice if she’s going to recover the missing relic and save her father. And if she doesn’t? Well, that may just mean the end of the world as she knows it.
From the author of Blackwood comes a fresh, thrilling urban fantasy that will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare, and Rick Riordan.

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The Maw is the Most Adorable Apocalypse Ever

Maw and Frank being totes adorbs.
Maw and Frank being totes adorbs.

Most apocalyptic video games are bleak and depressing. They’re set during a time where things are going or went horribly wrong. Twisted Pixel managed to take those aspects, cover them is pink frosting and sunshine, tie it up in a bow and deliver The Maw. A similar yet very different kind of game about the apocalypse and friendship.
The main, playable character in The Maw is Frank. Frank is an alien on an alien planet. He’s abducted and crashed on a strange world with a strange, purple fellow captive. This giant, one-eyed, purple creature has the affect of a puppy. Like any good dog, he’s hungry and loving.
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Due to his giant mouth, the purple fellow is called Maw. Maw is tethered to Frank via a collar-bracelet situation. I guess that’s just so he doesn’t fall off a cliff because when Frank wants him to come closer her just hollers, “Maw!”
Frank takes Maw under his wing and goes about trying to escape this planet. On their way Frank discovers that Maw loves to eat the Yums native to this planet. Oh well, whatever keeps the slobbering beast happy.
Frank and Maw make their way across the planet with Maw eating everything he can and Frank kindly keeping him alive. With each Yum Maw eats, he grows. Some things he eats cause him to take on their characteristics—a very useful skill when traversing rough, unknown terrain.
Spicy food can sometimes have adverse reactions.
Spicy food can sometimes have adverse reactions.

Maw and Frank face enemies and obstacles of all kinds while trekking across the planet. As Maw’s size increases it starts to become clear that this might become a problem. How big will he get before he tops off? Will he top off? Will he start eating asteroids and planets? What if he eats a sun…
Oh, snap. Now I get why these intergalactic mercenaries wanted him destroyed.
Aside from the cutest best friends ever, The Maw also offers a relaxing game with solid mechanics and challenges worth taking on.
He seems to be getting bigger...
He seems to be getting bigger…

Neither Frank nor Maw speak aside from Frank calling Maw (which is good because bad voice work can really ruin a game) but the story is fairly clear and engaging. The game is quick, but not too easy.
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Personally, I think being eaten by Maw is a perfectly acceptable way to go. I’m a huge fan of the game and the characters and the feeling I get when playing it. I even have a Maw plush toy, and my best friend has a Frank plush (he shouts “Maw” when you press the telepathic orb on Frank’s head.
Buy The Maw; play it; love it; buy it for your friends.

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Helix (SyFy) – Episode 1 – Pseudo-Recap

There’s a new show on the SyFy channel called Helix. It’s about a mysterious compound in the Arctic (Antarctic?) where scientists play with the kind of science we have a healthy fear of. Obviously, something goes terribly wrong and plots ensue.
Episode one opens with two guys in hazmat suits going into a room where two men are decomposing on the floor. They seem unconcerned. One guy isn’t dead, he’s alive and suffering. He’s all like, “Water…”
One guy (Sinister Asian Guy) gives him water and the he reacts like it was hydrogen peroxide and the second hazmat guy says, “What was that?” Sinister Asian Guy says, “Progress…”
Okay.
Meanwhile, at the CDC Lead Scientist Guy is  looking for things while his competent assistant hand-holds him through the basics of walking and talking at the same time. This idea of Super-Scientists being too dumb to live is consistent throughout the episodes I saw.
So, Lead Scientist Guy is  delivering an orientation speech to a bunch of new scientists about how they’re the only thing between the human race and certain death. Applause from his audience and the TV audience is assured he’s REALLY smart and qualified.
Back in his office some dude from the army is like, “There’s a secret base in a place that’s technically no country’s territory and they have something that needs investigating and the US military wants you to do it… By the way, tor brother is there.” It’s all very vague and specific at once.
Lead Scientist is all like, “I choose my team. I have reasonable questions.”
Army Guy, “Yeah, cool. Don’t worry about the details or the secrets.”
Apparently everyone is totes okay with the lack of details, jurisdiction, and trust. On the plane to the secret base we get back story and details.  The Assistant has a thing going with the Lead Scientist; Lead Scientist’s Ex-Wife is part of the team; Ex -Wife and Brother Mike cheated together.

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From Left: Army Guy, Sinister Asian, Security Guy, Ex-Wife, Lead Scientist, Brother Mike, Assistant, Country Bumpkin.

At the base Sinister Asian is consistently sinister, his lead security officer is dopey and takes his job very seriously even though he seems way under qualified and was somehow adopted by Sinister Asian who looks to be in the same age range as him.

Lead Scientist is checking his brother out and it seems, based on the fact that he looks to be decomposing, he’s sick… But with what?!
Everyone leaves to go mull it over. Lead Scientist watched Brother Mike’s video diaries and sees a weird hand gesture they use to use to tell each other their drunk father was drunk. Ex-Wife asks, “What’s it mean?” Lead Scientist, “Run like hell.” DUN DUN DUUUUUUN.
While everyone’s off lubing up their thumbs to put in their asses, Brother Mike breaks out of his room and  into the ceiling.
After a quick round of who’s fault is it, we cut to the Country Bumpkin Scientist and Army Guy. Apparently Army Guy’s specialization is essentially plumbing and Country Bumpkin’s is looking at stuff. She looks at the rats and the mice and asks where she can find some monkeys to look at. Security Guy says, “There are no monkeys here.”
Bumpkin is all, “But there MUST be monkeys.”
“No monkeys means no monkeys.”
So Army Guy is swabbing pipes and Bumpkin is all like, “lemme look at that.” She finds MONKEY HAIR in the pipe!
Brother Mike is on the loose and everyone is bickering.
Bumpkin and Army Guy go hunting for monkeys. After breaking into a locked area (no alarms go off and neither of them think make there’s something on the other side of this door we’ll want to keep locked in), they find a bunch of empty cages and one monkey. He’s all bald and angry so Bumpkin calls out to him like he’s a declawed kitten. Well, surprise, her attacks her face with his mutant monkey strength and rage.
Everyone is off in their separate corners doing science and pointing fingers. Brother Mike finds a group of scientists (the base if full of them) and spits black goo in their mouths… Somehow the CDC team determines that the virus of Brother Mike is looking for a perfect host. Knowing Brother Mike and a deadly virus are on the loose every one separates to  make themselves easier targets.
Army Guy uses a secret satellite to make a secret call. ( Outside he discovers a but load of frozen monkeys running away from the base.)
Bumpkin is alone in a basement with her monkey cadaver.
Ex-Wife is thinking in the locker room shower.
Assistant is having hand tremors alone in her room.
Lead Scientist is mulling.
Apparently the CDC doesn’t believe in the buddy system, common sense, or proper containment.
Army Guy bops it and they pat themselves on the back.
I guess there’s a big mystery around what the virus is, who Sinister Asian is, who pays for all this, and why everyone, despite years of education and field work, is so stupid.
Helix isn’t a bad show. I just feel it’d be a better movie. It’s a good enough premise but how long can this last. You’re so far from civilization, there’s no reason you can’t just lock it up and throw away the key. How long can they run around this base making bad decisions?

Math Apocalypse is every student's worst nightmare

If the only way to save the world is for me to do basic math, we’re all going to die. Math Apocalypse is an Android app game that tasks you with the tremendous pressure of solving math problems to defeat aliens invading earth.
Seems pretty straight forward and totally plausible to me.
Aliens walk in with a math problem over their head. You tap in the (correct) answer and your character zaps them to death with a bolt of electricity. Seems easy enough. That is, until you realize math is hard.
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Math is especially hard when you’re being pressured because the problems are coming at you, threatening your life. Then the problems get bigger and harder and some aliens have multiple math problems.
This is truly a sick and twisted kind of apocalypse. … But I really enjoyed it.
Math Apocalypse was written by someone who, while strong in the math department, is  probably not a native English speaker. The introduction story has a number of grammatical issues, so if you’re thinking of handing it to a child for training you might want to keep that in mind. Other than that it’s a fun mix of academic challenge and apocalyptic fun.
It reminded me of playing Number Munchers when I was in grade school. It’s not bloody or violent but it gives purpose to brain training in a distracting way that’s enjoyable and makes you want to strive to do better.
You can set the game to just addition and subtraction or include multiplication and division in the mix too. If you want to trick your kid into being smart or you’re looking to exercise your brain muscles instead of just your color-candy coordination, Math Apocalypse might be just the thing you’re looking for.
Best of all, just like the intuition that let me make it into adulthood without the ability to do basic math without my fingers, it’s free!
(It’s also available to play on the web Here.)

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Beautiful Borderlands 2 Makeup Tutorial by MadeULook

Borderlands 2  was one of my favorite games. It still is. Every aspect of it was awesome, from local co-op to single-player to the story to the dialogue to the art. So much squee. I’ve always said that art can make or break a good story in comics, film, or video games.
Borderlands 2 was beautiful. I loved the mix of flat and dimensional art with heavy, comic-style contours and shading. It was truly a unique look in a unique world with brilliant characters.
Often inspired by characters, makeup and cosplay, I find YouTube to be treasure trove of amazing work from others with similar interests and more talent and determination. One of these artists is MadeULook. She’s a young, sassy artist with an eye for detail and a creative depth unlike any other.
Well, MadeUlook is not only talented and engaging, she’s also a geek like me. Love!  Being a loving gamer almost all her life she can’t help but be inspired by some of the fantastic artwork and characters encountered in video games. Recently, she created a body paint Psycho from Borderlands 2.
I love MadeULook‘s make up and tutorials. In her videos, it clear that she is not only incredibly talented but also charismatic. Many tutorial videos are too much about the artist and not enough about the artwork. If I wanted a vlog, I’d watch a vlog.
She makes it sound so easy and look so good, I can’t even explain. Just watch and feel the Awe.

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Why Didn't I play Crackdown 2 years ago!?

crackdown 2 - gameplayCrackdown 2 came out in July 2010 from Ruffian Games and Microsoft Game Studios and I never bought it. I played Crackdown and enjoyed it but didn’t feel a second game would offer me much more. Recently, I started to feel there was nothing new I wanted to buy or replay. So, while visiting a friend I raided his collection of games and found Crackdown 2.
The original game was about being a Peacekeeper in a city overrun with factions of gangs and violence. Depending on which area you were in, you’d have to fight a different gang. Through a series of missions and collectible power-ups you grown in strength, speed, agility, and other skills. Eventually you can leap tall buildings in a single bound and throw cars like they’re dishware. It’s awesome and fun. Unfortunately, once you level up it’s kind of just about running through the city being a nuisance savior.

In Crackdown 2 you again play as a Peacekeeper (I love that Peacekeepers are never good guy in SciFi), but this time you’re tasked with defending the city from the terrorist group, Cell and the mutants that come out at night, Freaks. Sure the naming seems a bit half-assed but that’s really one of the draws of this kind of game. It’s not about being deeply clever or building a elaborate world with a life-changing story a la Mass Effect. This is a game like Burnout or SSX where the reality that inspires the game is just inspiration.
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After the city saw an extended time of peace post-Crackdown this new threat of terrorism and monsters is overwhelming the population and the police. Clones are created to combat the problem. You play as one of these clones, simply named Agent.
Your commander coaches you through a training simulation so you know how to use your sweet new body, agency issued weapons, and the world around you. It’s all a very awesome mix of machismo and goofy.
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In the beginning of the game, while the commander is coaching you through the tutorial, basics, missions and whatnot it’s a little annoying how much he talks and points out obvious things and tries to get you to chase orbs while in the middle of missions. Fortunately, you can ignore a lot of the instructions until you’re ready to do things like chase orbs in cars.
Pretty quickly I was a carjacking Cell and Peacekeepers alike and running down Freaks with gleeful abandon. Crackdown 2 really is so much fun in the same nonsensical way that Burnout and SSX are.
Oh, what’s the point of the story? Well you want to save the city, obviously. And… Um. So the Freaks are underground and you have to turn on these UV light machines that bomb the area in light, frying the Freaks where they stand. You turn on three power supply things and then enter a Freak lair to turn on the big light machine. Then you do it again. … And again.
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The action and beat-em-up aspect stayed fun after the missions got redundant and I lost interest. I loved running across rooftops and punching hordes of Freaks to death.
There’s a good a mount of customization (not for your character, who is a clone after all) when you span. You choose your gun and vehicle and more. There are also a few other modes to play like the one where you have all the power-ups and weapons and just rampage through the city. Yay.
If you’re looking for a fun, dystopian game, you can get pretty cheap; Crackdown 2 is your answer.

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