“The Glass House” Book Review

The Glass HouseThe Glass House by Brooke Dunnell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Riveting… is NOT a word I’d use, so why couldn’t I put the bloody thing down?!
Because it’s Just Good Writing. With a relatable and interesting main character and vibrantly colourful supporting cast. Holy cats, I guarantee you know somebody just like every character in this book, and you sometimes love them, sometimes they make you want to scream.
It wasn’t even that there’s this Unknown Mystery hanging over everything. I mean, there is, but that wasn’t what drove me to keep turning pages for a solid 6 hours. With Julia, you’re just drawn in and taken with on her journey. She’s flawed, she’s human, she’s mutable and best of all, she’s that perfect blend of humble/arrogant about her life decisions that nothing is a given because she (like all of us) is still figuring this all out as she goes. I don’t think I knew that was the biggest draw until I wrote it just now. Julia is All Of Us. So good.

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Assassin’s Creed: Rogue


Rating: 3 of 5 stars.  Don’t avoid it, but don’t kill your pets to get it.


I’ll admit that I struggled to get through Assassin’s Creed III.  At first, that is.  Once the story really picked up and got rolling I was in love and I don’t give a shit what all the critics say, that was one brilliant game.

Because I never buy games new and will happily wait a few months to get them for 25% of the price pre-owned from EB Games I happened to get AC III and Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag at around the same time, making me labour through both.

Then, by the time it even occurred to me that yet another Assassin’s Creed game had come out (Rogue) we were already trying to save up for a PS4 so I knew I couldn’t swing it.  But, fortune smiled upon us and a huge tax return meant we could not only afford a PS4 but I could get Assassin’s Creed: Rogue too.  Well, taxes, and the fact that we traded nearly every other PS3 game we had.

Setting – Really?  Colonial America AGAIN?

I won’t bore you with details that you can get anywhere else.  You’re Shay Cormac and an assassin and nearly everything about the game is identical to AC III and Black Flag, with some of the best bits from the two included (and dropped) and some of the worst bits dropped too (thank dog).

I LOVED Shay the hotheaded Irish boy, running about killing people and having his little witty repartee with that bitch of a Frenchman, Chevalier.  Liam is brilliant as the older brother/best friend/role model guy and Hope is a sexy love interest.  Achilles is a proper assassin now, mentor of the Colonial Assassin’s and your boss.  Weird seeing him younger and wearing Connor’s robes (which, of course, he’ll give Connor in about 20-30 years) but cool I suppose.

But then they all turn into cunts.

The Assassin’s are so hell-bent on getting to these precursor sites and fucking with the artifacts there that they’ll happily level Haiti and Lisbon in the process.  Shay gets rightfully pissed when he nearly flattens Lisbon and nearly gets killed in the process and Achilles doesn’t give a rat’s ass.  So Shay steals the manuscript that helps them figure out where this shit is and makes a run for it.  The Assassin Brotherhood try to kill him (naturally, because talking to him would be too reasonable) and end up shooting him in the side and off a cliff.

Shay wakes up, gets healed up by some weirdly helpful folks.  Seriously, they’re like serious Christians or something in how much help they offer and how readily they accept the wounded Irishman.  He gets swept up in killing more bad guys (mutual to the Templars and Assassins, of course) and then starts running errands for the British Army and assorted Men of Power.

Betrayed by his mentor, who was probably reeling from the sudden deaths of his wife and son (the original Connor, if you’ve ever checked out the graves at the Homestead) and his role model/best friend Liam, Shay’s clearly got some Daddy Issues and is ready to lapdog for whomever is around.

Well first it’s a colonel or some shit from the army and such and then it’s… ta-dah!  Haytham Kenway.

"I am no a cunt!" "I'll think you'll find you are."

“I am not a cunt!”
“I’ll think you’ll find you are.”

Ah Haytham.  I loved him, then I hated him, then I loved him, then I hated him again.  It fluctuated.  But I always, ALWAYS, feared him.

He’s fearsome and awesome and lends that unique cuntiness brutality to the Templars that probably should have made Shay at least say SOMETHING about their methods.  He’s still riddled with Daddy Issues though and only says something in the final scene.

Which, [spoiler alert], fucking rocked.  Pure Haytham at his best.

Best Bits

A familiar control scheme, landscape, setting and gameplay.  It was good to pretty much know what was up and how to do it all from the get-go.  Shay’s a pretty good character and it’s a colourful and interesting cast of characters and their interactions that make this good from the outset.

Loved changing outfits easily and that cold water now damages you so you have to swim and be more strategic in how you do things.  Loved the fighting dynamics, again, and the weapon upgrades weren’t bad either.

They dropped the underwater thing from Black Flag, which didn’t really break my heart, and kept some of the best boating bits including blasting icebergs and North Atlantic shit.

They dropped the lameass hunting bullshit from AC III/Black Flag too, I think.  Maybe I just didn’t play that part at all because I hated it.

Worst Bits

The story was good with the betrayal and all and Shay is a compelling character but I didn’t fall in love with him the way I do other assassins.  YES, even Connor.  Shay was a hot-headed idealist that was trying to save the world.  Sure, he stayed that way, but I didn’t like how easily he became the Templar lapdog.

They got rid of horses?!?  Fark.  They also have fuck all for Side Missions and the story aside from the betrayal and all was only vaguely interesting.  A little more revenge thrown in would’ve rocked and a whole bunch more rebelliousness for the Templars too (not just Assassins) instead of “Oh, I guess I’ll have to kill Adewale because Haytham said so… SIGH”.  That shit was fucking lame as hell and I’m heaps pissed they killed Ade.

Haytham hates his father?!?

Worse still was the dialoge between Haytham and Ade where Haytham acts as if his father was a total fuck.  If Ubisoft had gone ahead and read their own fucking books, like Assassin’s Creed: Forsaken, which is written as a journal of Haytham Kenway, then they’d know Haytham worshipped his father and spent his life seeking revenge for his death.

Re-used gameplay maybe, re-using a game’s location and time period? Meh.

K, I’m happy enough that they kept many well-liked features from AC: III and AC: Black Flag and ditched some of the bleah that folks didn’t like in those games.  Ubisoft proved with Ezio that they could learn from shit they got wrong.

But I believe they were totally mailing it in by giving us the American Colonial Times as a setting again.  Particularly when that history had been done and dusted.  They really should’ve given us either another time period or location and this feels like a complete cop-out.

Badly-handled but good characters.

Anyway, Shay had HEAPS of potential but ended up lukewarm overall.  A poorly-done story for the team-switching Mick.  The Assassins too-easily try to kill him and he too-easily goes back and DOES kill them.  Nobody seems interested, at all, in trying to do anything right, including our hero.

Awesome Surprise of Awesome

[Actual Spoiler Alert]

Shay is the one that kills Arno’s father.  Holy.  Shit.

Conveniently enough, I had actually picked up AC: Unity (from trading more games, heh) and had just started it, so the entire setting and all that shit worked in nearly perfectly.

I still don’t know what to think about that though.  I mean, damn.

Also, Fuck Abstergo

Know how earlier I mentioned how good Ubisoft is at fixing their mistakes.  They’ve steadily decreased the whole Immersion-Exploding bullshit of getting your first-person self in and out of the Animus, but it’s still there and it still sucks sweaty bilge balls.

If you’re listening Ubisoft, never subject me to gather fucking iPads or rebooting servers or Desmond or any of the horrible and fucking lame shit that you’ve put in over the years.  We no longer need to be set up for how we’re being a pirate or ninja or whatever, we just want to play the fucking game.  Drop that animus crap, like now.


Stormdancer – by Jay Kristoff

When you hit the last page of a book, give a sigh and then feel the urge to open the first page and start all over, you know you’re on to a good thing.

When my brother-in-law said a good friend of his was a writer, we were still busy pretending that we’d all have books someday too, so he was a bit of a benchmark.  He had a book already, called “Stormdancer“.  Then, I found out it was probably going to be published.  A bit of a higher benchmark then.  Then I found out that publishing houses were actively bidding on it and this guy was some sort of phenom in the writing world, and I saw that benchmark hit stratospheric levels.  The new benchmark was just to make friends with him and hope that some of his Writing Awesome rubbed off via Facebook emails.

What’s in a name?

I’ll comfortably admit that I balked, heavily, when told it was “Dystopian Japanese Steampunk”.  Mostly because I fkn hate labels.  I hate the categories that people put on books, as if that will somehow affect what kind of story is being told on the inside.  I think book categories should be along the lines of “Epic story” for one that stretches a few years, “Adventure Story” would be a shorter time period with some action, “Love Story” where the focus is around Le Romance, “Fun Story” where nobody dies, “Sad Story” where somebody dies and we liked them, and “Day in Life Of” where it’s a more focussed look at somebody’s life.  Combine ’em for fun!  Epic Love Adventure Sad Story!

Anyway, the description of this book does it absolutely no justice whatsoever.  If it weren’t written by a friend, and Sam handed me the book with the phrase, “Japanese Steampunk, you’ll like it” I would have given it the same attention that I gave the other books he’s handed me like “Dystopian Fantasy, you’ll like it” and “Sort of Adventure, you might not like it” (turns out I did like it, and didn’t like the other one).

This shouldn’t feel like History class in High School

My biggest complaint of the books Sam’s lending me are that the worlds that are crafted by the author are wonderful and vivid and intricate… but they feature SO heavily in the story that I’m lost unless I can quickly figure out what a “tinkerer” does.  Somehow, somewhere along the Way of the Nerd, you learn this shit, and these books make perfect sense.  I never learned it, and wished for a Glossary more than once.  Curiously enough, I found out Stormdancer has a glossary after I turned the last page of the book.  Put ’em in the FRONT, so I know what to look for!

Kidding, somewhat, even with Japanese words mixed in here and there, it’s not hard to figure out that he’s talking about some sort of robe, or tunic, or belt or sword.  That I appreciated.  And for some reason, Steampunk doesn’t have to involve a heap of words and definitions that I didn’t understand.  All he had to do was describe it, beautifully, and leave it at that.  There are plenty of times that I’ve felt like the author is happily leaving me behind, treating me as if I don’t get it, then I don’t deserve to.  Because of the Nerdiness Level of my brother-in-law, I had assumed that Jay would be like this as well.

Never fear!

The names, Japanese, and some of the words, Japanese as well, were the only things that took me a minute to figure out.  The rest is one helluva well-paced adventure, full of heartbreak and triumph, love and betrayal, secrets and magic and all kinds of awesome.

Hit for six, first time at bat

I’ve been on forums for writers, I’m on several email feeds, I converse with a few here and there and used to have a website built solely for my writery friends.  One of the prevailing themes of trying to be traditionally published is How Many Rejections you’ve had.  Some wear it like a badge of honour, like JK Rowling we believe that if everybody rejects us then that’s how we learn to get better.  Or maybe we’ll work on another manuscript and that one’ll be better than this one.

Jay didn’t really have to do that.  His first manuscript wasn’t rejected, it was so sought-after that 3 HUGE publishing houses bid on it in an auction.

Holy Shit.

So there’s your secret, little writers out there.  You want to get published?  Don’t really want a mountain of rejection letters no matter how cool Stephen King says they are?

Then write a really fkn good book, like Jay did.

Go buy it now, it’s really, really good.

“No Shelter” by Z. Constance Frost

I’ll just come out and say it:

Hands-down, the best e-book I’ve ever read.

Holly Lin is a nanny by day, a secret government assassin by night.  There, that’s as cheesy as I’m going to get during this review, but I do have to give some background.

Fast-paced, well-timed, slightly-humorous and fairly-realistic action, Action, ACTION.  This girl is half-Japanese, mid 20’s, hot and really, really good at killing.  The best part about the action in this book is that it isn’t all bullets flying by her ears and such, much of the action is plot-driven, taking us to all kinds of locations around the world.

The best part about the character development is that it isn’t just laid out for us.  Sometimes, the whole tagline is about the protagonists motivations, “I’m Bomber Rockmuscle.  I drink hard and shoot harder, and I’m out to avenge the murder of a busload of nuns and the guy that makes my favourite sandwich at the Greek deli down the block.”

Holly’s a complex girl though.  She’s been in love, but lost that love.  She’s got some family issues, but has some very loving and normal family members, even a typical difficult relationship with her mother.  She’s a nanny to two DC General’s kids and loves them like her own, teaching them languages and Right VS. Wrong while taking them to the museum and the pool.  Hell, she even cops shit from another character for using the phrase “love them like my own”.

This book almost, kinda sorta, maybe could border on a Secret Government Assassin Thriller formulaic approach, but that’s just to fool you.  Underneath all that is a complex woman who is both ordinary and extraordinary, and the author somehow finds a way to blend that into incredibly benign and banal situations (like sitting at the pool with women nicknamed only for their haircolour) as well as incredibly tense situations (on the phone with a terrorist threatening the lives of the children).

I’ll also come out and say something a bit bold:

There is no way, NO FRIGGIN’ WAY, that this is the author’s first novel, let alone a self-published e-book.  This is clearly a well-established thriller author who has invented a persona and is experimenting with the world of e-publishing.  There’s simply no way that somebody just writes something like this for their first shot out of the ranks.

I’ve outed you “Z. Constance” IF that is your real name, which it clearly is not.  Time to come clean and admit that you’re really James Friggin Patterson.

Come on, seriously.  The jig is up.  You’re busted.

Just kidding.  But email me and tell me if I’m right, I won’t tell.