Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke



09/27/17: This book is currently $1.99 for Kindle.

I adored this author's District Ballet Company series, so when I found out she was writing a book about magic realism and time travel about WWII, the Berlin Wall, and romance, the question wasn't so much, "Do I want this?" as "How badly do I want this, and when will the book be out?" The story itself seems to be paying homage to Nena's 99 Luftballons; there is no way that they aren't related - especially since the English version of that song frequently appears as "99 Red Balloons." And the "magic" in this book revolves around magical red balloons. How cool is that?

Sadly, this book also follows what I call "music video logic." It would make a good video, but is a bad book. The world building isn't very good. The reader is just supposed to take everything at face value. There's insta-love, and the characters spend way too much time dressing up and going out to the club and laughing over nail polish. I wasn't a fan of the multiple POVs, since all the voices sounded so similar, and Ellie, the heroine, doesn't have much of a personality. I don't care if I love or hate your characters, just make me feel something, anything.

I read to about p.150 in earnest and then skimmed the last 100 pages, hoping things would get better. It didn't. I'm pretty bummed about this, but I guess I'll just listen to 99 Luftballons again. If there is one upside to this book, it is that it got me listening to Nena, which is always a plus. I'm shocked at how many YA bloggers are going to town over this. Did we read the same book? Was I tricked?

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

1 out of 5 stars

Dawn by V.C. Andrews



I missed out on V.C. Andrews as a teen, so I'm accumulating as many of them as I can now. You know, for science. So far, I've mostly been reading the ones that were originally written by V.C. herself and not her ghostwriter, Andrew Neiderman. The Dollanganger series was excellent and so was her one standalone book, MY SWEET AUDRINA. HIDDEN JEWEL was a Neiderman effort, but I thought that one was reasonably okay, even if it lacked that special brand of spiciness that the Dollanganger books had. DAWN is one of Neiderman's earlier efforts, published just four years after the real V.C. Andrews died. I expected it to be even better than the Landry book I read, since it was published earlier and - I figured - he'd probably be working extra hard to do her justice.

Ha - nope!

DAWN is one weird book. Parts of it are just boring and badly written, with words repeated over and over again (especially "quickly", for some reason, which seemed to appear at least once per page), and emotions being told instead of shown via dialogue tags. "Don't be so obvious," she yelled angrily. "Be subtle!"

Plus, we get gems like these:

Good-bye to my first and what I thought would be my most wonderful romantic love, I thought. Good-bye to being swept off my feet and floating alongside warm, soft white clouds. Our passionate kisses shattered and fell with the raindrops, and no one could tell which were my tears and which were the drops of rain (227).

Sounds like she's confusing an acid trip with love, don't you think?

***WARNING: SPOILERS***

The plot is one part THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON, one part MY SWEET AUDRINA, and one part FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC. Dawn and Jimmy Longchamp have always been on the move but now their dad is determined to bring some stability to their lives: he's taken a job as janitor at a private school, which means that both kiddos get free tuition as a bonus.

Obviously the rich kiddos do not take kindly to poverty in their midst, and begin hazing like it's rush week at a d-baggy party college. People mock and laugh at Jimmy, but it's Dawn who really bears the brunt of the bullying - they stop just short of parading her through the streets with a shorn head while screaming SHAME! SHAME! The only rich kiddo who's actually nice to her is the brother of Clara Sue, the mean Queen Bee who has a rage-boner for Dawn: Philip Cutler.

"Nice guys" in V.C. Andrews books can never be trusted and Philip is no exception. He quickly begins pushing Dawn to go all the way with him, fondling her in his car, kissing her passionately in public, etc. Jimmy is, of course, super jealous, even though he's her brother. And oh, by the way - did I mention that the Longchamp parents seem to think it's cool to not only have their teen children share a bedroom, but also have them both sleep in the same bed? Also, he watches her get dressed.

Anyway, Dawn thinks she's finally gotten the better of her bullies and her evil headmaster... but then her mother dies and makes a cryptic statement about forgiveness and the police come to take her father and siblings away - and Dawn finds out that she isn't Dawn Longchamp. She's Dawn Cutler. The Longchamps kidnapped her from their employers when she was just a baby to replace a stillborn.

Dawn is pulled out of school and whisked away to the elite Cutler Cove hotel, where the grandmother matriarch (who seems to be inspired by the grandma in FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC) runs a tight ship. Think Dunstin Checks In (1996) without the orangutan-provided comic relief. While there, Dawn experiences even more bullying... this time at the hands of her new relatives: Psycho Grandma and Queen Bee Mean Girl. Psycho Grandma forces Dawn into what is basically child slave labor, forcing her to work as a maid free of charge; steals and destroys some of Dawn's belongings; gives her a new name (Eugenia) and then starves her when she doesn't use it; and when someone (*cough* Clara Sue) steals a necklace from one of the guests, she basically gives Dawn a cavity search looking for it.

Philip is at the hotel, too, and at first he seems nice, but then it turns out that he's still not over that heavy petting they did together before they realized they were brother and sis. Towards the end of the book, he rapes her, saying that it's important that he "teaches" her how sex works and that it's her fault for leading him on, etc. Dawn is so upset, because she doesn't want to have sex with this brother - she wants to have sex with her other brother now that she knows that they're not related, and even takes a moment later on to wish how Jimmy was the one who got her v-card instead of Philip.

But wait - there's more!

Dawn tracks down the maid who was responsible for her and finds out that she's the product of an affair that Mama Cutler had with a musician. Angry, Grandma Psycho had arranged for a kidnap by paying the Longchamps to take her away. She had second thoughts later, but was willing to let the Longchamps take the fall for it rather than have scandal befall the family. What a betch, right? So Dawn whips out the blackmail, and Grandma Psycho admires her balls and decides that maybe Dawn and her can reach an "agreement." Dawn gets send to NYC to study music and bought all manner of expensive clothes while Philip and Clara seethe, dreaming of the day when she and Jimmy can reunite and have it's-not-incest-anymore-let's-party style sexings.

This left such a bad taste in my mouth. It might actually be worst than the time that I ate a piece of dark chocolate for dessert after having kimchee for dinner (although that was pretty bad, too).

2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons



I read this book for the Unapologetic Romance Readers' New Years 2017 Reading Challenge. For more info about what this is, click here.

I read a lot of romances, so by now I have a pretty good idea of what I like and what I don't like. I don't tend to like romances about cheaters, hence my scathing review of the trash people in Molly McAdams's cringily-titled SHARING YOU, but sometimes if the story is good, I can make an exception or at least enjoy the story in spite of the cheating, like my favorable review of the trash people in Joan Dial's BELOVED ENEMY.

THE BRONZE HORSEMAN is a polarizing book among my friends and looking at the reviews, I guess what it comes down to is this: can you enjoy a book that's about trash people treating each other like garbage if the story at least is good? If yes, hop on this drama-filled train to Literary No Man's Land, where the heroine buys ice cream and caviar with her family's food money during wartime and the hero dates the sister of the woman he loves to hide their relationship from a man he knows wishes them ill.

THE BRONZE HORSEMAN is set during WII and covers the horrifying Siege of Leningrad, a period of terrible starvation in the middle of a cruel Russian winter that was the result of a German blockade. Tatiana Metanova struggles to survive with her family while also dreaming after the soldier she fell in love with on a summer day - the soldier she found out was seeing her sister: Alexander Belov. The conflict between them hinges on one of the most cowardly displays of passive-aggression I've ever seen, masquerading as selflessness. Tatiana doesn't want to hurt her sister, Dasha, who she knows is head-over-heels for Alexander... so she doesn't allow Alexander to simply break up with Dasha and see her instead. No, they continue seeing each other on the sly, eye-f*ck around her sister, and moon over each other, while Tatiana sort-of-but-not-really sees Alexander's friend, "Dimitri." Someone suggested to me that it would be difficult for Tatiana to live in the house with her family and share her bed with her sister, knowing that they all hated her for breaking up Dasha and Alexander, but that didn't go so well for Tatiana, anyway, did it? Tatiana's bitterness and resentment drove a wedge between her and her sister, anyway, and I felt like the author worked extra hard to make the cheating seem "okay" by making Dasha seem slutty, temperamental, selfish, and lazy.

To Simons's credit, the characters were all very well done, and war time does bring out the worst in people (I'd imagine) - or the best. So we see humanity across the spectrum, sometimes doing unexpected kindnesses, sometimes taking advantage, sometimes being unspeakably cruel. The "romance" aspect was one of the shakier elements to me, because Alexander wasn't my ideal romance hero by any means. He's weak and violent and full of rage, which he attempts to channel into honor. In some ways, he reminded me of Thomas Eden, from THIS OTHER EDEN. Thomas Eden was utterly obsessed with the heroine, had her publicly whipped before his people, and then went to extraordinary lengths to get her to be his by manipulating everyone around him. But he was also weak, and had only his honor to stand behind. That was how I felt about Alexander. He never whipped Tatiana, but he threw things at her, grabbed at her, yelled at her, and wouldn't listen to her when she said "no" or "stop." He had a tragic history because his parents were naive fools, and his manipulations kept him from safety and plunged him into a vicious circle of paranoia and debt.

Tatiana, on the other hand, did have some character development. She was like a pale imitation of Scarlett O'Hara, in the sense that she would survive anything and do what was necessary...but unlike Scarlett, she'd usually only do it for Alexander. (Maybe that makes her more like Melanie, who was selfless and kind of a doormat, but a doormat made out of steel instead of straw.) I liked her more when she became a nurse and started learning English, because that made her more interesting to me than the childlike (very childlike - at one point, Alexander refers to her as a "child-bride") heroine who was always bouncing up and down and clapping her hands like a five-year-old when she wasn't trying to hump Alexander's leg with the enthusiasm of a small poodle hopped up on Viagra (seriously, 200 pages of this book in the middle section are basically just smut). By the end of the book, I was having pleasant flashbacks to my first time reading Patricia Hagan's LOVE AND WAR, a bodice-ripper set in the Civil War with a female doctor as the heroine.

In short, I did like THE BRONZE HORSEMAN, despite its unlikable characters. The setting was great, and so convincing that I half-felt like I ought to perhaps conserve my dinner, too. It definitely made me extra grateful for my warm quilt that night. The antagonist, Dimitri, was also well done, and the shadow he casts over this story line is long and enduring. I didn't like him from the start, and my dislike of him only grew as the story went on. The romance, to me, felt less romantic than... I don't know, a portrait of an utterly dysfunctional and all-consuming passion doomed to end in tragedy, rather like OUTLANDER or ROMEO AND JULIET. This is not a selfless love, or a good love, or a love that ought to be emulated by others: instead, it kind of felt like a love story between two flawed characters trying to fill the holes in their soul with raw, unfiltered passion with such desperation that they didn't care who got hurt, or how they were hurting each other (and they did hurt each other quite a bit). If you don't care about cheating or selfishness or heroes that borderline on abusive, and enjoy watching literary train wrecks in action, then I encourage you - completely without sarcasm, mind - to pick up THE BRONZE HORSEMAN. It's a f*cked up ride with one hell of a view.

4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton



My dad used to tell me not to get near a scared animal; that it couldn't understand what your intentions were and since you couldn't exactly explain to said animal what you were doing, in its overstimulated state it might bite out of fear. That's a lot like what happened in this election. People were afraid: afraid of change, afraid of progression, afraid of foreigners, afraid of the future, afraid of losing their jobs - and so they bit, and they bit down hard, and logic be damned. The entire country suffered because of some scared, angry people who couldn't be bothered to sort out the facts, and relied on pure emotion, and the sheer, misanthropic pleasure of "shaking it up" while voting in this election.

WHAT HAPPENED is appropriately named. The title is a call-and-answer, all rolled into one. It asks "What happened?" while also explaining exactly what happened, in her words. I don't expect this book to change people's minds. If you hate Hillary, you'll probably just hate her more after reading this, because you'll convince yourself that she's a) lying or b) the embodiment of the demon-worshiping caricature you've made her out to be in your mind. If you love Hillary, this book will make you love her more, because she's the thoughtful, articulate, compassionate, intelligent, go-getting, invested candidate you wanted - in spades.

I've almost forgotten what an actual president sounds like, because I've been bombarded with xenophobic, Islamophobic, transphobic, bigoted, juvenile rhetoric for so long.

Before I get into that, though, let me just clear up a few things.

But what about her emails? There was an investigation. She complied fully, and was duly exonerated. For those of you crying about the remaining 33,000 personal emails, and why she wouldn't want to share them, hmm, why don't you think about some of the emails you've sent to doctors, to relatives, to ex-girlfriends. I'm sure you sent some pretty embarrassing things. Things to which you wouldn't want the general public having access. In fact, since Clinton is a notoriously private person, yours are probably worse than hers. Also, Clinton's email server was later proven to be secure, whereas Trump White House officials were tricked by this email prankster into divulging some personal information.

She totally colluded to rig the election, though. Yes, let's talk about collusion and rigging, shall we?

Hillary gave those speeches to Goldman Sachs people. And Trump's filling his cabinet with them.

The news media was constantly forcing her down our throats. Yes, it's annoying when the news media is constantly finding new angles to throw unpopular candidates at you, isn't it? Oh wait...

But her emails, though. YES, LET'S TALK ABOUT EMAILS. LET'S.

I've seen several reviews for this book and many of those reviewers have attempted to be politic and inoffensive about their review, to great success. Well, I'm not going to go that route, and if it costs me a friend or two in the process, that's what my books-that-made-me-lose-friends shelf is for. I was not happy with how this election went, and I find it hilarious that members of the Tangerine Tyrant's fan club are burning their MAGA hats because their fearless leader dared to compromise with the Democratic party about DACA.

In WHAT HAPPENED, Hillary discusses her election and its catastrophic (or triumphant if you're part of that crowd) results. She describes how crushed she felt, seeing what was supposed to be certain victory being taken from her by a man who seemed incredibly unqualified. She had to wear the suit she planned to travel to DC in as president-elect to her concession speech, and her first order of business was ensuring that her staff would get paid and they would all have healthcare. Meanwhile, we have a president who allegedly doesn't pay contractors if they don't do a good job.

Hillary describes the rigors of campaigning, and the close bonds she developed with her staff. She writes about her love for her daughter, who she clearly admires and feels so much pride for, and her close friendship with Huma Abedin, who Hillary refused to fire even when it became clear that her personal scandal might negatively impact her campaign. She writes about her husband, glossing over the scandal that rocked her marriage in the 90s, but she does say that she struggled with the choice to stay or leave and ultimately stayed because she did love him - and then she writes about how moved she was, when before one of her speeches, he said, to everyone, "I married my best friend."

But what really got me was how much she clearly loves the U.S. Her willingness to sit down and listen to everyone - even the people who hate her, protest her, and threaten her - and hear their stories, and try to find a way to make things work really got me. I'm sure her critics will say, in the immortal words of Joe Biden, that that's all a "bunch of malarkey," but I have a pretty good BS detector and it's hard to fake sincerity and passion - at least with the fervor that Ms. Clinton displays here. She seems genuinely saddened to have failed Middle America, and her inability to address their concerns properly. She acknowledges her privilege, and how diligently she has worked to try to understand what it is like, being unable to provide for your children while living paycheck to paycheck. She wanted to bring jobs back to the U.S., was supportive of Black Lives Matter, and wanted to create better relationships between minorities and the police in high-crime areas. She was constantly looking for solutions and successful ways to implement them.

I cried several times while reading this book. Her anger at the roles that racism and sexism played in the election; her frustration at coming so close - twice - and failing each time; her fear for the future, not just for our country but for our allies; and the deep and personal responsibility she feels towards all the people who gave their all to see her get elected and felt that failure right alongside her. In many ways, Hillary reminds me of my own mother, who I love so much. Seeing Hillary fail was like seeing someone I cared deeply about fail. Her failure got me more engaged in politics, so I could learn more and become more informed, and help others become more informed because in our current political climate "fake news" has become synonymous with "news I don't like that I'm going to pretend isn't real because I'm a jerk who likes to live in an alternative facts-ridden landscape."

I've noticed some concern from the Bernie Bros that this book basically blames them for Trump's election. And while I think that it is at least partly your fault if you either a) lived in a swing state and didn't vote, or b) lived in a swing state and voted for a third party to "stick it to the man," Clinton is much more generous and diplomatic about it (which is why she was able to come so close to winning president-elect, and I will never be running for office). She does suggest that third parties played a role in Trump's victory (though she seems to blame Jill Stein for this more than Sanders), but she also acknowledges Bernie's (admittedly tardy) concession and support of her campaign. She also points out why he was so much more popular with reluctant voters: marketability. His statements were full of panache and sounded good in a microphone. I was Hillary from day one, but even I could admit that Bernie sounded good. He just didn't seem to have a solid plan. Hillary did have solid plans, many of them, but it's hard to compress intelligent, thoughtful ideas down to a sound bite. And of course, there's also the fact that Hillary is a woman, whereas Bernie is a man, and our country, which is so advanced in some ways, can be rather outmoded when it comes to the role women play in various leadership roles - particularly those of the political or corporate variety.

Someone asked why so many men hated Hillary under the questions for this book, and this is what I responded with: "I think [men hate Hillary Clinton] because there are a lot of gender biases coded into society. We're taught- implicitly or explicitly, and from a young age- that women are not supposed to be loud, aggressive, brash, dominant, confident, or forceful. Hillary is all these things, for better or for worse, and that threatens the status quo. Anything that threatens the status quo is going to be rallied against by people who have a stake in the system staying the way it is."

If you're interested, Vox did a lengthy interview with Hillary that relates tangentially to this book. I recommend it. She details a lot of her policies and it gives great insight into what she's like.

Lastly, I just want to issue a caveat: this is a review, and not an invitation to a debate. I don't want to debate. I sat through way too many debates already in the last two years, and I've heard all the arguments before. When I was younger, yeah, I loved arguing on the internet, but now I think it's a waste of time. It's not going to change anyone's mind and it's only going to sow discord. You're welcome to write all the anti-Hillary stuff you want in your own review space, but if you post it here, I'll delete your comments, and if you do it again after I delete it, I'll block you.

That said, I heartily encourage anyone with an open mind to read this book. She was brave to open her heart and share her story, when there are so many people who are so eager to tear her down.

5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel by Bob Batchelor



"Excelsior!"

When I first saw this book on Netgalley, I was super excited because I thought it was going to be a graphic-novel style biography of Stan Lee's life, because some fool had slapped it with the "graphic novels" label. But STAN LEE is not a graphic novel - it is merely a biography about a man who wrote them. Apart from that slight disappointment due to some questionable labeling choices (*cough*), STAN LEE is a pretty fantastic book. I've read several comic book histories, about Wonder Woman and Superman, and they were all good. But they were also all DC. It would be really cool, I thought, to see the Marvel side of things. I've always liked Marvel.

STAN LEE shows how Stan Lee became involved with Marvel, how the Depression made him desperate and hungry (a familiar tale with many comic book authors and illustrators). It shows his contributions to the war effort with colorful cartoony instructional pamphlets for the soldiers. But the best part is his contributions to the Golden Age of Comics, before the Comic Code snafu. I had no idea that he was involved with so many of the Marvel superheroes - X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Thor, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Spider-Man, The Hulk. Basically all of them. It was incredible. I guess there are some controversies over how much of the effort was his versus, say, Jack Kirby's, and I found a pretty great Vulture article called Why Is Stan Lee's Legacy in Question? that does a pretty good job discussing the subject, whereas this book, STAN LEE, kind of glosses over it.

STAN LEE is obviously biased in that it is very much pro-Stan Lee. You don't want to air all the dirt on your childhood heroes. Why would you? But then, Stan Lee is a cool guy. He's got that "cool grandpa" vibe, where he's kind of nerdy, but not really out of touch. A living personification of the grandfather character in Princess Bride who woos his grandson over with a tale of heroics and romance and good triumphing over evil. That was the vibe that I got from STAN LEE. He wooed over America when we were being saturated with superheroes, and helped keep Marvel from going under in the Silver Age of comic books, when they were being stifled by the Comic Code.

This isn't all rose-tinted lenses, though. STAN LEE does touch on some of Lee's failings or mediocre efforts. The ill-fated Stan Lee Media venture was mentioned, and so was the Pamela Anderson-voiced Stripperella cartoon from the early 2000s, which I only vaguely remember as being one of those saucy late-night shows that I wasn't allowed to watch along with Greg the Bunny and The Man Show. And then of course, Batchelor also discusses Stan Lee's settlement with Marvel.

But good times and bad times aside, it's clear that Stan Lee is a creative individual who not only has a highly active imagination and creative eye but an excellent business sense as well. If you're a fan of Marvel or Stan Lee, I highly recommend this book. It's a great addition to the existing comic book histories, and I enjoyed it just as much as the Super Man and Wonder Woman histories, if not more.

P.S. For some reason, there are a ton of Excelsior Cafes in the Tokyo area in Japan. I don't know if they are named so as a nod to Stan Lee or what, but when I was in Akihabara - the gaming/comic district of Tokyo - I made sure to stop by one and drink a toast to Mr. Lee.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!


3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cinder by Marissa Meyer



My experiences with YA fantasy have consisted largely of crushing disappointments. It's an old story that you're probably familiar with: a new YA fantasy book with a pretty cover gets launched into the bloggersphere. Everyone hypes it up and raves over the cover and the summary. The book comes out. The initial reviews are all raving and overwhelmingly positive - and then I come along to burst your bubble and give it a one star review.

I tried to read CINDER three times, and kept putting it down in the same spot. Another plucky heroine wallowing in strife? Oh God, spare me, I thought. But then CINDER was chosen as our 2017 Scifi-Futuristic theme read in my romance group, and I thought to myself, "Okay, Nenia, the jig is up. You have to read it now. Maybe it won't be so bad."

And...to my surprise, it wasn't.

Don't get me wrong. That beginning is still tedious and awful. The book doesn't really pick up until Cinder is sold out by her wicked (very wicked) stepmother to the New Beijing government to test a cure for the plague that is ransacking the city. Poor Cinder is imprisoned and injected with the virus that's almost certain to kill her...only it doesn't, and that's where it gets interesting.

My favorite aspect of the book was probably the court intrigue. Queen Levana was an interesting villain, and I liked how she showed utilized her power. Hers is an iron hand in a silk glove. You feel the soft touch before you feel the vise grip underneath. Kai was also a good hero, I thought - not so much as a love interest as a leader who wanted to do right by his people, but felt conflicted about it at the same time. As a love interest, yes, he's very much the dreamy prince but the insta-love between him and Cinder was a bit eye-roll worthy. They didn't have any "moments" or chemistry that made me think that they needed to be together at all costs, unlike, say, Nevada and Rogan from the Hidden Legacy series, which I ship harder than the shippiest of shippers at the National Shipping Convention.

I figured out the "twist" around chapter two or three, but I figure that this book is aimed at a younger, far less cynical audience, so maybe that "twist" will surprise him the way it did not surprise me. It was a good twist, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out. I - and you, too, if you decide to read this - will have to wait until book two for that, though, as this book ends on the most wicked and unfair of cliffhangers. Right dead in the middle of a pivotal turning point, really. You're welcome.

Overall, though, CINDER was a pleasant surprise and a welcome change from the slew of disappointing reads that have demarcated my 2017 reading year. I'll be checking out book two soon to see if the series really does get better as everyone says, because if it does - watch out!

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, September 15, 2017

101 Video Games to Play Before You Grow Up: The unofficial must-play video game list for kids by Ben Bertoli



As you may or may not know, I used to be really into video games. I would play for twelve hours at a stretch and stay up all night on during summer break and weekends, playing well into the early hours of the morn. It drove my parents bonkers, but when you're a teenage gamer, you're less interested in what parents think about your nocturnal habits and more interested in how much grinding you have to do to level up to 86 magic.

When I saw this on Netgalley, I was super curious to see which games of interest Bertoli had singled out. Sometimes, the person putting together these sorts of lists has a clear bias for a particular system or genre. I noticed that with a book I received last year about the best arcade games. If I remember correctly, the author admitted himself that he had a penchant for a certain type of arcade game and its various clones.

I'm guessing that Bertoli is about my age - late 20s, early 30s - because many of the games he chose are the games that I grew up with. Crash Bandicoot, Banjo Kazooie, Spyro, Harvest Moon, Excitebike, Pokemon, Paper Mario, Metroid, Galaga, Animal Crossing, Pac-Man, and Tetris are just a few of the games he mentioned that I spent hours playing as a youth. I found that I actually agreed with a lot of his choices, at least for the consoles that I actually used.

Minecraft is on here. That game is still insanely popular with the youngins, so I guess that's a pretty solid choice, however much it's disparaged by my peers. Speaking of build-em-up games, I'm surprised Scribblenauts didn't make the cut! Someone let me play that on their DS and I had such a good time. Similarly, Fantasy Life, Yoshi Story, and Mario 64 are other highly kid-friendly classic titles that are just as addictive as they are colorful. Also, no Sims? (Maybe that's too PG-13.)

Overall, though, I was pretty impressed by the titles Bertoli compiled for this list, and the heaping dose of nostalgia it brought back was pretty good, too.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

3 out of 5 stars