Weekend Gaming: Dota 2

There was that moment, one million years ago, when I clicked the PLAY button next to Dota 2 for the first time. It was a cold plunge, having never previously played any sort of MOBA. What followed was not some grand epiphany, some majestic revelation that this is the only game I shall ever need from here on out. In fact, the first match was quite uninspiring. From a list of what seemed like seven thousand heroes I picked Sven. More than anything, I vividly remember being perturbed and just a little confused that his weapon animation didn’t change when I purchased and equipped a new one – “That doesn’t look like the hammer in my inventory…”

At the insistence of James ButtonMasher and Sire Tony ButtonMasher, I played on. With every match, I picked up another nugget of understanding. I dabbled in a few other heroes, got the feel for the different roles. But it wasn’t until I played Bloodseeker that the true ferocity of Dota became clear. He was my ‘Oh, OK. I get it now’ hero. What Bloodseeker set in motion was nearly six months of exclusive Dota play time. I threw myself at this stupid game.

But then I stopped. Contrary to the steady build-up to Bloodseeker, I burnt out pretty quick – Which is a bummer because my Enchantress and Pugna had potential.

Now, after another seven or eight months, I may or may not be warming back up to Dota. Through the whispered enticings of James ButtonMasher, I’ve revisited my dota-dabbling ways. And I suspect that this weekend, this very weekend of 6 March 2015 may witness the beginning of a personal Dota renaissance. Instead of Bloodseeker ushering in the new age, it shall be SLARK! He/it has characteristics that compliment a player who may or may not be looking to jump back into the fray after a period of dormancy: He’s quick, fairly simple to play and can work on his own if need be.

SLARK!

Ermahgerd Slerk!

And I love that his only defined role is simply an Escape. Instead of hanging out in the back as a support, which is what I have been doing in all this recent dabbling-ness, I need to stick my neck out as Slark and rattle some cages with a few Pounce + Essence Shift combos. And I need to do it all with a slobbery Australian-ish accent.

What are you playing this weekend?

March Releases

I’m going to be out of town the majority of the month of March, which means gaming will be light for me. But there are a couple decent games coming out that have been on my watchlist for a while. I just don’t know when I’ll get to play them. With that said, on to this month’s releases:

Xbox One

Week of March 3rd
ScreamRide – Front runner for “Worst Boxart of 2015″.

Week of March 10th
DMC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition

Week of March 17th
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD
Battlefield Hardline
Resident Evil: Revelations 2

Week of March 24th
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection

Week of March 31st
BLADESTORM: Nightmare


Week of March 3rd
ScreamRide

Week of March 10th
Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition

Week of March 17th
Battlefield Hardline

Week of March 31st
Ultimate Stealth Triple Pack – These “Ultimate Triple Packs” seem like an intriguing idea.
Ultimate Action Triple Pack


Week of March 17th
Mario Party 10


Week of March 10th
Etrian Mystery Dungeon – Everytime an Etrian Odyssey game comes out I think “this time I’m going to pick it up. Still haven’t played one. Probably won’t get to this one, either.
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.

Week of March 31st
Story of Seasons


Week of March 3rd
Tallowmere
White Night – I really like the way this game looks. Very stylized.
Shiftlings
Tormentum – Dark Sorrow
FranknJohn – Bonk’s Adventure 2015?
FORCED 2: The Rush
Savage Lands – You’re not going to believe this — another survival game!

Week of March 10th
Professional Lumberjack 2015 – Not to be confused with “Amateuer Lumberjack 2015″. Feel like they really missed a golden opportunity here by not going with Lumberjack Simulator or FlannelCraft or something.
Reign Of Kings – If you only click on one link in this list, PLEASE let it be Reign of Kings and watch the trailer video. You will not be disappointed. Actually, you might be very disappointed. But at least you’ll get a good laugh or two out of it.
Assassin’s Creed® Rogue
Cities: Skylines
Ori and the Blind Forest

Week of March 17th
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas – Nope, not Zelda at all. Totally not Zelda.
Aware – Taking the survival game to a whole new level — race to repair your plane before your friend does so you can fly away in your one-seat plane without her! Nevermind the two of you flew there in the plane, there’s just one seat!
Hektor
Ride

Week of March 24th
Pillars of Eternity – I won’t be around to game much this month, but I will definitely be picking up Pillars when it comes out — because I backed it on Kickstarter back in the day. I’ve followed it’s development and am anxious to get this in my grubby hands.

Week of March 31st
DEAD OR ALIVE® 5 Last Round


PS4 Banner

Week of March 10th
Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition

Week of March 17th
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD
Battlefield Hardline
Resident Evil: Revelations 2

Week of March 31st
MLB 15: The Show
Toukiden: Kiwami
BLADESTORM: Nightmare


Week of March 10th
Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea
Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
Sniper Elite III Ultimate Edition

Week of March 17th
Battlefield Hardline

Week of March 31st
MLB 15: The Show
Ultimate Stealth Triple Pack
Ultimate Action Triple Pack


Week of March 10th
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters

Week of March 24th
LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin

Week of March 31st
MLB 15: The Show
Toukiden: Kiwami

What are you picking up this month?
(Note: As always, all Amazon.com links have our affiliate code embedded in them. If you purchase something through our link, we get a little commission. It’s appreciated.)

Weekend Gaming: Minecraft, Dota, Zelda

My kids love the food court at the mall near our home. They love it because the food places have an employee out on the main floor passing out samples. That’s right, my kids are those greedy kids that pester the workers, and I am that parent that allows them to do it. So, while I am waiting in line at a particular food establishment my kids are making the rounds, sometimes completing two circuits before I even have a tray of food.

Recently, and continuing onwards into this weekend, my gaming routine is similar to my kids’ activities in the food court. Instead of investing my attention to a single title I’m just circling around, nibbling at several games that bare no relation to each other in genre or system… And am totally satisfied with the nourishment this brings. The current games in my circuit (beginning from oldest to most recent):

I continue to slowly build and explore my Minecraft seed. I established myself in a Plains biome, building into and atop this weird single mound right in the middle of a field. Adjacent are extreme hills to the south, extreme hills to the north, dark forest to the northeast, and there’s a massive swamp somewhere west-ish. I would give my left arm for a desert; I need Cactuscactus for cyan dye – oh man cyan is so pretty. Had I known better at the very beginning, before even creating this world that now has many hours invested into it, I would have made a 1.7.10 version instead so I can install some mods. At that, I just need to keep a close eye out on a few specific ones to be updated for 1.8. NEI is an absolute mess right now; don’t bother with it.

Moving onto the next station… Outland is platformer/jumper, and the PC port of it doesn’t suck. I played the demo on the PS3, loved it, and was crazy stoked with it came to Steam and went on sale. Awesome music. Snappy gameplay. I kind of wish the player would be rewarded more for enacting fancy fighting maneuvers, but I’m just being foppish. Whatever. You don’t know me.

Next station… The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I gave my 3DS some TLC. The decision to boot up Zelda was impulsive. I’m slowly warming up to the game. The 2D puzzle mechanic is fun, though sometimes I feel that the top-down view works against it. It’s been fun to re-live the giddy excitement of toting the 3DS around and getting StreetPasses.

Jason Buttonmasher and I began a new Anno 2070 co-op campaign. Rather, he invited me to participate in his campaign where I get sloppy with building placement and he steals all my tools. All the underlings on his island are wroth because I am not producing a sufficient quantity of tea. Meanwhile, I take all of his copper so the super-beings on my island can have PDAs. This is supposed to be a cooperative venture, right?

And speaking of cooperation: Sire, Tony Buttonmasher will be home for the weekend, taking some much needed R&R from a rather rigorous work assignment out of town. It goes without saying, the dude is foaming at the mouth for some DOTA. I may pencil in some time to play alongside he and his Juggernaut – because I am so indispensable.

Pray tell, what are you playing this weekend?

Unsolicited Mental Objects #6

Tony: So the “sequel” to Terraria was announced recently and the Terrarian in me got super excited. I recently started playing Terraria again and even picked up the Xbox Live Arcade version of it so my boys could enjoy it. I don’t think they’d admit it, but I think they might like it more than they like Minecraft. And they kinda love Minecraft. That affection could be described as “effusive”.

I love Terraria, too. I love that while it’s open-ended and sandbox-y, it has goals and “end points”. I love the exploration aspect of the game and finding new little pockets of abandoned houses and caves filled with ore gets my gears going. So when I read about the Terraria: Otherworld announcement and watched the teaser trailer, I was a little unsettled about this next chapter in Terraria.

See, while Terraria does have those previously mentioned “end points” (be they bosses or descending to The Underworld) those are completely arbitrary. Sometimes world events, like the attack of the Goblin Army, are unavoidable. But other times, it’s a conscious choice to summon the Eye of Cthulhu or the Eater of Worlds. Defeating these bosses doesn’t result in Saving The World. To me, that’s not what Terraria is about. Defeating them gets you a huge pile of loot so you can craft bigger and better swords and guns so you can summon them again, rinse and repeat.

So this new Terraria, with it’s theme of “saving the world” troubles me. I don’t like the idea of having an end point. I just want to do some exploration, mine some ore and maybe fight some big bad bosses. I’m just a simple guy with an iron pickaxe. I’m not a hero.

Nick: Sunless Sea bummed me out. Either my expectations were too high or the gameplay turned out to be a flop – or both – but, man, I don’t have it in me to continue. After 10-ish hours of game time, a pit formed in my belly whenever I thought of playing more, which sucks because on paper Sunless Sea has much going for it.

Part of this state of mind may stem from a personal aversion to text-heavy, story games. I’ve always been under the impression that if I wanted a good story I would read a book. Reading an abundance of text on a self-illuminating screen jars my concentration. Call me old fashioned, but it is what it is.

But, I was willing to make an exception with the text-heavy Sunless Sea. When researching the game prior to purchase I found the setting very appealing. I was engaged by the emphasis on exploration. Developer Alexis Kennedy quoted Joseph Conrad in a blog post on Gamasutra, which, in a small way, was a huge selling point for me. I also took heart to the promise that Early Access purchasers would acquire future DLC for free – of which, the game’s Kickstarter total has sealed the deal on at least one of them, a submersible to use to explore the depths of this Sunless Sea.

And so, for the first few hours I truly was engaged. Perhaps a little miffed I could not increase the size of the text, which makes zero (0) sense to me in a game whose main interaction with the gamer involves reading. I chose to not dwell on this and continued to plod along. I like the mechanic of captains passing down attributes to proceeding captains. I like that sea stories are a form of currency; this helps reaffirm the game’s themes of loneliness and longing.

But you know what I, player of Sunless Sea, longed for after a while? Some actual hint of gameplay.

My problem is not that the game moves slowly. My main issue is that this fictional world doesn’t evolve, which makes the game feel like that much more of a pointless, slow grind.

Upon the death of your captain, the fog of war floods the map once again and you must start afresh with a new captain. Only now, the game takes the islands and landmarks of the sunless sea and shifts them around. Should you embark and come across a familiar island from the previous captain the story of that island stays the same; the player is still clicking through the same narrative branches. This is unrewarding of the taxing efforts needed to get to these locations in the first place.

I’d like to see more life out there on the sea other than myself, monster and pirates. I want dynamic opportunities to intercept ships, besiege pirate strongholds, use the vertical canals to go to the surface, conspire in more detail with factions of islands, confirm whether this or that sea story is fact or myth. I want this stuff to happen sooner. The player can be the bridge between these solitary islands and their stories. To cast a beams of hope in a dank and dismal world (which, BTW, can be better presented. People are going all goo-goo-ga-ga over the atmosphere of Sunless Sea. I dunno, maybe I’m just being picky, but I think there is more to atmosphere than the sound of water drops processed with tons of reverb). But right now – and I may give the game another go – I am just another wayfarer locked up in my own mind and stuck on a ship with other crazies.

Jason: I’ll warn you right now, this UMO is filled with #firstworldproblems.

I recently took a plunge and ended up replacing the GPU on my machine.  I moved from an AMD Radeon 5770 up to a NVidia GTX 960. While I’m super pleased with the results a little part of me was let down.  The jump in framerate is really notable.  I’m pulling around 60fps on ultra settings for all of the games I play.

Something was off though.  I noticed that I definitely wasn’t as excited as I was when swapped my 2008 macbook for my custom built PC. The graphical leap there was REALLY notable whereas the jump here was slightly less huge.

That made me realize that this wasn’t a problem with the card, this was a problem with the games I play.  Going through my currently playing steam list I’ve got no games newer than 2-3 years old and most of them are not designed to be graphically intense.

So this week will be filled with me sampling the action filled, super pretty games that I keep avoiding to play MOBAs.  Bioshock Infinite, Batman Arkham (Fill in the Blank), and Endless Legend here I come!  Hopefully that’ll help me appreciate what I’ve got.

 

New Buttonmashing Deal: Destiny [PS4, PS3, Xbox 360]

February Releases

I’ve decided to branch out my monthly release list to include new releases on Steam. I guess with my current state of gamer-dom being PC-oriented, this was inevitable (a post on that should be forthcoming). I’d like to eventually include releases on Xbox Live, the Nintendo eShop and the Playstation Network, but for this month, Steam is the only newcomer. With that said, on to this month’s releases:

Xbox One

Week of February 10th
Evolve

Week of February 17th
DEAD OR ALIVE 5 Last Round – This most be some SERIOUS BUSINESS if (a) the title is in ALL CAPS and (b) it’s the “Last Round”. (I’m guessing it’s never going to be the “Last Round” for Dead or Alive)

Week of February 24th
Dragon Ball Xenoverse
DYNASTY WARRIORS 8 Empires – Dynasty Warriors wants to get in on the ALL CAPS ACTION!
Rugby 15


Week of February 24th
Dragon Ball Xenoverse


Week of February 17th
Kirby & The Rainbow Curse


Week of February 10th
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D – Two strong offerings from Nintendo this month. I need to finish A Link Between Worlds.


Week of February 3rd
Cities XXL
Stay Dead Evolution
Darkest Dungeon
Astray
Grow Home
Front Office Football Seven
Castle In The Darkness
Fractured Soul

Week of February 10th
MX vs. ATV: Supercross Encore Edition
Evolve – It’s been a long time since I’ve bought a PC game a full retail price (Diablo 3 was probably the last one) but I think I will definitely make Evolve my first gaming purchase of 2015.
Cubicity
Block N Load – This game looks like a blast (pun intended)
Savage Lands

Week of February 17th
Total War: ATTILA

Week of February 24th
Trainz: A New Era – The addition of the “z” at the end of Trainz makes me sad.
Resident Evil Revelations 2


PS4 Banner

Week of February 10th
Evolve

Week of February 17th
The Order: 1886
DEAD OR ALIVE 5 Last Round

Week of February 24th
Dragon Ball Xenoverse
DYNASTY WARRIORS 8 Empires
Rugby 15


Week of February 24th
Dragon Ball Xenoverse
Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late
Rugby 15


Week of February 3rd
Criminal Girls: Invite Only

Week of February 24th
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart

What are you picking up this month?
(Note: As always, all Amazon.com links have our affiliate code embedded in them. If you purchase something through our link, we get a little commission. It’s appreciated.)

Nick’s 2014 Game of the Year: Hearthstone colon something about WOW

I am initiating this post in the heat of the moment. Yes. Fury percolates my blood right now. My eyes are twitching just as feverishly as my hands. I am yammering out loud.

I am am am am am am in a state of extreme agitation because I just lost four matches in a row in Hearthstone. Which is, in all honesty, nothing new. Losing streaks happen. But these were sloppy losses, achieved by playing stupidly. Each of the matches at one point were tilted ever so slightly in my favor. But then one critical misplay on my part ultimately led to an embarrassing, enraging demise. I should have walked away after the third loss, but I was stubborn and went back for one more match. After that defeat I was furious; I backhanded my can of Diet Coke from off the desk and sent it flying into the next room. This string of losses seems to sting more than the others.

HSCover

And so, in this state of mind – this state of what I shall call ‘rabid lucidity’ – I am hereby declaring Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft to be my 2014 Game of the Year. Because I can! Because not doing so would be exactly what this stupid game would want! I have the upperhand, fool! Indeed. The fire which doth burn before mine eyes brings forth a clarity of understanding, a recognition of why this game stands apart from all the others I have played this year.

I still hate Hearthstone so much right now…

But there are times when I feel contrary to this, times when I hoot & holler with surprise & delight. There was that one time when, as a Shaman, I danced around two opposing legendaries for three turns, slipped through the cracks with a Spellbreaker and pulled off a miraculous, windfuried victory. I was so giddy I had to go for a walk, grinning from ear to ear the entire time, chuckling to myself, delighted at the flood of endorphins that unleashed as I watched the Paladin’s portrait explode. And hopefully that haughty Paladin had to go walk off the percolating fury in his blood after that loss, just as I may or may not have had to do an undisclosed number of times.

Indeed, no other game this year had me groveling and soaring as much as Hearthstone. It’s like being in a high school relationship all over again. Sometimes I swear that we are meant to be together forever; Other times, out of spite, I don’t even answer the phone. I have torn down Hearthstone desktop wallpapers so fast it would make your head spin.

Hearthstone has exclusively solicited other kinds of behaviors, which is the main criteria that I am using to declare this as my GOTY. (I’ve calmed down now, BTW.)

No other game had me talking out loud while playing. While Hearthstone certainly can churn emotions, its simplicity as a CCG and its unrepentant RNG-mongering keeps me on my toes. And the best way to keep from slipping into analysis paralysis each 90-second turn is to converse to myself about strategies and risk assessment. The extra step of vocalizing keeps me focused. Even if I’m tapping away on the iPad while laying in bed, and even after the elbow jabs from my wife.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

No other game was as methodically played. Meaning, this goes beyond ingame activity. I make sure munchies are within reach. I have tunes in queue to match my mood and at the ready to be changed on a whim. Music level and game sounds level need to be perfectly mixed and are futzed with constantly. My head needs to be covered, preferably with a drawn hoodie. I need a ‘nerves toy’ to fidget with while I wait for my turn – a deck of cards to endlessly shuffle or one of my kids’ slap bracelets.

No other game has as many logged hours this year as Hearthstone. Granted, I don’t know for sure exactly how many but I am guessing it to be somewhere in the range of one and infinity. And because the game is available on iOS it’s easy to sneak away with the iPad at a family holiday function and play a match or two. Either on iOS or Windows, I rarely have matches go longer than 10 minutes. There’s always gold to be earned, booster packs to buy. Sometimes I don’t feel like building and experimenting with a deck. Sometimes I don’t feel like playing Hearthstone at all. Contrary to a grand strategy campaign or story-heavy games, you can walk away from Hearthstone for a week or more and then be able to pick right back up – there’s always other players in queue. This is one of the reasons I enjoy staying within range 22-15 of ranked play; the opposing decks are never the same, always a mishmashing hodge podge. It’s fun playing below the meta threshold. Always fun enough to keep me coming back sometimes after sometimes.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

And finally, no other game was quoted so often by my family. There was a short while during the end of last summer where this was a thing. It was memorable and fun. In Hearthstone, soundbytes accompany every card placement and movement. If the card is a minion the soundbyte is some form of vocalization. And if something involves vocalization my kids are all over it. This mimicry was mindfully executed. Say, if I was arriving home after being gone all day Mitchell would shriek “Gimmie a big hug!” ala Leper Gnome. “Follow de rules” ala Aldor Peacekeeper was a parental favorite, though it didn’t always work – in fact, it rarely worked, but it was certainly fun to hope.

Hearthstone was, and continues to be, a game that always seems to be so near, even if I am on a self-imposed ‘break’ from it. Despite its simplicity as a CCG, Hearthstone still feels like a complete package. Its snappy response and interactive board are just as critical to its success as the swift match-ups and evolving playing field. The game is constructed in a way that the player still has room to ease into the hot seat; thus, cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship. This post would not exist otherwise.

And so, here’s to another year of facepalms and jubilee, backhanded Diet Coke cans and awkwardly-quoted Paladin cards. “Boys! Look who it ’tis!” Indeed, dear Innkeeper. Glad to be back.

Weekend Gaming : Minecraft, Something Else (But Probably Not)

I have never ever, ever, ever, ever, in a hundred thousand million years ever thought I would get into Minecraft. Looking in from the outside, what I saw didn’t look interesting. This disinterest continued even after some hands-on time with the PS3 edition Santa recently delivered to my 7-year old son. It was fun to share this world with my progeny, neat-o to explore it, but it was an activity I did mostly out of love and support for my kid than actual enthusiasm for the game.

Then I discovered Redstone.
MIB

Redstone has completely reoriented my perception of Minecraft. And this is exciting, not just as it pertains to the game, but conceptually. I am engaged by the fact that a single aspect of a game, no longer clouded by my ignorance, gives a novel dimension to the bigger picture, generates new ideas and approaches. Oh man… Son, this is a philosophical rabbit hole I am not prepared nor smart enough to jump in. In what other games has this happened?

So, I discover and get all ramped about redstone. I try to explain circuits and logic gates to my boy. He brushed off my enthusiasm as if it were dorrito crumbs and went back to shearing sheep to facilitate the production of his purple carpet (Sure, dude, go ahead and use all the Lapis Lazuli I mined with the sweat of my brow). Later that night, after he went to bed, I logged back in and, like some amateur alchemist in way over his head, began tinkering with this magical red powder. Fascinating.

Long story short, Mitchell was severely displeased with the changes I made to his world: “It’s my game, and you played without me?” Point taken. Go back to making your carpet. Rookie.

However, I was allowed to dabble just enough that I am ready to begin my own world. Without him! I don’t need him or his carpet (yes, I do). I am considering taking this one step further and purchasing a copy for the PC. The modding possibilities alone have me just as giddy as redstone. It would be a survival world; I am more interested in making rickety, practical contraptions for home defense than in building majestic stone palaces from infinite resources. We’ll see how it goes.

What are you playing this weekend?

(And thanks for visiting ButtonMashing. We are in the process of tweaking the layout of the site and working on some new content. Because we care.)

Weekend Gaming

Well, as you can see from the picture above, I’ll be doing some PC gaming this weekend. I recently built myself a new gaming PC to replace my aging gaming laptop. I have some thoughts about my gaming laptop experience and thoughts about finding myself drifting away from being a console gamer and becoming entrenched in the PC gaming landscape, but those are posts for another day.

This weekend will be all about getting the new PC fully operational and decked out. I documented the progression of putting the system together with my cohorts, but I’ll include you all in the details soon. Needless to say, I am ready to play some games on this bad boy! I have already downloaded Dota 2 (because duh and because I wanted to see it in all its high settings glory), Endless Legend (because it chugged on my old system), Dishonored and The Walking Dead Season 2. The next order of business this afternoon will be to install Origin and download Dragon Age: Inquisition. There are tons of other games I’d like to play, but that’s a good start.

So I’ll be PC gaming this weekend — what are you going to play?

Read in 2014

I am blatantly stealing this idea from Zack. I love reading his post every year and use it to add books to my ever-growing list of “To Read” on goodreads.com. While my list of books read in 2014 wasn’t very long, hopefully it’s still interesting:

The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution: The Slow Motion Exercise That Will Change Your Body in 30 Minutes a Week by Fredrick Hahn, Michael R. Eades, Mary Dan Eades (181)

2014 was the year to get back to good health and get back in shape. I had heard about this Slow Fitness Revolution listening to a podcast and thought I’d give it a looksee. To be completely honest, this book wasn’t that helpful. This book could have been 50 pages shorter if they had just got right to the point of the advantages of this work-out mindset. A lot of time was spent needlessly using examples where one or two would have had the same effect. I have some doubts that 30+ minutes a week will be sufficient to get in better shape, but I am willing to give this a try.

Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life by Chris Kresser (416)

The other half of the getting healthy was changing my diet. I did the Atkins Low Carb diet years ago (to great success) but it wasn’t something I could maintain long term. After reading about the Paleo Diet for years, I figured I’d see if I could make it work. Chris Kresser’s approach to the strict Paleo way of life is one of adaption and experimentation. It starts with a 30-day reset where you eliminate all the process foods, sugars, grain, dairy and other harmful food. Once you’ve gone through this cleanse, you slow add back foods like diary and starch back into your diet to see how your body reacts to them. A lot of people’s health problems stem for allergic reactions to things the body can do without (gluten, lactose). Eliminating them and then figuring out how your body reacts are keep components to this “lifestyle”. He calls it you personal code because everyone’s body is different and requires a personalized approach to nutrition.

In addition to the nurtritional side, Kresser also examines and teaches the improtance of things like eliminating stress, having meaningful activity and “play time” (he even advocates a small amount of video gaming, recognizing the benefit such as hand-to-eye coordination) and getting a good night’s rest. It’s all about taking care of your body, and frankly, we don’t do a very good job of it.

As a testament to how much this book effected me, I lost over 30 pounds over the period of a few months and have been able to keep almost all of it off for almost a year now. I fell off the wagon for a bit during the holidays, but I’ve adjusted my diet and I can already feel the difference.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer (216)

Not quite sci-fi, definitely not fantasy but there is some quasi-religious and metaphysical musings going on here. And maybe a touch of fictional history. The story follows Sir Richard Francis Burton (a real historic figure, a very interesting one at that) as he dies and is “reborn” in a strange location referred to as “The Riverworld”. This isn’t the afterlife (or is it?) nor is it purgatory (or is it?) but there are millions (billions) of other humans being resurrected all around him. The story follows Burton and a group of people from different times (including an alien responsible for the destruction of humanity and a neanderthal) as he tries to figure out what’s going on.

Riverworld is actually a series of books, but TYSBG is an enjoyable stand-alone novel.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (195)

Annihilation came out in 2014 (it’s not very often I actually read something contemporary like this) and received critical praise and popularity. It was described as a sort of Lovecraftian-mystery, with hints of “weird” science fiction.

I didn’t love it. The story follows four nameless women (only known by their professions — surveyor, anthropologist etc) as they enter “Area X”, an area that has been shrouded in mystery and has effected every expedition that ventured into it in different ways. This is the twelfth expedition (or is it?) and the story is narrated by the Anthropologist. Is she reliable? Is everything she sees real? The book started out promising, but I found myself losing steam as I made my way through it.

Annihilation is a trilogy, but unlike To Your Scattered Bodies Go, it doesn’t stand on as its own as a complete novel. I’m not sure I’ll make it through the trilogy.

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia (301)

An interesting take on a lot of different popular topics — gender roles, humanity, politics. An enjoyable and pretty quick read. I’m not comfortable with the man/machine relationship when it comes to love and this book handles it a bit clumsily. But the Steampunk and Sci-Fi setting mixed with some fantasy is an enjoyable setting.

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins (415)

I finished the first two books a while ago, but after letdown reading the second book, I wasn’t motivated to read the 3rd until I knew the movie would be coming out. I enjoyed the third installment of The Hunger Games much more than I did the second. I know a lot of people complained of how quickly things came to a conclusion in the second (and some say of the third) but I thought the pacing and action of the third was well balanced and very enjoyable.

And without spoiling anything, it ended how I hoped it would.

So that was my reading list for 2014. A total of 1,724 pages.

What did you read last year?

Books (and pages) read in 2013: Five books (1,546 pages)