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LARP: The Battle For Verona

Book Review of Justin Calderone’s LARP: The Battle For Verona

Author, Justin Caldrone, sent me an e-copy of his novel LARP: The Battle For Verona.

Description from Goodreads:
Dennis and his friends have been LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) since high school. Now, in his 20s, Dennis is seriously considering giving up LARPing for good. He’s tired of dealing with his overzealous friend Mark; he’s tired of his older brother Brad’s constant put-downs; and he’s tired of the fact that he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Check that. Not a girlfriend, but the girlfriend. Alyssa—the one woman he’s been pining over for years.

Dennis and his fellow LARPers have never been considered cool, in their small island community of Verona, located off the coast of Washington State.

But all of that is about to change . . .

While Dennis and his friends are attending a big LARP tournament on the mainland, a rogue terrorist group of Mongolians in medieval garb, led by an American madman, invade Verona and take its citizens hostage—including their families and friends.

When the LARPers find out what’s happening in their home-town, they do what any dedicated LARPer would do: they put on their armor, strap on their swords, and fight their way home—LARP-style!


Larp: The Battle For Verona is utterly ridiculous. 🙂 A small island off the coast of Washington State is occupied by an invading horde of medieval Mongols…riiighhhtt. Then a group of local Live Action Role Players ride in to save the day, not the US military, militia, or even the freakin’ Boy Scouts, but LARPers….Ooookaaay. But all of that is written on the back of the book, so you know going in exactly what you are going to get. This is the type of book you pick up because of the absurdity of the story, not in spite of it.

For me the whole point is being able to abandon myself to the unpredictable nature of the characters who find themselves in a completely unforeseeable circumstance. LARP doesn’t let you down in this regard. Dennis, Freddy, Mark, and Jen a good fun. As semi-professional twenty-somethings they each embody their time. Dennis is stuck. He can’t seem to find meaning in his mundane life. Freddy is struggling with an ethnic identity. Mark hasn’t quite managed to grow up and Jen is determined to find respect as a ferocious woman (as opposed to a pretty lady, or worse, Daddy’s Little Girl). These are characters you recognise from life. You see them day in and day out. Watching them each overcome their own uniquely modern problems has a certain gratifying feeling to it, as does seeing them concur the external problem.

I did find that the book repeated itself a lot and this got a little tiresome. It also felt like everything wrapped up a little too well. I’m all for a happy ending, but it all became so hunky-dory that it felt a bit like a veneer. This was only a small irritant on an otherwise really enjoyable read however.

Selling Mars

Book Review of Rae Gee’s Selling Mars

Author, Rae Gee, sent me a copy of Selling Mars. It is the continuation of the Veetu Industries series, which I started in July. You can see the review of book one, Mars on the Rise, here.

Description from Goodreads:
Though executed for crimes against his own people, his body was never recovered, and a strange, coded note leads Cedo and Billy to believe he may still be alive. Following the clues, they head into untold dangers as they cross Europe and enter the secretive Dynasty. Captured by the country’s brutal president, they find themselves trapped in an underground prison with no possibility of escape. Pitched against a world they could never have imagined, Cedo and Billy find themselves battling not only with a world which wishes them dead, but also against one another. Faced with a world on the brink of war and a barrage of deadly machines, they learn about the true meaning of love, life and freedom. Yet what else will they discover? Will they find Erus? More importantly, will they escape with their lives? 

**slightly spoilerish review**

What to say about Selling Mars? Once again Rae Gee has proven that she can produce poetic prose and string them together into a book. Her writing is beautiful and it strikes just the right tone for a steampunk tome. The phrases are just far enough off of the norm to sound right, if you know what I mean. Despite all of that I wasn’t happy with the book. This is not a actual indictment of it, just a personal response to the story. I couldn’t understand Cedo at all. If he loved Billy, but was contractually abliged to Erus I would get it. Or if he loved Erus and was just using Billy, I would get it. But he was supposed to truly love them both. Uh-uh, not feeling that. I wanted to cry for both of them (Erus & Billy). Both deserved better. This isn’t to suggest that I didn’t like Cedo. I did, just not the situation all of them seemed to pretend was doable. The sex is a lot more explicit than in Mars on the Rise, which is fine as long as you know what you’re in for. This is an M/M romance (or almost more of an M/M/M romance). It is steamy. Don’t let it surprise you.

The book did addresses Cedo’s delicate manner, which I felt was needed after the end of the first one. It helped to understand how someone as guileless as him had survived in the big bad world. It also explained a lot about him and his personality. I appreciated this. I also appreciated Billy. I’m not saying I appreciated his personality, or his looks, or his actions. I just appreciated Billy. He was wonderful in every way possible. If the world had more Billies in it we would all live longer, happier, healthier lives. I’m not completely sure Cedo deserves him. I did get a little tired of all the affirmations though. I lost count of how many times they thanked each other. That just leaves Erus, the errant Master. I’ve always liked Erus, despite his cruelties and that didn’t change here. But I found it really hard to see his proud demeanour tarnished. It grated on me, as I’m sure it was meant to. I look forward to his redemption.

The book seemed to leap from emotional upheaval to emotional upheaval and then ended on a serious cliffhanger. Never pleasant when the next isn’t available yet. But it is a worthy continuation of the Veetu Industries saga.


Book Review of Charlotte English’s Draykon

I won an ecopy of Charlotte E. English‘s Draykon from Mostly Reviews.

When shy and retiring Llandry Sanfaer discovers a mesmerising new gemstone, she suddenly becomes the most famous jeweller across the Seven Realms. Demand for the coveted stone escalates fast; when people begin dying for it, Llandry finds that she herself has become a target. 

Lady Evastany Glostrum has her life in pristine order. Prestigious, powerful and wealthy, she is on the verge of crowning her successes with the perfect marriage. But when her closest friend is murdered for the jewellery she wears, Eva is drawn into the mystery surrounding the curious “istore” gem. 

The emergence of the stone is causing chaos across the Seven. Gates between the worlds are opening at will, pulling hordes of creatures through from the shadowy Lower Realm and the glittering Uppers. As Eva works to discover the culprit behind the spreading disorder, Llandry must learn the truth about her precious istore stone — before she herself becomes a victim.


I love the cover of Draykon and was really looking forward to reading it. I have to be honest though, I gave a little groan in the beginning. The first page or so did nothing for me. The language was very flowery. A number of fictional plants were mentioned with little indication of what they were and the word ‘with’ was used six times in the first paragraph. I was worried. I needn’t have been. It settled down very quickly, becoming quite enjoyable. 

The story is split between two main characters, Eva and Llandry. Both of whom I engaged with, but I would have enjoyed a little more indication of which of the two is supposed to be the MAIN character. I think it’s supposed to be Llandry, but not feeling uncertain about it left me with divided loyalties. I also very much liked their male companions (Tren and Devary). Tren had an especially appreciable sense of humour. It might sound strange, but I really liked that these characters weren’t all amazingly talented 18 year olds. Devary and Eva are both represented as 40ish, while Llandry and Tren are both in their twenties. It feels so much more believable when characters are old enough to have become masters of their skills through training, practice and determination, rather than innate talent (which is all too young characters have time to develop). 

The environment of The Seven Realms (and beyond) is described quite vividly, though it has a tendency to change, which can be confusing. However, this very changeability is an important aspect of the story. It’s worth getting you’re head around. Many, many plant and animal species are mentioned and the reader is left to flesh a lot of them out on their own. This is fine. I can extrapolate what a Nivven is supposed to be by the fact that they are ridden and used to pull carriages. Some were not so clear. I spent much of the book thinking a deafly was an animal, or maybe an insect, for example. It’s not, it’s a flower, the sort one tends to find painted on china. 

Draykon leaves you hangin’ when it ends though. The whole thing culminated splendidly, but ends before anyone has any answers (or the reader knows what happens to Llandry after the big reveal). That irked me. Of course I want to know what happens next. That’s to be expected from the first book of a series, but Draykon literally ends at what I’d have expected to be the peak of the plotting graph. That’s difficult…and annoying. Despite this, I would still recommend the book to anyone who likes fantasy.