the walking writer

As someone who absolutely loves mysteries, the first season of Broadchurch was satisfying. The characters were intriguing, and the town’s idyllic setting was perfect for a murder mystery. It was riveting television. Sadly, I felt that the second season just didn’t hold up very well. In fact, I didn’t finish watching the show. This was mainly for two big reasons:

Spoilers below!!!

The Trial

This is the biggest reason why the second season failed for me. I’m not unhappy that they decided to make the trial become the main plot, but I am very disappointed with how it was handled. There are a number of specific examples:

  • We are told that Jocelyn Knight is an amazing lawyer, even though she hasn’t actually worked on a case in several years. It takes several conversations for her to even agree to take on the case. Unfortunately, she ends up being a disappointment that the show doesn’t even recognize. What I mean by that is that she does a terrible job during the case, but we’re still supposed to think she’s amazing. In one particular exchange, she lets the defense completely walk all over Ellie without even raising a fuss in the slightest.
  • The show completely mishandled Joe’s confession. From my understanding, in the real world, a discussion of the confession would have happened between the lawyers and the judge without the jury present. It just makes sense. Why taint your jury pool by admitting that there is a confession, but there are some potential mitigating circumstances around it? It would be very difficult for a jury to ignore the confession’s existence.
  • The dismissal of the confession is also sketchy when it was easy to prove that it happened before Ellie showed up. It’s amazing that the prosecutor would let it go without much of a fight. A confession is a pretty big deal; why wouldn’t you fight harder for it?

I don’t deny that perhaps I am being too picky about the technical aspects of the trial. Some liberty is required to make a courtroom drama more exciting, I get that. But I think there were ways to have a good courtroom drama without excessive flaws. I also realize that British courts are different from American courts, but I read posts from people with actual experience and they said that some of the technical aspects of the show were flat-out wrong.

The Sandbrook Case

It was difficult to feel interested in the Sandbrook case. It was obviously a very important case for Hardy, and the plot at least tried to weave it into the town of Broadchurch. But it was difficult to connect with the case at all. Perhaps if we had learned more about the families and the victims I would have felt more invested in the story. Although I didn’t finish watching the episode that fully explained what happen, I did read the summary and felt underwhelmed by its conclusion. It just wasn’t that interesting to me.

Broadchurch does have a third season on the horizon. While I may have been thoroughly disappointed by season two, I still intend to at least check out the third season whenever it arrives.

Stardew Valley is a farming simulation game that was recently released on Steam. This amazing game was developed by one person and was inspired by the Harvest Moon series. Although I don’t have much experience with Harvest Moon, I’ve played (and loved) Rune Factory 3 and 4. I find this type of game very charming, so on the day Stardew Valley launched, I read a few reviews and quickly purchased it. Turns out, it was a smart choice and I’ve already put in quite a few hours into the game. This is not meant to be a comprehensive review; rather, it’s a just a collection of my thoughts as I’ve played the game.

A Fun and Engaging Beginning

The beginning of games of this type are always a little tricky. Some games don’t give you much to do when you start out; you have to play more to keep unlocking things. This is true in Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, among others. In Stardew Valley, you hit the ground running. There’s no long tutorial, unlike A New Beginning. You can immediately start exploring the town, plant some crops, fish, start making money and much more. The game gives you some directions in case you’re not sure what to do in the form of some easy introductory quests. There’s really nothing in particular that you have to do when you start; you can immediately take the game at your own pace doing whatever you want. Some things, of course, are not immediately available, such as the mine. But you’ll still have a long list of things you can do from the very beginning.

Fall in Stardew Valley.

Fall in Stardew Valley.

A Solid List of Characters

For the most part, Stardew Valley has a good cast of characters. A few of the characters seem a little flat, but I assume as you build up a relationship with them, you’ll learn more about them. I’ve already seen this with a couple of the townsfolk that my character has managed to befriend. I was impressed with the addition of Linius, a homeless man who lives in a tent and is on the fringes of Pelican Town. Where I live, homelessness is currently a very polarizing topic, so it is nice to see his story handled with care. A few of the female characters could use a little more variety; their portraits alone make them look very similar to each other (Penny, Leah, Jodi and Robin). I will say that overall, it’s nice to have only one character that seems to hate your guts right from the beginning, which is better than I’ve seen in other similar games.

The Bachelors and Bachelorettes

One of the first things I wondered about when I got the game was whether the player character could marry a bachelor or a bachelorette, regardless of the gender of the player’s character. I know for many people, it has been frustrating that you couldn’t marry whoever you wanted in the various Harvest Moon/Rune Factory games. I was pleased when I found out that you could marry either gender if you so wish. This adds a nice level of inclusion.

As for the choices themselves, I do wish there was a bit more variety. On the male side, I feel several of the choices are a bit too young. Sebastian, Alex and Sam seem like they’re supposed to be in high school. The same is true of a couple of the girls. I guess the point was to give players some variety, but I think I just wish the choices tipped a bit more to the older side. But, I don’t find the marriage aspect as important as the rest of the game, so it’s not a big deal to me.

Charming Music and Cute Art Style

The music of Stardew Valley is very peaceful and pleasant to listen to. While it may not be hugely memorable, it perfectly suits the atmosphere of the game. The game has a couple of types of music: music that fits the outdoor areas and the kind of music you might expect in a rural and rustic town. I love that the music changes with the seasons and matches very well with the weather. Summer’s music is nice and upbeat, while fall has a pleasant melancholy feel to it.

Stardew Valley’s art style is sort of a retro/pixel look that you’d expect from an older game, but it really works for this game. Even though your character sprite is quite small, you can still add detail to it and really make it your own. I’m sure that this simple style means that the game will run quite well on older computers and could potentially make a jump to mobile platforms.

Looking out into the ocean.

Looking out into the ocean.

As mentioned above, Stardew Valley was created by one person. ConcernedApe (his moniker) is active on Twitter and the Stardew Valley reddit (and perhaps others places as well). He’s already released several patches to fix some bugs and has mentioned future content that he’d like to add, including adding more to the post-marriage parts of the game. Multiplayer options are also on the to-do list. In other words, Stardew Valley has a lot of room for growth and is clearly cared for by its creator. It’s a refreshing thing to see a game get that much devotion from a developer.

A Single Tip for New Stardew Valley Players

You won’t have to look far to find long lists of tips from players to help you maximize your playtime. In my opinion, I think it’s best to skip these lists and just discover things on your own. Yes, you may end up needing to wait another season or even a year to accomplish a particular task, but I think it’s more fun to just play the game organically and focus solely on what you want to do. If you worry too much about optimizing the game, you’ll miss out on the fun and it will feel more like a job. Who wants to keep consulting a list of tips when you’re playing a game?

As is probably pretty clear, I think Stardew Valley is an exceptional game that is well worth the money and the time. It’s the type of game that can easily appeal to just about any type of gamer. I look forward to seeing what happens in the game’s future.

Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered AmericaSuper Mario: How Mario Conquered America
Author: Jeff Ryan

One of my earliest memories from childhood is of my dad bringing home the original Nintendo console with a shiny gold cartridge entitled “The Legend of Zelda.” Although I didn’t get to play it often (my siblings hogged the system, so I ended up just watching a lot), it started a lifelong love of Nintendo games. Beyond knowing about Nintendo’s got its start producing and selling Hanafuda cards, I didn’t know much about the company’s early history. So I was excited to pick up this book and learn some more about a game company that has survived the odds through the decades and continues to thrive.

I enjoyed the majority of the book, but it started to get a little repetitive and a little too philosophical on the role of Mario in the world. Sometimes, it felt like the author forgot people play video games to have fun above all else. After about two-thirds of the book, I was starting to skim as I didn’t really want to read more about the hardware specifications of Microsoft’s Xbox or Sony’s PlayStation. The book is also a couple of years out of date, so it doesn’t cover any recent developments. There were also some bad jokes sprinkled throughout, and the Kindle edition featured some truly impressive spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, including words repeated several times in a sentence.

Overall, if you’re a Nintendo fan and you’re interested in learning more about the company’s history, this book is a decent place to start. Although this book focuses on Nintendo’s efforts to establish themselves in the United States, you’ll also learn plenty about the company’s history in Japan and some interesting tidbits. For example, did you know that the word Nintendo roughly translates into English to mean “leave luck to heaven?” If you want something more in-depth, however, I think there are better books out there.

“So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”
Author: Jon Ronson

"So You've Been Publicly Shamed" CoverPeople say stupid things; it’s just a fact of life. Before the Internet however, people said stupid things to their friends and family and were unlikely to lose their jobs over it. “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” covers a few choice stories of recent public shaming that occurred on social media. They are all stories you’ll probably recognize if you’re on social media or go to Google News occasionally. Through the book, the author explains each story and interviews the individuals involved, giving them a chance to give their side of the story. After reading the book, I came to the following conclusions:

  • People don’t deserve to lose their jobs over a stupid picture, joke, Tweet, etc.
  • People also don’t deserve the malice and attacks they get from anonymous Internet users when the person in question does something stupid.
  • If you want to avoid losing your job and getting attacked, you need to learn to be smart about what you share. Predicting what will go viral is impossible; all it takes is someone with more followers than you to make something of yours go big.

If you are really into social media, either as a user or observer, I highly recommend this book. I hope this book might help some individuals remember to think before they get angry at a silly tweet a random stranger made. Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the online fervor when someone says something stupid. But, should you really feel good yourself about causing someone to lose their job just because they made a stupid joke?

After I finished this book, I admit there was a small part of me that wanted nothing to do with the Internet ever again. I’ve seen way too many examples of people treated horribly online for no good reason; sometimes it doesn’t even take a bad joke to rile up some corners of the Internet. There is lots of good to be found on the Internet, but sadly there is plenty of bad too. However, I hope that this book will start an important conversation and maybe change a few minds.

Title: “Everything I Never Told You”
Author: Celeste Ng

"Everything I Never Told You" Book Cover

By the time my hold at the library for this book was up, I had completely forgotten what it was about or why I wanted to read it. Instead of reading a summary to remind myself, I delved in and found myself sufficiently interested after just a few pages. “Everything I Never Told You” quickly grabs your attention by stating in the first line that one of the book’s character is already dead, unbeknownst to her family.

Due to the novel’s beginning, I was expecting a bit of a mystery, but much like another novel I recently read (“He’s Gone”), this book is really more about relationships between the characters. Throughout the book, we go into the past and back to the present as we learn more about the history, motivations and thoughts of the members of the Lee family. The writing flows relatively well, though the jumping back and forth between time periods does feel disjointed at times.

The story is very tragic in many regards, from the neglectful actions of the parents to the untimely death of Lydia. Although the book ends on a tentatively positive note, I was left feeling saddened and wondering if any of the characters really did learn anything; I could easily see a sequel about their bleak future. True change is difficult to come by, especially when the family was so entrenched in their attitudes towards each other and life.

Overall, the novel kept me interested until the very end, but I don’t really feel that the tragic beauty of this book will linger with me for long. If the parent’s actions had been more subtle and not unbelievably awful, I think there would have been lessons to be learned from this book as the characters would have been more relatable. As it was, I just found them too terrible to want to learn anything from. However, I will say that I would be interested in reading future books from the author. I think this is a strong debut novel from a new author, just not a favorite book of mine.