Schmovie | The Tabletop Letters

🎥🏆 Write Your Own Movie Title & Let Hilarity Ensue 🎥🏆

Dear Readers,

With award seasons upon us, it feels like the perfect time to share with you … Schmovie!

Schmovie is a hilarious game that’s easily adaptable for anyone with a sense of humor – no movie trivia knowledge required.

Image Description: the cover of Schmovie with a white hand in a blue sweater clutching a golden Cthulhu with 3D glasses and a popcorn bag.

In this game, you are given a genre, a description and a character. Then it’s up to you to impress the judge with your movie title.

The winner is given a golden (cardboard) Schmovie award to stand in front of your place at the table. These are all themed differently.

A whiteboard with a sample movie title, Gluestick: Stuck on the Starting Line
A movie title of a drama about a clumsy racehorse

Here’s the breakdown:

Players: 3-6 players or teams

Play time:

Age: 8+

By: Galactic Sneeze

Here we go- I’ll rank it on Accessibility, Mechanics, and Engagement.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Image description: a UFO symbol on a die to indicate Sci-Fi with the cards Genius & Soldier.
An example of a movie title themed around Sci-Fi with a Genius Soldier.

You don’t have to be a movie buff to enjoy this game.

All you have to do is come up with a title for a movie around a premise. There are examples on the back of the whiteboards for each genre.

Image description: three examples of Schmovie awards.

I’ve played it with kids and had a good time, and played it with adults and also enjoyed it.

Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

It works very well. I have only one complaint about the mechanics, which we fix with a house rule inspired from The Game of Things.

My complaint is that if you pass the titles to the judge, they may instantly recognize someone’s hand writing. That kind of ruins judging unless you’re playing with playing with people who can put aside the author and judge solely on merit – I’ve known adults who couldn’t.

Image Description: a game whiteboard with the caption Cocoa Spanky and the Tootsie Rolls Get the Hell Outta Dodge
I can’t remember what this title was themed to, just that we thought it was hilarious at the time.

Our house rule to avoid that is that the whiteboards are passed to the person on the judge’s left and read to them. This seems to help very much.

Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Image description: several golden Cthulhu Schmovie awardsSince most of the time you’re wracking your brain for an excellent title, it can be very interesting. At the same time, when you are the judge, there isn’t much to do. The turns are pretty quick, and that’s just an aspect of the typical judges game. Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity are also subject to this.

In Conclusion

Image description: Game cards Unlikely + Sports Team

Schmovie is an excellent party game, and since it’s so easily accessible this is a game that you’ll be able to play with a wide range of groups.

Image Description: the starburst action die with the cards Blind + Butcher. The whiteboard says, Chopped: Outta Sight.
An action movie themed around a blind butcher titled, Chopped: Outta Sight

This post was #NotSponsored. Schmovie is available at Amazon and other retailers.

Happy Gaming! Play On!

Camden’s Follies | Book Review

A riveting steampunk British Indiana Jones space opera with an unwanted harem.

Dear Readers,

I hope this installment finds you well.

This week I’m sharing my review of Camden’s Follies: From the diaries of Doctor James Camden, Lunar Physician and Pirate (Book 1, Part 1) by J. Nathanial Corres.

To describe this story succinctly – it’s like a steampunk British Indiana Jones space opera with an unwanted harem. Let me explain: it’s set in the early 1900s and uses a mix of industrial revolution era technology with reproductions of ancient tech from translations from the Mayans, who were gifted the tech by a species that may have had ulterior motives.

What better opportunity to use this GIF?

History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens” producer, Giorgio Tsoukalos, saying, “It was aliens!”

It has that swashbuckling feel of Indiana Jones. Their main vessel is a dirigible, though that feels like a generous description given its space-faring modifications.

Dr. Camden thought he was headed to “central Africa” (no particular country/region mentioned) to study forensics and become a medical examiner, but it turns out he’s been recruited for a secret mission on an experimental vessel.

He has two women fighting over him – thus, the unwanted harem trope.

First, I’ll give you my usual breakdown of the characters, settings, and emotional payoff. Then I’ll close with some thoughts about this book, about literary citizenship, and reviewing in general.

Characters

James Camden is probably an accurate portrayal of a military doctor from that time as far as backstory, clothing, & vernacular go. At the same time, personality wise … I’m not sure he’s healthy. I think it was a common trait, especially post-war, to have a rather brusque bedside manner. He doesn’t fixate on his soldiering life, but I wonder if he’s fully dealt with it.

Actor Max Greenfield as “Dewey Denouement” from Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

Source: Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” via Snicket.Fandom

Please note: the author says this is not a good inspiration picture for Dr. Camden: the mustache is lacking. I, however, imagine him looking this way, so I’m including it based off my imaginings of the book.

Here’s my evidence that Dr. Camden may be a little cold, or perhaps having burnout, or a slight touch of sociopathy – in the beginning of the book he states this:

Quote: “I wasn’t really up to patients, but it was either that or listen to the sounds of wailing and screams.”
A screenshot I took from the Kindle App

At first I took it that it was … perhaps he is suffering from physician burnout, a very real thing. I mean, he was wanting to work on forensic medicine instead of living people. Perhaps he knew he was at his limit for bedside pleasantries. Coupled with his lack of empathy and what seems to be a brusque bedside manner, it seems to go beyond a stiff upper lip or fatigue, though.

There’s also … the difference of modern medicine. In Camden’s day, someone who had PTSD would be called “shell-shocked” and dealt with callously. In America’s Civil War, ridicule was considered a treatment for this disease. Surgery was very painful, not as successful, and anesthetics were not as advanced – they were basically chloroform and ether. In Darwin’s day, not that long before, it would have almost taken someone being a sociopath to handle being a surgeon: a level of detachment and composure that many would not be able to maintain. In the historical fantasy The Witch’s Daughter, Liza deals with gruesome failed surgeries. Darwin himself in real life pursued natural history because he could not stomach medicine. Camden mentions Darwin in passing, and this is by my guess about 40 years after.

Back to Camden’s sometimes chilly demeanor: When someone expresses a healthy fear of a large predatory species (that nearly killed one member and severely wounded Camden himself), he as a doctor reacts in this way:

Quote: REDACTED on the other hand nearly fainted. Good thing REDACTED was nearby to see to him!
Screenshot from Kindle App

Um, you’re the doctor? Shouldn’t you see to him?

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch as “Sherlock” when he states he is a sociopath.
Source: Sherlock via GIPHY

He’s in good company, though: Sherlock himself claims to be a “high functioning sociopath” (though I’ve read psychologists disagree). Imperfect characters are often more interesting if not more relatable than perfect ones. In writing Mary Sues (or Gary Stus) are something to be avoided. Camden’s not perfect (me either), and sometimes a little aloof. That makes him a more likable character, though.

One last word about Dr. James Camden – he seems to suffer from a bit of insecurity. I make this observation because his narration demonstrates near constant criticism for other men. Again, this flaw makes an interesting character. At the same time, though, I’m not sure I would like him in person. I’ve talked about this at length with my husband and … we’ve decided that some of the best storytelling features unlikable protagonists – from Preacher to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Enjoying a story is different than hanging out with someone. Flaws that might be charming, interesting even, while enjoying a story could be quickly grating in person.

Reptilian mademoiselle with a bright red drink. Source: Reptile Woman by Mario Clemente, Deviant Art

Cafea – The Tedarian female claims dibs on Dr. Camden almost immediately after she meets him, despite being frustratingly picky with men, and despite Camden being frequently mistaken for female (or perhaps because of what by some alien sensibilities passes for as feminine). She bridges the alien pirate crew of the War Dragon Fire and that of the humans’ Bernoulli. Without her, Camden would not succeed. She is fiercely loyal and knowledgeable.

Please note, this picture is again my imagination, and is not an accurate description. She is described as being an attractive reptilian humanoid female with green skin, a hint of scales, purple hair hiding a hint of black, and black irises and pupils.

Jane from Tarzan in a pith hat.
Source: Disney’s “Tarzan” via GIPHY

Cynthia Belle-Anderson – Described as being a deceivingly delicate widow who frequently dons pith hats, Cynthia is a former spy. It’s revealed that she encouraged the selection of Dr. Camden for this experimental mission, and she’s been attracted to him from afar.

He later observed that she’s more worldly than originally guessed due to her demure demeanor and that some of the interactions between Cafea and Cynthia make him consider French women. I’m linking to Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal because it was a scandalous book that feautures, among other things, women attracted to women. Le Fleurs du Mal was written in the mid 1800s and features gorgeous imagery and mostly melancholic themes. It was not received well in polite French society at the time, but given the apparent setting of this book would have had enough time to become as infamous as The Room and to possibly have become more acceptable. It’s a space opera, aka a space fantasy. The author may do whatever he likes.

I enjoyed this character – I expected her to be a bland British woman of that era, but she was a real go-getter when it came down to it. She’s fierce. Some might even say savage. The dichotomy between the exotic and intense Cafea and the girl-next-door vibes of Cynthia is intriguing, especially when coupled with their similarities. They are two sides of the same coin.

Let’s be honest: this is escapism, and a common fantasy for many men is passion between two attractive women.

Again, the picture is just my imagination! I think she’s supposed to be more looking strawberry-blonde than Tarzan’s Jane.

Bechdel Test – This book does not pass the Bechdel test, and I don’t think the future parts will either. Being from a single male perspective, we only experience what James does. Since he doesn’t eavesdrop really, we don’t experience what Cafea and Cynthia, or any of the other women, talk about together. It’s apparent that Cafea and Cynthia have verbal spats and resolutions off screen, but those appear to be regarding James.

Does every book have to pass the Bechdel Test? No. I bring it up frequently because of how lacking representation is in media and how focused on the male gaze things are. This book is written by a man (a very kind one if I do say so), and it has an authentically male POV.

Setting

The Bernoulli is caught in interstellar disputes between the Garinthians and the Dragon Helm Pirate clan. We see various close range battles, several shipboard combat scenes, and romps on alien worlds with big game hunting. It feels very time appropriate in its observations to the doctor- the author was careful to avoid anachronisms.

For me the clearest scenes were in the engine room and the scenes with the big game. I’m not going to spoil them for you: they’re quite exciting.

Emotional Payoff

This is a quote (sans context) from this book.

Conflict makes for good storytelling, so, dear doctor, I don’t believe you will.

This story was very clean in regards to the intimate scenes. Perhaps the author was thinking a gentleman wouldn’t kiss and tell, but I think he could have been a little more graphic. This detracted from the emotional payoff a bit.

Otherwise, it plugged along at a decent pace. Sometimes being interrupted and having to pick it back up made for me needing to re-read a bit before to know what was going on if i was interrupted during a tense scene, but alas – that is my life.

Final Thoughts

Camden’s Folly shows at once time appropriate sentiments and observations along with more modern themes- diversity, atypical romantic formats (aka polyamory), and with it provides interesting observations of modern heteronormativity and mores.

I truly wish this was a TV series so more people could enjoy the story. I think it would lend well to other formats – the sign of a truly good story.

This is an indie published book. As far as I can tell, it did not have a professional editor. There are typographical errors throughout – misplaced homonyms, extra or missing commas, and some issues with capitalization and consistency.

I once read that the average traditionally published book has about ten typographical errors in it. This has quite a number more, but please remember that there was not a team of people working on this story: just one writer. I hope that you can overlook those ink marks to enjoy this story. As a reviewer, I want you to know that I aim to help both the author have their book be promoted and the reader in selecting worthwhile pieces. I hope this review will accomplish both these tasks. It’s truly an enjoyable story and I look forward to the future installments.

Camden’s Follies: From the diaries of Doctor James Camden, Lunar Physician and Pirate (Book 1, Part 1) is available on Amazon.

This post was not sponsored. I will say that J. Nathanial Corres is such a wonderful example of a writer supporting other writers. I am so pleased to have made his online acquaintance. He is a pure example of literary citizenship.

In the words of Corres, and Camden: Geronimo!


Image note: screenshots are from the Kindle App of the book, and a few are from TV/movies with a note regarding where I found them. Also, the reptilian artwork is linked back to the original source on Deviant Art, and of course if the artist does not want me using the picture I will punctually comply in removing it.

Unless otherwise noted pictures on my blog are ones I personally took or from a CC0 source like Pixhere or Pixabay.

Words Matter: Unfortunate Edition

Words matter! Say what you mean.

There’s a word I hate hearing. It’s a word that others often use to explain away poor behavior, harsh company policies, or an unlikable decision.

A pair of dice displaying sixes.

This word has been twisted from the primary meaning. This word makes me cringe every time I hear or read it. It instantly makes it more difficult for me to accept what is being communicated to me.

Continue reading “Words Matter: Unfortunate Edition”

Lost Magic | Book Review

🇨🇦 🔮 🕶 Think The Dresden Files meets Anita Blake but with a snarky Canadian Woman of Color

With Egyptian and Métis/Native American* roots, this sorceress has a long life span, souped up powers, and a big attitude

In a world where witches, wizards, and vampires have all been integrated (though painfully) into modern society, Irelynne – a sorcerer – must hide her unusual magic while investigating a series of murders that only she will be able to solve.

Black cat laughing maniacally.
Source: “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, original, via GIPHY

Ire is funny, relatable, and very competent. Zoro the “cat” is very sassy.

There were fresh takes on common tropes, but with a sense of modernity and respect that can sometimes be lacking in fantasy.

I look forward to the next book (due out in 2020).

Canadian cityscape reflecting on water at night

Continue reading “Lost Magic | Book Review”

Ghost of the Gaelic Moon | Review

👻☘️🌝If Hallmark had a modern Jane Eyre in Ireland with Supernatural’s Rowena as the Villain. 👻☘️🌝

What comes to mind when you think of Ireland? Maybe it’s the Blarney Stone or leprechauns. Maybe it’s St. Patrick or druids.

After reading Ghost of the Gaelic Moon, I think this book will come to mind for me. This was a lighthearted paranormal romp through Dublin and beyond. Ireland is on my travel bucket list, so maybe one day I can experience this magic myself.

Here is my (hopefully) spoiler free review covering the characters, setting, and emotional payoff.

Continue reading “Ghost of the Gaelic Moon | Review”

The King of Ash & Bone Review

My Thoughts on This Desperate Mission to Save What’s Left of The World

Legends sometimes have roots in reality, a grain of salt that’s too much to bear but too chilling to be forgotten. As society crumbles around Mackenzie, she trusts a stranger. The fellow survivor is a means to the end of reuniting with her brother. As tensions run high, she’s plunged into a nightmare beyond her imagining. She has information about the invading species, but can she get it to the army in time?

Continue reading “The King of Ash & Bone Review”

Pieces of Eight

Not about Spanish currency of antiquity. 


The second book in the Frey Saga is an entertaining quest to restore an elf maiden’s fractured identity. 

There is less action in this book than the first. It is, however, an intriguing jaunt through another world. 

I enjoyed it very much.  It also had the challenge of the first book of hypersexualized male characters. I have to say I enjoy Steed’s flirtations with her more in this book. Chevelle, the male lead, is underdeveloped. He is dark and brooding but otherwise almost flawless (he does have a jealous streak when it comes to Steed). 
Being that it was written by a woman I took it for granted in the first book that it passes the Bechdel Test. This book also passes the test and Ruby remains one of my favorite characters. The current book I’m reading does not so far and it was also written by a woman. 

I enjoy being in Frey’s head, though she is very different than me. 

One criticism I read in another review of this book is that Frey is frequently sleeping. This is true , but I didn’t find it boring and it served the plot. She evolves through the book. 

One quote I particularly enjoyed:

Somewhere, in the mess of my mind, I’d understood that acquiring the magic and memories would not release me from the difficulties of my life. 

Pieces of Eight was a diverting, easy read.  I highly recommend it. 

Frey

Frey felt life was unfair as an elf who has no magic until one day she finds herself accidentally practicing dark magic. Things get worse from there. A dark and handsome stranger appears and her world is soon thrown off kilter. Will her mother’s diary hold the answer to her fractured memories? Will she find any magic that is not dark? 


This story was appealing because it focuses on a strong female lead who fights against the odds. We can probably all identify with feeling out of place from time to time.  

In this world the genders feel pretty equal, though two of the male characters are hypersexualised. Although one of the elves, Steed, is quite comical with his forwardness. His personality reminds me of a married man that used to hit on me. I didn’t think it was so funny at the time. 

The story seems to follow more of a Freytag model than a traditional three act structure.  That’s okay; my book, Threads of Fate, follows this model and is based off Blake Snyder’s beat sheet.  

Ruby was one of my favorite characters. She is strong and mischievous, so a little unpredictable. She definitely has agency. This book passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. 

There were a few moments that felt unrealistic. Chevelle is particularly brooding and in one spot does not speak to Frey for an entire day. I can’t imagine traveling with someone for a full 24 hours and not breaking the silence. 

I wish there was a little more description about things like the colors of the horses. I can’t recall what color her horse was and those kinds of details draw me in being a visual person. 

The book was an easy read and I’ve already read the next one, Pieces of Eight