Arby's Backlog Hell Arbiter Libera’s profile

~ Let's Get Some Games Done ~

An Ongoing Exercise in Clearing the Backlog Extraordinaire

Nothing special here for now, really. Just my updates divided for somewhat navigable lists using the artwork I used when updates were originally published with all now updated to current art assets fitting to match 2019 updates and also easier to click on if you're using mobile. Maybe I'll add more to the "homepage" at some point, but this is serviceable for now.

According to my last Report here it's been... two months? Well damn, time does fly. Probably due to my dabbling in FF14 as I'm want to occasionally and somehow never get past level 20. But seriously, I think the holdup was simply tackling a long ass JRPG and one I wasn't enamored with as it went on. If there's any uplifting news it's my newfound determination to stop buying games beyond what I get from Humble Choice so let's see how that pans out.

There's also a SF novel I managed to finish.

Embassytown ( Science Fiction – 2011 – 345 pages ) + GOOD READS

I imagine Embassytown would be something of a wet dream to a creative language major considering how much of its very core revolves around the nature of linguistics, weaponizing languages as such and identity-defining powers they hold over societies. It should speak in novel's favor when I say despite having little beyond cursory interest in such topics, and debates over them sometimes slowing the narrative to a crawl, idea as a whole STILL managed to keep my interest strong to see it through. Additional observation worth pointing out is I can't recall another instance of a novel making such a heel turn at exactly halfway point when all hell breaks loose and alternating past/present chapters get dropped in favor of a linear fixed narrative.

Continuing author's weird fiction twists we now take to science fiction territory as we follow one Avice Benner Cho from her childhood days in a small town called, well, Embassytown on planet Arieka seeing things from her point of view along the way. You might imagine this leads to a "girl wants to leave her hometown and go to a big city" kind of scenario and you'd be right if not for couple of things. Terre and other races are allowed to have a colony of Embassytown by natives of this planet, whom all others have affectionately dubbed Hosts, and due to how their Language works there's this privileged group of people called Ambassadors who are the only ones capable of open communication. Our girl Avice would have been just one of frontier residents had the Hosts not used her to embody a simile and thus forever immortalizing her as part of their Language. Looking back on the novel as a whole this is the pretty much the only elements making her important in subsequent events otherwise way above her pay grade. On a fringe world where language and those who ply its trade are so important even her relatively exclusive status of a Terre immerser aka someone who navigates hyperspace of sorts, is treated as a curio rather than something admirable after she makes her return and ends up embroiled in massive societal changes as new mysterious Ambassadors arrive alongside her. Turns out everyone has an agenda in this place, especially those furthest from it.

Even if execution of this particular premise where you see aliens change after continual exposure to something like a language changes was at times protracted and protagonist herself almost ended up being a go-between until very late into the story, where she figures out things others must have considered earlier and decided otherwise, I have to say the setting definitely did not fail to pique my interest. First half of Embassytown is almost testing you to see for just how long you can go without air as it throws terminology and ideas you're eventually less so explained and more left to your own devices to piece together with context later on. From the fact this is the Third Universe, begging the question what happened to first two, entirely bio-engineered "technology" of the Ariekai like battery-beasts and living buildings that can get chemically addicted, to general weirdness where mentioning "there are other alien races beyond two most prominent ones" is almost an inconsequential side note when you look at the bigger picture. It gripped and sustained me when whatever was going on did not. Impression I got was one of very divisive nature - on one hand there's inventive and almost esoteric SF backstory I wanted to immerse myself in, while on the other the equivalent of an airline pilot involved in debates regarding the living nature of languages with experts on the matter high on their own farts. I found one far more engaging over the other, as you can probably tell.

This is where I would talk about characters, but I don't think there is much to say in this particular case because I'd be hard pressed to remember much about Avice herself. It says something when we get more about her as a person from childhood parts than when she returns as an adult after X kilohours had passed. Other than her having multiple husbands and a wife before this current relationship. In her own words I would describe her as unsurprising. If this was a lesser work I would almost assume she's one of those horrible self-insert and forgettable type of female protagonists. Other, support, characters are firmly on Ambassador side of things as primary conduit to the Hosts. Latter surprisingly get almost nothing until the very last quarter of the novel, but I think it adds to their alienness so I approve.

These Reports are once again starting to take a month between releases, and I have a JRPG on the side to finish that's probably going to take a while as it is. Good news is I bring six short reviews for you to peruse + that novel I finally got around to. I really need to stop trying out walking simulators seeing as they obviously aren't my jam.

Greybeard ( Science Fiction, Post-Apocalypse – 1964 – 237 pages ) + GOOD READS

As opposed to more immediate world-ending apocalyptic events I found Greybeard's take on the matter refreshingly laid back. Essentially, current generation of people is set out to be the last one as there are no more children being born. In practical terms this means our protagonist Algernon Timberlane is one of the last few young people by the time story starts in 2030s. And by "young" I mean he is in his fifties and has only childhood memories of what the world was like before "the Accident" in the '80s which altered the world making not only humans incapable of successful procreation, but also many mammals in generals with few exceptions. While the novel explains what happened through flashbacks and recollections, which are spoilers so I won't go into them, I can safely say the causes that lead to this slowly dying world don't really matter because the story isn't about them or trying to fix the impossible. World is what it is leaving Algy and his wife Martha to find their way as years inexorably go on.

Structure we're working here is alternating chapters - present day followed by flashback at various points in time. I particularly liked the one set after things really started falling apart in England so military steps in to assume control. Makes you realize this entire story could've taken a drastically different direction then and there. Amusing bit for me was how a pivotal chapter explaining Algy's reasoning as to why he initially joins DOUCH(E), organization meant to safeguard humanity's future... in a way, fell completely flat. Additional points as the man himself confirms that very thing towards the end of the book. But lest I type things randomly those are the parts meant to flesh out the world-that-was. If you ask me the body of work are present-day chapters dealing with how our little group survives. You never get the impression it's some epic adventure or anything, but rather senior citizens who still have to contend with circumstances beyond their control and other people being idiots as effective post-apocalypse brings the worst out of them. You're on the run with nowhere to go? Come across a secluded makeshift village and stay there for almost fifteen years, why not. Rich descriptions of this new existence go a long way to successfully selling it, though. By god, I believed they were sailing down Thames for most of the book and bustling wildlife coming to reclaim its rightful place as few holdouts of decrepit humanity start becoming more out there with age.

We come to my problem with Brian Aldiss that I keep complaining about despite reading his books anyway. He cannot write characters conversing with one another without coming off as incredibly stilted or expository. I think Greybeard suffers from it in particular because all those scenes between Martha and Algy when they talk about what childhood memories spurred the latter to become the man he is now or what the former feels she's missing as there are no children in the world all sound very dry as presented. Then again that particular type of rapport is Aldiss' preferred. Even with other characters like their religious friend Charles or certain cult leader they come across, for example. Everyone is uttering dialog relevant to their personality, but final result is lack of character itself.

Impression I could not shake while reading Greybeard was one of meandering series of pit-stops along the road to nowhere as there's no clear-cut objective. Novel also pulls the rug from under you in the last fifteen pages or so by revealing the great mystery that has been continually skirted along. You can probably guess what it is, but the abrupt manner in which it's handled just did not sit well with me.

It was definitely not my plan to review a game so similar to my last one, but I guess things just happen. Looking at them both it's obviously I have a preference for more RPG than action. I'm also seriously lagging behind Spiders' release schedule and it's been educational to see them polish the formula with time. In any case, I hope 2021 is turning out better for you and have fun reading my walls of text at least here if not on Steam because of Review limitations.

First Report of the year didn't take long even if I do wish it was for a better game. Admittedly, I beat Blood Knights in 2020 and typing the multimedia review was the actual hold-up. Hope you celebrated end of the year famously and you'll stick with me in 2021 as well.

Sung in Blood ( Fantasy – 1992 – 200 pages ) + GOOD READS

Considering this is Glen Cook we're talking about here, man with experience writing both fantasy action and detective stories alike, I was surprised to see how half-baked both of these elements turned out in Sung in Blood. As I hope to explain below I think the problem may be his writing style not complimenting a fast-paced story like this one.

City of Shasesserre is protected by its, well, Legendary Protector Jehrke Victorious who is essentially this Gary Stu keeping tabs on the city in unofficial capacity simply because A) he's so badass that no one, not even kings, can really out-maneuver or overpower him, and B) he seems to be immortal considering he's been running the gig for centuries. Well, that changes in the opening as he fall victim to an elaborate murder scheme that gets him literally nailed to the very wall of his tower. In steps Rider and his posse of friends as it falls on them to gradually unravel the mystery of WHO got his old man, seeing as WHY isn't really a mystery considering he was ultimately a beloved stabilizing influence. There's also a matter of whether Rider now inherits the title of Legendary Protector or whatever else he actually wants to do.

Problem is that last part is kind of lie on my end.

Rider, a power house in his own right or else the magical protective Web Jehrke maintained would just go poof without someone to mend it, settles naturally into solving the mystery. Not overtly out of any love for his father because he is that stoic, distant and all-competent protagonist type, but more due to it needing to be done as these perfidious easterners involved are looking to take out even more key figures in the city to destabilize and take over. Now I've matched everything that Sung in Blood feels inclined to tell you about Rider himself. Same really applies to his companions who stick to Cook's reliable nicknames routine so you have the likes of Preacher, Soup, etc with standout being a shapeshifting Imp Su-Cha who definitely gets mileage in this story. Out of all of those I'd argue maybe only Su-Cha and barbarian Chaz get some further identities beyond one line summaries, those of comedic relief and straightforward northerner. That's not to say Sung in Blood is above having them do whatever story requires at the moment, but I'm left puzzled as to whether that speaks of depth or sheer convenience.

Reason why all of the above does not click for me is simply because you have a story that stops being a mystery about a quarter or so in only to turn into this prolonged parry and riposte scenario as the “real” antagonist is revealed. Secondly, due to Rider being the one who primarily does things while others seem to just get kidnapped or fail at their tasks with their feeble recoveries always somehow factoring into Ride-master's plans. What we have at hand is an extended case of dick measuring if I ever saw any, albeit one adapted into unexplained magical workings wielded by key figures.

At the end of the day you have a story with basic stereotypes for characters playing out at breakneck pace with signature author focus on keeping it flowing without being bogged down by details. Result is a very lean novel that could have honestly benefited from a higher page count if only to expand on a cliffhanger ending that never gets resolved as tale of Rider and Shai Khe is never re-visited. Airships are cool, though.

I managed to sneak in one last Report for the year. On the offer are six short reviews to take a break from my regular walls of text. There were some games I had plans for full reviews, but instead I axed them from my hard drive because if a game languishes there for half a year or more I'm clearly not into it that much and will re-visit at some point later on. I had another book review in mind so that's something I'll get around to posting in next year's inaugural Report.

Small change I'm making is linking to my own reviews where applicable [Steam, etc] provided you click on cover art because hey, gotta chase them Steam points.

2020 sure has been a crazy year in more ways than one. In fact, some would argue it's an all-time worst and I've lost count just how badly our entire world has been thrown into disarray. I can only hope you weren't impacted too badly in real life because our backlogs will always be there waiting for us. Hope you have great holidays ahead of you.

Time for some bookkeeping.

As far as Reports go this has been a nice year for yours truly. Yes, there were some updates you could dismiss as filler where I got to try out demos and free games, even covering an RPG Maker title, but overall the entire effort has been a terrific creative outlet. I had some stuff planned like covering certain MMORPGs in-depth and even posting solo RPG reports, but those fell through as I couldn't present them in engaging way or they were just unsuited to what BLAEO is doing. Just branching out past video games as far as backlogs go is more than enough for me.

And now for something different – in the collapsed tab below I've linked all the Reports from 2020 for your reading pleasure. All previous years are likewise available at my profile page. You know, in case you really have some time to waste. Things sure have changed since 2016.

This game has been installed on my hard drive for about half a year and do you want to know what actually took me finishing it? Binging Dragon Quest XI demo for six hours. 2020 continues to be a crazy year. I can't shake the feeling that by not getting into Dragon Quest so far I've missed out on a tremendous franchise well-deserving of its acclaim. Such as it is, I have an action spin-off to bring to your attention. On entirely unrelated note I've also finished a novel that had spent just as much time in the freezer... only for me to read the remaining half in a single day.

It's my plan to put out one more update before the year is out so fingers crossed.

I had a lightning fast Secret Santa so I would like to thank him here. ;)

Alien Earth ( Science Fiction – 1992 – 368 pages ) + GOOD READS

At some point in near future aliens visit Earth bearing ill tidings – both the planet itself and humanity is screwed, and only hope for survival is to take their offer of one-way trip to twin worlds of Castor and Pollux where new life awaits if they take up the dogma of Harmonious Unity where things and beings don't compete, but cooperate in existence. Earth's problem is ecological in nature and fingers get pointed at humans for essentially ruining the world as carefully selected pools of people embark on this arduous journey to unknown worlds aboard arks grafted to living Beastships with mysterious Arthroplana acting as pilots. Amusing bit is all of the above is just the opening of the novel which then jumps two thousand years forward after humanity has settled on twin worlds with generations upon generations accustomed to the new way of life under the watchful eye of Human Conservancy as their lives become longer. Until the main cast gets involved with Earth Affirmed's generation spanning question and agenda regularly ignored or snuffed out by the Conservancy – what happened to Earth?

There's multiple POV characters, even couple of surprise ones novel springs on you, but initial ones include; John, Connie and Tug – human captain, crew and Arthroplana pilot of Beastship Evangeline, respectively. Much of the appeal of Alien Earth lies in observing this now-alien society through the lens of people who happen to be outsiders as taking the job of Mariner manning Beastships is precisely that. Arthroplana, with their long spanning lives and access to living ships in a setting that abhors “dirty tech”, have a monopoly on space travel and seeing as trips are done in real time human crew undergoes extensive periods of Waitsleep similar to suspended animation. This means John and Connie are akin to Methuselahs to the rest of human population as they don't belong and see the cycles repeat, on and off. Being one of the enigmatic alien race Tug is an interesting counterbalance to two humans as he cannot leave the Beastship he pilots and it's implied humans are on-board said ships as sort of intellectual amusement for decidedly alien pilots.

I've already done too much summarizing and not enough opinions so I'll stop with the former, but THEMES are on full display in Alien Earth.

You'd think this is ecological SF, but I'd argue against it. Biological “technology” has largely replaced conventional tech as it is degradable and adheres to the most important tenant of Unity – humans must leave no trace. This should already be triggering some red alerts, but on Castor and Pollux everything is in such perfect cooperative harmony that humans end up living as mere observers. One character even brings up an anecdote of what she did earlier in life where her job amounted to carefully weighing how many petals fell of trees and adding precisely the same amount of nutrients to keep everything balanced. Day in, day out. This ideology is then pushed to the extreme with some minute events like a child stepping on grass leading to, back in the day, exile to life on stations or, more recently, euthanasia. Not to mention the infamous Readjustment process if you're not perfectly in line with Harmonious Unity. Humanity has seemingly accepted this as way of life or even punishment for their perceived “human guilt” of destroying Earth as that is the accepted message. All of this is further muddled by the fact Conservancy continually excises, edits and obfuscates old information as select people delve into illegality to preserve bits of history, but most are content to live out in comfort as their history fades making them lesser in the process.

Alien Earth does that thing I like with an unfamiliar setting in that it consistently drip feeds you bits of information on every page. As captain John verbally spars with deceptive Tug you also get tidbits on why so few people live on the twin worlds, for example. I have to admit this was huge part of the draw until about halfway into the novel when plot proper starts and oh boy, does it kick into overdrive in the last third or so. Character breaking-the-sound-barrier fits more than “development” in this case, but there was some awkwardness to how sudden and aggressive it is... until I realized it's a perfect response to their in-universe situation. After all, how would absolute freedom change you? Certain line about “taking our language and giving us a slave one” was a bit too on the nose, though.

Having not even realized what's going on it would appear I've accidentally had myself a German Month. I also decide on a new backlog-first and cover a free RPG Maker game and brand new TV show both sharing that very same country of origin. Can you feel the cultural difference compared to the usual stuff? You tell me. I'm not sure whether I'll make it a habit to cover non-commercial stuff seeing as that would REALLY balloon my already bulging backlog, but this was short and sweet enough to include.

End of the Year approaches fast...

Barbarians ( War Drama – 2020 – 6 episodes ) + TRAILER

I had no idea Netflix was even producing Barbarians until the entire thing was released and I read about it receiving high praise for its costume designs. Following up one more opinions I decided to give it a whirl for myself.

Making the entire affair lead up to Teutoburg kinda makes the rest of the show meandering dealings with tribe drama and Roman politics when Arminius is the one that matters, though. Not helped by the sequel hook because one of your three main characters was just kinda there for the duration and get sidelined by war-makes-love-a-convenience pair. I guess I shouldn't be surprised the Romans, as seen by already mentioned Arminius, were more interesting than WE'RE DEAD PEOPLE barbarians because we get the resident strong female character of Thusnelda to represent the latter. It wasn't as cringy as I expected it to be seeing as her character exposes herself to not being above scheming and pulling a ruse or two to get the entire thing going alongside Arminius' military expertise, but she has plot armor and worst harm that happens comes by her own hand. I'll even buy "female warriors" on the battlefield if Germanic tribes had to bring everyone who could feasibly fight to better their odds against three legions. All the character whining aside I have to admit the very last episode definitely kicked the presentation up a notch from what were previously rather bland and muddy visuals. Some pretty neat warpaint makes for striking high points among the Germanics... and Rome gonna Rome in style to match.

Main problem is you could've probably achieved the same result with half as many episodes and less "I'll sell my daughter to you for five horses" that only ends up in setting up obviously treacherous characters as treacherous. I'm not sure where the sequel is headed other than yet another foregone conclusion.

These reviews have actually been on Steam backburner for quite some time now as I waited for the right time to upload them here. That translates to “finally finishing a novel that took me quite a while to get through as it kept giving me migraines” so take that for what it's worth, btw. In any case here's another offering of FIVE (5) short reviews because sometimes there's really no need to go hog wild with the word count... or so I hear.

Riddley Walker ( Science Fiction, Adventure – 1980 – 256 pages ) + QUOTE

Part of me dreads talking about Riddley Walker, but six months after on and off reading I almost feel like I owe it to both the novel and myself.

Premise is pretty straightforward by itself - we follow the eponymous Riddley Walker after his old man has an accident and Riddley is poised to inherit his role of the "connexion man" aka someone who interprets prophecies and meanings as seen in traveling puppet shows' performances whenever they visit settlements. That sounds kinda silly until you factor in this is roughly two thousands years following a world ending event that more or less destroyed everything and society has slowly rebuilt itself to something akin to Iron Age technology except they don't really mine ore but rather remnants of now ancient material that they then deconstruct and re-purpose. This Inland territory with illustrious names for places like Arse Dead Town is seemingly organized and ruled by some weird amalgam of politics and religion riding in the same cart drawn by half-remembered science, folklore, whatever rolled into one with their influence propagated by already mentioned, you guessed it, traveling puppet shows adhering strictly to accepted stories and even puppets themselves are regulated. It's a world where creative thinking is called "clevverness" and highly discouraged because it could bring back whatever vague recollection people have of that which destroyed the world in the first place. But as our boy Riddley will soon discover there are plans afoot that could forever alter what Eusa Story preaches and warnings of Littl Shyning Man are all about it.

So that may even sound compelling, right? Let me just quote a brief paragraph from the book for you:

Belnot Phist wer stopping on at Widders Dump. That same day he put a crew to cutting timber for a new projeck of his. It wer going to be some kynd of a working. Where they gone for the timber it ben a special place of myn. Where the old track sydls the hy groun sholder. It wer woodit with oak there. Hy groun on 1 side of the track and on the other it sloaps off sharp tords Widders Dump. The track runs pas that holler they call Mr Clevvers Roaling Place it wer the track we all ways took going to and from the form. It wer the shape of the groun I liket and the feal of it. That fealing you get on hy groun over looking the low. Some times sydling that sholder youwd see crows be low you cruising. Looking down from there at Widders Dump it seamt so low and littl it lookit easy ternt a way from. Back then I never Ice ben on that hy groun sholder oansome. Never ben any where at all oansome. Never in my woal life put foot outside a fents without at leas 5 mor for dog safe. I ben saving up that hy groun in my mynd tho. Thinking may be some time there myt come a time Iwd chance it oansome. I dint want no woodlings cleart there I jus wantit that place lef the way it ben. I tol my self never mynd but I myndit.

Entire novel is written like this as it replicates a language that re-invented itself from nothing following civilization's collapse. Being an ESL individual I felt a migraine coming on after periods of extended reading and that's probably the reason why finishing this took so long. Eventually I realized reading out loud helped because I phonetically connected the dots, but it was continual effort regardless. That's without mentioning parts that come from earlier in history and were carried over orally EXACTLY as uttered back then and are barely understandable so you get a guessing game until the very last act. On the flip-side, I don't think I've been more engrossed in a work than I have with Riddley Walker. Glossing over lines will get you nowhere and paying attention is actually required which results in high retention. When you add that little HAPPENS in the story and it's more focused on twelve year Riddley surviving in this world you end having to sift through musings and opinions more than actual plot. Needles to say there are lessons here on everything from morality to history and how some things are doomed to repeat, but does it have to be that way if we can change it?

Yay or nay? Single most obstacle present is really the Riddleyspeak itself Hoban chose to write the novel in. Everything else is solid and even intriguing once you piece together what's going and understand it was mainly terminology that hobbled you getting there sooner rather than later, but you're so actively engaged taking in this foreign world told through the eyes of a twelve year old kid figuring out a large part of it for himself.

I've been on a spree of playing some short games with even shorter reviews, but at least half of that statement has now been invalidated with Wandersong because it got me busting out the usual long form review. Hey, it's only been... a month? Aww, shucks. I also wrote a brief take on a particular anime OVA from the 1990s. In case you really want to feel old and enjoy some occasional gore.

Hope you're staying safe and enjoy the read. ;)

A.D. Police Files ( Action, Cyberpunk – 1990 – 3 episodes ) + OPENING

What to say other than it really is perfect '90s anime - action and gore with some nudity here and there. It is a shame how it got cut down to only three episodes over some supposed legal disputes, though.

Show itself is set in the same world as Bubblegum Crisis, but taken at face values it definitely seems disjointed with three standalone cases that still end up featuring luscious tanned Jeena and her rookie partner as protagonists or side characters. Year is 2027 and we're in Mega Tokyo as technology has given birth to cyberpunk and all the madness that entails. Amusingly enough, fully synthetic humans are called Boomers [or Voomers, depending on translation] and as a response team to their existence we now have AD police alongside Normal police. In best Hollywood action movie fashion former leaves a wake of collateral destruction in their wake and aren't much beloved by latter. If you know cyberpunk you can already guess what you're getting here as everyone involved ponders about whether technology is encroaching on humanity's spirit, whether it's wrong to replace what you originally were or if it's just a path forward. There were chilling scenes when female Boomer model goes mental as she is recycled and only lingering memory she hangs onto, that of being shot to pieces, becomes her fetish as she seeks her "killer" to re-live it or when a full-on police cyborg realizes he's gone berserk as he internally screams for his comrades to kill because he can't help himself.

Basic yet short enough to recommend if you're not squeamish about some gore with notable effort in the presentation considering this is a '90s OVA. Perhaps even look into the setting with more works.

I guess it's kinda pitiful to say this is an impromptu update spurred on by another Steam Gifts event daring people to clear games included in Humble Monthly, now Choice, no matter when they were part of it. Which is neat because it gives me an opportunity to try out my “expanded minis” review format where I still hang onto vertical covers, but ultimately gives me more than double the word count previous one had. You decide whether it worked out or not seeing as three paragraph structure was what I gravitated to for clarity's sake. I already miss screenshots, though.

When it comes to non-video games stuff I've returned to some reading and posted a YA werewolf novel review. Pretty surprised by the outcome. This also marks my 50th Report proper and it only took me three years and some change to get here. Felt like hundred at times, but I'm glad to see you're still tolerating me. 😊

Mongrels ( Fantasy, Young Adult – 2016 – 300 pages ) + QUOTE

"Young Adult coming-of-age werewolf story" sounds like a recipe for disaster when observed through the lens of modern YA attempts, but if I had to describe Mongrels with a single word it would without a doubt, and in completely non-buzzword context, be visceral. Less due to gore and brutality, although there is both presented in almost casual manner, and more with how nitty-gritty it gets with some elements you don't really think about in most werewolf works.

To begin with, there's very little actual story here because meat of the novel is essentially seeing a child as he becomes this teenager who may or may not have the werewolf gene while being raised by his aunt and uncle, part of the triplet including his now deceased mother, with plenty of shenanigans to go along with the entire affair. Fact they both ARE werewolves means family is constantly on the move as that's how they see this life panning out. Or, well, that could just be because they're essentially what you'd call white trash aka almost social outcasts doing low end jobs, ditching disposable cars to hop from one state to another, etc. Adding the werewolf aspect simply reinforces this notion further because you can't stick around for a long time as someone will notice things going awry, you might "wolf out" at extremely inconvenient times meaning highly urban areas are very much off-limits and there's plenty of other stipulations a werewolf has to keep in mind. Interesting idea is that Libby and Darren both accept this lifestyle as something normal and necessary to keep the wolf nature within them alive. For example, in their view even finishing high school is an accomplishment unto itself because it means you were able to keep it together despite all the werewolf changes that come along by the time you're 12 or 13 and something like that takes a while to come to terms to with. Not to mention living on the outskirts of society means you want to start earning money as fast as possible and not entirely above board if payments are in cash.

Seeing as Mongrels is told from the point of view of the nephew, and story does bounce from present day and earlier years chapters, focus is almost entirely on the werewolf nature itself. Which is good because author has some interesting thoughts about it. It's important to point out these werewolves aren't hulking, feral man-wolves walking on hind legs stereotype, though. Not being above using humor to teach a lesson. Darren, bravado uncle looking to emulate his own father and his "war stories", imparts some knowledge to the kid as the book goes on. Ever wondered what happens when werewolves go to prison? Did you know your greatest enemy when shifting indoors are doorknobs? Yeah, yeah. On the other Libby is the straitlaced one keeping the trio together... and type to comment on how human and werewolf intestines are not the same. Eating some garbage as a werewolf might seem like a great idea, but if there's sharp tins in there they could just rupture your insides when you're human again. Book is filled with wisdom and anecdotes like these. Lest you get the impression this is a comedy it most assuredly isn't even with plenty of levity to go around because everyone is very casual about it and not bent on preaching to the reader. You'll also learn why werewolves tend to not mate with other werewolves and what may have given the rise to the werewolf stereotype. Not to mention why it's imperative to not leave anyone you wound survive. Ever.

All in all, werewolf existence is portrayed as rather miserable and ill-suited to wherever they go with, ironically, human side and their family keeping it all bearable. Making that whole "mate for life" quite the issue if your other half is an abusive werewolf who spent so long as a wolf he doesn't know how to shift back anymore. Being a YA novel you can see the big question answered from miles away and losing some of the suspense, though.