Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Extra Life Update: Stretch Goals!

I’m super excited to say that thanks to your amazing generosity, we’ve already hit my initial $200 goal for Extra Life! That means: STRETCH GOALS! All of which help the Extra Life Chicago guild reach our team goals for Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

For $300, during my stream you get a Spooky Storytime where I read from/demonstrate one of my three scary pop-up books (see photo below). Make it $400, I will play at least 3 rounds of Dead By Daylight as a killer, while wearing my Jason hockey mask in order to channel my inner slasher.

We still have over a month to raise money for the kids being treated at Lurie, and you can visit my fundraising page here: and you can read more details about donating, as well as what I'll be doing during my stream in this blog post.

Thanks to everyone who has donated so far, you're fantastic and I hope I get to do some ridiculous things on November 4th!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Comics Review: Monstress Volume 1 & 2

Monstress is a dark fantasy story written by Marjorie Liu (Astonishing X-Men, Dark Wolverine) set in an alternate version of 1900's Asia where gods, magic and monsters all dwell among humans and part-animal half-breeds. Our protaganist Maika Halfwolf is one of those half-breeds, known as Arcanics. She has survived a major war, and in the beginning of volume 1, she has purposely allowed herself to be sold off at a slave auction in order to learn more about her mother's life and death.

Volume 2 reveals much more about Maiko's backstory, her mother's history, and the mythology of this world in general. In every issue they peel back one more layer and it gets more and more fascinating as you go. I won't reveal too many details, because the best part of this series is discovering these links and layers for yourself firsthand. But I will say that one of the highlights of the story is the same theme the title so clearly advertises. Is Maiko, herself, a monster? How will this struggle change her? What does that mean for her relationships with others? How will her mother's secrets change how she views herself?

Monstress is the most gorgeous comic I've read all year, thanks to the brilliant artwork by Sana Takeda (X-23, Ms. Marvel). There is a clear anime influence to its style, particularly the way the characters are drawn. But in the clothing, interiors and buildings there is a solid Western influence. It's very Art Deco, and it works beautifully. The art also lays full claim to both the horror and fantasy genres; there are many intense, dark scenes to convey the hungry monster inside Maiko that threatens to take control. But you also get a sense of how big and complex this alternate world is through the intricate scene details, and the expert work on the half-human half-animal characters.

For all these reasons, Monstress has become my new go-to recommendation for both horror and fantasy fans. It has a rich mythology, as well as engaging themes of otherness and fear that are well explored through the horror of slavery and invasion.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Extra Life 2017

UPDATE: Thanks to your generous donations, I hit my initial goal of $200! I've created stretch goals that will help my team, the Extra Life Chicago guild, reach our team goals. Plus you get to make me do ridiculous things on my stream. See below for more details about how your donations make an impact, and what games we can play together on game day.

I'm participating in Extra Life this year! The tl;dr version is:
  • Extra Life unites gamers to raise money that helps sick kids
  • Tax-deductible donations made through me will benefit Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
  • You can donate here
  • I’ll be streaming my November 4th gaming marathon on Twitch at
  • There will be solo games, games we can play together, book talks and recommendations
  • Donate $15 and up and email me some info and I’ll give you personalized reading suggestions
  • Donate $35 and up and you can pick a game I play during my marathon
  • Follow me on Facebook or Twitter for updates and details
  • See details below, and help spread the word!

For a few years now, I’ve wanted to participate in Extra Life, and I’ve decided 2017 is go time. If you’re not familiar, Extra Life benefits Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by uniting gamers around the world to play games while raising money to help save sick children at the hospital of their choice. Every year they host a 24 hour fundraising and gaming marathon, and this year it falls on Saturday, November 4th.

I’ll be playing for Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, so your tax-deductible donations (which can be submitted here) will be helping local Chicagoland kids and families who really need it. Lurie is ranked as the top children’s hospital in Illinois, and the money raised through Extra Life will help support critical treatments, healthcare services, pediatric medical equipment and charitable care -- basically it will help them keep doing the amazing job they’ve been doing for Chicagoland families for 130+ years.

I never take on a charitable cause without having a personal reason -- and no, it’s not to have an excuse to play games for 24 hours. I could do that on my own for no reason at all. The gist is that for me, Extra Life is an opportunity to help local families and sick children by supporting Lurie’s efforts. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to have a sick child, but I absolutely know how expensive serious medical care can be and what a burden it is on top of the medical issue itself. If I can raise enough money to help even one family out a little bit, then it’s worth it.

So if you’re able to donate any amount of money to help the hospital, to help local families and their children, it would mean a lot. If you can’t, I know all too well how it is to be broke and unable to donate to a cause. You can still help by spreading the word wherever you can-- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your blog, anything and everything helps.

I’m planning to stream my marathon on Twitch, and if you’re free November 4th you can even play games with me. I will be playing and streaming on my Xbox One -- if you play Xbox too, my gamertag is Rachel Storm. If you want to be sure to play together on November 4th, add me, send me a message, and make sure you’re following me on Facebook or Twitter for updates on what I’m playing when.

Even if you don’t play Xbox, you can still play along! Saturday evening I’ll be playing a trivia game called Trivia Murder Party from Jackbox Party Pack 3, and anyone can play along on their computer, tablet or mobile phone by going to and entering a room code that I’ll release on my Twitch channel as well as on Twitter.

In between the games I stream, I’ll be doing book talks. They will all be relatively new, and I’ll try to cover a variety of genres and formats: thrillers, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, YA, comics, and non-fiction. I’m a librarian, I’m going to play to my strengths.

I will also send personalized book recommendations for anyone who donates $15 or more and emails me the last book they read that they loved and why, and how they want the next book they read to make them feel. Happy? Awed? Creeped out? Surprised? Inspired? Amused? Sad? Get creative.

Anyone who donates $35 or more will have an opportunity to pick a game for me to play. It can be any game I can play on Xbox One that I either already have or can borrow from a library. You can click here to see a list of games I own and click here and here to see games that I can borrow from a library. If you’re not sure about the game, feel free to email or message me before you donate and I’ll check for you. Pick something ridiculous, pick something scary, pick something hard that I’ll suck at, or pick something we can play together. But pick it by October 28th so I can get it in time.

So far, these are the games I am definitely playing that day:

Dragon Age Inquisition Multiplayer
Dead By Daylight
Trivial Pursuit
Rocket League
Layers of Fear
Trivia Murder Party

This could change as we get closer to the date, and I’ll eventually post a schedule on my Extra Life profile as well as here on my blog, so keep an eye out for that if there’s a game you’d really like to watch or play with me.

Phew! If you made it this far, thank you! Now let’s get going and help improve these kids’ lives!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Invasion of the Podcasts: Monsters, Stories, Stories about Monsters

Lately I've been thinking a lot about monsters and stories, and if I have my way I'll have a new blog post soon to show you why. I thought it would be a one shot, but it's turning into a series now. I'm not really sure where it's going yet, but if you like reading things about monsters in stories, especially ones that take place in something called a Dragon Age, then we can pass the time until the next game together.

Until then, let's talk podcasts again. They're (mostly) relevant to what's been on my mind, and very recommended.

No Sleep Podcast - If you love short spooky stories, this is the podcast for you. It has a really great eerie atmosphere, well-written stories, and talented voice actors.

Oh No Ross and Carrie - Ross and Carrie explore fringe science, religion and the paranormal in each episode, and right now they're near the end of their journey through a UFO conference called "Contact in the Desert." The first episode of the series was so funny and interesting that before I knew it, I had downloaded part 2. They're great storytellers, and I have learned about SO MANY new conspiracy theories.

The Twenty Percent True Podcast: Modern Monsters - Carolyn has a great storytelling voice that will suck you into each episode's short story about a modern monster. Fans of fables and fantasy will really enjoy this.