Book Review: Fierce and Delicate by Renée K. Nicholson


Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I'll start by saying that the moment I heard this book was coming out, I knew I had to read it. I, myself, was a ballet student when I was young, and the experience shaped my whole life, even though I had to quit at a young age. I still have pretty much the entire Nutcracker Ballet memorized. When I was in ballet it was my whole world. Like the author of this memoir, I had to leave ballet (and gymnastics, which I also loved) due to my progressing chronic illness, though in my case my illness was life-long and I had to quit while I was still a kid.

Reading the early chapters on Nicholson's early experiences in ballet felt like someone writing about my own life. And then reading about her early struggles with learning that she had arthritis and trying to cope with it... well, my experience was a little different because I always knew I was sick, but it was still extremely identifiable to me.

In later chapters she discusses her experiences in academia, as a dance teacher and as a writer. Once again, I can identify. I don't know enough about dance to teach it, but I have worked in academia most of my adult life.

Basically, I feel that I have such a close personal connection to the experiences shared in this book that it is impossible for me to look at the book objectively like some other reviewers have done. And that's okay because I feel like I might be the one person in the world for whom this book was written.

So if you, too, have personal experiences with ballet or with quitting your passion due to disability, this book may be just right for you. I enjoyed it and found it very readable, though as I said, I was eager to read it because it felt almost like I was reading my own life story.

There are a few trigger/content warnings: as this book is about ballet, there is some mention of disordered eating. There is also some description of medical procedures, surgeries, etc. and there's a bit of ableism (I felt like the author was going through some soul searching and internalized ableism). There's also a chapter where she mentions visiting Russia and talking to Romani people, but she uses the common slur used to describe them.

This review can also be found on Goodreads.

Final Fantasy: Hamlet

Recently, I finally got around to playing Final Fantasy XV. After about 100 hours of play (not having yet beat the game) it has dawned on me that Final Fantasy XV is a direct retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Okay, so I've been making jokes about similarities between FFXV and Hamlet (and, more specifically, The Lion King) the whole time I've been playing, but I was slow to realize that this was intentional on the part of the game's writers. I've got to say, I'm a little upset that no one pointed this out to me in the four and a half years that I put off playing this game. Anyway, once I actually finish the game I will write my full thoughts on it and its correlation to Hamlet. But without further ado, here is a fun little cast listing for Final Fantasy: Hamlet.

Final Fantasy: Hamlet


HAMLET, son to the late King

Screenshot of Noctis from Final Fantasy XV sitting on a rock, posing for the camera.


Screenshot of Promoto, Gladiolus, and Ignis posing for the camera, with Noctis hidden behind them.

OPHELIA, betrothed to Hamlet

Screenshot of Lunafreya from Final Fantasy XV, appearing to sink into water

LAERTES, brother to Ophelia

Screenshot of Ravus Nox Fleuret from Final Fantasy XV

SCAR CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark

Screenshot of Ardyn from Final Fantasy XV.

Ghost of Hamlet's Father

Screenshot from Final Fantasy: Kingsglaive of King Regis

Understudy for the part of HAMLET

Concept art of Richard from Tales of Graces.

(I had to include Richard from Tales of Graces in this because he bears more than a passing resemblance to the Prince of Denmark, and also Howl from Howl's Moving Castle. I've always intended to write a little something about him but never got around to doing so.)


My favorite podcasts about Literature and Gaming (Right Now)

The end of the year has arrived, and with it lots of automated lists from corporations that keep information on their customers (like Spotify and Playstation). I was already thinking about promoting (for free) my favorite podcasts, but seeing the stats that Spotify showed me has solidified this -- I listened to a LOT of podcasts this year and I need to share! These will be in no particular order, though I will add an "honorable mention" list at the end for podcasts I only listened to in part.

First, here are some of the stats that Spotify showed me in their "2020 Wrapped" yearly round-up: I spent 3,878 minutes listening to podcasts this year (is that a lot or a little?) and my top genres were Arts, Leisure, and Society & Culture. Hmm. Now for the actual podcast recommendations:

1) What's Good Games

What's Good Games Logo

What's Good Games is, in my opinion, the most fun and entertaining podcast for learning the latest video game news and for hearing the thoughts of its colorful hosts: Andrea Rene, Brittney Brombacher and Kristine Steimer (along with assorted guests). (Visit their website here.) Listening to the podcast almost feels like chatting with a group of friends about the latest games coming out.

2) Reading Women

One of my more recent discoveries is Reading Women, a podcast where women read books about women. Okay, it's a little more than that... According to their about section on Spotify, "Each month [Reading Women] features two episodes on the same theme—one highlighting a range of titles and one discussing two titles more in depth—and two author interviews with women writers whose work we’ve loved." One of my favorite aspects of the show is that they often focus on disability issues on the podcast and invite disabled authors to speak. It's still rare to see disability discussed so frankly (though I will add that several other podcasts on my list have also been very good about discussing disability issues) so I am elated when I find a book or video game related podcast that discusses disability (as you may know, I myself am multiply disabled). Visit their website here

3) Our Opinions are Correct

Logo for Our Opinions are Correct

Our Opinions are Correct may sound like a really judgy title for a podcast, but it's actually a very fun show about science fiction literature whose title pokes a bit of fun at the occasional seriousness of geek culture. If you're a fan of authors Charlie Jane Anders and/or Annalee Newitz, you've gotta check this show out as they're the hosts! They also don't only talk about books -- video games and other media often feature prominently in the discussions.

4) FBoL
Logo that says: FBoL, and underneath it says F Bois of Literature

"FBoL" stands for something a little less family friendly... but you can infer what it means from the writing on the above image. While the language in this show may not be appropriate for all ages (which could be the case with any podcast made for an adult audience), make no mistake: this is an educational show. But who said "educational" couldn't also be fun? This podcast takes a comedic look at the awful men (and sometimes other genders) who have infiltrated so-called "great literature" of the past and present. Listening to this show feels like having a casual literary discussion with well-read friends.

Honorable Mention:
The shows listed below are ones I have enjoyed, but I may not have listened to enough episodes at the time of writing this post to express a well-researched opinion.

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Giveaway: Mass Effect Revelation for Sci-Fi Month and N7 Day on Video Games as Literature!

 Welcome once again to #SciFiMonth, hosted this year by Lisa at Dear Geek Place and Imyril at! This is my introduction post AND announcement of a Video Games as Literature special giveaway!

Sci-Fi Month 2020: If you want to resist, you have to rebel

I have a lot on my plate this month, so once again I don't know how often I will be able to post for #SciFiMonth, but as usual I am here to celebrate N7 Day and one of the greatest Sci-Fi franchises of all time: Mass Effect! I've tried to do something related to Mass Effect every year in November, as you can see here and here. This year, I have a giveaway! Without further ado, here are the details:

I am giving away one (1) pre-owned copy of Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Kerpyshyn, the first book in the Mass Effect book series! I felt that giving away a book based on a video game would fit the theme of my blog, Video Games as Literature, quite nicely. This book was purchased at a local used bookstore (please help small businesses like used bookstores stay open, everyone!), so it it NOT in perfect new condition. It has some shelf wear and a few cracks in the spine. Please take a look at the picture below, and keep scrolling to find out how to enter the giveaway!

This is a giveaway for one pre-owned paperback book, Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Kerpyshyn. The giveaway is for US residents only (I can't go into the Post Office to mail an international package due to the pandemic -- I'm sorry!). The giveaway starts TODAY, November 5, 2020, and ends on #N7Day -- November 7, 2020 at the end of the day (11:59pm EST). I will not publically announce the winner, but I will contact the winner after a winner is chosen at random. To enter, please do at least one of the following:

  • Comment on this blog post. Please include contact information such as a Twitter or Instagram handle! Also make sure you have messaging turned on if you give me a social media contact.
  • On Twitter, RETWEET my post (@videogamesaslit) about the giveaway AND comment on the tweet.
  • On Instagram, SHARE my post (@videogamesaslit) about the giveaway to your stories AND comment on it! (Make sure you tag me when you share to your stories so I can see it!)
To recieve multiple entries into the contest, you may do all three of the above! Good luck everyone, and keelah se'lai!

Tracking Down That Mysterious Jungle Bird Sound Clip

 In the mid-90s, when I was about 9 years old, my favorite game in the whole world was The Amazon Trail. In fact, I've mentioned it before on this blog. In playing The Amazon Trail, I began to notice a distinct pattern -- there was a specific bird call that would repeat over and over in the game. This bird call entered my head almost a quarter of a century ago and never left. I soon began to hear the bird call in other games and in other forms of media. If a jungle or rainforest was depicted, that bird would be there -- even if the supposed location of the story was set far from the Amazon in Borneo or Australia. This bothered me -- it felt like many lazy game and film producers had looked up "jungle bird sound" and just inserted whatever noise they found, without researching the actual bird. This quandary, along with the sound itself, continued to plague me over the years but I only researched the bird minimally. I did, in fact, find a free sound clip that contained that exact bird call at one point -- it was titled something like "rainforest bird," but there was no reference to what exact species of bird was making the noise. Finally, recently, I decided that enough was enough. I would do whatever hefty research was necessary until I found the exact species of bird that made the sound and determined its habitat. After maybe about 45 minutes, I found it thanks to the wonders of YouTube. Here is a video I found:

The result was a little anti-climactic -- the species is called the "Screaming Piha" (a.k.a. Lipaugus vociferans) and it does, in fact, live only in South America -- it is not found naturally on any other continent, according to Wikipedia. It's a sort of boring looking brown bird, and is extremely common in rainforest regions of South America, such that it is even regularly found in parks and other human areas. Wikipedia also says, "The sound is frequently used in movies as a sound typical of the Amazon rainforest." Hmm. See the photo below:

A brown bird sitting on a tree branch.

I wish I had compiled a list over the years of all the games I found this bird sound in, but alas I had other things on my mind at the time, I guess. If I remember or encounter any of these games in the future, I may add a list to the bottom of this article. In the meantime, here is an example of the Screaming Piha found in the game Horizon: Zero Dawn, where it apparently expanded its range up into North America (the game is set in the distant future so this is actually not an impossible notion, considering many animals are currently changing their habitats due to climate change and population overcrowding).

Other Sources:
Birds of the World: