Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride Collector's Edition (2014 - PC)
If you can tolerate the fact that this game is a bit on the "girly" side (there's literally a part where you have to put on makeup and make a wedding dress), then Grim Legends is a joy for any Hidden Object Game fan, and especially if you also love cats. HOG's often have little "helper" characters, and your helper here is an orange tabby kitten. I've heard that the game's developer, Artifex Mundi, specifically targets women with their games, and that certainly got my attention.
It's also easily one of the best HOG's I've ever played, with a gorgeous art style, mildly challenging puzzles, and a story that may not exactly win any awards, but is at least interesting for a casual game. It involves a mysterious bear that kidnaps the protagonist's sister on her wedding day, and the tried and true plot device of "not everything is as it seems". The game is also a decent length for a HOG, including a bonus chapter on the Collector's Edition, as it took me several nights to complete it, and then a little longer to get the remaining achievements.
There are two types of people I can recommend this game to: Those who love HOG's, and those who are curious about them and want an example of the best to start with.
Haunted Past: Realm of Ghosts (2012 - PC)
This is not a bad Hidden Object Game, it's just really, really short. I played and finished this game on a night when we were having a problem with flooding in our basement from several days of torrential downpours. The fact that I finished it with minimal effort while working playtime around bailing out my basement and cleaning up the aftermath should give an idea of how short it is.
I didn't pay a lot of attention to the story. Something about the main character moving into a haunted house and having to do something to get rid of the ghost, and there's a guy that looks exactly like Jeff Goldblum trapped in there for some reason.
I liked what puzzle-solving and hidden object-searching that was there and the artwork is nice, but there just needed to be more to make this a worthy recommendation, unless you don't pay too much for it.
Midnight Mysteries: Haunted Houdini Collector's Edition (2012 - PC)
About as good as the second and third games in the Midnight Mysteries series, if you liked those, this is more of the same. Still dumbfounds me how much they get away with rewriting history on these things, but oh well. This one deals with the famous escape artist, Harry Houdini, whose death has spurred enough controversy for there to be a Snopes page about it, and it is the first game in the series to feature a ghost that's not an author.
While it's hard to argue that the Midnight Mysteries games aren't top-of-the-line as far as Hidden Object Games go, if you've played the previous three you might start to feel like they're getting somewhat routine at this point. Still, not a bad choice if you love this genre, and you probably already own it if you got it in a bundle with the other three like I did.
Catching Fire: The Second Book of the Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins; Reader: Carolyn McCormick
(Audiobook & Original Book - 2009)
While I enjoyed much of the first Hunger Games book, I felt like most of this sequel could be summed up as, "The future is horrible, the future is still horrible, the future is really, really horrible...Hey, let's just have Katniss and Peeta do the Hunger Games again!" It gets more interesting once they're actually in the arena, but the first 2/3 is waiting for it to get there and the cartoony, over-the-top descriptions of the President weren't helping any. I guess I should have expected to feel that way since I felt the first book was over once the Hunger Games were over, and the stuff that came after kind of dragged.
Out of the Silent Planet
Author: C.S. Lewis; Reader: Geoffrey Howard
(Audiobook - 2000; Original Book - 1938)
Warning: I'm going to spoil the ending of this book because there's no other way to illustrate how dumb this is. These people are in a spaceship heading for Earth. They are running out of oxygen and there is no way they can possibly make it back in time because the moon is in the way. How will they survive? The main character falls asleep, and when he wakes up, he's safely on Earth. No explanation or anything.
That's sort of what the rest of the book is like, too. Scientists find a way to go to Mars, they take this random guy with them for unclear reasons, and that guy (the main character) ends up in a plot like Avatar or Ferngully (maybe this is what inspired that genre?), where he becomes a part of the planet's native sentient otter-like inhabitants' society. The scientists are ultimately buffoons who want to exploit the planet, and there's a muddy and confusing moral that the reason they're corrupt is because Earth's god is a corrupt god who was exiled from Mars. My question is that if people need to follow a god to be good, then what choice do they have if their god is corrupt? It seems rather unintuitive to me.
The only really good thing about this book were the descriptions of the Martian environments, even though much like Journey to the Center of the Earth, they're nowhere close to reality.