Saturday, February 25, 2017

Review: Wicked Appetite

Why did I pick it up?

It was one of those books I got from the box sale at Book Depot so it came with the 40-odd books I got for $35. I actually picked it up because it had no dust jacket and the hard cover underneath was black with this kind of like red-bronze writing to give it the title and author name. I took a chance.

I didn't recognize the author name and I think if I had I probably might have put it down to wait for the rest of the series to come out. Yes, Book 1 in a series of (hopefully) seven books. Book 3 of this series is coming out next month and this was published in 2010 so it looks like I'm in for a wait. ONWARDS!

Review of Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich:

I'm going to be straight-up (as I am 99.9% of the time): I'm not sure what to think of this book. I started it on May 25th and finished it in a little over two hours. I kid you not. I started at 8:50AM, read while waiting for my doctor and saw him at about 10:55AM then took five or so minutes to finish the last few pages at home.

So why am I not sure what to think of it? Well, the premise is kind of cool. Lizzie finds out her excellent cupcake making ability is magical (no kidding) and she's an Unmentionable who has the power to find these charms to make a Stone. There are seven stones, each taking after a deadly sin and when combined they'll bring hell to earth. For those that don't know the sins are as follows: Gluttony, Lust, Greed, Pride, Sloth, Wrath, and Envy. I remember them because of Fullmetal Alchemist, not the Bible, by the way. *winks*

Anyway, so we meet Lizzie, learn a bit about her past and she goes to work that morning. She has a run in with the bad guy, Wulf, and then meets Diesel the gorgeous hunk of man who is also an Unmentionable on a mission from BUM (I kid you not, that is the acronym of the organization trying to save the world) to gather the stones and keep them from Wulf...who happens to be his cousin.

See the BUM thing? Yeah, that's kind of what this whole book was like.

Diesel's ass tingles when Wulf is near. He can (possibly?) read Lizzie's mind. There is a lot of cupcake eating. A witch in training can't control her spells and leaves someone talking gibberish then gobbling. A fat person is made fun of. The charms make these four relatives who were left the charms from their uncle hoard weird things: 1) Food and over-eating which makes sense with this being the Gluttony stone. 2) Paddles and dog collars: glutton for punishment, okay. 3) Locks, oil, ferrets...uh? 4) Kids. No really. KIDS. The poor girl has six of them because of the charm. Let's not forget the odd monkey who one minute understands you and the next is being a monkey and flipping everything off. And the cat who's apparently decades old and has one eye and half a tail.

Then there's Hatchet who's the ONLY other person in the state who can do the same as Lizzie: determine if the charm is part of the stone. Once all four charms are together they reveal the stone and the stone tablet where the other stones might be hidden. Do Diesel and Lizzie get the stone? Yep. Do they get the tablet? Nope. They let Wulf have it as Diesel's job was the stone only. *facepalm* Really dude? Really?

Oh and did I mention Diesel and Lizzie can't have sex because if they do one of them looses their powers? This is despite their obvious attraction, Diesel's flirting, Lizzie's drooling over him, and everything else throwing them together in a romantic sense. Oh, what are Diesel's powers? He can unlock a door with a touch and sense Wulf. Oh and he has the power to look good naked.

See, the book was a nice, light, and sometimes entertaining read. I felt like Glo (the witch) was just kind of there for comic relief. And Lizzie's dad coming to visit was just an excuse to get Diesel away from Lizzie long enough so she could be kidnapped by Hatchet. And her not making good cupcakes one day wasn't much of a threat of her losing her powers as she could still sense the charms within hours. It was a kind of bleh tension where there was no tension in the book. I'm not even sure what genre this would be classed in.

Would I read Wicked Appetite again?

I don't even know, no seriously, I've no clue. There were some really great bits to it and some genuinely funny moments but it started to dive into the realm of "jeez I hope this thing is classed as satire" a lot more than I liked. Will I be picking up the rest in the series? To be honest? Nope. I didn't connect with any characters and frankly, I don't care if they ever find the other stones or how.

The Negatives:

So this was my first Janet Evanovich book. The people who have read her before say this is a plot rip-off from her Stephanie Plum series and honestly, there are enough people saying it on the first page of reviews I'm going to have to believe them.

Even hours after finishing this I'm not entirely sure what to think. A monkey giving the finger, farting, burping, making messes of nice cars so they're replaced every day, and behaving poorly is just...I mean, was he needed? The book could have survived without the monkey as a side-character. Cat? Yeah, Cat was needed. And can I just say despite how Cat saves Lizzie's life twice she still calls the poor thing Cat 7184 like it was called at the human society? I mean, what the Hell? This cat saved your life, warned you when you were about to be kidnapped, saved your life again and the best you can do is Cat?

The whole Leonard section was creepy and not in a good way. Creepy-sad even. This guy had a good life and because of this charm he collects paddles and rubber chickens saying he's been a "bad boy" (yes with that in mind) and needs to be spanked. His life becomes ruined because of him becoming a glutton for punishment. I'm still not sure what brother #2 (I can't remember his name) gluttonous idea was besides ferrets, oil, and locks but it pretty much screwed his life too. Not to mention the poor Shirley who gained 200 pounds because of becoming a literal glutton. And Melody who had six kids because of being a glutton

Honestly, this concept has a lot of premise. Take out the monkey, the immature jokes (seriously my Mage-teens are more mature than these 20-somethings), and breathe some life into Diesel and Lizzie and you'd have an amazing book. Right now? It falls flat.

Final Review: ?.?/5. I honestly don't even know.

Until next time: comments, questions, thoughts, rants, rage, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Review: The Last Dragonlord Series

Why did I pick it up?

Okay, so this is going to be interesting because the first book for this series came out...oh...13 years ago. Yeah, really. Then the second book came out a year later. The third book? A decade after. Funnier, the third book is hailed to be the sequel to Dragon and Phoenix which is the sequel to Last Dragonlord. Um? What?

Oddness of how Bard's Oath was described as a sequel aside, I picked up the last and final book in this series because my friend mentioned it was on sale at a bookstore we both frequent. I picked up the first and I believe second one in a used bookstore that boasts a million books housed in one area.

I LOVE bookstores like this. You know the ones where you can't walk side by side in a aisle and there's piles of books everywhere and the shelves are double stacked oddly because they're so many books? And you walk in and it just smells so amazingly of old books and reading and love and glory and...sorry.

Back when I couldn't drive (again this series is that old), my friend and I would hop onto the bus on the weekend, head downtown to eat at this Chinese place then go diving into the realm of this used bookstore where I'd come out with a bag of a dozen books or so and she'd come out with one or two. She wouldn't finish her one or two by the time I finished my dozen but I've always been a quick reader with a huge appetite. Teachers would get mad at me for reading in class then be stunned when I gave them the right answer to whatever question they were asking and got some of the highest marks in said class.

This one time, we had a sub for physics and I was reading during the lesson cuz I figured this stuff out already. He asked me a question, I answered, and he stood their drop-jawed for a minute and left me alone. When it came time to do the homework in class, I finished then went back to reading while he just kind of stared. It was good day...ONWARDS!

The Review of The Last Dragonlord series by Joanne Bertin:

So I do have to mention: I LOVE DRAGONS. Anything that has dragon in the title or implies there will be dragons I automatically pick it up and read it. If you get to ever read my fiction, you'll notice in most of it I mention a dragon in some way at some point. So naturally I'd pick up this series. Naturally I'd still be wondering about it during the gap of time that occurred between book 2 and book 3.

The first time I read book one I think I finished it in a few days. Book two was the same. The second time I ploughed through this series I finished it in about a week. I remembered most of what happened in Book One but for some reason, Book two escaped me. I didn't remember what happened at the end but it was obvious I'd been through it as I turn down the top corner of whatever page I'm on if I take a break and there were old marks of turned down pages. I'd also highlighted character names cuz I'm fun like that.

Book three? You could tell the first two books had foreshadowing once you got to the third. The thing with Leet at the Dragonlord's home? Ha, made so much sense now. What I don't get is how long it took them to figure out something bad was going down. I mean really. Leet's whole bearing dictated something was up and it should have been investigated much deeper earlier than it was.

I did get annoyed at the whole thing with Pod and almost skipped her chapters a few times because why should I give a crap about this character who didn't exist before? Give me more Raven, Linden, and Maurynna. And then it made sense. Oooh...okay. Wait. That's a bit...convenient.

I did love the general story. I disliked how long it took everyone to figure out what was going on and how Linden had to prove to people it was all Leek's fault. Um, wait, wait, didn't it mention in the first book a Dragonlord's words are basically law? And here's people going against four of them? EH?

And how Leet meets his demise. Really? We're going to go there with him not suffering at all? Raven's whole being pissed at Linden thing is annoying as all Hell (Book 2). She's claimed you idiot! By powers you cannot hope to overcome! AT ALL! I think this carried over into Book 3 a bit but I can't remember, being totally honest. It was a few months ago I burned through the series again and...yeah.

Despite the few annoyances: this is another one of those series that will stick with me for a long while. Why? Weredragons. Yes. Linden, Maurynna, and all the other Dragonlords were awesome. I could've done without Raven to be honest. Otter was amazing. Let me be real here, I might have been able to do without the last book.

Oh and that hit at the end where Linden figures out he messed things up cuz of mind-hitting up Otter? Why? Why did that need to be like that? Couldn't it have been random mermaids and we leave it at that?

And in book two we totally leave behind the whole Phoenix line with no indication of what's happening in that area of the world. Um, crazy woman with an heir to the Phoenix throne left out there with no indication of where she is? Yeah, what? You think she's not going to try and find someone to reseal the new Phoenix and re-claim the lost throne? Come now.

Would I read The Last Dragonlord Series again?

Yes. Over a week. Again. As much as a few points and dropped balls in this series left me annoyed I really did love it.

The Negatives:

Aforementioned dropped balls. The whole Phoenix flying off thing and no mention of that area of the world at all in Book Three. The whole everyone being "Well if we missed Maurynna and Sha, who else did we miss?" was SO IMPORTANT...and dropped. No investigation into other non-seen dragonlords. No one even talking about the fact they thought Linden was the last then came two more out of the blue. No backstory with Otter/Leet/Jaida.

Linden didn't struggle with Rathan, didn't dodge Shan and didn't even mention his sword. The entire focus was on Leet and his whole desire to get revenge on a backstory we've known nothing about. I waited a decade for that? A DECADE AND NO NEW DRAGONLORD? Urg.

And a final thought: Is the green dragon on all three covers meant to be Maurynna? Cuz if so that's totally not what I picture her to look like. Really, shouldn't it be a red dragon (Linden) on the first cover or the peacock blue of Mauryanna, a black on the second (Sha) and the third either Linden or Maurynna (whoever wasn't on the first)? I mean, who is the green dragon? No one was even mentioned being green...

Final rating: 3/5, mainly because of book 3. Books 1 and 2 were great, awesome and amazing. Book 3 took a totally different turn and bleh.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, questions, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Writing Tip #20: Writing Believable Characters

Ever heard the phrase "Mary Sue," or it's male counter-part Gary Stu? No? Lucky you and I hope you never have to hear it directed to you. Enough with the weird rhyming, let's get to business.

A Mary Sue or Gary Stu is a character who is so perfect in their "originality" that they are completely unbelievable. They're super-talented in a variety of ways, gorgeous beyond words, kind, and with a tragic backstory they overcome, and every other character either loves them or wants to be them. They succeed at everything and get everything they want with little to no effort. They're also completely un-relatable to the reader, boring, and usually make my eyes roll out of my head.

Why is it important to know about them? Because you don't want to end up writing one. If you do then your readers plain and simply won't be invested in the story. How can you when your main character is so perfect you can't relate to their so-called problems?

As the writer, it's difficult to figure out if you've got a Sue/Stu on your hands. You have to take a step back and view all your characters as if you're not the one who wrote them which can be hard at best, insane at worst. What can help is making a brief list of your character's strengths, weaknesses, physical attributes, and personality.

If you're finding you've got way too many strengths compared to weaknesses or flaws then you're encroaching onto Sue/Stu territory. If everyone loves your character and thinks they're beautiful then you're starting to cross the line.

So, how to do you create a believable character?

Make them human. Every character should have flaws. They don't have to be obvious like a scar or missing limb and really, sometimes those aren't flaws depending on the situation. Mind you, personality flaws can be strengths depending on the situation as well. Let me break it down with an example (and a wee bit of "self-promotion"):

The character: Bane Grimgold from Avalora

His strengths: self-confidence, an uncanny ability to remember most of what he reads which enables him to make complex potions without needing to look in a book, Julliard level violin player, the ability to know pretty much everything when it comes to potions and Herbs, his general genius when it comes to language, history, and anything related to being a Dark Mage which he is. His ability to portal long distances and his wicked aim. He's an excellent cook and can clean.

His weaknesses: he has no sense of direction, he can't remember dates like birthdays or other significant events in his life which is why he gets a new ear-piercing for every important memory, unlike a normal Mage he can't do the basic spells everyone knows, he can't levitate his body or summon object to him which all Mages can do, and he's physically not powerful. He loses his self-confidence and "swagger" when he experiences strong emotions like confusion and depression. He also has a tendency to push people away when he's upset about something. He's lazy.

His strengths that can be weaknesses: he's stubborn to the point of being annoying occasionally, he's super-observant which means he can tell what's wrong with his close friends quickly which can bug the Hell out of them and make people unable to keep a secret around him, his motivation depends on the situation which hinders and helps the people around him, he hates certain aspects about his magic which to some people these aspects are a good concept, he has no internal sensor which is great most of the time but he has a lot of "foot in mouth" moments. He does have to be prodded to do any cleaning which means his room is normally a disaster zone.

Physical traits: he's over six feet tall and slender to the point he's too skinny. He's got dark hair which is perpetually messy, dark brown eyes, and pale skin. He has high cheek bones, a strong jaw line, and a long, thin nose. He also wears black all the time, normally lines his eyes, and has a ring on every finger.

All the above makes him seem more real, like you could walk into him on the street...I hope. Ha. Anyway, you probably noticed Bane has a lot of viable weaknesses, real concepts part of his personality he probably won't ever grow out of or change much. Sure he can play the violin and make any potion he wants but when it comes to magic everyone else can do he fails. He doesn't even have the ability to control an element which all Mages have at least one.

He'll always be the kind of person to go hide and shut others out when he's upset. He's not one to talk about his feelings or talk out a situation which has made him depressed or annoyed. In general, he's not good when it comes to talking about his emotions. All of this takes him out of the Sue/Stu category which means he can be related to by someone out there.

Does he have a tragic backstory? Sure. His dad died in a cave-in when he was fourteen and he's a half-Mage which means some people in the Mage community and the non-Mage community will never accept him and always hate him. He never made any friends until going to Avalora because all his school mates were non-Mages and the few Mages didn't want to associate with him because he had the potential to the Grim.

Is he a complex character? Yes. Which is what you want, especially when it comes to main characters. Minor characters don't have to be as complicated but it completely depends on their roles. The waitress we see for one or two scenes: we don't need something as complicated as above. We might not even need her name.

But, if you've got a main character then they need to be human, or at least come across as human. They need real feelings, opinions, flaws or weaknesses, strengths, and a personality. It'll make your story more believable and your readers will get attached.

Remember, if you fill out a similar chart and you notice you've got way more positive then negatives, you have to take a good look at that character to make sure they're not treading into Sue/Stu territory. That would be bad.

Until next time, you know what to do.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Review: Fat Vampire

Why did I pick it up?

The first reason is it was another one of those books that came from the $35/box of books sale at the Book Depot where I got around 45-50 books for $35. The second reason? I devour anything having to do with vampires. Yes, I even read Twilight. The first book of the series anyway. Third reason? Awesome cover.

The Review of Fat Vampire by Adam Rex:

The books starts with Doug: chunky, nerdy, and insecure at a Com-con with his best friend. Oh and Doug's a vampire. A fat vampire who's not sexy, or savvy, or dark, or handsome or any adjective having to do with the traditional vampire. In fact, Doug regularly has to feast on cows or resort to stealing blood from the local blood bank van at said Com-con.

Doug has to walk around in a poncho and despite his (accidental) vampire status he does not become the new cool kid or get any kind of powers to make up for his, well, fatness. His words, not mine. I'm okay with extra body fat.

Anyway, around half-way or so the hilarious one-liners and general funniness kind of dives. Doug suddenly decides he's going to ditch his best friend and basically hypnotize one of the theater girls into being his blood-slave/girlfriend. Mind you this change does come about when he's rejected by the new exchange student, an Indian girl named Sejal.

Sejal's backstory becomes way more interesting than Doug's entire situation and Doug kind of gets tossed into the background despite being the entire reason the books come about. There's some odd mention about a vampire hunter's TV show where Doug is being chased down as a prime suspect, and there's a play all the kids at school are part of. There's also the fact the whole reason Sejal transferred is because she became addicted to her computer and her parents sent her overseas for a kind of rehab.

The mystery of how Doug became a vampire (along with a few of the football players at his school apparently) isn't so much of a mystery in the end. It's a bit insulting the gay vampire was the one who wanted to turn a whole hoard of high school kids so one of them would kill him. Worse yet all the kids (the football players, NOT Doug) he turned were so insecure about a male turning them they made up some story about a hot chick.

The motives were kind of...bleh. Now, if it was left as a kind of coming-of-age story of how nerdy, chunky, forever-15 Doug learns how to deal with being a vampire, it would have been cool. But no, it kind of drifts off into some odd there-MUST-be-a-villain plot that leaves the reader thinking "Huh?"

I do have to say the cover art was good and it's one of the other reasons I picked it up, besides it being about a vampire and being a book I could get for $0.50.

Now, if we take the book as being a satirical piece of fiction: it succeeds. I'm not sure if it was meant to be satire though but we'll pretend.

Would I read it again?

Probably not because of the ending.

The Negatives:

THAT ENDING! WHAT THE BLOODY HELL?! URG. Doug doesn't get to see any redemption and the reader is left with a literal list when the author breaks the fourth wall (to an extent) and describes possible endings for Doug. WHAT? NO! I don't want possible endings! DID HE DIE OR NOT? Jeez. This is the first time in a long while I've wanted to toss a book across the room in frustration.

Final review: 1/5 all because of the freaking ending and Doug's downhill transformation. Even if meant to be satirical that ending was so disappointing. If the ending had been different and the book stuck with the themes in the first half this would have been a 5-star review.

Until next time: comments, rants, rage and questions cane be directed to the comments.