Author Archives: roux1000

Southern Vampire Mysteries – Fall From Grace

Southern Vampire Mysteries – Fall From Grace

So, with the final Southern Vampire Mysteries (SVM) book out – Dead Ever After – I’ve taken the time to write about the series I had once been so passionate about.

As you may have guessed by the title, my love affair with the series is coming to an end.  The haze is wearing off and I must admit I’m slightly embarrassed to have been such a big fan.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll admit there has been some good; there were some intriguing ideas, I’m still fond of some of the characters (to a degree), and because I wrote fanfiction for the fandom it has awoken my passion and love for writing/story-telling to the point where I’m pursuing my own original goals.  I’ve also met some great people in the fandom too.

In this piece I want to look back on what started my, dare to say it, obsession for the series, to where I stand now with it.  I feel that my disappointment with the series is reciprocated by other fans and I intend to share my ideas as to why this has come about when it was once so cherished.

Let’s go back to the beginning.  I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a fan of the supernatural, I don’t believe in any of it, but I’ve always found it fascinating and a good form of fiction.  I find the origins and histories of such myths and legends interesting, and learning why we once would have believed such fantastical things as fact.  One of my all time favourites is the vampire, yes, I’m a sucker for the blood sucker.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is one of my favourite books, along with the vampire genre its self.  In fact, in recent times, it has seen a huge revival in popularity.  Unfortunately, the vampire genre is also filled with a hell of a lot drivel, which has lead to ridicule of such works, and the fans.

When I first discovered True Blood, it was at a time when I was becoming jaded with vampire stories thanks to the likes of Twilight.  I saw an advert for season one of True Blood and I’ll admit, I wasn’t overly impressed, the main reason being I didn’t like the placement of the fangs on the vampires.  However, my curiosity to see what it would be like got the better of me.  I wasn’t hooked straight away, it took a few episodes for that to happen, but even after seeing the first episode it felt like we had some fresh and interesting ideas in a genre which was becoming stale and predictable.

I became hooked on True Blood and when season one finished I couldn’t wait for season two.  After watching the first season I soon learned it was based on the SVM book series, so to feed my hunger until season two of True Blood I brought the boxset of SVM books 1-8 and started reading.

What I liked about SVM/True Blood is that it wasn’t your typical vampire story.  It wasn’t a groan inducing love story which has been embarrassing the genre.  Even though there was romance in the stories, there was more substance to the plot than just a silly heroine being giddy about her vampire paramour.  For instance:

·        The books had a mystery/who done it element to their plots as you read along to find out who the culprit was.

·        The vampires weren’t your stereotypical vampire.  They actually had some interesting personalities, other than brooding about their eternal predicament.

·        (Though not an original idea) We had vampires publicly acknowledge by human society.  This was interesting as we saw a believable and intriguing way the human race could react if vampires were real.  We had hate groups and crimes against the vampires, saw how vampires functioned in human society, saw the effects of vampire blood as a narcotic, and witnessed human fans of vampires and all their wackiness – I also liked it when this was made fun of in the stories.

·        We had the political schemes of the vampires and werewolves.

·        The possibility of exploring telepathy.

·        And finally, we had a female lead character who was likeable, interesting, and seemed to have at least half of a brain.

This series showed so much potential; there were some good ideas I was eager to explore, the first book and first two seasons of the TV show were good, and had one of the best vampire characters to ever be created – Eric Northman.  Yes, I’m an Eric fan, he’s fucking brilliant (and probably why I held out for so long in the series even when it had became so bad, Eric was that fucking good).

I think this is why I’m so disheartened.  The books and TV shows had great foundations to build some really interesting and good stories, however, it became inundated with so many bad ideas; I like to call it: the Rot.  It’s like Charlaine Harris (Author) and Alan Ball (TV producer) became giddily excited and got carried away with themselves, and had no one to tell them “don’t do that, it’s a really lame idea.”

In the books I first noticed the Rot in book two; yes, that early in the series.  Book one was a good opener for the series, though not great, it was a good read (best book of the whole series in my opinion) and set the foundations for a series that promised to be rather interesting.  When book two starts we learn that Lafayette has been killed, and on a trip to Fangtasia Sookie Stackhouse is attacked by a Maenad who is hinted at as being quite troublesome.  Then what happens after Eric brings in Dr. Ludwig to save Sookie’s life after her attack, Sookie is indebted to Eric and to repay him she must visit Dallas and use her telepathy to help find a missing vampire, completely dropping the main plot of the story – who killed Lafayette & what the hell is this Maenad gonna get up to and how do we stop it.  We have no mention of the Maenad or Lafayette’s murder until the end of the book when Charlaine Harris seems to remember she left two massive ends untied and quickly tied them up in the most ludicrous of ways.

But the sloppy ending is okay because Sookie and Eric went to a sex party and Eric wore pink spandex *gush gush* – No it’s not Ms. Harris, and don’t think I didn’t notice what you did.

I wouldn’t have minded this change in direction to the story if it wasn’t so abysmally bad!  Right from the beginning we knew the Fellowship of the Sun were the culprits who kidnapped the vampire in Dallas.  Then there was the plan to rescue the missing vampire, which was so stupid you were shocked by the fact the main characters even went along with it and were then surprised it went horribly wrong.  Then we have the moving scene where Sookie has great compassion and sympathy for one of the vampires involved in the kidnapping because he wishes to ‘meet the sun’ (kill himself) all because he is a paedophile.  Yes, I shall repeat it: Sookie has compassion for a paedophile vampire because he suffers with his paedophilia.  I hope I don’t have to explain why this was so, so, so infuriatingly bad.  I was actually offended by this.

Then we have book three, where the main plot consisted of Bill being kidnapped; who took Bill?  Why they took Bill?  And how they took Bill?  Unfortunately, these three questions were answered very early on in the book, despite this, we still had a majority of chapters dedicated to investigating Bill’s disappearance even though we knew who, what, why, and where.  The book dragged out to another stupidly concocted plan to rescue Bill which also ends up going horrible wrong…again.

These dodgy plots continue throughout the book series, and even though there are moments of goodness, these are greatly over shadowed by all the badness in the books.  But why is that?  Well, here is what I think.

Charlaine Harris cannot write mystery.  It’s not a good mystery book if I’ve figured out who done it by chapter three, or completely blindsided with a revelation of who done it all because Charlaine Harris had failed to write anything about the supposed mystery for the past 20+ chapters, making the reader completely forget there had ever been a murder to begin with.

Charlaine Harris also loves her bad ideas.  The books are filled with them, that it makes them cringe inducing to read.  Instead of being interested, the reader spends more time thinking what Charlaine must have been smoking to come up with this shit.

Charlaine Harris is also very good at writing uninteresting characters.  I can only think of five, out of all the books, who intrigued me and that I even liked.  Two of which, are dead – and I mean properly dead, as in the kind that stay dead.

Another problem, in virtually all of the books, there are massive continuity errors.  I often found myself backtracking in the books looking for missing paragraphs, or checking something out which didn’t match with what was previously written.  It made you wonder if Charlaine Harris was working with an editor, and if so, what they were doing because they clearly weren’t doing their job to allow such sloppy work going to print.

Charlaine Harris is also guilty of hyping up ideas in her books, only to suddenly drop them.

One example of a hyped up idea is the fairies – even though I hated the idea – it promised some interesting politics and a big bad ass fight.  What we got was an anticlimactic fight, and the door closed on all the fairy politics when Sookie’s super-duper great grandfather, prince of the fairies, closed the portal between the two worlds.  So what was the point of building this fairy plot if you’re not even going to use it?  Personally I was quite glad of this, the fairy plot was corny at best, and none of the fairy characters were likeable.  However, Charlaine does seem to like building an idea, making it look like it is going to be quite big and important, only to suddenly drop it for no good or logical reason as she goes off with some other lame idea.

Another example of this is Quinn and Sookie’s budding romantic relationship.  As it looked like Sookie was going to date a were-tiger, this was quickly put to an end to by a very selfish and out of character Sookie.  During book seven Quinn and Sookie both have the hots for each other like mad and both would like a relationship with each other, even though Quinn has a tragic past with his mentally ill mother and his sister, Sookie is fine with this emotional baggage and looks forward to her potential future with Quinn.  In book eight, Sookie’s home is surrounded by Las Vegas vamps demanding to speak with Sookie, it becomes apparent that Quinn had something to do with this, but he was forced into helping them because they had his mother.  Further proof of Quinn’s reluctance to help the Las Vegas vampires was the fact he sent his sister to try and warn Sookie.  Despite knowing all of this, Sookie breaks up with Quinn as he was never going to choose her first (because we all know Quinn was supposed to let his mother and sister be killed…right?).  Yes, the woman who showed compassion for a paedophile vampire (she’s that nice), and was very understanding to Quinn’s plight in the previous book, does a complete u-turn in her character and dumps the guy because she won’t continuously be centre of attention.

The only reason I could think of why Charlaine did this, was at the time the series was only going to consist of ten books, and throughout the series we had the growing romance of Sookie and Eric.  I’m guessing Charlaine realised she got carried away with herself buy starting a new romance with Quinn and she wouldn’t have time to have Sookie and Eric finally get together, so she hastily, and badly, ended it.  Personally, if I had written such as scene, I would of had Sookie end things with Quinn because she realised the complexities Quinn brings is just going to get her in more supernatural trouble than she’s already in, and even though she really likes him, it’s best to end things now before they get too close and wish him well.  At least it would have been in character and made more sense than Sookie acting like a selfish brat throwing a temper tantrum.

Another let down, was Sookie’s telepathic ability.  I was really interested in seeing this grow, and it was even mentioned in earlier books that Sookie’s first vampire boyfriend – Bill – was helping her to achieve this.  Yet all Sookie ever manages to do is conveniently eavesdrop on people’s thoughts when the conditions are right.  Damn, Sookie a crap telepath.  Not only that, we never explore much in the idea of psychology other than, people are fake.  Really, I never would have guessed.  A word of advice Ms. Harris, if a topic is beyond your understanding, don’t write about it.

With all these faults (there are many more which haven’t been mentioned), I wonder how this series has been so successful in gaining a huge following and spawning a TV show.  And then it dawned on me, Sookie and Eric’s relationship.  People wanted to see what would happen with these two, and were hoping to get a happily ever after ending for the pair.  Not all of the fans wanted this, but I would say a majority did, after all, it was the only saving grace of the books.  It did also plummet SVM into the same generic vampire romance which is dogging the vampire genre, but what the hell, Eric is pretty cool.

Sookie and Eric were the golden couple.  People wanted to see this.  Visit the fandom and you will find a majority of fanfictions/fanart dedicated to this pair.  And to be honest with you, even I wanted to see this pair succeed, and I’m downright cynical when I want to be.  The couple were a good pairing, and over the course of the books we had been reading about their relationship steadily growing stronger despite all the odds.  So, in the final book, who does Sookie end up with?  That’s right…Sam Merlotte.  What?!?!?!

Now I understand this wouldn’t have been a popular decision, especially with diehard Sookie & Eric fans, but the problem isn’t the fact Sookie and Eric didn’t make it in the end.  Now I have no problem with characters being killed off, or couples not working out, as long as it makes sense in regards to character and plot development; I may not always like the decision, but as long as it’s logical, fine.  The problem with Sookie and Eric failing at the end is not because our golden couple are no longer together, it’s because characters we have been reading about for 13 books were suddenly acting very out of character and for no reasonable conclusion as to why.  People’s expectations had been gradually built up over a prolonged period of time, and now they were no longer going to get the hoped for pay off in the end, and nor were they getting a damn good reason as to why.

I suppose you could say we’re ‘nit-picking’ and that ‘anything is possible in fiction’.  What I like to say is: ‘anything is possible in bad fiction’.  The problem in writing stories with illogical plot holes in them is we’re going to notice this, and we’re going to scrutinise and comment on it.  Charlaine Harris has ended her series on an anticlimactic bum note, for what seems to be for the sake of ending it, and she has metaphorically slapped her fans in the face and kicked them where it hurt; all for no good reason.  People have paid good money for these books, and spent their time reading them, only to have a dissatisfying ending.

Part of the reason why I think things got so bad at the end, is because Charlaine Harris signed on to do an extra four books to what was originally meant to be ten books – I’m guessing the publishing house, and maybe Charlaine, wanted to milk the series for as much money as possible.  The problem I find when a series goes on for too long, is towards the end ideas begin to get stale, characters get stuck in a rut, and things end on a mediocre note.  People were starting to notice Charlaine had lost some of her enthusiasm for the series, and from book eleven, people were starting to complain about the actions of the characters.

Charlaine spoke in her defence in regards to the complaints people had about the direction beloved characters were now taking.  Charlaine Harris made the point they were her characters, and as she created them she understood them better than anyone, and would write them how she wanted to.  I don’t dispute this Charlaine, you should be able to write the story and characters how you intended them to be, and yes, you do know them better than anyone else, hell, you know things about them we fans can only dream of knowing.  Just next time you write a book series, please make it clear to the reader your characters have a multiple personality disorder, and will suddenly act very differently to how they have been portrayed to over a number of books for no understandable reason why.

In regards to Sookie finally ending up with Sam, Charlaine likes to point out we should have seen the signs.  What signs?  In absolutely no romantic interest in each other what-so-ever, the constant reminder they were friends?  Oh, you mean the one and only kiss they shared in book one, and you stating you regretted writing the blood bond between Eric and Sookie?  Charlaine has also said recently, this was how she originally intended for the books to end.  Okay, so why deviate away from your original plan of Sookie and Sam so far, to the point of no return, by force feeding us the golden couple, Sookie & Eric?

Charlaine has also recently said in an interview she intended to kill off Bill Compton, but under suggestion of the publishing house, because of the recently coming TV adaption, it would be detrimental to the franchise to kill off the character.  Now I don’t know if or how much pressure Charlaine Harris was under from the publishing house,  but she signed on to do an extra four books, and there may have been the possibility the publishing house told Ms. Harris to go with Sookie and Eric because it was selling.  What I do know, is Ms. Harris produced a great, big, steaming pile of shit, and I believe Ms. Harris knows it.  Whether these excuses are just that, excuses to cover up her shitty writing (and let’s be honest, Charlaine is a shit writer), or, her admittance to producing a different story only to completely abandon it at the end like a petulant brat.

Charlaine Harris has shown herself to be A) an incompetent writer, and B) to not care about the quality of her work.  ‘Oh, but it’s her story, she should write it how she wants.’ Yes, yes she should, but, 1) if a book is shoddily written, I shall turn round and say what a pile of shit it is; 2) Charlaine Harris chose to give us Sookie and Eric as the major plot for the series, whether it was her idea or to cash in the popularity of the couple makes no difference, she built up expectations only to trash it at the end for no logical reason why.  People feel cheated, and rightly so.

I feel that book ten was the natural ending to the very poor series.  Yet Charlaine Harris cashed in on her work, which ultimately compromised the quality and left many disappointed fans in its wake.

~ Roux Roux ~

TV Revies #1 – Game of Thrones

Review: Game of Thrones (TV) – Season One

I’ll be honest, I don’t watch a lot of TV.  It’s very rare for me to be enthralled by television.  I hardly ever feel the need to rush home and catch my favourite TV programme.  I catch shows here and there when I occasionally watch television, but it very rarely goes beyond that.  People often ask what do I do if I don’t watch TV?  Well, I read, play video games, listen to music, play guitar, cook, workout, watch films, go out, write, etc… So I’m not exactly at a loss for things to do, and in all honesty the only thing I watch with any regularity is wrestling (yes I watch wrestling).

Yet sometimes, a show will have me completely hooked.  The last time it happened was with True Blood, however after season two the quality dramatically dropped and I haven’t bothered to watch anything after season three, nor have I bothered to finish watching season three.  But I have found a new show worthy of my attention, Game of Thrones.

I initially saw the advertisement for Game of Thrones and my first thought was, ‘looks interesting’.  Unfortunately I did not have access to the cable station it was being broadcasted on to watch the show, but having seen many advertisements for it and hearing lots of good things about it my curiosity grew.  So in the New Year I went on an internet shopping spree and bought myself the dvd boxset of season one, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Right from the beginning I was hooked.  I don’t even think my last love affair with a TV show – True Blood – did that to me, it took a few episodes before I was truly drawn in last time I regularly watched a television show.

Game of Thrones is set in a fantasy world were the houses of the seven kingdoms are all plotting for the Iron Throne which rules over all of them. The political backstabbing and games is mixed with a healthy dose of action and fantasy adventure.

Right from the first episode I needed to know what happened next, and that doesn’t normally happen with me.  Normally it takes a few episodes for me to build any affinity with the characters for me to start caring about them, and to become engaged with the story line and plots.  Yet Game of Thrones has story telling down to a fine art; every single scene was interesting, and I felt none of it was wasted on filler.

I also found the characters very well structured.  Each character was an individual in their own right, and thankfully didn’t rely on some generic formula in a half arsed attempt to inject some personality into them.  Character development was spot on too, it felt very natural as well.  One thing was for sure, whether I liked or loathed a character, I always wanted to know about them or know what they did next, and such a feat isn’t easy.  Normally I find there are a few characters who I really dislike, or couldn’t care about, but this wasn’t the case.  Even with characters I disliked, it wasn’t because I couldn’t stand the character, but more because they were a baddie and I wanted to see the good guys win.

The plot also moved at a very good pace too.  With the series only being 10 episodes long, they managed to move the storyline along without rushing it or dragging parts out.  I was hooked by the intrigue of what was happening too and around the characters.  My only complaint, and it really is nothing more than a niggle really, is that sometimes it would jump from one scene to the next rather quickly.  For example: you would watch a scene where someone was explaining something, then the next scene would be the conclusion of the previous scene right afterwards, which seemed a bit jarring as normally you would cut to a completely different scene first before coming to the concluding scene later.  Yet this really didn’t detract too much from the overall show, it rarely happened, and it is really more of a personal preference than a major fault with the show.

I must warn you though, this show doesn’t hold back on the violence, language, or sex.  Now, it’s not like the show is littered with gratuitous scenes, but when there is one it is pretty hard hitting (more so the violence than anything else).  I have to admit, there were times when I winced at what I witnessed on screen.  I’m not a prude, I have no problem with violence, coarse language, controversy, or sex being depicted, provided it’s not being used as a cheap tactic to get people talking about and/or watching your film/TV show.  With Game or Thrones, the so called controversial scenes felt natural in their placement and helped to portray the story they were trying to tell, so I had no problem with them, even if I did wince at times.

Overall, I thought Game of Thrones was excellent!  I really can find little fault with the program, and would gladly recommend it to anyone.

Good Points:

  • Great acting
  • Good pacing
  • Interesting story
  • Great character development
  • Well acted

 

Bad Points:

  • Sometimes it can jump from one scene to the next
  • Some people may find the violence/sex scenes a bit strong.

 

~ Roux Roux ~

P.S.

Two of my Fanfic stories – Not From Here & Drawn to You – have been put up for nomination in this year’s Fangies.  If you have a chance, please check out the voting, and vote for your favourite fics. Vote Here.

Book Review #4: The Devil’s Acre by Matthew Plampin

Title: The Devil’s Acre

Author: Matthew Plampin

Publisher: Harper Collins

Date: 24th June 2010

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

This is the first time I have ever read historical fiction, and unfortunate to say, for my first time…it was disappointing.

 

I picked up the novel in my local book shop as it promised an intriguing plot, political scheming, a scandalous affair, gangs, theft, and murder.  What I got was a mediocre mess of a book.

 

The Devil’s Acre is set in Victorian London, based on the gun factory of Colonel Samuel Colt.  I am unfamiliar with this piece of history, but looking at the notes in the back, Matthew Plampin seems to have done his research and I give him credit for that.

 

We start the book by meeting Edward Lowry, who has recently been hired by Col Colt as his personal secretary.  Col Colt has opened his gun factory in London and sets about trying to do business with the London government to supply his revolvers to the British army.  Along the way, Edward meets Caroline Knox; a factory worker who Edward is smitten with but unfortunately she is below his social class.  Things get difficult for Caroline when she gets ensnared to help her brother-in-law, Martin Rea – factory worker and Irish immigrant – steal guns for his gang of Irish friends known as the Molly Maguires.  The Molly Maguires are hell bent on acquiring guns so they can murder British politician, Lord John, who they blame for the terrible famine in Ireland.

 

Coupled with the political scheming of Col Colt and the British politicians, you would think it would lead to an engaging and interesting read. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

 

I found this book very difficult to get into, and about a third of the way through I was just reading the book to finish it rather than any actual interest or enjoyment of the book.  Part of the reason for this is because we’re always chopping and changing what character we’re with.  In one chapter we’re with Edward, in the next we’re with Col Colt, then we’re with Caroline Knox, then onto Martin Rea, and finally we’re back again with Edward Lowry starting the rotating cycle all over again.

 

The continuous changing between characters was somewhat jarring.  It also made it very difficult to form any kind of bond with the characters, as we never stuck long enough with them to see them develop.  In fact, overall character development was severely lacking in this book.  There were only two characters who showed any kind of development, Edward Lowry (who was a wet blanket and I didn’t care for) and Martin Rea (the most, and only, interesting character in the book).

 

Apart from Martin Rea and Edward Lowry, all of the characters were two dimensional reactionists.  One of the reasons for this is a good number of characters are historical figures.  You’re limited to how much you actually know about these people, and with the little you do know it can be hard to build some kind of picture to how they’re personality would be.  Which means you will end up tweaking certain facts and adding flourishes to your characters to fill them out, but, you’re restricted to how much you can do this before being accused of being historically inaccurate.

 

Though I acknowledge it can be difficult to build characters based on historical figures, I also noticed the original characters of this book were somewhat lacking as well.  I just didn’t care for them. They made little or no impression on me, and I felt they were nothing more than a part of the scenery.

 

Another problem with the constant changing between characters meant we were constantly changing between plot points as well.  First we’re reading about Edward adjusting to his new job, then we’re reading about Col Colt trying to sell his guns, then about how Caroline is forced to help the Molly Maguires acquire guns, and then were reading about the Molly Maguires plotting to kill Lord John before going back to Edward.  It felt like we had four stories in one book, instead of weaving the plot points together and making one interesting story.

 

I also found the major plot points to be underdeveloped and poorly executed.

 

For example:

 

The love affair between Edward and Caroline was meant to be a scandalous affair; after all, they were from different classes and worked in the same establishment.  The foundations were set with the growing attraction between Edward and Caroline and the gossips starting to whisper about the two liking one another.  Then the plot point was somewhat dropped once Caroline got involved with the Molly Maguires and was ordered to stay away from Edward as it could jeopardise their plans.  From then on, all we got was Edward moping about why Caroline wasn’t talking to him, and Caroline feeling bad at having to ignore Edward.  In the last third of the book we finally had Edward and Caroline get together when she needed his help, but it was all kept secret as Edward hid Caroline in his place of residence until things came to an end and Caroline died.

 

There was no romantic or sexual tension between the two which built up and had you routing for them as a couple.  And when they did finally get together as a couple, it was kept behind closed doors and none of the other characters knew about it, which meant there were no problems or dramas associated with such a relationship, and I personally would have found that interesting to read about.  I just didn’t care about this couple.

 

Another example:

 

The Molly Maguires attempted to obtain revolvers by getting Caroline to sneak out gun parts and eventually whole guns.  When this failed, the Molly Maguries decided to storm the factory and take the pistols by force.  Their attempts to do this were so amateurish and stupid I found it laughable.  Yet it was also rather disappointing, because the gang was supposed to be intimidating and dangerous, but they just came across as foolish thugs.

 

On the whole, the major plot points were poorly developed, boring, and underwhelming.  Even the ending was anticlimactic.  I was hoping for a big showdown, as the Molly Maguires went to kill Lord John and everyone tried to stop them.  All that happened at the end, was everyone blundered along until they were caught by the factory warden, who had known what was going on the entire time.  A few people died, but as I have said before in this review, I didn’t really care, I was just glad to be at the end of the book.

 

I may make it sound like this book was a real chore to read, and yes it really was tedious as I pushed myself to finish it.  But at least I didn’t have to contend with bad grammar as well.

 

Having read so many books with poor grammar recently, it was a blessing to read something where the author at least had a basic understanding of grammar.  I did find the word ‘that’ overused a little bit, but I think it is more me nit-picking than a real fault with the book.

 

However, there was one thing which really annoyed me.  Thankfully it only happened two or three times in the book, yet when they did happen, they were huge slap in the face.  I refer to writing accents in dialogue.

 

Now I know you may want to inject some personality in your characters by writing their accent into the dialogue, yet in doing this, it can make your work very unreadable.  One way of doing this is to replace certain words with alternative words which are popular in certain dialects.  For example: if your character is French, you may have them say ‘oui’ instead of ‘yes’.  Another way to write accents is to omit certain letters with apostrophes in certain words, such as words beginning with H or ending in i-n-g – such as ‘ere for here; or tryin’ for trying.

 

However, you need to be careful not to over this; moderation is the key.  One popular way to write in an accent is to mention he/she spoke with a heavy or prominent accent instead of writing it in the dialogue.  In a fair few cases this is the best option.  Yet on a few occasions, Matthew Plampin chose to write in a cockney accent by completely misspelling words.  A technique you have to be careful with, as it can go completely wrong, and did go completely wrong for Matthew Plampin.

 

I’ll show you.  I came across these two words, haggravatin’ and sitiwation.  Try saying these words out loud…I bet they feel like they don’t fit right in your mouth.  It turns out haggravatin’ is aggravating, and sitiwation is situation.  It took a fair few minutes for me to figure it out.  This really annoyed me, not only was it very difficult to read, but being an East Londoner (home of the cockney) it infuriated me to believe this is how Matthew Plampin pictures us speaking!

 

Despite all the above, and generally not being happy with this book, I did enjoy reading about Victorian London.  The description of places and London life felt very authentic and it is what I liked the most about this book.

 

All in all, this book really wasn’t worth the effort it took to read it.  The few good points really didn’t negate the smothering boredom one felt when reading this story.

 

Bad Points:

  • Poorly developed plot points.
  • Boring
  • Ended on a huge anti-climax
  • Uninteresting characters.
  • Constantly changing from character/plot point to character/plot point
  • Major blunder in writing accents into dialogue

 

Good Points:

  • Grammar is consistently good throughout (apart from one point regarding accents)
  • Research done into the subject matter.
  • Depicts London in Victorian times well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game Review #4: Final Fantasy XII

Game Review #4

 

Game: Final Fantasy XII

Publisher: Square Enix

Format: Playstation 2

Release: 2006

Genre: RPG

 

Today I am reviewing one of my favourite games, Final Fantasy XII. As I’ve stated before, I am a big fan of RPGs; I’ve also stated before that Final Fantasy is one of the biggest franchises in the RPG genre and even gaming history – whether people like the fact or not.

 

Final Fantasy XII is the first one I ever played from the series.  It has been said to me ‘the first one you play is often your favourite’, and boy is this statement true on my behalf.  I spent over 245hrs of my life playing this game, I loved it so much, but it is not without its faults as I shall explain bellow.

 

We start the game in the fictional country of Dalmasca, which has recently been invaded and taken over by the powerful Archadian Empire.  We meet a street urchin by the name of Vaan, who is fed up with the Archadian oppression his country and people have to suffer.  When Dalmsaca has a state visit from Prince Vayne of Archadia, Vaan decides to upset the proceedings by robbing the palace.  During his escapades, Vaan meets two sky pirates, Balthier & Fran; a disgraced Knight, Basch, and a dethroned Princess, Ashelia.  Joined with his childhood friend, Penello, the six heroes band together to help Ashelia claim her rightful throne and free Dalmasca from its oppression.

 

One of the first things I notice about this game is the stunning FMV sequences.  Though it is not unheard of – especially in recent times – for a Final Fantasy game to behold breath taking graphics.  However, as well as amazing FMV scenes, the in game graphics were top notch too, making the game a joy to view.  This can also be attributed to the fact that Final Fantasy XII came out towards the end of the PS2’s (Playstation 2) life. It is not uncommon for the best games of a console’s life come out at the end, as developers are completely familiar with what the machines are capable of at the time.  Regardless, the game is pretty to look at.

 

Another thing I noticed was the soundtrack.  I always appreciate a well composed soundtrack, feeling it adds great atmosphere to games, films and television programs.  The sound track on Final Fantasy XII really stood out for me. Many times I would wonder in certain areas of the game just to hear particular pieces, and I even went out of my way to buy the soundtrack on CD; I was very much impressed with it.

 

Yet one of the main things I really enjoyed was the story.  I absolutely loved the subtle, political ploys throughout the story, as Ashelia tried to regain her kingdom. Giving the game a real grown up and sophisticated edge.  Some people complained FF:XII was too political.  Personally, I couldn’t understand this argument. I thought the politics really gave the story an intelligent feel which had me thinking and wanting to desperately find out what happened next.

 

As your six characters progressed through the story, they discover Archadia has been using a powerful material called Nethercite to build powerful weapons and battleships.  However, this Nethercite is too powerful for the hands of humans and technically belongs to these god-like creatures, who have been manipulating humans throughout the centuries.  However, one of these god-like creatures has gone wayward, disgusted with his people’s manipulation of mankind he helped the Archadians in gaining their recent power.  The remaining god-like creatures offer to aid Ashelia in obtaining her throne.  Now, Ashelia must choose whether to: take the Nethercite offered by the powerful creatures and get revenge on her Archadian enemies using the Nethercite, or, refuse the help of the ancient beings and no longer allow them to manipulate mankind while finding another way to stop the corrupted Vayne and his overpowered armies.

 

It is not uncommon for Final Fantasy games – or RPG games – to have a much grander scheme in their stories than what was originally shown to begin with.  However, this is where I find, especially with JRPGs, the games often over reach.  I have nothing wrong with there being a higher meaning in stories, but sometimes I find they over complicate things with their big ideas and leaves the player somewhat confused.  Thankfully, Final Fantasy XII doesn’t fall into this trap; it gives its story a higher meaning and depth without baffling the player with ideologies one would need a step by step guide to understand.

 

Another trap FF:XII manages to avoid, is clichéd characters – another thing JRPGs are guilty of.  There is no lone wolf, main character who spends a majority of the game brooding and feeling sorry for themselves, before eventually learning to let people in.  Nor are there any over feminine, always speaking in a softly spoken voice, and unbearably nice female characters which reflect no real women on this planet.  All the characters in FF:XII are interesting and likeable with no annoying traits to grate on your nerves.  I suppose it also helps when the characters were very well voice acted as well.

 

However, one thing which did disappoint me with the story, was a plot line involving the sky pirate Balthier.  We see a bounty hunter appear early in the game, wanting to track down Balthier and collect a reward placed on our favourite sky pirate’s head. Later we see the bounty hunter confront Balthier and the gang, in a confrontation the heroes have to flee from the bounty hunter, leaving it open to be concluded at another time.  However, in the main story we receive no conclusion on this plot development; which was a real shame, as on the whole, the story was very well constructed and played out.  You can however receive resolution on this plot point in an optional side quest – unfortunately, the resolution is disappointing and anticlimactic.

 

Moving away from the story and onto the game play, you come to learn the game is huge with a massive free roaming world for you to explore.  Unfortunately, there isn’t really much to do but to look around and battle.  The dungeons are unimaginative and repetitive; consisting of nothing much more than walking into a corridor and clearing it of enemies, walking into a room and clearing it of enemies, walking into another corridor and clearing it of enemies, and so on and so forth.  There’s little puzzling or platforming elements to this game.  It’s all about taking down your enemies and getting to your next stage.

 

With a game which is so battle orientated, it is important to supply a battle system that keeps things interesting and keeps you on your toes – after all, you will be battling for many hours.  Final Fantasy is a series famed for using the traditional turn based battle system, but in recent instalments of the series it has tried to step away from this, adopting new battle systems which have been hit & miss. For FF:XII, they used a system known as the ‘gambit’ system.

 

The gambit system is a system which allows you to input commands into gambit slots that the computer AI will act out.  For example: if you put in the command ‘heal when HP is below 50%’, the computer will heal your character when their HP is below 50%; provided there is sufficient MP or potions to do so.  In the beginning of the game you only have a limited amount of gambit slots, making choosing you commands rather tactical. For example: you will want to give healing and protection commands to your strongest magical users while allowing you other characters to take care of fighting.  Also, in the early stages, it may be necessary to put in commands manually due to lack of gambit slots; keeping you on your toes as you have to keep an eye on what is happening and seeing when you have to interject.

 

You can gain more gambit slots as you level up – by acquiring licenses – and thus allowing the computer AI to act out more commands.  Depending on the number of ‘gambit’ slots you have and the situation you are in, it is necessary to tweak your commands to your best advantage.  The system works very well and it is rather fun to set your commands and send your troops into battle.  Yet as well as this system works, it is also its downfall.

 

With the more ‘gambit’ slots you have, the more commands you can give to cover any situation that should arise, thus making your team the ultimate killing machine. It basically means you can tweak your commands so perfectly, there isn’t much for you to do other than walk up to an enemy and let the AI take care of everything – which can be somewhat boring.

 

This is really disappointing, as you are doing nothing more than walking your characters around the scenery and watching them fight. Especially when you buy games to play, not watch!  However, there is something to compensate this, and that is the side quests.

 

The number of side quests is vast, even if a majority of them are hunts.  Though the hunts involve you battling the monsters with the perfect, yet flawed, battle system, the fun in the hunts is finding your marks.  The marks will only appear if certain criteria are met: such as the right weather condition or having no armour equipped.  There are even some hidden boss battles which will take you hours to do, and even if you have your ‘gambits’ perfectly set up, the fights are still challenging enough to require you to input commands manually as well as relying on your gambits.

 

You can spend a majority of game time trying to complete these side quests which are a lot of fun to do, but there was one quest which was poorly thought out: acquiring the Zodiac Spear.  As you journey through the game, you will come across treasure chests; in opening them you will find money or goodies.  Yet to acquire the spear you need to leave some of these chests un-open before opening the very final chest.  Unfortunately, without a game guide there is no indication this is what you have to do or anyway of figuring out what chests you do and don’t open.  In fact, you wouldn’t even know this side quest existed without a game guide.

 

Regardless of this one minor flaw, the side quests really make this game, and you will get a lot more out of it if you take the time to complete them.

 

Character development of this game is a combination of levelling up through gaining experience points and buying licenses.  Gaining EP (experience points) allows you to level up in the standard way; reaching new levels and gradually increasing you HP (health points) and MP (magic points).  You can also acquire LP (license points), which will allow you to buy licenses to gain certain skills and attributes.  For example: if you want to use fire magic, you have to make sure you have the appropriate license to buy and use such spells.

 

In the beginning of the game it is important for you to spend you LP wisely.  In example: magic users tend to have lower HP, so you will want to buy licenses which let you use/buy heavy duty armour for their protection.  Another example: ranged fighters are good at taking out enemies at a distance, so you will want to buy licenses to improve their accuracy as this will improve their skills.

 

As you buy more and more licenses for you characters, they become pretty much good at everything.  This isn’t unheard of in RPGs; often when you level your characters up to high levels, magic user become good fighters, and fighters become good magic users, and all your characters become good all-rounders.  Unfortunately, this can be slightly boring, as it takes away any tactical element of the game and you can plough through pretty much any enemy.

 

All licenses are available to all characters, as none are designated to a certain skill set.  Though to some degree, it is satisfying to make these ultimate warriors.  Like the gambit battle system, when you’ve bought all the licenses it makes you virtually indestructible and takes away almost all threat of you dying, thus eliminating any challenge to the game.

 

Another way to develop your characters is with equipping armour and weaponry, and there is a variety to choose from.

 

Each piece of armour provides you with different attributes: head armour will improve your magic defence while the right foot wear will increase you speed.  Heavy duty armour will provide you with more protection but slow you down because it is weighty. Light armour will allow you to move quickly but is useless at defending you against strong enemies.

 

The vast numbers of weapons also have different advantages as well.  Staffs are naturally weak weapons but improve the potency of your magic. Whereas axes will deliver great damage but are cumbersome to wield.

 

You can also make weapons and armour out of the items you collect through out your journey, and some of the weaponry/armour you can make is vastly superior to what you can buy in shops.  On the whole, it is important for you to equip your characters correctly to get the most out of what you want them to do.

 

Even though there is a lot to choose from when buying and equipping your characters, the menu isn’t overwhelming. If you are a novice to playing RPGs this shouldn’t confuse you too much.

 

In general, FF:XII is pretty user friendly for first time RPG players, yet still retains core elements more veteran RPG players will be used to – engaging story, character development, and plenty of side quests.

 

One thing FF has moved away from in this game (and thank god they did), was random battles.  Always cropping up when you don’t want them, and never when you do.

 

When entering a new area you can see all the available monsters fight and you can choose whether to engage them or not – they will however come up to you if you wonder to close to them and they spot you.  You also have the option to flee the battle if things are getting too much for you.  It is also a flee option which works 100% of the time – excluding boss battles.  It is quite the luxury to be able to escape battles and travel unhindered when needs be.

 

Unfortunately, the game does make a mistake in its explanations.  There are certain things – such as rare animals, quickenings, targeting enemies – that do not even get a mention in the tutorials. Whereas quite simple things have longwinded explanations making them seem more complicated than they actually are.  Also, if you want to complete this game fully, then you’re going to need a game guide or you will be looking things up on the internet.  Much like with obtaining the Zodiac spear, there are some things which have no indication on how to do them or that they are even available within the game without you resorting to some sort of guide.

 

All in all, I really enjoyed the game, despite its flaws.  I was able to live with them and enjoyed all the good points out of the game.  Some RPG fans should really stay away from this game, especially if you want more from the combat.  Yet if you’re a big Final Fantasy fan or are still intrigued to give this game a go, I would suggest buying it at a reasonable price (£10 – £15 tops).

 

Good Points:

  • Very good story.  Sophisticated and filled with political intrigue.
  • Likeable characters.
  • Plenty of side quests.
  • No random battles and a flee option which always works.
  • Very nice graphics and music.
  • Easy to get to grips with.

 

Bad Points:

  • Characters can easily become overdeveloped and takes away any challenge of the game.
  • Game guide is required because the game fails to require in-game information about certain things.
  • Battle system becomes rather lacking as there is little for you to do but sit and watch.

Book Review #3 – Fifty Shades of Grey.

Title: Fifty Shades Trilogy – Fifty Shades of Grey (book one)

Author: EL James (UK)

Publisher: The Writer’s Coffee Shop (e-book) & Vintage Books

Date: E-book & print on demand paper back by The Writer’s Coffee Shop – May 2011.  By Vintage Books – April 2012.

Genre: Romance/Erotica – including BDSM

 

Fifty Shade of Grey by El James, if you haven’t heard of the romance/erotica novel, then I would like to ask where you have been these recent months?  The book is causing a huge sensation in the literary world, selling absolute millions internationally.  The trilogy has a huge fan following, as well as a huge following of haters; especially since the content of the book have been disclosed as BDSM erotica, something for the right wing/conservative/religious zealots to get their book burning teeth into (for all you book burners out there, I hope you realise your actions do little to solve your perceived problem. In burning the book you have to actually buy the books to burn, thus increasing the book sales and keeping the book in the attention of the media and on the best sellers list).

 

Given all the hype which has surrounded the Fifty Shades trilogy, I became curious to see what all the fuss was about and I bought the book; at a deal too for half the original price.  Now having finished the book, I’ve come to realise I have paid half the price too much for this atrocity of fiction!  I can honestly say I absolutely detest this book!  Now I’m no prude, I have very little problem with the erotica or BDSM in this book, my main gripe with this book I shall explain bellow.

 

I started reading the book, and after a couple of chapters I got a feeling of Déjà Vu.  I had a feeling I had read about these characters before, and then it hit me: I realised someone had been reading/watching the Twilight Saga.  Yes, the influence of Twilight became blindingly obvious, but as I read on, it seemed to be Twilight was much more than an influence in Fifty Shades of Grey.

 

The resemblance between Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey was uncanny. The two main characters Anastasia Steele & Christian Grey could very easily pass for Isabella Swan & Edward Cullen; the only difference being a name change and the odd change in physical appearance.  The main core of what made Edward and Isabella who they are was present in Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.  But it wasn’t just the main characters I noticed a similarity to Twilight, the supporting cast in Fifty Shades of Grey also bore a strong resemblance to the supporting cast in the Twilight Saga.  And it didn’t stop there, the dynamic between Christian and Anastasia was the same as Isabella and Edward, similar plot points which had appeared in Twilight were appearing in Fifty Shades of Grey, and there were at times where I read the same scenes from Twilight in Fifty Shades of Grey.  For example:

 

In Twilight, Edward is always telling Bella she should avoid him because he is dangerous, but decides to pursue her because he is unable to stay away from her any longer, even though he never earnestly tried to keep his distance.  In Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian constantly tells Anastasia to stay away from him and he is no good for her.  He admits he tried to stay away from her, despite the fact he was going after her from day one.

 

In Twilight, Bella’s father buys her an old truck which used to belong to the grandfather of Bella’s friend, Jacob Black.  Jacob Black had also restored the old vehicle and also does repair jobs on it for Bella.  In Fifty Shades of Grey, Anastasia’s step dad bought her an old Beetle, which used to belong to the grandmother of Anastasia’s friend José.  José had restored the old car and also does repair work on it for Anastasia.

 

In Twilight, Edward takes Bella to a restaurant and in the restaurant the waitress tries to get Edward’s attention, much to Bella’s annoyance.  Thankfully, Edward only has eyes for Bella and ignores the waitress’s advancement.  In Fifty Shades of Grey, whenever Christian and Anastasia eat in a public place, all the female waiting staff are trying to get Christian’s attention, much to Anastasia’s annoyance.  Yet Christian only has eyes for Anastasia and ignores all the waitresses.

 

I could co on and on with the similarities between Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

 

However, having noticed the strong connection between the two books, I decided to do some research.  I eventually learned Fifty Shades of Grey was originally Twilight fanfiction which had become so popular, the author decided to publish it has her own piece of original fiction.  Now I have no problem with a fanfiction author taking their original concept from a piece of fanfiction and using it to build their own original piece of fiction and selling it – I say good luck to them.  What I have a problem with is: a fanfcition author taking a piece of fanfiction with all the original ideas/characters from a title/series by another person and selling it off as their own original piece of work!

 

In my opinion EL James is nothing more than a thief!  I see nothing original about Fifty Shades of Grey, and it has been compared to be 89% the same as the piece of fanfiction it initially was.  It seems, All EL James did was make a few name changes so her characters and ideas she borrowed from Stephanie Meyer were not identical.  You can read a report here on how Fifty Shades compares to Master of the Universe (the fanfiction she originally wrote).

 

Doesn’t EL James’s actions infringe on copyright law?  She has taken characters and ideas created by Stephanie Meyer, tweaked them a little and claimed them as her own original ideas, whilst riding on the coat tails of Twilight’s success.  As far as I’m concerned, what EL James has done is morally wrong!

 

I am absolutely disgusted with myself for having bought this book new, now knowing my money has gone to line the pockets of the publishing house and EL James – even at a discount price.  I would like to take the opportunity to apologise to Stephanie Meyer: I had no idea Fifty Shades of Grey was so heavily based on her work.  If I had of known, I would not have bought the book!

 

I am not a Twilight fan, I don’t personally like the saga, you can see my review for the first book here.  But, I respect the fact Stephanie Meyer created the ideas and characters herself, and I do not think she deserves to have her characters pinched from under her nose in such a blatant fashion.  Stephanie Meyer took the time and effort to create her characters, only to have someone come along and swipe them, give them and new name and eye colour, and then claim Stephanie’s characters as their own.

 

When I hear about EL James and Fifty Shades, all I can envision is a charlatan stealing someone’s work, and because of that I can find nothing positive about this book to critique.  However, this is a review of the book, and I shall do my best to give some kind of fair critique.

 

To begin with, the grammar isn’t too great.  The flow of the words just doesn’t seem quite right and comes across as amateurish.  Many times I found myself mentally re-writing sentences/paragraphs so they would read better.  Another thing to take note of, is EL James repeats a lot of words, impassive seemed to be very popular – as well as the description of shattering orgasms, and the mental thoughts of oh my.  About a third of the way through I was sick to death of the repetitions.

 

There was also the constant mention of how Christian’s trousers hung off his hips in “that way”.  “That way” was never explained in the book.  Was it at a jaunty angle, or perhaps dangerously low, whatever “that way” meant I have no idea.  It was just another annoying repetition and with no clear explanation to the phrase made it stupid.

 

The plot is also very thin to, as not a lot happens.  All we have is Anastasia fawning over the ridiculously handsome Christian Grey, who proposes they enter into a BDSM relationship where he is allowed to punish her by hitting her because he gets off on it.  Anastasia now has the dilemma of falling in love with beautiful and rich Christian, but contemplating whether she should let him hit her, all interjected with kinky sex.  It was all long winded and boring, just like the relationship between Bella and Edward in Twilight.

 

Had Fifty Shades stayed as fanfiction, I would have given EL James credit for having Anastasia/Bella questioning the darker aspects of her relationship with Christian/Edward, instead of just glossing them over.  Another thing I would have given EL James credit for had Fifty Shades stayed as fanfiction, is Anastasia/Bella seems a lot nicer and actually comes across to appreciate her friends and family instead of whining about absolutely everything and everyone – excluding Christina/Edward.  However, Fifty Shades was not kept as fanfiction and I cannot in good faith give sincere praise for something I find morally wrong.

 

Now I think about it, because Fifty Shades was originally fanfiction and has stuck so close to its fanfiction roots, it also means the problems with Twilight will now be present in Fifty Shades.  We have Anastasia falling in love with Christian foolishly fast and with no logical reason why.  We also had Anastasia continuously referring to how beautiful and fantastic Christian is.  Both points were present in Twilight, and both points were infuriating in Twilight as they are in Fifty Shades.  And because Anastasia and Christian are alternate versions of Edward and Bella, it also means neither of the two main characters are likable – even if Anastasia seems nicer than her Isabella Swan incarnation.

 

I did get a bit of a mental reprieve; at least EL James had Anastasia/Bella sticking up for herself with the overbearing control freak Christian/Edward – occasionally, and at least she didn’t continuously mention Christian’s/Edward’s crooked smile.  Unfortunately, half way through the book, Christian’s/Edward’s crooked smile started making an appearance.  ARRRGGGHHH!

 

The dialogue was also weak and very cheesy in places, making it cringe worthy to read.  EL James also had a problem with repetition here too.  For example: she would have a character thank someone in the first sentence, then in the next sentence within the same speech brackets the character would be giving thanks again, just with a different terminology.  You didn’t need two mentions of thanks in the same speech brackets, and moments like this happened often.

 

Another thing with the dialogue, was EL James suddenly had Christian referring to Anastasia as Baby.  Terms like: “laters baby”, “baby what’s wrong”, and “come for me baby” cropped up regularly.  I found this to be very jarring; here we had this character of an extremely successful CEO, who’s intellectual, into art and music (many classical pieces included), and likes flying.  He is depicted as being suave, smooth, charismatic, eloquent, and enigmatic man who suddenly starts sounding like a stereotypical skater dude.  I hated seeing Christian use the term baby, and at one point I was screaming at the book to stop using the damn terminology as it does not suit the character.

 

There were also large sections of the book devoted to e-mails between Christian and Anastasia.  A majority of the time the e-mails contributed very little to the plot other than to fill it up with more cheesy and sappy content.  However, the e-mails did take up a lot of space on the page with very little words, making reading through them quick and help speed along getting through the book.  (Ooo, I think I just found a redeeming feature)

 

I also found the characters, including the two main ones, very bland and boring.  No one really grabbed my attention and made me care about them or feel any kind of emotion for them other than apathy.  Part of this was because the characters came across as very clichéd, and EL James seemed to be trying too hard in the dialogue to inject some personality into the characters, which didn’t work.  Plus, there is the fact virtually all the characters seem to be based on a characters from the Twilight Saga – characters who were originally uninteresting to begin with.

 

Finally, there are the sex scenes, another aspect of the book which has propelled it to its current heights with infamy and notoriety.  I’m not going to go on about all the people complaining about the sex in this book, they need to get over themselves and realise making such a huge fuss about it is only making more people read the book they want to disappear into obscurity.

 

Getting back to the sex scenes in this book, they’re poor.  Completely un-erotic and un-stimulating.  Also, for BDSM, they seem rather tame.  I think part of the problem is because the sex scenes were over with very quickly, you didn’t have much to get your heart racing.  Even though we were told how earth shattering the orgasms were, it just seemed to be a flash in the pan moment and we were back to the tedium of the book.  If I had been the one to have a passionate tryst with the oh-so-wonderful Christian Grey, the words “Is that it?!?!?!” would be passing my lips.

 

Another problem, was at times things seemed very unrealistic.  I know it is meant to be fantasy, but it helps to have some plausibility in you story.  I was once told anything is possible in fiction; yes, anything is possible in fiction, anything is possible in bad fiction.

 

First: we have Anastasia losing her virginity, yet she suffers no pain what-so-ever.  Despite the fact Christian has a large dick, wasn’t gentle with her, and she bled.  Somehow, I can’t see her first time being pain free, especially with those three factors.

 

Second: we have Anastasia giving her first blowjob, and taking Christian’s penis to the back of her throat without a single gag reflex.  I don’t even think the most expert of blowjob givers have no gag reflex, and probably takes them a second or two to control it.

 

Now I know you can say I’m nit-picking, but I was doing it a lot in this story, and if that’s the case then there is a problem with the book.  In all fairness, it wasn’t just the sex scenes with these questionable plot points.  The book was littered with them, snapping you out of the story and brining you back to reality scratching your head, while you realised no such situation would happen in real life, nor could it be conceivable in any kind of specific circumstances.

 

Overall, the book is a shambles, and I advise all people to avoid it.  There are so many things wrong with this book, and yet the success and praise it is receiving is astounding.  I can guarantee you, if you look for fanfiction relating especially in the vampire genre, you will find many pieces like Fifty Shades – and that is where Fifty Shades should have stayed!

 

I am now going to do the one and only good thing I can do with this book and stick it in the recycling bin – maybe it can be made into toilet paper.

 

Bad Points:

  • Published fanfiction, thus making it a rip off of Twilight
  • Bland and boring characters
  • Corny dialogue
  • Poor grammar making it very jarring to read at times
  • Unsatisfying sex scenes
  • Over hyped
  • Weak plot
  • Repetitive
  • Tedious relationship dynamic
  • Problems occurring from Twilight also present here
  • Unbelievable scenes.

 

Good Points:

  • E-mail sections make reading this torturous book a little quicker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TV Review #1 – TNA PPV: Slammiversary X

TV Review #1

 

TNA PPV – Slammiversary X (2012)

Being a native Londoner, I didn’t get to see this wrestling PPV (Pay per View) until 13/06/2012, three days after the event.  So forgive me if this review is a little late.  I’d also like to point out I’m no wrestling expert, I’m just someone who enjoys watching it and I got a thing for writing reviews; so I’m combining the two.

To start with, I wasn’t overly excited for Slammiversary X, despite the fact it was a huge night for TNA, as they have currently been in the business for ten years.  My reasons being – One: Alex Shelley had recently left the company; he was one of my favourites and a talented wrestler, so I was disappointed with such a fact.  Two: There have been issues with TNA/Impact Wrestling recently which haven’t been sitting too well with me.  Three: The last few PPVs had been disappointing, especially Sacrifice(2012) & Lockdown(2012).  However, to my surprise, I actually rather enjoyed Slammiversay X.

I’d like to start with a note that the crowd were really behind this PPV.  This was nice to see, considering it was TNA’s 10-year-celebration in the business.  It certainly beat the dead/lacklustre crowd of this year’s Lockdown which really put a huge dampener on the whole event.

Back to Slammiversary X, we opened the show with a title match for the X Division Championship between Austin Aries, X Division Champ vs. Samoa Joe.

I’m an Austin Aries fan, so to put it simply, he delivers.  Whether he is a heel or face (Heel = bad guy.  Face = good guy.) you can’t help but be engaged by him and want to see more of him.  He has great in-ring ability and his character oozes charisma.  I have to give a nod of recognition to Samoa Joe too; he’s pretty decent as well.

The two men really opened the show with an electrifying match, and the crowd were behind both of them with loud chants for Aries and Joe.  Both men showcased their in-ring-ability really well; unfortunately, Joe didn’t win the match and Aries held onto his title and is still the X Division champ – after all, he is The Greatest Man to Ever Live.  My only criticism is the story behind this match was poorly developed on previous shows of Impact Wrestling.  Things were set up for Joe and Aries to accidentally/unknowingly disrespect each other until things finally came to a head and they slogged it out in the ring, but in two weeks this story was not fully developed.  It’s a shame, because it really would have added something more to their match at Slammiversary which was a very good match.

If you look at Aries’s previous feud with Bully Ray, where Bully Ray was constantly picking on Aries about his size, it really drew you in and you wanted to see their final confrontation – which was at Sacrifice (2012) and was the best match of the whole PPV.  The Bully Ray/Aries feud was very well done and developed over a decent period of time – not too quick, but then not un-necessarily drawn out either – and the Joe/Aries feud could have been the same.  Had TNA devoted more time to the Joe/Aries feud it really would have made their Slammiversary X match stand out more than it did.  Regardless, it was still a good match and a great way to open the show.

Next, we had Kid Cash vs. Hernandez.  This was a surprise for me, as I hadn’t seen either of them on TV for a while.  It was refreshing to see some of the other wrestlers on the roster instead of seeing the same ones over and over that we’ve been getting recently.  Again, this was a good match that followed Aries and Joe, with both Kid Cash and Hernandez doing really well.  Hernandez was the victor in this match.

The third match was a tag team match for the Television Championship.  The challengers were Robbie E & Robbie T vs. Devon (Television Champ) & Garrett Bischoff.  I wasn’t overly keen on this match, and I some what switched off, the crowd also wasn’t that keen.  Devon doesn’t really appeal to me much, he’s okay, but most of the time he’s off my radar.  Robbie E & Robbie T are okay, they make my chuckle now and then, but I’m getting fed up of Robbie E constantly trying to win the Television Championship belt back.  Then we have Garrett Bischoff, who people seem to hate at the moment.  Reasons being – One: He’s Eric Bischoff’s son.  Two: He has poor wrestling skills.  Three: Because he’s Eric Bischoff’s son, he seems to be getting an unfair push in the wrestling business.

Now I don’t really hate Garrett Bischoff, I’m all for giving him a chance, but, I don’t want him forced down my throat as the best thing since sliced bread when he clearly is not.  Garrett Bischoff has been in some major story lines and even been the main event on Impact Wrestling, as opposed to other, more talented wrestlers who get little, or no TV time.  Garrett Bischoff has been put into a top position over night – apparently because of who his daddy is – which most other wrestlers have to work hard for.  I would prefer to have Garrett working his way up and improving his wrestling skills than what I’m being given now.  If Garrett earns his position, fair enough; if not, time to consider a new career.

Back on subject, the third match at Slammiversary X was boring, it consisted of nothing more than Garrett having the crap beaten out of him by the two Robbies (some people may have enjoyed that) and occasionally him pulling off a poorly executed wrestling move – due to his lack of experience.  The crowd were chanting for Devon to get in the ring, and when he did there was some relief, but then again, I’m not a huge Devon fan so this was still boring for me to watch.  Devon & Garrett won and Devon got to keep his title.

We also had Madison Rayne show up, watching the match in her red cocktail dress, gushing at whoever her supposed crush is.  I don’t like Madison Rayne, she has a voice – or should that be screech? – which puts a banshee to shame, and whenever she is on TV the television set in my household goes on mute.  Thankfully, she was quiet, and the match was over with relatively quickly.

I’m little sketchy about the order of matches from now on, so forgive me if I get it wrong a bit.  My views are still the same though.

I believe next we had Crimson.  A wrestler who likes to go on about how he has been undefeated for 400-and-something days; I wasn’t paying too much attention, I can’t stand Crimson, he grates on my nerves.  Crimson gets in the ring issuing an open challenge for someone to step up and break his undefeated streak, piled with a load of arrogance on the side.  Believing that no one will step up, Crimson gets the referee to start a count out.  Then, someone does step up…none other than the ‘Cowboy’ James Storm.  YAY!

It was great to see Storm return.  He is a TNA original, used to be one half of a superb tag team, Beer Money, and currently one of TNA’s best main event stars.  Storm had recently been on hiatus doing some soul searching after his unfortunate loss at this year’s Lockdown.  But now he’s back and he’s all fired up.

And boy was he fired up; Storm beat Crimson about the ring like he was nothing.  It was great to see the crowd’s reaction to Storm coming back.  Especially when he set up the Last Call Super Kick to knock Crimson out and break the undefeated streak.  Storm coming back was a real highlight of the night for me.

Next we had Dixie Carter (president of TNA) come out and request that the entire roster – well, all of the roster that were present – to come out.  As she addressed the roster, she thanked them for their work and announced the first inductee to the TNA Hall of Fame.  This was none other than the Icon, Sting.

Do I believe Sting deserves this accolade?  Of course he bloody well does!   He’s a legend; he’s an extremely talented wrestler, works really hard, and is great with his fans.  He’s been wrestling for over 25 years, and despite his age and all what he has put his body through, he still doing remarkably well.  He’s generally well liked and respected in this business, and deserves this honour.

My only problem with the TNA Hall of Fame is that I question the sincerity of it.  Do I think TNA is a company with enough prestige to run a Hall of Fame?  I’m not so sure; perhaps in a few more years…maybe.  The only impression I really get with this new Hall of Fame, is TNA are trying to outdo WWE with their childish mannerisms of ‘look, our Hall of Fame is better than yours’.  Such an ideal leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.  Regardless, congratulations to Sting, you deserve this honour; I just wish it could have been under better circumstances for you and I hope my initial impression of the TNA Hall of Fame is wrong.

Next was a three way match between Mr. Anderson, Jeff Hardy, and Rob Van Dam (AKA: RVD).  This was a No.1 Contenders match to see who would be next to get a shot at the World Heavy Weight Championship.  All three wrestlers have big followings and get good reactions from the crowd – perhaps Hardy has the biggest – and all three men put on a good match.  Anderson won the match and is next in line to challenge the World Heavy Weight Champ on the following Impact Wrestling; the most deserving in my opinion.  The match was quite good actually, not the best of the night, but still entertaining.  My only problem is, a month and a half ago we had the exact same match on Impact Wrestling.  The only difference then as to now, was that RVD won.  At least this time on Slammiversary it was a better match, and at least Anderson won this time.

Next we had a guest appearance from Christian Cage, a famed wrestler no longer affiliated with TNA.  He was there to present the No.1 moment out of the Top Ten Moments in TNA.  Throughout the build-up and Slammiversay, they had been showing the Top Ten Moments in TNA, No.1 was Sting helping Christian Cage out.  I don’t know what the entire list composed of the best moments was, I didn’t pay that much attention.  I also wasn’t overly fussed by this segment either.  I had no connection to Christian Cage, because I wasn’t watching TNA when he was in it, so this meant little to me.  However, the crowd seemed to like it, so good for them.

Next was a title match for the Knockouts Championship.  Gail Kim, Knockout Champ vs. Miss Tessmacher.  I wasn’t overly fussed by this match, TNA’s women’s division does nothing to inspire me.  Though I give a nod of recognition to Gail Kim, she’s a good wrestler, even though I can’t stand her – she must be doing a good job as a heel.  Gail lost this match to Tessmacher, and a new Knockout champ was crowned.

Now, I haven’t enjoyed Gail Kim’s run as Knockout Champ, but I’m not happy to see her lose her title to someone like Tessmacher.  Tessmacher is not a bad wrestler, but she is not in the same league as Gail and in my opinion needs to make great improvements on her abilities.  It just seems cheap for Gail lost her title to someone who was so inferior.  So I wasn’t happy with this match.

Next was Bully Ray vs. Joseph Park (Abyss’s brother).  For those who don’t know, Abyss has been missing since his last encounter with Bully Ray, and his brother Joseph Park has been looking for him.  Eventually, Joseph learned that Bully Ray was responsible for this with things culminating in an Anything Goes match.

For those who haven’t figured things out with this story line, the guy who plays the missing Abyss, is also playing Abyss’s brother, Joseph Park.  Yes, the fact stands out like a sore thumb; you would have to be blind to miss it.  Now, I actually think Abyss is playing his own brother rather well, I even like his catch phrase: ‘I’m looking for my brother Chris, you know…Abyss’.  But, it’s very hard to emerge myself into this story line when I know who is actually playing Joseph Park.  It’s even more laughable when we see Joseph trying to get in and out of the ring, as he fumbles you can’t help but become frustrated with the fact the man actually knows how to get in out of the ring thus making it impossible to buy the story line.

Getting back to the match at hand, for those who don’t know, an Anything Goes match is normally quite a brutal and bloody affair.  Especially for the likes of Abyss/Joseph Park who is famed for them.  This however, was a watered down, tame version of an Anything Goes match.  It was also very short.  At one point Joseph Park scurried under the curtain of the ring, and after a few minutes of wondering where Joseph was, Abyss appears from the other side, climbs into the ring behind Bully Ray, and choke slams him through a table; before going back under the ring and Joseph miraculously appearing and getting the win.  The crowd went wild at this, but in all honesty, it sucked, because it was so obvious what was happening.  It was obvious that Joseph Park changed under the security of the ring, come out as Abyss, then went back under the ring to change back into Joseph Park.  Not very entertaining.

Next, we had the excellent tag team match for the Tag Team Title of: AJ Style & Kurt Angle vs. Christopher Daniels & Kazarian, the Tag Team champs.  This was a really good match.  Both teams were fantastic and it was another highlight of the night.  AJ Styles & Kurt Angle won, and became the new Tag Team Champions.

My only quibbles with this match are two things.  One: Considering TNA has no Tag Team Division right now, and are only throwing random people together briefly to make teams, the title seems to have little meaning.  Two: the story line surrounding this match, with Christopher Daniels & Kazarian revealing the supposed affair between AJ and Dixie Carter (president of TNA) is utterly ridiculous and tarnishes this superb match.

Lastly, there was the main event, for the World Heavy Weight Championship: Sting vs. Bobby Roode, World Heavy Weight champ.  I like both wrestlers a lot, but I wasn’t really feeling this match much.  TNA seems to at times have problems developing their story lines; it’s like they don’t understand how to construct them.  They’re either rushed, excruciatingly drawn out, illogically plucked out of thin air, filled with plot holes, or just plain stupid.  Unfortunately with this match, it was rushed.

Like James Storm, Sting had been on hiatus.  After Sting’s last confrontation with Roode, Sting was forced to give up his position as GM (General Manager) to concentrate on his wrestling and recover from his concussion.  When he returned to Impact Wrestling, he was declared the No.1 Contender for the World Heavy Weight Championship and thus given the opportunity to get revenge on Roode.  Sting spent a couple of weeks showing Bobby that he was coming for him, but this really wasn’t enough to build the importance of the match.

During the match both Roode and Sting put on a good show, but I feel both of them are capable of better.  Also, for a main event, it was rather short.

Roode once again retained his title with a cheap shot at Sting, smashing beer bottle over his head.  So yet again, Bobby Roode cheats to win, and I can’t help feeling sick and tired of such an outcome.  As much as I like Roode as a wrestler, and think he’s been a fantastic heel, I can’t help feeling his time as champ has run it’s course, and nor do I want to see another controversial victory.  I really felt at this year’s Lockdown, Storm should have reclaimed his title; it felt right and a lot of people wanted it, but that didn’t happen.  Now, whenever I see a title match against Roode, I can’t help but look at it with apathy, knowing I can predict how Roode is going to win.

I heard the phrase, ‘controversy sells’, but sometimes we like to get a victory for the good guys as well!

So after another disappointing and predictable win for Roode, we finally reach the end of Slammiversary…not quite, Sting seems to have lost it over the fact Bobby Roode has once again gotten away with cheating.  So Sting decides to beat the living hell out of Roode, delivering some devastating blows to Roode outside of the ring, then we reach the end of Slammiversay X.  All in all, I didn’t really care.  I was sick of another controversial win, the match wasn’t Roode or Sting’s finest, and there had been little hype behind it for me to get excited by.

Yet despite the disappointing main event, Slammaversay X on the whole was very good.  It had a few bad points, it had a few okay points, but there were some great highlights, and compared to rest of this year’s PPVs, Slammiversary X has been the best so far.

Good Points:

  • Brilliant first match: Aries vs. Joe
  • Kid Cash vs. Hernandez
  • Madison Rayne keeping her mouth shut.
  • Three way match
  • Kurt Angle & AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels & Kazarian
  • James Storm returning.
  • James Storm beating Crimson
  • Sting inducted into the Hall of Fame

Bad Points:

  • Gail Kim loses to Miss Tessmacher
  • Devon & Garrett Bischof vs. Robbie E & Robbie T
  • Bully Ray vs. Joseph Park
  • Mediocre main event
  • TNA Hall of Fame trying to outdo WWE

 

Indie Author Review #1 – Emily Casey

Indie Author Review #1 –

Cinderella and the Zombies by Emily Casey:

 

Cinderella & Zombies is a 34 chapter novella by the author, Emily Casey. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin: Cinderella meets the hordes of the undead.  Insane?  Yes.  Bad?  Actually…no.

Taking the traditional tale of Cinderella we meet Cinders (nickname for the main heroine), but instead of being made to work like a slave for her step-mother and step-sisters, she is one of the few city-folk helping out and battling the zombie outbreak.  A plague/virus has descended upon the land of Fae, transforming citizens who were unfortunate enough to be bitten into flesh hungry zombies.  The king of Fae decides however that during the crisis would be a perfect time to hold a ball and find his son, Prince Kent, a bride?!?!?!

This is a fun retelling of the classic tale that moves along at a good speed.  The action his high paced as you would expect from a story about fighting zombies, and the odd spark of humour is thrown in here and there.

It’s also nice to have a female character that is actually a strong female role model, and not one that is hinted at being one.  For once we have a character that is compassionate, smart and courageous.  More often than not we have female characters who are supposed to not be your typical ‘damsal in distress’, yet when push comes to shove they’re nothing more than a disappointment of the characters you were promised to get.

Another thing I appreciated was the development of Cinderella and Prince Kent’s relationship. Being a novella, it was relatively quick, but, at least we had something that drew the couple together in their bond.  We read a growing appreciation for each other and affection for each other as they fought to save the city from the zombie apocalypse.  It makes a refreshing change from reading about two people just randomly falling in love for no good reason and being tortured with sappy chapters containing no real plot.

However, some zombie enthusiasts may grind their teeth at some of the mythology in this story.  In Cinderella & Zombies, vegetables are able to harm the zombies and potentially kill them.  I have to admit, it is a first I’ve ever come across such an idea and it took me a while to accept it.

I can see where many people would find this idea absurd, but this isn’t the first time where supernatural mythology has been altered for the sake of a story.  Yet at times this can work if it is done tactfully and works within the plot.  Many times we see mythologies altered for no other reason than to clap along like a giddy fan and swoon over how wonderful the creature is.

At least Emily Casey uses her idea of zombies being severely allergic to vegetables as an integral part of her plot and uses it to bind together the story of Cinderella & Zombies.  It’s because of such reasons I am willing to forgive such an idea because it was used and used well; plus, I found it funny fending off a zombie with overripe tomatoes.

On the whole, Cinderella & Zombies is a fun and quirky idea that is well written and with good character development. Though it had a couple of things I would criticise, they are nothing that majorly detracts from the story.  If you are the type of person who like their classic stories with a twist then Cinderella & Zombies is worth a read, and you can get it here.

Good Points:

  • Well written.
  • Some good ideas.
  • Good plot development and well-paced.
  • Good character and relationship development.
  • Fun!

Bad Points:

  • Zombie elitists might not like the vegetable idea

Book Review #2 – Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

I’ve decided to write a second book review, this one being for *sigh*…Twilight.  Written by Stephanie Meyer and first published 5th October 2005 by Little Brown publishers.

 

To start off with I proudly state I am a fan of vampires, ever since reading Dracula they have fascinated me.  In fact, many forms of mythology and legend interest me; from the Ancient Greeks, to Norse mythology and even modern day urban myths.  I’ve always found the tales surrounding myth and legend entertaining and been intrigued by how they have shaped our lives and culture throughout the centuries to this very day.

 

Myths and Legends have been with us for thousands of years, and I doubt they are going anywhere soon.  Though many cultures have abandoned the belief in all these ‘monsters after our souls’, they still have the power to entertain us today.  One such myth that has peeked in popularity is the vampire; it seems everywhere you go nowadays you can’t escape the vampire.  He’s on our television screens, movie theatres, in our book shelves and even our music.  The vampire, at the moment, is the A-lister in popular culture whether you like it or not; and it is partly thanks to a popular series like Twilight.  But is this a good or bad thing?  Has Twilight revolutionalised the Vampire genre?  Or is it being forced on us by idiotic romantics who don’t know the difference between good and bad vampire fiction?

 

As I stated before, I am a fan of vampires, and I have watched many shows/films and read many stories/books as well; I’ve come across some very interesting pieces and I’ve also discovered some very bad pieces along the way.  The best by far and without a single doubt is the classic, Dracula by Bram Stoker.  In my opinion, no modern day equivalent can knock it off its perch; the only one to come anywhere near close is probably the Manga series, Helsing.  However, my review today is not about Helsing or Dracula, it’s about Twilight.  This is a series that has had huge success; reaching No.1 bestseller, receiving many positive reviews and so far produced four successful films.  The series has a massive fan base and has been catapulted into some form of super stardom…and I can’t quite understand why.

 

Twilight passed me by when it was initially released, it wasn’t until the release of the first film accompanied with all the screaming fan girls did I even notice it existed.  With my love of vampires my curiosity was piqued and I did some research into the film and books, trying to decided what all the hype was about and if it was worth a look.  With what I discovered about the series I was instantly put off and avoided it like the plague, I couldn’t even walk past a movie poster without sneering and showing my obvious disdain for the franchise.

 

However, I got to thinking that perhaps I was being overly judgemental and hypocritical.  After all, I hadn’t even seen a single film or read a single book, yet I was willing to spew venomous hate for this piece of work without even properly studying it.  So, to form a fair and just opinion I decided I actually had to read one of the books or see one of the movies.  I chose to read the first book.

 

I tried to read the book with an open mind, not letting my previous opinions cloud my judgement.  Unfortunately, after reading the first chapter I released an exasperated sigh and realised I wasn’t in for an enjoyable read.  All my original views come back with a vengeance, strengthened and fortified after torturing myself to finish the damned book.  I can now clearly state that Twilight: Is a piece of shit that doesn’t deserve the hype it gets!  In fact, a piece of shit is more interesting and entertaining than Twilight!

 

We start by meeting Isabella Swan (AKA Bella), a 17-year-old girl who is moving from Phoenix, Arizona to live with her dad – Police Chief, Charlie Swan – in the small town of Forks, Washington.  As she tries to adjust to small town life (which she hates with a passion and I shall touch on this later) she bumps into the local pretty boy – and also a vampire – Edward Cullen who she falls head over heels in love with at first sight (well not quite first sight, but it wasn’t far off it).  We then spend the rest of the book with Bella obsessing over Edward while the object of her infatuation is overbearing and stereotypically moody; until they eventually and painstakingly slowly admit they love each other in the most mundane of fashions…oh, and there is a bit of a rushed, poorly constructed and inconceivable plot in the last few chapters.

 

This book has absolutely no substance whatsoever.  It raises no issues worthy of thought or discussion, it has very little plot and what there is just happens to be utterly tedious and unfathomable.  The book also fails to explore any dynamics or feelings of the dark and complicated relationship between a human and a vampire (it tries to, but fails miserably).  Not only that, the book is littered with grammatical mistakes and terminology that just didn’t make sense; these mistakes were so bad that it got to the point where I just thought ‘you’re making this shit up as you go along’.  (I know writers make ‘shit’ up as they go along, but this really was making shit up as you go along.) 

 

Generally, when writing there are certain spelling and grammatical rules that you follow to keep your work readable (the odd mistake here and there is forgivable, it happens and is sometimes necessary for the flow of the story).  Nor can you just make up words and sayings just because you feel like it; if you do, you have to provide some sort of explanation within the book so the reader can understand this is what happens in your universe.  However, to constantly fill your work with these mistakes shows a complete and utter disregard for the reader and any other writer trying to produce a piece of quality work.  Yet it was more than just the obvious and unforgivable mistakes that lowers the quality of this book.  We cannot ignore the poor character construction either.

 

I bring up the issue with Bella…well I say issue, I should really say issues for there are many with Bella.  To start with, opinion seems to be divided whether the character is a good role model for young women, or whether she is an annoying ‘Mary Sue’ (a character that is annoyingly perfect in every possible way) with the only fault that she has is being clumsy.  Both these analogies are wrong!  Bella is in no way a role model for young women.  Bella is a selfish teenage girl that is completely dependant on a man and pushes the advancements feminism has made over the years back by centuries.  The character is a feminist’s worst nightmare, making them pull their hair out and grind their teeth in sheer frustration.  However, nor is Bella a ‘Mary Sue’ either, she is far from perfect.

 

In fact, the main problem with Bella, is that she has absolutely no redeeming or likeable qualities about her whatsoever!  There is nothing to endear the reader to Bella, not even her clumsiness (which could have been used to inject some much needed humour into the book but Stephanie Meyer chose to ignore this opportunity).  Nor can you sympathise with Bella’s plight.  When she starts whining about being hard done by, all the reader can do is wonder what her problem is because all she is complaining about are petty troubles that are really and truly unimportant.

 

From the get go Bella is whining and complaining; for starters, Bella hates small town life – especially the town of Forks for being ‘too green’ – yet as we journey through the story and learn her reasons why she hates Forks and learn more about Bella’s character I struggled to understand her disdain of the town.  Some of the problems she had with Forks she no doubt would have had much worse in her beloved city ofPhoenix; and it left you scratching your head and wondering just what exactly the problem with Forks is.   She is also unable to appreciate any of the beauty that the town ofForks has.  It was incredibly frustrating as there was no justifiable reason for her hatred of Forks; it just seemed like Stephanie Meyer was desperate to give a reason why Bella hated Forks and threw the pettiest excuses at us because she could come up with nothing better.

 

One thing that actually could be attributed to small town life and was a genuine reason for dislike was that everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows everyone’s business; a fact that Bella hates as it draws attention to her.  This I could understand to some degree, especially as Bella fretted over how she was going to fit into a community that was so close knit.  However, I quickly lost all sympathy for Bella on this fact when the town of Forks embraced her into their fold.  Yes, they all know she is Charlie Swan’s daughter from his estranged/divorced wife now coming to live with him; but instead of gossiping about her and ostracising Bella, they were nothing but friendly and helpful to her.  People at school went out of their way to befriend Bella and invite her to join their company.  Yet instead of being relieved by this fact it was a problem for her.

 

It is here where Bella’s self righteousness comes out.  It is heavily implied that Bella is above all these superficial people what with her disdain for their shallowness.  However, when reading the book I couldn’t see where these people befriending her were fickle – there was one who had a bit of jealousy towards Bella and didn’t really like her, but that was it – on the whole they all seemed fairly nice and pleasant to me.  Yet for Bella this wasn’t good enough and she only put up with these people because she was obliged to; this attitude really annoyed me. 

 

There was one point in the book where she was invited to a day trip to the beach; Bella didn’t want to go because of her obvious clumsy reason, she had already decided it was going to be terrible as it was a beach trip located in Forks, and she didn’t really want to associate with the people who had been nice enough to invite her along.  Regardless, she went along because she couldn’t find a way out of it and she sat there being miserable throughout the whole trip making the reader endure her miserable thoughts.  As I read this I could clearly picture Bella as the type of person to go to a party and stand in the corner all night long sulking and not really wanting to be there; and in all honesty you wouldn’t have wanted her there anyway but had to invite her out of politeness.  In regards to the film, the casting of Kirsten Stewart was perfect; because Kirsten’s unsmiling and sour face is exactly how I picture Bella to be…all the fucking time!

 

Bella is continuously miserable about things, mainly because she is ‘self sacrificing’ and always doing things for others at the cost of her own suffering.  But is that really the case?  Well, no, it isn’t.  Nine times out of ten, Bella’s self sacrificing deeds are normally for her own advantage because she wants to get out of something; it’s only a bonus that they have a nice outcome for one of her friends or family.  If however her actions do have a positive outcome for someone else, does this please Bella?  No, it doesn’t, because now Bella has put up with listening to how happy her friend is that benefited from Bella’s self sacrifice.  What a hard and unfair life!  Not even for her mother can Bella conjure any happiness about doing something nice for her, Bella just sulks about her ‘dire’ situation at having to do something for someone. 

 

This now brings me to the dynamics of Bella’s relationships with her mother and father.  It is stated in the book that Bella’s mother, Renée, and father, Charlie, separated many years ago.  Bella and her mother moved to the city of Phoenix in Arizona, while Bella’s father stayed in Forks, Washington.  Naturally, Bella went to visit her father during the summer holidays, but thanks to her hatred of Forks Bella eventually insisted that she wasn’t going anymore, so her father would come toPhoenixto visit her instead. 

 

From what I can gather, Bella never enjoyed visiting her father, she and him never truly got along that well.  Bella’s father comes across as the quiet and reserved type, making it difficult for Bella to communicate with him (though Bella doesn’t seem to mind such a fact because she doesn’t really want to have a conversation with her father any way…don’t ask why, no reason was ever given in the book), but apart from that he does nothing wrong.

 

Bella’s mother on the other hand is the complete opposite to her father.  Bella’s mother is portrayed as this enigmatic and free spirited woman who Bella adores and is the person she is closest to.  Bella’s mother actually left Bella’s father because – just like her charming daughter – she couldn’t stand the town ofForks; she felt it was smothering her and she had to get out, leaving her husband who never actually got over the loss of her.

 

In the beginning of the book the story starts with Bella leaving her home in to live with her dad; this is because Renée had recently married her toy boy baseball player and what with his job taking him from state to state he wasn’t at home much.  It wouldn’t have been fair to travel as a family and constantly uproot Bella from school to school so Bella and her mum stayed home; but Renée missed her toy boy, so Bella decided to go and live with her dad in the hated town of Forks just so her mum could be with her toy boy and live the glory life of being a baseball player’s wife.

 

As I read further into the book, I came to learn that Bella’s mum wasn’t really a good mother.  Though Bella is supposed to be really close to Renée, Renée was never really much of mother because of her aloof and flaky nature.  Bella states that she was often the adult in the relationship and from a young age she had to take care of herself on some things and take on certain responsibilities that her mum didn’t do because she was ‘away with the fairies’.  The only thing we see of Renée being a caring parent is when she writes snippy e-mails to her beloved daughter when Bella doesn’t reply quick enough for Renée’s liking.  (You would have thought Renée would understand that her daughter doesn’t have a very good internet connection, is trying to adjust to a new home and has school work to get on with, thus making it a bit difficult to reply promptly.)

 

In comparison to Charlie, Renée was a terrible parent and just as annoying and self centred as her daughter.  Some may argue that Charlie hasn’t been around much for Bella, but let’s look at the facts.  The only reason why Charlie hasn’t been around is because Renée moved her and her daughter to a different state for her own selfish reasons of not liking Forks.  It wasn’t like Charlie didn’t want to know his daughter, he regularly had her visit him in the summer holidays, but Bella threw a hissy fit and put a stop to it.  So what did Charlie do, he goes out of his way to visit his daughter in her home state.  It was not Charlie that separated him from his daughter, it was his former wife; thinking only of herself as she uprooted her daughter and took her away to another state and thus taking her away from her father! 

 

Throughout the book, Bella also seems to overlook all of her father’s actions.  She overlooks the fact that he welcomes her into his house with no problems and is happy to have her living with him.  She overlooks the fact that he buys her a truck so she can travel around Forks and asks for no money in repayment for the truck.  She overlooks the fact that he constantly shows concern for her by asking how she is fitting at school and such.  She also overlooks the fact that her dad put snow chains on her truck so she wouldn’t have an accident in the icy weather.  Despite the fact she is at times emotionally touched by learning how her dad cares for her, Bella still favours her mother that was more interested in being with her toy boy than her.  Bella even favours her step father over her biological father because he bought her a cool CD once!  Bella hardly ever refers to Charlie as her dad; she lacks the respect and affection for him to do so, thinking nothing more of him than an embarrassing nuisance.  This unjustified attitude made me want to slap Bella round the face and point out she needs to take a good hard look at reality and sort her priorities out.

 

Talking about finding her father embarrassing, it brings up the issue that Bella is very self conscious and finds absolutely everything embarrassing, to the point where it was getting ridiculous and showed Bella to be nothing more than a little Madame!  Bella is the type of teenager that sulks and doesn’t want to join in with anything because it is ‘too embarrassing’.  If I was Bella’s parent, I would have taken her aside and told her to stop behaving as such because she is ruining things for everyone and in actual fact she is the one who is an embarrassment because of her attitude.

 

In the beginning of the book Bella’s father bought her a truck to travel around in.  Unfortunately, the truck was an old, restored banger of a vehicle that a majority of teens would be ashamed to drive; all except Bella who loved the truck’s character and that it had been lovingly restored.  However, these sentiments soon changed in the morning when Bella first drove it and learned it was a very noisy truck – as most old trucks tend to be – and she was utterly aghast at having to drive such a noisy vehicle and drawing people’s attention to the fact she had a beat up ride.  Bella just did a complete 180 and disregarded her affection for the car and embraced the shallowness that most ‘stereotypical’ teens have.  Yet this was absolutely ridiculous because no one in Forks was looking down on her for having such an old and cheap ride, not even at her school (most of her fellow classmates drove cars that were equivalent in condition if not worse than Bella’s).  Yet despite Bella realising this fact, she was unable to let got of her embarrassed reservations about her truck and continued to mentally complain about the truck she had initially loved so much.

 

Then there was the time in the hospital.  Bella had to take a trip to the hospital to be checked out after almost being run over; when her trip to the hospital is finished she learns that all her school friends and her dad are there to see her.  Instead of being pleased that people who cared are here for her in her time of need, she gets embarrassed because now everyone is going to talk about her (mind you, everyone was going to talk about her almost fatal accident anyway because it happened in a busy school car park, her friends and family going to the hospital make no difference on this fact).  Now, I could almost forgive this shy embarrassment of not wanting a fuss made and wanting no attention drawn to her if it weren’t for the fact that she was a stuck up cow!  You see, instead of being happy that her friends and father were there to see her, she held resentment for their kind actions as though they had done something wrong to her, and she rushed out of the building wanting to get away from them as quickly as possible.  How un-fucking-grateful! 

 

Bella is never able to appreciate her friends; she’s always being embarrassed by them or is too superior for them.  Her self righteous attitude really grated on my nerves, because all I could think was ‘what gives her the right to be so judgmental and self pitying’.  There was no justifiable reason for her to have such feelings, everyone around her was perfectly civil and nice to her, but as far as she was concerned, everyone was a nuisance that poor little Bella had to endure.  The only time she was happy to be in anyone’s company, was when she was with ‘Edward Cullen’.

 

Now that I’ve brought up Edward Cullen, where do I start with this prick?  How about the fact that he is the most good looking boy in the school that every female swoons over…even the wonderful Bella who is above such superficial notions.  In fact, Bella spends an infuriating long time obsessing over Edward’s god like good looks, comparing him to classical Greek statues and melting over his ‘crooked’ smile.  Bella pretty much fell in lust (notice I use the word lust, and not love) with Edward on first sight.  Bella’s feelings for Edward are highly confusing, because it is hard to understand where they developed from.  The whole relationship and its development are paper thin and inconceivable that the reader is unable to make logical sense of it, let alone feel any emotional empathy for it. 

 

It is implied that Bella is above all those love struck, teenage girls that do nothing else but talk about and sulk about boys.  This is quite important, because Bella is supposed to be above such ‘nonsense’ you’d think that she wouldn’t let Edward’s poor treatment of her affect her, you’d think she would just brush it aside and carry on with her life. Well, she doesn’t, she does a complete U-turn to how her character is portrayed – something that happens a lot in this book –  and does nothing but fawn and mope about Edward Cullen! Oh…she complains about Forks, her friends and her Dad a lot too!  Let’s not forget that.

 

Bella’s first meeting with Edward doesn’t go to well to say the least.  She first sees him in the school canteen and is instantly struck with how beautiful he and his companions are…blah blah blah…vampires are beautiful…blah blah blah…not that original…blah blah blah.  Bella makes a few enquiries about Edward and Co. and learns that they are the Cullens, the beautiful adopted children of the rich Dr. Carlisle Cullen.  She also learns that the Cullens are considered quite snobbish, choosing to keep to themselves despite the fact the town community and people at school have tried to approach them.

 

Once finished in the canteen, Bella makes her way to her next lesson, Biology, where she learns that the only available seat in the classroom is next to the god like Edward Cullen.  Bella tries to be polite, only to have Edward be very rude to her; in fact, his actions are so extreme that the reader can’t quite help but feel he absolutely detests her.  I liken the scene to a Ku Klux Klan member sitting next to a black person, it was that bad.  Yet things get worse, when the school day is done and Bella reports back to the main office, she finds Edward desperately arguing to be transferred from his Biology class – with little luck – leaving Bella wondering why Edward hates her so much.  

 

Thankfully, Bella doesn’t have to put up with Edward’s shitty attitude the next day, as for the next two weeks Edward is mysteriously absent from school.  However, instead of being relieved at not having to put up with such a jerk, Bella frets over what she could have possibly done wrong to incur such hatred from a stranger.  The real question is: why is she so bothered about it?  Bella is supposed to be above such petty natures.  If someone wants to behave like that she shouldn’t let it bother her, she doesn’t need to associate with that person as she’s already made friends.  Surely Bella should be telling Edward to get on with his bad attitude elsewhere and that she is quite happy to leave him alone, while getting on with her own life.  But no, Bella has to mope about wondering why the most beautiful boy in school doesn’t like her.

 

However, after two weeks absence, Edward returns; much to Bella’s horror.  Fortunately, Edward has seemed to have had a change of heart, being perfectly civil to Bella and even starting a conversation with her.  WHAT THE FUCK!  A fortnight ago he absolutely hated Bella to the point where it made her uncomfortable and scared, and now, he’s being pleasantly civil towards her and striking up a conversation with her about why she moved to Forks.  What is even more shocking is that Bella is participating in the conversation and answering the questions freely.  Um…Hello…shouldn’t you be a little more guarded with your answers Bella, considering he’s a stranger who was an out and out bastard to you when first meeting. 

 

Edward constantly flips from being a massive dick to normally civil constantly in this book.  I use the term civil because Edward isn’t capable of being nice; Edward, like Bella, also has no redeeming qualities either…asides from being unfairly good looking and a ‘vampire’.   He is constantly moody and lacks any whit or charm, aside from his physical appearance there is nothing to attract you to him and any sensible person would move onto the next prospect after five minutes of talking to him and learning what a dick he is.  Also, the sudden and abrupt U-turns this character has are so sever that it leaves the reader with a bad case of whiplash.  It certainly leaves Bella confused, and I understand why; but if Edward is going to behave like that, then surely that should be more ammunition as to why she shouldn’t bother with him!

 

Now, I understand what Stephanie Meyer was trying to do; you see, later on in the book it is revealed that Edward doesn’t hate Bella, he actually likes her a lot, he was just struggling with his desire to eat her.  It’s the classic dynamic in the human/vampire relationship; the vampire loves the human, but the vampire also wants to eat the human.  However, when you write a relationship where one member of the partnership believes the other hates them, you have to have an element of doubt in a certain member’s actions. Otherwise, when you reveal that he didn’t really hate her the reader will be unable to believe the plot or relationship development and find your work filled with too many confusing contradictions.  Stephanie Meyer seems unable to do this as we’re left with the constant switching of Edward’s mood swings.  One minute he hates Bella, then he doesn’t, then he does, then he doesn’t, then he does…and so on and so forth.  It’s a confusing rollercoaster that does nothing but baffle you.  And that isn’t the only inconsistency in the book.

 

Edward is constantly warning Bella that he is dangerous and that she should avoid him; yet he seems to be constantly perusing her.  Then, after telling her once again to keep her distance, he then all of a sudden and completely out of the blue decides that he can no longer keep his distance…like he had been trying really hard not to get close to her in the first place.  This was absolutely ridiculous, Edward was in one way or another involving himself in Bella’s life yet he acted like he was unable to get away from her.  It wasn’t like he had to be at Bella’s side; so he couldn’t get his Biology class changed to avoid Bella, all he had to do was sit at a different desk, it’s not hard.  But oh no, they were thrown together by fate…more like a lack of him trying to keep away from her.  What was especially annoying was that Bella had to keep away from him; not the other way round.  No, it wasn’t up to Edward to be the responsible one and resist his murderous urges and keep his distance from the vulnerable Bella.  Bella wasn’t aware – at the time – that Edward was a vampire, she just thought he was a kid who hated her, she had no extra special reason to keep her distance.  It was Edward who was privy to the knowledge of his dangerous identity; it was his duty and responsibility to keep a distance. 

 

Apparently, Edward tried to keep his distance, yet he always seemed to find a way to intrude upon her life.  When it is revealed in the book just how much he used to do that – when he admitted he used to watch her sleep pretty much from day one – you are faced with yet another contradiction thanks to Stephanie Meyer.  Stephanie is clearly trying to build the dynamic of Edward wanting Bella but he can’t have her for fear of hurting her; this doesn’t actually work if you don’t have the character actually trying to keep his distance.  Yet again, we have another failed dynamic in this relationship and another contradiction in the story.

 

Another thing that completely failed was the fact that Edward is a vampire.  Yes I know the book is about vampires and that is the whole point of it, but the revelation that Edward is a vampire was long winded and anticlimactic.  Even before the world wide coverage Twilight got, readers would have known this book was about vampires.  The synopsis on the back cover gave it away, and when you are first introduced to the Cullens it sticks out like a sore thumb to the reader that they are vampires.  Unfortunately it is quite a few chapters before Stephanie chooses to confirm this already well known fact; and it is done in the most boring of fashions. Yet, when we get to the critical point in the book where it is finally put in black and white that Edward is a blood sucker, it is done with absolutely no drama what-so-ever!  If you’re going to draw out the revelation that one of your characters is a supernatural creature follow these rules.

 

1: Don’t make it obvious what kind of creature your character could be.

 

2: have some investigation to what your character is, it builds suspense and intrigue.

 

3: When you make the big reveal that your characters is a vampire/werewolf/ghost/demon/whatever, have the scene grab you by the short and curlies and rip them out.  After all, it’s a big scene.

 

Stephanie Meyer does none of the above.  I read through Bella’s investigation to what Edward was with great frustration, wishing it would hurry up and get to the point that Edward was a vampire so I could move on with the story.  When it was finally revealed that Edward was a vampire, it was done so flippantly that one would wonder what the big deal was.

 

However, once it is confirmed that Edward is a vampire, Bella does one of the most annoying things in the book. You see, this is where it is shown that Bella isn’t your stereotypical, self centred teen; as she completely embraces the fact that Edward is a vampire.  How understanding of her…actually, how fucking stupid of her!  Not only does Bella learn that Edward is a vampire – a fabled creature known for drinking the blood of humans – but that he also finds her particularly more appetising than any other human, struggling to control his blood lust around her and that he has also been acting rather stalker like by invading her privacy and watching her sleep in her own home!  Bella doesn’t have the slightest apprehension or fear towards Edward, instead, she is ‘irrevocably’ in love with him!

 

Where the hell is Bella’s survival instinct?  Left in the trash with her common sense I suppose.  Most people would have been backing off by now, but not Bella, she’s in love with Edward.  How is she in love with him?!?!?!  This couple have hardly spent any time together for feelings like that to develop naturally, and when they did spend any time together a good portion of it Edward was ignoring Bella.  Second, Bella knows absolutely nothing about Edward, and with him being a vampire there is a lot for her to learn.  I really can’t fathom where the feelings of love come into it, all I can see is lust and obsession, but some people can’t seem to differentiate between that; including Stephanie Meyer who wrote this drivel.

 

However, this piece of garbage is a love story, an unbelievable and disturbing one at that.  I say disturbing, not because it is a dark and gothic love story, but for these two reasons.

 

1) Edward is not a teenager.  He may look like a teenager, but he has been around for over a 100 years, and I can guarantee you he is very much a man.  A man who has lived a long time and gained a wealth of experience and knowledge…so why is he sexually interested in a 17-year-old girl?!?!?!  And he is sexually interested to her, because he admitted to ‘still being a man’ and finding her attractive.

 

This really doesn’t sit well with me because Bella is clearly a girl in this story; though the author tries to make her more mature than her years, Stephanie fails in doing so because Bella acts like a naive teenage girl who thinks she knows everything but actually knows nothing about life.  No man of Edward’s mindset and maturity would want to enter into such a relationship, only for the reason of sexual gratification…those people we call ‘dirty old men’.  Perhaps this scenario would be more forgivable if Bella wasn’t so young, if she was an adult and a strong confident woman.  Nor is Twilight the sort of book to explore such a disturbing theme in a way that it provokes thought from the reader.  It is the type of book that has capitalised on such a relationship between Edward and Bella that I find morally wrong. 

 

2) Edward is constantly dominating over Bella.  Something that infuriates me, especially because Bella is still technically a child and in some respects considers this behaviour normal and okay?!?!?! 

 

Edward is always dragging Bella around like a rag doll.  He claims he does this for her protection, because she is so clumsy.  But not once did we see Bella’s clumsiness put her in a life threatening situation.  The only time Bella’s clumsiness is mentioned is when she states she didn’t have a good time in P.E or she tripped up and scraped her knees…she’s that accident prone.  I don’t know about you, but if Bella was such a klutz I wouldn’t be letting her drive a big truck or cook in the kitchen (one of the most dangerous rooms in the house).  However, Edward constantly manhandles Bella and dominates over her for her own good; and Bella goes along with this without one single word of complaint, even revelling in such treatment.  Stephanie Meyer has managed to write a story where it is acceptable for a 100-odd-year-old man to date a 17-year-old girl with low confidence and physically drag her about and dominate over her in the process.  THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!

 

Another thing that really annoyed me with this book, is that Stephanie Meyer completely and utterly shit over the mythology of vampires.  It’s not unheard of for authors to tweek with the mythology; though what needs to be remembered is that if you do such a thing, you need to keep your theories plausible.  Remember, mythologies have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years, and at one point were genuinely believed, so show them a little respect.  Stephanie Meyer did not do this.  She spun her ridiculous ideas that left the reader speechless! (and not in a good way)  Her ideas were either lame or contradictory. 

 

First off, Stephanie’s vampires were so beautiful and graceful it was almost god like. They also had amber or burgundy eyes which would change colour to black depending how hungry they were.  However, what they lacked were fangs.  I don’t know if any one knows this, but vampires are creatures famed for biting and drinking the blood of humans…blunt teeth ain’t gonna do the job!

 

Second, Stephanie’s vampires were so strong and fast that no human could match them.  They were also expert hunters with very keen senses.  They also had no weaknesses or had a need for sleep, and the only way to kill a vampire was for another vampire to rip them apart.  Humans had absolutely no fighting chance against these vampires.

 

Third, Stephanie’s vampires were perfectly capable of walking about during the daylight hours.  Now, if you’re going to make such a major change to the mythology, you better have a good reason to back it up.  For example: Vampires can actually cast reflections, it was just a lie they spread to protect their identity, how could one be a vampire if they had a reflection.  Stephanie did however have a reason why her vampires walked about in sunlight, though they often chose not too; and that reason was…

 

…When walking in direct sunlight, vampires sparkle, like a glistening diamond…WHAT?!?!?!

 

Stephanie had her vampires sparkling in the sunlight…what a pile of shit!  I have never heard anything so stupid before!  Stephanie’s vampires didn’t explode into flames when in the sun, Stephanie’s vampire didn’t become lethargic in the sun and more prone to attack; no, they sparkled and it was a bit of a pain so they avoided sunlight.  Apparently, the reason why they sparkle is to lure their pray towards them.  This idea doesn’t really work and contradicts all of Stephanie’s other ideas regarding vampires.  One, vampires are ridiculously powerful; they can easily catch their prey without luring it to them.  Two, they are already unbelievably beautiful, which would act as a lure but still deceive the prey into believing they’re human.  And three, sparkling is a hindrance to them because it risks exposing them, so why would they evolve such an ability in the first place?

 

Sparkling vampires is beyond ridiculous and stupid.  The only purpose sparkling can provide is so that the idiotic reader will grin from ear to ear going ‘aren’t vampires fantastic’ while clapping and bouncing up and down on their seat like a giddy school girl.  Vampires are meant to be scary; after all, they hunt and kill humans.  Stephanie Meyer has unforgivably glorified vampires to the point of disrepair, all so the readers can ‘ooo’ and ‘ahh’.  Even Bella is continuously in awe of the vampires, each vampire has their own unique talent, while everything they do is magnificent and they can do nothing wrong.  These are vampires in name only!  Stephanie really needed someone looking over her shoulder, telling her that sparkling vampires was a crap idea.  In fact, she needed someone to tell her to scrap the whole book and saga all together!

 

Another of the major problems with this book is the fact it has no plot.  Nothing really happens in this book apart from having to put up with Bella being miserable, embarrassed, complaining and moping over Edward.  Then we have the blossoming of Edward and Bella’s relationship which is utterly inconceivable.  Nothing actually happens to draw Bella and Edward together, there is no common enemy or disaster to unit them.  All they do is go to the canteen and Biology class together.  We go through Bella’s boring life, witnessing her be a stuck up cow; then we have to witness Bella and Edward being together and having their ‘deep’ conversations where a lot of words are spoken but nothing is truly said.  (I re-read parts of the dialogue several times and I still have no idea what some of the conversations between Bella and Edward are about.)

 

The book is dull, dull, dull; with nothing happening to grab your attention.  All we have is the mind numbing relationship of Bella and Edward, where Stephanie Meyer showcases the talent for having the ability to rush things and draw things out at the same time.  (Their attachment to each other was far too quick to be believable.  Yet Bella’s discovery that Edward was a vampire took far too long; and the ‘touching’ & ‘intimate’ moments they share are long winded)  However, right at the end, Stephanie spins a rushed plot.  Out of the blue, a group of murderous, blood thirsty vampires appear, wanting to kill Bella for no good reason other than they want to.  This has often been complained about because readers felt it came from absolutely no where.  This isn’t quite true, but an easy mistake to make.

 

In the case of the film, I’ve heard this is very applicable that the bad vampires came from absolutely no where.  In the book however, their coming is mentioned…twice…and briefly.  You see, there is a vampire named Alicefrom the Cullen clan, she has the power of vague and inaccurate visions.  She mentions – twice only – that ‘someone’ is coming, these mentions are very brief, but it is in reference to the enemy that is coming.  Unfortunately, these mentions are so small, that the average reader will easily overlook this and get engulfed into the mundane and pointless conversations of Bella and Edward.

 

Another fact that people had a problem with this new plot development was that these vampires claimed to kill many humans, but not one single body has turned up in Forks.  What actually happened was these vampires killed quite a distance outside of Forks, and thus the murders were not noticed in the small community where such a heinous crime would have been big news; especially for Bella as her dad is a police officer.  However, I think the book would have been greatly improved if we did have some murders in Forks.  It would have added a sense of doom to the story.  It would have raised the question whether the culprit of these strange crimes was Edward or another entity.  It would have been interesting.

 

Then there was the fact that Bella was being targeted by these vampires for no other reason than the leader, James, wants to and always gets what he wants.  It just seemed really illogical, because once again I can see what Stephanie was trying to do, but this element was not properly developed.  There is nothing about Bella to draw the vampire’s interest; she has no talent to be of use to vampires, nor is she a threat that needs eliminating.  The only quality Bella has is that she smells tastier than your average human; but then again is it worth risking a fight and your immortal life with another coven of vampires when you can easily move onto the next meal?  The answer is no; however, James is the type of vampire who gets a thrill from the challenge and doesn’t like to be told no; he is also an intelligent and cunning vampire, and his sudden spur of the moment decision seems recklessly made over something so insignificant.

 

It would have been better if James and his coven were brought into the story earlier.  Their horrendous crimes would have ignited the fearful gossip in the town and the readers would have been treated to a ‘who done it’.  The Cullens would naturally know about these bad vampires and would be concerned of them exposing their kind to the world; as they wanted to live in peace with humans on a vegetarian diet (that ate animals not humans).  So the Cullens would try and drive James and his motley crew out of town, thus causing tension and resentment between the two covens.

 

However, James being an arrogant vampire would refuse to leave on the order of vampires he deems beneath him and continues his killing spree, targeting the tempting Bella next.  The Cullens obviously want no more murders in their town for fear of the finger of blame being pointed at them, so they get Edward to keep a discreet eye on her, he would be the least suspicious if he were seen with her because they go to school together and sit next to each other in Biology.  Unfortunately, because Edward finds Bella delicious himself he is reluctant to do it, but understands the importance of keeping his coven safe.  Thus giving Edward a genuine reason to be around Bella and protect her.  However, during the time they spend together their feelings grow for one another while Bella wonders about all the strange stuff that is happening, and if the boy she potentially likes is the culprit or not.  James will also have a growing hatred for the Cullens and their meddling, making his determined hunting of Bella all the more plausible.

 

As you can see, in the last two paragraphs I have fixed so many things wrong with the book.  One, we have an actual plot, what with the unresolved and strange murders in town along with the attempts on Bella’s life.  Two, we have a believable situation for Bella and Edward’s relationship to flourish, what with Edward constantly rescuing Bella they no doubt would grow fond of each other.  And finally, three, James’ pursuit of Bella would feel more natural in its development and perhaps be more sinister as it grows.

 

Instead, this is what we got in the last few chapters of the book: Bad vampires appear, bad vampires want to eat Bella, nice vampires say no, bad vampires say fuck you and hunt Bella, nice vampires hide Bella in a hotel in Phoenix while others lure bad vampires away, bad vampire says to Bella ‘I got your mum’, Bella leaves safety of nice vampires to help her mum, bad vampire reveals he tricked Bella into coming to him, bad vampires beats the shit out of Bella, Bella is rescued in the nick of time.  And once again, Stephanie shows her talent for rushing and drawing things out. 

 

All this action was squeezed in at the end of the book, which would have been better if it was drawn at throughout the story.  Yet parts of it were incredibly far fetched and tedious to read.  As Bella and the gang came up with the most pathetic plan to keep her safe I couldn’t help thinking this had to be the most boring thing I’ve ever read; then I read the chapters where she was holed up in the hotel and almost fell asleep while reading.

 

You see, Stephanie Meyer doesn’t write action very well…she writes tedious and unbelievable romances excellently, but action she sucks at writing.  The only bit of action we get is Bella being manhandled (as vampires do not understand she has two perfectly good and working legs to walk with) and her getting brutally beaten up at the end.  Do we get to see James hunting Bella down?  No, that is all done over the phone when Edward andCarlisle touch base with the other vampires of their coven.  Do we get the see the big fight between James and the good vampires?  No, it was explained he was ripped apart when a semi conscious Bella asksCarlisle what happened.  The only bit of action we get is Bella being physically debased, all in the name of romance and entertainment!

 

Which now brings us to the ‘happy ending’.  Bella is out of hospital after having been so badly beaten, and her vampire friends are dressing her up for a night out.  Bella happily puts up with being treated like a Barbie doll, thinking the love of her life, Edward, is finally going to turn her and they can be together forever and ever.  However, Bella reverts back to her sulking and ungrateful self when she realises Edward is taking her to the school dance instead – which she didn’t want to go to because she is so clumsy and she’ll trip up.  I wouldn’t have minded so much if it wasn’t for the fact that Bella was such a moody cow, and that the only reason why she was truly disappointed was because she wasn’t getting her own way!  You see, Bella is so selfless she wants to give up her humanity and become a vampire to be with Edward for all of eternityAwwwwwww

 

WHAT?!?!?!

 

Does Bella not realise what it means to become a vampire?  Does she not realise she could become a blood thirsty and murderous monster?  Would she want to become that?  Is she not aware of the struggles she will face as a vampire?  Fighting her urge to drink human blood, watching people grow old and die around her, seeing the world change for good…and for bad. Doesn’t she realise things could change between her and Edward were she a vampire?  He could regret turning her if she doesn’t accept his life style, or she could resent him for forcing such a life style on her.  And does she not realise what she would be giving up of she were no longer human?  She would never be able to have children, never be able to go out in sunlight in public, having to live a lie…giving up her friends and family (mind you, that last one wouldn’t bother Bella as she doesn’t really like her friends and family, they’re too much of an embarrassment and nuisance).   

 

Most people would consider what I mentioned above before choosing to become a vampire.  Bella didn’t, she didn’t even go through the motions to come to such thoughts let alone come to the conclusion she wanted to be a vampire.  For example: Oh, he’s going to out live me, will he still want me when I’m old, the only way we can truly be together is if I were a vampire as well, but is that what I want?  Bella does none of that, and jumps straight in, wanting to be a vampire.

 

Stupid, stupid, stupid, STUPID GIRL!

 

As I said in the beginning of this review, this book is a pile of shit.  The only good thing of this book was the character of James who was actually quite cunning, but badly underused!  It is filled with errors and terminology that doesn’t make sense.  The main characters are utterly despicable.  It is filled with inconsistencies and contradictions.  There is no plot.  The characters and relationship development are dire.  It is rushed, yet also long winded.  Some of the ideas are painfully lame and do not work!  And finally, it finishes on an anticlimactic, unsatisfying and frustrating end!

 

For all the fans this book and series has garnered: you are romantic fools!  Take your rose tinted spectacles off and take a good hard look at what is before you.

 

This book is an insult to literacy!

Book Review #1 – Skulduggery Pleasant

My fourth review, this time, is for the book, Skulduggery Pleasant written By Derek Landy (this is my first ever book review by the way).  Skulduggery Pleasant is the debut novel for the Irish playwright, Derek Landy, published in 2007; it is the first instalment of a series of books following the adventures of a dead detective/magician and his teenage sidekick.

Though predominantly marketed for a younger audience – the book is rated 9+ on the cover – I was thoroughly engrossed by it and enjoyed it very much.  I’m not one of those snobs who think children’s books should specifically be read only by children.  In my opinion, if the writing is good, why can’t the book be enjoyed by an adult as well?  And to put things bluntly, with Skulduggery Pleasant, the writing is good!

For quite some time whenever I was in the book shop Skulduggery Pleasant would catch my eye and intrigue me.  I have wanted to read the book for a while now out of sheer curiosity, and in all honesty, how could I not want to read a book titled Skulduggery Pleasant!  I eventually picked up a copy, after putting it off for so long, and boy was I glad I did pick it up.

You start off by meeting a girl named Stephanie Edgley, whose uncle – Gordon Edgley, famed horror novelist – has passed away.  Stephanie was rather close to her uncle and feels his passing more so than anyone else in her family, and their close relationship becomes more prominent when she inherits his entire estate at the tender age of 13.  Much to the displeasure of certain members of her family.  While spending a night alone at her deceased uncle’s house, Stephanie is attacked by an imposing man who breaks into the house and threatens to kill Stephanie unless she tells him where the key is.  Fortunately, Stephanie is rescued by her late uncle’s friend, Skulduggery Pleasant, who bursts in on the scene and reveals himself as a wizard and a living skeleton detective.  From then on, Stephanie is emerged into the magical world and discovering that she too has powers while joining Skulduggery on his adventure.  Stephanie also discovers that her uncle may not have died of natural causes while trying to stop an evil wizard named Serpine from resurrecting evil gods.

The great thing about this book is that Derek Landy doesn’t drag out the obvious. For example: you’ll pick up a book with a cryptic title leading one to believe this book is about werewolves, you’ll look at the front cover and see a huge werewolf howling at the moon, and then you’ll read the synopsis at the back and it will talk about how the book is about a werewolf.  You’ll then start to read the book that is heavily suggested it is about werewolves and you will meet a mysterious character who the hero or heroine of the book has to discover their dark secret – even though it is blindingly obvious they are a werewolf – but you still have to read 13 chapters of mystery to confirm a fact you already knew!  Thankfully, Derek Landy does none of this; by chapter three it is revealed that Skulduggery is a detective skeleton (why else would you have a skeleton on the front cover dressed as a detective?) and we’re able to proceed with the rest of the story.

And what a story it is.  I was gripped from the very beginning; and when you hear people say they could not put the book down, I literally couldn’t put the book down and read the whole thing in one day.  The story is a good mix of action, adventure, mystery and the supernatural.  There was never a dull moment in the book and it kept its fast pace throughout the entire story, yet it still managed to explain things in a clever way.  The story is well rounded and structured as well as entertaining and kept you guessing, yet also managed to tie up all it’s loose ends as well.

I also found some of the supernatural ideas to be quite fresh and smart.  Such as vampires; in Skulduggery Pleasant they’re vicious beasts that hunger only for blood, instead of being glorified beings that everyone falls in love with!  I also liked the idea of the power of names.  It is explained in the book that everyone has three names, the one you’re born with, the one you’re given and the one you take.  No one knows the name they’re born with, but everyone knows the name they are given by their parents, naturally if people learn your given name or born with name then they can exert power over you and control you; however, if you take a name then you can protect the name you are given with and they will no longer be able to control you should they learn it.  I found this to be quite an interesting idea.

However, don’t go looking for some deep and complicated intellectual meaning buried within the book.  It won’t have you questioning the moral of today’s society, it won’t have you discussing theology and there is no warning of doom such as climate change.  Skulduggery Pleasant is good old fashioned story telling with some clever plot points and twists, and in my mind there is nothing wrong with that when it is done this well.

Another aspect of the book I enjoyed was the dialogue and the witty banter between Skulduggery and Stephanie; it was funny and highly intelligent with some smart references thrown in here and there.

It was also refreshing to see the character of Stephanie as well.  It’s rare to find a young, female character that is smart and proactive instead of being another damsel in distress.  Yes she makes mistakes, but she is young and still learning about this new world opening up to her and how to control her new powers; however, and least she is trying to improve her abilities so she is not a burden on anyone and at least she is also willing to do something instead of just waiting around to be rescued all the time.  As I said before, Stephanie does make mistakes, but she learns from them and she is also a character that thinks about her situation instead of running in wildly and digging herself into a deeper grave.  For once, we have a character with some semblance of a brain.

Unfortunately, as much as I like Stephanie, I did find that now and then she got on my nerves.  Every so often there would be a line that made it look like Stephanie was self righteous and she was better than other people because she was smarter than them.  I don’t know if this was intentional, but it did irk me when I came across it.

Generally though, the characters were interesting and had depth – even with the slight niggling issue I had with Stephanie.  The only characters I had a real problem with were Stephanie’s aunt Beryl, uncle Fergus and their twin daughters.  The four of them were loathsome and contemptuous characters, what with their greed and wanting all of the inheritance from Gordon Edgley’s estate.  There was no doubt that you weren’t meant to like these characters, and believe me, I didn’t like them.  However, I did find them two dimensional as all they were, was greedy little money grabbers who sulked when they didn’t get what they wanted.  Fortunately, these were only minor characters in the book and you were not plagued with their presence often.

Regardless, the book is superbly written.  I found no plot holes in the story, the characters were well formed, it was interesting from the get go and the grammar and spelling were of a very high quality.  In all fairness, Derek Landy could teach many established and best selling authors a thing or two.  However, there was one thing that Derek Landy did that I found a little annoying.  When writing a short list of descriptive words he would often write it as such: He was big and strong and tough.  I found this format jarring and the words didn’t seem to flow all that well as opposed to writing it like this: He was big, strong and tough.  Maybe it’s just a personal preference of mine, but I did pick up on this grammatical quirk quite a bit.

Overall, the book is excellent and even though it is a children’s book I would be proud to let my future children read it as well as proudly read it from cover to cover myself (once again, or maybe more than once again if I’m honest).  I found very few faults with this book, the only ones being the grammatical specification I mentioned and the slight issues with a few of the characters.  On the whole I enjoyed the book very much and would recommend reading it.

Gaming Review #3 – Saints Row the Third

My third review is for the game, Saints Row the Third.  Published by THQ and released late 2011, this version is for the Xbox 360 and rated 18 bbfc certificate.

 

Saints Row the Third is an action/3rd person shooter, based in the gangland city of Steelport.  The Saints are a gang famed for their success and notoriety, so much so that they have their own merchandising, TV shows and fan base.  You play as the leader of the saints and after the first introduction mission you get to customise the look of this character.  You start the game off being kidnapped by Le Ren, leader of the crime Syndicate, and held prisoner on a plane where Le Ren tries to convince the Saints to join his syndicate.  Naturally the Saints refuse and during their escape attempt Saints member – Johnny Gat – is killed.  From then on the Saints want to get revenge for their fallen comrade while stopping the Syndicate from forcing them out of the city ofSteelport.

 

To start off with…I absolutely loved this game.  Every so often a game comes along that you don’t want to put down and that you want to complete every bit of if as it is such a delight to play.  SR3 (Saints Row the Third abbreviation) is one of those games.

 

I have never been one to be interested in games based on gang activities.  However, upon seeing the madcap mayhem advertised on TV with people dressed up in blue, fury outfits, or hitting each other with oversized fists, the game undoubtedly looked fun.  I was further encouraged to buy the game when friends informed me that they would be purchasing the game and taking advantage of the crazy co-op gameplay.  To say the least, I bought the game and haven’t looked back since.

 

As I said in the second paragraph, you play as the leader of the saints, a character you get to customise to very fine detail.  However, you unfortunately only have the choice of three styles of voices, which can be somewhat disappointing as you struggle to choose one that fits your customised character.  Regardless of this little niggling fact, your customised character appears in the cut scenes in all his or hers customised glory, and as a fully functioning character instead of just a phantom presence in the background.

 

The graphics are nicely done to, perhaps not the most polished that I have seen, but good none the less.  However the soundtrack truly stands out and is quite simply put as ‘kick ass!’  When jumping into a vehicle the radio will come on with a selection of radio stations that have some pretty awesome tunes.  You even have the option of creating a mix tape and picking your favourite tunes to play – and believe me, there are some brilliant songs available.

 

Getting down to the gameplay however, this is where the game excels.  The main missions are engaging and fun, with controls that are responsive and easy to grasp.  It was easy to jump into this game if you were a first time player, yet still challenging enough for more experienced players to get something out of the game.

 

As you play throughout the game you earn respect points, allowing you to level up your abilities, acquire new skills and improve the stats of your fellow gang members.  When you reach level fifty you no doubt will have immunity to bullets, fire, falls and vehicle damage, as well as having infinite amount of ammunition; you’re basically indestructible.  This may seem quite boring, taking away any risk or challenge of dying, but surprisingly enough it is not; you are basically unstoppable as you wreak havoc in the city (insert evil laugh here!).  You can also upgrade your weapons by buying upgrades in weapon stores; one such top upgrade allows your gun to fire bullets that ignite your enemies and nearby vehicles.

 

Another great thing about this game is the side quests…there’s loads of them!  You have over 30 assassination missions to complete, as well as over 30 vehicle theft missions to complete.  There are also numerous hidden objects to find; 20 drug packages, 20 photo opportunities, 20 money packages and 20 sex dolls – yes…sex dolls.  As well as numerous gang operations to find throughout the city, where you have to wipe out the collection of opposing gang members in the area.  Then you have to buy up all the businesses and buildings available to buy if you want to take over the city.  Not forgetting, 30 survival modes – where you will receive a phone call telling you to drive to a certain location and survive wave after wave of enemies until complete.  On top of all that, there is also the Saints book, a list of 60 tasks to complete, such as: you need to kill a set amount of enemies, or, travel a specific distance in certain way.  Finally, there are the mini games; there is a wide variety to choose from all ranging in three levels, easy, medium and hard – some were quite challenging and had me in fits of rage…until I eventually completed them. 

 

One thing is for certain, with the main gameplay and all these side quests you certainly have plenty to do.  This game is definitely value for money; I spent over 60+hrs completing every little detail of the game.

 

The real great thing about SR3, and what it has down to a T, is the fun factor.  It’s very rare that a game comes along where you can have just as much fun doing nothing, as you can when trying to complete the game.  I spent many fun filled hours just driving about and listening to my favourite tunes on my mix tape, riling up the opposing gangs into gang warfare, pissing the police force off or just terrorising the public.  The fun is then doubled, when you can join a mate’s game or have them join your game in co-op play; either to help out with missions or just muck about.  Whatever you choose to do, it’s fun, and I don’t think I’ve laughed as much as I did when playing any other game compared to this one.

 

However, as much fun was had, there were a few little issues that stopped the game from being perfect.  Once such issue was customisation.

 

As I said before, you are able to customise the main Character to very fine detail and you have a wide variety of clothing and accessories you can purchase for your character – you could even dabble in a spot of cross dressing if you like *wink wink, nudge nudge* – unfortunately, despite being able to do all that you only have a choice of three voices for your character.  I touched on this earlier, and it really was a disappointing fact that you could do all this customising but were limited to 3 set voices – unless of course you included opposite gender voices for your character, then you had 6 to choose from.  You did not even have the opportunity to tweak the set voices like you did everything else.

 

Another disappointment with the customisation options was with the vehicles.  In SR3 you have a wide variety of vehicles available for your use; cars, motorbikes, jets, helicopters and watercraft.  What was even better about this is that you can customise your vehicles…yippee!  Unfortunately, this option is only available to cars and motorbikes.  If you wanted to make a gold helicopter, forget it.

 

Aside from the customisation disappointments, there were only a couple of snags in the gameplay.  The first is activating the nitros.

 

NItros is an option you can put onto your motor vehicles, allowing you to travel really fast for a short duration of time, a very handy feature.  You accessed this feature by pressing down on the left analog stick for the 360 version of this game.  Unfortunately, this feature was easy to accidentally activate when trying to reverse.  There were many times when I was speeding away from danger that I would accidentally crash on an unmoving object and the only way to get off of it was to reverse off.  However, in doing so, I would accidentally activate my nitros, making reversing impossible as my car would want speed off uncontrollably in a direction I didn’t want to go, or, I would be stuck on said unmoving object until my nitros deactivated.  It was no doubt an irksome situation made all the more worse because I was trying to escape a brute that wanted to smash my head in.

 

The second snag this game had is that it does occasionally glitch; thankfully, not very often but it did happen from time to time.  Sometimes a mini game would not load properly, or more commonly, when crashing your car into a building you would be propelled through the window and into said building.  This of course would be a building you should not have been able to enter, but the game had glitched and you would be inside, with no way out as your were stuck in some sort of white space.  Luckily, these weren’t permanent glitches and you could reset the game back to normal by quitting and reloading, however, you will lose any unsaved data in doing so. 

 

The good news is this game has an auto save feature, activating whenever you complete a mission or side quest, but this doesn’t activate on everything.  If you were trying to complete the tasks on the Saints Book and spent the last 40 minutes complimenting 50 different people and you hadn’t manually saved when achieving this, you would lose that data if the game glitched and you needed to reset it.

 

Regardless, this game is still fun, and the story line is insane along with all the crazy action.  There is even a few pleasant surprises along the way, including funny costume getups, super vehicles, mad weapons and some surprise guest voices/cameos which I won’t say too much about as I don’t want to ruin the surprise.  There’s even a zombie mission in this game, yes…Zombies, it’s that insane – though a small part of me does feel like the zombies were added in just because that’s the popular thing to do in games these day.

 

Game breakdown –

 

Good Points:

 

  • Great sound track.
  • Easy and responsive controls.
  • Good graphics.
  • Co-op play available.
  • Good gameplay with an insane story.
  • Customisation available.
  • Plenty to do.
  • Value for money.
  • Fun, fun, fun, and…FUN!

 

Bad Points:

 

  • Some areas are limited in the customisation.
  • Nitros can trigger when unwanted.
  • Glitches every now and then.

 

Overall, this game is excellent, and though there are a few bad points, unfortunately, they are nothing more than a niggling annoyance.  This game is fun down to its core, and with the vast quantity of things to do in this game it is also value for money.  Don’t let this one pass you by.  So grab your giant, purple dildos and beat a police officer with it – oh, I guess I should have mentioned you can do that also in the game (insert wicked smile here).