Tag Archives: back stories

Review: Mistress of Thieves

Hey everyone, sorry there was a bit of a delay on this one. (Check out my social media for the full story.) I was a little unsure where to start in the Kindle Store, to which the answer is not on the app if you are looking for the self-published section, but I stumbled upon this one after a lot of digging among the traditionally-published crowd, and thought it was worth a shot!

In Mistress of Thieves by Carrie Summers, Myrrh is an up-and-coming freelance thief who’s lost her only true friend. The city guards finally captured her mentor, an aging rogue and the closest thing she had to a family. He’s dead now. She’ll be next if she doesn’t figure out who betrayed him. As she begins her search, she’s double-crossed by a fellow freelancer and sold out to a shadowy new crime syndicate. With a sack over her head and wrists tightly bound, she’s delivered to the lair of the syndicate’s boss, a man named Glint. Certain he intends to kill her, Myrrh is surprised to learn that he has other plans. An unrepentant scoundrel, Glint is as charismatic as he is complex. And he has information about her mentor’s disappearance that will upend everything she thought she knew about the city’s underworld.

So this was a surprising amount of fun! It seemed like it was going to be super dark and grim, but the writing found ways of inserting some humor that made me grin without making the main character an idiot–actually, she’s rather brilliant, if impulsive at times. The second person point of view was sort of iffy for me, I don’t particularly like it, but it was done well enough that you eventually tune it out. It wasn’t as strongly fantasy as my usual taste, but there was enough that I can see how it ended up in this section rather than anywhere else.

The characters’ backstories were well-done, as was the balance of the cast. Myrrh was fun to follow, though I’m disappointed we didn’t learn her real name yet. Considering the crap that went down, I think if she had told Glint her real name, it could have had a deeper emotional wound…but the writer might also be saving that for later, so you know, I’m okay with it. Nab was friggin’ awesome. I was like, “Oh, little kid to look after, the cute bait.” And then he actually appeared and was a smart brat and I was like, “Okay, not what I expected, but BETTER!” I love realistic kids, especially when Myrrh gave it right back at him. Glint’s backstory was a lot…smaller I guess?…in terms of scale than I was expecting, but it worked, and I totally get it if the world is meant to stay focused here.

The romance was actually done well. It wasn’t something that started in the story, it felt organic in terms of how it built, and when the plot twist is revealed, it added another stab to the heart without having gone to super cliche levels. I also didn’t feel like it took over the story, and it didn’t completely eat up Myrrh’s goals. That thrills me to death. In fact, I think it hurt Glint more than it did Myrrh, which is a nice role reversal. In a similar vein, the female characters were more plentiful than usually shown in thieves’ guild type settings, and I loved the variety. We had more than just the geisha assassin (as the trope is called) and the girl thief, and what we saw was fun. I hope we see more of them.

My only complaint is so minor, and relates entirely to the fact I bought the book on Kindle. The large city that the book was set in was broken down by districts, bridges, and a river. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the layout right in my head (it’s not numerical like you’d think!), and that left to me getting a little confused. Now, Tamora Pierce’s Provost Dog series is very similar for the first two books, and I had less of a problem. That’s because I own physical copies, and it was a lot easier for me to toggle to the map in the front. The Kindle version of Mistress of Thieves not only sticks the map in a kinda weird spot, but I don’t have a Kindle-Kindle, I use my Android phone (which is not the biggest thing ever), so setting bookmarks sucks. As a result, it was halfway useless to me as a reference.

This was a fast but fun read that I enjoyed. It kept the plot simple without getting really convoluted or losing itself down subplots, and it kept true to its characters, even if that meant the ending wasn’t your typical Happily Ever After. Overall, I highly recommend it, and I hope the sequel that comes out next week is just as good!

…Just get the physical copy. 😛

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Review: The Green Rider

…ACK! I saved this as a half-finished draft and forgot to finish it and post it and… I had a major brain fart, sorry! But you know what, I actually really liked this book. It has it’s flaws, but it’s a great stand alone book. (My thoughts on the series as a whole at the end, though.)

The Green Rider by Kristen Britain is the story of Karigan G’ladheon, a young girl determined to run from what feels like her latest mistake that isn’t actually her fault. Her plans are foiled, however, when a messenger, in his last dying breath, charges her with finishing his duty–delivering his messenger’s bag and the letter inside it to the king. But mysterious forces are right on this rider’s tail, and a coup is in process for the young king’s throne. Kari has a much bigger part to play, as she finally finds her place in the world…now if only she wouldn’t stay so stickin’ blind to it!

Like I said, I really liked this book. The characters were vibrant, and well-fleshed out. In particular, I loved the female ex-Weapon-turned-mercenary, who remained loyal to the prince she was assigned to guard until he finally broke that loyalty. And then Kari herself, who was headstrong and stubborn, but still showed her vulnerability and age at times. Her relationship with her father was refreshing, and I love how her intelligence and ruthlessness is reserved for when it is needed most. There wasn’t a romantic role so much as a slight hinting at what was to come in later books…but more on that later. It was nice for the book to focus on friendships, family, and duty rather than romance, though, since it isn’t seen often enough with female protagonists.

Male characters didn’t get left out of the character love fest either. I think our two royals, both King Zachary and his brother Prince Amilton, were written well, and while there were elements of both that felt contrived, we don’t see enough of them for it to be a concern to me. Zachary’s are easy explained because a) we don’t see him for long enough, and b) a lot of that is when he has his “public” face on. I know Amilton in particular is going to seem really tropey, but he was the secondary antagonist, and I was always more concerned about Shawdell, who was less reliant on tropes. (Revealing too much about Shawdell is spoilers, sorry!) These were the forces who controlled either the protagonist or antagonist forces, and there were plentiful other characters.

…Maybe too many characters. I think there could have been some pruning, just for the sake of pacing, which is the only real flaw. The plot was there, Kari was getting into plenty of trouble, getting out of it, only to land in more, all of it staying relevant to the main plot. During her peaceful breaks, we got to see inside some of the more deplorable minds of the antagonists, to see some of what was going on that she couldn’t see (yet) that still raised the stakes for Kari. But there is a lot of story here, and I feel like some of it could have been cut or merged with other scenes to get the word count down and help the pace so the reader didn’t feel slogged down.

I had some moments of confusion about where magic existed in this world and how commonly was it known about. It seems like magic was mostly forgotten, except for strange enthusiasts, the Rider Corps’s broaches and those who know about them, and the elves (she calls them something else…they’re elves). This is acceptable, I just wish there had been clearer reasons for why this had happened when obviously this hadn’t always been the case. Was it because the old war had done something to drain magic or lessen it’s impact? I’ve read so much fanfiction at this point, I can’t remember if it was ever stated in the book or not, but I can say that it wasn’t in the beginning when I could have really used that explanation.

Overall, great stand-alone. The problems come in later books…

I got about halfway through the second book, maybe a bit farther, and had to stop. The pacing was killing me. At that point, the characters were literally just running around like chickens with their heads cut off and not making an inch of progress to resolve any of the problems, just wallowing in their misery. There was also some plot rails going on that I suspected were going to get worse. The magic of the rider’s broach, I will go ahead and say, will pretty much force the bearer to serve in the Rider Corps until they are released. This does not bode well for later. Also, random ghost? Since when are there ghosts?! Yeah, the magic part of world-building continued to have issues.

And the killer for me… Okay, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I’m a sap. I mean, I want my fluffy romances, and if there is angst, yay, but it has to resolve itself so my babies can be together! But there are some writers who love this tragic romance thing, which I respect, it’s just not my jam. And in the second book, there are moments of fluffy cuteness between Kari and Zachary that makes me squee and so excited for later books. STOP! MAYDAY! DO NOT CONTINUE MY FELLOW SAPS! Because I have done the wiki-diving and reading commentary of the fans. The rest of the series proceeds to nosedive in the romance department in the direction of the tragic. Unless I ever hear from the readers who are willing to push through the serious pain Britain is putting us through, that things do work out in the end for Kari and Zachary, this just isn’t a series I can force myself to read.

But I will totally read the first book again. So just ignore the rest, focus on the good. (And if you want fanfic recommendations, I have a list, so send me an e-mail!)


Review: Crimson Peak

…Yes, you can pick your jaws up off the floor, I’m reviewing something that’s still in theaters. Mostly because I really wanted to talk about this movie, but didn’t want to see it again, so I needed to review it now. (Also, this means I dig less into my limited horror movie resources for next Halloween, yay!)

Edith Cushing wishes to become a writer, a difficult thing indeed in the days of Edwardian New York. The oddball of her social set, she never expected attention from men, and in fact seemed to scorn all things feminine and romantic, at least in terms of her writing. This all changes with the arrival of Sir Thomas Sharpe and his sister Lucille, who are seeking investment from Edith’s father and his company to save his family’s lands. In a whirlwind romance, Edith finds herself as the new Lady of a harsh land. Except the ghost of her mother delivered a warning, and there are secrets in the hall of the decrepit house. Deadly ones.

Ugh, where to attack this one… Okay, let’s start with characters. The Sharpes were great. Thomas was this perfect level of warmth and strength, but there was brittleness there, and it made him very endearing. On the other side, Lucille produces this image that is supposed to be similar to Thomas, warm and strong, but she is in fact cold and it shows sometimes. Her strength, however, is very real and terrifying. The actress managed it well, so that when Lucille did show emotion, it was done so powerfully that it made me jump in my seat. I also liked Edith’s father, for the bit we saw him in, and showing an actual capable father (if a slightly underhanded one, but I’ll give him a pass). I golf clapped when he confronted Thomas in the study.

Where the characters fell apart were Edith and the doctor/childhood friend character. I don’t know why they picked up this girl from Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and I honestly tried to give her a second chance, but she is so flat! I mean, there would be an occasionally flash of something good, and then…flat. Which didn’t fit with how spunky Edith was supposed to be judging from dialogue and other character’s reactions to her and just… Ugh. Bad casting decision. As for the doctor character, he was set up to be Edith’s rescuer, and that sort of irks me. I mean, they tried to fix that in the end, but honestly, I wish he hadn’t been involved at all. He was just an added complication to an already clunky plot.

And yes, the plot was a little clunky. The romance was built up great, and had a great ending, but it fell apart in the middle. I think skipping the boat trip was a bad idea. I think we needed to see at least a little of it, to help transition. But a lot of the plot problems actually come to issues with the world building. I mean, we’re supposed to be scared of these ghosts. Except they were shock-scares and gore, not actual fear because they established with the first ghost that even creepy ghosts can have good intentions. If the mother ghost was just supposed to be a warning about the future (and how she knows the future is a plot hole that irks me), then she needed to be not creepy so we would see a difference in the ghosts at Crimson Peak…except they were good intentioned too, so really, the ghosts were shot in the foot early on. They were shown too much, instead of just showing them sort of influencing the world around them at first and hiding the monsters until the end. Another minor plot issue is the clay itself. Is England really that much wetter? I’ve fallen on red clay earth (yay, Oklahoma and horses), and let me tell you, it’s hard! That part really made no sense to me.

I did feel like the sheer amount of back story and mystery were handled well, to a point. I knew something was going on by the walk in the park, though I wasn’t sure of specifics until later. But it was hinted at beautifully and woven into the story well as random little snippets that the audience saw, but Edith didn’t. I did find the actual recordings to be overkill. By that point, the audience knew what was going on, it was pretty obvious what all else was going on that with her smarts, Edith should have figured it out without having someone tell her. I mean, fine, keep the trunk thing if it is that important, but can we just stick with the pictures and whatnot being in it? And I refuse to believe that Lucille would have missed the canisters for that long anyway…

Overall, it’s a good watch. It’s less paranormal scary and more gory (sort of like the Underworld movies, now that I think of it), and you definitely can’t poke at the plot too hard before it falls apart. But the acting of the Sharpes makes it worth going to see, so if you can grit your teeth past Mia, you’ll feel like you definitely got what you paid for.


Review: Sweeney Todd (Film: 2007)

…I felt like I had to qualify which version of this I was reviewing. For those who are still confused, yes, this is the version with Johnny Depp.

Fifteen years ago, Benjamin Barker was falsely accused and convicted of a crime by a corrupt Judge Turpin and sentenced to life in a penal colony. However, his ship capsizes at sea and he is rescued by Anthony Hope and brought aboard another ship that eventually returns to England. There, Barker takes on the alias of Sweeney Todd and discovers that the judge who condemned him also left his life in ruins to satisfy his own lust. With the help of Mrs. Lovett, his neighbor from before the conviction, he declares that he will have his revenge against not only the judge, but all the people of London. But things are not as they seem, and the greatest tragedy of all is set to take the stage…

I’m not going to pick on the plot too much on this one. It was actually really solid and historically grounded, and is also somewhat based on an urban legend, so… Free pass. I will offer a little interpretation I have, which is the true villain is not Turpin or Todd… But Mrs. Lovett. I feel like she is real the center of everything that goes wrong. I don’t have proof of her being behind what happens to Lucy Barker, but I have the feeling of it. She’s definitely why Todd ends up as twisted as he is, with her being the one to suggest cannibalism, plus the ending reveal (which I won’t spoil). And what happened to her husband? I don’t know, but it’s convenient that he isn’t around anymore.

Now to the actual actors. I gotta say, Todd was great. Johnny Depp had a certain croon when he was being, for lack of a better explanation, the man Benjamin Barker was, and then a deeply gravely growl when he was being Sweeney Todd. The counter balance was just amazing. Okay, I was making Harry Potter cracks over the casting discussions for Turpin and his croney, the Beadle, because… Snape and Pettigrew. I can’t help it. Toby also seemed to grow (too much, I mean) between his first scene as the barber’s apprentice to shop boy. The only one I really had issue with otherwise was Carter as Mrs. Lovett. Sometimes, her way of being slow and creepy was just fine. But others, I felt like she missed that Mrs. Lovett was being a used carsalesman, one that sometimes talks too much. This was particularly obvious in “Worst Pies in London,” where she’s supposed to be talking Todd up…except she’s so slow in her movements, it completely contradicts the pacing of the actual song. I mean, Pirelli annoyed me for similar reasons, since he really should have been hamming it up and instead he was so tight and small in his movements, but his part is minor. Lovett isn’t, and that was disappointing.

From the horror standpoint, despite Burton wanting it to be a gore fest, it just doesn’t get there. Now, depending on the director in a stage production, your gore factor will wildly vary, but I expected a film version to be outright gruesome. Instead, similar to Sleepy Hollow, Burton used a rather comically shade of red for the blood, one that was extremely unrealistic (this spoken as someone with a skin condition that’s led me to some rather gruesome moments). It’s also got the consistency of milk, which is nothing like what you actually look for. So yes, it turns the stomach, but not for the ick, it’s blood factor, just the ewww, that looks gross one.

Musicals are not what people usually associate with Halloween. But I think you should make an exception for Sweeney Todd. It won’t completely give you nightmares, and the story really is quite sad, so don’t spoil yourself with Wikipedia summaries until you see it! The movie cuts some sillier scenes from the musical, so your grim and dark Halloween mood won’t be broken up by them, and instead it just lets you focus on the horrible, tragic circumstances of these characters. (It also does miracles for Johanna’s character, but that’s my opinion.)


Review: Teen Witch

Hey look, I managed something after all. (By some miracle.) And in a fit of Halloween Nostalgia, I watched an old movie that at some point crossed my path when I was a child. While not your normal Halloween horror movie, I thought it would be a tame way to start the month off.

Teen Witch follows Louise Miller, a freshmen just starting in high school and struggling like we all did. But there is something special about Louise. On her sixteenth birthday, she comes into her powers as a reincarnation from the Salem witches. At first, she uses her powers for petty things–getting her little brother to behave and getting revenge on upperclassmen and teachers. But when she uses her powers to become the most popular girl in school, things start taking a turn for the worst, and Louise has to make a decision. Keep her powers, or earn things the hard way and have them mean so much more.

Okay, this is very much an 80’s movie. I make no apologies for that. But seriously, this used to air on ABC Family and Disney?! Excuse me, I’m going to go laugh hysterically in a corner for a while. It gets a bit racy for them nowadays, in somewhat mortifying ways. (There’s a poor home ec teacher trying to teach sex ed, it’s awful.) The plot is full of trope, but I don’t really expect much more from it. The pacing though was lacking, though, which was disappointing. You can have tropes and be fairly predictable, but you have to keep things constantly going. They tried, but overall the feeling of the movie dragged. Big time. It’s very much a movie you jump around according to what scene you want to watch next. There’s also some description issues since some of the films call Louise a descendant from a Salem witch, when she’s a reincarnation within the same family–what’s referred to as a throw-back.

Character wise, I did not buy into the main character very much. Poor little rich girl who isn’t popular in school. Um, I’m sorry, what? Like, this is who we are really giving amazing, basically mind-raping powers to? Really? Talk about misuse of power, man… And her adviser in all things magical, Selena, wasn’t much better. I guess they really needed to work on making these characters relateable. I mean, if the main character hadn’t been from what was very obviously an affluent family, it would have given her at least a little bit of depth. But as it was, she just came across as extremely shallow and self-centered. I guess this was some of the point and her needing to learn what really matters, but yeah, needs some help in the character department.

There was a lack of world building in general. I mean, they really relied on this idea of a) the Salem witches were actual witches, and b) a bunch of mystical components without actually explaining them. For example, how deeply is the amulet linked to Louise’s powers? Does she have powers without it, or does it have to find her before her sixteenth birthday? Why was Louise reincarnated within her family? Selena mentions the last of her powers being in this bag, so can they make their powers into tangible objects (which might answer the amulet question)? And then they just tossed random phrases around to serve as the magic words… I just wish they had done more to establish what was going on and how it worked.

I’ll be completely honest… It’s not the greatest of movies. I watch for the musical segments. And while it isn’t your traditional scary movie, it really is more of a Fridge Horror situation. I mean, she basically takes free will away from all those around her. But if you want something vaguely mystical to watch this Halloween because you are a horror wimp (and welcome to the club), see if you can get a copy of Teen Witch and enjoy the campiness.


Review: Death’s Daughter

Well, I keep seeing a lot of this concept, so I guess it’s fitting that there’s one in the Ginny Box…

Calliope has been living the past year as a personal assistant in New York City, waiting for her chance to get an in on the fashion industry. But then things turn weird, and she discovers that she has been living the last year under a Forgetting Charm. She is a daughter of Death himself, and now that he’s turned up missing, she’s the only option for her family to keep their immortality until he can be found. But it’s never that easy. She has three tasks to complete in order to earn her new title, and she has the Devil’s protege and her own family working against her. (There’s gratitude for you.) In the end, she has to figure out what the truth is, and what she really wants.

Okay, whew. Hard to try and summarize this book without spoiling anything…mostly because it’s hard to figure out where it is. The plot is a bit all over the place. But before I get into that, I have a style note that’s important. The way this book was written is very Princess Diaries, romance novel… annoys me to death… first person style. If I make it three chapters in this style and don’t want to kill the protagonist, it’s a miracle. But it’s also stupidly popular, so obviously I am one of the few who gets that level of irked by it. So I am going to try and remove myself from my hatred of the narration style and just focus on the actual story.

…which was a bit all over the place. Benson (known for playing Tara on Buffy, btw), actually set the bones for a good plot. Trials, love interest wants the same goal, family doesn’t believe in her/trust her… Good bones. But she kept getting tangled up in herself. To begin with, Callie was both a complete idiot and a crybaby. Now, when I say complete idiot, I mean she didn’t know things that I know are covered in multiple times in American school systems and even if they aren’t, they are enough part of the collective culture that she should have had at least a clue from that, and since this is part off her family’s business, I especially expected better general knowledge. I don’t mean I wanted her to be an expert, but she should have had some passing knowledge. And I like heroes who aren’t afraid of crying–look at Katherine in Threads if you don’t believe me–but Benson pushed it too far and had Callie a little too quick to either burst into tears or throw a hissy fit. You can write a feminine, overwhelmed character without pushing it that far.

I also wasn’t sure how I felt about the world building itself. There were a few components that I just didn’t think synced well with each other. For example, Persephone may have been Queen of the Underworld to the Greeks, but she was never a goddess of death. The Indian stories also got tweaked, but at least that was explained in verse. Then you have the Judo-Christian elements demanding immediate attention, but even that doesn’t fit with what the role of Death was supposed to be in this world. Overall, it was a lot of different mythos competing with each other and either too much or not enough explanation going on as to who was who. What’s worse is a lot of this information and a good chunk of the back story were given during info dumps, which are just hard to digest as a reader. Not that those back stories ever made a huge chunk of sense either…

There were some elements I did like of it. Talking Cerberus and his female pup, Griselda, were cute (I refuse to acknowledge the stupid nickname she got given). The kiss between the love interest with Siren blood and the protagonist being what breaks his hold over her because it was awful made me laugh. The relationship between Callie and her father was also really interesting to me, and I wish I had seen more of it at the end. Okay, I also loved hating her sisters and her mother. Honestly, I can understand why she left. Overall, there were also enough female characters that it gave us a good range of different personality types, so Callie didn’t have to be the Every Girl. Admittedly, it got pushed to the extreme, which seems to be the biggest flaw in Benson’s writing style, but it was nice to see such a wide range, since it was easily some of the best representation I’ve seen lately.

Would I pick up another book in this series, even if the narration changed to something more manageable? Probably not. Like I said, everything seemed pushed too far to the extreme for the sake of drama. It made Callie and the other side characters difficult to relate to, and it made it bounce all over the place in terms of plot. Add in the fact the narration style is one I detest, and this was  hard one to get through. This concept has become really popular in recent years–Deaths’ daughter assuming the mantle, struggling with its responsibility. I just think there are better options if that’s what you want to read for.


Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Okay, I had a piece of strawberry shortcake to recover from the feels. I can write this review now.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 picks up a few years after the original film. The people of Berk have welcomed dragons into their lives, mostly with the help of Hiccup… who is now struggling to figure out who he is, especially as his father is in a big rush to shove him into the role of chieftain. He escapes by exploring the world around Berk, which is now much more open to them because of the dragons. In the process, he stumbles into a conflict between two opposing sides: Drago, who is attempting to conquer the world with an army of dragons and has past history with the people of Berk…and his mother, who has spent the last twenty years traveling the world, rescuing dragon species from Drago and giving them a safe place. The role of the peacemaker is familiar for Hiccup, but he’s about to discover that he has more growing to do to become who he is supposed to be.

As far as sequel movies go, this is how you do it. It expanded upon the world, yet didn’t contradict itself. We saw several of the dragon species that were mentioned in the first movie, but we didn’t get a chance to see, as well as ones that Berk had no knowledge of. We met the counterpart species for the Queen from the first movie (the Alphas), and considering their sizes and powers, it makes a lot of sense for them to be off on their own. The answer of why we’ve only seen Toothless for a Night Fury is answered, while at the same time the species itself sees some growth. My only concern with world building and even larger plot is I don’t know what else they can do, and I know there’s a third film in the works.

The plot was very typical coming of age story, just with dragons and a missing parent reunion and stuff I mentioned in world building. It still hits you right in the emotions (obviously), since I was laughing and then crying. I did like that our three primary female characters weren’t considered lesser to the men. In fact, Astrid is at almost equal levels with Hiccup in some ways, just more down to earth and steady to help counter balance his flightiness. (Okay, yes, we do the captured female-rescued-by-male thing. She reverses it first, so I forgive it.) And there is a moment where Valka says, word for word, something that Stoic had previously told Hiccup, showing how similar they are and of equal if just very different standing.

I had two nitpicky details. I didn’t like Ruffnut and the trio of male’s subplot. At first and in trailers, it was really funny. But it just weighed kinda heavy. I mean, it did turn funny when Ruff got rejected by all the males period after the royal brat she was. But her behavior just made me cringe once I had long enough to think about it. Because manipulating men to her advantage was okay? No, just no. I’d have been more comfortable if she kept up with her shoving them away and being like, “Dudes, NO!” rather than use them to win races and such.

My other nitpick was Valka herself. I mean, I love her. But she didn’t entirely jive with what we knew about her from the first movie. It was implied she was exactly like the other women around the village, who are female models of the males and the exact opposite of Hiccup and some of the scrawnier teenagers. Wider and taller. But instead, she is sort of the same build as Hiccup, Astrid, and the twins are growing into (which is the minority on Berk). I can’t decide if they just don’t think a heavy female protagonist won’t fly or if it was to explain why Hiccup is so scrawny. So consider me a little irked, speaking as someone who has pretty much always been tall and thick. I’m also not sure how I feel about her being this voice who tried to stop the Vikings back during the war with the dragons. It also wasn’t quite right with what we established in the first film–I feel like if this was some trait of his wife’s, Stoic would have reacted differently and at least mentioned her. And the helmet made of her breastplate (ew) wouldn’t be a thing, I don’t think.

But that’s me being extremely nitpicky. Overall, the film was full of laughs and tears, excitement and wonder. It’s also completely different from the books, but I can see flashes of the influence (I think the twins are meant as a tribute to the original series, honestly). It is definitely high on my recommended film list,and I hope Dreamworks does just as well with the third and ends this series on a high note.


Review: Disney’s Descendants

Well, I tweeted while watching it, I figure I might as well review it, right?

Descendants is the story of the children of our favorite princes, princesses, villains, and sidekicks, looking for their own adventures. It all begins when Ben, the son of King Adam and Queen Belle of Beauty and the Beast fame, decides that the children of villains deserve a chance, rather than being imprisoned on an island behind an anti-magic barrier with their parents. He suggests a small group to begin with: Carlos, the son of Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmations, Jay, the son of Jafar from Aladdin, Evie, the daughter of the Evil Queen from Snow White…and Mal, the daughter of Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. It’s the last who especially sets everyone on edge–and for good reason. Maleficent plans to use this idea of Ben’s as a chance to get the Fairy Godmother’s magic wand and free her and the other villains. But what if Mal starts to have second thoughts about whether or not she’s actually evil?

As far as Disney movies go, it’s pretty formulaic even by their standards. I mean, I was shocked thirty minutes in when the kids almost achieved their goal, but then one of the kids bungles things and so we have to have so many attempts at getting the stupid thing. The plot suffered because there were just so many characters going on, and none of them really had subplots going in the same direction. So the main plot had to try and herd them all together…which just made things even more of a mess and it felt like we didn’t really get to touch on some of them, especially Carlos who I felt got shafted a bit. Jay and Evie sort of manged to survive with some character depth, but a lot of the attention went to Mal because…Mal’s plot was also the main plot, she just had some internal conflict going on in addition.

That said, I did love most of the characters. They did a good job with the villain kids, showing them slowly coming to the good side by softening their look. (I’m holding on to hope that the end was just them being formal and they are going to stay fairly punk in their more everyday outfits.) As characters, I loved how reversed Evie and Jay were from their parents. Evie actually likes cooking and cleaning and sewing, which seems contradictory to her mother, and whereas Jafar was all about the intellect, Jay is very physical. Carlos also had a little of that, reminding me more of Horace and Jasper than Cruella. Mal was very much her mother’s daughter, which actually was a bonus because it fit with where they were going with their character. Aubrey at times fell too hard into the mean girl role, I would have liked to see more depths, while Ben actually shocked the bejeebus out of me at the end with his surprising changes (though he’s Belle’s kid, how I missed that he would be smart, I don’t know.) Again, there was just a lack of focus that made it hard to get as much out of them as I would have liked.

World building and back stories wise, we got given a bit of an info dump at the beginning, and then we were just sort of tossed in. Which…didn’t exactly work. Most of the Disney films are actually set in different time periods and countries, and most of them are even historical. I couldn’t get how the heck Carlos could be in the same universe as Ben, for example. Really, despite it being in the song that they remixed, they seemed to have forgotten that the set Beauty and the Beast in France, not some random magical kingdom they made up. I just wish we had gotten less names thrown around and more focus on the history of the characters and how this crazy world came to exist. Hell, that could have been added motivation for Mal’s eventual heel-face-turn!

Now, because this is live action, I have to pick on the acting and costumes a little bit. I normally give Disney channel movies a bit of credit. I mean, I was raised during the golden age of Disney TV movies actually being good, but I know it’s a bit more hit or miss now. But I actually thought a lot of the actors were at least decent, with some potential for more. The exception…was the guy they got for Ben. The title male character, and he was stiff and flat a lot of the time, especially in dance scenes (not good for a musical). He had his moments, but overall, I expect better if you are going to make him the co-lead. While some of the nods to the parents were neat, the colors were sometimes overly bright. They could have muted them and made their point just as clear. I also don’t get why Maleficent had black lips when one of her big signatures is her bright red lipstick. The crown for the coronation also looked awful and fake, which is cringe worthy.

Despite all of this, the visual effects were awesome, and I have to give a shout out to Maleficent’s actress, since she was great. And as everyone saw in the tweets, yes, she was the original Glinda from Wicked and she is also from my home state. I am proud. I also loved Belle and her little whacks at Adam whenever he said something she didn’t like, it made me snicker. Which is good, since Adam is still a bit of a jerk (yay, characters being consistent) and needs his leash tugged occasionally. Obviously I loved the female villain-bred heroes, since Evie and Mal sort of just stole my heart, and I loved the evil little smirks and power walks they had, especially how Evie’s plot boiled down to, you don’t have to be an airhead to catch a guy….heck, you don’t even need the guy. And still I was on the Ben and Mal train through all of this!

Okay, I have to wrap this up. As far as an obvious answer to the Ever After High franchise goes, Disney did…okay. They could have fleshed things out more, and they obviously forgot their own canon in places. But (and this is a big but), this first movies appears to be, in Disney fashion, a franchise building block, much like a first book in a longer running series. As far as that goes… They did good. I will definitely be seeing what’s going on in the sequel, and while the books look to be too juvenile for me to even glance at (curses), I hope they will do great things with the animated shorts coming out.


Review: Three Days to Dead

And we dive into the Ginny box! This time with Three Days to Dead by Kelly Medling.

Evangeline “Evy” Stone has been dead for a few days. Not that you would know it, since she’s still walking around. Just…not in her own body. She doesn’t remember what happened, not even how she died, for the last couple of days. All she knows is the other members of her team are dead, her organization has a kill order on her, and someone brought her back from the dead for a reason. She doesn’t know who to trust, but what she does know is she has a deadline before she goes back to being dead to figure it all out.

…Sorta… I’ll get there.

Let me start off by saying, this book started off so strong. I mean, amazingly strong, I had high hopes. The female lead was strong and powerful, completely capable of taking care of herself but also with working as part of a team. The male lead had an actual fault that came around to bite him in the ass. Hugely. Multiple times even. There was a healthy bit of mystery, an obvious plot going on that I could track. The setting was described just well enough that I knew how things appeared without it getting in the way, and I really liked the world building that was done with the gargoyles and the vampires.

Okay, the only nitpick I had was there were a lot of terminology being thrown around for the various fantasy creature. Bloods, Halfies fae and Fair Folk, blah blah blah. Pick a word and stick with it, please.

The problem started roughly in the third act. To begin with, we had the restoration of part of Evy’s memory, which included a violent rape which is part of how she died. We all know that I hate rape as a backstory or even in plots at this point, it’s just never handled well and I think it just helps spread its power over women, which is screwed up. I will give Medling credit, since Evy does have issues from the rape that remain, so she isn’t instantly better. But I still don’t like it, especially since it felt rather unnecessary at that point. We had known it had been a violent death, and torture had been part of it. Did we really have to go down the rabbit hole of fantasy rape? I don’t think so. It was done to add more layers of drama.

And then things got weird. It had started out really well as this gritty, urban fantasy mystery story, with the fae sort of being mentioned but not being the focus. And then suddenly, we’re thrown into not only fairies and gnomes and earth spirits, but summoning of some Big Bad, Bad Guys who have had various names throughout history. I was tracking a bigger-purpose behind what all had happened besides it being a bit personal against Evy, but this took it too far. I was left wondering what happened to the book I had started with, since this wasn’t it.

Final nail in the coffin: the ending for the romance. Through most of the book, it had been established that one was going to die or the other. The whole thing felt very shoe-horned in to begin with, since Evy wasn’t set up to love the character the same way, but he kept pushing his affections on to her until she agreed to them. But because the writer had written herself into a corner, she actually broke her own rules of magic in order to save her (rather weak) romance. I was annoyed.

Signs that a book is very good but has a bad ending is I will unconsciously try and fix it. About two days after reading this book, just that happened. I probably would have cut (most) of the fae aspects out, focusing on our main villain. He could be up to many of the things we saw earlier in the book with strange creatures appearing, but I’d give him a different goal, since there is a lot that he could have been doing. Then, I honestly would have left the love interest dead, kicked Evy over to the Handler who just would not die, which makes him all sorts of awesome, and is old enough that feelings won’t make things unnecessarily complicated on either side, and then bam, room for new love interest in a second book. An easy fix, but someone just didn’t see it.


Tabletop RP: Gender and DnD

So. I play DnD. With a bunch of guys. No other girls in the group, and all attempts to add girls to the group have not been met well (one for other reasons, but yeah, hasn’t worked out). Now, I know other girls who play, and have groups that are much more mixed gendered. I just didn’t fall into those groups, and my schedule doesn’t mesh with them. Leaving me stuck with the guys.

And let me tell you, this gets uncomfortable for very quickly.

Now, it doesn’t get uncomfortable for these guys. Because I don’t talk about girly things with them and I work very hard to keep topics away from subjects that while I might enjoy them, I know will bore or make them uncomfortable. Because that’s what our society encourages in female behavior.

Now, if only I could get the same respect.

Frequently, things take a turn for the disgusting, the over-sexed, or sometimes a weird mix of both that really makes me uncomfortable. Especially when they start making references to certain animes and video games, which are notorious for being for the male gaze. And speaking up doesn’t get me any favors, not really, since nothing will actually change. Now, I could be overly sensitive, but I think my experiences and the conversations I have with other female players reveal some serious differences in how the genders play DnD.

For one thing, I’ve noticed that guys tend to go out of their way to make crazy characters. And by crazy, I mean mixing, matching, and combining races, classes, and feats in order to get the most over-powered character possible. Now, if I make something overpowered, it’s by pure accident (the wu jinja gestalt class comes to mind, though I haven’t had enough chances to play it to be sure). I tend to pick a class that fits with the kind of character I’m playing, sticking to classes I know I’ll enjoy playing rather than ones I know will irk me (…like the wu jin, not a good pick in hindsight). The more complicated it is, the more I have to keep up with which distracts me from the game.

So with these crazy characters, you would think the guys were just as invested in the games we play as I am, right? Well, sorta. Some of the group is just wanting to push to see how much they can get away with by terms of the rules. They don’t really do back stories or character investments, and are pretty blase about their characters dying. Even the others who do care about story are always ready to move on to the next thing. Which is pretty contra to Ginny’s understanding of other groups, which treat the characters as investments (which is how i would prefer to play). I create complex back stories for my characters for a reason, and to see it go to waste just frustrates me, so one DM has even lost the privilage for me to do that anymore.

More than anything, I’m noticing, at least in my group, that it comes down to differences in what they play for. Now, these are huge generalizations, but it seems to me that boys play for the laughs and the oh my gods. They want to see how outrageous they can get and the more crazy, the better. But for us girls, it’s about the story, it’s about the characters and the actual RPing.

I’m not saying that boys don’t enjoy the characters and story. They can, and do. But get a group of them together, and they are going to be forgotten in favor of seeing how much damage a fireball spell can do. I’m not saying girls don’t enjoy battles. I love blowing things up and getting critical hits too, but if you put me with a group of other girls, we’re probably going to focus almost entirely on the story and the rest of the system will be an afterthought. Groups need either balance or focus, depending on the set up. So in my case, I have one DM who understands my need for story, the others needs to blow things up. The other…can’t seem to figure this out.

And as a DM myself, I need to learn to read what a group needs. Obviously, I’m going to want to lean towards the story angle myself, but that isn’t going to work with this group of guys. I need to figure out how to feed their need for chaos and my own for story at the same time.