Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Babblings

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

The Nitty Gritty: Stephanie Plum is an out of work lingerie buyer. Hocking her furniture for hamster food is as low as hse is willing to go. When her mother mentions that her cousin Vinny (yes I realize the inside joke) is hiring Stephanie is reluctant to take the job.

When $10,000 and the prospect of getting even with Joe Morelli is dangled in front of her she can't resist getting in the bounty hunter game.

Well she should have read the job description because she is ill prepared when the great Trenton boxer Benito Ramirez starts stalking her and leaving half dead hookers on her fire escape.

To top of it Morelli might be innocent or he might just be a really good kisser. Plum can't decide which one, but she does want that ten grand. A girl needs furniture in her life.

Opening Line: "There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever."

I've seen this books laying around the library for years. Even during the semi-annual book sale I've bought a couple of them. Hey when you can get all the books you can squeeze into a plastic shopping bag for $3 you grab anything that looks interesting. I actually had Two for the Dough and Three to Get Deadly for nearly a year before I decided to sit down and actually read the books. So I started at the beginning.

The Good: First I love Grandma Mazur. She is funny as all get out just because she can be. When she shot that chicken I had tears streaming down my face. Anytime you can make a old person cool you got my vote.

Is it bad that I sort of want to meet Morelli in the flesh? Not sure if its to slap him or kiss him, but I wouldn't mind a sit down with the man. He walks a fine line between charming and revolting.

I can't remember the last time I laughed so much reading a mystery. True be told I'm not well versed in the genre. I've read James Patterson, Dan Brown and John Grisham, but that's about it. Mystery just isn't my bad, sorry. I'm a fantasy nerd. Sue me. The book itself wasn't laugh out funny, but there were certainly funny parts. Yeah I know the guy getting blown up in the car wasn't supposed to be funny but Stephanie running around without any eyebrows is pretty darned funny.

Living in the south I can understand how certainly parts of the county seem like foreign countries and I love how Evanovich sets up Trenton as something to be avoided because only Trenton should spend any amount of time in Trenton. I know Evanovich isn't a fantasy writer but I love her world building. Even if she is using a real place.

I'm still debating whether or not I like Stephanie. She just doesn't seem to have a back bone most of the time, but she does face down her fears like a champ. She's just so much of a girly girl that I find her annoying at times and other times I'm applauding her gall. Locking up a man in a refrigerated truck to collect his bounty took balls and I like that.

The Bad: Obviously this book is old school. It was written in 1994 so all the car phone references, chicks and grandmas running around with spandex shorts are slight irritating. I grew up in the 80s and 90s and don't remember women wearing that much spandex.

Ok and the whole tunnel job in daddy's garage was a tad gross. I mean come on what six year old is playing that filthy game. And if I ever caught my child doing anything remotely like that I would beat their tails till the chickens came home to roost.

I really hate that the big bad black guy had to be the villain in this book. I mean come on this book is set in Jersey why couldn't Guido be the bad guy? Yeah I know that is just as bad as a black guy being the villain but forgive me for being partial.

The plot was a bit sluggish and half of it could have been cut out. She could have lost 100 pages and the book still could have been good

My Final Thoughts: Well this was a great introduction to the Plumeverse and I think I will continue the series.

Book Babblings

Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong 

The Nitty Gritty: Reeling from the loss of her mother and the loss of a powerful black witch Paige Winterbourne has taken on the task of raising Savannah and running the American Coven.

Paige's life is a balancing act. An act that she believes that she is doing well. Until the woman responsible for her mother's death send her custody paperwork. Outraged Paige plans to get at the half demon alone.

Till Leah confesses they have the backing of Savannah's father behind them. Paige enlists the help of a human lawyer who winds up as fertilizer all over main street and Paige is the suspect.

Opening Line: "Todd adjusted his leather power seat and smiled." 

The Good: I actually like Lucas. He is long suffering, sweet, intelligent and for the most part honest. I have to admit that I am partial to nerds and Lucas is a glasses wearing nerd who happens to be a lawyer. That is beyond sexy to me. Lucas is opened-minded and hard working. He is one of the best male protagonists in the fantasy genre that I've read. He was the star of the book for me. Its saving grace.

The Bad: I hate Savannah. I hate her with a white hot passion that I didn't know existed. I mean I like Bella Swan from Twilight more than Savannah. She snotty, condescending, cocky, mean, a total brat. Everything I hate for a child to be.

Here is a kid that should lucky someone wants to put up with her. Instead she abuses the generosity afforded to her. She abuses the magic that she had been entrusted with. Without a thought or care for the consequences to her actions. She just doesn't care who she hurts to get what she wants. In one scene she unleashes a confusion spell that gets Paige slapped around like a rag doll and Lucas stabbed. Does she even act like she is sorry? Nope. Does Paige or Lucas punish her? Nope. They just talk about it among themselves and they move on. Her little tantrum at the end of the book just did it for me.

This chick needs a padded room and a straight jacket and I would be too happy to supply both.

I don't know if I like Paige. She is so flighty. Not in the fact that she can't sit still but in the fact that she is scared of everything. Freaks out about everything, and is just so...I can't even keep going. Paige is so stuck in her ways she can't even see that Lucas wanted to help her from the beginning.

And of course I'm still trying to come to terms with white authors having interracial dating/hook ups/marriages with characters of color. Especially when those characters of color are the only splash of color in a book. Its really frustrating for me because its just like they are including these characters just to include them. They aren't taking the time to understand said characters ethnic and racial background before they throw a white girl at them.

Honestly this book could have lost 150 pages and still have been boring. It was a book about a supernatural custody battle in the middle of a Tampax commercial. It was a simple plot that she tried to make interesting with all the little twists and turns when frankly she should have come up with a different, better plot.

My hope for the series: So I am still trying to find something that I like about Armstrong's female protagonists. I can't stand Elena and I'm starting to not like Paige, but I really like the concept of the series. So I'm hoping the females get better.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Many Bloody Returns

If you don't know already I am in love with vampires. Above all other mythical creatures in fact. Sure elves are sexy. Something about those pointy ears do turn me on, but vampires have my heart. I actually think I fell in love with them when I saw Dracula with Gary Oldman for the first time. Admittedly he was scary as hell in that film and I never, ever want to meet Dracula I did fall in love with vampire lore.

Here is a small list of my favorite vampires.

Black Dagger Brotherhood 

These warriors take the top spot because not only are they all drop dead gorgeous and incredible sexy they are the defenders of their race. The love hard and fight with fury. There is something about a male that knows what he is and accepts it that is admirably. Too often I run into vampire series with vamps who either hate who they are and mop left and right or they are total brutes trying to drain the human world dry. The fact that vampires can only drink from other vampires is nice. It takes the fear out vampires being among. Well just a little bit. The Brotherhood has no qualms about killing humans if they threaten or get in the way of the Brotherhood or the vampire race.

The story is told from the point of the view of the men. Well there are chapters that feature their shellans (wives) but the plots are about the evolution of the brothers. I like that.

Each male is a tortured soul. Damaged beyond all reason. Zdasist was kidnapped as a baby and made a blood slave. Raped till he had no soul Bella was able to bring him back from the brink of destruction. Vishous was turned over into the hands of the Bloodletter and his warrior camp. Rhage pissed off the Scribe Virgin and she cursed him. Wrath had to endure the slaughter of his family while he had been powerless to do anything. Butch watched his sister get into the car of her rapist and killers. Phury had to live without his twin for a hundred years only to find a hollowed out body where Zadaist used to be on top of fighting against his own raging drug addiction. Tohrment had to deal with the suicide of a woman he went through hell to rescue only to turn around and deal with the murder of his shellan and unborn young. John Matthews was born in the bathroom stall of a bus station without a voice only to be raped by a human in a dirty stairwell. Qhuinn born with one blue eye and one green eye in a world where a wrinkled shirt earns you a lifetime of scorn. Blaylock, the perfect male and the perfect son, except for the fact that he is gay.

Nothing nice and rosy for these males, and yet over the course of the series each of them finds the capacity to love and be loved. While kicking a lot of tail and taking names.

Blade Series 

Though Blade is a comic book hero I love him to death. First of all there aren't that many black superheroes to choose from so Blade holds a special place in my heart.

Blade is one sexy vampire. Well daywalker as they like to call him. I love his devotion to the cause. It is all consuming for him. His everything. His reason for living. There is not compromising with him. If you drink blood to live you have to die. And I love that the vampires in this series like being vampires. No one is crying about living forever.

Blade, born after a vampire attacked his mother was gifted with all the strengths of the vampires and none of their weaknesses. Well except for the thirst which he quenches with a serum. He is super strong, self healing, extremely fast, ages at a slower rate and he isn't allergic to silver and garlic and can walk in daylight. Which makes hunting vampires all the easier.

Southern Vampire Series

I love the fact that the vampires live out in the open. I think that it one of the biggest things that I love about the series. These vampires are a proper cultural and subculture. Its not just a gang of blood thirty animals running around. They have structure, rules, rituals and customs. I do think having kings and queens then sheriffs is a bit confusing, but not to the point where its distracting.

In the beginning I did like Sookie though she is only a human, but as the series has progress I've grown to really hate her. I think Harris really lost Sookie's voice somewhere between Dead in the Family and Dead Reckoning. Good thing this post isn't about her. Its about the vampires.

Each vampire is a very different creature. Sure they are all blood sucking predators. We know that, but they are still different from one another. Eric is one of the oldest in the series. He was turned before the known world was created. His surname is Northman for a reason. The vamp started life out as a Viking. Bill Compton was turned during the Civil War, Pam was an aristocrat during Victorian times. It gives each vampire a personality.

House of Night

I started off really liking this series. Anything that has women on top is good for me. I liked this series in spite of its protagonist. I just couldn't keep reading it. Its like the never ending story. There has been 11 books so far and the story arc is till going. I just can't keeping reading through Zoey's eyes anymore. She is one of the most annoying characters ever, and that is saying something since I read all four Twilight books.

The reason I like these vampires is one because its a matriarchal system. The women are on top. They run things and have all the power. The men do what they do best. Look good and beat up things.

In this series no one is born a vampire or turned. you either have the vampire gene or you don't. Even then there isn't a guarantee that you will survive the change over to become a vampire. And the goddess Nyx is the start of all vampires. I love the inclusion of the mythical in this series.

I tip my hat to the Casts for the inclusion of characters of color. We need more of that in the fantasy genre and I love that vampires are getting the color treatment.

The Dresden Files 

I love Harry Dresden. Absolutely love him. What's more I love the supernatural creatures in the Dresdenverse. Since this is a vampire post we will focus on the vampires in the Dresdenverse.

No two vampires are alike. There are several different courts of vampires each with their own powers and abilities. White court vampires suck on the emotions of their victims. Some white vampires suck on sexual tension, others suck on the fear. Little is know about Jade court vampires. They seemed to be highly secretive and cult like. Red court vampires wear skin suits to look more human, but when they are feeding their true selves are reveled and there is nothing sexy about it.

Butcher created this awesome world of magic, fae, demons, shifters and the like to delight and titillate his readers. I wholly appreciate his efforts and I look forward to many bloody returns from Harry Dresden.

The Vampire Chronicles

Who can say they love vampires without loving Louis de Pointe du Lac. The vampiric son of the infamous LestatUsually I hate vampires how hate being vampires. I mean you either like who you are or you end it all and save us listening to you whine, but I love Louie. I mean I think he was my first vampire crush to be sure.

Louie though looking to die was turned against his will. He wanted to die not live forever. Especially living on the blood of the living. What I liked most was his fatherly instincts toward Claudia. Though he was responsible for her death, its a better way to die than she would have gotten with the plague. He takes responsibility for her in a way that any father would have. Lestat was more concerned with turning her into the perfect killer. Louie just wants her to be happy. Her death scene tore at my heart.

With Rice we get back to the quintessential vampire. Tall, dark and deadly. These vampires aren't looking to mainstream or come out of the coffin. They like living in the night, pretending to be human while draining the world dry. They suave predators that I am sure many men and women would love to be lying under as they died. When I think of the classic vampire I think of Anne Rice. 

Book Babblings

Spy Camp by Stuart Gibbs 

The Nitty Gritty: Ben "Smokescreen" Ripley has survived his first year at Spy School. a super secret facility tasked with educating America's future CIA operatives.

Smokescreen has planned a summer to end all summers. Basically he just wants to hang out with his best friend, play video games and dream about Erica Hale till his little heart bursts.

Too bad SPYDER is still trying to recruit Ben and he has to go to spy camp. The thought of spy camp doesn't not bode well for Ben, but he would rather be surrounded by woods, mosquitos and he fellow spies when SPYDER comes a knocking. At least he knows Erica will be there to thwart their plans again, and maybe this time he can be rewarded with a rare Hale smile from the spy.

Opening Line: "On the very last day os soy school, my plans for a normal, uneventful summer were completely derailed by the delivery of two letters."

The Good: I love Ben. Its awesome being inside his head. To me he is the only "real" spy in this tale. Meaning he isn't very good at it. Which you would expect from a 13 year old! If this were a fantasy or even a sci-fi book I could maybe believe that 16 year olds could dismantle nukes in under 30 seconds, but this is just a middle grades book and its hard for me to swallow sometimes. Maybe if these kids were Eureka experiments or something I could take it, but they aren't. Ben is just a regular kid that is scared of his own shadow half of the time. I like that.

Ben's growth from one book to the next tis great. We might have expected him to give 007 a run for his money in Spy Camp, but instead he has improved a little bit. He's not ready for the CIA yet, but he is better than he was when we last saw him. His character development is great and believable.

I do like that we see a kink in Erica's armor. Even if its so predictable my mom could have seen it coming. Its good to see her ruffled. It shows her age just a tad. That's a good thing.

The Bad: My suspension of belief is getting quite the workout with this series. Not only are we to believe that a group of kids make better spies than actual CIA agents, but we are also to believe that said kids are capable of repeatedly thwarting this evil organization again and again. something the actual CIA has failed to do for decades.

I am glad that one of the principles in this story is a girl. A girl no doubt that is hailed as the best spy at school. I just wish that she wasn't the typical warrior girl archetype. Erica Hale is a great spy, but that's all she really is. She doesn't have any friends, nor any functioning relationships. The men in her life are either paranoid to the point of keeping their distance, a evil double agent content on torturing her or a bumbling oaf that couldn't spy on his sleeping grandmother. Right now Erica seems flat. She isn't growing or learning a valuable lesson and this is the second book. There needs to be somewhere for her to go.

My Hope for the Series: Gibbs has grabbed my attention. I care what happens to Ben, but my feelings can go cold very quickly. I want him to get to the point in the next installment before my attention wanders.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A to Z of Avatar: The Last Airbender

C is for the Cabbage Merchant

Cabbage Merchant is a character that appears sporadically throughout Book One and Book Two. His character was as additional comic relief. Really who could beat Sokka at his favorite game?

The cabbage merchant was an Earth Kingdom salesman who specialized in you guessed it, selling cabbages. In every appearance his cabbages were destroyed or damaged. The only thing he ever uttered was his catchphrase "My cabbages!" 

In Book One, his ill-fated produce products have met their demise by a multitude of characters, first by the Earth kingdom city of Omashu's import control earthbenders, second by Aang and the Omashu mail delivery service (to which he shouts "Off with their heads, one for each head of cabbage!" during their trial), and again by Aang being chased by pirates (where he shouts "This place is worse than Omashu!"). 

In Book Two, his ill-fated produce products continued by a platypus-bear at the Ba Sing Se ferry boat center and lastly again by Aang within the walls of Ba Sing Se when the zoo animal mass release gets out of control and a rabiroo feasts on his supply (his final speaking part as the rabiroo has lunch is "MY CABB!... Oh forget it." as he throws a head of cabbage over his shoulder exiting the scene). Although he doesn't appear in Book Three, he was a material source for the Ember Island Players where they referred to him as "a surprisingly knowledgeable merchant of cabbage". 

In The Legend of Korra, another man named Lau Gan-Lan runs a company named Cabbage Corps which was founded by the Cabbage Merchant.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A to Z of Avatar: The Last Airbender

B is for Ba Sing Se

The Capital city for the Earth Kingdom renowned for its stout walls of protection. EArth kingdom refugees flocked toward its promise of an existence free from the Fire Nation. The city withstood the onslaught of the Dragon of the West, General Iroh of the Fire Nation for 100 years. It wasn't until Azula and her band of merry thugs foiled a Dy Li takeover did the earth kingdom capital city fall under Fire Nation rule.

Ba Sing Se was renowned for its stout walls, extensive university and its earth bending rail system that spanned the entire city. It became the city of refuge for Earth Kingdom refugees during the Fire Nation bid for world dominance.

Write Already!

Tommeh Bell, how do you write?

My writing space
The creative process is different for everyone. For non-creative people they think there is a formula that all of us artsy people use to pump out novels, paintings, musical scores or what have you. 

Pen+Time+caffeine+ sugar= best seller.

No don't get me wrong this maybe the formula that gets it done. I'm not saying it can't, but what I am saying is that its not that easy. Nor is it that easy to nail down. 

The process varies from one person to the next and what works for Jane Smith night not work for you and it certainly might isn't going to work for me. 

My mom is notorious for picking my writing time as the exact moment she wants to strike up a conversation with me. Not understanding that once I get into grove that the slightest jolt will shatter my concentration and the carefully constructed sentences that I have spent countless hours working on. Ok sometimes it isn't that dramatic but most of the time it is. 

Non-creatives think its easy to jump in and out of the head space we have to be in to be our most creative. I mean we should be ale to just sit down and pump out the next great American novel or masterpiece. Its hard to get them to understand how we work. 

Well I know its hard for me to explain to my family how and why I write. The why I write is something I will tackle at a later time. To them writing is a hobby. Something to do to pass the time. Sure they read books. I come from a family of nerds after all. We even all wear glasses just to keep up appearances. However for them being a writer is not a profession. Yeah they understand you can make money from selling your thesis or what have you, but they are constantly reminding me to have a "real" job to pay the bills. 

Hell I still can't get them to understand why I love NaNoWriMo. A competition with no "real" prizes at the end.

So the time to sit down and put down my novel is drawing nearer. Its only been two weeks since the end of Camp NaNo and I've finally gotten my brain to start functioning again. Job training in Chicago during the last week of NaNo not withstanding. Now I have time to actually think,

Sitting down to plot out my current Camp NaNoWriMo novel got me to thinking about how I write. Like the actual physical mechanics of how a story goes from my head to my fingers to the page.

I've read through a few FAQ pages of my favorite authors and "how do you write," is one of the reoccurring questions.  Not I am not comparing myself to Mercedes Lackey or JK Rowling ...yet, but still I know there will come a time when someone will ask me how I write. So here is my answer.

Writing Essentials 

Every writer has a bag of tricks that they use to help them write. They are called writing essentials.
I love my MAC who is aptly named Appa, because let's face it I love Avatar: The Last Airbender. I write on my computer. I've tried writing long hang. I suck at it. Seriously after like a page and a half my hand starts to cramp. Call my lazy if you want to, but that's why I bought my MAC. That is not to say that I plot and outline on my computer. I do that long hand in a series of composition books. I just wait for the back to school sale to by a bunch of them at a time. Staples usually have them for 50 cents in August.

Personally I seem to be at the peak of my creative apex at night. From dusk to the early morning light my creative juices flow like a river. Which is great because I'm a night owl. Its the one good thing I can thank my dad for. I remember sitting up with him during the night having Nightmare on Elm Street and Rocky marathons while my mom was in and out of hospitals. My mom was a sickly little thing when I was younger so we had a lot of time on our collective hands. It was fun times all around.

I guess I can thank my dad for my love of the silver screen and the boob tube as well. That is a different blog entirely. 

The above picture is a snapshot of my writing space. I don't have a dedicated office or writing space just yet. It something I am working towards. As you can tell that's a glass dining room table that is currently under a mountain of library books, plotting composition books and notebook with the odd Scooby movie popping up here and there. 

Unfortunately this table is Grand Central station, the luggage and mail catch-all, the algonquin roundtable and everything in between for our family. So the only time I can catch a moment alone to delve into the lives of my characters and my plot is at night when the rest of the house is slumbering.

Like many writers I have a noveling soundtrack. It used to contain all my favorite hip hop, pop, and R&B songs. Which worked great when I was in my urban fantasy vampire and werewolf phase. That lasted a few years. Now that I'm more into my fairy tale remakes I find myself listening to movie soundtracks. Inception, Lord of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland are my favorites. Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer are my favorite composers.

Writer Fuel

Now that we have a time, and a place, and the music lets move on to the fuel. Writing is just as physically demanding as it is mentally. We are sitting for hours on end typing away or writing long hand. It puts a strain on the back, the eyes, the wrists and hands. Just like any sport you have to prepare yourself.

I like to start with food. I will freely admit that I am a bit of a junk food addict. I like my peanut butter M&Ms, my Sea Salt Carmel gelato as much as the next girl. But I couldn't live like that. So I beef up on my bowl of Special K Fruit & yogurt with vanilla Silk, my special K bars and my Jersey Mikes turkey and bacon subs. Just with any physical activity you have to strike a balance between carbs for sustained activity and protein for fuel. Sugar is literally the icing on the cake.

Sidenote: Life isn't worth living without my Cherry Poptarts.

My Process

This is where we get down to business. The actual writing part. Some people will tell you they are pantsers. Meaning they write by flying by the seats of their respective pants. I thought I was that sort of writer. My first foray into NaNoWriMo showed me I wasn't that sort of writer. I wrote myself into a never-ending loop that nearly drove me insane. 

I am a writer on the other end of the spectrum. I'm a planner down to my French tips. I have to plan out everything. From the characters, to the setting, to the plot, even to the chapter outlines. Me I start with my plot. Not that my story is purely plot driven, but my starting point is the plot. After I've got the bare bones of my plot going I start adding in my characters. During the plotting process I nail down my main character. So now its all about the supporting characters. 

As a side note all of my main characters are African American females. As a black female myself I don't find a lot of us starring in fantasy, sci-fi. urban fantasy books. Hell we don't star in a lot of books to be sure, but I read mostly fantasy so that's what I base my assessment on. The majority of my main characters are POC (people of color). 

Depends on how I feel while I'm plotting on the amount of detail I go into with my characters. Some day I write out full bios down to their favorite color. Other days I just get the bare bone facts cemented. I like to start with their names. I like characters with rememberable names. I would never use Sally, Jane, or Sue as a name. I have a thing for female with male names like Ryan, Kyle, Dillon, Devon. If I can't get the name right I can't picture their face. If I can't picture their face the character never comes together for me. I like to start superficially and then delve deeper into my characters. I've tried to do it other ways and it just doesn't work for me. Which is alright because this is me we are talking about. 

Once I can picture them I can see them in my plot. That's when I can sit down to start outlining my chapters. I can't stress how important that is for a writer like me. If I don't take the time to plot out my chapters I'm liable to just write nonsense till the second coming. My mind had tendency to wander. I keep it reined in with my outline. I know where I'm supposed to go and I have an idea of how to get there. I am not saying that sometimes my fingers don't take a different approach from what I plotted out.  They do. My characters may start acting up and changing the plot around on me or the plot itself might want to go left when I want it to go right. It happens. I do a little bit of pantsing in that aspect. Its ok to let your story evolve organically.

You can't be so set in stone that you don't let your characters and the plot develop on its own. You can always go back and edit later if something just doesn't make sense or if you've written yourself into a corner. 

Some people will tell you to start writing at the beginning and write till you hit the end. Sometimes I follow this roadmap. Sometimes I don't. Especially if I run into writer's block. I find leaving the scene you are in to jump into another one is a cure-all for writer's block. This is where that plot outline comes in handy. Since you know where you need to go jumping in and out of scenes is easy.

That's ladies and gents is how I, Tommeh Bell write. I will address my editing process in another post. Happy writing my Belles!! 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Babblings

Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle (The League of Princes #2) by Christopher Healy

The Nitty Gritty: The League of Princes has been called back together again. Which is a good thing because Gustav knows nothing about farming, Liam and Ella have been kicked out of the castle, Duncan's family has stopped by for a visit and Frederic has a snappy new suit.

In this sequel tale of bumbling Prince Charmings, Sleeping Beauty is determined to get her happily ever after. Even if that means she has to chain Prince Charming to the alter.

All is not wedded bliss for the League uncovers a sinister plot to take over the world from one of their own. It falls to the princes to confront an old enemy as new ones lines up to fight their way into a Reynaldo rhyme.

Opening Line: "A true hero plays the flute."

The Good: I am loving all the female leads in this series. Not only are they all individual characters with strong voices they are all different characters entirely. We have the comic relief in Snow White. The mean girl with a chip on her shoulder in Briar Rose. We have the adventurer in Cinderella, and the gentle soul in Rapunzel. While these ladies fit into nice round molds at times they freely move from one character trope to the other seamlessly. It is a surprise on every page.

I wish more adult books had illustrations in them. I love the little pictures dotted through out this book. It gave me a tickle every time I turned the page and found one.

Healy manages to balance pure buffoonery with comedic wit with the ease of Larry David like pro. It was enough to just keep up with the rapid pace of the laughs and cringes. I love that Healy is writing a boo for children that treats children like emerging adults and not babies that need to be coddled from the ugly side of life. Not that I want bloody gore smeared across each and every page. That is not what I'm saying, but he is taking a mature approach to his writing. Not sure if children are appreciating this fact but I am.  I like children books that write to their audience with the understanding that their audience is going to mature over the course of their series. So they start off writing at that maturity level instead of scrambling at the end to catch up to their much older audience.  

The Bad: This romantic musical chairs is a little distracting. In a good way that makes it bad. This is a middle grades book so I'm not expecting snogs and boob grabs around every corner, but I hate all the stolen looks and blushing that is going on without any payoffs. We all know who needs to be with who I just want them to get there before I die of frustration. Though it is keeping me entertained.

My Final Thoughts: I will never think of Prince Charming the same way again. Which is a good thing. Can't wait for another Hero's Guide. I am thinking of bringing capes back into style.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Babblings

The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah

The Nitty Gritty: Winter Santiaga is the undisputed Princess of the Ghetto. The oldest daughter to drug kingpin Ricky Santiaga, Winter is used to having the best and being the best.

Things have never been better, until her mother is shot in the face and things quickly crumbled in Palace de Santiaga. Winter's mother is no longer the beautiful queen of the hood, her father is thrown into jail with no release in sight, her sisters are swept up into the system, and worse Winter is left without the money to maintain her Princess tiara.

Left without her king and her baubles, Winter only has her street savvy and her money maker to get herself back on top of things, and she will stop at nothing, spare no one to get her tiara back.

Opening Line: "I never liked Sister Soulja, straight up."

The Good: Love her or hate her Winter is one of the strongest female characters in literary history. Her voice is crystal clear and it rings with all the Brooklyn authority that Jay-Z would be proud to find. When faced with the annihilation of her entire family much like a cat Winter landed on all fours.

The Coldest Winter Ever is to urban fiction what gangster rap was to hip hop. It was a pioneering book that blazed a trail into Barnes and Nobel for other African American urban authors. it have even been the very book that helped to usher in the new book genre.

That is about all the credit I am willing to give Souljah with this book. And her book was groundbreaking just as gangster rap gave a musical voice to the disenfranchised black men of the inner city Winter gave voice to the black females of the inner city.

The Bad: Where do I start? Maybe the beginning would be best. I take issue with the fact that Soujah placed herself in the book. Not as a caricature of herself or as comic relief. She put herself into the story as Winter's foil. She was the sole voice of reason in this twisted tale.

I find that highly arrogant of Souljah. Here is a woman with no formal training and no dog in the fight save her desire to influence. For me that is not enough. I fail to see her love for the very people she is claiming she is trying to help. There is one scene in the book where Winter sits in on one of Souljah's "therapy" sessions. One of the women who happened to be a lady of the night, supporting her family as a stripper is reprimanded by Souljah. She acts the woman how much money she makes. I  believe the answer was about $500 a night. And Souljah asks, "does it take $500 a night to support your family?"

Here is a woman who is living rent free in a large town home owned by a doctor. Who pays all the bills, keeps the fridge stocked with food, and living in New York there isn't a need to own a car. So she is sitting up in her palace without a care in the world trying to verbal spank another woman because she tries to provide for her family the only way she knows how.

But perhaps by biggest bone of contention is the fact that Souljah looks down her nose at this people, points out their flaws and misdeeds without offering an avenue of change. I am certain that woman knew what she was doing was not only dangerous and harmful to herself, but also her family on top of being embarrassing. What she was looking for was a way out of her situation not a reminder of what situation she was in.

I find Souljah self righteous with no reason to be.

Moving on to her Midnight. Now I understand that someone women find this man sexy, charming, alluring and possibly the best man in the book. Sad to say that he is probably the best man in the book. Insofar as being compared someone like Bullet. However no one mentions the fact that Midnight is a coldblooded drug dealing killer. I don't care how pretty the package he is still a murderer and a drug pusher. Just because he can string together a semi-intelligent sentence we are suppose to forgive the sons he has killed. The fathers he laid to rest? The mothers he sold crack to? The orphans he made of families?

For all his posturing about how he loves and cherishes woman he left a sixteen year old girl to the mercies of the streets. Sure the said girl was Winter Santiaga, but she was still a minor female without direction. He had the means to take her away from her environment and if nothing else give her a chance at normalcy and change. Instead her abandoned her saying it was her ghettoish ways that pushed him out the door.

I call BS on that. Midnight is worse the the other men in this book. He is a wold in sheep clothing. The other man know who they are and they embrace it. They didn't try to hide it. Midnight hid his nature under a cute smile and the Quran.

My Final Say: I do think this is a book worth reading. However much I may dislike it. I did read her other books with caution and again with disappointment. Simply for its pioneering nature i give it

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A to Z of Avatar: The Last Airbender

A is for Azula 

Azula is by far one of the best fictional characters in history. Azula is the princess of the Fire Nation and a fire bending prodigy. We don't get to meet Azule till book two but what a splash she made. Azula was sent out by her father the Fire Lord to capture Aang and her wayward brother and traitorous uncle. While on this journey Azula manages to capture Ba Sing Se a city the Fire Nation ha been trying to colonize for 100 years.

Azula can not only produce lightening she is the only firebender capable of controlling fire with only two fingers. She can produce jets of blue flame, blue daggers and blue fire. She is a ruthless perfectionist with demonstrated sadist tendencies.

Other than The Fire Lord Azula was the most dangerous enemy for Team Avatar. She put together an all girl hit squad that brought the Earth Kingdom to its knees. Azula is girl power after a IV full of Redbull. 

Book Babblings

Soulless by Gail Carriger 

The Nitty Gritty: As if being a spinster was not enough. Alexia Tarabotti is also soulless. A condition heaped upon her by her father. who was Italian of all the horrid things for an Englishwoman to be.

In this steampunk tale we get a glimpse into Victorian London as it becomes embroiled in a sundowner scandal for the ages. Queen Victoria, ever the progressive, is continuing the trend set by her husband. Allowing sundowners a chance at an accepted life. Vampires and werewolves alike have equal rights under the law. They can even serve in Her Majesty's army.

However accepted they are ;one wolves and rove vampires are going missing and one rove has tried to kill Ms. Tarabotti. At a ball of all places. With her trusty parasol and her habit of neutralizing supernatural abilities with a simple touch she is able to dispatch the scoundrel without mussing her ball gown.

Having killed the rove Alexia is pulled into the drama when she is caught in the act by the Director of BUR, the Woosley Pack Alpha Lord Maccon.

Opening Line: "Ms. Alexia Tarabotti was not enjoying her evening." 

The Good: I must say I really hate when I miss being on the ground floor of a new and exciting series like this. Alexia is a woman after my own heart. She doesn't care one whit what anyone has to say about her. Well because in the eyes of society she is a spinster and so she gets used to the teases and the taunts from her sister of all people.

I do love a woman that is all woman. She is bad ass to be sure, but she can do it in a full skirt and corset. Sometimes I think authors take female characters to hot and cold extremes. Alexia Tarabotti manges to run hot wile keeping her cool. She can stand her own when the time calls for it. However when times get tough she has enough sense to let the professionals handle it.

I adore her love affair with Lord Maccon. It so real life that I found myself putting my face onto Alexia's body. There is this dance between the two of them that all of us can see leading up to a relationship but nevertheless it puts us on the edge of our seat for the entire ride. I find that so many authors rush into the love affair with the title characters that I was to gag myself with a spoon. And I am happy as a pig in mud that there wasn't even a hint of a love triangle between Alexia and two totally unsuitable characters. Conall and Alexia engage in a relationship of verbal barbs that leave both of them breathless and panting for more.

I am in heaven that the leading man is actually a man that I would dane to date myself. He isn't a stalker. Though being an Alpha he is used his orders being followed without question, but Alexia has the backbone to stand up to him and put him in his place when the situation calls for it.

That is possible the best thing about this book. Alexia herself. She is strong, self assured, smart, witty, sarcastic and fully capable for whatever life brings. That is refreshing in this sea of Bella Swans and Clarrissa Freys.

The Bad: Her family is absolutely horrible to her. I mean even on my worst day of my sister tripping my very last nerve she wouldn't have said half of the things to me that Alexia's sisters and mother say to her. Its like they don't even love her. Which I suspect is the case all because her mother made the choice to marry an Italian and have a child. So really its not a bad part of the book they are just horrid people in my humble opinion.

Final Thoughts: I have jumped into this series with both hands and feet. Ms. Tarabotti might even make me rethink my ban on teatime....