Sunday, 27 May 2012

Temporary Hiatus!

Sorry for the lack of posts this week! I'll be back in full force some time in July. At the moment, I'm a little swamped by homework and exams.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

My Opinions On Every Pokémon Ever: 035, Clefairy to 038, Ninetails


Click here to read the previous volume: 029, Nidoran to 034, Nidoking.

(Early post this week! I'll be out on Sunday and might not be able to post, so I thought I'd chuck this online now.)

035: CLEFAIRY.
While Clefairy is kind of derpy and stupid looking, I feel it's a little unfair to hold that against any Pokémon. There are a lot of derpy and stupid looking Pokémon. Its blushy cheeks kind of annoy the heck out of me, but I suppose I don't really have any super duper major issues with it other than that.

I wish the Pokédex wasn't trying to convince me that I should adore it for its cuteness, though. Because uh. I'm just not seeing it. There are plenty of cuter Pokémon. Caterpie, for example.

036: CLEFABLE.

No. Clefable is dumb. Next question, please.

037: VULPIX.
Hey, speaking of Pokémon that are cuter than Clefairy, Vulpix is pretty magnificent. It's always been one of my top favourites. That could be just because I like foxes in general (this one time I saw one that knew what traffic lights meant, what a badass). The design is really nice - the tails are a good size in proportion to its body and the little bit of coiffured hair atop its head is kind of adorable.

Plus, I just kind of want to cuddle one forever and ever. I'd end up with a fire full of flames, granted, but it seems pretty much worth it to have a Vulpix.

038: NINETALES.
 Another really well designed Pokémon! Though it is a fitting evolution to Vulpix, it ditches the cuteness for dignity and grace and it does so very well. It looks pretty regal. Downright sugoi, even.

I like its creamy colouring, too. There are a lot of red and orange fire types, so it's a small departure from the standard and a welcome one at that. I suppose that cream is not extremely far from those colours (and it still has those red eyes and orange tail tips), but it's still nice enough to mention.

Both Vulpix and NinetaLEs seem to be based on the nine-tailed variation of mythological kitsune

Friday, 18 May 2012

Saving

To read the previous Scribbly, click here!

Saving money is hard.

"Rachel," you say.


"Do you have a job?"


I then proceed to ask if a job is a kind of tuna. You say no and I am quite disappointed.

You see, it's hard to save money when you don't really have an income stream. I suppose I could fix this by going out and getting a job. From the job tree. It's right next to the money tree, slightly south-west of the Fountain of Youth. You can't miss it.


It's also evergreen, so the job market is beautiful all year 'round. I imagine the job tree has pretty pink flowers, too. It just makes sense. Unfortunately, I bet I'd be too short to reach any good jobs if I was ever successful in this quest for the job tree.


The magical job tree isn't for me, I suppose.

So I have to save using alternate methods. Allowance money - which I am very grateful to get, by the way - and dribs and drabs from the world wide interwebs are my two ways of getting my hands on more dollars. As soon as I get the dollars, they go straight into the bank.

This then creates the problem of me being able to see the money as it slowly but surely begins to pile up in my account. I see that amount get over a hundred bucks and the gears in my head begin to whirr.



It becomes really, really hard to not buy shiny things. And the internet is full of shiny, shiny things.



Until I can become one with The eBay, however, I guess I will have to put up with not acquiring every shiny thing in existence.


Thursday, 17 May 2012

REVIEW: The Redemption Of Althalus


 The Redemption Of Althalus is a standalone high fantasy epic by David and Leigh Eddings.

The following review may contain spoilers, which have been blacked out  for your protection. Just highlight them to read!

For someone who has built their career and reputation on being the world's luckiest thief, a seemingly endless string of misfortune is a devastating blow. Just as things couldn't be looking worse for Althalus, he is offered a high-paying job to steal a book from a house at the end of the world. Though he doesn't know what a book is, he sets off to steal it anyway. When he arrives, he is met with a talking cat who scolds him for being late and brings him into her plans to save the world.

I really, desperately wanted to love this book, but it just failed in a few crucial areas, not the least of which being 'entertaining the reader'. It started out marvellously, but once the plot got going, it quickly became slow and difficult to persevere through. Though I did care for the titular character, I found nearly every single other character unrelatable and unremarkable. The plot itself could have been quite interesting, had it been handled better.

Throughout the book's lengthy introduction, I was having fun reading it. The first parts were an absolute pleasure. Althalus is established as charismatic and pretty damn funny, so he's easy to sympathise with, even though he's an unashamed thief. I would have gladly read a whole book about his thief-y antics. 

My issues lie with everything that happened after the beginning. After a wonderful beginning, it took me a while to realise why I was suddenly taking so long to get through page after page. It didn't even occur to me until I was close to finishing the book that I'd grown very, very bored.

I believe the reason for that is that I was constantly waiting for something big to happen, for the immense buildup to pay off. I was waiting to see how the team of antagonists would be able to use their own set of doors and their own book against the heroes and their set. I was waiting for something fantastic. Believe me, something amazing could have been figured out with all of the powers in this book. I loved the concept of the House and its doors, but it never led anywhere. I guess you have to be a special kind of writer to make unrestricted time- and space-travel work for you. Most of the time I read or watch anything involving these ideas, I'm hugely let down (there are notable exceptions).

Not only that, but there was no tension in the book. It consisted mostly of characters having ideas, explaining those ideas in detail, then executing them with only the smallest of hiccups. There was never a shadow of doubt that the protagonists would succeed, even when Eliar was blinded. The worst things that happened seemed like only minor speed bumps. When there's close to zero conflict and tension, things get really boring really quickly.

Having said that, I'd like to make it very clear that my complaints do not lie solely with the poor execution of the plot. I have major, major concerns about this novel's characters. My primary concern is that I could not give half a shit about the ones I was supposed to bond with. None of them felt like actual sapient beings with their own minds inside their own obligatorily attractive, heroic heads. They were pieces of cardboard. Pieces of heavily stereotyped and mildly offensive cardboard at that.

Why were they offensive, you ask? I take issue with the way everyone is so neatly pigeonholed. Dweia's Dream-Team of heroes are all hot, the girls on the Dream-Team even more so. Ghend and his Legion Of Evil Buddy Friends are all ugly, especially the sole female on their team, who is described more often by her wild appearance than anything else about her, including the fact that she's ruled a warrior nation for thousands of years. The overweight characters (all two of them) are shown to be lazy, gullible and unfit to rule.

Let's take a closer look at the way female characters are treated, specifically. I have a very clear picture in my head of what Andine, Leitha and Dweia look like. Andine is tiny and delicate with dark hair and a voice that could manipulate anyone. Leitha is tall, blonde and hot enough to be put to death for it. Dweia has luxurious red hair and is also pretty smashing. Now, there is nothing wrong with having hot characters. Really. It's not a sin. You can have a pretty character. But how about we examine Gelta, the only female portrayed as evil? The authors go to great lengths to describe how hideous she is, really hammering it home to the reader. It's worrying that all of the good females are pretty, and the bad one is not.

But putting looks aside, I still have major issues. If we ignore the fact that Andine feels like a terrible, rehashed version of Ce'Nedra from the Belgariad/Mallorean series (who, incidentally, I really liked), her character is robbed of agency very quickly. She is introduced with all the fury of a tiger that has escaped from an illegal zoo and cornered its captors, which translates to a whole fucking lot of fury. She is, quite rightly, irate about her father's death and she intends to make the one responsible suffer. This, my dear reader, is reasonable characterisation.

Fast forward to her kidnapping and forcible addition to Dweia's Dream-Team. She settles down and accepts it really, really quickly. The other characters seem to find her continued hatred of Eliar to be childish and bratty. It was at this point that I realised that the two of them would definitely hook up, to my everlasting chagrin. But anyway, it was explained to Andine that Eliar was following orders. Nearly immediately, she practically forgot that he was the reason she was orphaned at fifteen and proceeded to fall head over heels in love with the guy, despite there being no legitimate connection between the two of them. It stressed me out even more that Dweia decided it was to be inevitable.

From that moment forward, every single aspect of her character was thrown out the window, most likely one of those windows in The House that looked onto the deep abyss. She seemed to exist solely to dote on and feed Eliar instead of remaining a person in her own right. Andine only really existed in relation to a male character which, unfortunately, is a really common pattern throughout fiction.

Now, I had planned to talk about my issues with Leitha at this point, but I'm so close to keymashing that I think it would be best if I left it to a short description. I feel like Leitha does nothing but titillate Bheid. A character that is treated as nothing more than their looks and sexuality is obviously an issue. 

Moving right along.

Gher was pretty cool. He seemed a bit like a plot device to help out the dumber characters at some points, but otherwise, no problems with him.

And I guess that's all I have to say. To summarise, The Redemption Of Althalus started off gloriously, but sank very far, very fast. There were glaring problems with characterisation and the plot was handled poorly. I wish I could say otherwise because I really wanted to be a fan of this book.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

My Opinions On Every Pokémon Ever: 029, Nidoran to 034, Nidoking


Click here to read the previous volume: 027, Sandshrew and 028, Sandslash

Due to the nature of the following six Pokémon, I'll be opining about them in pairs.

 029 and 032: NIDORAN.
 Pretty sure these little guys are meant to be bunny dinosaurs. Can't be one hundred percent certain, but it seems likely to me. Look at that huge front tooth, it's cute as an unusually cute button. They're all tiny and cute and pretty endearing, until you realise just how annoying that 'poison' typing is when you're playing a Nuzlocke run and happen to come up against one of them. Well, to be fair, being poisoned is annoying even in a non-Nuzlocke run, but you understand how much worse it is when Nuzlocking.

Overlooking how annoying they are in Nuzlockes, I like these little guys. By now it's glaringly obvious that I like cute things, so I'll stop mentioning that for now. They were an interesting way of adding differences between genders before gender was even a real factor in the games. So that's pretty neat.


030: NIDORINA and
033: NIDORINO.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to mention that I like how the colour schemes work out. I think the whole blue/purple thing is rather nice. I think it's good how these two are also not as brightly coloured as their prevolutions. Though I do really like the colours of both flavours of Nidoran, the slight fading (and loss of purple tint, in Nidorina's case) is kind of fitting, seeing as they're getting all growed up and such.

It's also neat how one (Nidorina) has gone bipedal while the other (Nidorino) stays quadrupedal for an extra evolution. It's a cool little bit of variation that I like. It's probably easier to ram opponents with that horn as a quadruped for Nidorino anyway, so I guess it's sensical, too!

031: NIDOQUEEN and 
034: NIDOKING.

I'm not a huge fan of how Nidoqueen's colour has darkened - it doesn't quite look right or fit in, it should be paler - but other than that, I'm pretty
 cool with these two Pokémon. None of the bunny rabbit appearances from Nidoran are left in either of the fully evolved forms. Instead, they now look fierce, with ferocity fit for a King and Queen.


Oh yeah. I went there.



Friday, 11 May 2012

Bus

To read the previous Scribbly, click here!





So, when I finally get to the bus...



I promise you, though, I am the only one that can hear those groovy musical notes. I'm not one of those assholes who elects to use their iPod as a boombox to play their invariably shitty music (any music is shitty when blasted through default Apple headphones and filtered by whatever stuffing the iPod's owner has rattling around in their skull).

But on with this harrowing tale.





In times like these, I use my greatest weapon.



When the power-glare doesn't stop the person behind me from kicking my seat, I resort to much more mature tactics, such as pouting and feeling extra sorry for myself.





Then I make the mistake.


You wouldn't believe how many bus trips end with my cursing myself out of my own existence.

To read the next Scribbly, click here!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

REVIEW: Graveminder


Graveminder is a standalone adult paranormal novel written by Melissa Marr.
This review may contain a couple of spoilers, which have been blacked out for your protection. Just highlight them to read!

Rebekkah Barrow and Byron Montgomery have both left their childhood town of Claysville behind them, but never quite stopped feeling it pulling them back. The suspicious death of Rebekkah's grandmother - Maylene - becomes the catalyst for a chain reaction of otherworldly events and secrets protected past the grave and Rebekkah and Byron find themselves thrown headfirst into the dark traditions of Claysville.

I enjoyed reading this book. It was a pleasant reading experience, despite some obvious flaws. The world was an intriguing, albeit unsatisfactorily explored one. The characters, however, were a real let down, save for a select few.

The whole 'small town turned creepy and also there are dead people' is a setting we've seen time and time again - heck, several times in Supernatural alone - but fortunately, Claysville didn't seem like a boring iteration of a tired trope. Hints are thrown about relating to its local mystery right from the very start. The reader begins asking questions immediately. What's Maylene doing? Who's that girl in there with her? (It's Daisha. I like her.) Coupled with Byron's constant affirmation that Claysville just pulls people back, a sense of intrigue is nicely set up from the start. Having said that, however, it might've benefited from a little easing-up on the repetition of that point. I started feeling like there was a bit of an echo in the book with the amount of times characters and the narrator mused about how Claysville always brings its children home.

Once the aforementioned intrigue is established, however, it sort of hangs there in the air, on hold as the characters mull over their past and their present love lives. While this was intended to further characterisation, it felt rather pointless. Personally, I don't feel it strengthened by bond to Rebekkah or Byron. And it just goes on. They don't stop angsting and angsting over one another for the entire book. I have to admit that I skimmed over a fair few paragraphs because their endless recycling of 'I can't, I can, I musn't, I must' feelings grew grating. I started feeling like there was a bit of an echo in the book.

I did mention that there were a couple of characters that piqued my interest. Those characters were Daisha and Charles. I'm hesitant to count Maylene and William, because although I took a liking to them, they only feature in a few pages each before being killed to death. Shame, really. The last two seemed like they would've had a more interesting story to tell than the actual protagonists. I'm also not sure if I should count Amity as a character that I liked, seeing as she did absolutely nothing to further anything, other than give Rebekkah a friend and yet another reason to angst about Byron.

The chapters that focussed on Daisha were the most interesting in the book, bar possibly the first times that Byron and Rebekkah each see the world of the dead. I wanted to follow her story, to find out what was going on with the little dead girl (though considering I'm barely a year older than she was supposed to be, maybe I shouldn't call her 'little'). She was wonderfully ambiguous and I thought the way she grew and changed throughout the book was well handled and well written.

Likewise, I was a fan of nearly every moment Charles was involved in. His charisma leaked off the pages of the book and though he was every bit as creepy as you'd expect a personification of death to be, it worked in his favour and was wholly appropriate to the context of what was going on. I would have liked to know more about him.

Having said that, I was not a fan of the information dump at the end. Giving Rebekkah a Q&A session with Charles just as the book was about to close felt like an intolerably lazy way of closing up loose plot threads that could have very easily been more smoothly woven into dialogue at any previous time. Reading this section, while informative, if you look at it that way, was infuriating and I felt that as a reader, my intelligence had been insulted. It was that badly executed.

More time should have been spent on building up the fantastical elements of this book. Pages allocated to Byron and Rebekkah's nonexistant chemistry and uninteresting merry-go-round of guilt and attraction would have been better spent on the utterly fascinating world and concepts that this book contains. I'll repeat at this point that I did enjoy this book, but the unwisely large amount of time spent on the main characters jumping through hoops of emotional baggage was a disservice to the wonderful magical world of Claysville and its afterlife.

One more complaint before I rocket off. This complaint is entirely spoilers, so if you haven't read the book, don't read this section.

I felt that the choice of villain was poor and that the foreshadowing was nonexistant. This was very, very irritating. Cissy had only showed up at the start of the plot (not the start of the book - those can be two wildly different page numbers) and while she was pointedly written as cruel, melodramatic and vindictive, there was no indication that she would be willing to murder many people in order to kill Rebekkah. But even past that, her plan was stupid. If she was content to have one murder on her hands, why didn't she try to directly kill Rebekkah? Honestly, villains, get your shit together.

Okay, you can start reading again. Spoiler time is over.

All in all, Graveminder was a decent book. Despite its glaring issues - nearly all of them to do with terrible characterisation - I did really like it.  Marr built a great world, but I feel that it was never properly explored. The protagonists were far too explored and I started feeling like there was a bit of an echo going on in the book as they went through the same few emotions over and over again.