The Dark Prophecy

I’ll admit it.  I am an absolute fangirl of the Percy Jackson universe created by Rick Riordan.  From Greek to Egyptian to Norse (as well as other mythologies hinted at), Riordan created a world where all the stories of ancient times are alive and kicking.  I am of the Percy Jackson generation, growing up alongside this character, so anything Riordan writes in the PJ universe is something I am practically guaranteed to enjoy.  The Dark Prophecy was no exception.  (Warning: there are some spoilers for the previous series, Heroes of Olympus.  Read at your own peril!)

This is the second novel of a series called The Trials of Apollo in which the god Apollo has been turned into a mortal by Zeus as punishment for starting a war with giants in the preceding series Heroes of Olympus (come to think of it, though, I can’t remember if it was actually his fault).  Alongside his demigod friend (*cough* master *cough*) Meg McCaffrey, Apollo must complete a series of trials to return to immortality.  Go figure!

The Dark Prophecy itself takes place in Indianopolis where Apollo must defeat a resurrected Roman emperor who’s trying to take over the Midwest.  With the help of Leo, a character who sacrificed then subsequently resurrected himself at the end of the last series, and Calypso, Leo’s girlfriend/rescuee, Apollo undergoes a series of quests.  …Actually, now that I’m away from this hilariously written book, I realize the plot was kind of all over the place.

Whatever, it was a great book which was nothing short of hysterical.  Reading the perspective of Apollo in his woeful mortal form had me laughing out loud from page one.  I think Riordan did an excellent job of writing from the viewpoint of an arrogant god turned into a being of much lesser power, though, I suppose I don’t exactly have much to base that on.  Oh, and have I mentioned that the main character’s bisexual?

This was stunning.  I’ve said before that Riordan has been breaking heternormative expectations in his middle grade books left and right, but this is one of the first series where his main character is not heterosexual (I’m counting Magnus Chase alongside Apollo because I believe he is heteroflexible, not heterosexual – yes, there is a difference).

Riordan acknowledging that the original Apollo was bisexual and a massive flirt was genius on his part.  There’s even  a minor male character (who is also used to hint at African mythology) that drops in for Apollo to crush on.  Oh, the implications!  So exciting!  First of all, the rather insecure way Apollo flirts with him was so believable since it is exactly the way I think an ordinary teenage boy (Apollo’s mortal form) would flirt with any crush of any gender.  Second, Riordan is actually writing in same sex attraction which gives me hope to see some of Magnus Chase’s attraction to the male aspect of Alex Fierro (refer to The Hammer of Thor review).  Finally, hints at African mythology!  I don’t know what he’s going to do with it, but I’m so in.

Overall, The Dark Prophecy was wonderful.  It was hilarious, fun, and engaging.  Again, now that I think about, the plot wasn’t all there, but with Riordan, I couldn’t care less.  For me, it’s all about the funny as well as getting as much diversity as possible.  His writing style is a mastery of sassy storytelling.

For more in-depth fangirling, check out my YouTube video here!  Warning: video contains spoilers.


Sometimes, You Just Have to Cheat

So, once again, I was stuck.  Not the “I don’t know what to do” stuck, but the “I know exactly what happens next…how do I write that?” stuck.  Of course, I was frustrated.  …I seem to use that word a lot in this blog, don’t I?

Anyway, stuck as I was, I already had a scene in mind that would happen much, much later, but I had no idea how to get there.  So, instead, I did the biggest no-no and did the most telliest of things possible: I wrote a two paragraph summary of what happened next, then dived right back into the narrative.

Hey, it’s a first draft and I can do whatever I want.  I’ll fix it in the second draft (probably) and as long as the story gets out, who cares if I cheat.

Magic’s Price

In Magic’s Price we have concluded The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.  …If you can call it that.  In my previous reviews of the last two books (Magic’s Pawn and Magic’s Promise), I have said that there is a certain lack of plot.  This last book was no exception.

True, the main conflict involved an imminent threat of some dark force beyond the borders of Vanyel’s homeland, but it was not built up very well in the series, though Lackey certainly tried.  Honestly, I can’t even tell you much more than that since doing so would actually spoil events in the first book (if you don’t care about that, then go ahead and watch my YouTube videos).  …Don’t have a lot to review here.

All I can say for sure is that I adored Lackey’s characters and I was so engaged with their relationships that I devoured the final installment in about one day.  But that’s really all the series has going for it.  Vanyel is a wonderful character, a selfless hero who suffers anything to protect the country he serves, and that’s all the trilogy is about.

I hesitate to even call this a series.  Yes, it follows one character, but the books are really episodic; they really don’t connect to one overarching plot.  Lackey drops hints of it here and there, yet I felt like the “plot” was more of an afterthought than anything else.  It was a good book; it had a rather sappy ending and I was annoyed with Lackey skipping the good stuff more than once, but still a good book.

Will I read Mercedes Lackey again?  Probably not.  Don’t get me wrong, she is a fabulous author.  Again, her style’s a little old-fashioned (though I think it became more modern with each book), however, it is no less engaging.  The main reason I don’t think I’ll read her work again is because she seems to have a major focus on character relationships more so than on story – nothing wrong with that, just something I would prefer as a subplot not a main plot in a fantasy novel.  It was a decent trilogy and definitely worth reading even if the only reason is that the main character isn’t hetero.

For more commentary on this last installment, check out my YouTube video here.  Warning: video contains spoilers.

The “Write at the Same Time Everyday” Advice Can Go Hang Itself

Alright, I’m not in as bad as a mood as the title implies, but I am a little frustrated with this advice.  I see it everywhere and it drives me absolutely nuts because it assumes that all writers have a consistent schedule.  I don’t have a consistent schedule!

My work life is unpredictable.  There are weeks where I don’t even know if I’m going to be working one job more than the other since both jobs’ workload depends on the season.  Oh, yeah – I have two jobs!  They end up balancing each other out well enough, yet the hours are completely different.  On top of errands and school work (I got into the master’s program – hooray!), there is no particular time that I consistently have free.

However, I have found a way to adapt this piece of much hated advice to my own life.  Since I am so busy, I’ve decided to write for at least twenty minutes a day…which I haven’t been doing for the past few days, but that’s beside the point.  Do I write at the same time everyday?  No, because that’s frickin’ impossible, but I try my best.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get started on the dreaded…I mean, the highlight of my day and write for twenty minutes.

Magic’s Promise

As the second book in The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey, Magic’s Promise is more of the same (check out my previous review of the first book, Magic’s Pawn).  The novel takes place twelve years after the first book and continues to follow Vanyel (our gay main character).  A lot of it centers on some politics between Vanyel’s home country, Valdemar, and other countries across the border along with some conspiracies within said countries.  …That’s pretty much it.

I’d say I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s really not much to spoil.  The main conflict is figuring out if the heir to the throne of a country bordering Valdemar actually killed his whole family…again, that’s pretty much it.  Despite that, I really enjoyed the book – I read it in about two days, yet there’s so little meat to it that I don’t think this is going to be much of a review.

For now, I’m going to say that I like how Lackey doesn’t make too big a deal of Vanyel’s sexual interests.  Sure, she hits home on common prejudices and writes how he deals with them beautifully, however, it’s not thrown in your face all the time; it’s really only there as much as any hetero flirting might be in a book.

Other than that, this novel takes place twelve years after the first – that bothers me.  Why?  Because Lackey drops tons of hints and references to Vanyel’s adventures over that time and even goes so far as to say songs have been written about him. ……Why are we skipping the good stuff?!  Apparently he spent an entire year fighting of evil alone, but do we see it?  No!  We start the book with his freakin’ homecoming!  Arrgghhh!  And the ending made me mad too, but whatever!

Anyway, I’m pretty sure Lackey’s writing maintained its style in the second book, but I have to say I found it far more engaging than the first.  Whether it’s because her narrative was of a more mature character or I was simply more familiar with her style by book two, I can’t really say for sure.  At the very least, it was a decent read even though the ending sucked (not in any unpleasant way, I just thought it was anticlimactic).  I feel like I might end up being more disappointed, but I’m definitely going to finish this trilogy.

For a more detailed review, check out my YouTube video here.  Warning: video contains spoilers.

2001: A Space Odyssey…Why? Part 2

Alright, I got curious.  After watching this horrendous movie, I read in several places that there is a book of the same name which, apparently, helps the movie make more sense (… 😡 There are so many things wrong with that statement).  So, when I went book shopping next, I picked the book up off the shelf and, I am dead serious, this is the very first line: “The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended.”

I’m sorry, what?  Am I supposed to take this seriously?  Why are we starting with a statement that tells us “oh, by the way, the dinosaurs are extinct”?  This is an awful place to start a story (no, I didn’t read past that line)!  And, actually, it took me the second read of that sentence to realize that’s what it meant.  If I had no idea what this was about (and I use that word extremely loosely), I would’ve seen it as the first line of a sci-fi parody referring to a ludicrously inventive alien race.  Pretty sure that’s not what’s happening there.

Then I found out later that the book and movie were written concurrently and meant to be paired together in order for the movie to make any kind of sense.  …That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!  You don’t do that, you just don’t!  Why?  Just why?  I want to enjoy my movies in their own right, I don’t want reading the book to be a prerequisite!

Phew!  I’m done.  Just had to get that out there.  I love books and I don’t always hate movies based on them, but the whole approach of creating 2001: A Space Odyssey was just plain ridiculous.  I don’t care how ground-breaking your effects are, a poorly portrayed story is a bad one.

Magic’s Pawn

Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey is an older fantasy novel as well as the first book in a trilogy.  (I got the whole thing in one volume so I’ll be doing reviews on the series for a few weeks.)  I’ve seen it around a lot and, lately, been seeing more and more mentions of it, so I finally picked it up.  Before I get into the review itself, I have to get one thing out of the way: the main character’s gay.  (…*fangirl squealing to the max*…apologies for destryoing your eardrums)

Now that’s over with, Magic’s Pawn, like I said, is the first book of a trilogy called The Last Herald-Mage and follows a character named Vanyel.  At home, his family practically hates him for reasons Vanyel can’t understand and is sent off by his father to study under his Aunt Savil, a Herald-Mage, though he has no magical talents of his own (at first).  Once there, he meets and falls in love with a boy, named Tylendel, who is training under Savil.  …And, that’s pretty much it.

Okay, there is more plot later on involving Vanyel having magical powers awakened in him, but the events that lead up to it are major spoilers.  However, I felt that the book was mostly about the relationship between Vanyel and Tylendel than anything remotely fantasy.  I loved every bit of it, of course, but there just seemed to be no real meat to the book as a whole.

I also have to say that I found the changes in character to be really sudden.  There was more than one time where I was really confused as to a character’s motivation, yet once things got rolling, I tended to ignore it.  And, to be honest, I kind of wish there was a little more internal struggle with Vanyel coming to grips with his homosexuality since he really only began to identify it once he met Tylendel (butterflies in stomach and all).

Lackey’s writing style was also a little…old-fashioned.  At first, it was really hard for me to get into the book, but by the time I did – boy, was I into it.  I could not put the book down at all once I got past chapter three.  My only pet peeve about her style is that she used dashes instead of ellipses when indicating pauses or trailing off, though that might just be an era thing (late 80s/early 90s) more than anything else, so I’ll just let it slide.

Despite  the lack of meat and kind of a blah ending, I really did thoroughly enjoy the book and I look forward to reading the second installment.

For a more in-depth review, check out my YouTube video here.  Warning: video contains spoilers.

Plot Hole by Design

I’m sure all of you fellow writers are quite familiar with writer’s block, so it’s also no surprise that I am talking about it yet again.  However, I’m going to discuss a different type of writer’s block and how I ended up overcoming it.  Most of the time, when I get stuck, I simply don’t know what happens next or I know where it’s going, but I don’t know how to write it down.  This past week, though, I was absolutely frustrated with my story because things were simply not making any sense.

I spent an entire day trying to figure out how to make my story work, but everything I came up with made no sense.  Over and over again, I would ask myself why would the characters do that or why would the antagonists believe what they believe.  Even though I established what was going on, and determined to stick to it to the end, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the motivations.  What caused the conflict?  Why has it continued?  Yet no matter how much I thought, I couldn’t find an answer.

Then I remembered a certain plot hole in my story.  There’s a piece of technology that I wrote into my society which, even as I was writing it, I knew made no sense, but I went with it anyway, saying that I would figure out the how and why later because I really wanted this technology to be there.  And then, I realized that the apparent antagonists have a certain capability which is very similar to how this technology works.  …Oooooh.  The puzzle pieces fall into place.

I love moments like this when I’m writing.  When things simply come together as if the story is being revealed to me.  It was immensely satisfying to solve this frustrating dilemma like coming to the conclusion of a particularly tricky mystery.

The Empress Game

The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason is the first book in a sci-fi series which takes place in an unspecified galaxy.  It follows the story of a refugee princess, Kayla, in her quest for survival/return home, the majority of which centered on a deal she makes with the imperial organization she hates the most in which she impersonates another princess in a fighting tournament to win the throne (winner becomes bride to the heir of the empire).  Filled with politics, action, and conspiracies around every corner, this book was…okay.

I’m not usually a reader of science fiction, so I don’t really have much to compare it to, but I still found it quite enjoyable.  Although, I have to admit that there were a few moments I found my eyes glazing over because of too much time spent on political maneuvers or over the top technobabble.  Not to mention, I’m not sure how much of the technobabble was nonsense and how much grounded in any kind of reality – not a great position to have the reader in, especially when I noticed Mason slip up when she had one of her characters refer to light-years as a measure of time, not distance.  …Ouch; the scientist in me just died a little.

Kayla, though, was pretty awesome.  She was a tough fighter who didn’t let anything bring her down.  A strong woman, overall, and any emotional breakdowns Mason wrote her into was completely warranted.  She served her role well enough, but I didn’t really feel that much connection with her either.  (Certainly better than Cole Randolph, though.)  There was also a bit of romance that, while not forced, was a tad difficult to believe simply because it felt more like this: oh, look, a female lead and a male lead – they must end up together!

Anyway, the plot was intriguing, however, it kind of dragged at the end.  When one conflict resolved, another sprung up.  It was almost like the author just wanted to wrap up everything as quickly as possible – there just wasn’t enough set up and not enough connection between events.  By the end, the latter half felt a little contrived.

Mason’s writing style was as good as the story itself.  By switching between two character perspectives, she does her best in portraying the story through their eyes.  It was…suitable for the book.  …That’s seriously all I have to say about it.  Her writing wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t absolutely horrid either.

I don’t know.  Maybe this just isn’t the book for me.  I seriously think it’s worth a once over, but personally, I’m not going to read the remainder of the series.  Mason’s not an author I’m going to be invested in, but that doesn’t mean anyone else out there shouldn’t give her a chance.  Who knows?  Maybe it’ll be your next favorite series.

For a more detailed review, watch my YouTube video here.  Warning: video contains spoilers.

2001: A Space Odyssey…Why?

Okay, I have to do this.  I just have to.  This isn’t a blog where I review movies, but in this case, I have to say something.  Though, admittedly, this is going to be less of a review and more of a rant. (Warning: spoilers ahead)

Why is this movie referenced so much?!  I watched this ridiculously long movie last night and just found it tedious and annoying, yet I see people continually reference the work with a degree of respect.  …Why?!  And, no, it’s not an era thing that makes me dislike it; I have watched Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green* all the way through, so I already knew going in to a ’60s film was going to be a bit slow.

However, this movie made no sense!  The first half hour (I kid you not) is wasted on a tribe of apes just being a tribe.  Then we go to space and there’s all this boring stuff with characters, whose names I don’t remember, talking about an epidemic space illness.  And is it ever resolved or addressed again?  No!!!  Then, after that, there’s the lead up to a space mission to investigate some sort of structure that was buried four million years ago and the nature of said mission is kept secret from the astronauts piloting the ship because…..?

I said it once, I’ll say it again: This movie made no sense!  And the parts that this movie is famous for (i.e. the parts that always get referenced) only happen in a thirty minute segment in the second half.  And those thirty minutes were the only interesting point of the movie.

This was so boring!  I guess the visuals and effects were pretty great, especially since they looked really convincing, but it felt more like they were showing off the majority of the time.  Honestly, after H.A.L. got disconnected, I stopped paying attention, so I have no idea how it even ended – especially since there was no dialogue!  You know, sometimes that works, but in this case, I wanted to scream at the screen for people to SAY SOMETHING!

To sum up, I didn’t like it.  I found it a completely dull waste of time.  Find me the Be Kind, Rewind version; it’ll probably be more entertaining.

*Just as an aside comment about Soylent Green, I don’t get the whole “It’s people!” thing.  I mean, what’s the big deal?  They’re recycling the corpses of an overpopulated world in order to feed those still living.  It’s not like people are actually being harvested; sure, they’re being lied to about what’s in soylent green, but so what?  If they’re hungry, what do they care?