Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review-- Unnatural Issue: An Elmental Masters Novel by Mercedes Lackey

Earlier on this blog--one of my first posts, as a matter of fact--was a review of The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey. This was a decent novel with a decent set of characters that was enjoyable to read. After that positive experience, and after hearing how popular this author is in the fantasy world, I decided to give Unnatural Issue a try.

The "Elemental Masters" series, as far as I'm aware, is about humans with the ability to control fire, water, air or earth. Those who are particularly powerful and bend their element to their will are referred to as Masters, though other non-Masters can have small abilities such as lighting fires or keeping milk from curdling...that sort of thing. Each book is a retelling of a popular fairy tale, but with these added twists of Elemental masters.

This particular novel I'm reviewing is based off the story "Donkey Skin." In case you aren't familiar with "Donkey Skin," consider yourself somewhat lucky. There's a reason why Disney hasn't had a cartoon musical made out of it yet. So let's just say that an alternative title for this fairy tale is "The King Who Wished to Marry His Daughter" and leave it at that. Yeeeeeeah....

Yet with such a controversial tale, how could this NOT be an entertaining read? I was sold. I placed a hold on a copy at the library and waited for the novel to come out.
 Just a couple months later, I swung by the library to pick up my copy. After a couple days of reading, I closed it and put it down with a sigh. Ultimately it was quite a let down.

The story is about a man named Whitestone who is called away while his wife is pregnant. As he's returning to his country manor, he realizes with his earth magic that his wife is in labor. He rushes home only to find her dead, but the babe is still very much alive. In typical, over-dramatic fashion, he blames his daughter for his wife's death, wants nothing to do with the baby, and locks himself away in the upper reaches of the manor for almost two decades. The baby grows up into a young woman named Suzanne. She's raised as a servant in her own manor and doesn't feel as if she fits in anywhere. The servants still act as if she's above them, yet she feels as if she's a part of them. The fairy, Puck, teaches her how to use her inherent powers since her father is most certainly not teaching her.

One day, though, Whitestone looks out his window and half-imagines he sees his wife walking towards the manor. He has been experimenting with dark earth magic, particularly necromancy, in attempts to resurrect his wife. The vision he sees is actually his daughter, but it takes him awhile to realize this, having not seen her for seventeen years. But seeing how identical she is to her deceased mother, that sets the ball rolling and the story begins.

Sounds like a great, exciting story, right? WRONG. For starters, it feels almost like this novel had a deadline that everyone was rushing to meet. There were instances of repetition or contradiction that just make it sloppy. For example, on the repetition, there is a passage from the father's perspective that explains ghosts. A paragraph or so later, the exact same explanation is given yet again but only slightly different. Contradiction-- does the main character have a strong country accent or not? I found a whole slew of contradictions that can just all go to hell for all I care...and perhaps they did because I cannot recall anymore. (Note to self: Take notes next time!)

Also, the author failed to realize what was more interesting to read about--the necromancy and father-daughter relationship gone wrong. We only get to see necormancy in action a couple times and a much larger portion of the novel is the protagonist in hiding, with a rather dull group of Elemental masters, or during World War I. Not once do we feel that Suzanne is in anyway threatened by her father. She either has some other Master take care of it for her or she just runs away. Whoopie.

On the brightside, the author did an excellent job of making me feel 100% apathetic toward Suzanne's character. A not too rare feat, indeed! Whitestone's misogynistic nature was also properly reinforced...sorry, let me rephrase that.... properly reinFORCED. His women-hating was so clear and vivid I could practically picture him twisting a thin mustache! Excellent writing, my friends.

Whoops, tried to not let my sarcasm take hold this entire review but there it popped up. Le sigh. Anyway, in all seriousness, the ideas in this novel are excellent. The way the author added in necromancy to the story of "Donkey Skin" worked nicely and logically. I also loved the images of dead soldiers rising from the trenches through necromancy, but ultimately this was rather boring to read. I found myself skimming to the parts were necromancy was used and jumping over the little romance sections and other "nothing happens" sequences. It's just a "meh" from me.

A big, boring MEH.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

PAAAARTY....for under $100.....hopefully

Welcome to the first post of my new, general blog! I figured that the old blog was too specific for me to comment much on it, but I will still post ballet stuff I find every once in awhile.

This new blog entry is about a themed party I'm planning. I really, really love Halloween, so I actually start planning for it months in advance to sew my costume and make plans. This year I’m planning on making Alice in Wonderland as my party theme. By figuring out my theme already, that leaves plenty of time to make and find decorations, prepare a menu, and create my costume.

I want the party to feel surreal, horrifying, and playful. Weird combo, right? But I figured that with Wonderland, that would make sense. Each room is going to have something different. The kitchen, which is red, will be the Red Queen's lair (horror). The dining room will be the Mad Hatter's tea party (playful). The family room will be filled with odds and ends (surreal). Outside I would LOVE to have a Jabberwocky skeleton made out of paper-mache *crosses fingers and shoots for the moon*. There's going to be a lot of paper-mache decorations to keep my party under budget.

Above: inspirational and concept pictures

Speaking of budget, my goal this year is to keep everything, minus the costume, under $100. Food will probably put me over as it usually does, and in decorations, I’ve already racked up a quarter of that…. So that means games, food, and decorations all under a hundred bucks. Let’s just see if I can manage to pull it off or at least land close to my goal. 
American McGee's Alice

My costume is almost complete. I’m going as Alice for Halloween, specifically American McGee’s Alice. That way I don’t have to worry about a blonde wig for my costume and just have to straighten my hair. As an additional bonus, this Alice is from a horror video game--perfect for Halloween. I bought a jack-in-the-box to modify into a purse, but that’s not going to well for several reasons. 

Otherwise, my costume is nearly complete. It just lacks the alchemy symbols on the apron pockets. I plan on using my aunt’s embroidery machine on those to make them look a bit sharper and so they don’t wash off in the washing machine. I'll post pictures once that's completed. Hopefully it won't look too's my own pattern and the puffy sleeves took a really long time to perfect.

Decorations I've already found:
Here are some decorations I've already found. Most of these will probably used for outside decoration and the kitchen (Red Queen Room). 
 The first items I found were at Goodwill. Only one dollar each! The teapot is going in the Mad Hatter room and the bowl will be a candy dish in the kitchen.
A trip to Hobby Lobby found me these chess pieces for sale at 30%. The white pawn was on clearance for a dollar, but the rest were a lot more expensive. The price for the lot of these is the most expensive so far: $12, but they were just too cool and too perfect to pass up. I'm glad I got these. 
These candles I found at a garage sale. This is what I love about shopping for Halloween in the middle of summer. Deals! But this wasn't any deal... I was working during the garage sale times, so I asked my mom to pick these up for me. She got them for $8.... not happy at all about that. Lesson learned: If you want something done right (and not pay a small fortune for it), do it yourself. Still, these are very cool, but I won't be paying that much for decorations this trivial again.
 Some whimsical stuff I found around in my room. The card deck was missing some cards so it'll be perfect to make into card streamers.
Some things I also have that people gave me that would be perfect for Alice in Wonderland. The right book I'm picking mostly because it has a raven on it. "How is a raven like a writing desk?" The Alice in Wonderland placard on the far left is actually from a Blockbuster that was going out of business.
These are oversized cards, a heart tray, red shrink-wrap, and napkins that I got from Party City. I paid only one dollar for all of these thanks to a secret shopping job I did for them and getting partially reimbursed. Not only do I get these items for a whole lot cheaper, the shopper fee boosts my budget by $14! Sweet! And are those large playing cards not the most amazing things you've ever seen? For comparison, those napkins are your standard size napkins. 

Total Amount Spent: $22.88

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Change of blog

So my toe is not any better and due to the fact I'm in college, my funds and time short. Basically that means no ballet at all. I was thinking about this blog and how much I liked adding to it, but because of both circumstances, I can't really contribute to this as much as I could when I was still taking classes.

That got me thinking, maybe I should just change this to a personal blog about basically anything. That way I'm not restricted. I can make more reviews on exercise videos that aren't just ballet-based; I can show sewing tips I've picked up--both really popular attractions to this blog. Due to this change, there's going to be a lot of alterations. For starters, this will still be called Dizzily Dreaming. Second, ballet will still be discussed, just whenever I can get to it and it will be mixed with other things.

The changes will start pretty soon! Hold tight everyone!
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