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Eggs, Butter, Sugar and Disaster: A critical review.

Reviewing a book is easy. Reviewing a book a friend wrote is impossible. The problem being that the relationship with the friend comes first, meaning if the piece of trash makes you cry blood five words into the second paragraph you still have to try and brush it off with a 'meh, it's okay' lest you hurt the feelings of the one who spent months slaving away at it merely for you to summarise their hopes and dreams in a sentence roughly the length of a cough. But you can't just be positive either. If you try and end it with a 'Yeah, that was fantastic!' the friend's doubts will niggle at them. A lack of elaboration will only bring forth paranoia that you're hiding your true disgust. Perhaps you could go both ways and try a 'meh, it's not too bad actually' but this halfheartedness is cowardice at its most apathetic.

So I'm reviewing 'Eggs, Butter, Sugar and Disaster' by Alicia L Wright in the same way I'd want my book to be reviewed when read by an old friend from University who I haven't seen in years and who never got me a return Christmas present - with a long winded review and complete and total honesty that covers multiple areas. So here goes...

Let's start with a compliment. The story of Seralina and other deities is a must read for any kid. Sera is a strong, young woman who comes across as genuinely awkward, an instant improvement from the false awkward character you often seen in certain vampire mainstream novels, who would occasionally just trip over to remind everyone how weak she is. Among the gods, whose lives Sera is quickly thrust into, our protagonist is forced to adapt quickly into a world that quickly takes over her life with no chance of going back. With her friends and family only ever mentioned in retrospect, Sera must quickly take to her roles as a goddess, which includes part time jobs such as collecting the dead, creating familiars and deciding on just what type of goddess she plans to be.

Sera's narrative has a wonderful wit to it that doesn't cease throughout the book. Mixed in with characters who like to bicker between themselves, the novel gets a little chuckle out of me every few pages. Sera's journey into godhood takes her through the turns that most gods would take for granted, including obtaining god like tools (or kitchen utensils in Sera's case) and the construction of her Godly, inedible domain.

The book plays much on the deconstruction of godhood ,and not just in Sera setting up meetings at community centres in order to attract potential worshipers. The hierarchy of the gods is displayed with  deities that don't even know they've lost their way in life and gods that have grown weary of their duties. A key theme of the book is helping ou the other gods, which Sera takes to nobly, assisting her new fellows with the daily problems in their immortal lives, often providing them simple solutions to bad habits and giving one or two of them a good telling off.

One of the interesting key features through the book is the lack of focus on antagonists. For the most part, Sera's journey is mainly exploration, discovering parts of her new life with a joyous abandon and having her expectations both realised and shattered in the same instant as she meets her fellow pantheon. The mythology and research behind the book is shown with some of the lesser known mythical gods but even when front runners like Loki and Osiris come up they're not entirely like you expect of them.

Antagonists do show up throughout the story and when they do they pitch Sera into battles of wit she's not ready for, showing the character's awkwardness and determination at the same time. The Domestic Goddess quickly came across as a favourite for me, if only for her own ineffectual determinism at bringing Sera down. Other villains don't show their true colours until the end but when they do it brings a satisfying climax to the story with an epic battle against mighty foes dispatched with forks and whisks. Indeed, Alicia's imagination brings us very interesting methods of taking out Frost giants...

However, the final battle itself is very much displaced by the penultimate battle. The Bored games (not a typo) are without a doubt the most exciting part of the book. This is definitely the scene where Alicia's true writing skills come to light. In just one chapter she creates a game which brings new light to the saying 'there are no rules'. With a multitude of gods with different agendas It's a shame this the game didn't end up being the final part of the book . The awesomeness in this mental battle of godly wits plays a lot of potential, but easily could have done more. In future books, I'd hope to see Alicia more willing to embrace her stronger qualities and scenes like this are what's she really good at.

Whilst the novel is a must read for any child, I'm not sure I could recommend it to too many adults. Most of the themes addressed in the book remain simple and are never delved into too deeply. With most scenes taken directly from the perspective of Sera herself, we are given an explorer's view of the Asgardian (plus other) realms. But because of the many realms she visits, w never stay in one place too long, and besides Valhalla and the bar of Sessrymnir the only other prime location is that of Earth itself. It would definitely get your child interested in mythology, but it's not a complex epic in in itself.

For her first book, Alicia has done an excellent job. If I were to complain about things (and you know I must), there would be three.  The first is a mundane issue- literally.  Throughout the book there are a few scenes which suffer from being absolutely pointless, and if they are necessary, they come across as boring. Whilst the chapter that dedicates itself to Sera wandering around realms dishing out leaflets gives us a view onto the other godly lands, the scene where Sera spends several pages showing two gods how to bake a cake (a completely normal cake with completely normal ingredients for completely normal purposes) left me a bit perplexed as to why the scene was kept in. These scenes are almost written as if they would be interesting for a god who knew nothing of human life. Instead Sera tells us how to bake a normal cake and nothing else. Several similar scenes remain skittered throughout the book, including the aforementioned handing out of leaflets and the making of a dress. In a world full of magical potential, where the very notion of butter of the gods should get one's mind spinning many a fantastical tale, I found myself dozing a little before I got back to the good bits. These sections lacked an overall point to them and often came across as padding, with no deeper meaning or lesson learned behind them.

Also, with the exceptions of the games and that little battle at the end, the story misses out on bringing forth any real excitement. There isn't a single tragic scene in the book and we don't get a single twang of tension until the games start. If I were to suggest anything it would be the willingness to be more dramatic. This is a tale of Gods after all.

Another fault that pops up is accidental author insertion. This is a personal worst fear in my own work and every so often it springs up in the novel and makes me shudder. Throughout the book we find Sera referring back to her old life and I don't presume to be the only one who would reckon that Sera's pursuit of graphic design and opinions of what's right when it comes to stealing would be suspiciously similar to Alicia's own. I could of course be completely wrong and perhaps the mere fact that I know the author could be contributing to my opinion here. But the problem is I could be wrong. Sera's monologues to the audience could be specifically created for the character and have nothing to do with Alicia's own life and it still wouldn't matter. The problem is that during these scenes it comes off as if the author is narrating directly through Sera. It jars the immersion, reminds us that we're reading.

My final gripe is the title itself. You may have noticed I've avoiding using the title as much as possible in my review, and that's because I can't stand it. It's kind of appropriate, I guess, especially considering the type of god Sera becomes, but it's not eye catching and has nothing to do with the first half of the story at all. It sounds like a humourous cookbook, which is again sort of appropriate but wouldn't have made me pick it up off the shelf.

Despite these room for improvement areas though, Sera's path to godhood is still an enjoyable read. In the end, besides hoping I've been able to create a balanced yet honest review, yet dreading the hostility that comes about by bringing up all the negative points at the end, I can recommend the purchase of this book. It's a first book, and it isn't a masterpiece, but it's an entertaining read and would definitely amuse the children as they follow Sera's path through Asgardian godhood.


You can buy the book on the following Amazon link: Eggs, Butter, Sugar and Disaster.
I've decided to start being more proud of what I'm working on.

It's a subtle change but one which i think will help me a lot. I'm not going to be obnoxiously proud, deciding I'm better than everyone else, or even humbly proud, where i sit in silence marveling at my work once I've finished creating it.

I'm just going to be a bit more proud of my work in social situations.

Maybe proud isn't the right word. I've decided I'm just going to be  bit more talkative about it.

I'm usually not talkative at all when it comes to the stuff i write or draw. I'm not a hundred percent sure of why that is. I figure it's at least one part not wanting to sound obnoxious at something I've done (only to get a snort of derision when someone actually looks at my pathetic scribbles) and definitely at least one part not wanting to include spoilers in the subject (Dude, you have to read my work. Person A kills Person B with a Person C!). I also get a little put off describing details of what I've done to people I sort of know but worry that they think it was weird ('And then they met the Watermelon god'). This last one luckily isn't everyone, but i get too many people in my life who respond to my more open thought with 'Dude... you're just weird'.

But regardless of why i don't chat about my life passions to the people around me, not doing so leads to very boring questions when people ask me how my week was.

'Oh i did some drawing... then i did some writing...  then i went to work. That's about it really. Oh i also went to the gym.'

Just some drawing and just some writing is a very bizarre way to refer to what i view as the two greatest passions of my life. It's like I'm trying to make them boring and mundane. I'm sure maybe some people will understand them better that way, but fuck those people.

So no more raid generalizations and summaries of that which i intend to be my life's work. No more complete failure to elaborate what i work on. I'm making it part of my conversation diet to people. I can see the advantages of doing so immediately and you're so now going to hear those advantages.

It's marketing!

I've been saying 'you gotta read my work sometime' to people for years. How many people have read my book that i know of? One! I can't say i blame people for not ripping it out of my hands and rushing home to consume it by the fire. I probably phrase it in such a way that it sounds like a pointless chore, an exercise in futility where afterwards they're left with the awkward moment of telling me 'Yeah. It's pretty good' and then quickly changing subjects. My main fear of telling people about my work in the hopes of reading it really is spoilers. I want to tell them in detail, and i worry in doing so will ruin the point of them looking at it at all, like those cinema trailers that give away every last nuance of the plot. But surely them looking with some idea of the plot is better than me potentially force feeding them some unknown factor.

It''ll make me write more.

Some of you will remember a scene in Family Guy, where Stewie asks Brian how his book is going and then mocks him unmercifully about it. Brian talks about working on his books all the time, and it usually sounds like he isn't getting round to writing anything at all or putting it off.

I do this far too much. What with work taking up my time and then the urge to rest fitted in with a dozen other tasks that need doing, the consumer lifestyle any drone on a forty hour workweek lives on screws it up.

But if i chat about it, during my regulated social hours that i self-assign myself during designated free time periods, it will (hopefully) lead to others wanting to hear more about it, which, as above, will lead them to want to read it, but also want people to hear more about it, meaning that i best get writing - lest i disappoint!

It'll make more sense.

People call me weird, and that's okay. I love it nowadays. It sure as hell beats being normal. Being normal is the fear response, refusing to do anything more that what is socially acceptable in case it all goes wrong. What people don't usually say is that something i do doesn't make sense, and this is also good.

It's good because i hear them say it to other people, the more normal people, and i usually take it as a sign that, although what i do be weird and unusual, they can't fault me for it. And i can use this aspect to double check my work.

Because people do like their complaining, and they do it best when something is obviously wrong. So if i say in my work that i have person A do a triple backwards somersault, yet earlier i was talking about his crippling injury that's left him in a wheelchair, and for some reason i haven't noticed, i can rely on other people pointing out my stupidity for me.

It also allows me to make it more concrete in my head. Writing down ideas is a fine way to get thoughts out into the real world, but communicating those ideas to others is a better way to ensure their concrete and not containing big holes.

So yeah... time to start telling people what Person A did to Person C the other other day.
More notes for myself while i improve on me art. I'm sure they'll help others if people care to read. These are notes i made on creating hairstyles. The goal is to be able to make new and unique hairstyles using a base set of rules for new hairstyles to sprout out of.

Start from a centre point, but don't adhere to it.

    Marking a little dot at the top of the scalp usually gives me a good focal point to start the flow of the hair from. No matter how far the hair flows or if it changes direction mid way or even if the person's laying on the ground and the hair is splattered everywhere, the dot will keep everything flowing natural.

    Because it's just a single point though, don't adhere to it. It's not like all your hair sprouts from just one point on your head. It doesn't have to be right in the centre either. A little off to either side is usually fine.

    You can also work from a centre line, essentially a parting. As long as it's allowed to grow far enough, anyone's hair can be set into either a centre or side parting which directs the floe of the hair. The would essentially be an improved version of the centre point, but some manga styles (especially spiky) won't like it at all.

Remember that your hair is on your head.

   Gee whizz that sure sounds obvious, but the problem occurs from half head syndrome (it may have a fancier name than that, but even Van Gogh screwed up with it from time to time (or purposely used it, i don't know)). To test whether you may potentially be affected by this, answer the following question without using your hands: Where are your ears positioned on your skull? If you find yourself wanting to answer ' somewhere at the back' or anything besides 'precisely halfway on the diameter between my face and the back of my skull' and you may find yourself a victim of drawing only half a head.

Your hair has a roughly spherical and quite bumpy dome to work around. Make sure it doesn't drop off any steep cliffs at the back there (which is what half-head syndrome essentially is. It's where people drawing a profile shot as if their skull slopes down immediately after the ears), whether they're bigger or smaller than the intended head should be.

Also, on a similar note: draw the head first! I'm guilty of not doing this. My brain seems to think the head doesn't need to be there on the paper first, and that this floating wig can just keep things going  until somebody gets in under there. The problem with getting the head under there is that the hair was supposed to have fallen on it. Hair that has fallen onto nothing may continue to do so even after a skull has been shoved under it, hanging as unnaturally as a floating wig.

Stroke down, then stroke down again.

   This is definitely a personal preference but it gets goods results more times than my other methods. For each stroke of hair i draw, starting from  the top (or at least using  the centre point as a rough guide) and stroking down, i always prefer to start another stroke going down to meet the first stroke's tip. This is opposed to stroking down from the top and then, from the tip, stroking upwards to come back to the centre area.

   The reason for this is that an upward stroke threatens to break the natural flow of the hair by accidentally coming in at the wrong angle (and away from the centre area). While hair can curl and spike away from the centre point, it is still best to start from where the hair grows naturally and lead it to its destination, rather than start from the end and try to describe how you got there (i hope that metaphor makes sense. Basically: No return trips).

Each stroke is a multi-stroke.

   Even if the hair you're drawing is but one stand sticking out from the side for the express point of quirkiness, it pays to go over your hair strokes at least more than once. This adds weight to them, which will further add to the style and, probably more importantly, will negate any crappy looking lines when it comes to scanning.This is especially true of inking hair and lineart in general, where your scanner can have a horrible tendency of picking up where your inks have been absorbed into the paper at a near microscopic level (usually above 300dpi). This can easily turn what was once a great pencil sketch into a shaky mess that look like it shouldn't be shaky at all...and yet is.

Hair styles are rarely symmetrical.

Though the majority of your body is symmetrical, your hair's flow will never want to follow this rule. Characters with symmetrical hairstyles are usually serious types (with exceptions like Bobobo). Drawing a symmetrical hairstyle is fine, but the standard style of hair usually shows little differences here and there and it's also better t have variety than cope out and just mirror the side you've already done.

Hope that helps. Leave a comment if it did. If it didn't, also leave a comment, but please don't be too mean about it. A little mean is okay.
In an effort to both a) improve the quality of my drawing skills by challenging myself and b) build up a portfolio of artwork so that one day i might even be able to consider going pro with the stuff, i'm now offering up free artwork/sketch commissions for all members of the deviantArt.

Simply put; want me to draw you something? Then go ahead and ask me. Your description can be as simple or as complicated as you want. List characters, shows, of all sorts of genres and all sorts of art styles and i'll give it a go. My personal aim here is to improve above all else so even if it looks like it might not be my style from the work above go ahead and ask me to draw it anyway and at the very least i'll give it a go and you'll get a free jpg file for your troubles regardless.

You can ask me to draw anything. Anything...

I'll aim to get the picture back to you in a few days after i've acknowledged your request (if you want it fully coloured you may have to wait a bit longer). All i ask for you after that is a little critique of my work (which you would have probably gave later anyway) and to be able to post it up on me deviantArt account afterwards (though if you want me to keep it private, that's fine too).

So go ahead and ask me what you want.