Book Review: Scent of Death

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

 

Synopsis:

James Goodwin uses his olfactory equivalent of perfect pitch to sniff out people’s emotions, from love to malice. He earns a handy living by uncovering corporate cheats, but he’s growing bored. When billionaire Garth Cotton asks him to cook up the world’s first love potion, James first smells a grand challenge, and accepts. But once on the high seas in Cotton’s mega-yacht, James smells treachery. He sniffs out secrets that land him and Cotton’s dazzling assistant, Samantha Heartgrave, on a timeline to death. To save himself and Samantha, James must exercise his gift of smell in ways he never dreamed possible.

My First Thoughts:

I’ve read another book by Mr. Ross, The Jubilee’s Daughter, and I thought that I would give this one a try too. At first, I was a little leery about the concept of a hero with a super sense of smell making a love potion, but I thought to give it a try anyways.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

This story was hard to get through and honestly, it just wasn’t for me. I could suspend my disbelief of someone with an overpowered sense of smell, but there were just other things in the story that I couldn’t get behind.

I can imagine that writing a character like James would be hard, and I applaud Ross with this attempt. Writing any kind of character with a special gift that no one has heard of or that not many have written about is hard. There’s a lot of creating that the author has to do, in this case Ross had to figure out just how to describe emotions using different smells. After figuring out what smell went with each emotion he had to find a way to easily describe how James came to identify those smell and emotion combinations, trying to make it as believable as possible to the readers. I think that Ross did a commendable job trying to figure out this special gift and write it in well enough for readers to understand and enjoy, it really did add in an extra layer to the story that you wouldn’t normally encounter. My only complaint is that the smells were too specific. Instead of saying something like ‘a sweet flowery smell’ for a certain emotion he specifically identified lilac. Instead of describing a scent as strong or putrid, he used oil and rotten meat. I found it a little hard to believe that emotions would be that specific and that everyone exhibiting that emotion would smell exactly the same. Humans and nature in general, follow basic guidelines but within those guidelines individuals vary—hardly anything is the exact same every single time. Also, not every reader is going to know what lilacs, raw oil, or sandalwood smell like. It would be hard to come up different ways of describing the various smells without giving them a specific label, but I think in the end it would have made the story a little bit stronger.

Ross’s writing has improved from the previous book that I’ve read. He has gotten better at mixing description with dialogue and inner character monologging. However, I felt like the flow of the story was a bit off. I believe that Ross spent too much time building everything up before the breaking point, the start of the climax, and it made the second half of his story seemed too rushed and underdone compared to the first. The introduction to the characters and the situation was fine and well done, but there were scenes during the experiments that could’ve been left out. I felt there was a lot of over explaining of the experiments done for the ‘love potion’, almost like trying to describe it to a child and not adults. Some of the scenes in the beginning need less time than they got and definitely less dialogue. If more time was spent on the latter half, maybe adding in longer scenes or longer sections of just descriptive information, and the first half was trimmed down a bit then the story would’ve been better balanced.

Unfortunately, I could not relate to any of the characters. I liked James for a while but I just couldn’t agree with his morality, I’m not saying he was a bad person, but his reasoning for not liking the love potion just didn’t sit well with me. He also felt a little too nonchalant about the whole business with the love potion until it was too late, even though throughout the whole story there were reasons to find it all very dangerous. Not once did I like Samantha, she was uninspiring and just down right flat as a character. There was no rhyme or reason for her personality or actions. One minute she’s a demeaning, bossy individual and then several chapters later she shows this nice ‘sensitive’ side. Her character just didn’t feel natural to me and I just didn’t care for her or her dilemma. The other main characters were even more unnatural and off-balanced as she was. The villains lacked complexity or drive, they just did horrible things and nothing more. I get that there are people out there that are just rotten to the core and most of it came from how they were raised or something, but I’m tired of villains that are just the caricatures of evil—they’re just boring. My favorite characters were the side characters that didn’t show up much in the story, but they still played important roles which was nice.

Not only did I have some issues with the characters in general, but I had issues with character interactions as well. Specifically, I had trouble seeing the chemistry between James and Samantha. When you meet Samantha she is a Grade A b***h to James and she stays that way for most of the book, except for a few pockets of breaking character in the middle and her ‘change’ towards the end. I get it, extreme situations can change someone for the better but it just felt wrong for her character. James spends most of the book telling himself and the reader that he’s not interested in Samantha, a few times saying he had a girlfriend already who was so much better. However, by the end they’re in love and the girlfriend (who was given a name but you never meet) magically drops off the radar with no further comment. I couldn’t see this all it takes is one week to love kind of romance, and I even had a hard time labelling it as a romance too. All around the romance felt like a last minute addition that was slapped onto the book before publishing. There was little chemistry between the two characters and the romance was plagued with in consistencies from both James and Samantha. The faceless girlfriend was also another thing that bugged me about James because he would only think of her when Samantha tempted him, no other time and then was just discarded without any sort of mention or reason. Yea, great job there James.

The last thing that bugged me about this book was the characterization of the animals mentioned. For the experiment they used lab mice to test out the love potion, which is fine I guess? I’m not sure when it comes to various forms of experimentation which set of animals is best used to simulate what for humans, so I can’t critique that. But I can critique the fact that the experiment relied on the anthropomorphizing of lab mice and their behavior. Animals don’t act like people and in science we often have to remind ourselves and others that any action you see that is human-like isn’t actually real. So in this case the experiment relied on the lab mice to show very human-like displaces of love and affection. Why would this bug me? Because there is no proof that mice show affection toward each other, there are some rodents that do but there is a very clear evolutionary reason as to why and they’re the odd man out. If the experiment was done using prairie voles, which do mate with the same female more than once and might show affection toward each other, then it would be a bit more believable and less flawed. Another thing about testing for human emotions is that we know what it looks like in humans, but we can’t accurately record or gauge them in other animals because they can’t actually tell us if we’re right or wrong in our observations. The other animals mentioned were sharks, which were never identified and to my knowledge and that of my shark enthusiast friend don’t actually exist. The closest I could find was the smallest shark known to man, the dwarf lantern shark which can be as small as 8 inches. However, they are found within deep dark waters and therefore can’t be kept in an ordinary tank, especially not one where you can throw a severed arm into. Also, the description of the sharks in the book don’t match those of the dwarf lantern shark. Instead, they’re described as being 6 inch versions of the shark from Jaws, and they pretty much act like it too. That characterization of sharks annoys and angers me because it’s not a true description of their normal behavior and it only adds to human hysteria and blood thirst. Sharks are not ruthless killing machines always trying to eat everything, especially humans. Ross would have had a better time selling it if he replaced the sharks with very starved piranhas, but they would have to be extremely starved to act the way the sharks did in the book. And I wouldn’t make such a big deal if they didn’t play a big role in the story, but they did so I am.

Rating:

2/5

Overall the story wasn’t my cup of tea. The characters weren’t very likable or relatable and there was no real character development or depth to most of them. The flow of the story was messed up by an overdeveloped beginning and an underdone ending. There were elements of romance, but it felt cheap and slapped on. And the characterizations of the animals used in the story were just too incorrect to keep me rooted to the story, many times actually angering me. However, Ross’s writing has improved from his previous books and I found that he handled this overpowered sense of smell rather well. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants an easy read or loves suspenseful stories.

Related Reviews/Books:

Details:

Title: The Scent of Death

Author: Jonathan Ross

Publisher: Amazon

Release Date: June 15, 2017

Genre: Adult, Action, Suspense, Romance (???)

Pages: 194

Book Review: Soft on the Devil

soft-on-the-devilNOTICE: We were given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Soft on the Devil

Author: Robert Lampros

Publisher: CreateSpace

Release Date: December 8th, 2016

Genre: Christian, Murder Mystery, Suspense

Pages: 134

Synopsis: When Cindy Myran doesn’t return home one night, within days everyone in her neighborhood assumes she’s dead, but Ian Phillips isn’t so pessimistic. She shows up at his door a week later, in need of help and running for her life. What happens next draws him into a labyrinth of murder, corruption, and danger, where nothing is clear and sinister secrets lurk in the shadows. Only Ian’s courage, faith, and determination can uncover the mystery and deliver him and those he loves out of darkness and into the peaceful light of safety.

My First Thoughts:

After reading the synopsis of this book and doing a little bit of research about the author I was excited to read it, but rather apprehensive. I’ve found in the past that Christian fiction can go one of two ways: either Christianity is mentioned and used as an effective tool to further the development of characters or the book smacks the reader in the face with ineffectively used bible phrases and unnatural levels of piousness. However, the synopsis was good and drew me in. Plus, this book is only 134 pages, which I can normally finish in about a day.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I am devastated to say that I found this book incredibly disappointing. This book is narrated by the main character, Ian Phillips, who is a 24-year-old, independent, and pious man but is written in a style that is quite juvenile. Sentences were all similar in length, making the writing boring and choppy in my head. Nothing seemed to flow, and references to adult topics like relationships, sex, drugs, and alcohol all felt like a teenager trying to sound like an adult. The choices that the characters made throughout the story also made very little sense, which pulled me further out of the story. I was just frustrated that I couldn’t understand any of the motivations for the characters.

In addition to the juvenile vocabulary and sentence structure, the author also commits one of (in my opinion) the worst crimes an author can commit: every piece of information I was given in the story was told to me. The entire time I was reading this story, I found myself actively begging the author to, for once, just let me see what was going on. I find it hard to call to mind any defining traits about the other characters in the story, or any of the events, or even how the story was semi (not really) resolved in the end because it felt as though every piece of information was put into a list for me, and that was the entire book. The last two sentences of the book are “End of story. Good-bye,” which is not only telling me the end instead of just concluding, it’s doing so in a way that is both lazy and borderline offensive as an avid reader. At one point, rather than letting me read an article that the narrator was reading in the book, he summarized it and added it to the list of things that he was telling me. However, the summary didn’t seem like it was any shorter or clearer than just writing the fake newspaper article would have been. If you’re going to summarize something, it needs to make the material clearer, not more confusing. Plus, reading the article would have been a nice break from the monotony of Ian Phillips thoughts and would have been an opportunity for the author to show me some of the world he had created.

I also found that the dialogue in this story was handled very poorly. Several times the conversations were unnatural and made no sense, and the author would just have a chunk of short dialogue with no attributes, leaving the reader to try to interpret which characters are saying what. There was even a point where an entire argument was written in a summary style, but it wasn’t summarized (once again, if you aren’t going to make something shorter and clearer by summarizing, just put the entire event in. Show the reader and allow them to make their own inferences and form their own thoughts about the material they have been presented with!).

Now, I knew before I started reading that this book was a Christian novel. As I said in my initial thoughts, I knew it could go one of two ways: either Christianity is mentioned and used as an effective tool to further the development of characters or the book smacks the reader in the face with ineffectively used bible phrases and unnatural levels of piousness. Unfortunately, I feel as though this book attempted to beat me into submission with Christianity, but fell apart before it could even give me a paper-cut. Anytime a character would mention God it seemed forced and unnatural. Additionally, there were several times where the main character would mention a specific verse of the bible and think about how truly it applied to his situation, but I always found that the verses themselves were quite irrelevant, or taken out of context to try to make a connection.

Final Thoughts:

I genuinely found this book to be upsetting, and it is so upsetting to me that my very first author-requested review is so negative, but I honestly don’t think I have anything positive to say. This book was only 134 pages long, something that should only have taken a couple of hours for me to read, took me two weeks to finish. I kept avoiding the book with anything and everything else that I had on hand to read because I found it so distressing to read. I was intrigued by the synopsis, and there were times where I thought the plot was about to get somewhat exciting, but that storyline ended up being completely ignored.

Rating(s):

1/5

I genuinely wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. Maybe as an example of why it is so important to show your readers what is happening in your stories rather than telling them, but I don’t personally know anyone who would enjoy it. I found it boring, confusing, and overall just disappointing. It’s possible that this book could entertain someone, somewhere, but that person is not me.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

 

Book Review: The Golden Spider

the-golden-spider

Details:

Title: The Golden Spider (The Elemental Web Chronicles)

Author: Ann Renwick

Publisher: self-published

Release Date: August 8th 2016

Genre: Steampunk, Romance, Mystery

Pages: 482

Synopsis:

London papers scream of dirigible attacks, kraken swarms, and lung-clogging, sulfurous fogs. But a rash of gypsy murders barely rates mention.

Lady Amanda is tired of having both her intelligence and her work dismissed.

After blackmailing her way into medical school, she catches the eye of her anatomy professor from the moment she walks into his lecture hall. Is he interested in her? Or only her invention–a clockwork spider that can spin artificial nerves?

Lord Thornton, a prominent neurobiologist, has been betrayed.

Secret government technology has been stolen from his laboratory, and a foreign spy is attempting to perfect it via a grisly procedure… using gypsies as test subjects. The last thing he needs is the distraction of a beautiful–and brilliant–new student, even if her spider could heal a deteriorating personal injury.

Until her device is stolen and used in the latest murder.

Lord Thornton has no option but to bring her into his laboratory as well as the investigation where they must fight their growing, yet forbidden, attraction. Bodies accumulate and fragile bonds are tested as they race across London, trying to catch the spy before it’s too late.

My First Thoughts:

I always love to find good steampunk books and there are never enough of them! So when I was presented with story I immediately said yes.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

This story was absolutely fantastic! While this book is a romance, that single element doesn’t drive the story like other books. The Golden Spider is very much a mystery novel with a side of romance and a touch and steampunk.

The mystery of this story was quite interesting to follow, and it had me guessing for most of the book. The murders weren’t too gruesome to read about, the author didn’t go into a lot of detail describing the look of the body and such. When she did go into detail, she used very scientific words, which made sense because both of the main characters are in the medical field, to describe what had happened to the body and thus allowing the reader to be slightly removed and less repulsed by the image in their mind. By the end of the novel none of the big twists shocked me. This isn’t a slight against the story telling, most books fail to shock me with their big twists because I’ve guessed them early on. The mystery did stump me for most of this book and there were some minor twists that I didn’t see coming.

The characters were likeable enough. I really enjoyed Thorton more than Amanda. Lady Amanda was fine, however she seemed rather basic. It’s not uncommon for the heroine of a romance novel to be extraordinary in some way, normally there super smart compared to their peers. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that her character was cliché, because the author took great strides in proving how intelligent her female lead was by showing her thought process and even including the right terminology when necessary. However, Lady Amanda fails to stand out in my mind, which isn’t a point against the author, unlike her male counterpart. Thorton was different. I’ve never read a story before, especially a romance, where the male lead is handicapped in some way and is a bit self-conscious about it, afraid of receiving help from others but needing it in the end. Normally, a male character with his kind of personality would turn me off, but his injury and all the related baggage helped round out his character, making him rather likeable.

For the most part, the minor characters were interesting as well. There were a few that were quite forgettable, but the others had unique characteristics or actions that helped them stick in the mind, the gypsies were my favorite.

With any steampunk, I’m curious about how the author weaves the normal elements of the genre into their story. For many stories, the steampunk elements are mostly in the detailing of the environment, the fashion, etc. Not many stories that I have read actually do much with steampunk ideas beyond ‘oh look I added gears and steam to everything’. The Golden Spider actually weaves the elements into the plot, especially with Amanda’s device and the work that it does. I was absolutely fascinated with the world that the author created with steampunk, and I enjoyed the detailing and the functionality of her creations.

For the most part, this book is fantastic. My only complaints are the ending and some of the random sections with our killer. A few times the author chose to write from the killer’s perspective, as a way of giving the readers some clues as to who they might be. However, they were random and very far from each other. I would have preferred if we saw more from the villain’s side, not much, but a few more times to make those sections appear less disjointed with the rest of the story. As for the end, it was a fine ending but with how the rest of the story read I was expecting more. Everything seemed to wrap up so nicely with most of the loose ends getting tied in the last couple of pages. I wanted to know more about the killer’s motives and some answers to some of the backstory that was presented earlier in the story. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next installment, which I will definitely be looking for.

Final Thoughts:

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves steampunk, romance, or mystery, or all of the above. No one genre dominates the story, which I appreciated because sometimes romance driven mysteries are rather dry and cliché. This mystery is well balanced, not very gory, and fun to follow. There are some pretty heavy scientific and medical terms in this book, they are scientists so it makes sense, however, there’s enough context to make it easier to get a general idea of what’s being said without relying on Google. Also, there is sex in this book, just to warn you in case it turns you off like some of the other reviewers I’ve read.

Rating(s):

4/5

Overall this book is fantastic. The world the author creates is detailed and well imagined while leaving the reader with enough questions to want to keep exploring in later books. The romance, while a little cliché, is realistic and enjoyable without stealing the spotlight. Some people might not enjoy the technical jargon or medical terminology, but they’re easy enough to understand. What keeps this story from getting 5/5 for me is the ending and the few sections told about our killer. There were 2-3 times in which the story followed the villain, which is fine, but they seemed so random and jarring that it took me out of the story a little. Just a few more sections with the killer, and it would have been fine. As for the ending, it was too short and clean for me. Most of the loose ends were taken care of, but they were all told to us and not shown. The rest of the book goes through great lengths to show and not tell, and I feel like the ending falls short of the standard the rest of the book set up. I understand if the author didn’t want to  go into too much detail, however, I think the readers deserved more than two or three pages. All in all, I’mm looking forward to the next book!

Related Reviews/Books:

A Curse of Ash and Iron

Book Review: Rarity of the Hollow

Notice: I was given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest, which reads as follows:

rarity of the hollowDetails:

Title: Rarity from the Hollow

Author: Robert Eggleton

Publisher: Dog Horn Publishing at Smashwords

Date Released: March 16, 2012

Genre: Adult, Science-Fiction

Pages: 290 (eBook)

Synopsis:

Lacy Dawn’s father relieves the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in The Hollow isn’t great. But Lacy has one advantage – she’s been befriended by a semi-organic, semi-robot who works with her to cure her parents. He wants something in exchange, though, it’s up to her to save the Universe.

Will Lacy Dawn’s predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her family?

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy, and satire. It is a children’s story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of hear, or easily offended.

What I first Thought:

After reading the description of the book, I didn’t know what to expect from this story. It sounded like it would be an interesting experience, one that will definitely be a first. I had never heard of an adult book being marketed as a children’s story for adults, so I was curious as to how this book would read!

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

This story has no doubt been an interesting ride! I first started reading this story back in the spring, towards the end of my spring semester at college. At the time, it was difficult for me to read this story (I had been reading it on my laptop) and school had become more demanding than I expected, so I opted to read other books. When I got to a better place, I decided to give this book another read (especially after I started using a tablet) and I’m glad that I did!

As before, the beginning was a bit rough to get through. There was a lot going on and at times some events seemed rather disconnected from the rest of the story. The author’s writing style was also a bit tough to get used to as well. The story was written in third person and mostly followed the main character, Lacy Dawn, and occasionally the story would follow some of the other characters when they were away from our heroine. I’ve read stories written like this before, and that didn’t bother me, what did was that the author showed readers the thoughts of almost every character, even when the story followed Lacy Dawn. In the beginning, it was hard to tell which thought belonged to who, but after a while it became easier to discern as you got to know the characters and how they acted. At times it was very insightful to read the thoughts of the other main characters, however, there were instances when the thoughts seemed unnecessary, and overall distracting to the situation.

As far as characters go, Eggleton’s characters were the most unique individuals I have ever come across. For someone who has read a lot of books, that’s impressive! It was interesting to read how they interacted with each other and how those interactions changed as the characters grew. Each of the characters seemed to have their own journey as the story focused on Lacy Dawn and her coming of age. Dwayne became a better husband and father. Jenny was able to repair her self-esteem and become the person she used to be. Dotcom had the most interesting journey as he learned what it meant to be human. I loved reading how his interactions with the other characters changed, becoming more human-like, and even noticing how his speech and terminology morphed with him. And of course, it was refreshing to read of Lacy Dawn’s evolution as she went through early childhood and how she matured.

This was no normal coming of age story involving a little girl, or any child for that matter. Most of the coming of age stories that I have read about younger kids are rather innocent. Sure, they deal with tough issues such as divorced parents, going into middle school, or starting puberty while trying to save the world. And Lacy Dawn deals with similar issues, except her reactions and different and appear to me to fit more with our current culture. For instance, at some point, one way Lacy Dawn decides to deal with the stress of saving the universe is to try to masturbate. Seems a bit scandalous to some of you, right? The author did warn that this story was not for the prude or faint of heart! At first, I was taken by surprise by her reaction to stress, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. At the age she was at that part of the story, most kids are starting to conduct sexual experimentations. It’s something natural that we as a culture try to cover up, making it taboo even in some areas. It was refreshing to read this about a child character, especially since children in stories are almost always portrayed as innocent, not necessarily sweet, but definitely not showing any interest or knowledge of anything sexual. Lacy Dawn was a surprising character that grew on me quickly. She was a colorful and never ceased to surprise me, showing how quickly children can mature due to difficult situations and how those situations affect them for the rest of their lives. I loved how the author portrayed her as she started puberty, showing how her actions and thoughts change due to all the hormonal changes going on in her body. There has never been a character similar in children’s books, and I doubt there will be for a very long time to come.

As a side note, Dotcom’s character development was also very interesting. Due to spoilers, I can’t really go into detail about his change as the story progresses. In many ways it’s similar to Lacy Dawn’s but a bit more unique, adorable, and equally awkward. In short, you won’t be seeing a character development like his in a children’s book either, coming of age or otherwise…

The story as a whole was quite a ride. For the first few chapters I wasn’t quite sure where the author would take his story. It was a rather rough and awkward start in my opinion, which may or may not have been intentional. It may have mostly been on my end, taking more time than usual to get accustomed to the author’s voice and humor. After the story picked up though, the story became really fun to read. There were many times in which I wanted to put aside my homework to see what happened next! As a satire, the material wasn’t as heavy as others that I’ve read, but there were some clear jabs at certain things in common culture and way of thinking.  But the author never beat the horse to death, it was more like side comments and random situations that were brief but concise.

There were some things in the story I didn’t really sit with me well. I’ve mentioned the character’s thoughts being a bit jarring or distracting at times. There were also a few instances where the author would make an effort to giver odd details that stuck out, or create situations that appeared to be quite random. In most of those cases, the details or randomness had nothing to do with the overall story, at least from what I could tell, and the author never mentioned them again. So the flow of the story wasn’t as smooth as I would’ve liked it to be, but overall not bad.

Personally, I wish that the author used more of Lacy Dawn’s magic, or at least explained it a little more. I don’t know why exactly she needed to have magic, it seemed like a random character trait that ended up having no real impact on the story. She didn’t really use it during the final conflict. It just made her appear to be even more unique than your average little girl. It’s possible that the author may have more uses of her magical abilities later, if he decides to write more of her adventures, but for this story it just seemed a bit odd when looking back.

Final Thoughts:

As the author said, and as I feel I must stress, this story is not for the prude, faint of heart, or easily offended. There are topics within this story that may make some readers uncomfortable, possibly in some cases angry. When reading, you must remember that this is also a satirical story. Satire isn’t for everyone, so if you aren’t a fan of it, then stay away.

This story mentions sex, drugs, puberty, and other related topics. While there is mentions of sex, there are never any sex scenes. If you can get past these themes or aren’t bothered by such topics this story may be quite an enjoyable read for you. The science fiction isn’t very heavy, and is very easy to understand. If you can’t get past such themes listed above, then don’t even try.

Rating:

3/5

Overall this story is pretty decent. However, I believe it will be one that readers to find absolutely fantastic or confusing as hell! My suggestion: read carefully and pay attention. There were times in which I had to reread certain sections because I completely missed a subtle detail that ended up being very important.

Rarity from the Hollow was a fun, interesting story to read. The beginning was kind rough, I had to reread it twice before I ended up continuing. There were points and details mentioned over and over in the story, but ended up having no actual effect or role in the climax. I’m hoping that there may be another adventure with Lacy Dawn that may explore those details that felt oddly left or uncompleted. By the end of the story I absolutely loved this oddball cast of characters and wouldn’t mind reading more about them, especially after Bucky’s transformation! So yes, overall this is a pretty decent story that was fun to read, full of laughs, and interesting character development!