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One of the best romance novels ever!
, August 2, 2010
I love a good romance novel, yet it is really hard to find a really well-written one these days with thousands of new ones being churned out every year. Few published writers seem to know how to bring their characters to life in a way that has the reader empathising with them and interested to know what happens by the end. Most romance books I find I can read barely more than a few pages before putting the book down in disgust. I want to read about real people, not boringly gorgeous cardboard-cut-outs with no personality and no kindness in their hearts.
What makes a book great to me are characters that are true to life and who actually grow through their life experiences and relationships. That is what you will find in this book! It also has a bit of lightness and humour thrown in, and a happy ending of course!
The heroine of this book, Lorelei is a real person that you can relate to, rather than a stunning beauty endowed with physical perfection and not much else which you find in most romance stories. I get annoyed when authors seem to think the most interesting thing they can write about their heroines is how stunning and gorgeous they are! This gets boring really fast when you realise there is absolutely no interest or substance to these heroines beyond their looks. Lorelei is attractive, yes - but the most appealing thing about her is she is a human being with flaws, hang-ups and challenges in her life. At the same time she is tender-hearted and sweet - though she tries to hide it behind her "all business" exterior and you feel genuine empathy with her as she struggles to balance her life between what others expect of her and who she really is inside.
The hero, Haze is not perfect either. Yes, he's handsome and charismatic but he too needs to have the experience of falling in love with Lorelei - seemingly the most unlikely woman to capture his heart - to grow as a person. His quick wit and cute sense of humour are some of the most charming things about him, coupled with his love of life and his caring for his family. He is no one-dimensional hunk! He's a warm, kind-hearted person who feels things deeply.
Ann Charlton takes the time to place her heroine in a believable world of her own before introducing the hero. You learn about her family, where she lives, her job, her background and the current state of her life before she ever introduces the hero. Taking the time and detail to give the reader this type of background information brings Lorelei vividly to life as a real person, and makes the story more believable and compelling.
When the two main characters first meet, there is none of this "immediate attraction" and instant lust that most ronance writers fall back on as a cheap writer's device. Haze and Lorelei take an actual dislike to each other when they first meet but somehow their very different personalities and lifestyles find a way of coming together over the course of the story that seems natural and right. You actually get to experience the feeling of gradually falling in love through Ann Charlton's writing which is a far more satisfying way of telling a story than everything being instant passion and falling into bed.
Haze and Lorelei get to know each other as people, flaws and all through this story. Also, a lovely touch is the inclusion of other real people around Haze and Lorelei. You get to know about their families and the other important people in their lives. This makes the story all the more realistic and touching.
Ann Chartlon also has a genius for bringing back little themes that at first seem insignificant at the beginning of the book. For example, one quirky characteristic about Lorelei is that she has constantly cold hands. At the beginning of the story, Haze and all the other men she meets find her cold hands as repellent as her seemingly cold and hard-nosed businesswoman personality. But over the course of the book, Haze comes to gradually understand the sweetness that Lorelei hides inside and by the end of the book he is saying to her lovingly "cold hands, warm heart".
The end of the story will have you shedding tears of joy at the trueness of Haze and Lorelei's feelings for each other. Real love between two real human beings is portrayed here, not cheap, lust-clouded storybook love. You will believe these two love each other heart and soul as well as body.
Ann Charlton is an extraordinary writer. Don't be put off by the fact that this is supposedly a "cheap" Mills and Boon romance - this is a rare and gorgeous piece of writing which is bound to become a favourite that gets read again and again.
The Sims 3 - PC
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550 of 617 people found the following review helpful
This soulless game isn't really "The Sims" for me
, July 27, 2009
Like many of the other reviewers here, I have been a HUGE fan of The Sims franchises, losing many pleasant hours to The Sims 1 and its wonderful sequel The Sims 2. Even before The Sims came out I was a Maxis fan, playing games like Sim City and Sim Tower with pleasure.
I can't say that The Sims 3 has "disappointed" me because the more I heard about the new game over its development period the more I thought to myself "why are they including this feature or dropping that feature? It sounds like they are tampering with the heart of the things I enjoy about The Sims". But I bought the game anyway in good faith. Needless to say I am now back to playing The Sims 2. The Sims 3 has no interest for me at all in comparison. Despite all the "improvements" - and I admit there are some surface ones - the heart and soul of what The Sims means to me is absent from this game.
Unlike other reviewers here, my negative review of this game is not due to any technical difficulties. Perhaps I haven't played long enough to experience any, and at any rate - every hard-core Sims fan has learned to live with the bugs shipped with the game and love it anyway. The modding community has always done a sterling job of cleaning up our games and making them more playable and enjoyable. So my negative rating is not due to bugs or crashes - it is purely based on my perception of the game's enjoyment factor, especially when compared to The Sims 2.
To be fair, I will sum up what to me are improvements to the game compared to The Sims 2:
- the "open neighbourhood" - the ability to go from one place to the other without a loading screen is a fine idea and works well in principal. But I found that it really didn't impact my playing habits as much as you might think at first. While playing a large, busy family there would be very little time to go rushing off to the park or elsewhere and I found I was "household" focussed in my game playing just as much as in The Sims 2. I actually prefer in some ways the way community lots worked in The Sims 2. If you could organise your sims enough to go off to a community lot, time would actually stand still in the meantime, taking the pressure off your enjoyment of this change in pace for your sims.
- No doubt about it, the "Create a Style" colour wheel/pattern maker is the one thing that is far superior to recolouring in The Sims 2. It's great fun and so easy to go through and match up clothing, furniture, wallpaper, etc in an obsessive fashion that suits my type of playing down to the ground. But even here is a caveat - there is no Body Shop type program to truly customise textures. You can recolour only which is hardly satisfying in a creative way compared to being able to extract a texture and import it into Photoshop, thereby putting your own personal stamp on the texture. For example, in The Sims 2 you could export a dress texture and by pasting on a texture of your own you could make the outfit appear to be a cardigan and skirt instead.
I am sure custom content creators in time will come up with ways of importing new meshes/textures into The Sims 3, but it is obvious that EA is trying to limit this type of thing to the "regular" user right from the beginning by eliminating a "Bodyshop" program from their development tools.
- The ease of angle rotation is an unmixed blessing in this game - something that I wish had happened in The Sims 2
- The outdoor scenery in The Sims 3 is gorgeous from the beach, the shimmering water, to the parks, rolling hills etc. But the limitations put on being able to make this neighbourhood your own again shows up the inflexibility built into this game. Whereas in The Sims 2 you could completely customise your neighbourhood, building it up from a terrain created in Sim City, to decorating it and laying out your lots etc, in this game, EA gives you this beautiful scenery and then severely limits your ability to customise it. You cannot create your own terrain, the community lot buildings are the same everywhere and are not even properly functional, and there are a limited number of lots for your houses. It feels like a "dumbed down" version of a neighbourhood to me that even the "open plan" of the game cannot make up for.
- There are a lot more surface details to gameplay in The Sims 3 by the way of person and object interactions and the little missions/opportunities that pop up. I do appreciate the amount of thought that has gone into a lot of these things, like adding depth to the career paths and making such things as painting a picture personal to every different type of sim. But again, when playing a busy family (six kids!) I found that I would just click the opportunities away as an annoyance without even reading them. There was no way my busy mother or father could go running off to the town park for a chess tournament when they were caring for screaming toddlers at home!
- The lighting of the new game is a nice update and beautiful. It is also flexible if you have the time or inclination to mess around with the many options provided
So even the improvements included in The Sims 3 are mostly mixed blessings for me!
Here are the things that have decided me against the game:
- The sims themselves. Try as I might, I cannot bond with these weird looking people and that bond between the player and their "Simmies" is the major factor that holds many Sims fans in thrall. For a start, these creations just don't look like sims to me. It is laughable that the creators of this game are claiming that the sculpting tools given to create a sim are more flexible and customisable than in The Sims 2! In fact the sliders are very limited in their scope and have less points of difference than those provided in "Bodyshop". That round-faced, chinless look that we all noticed and wondered at in preview pictures of this game is there for the very specific reason that you can't provide your sim with a proper chin and all of them look blobby and quite fat in the face. The noses look like they are just stuck on anyhow and look very unfortunate in profile. And the empty-looking eyes roll in a very disconcerting and unappealing alien manner.
The sims toddlers and children - one of my prime delights in The Sims 2 - all look very ugly and all look exactly the same. One couple I played had six children, just to check out the genetics and all of them looked like peas in a pod until they got to their adult years, and even then the differences were minimal. It was very unsatisfying spending so much time and energy raising these unappealing little clones!
- Obviously, I have had trouble creating sims I like to look at. That wouldn't matter as much if I could love the way these sims act and interact. If you think back to The Sims 1 and The Sims 2 what charmed fans of these games was how cute, quirky, funny, unexpected and unique all these characters seemed to the player. I don't accept the criticism the developers of this new game kept stating that "all previous sims games had sims who were all the same and all they wanted to do all the time was go to the toilet!" Well really - do they think The Sims 1 and 2 would have been such world-wide successes if this were actually true?? Of course not! Our sims charmed us, made us laugh, surprised us and often took their own little lives in their own hands and pulled the game in a direction all their own.
The two things promised by The Sims 3 creators about how the new sims would behave were 1) There would be a lot more time to attend to the sims' lives and less need to run around after them caring for their basic "needs" - such as sending them to the toilet or to bed; and 2) the new "traits" system would ensure truly unique behaviour from the sims and open up entirely new vistas of personalities and interactions for sims fans to enjoy.
I'm sorry to say, but I have to rebut both of these stated improvements.
1)I think every Sims 3 player, no matter how dedicated a fan they are will admit that you spend more time waiting for your sims to fulfil needs than ever before. You spend ages just watching them sleep every night. They seem to have bladder and hunger needs that are never satiated, and you spend more boring time staring at their work building while they are off at work. So between taking them to work, watching them sleep, fulfilling their needs and trying to skill up, there is actually zero time left in a sims' busy day to take them to the park, the beach or visit a neighbour! How is this the "new balance" of life over needs that the developers were so proudly proclaiming??
2) As for the "traits" system - that has to be the biggest disappointment of all. Sure, picking different traits for your sims will give them some very superficial differences, such as different interaction possibilities with other sims, or different animations. but at a deeper level, each and every sim seems the same over and over again. I think the main reason I say this is if you watch a household full of sims who all supposedly have a unique set of traits, you don't see them acting differently unless you tell them to. In fact they barely interact with one another at all if you don't tell them to. They ignore one another and spend their time being boring - fulfilling the endless needs or perhaps using a skill object. They don't care to interact with one another at all! It is quite possible to have two sims living in the same house forever and they remain total strangers to one another. You have to force them to interact which I find really annoying - I had hoped that they might work out their own relationships as they did in The Sims 2. Another annoying thing is the lack of familial affection between sims. Unlike The Sims 2, you never see a parent hug, kiss or play with a child unless you tell them to. You just don't feel that these sims love/care about one another at all, and I remember that feeling that "love is real" between sims being the primary and most striking point that charmed me when The Sims 2 came out.
I am sorry to say, if I compare the depth of personality of a houseful of Sims 2 and 3 sims, the Sims 2 sims would win hands down. In Sims 2, they would take one another in like or dislike, be attracted to some and repulsed by others. The parents would hug their kids when they got home from work, and kiss them goodnight. Husbands and wives would find a quiet corner and canoodle in a very romantic way. In Sims 3 they all coldly ignore one another and act in boring and one-dimensional ways, totally uninfluenced by their so-called "unique traits".
This lack of true feeling for my sims and between the sims themselves is my primary reason for calling this latest instalment "soulless". How can you feel attached to these ugly, alien-like people who all look and act the same?
- I do not care for one of the key selling points of The Sims 3 - the so-called "story progression". Which sim fan really wants to leave their playable family for a little while only to come back and find they've moved out of the neighbourhood, or had a family while you're not looking with kids you didn't get to name? Where is the appeal in that? Most sims fans love to micro-manage their sim's lives - who they love, marry, have kids with, what they name their kids, where they choose to live, etc. Even more frustrating, the ability to turn story progression off is broken!! Good one, EA!!
Another one of my criticisms is that EA has written out some of the most enjoyable and endearing elements of The Sims 2. Eliminating these things really proves to me how little the developers of the game understood the things that true Sims fans love about their games. Here are some as an example:
- Story mode is gone. Yes I know there is a camera and yes I know they have all this fancy equipment that enables you to easily upload stories and movies onto the web to share. But I bet 90% of Sims players are not all that interested in sharing stories on the world wide web. The Sims has always been a highly personal game - a fantasy world unique to each sims player, and making up and sharing sims stories is not the driving reason to play the game for most. It is to get lost in your own little self-created kingdom and fall in love with the little pixels that people it.
In Sims 1 & 2, using the camera as I played and building up an album for each little family became a mainstay of my playing style over the years. Most of the time I would not even add text to the pictures. They would be safely stored in each family's little album and every once in a while I would choose to browse through this visual record of my sims' little lives and enjoy again the sentimental, surprising, funny little incidents that marked the passage of that family's life. I would record the unexpected or charming little things that made my sims seem unique, like when my prim little sim teenager fell in love with the neighbourhood "bad boy" all on her own and against any of my expectations. Or when my shy, nerdy sim who lived with a party animal room-mate spent all her time in her room reading on the bed or, of all things - washing the windows! whenever her room-mate threw one of her wild parties!
Not having this record at hand of the family's little story in Sims 3 is definitely a contributing factor to the feeling of the game having little forward progression - every day seems like the one before.
- Eliminating memories from the Sims is another way EA has wiped out the sense you might have of the family's story and history. I know memories caused all sorts of trouble in The Sims 2 if you moved sims indiscriminately from one neighbourhood to the next, but I think for many of us, having that sim's little milestones recorded in their memories really gave the sim a feel of individuality and personal growth. After not playing a particular family for a long time the first thing I would do would be to flip through the family's album and check their memories. This would put me back in touch with where the family was in their own particular life story.
- Another charming Sims 2 feature that was wiped out was the attraction system. I know the original Sims 2 game did not ship with this, but it was added early on in one of the expansion packs and I am sure every Sims 2 fan absolutely loved it. It was another way to differentiate sims from one another. You could create down to the finest detail two sims who you thought would be "perfect" for each other, only to find they couldn't stand each other! Then two of the unlikeliest sims would get together all of their own accord, making you feel that these little people had minds and hearts of their own. I loved this feature so much that my playing style was to resolutely let each sim choose his or her own mate with no help from me.
There are other reasons for me not to like this highly polished, highly superficial instalment of The Sims franchise. But in the end, it came down to these basic feelings about the game
- I don't care how gorgeous it is to look at if the gameplay is shallow and boring
- I feel like EA is really dumbing down long-time sims fans by trying to eliminate custom content, charging like a wounded bull for their sub-standard stuff and doing their best to stifle the creativity of the custom content community
- The sims are cookie-cutter clones of one another, and have no charm either of physical appearance or personality. The life and soul has been sucked out of these pixel-people
- There is no sense of story, no unexpected interactions, no story mode or memories to record the sims lives. They no longer care about one another at all - parents, children, lovers, room-mates, friends - it doesn't matter what relationship the sims have to one another, there is no desire for these people to interact or develop their relationships unless you force it.
I am mad at EA for "missing the boat" on this franchise upgrade. In fact, it no longer feels like The Sims at all to me. All the charm and spontaneity has gone out of the game. I suppose it's not surprising I feel this way - Will Wright and his unique Maxis team of developers are long gone and EA has taken over. EA have no idea, and do not care what made The Sims beloved of fans the world over and instead are forcing something on them that has only a surface relationship to previous games. Much in the same way they "improved" Sim City out of all recognition of the original game ("Sim City Societies"), they have done this to The Sims and that, I think is unforgivable.
Fortunately, The Sims 2 will always be here and I am gladly getting back to my cute, funny, irreverent, surprising little sims with the huge added bonus of all the expansion packs and custom content I have built up over the years. I doubt if I will ever come back to The Sims 3 even if they bring out boatloads of expansion packs. If the game has no soul, it cannot be loved.