Saturday, March 31, 2012

March Reading Wrap-up

Books Read: 15
Difference from previous month: +2
Avg Rating: 3.29 Stars
Difference from previous month: + 0.37 stars
Pages Read: 3,618
Difference from previous month: - 945 pages

So... yeah, remember this?

Obviously, my monthly reading plan did not work, and was a huge fail. I didn't read half of the books I wanted to, and it felt wayyyyy too much like work to go at it like that. So, back to the weekly ones in April.

And I read nearly a thousand fewer pages. I feel like a failure. BUT... On the plus side, I read a few children's books on We Give Books, which means that I've donated a few as well. So maybe not a total failure?

So... anyway, here are the highlights of what I did manage to get around to reading. Enjoy! :)

For the Real Life Bookclub:

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was... interesting. It was my first Rushdie book, and I pretty much loved the first half of it. I thought it was funny and irreverent and awesome. Unfortunately, the second half didn't quite match up to the first half's greatness, so this one is only a 3 star book for me, but I definitely look forward to more of Rushdie's books... now that I have a tiny idea of what I can expect.

The Awesome:

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Obviously, I loved this book. You can read my full review here, but I will just say that this book was fantastic. I loved the characters, the world, the funny, and the horror. It was everything that I think a "Space Opera" should be... now that I know what one is. ;)

The Good:

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So... Y'all know I'm a huge, huge Brandon Sanderson fan, right? Because if I saw that man walking down the street, I would probably start babbling in adoration and drool all over myself in the most embarrassing way possible. I LOVE HIS BOOKS. Love.

I thought that this one was great, but it definitely did feel like a first book, and I thought that the ending was a bit weak and open ended... but I guess that leaves me with the hope that he'll come back to write another book in this world and firm up the ending for me. That would be awesome.

Anyway, this book is full of great characters, and interesting magic, and other general greatness. I highly recommend it. Start with this one, and then watch Sanderson's stories get exponentially more and more amazing with each one. :D

The Bad:

Rapunzel by Rachel Isadora
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Oh boy... This book was great on one level: the artwork. Every other facet of this book was a huge fail. From the Wiki-summary-like storytelling, to the blackhole where the stories life and substance should be, to the fact that the main character, Rapunzel has only one line in the entire book, and it's insanely vapid, to the fact that the only quality worth mentioning in that main character is the fact that she's beautiful... it was just a really, really atrocious retelling.

And this is for small children, ages 4-7. Sure, let's teach them that nothing else matters if you're pretty. The guy will fall in love with you, for no reason at all, then he'll solve all of your problems, and then you'll magically solve all of his because you love him sooo very much... for no reason at all. Great.

If this one hadn't been less than 40 pages long, it would have been a DNF. That's pretty sad.

The Did Not Finish:

No DNFs this month... woo! :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Review: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey ★★★★★

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1)Confession Time: I'm very bad at categorizing genres and sub-genres, so it didn't dawn on me that Leviathan Wakes would be considered a "space opera" until I saw it in the genre listing on the book's Goodreads page. I still don't really know what that is (space opera, not a Goodreads page), despite having read the Wikipedia page and stuff. I think of "space opera" and this comes to mind:

Probably not the same thing.

But I did realize that my last attempt at reading a "space opera", The Warrior's Apprentice, left me distinctly underwhelmed.

So, if not for Audible, this book was probably a Lifer. By that I mean a book that will just sit on my radar forever, but never actually get picked up and read -- at least not for a long, long time. I have lots of these, unfortunately. There are just too many books, and too little time in the day. (If only my job would stop being so insistent that I show up!)

How did Audible, that evil (MWAHAHAHA!) Amazon company, factor in you ask? Well, not only did they give me a $10.00 credit for my 1 year anniversary of having an account with them (woohoo! free money!), but then they also put this audiobook on sale for $4.95. So Audible bought me this audiobook. And it rocked. Thanks, Audible!

So let's get down to business and talk about how much I loved this book.

Wait, wait... no... I was right before. This much:

Because I loved The Fifth Element, and I loved Leviathan Wakes.

This book had everything. Great, believable, and realistic characters, an interesting plot, fantastic scope and worldbuilding, just the right amount of plausibility to make it terrifying, brilliant humor that was perfectly timed and hit just the right notes to make me laugh out loud, and it had what were awesomely called 'vomit zombies'.

In fact, the only thing I can find to criticize, and it's more of a nitpick, is the overabundance of saids peppering the narrative. Holden said, Miller said, Naomi said, Fred said, Amos said, etc etc etc. Listening to the many saids being read was a little tedious, but only occasionally; it was mainly noticeable during long stretches of pure dialogue.

Otherwise, I loved everything about this book, and the reading. The reader did a great job at letting the story do the talking, and despite only getting to listen to this in small chunks at a time, I was engrossed in the story.

I loved the characters, and especially enjoyed the way that the two main characters, Holden and Miller, interacted with each other. They are from different sides of the personality spectrum, with two completely different ways of handling a situation, but when the shit (or the zombie vomit) hits the fan, they effortlessly slip into "Let's discuss this when we aren't dead" mode, and just kick ass. I loved it. I thought they complemented each other wonderfully, and the arc of their working relationship was realistic and understandable, from both sides.

Which brings me to the dual narrative. This story is told by alternating viewpoint chapters, and I thought it worked perfectly. We get to see things from two different perspectives, and it allows for so much more story information to be conveyed without huge info-dumps. I liked the noir detective story feel of Miller's chapters, and it contrasted nicely to the more high-tech, adventure feel of Holden's chapters. And then when they run into each other and become a sort of hybrid, I loved that, too.

Speaking of the technology, I thought it was brilliant. We've colonized other planets, and moons, and we can mine ice from Saturn's rings, and travel through space at 7+ Gs. The methods of combating nausea and blackouts during travel at these speeds is interesting, and plausible. The technology that allows us to live on little rocks millions of miles away from the sun is fascinating. But it's still familiar, in a way. RADAR and LADAR are things I've heard of. It's not too much of a stretch to get from where we are now, to where this story shows us in just a few short centuries.

The Protogen project is also plausible, and frankly terrifying, as is the reaction to it. I was totally Team Miller on this one, despite usually landing on Holden's side of the opinional axis. I shudder to think of situations like the ones depicted in this book, and can't help but think that it would happen exactly like this if it were to one day come to pass. I would hope that we've learned from past mistakes... but we don't. This is not-too-distant-future, where we've colonized the solar system, but we're still human. Racism and bigotry is larger scale, because our bodies have adapted to living off-earth, but our minds are still stuck in the 'us vs them' small-town mode, and now we just have more differences to divide us.

But I digress. I loved this book. I loved the world(s), and the characters, and, well, everything. This worked perfectly as a stand-alone novel, but I definitely cannot wait to read more of this series.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: Promise Me Eternity by Ian Fox ★

I was asked to review this book by the author. The premise definitely sounded intriguing, so I agreed. I’ve been reading this one in small chunks here and there for nearly a month now, and I wish that I could say that it was a great book... but it just wasn’t.

I didn't care for this book, but I think that it had quite a bit of potential to be very good. The writing, the details, the stiffness of the story just didn’t get it anywhere close to where it should be. There was far too much erroneous side information given, far too many characters, and things just seemed to take far too long to actually get going in the story. The first 50 pages barely even nudge the door open on the story. We’re taken on rounds and visit quite a lot of patients, but the story wasn’t even close to starting at that point. We’ve met a couple characters, but it doesn’t really provide any useful information. I’m OK with side information… when it serves a purpose. It didn’t here. It was just unnecessary filler, and when it comes at the beginning of the story, I start worrying.

The dialogue throughout was stiff and unnatural, and the characters never felt like real people to me. When the main character’s wife is murdered, all I felt was a sort of relief that I wouldn’t have to listen to her nag anymore. She was greedy, selfish and immensely irritating. I know quite a few women who are just like that, but that doesn’t make it realistic or good. There was no depth, no personality, no life in the story. It was like cardboard cutout marionettes, with bad voiceover actors doing the dialogue. I feel harsh saying that, but it’s true. There’s the brilliant scientist on the verge of a breakthrough if only he wasn’t stuck in his tedious middle management neurosurgeon job. The fact that he actually, petulantly, threatened to let a patient die because his boss wouldn’t fund his science experiments made me seriously want to throw the book against the wall. The fact that he even thought it is a violation of what makes people go into medicine in the first place – the desire to help people. And further, the fact that his pet project is an anti-aging drug, I felt like it was both hypocritical and completely superficial at the same time. He wants to help people live longer, right? So he’s studying within his field to try to find a cure for illnesses of the brain, right? No. He’s making glorified botox.

I didn’t get it, and never really warmed to this book at all. This could have been a book much more worth reading if it was edited and trimmed down. This is over 400 pages long, and in my opinion, at least a quarter of that should have hit the cutting room floor. There’s just too much going on, and it became distracting. So, overall, this was not great, but some work could get it closer to it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I ain't gettin', I ain't gettin' out of bed today...

...OK, that's a lie, because as you read this, I am out of bed and working. I scheduled this post. Yes, I did. But I WISH I was still in bed, reading the day away. If I could afford it, I would play hooky and just read.

If only someone would pay me to read! Why is this not a thing I can do??

*sigh* Since I'm *sob* not doing any re-reads this year, I'm going to follow my own rule and not list re-reads for my Top Ten... so these are the new-to-me books that I would stay home today and read, if I could. I can include books I'm currently reading, though, right? Because that's number one on my list:

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson: I'm currently reading this one and I'm enjoying it quite a lot. I can see some similarities to Sanderson's other books, and it does feel like a first book... for Sanderson. Which is like saying it's a 5th book for anyone else. Great stuff. I love him. :D
The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson: I LOOOOOVED Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, so I am super excited to revisit that world. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the what has happened there since I last visited.
Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King: It's not out yet but sooooooooon! (O_O) More Dark Tower for me!!! OMG.. You have no idea how excited this makes me. I think I might really put in for time off from work so I can read nonstop! ...I am not even joking. The Dark Tower series is one of my all time favorites, so a new book in the series, when I thought it was done... that's huge. HUGE. I may die.
Roadwork by Stephen King: This is the only published book of King's I haven't read yet! I really should get on that soon... ;) King's Bachman stories are always dark and gritty, so this should be very interesting reading! LOL
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman: I've read most of Gaiman's stuff (except his Sandman series), and I love him. This is a collection of short stories I've been meaning to read, so if I was playing hooky today, I'd fit this in!
Dust City by Robert Paul Weston: This one just looks really interesting, and a little quirky, so I'm interested to see whether it's as good as it looks. Dark and gritty YA Big Bad Wolf retelling, FTW!
Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher: Number four in the series, and I've loved each book so far. I hear it just keeps getting better and better, which is fantastic news because I love them already!
Timeless by Gail Carriger: Just love this series. It's fun and funny and there are zombie hedgehogs... what other reason do I need?
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: I've heard nothing but greatness about this book, so I'm excited to get to this one. Plus it's the current group read in my Joe Hill group, so I should probably participate. ;)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson: I have heard more rave reviews about this one, and my friend Jessica swears that she could not put it down until she finished the trilogy, so I want to read this one very soon!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Thrift Store Score 3

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

I don't usually do many IMM posts. But today I'm doing one, because I'm kind of excited about the books I've acquired this week.

I did two book buying splurges this weekend... one at the thrift store around the corner from my house... (Seriously... DANGER ZONE.), and one at a local bargain store that is, thankfully, across town.

Here's what I got.

Thrift store (Used books): 

Robert Bloch's Psychos (A collection of horror stories)
Shadowland by Peter Straub (Sorry for the craptacular pic of that one!)
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin 
P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern (OMG, even the first page made me cry!!)
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Bargain Store (New Books): 

Dust City by Robert Paul Wilson
Endgame by Nancy Garden
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga

And finally... 
The Talisman Graphic Novel, Vol. 1: The Road of Trials
OMG. I paid $3.99 for this. It's PERFECT. ♥♥♥

Excuse me while I squee all over the place!  SQUEE! :D

The Talisman is one of my all time favorite books, and I've been wanting to read this graphic novel for ages... but budgets being tight, I can't justify buying at full price. $3.99 I can manage though! O_O

All of the books in this week's IMM post cost me less than $20 combined. Super awesome haul this week. 


Friday, March 23, 2012

FFR (20): The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman ★★★★

Friday Flashback is hosted by Jen @ The Introverted Reader.

Originally Reviewed: September 5, 2011
This was not at all what I expected. I have had this on my "to read" list for a while, and I'm glad that I read it, because I enjoyed it, quite a lot. This is one of those books that I think people will either really like, or just feel kind of 'meh' about. I think that there were a couple things here that really worked for me.

The Painted DarknessOne of those things is that I have a bit of creation fascination. I am not a creative person really. I have my moments where something will just click, but I have total creation envy for authors and artists and other people who make something out of nothing, especially when the process is an escape from themselves and the world, or maybe an involuntary need to express something. Those kind of compulsory drives to get it out are fascinating to me. And I liked seeing how that was portrayed here.

Another one of those things is the way the story was told, alternating between young Henry and present day adult Henry. I thought that this format worked well. The pacing was just right to keep me interested (and I admit that I was slightly more interested in the Young Henry sections than the Adult Henry ones), and I thought that the tone of the story was excellent. Atmospheric and creepy, while keeping a sense of realism even when things leave realism behind. This wasn't a Shock & Gore story, this was a ...something's just... not... quite... right... story. And I liked it for that. Because it made me think, and wonder, and guess, and I love when stories can do that, and draw me into them and make me care about the characters - or, in this case, character, singular.

This story will stick with me for a while, and even in the process of writing this review, I've been turning it over in my mind and drawing new conclusions and thinking of things in a different way, and I'm liking it even more now because of that.

And, I think I'll just leave it at that.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie ★★★

The Enchantress Of Florence: A NovelWhen this book was chosen for my bookclub, I was a little nervous about it. I'd never read anything of Salman Rushdie's before, and I wouldn't have chosen this one to start with (if ever). I'll be honest, the premise looks kind of boring.

But then I started reading it. And I was completely surprised by not only how much I liked it, but by how funny it was. Irreverent, and witty, and whimsical and a little weird, with more than a dash of gutter-humor funny that had me giggling like a fiend. At the 45% point, I was ready to call this one a 5-star book. I was loving it.

I loved Akbar, Akbar the Great, the greatness of which must be twice specified in order to merely hint at his glorious gloriousness. Him. I loved his personality, his unpredictability, his mind. I loved how he thought about things... Honestly, it is so rare for a ruler to think about the nature of his (or her) rule in terms other than 1) how to keep it, and 2) how to get more of it. I loved that he thought in the abstract, the philosophical. I vs we. All "I"s are "we"s, not just Royal "we"s. Everyone is part of a larger entity that makes them up: family, friends, community, etc.
Perhaps the idea of self-as-community was what it meant to be a being in the world, any being; such a being being, after all, inevitably a being among other beings, a part of the beingness of all things."
"...[They] are all bags of selves, bursting with plurality..."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Top Ten Spring To Read List

I'm a little late getting this one posted, but I thought I should do one anyway!

So without further delay, here's my Spring Read Top Ten:

1) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
2) Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus by Victoria Grossack & Alice Underwood
3) Timeless by Gail Carriger
4) The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
5) The Alienist by Caleb Carr

6) The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
7) The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
8) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
9) Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia
10) The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patty's Day Green Cover Awesomeness

Since it's St. Patrick's Day and green is the color of the day, I thought I'd show off a great green cover I discovered today.

Trash by Andy Mulligan
In an unnamed Third World country, in the not-so-distant future, three “dumpsite boys” make a living picking through the mountains of garbage on the outskirts of a large city.

One unlucky-lucky day, Raphael finds something very special and very mysterious. So mysterious that he decides to keep it, even when the city police offer a handsome reward for its return. That decision brings with it terrifying consequences, and soon the dumpsite boys must use all of their cunning and courage to stay ahead of their pursuers. It’s up to Raphael, Gardo, and Rat—boys who have no education, no parents, no homes, and no money—to solve the mystery and right a terrible wrong.

This cover immediately grabbed my attention. Green is my favorite color, and I love blue and green combinations.
(Orange and green, not so much. Sorry Oompa Loompas. And Jersey Shore.)

So anyway, I saw this cover and I immediately started drooling a teensy bit. It's awesome. The colors, the silhouettes of the boys, the grainy quality, and the birds... I want to frame this cover. Does that make me weird?

Probably...? Oh well.

I didn't actually end up acquiring this book, despite the awesome cover and the interesting sounding story, though I regret that now. *sigh* I just don't have the room and I need to read the books I have before I can get more!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! :D

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Found a Website Today... And It Is Made of Awesome

So, by some magical combination of luck, and karma and supercoolity (that last is my contribution), I learned of this site yesterday. I ♥ it already! So, I'm spreading the word in case there are others who haven't yet discovered this site.

We Give Books is a website where you can read various children's books online, for FREE, and simply by doing so, a book will be donated to promote literacy.

Can I just stress how awesome this is?

THIS IS AWESOME. You can read a cute picture book, click a button, and donate a book to a literacy program. And it costs you nothing but a little bit of your time.

Even if you're not a children's book reader, anyone reading this blog right now should be SQUEEing all over the place at how ridiculously, amazingly simple We Give Books makes it to put books into the hands of kids all over the world.

We Give Books has different campaigns with donation goals. You can choose any of these to support, and change them at any time. Their current list of campaigns include:
- Read For Central America (Goal: 30,000 books)
- Todos a Leer (Goal 20,000 books)
- Room To Read (Goal: 25,000 books)
- World Vision (Goal 60,000 books)
- Out of the Blocks (Goal 20,000 books)

 You can re-read books as many times as you like while they are available, and donate a new book with each read through. This is especially awesome to me, because I totally love re-reading, and I envision parents interacting with their kids by reading them a favorite story online, while at the same time teaching them both the joy of reading and the joy of doing something to help someone else. It makes me smile. :D <--- See?

Yesterday, I read and donated three books on We Give Books. Not counting review time, that's barely 15 minutes of my day.

Here are the books I read already:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You Ain't From 'Round These Parts, Are Ya?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted @ The Broke & The Bookish

I have this shelf on Goodreads called "Multi-Dimensional". This shelf has books that kind of... shift. Either there's a hidden world, a magic world, another dimension or world or time accessible by some means, etc, but these books all have that shift as a common denominator.

That's not really a "genre", so it's bending the rules of this week's Top Ten Tuesday, but... well... I'm a rebel!

So! Without further delay, here's my list of Top Ten Multi-Dimensional Books!

The Fours:

1. The Eyre Affair - Time travel and manipulation... but more importantly... They can travel INTO books! I want to go to there. O_O
2. Preludes & Nocturnes - Dreams... dream manipulation... mythology and various otherish stuff. It's Gaiman... you can't go wrong! :D
3. What Dreams May Come - Death and the afterlife in this one... very intriguing and different.
4. Outlander - Time travel and Jamie... Need I say more?
5. The Hum And The Shiver - This one is subtle. But otherworldly in a real, and different, way. I was very pleasantly surprised by this one!

The Fives:

6. American Gods - Gods in the modern world, new and old, vying for belief to survive. I love Gaiman's mythology.
7. The Talisman - A quest between worlds to save two queens... And a battle between good and evil. Awesome.
8. 11/22/63 - Time travel again... What would you do if you could go back and change history?
9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone/Harry Potter Series - If you don't know this one, you're a muggle! Secret wizards live among us. Oh, wasn't supposed to tell you that... OBLIVIATE!
10. The Gunslinger/Dark Tower Series - Epic other worlds, epic quest, epic characters. Fantastic series.

PS. I didn't plan for my Top Ten to be split up by rating, it just happened that way... so I went with it. LOL

Monday, March 12, 2012

Musing Monday (3)

What book do you wish you were reading right now? 

Where would you take it to, if you could go anywhere to read for a while?

I actually wish that I was reading just what I am reading currently... Elantris by Brandon Sanderson.

Granted, I'm reading a couple other books right now as well (Leviathan Wakes is very good!), but I can't think of anything else I'd rather be reading at the moment than what I am reading.

If I could be anywhere, I'd want to be sitting outside in a comfy chair under a shady tree with a glass of iced tea.

All I need is a chair... :D

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Review: The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay ★★★

The Lions of Al-RassanThis book has come highly recommended by almost all of my friends, and so naturally, I was very excited to read it. This was my first experience with Kay, and the consensus seems to be that this is his best work. Certainly the Goodreads average rating bears that up. Lions of Al-Rassan currently has a an average rating of 4.27 of 5. Pretty impressive, and the highest of all of his books.

It just didn't quite get there for me. Maybe it was the expectation of greatness that let me down, but I don't know. Maybe the fact that I don't have much knowledge of the history of the Iberian peninsula, but again, I don't think so. By all accounts, it's not really necessary to have external knowledge prior to reading Lions. It's not that this was bad, or that I didn't like it... In fact I'm having a hard time putting my finger on just how I'm feeling about it, now that I'm finished. On the one hand, I liked it quite a bit, but on the other, I felt like there was just something missing or off about it, and I had several issues that I can't ignore.

So this is going to be something of an itemized review...

Characters: This was by far my favorite thing about this book. I am a character reader, and I need characters that I can identify with in order to enjoy a story. This one was full of brilliantly real characters. There was quite a cast, as shown by the full character list at the beginning of the book, but I never felt confused by who was who. I loved the four main characters: Ammar, Rodrigo, Jehane and Alvar. (I also loved Rodrigo's wife Miranda, who was awesomely bad-ass. I would have loved to see much more of her.)

Ammar and Rodrigo kind of represent their people and cultures in the book, although not well at all. Most of their respective cultures are caricatures of pious intolerance and hatred, whereas Ammar and Rodrigo are both good, honorable, and open-minded men, who are willing to accept and trust based on character, not purely on belief in the "right" god. So while Ammar is an Asharite and Rodrigo is a Jaddite, they still find a way to work together.

There were quite a few emotional moments while reading this, and though I feel like they could have been better written (which I will get to in a bit), I still felt for the characters and the things that happened to them. I did feel like some of the follow-up with some characters left something to be desired, but the characters themselves were well done and fleshed out and real.

Worldbuilding: The worldbuilding here was one of the aspects that I struggled with the most. At times it was overwhelming in the amount of information given at once, but still I felt like there was still more I wanted to know. There were places named that we never got to see, but were clearly important to the history, like Aljais, or Soriyya. The descriptions were gorgeous, and I could see everything clearly, but I wanted to know more about the places that were important but never shown.

Religion: The religious aspects of this book were well done, and the dividing lines between the three different religious groups were drawn clearly, but I wanted to know more about what each believed in, not just who they hated and wanted dead because they believed in something different.

Not knowing what they actually believed in, it was hard for me to identify with either the Asharites' or the Jaddites' beliefs. Are these gods so bloodthirsty that the only valid form of worship is saying that you do and then killing those that don't? Was there no other form of worship? The Asharites abstain from alcohol, but unless I missed it, I don't see anything at all that differentiates them other than the name of the god they worship and whether or not they'll have some wine with dinner.

The Kindath were different though. I don't know much about their beliefs either, but it seems to me that they were to be equated with Jews, at least in the way that they were treated and persecuted. They at least seemed peaceful, wanting nothing more than a place to live peacefully. This apparently equates to baby-killing monsters to the bloodthirsty Asharjaddites, who both hate the Kindath. Because who better to persecute than the people who aren't allowed weapons? That being said... it was realistic and believable that different religious sects would want to kill each other. Not logical, but religious belief rarely is.

Writing: For the most part, I liked the writing. I thought that it was readable and in general, the prose was beautiful. There were some unexpectedly funny parts, and overall I liked it.

But I did have a big problem with the writing in one aspect, which was that anytime there was a moment of suspense, Kay would write the scenes in such a way as to draw it out to unnatural lengths. For instance, the one that bothered me the most was a scene in which a character died. For nine pages, we were left wondering who it was, theorizing, trying to determine who it could be. By the time the name was finally given (and it was an unexpected one), I was more annoyed with the delay tactics and manipulation than I was distressed about the character's death. I was upset about the death, but it was kind of overshadowed by a feeling that I was being manipulated. I felt that it cheapened the loss, and took away from the emotional impact it should have had. This was done in different ways and in different situations all throughout the book, and it was incredibly frustrating.

Another issue that I had was Kay's tendency to skip action, and then tell us about it later. I can sort of understand the decision for doing this. It allowed him to not only tell us what happened in condensed form, but gave us insight into some of the characters as well. I just didn't like it. I want to see the action. I want to be part of the story, not an outsider being filled in on the details later.

Pacing & Plot: At around the 75% mark, I started wondering where this story was going and how it would possibly be resolved in the remaining pages. We've been with these characters for a while, and there's been a lot of build-up and pieces moving into position, little battles and maneuverings, but nothing has really happened yet. The huge campaign to reconquer the disparate peninsula lands and reunite them into one large kingdom of Esperana hasn't even started. Of course, the epilogue sorts out what happened and fills us in on the important details. All the build-up and then the climax felt rushed and almost like an afterthought. Disappointing.

I wanted to love this book. Maybe if I'd read it before reading some of the amazing epic fantasy I've read in the last year, I would have. But the writing here just felt like it got in the way of the story. Yes, it was beautifully written at times, but the need to be mysterious and drag out the suspense, and circle back to tell us about the action or important events rather than just showing them to us to begin with really didn't work for me.

TL;DR Review: I liked it, but thought parts could have been better.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Flashback Review: The Song of Troy by Colleen McCullough ★★★★

The Song Of TroyFriday Flashback is hosted by Jen over at The Introverted Reader.

Originally Reviewed: September 23, 2009

This is the kind of historical fiction that I love to read. I've always had a passing interest in mythology, but sometimes it can be so dry! "So & So, son of Such & Such, did A, B, C, & D, had son Whatchamacallit with Whatshername who was the daughter of Whosthatguyagain?..." That's one of the reasons I've put off reading the Bible. Too many begats.

But McCullough manages to work all of the necessary begats in, while at the same time still moving the story along, and further making you CARE. She brings these characters to life in a way that mere Mortals could only dream of. History and myth gives them names, but McCullough gives them LIFE. Personality, aspirations, hopes and dreams, conniving brilliance, worshipful adoration, undying loyalty, etc. These are the things that McC gives us and inspires our adoration of her.

First, let me say that I wish I'd have taken notes when reading this book. Each chapter is narrated by a different character, and it's not always easy to keep track of who is who in the beginning, or which side they are on. (I said I have a passing interest in Mythology - I'm not a scholar with Heroes' names, important dates and country of births memorized!) This is the one thing that dropped this down to 4 stars for me. Granted, once I got to the midway point, I was just along for the ride and following everything without a problem, but getting there would have been easier if perhaps the chapter headings had say "Priam of Troy" instead of just "Priam" for the narrator.

That being said, even once I was up on the who's who and which side is which, McC made it VERY difficult to pick a side to root for! She portrayed everything so realistically that there is no "right" side to an impartial judge; rather "right" is dependent on which King you serve and which version of the story you get from them. Much like wars today *cough*, the Greeks' war against Troy was less for the proclaimed scapegoat reason and more for profit and political gain (read: land and money). Come to think of it, we're quickly coming up on 10 years too... But I digress.

I was surprised by the humor and modernity in this book. Odysseus especially was fairly snarky and at times I felt like he would just step out of the pages and start pulling strings everywhere. I got a few chuckles out of him. I liked that while the feel of the book was true to the traditional story, it did feel updated and accessible to everyone- not just mythology buffs.

I also appreciated that the magic and the miracles were left open to interpretation. There is always a plausible scientific, or at least non-magical, explanation for miraculous events. That's a fine line to walk, actually, to say "Here's a possibility" but not try to sell it or convince us. I appreciate McC for being able to do that well, and for doing it at all. Too often authors want to spread their opinions like little seeds, hoping that they will take root in someone else. It's a rare thing for an author to write a book without a stance.

I also enjoyed the fact that there was homosexuality and bisexuality in the book, but that it wasn't done in such a way as to be a slur or a joke. It was simply presented as an everyday occurrence and accepted. Too bad that's relegated to history, we could use a little of that mindset now.

Speaking of which, my four favorite characters in the book were portrayed as bisexual and gay: Diomedes, Odysseus, and Achilles (bi) and Patrokles (gay). I loved how these men were able to be Men (RAWR!) on the battlefield but then off the field share a part of themselves with another man that men of today wouldn't dream of. Get your mind out of the gutters! I mean their feelings, not their tools. Really though, knowing that these men were gay did not make me feel any differently about them as warriors - and I love warriors. If anything, it made me respect them more for their duality. They were able to truly love and be loved by men, yet go out and kill hordes of them daily. Crazy.

I notice that my favorite characters are all Greek, which is interesting because I am still very undecided as to which ideological side I wanted to win the war. I mean, obviously I knew which side would win, but there is a part of me that just loves the underdog and will always root for the losing side. But neither side was faultless, and both sides were harmed by the other prior to war, so who is right? Conundrum.

Anyway... I really enjoyed the book... It certainly is fuel for thought and shows that mythology is just as relevant today as it was 4,000 years ago. Give or take a century.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

MUST... NOT... READ.... THE SHINY!! (Yet)

Yeah... it's just like that.

I should be reading... I have four books going right now. I should be powering through them. They are GOOD books, dammit! But no. Instead, I avoid reading by looking at shiny things...

Better known as volumes 5, 6, 7 & 8 of Stephen King's Dark Tower graphic novel series.

So far, I have been strong. So far, these four are still shrink-wrapped, still on my shelf, still untouched. But my treacherous brain keeps whispering, "They are so short... think how quickly you'd get through one. No time at all! You are just goofing off on Goodreads right now anyway... Couldn't you be productively reading one of those volumes? It's Daaaaark Toooooowwwweeeerrrrr...."

Jerk. I know all that. But if I read one, I'll read the next, and the next and the next... and then my other books will never get finished.


Maybe I should put them in the freezer. O_o

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hey there cutie... How YOU doin'?

Yup. A book's cover is basically its pick-up line.

I ♥ bookcovers. I'm not even gonna lie and say I don't "judge" a book by them. I do. Absolutely. If a bookcover doesn't appeal to me, I'm much less likely to pick the book up. I won't say that that's the only criteria that determines whether I will read a book... but that's the first thing I see, so it's a vital part of getting a book into my hands.

Here are 10 unread books that I either bought or added to my To Read mountain based on their covers:

1. Avempartha - I admit it, I love this cover. Apparently the author painted the covers for his series himself, which is extra cool. I wasn't too impressed by the first in the series (this is the 2nd), but it has potential.
2. The Kommandant's Girl - I like the perspective of this cover... the fogginess makes me wonder where she's going, and what she'll find when she gets there.
3. The Prophecy of the Sisters - I kind of have a thing with twins, and I love statues, especially cemetery statues. This cover is a little creepy, and I like that.
4. Still Alice - This is the "brightest" of the covers that I chose, but it really drew me to it. I love the ethereal butterfly thing going on there, and how "clean" it is.
5. The Girl With The Glass Feet - I really like this one. The flowers and the rough edges and the silhouettes all appeal to me.

6. Living Dead Girl - I really like this cover. There's something about the perspective of standing over a discarded dress that just screams "Loss of innocence!" I love the colors and the leaves and the dress still being clean... It says a lot, this one.
7. The Years of Magic - I really love the darkness of this one. The story itself sounds iffy, but the cover is gorgeous. I love the big full moon, the gates, the path. I want to walk that path.
8. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter - I like the sense of size in this one. The two huge trees, the big open sky, and these two boys in between... running or playing?
9. Water Marked - I love the yellow-green look of this one, and how it looks watermarked and blurry... It makes me wonder who the woman is and why she's been smudged out...
10. The Woman In Black - I love the vintage look of this cover, and the posture of the woman, as if she's trudging along somewhere she'd rather not go. I love the colors as well. It's just beautiful.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.