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Book Reviews 6-10-8

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Of all the Social Networking junk I’m a member of, none feels as functional and “ah, I love having that!” as Goodreads. For those who don’t know, it’s a social network for book readers, where you can tag and review books you’ve read and connect with your friends and other readers. I struggled with other ways to share the books I’ve read and this is the perfect solution. The interface is very easy to use, and adding/reviewing books is so satisfying. I feel like it’s a real, functional catalogue of something that I’ll appreciate having in 5 years, unlike most. And it has great portability, so I can add the widget to my Facebook, Myspace, Bebo and this website. Anyway, if you love books and read a lot of them, I urge you to create an account and friend me!

On to reviews. These are by no means all the books I’ve read the last 2 months, but they’re the ones that stand out as shareworthy.

I reviewed the first book in this series earlier this year, The Blade Itself and the fantastic thing is that the second book, Before They Are Hanged, meets and exceeds what I enjoyed about the first one! The characterization is fascinating and gripping. Joe Abercrombie really masters the “grey area”, where no one is a two-dimensional bad guy, and you’re constantly questioning the motivation of people who you thought were on one side or another. I really enjoyed the “foppish” nobility being made fun of, and there are twists here that make you go “WHOAH! I didn’t see that coming!!” There are some main characters who seem a little underrepresented in this one who were very prominent in the first book, but that only adds to the depth of the whole cast, and I can’t wait to see how these ends are ultimately tied up in the trilogy finale! I sense a very dark path going in unexpected directions. 😉 If you enjoy George RR Martin or Stephen Erikson, I would definitely recommend this series. PLUS, the cover art is really top notch! It is very classy, implies a Dumas-like adventure, and doesn’t have badly-oiled pecks or men with shields. Not only that, it has a great textured paper you don’t see very often, nubby and parchment-like, and I really enjoyed holding it, so + 2 to superficial appeal!

“The Blade Itself” epitomizes the more gritty fantasy approach that is emerging as the standard for epic fantasy. I have a theory about this. The emergence of Harry Potter and other “lighter” fantasy, with magic and wizards and more tongue in cheek attitudes, coupled with the more urban “romance” fantasy genre (more angled towards women), has caused the epic fantasy to go towards a more man-appealing direction. Less frou-frou and more blood, hair and guts in the vast sweeping epic-type of series. Tell me what you think about this direction, do you like it? Do you miss the more Robert Jordan approach?

The chest-hair type epic is also the kind of book Winterbirth, by Brian Ruckley is. I have to admit, this was a much harder read for me. It’s very interesting from the world-building angle, Gods abandoning the world after a huge genocidal war. I enjoyed the history and detail in the backstory. Also, it’s SUPER LONG, which never turns me off as I tend to love books thick enough to kill cockroaches with, but I really had a hard time connecting with these characters. It was almost TOO vast in scope, too many points of view going on. I tended to skip whole sections, eager to land back with the characters and plotlines that held my interest. I think it’s a tough balancing act to have so many angles of storytelling going on, and naturally ones will be more interesting than others, but it was still difficult for me to finish the book. I think better editing could have improved this book a lot. If you are a big fan of machismo sword and shield fantasy, I still think you’d enjoy it, (it’s been very well reviewed across the web) but personally, I will be on the fence for the follow up. The cover art is great, very “300”, and the font is nice and simple. See, I’m not a total negative Nancy!!!

Another interesting grey-area book I just finished is
“Empress” by Karen Miller. I haven’t read her first series, the Innocence Mage, but I am going to pick it up based on this one. This is a book told from the angle of the “bad guy”. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s a very interesting character study into the mind of religious zealotry and meglomania, and seeks to explore the question “How does that evil genius become that way?” This is not a book for everyone. I admit, I skimmed the middle quite a bit, but I was definitely invested in seeing where in the world this completely heinous character was headed, lol. I hear the sequel is done from a completely different angle, and I am interested to see how they support each other.
When I picked it up, I was expecting a much different story, a story following a woman who would become leader to a warring nation, faced with challenges. It’s SORT OF starts out like that, but then you realize, “Wow, this character is…not a good guy!” Interesting experience.

Lastly, men and women…it’s Vaginal Fantasy time!!! “Armed and Magical”, by Lisa Shearin (Who has a great blog BTW) is the sequel to the MUCH raved-about-by-me first novel in the series “Magic Lost, Trouble Found”. The adventure starts almost continuous from the ending of the last book, and I’m glad because I don’t want to miss one minute! Guys, this series is like chocolate to me, I just can’t get enough of it. The author strikes a balance of adventure and fun that is the very reason I love reading in the first place, and the second book serves up a dish of enthusiasm and magic and touches of romance I ate up like a little literature-piggy! Nom nom nom! If I had my druthers, I’d have this on Sci-Fi channel with me starring in it. I’ve always wanted to wear a Jerkin. Make no mistake, this series is not deep, it’s not dark, it’s a magical romp with fun characters. It encompasses the best of the urban fantasy genre that is so popular right now, combined with a whimsical sense of humor. I really, really want the love triangle to be fleshed out in the next book, oh and for Raine to kick more ass. Again, if you like Buffy, definitely check out this book!

Sadly, I’m going to have to say it again, this cover art is…not good. If you compare this cover to the last one, besides the much-improved ochre tones instead of blinding pink and purples, it looks like Raine has gained a little weight in the thigh/butt area. I guess the ship voyage over to the island didn’t allow her to exercise or something. Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure the way Raine is described in the book has NOTHING to do how this chick looks! Maybe I’m biased because I worked with someone who looks like this, Sami from Days of Our Lives (first Hollywood job, not the best experience). Anyway, the book rox.

That’s it! Please post any books you guys have enjoyed lately, I’m on the prowl!

  • Friend request sent, I signed on to Goodreads a while back just so as it could filter on to my FriendFeed, before that I was mostly over at shelfari.com I look forward to reading more of your reviews. 🙂

  • Mauro

    “I tended to skip whole sections”, “I skimmed the middle quite a bit”. So, that’s how normal people are able to read a lot of books? Sorry, no can do.
    I’m somewhat of a completist, with a hint of OCD, and can’t ever skip anything, even if it’s a re-read.
    I’ve started the incredibly long The Name Of The Wind this weekend (thanks!). Did you also skip parts of it or were you able to read everything?

  • Da

    I haven’t heard of goodreads. I’ll probably sign up. (Yet another time void!) I’ve been on shelfari for a few months. ( http://www.shelfari.com/o1518297596/shelf ) Nice place to share your faves and create widgets, but not as socially networked at goodreads seems to be. Thanks for the share. I enjoy your reviews.

  • Hi Felicia,

    So glad you enjoyed Armed & Magical! And yes, I would LOVE for it to be picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel with you playing Raine. Tell you what, next time you see Joss, just toss him a copy. ; )

    Lisa

    BTW — I will definitely tune in to your episode of House; I can’t wait!

  • Thanks for the GoodReads invite you sent me a while back. You’re a great source for reading ideas! Granted with my son being born tomorrow, and my daughter having just turned two… finding time to read is going to be difficult.

    Oh, and I was using LibraryThing up until recently when a friend persuaded me to try out GoodReads. I liked LT’s database-ish style, but GR wins when it comes to the social web stuff. Keep the reviews coming, as it’s great to have an authoritative source!

  • Ooooh Lisa, you are so quick to find my blog entries! 🙂 I hope you’re not offended, I try to poke gentle fun and wouldn’t do it unless I loved your stuff!

  • Mauro

    Hi again,

    I just wanted to let you know that one of The Guild’s episodes has received at least one vote for the 2008 Syfy Genre Awards and made the long list of nominees. Scroll down to the Best Web Production category and notice you are among some pretty heavy series.

    (I wonder if that link will work…)

  • Hi Felicia, here’s some of the books I’ve read recently and have loved.
    Jasper Fforde – The Eyre Affair,
    Robin McKinley – Sunshine,
    Aberystwyth Mon Amour – Malcolm Pryce,
    Nightwatch – Terry Pratchett,
    The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham,
    Ireland A Novel – Frank Delaney,
    Dalai Lama, My Son – Diki Tsering,
    Ancestor – Scott Sigler,
    Playing for Keeps – Mur Lafferty.

  • Felicia hon, I’m not offended in the least. ; ) My covers are a love/hate thing — people either love ’em or they hate ’em. And you know I’d adore a review that includes “Nom, nom, nom!” Now THAT’s what I call a compliment!

    Lisa

    P.S.: I have Google Alerts set up for me and my books — saves me a lot of surfing time. ; )

  • moonshower

    I have to confirm that the Eyre Affair and Sunshine are excellent reads.
    I personally just finished Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey (third in a series). It’s a wonderful book-very lush and well written.

  • Andrew

    RE: Empress

    If you want a fun, quick read from the perspective of a villain, definitely check out Soon I Will Be Invincible. Not life-changing, but a fun and interesting dip into the superhero genre from the other side.

    Also, in terms of seeing how evil happens, I recommend The Gods Will Have Blood by Anatole France. It tells the story of post-revolutionary France from the perspective of a low-level functionary in the revolution, one who ends up sending hundreds of people off to the guillotine. Great read.

  • I’m more of a scifi reader but since you asked for book recommendations, I’m currently rereading my favourite trilogy, Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command.

    Yes, they are Star Wars books but don’t let the fact they’re based on popular movies put you off. They are so well written, the author (Timothy Zahn) understands the original characters and introduces new and interesting people for them to interact with. The villain is especially interesting, he’s a very unique individual that I find I always want him to win when I read these stories.

    It’s enough to make me wish that Zahn had written the prequel movies instead of Lucas…

    When I’m done with my read through, I’ll check out the books you reviewed here 🙂

  • Leiali

    Hello

    I found your blog via Joe Abercrombie’s website. You have exactly the same reading taste as me. Exactly the same, and I like your term ‘vaginal fantasy time’ :), I have magic lost, trouble found in my to buy basket on amazon already, and wasn’t sure if I should get it, having been a bit disappointed by the last book by Moira J Moore ‘Heroes Adrift’ which seemed similar. I will buy it since you raved about it. Have you read any Lois McMaster bujold? Have you been on sffworld.com? you would like it there methinks..

  • Well, thanks to you Raine is now stacked on my book pile. How could one resist a title like “Armed and Magical”? Quite enjoyable so far (though “far” might be the wrong word). Every once in a while it feels like someone is trying to hard to be clever and witty with every single sentence, but the alternative would be worse. Better drown in dry wit than wit drying out. So here’s a thanks for bringing them to my attention. Hope there will be more (I just hate that depressing feeling when you finish the last page and close the book).

    Also, if you can’t find someone to do a German translation for those subtitles on short notice.. I guess the episodes are short enough to do it after work and still finish in finite time. Are there transcripts to work with or does it require to rely on those roundish head attachments? Based on experience they are prone to cause people to subtitle “border planet” with “water planet” and override any common sense, considering the desert like landscape… in short: always supply transcripts.

  • Mia

    It’s been over a month since I started the book you recommended to me, Ash. But at only 15-20 minutes a day, and it is as you say a book I could squish a cockroach with, I’m only about 1/4 of the way through! So far, I like it. Ash isn’t a very complex character, but every 50 pages or so something interesting happens to keep me wondering!

    I’m a bit of a dork, I would have prefered something with magic and dwarves and elves, rather than something set in medieval Europe, but I guess it’s good for me to diversity a bit!

  • forts were about is still then eventually Street

  • Ryan

    I have just finished The Blade itself Trilogy, I get it early as I am from the UK !!!

    Superb set of books, full of dark characters and even the heroes are not what you would class normally as the good guys.

  • Alex L

    Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
    (It’s part of “The Sword of Truth” series – they’re making a mini-series for TV directed by Sam Raimi)

    Actually you’d definitely be better than the current Kahlan they have casted. Your acting and singing in Dr.Horrible was incredible. I can’t stop listening to the song in Act II.

    It’s a pretty heavy sized book – actually all 11 books of the series are about 700 pages a piece, but they each took me less than a week sometimes just a few days each.

    Best book I’ve read in my entire life…and I have read a fair amount of books sci-fi and fantasy novels.

    Dare I say better than Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card?
    In many ways they are equally epic and enjoyable, but Terry is far more original in his creations.

  • “I feel like it’s a real, functional catalogue of something that I’ll appreciate having in 5 years, unlike most.”

    I have also have run into the difficulty of trying to share all the books I love, and I’d come across Goodreads before, but your compelling recommendation gave me the push to dive in and check it out. Now I’m hooked.

    Part of my reluctance was due to the fact that I have read and liked so many books that it’s a lot of work to enter them all in (I thought about just starting from the present, but that would mean leaving out too many favorites), but I’m slowly getting caught up.

    As much as I loved “Dr. Horrible” on its own merits, I’m doubly appreciative because it also led me to “The Guild” and your blog (and Goodreads too). Thank you very much!

  • Alysha

    I really love the Wheel of Time Series! Robert Jordan. I’ve had a lot of trouble reading anything else since I’ve started reading this series. It is so huge! I recomend picking it up either in paper or audio format/or both. Michael Kramer and Kate Reding or very talented Narrators. Red Eagle Entertainment just sold the rights to the video games, also a potentially large MMO-RPG game to EA entertainment, and EA is partnered with Blizzard, and Blizzard is working on a new MMO that has nothing to do with all the other games they already have. *Fingers Crossed*

    They’ve already sold the rights to the movie. I hope they don’t screw it up.

    I’m going to pick up the books you’ve recommended. I’m always looking for new materials.

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