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Sep. 1st, 2011 @ 04:52 am Reviews: The books!
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I thought I could at least say a few words about the books I read. The books are not in perfect order, though the later ones are pretty close.

The Dresden files series by Jim Butcher-

I LOVED this series and have been trying to get everyone to read it. It seems almost everyone HAS except the people I know! :P Harry Dresden is such a truly wonderful character. Easily the most interesting and complex primary protagonist I have read. He is as heroic as they come, but is no glowing paragon of perfection. He is powerful, but he makes mistakes, occassionally bad ones. There are definitely shades of gray in Harry and most of his friends. They are good, flawed people who do the best they can, even if they don't always succeed. There are some very harsh moments in the series. Changes, in particular, is extraordinarily morbidly dark on a number of levels. It's actually even worse than it seems. (As we find out in Ghost Story.) But it also shows just how far a man will go in the name of love. But there is also great humor, genuine heart, powerful love of all kinds, an amazingly varied cast of characters and plenty of exciting adventure. As a whole the series is an unreserved ***** Stars! I definitely liked some of the stories better than others, but it was more personal preference than any fault of the books themselves. (I will never really like zombies in anything, for example.)

All I know for sure is that I was reading it during Aeternitas in May. Reading the wrong Harry at the Harry Potter convention.

-Storm Front
-Fool Moon
-Grave Peril
-Summer Knight
-Death Masks
-Blood Rites
-Dead Beat
-Proven Guilty* (My favorite!)
-White Night
-Small Favor
-Turn Coat* (Second Favorite!)
-Ghost Story
(And an assortment of short stories)

Angelology, Danielle Trussoni. ** Stars. Definitely overhyped. It had the seed of a good idea and a promising premise. I just don't think the author had the skill necessary to handle it yet. Its most grievous fault was its characterization. The so-called 'good guys' manage to be just as unlikable, immoral and nasty as the 'bad guys'. I joked that it managed to offend everyone at least once, but in the end it just isn't good enough to provoke much reaction at all.

The Three Books of Enoch: with notes by Joseph Lumpkin.

Plato on Atlantis

The Myst Reader, Robyn and Rand Miller (Reread.)
-The Book of Atrus
-The Book of T'iana
-The Book of D'ni

I read the Myst books about fourteen-fifteen years ago. They held up quite well and it had been long enough that it was almost like reading them for the first time. Three excellent stories.

A reread of Laurie R. King's Sherlock Holmes & Mary Russell series. Again, they held up quite well, though it has not been as long. One thing I noticed is that LRK is not particularly skilled at writing villains. Most are either forgettable an/or of the mustache twirling variety. The best of them (In the Language of Bees) was defanged by the forgettable villain of God of the Hive. I don't personally consider richly hued villains to be terribly important so it isn't a major problem for me.

- The Beekeeper's Apprentice
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women
- A Letter of Mary
- The Moor
- O Jerusalem
- Justice Hall
- The Game
- Locked Rooms
- The Language of Bees
- The God of the Hive

Sun of gOd, Gregory Sams (**** Stars. Quite interesting and it gave me some ideas for my own sentient stars.)

The Lost Land of Lemuria, Sumathi Ramaswamy **** Stars. A different approach to the legendarium of Lemuria with quite a bit I did not know about how Lemuria is/was viewed in India. A worthy read.

Fifty-One Tales, Lord Dunsany. A book of tiny short stories that I called 'anti-urban fantasy.' It passed the time on a walk, but none of the stories were very memorable.

Dead Reckoning, Charlaine Harris (*** Stars. Eh. Readable, but far from my favorite of the series.)

Thomas the Rhymer, Ellen Kushner. Hm. ****ish Stars. It was pretty good, though I'm not sure if it is one that will stay with me for very long.

The Privilege of the Sword, Ellen Kushner. **** 1/2 Stars. A mixed bag overall, but the Mad Duke Alec was a wholly arresting and fascinating character. If he weren’t gay/bisexual/omnisexual I’d have fallen for him myself. (It just feels too weird for me to ‘fall for’ someone not heterosexual. I loved him… just not in that way.) He is definitely the reason for the 4 ½ stars. The ending of the book is immensely satisfying. Almost too satisfying!

Heart's Blood, Juliet Marillier *** Stars. It was a mild, readable, pretty standard-issue romance novel without the detailed sex scenes. I doubt it will stick around in my memory too long.

The Habitation of the Blessed, Catherynne M Valente. *** Stars. A psychedelic dream of a book. I liked one part of the story quite a bit. Unfortunately the whole just didn't seem to go anywhere. I am not very familiar with the mythology behind it, however. I'm sure it would help quite a bit if I were.

The Omen Machine, Terry Goodkind. ** 1/2 Stars. I had modestly high hopes for this one. Unfortunately my worries that it might be a filler book written strictly for the $$ turned out to be all too accurate. Goodkind's best surviving characters were all here... or at least their names were. They were physically present without any of the things that made them wonderful in the first place. There was no characterization in this book. None. At all. If you didn't know these characters from previous books you'd have no idea why people like them so much. It is not that they were 'out of character.' They just didn't have ANY character. None of them!

The main villain (A tattooed man with a grudge against the House of Rahl) is quite plausible, if hardly original. The zombies just feel like an attempt to cash in on the genre's recent zombie craze and the Hedge Maid feels like a creature discarded from a Legend of the Seeker episode. As for the Steampunk Omen Machine... There are many possibilities in a plot where prophecy itself is being manipulated... heck I wrote something like that in my long-ago Sirius story. It is the one and only thing I am curious about going forward. It should, however, be Nathan that comes to understand it best. It his specialty! He was reduced to a messenger boy who threw in an occasional comment once in a while in this book. In a book with a plot that revolves around prophecy! It was exasperating! I don't even want to go into Kahlan as the stereotypical Damsel in Distress. Even when she was kidnapped, etc, in the past there was always her iron will that said she was capable of looking after herself and surviving. Not here.

Most of this book consists of 7-8 characters running around in a bunch with dialogue similar to the following: "What is it?" "I don't know." "Neither do I." "What do you think it is?" "I don't know." "What should we do with it?" "I don't know" "Should we destroy it?" "Maybe." “Seems like a good idea.” “Do you think we should destroy it?” Ad infinitum. It was more akin to Scooby Doo than Sword of Truth. Then we have the following, all within about five pages: “Kahlan looked to be unconscious.” Later on the same page, “She was also unconscious.” Next page- “She was unconscious and didn’t respond.” Those are direct quotes! It felt like a school report where the slacking kid is trying to make the teacher’s word count. The spectacular arbitrariness of the chapter breaks is another good example of this. Chapters end in the middle of one of the book’s endless circular discussions and the next chapter continues without a pause, seemingly just to get a certain number of chapters in so the book feels longer than it is. The large font helps with that as well.

Goodkind's greatest strength has always been his characterization. At his best he writes the kind of characters one can fall in love with and stay in love with. Even those that are not favorites have a strong voice, personality and individuality about them that is admirable. It is the characters that keeps one coming back despite the series' frequently uneven storytelling, preaching and assorted annoying subplots. Without the characters, there really isn't anything worth reading here.

I started rereading Stone of Tears, the second book in the series. I’m somewhere around chapter 11 and an even more baffled by the weakness of The Omen Machine. They don’t feel like they were written by the same author. It seems to me that Goodkind wanted to move on from this world and write those American city thrillers. When those didn’t work out so well, he went back to what put lots of money in the bank. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like he had much of a story to tell or the interest in creating one; knowing that fans would go out in droves to buy anything with the SoT characters’ names in it. :P I have no problem at all with authors making money. Authors SHOULD make money! But they should make it for writing good stories, not just to exploit their most popular characters from previously good stories.

Perhaps it will improve in the next book. It is my guess that there is probably one book worth of story stretched out for maximum financial gain. It seems a lot to hope for that there will be the kind of deep, sometimes beautiful characterization that we had in the early books in the series, though. :/

That is about it for now. I'm going to a Celtic fiddle concert on Friday in Plymouth, then the Moodies on the 12th and Ed on the 17th, and an assortment of others after that. My next convention is Faeriecon in Baltimore. I leave November 3rd. I'm rereading the best of the Sword of Truth series and may finally read Naked Empire (The only one I never read.) just for completeness' sake. LRK's Pirate King comes out next week and Blake Charlton's Spellbound after that... I can't wait for those two!
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Nathan 3
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Date:September 1st, 2011 11:49 am (UTC)
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oof! that is a lot! good to see you back by the way. [hugs}
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Date:September 2nd, 2011 07:48 am (UTC)
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Thanks! It's nice to be back. :) Have YOU read any of the Dresden Files books? *Vows to buy everyone I know a gift pack of Dresden books for the holidays*
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Date:September 2nd, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC)
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I'd be willing to read them, if you want to buy them for me! Of course, I have sooooo many books right now. So, why do I keep bringing more home? LOL

You have been very busy with your reading, though. Very impressive! And, yes, good to see you back here!

Have fun at the concert tonight! I'm sure I'd enjoy that one.
Date:November 2nd, 2011 03:54 am (UTC)
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Very enlightening and beneficial to someone whose been out of the circuit for a long time.