23 May, 2019

Review - The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson #1) by Rick Riordan

28187So my 8 year old watched the movie at a friend's Percy Jackson party and immediately devoured all 5 books in the series. Literally it was faster than I've ever read anything. Yes, he did make fun of me for taking 6 months to read a Wheel of Time book, but in my defense that was book 8 in the series...

Sharing the Lightning Thief with my son is everything I've been dreaming about for the past 8 years, but with the fear of accidentally getting too excitable about this and killing any desire he would ever have to be a reader like his dad. I've bided my time and slowly given him other recommendations. At least he's felt the passion behind really being into a book series so I don't think I can take that away from him.

That doesn't mean that I still won't be careful with overly recommending things to him.

Of course his first instinct, like any booklover (especially those on this site will understand) after loving a series he immediately recommended that I should read it!

Well, I can't very well say no when I expect him to read my 4 bookshelves worth of books stacked 2 or three deep now can I?

And it's really a fun series. Well, at least book one is. I had a blast reading it though my opinion may be a bit colored by the fact that it was even more fun to geek out with my oldest about it!

There were definitely a healthy amount of contrivances and eye rolls had by me. This IS YA amiright? But overall, it's a great world Riordan's created and it's so fast-paced you not only get into it extremely quickly, it's easy to overlook some of the deus ex machina. I've seen a glimpse into why so many of my son's friends are reading this stuff.

4 out of 5 stars (highly recommended, especially to bond with your kid)

22 May, 2019

Review - Memories of Ice (Malazan Book of the Fallen #3) by Steven Erikson

Memories of Ice (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 3)

This is one of those books I leave and I'm just emotionally drained and devastated, yet I consider this one of the best books ever to be written. On reread, it's even more impactful because I actually understand what's going on. It's actually quite funny thinking how much I had no clue about. There are so many instances on the reread that you know exactly who that vaguely-mentioned character is now that you've had as much experience with Erikson as I now have. *brushes off shoulder*

There's always talk about the books that are shades of gray when it comes to right and wrong and Malazan is at the top of that list for me. It's so human, so real. For instance, you have Anomander Rake, leader of the Tiste Andii, super-powered ascendant who's been fighting against the Malazans for years along side one of his only real friends, Caladan Brood. Yet, he acknowledges the Malazans have actually been good for the cities they've conquered. Former dungheeps have become thriving metropolitan areas. 

How much more could we use people who can acknowledge their own failings. There's another good example I have quote below with Lanas Tog.

There's a great quote I saw on r/fantasy on reddit:

"the most unrealistic part of fantasy books is when 18-year-old boys spend five books insisting they're not the chosen one instead of immediately saying "yeah that sounds right." Johnny McNulty

Kallor is one of these.

Holy cow, Memories of Ice is so good, but spoilers from here on out:

I think I realized why I like Gardens of the Moon so much while I was reading MoI and it's because it has so much Whiskeyjack and there are only two books that really feature him to any degree more than a passing mention, this and GotM. And you really get to know what a great guy he is in this book. He's a powerful leader, amazing swordsman apparently (could spar with Dassem Ultor and give him a hard time for a while), compassionate with Silverfox and the "little guy," and clearly a great lover too (eh Korlat...). 

Then there's Gruntle, the last person who would ever want to have anything to do with the gods getting "appointed" mortal sword. Oh and you really get to know Ganoes Paran and Quick Ben, and just the whole Bridgeburner thing. There's so much greatness to this book and a lot of that is probably because of the sheer depravity of the Pannion Domin; the Tenescowri.

And don't get me started on Itkovian and the Grey Swords. Tragedy after tragedy in this book.

Now, to add to this ridiculously jumbled review, it's quote time, from my own book and some cut and pasted from this site:

Lanas Tog (talking about Onos T'oolan's disagreement with going through the ritual):
"Hate him? No. Of course I disagreed. We all did, and so he acquiesced. It is a common belief."
Lady Envy waited, then crossed her arms and asked, "What is?"
"That truth is proved by weight of numbers. That what the many believe to be right, must be so. When I see Onos T'oolan once more, I will tell him: he was the one who was right."

“Kallor shrugged. '[...] I have walked this land when the T'lan Imass were but children. I have commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I have spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?'

'Yes,' [said Caladan Brood.] 'You never learn.” 
― Steven Erikson, Memories of Ice

“I'll not deny I am impressed by your mastery of six warrens, Quick Ben. In retrospect, you should have held back on at least half of what you command." The man made to rise.
"But, Bauchelain," the wizard replied, "I did.” 
― Steven Erikson, Memories of Ice

5 out of 5 Stars (First in, last out)

Article: Why You Should Read Malazan

21 May, 2019

Review (really just musings) - Deadhouse Gates (Malazan Book of the Fallen #2) by Steven Erikson


I missed so much my first time through Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson. So. Much. I always liked this book very much but it was never my favorite like I know it is for a lot of people. With my experienced Malazan eyes, this has jumped right to the top. 

One of my issues with Deadhouse, I've come to realize, is that the desert setting really got to me. The writing so clearly puts you in the desert, under these terrible conditions, that I think I was physically affected when I first read through this.
Coltaine, Mappo and Icarium, Iskaral Pust, Fiddler and Kalum, Heboric and Felisin (and the whole thing with Baudin made so much more sense!), Duiker and the chain of dogs. This was so good and so much planted for the rest of the series. 

Take Mappo and Icarium alone. This is why I love fantasy. It lets you explore philosophy like regular life doesn’t allow. What do you do when your best friend, who’s as kind as can be, commits (and has the ability to commit) genocide when he hulks out of his mind? Keep him confused? Deliver him to a higher power that will imprison him for his entire immortal life? If that power can even hold him...

Brilliant, and I haven’t even gotten to the tragedies that are rife in this book. I think they were too hard to take on my first read so it made this a book that was good but not the best but now to see how Erikson managed this magic without the visceral initial shock was pure magic. 

This series is simply the best out there. Yep I said it. 

5 out of 5 Stars

20 May, 2019

Review - Bigfoot, I Not Dead by Graham Roumieu


Bigfoot: I Not Dead

This book is not for the faint of heart. Bigfoot is not above smashing some heads in.

Told in a set of two page spread memoirs with no, that I could tell, unifying theme other than that of Bigfoot's characterization. It's hilarious and as often as not it's in a cringe-worthy, un-PC way. 

Really, this is the only way to describe it, with quotes from the book:

“How many times I have explain? I pee over there, over there and over there. Technically make it Bigfoot territory.” 

“Q: Bigfoot, when my Guinea pig wake up? Parents say he sleeping in box in ground in bakc garden. 
Suzie, Ag 9, Toronto, Canada

A: Actually Suzie Guinea pig dead and Bigfoot already dig up and eat. If want back Bigfoot probably poop out bones and fur ni day or so. Very delicious, raise him right, he taste like love.” 
― Graham Roumieu, Bigfoot: I Not Dead

As you can see, it's pretty grade-school humor so, if you're not above poop and pee jokes, you might like it.

3.5 out of 5 Stars (recommended)

17 May, 2019

Review - Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

12184193I've been dying to read this book for years, but due to my terrible inability to read books not in audio format lately, this one's been on the backlog ... until I recently got Audible and find out Snow Crash is an "only from Audible" exclusive.

This book has so much going for it and that's why it's been something at the top of my list. 

Ninja swords, check. 
Hackers, check.
Future dystopia, check.
pizza delivery, weird, but check.
Virtual reality, check.
Ninja fighting, check.

This also screams 80's, which is when it was written, but I was fully on board with all of the above. I also recently watched Kung Fury and Hasselhoff's accompanying music video, True Survivor, so I was extra pumped for this read.

The beginning pulls you right in. Grabbed me right away and that was so exciting. I was fully engaged at this point. Pizza delivery, 30 minutes or less or the mob boss destroys you. Then Hiro (Hiro Protagonist, which is still a bit too on the nose for what even I know is satire), picks up a pizza that's already 20 minutes into the time period. He meets Y.T. who's also a very cool character and of course, hot as hell.

Wow, so exciting. And that's not the only time. There are a number of great, exciting scenes. If only they could have held any kind of decent pacing, but sadly they started to become the rare gems amid a lot of meh.

I enjoyed the point Stephenson is trying to make that people can essentially be coded by their own languages. I'm not sure I fully agree with it outside the novel, but it absolutely works here. The problem in this books is that the characters are 80's cool, but lack any kind of substance. They're essentially placeholders for an 80's wetdream, but they have no development and definitely no growth throughout the novel.

Then there are the info dumps. First, I guarantee there are a million different ways this information could have been peppered throughout the narrative to keep the flow moving (and cut down as well!), but they are so halting and long and, honestly, largely useless for understanding the concepts, that it really makes this a torture at times ... even on audio.

Speaking of audio, since this is literally the only audio version available (with exceptions I'm sure), it's also very 80's, but this time in the worst possible way. The narrator himself, Jonathan Davis, does a good job. I'm not commenting on him. It's the quality of the sound and the production added in that killed me. They use that 80's, I don't know how else to call it, swipe that attempts to make everything sound futuristic, but only takes you out of the story and reminds you you're listening to some very dated technology.

Not only do they have the futuristic swipe, but they added some mumbling, speaking in tongues, to enhance the story I'm sure, which sounds vaguely racist and ... pulls you out of the story.

I am pretty disappointed overall. This had so much going for it and it's considered a classic, but it's so uneven and the characters are so poorly drawn that I can't say I cared all that much for them. I did worry it might sound a bit dated, but overall I don't think it was too dated for me (other than the actual technology used to produce it). 

2.5 out of 5 Stars (meh)

16 May, 2019

Review - Fire & Blood by George R.R. Martin

39943621As the old saying goes: "Show, don't tell...until you're rich and famous and everyone will buy up any old crap you throw out there when you should be writing some other book everyone has been waiting for years to read." 

I was really excited to get a copy of Dangerous Women, the anthology edited by GRRM and the late, great Gardner Dozois, and that excitement was mostly due to GRRM's own contribution, The Princess and the Queen. Being the fanboy I am, I skipped all the other stories and dove right into Martin's novella. Only 26 pages of pure exposition later and I couldn't go further. I was bored out of my mind.

That novella makes up a healthy amount of the latter half of Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History) (A Song of Ice and Fire). I had a feeling it might, so I threw and Audible credit at this, knowing that there was little likelihood of me getting through this with my eyeballs doing the reading.

I wouldn't have made it through without Audible, that's for sure. It's just so boring.

So I'm a huge fan, I've been around since the Grrrumblers were making a stink about A Dance with Dragons coming out and I even agreed with Neal Gaiman at the time who stated the famous, "George RR Martin is not your bitch" phrase. I'm finding that less my opinion now and it's switched to Brian McClellan's well-argued point that we fans are owed something.

It's not this though.

It's boring. And that's not to say it's not interesting at times. I think a true fan has got to read this. There's great history and I was even entertained from time to time, but if you thought there was a large cast of characters before, this book puts them all to shame....and they're all named something along the line of Aemon, Aegon, Daemon, etc. It's hard to keep track, but then I realized, it doesn't even matter all that much (that could also be from the audio reading, it's much harder to keep straight).

And this gets me to my initial point. It's all tell, no show. It's written from the perspective of a maester so it's literally a history book. We don't get to know characters (maybe that stinker Mushroom a bit), just deeds and events. Then more events and some deeds. No stakes, no beautiful writing we've come to love from GRRM. And then it's just depressing too, which was expected I guess, but let's just say there's lots of death, backstabbing, and incest. None of which is made more entertaining than a history book would.

2.5 out of 5 Stars (recommended for die-hards)

[BLOG UPDATE: Not sure if I'm officially back, just had the passing fancy to post a couple reviews in the next little bit. I've been relatively active on Goodreads with reviews here and there if you want to find me. I stopped taking review copies and, to be honest, it's been the greatest thing. It's very freeing.]