The much-anticipated sequel to last year’s debut hit Night of Redemption, Shadowy Stillness picks up with Meri Halsin (sister to protagonist Aidan fro...moreThe much-anticipated sequel to last year’s debut hit Night of Redemption, Shadowy Stillness picks up with Meri Halsin (sister to protagonist Aidan from the first book) as she is beset by a family curse dating back all the way to Roman times. The Halsin Legacy threatens to end Meri’s life prematurely if she can’t get to the bottom of things, and track down the mysterious slayer plaguing her family since antiquity.(less)
I’ve never read Neal Stephenson, but I’m given to understand from the grandeur of the esteem in which he’s held, that he’s better than this. Most of t...moreI’ve never read Neal Stephenson, but I’m given to understand from the grandeur of the esteem in which he’s held, that he’s better than this. Most of the reviews I’ve read (good and bad) seem to agree Stephenson’s role in this was probably minimal.
To be fair, I went into this with high expectations, which is always a recipe for disaster with me, but I didn’t expect it to be as thoroughly bland as it is. Not even the subject of the Mongols could save it for me. The worst part is that actually own the second in the series, which now I won’t be reading. I couldn’t even finish Book One.
In any case, this hasn’t dissuaded me from exploring Stephenson further, but I did have to abandon this book.(less)
A presentation grand in scope by lacking in many, many details. I know enough about Genghis Khan and Tamerlane (and even the Xiongnu) to kno...more3.5 stars
A presentation grand in scope by lacking in many, many details. I know enough about Genghis Khan and Tamerlane (and even the Xiongnu) to know he skimmed a great deal - though, it was interesting learning about the War of the Heavenly Horses, brief as that was.(less)
I really want to prime myself for a read of R3K, which I'm going into knowing the reputation of it being one of the most epic pieces of literature eve...moreI really want to prime myself for a read of R3K, which I'm going into knowing the reputation of it being one of the most epic pieces of literature ever written, which is why I went to this Jr Comics recreation. A primer before I attempt my first read.
But alas, this is not the best of graphic novels. It is written for a teen audience, and it quite readily shows. the chapter synopses work nicely, but the dialogue itself is too stilted, too forced. There's no character development, a lot of skimming of story without actually showing any meat of the story, and, the final straw, I was dreading picking this thing up every time I did.
This graphic novel’s come under some scrutiny for poor, expositional dialogue, for which I can’t fault it. After coming off of Brian K...moreRating: 5.6 / 10
This graphic novel’s come under some scrutiny for poor, expositional dialogue, for which I can’t fault it. After coming off of Brian K. Vaughan’s “Saga”, this by comparison is a second rate comic. There is bad prose throughout, a poor pacing to the story, and ultimately Sven (and his struggle) isn’t that compelling.
But alas, this is a Viking-themed comic, and I have a soft-spot for the Vikings, so I did rather like this. I’m given to understand that the following six volumes of this series serve more as vignettes into the Viking Age rather than following Sven throughout, which is both a blessing and a curse – a blessing in that we’re sure to get everything you want from the Vikings (raids, Icelandic settlement, war bands...) but Sven’s story was abridged from what it should have been to this jumble of events.
I’d say the biggest sin here is the haphazard pacing. It’s all over the place, and for the most part, it’s too quick. If Wood had taken the time to spread things out, slow things down a little bit and introduce some of these plot elements a little more gently, this novel could have been great.
At the end of the day, however, this is a rogue antihero Viking plotting revenge with plenty of gore and a sexy nubile blonde warming Sven’s bed, so I’m not complaining. I didn’t so much like the ending, but I’ll probably track down Volume 2, and probably continue with the series right through its finale.(less)
This was an okay book. There's few books available on Tamerlane, and this one's a tour-de-force that covers everything, right down to the palatial gar...moreThis was an okay book. There's few books available on Tamerlane, and this one's a tour-de-force that covers everything, right down to the palatial gardens so grand that a prized horse managed to be lost in them for 6 months. I was overall not thoroughly impressed with some of the detail Marozzi went into, the long tangents where he's arguing with Uzbeks or the Taliban, the history of Marlowe, but I suppose some readers would greatly like this information and it's a good book if you know how to needle your way through it.
In regards to the travel writing aspect, for which this book has had some criticism, I'd say some of it was interesting, but ultimately he's writing from a very vacant POV; in other words, we have very little image of who this author is as a "character" in this book. He deliberately keeps himself stale, almost keeps himself out of the novel. By contrast, one of my favourite non-fiction books, "Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection" by John Man, does the exact opposite, and Man thoroughly invests himself in the travel writing aspect.
I would say this is a good book. Perhaps not great, but decent.(less)
Brilliant. 48 lectures from The Teaching Company on the complete history of ancient Egypt starting with prehistory and ending with the legacy of Cleop...moreBrilliant. 48 lectures from The Teaching Company on the complete history of ancient Egypt starting with prehistory and ending with the legacy of Cleopatra. Bob Brier, who is most clearly passionate about what he teaches, recounts this 3000 years’ worth of history with vim, the mere tone of his voice keeping you interested.
Just prior to starting this lecture series, I learned a little something about Akhenaten, the man that first came to the idea of monotheism, which I was quite interested in. That whole period around the change of the dynasty was fascinating and covered quite thoroughly in this series (King Tut, the rise of Ramesses the Great, the Exodus all in this span). There’s also a lot of interesting stuff about Sneferu and Khufu and the great pyramids, most of which I knew already, but getting it all in perspective was great.
If there was two things I wish Prof. Brier had have covered which he didn’t really, it’s these: 1) the trend of Egyptian women to shave their heads smooth enough to gleam like a bronze mirror, and 2) the incest between a pharaoh and his sisters. Brier touches on each of these in very minor ways, but hardly enough for a complete cornucopia of all things Egypt.
I’m quite enjoying these Great Courses, and recommend them to everyone. Next up, a history of the steppe, or maybe the Vikings.(less)
I’ve listened to a few of these Great Courses now, and I’m enjoying them more and more actually. They’re great introductions to vast and complex topic...moreI’ve listened to a few of these Great Courses now, and I’m enjoying them more and more actually. They’re great introductions to vast and complex topics. This one deals with Eastern philosophy, predominantly centred around India, China and Japan, with the odd digression into Korea, Tibet or the Middle East.
These Great Courses are the entire syllabus of a given professor, presented as a series of lectures as though in the lecture hall itself. They’re between thirty and forty-five minutes a piece, and I progress through them with ease. I find it very helpful having it so rigidly structured – you know what the lecture’s about and how long it’ll last for. I started with these as research, actually, and went through a few courses by Prof. Robert Solomon on elements of philosophy. I’ll admit I probably missed a lot in those (I didn’t review them because they were kind of meh, I thought at the time) but now that I see the value of these courses, I almost want to peruse their entire catalogue. I’ll definitely continue with these courses; I’ve already got the next one set up: “The History of Ancient Egypt” with Prof. Bob Brier (this one strictly for fun).
This one starts right at the beginning with the Indian Vedas and moves through the Buddha, Confucius, Laozi... all the way up to Gandhi and Sun Yet-Sen. I mainly wanted this course for a little insight into Daoism. I already knew a fair amount about Buddhism and Confucianism, but Daoism was a mystery to me. Prof. Hardy covered the works of Laozi, and I learned some interesting stuff about the Chinese sage and his philosophy, though I feel like the Buddha got more attention. That works out well enough – I’m writing a novel with a Buddhist character and need to wrap my mind around some tough concepts to actualize that character. In that regard, I like what Prof. Hardy did with Nagarjuna – who, as far as I can tell, if Buddhism’s chief thinker (save perhaps the Buddha himself) – but, as Nagarjuna’s concepts are some of the most opaque I’ve ever approached, I wish there was a little more. For example, I’m currently reading (reading reading) a book by the professor of the last course, Malcolm David Eckel, on Buddhism and a commentator and refiner of Nagarjuna’s philosophy, Bhavaviveka, who Hardy didn’t mention in this course.
Nonetheless, if you’ve got a mind like a sponge and want to learn, these courses are invaluable. The opening mission statement of The Teaching Company says something to the effect of “By listening for just an hour a day, you can finish even the longest courses in just weeks. Imagine what you could learn in the next year in some of the greatest university classes in the world.” That’s not just a gimmick. You actually do learn a lot.(less)
This book has been sitting on my list forever, and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. An impressive mystery legal thriller surroundin...moreRating: 7.3 / 10
This book has been sitting on my list forever, and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. An impressive mystery legal thriller surrounding the murder of a high school senior and the affair she was having with her middle-aged doctor.
Narrated from the point of view of Penn Cage, a former Texas prosecutor returned to his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, this is the second book in the Penn Cage sequence. I wasn’t aware of that when I first started reading, but it really doesn’t matter. It does reference the first book a few times, but the cases are entirely separate and there’s five years between the books by internal chronology. Cage is the lifelong friend of Drew Elliot, the accused, and endeavours to clear his friend’s name.
This book grabbed me right from the first and kept me rapt in ways few novels can do. I was drawn in and immersed entirely. That is, right up until about the last eighth of the novel. Without spoilers, once Jaderious Huntley makes his appearance, it takes a slightly new tack and becomes somewhat perfunctory.
Ultimately, the problem with mystery novels (the mystery genre in general), is that once you know “who done it”, it loses a big chunk of its appeal. I’m wondering if this could be a pitfall for the entire genre. For me, a big piece of a work’s appeal is its lasting memory and allure to be read again. In the two days since I finished the novel, its sterling lustre in my memory has plummeted significantly. A big chunk of its appeal was the intrigue of it, and now that’s almost entirely gone with the reveal at the end. Therefore, not only does that make this Penn Cage novel pulp, but it may make the entire genre the pulp of all pulp, with nothing more to offer than a cheap thrill. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against a cheap thrill, but they’re almost completely forgettable. Maybe I’m wrong. Only time will tell.
I “read” this as an audiobook, and this one was narrated by Dick Hill, who’s now right up there with Simon Vance and Tom Weiner as one of my favourite narrators. He deserves the awards he has for voice acting. The inflections that he adds... this man could make the Yellowpages interesting.
I definitely want more of Greg Iles, and more of the Penn Cage sequence. I enjoyed this novel, it had me gripped tightly, and I’ll be going back to “The Quiet Game” before too long. Iles has made his way onto my list alongside Lee Child and Barry Eisler.
Oh, and as an afterthought, I have to give the novel extra points for the buttlove Kate shows Drew. (less)
“Listen to the herd’s ever-louder bleating for order, equality and entertainment. Potent narcotics, frightening cults, and stupefying non-participator...more“Listen to the herd’s ever-louder bleating for order, equality and entertainment. Potent narcotics, frightening cults, and stupefying non-participatory amusements – more vapid than anyone ever thought possible – pander to the geometrically multiplying masses.” - From “Interview with a Nihilist”, in the preface section.
That portion of the preface alone made this book worth it. I can’t quote the entire thing, but it’s brilliant. The rest of the book is a collection of negative or nihilistic quotes throughout the ages. It can be perused with a waning interest. Hardly worth it, I’m tempted to say, for the price (books on nihilism tend to go out of print fairly quickly, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a copy for a $1.12 on Alibris), but then again, there’s that “Interview with a Nihilist”.(less)
“That was Sexy Alana. She’s not to be trusted. She’s obsessed with her nipples and uses the word ‘Dick’ unironically.” ... “Just to be...moreRating: 8.5 / 10
“That was Sexy Alana. She’s not to be trusted. She’s obsessed with her nipples and uses the word ‘Dick’ unironically.” ... “Just to be clear. Your exact words to me were: ‘Please shoot it in my twat.’”
Sexytimes aside, what I like most about this series (perhaps besides the weirdness throughout) is the rawness, the realness to the whole thing. The dialogue is real. Even when Hazel’s commenting on her own conception, you can get a very real sense of what she’s feeling. She’s not just an automaton expounding dialogue.
I loved the first volume, and I blew through this in a day and a half. The one criticism I would have is, at the end of one of the chapters, there’s a slight misdirection. Without spoilers, my heartstrings were tugged when The Will’s ship was attacked, and the episode ended the way it did. Turns out, what we’re led to believe happened didn’t quite happen, and it seemed a little too safe, in my opinion.
But a minor criticism. I’ve already started with Volume 3, and I know I’m going to be pissed that Volume 4 is a ways away from hitting shelves.(less)
The story begins with the birth of the narrator. The very first page is the mother, all sweaty in labour, saying “Am I shitting? It fe...moreRating: 8.5 / 10
The story begins with the birth of the narrator. The very first page is the mother, all sweaty in labour, saying “Am I shitting? It feels like I’m shitting!” followed by some grumblings from her about how her husband will never have sex with her again if he sees her shitting, “Unless you’re secretly into that. Please don’t be into that.”
Brian K. Vaughan is perhaps best known for “Y The Last Man”, a graphic novel series I haven’t read yet, but certainly will. Here, it’s deep space with a mix of magic and the paranormal added in. You’ve got two characters on opposite sides of a war that fall in love and have a child together, then have to get off the planet before either of their sides in that war track them down as AWOLs or POWs.
Robot nobility is assigned to the one end of the case (Baron Robot IV is introduced banging his wife, herself begging for it deeper) and freelancers assigned to the other end. The Will (always “The” Will) almost immediately removes himself from the assignment (with a limitless credit card) to go to a brothel planet once he discovers his ex-girlfriend is also on the case. She’s all woman from the waist up (who seems quite happy not wearing shirts, I should mention), and a spider below that.
This graphic novel is above all weird, but with just the right mix of realness. The conversations, the dialogue, it’s all very germane to the weirdness abound. For example, when the ghost of a teenaged girl, missing from the waist down (her intestines just hanging out) starts making quips about Alana being hormonal after giving birth, Alana replies with “Forgive me for not taking relationship advice from a dead teenager missing her vagina.”
I loved this graphic novel. It instantly drew me in, was a fast read and I immediately went out to pick up Volumes 2 and 3. If you like sci-fi, or simply a sexy story, go pick this up immediately.(less)