At this point, sometimes I wonder why I write reviews of Brandon Sanderson's books. I've loved them all, and so it seems at times like I'm just continAt this point, sometimes I wonder why I write reviews of Brandon Sanderson's books. I've loved them all, and so it seems at times like I'm just continually beating that "this was awesome" drum. But you know what? I like drums, and when you find an awesome one, why *wouldn't* you want to keep beating it?
This is Brandon's version of a school book, sort of on the vein of Harry Potter, but with the typical Sanderson flair for magic systems. The Rithmatist takes place in a world where certain people can cause chalk drawings to come to life. Oh yeah--and some of those drawings can eat people. There's an elaborate system of magic built around the concept, with summoning circles and geometry playing big roles. It's all a bit bewildering at first, but you soon get the hang of it, and there are plenty of illustrations to help you along the way.
So that's the setting. The main character is a boy who wishes he could be one of the people who has this magic ability--but he isn't. He studies everything he can about it, but no amount of wishing gets him closer to his dream.
And then people start dying at his school, and he's one of the people tasked to help the main investigator. I think that's enough to give you a taste of what to expect from the book. I loved the fact that it worked well as a standalone book. Yes, there's certainly lots of room for sequels, but it's fairly well self-contained. The magic system was also very clever--it reminded me of Flatland in many ways, and that's a good thing in my book. It was also interesting and refreshing to have the main character unable to do any magic. That definitely goes against the grain of the normal in YA fantasies--or any fantasies for that matter. But it worked well in this novel. It's a fast read, and one I can wholeheartedly recommend without any need to give disclaimers about content. Yay for that.
So if you haven't already checked it out, might I point you in this book's direction? Have you already read it? I'd love to hear what you thought....more
I don't read as many books at the moment as I'd like to. It's more than I used to before I got my Kindle PaperWhite, but it's still not as many as I'dI don't read as many books at the moment as I'd like to. It's more than I used to before I got my Kindle PaperWhite, but it's still not as many as I'd prefer. (How many books? I'm right around 2-3 a month at the moment. I'd like to be at 1 a week or so.) In any case, I try to make the books I *do* read "count." I don't want to blow my reading time on something I won't enjoy. Thus, I will often put a book down if I'm not loving it, and I rarely get the second book of a series. I'm always on the hunt for something that will wow me. Something I'll want to lose sleep over. And the sad truth is that more often than not, I'm disappointed. It's one of the reasons I don't write many book reviews--I try to only review the ones I really love. (Movies are more disposable for me. A 2 hour time commitment is so much less than 20 hours or however long it takes me to read a book. I can watch 20+ movies a month easily. Since I'm not a filmmaker, I don't really feel any need to pull punches when I'm reviewing movies. But as an author, I'm never sure when the person who I'm asking for help (or a cover blurb) will turn out to be someone who I trashed in a review a year or two ago. Better to bite my tongue, methinks.) This is just a long way of leading up to one fact: as soon as I finished The Black Prism, I bought the sequel and kept reading. It was that good of a book. Huzzah! What makes it shine? First and foremost for me was the magic system. The book is epic fantasy, and the magic is color-based. Basically, magic users can tap into colors to do different things. Create objects. Change their bodies. Do cool things. It was such a nice shift from the typical magic you might encounter--fire or ice pellets. Wizards with pointy hats. It reminded me very much of Brandon Sanderson's magic systems, and that's a big plus in my book. But it's not all just about the magic. The book follows several viewpoint characters throughout the course of the novel. The characters are distinct and engaging, and the plot moves quickly and in unexpected directions. Weeks (the author) isn't afraid to break away from the mold and do things that haven't been done before. What's the plot? The book jacket does a fine job encapsulating it: "Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals. "But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he's willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart." That's enough to give you a taste, but the plot itself involves so much more than that. Now, there were some fairly violent scenes in the book, and a few steamy situations (nothing graphic, though), so it's not a book for the younger crowd--but it's also not a book full of George R.R. Martin shenanigans. There's a learning curve involved in the book--expect to be confused for the first while as you're reading. It's okay. It will all become clear by about a third of the way through, and then it's off to the races. If you're looking for an engaging read that'll keep you turning the pages and you're in the market for epic fantasy, look no further. Anyone else out there already read it? Let me know what you thought....more
Epic fantasy is epic. I know that should go without saying, but it's important to get that out there at the start of this review. Because Sanderson isEpic fantasy is epic. I know that should go without saying, but it's important to get that out there at the start of this review. Because Sanderson isn't mucking about with fantasy here. The Stormlight Archive is epic at its most epic-ness. If you're not in for the whole shebang, then this isn't up your alley. What's the whole shebang? An entirely different world that doesn't just need a map to make sense of--it needs an almanac. Something to tell what all the animals and plants do, what the nations are and how their government each runs. Lucky for us, Sanderson's recruited a team of artists to help him present his vision, but the fact remains: if all of these things sound daunting and uninteresting to you, then move along please.
Because they sound awesome to me.
I've always loved epic fantasy, from the days when I'd go into a public library and go looking for the thickest books I could find that didn't start with the word Webster's in the title. I love getting into a new world and seeing how it all works together. I love learning new names and checking family histories and wondering about connections and possible theories for why characters might be doing certain things.
Words of Radiance is very much at the head of that movement. A continual push by authors to make their worlds more complex. More intricate. More involved.
I loved the first book (Way of KIngs), though I wondered how the series would work as a whole. I knew from interviews with Brandon that he planned each to have its own flair. Would that affect what I thought of the later books? Would he be able to match the awesome he brought to the table in the first?
I'm so relieved to be able to say yes on all counts.
Words of Radiance is more Shallan's book than Kaladin's, mainly because it fills in her back story and helps us understand where she's coming from. I could try to sum up what's happening in these books, but anytime you take epic and reduce it to a paragraph, it sounds contrived and uninteresting. Just know that this book picks up right where the last one left off, continuing on the story of the struggle of a nation against a mysterious upcoming threat to the world. There's assassins, intrigue, magic, battles, and plenty of elaborate action scenes.
I've read some critiques that complained the book bogged down in the middle some. That it dwelled in some of the details too much. To me, people who make that complaint don't fully understand that epic fantasy is what it is *because* of the way it dwells on those details. But perhaps that's just me.
In any case, if you're looking for an excellent, in-depth read that will take a good chunk of your life and attention for the next week or two (at least), then look no further. My only gripe is that I can't read the next part right now. Hopefully the next book comes faster than this one, now that Sanderson has the Wheel of Time out of his system.
Basically a Dresden Files book but with a tweaked magic system. A fun read which I enjoyed, although I'm not sure I'll seek out the second. Strong voiBasically a Dresden Files book but with a tweaked magic system. A fun read which I enjoyed, although I'm not sure I'll seek out the second. Strong voice from the narrator, but I believe I'm beginning to be Urban Fantasy-ed out....more
I'll admit it: I've been a Drizzt fan for decades. This latest outing was very non-Drizzt centric, but it was a fun read nonetheless. Basically a wayI'll admit it: I've been a Drizzt fan for decades. This latest outing was very non-Drizzt centric, but it was a fun read nonetheless. Basically a way to reset the series back to the original characters we used to know and love. A kind of non-existent climax, which was disappointing....more
A much stronger showing than the second book, even if it's still a tad less strong than the fantastic first. This one tries to get more political intrA much stronger showing than the second book, even if it's still a tad less strong than the fantastic first. This one tries to get more political intrigue-y, and it succeeds in some ways, but fails in others. Still a great read--quick paced and lots of fun....more
100 pages into this book, I thought to myself, "Wow. This guy reminds me of Stephen King so much." It was mainly for the ability to create compelling100 pages into this book, I thought to myself, "Wow. This guy reminds me of Stephen King so much." It was mainly for the ability to create compelling characters and then let those characters be themselves--to get me involved in the story as quickly as possible, and then to let that story unfold naturally. And a bit of googling later, and lo and behold, it's Stephen King's son!
I read the book in a day, and I enjoyed it from start to finish. Creepy action and setting. More horror than what I usually read, but a lot of fun nonetheless. Enough that I went and started reading another Joe Hill book right after finishing this one. I can't remember the last time I liked a new author that much.
Will you like it? That depends on your taste, of course. The setting is fairly simple: a supernatural serial killer goes up against a supernatural kid. Psyches are warped, people are killed, and stakes are raised. The book managed to be both fairly well-grounded in reality and yet still have an imaginary killing place called Christmasland be the scene of plenty of action. How often can you say that about a book?
Some graphic violence and language, so watch out for that if that's something you prefer to avoid. Hill is definitely an author I'll be reading more of....more
It's a sign of how well my new Kindle Paperwhite is working out for me that I've already finished a lengthy fantasy on the thing. I loved The Lies ofIt's a sign of how well my new Kindle Paperwhite is working out for me that I've already finished a lengthy fantasy on the thing. I loved The Lies of Locke Lamora, and I've been looking forward to the sequel, so I decided to use the excuse of a new Kindle to try it out with a good book. (Well, I assumed it would be a good book--thankfully, I was not disappointed.)
Like the first, it's a heist book at its heart. Locke and Jean have left their home city of Camorr and gone on to look for fresh meat in other cities. They pick another major city and set about trying to figure out how to bilk as much money from its elite as possible. As with most heist books, knowing more about the novel is actually a bad thing. You want to be surprised.
How did this one stack up against the first? Fairly well. The characters are well drawn and compelling, and the writing's top rate. Where it fell short was in the plot. Bluntly put, it was just too scattered. There are casinos and taverns and pirate ships and everything in between. I felt like it lacked focus. Another complaint I had was the way the book was put together--it keeps zig zagging between flash backs, and it all felt a tad too haphazard to me. (Plus, the book starts with kind of a cheap prologue. I dislike gimmicks, and this one felt very gimmicky to me--as if Lynch didn't have confidence in the rest of his story to keep our interest. Maybe it's just me.)
In a different book, I probably still would have been blown away by the writing and characters. In a followup to a piece of awesome like The Lies of Locke Lamora? I couldn't help feel somewhat disappointed. Again--it's a solid book, and I'm glad I read it. I just wish . . . it had tried less and done it better. I think it was overly ambitious. (Easy to see how that would happen, working on a followup to such a great book.)
In the end, I think it's more of a 3.5 out of 5 stars, but in a situation like that, I always give the author the benefit of rounding up.
(Also note that Lynch's writing--while not overly violent or sexualized--does have a fair bit of language, so it's not for everyone.)...more
I've been making a more concerted effort to read more books--or listen to more, as the case may be. Up today is another audiobook I listened to: the fI've been making a more concerted effort to read more books--or listen to more, as the case may be. Up today is another audiobook I listened to: the fourth Tiffany Aching book by Terry Pratchett. I'm a big Pratchett fan, and I loved the Wee Free Men--the first one in this series. For those of you who don't know, it stars a young (16 year-old) witch and a group of stealing, fighting, Scottish Smurfs (more or less). Like most of Pratchett's work, it mixes humor and philosophy for an experience that's fairly unique to Pratchett.
How did this one stand up against the others?
The plot is fairly straightforward. (Something I'm noticing a lot in different books. So often as an author I feel like I need to make a plot twisty turny for the book to be captivating. I think a lot more of success turns out to rest in solid execution. It's like a great gymnastics routine. Awesome acrobatics are only good if you can nail them consistently.) Anyway--Tiffany is finally becoming "the witch" for her area, earning respect (and a bit of fear) in the region she grew up in. But some presence is turning people against witches--basically making everyone start wanting to have a good pyre and a burning witch in the middle of it. It's up to Tiffany to figure out what's wrong and to solve the problem--with a little help from the Feegles (those Smurf guys I mentioned earlier.)
It's a fun book, though it veers a bit too heavily on the philosophy side of things for my taste (something I've noticed happening more and more in Pratchett's later works). Some of this might have to do with the difference of listening to a book vs. reading it. Again, it's not that the philosophy is bad--it's just that I personally like my books to be a bit zippier.
In any case, a very solid outing. If you're looking for a series that's good clean fun, you really ought to check this one out. (Start at the beginning.) If you've already read the first few, this one's definitely worth your while. It's Terry Pratchett--need I say more?...more
I'm making a renewed effort to read more books lately, and I have to say it's a goal that's made much simpler when the books are as quick to read as BI'm making a renewed effort to read more books lately, and I have to say it's a goal that's made much simpler when the books are as quick to read as Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart was for me.
Do you ever have a book that you read, and you're just sick with envy over? Maybe not, I suppose--unless you're an author yourself. Full disclaimer if you didn't already know it--Brandon's a good friend of mine, and there are times when I just want to throttle the guy for the simple reason that he has far too many awesome ideas.
Read the prologue of Steelheart, and tell me that's not just an awesome idea. The whole of the book is summed up there all at once. You know the conflict, you're deeply invested, you understand the character, the magic system. It's all there in a few short pages.
That might seem like an easy feat to pull off. It's not. Trust me on this one. I dream that one day I'll be as good at that as Brandon is.
Steelheart is a superhero book. Well, more of a supervillain book. The concept is simple. An event happens that grants random people in the world superpowers. But instead of having them become heroic (or at least some of them), they all become evil. They overthrow governments and rule society.
And one group of normal humans decides to fight back.
It's a heist book at heart, and so that appeals to me right away. Really, it felt like a YA version of Mistborn--so if that sounds like it's up your alley, you should definitely check this one out. I won't go too much more into plot details, as this isn't the sort of book you want to have spoiled. Know that it's a "clean" book. Hardly any language, no sex, and while there are some violent scenes, it doesn't dwell on them.
If I had any complaints or critiques, it would be that there's a bit of a slow patch around 2/3rds into the book, where the action lulls in favor of some bigger concept philosophy stuff. I appreciated it, but it felt out of place to me.
Other than that, though, the book was a rollicking romp from start to finish. You owe it to yourself to pick up a copy today....more
I don't get as much time to read books these days as I'd like to, so I've widened my available reading time by opening up to the wonderful world of auI don't get as much time to read books these days as I'd like to, so I've widened my available reading time by opening up to the wonderful world of audiobooks. I found myself with a long drive ahead of me and nothing picked out to read, so I went to my library and checked out a digital audiobook. Time was short, so I didn't have much of a chance to research what I wanted to read.
Which is a long way of saying I wasn't quite sure of what I was going to get when I picked out Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN BOYS.
Going into it, details were sketchy. I knew it had a 4.05 on Goodreads--with over 22,000 reviews--so clearly it had some appeal. I knew it was about a girl and some boys, and that's all I really had time for before I downloaded it and started listening.
I didn't love this book, but if I'd started a relationship with it, I would have given it the "It's not you, it's me" talk. Because I'm not the target audience, I soon discovered. This is very much a teen fantasy romance novel, and . . . I'm far from a teen fantasy romance reader. Despite this fact, I still finished the book, mainly because there were some fantasy elements in it that were strong enough to get me through the lovey-dovey stuff.
Blue Sargent comes from a family of psychics, and for as long as she can remember, her family has been telling her that if she ever kisses her true love, he'll die. Interesting premise. Add to that a plot of a rich teenage boy hunting the grave of a long lost Welch king, some cool fantasy world building, and well-drawn characters, and you've got a recipe for success on your hands.
I'm a self-professed Stephen King fan. Not that I've read everything the man's written, but I've read quite a bit of it. And if you've been followingI'm a self-professed Stephen King fan. Not that I've read everything the man's written, but I've read quite a bit of it. And if you've been following my blog, you know that I've been reading IT for the last week or two. As is always the case with King, the beginning just grabs you by the throat and won't. let. go. It's the tale of the town of Derry, which is haunted or inhabited by a creature of evil. A creature that kills kids, and which adults can't see. Horror ensues.
When I watched the miniseries way back in the day, I remember being let down by the ending of it. Things were great (and very scary for my pre-16 year-old self), and then they just got ridiculous. Not that I remembered exactly what I didn't like, but that was an observation that had stuck with me for the twenty years it's been since I watched the show. When it came time for me to read the book, I wondered if the same weakness would be present.
For the first 2/3 of the book, things were fantastic. Great characters. Intriguing plot lines. Half of the novel takes place when the main characters are 11 years old. The other half is 25 years later or so. Honestly, I was really impressed by the kid sections. They felt true to life. I loved the conflicts and how they were presented. The adult sections were solid, too--but as a YA fan, it was the kid sections that really spoke to me.
I also liked the way King would bounce back and forth in time, and how the different time periods informed each other. Really, it's a remarkable book, and the fact that he's able to sustain it for so long is very impressive.
But just when I was going to give it the 5 star Bryce Stamp of Approval . . . the ending happened. Maybe this is just me, but something I've noticed with King over the years is that the man can just nail a beginning and a middle in his sleep. It's like he does them effortlessly.
Endings? Not so much.
The Dark Tower series. The Stand. 11/22/63. Under the Dome. If there's a part of a King novel that's going to let you down, it's almost always the end. I don't want to spoil this book for you, but you get to the end, and then it gets wacky. Really wacky. It's like this taut thriller suddenly turns into a metaphorical piece of abstract art. It felt to me like it just got bogged down in symbolism, and not in a good way. Which is really disappointing. You've got 4/5 of a 5 star book. I has a sad.
That said, it's still worth your time. The ending doesn't invalidate the rest of the novel. In fact, if you've read it already, I'd love to get your take on it. Was it just me who thought it was craziness? Please share . . ....more
I don't know how I missed out on this book when it came out a few years ago. I love me a good heist plot, and an epic fantasy setting to boot? What'sI don't know how I missed out on this book when it came out a few years ago. I love me a good heist plot, and an epic fantasy setting to boot? What's not to like? (Warning for some: the language. It's R-rated, which is probably enough to cross the book off some people's lists.)
Maybe some of what turned me off was the title, as stupid as that might sound. It made me think it was some romantic tale about a place in Scotland. Yes, that's how my mind works. In actuality, Locke Lamora is the main character's name. He lies a lot. 'Nuff said.
As with most heist plots, it's really best if you don't know much going into the plot. There are twists, there are turns, there are fun characters, there are bad guys. What made this book stand out particularly for me? For one thing, the world it takes place in is very fully-realized. Setting details were just fantastic, and it had a sense of history throughout the novel that helped give it that extra oomph. The bulk of the novel takes place in a city with a rather elaborate underworld. The city itself was built by beings long since forgotten, and humanity is basically just using the buildings that existed when they found them. So you've got old wonders that are now used for palaces or dens of infamy. If Goodreads let me use half stars, I'd probably give this one 4.5 instead of 5 stars. Some of the magic system seemed a tad too unexplained and nebulous, but I'm willing to overlook that. (It's not like my own magic systems are terribly concrete, after all).
Lynch does a fantastic job establishing the weight of actions in this world. Consequences are very real, and this book is far from a caper, if you get my drift. It did take a little bit for me to be fully engrossed in the work, but once I was, it was a wild ride to the finish.
Anyone else out there already have a chance to check it out?...more