Saturday, April 28, 2012

Red Seas Under Red Skies, Week 1

So, here we are, part 1 of our Red Seas Under Red Skies Read-Along. It's been a heck of a ride so far, so if you haven't participated and want to see what all the fuss is about, feel free to browse the archives and look at past weeks' posts about The Lies of Locke Lamora and what we thought about it.

I'll keep this short, so let's move right to the questions, shall we?

1. The Sinspire. It looks like our heroes (can they really be called that?) find themselves in search of a way into an unbeatable vault. Do you think they have what it takes to make it happen?

2.  Anyone want to guess how they're going to make it happen?

3. It's a little different this time around, with us just being focused on Locke and Jean. Is anyone else missing the rest of the Bastards as much as I am?

4. I love the section where Jean starts to build a new guild of thieves. It really shows just how well trained and tough he is. Do you think the Bastards will end up training others along the way again like Bug?

5. For those of you looking for Sabetha, we still haven't spotted her yet. Anyone else chomping at the bit to see the love of Locke's life?

6. It's early on, but the Bastards are already caught up in plots that they didn't expect. How do you think their new "employer" is going to make use of them (The Archon, that is)?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tar the Wandering by Helen Sea

Publisher: Books Are Loud (2011)

Narrator: Julia Franklin

Audio length: 53 minutes

Blurb from Audio Book StoreThis is a beautiful and subtly written story told in the best traditions of an Old Norse tale. It is poetic and delicate and at the same time suspenseful and dramatic. There are dangers and discoveries, adventure and sadness as Tar follows her quest. Will the forces of good keep her safe from her enemies as she follows her destiny? Helen Sea has written the original music that flavours her sensuous storytelling in this wonderful and engaging story that will appeal to a teenage audience and listeners of all ages.

Helen Sea has given us an enchanting, insightful short story featuring a precocious girl named Tar.  She collects tears. I think it is great to have a hobby and it is probably more difficult and perhaps more interesting than collecting stamps or bookmarks. She has a feathered friend who tries to keep her out of trouble, and yet also lights the fire of a quest in Tar by finding a crystal tear. 

Tar lets her obsession of finding the owner of this tear drive her into adventure and danger. Staring down an ancient wolf, nearly turning into stone herself, only to run into a battle - she braves it all to confirm the owner of the tear. All-father One-eye makes an appearance himself, which is great. I have enjoyed the old Norse tales for years, partly because strong women are typical. Tar the Wandering does not disappoint. 

Julia Franklin performed this story beautifully, her voice rising and falling with the mystery, danger, and adventure of the story. There was also haunting music throughout, composed by the author. At first I was concerned that the music would drown out the narrator, but that was not the case in this audio production. 

Pluses: Adventure; lots of old Norse mythical beings; a tale I had not heard before; left me wanting more. 

Minuses: There is a lot that happens in this short 53 minutes, and part of me wanted the story drawn out more to give me more time with these fascinating characters.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mistborn: The Final Empire Group Read Part III

This week covered Chapters 17-24 of Mistborn: The Final Empire. This section was chalked full of so much good stuff. Grace over at Books Without Any Pictures provided this week's questions, so be sure to stop by her site to see her answers. Once again, a big thanks to Stainless Steel Droppings for putting this group read together. Check out his site to see who else is playing.  Haven't seen a map of this world yet? Check out a map of the Dominances, plus of Luthadel over at the artist Isaac Stewart's site.

1.  During the past week there's been a lot of speculation as to the quotes at the beginning of each chapter.  Now that we finally know the answer, does it change anyone's opinions of the Lord Ruler?

It has me wondering if the current Lord Ruler is the same guy who wrote the diary ~1000 years ago. The current Lord Ruler could be a figure head only, a myth perpetuated by the obligators and inquisitors, or the same body but a possessed soul. So far, we haven't seen the Lord Ruler do any amazing feats with his mystical powers. Someone might be putting on a very convincing show, like Kelsier puts on a very convincing show.

2.  What did you think of Elend's group of subversive nobles?  Do you think that Kelsier is right to dismiss people who could be potential allies, or is this another case of his anti-nobility biases showing?

Kelsier needs all the allies he can get; however I have to wonder if he plans to kill all nobles in some bloody French-like revolution. Of course, it appears that all Allomancers have some noble blood within 5 generations. So who is Kelsier's progenitor?

3.  What's your favorite part of the book so far?

Vin trying to hold her temper and curiosity in check - with Sazed (the blunder finding out he is a eunuch), with the nobles (a mouthy with Lady Shan), and Soothing Marsh to pry more info out of him. She keeps bouncing back and forth between the old Vin (who watches everything and says little) to the new Vin (who is interactive, but doesn't have a whole lot of practical social experience).

4.  Now that Kelsier's plan has hit some major stumbling blocks, what do you think will happen next?  Do you think he can still succeed in defeating the Lord Ruler?

We still have over 2 books to go in this trilogy. I have a fear that Kelsier is far more like the Lord Ruler than he would be comfortable as and he just might stumble into the role as the Next Lord Ruler.

Bonus:  For anyone who has read "The Way of Kings," were you surprised at all to see Hoid pop up?  What do you think of his role here?
Haha! Wasn't that cool? It was a WTF moment for me. Snuck right up on me. 'Informant' seems to be a perfect role for him to do whatever he needs to do.

Other Things of Interest:
Elend's book collection - definitely a source for blackmail (by Vin or Lady Shan).
Very interested in learning more about Feruchemists and the history of the Terrismen.
These impending House Wars that Kelsier is stirring up - how messy is that going to get?
Kelsier's callous take on potentially killing Elend to perpetuate tension between the Great Houses is cold, calculating, and practical all at once.
I want to know more about Marsh, his attachment to Mare, and his hatred of the obligators.
Vin's reveal about her baby sister was a bit startling, but explained chunks of her personality.

Future Schedule:
Part 4: Chapter 25 through Chapter 34, Discussions posted Wed. May 2nd. Part 5: Chapter 35 to The End, Discussions posted Wed. May 9th.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Deathlands: Bloodfire by James Axler

Publisher: GraphicAudio (2005)

Narrator: Richard Rohan, Terence Aselford, Tymberlee Chanel, Nanette Savard, Cate Torre, and Mort Shelby

Audio length: Approximately 8 hours

Blurb from Life in twenty-second-century America is an odyssey of pain and death. Savagely transformed by atomic fallout, what remains of humanity endures an internacine war against those who thrive on chaos and bloodshed. A legend in a violent land, Ryan Cawdor lives and fights by his own rules as he and his companions traverse the grim world of Deathlands. For as long as the future remains out of reach, survival means living long enough to face a new day.

Hearing a rumor that the Trader, his old teacher and friend, is still alive, Ryan and his warrior group struggle across the treacherous Texas desert to find the truth. But an enemy with a score to settle is in hot pursuit and so is the elusive Trader. The preDark city of Sonora preserved for a century in the salt and sand of the nukescape becomes the staging ground for a showdown between mortal enemies, where the scales of revenge and death will be balanced with brutal finality.

In the Deathlands, the only law is lawlessness.

I'm willing to admit publicly to my addiction: The Deathlands series by James Axler. I don't mean to be addicted; it is simply something that happened. Of course the awesome cast and sound effects of GraphicAudio might have something to do with it.

Also, I have a weakness for post-apocalyptic settings. It usually creates a mix of independent gunslinger life with modern to future tech and weapons. Deathlands throws in some mutants and AI to make it that much more adventurous.

In Bloodfire, #64 in the series (how the heck do you get to 64?!?), Ryan and his companions (Dean Cawdor, J. B. Dix, Jak Lauren, Doc Tanner, Krysty Wroth, Mildred Wyeth) are on the run from both Baron Gaza and The Scorpion King while on the look out for The Trader. As they travel across what once was Texas, they come across a strange group of people. They live underground and subsist for an indefinite lifespan upon a single drink (perhaps made from some mutant scorpion). Of course, once you have a sip, you can't walk away from it, needing the poison to continue living.

Ryan and crew manage to walk away, with these strangers in pursuit, to stumble across a pre-Dark city hidden beneath the salt flat. Seeking safety and shelter, they get more than expected. The city is still guarded by some nearly-indestructible armored AIs. Add to that those in pursuit and you get a hell of an adventure story.

The audio production was intense and had me not wanting to put this book down. I truly enjoy the full cast along with the sound effects.

Pluses: Post-apocalyptic world; lots of mutant beasties; plethora of bad guys; very plot driven and fast paced.

Minuses: Little to no character development; the only sex int his book was a rape (which was not covered in detail).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Publisher: Recorded Books (1991)

Narrator: Barbara Rosenblat

Audio length: 9 hours and 52 minutes

Blurb from Elizabeth Peters's unforgettable heroine Amelia Peabody makes her first appearance in this clever mystery. Amelia receives a rather large inheritance and decides to use it for travel. On her way through Rome to Egypt, she meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a young woman abandoned by her lover and left with no means of support. Amelia promptly takes Evelyn under her wing, insisting that the young lady accompany her to Egypt, where Amelia plans to indulge her passion for Egyptology. When Evelyn becomes the target of an aborted kidnapping and the focus of a series of suspicious accidents and mysterious visitations, Amelia becomes convinced of a plot to harm her young friend. Like any self-respecting sleuth, Amelia sets out to discover who is behind it all.

I have read perhaps half a dozen books in the Amelia Peabody series and decided to start from the beginning with Crocodile on the Sandbank. Elizabeth Peters is a prolific writer and I look forward to enjoying her work for years to come. This series is set in late 1800s Egypt. The story is told from the view point of Ms. Amelia Peabody, an independently wealthy British lady who is of an age too unfashionable for marriage. So she decides to travel. On her way to Eqypt, she rescues Evelyn from destitution. Evelyn has been sorely treated by her lover and left on her own and believes herself to be a ruined woman.

Amelia is amazingly practical and brusque, I believe is the polite term. It is her voice that has sucked me into this series. In Egypt they meet a variety of characters, including the Emerson brothers. They are poor archaeologists on their way out to Armarna, the city of the heretic pharaoh. They way Elizabeth Peters weaves in tidbits about ancient Egypt, and early archaeological efforts, into the tale is highly entertaining.

Pretty soon the ladies meet up again with the Emersons and they camp together all assisting in the dig. Pretty soon they are visited almost nightly by something or someone wrapped in strips of cloth, like a mummy. Additionally, Evelyn's distant cousin Lucas has decided to track her down and is attempting to woo her. However, her inclinations run toward the younger of the two Emersons, Walter.

While that romantic triangle plays itself out, Amelia finds herself in cheerful arguments with the older Emerson, Radcliffe (which is a nifty name in my snobbish opinion). Images of Amelia considering using her bare toes to preserve a mural with tapioca have me chuckling still.

Barbara Rosenblat is one of my favorite narrators, hands-down. Her range for both male and female voices still astounds me. She is the perfect fit for practical, blunt, rarely hysterical Amelia Peabody.

Pluses: Ancient Egypt; plenty of strong females with significant, useful roles; mummy-ish intrigue; Radcliffe Emerson's outbursts.

Minuses: I am having a devil of a time (pardon the unlady-like language) finding the second book in audio format!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow & other stories by Washington Irving

Publisher: Doubleday (1975)

Blurb on The Complete Tales of Washington Irving edited by Charles Neider from Washington Irving (1783–1859) was the first American literary artist to earn his living solely through his writings and the first to enjoy international acclaim. In addition to his long public service as a diplomat, Irving was amazingly prolific: His collected works fill forty volumes that encompass essays, history, travel writings, and multi-volume biographies of Columbus and Washington. But it is Irving’s mastery of suspense, characterization, tempo, and irony that transforms his fiction into virtuoso performances, earning him his reputation as the father of the American short story. Charles Neider has gathered all sixty-one of Irving's tales, originally scattered throughout his many collections of nonfiction essays and sketches, into one magnificent volume. Together, they reveal his wide range: besides the expected classics like "Rip Van Winkle," "The Spectre Bridegroom," "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and "The Devil and Tom Walker," his fiction embraces realistic tales, ghost stories, parodies, legends, fables, and satires. For those familiar only with secondhand retellings of Irving's most famous tales, this collection offers the opportunity to step inside Washington Irving's imagination and partake of its innumerable and timeless pleasures.

I read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge (category folktale) held over at Stainless Steel Droppings.

First off, this tale was quite a bit shorter than expected. Hence, I also read Rip Van Winkle and The Spectre Bridegroom. But let's start with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I have been meaning to read this story for some time, since the Johnny Depp movie came out. I have to say the work by Washington Irving differs greatly from the movie. Ichabod Crane is a school teacher! And yes, he occasionally gives a student a good whack. His life is somewhat nomadic, as he is put up a week at a time by the village folks. He helps out with odd chores here and there - in order to flirt with the ladies and also in the hopes of receiving a tasty treat. He is a man ruled, partially, by his stomach. Hence, he sets eyes upon the lovely Daughter Van Tassel, who is described as something of a flirt. He sees that the Van Tassel's have a well-stocked larder, a full table, and plenty of good land to keep growing excellent food. But Miss Van Tassel has a dedicated beau, Brom.

A rivalry between Brom and Ichabod crops up easily and each one tries to out do the other in their pursuits. They also turn to tricking in other out of their time with the lady. Quite frankly, I found myself routing for Brom. While we don't learn much about Brom, we do know that Ichabod is after Miss Van Tassel's hand more for her land and wealth and food than for herself. Laced throughout this tale is the folktale of the area about the headless horseman, a Hessian mercenary from the Revolutionary War. As we all know, this eventually comes into play as a prank played on Ichabod Crane. I have to agree with Brom that it is a rather good one.

I also read Rip Van Winkle, which takes place in about the same place as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, near where Henrick Hudson made his base and started many of his explorations of north-eastern US. Rip Van Winkle is a dude's name. All these years, I thought it was a silly name for a goblin. Turns out it is a silly name for a man. A lazy man. Well, semi-lazy. Rip is one of those guys who will help out a neighbor or friend with any menial chore, no matter how onerous or smelly, but won't take care of his own property and things. He also has a wife who hen-pecks him constantly. I felt a little sorry for the guy.

So he and his dog Wolf had a habit of disappearing into the woods for some peace and quiet. One day, Rip comes across a group of rough-looking men in the woods playing nine-pins and drinking around a campfire. One man was dressed very finely: 'he wore a laced doublet, broad belt and hanger, high crowned hat and feather, red stockings, and high-heeled shoes, with roses in them'. Put anyone in high-heeled shoes and they become fashionable and much more desirable. You add roses to a man's outfit, and he is outright irresistible. Later on, we learn this is a prominent historical character of the area. Anyway, Rip is invited in and given something to drink and many hours later he falls asleep.

When he awakes, decades have passed. It takes him sometime to figure this out - his gun is rusted, his dog gone, he hardly recognizes anyone in town, George Washington is unknown to him, and his wife has passed on. Luckily, he left a child behind, giving the story a happy reunion ending.

In The Spectre Bridegroom, we have a tale of a betrothal left incomplete by the unexpected dying of the groom (young Count Von Altenburg). The young man charges his friend (Herman Von Starkenfaust) to carry word to his bride-to-be (daughter of Baron Von Landshort) so that she doesn't think he left her cold at the altar. But there is a complication - their families have been blood enemies for generations. But a death-bed promise is a promise of the heart. So Herman goes, with some trepidation, to the Von Landshorts. They are expecting the bridegroom anytime and when Herman is spotted, he is mistaken for young Von Altenburg.

Herman can't get a word in edgewise upon his arrival and is soon seated at the main table next to the bride-to-be and the feast is begun. He is entranced by her beauty and soon decides that he wishes to be the groom, but how to fulfill his dead friend's last request, not anger his future father-in-law and end up dead, and still get the girl? Well, lots of tales of the supernatural are told around the feast fire and they provide inspiration to the young man. Herman pretends to be a spectre of the dead bridegroom, acts oddly, and flees from the banquet.

Later, he returns to the gardens where his fair lady can see him. He proceeded to woo her and eventually, they elope. In returning to her father, they both beg pardon, which is given, and a happily-ever-after ensues. It was sweet.

Pluses: Lots of description of a long-since-settled early wild east-coast US; simple, good natured folktales with a moral point; true American tales and a bit of our history; lots of big vocabulary words.

Minuses: The ladies have very limited roles; the description of the countryside from one story to another can be interchanged with ease; pretty slow-paced.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mistborn: The Final Empire Group Read Part II

This week's questions were supplied by TBM - make sure to check out his site (50 Year Project) and his answers. This week covered Chapt. 7 through the end of Chapt. 15.

Thanks once again to Stainless Steel Droppings for pulling this all together. Click on his site to see who else is a Mistborn fan.

1. The nobility, the skaa, and the Lord Ruler have integral roles in the novel and yet we haven’t really interacted with them much. Do you think there is a reason for this? Have you formed an opinion about them?

I am enjoying how the absence of these powerful forces (with the exception of a few quick guest appearances) have built the mystery and tension. All I know as the reader is what Kelsier and Vin know. I might be operating in a void. I have to trust these characters, otherwise we are all hosed.

2. Religion plays a vital role in the story. What is your opinion about the role of religion under the Lord Ruler? What do you think of Sazed's role as a Keeper?

The Lord Ruler has built a mythos that grants him a hell of a lot of power. Hence, stamping out other religions is really important. And that makes the Keepers dangerous - their knowledge of other religions.

I am really looking forward to seeing more of Sazed - what exactly is he? Dangerous? Powerful? Is he allomantic? Some power/ability puts him up there with the heavy hitters in Kelsier's band.

3. Are you for/against/or ambivalent about Kelsier’s plan to overthrow the Lord Ruler? Do you think his heart is in the right place or is it just revenge?

I like Kelsier, but revenge is driving him hard. Revenge, like anger, can be used for good purposes. But I am not convinced they are going to win this one without heavy losses.

And that's why I keep reading.

4. Vin and Kelsier are the main characters of the novel, yet there are many characters. Is there a certain character who intrigues you more than the others?

Elend, of course. Sticks his nose in a book at a fancy party, curious about Vin, scion of the most powerful house, considered a non-power himself. There is all sorts of potential for this character.

Then I also want the back story on Kelsier's dead wife. Very curious. I get the vague impression that she did something... indiscreet? bad? traitorous?

Other Interesting Bits
Those dudes with the spikes through their heads - what metal did they use and do they get used up (burned) over time through allomancy? Do you think they get replaced or the dude dies once he has used up his spikes?

It was rewarding to see that Vin found something that clicked and came naturally to her. Of course, this might have made her a bit cocky - hence following Kelsier into danger.....

Very, very curious about the book Sazed brought back at the end of Chapt. 15. I expect that it will give us an interesting tidbit.

Future Schedule of this Group Read:

Part 3: Chapter 16 through Chapter 25, Discussions posted Wed. April 25th.

Part 4: Chapter 25 through Chapter 34,
Discussions posted Wed. May 2nd.

Part 5: Chapter 35 to The End, Discussions posted Wed. May 9th.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Flinx Transcendent by Alan Dean Foster

Publisher: Audible Frontiers (May 2009)

Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki

Audio Length: 15 hours 23 minutes

Blurb from Audible: From one of the most brilliant imaginations in science fiction comes Flinx Transcendent, Alan Dean Foster's thrilling conclusion to the series that began over 35 years ago - the epic adventures of Flinx and his flying minidrag companion, Pip.

Flinx is the only one with even the tiniest chance of stopping the evil colossus barreling in to destroy the Humanx Commonwealth (and everything else in the Milky Way). With time running out, Flinx is a man in search of a solution and in search of himself. His efforts take him to the land of his mortal enemies, the bloodthirsty AAnn, where chances are excellent that Flinx's discovery - and summary execution - will eliminate all his demons and doubts in one masterstroke.

The way Flinx is feeling, that might not be the worst imaginable end. After years of searching for his father, he finally has - and must bear - the truth. And now he must also seek out an ancient sentient weapons platform wandering around somewhere in the galaxy and then communicate with it, a powwow that could very well fry his already frazzled brain. Then there are the oblivion-craving assassins determined to stop Flinx before he can prevent total annihilation.

With a future that rosy, it's no surprise he's flirting with disaster. Still, Flinx is no quitter, and he's got something else going for him - an uncanny ability to improvise and triumph (or at least survive) in impossible situations. He's certainly been through enough of them, and now he's going to need every ounce of that know-how, because he's venturing to places where the laws of physics fear to tread, where no one's ever been, to do what no one's ever done, and where his deadliest enemy is so close it's invisible.

I have been enjoying this series since my early teens. It is bitter sweet to finish the final book in a 14-book series that started in 1972. Alan Dean Foster didn't let me down; Flinx Transcendent was full of action, self-realization, and character growth. Large reptiles (the AAnn), the mysterious and deadly Order of Null, plus a guest appearance by an old 'acquaintance', his mentors Thranx Truzenzuzex and human Bran Tse-Mallory all populate this tale.

We start off on the homeworld of the AAnn, with Flinx in an outrageous, yet convincing, full-body suit disguise. He's worked hard at learning the native tongue and costumes, and with luck he can probably pull off his ruse for....a few weeks? a few months? As clever as Flinx is, he didn't plan for everything. Now his life rests in the scaled, clawed palm of a young AAnn.

Let me just say, that, once again, Flinx proves he has a pair of brass balls.

After leaving the AAnn home planet, he heads to Clarity Held, his love, who is still recuperating from her massive injuries received in Book 12 (Trouble Magnet). Bran and Tru have been keeping Clarity company and seeing them again was like clasping hands with old friends. And this is also where The Order of Null starts making pests of themselves again. Flinx rescues Clarity with the assistance of another Thranx companion and all five of them depart on his ship The Teacher.

Now all they have to do is find the ancient, sentient, free-floating weapons platform and ask for assistance in destroying the great evil that is headed towards their galaxy. I think Flinx might need some caffeine and headache medicine.

Stefan Rudnicki did a great job, as usual. His voice is deep and provides a certain gravity to the serious parts of this novel.

Pluses: Pip and her son Scrap; Tru and Bran; the tale pulled in friends and foes from throughout the series; the ending.

Minuses: It might only be me, but Clarity Held never became as real a character as Bran and Tru and her main function in the series was to a) be rescued or b) provide support and affection to Flinx.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Corridors of the Dead by Jonathan D. Allen

Publisher: Qwendellonia Publishing (November 2011)

Blurb from Goodreads: Long ago, a mysterious being known as The Lost Aetelia crafted an elaborate series of Watchtowers, along with their resident guardians, the Aetelia, to watch over the Universe. In time, they sent a select group of their own to Earth, tasked with watching over the fledgling human race. This group used humanity to challenge the established structure of the Universe. A bitter war ensued, and these rebels, who had come to be known as Watchers, disappeared from history.

The time of the Aetelia – now known as angels – is returning. After a fateful night of violence, Artist Matty DiCamillo finds herself drawn into this world by a mysterious savior, who becomes a driving force in Matty’s new life.

Both driven by and fighting the words of prophecy that lay out her destiny, Matty, her lover Kristy, and her best friend Daniel, follow this mysterious savior on a journey from Northern California to Las Vegas on a path that crosses through the boundaries of time and space.
As Matty struggles to understand her destiny, she discovers that her savior may not be what she seems, and that even the denizens of this twilight world have no idea what lurks behind the stage dressing of reality. Matty finds herself not only racing to rescue the woman she loves, but learning that she herself could be the cause of the Universe’s day of reckoning.
In The Corridors of the Dead, book one in the Among the Dead trilogy, Jonathan D. Allen has an intriguing story. It starts out in every day life at a Circle K convenience store. The description of the Circle K is so good, I could smell and taste the atmosphere. Matty, our store clerk, is the heroine of this story. She uses a lot of slang, has a lot of spunk, and occasionally kicks and punches people. I like her.

Her life starts to take an unexpected turn when a tweeker walks into her store and forces her into a car. Matty isn't too surprised , since convenience stores get robbed by drug addicts all the time, but still not a good situation. This elderly lady, Delilah, comes to her rescue. Sort of. Matty definitely has her own ideas about how to handle the situation. She walks away from Delilah and home to her love, Kristy. Where they face another attack and are saved by Delilah again.

Matty is The Chosen One, in big gold letters. But her supernatural powers are revealed by a cast of characters in little snippets here and there.
She can walk between universes, the big thing we get to see in this book. Everyone wants to use her in one way or another. Even her friend Daniel becomes suspect at one point. Quite a collection of folks pop in for major and minor roles; a version of Satan, Satan's son, cute little, mysterious kid Tommy.

Pluses: Delilah's character was well defined and I loved how she swung those chains around; Daniel; main character is gay and the author doesn't make a big deal out of it; Satan isn't afraid of nail polish and face paint; totally unexpected ending.

Minuses: This felt like a draft rather than a polished final product (typos, verb tense issues, sometimes couldn't tell who was talking); many of the characters often bled together, making them interchangeable; even at the end I was still a bit confused about some of the major plot points.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Phantom Universe by Laura Kreitzer

Publisher: Revolution Publishing Inc. (October 2011)

Narrator: Karen Savage

Audio length: 8 hours 38 minutes

Blurb from Sold into slavery to pirates at the young age of four, Summer learns to survive the rough seas of subterfuge and thieves through silence. When the boat she's lived on most of her life is destroyed, Summer finds herself washed up on the shore of a new world, a phantom universe full of the bizarre and extraordinary. She meets Gage, the one boy who understands the girl with no speech. But when their lives are put on the line, will Summer finally call out? Or will all be lost in the fathomless depth of silence?

Phantom Universe, the first book in the Summer Chronicles, starts off in modern-day England with a woman fleeing from someone or something with her small child. However, pretty soon young Summer is stolen from her mum by slavers. That's where Laura Kreitzer takes us into darker issues. Child slavery is a tough topic to write about and do it well. Young Summer understandably cries for her mother and is beaten into silence. Like permanent silence. All before being sold to a ship's captain (most likely pirates of one sort or another). There, a lot of rough stuff happens (including a near-rape). Yet Summer also makes a friend, Landon. He accepts her silence and teaches her to read and write, which opens communication for her.

This takes us to about the half-way point in the book. I enjoyed it's intensity and trying to puzzle out where the plot was going. Then some visitors to the ship arrive and things get strange. Jaiden, a slave herself who was sold out of the same slaver house as Summer, is now property of The Secret Clock Society. Jaiden somehow manages to blow up the ship and rescue Summer. They end up on a nearby beach.

Then things get a little weirder, but I rode the weird and eventually settled into it. There's a blinding flash of light one night and Jaiden and Summer end a different time and place. Summer, however, is drained and needs medical attention. Jaiden can't wake her and seeks others. She comes up with soldiers from the League of The Canadian Federation. Cage Appleton is the leader and Cameron Skien is the medtech. Both do what they can for Summer in the field. There are two other soldiers who are less sympathetic.

This is where the story started to waver for me. Summer is 16, Jaiden a few years older. Makes sense, child slaves and all. But these soldiers are like.... what.. 16-20? Cage is 18. From this point forward, the story is about the romance between Summer and Cage, with a whole lot of highschool nonsense thrown in.

So, Summer goes to hospital and eventually has to go to one of the Outlander camps. Think prison camp for rowdy, snotty highschoolers. This part of the story takes place at the Phantom Ship community, former Los Angeles. But we never learn why it is called that. Anyway, once the plot gets free of the Outlander camp, things get a little more interesting. We learn a smidgen more about the Secret Clock Society and about Summer's origins. We also learn that Cage is an expert at catching spies. Excuse me for snort-laughing. It is difficult to be an expert at anything at 18.

Karen Savage has a very beautiful voice. She captured Summer's voice (even though she is silent) very well. The story is told from Summer's point of view so we get many of her thoughts on the situation. Savage had this perfect voice for Cameron - full of sympathy, patience, and gentleness. Since most of the main male characters were young males, the narrator was able to pull those off too.

Pluses: The intensity of the story carries throughout; Summer herself is an intriguing character with lots of challenges; the idea of Canada taking over a chunk of the world in the future is intriguing; lots of cool future-tech gadgets.

Minuses: Silly teen romance aspect; would have liked to know more about the other characters because babysitting Summer throughout was sometimes exhausting; there's high-tech surveillance everywhere, so how did these kids evade it?; very few adults in the story; seems that only kids (vast majority Caucasian) were sucked into the future (no wonder some of the Canadians are pissed); would have been interesting to hear more about the new surroundings, politics, and culture.

Red Seas Under Red Skies - Happening sooner than you might think!

All right everyone, it's time to get ready to jump into the second volume of Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard Sequence, Red Seas Under Red Skies. Prepare yourselves for

  • High Seas Adventure
  • Betrayal
  • Magic
  • Gambling
  • Masterful Swearing
  • High-Stakes Shenanigans
I hope you're as excited as I am. Get your copy of the book soon, since questions will go out to the participating bloggers on Thursday, April 26 (I'm the lead off batter this time around, yay!) and posts will go up on Saturday, April 28. That's not terribly far away. In fact, I'd better hurry the hell up and start reading today!

The first section of our Read-Along this time will cover the beginning through the end of Chapter 3, so feel free to get an early jump on the reading at your own peril (these books are like crack, and you won't be able to stop easily).

Want to participate, but missed out on the signup the last time around? Just email me at myawfulreviews #AT# gmail #DOT# com and we'll get you on the special list. Have fun everyone!

Special thanks, as always, to our host blogs:

@ohthatashley at

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Wicked Instead by Vivien Weaver

Publisher: Hard Limits Press, January 2012
Blurb (Goodreads): Cary and Lindsay Delaney have always known they were special. Warriors for God, their father said, meant to bring about the Rapture, and every moment in their family’s isolated Ozarks compound was spent preparing for that day. Cary’s paraplegic injury put an end to that dream, however, and the brothers, now estranged from the father who once exalted them, find a different kind of magic in the streets of Springfield, Missouri.

Dubiously blessed with the title prince and heirs to powerful t├íltos magic, the brothers find themselves embroiled in a struggle for the health of the World Tree, the structure that supports not only their world, but every world. The Tree is rotting, and it’s only a matter of time before the corruption reaches its heart. Can Cary and Lindsay make their own way and heal the Tree, despite those who would use them for their often shadowy ends?

A coming of age urban fantasy with a twist, The Wicked Instead combines the voice of a redneck haint tale with an unerring modern sensibility and sensitivity. As much about struggling to survive and the bonds forged between unlikely friends as it is about fantasy, The Wicked Instead will change the way you think about the genre.

The Wicked Instead was the winner of my twitter contest, where the 100th follower won a review of their book. It's taken me longer to get to this than I would like, so I apologize in advance. Now, on to the review.

The book takes us on a journey with two brothers. Cary is a paraplegic, and I felt like Weaver did extremely well showing us just how his disability affected his day-to-day life and how he felt about it. Lindsay is gay, and again I felt that it was more a part of the story than something that Weaver threw in just to make the characters "more interesting." This is good, as I would have probably stopped reading if I felt that the character was gay for the sake of being different, rather than just a deeper part of the storyline.

The magic is the book was well-done, and reminded me in a strange way of The Hobbit. The magic itself wasn't the same as Tolkien's work, but the way that the characters come into the situation with no knowledge allows the reader to take the journey with them and experience what they learn and see. I will readily admit that this isn't uncommon in fantasy, but for some reason as I read it, I immediately thought of The Hobbit. Got Baggins on the mind, I guess.

If I had to pick on the book at all (and I HAVE to, I just can't help myself) then I'd say that the book didn't grab me in the first couple of chapters like I was hoping it would. Once things got rolling later on, then it was easier to keep turning pages, but I was a little disappointed that the beginning didn't seem to grab me like a lot of other books have lately. I can't quite explain why the book didn't snag me. The elements were all there. Maybe I was just tired after staying up too late the night before, who knows.

Overall, Lindsay and Cary's journey is something that I'm hesitant to recommend to everyone. For some, it might be just outside what they normally enjoy, and for others it will be a brilliant new experience. It's definitely one of those books that tries to defy genre labeling, and if you're into those kinds of books it's probably worth a look. I'm really happy that Vivien was my 100th follower. Make sure to check her out on Twitter and her blog

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mistborn: The Final Empire Group Read Part I

I know. It's some of the best epic fantasy out there. I should have read it years ago. My only excuse is that I am easily distracted by shiny books.

Yeah. So are you.

Thankfully, Stainless Steel Droppings provided the incentive to read Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. Said blogger also kicked us off with this week's questions, which cover the first 6 chapters of the book.

I flew through these chapters and had to make a will-powered decision to not read the whole book in a few sittings.

Here are the questions and my answers. Stop over at Stainless Steel Droppings to see his answers and links to other participants.

1. This first hundred or so pages was packed! What things are standing out for you in the story thus far?

The ash. Ash gets everywhere. These folks must have awesome lungs to cope with the ash 24/7. And great tear ducts.

2. What are your thoughts on the magic system that Sanderson is unveiling in this novel?

I have only read 1 Sanderson book, The Way of Kings. The metal magic system in this novel reminds me of the magic system employed by the assassin in The Way of Kings - the pushing and pulling. A bit different mechanism, lots of the same results. I like it - not a criticism - and I look forward to seeing some training accidents with Vin.

3. Kelsier and Vin have held most of the spotlight in these first 6 chapters. As you compare/contrast the two characters, how do you feel about them? Likes? Dislikes?

Kelsier is very goal-oriented and would do well in modern stock market. Ruthless. Vin on the other hand is also out for herself - in a different way. She doesn't necessarily want to screw anyone over, but she is ready to flee at the next ashfall. I like how she was setting flatbread aside.

4. Finally, how would you assess Sanderson's storytelling abilities to this point?

He just sucks you in, doesn't he? Who cares if I got goats birthing in the field, I want to read my damn book!

Other thoughts:

The different metals can be used for different powers - this is way cool.
Kelsier has a soft spot for women in trouble - may turn annoying. We'll have to see if his chivalry is just overprotective chauvinism.
Way curious about Marsh. He seems pretty pissed about the whole situation.
I am guessing those little bits before each chapter are important. Perhaps the future voice of Vin?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Templar Chronicles 1: The Heretic by Joseph Nassise

Publisher: GraphicAudio (February 2012)

Narrator: Richard Rohan with full cast (David Coyne, Terence Aselford, Steven Carpenter, Mort Shelby, Bradley Smith, Michael Glenn, Thomas Penny, Alyssa Wilmoth, Thomas Keegan, Nanette Savard, Tim Carlin, Ken Jackson, Alexander Strain, Drew Kopas, Eric Messner, Johann Dettweiler, Joe Brack)

Audio length: Approximately 6 hours.

Blurb from GraphicAudio: At the end of the First Crusade, the church created a monastic military order known as the Knights Templar. Now, rising up from the ashes of history, they are the Vatican’s last defense in the war between good and evil…

Cade Williams is no ordinary man. His ability to cross over to the other side makes him uniquely qualified to command the Church’s special operations division. As a modern-day Knight, Cade can use the curse that has scarred his soul as a weapon against the forces of darkness. But a new kind of unholy war is brewing — and soon Cade may be the last man standing…between the living and the dead.

The desecration of Templar cemeteries has sparked a full-scale investigation. Cade and his team suspect that a cabal of necromancers is behind it all. Their purpose: to claim the legendary powers of a lost holy relic for their own ungodly campaign. For Cade, there’s only one way to stop them — by tracking the dead himself…crossing the most sacred of battle lines…and facing his own terrifying demons.

I had a lot of fun with this book. It had a good balance of serious and action, with a dose of humor thrown in. Cade Williams is a fascinating character, lacking an eye, and burying a scarred soul deep inside. The voice for him was gravelly and harsh, a perfect match for the revenge-driven hero.

Based on the mystique of the Knights Templar, swept up into modern-day, Joseph Nassise plunks us down hard and fast in the middle of a bloody mystery. Templar strongholds are being ravaged - not just attacked, but gutted. Literally. The warriors and the buildings and graves. Cade Williams has been given the nickname The Heretic, though his men of Echo Team never call him that. He has certain abilities, a gruff, non-nonsense attitude, and doesn't attend Mass, all that could add up to his reputation. He also gets the job done.

Cade is called in to find out the who, how and why of the stronghold guttings. He taps young healer in denial to fill out his team and off they go. The tale is full of necromancers, revenants, and messages from the ghostly beyond. Cade in particular is haunted by his past - the violent death of his beloved wife.

The narration, epic music, and background sounds were superb. That combination is what makes GraphicAudio books so darn entertaining. Having a full cast truly takes audiobooks to the next level. Add to that the epic music and all the special sound effects and this book could be downright dangerous while driving!

Pluses: Lots of action, enjoyed Cade's unusual powers of communing with the dead, rough gruffness of the entire world, mystique of the Templars, excellent audio, lush cover art.

Minuses: Very few females and with minor roles (lost love, being eaten, etc. ).

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Big String by Buck Horn

Publisher: Audiobooks by Mike Vendetti (November 2011)

Narrator: Scott R. Pollak

Audio length: 1 hour 37 minutes

Blurb from Amazon:

Buck Horn's West is still out there, albeit a little harder to find. These are tales of a not so bygone era before environmental laws and the price of fuel got out of control. As long as there is a desert range and a little bit of water, there will be the hardy few trying to grow cows and there will be the Cowboys and horses to take care of them.

Buck's stories are a glance into a West that is rapidly disappearing. It is an honest look at the roundups, camp life, cowpunchers, and the horses that made it all possible.

©2011 Bud Collins; (P)2011 Scott R. Pollak

This novella was great piece to get some house chores done by. The imagery evoked by the descriptions of the various horses used in cowboying in NM and CO was great. I could picture the area, the men, the horses, the cattle, and the various situations they ended up in.

Buck Horn wasn't shy about relaying his young and stupid days to his audience either. A round of applause for that, as those stories were some of the most entertaining. I am young enough to easily remember my stupid days and just old enough to appreciate the fact that you have to be an idiot before you can be wise. The author gives credit to various horses for teaching him a thing or two over the years.

Not knowing much about equines myself, I could still relate to working with them closely. Each horse has his/her own personality and intelligence. They are big, highly mobile animals and deserve our respect. One of the memorable things I learned from this collection of tales was the term 'dinked'. If a horse is dinked, they are broken mentally - they have been through something so hard that they have mentally checked out. And it takes a special, patient rider to bring a bit of their original spirit back. The tale about the dinked horse in this collection was the most touching.

Scott R. Pollak was the perfect good, old cowboy voice for this story. He captured the Western grit and tipped-hat politeness of CO and NM. I would be hard-pressed to name a better voice for this book.

Pluses: Horses, desert southwest, real stories made up of real people, humor at the expense of the author, interesting characters.

Minuses: Pretty minor point, but I believe there is a mispronunciation made several times: I hear the narrator saying 'Rosewell" and I think it was meant to be 'Roswell'. But without the text, I can't be sure.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Publisher: Random House (2005)

Narrated by Stephen Fry

Blurb from Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years. Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? Why do we spend so much time between wearing digital watches? For all the answers stick your thumb to the stars. And don't forget to bring a towel!

I read this for the first time perhaps 15-18 years ago. It was good to pick it up again, and extra good as an audiobook. Douglas Adams filled this book to the brim with quirky British humor that had me snort laughing in the car on my commute to work. Have no fear; I did not inflict my snort laughter upon anyone else as I am a single-occupant vehicle most of the time.

Ford Prefect takes his buddy off-planet (by hitchhiking) just seconds before the planet is destroyed. They eventually end up on the stolen ship, The Heart of Gold, which is a super-duper, brand plastic-smell vehicle which includes the stunning feature of the improbability machine. President Zaphod purloined this ship in order to find the mythical planet of Magrathea. Now keep in mind that Zaphod recently had an extra head added, and therefore, might not be in the best frame of mind.

The unseen, often rumored about, Magrathea is the home of the Planet Builders. Yep, pre-order now your perfect vacation planet. These guys were pretty snazzy when they were active, with glossy pamphlets and everything. Imagine our heroes' shock when they actually find this planet. Only to ambushed by the mice.

Yep, mice have been using Planet Earth as one gigantic experiment to find the right question to the answer 42. It sounds quite silly until you read the book, which is very well laid out. If you saw the latest movie version, I believe it went beyond the first book. But I could totally picture Mos Def as Ford Prefect the entire time listening to this audiobook.

Stephen Fry was the narrator for the latest movie as well as this audiobook. He has the perfect voice for this. He performed the dry, snarky British humor without flaw. His rendition of the Volgon poetry reading had me laughing out loud.

Pluses: Lots of British humor, concise story, a whale, the Babel fish, practicality of towels.

Minuses: Lots of British humor, only a single female character, Trillian, (unless you count the bowl of petunias, the ship's female personality, or the brief appearance of 500 naked female skydivers).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Thoughts on Scott - Myke Cole

Myke ColeAs a secu­rity con­tractor, gov­ern­ment civilian and mil­i­tary officer, Myke Cole’s career has run the gamut from Coun­tert­er­rorism to Cyber War­fare to Fed­eral Law Enforce­ment. He’s done three tours in Iraq and was recalled to serve during the Deep­water Horizon oil spill.
All that con­flict can wear a guy out. Thank good­ness for fan­tasy novels, comic books, late night games of Dun­geons and Dragons and lots of angst fueled writing.

On a personal note, Myke is an awesome guy, and I really enjoyed Control Point. He's also got some amazing things to say on his blog, so be sure to check it out.

Myke's Thoughts on Scott

If I had to hone in on any one aspect of Lynch's writing, it would be dialogue. Lynch is possessed of a wit and developed sense of snark that's practically singular. I'll never forget falling in love with Tyrion Lannister (from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire) in large part due to the witty reparte. Here was a dwarf, crippled and weak, surrounded by the strongest and most powerful people in the land, none of whom bore him any good will, and giving as good as he got mostly due to the gift of a sharp tongue.

Lynch's protagonist, Locke Lamora, does much the same. He's no Black Jack Geary. He's no Aragorn, Son of Arathorn. He sure as hell is no Conan of Cimmeria. Heck, he's not even Elric of Melnibone. Locke Lamora is much like I was growing up (and much like I am guessing Lynch himself was); skinny, weak, too smart for his own good, possessed of a mischievous inability to keep those smarts underwraps and utterly unable to shut the hell up and stop being publicly smug when those smarts (combined with that mischief) pays off. 

Perhaps this quote from Red Seas Under Red Skies sums it up best:


“That's a sweet piece," said Jean, briefly forgetting to be aggravated. "You didn't snatch that off a street."

"No," said Locke, before taking another deep draught of the warm water in the decanter. "I got it from the neck of the governor's mistress."

"You can't be serious."

"In the governor's manor."

"Of all the -"

"In the governor's bed."

"Damned lunatic!"

"With the governor sleeping next to her."

The night quiet was broken by the high, distant trill of a whistle, the traditional swarming noise of city watches everywhere. Several other whistles joined in a few moments later.

"It is possible," said Locke with a sheepish grin, "that I have been slightly too bold.”


Lynch has, through a few lines of dialogue, conveyed all of this: wry wit, great intelligence, mischievous humor, narcissism, risk-addiction, anti-institutional bent; and best of all, commitment to friends and loyalty to his own kind. It is the very best kind of writing; simultaneously economical and engaging, conveying enormous amounts of information using as few words as possible. Craft, deft, smart.

And hopelessly engaging. If I can ever write dialogue like Lynch, I'll know I have arrived.

The Lies of Locke Lamora, the final week!

Jean Tannen Ready to Attack by Tolman Cotton
Hi everyone, and welcome to the final week of the Read-Along! We've had quite the ride, haven't we? From Shades Hill to the palace, and everywhere in between, we've watched our heroes grow, scheme, bond, suffer and overcome. Good times.

I think Little Red Reviewer said it best, so I'm just going to quote her email earlier in the week.

"Hi Everyone! Can you believe it? this is the final week of our read along of Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, and what a wild, wonderful ride it as been!  Everyone give a warm welcome the newest member of our lunatic read along team, Lynn, from Lynn's Book Blog, who provided our discussion starters today.  The last chunks of the book are pretty dense, and there is a lot to cover. Feel free to focus on as many or as few of these discussion starters as you like, or add in your own!

A huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who participated in this read along, it couldn't have grown into the giant monster of the most incredible read along I have ever been a part of without you!"

I echo her sentiments completely, and hope to see all of you when we kick of the Red Seas Under Red Skies Read-Along after a couple of weeks off to recharge. :)

Here are Lynn's discussion starters for the final week:

The Thorn of Camorr is renowned - he can beat anyone in a fight and he steals from the rich to give to the poor.  Except of course that clearly most of the myths surrounding him are based on fantasy and not fact.  Now that the book is finished how do you feel the man himself compares to his legend.  Did you feel that he changed as the story progressed and, if so, how did this make you feel about him by the time the conclusion was reached?
2.       Scott Lynch certainly likes to give his leading ladies some entertaining and strong roles to play.  We have the Berangia sisters – and I definitely wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of them or their blades plus Dona Vorchenza who is the Spider and played a very cool character – even play acting to catch the Thorn.  How did you feel about the treatment the sisters and Dona received at the hands of Jean and Locke – were you surprised, did it seem out of character at all or justified?

3.       Towards the end we saw a little more of the magic and the history of the Bondsmagi.  The magic, particularly with the use of true names, reminds me a little of old fashioned witchcraft or even voodoo.  But, more than that I was fascinated after reading the interlude headed ‘The Throne in Ashes’ about the Elderglass and the Elders and why their structures were able to survive even against the full might of the Bondsmagi – do you have any theories about this? Do you think it’s based on one of our ancient civilizations or maybe similar to a myth?

4.       We have previously discussed Scott Lynch’s use of description and whether it’s too much or just spot on.  Having gotten into the last quarter of the book where the level of tension was seriously cranked up – did you still find, the breaks for interludes and the descriptions useful or, under the circumstances did it feel more like a distraction?

5.       Now that the book has finished how did you feel about the conclusion and the eventual reveal about the Grey King and more to the point the motivations he declared for such revenge – does it seem credible, were you expecting much worse or something completely different altogether?

6.       Were you surprised that Locke, being given two possible choices (one of which could possibly mean he would miss his chance for revenge on the Grey King) chose to go back to the Tower  – especially given that (1) he would have difficulty in getting into the building (2) he would have difficulty in convincing them about the situation and (3) he would have difficulty in remaining free afterwards? Did anyone else nearly pee their pants when Locke and the rest were carrying the sculptures up to the roof garden?

7.       Finally, the other question I would chuck in here is that, following the end of the book I was intrigued to check out some of the reviews of LOLL and noticed that the negative reviews mentioned the use of profanity.  How did you feel about this – was it excessive? Just enough? Not enough?

8.       Okay one further, and probably most important but very quick question – having finished, will you pick up the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies?

So, there you have it. Hope you enjoyed reading with us, and if you're just seeing this for the first time, it's not too late to jump in. The great part of the internet is that it's forever, so if you comment on the read-along a year from now I'll still respond. :) Have a great time everyone!

My Answers

 1. I don't think much changed in my opinion of Locke. He's far too clever, sometimes arrogant, terrible with a sword and generally "the brains" of the operation, having no skill or inclination to be "the brawn."  But when the chips are down, and I mean way down - falling off the table and landing in the dirt - he'll come up with some beautiful way of winning.

2. I think Locke and Jean are too professional to worry about common courtesies afforded ladies as far as chivalry goes. I absolutely LOVE when Locke punches out The Spider because she doesn't think to have any concern for her safety. That scene right there is why I think that Locke and Jean will always survive - because they think outside the box.

As to the women in the series, I thought they were pretty excellent. Strong characters (although who really attempts to write weak characters?) and they certainly gave the Bastards a run for their money.

3.  I am not at all certain about the old races, but I'm not going to spend much time bothering with it. Everything that I've read from interviews with Lynch suggests that we won't really be hearing about those old races, so I'm not going to spend my time puzzling it out. Instead, I'll just think about Sabetha or something.

4. I still enjoyed them. I think that Lynch said a while back on his blog that he wished that he could have been more clever about introducing stuff like that; maybe Chains could have taught it to the boys, etc. I still don't mind them, though I agree that there was probably a better way. Still, the small amount of complaints that I have about a man's first novel shows that it's quality work. Everyone makes little mistakes.

5. I think that the Grey King's reveal was a real shocker. For some who had created these crazy plot schemes in their head about how it was a character we'd already seen it might have been difficult to swallow. The first time I read the books, I didn't really try to guess who it was. It makes a certain amount of sense that it was someone we hadn't been introduced to before, since all the other characters don't really have the right motivation (with the exception of possibly Chains, but he's stone dead) to want revenge on Capa Barsavi like that.

6. No urine soaked carpets here, thankfully! I'm not too surprised that he made the right choice. Locke can always track the Grey King down, but this was an opportunity to deny him his revenge, and Locke had just sworn that he would do that not too long ago.

7. I think that this is one of those books where I wouldn't recommend it to teenagers unless they were people I knew really well. Other than that, adults are adults, and if you don't like the profanity, stop reading the book and go find something else that's enjoyable. It really bothers me that people give a book bad reviews based on swear words. Some people in this world have a habit of cursing. If you don't happen to be one of them, it doesn't mean that your particular societal values are correct, and that shouldn't reflect how you review a book.

8. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be participating. Barring something massive. :)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Gilgamesh by Stephen Mitchell

Publisher: Free Press (2004)

Blurb from An English-language rendering of the world's oldest epic follows the journey of conquest and self-discovery by the king of Uruk, in an edition that includes an introduction that places the story in its historical and cultural context.

I chose to read this book as part of two challenges; Once Upon a Time VI over at Stainless Steel Droppings and the poetry challenge over at Darkcargo Explorer. I placed this under the 'mythology' category for Quest the Second, which requires 1 book from each of 4 categories (mythology, fairy tale, fantasy, folklore).

First, I will discuss the epic poem Gilgamesh itself. In short, it is awesome. This is what poetry should be. At first, y3I did not like the King Gilgamesh. He is arrogant, aggressive, and a tyrant. The gods send him a true friend, Enkidu, who must be tamed from the wild. Gilgamesh sends a priestess of Ishtar to show him civilization through the art of sex. I love how the ancient Akkadians and Sumerians were not shy about describing the priestess's efforts.

Enkidu and Gilgamesh have a tussle for superiority upon their first meeting, which has some homoerotic imagery to it (I told you the Akkadians rock) and then they become the best of friends. Through this friendship they defeat a few beasties and insult a few Gods, including Ishtar. I won't spoil the tale for you, but eventually there is a Noah-like flood story thrown in while Gilgamesh is off looking for the secret to eternal life.

The book by Stephen Mitchell was fascinating. He has this long (~60 pages) introduction talking about what we know and what we don't know concerning the tale of Gilgamesh. I read the tale first then went back to the intro and the footnotes to get the historical context. The intro flew by, it was so easy to absorb. Gilgamesh was a very popular tale, retold by subsequent empires (Akkadians to Sumerians to Hittites all the way to present day). There are parts of the tale that are incomplete to this day because we have not found the clay tablets, yet. Also, Gilgamesh refers to other tales, such as Ishtar's romantic relationships with the roller bird and Ishullanuh. We haven't found these other tales (hence, I can't tell you what a roller bird is). The introduction really fleshes out how very old this tale is and how lucky we are to have some form of it carried down to us.

Pluses: Ancient, epic poetry; sex as an enlightening, civilizing force; strange, wondrous monsters; Gilgamesh learns he can't always bully his way to what he wants; Enkidu's name is just fun to say.

Minuses: Everything is up to interpretation, especially when it is this old, so I will never understand this tale fully.