[BOOKS] More Reading

Long time no post so lots of catching up to do in this area… and I’m no book critic by any measure, so the reviews will be short and sweet.

Finished up The Mistborn series – which was pretty good; easy to read, not hard to follow and edited well as opposed to something like The Hunger Games which I found the tense and point of view shifting so much that it was jarring or The Waste Lands which had several odd grammar issue which I suspect came from e-publishing (extra periods, misused words, etc.). Light reading, not a whole lot of depth but definitely a different and interesting take on magic. I enjoyed it and may take a look at the follow up series which is supposed to take place much later in time.

Read The Gunslinger by Stephen King. It was an interesting read, much like his other books (or movies) he grounds things in the real, twists it a little so it is surreal and strange but strikes a chord deep down inside because it is still familiar. Not scary, but creepy for sure. A lot of flashbacks and foreshadowing. In the foreword Stephen King notes that it was the revised version where he changed things around so that there was a more of a point to the story where previously he admitted he had no idea what he was planning to do with it.

Read Frozen Heat by Richard Castle (nom de plume). It was entertaining much like the TV show, but I was a little disappointed by the ending which I won’t go into other than to say it left things a little unresolved. Yes, that deviates from show which typically is wrapped up in the one or two episodes (exception being X2K killer). It also left me with a very blunt, “buy the next book for the rest” type of feeling which I wasn’t too keen on. I’m guessing the resolution of Nikki Heat’s murder case carried more weight in my mind due to the ties to the show that I was just expecting a whole lot more from it. There was decidedly less repetition from the TV show in the books as there was in the previous ones and there were returning characters that continue the story line. Entertaining, well written, enjoyable, new and fun.

Back to The Dark Tower series with The Drawing of the Three which I’m enjoying more than I did The Gunslinger. Right up until Odetta Walker was introduced. Odetta Walker parts are difficult to read, I’ve never cringed while reading a book before – there are just some pretty harsh things around it. Things I don’t typically read. Once I got through it, it got better. Unfortunately that runs from about a third of the way into the book to the end. The end was predictable and I saw what was coming with Jack Mort as well as all the questions it raises (and which appear in the next book).

Once again I took a little break from The Dark Tower series and hopped into The Summoner (Book One of the Chronicles of the Necromancer) by Gail Z. Martin. This is more of a traditional fantasy telling with a decent start and foundation. It reminds me a lot of David Eddings’ Belgariad series though not for the story, just for the character growth which is simple but expected.  It starts with a young noble, second of three and some minor antics with his friends turning into something more when they witness the murder of the King at the hand of the eldest son (half-brother to the main character). They discover the youngest (sister) and mother were also killed and decide to flee to a relative’s kingdom in hopes of raising an army against the evil eldest brother (it’s always the older brothers isn’t it?). In some ways it reminds me a little of Fable III (the game).

Aside from the main character (Tristam a.k.a. Tris), the other characters are fairly shallow, playing supporting roles short of (what I suspect) the main character’s future bride (Kiara) who seems like a Paladin of sorts and the guide (Vahanian) who shows personality. Admittedly the bard (Carroway) shows some likable qualities, but ends up more of a side note than major player in the first book.

I have to admit, there is a lot that happens in the first book and I enjoyed it despite my hesitation to get back into reading fantasy style books.

Next up was The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks. I had previously enjoyed his Night Angel trilogy (though I found the conclusion to that series a little rushed) and took a hesitant step to reading The Dark Prism but enjoyed the depth of characters (including the villains), the underlying secret and what stems from that. The different spin on magic was also an interesting change so I was excited to see this book available. The story continues with the Prism losing access to the Blue spectrum and further advancement of his son/nephew Kip, some of the politics around that, the Prism’s father and scheming of the Color Prince. Very enjoyable, well edited and a solid read even if he delves a little into romantic drama. I’m eagerly awaiting the next story.

Back to the Dark Tower series with The Waste Lands by Stephen King. It continues being gritty and focuses on the paradox of (SPOILER!) his letting Jake die in the Gunslinger book, then killing Jack Mort before Jack Mort pushes Jake in front of the car. Because Mort does not kill Jake, Jake never meets Rolland and Rolland never needs to decide to let Jake fall to his death. Only Rolland is aware of Jake and remembers  both happenings which is driving him slowly insane. On the other side of curtain, Jake remembers and expects to die. He remembers Rolland and their adventure together and Rolland deciding to let him go, choosing the pursuit of the Dark Tower over Jake’s life. He is also unraveling. There are more intricacies to it but that is it in a nutshell. Eventually Eddie helps Jake come back over to the old world and the group moves along on Rolland’s quest to find the Dark Tower.

I’m still reading it, I think I’m about half way through it. It remains interesting, detailed, well written though this edition (epub) appears to have several minor grammatical errors; misplaced periods and the odd misused word (things a software spell checker would not catch but a human editor would). I do wonder if it is intentional but there doesn’t appear to be a need for emphasis or pacing where they happen. Either way, it is more of a dip into the grotesque (the bear), the horrific (the haunted house/gate guardian) and eerie (old people scare me).

One prediction I have to make is around Susannah and Eddie coupling and Susannah’s handling of the ‘gate guardian’… something’s brewing.

That’s where I am now, they’re working their way into a city, having just left the town of old people.

[BOOKS] Read Read Read

I don’t remember when my last update around books I’ve been reading was but I’ve been spending a lot of time reading. It seems to have replaced some of my late night evenings playing games and I found myself sometimes going to bed at two in the morning because I was getting to a really good part.

I’ve read over the Orson Scott Card Ender Quintet, completing Ender’s Game, Speaker For the Dead, Xenocide and Children of the Mind but haven’t gone into any of the other stories around that. I found as the series went on, it was somewhat less enjoyable and started to get a little too philosophical and less about some of the sci-fi elements I loved in Ender’s Game. Still, a decent read if you have the patience for internalized debates around morals, ethics or existence.

I debated where to go after reading that and decided I was in the mood for something with a little more humor so I picked up the one book I was missing from the Richard Castle Nikki Heat series – Heat Wave. I had previously received the other two books for Christmas but TheWife could not find this one in print.

Yes, I know it’s not really Nathan Fillion writing these books and they’re literary works of art but they were enjoyable and humorous. A nice change from some of the later parts of the series I had just completed. I consumed the book quickly, really enjoying it and laughing at  several parts. I think these books are strengthened by the TV series (Castle) because I was easily able to imagine the scenarios, replacing the in book names with the in show names – really credit to the author, the show writers and the actors in the show.

Once that was complete I decided to keep away from the fantasy genre and started reading through Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Trilogy. While I did enjoy the story and I did have a few annoyances. First issue was in the first book where I found the author did not separate tenses or points of view well enough. For a portion of the story it was first person and would shift, awkwardly out of that and into more of a third person. It was really sort of jarring and something my brother-in-law has been struggling with.

The other annoyance was that it was clearly aimed more at young women than other audiences. The main character was a drama-magnet and seemed to dwell on too many things at one time. Something I can’t associate with well as a grown adult male with a wife and children. The drama around her world seemed something a young teenage girl would be experiencing and so better able to understand the main character at a better level than I ever could.

Finally, I found the last book a little rushed to conclusion and without some of the depth the second and first one had. The main character also seemed to have a mental breakdown (understandable) which wasn’t all that exciting or interesting to read though. Again, related to my previously listed annoyance – I can only take so much “woe is me!” from the main character of a story I’m reading.

I think of the three books, the middle one (Mockingjay) was the better written but relied on the other two to start and finish the whole story.

I recently watched the move with TheWife – she enjoyed it but I found it missing a lot and somewhat rushed. I suppose in some areas it was fortunate, but overall it made a lot of what was happening seem too sudden. Example? (Spoiler) A big part of the first book is Katniss playing up to the ‘star crossed lovers’ thing with Peeta only you got a sense that near the end of the Hunger Games she had some feelings for Peeta and felt guilty because of her not-quite-boyfriend at home. This wasn’t played up as much in the movie and the movie made it seem more like it was just a ploy. Another thing that was missing was the hardness of Peeta who finishes off one of the first ‘careers’ kills.

Next series I picked up was Brandon Sanderson’s The Mistborn Trilogy, which is a step back into fantasy though not the typical wizards, orks and dragons. I’m about 80% through it (according to Kobo) and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I find the characters likable and well done. The story is interesting and has kept me guessing. It’s not as predictable as I thought and I’m not overly easy to fool in books (or other places for that matter).

The era seems to be a short bit before the gunpowder age or the Renaissance era without gunpowder or advancement in art. One race of humanity oppresses another and one empire rules the world with its Emperor claiming divinity which might be the case because he’s been around for a thousand years. “Magic” is not your typical fantasy magic, instead it is the innate ability of people to ‘burn’ metals inside them to produce effects. The type of metal denotes the ability; pewter strengthens the body, heals it quickly, enhances grace and other physical attributes. Tin enhances the senses; touch, sight, hearing, and smell. There is more but I don’t want to spoil it. This sort of ‘magic’ is called Allomancy.

There are two types of Allomancers; Mistlings who can only burn one type of metal and Mistborn who can burn all types of metal. You’re either one or the the other or have no ability to burn metals at all.

I won’t go on much more about the series other than to highly recommend it.

If Brandon Sanderson is a familiar name to you but you can’t quite place it, then you’ve likely heard his name as the guy who will be finishing of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. After what I’ve read of The Mistborn Trilogy it was definitely a good choice.

I’ll have to go looking for another series to read soon, though even at 80% there still seems to be a lot left for the series!

[BOOK] iBook Dirty Deals FTW!

I figure I’ll take advantage of Apple’s dirty deal with some publishers to undercut Amazon and so I ordered a book from iBook which saved me $1.25. Yeah, I know I probably could have found a book for free or gone to some site out of Russia and paid only 99 cents for it but I figured I’d support Apple’s underhanded dealings.

Actually, I just really wanted to try out an eBook on my iPad 2. I downloaded Kindle app, created an Amazon account then saw the book I was interested in was $8.25 on Amazon but only $6.99 on iBook so I went with iBook.

Oh, what book did I get?

Ender’s Game.

I read the preview chapter on iBook, found it interesting and decided to pick it up. I haven’t been able to put it down since – then my son borrowed the iPad for a bit which sort of forced me to put it down. It’s now sitting on the couch next to me, demanding I keep reading to hear more about how Ender is handling Battle School.

As I read, I can’t help but draw parallels to some more recent stories involving child prodigies coming from difficult family situations and who were groomed at a school away from home to save the world from some form of evil… only magic instead of science. Just some similarities, it’s nothing like Avatar and Pocahontas.

I’d mention how many pages it is, but that depends on which orientation my iPad is at – 418 portrait, 821 landscape.

Good read.

Crazy Times

Lots of news.

Osama dead. Good. It was a clear act of cowardice that he targeted innocents and worse, used other people’s beliefs to do what he wouldn’t do himself. If he would have done it, do you think he’d have stayed hiding away for so long?

Canada Election Day. I’m still not sure. Fortunately it won’t stifle the TV shows I usually watch tonight, but you can rest assured I’ll be watching.. or at least have it on the TV while I’m at the computer. I’m having a hard time with this one. I don’t think the lack of communication, openness and accountability of the current government warrants a majority for that party, but on the other hand, if someone doesn’t walk away with a majority, we could be facing another election. My other options likely lead to higher taxation – I’m already having to hand over about half my income in taxes. We have provincial and HST/GST or whatever the fuck it is ST (sales tax). I don’t need another tax – really. We’ve already got a Political Stupidity Tax – which we eat every time there is another election. Grr…

Castle looks like it’ll be good tonight. Swimsuits help. I’m curious as to why they’re changing locales and are they bringing the rest of the crew? Esposito and Ryan, I’ll miss you! /manlove I’m guessing more information on Beckett’s mom’s case. Or maybe they’re going over there for Ryan’s wedding and something comes up? It’ll be on right after the Election stuff so I’ll be watching it for sure.

WoW stuff is going. Smaken is geared up to 347 so he can start queuing up for the troll instances. I ate through all of my heroic randoms on the weekend – and wife faction too. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again anytime soon. I did managed to work through Zul’Gurub with a guild group. That was good fun. Did a bit of Zul’Aman with a guild group as well, but didn’t finish because people had to crash for the night.

For the Heroics, my DPS is rocking 13-17k on heroic bosses. I admit I carried a group through GB, well, me and the Paladin healer. They were either speaking Italian or Spanish and were REALLY slow to move or pull. And the tank (a Gnome) would bitch if you didn’t loot a corpse that was skinnable and hop up and down until you did. We got to the last boss and had one attempt in. Amazingly, we wiped but we got further than I thought. We got to the second phase of adds which released some whelps – our healer healed through them. On the third add phase we didn’t get one of the adds down before it healed. Really, there was only so much I could do when the next DPS is doing 7k and 6k to my 14k.

I love Marksman spec.

I almost brought him to raid instead of Kremus, but I’m going to hold off. I mentioned I was switching in the Guild Meeting, but I don’t think people believed me. That’s what you get for being a prankster.

Raid was good. We downed Atramedes but struggled with Chimaeron. That’s a tough fight to heal and we put our Guild Leader on the spot to switch to Resto Druid spec. He is usually Feral Tank/Boomkin so he didn’t really have the gear, enchants, gems or reforges for healing. Still, he did surprisingly well. (nerf durids!) We’re going to be looking at the Council raid in Bastion of Twilight on Tuesday.

I played some of my Druid with my son’s DK. Then we made Trolls – the whole Jamaican shtick stuck with the LBO. This morning he was ending every sentence with, “mon.” Yay. Then we made Goblins, again. He really likes driving around the goblin town running over citizens. Yes, it worries me.

For reading, I’m 200 pages into Horus Rising, part of a Warhammer 40k novel series of The Horus Heresy. I’m actually quite impressed. The reading seems more mature than what I’d expect from novels based off a game system – I’d say it’s written a cut above Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms type novels – even though DL, FR and Eberon novels have great stories, the writing is a bit more common and accessible. I’m enjoying it so far.

You’re a Very Bad Man, UFTimmy!

I hate you for getting me hooked on Minecraft.

I’d do something about it but I want to carve out a tree farm first. Oh, I found an underground stream! I’ll just shore it up and redirect it to make my dirt for the trees more fertile. Hey look! Iron nodes! I can make some better tools with that! Oh, I still want to build a water slide to get me down to the beach so quickly. Then I can collect sand, turn it into glass and make a lighthouse! Oh and…

What was I going to do before? I forget.. wheeeee!

 

On another note, I ordered a bunch of Warhammer 40k novels. Gordon and some of the commentators on his blog (We Fly Spitfires) mentioned it and suggest they’re decent. I picked up the first five from the Horus Heresy series (which appears to be more of a series of events within a period of that time) and they should be arriving shortly.

I just realized I typed, “picked up” but actually meant “ordered online”. Oh how things are changing when you consider ordering something and having it delivered to you as “picked up”.

Go go Team Lazy!

I’m looking forward to some sci-fi after devouring Towers of Midnight… at a snail’s pace.

Ugh.

Updates, because you care. Actually, because I like to occasionally dump what’s on my mind (at least what I’m allowed to dump) out into a list to make things seem less stressful than they feel. Usually a list seems small or I can look at the positives on there.

Reading

Done reading Towers of Midnight, good stuff. I still don’t really see how it can end in one book unless it’s really abrupt.

I haven’t started the other book I bought yet but managed to steal some time to read up on the changes Pathfinder made to classes.

Computer “Crisis

Computer is at the shop (Future Shop) awaiting on the manufacturer (Gateway) to send them (FutureShop) a new part (video card). Dude said it could take about a week or so as I was eyeballing the video cards on the shelf. I contained myself, letting the warrant I purchased do its thing even if it would have only taken about ten minutes to replace the card myself.

The old computer is working well enough though I hate the set up on the kid’s table and the lack of a second monitor. Keyboard on top of the table slides while I’m playing which may have made me miss an interrupt of Arcane Storm… or two. *cringe* Cataclysm is playing fine on it, when I get a chance to log on.

WoW

Tank gear is getting there though it pains me that I’m not getting a chance to earn some cash, level some alts, farming some mats, doing the TB dailies, running dungeons with guildies trying to gear up for heroics/raids and running the daily heroic dungeon. Missing the daily heroic makes me feel a little like I’m letting the guildies down because I’m one of a few tanks in the 10-man guild so that means most of them are stuck in sucky long queues and facing bad tanks.

The guild seems happy with raiding and want MOAR. I want to help deliver that but at the moment, it’s going to be too costly for me. I’m definitely having fun.

We just got Maloriak down on Tuesday after two-shotting Magmaw and Omintron (those will be one-shots soon). Maloriak still needs some work. We would have had it sooner but we kept losing a DPS which meant hitting the enrage timer not once, not twice but thrice! Last time we were down to a Mage (Sjae rocks!) and a Holy Priest in Angel of Shame mode (I’m so happy he ditched Discipline and went back to Holy!). Sjae managed to finish off the last 100k or so (for a good time click here).

DC Universe Online

I haven’t touched it for almost two weeks. Kids haven’t asked about it. I think I’m going to cancel when I get my main computer back. I suppose I could cancel sooner if I figure out which email I created the account with.

Minecraft

Stop it Tim!

Pathfinder

The shift to Pathfinder is complete. Everyone was assimilated and we had our first session last night. It was fun, nice changes.

I flipped over from a Half-Orc Fighter to a full Elf Rogue. It was an interesting switch and I have to admit the rogue changes look good so far. The hit rolls are a little low, but they’ve compensated by adding in more bonus abilities which allow you to, optionally, pick up more combat related feats. Short of it, Rogues are a lot more flexible, not just in skill points as was the case in 3.5e.

First session was interesting. We tripped over a few of the mechanics but otherwise it went well enough. I don’t know if it was just a matter of me being tired but it seemed louder than usual – lots of people talking over each other. It was more of an enthusiastic loudness though, with people going on about some new ability they got.

Things should be interesting.

Hockey

This year my hockey viewing time has plummeted significantly. I simply haven’t made the time to watch any of it at all. That’s probably a good thing because Ottawa isn’t doing so hot this year.

I’ll leave work and family out of this post. Happy Birthday to TheWife… that’s all I’m going to say.

New “Robert Jordan” Book

I picked up the new Wheel of Time book by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson called, “Towers of Midnight”. So far I’m about 300 pages into it – I think it weighs in at over 800 pages – and I’m loving it so far!

I admit the characters feel like they’ve remained true to.. well.. character and the story is unfolding at a more rapid pace. I am making a few predictions that I’m almost hoping I’m wrong about, but we’ll see after I’m done reading the book so I can go ahead and say that I’m right and no one reading this will know otherwise.

Okay, here is one that seems fairly obvious.

SPOILER ALERT

There have been a number of murders in the White Tower since the last book. These appear to occur to Aes Sedai who are alone and do not have Warders. If you remember the Seanchan attack on the White Tower in the last book, they left behind a few suicide skirmishers that would skulk about causing trouble. I’m pretty sure this is who is killing the lone Aes Sedai and that Gawyn is on the right track having discovered they were killed with knives and the locks were forced or picked with a physical instrument.

A portion of the way into Towers of Midnight, a group of Aes Sedai and some stragglers, which include the Tairen Thief-Catcher, leave the Band of the Red Hand to head to the tower. My prediction is that the Thief-Catcher will be instrumental in capturing and dealing with the Seanchan infiltrators.

I really hope that is the case, because it could make for interesting reading!

Overall the book is great so far. Love it!