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StoneWolf

Books 'n Stuff

Currently reading

La Belle Sauvage
Philip Pullman
Progress: 280/449 pages

Reading progress update: I've read 623 out of 784 pages.

A Clash of Kings - George R.R. Martin

I started Clash of Kings a couple years ago after finishing Game of Thrones, but never finished it, as I didn't like the way the book was going. Its considerably slower than GoT was, and the summer weather here doesn't help, but I think I'm just about caught up to where I was at with it. It will be a welcome thing when I do; I'm tired of retreading over the plot.

New followers

Welcome!

 

I've acquired a fair sized number of new followers today, which is unusual for me, so I thought I would write a post and introduce this blog.

 

Epic Reads Blog is (mostly) for epic reads. Internet epic that is. The internet version of the word is difficult to define and doesn't really fit into any particular genre, so I just set it as something approximating 'totally badass!'

 

Unfortunately that isn't something that slotted to any particular genre, and it is difficult to pick out which books will be a good fit for the blog and which one's aren't. More often than not the theme of this blog is more a review of what is NOT epic. There are the easy one's to pick out of course; Tolkien, Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin all very much come to mind when I think epic, but it can't all be that way sadly :(

 

Generally on this blog, I read sci-fi, with a bit of fantasy here and there. I'm also known to dive into classic literature from time to time and pretty much anything else that strikes my fancy, although its mostly sci-fi and fantasy.

 

I have been wanting to do more with this blog, however, being that I don't have an at home internet connection. I mostly write from internet cafes and free wifi points. The point being that its not quite as active as I'd like, but there's not much I can do about it right now. However, I do have some ideas about how to make it more active when things change. For example, for Veteran's Day or Memorial Day some year, I would like to do a lead up of biography posts of Medal of Honor recipients (cause honestly, if you read the citations nothing says badass more than some of these guys), but I just don't see it in the cards right now.

 

And finally I make it a point to follow everyone who follows me. I don't keep company with alot of other readers offline, so I don't have alot of other people I know on here. It can be hard to get people you don't know, interested in your blog and I always appreciate it when I get new followers. Thus I consider it a courtesy to follow people who follow me. Community building and all.

 

Unfortunately, at this particular wifi point some of your pages have been blocked for whatever reason, (curse words or some such probably; I don't care, but the library apparently does; btw I'm looking at you E.), so I'm going to have to add some people the next time I'm at a less restricted hotspot.

 

Anyway, thank you all, for following reading my reviews :)

The Prophet

The Prophet - Kahlil Gibran

Synopsis: A holy man of some sort, due to depart on a boat shortly, dispenses wisdom to townsfolk gathered to see him off on topics such as love, religion, beauty, and death among others.

 

This is Kahlil Gibran's best known work, and despite being so short (readable in about 1 - 2 hours) its very intense. Its the sort of book that if if you want to understand any of it, you have to slow down and read it carefully and think about what your reading.

 

He's very prosaic with his writing, there's a lot of old school classical charm to it, but the real value here is both what he says and doesn't say.

 

"And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.

For in the dew of little things the heart finds it's morning and is refreshed."

A Deepness in the Sky

A Deepness in the Sky - Vernor Vinge

Synopsis: Several thousand years in the future humanity has colonized large parts of the galaxy, but has never encountered another sentient, starfaring race. Now two civilizations race to explore a galactic anomaly, a mysterious star that shuts itself off for every 215 out of 250 years, and to make first contact with the inhabitants of the lone planet orbiting it.

 

But these two groups have very different goals and reasons for making first contact...

 

I felt like this book had a lot of potential, but that some of it was ultimately a let down. Instead of a story filled with action gratifying the more obvious plot paths, we're given something much more subtle and deep, but also a lot slower.

 

On one side of the story we're given a slow, methodical, revolution centered on subterfuge. The other plot line revolves around the planet's inhabitants as the book introduces alien characters and sits with them for generations.

 

While I don't think it's 4 star material, Vinge obviously put a lot of thought into character development here, as many of them are sincerely likeable, while others are very effective villains. While she isn't seen much in the book Honoured Pedure in particular struck me as a great embodiment of rightwing conservative villainy.

 

One other thing to note, Vinge appears to be making a very, very subtle play at...something. In the context of the novel inhabitants of the planet spend most of their time in a kind of biological cryostasis, only being awake an involved with the world around them for the 35 years out 250 that their sun is active. Conservative members of the population dominate the planet, and believe that their young should be born and raised in a rigid alignment with that cycle. There's some stuff about souls and what not.

 

The human characters in the book regard these notions as bizarre, the same way an alien race looking at Earth might say "Half of you get your panties in a knot over gay people? Wtf" or "You believe in souls ahahahahahaha".

 

All in all an enjoyable read, but the ending dragged on and on.

 

General rating: 3 1/2

Epic rating: 3 1/2

The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown

Synopsis: Robert Langdon chases down another ancient mystery.

 

I'm gonna say it right now, Dan Brown: turds need to stay in the toilet; not be fished out, bound into hardcover books and be sold at exorbitant prices. I don't like to DNF. I avoid doing that as much as I can. But this book seriously tested that resolve.

 

The Davinci Code was a good read, I'll admit that. But the truth is Brown got lucky. He won the writer's lottery and that's a fact. Whether or not you think he plagiarized Holy Blood, Holy Grail he certainly hit the jackpot with it.

 

But like many writers or artists lacking real creative ability, Dan Brown has attempted to recreate his success with the Da Vinci Code...by rewriting The Da Vinci Code all over again. It's literally the same story. Same protagonist, Robert Langdon, there's a crazy fanatic who happens to look really weird, a woman who follows Langdon around, a bunch of secrets, and an ancient organization... Langdon runs all over the place getting chased by the CIA and a tattooed crazy person.

 

The differences are that instead of Paris or the Vatican this time its Washington D.C. and Brown has swapped in Freemasonry for the Vatican or whatever it was in the last book. In addition we also have hokey pseudoscience Noetics, which Brown appears to be a big fan of taking a major, though pretty unnecessary, role within the book.

 

The twists were a mixture...one was good, but not a huge shocker either. The other one was so lame that it almost caused me to DNF on the spot. The book's ultimate twist in the last 30 or 40 pages, I also found pretty lame for a thriller. It would have felt much more at home in a work of liberal theology or philosophy.

 

In terms of epic, it does do some things right. It was a page turner alright, if only to be done with the whole thing. Some of the mysteries and questions with the plot seriously contributed to that, but I felt they were ultimately a let down when they were answered.

 

On the whole I hated this book immensely. The uncreative, retrodden plot, mediocre characters (apart from the bad guy who was somewhat interesting), pointless agenda laden advertisement of bullshit pseudoscience, and shitty twists all made me hate this book. God help me if I ever find myself wanting to read Dan Brown again after this.

 

General rating: 1 1/2

Epic: 2

The Amber Spyglass

The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman

Synopsis: Lyra and Will reunite with two tiny spies and make their way to the land of the dead. Lord Asriel fights his war against The Authority. Miss Malone constructs an amber spyglass to see Dust and is hunted by an assassin from Lyra's world.

 

There comes every once in awhile a book that can really move you. A book thats packed with emotion, and depth, and so much epic drama that it just makes you want to stand and applaud. Or cheer. Books like that are the reason we do what we do. They keep us slogging through the latest Clive Cussler offering of the month or James Patterson or putting up with Anne Rice and all her crap. We do it because we're looking for books like that. Books like that are why we read.

 

The Amber Spyglass, really the whole trilogy, is THAT book(s). This was a moving end to a trilogy with characters I both loved and hated (in a good way). There were tears. I'm not a teary kind of person.

 

And its definitely epic, too. A journey across worlds into the land of the dead and back to challenge the highest of powers. This is a trilogy to be read.

 

 

 

General rating: 5

Epic rating: 4 1/2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Age of Zeus

The Age of Zeus - James Lovegrove

Synopsis: Greek gods (Zeus, Apollo, Hades, etc.) return to the world and take it over, claiming to be restorers of peace and order. Nations are cutting defense spending, while increasing education and science funding. Crime is at an all time low and nations no longer war with each other. But the gods are tyrannical, genocidal despots, slaughtering all opposition, peaceful or not, to their rule. A small group, aided by highpowered battlesuits and advanced weaponry, challenges these gods and their mythological monsters.

 

Age of Zeus is a pretty straight forward story. There aren't to many twists and turns and the one's that are there aren't terribly surprising. And the moralizing that occurs in a couple parts of it is just plain irritating.

 

Our protagonist is Sam Akehurst, who as a character is well developed, but she's probably the only character that gets that treatment. The rest of the cast is mostly just glossed over. Little details are given to several of them, but most of them just felt underdeveloped.

 

The other thing I'd complain about are the little details. Lovegrove probably could have spent a little more time consulting with a military specialist about some this stuff. Sam leads the group, but she never really feels like a leader for example. The character Landesman is the bankroll, the money, for the groups operations and throughout the book he gives most of the orders. There are other details that are irksome too. Like don't sleep with your teammates.

 

I would have also liked to see a little more focus on the tech. Thee battlesuits were cool, but they too felt a little glossed over.

 

To sum it up this could have been a really epic book with a great premise, but it left me feeling a little underdone.

 

General and epic rating both: ***

The Subtle Knife

The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman

Synopsis: Lyra enters a new world, Cittagazze, and meets an ally from another world beyond that. Together they brave soul eating spectres and the nakedly evil ambitions of Mrs Coulter as they unravel the mystery of Dust.

 

The Subtle Knife is the second book of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. As before the book is full of mysteries and questions. Somehow even after I had finished the book and all the questions I had had about what was going on had been answered I still felt like there were answers to be had. To be able to infuse a story with this kind of enduring mystery is a rare talent indeed. Pullman is a master of the pen.

 

Its epic in its size and scope. Two children on a journey spanning worlds to challenge the highest of powers...the potential here is immense and so far it doesn't disappoint.

 

 

 

 

General rating: 4 1/2

Epic rating: 4 1/2

 

 

Dragonlance Chronicles Trilogy

Dragons of Spring Dawning - Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman Dragons of Autumn Twilight - Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weis Dragons of Winter Night - Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman

Synopsis: A group of friends/heroes fights a war against an evil goddess and her armies. Its pretty straightforward stuff.

 

As I mentioned when I started this trilogy I spent several of my teenage years obsessed with the novels from this shared universe. Re-reading these has been a nice sentimental trip for me and I don't have a hard time understanding why I liked them. Still, however, I'm growing a bit weary of them and I need something different so I'll be postponing the read and review of the second core trilogy, Legends, until a later date.

 

The first book, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, is a bit melodramatic in some respects and it kinda feels like the authors are still getting their feet under them. There are also some concepts, and creatures, like unicorns, which are used and then completely abandoned by the rest of the shared universe. In 40+ book franchise where every single detail is pulled out and given its own novel it feels really odd to read these few forgotten bits.

But thats really not that much of issue. By the second book, Dragons of Winter Night, the authors have the idea of what they are doing pretty well down, the writing style has been tuned up and things seem to work much more smoothly.

 

By the third book, Dragons of Spring Dawning, they are clearly looking to the future and paving the way for the much more complicated storyline of the Legends trilogy. Its nice to see that they actually had some idea where they were gonna send the story post Chronicles rather than figuring it out as they went along.

 

I was really surprised at well these books aged with me, too. They were still very readable, they didn't come off as silly teenage drivel at all. You know how wh

en you bust out your dvd of Beverly Hills Cop, thinking about how funny it was 20+ years ago and you realize that its just really, REALLY stupid now? Thats what I was worried about from these books. But they held their end of things pretty damn well, to my mind, and I'm happy I took the time to read them again. The subplots were artfully done, and the books contained a depth of character I hadn't noticed so much as a teenager.

 

I think I got tired of the rest of the books partly because the other writers couldn't or wouldn't bother to infuse their books with the level of depth in the core trilogies.

 

General rating: 3 1/2 (even 4)

Epic rating: 4

 

  • "If we deny love that is given to us, if we refuse to give love because we fear the pain of loss, then our lives will be empty, our loss greater."- Tanis Half-Elven.

Jenny Trout releases novella that Anne Rice & STGRB got cancelled

Reblogged from Karlynp & The Doggone World:

If you have been following the latest drama of Anne Rice, STGRB and their menacing pet troll Kevin Weinberg, you know that Jenny Trout was recently targeted by Kevin for a) expressing her opinion of a book's content,  and b) expressing her wish that it be pulled from circulation.

 

The story posted on STGRB (where opposing comments are most often not allowed) used selective screen shots provided by Kevin, and which painted Jenny Trout as an 'author attacker'. (Irony, right?) The article was immediately then heralded on Anne Rice's Facebook page for her 1 million+ followers to peruse and persecute, and where many opposing comments were also not welcomed and therefor deleted. (more deleted & deleted)

 

If you followed along like I did, you too felt a game was at play. A sick game where players behind the curtain were manipulating facts for the purpose of targeting a person Anne Rice has had issues with in the past. Yes, it felt VERY personal and completely dubious. And given Kevin Weinberg's proven history of manipulating tween-age kids into creating fake accounts to troll along side with him, including his recent attack of people on an Amazon thread who were simply opposed to Anne Rice's support of STGRB, one will see he very likely has ulterior motives.

 

Proof Kevin Weinberg is manipulating troll influencing young tweens

 

Sadly, as a result of this calculated attack, several people complained to Jenny's publisher. The publisher heard one side of the story and felt they needed to pull Jenny's story from an upcoming anthology of 12 authors. In support of solidarity, the other 11 others also pulled their stories.  So not only was Jenny hurt in the mix, but so were 11 other authors.

 

Today Jenny released her novella as a stand alone, so if you would like to support her you can find the new book on Amazon or Smashwords.

 

Source: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UR4MOA8

Reading progress update: I've read 88 out of 444 pages.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight - Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weis

The Dragonlance franchise, created by Margaret Weiss & Tracy Hickman, is comprised of gaming modules, some older pc games, and a long series of books. The series began in 1984 with a trilogy of books known as the Chronicles trilogy. It was followed by the Legends trilogy which is generally considered the better of the two.

 

The two trilogies were after this expanded into a larger franchise written by various other authors such as Douglas Niles and Richard A. Knaak.

 

 

Weis & Hickman wrote the occasional short story or novella for the series, but were generally absent after the two trilogies were completed.

 

 

The series was fairly popular in its day, and I was a passionate devotee in my teenage  years. I begged, borrowed, bought when I could, but mostly shoplifted every single book in the series that I could find. I'm not terribly proud of that, but hey its in the past.

 

Gradually I came to realize that the two trilogies, the entire basis for the whole series, were just a cut above the stuff written by the other authors. I began to get a little bored with the series.

 

In 1995 TSR (the original publishing company; defunct) announced Dragons of Summer Flame, the fourth book in the Chronicles trilogy to be written by Weis & Hickman (yes I know, trilogy = 3 but they added a 4th anyway)  I viewed it as a good series endcap.

 

According to Wikipedia, Weis & Hickman's relationship with TSR was somewhat strained and they intended it to be the series' end. I read the book, put it on my shelf and was content to be done with the whole franchise.

 

So I was surprised when yet another Dragonlance book was announced (I've never read any of the new ones since then) and somewhat irritated that they had ruined the ending I had waited for.

 

 

 

Wizards of the Coast, (the company that owns and produces Magic: The Gathering) had bought TSR and attempted to jumpstart the series after repairing the relationship with Weis & Hickman.

 

 

Anyway, fastforward to October of last year. After a longer than I cared for stay I was moving out of my parent's house. In preparation I was rooting around in their garage looking boxes of stuff that had been deposited there the previous year. In an old abandoned box I found a copy of Dragons of Winter Night and Summer Flame.

 

So last week I went to B&N and picked up copies of the books I'm missing and for sentimentality I'm gonna read them again and review. I will likely re-read the Legends trilogy as well and skip the rest.

 

So far I'm liking it. I'm not having a hard time seeing why I liked these books though they are a little melodramatic and the writing takes a little bit to get on its feet. Its fairly clear that during the beginning of the first book, that they were still getting the hang of world building, but its still fun reading. I will be reviewing these as a trilogy not individually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Ark of the Covenant

The Lost Ark of the Covenant: The Remarkable Quest for the Legendary Ark - Tudor Parfitt

Synopsis: A Welsh archaeologist spends 20 years searching for a legendary Jewish artifact after which he writes a book and styles himself as a British Indiana Jones.

 

I initially picked up this book as I have a long time interest in all things esoteric and eschatological. In spite of not being a Christian at all I find Bible mysteries and secrets fascinating, so it was with a good deal of interest I started this book.

 

Initially, I didn't care for it as much as I had hoped. Its nonfiction alright, but Parfitt presents the book as a novel, a chronicle of his adventure to understand and find this lost relic. I would have prefered less adventure quest and more research.

 

Its slow for a good two thirds of the book. Parfitt spends most of his time talking about his interpretation of the ark, meeting with various contacts and attempting to narrow down his list of leads.

 

Somewhere around two thirds of the way through the book gets really interesting, however. Parfitt radically re-interprets what the ark actually is, follows a trail to some fascinatingly unlikely places, and really gets going. It was a pretty good page turner when it did get going, but prior to that it felt really slow.

 

General rating: 3 1/2

Epic rating: 3

 

 

 

 

The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman

Honestly, I can only come up with two words for this book: absolutely fan-fucking-tastic.

 

Synopsis: Lyra is an 11 year old girl who lives at Jordan college in Oxford where she is more or less allowed to run wild. When her friend Roger and her uncle Asriel both disappear she is drawn into an adventure that takes her to the cold north and beyond.

 

The vision of this book is certainly nothing new; ayoung child on a big adventure, however its expertly woven with questions and mystery. The entire plot start to finish almost is a mystery, it keeps you guessing, feeds you answers a little at a time and makes for a real page turner.

 

Central to the plot are 'daemons' visible animal manifestations of a person's soul that everyone in Lyra's world possesses. I found the concept unusual and very interesting, but I sort of felt that they made some of the characters a little transparent. I mean if the daemon is a reflection of the person, you can make a guess at the person and their role within the book by what kind of daemon they are given.

 

The other (minor) problem I had with the story is that the plot's central issue is a problem that no one can actually relate to. At best it would be an abstract concept for a real person to empathize with.

 

Additionally, although I didn't find it to be an issue if you happen to be a religious person this might be one to avoid. The book contains hints of distinctive anti-religious overtones that as I understand it grow more distinct in the next two books.

 

Phillip Pullman is quoted as saying:

 

"I've been surprised by how little criticism I've got. Harry Potter's been taking all the flak... Meanwhile, I've been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God".

 

Anyway, all in all it was a great read and I can't wait to get to the next two books although I'm not really sure when I'll be able to :(

 

 

 

 

Bowl of Heaven review

Bowl of Heaven - Larry Niven, Gregory Benford

Synopsis: A spaceship on a centuries long journey to establish a colony on a far off planet encounters a vast, flat bowl structure hugging a star as it is propelled through space. A landing party investigates and is immediately split with some being captured by the bowl's inhabitants and the others escaping.

 

The book begins with a short prelude which introduces some of the characters. The story then immediately barrels full force ahead. There isn't a huge lot of character development here. The two protagonists are having an affair or some kind of intimate relationship and there's a little more development sprinkled here and there, but its clear that its a very distant second to the plot. They do a fair job with the imagery and descriptiveness, but the real problem with this book is that it is just BORING. There's no mystery here and it doesn't do a good job as a survival story either. Its explicitly stated that this is the first in a saga, however the cliffhanger at the end is kinda lame and I most likely will not read the next one. There is some potential; the aliens could be very interesting. For example, their origins, and what they're doing traveling through space on a floating wok bigger than the planet Jupiter.

 

But if the first book is any indicator, the authors will just squander the interesting possibilities for boring stuff.

 

To sum it up its not bad. Its just not good either.

 

General: ***

Epic: **

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catch Me - Lisa Gardner

Synopsis: A woman approaches a detective  at her latest crime scene amd asks her to solve her murder which she believes will happen in 4 days. You see both her only two friends in the world were murdered two consecutive years in a row on the same day and she expects to be next. Meanwhile, our detective is also working to solve a vigilante murder spree targeting pedophiles.

 

Have you ever wanted to read a Lifetime movie? This book is your chance. But seriously, I hated this one. I very much wanted to DNF it was that much of a slog. Simply awful.

 

Gardners attempt at suspense is a 4 day countdown that feels more tired and tedious than anything. There is little in the way of suspense beyond that and the mystery elements simply proceed along without much effort until the end when the whole thing is simply thrown wide open. The eventual twist did manage to throw me off a little, but I was able to figure it out well enough beforehand that it wasn't to much of a shocker.

 

A boring, tedious literary slog that was better than warm milk and a lullaby for my sleeping habits.

 

General rating: 2 1/2

Epic rating: 1/2