Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crossroads of Twilight By Robert Jordan

Crossroads of Twilight (Wheel of Time, #10)Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


What more can I say about this series? What would you want to know? Am I going to keep reading it? Yes. Was this book just more of the same: too many subplots, too much political crap and only a handful of action scenes for an 800 page book? Yes. So why do I keep reading? I have hope that although Robert Jordan seems to have forgotten why he got so many readers in the first place, Brandon Sanderson may bring this series back to the incredible, epic conclusion we all dreamed of at the beginning.

Another 3 stars.



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The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice, #1)The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this book, but at the same time I was disappointed. This was an enjoyable read for me because it is right at the level that I think I need to target with my writing. At times it almost seemed too simplistic in its language and the voice Flanangan used seemed prone to state obvious conclusions, but those are the qualities that give access to younger readers, while the plot still maintains the interest of older readers. Also the scope of the conflict was adjusted to keep the key conflict interesting for older readers, but by maintaining just one key conflict, it is again available to younger readers as well.



My disappointment came from the lack of magic. It is a qualified fantasy thanks to the Medieval setting, the out-of-this-world creatures and archetypal main character, but one of the hallmarks of fantasy is the acknowledgement of a power higher than the power of man. Maybe the main character has access to it, maybe they don't, but it always plays into the story somewhere. It adds a fantastical element that leaves a gap in overall story, in my opinion.



I am going to finish out this series, and so maybe this will change in future books, and even if it doesn't, I will enjoy finding out how Will and Horace aid in the fight against Margarath.



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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Violet Keystone by Garth Nix

The Violet Keystone (The Seventh Tower, #6)The Violet Keystone by Garth Nix

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Ok, so this is the last book in the series. If you decide to read these books, and I hope you do, I recommend getting the combined volumes, rather than reading them one little book at a time. The continuity would have been nice.



So the pros: The best thing about this book is that it is so Garth Nixish. The only way to describe it is realistically abstract. The characters are real. The society speaks to challenges in our own society. The setting is blissfully fictional. I really really really hope I find more to read by Nix.



The cons: I have pointed it out for every volume: this was written for a really young audience. While I think it hit its mark, I can't help but think that it was a waste of Nix's talent. He can do so much more for a 9th grade+audience, that writting for a 4th grade audience seems like a total waste. Take Aenir and super-size it. Make the world deeper, the denizens of Aenir more co-dependent, their society more relevant. Take the number of characters from among the chosen and double them. Let them run amuck, running into each other, affecting Tal, having their own subplots. This could have been Harry Potterish in scope rather than Junie B Jonesish (don't get me wrong I love JBJ too). Sigh. Just a lost opportunity for so much more enjoyment.



4 Stars. Double the length/depth and it is 5.







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Into Battle by Garth Nix

Into Battle (The Seventh Tower, #5)Into Battle by Garth Nix

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Another quick read. I am trying to place what the spiritual/metaphysical practices of the Icecarls remind me of... I think it is the cult-classic Galaxy Quest, and the mak'tar chant of strength (Larak tarath, larak tarath). Anyway, it is almost funny, and yet somehow fits that a teenage girl is able to put herself in weird trances all the time, and now is leading an army (that's not a spoiler, it is more or less on the cover.)



So while I deal with that, I'm still enjoying the occasional ah-ha moment where I see an obvious theme poking out into the light. 4 stars.



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Above the Veil by Garth Nix

Above the Veil (The Seventh Tower, #4)Above the Veil by Garth Nix

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


These books are so short that I don't have a lot of new things to say about this installment of the series. My opinion is more of the whole series. So why did this particular book only get 3 stars? Well, while the status-quo was maintained, I didn't get any surprises from this plot. It kept the story moving and that was great, but nothing above that stood out to me (especially now that I'm writing this a few weeks down the road.) So it only gets 3. Still respectable. Or maybe it is being unfairly punished for my lack of memory (born from lack of sleep...)



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Aenir by Garth Nix

Aenir (The Seventh Tower, #3)Aenir by Garth Nix

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Hmm. This book incorporates the spirit world of Aenir into the setting, bringing to life the concepts Nix introduced in the first two books in the Seventh Tower series. What I like about this is that there are deeper levels to his story, or his message if you will, in this book. It offers a mature, could-be-studied-in-English-class aura to a much younger audience. Readers can look at Tal's experience and question what they believe to be reality. They can consider what it really means to escape your reality and substitute another, sometimes dangerous, reality. And don't forget the troubles that can be started by evil entities taking a position of power over the masses. Oh and stir in an oppressive caste society to add some flavor.



Great book to be enjoyed by all. Another 4 stars.



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Castle by Garth Nix

Castle (The Seventh Tower, #2)Castle by Garth Nix

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


So this series (Seventh Tower) remains simplistic, so simplistic that I almost feel guilty for counting this as a separate book. And then I remember all of the Robert Jordan monsters I read this year, and I don't feel bad any more. It all averages out.



I think of Castle as the next chapter to the story more than the next book, but even when targeting a different audience Nix continues to deliver enthralling worlds, realistic characters, and fantastic plots. He keeps things moving along at a good pace, yet doesn't miss the key details that he needs to build on later. Four stars for consistent awesomeness.



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Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Fall by Garth Nix

The Fall (The Seventh Tower, #1)The Fall by Garth Nix

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Since I have become a full-blown Garth Nix fan, I looked for his other titles, and found The Sevent Tower series. This first installment surprised me in a couple of ways. First, it is significantly shorter than the books (and series) I am used to reading. I guess that I am stepping down a reading level or two, since I would put this one within the reach of 3rd-6th graders. A bit young for my tastes. The other surprising thing is that even though it is short, and for a younger crowd, I still enjoy his characters and world. In about 20 minutes of reading he has set the stage for another fantastical world that makes sense, but is on the abstract side. I guess one of the reasons I like his stuff is because it is the type of stories I would like to come up with.

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Winter's Heart by Robert Jordan

Winter's Heart (Wheel of Time, #9)Winter's Heart by Robert Jordan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Ah, what more can I say. The series is consistant. There is too much time spent on politcal intrigue and character's plotting and planning, and too little time spent seeing those action come to life. The old writing rule of thumb of "show them the story, don't tell them the story" should have been applied within this story as well. While Jordan shows us his character's planning, he neglects to realize that we really want to see the story happen. It is like writing a story and explaining all of the planning and prewriting and editing that went into the process. It just isn't helpful.

So the bright spot is a particulary cool ending. Something actually happended in the last few chapters, and it affected the macro-story in a big way. There were a few chapters there where once again he had me on the edge of my seat, flipping through the pages as fast as I could. It hearkened back to his first few books that earned him the fan base and reputation he has now.

Another solid 3.259384593845 stars.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial FitnessThe Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Just like Financial Peace, this book is a must read. It doesn't have a vastly different message, but rather more details and more motivation to get it done. And that is worth a whole lot.

I still disagree with a few points of his strategy, but they are very few, and he makes the very good point that his money management strategy is proven, whereas mine is theoretical. So he wins. We will be applying his principles, and recommend this to everyone as a must read!!!

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The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

The Path of Daggers (Wheel of Time, #8)The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


So, I can't say much on this book. It is another piece of the larger story (as I have said about the other books) but it doesn't really resolve anything. The plot(s) is/are about as deep as possible, so I can't say that the plot is getting deeper. Rather it is just moving around in its deepness.

More than anything I just want to get to the end of the series. At this point it is all about getting to the end. The ride isn't that fun anymore. It is like going on a long vacation. At some point you just get tired of the traveling, even if you are doing fun stuff.

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Lord Sunday by Garth Nix

Lord Sunday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #7)Lord Sunday by Garth Nix

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


So this was a great series. Everything I have read from Garth Nix has been great, and he writes to his audience very well. As with any fantastical fantasy finale, there are fine scientific points I could pick at when it comes to his ultimate resolution. But really, that is half the fun of reading a fantasy series. It is not unlike the pasttime of some history buffs I know who wonder what it would have been like if something slightly different had happened at some point in the past. It is fun to toss around, but in the end, what happened IS the end.

I have one criticism, and I feel strongly enough that I almost wanted to mark this down by a star because of it. (It retained all five stars based on how much I enjoyed the entire series when it was all said and done.) This book is just plain too short.

I know that is an odd situation in this day and age where final installments probably average 50% more pages than book 1 (my observation, not scientific data), but this is one book that would have been better with a bit more to it. It is just all over so quickly, simply and cleanly that maybe I just wasn't ready for it. It was very lightweight, but then again, that also earns Nix praise for continually delivering to his young adult audience.

Overall summary: Five stars. Enough said.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Superior Saturday by Garth Nix

Superior Saturday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #6) Superior Saturday by Garth Nix


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is cheesy, I know, but one reason I give this a 4 is for brevity. The story is not lacking in any way, but this is a much shorter read, which is opposite of the bloat that many authors engage in as they try to wrap up all of the plotlines introduced in previous books. At the same time, I can't say that I am fond of the ending. I don't think I am giving anything away by saying that the last scene Arthur is in has him falling thousands of feet through the air. Talk about being left hanging. Literally.

Probably wouldn't have been a big deal if I'd had the next book close at hand. I would have just kept on reading...

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lady Friday by Garth Nix

Lady Friday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #5) Lady Friday by Garth Nix


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
So this is probably my least favorite of the series. The concept of "experiencing" somehow isn't mentioned in any of the previous books, but it seems to be really appealing to the denizens, similar to the black-market trading for human ailments, which is used and referred to throughout the series. Also, it doesn't make sense to me how denizens really get that much from it. They seem to have human-like responses to things, although a much more bland version (jealousy, hate, a pity, etc.) Plus, most things that are considered "mortal" are looked down upon. Why would they want to experience them? Why is experiencing all that great?

Maybe that gets resolved in the last book. For now it is a 3.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sir Thursday by Garth Nix

Sir Thursday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #4) Sir Thursday by Garth Nix


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
For some reason I am partial to this book... Maybe because there is fighting in it? Maybe because it drags the main character into the worst possible situation? One where you wait and wait for Arthur to find a way out of it, and in the end, he doesn't escape, but instead deals with it? I don't know, but I was tempted by a five on this one... I am just stingy with 5s.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger

Do What You Are : Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type--Revised and Updated Edition Featuring E-careers for the 21st Century Do What You Are : Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type--Revised and Updated Edition Featuring E-careers for the 21st Century by Paul D. Tieger


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So this gets one of my rare 5 stars. I don't know if anyone else will find this book that enlightening, but for me it answered my questions, so its value is high.

I have long been a fan of personality profiling, simply because it helps me understand myself and other people. This book takes the empirical (IMHO) Myers-Briggs/Jung Typology system and applies it to your career. Basically, you put your type in, and it gives you a bunch of plain statements out about what are most likely looking for in a career. It has been helpful for me to have that list, both for myself, and for those I manage.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix

Drowned Wednesday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #3) Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had to give this just three stars. I still really like the series, and this book did move the overall plot along nicely, but a humongous whale? Really? I did almost give it a 4 just for a pirate that can reattach his own head at will, but they can't all be 4s...

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix

Grim Tuesday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #2) Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The series builds, and I especially appreciate the seamless integration into the next book...

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Mister Monday by Garth Nix

Mister Monday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #1) Mister Monday by Garth Nix


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So I read this series last year, but there were 3 problems with my reading: (1) I read it too fast. It was like a move that you watched and enjoyed, but you were so tired that you later couldn't tell your friends what it was about. (2) I read it alone. I really enjoy reading books with my family, and this one is a prime candidate. (3) The final book of the series wasn't out yet. I hate reading unfinished series.

So my family started listening to the audiobooks, and I was right there. As you will see, I revisited the entire series, and it was better the 2nd time.

One helpful tidbit before you jump into this book: To me, all Garth Nix books are a bit... abstract. Keep reading, pay attention and you will be rewarded, although it might take half of the first book to really "get it." And in the end, that is one of the reasons I love them.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Last Olympian by Rick Rioridan

The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #5) The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This books wraps up the series well, as far as the general plot goes, but there were a few things that didn't flow well for me. The big one I don't get is Typhon, (which is so close to Typhoon it kills me.) How does this monster put up a fight against all of the gods, and not fight against the Titan's as well? Maybe I missed something there, but this guy seems out of place...

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Monday, March 15, 2010

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Rioridan

The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #4) The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I said it 5 minutes ago, and I'll say it again, this was a great series. I like the twists it is taking, and I feel that this installment offered a bit more of a fantasy spin on the mythical subject matter/characters.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Titan's Curse by Rick Rioridan

The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #3) The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I loved this whole series, so I think it earns a good mark all the way around. One unresolved problem for me as I read through it: The age of the main character and his feats/love interests don't seem to match. I just can't picture a 14 year old kid fighting of monsters with a sword after a few weeks of training...

I know, it is just fiction. But things like this bother me when they are so blatant, and the author makes no rationalization.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan

A Crown of Swords (Wheel of Time, #7) A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
So we are inching back to four stars with this Wheel of Time book, but only inching. We saw some of the far-flung plots reach some conclusions; Nynaeve and Elayne have the Bowl of Winds, and an army, more or less; Matt is heading for his long-forshadowed run-in with the Daughter of the Nine Moons; and one more Forsaken is dead. We have a few new wild cards in Sevannah and the gholam, and some of the same old antagonists (when will he actually kill Padan Fain??) but overall stuff happened in this book.

What kept it in the 3-star range for me is how in one chapter or less he storms into Illian and takes out a Forsaken. I still get the sense that he isn't a match for one of them in a fair fight, and this didn't convince me otherwise. The only thing I was convinced of is that Jordan needed to end this book quickly, so he cut to the chase. Very dissatisfying. Still, I have hope for the future... This was an improvement.

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The Sea of Monsters by Rick Rioridan

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2) The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Continuing with the saga that began with Lightning Thief, which introduced us to the characters and setting, The Sea of Monsters took us on a voyage that showed the real conflict. Good vs. evil will meet again in this series, and we met a few new characters along the way to that discovery. I can't wait to find out what happens next. Another delightful quick read that no one in the family can put down.

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The Lightning Thief by Rick Rioridan

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Yes, we are jumping onto a bandwagon here. We saw the movie trailer some months ago, and we decided to read the series. So did everyone else who visits the public library. After months on a wait list we finally got our hands on this book, and from me to our 8 year old, everyone fought for their turn to read it. Solution: Audio book. My wife reports a week's worth of the calmest, quietest trips to and from school, scouts, and other errands as the boys sat enthralled by this story.

I enjoyed this, as it departs from some of the classic themes of magic and introduces a new generation to ancient Greece myths. The characters are real enough, although not as deep as JK Rowlings' or Garth Nix's characters. Definitely worth the few hours it takes to read this before seeing the movie (I believe in always reading the REAL story before being brainwashed by whatever Hollywood has done with it.)

And we now own the whole series in hardback. That is a recommendation within itself.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

Lord of Chaos (Wheel of Time, #6) Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan


My rating:3 of 5 stars
We are continuing the unfortunate bog that is the middle of an otherwise great series. I don't have a lot to add, although I am getting tired of the plots that the Forsaken seem to be always putting together, but that don't really seem to produce anything. He should be picking them off a couple per book. At the end Jordan could turn Taim, the super-tall myddraal, or Fain into a new "Forsaken" to fight. But enough of the plotting already. It rubs...

Other than that, a solid 3 stars, with greater things to come.

The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan

The Fires of Heaven (Wheel of Time, #5) The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Ah, and this was the famous slow-down in Jordan's great Wheel of Time series. As the characters spread out and become involved in their own plots the story starts to drag some, and it is harder to pull it all together. I noticed this the first time around (years ago) when I read these, and so I was ready for it this time, and my plan worked.

I enjoyed this book, and kept up with all of the detail by simply reading it quickly. Luckily I had an overseas business trip to go on, so after a whole day in airports and on planes and then a solid week of alone time to read in the evenings, and I nailed this near-1000-page monster in less than a week. I am convinced that is the only way to do it. In fact I sprinted through this book, and the next, and now am taking a little breather before book 7, but appreciated the story the whole time.

Even though I was entertained I can't justify more than 3 stars for this installment. 900+ pages is hard to justify. Some of the subplots could have been shallower without taking away from their value to the larger plot, or taking too much away from the character development. (I should mention that the massive character development that Jordan takes on here is not lost on me, it just gets lost in the quagmire of all of the various threads he is trying to pull together.)

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Booklist 2009

Back To Lists

Not only do I love books, but I also love lists. That means that a booklist is a no-brainer for me. This is a list of the books I have read in 2009.
#BookAuthorDate Completed
18The Dark is RisingRobert Jordan

27 December

17The Dragon RebornRobert Jordan

11 December

16The Great HuntRobert Jordan

3 December

15The Eye of the WorldRobert Jordan

20 November

14The Magic of OzL. Frank Baum

20 October

13Breaking DawnStephanie Meyer

22 September

12EclipseStephanie Meyer

20 September

11New MoonStephanie Meyer

17 September

10TwilightStephanie Meyer

15 September

9Shards of a Broken CrownRaymond E. Feist

14 June

8Nineteen Eighty-fourGeorge Orwell

23 June

7Rich Dad Poor DadRobert T. Kiyosaki

3 June

6To Green Angel Tower Part 2Tad Williams

19 May

5To Green Angel Tower Part 1Tad Williams

5 May

4Stone of FarewellTad Williams

24 April

3The Dragonbone ChairTad Williams

30 February

2AbhorsenGarth Nix

30 January

1LiraelGarth Nix

15 January