Monday, April 29, 2013

Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull (Fablehaven 3)

Grip of the Shadow Plague (Fablehaven, #3)Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So I have nitpicked at the previous Fablehaven books, finding fault with some small facet of the book to justify 4-star ratings. With this third installment I can't find the flaw. The small things that bothered me before have fallen into balance as the characters and plot have stabilized. Dragons, kachinas (?!?!?), and a mysterious leader with questionable loyalties. I can't wait to get to the next book, and so am going to hand out five stars and go back to my reading...

EDIT: So I noticed that I have another review for this book from a previous reading.  That happens sometimes, and it is interesting to see how my perception has changed over time (and how it hasn't :) )

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing ImprovementThe Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So this book is a must-read for any professional in an operations role. And I mean any operations role, not just manufacturing. There is an approach to life here that is important not to miss: have a goal, and then do what is necessary to reach that goal. Avoid extraneous activities that don't help you accomplish your goal.

The story is fairly well-written, although at times you can tell Goldratt is trying to pack in data/specifics into the story for their academic value only. However, this was written fairly early in the overall history of business "stories" meant to teach in an entertaining way, and it is very well done given when it was published.

Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull

Rise of the Evening Star (Fablehaven, #2)Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great followup book in this series, expanding on the plot and developing the characters. Seth wasn't even as obnoxious this time (that is a relative statement though... still over the top.) I liked getting to know some of the other roles/characters in the fairy-aware world, although that is a fine line to walk, because the bigger that world gets the more complex it is and it gets more and more difficult to keep the ignorance of the regular world believable. But it is fantasy, and the reader understands that, so there is room to grow here.

Brandon Mull did a great job with this book, and with the series so far, but I only give this one 5 stars because I wasn't wowed by anything in this book, and you have to save the 5-stars for those books that are truly special.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Fablehaven (Fablehaven, #1)Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So after reading the Beyonders series, and remembering how talented Brandon Mull is, I remembered that I never finished the Fablehaven series. It is really strange for me to not finish any series once I start it, and I realized that there were 3 such series for me right now. I didn't finish them because they were not all published when I started them, and I didn't get to each new installment as they cam out. (For those interested the other two series are the Magyk series by Angie Sage and the Leven Thumps Foo series by Obert Skye-- I will go back to them next, since I think they are both complete now.)

So I picked up Fablehaven, and immediately began to enjoy the experience of reading a well crafted story. It had been long enough since my first reading that I had forgotten most of the details of the plot, so there were those awesome, "Oh yeah, THAT is what happened!" moments.

A specific thing I appreciate about Brandon Mull is that he manages to break away from some of the archetypal plots that persist in fantasy literature. No, this story is not about about a boy with no parents who learns about his royal or magical lineage and saves the world while growing into manhood at the same time. Not that I don't love those stories, because I do. And for as many times as I have heard that plot retold, I think there are a million more tellings worth reading. But Mull brings original ideas to the table, and for that he should be lauded. It is similar to my respect for Garth Nix. If those guys are ever in the same room, I want to be there too...

Anyway, so after this glowing review, why dock Fablehaven a star? Seth. He is an annoying character (reminds me of my complaints about Rachel from the Beyonders series ) And it isn't just that he is annoying, because real people are annoying sometimes, but he is so annoying that it pulls me out of the story. No one can be that stupid, and repeatedly to things that dumb. If they were that ridiculous, then I would expect other negative personality traits along with it. So the fact that he seems to have decent relationships with other characters despite his major flaws makes him an unbelievable character. To give Mr. Mull credit, I see that he was trying to create well-rounded characters with flaws that make them human (again similar to Rachel) but this was just overdone... So I'm keeping a star this time, but looking forward to the next book...