Sunday, June 30, 2013

Magyk (Septimus Heap 1) by Angie Sage

Magyk (Septimus Heap, #1)Magyk by Angie Sage
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know, I know. Five stars? Really? Lets just call this a moment of weakness. I was just in the mood for a whole new world, and then along came Magyk. That's right, I am giving this 5 stars due to the setting. I'm usually a characters-make-the-story kind of person (and they do), but every once in a while I need to see a special setting, and this scratched that itch, and is rewarded thus.

So, I read Magyk back in 2007, but neglected to write anything about it, and frankly, after around 6 years I have forgotten most of the details anyway, so I can only speak to my impressions on this second go around. I liked the plot. I said that one already, but here are my reasons: made up or reinterpreted creatures, geography that affects decisions, a culture/political environment that directly deals with magic... I think it is all there. Bravo.

Sage also goes after the boy-without-parents-saves-everyone plot, but adds a nice twist (I'll avoid a spoiler here, in case someone accidentally stumbles across this review and reads it.) Still, twist or no twist, I think from now on every book I read in this genre that does NOT look or smell anything like the "orphan boy becomes King/Prince/Wizard" plot gets and extra star.

So congratulations Magyk on winning big with this first book. Now lets see how book 2 (Flyte) measures up...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your CareerThe Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't pick up this book of my own choosing. A chapter or two were required for an MBA class I am in, and due to my nature as a finisher, I have gone back to it over the last few months to finish it off. My four star rating is mostly due to the fact that the overall message resonates with my own observations about the employee-employer relationship these days: the commitment level can change on either side of the equation at any time, so it is best to be prepared. What this books adds to the observation, however, are some ideas of how to prepare. Through guidelines on structuring your online profile, to specific assignments to think through you Plan B, or even your Plan Z, Hoffman and Casnocha make a true effort to provide material value to the reader.

As with almost every business book I read, I feel that it could have been 20% shorter and not missed out on any value at all. Still I would recommend this book to anyone who is a material contributor to the household income. The ideas are universally applicable across industries and political geographies.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull (Fablehaven 5)

Keys to the Demon Prison (Fablehaven, #5)Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hmm, so I really enjoyed this series as a whole, and this was a satisfactory finish. It didn't blow me away though. The plot was an extension of what was already established in the earlier books and seemed a little rushed as Mull was keeping his word on finishing the series here. I see how both Seth and Kendra have matured, and how they still make mistakes, and how they are human. I recognize how much the setting has evolved, with the fantasy world fully explained. Seth ran from one impossible encounter to another, and eventually won his battle with his own "demon." Kendra's position in the fairy world is more secure now, with a long-term love interest to boot. It is hard to put my finger on it after these statements, but I still feel like it could have been more.

After ruminating on it for a bit, I've decided that my first two observations above are really at the core of my concern. First, the plot was clearly laid out, and progressed along a fairly straight line. There were no last minute plot twists (the dwarf's betrayal is the last I remember, and it was fairly early on...) Second, the whole thing felt a little rushed. I appreciate not having days of traveling around from place to place, but either this could have been two books (the first ending with the Fount of Immortality changing hands) or this should have been trimmed a little. The Singing Sisters could have been excluded, for example, with Seth going straight to the Totem Wall.

As usual, don't take my nit-picky criticism to mean that this wasn't a fantastic book/series, I just came away with a single concern that felt like it needed to be voiced. And now I have voiced it.