The Magician King

the-magician-king-by-lev-grossmanI really liked this book.  I kept putting it off because I liked the first one, but wasn’t impressed.  This one impressed me, it was amazing.  It wasn’t what I expected and that was great.

In the happenings of the first novel, it was a general mash-up of Harry Potter meets Narnia.  Meaning, there is magic in the world and places like Hogworts – Brakebills in this series – exist but there is also a bunch of other universes you can travel to if you have the means – a la Narnia (read Fillory for this story).  That is what the first novel explores.  The Magician King, however is about being a king and the sacrifices you make for others.

We start the book in a prosperous peace time in Fillory.  King Quentin is a bit bored with being king although he still likes the creature comforts it provides.  One day, he decides that the kings and queens (there are four of them – again, very similar to Narnia) need to go on a quest to catch a talking hare who when caught tells you your future.  Well, they don’t catch the hare, but come across a clearing in the woods with a magical wind that only affects the sole, massive tree in the clearing.  Upon better judgement, Quentin lets cooler heads prevail and doesn’t jump in head first & sword swinging.  Let down, but ultimately ok, Quentin and the kings and queens return to the castle.

Before you know it though, there is a small matter brought to the kings and queens that needs to be attended to.  An island far out in the sea did not send their taxes.  Of course they could send a delegate, but Quentin itching for an adventure, decides to go himself.  One thing leads to another and boom!  Real adventure begins.

Quentin and Julie (one of the queens of Fillory) get magically sent back to Earth.  These two would rather die than stay on Earth where they don’t fit in.  Now that they are stuck there, its a mad dash to get back to Fillory and back to ruling the kingdom.  Getting back, while thinking it a long shot, seems to be the easiest part.  With the help of some unlikely friends and allies they do get back, but learn that while they were on Earth only for a few days, it’s been a year in Fillory. While the other king was out searching for Quentin, he ended up taking over Quentin’s quest and had found almost all of the objects needed to complete it. Bummed, but still wanting to complete the quest he started, Quentin joins up and helps find the last remaining tokens.  In doing so he finds the reason he was itching for an adventure and why Fillory needed him to go on that adventure.

I realize that this is a very basic overview of the story, so I hope it filled you in enough to want to check it out.  But trust me, its not what you’d expect (or maybe it is and I have poor plot divination abilities).  I will say this though, I ended this book expecting that to be it.  But I should not have feared – there is a new chapter coming in October!  Yay Me!

Galapagos

Galapagos

So, I’m a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut.  Admittedly I’ve only read three of his book including Galapagos.   Big might be a strong word but nonetheless I still really enjoy his novels.  They’re wacky and fun, but there is also an underlying message that is usually slapping you in the face whilst you read.

Galapagos, was, at the very least interesting.  I liked what I read on the back cover enough to want to buy it – it looked like it could be cool.  That being said, the back cover description wasn’t exactly what I would call accurate.  But it wasn’t wrong either.

In the future, humans have evolved, or devolved depending on how you look at it, into what basically amounts to salt-water beavers.  We still walk upright, we still have hands (albeit webbed) and feet (also webbed), we still have brains and we still speak a language.  Other than that we are completely different than we are now.  We’ve got fur for one thing, we’ve got webbed appendages (as I mentioned above), we’ve got smaller brains than we had originally, and we mostly eat seaweed.

Ok, I’m intrigued.  Lets do this.

All of this de-evolution takes place on one of the Galapagos islands.  Vonnegut sets the novel up to explain how all of the little details and chance occurrences brought us (humanities survivors) to that location with those individuals who happened to, one, save the human race, and two, live on a fairly barren rock in the ocean.  It was very one lead to two, two lead to three, three lead to four and so on.  When something needed to be introduced there was a side story outside of straight line narrative that brought an unthought of element into the mix.  Also, the narrator was a dead shipwright – well, the ghost of a dead shipwright.  Weird right?  Nope, he died working on the boat that got the survivors to that island in the galapagos.  He just couldn’t let go of life.  He’s also telling the story in hindsight from a million years in the future.

It’s surprisingly simple even though I’m probably making it more complicated than it needs to be.  If you like Vonnegut, but haven’t read this one, I’d have to say think about it.  It’s not bad, but it’s not great either.

The Dark River – The Traveler Book 2

The Dark River

The Dark River is the second book in a trilogy by John Twelve Hawks.  I really enjoyed the first novel and decided that I really wanted to read through the remaining two.  This one was good as well, however I’m not as convinced as I once was.

The beginning of the book was slow going, but it picked up decently about a third of the way in.  In case you need a refresher, the first novel – The Traveler – was about two siblings learning and coping with finding out that not only are they travelers, but are also being hunted to near extinction because of it.  Why?  Because they can travel through reality to different realms.  This bothers people.  A lot.

In the first novel, one brother decides that he’s gonna side with the bad guys and help them out.  But wait, why would they need his help?  Well, here’s the thing, they have been communicating with a being from another dimension.  He(She?) has been  giving them the info that gives them the technical edge in the fight to eradicate the travelers.   The process to transfer information is long and slow, so now they want the traveler to cross over and  go visit for a bit.

In this book we find out that not only is their father alive, he is also a traveler, but he’s left clues to where he’s hiding.  This whole book is a giant globe trotting adventure to find a boys father so that they can defeat the evil people.  So do they find him?  Yes and no.  So they found his body, but astral* self is in another realm.  He’s been in there a while too.  So the guy they needed to help them figure out this hole traveler thing – who also happens to be their father – is out cold on a remote island in the atlantic, stuck in another realm.  Fascinating, right?

So now its a race between the good brother and the bad brother to find their Pops and get him to show them the way or, you know, kill him if your a bad guy.  Also now is when tactics need to change, cause the old ones aren’t working.

I recommend it, but I’d also recommend that you read through them all at once.  Otherwise you’ll get disjointed like me.

 

 

 

 

Leviathan Wakes

First of all, this book was so freakin’ awesome!  It’s like HALO meets, well, HALO only without the Covenant or the Master Chief.  I’ll give you guys the basics and let you decide how much it sounds like the popular game franchise.  For those of you who know what I’m talking about anyway.  Hope I didn’t already ruin if for anyone.

Moving right along.  There’s this guy, Miller.  He’s a space detective for the space station he lives on out in the middle of space.  There is also this other guy, Holden.  Used to be military, now just working a long haul shipping freighter collecting space ice.  There is also a woman, Julie.  She’s the daughter of a wealthy planet based family.  She’s also a member of a subversive organization – The Outer Planet Alliance or the OPA for short.  Then there are the planets and not planets.  Mars and earth are ruled separately and have a European Union type relationship.  Then there is the belt.  A loose collection of space stations farther out in our solar system.  They all have their own government and leaders, but ultimately they commingle and rely on each other for various resources.

Holden’s ship, an outer planet ice freighter apart of the belt, goes to investigate a distress call from another ship in the area.  The ship is dead in space and while investigating Holden and his crew find a bomb on the deck with a martian military stamp on it.  While he’s exploring this dead ship with a bomb on it, two stealth ships pop up out of nowhere and shoot some nukes at his main ship.  Well, not being one to stick around for a quick death Holden speeds away in his shuttle.  During his flight to the closest station he decides to jump on the space internet and announce what he found to the solar system – not quite accusing, but not not accusing Mars.  If you know what I mean.  Well, this stirs the pot a bit and mars starts knocking around the belt’s fleet of ships demanding Holden fly directly to a Mars, lets call it a destroyer, ship.

All this happens in the first 100 pages of the 500+ page novel.  Miller makes an entrance as a private security cop on a space station and he’s assigned by his boss to kidnap a millionaire’s daughter to bring her home.  The daughter is Julie.  On her trail he finds out that the parents knew something was going to happen and wanted to keep her from danger and two he finds out that she was on and escaped the dead ship that Holden found.  One ting leads to another and Miller and Holden meet, team up, and start to unravel the mystery.  What they find, essentially, is the flood from the Halo games.  For those of you not in the know the Flood is an organism that feeds on humans and aliens.  After it infects a bunch of people it grows sentient.  Julie was infected, after she escaped the ship she went to a space station to hide out.  Eventually the whole station gets infected.  From here it’s a super fast read.  I didn’t want to put it down.  That’s probably why I finished it in a week.

I originally bought this for my brother and then picked it up for myself a year or so later.  Many months after that I actually started reading it.  It was an awesome book and I am very excited to to read the next two in the trilogy!

Waking the Leviathan

leviathan_wakes_book_cover_a_p

Reading this now!  It’s pretty awesome so far.  Also when I bought it, it was a stand alone novel, now its the first in a trilogy.  I believe that the SyFy Channel may be making a mini series based off of these novels too.  Just sayin’.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

I admit, I thought that this book would be simple and easy.  It’s neither in fact.  The novel has an easy style that works well within the story, but believe me, that’s all the easy you get.  While I could easily read large chunks of the novel, I did find myself unable or unwilling to pick it up and start again at times. Once I picked it back up though, I was right back into the thick of it.

One Hundred Years of Solitude spans what seems like many thousands of years in only a handful of centuries.  It starts with the migration of man and ends in the age of flight.  During the journey you follow one family through multiple generations and multiple iterations of the same names (for the men anyway)(also very confusing, but they do have a family tree in the front of the book that helped.  Well my book had one anyway) up until the last of their line withers and dies away.  These men are enigmas, geniuses, and just plain lucky at times.  They are also prone to failure.  They fall in love with and marry aunts, cousins, and sisters.  Not to mention the children they have. They are curious and passionate, and solitary.  They also seem to really like renovating the family house.

Throughout the novel you will find themes that are familiar, or at least should be.  Th novel is great and everyone should take the time to read it if they get a chance.  I’m glad I did.

I want to be an Art Detective when I grow up.

Let’s face it, I’ll probably never grow up.  Not completely anyway.  But, if I did, I would totally be down for being an art detective.  Finding lost paintings by the masters, uncovering fakes, or even overturning the “it’s a fake” ruling by the experts.  It sounds fun and exhilarating.  Also really expensive.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I just read The Art Detective by Philip Mould.  It was awesome.  It reads much like a book of essays, mainly because the chapters give you an inside peak at different finds by the author.  There was a great chapter on Rembrandt as well as an interesting chapter on Norman Rockwell.

This is also why it makes it hard to give you all a good synopsis on the book.  There are just so many interesting stories.  There is the gentleman in Vermont sitting on a veritable hoard of paintings – several of which were worthwhile investments to say the least.  There is the awesomely complicated Norman Rockwell Hoax – One is real and one is definitely not.  Not to mention the Rembrandt that was thought to be painted by a follower – they weren’t completely wrong, but it was painted by Rembrandt originally. And let’s not forget about the Winslow Homer found in a trash heap – this one is kind-of sad, but well worth the read.

This book was great, it was like reading a mystery novel except all the mysteries actually happened and large sums of money were made, or lost. It is available digitally as well as in paperback, so you should be able to find it somewhere at a very reasonable price.  There is also Amazon, cause you know, they’ve got everything.

The Towers of the Sunset

So, I after I finished this book by L.E. Modesitt, Jr I decided to take a look at the wiki page.  Nope, not the Saga of Recluse website, but the wiki page.  I wanted to know the order of the books, if there was one.  The answer is kind-of.  I wouldn’t follow the published dates if you like to read chronologically.  I also happened upon a review which said that all of the books were the same template just with slightly different names and places.  Currently I don’t agree, but I’ve only read three of his novels so far.

This novel is 548 pages, so there is a lot I’ll leave out.  I’m gonna sum it up as best as I possibly can.

There is a legend about a boy and a girl fated to be together (now either I’m super dense or they didn’t say what they were fated for).  Neither one likes the idea of being forced to be together.  So, the boy runs away ( the girl is literally in chains, so can’t).  He finds himself on his way to see the white wizards in the hope that they will help him with his abilities to shape the weather.  All they want is to chain him (or kill him) because his magic is the opposite of theirs and he is the strongest there has ever been of his kind.  So his mind is hidden from himself and he is enslaved by the white wizards on a road crew for a while until a healer helps him escape.  He escapes but is badly hurt in he process (mainly because the toll his magic takes on him).  Back on his own as he recovers and regains his memories, he wakes up to find the woman he ran away from taking care of him.  She was released from her bondage to find him and make the best of what they can.   So this is what hey discover – they are not welcome anywhere.  As it turns out, his fated lady is also an uber magician.  They are both feared and are being chased by other also feared wizards.  So where can they go?  A desert island that is hard to get to, that’s where.  They get named co-regents (cause no-ones just gonna give them an island…) and set sail.  From here on outs it’s about survival – Food, Water, Shelter, and of course the coming hordes of the wizard army.  They handle these situations as they arise and are for more or less able to survive with minimal losses.  I won’t tell you the outcome because you probably already know – it’s never been said that fantasy novels are unpredictable…

I liked this book and flew through it pretty quickly.  I think anyone who enjoys some good fun and wizardry would enjoy it as well.  You don’t have to be a die-hard to enjoy it, but you might not get a lot out of it if you aren’t into the genre.  I say read it.  You know you want to.  Here is what it looks like in case you see it on a bookcase somewhere:

ToS

Kingdom of the Serpent Book 1, The Jack of Ravens

I really like Mark Chadbourn.  At this point I think everyone should read his books, even if you’re not crazy about impossible things and supernatural beings.

Ok, so, The Jack or Ravens starts out right after the end of the first trilogy, Age of Misrule Book 3 – World’s End.  Jack, “Chruch” to friends, walks out of a heavy mist 2,000 years in the past.  His memory of the events in all of the Age of Misrule books is oddly missing.  He knows he’s missing part of his memory, but he can’t figure out what.  Shortly after he stumbles through the mist he comes across some people fighting a giant tree looking thing.  With his otherworldly (which he doesn’t remember getting or why) sword he jumps in to help out.  Good thing too because the locals were loosing.  Badly.  They then bring him back to their village and introduce him to everyone.

Here he finds out that he is infested.  Infested with what is described throughout the novel as a “spider”.  The spiders are bad, so bad in fact that they are known as the army of the 10 billion spiders.  The spider was removed, with supreme effort, but ultimately he lives to live another day.  After the spider is removed he gets a little of his memory back.  enough to know that he is missing the love of his life, Ruth.   During the spider removal process he finds out that he is the first and last Brother of Dragons and takes back the mantle to save the entire universe.  Four of the villagers end up being brothers and sisters of dragons as well (because there have to be five, obviously).  They then go galavanting across ancient Britian battling the forces of evil.  That is until Church comes back to the village after spending the night with the Golden One – Nimah (A Tuatha de Danann, or more simply a celtic god).  He returns to find the other four Brothers and Sisters of Dragons brutally murdered.

This is where it truly gets interesting.  Church then takes refuge in the Otherworld to formulate a plan (there is more here, but I’m being purposely vague so maybe you’ll actually read the book) to defeat the oncoming horde.  Once the plan is firmed up and friends are gathered they set out to stop the spider army.  From here on out it is a time travel stop and go all the way up until the present time.

Trust me it’s awesome.  You should read it and salivate over all the details I left out, as I did while I was reading it.

Superman is an introvert re:Fortress of Solitude

If you need a giant frozen fortress of solitude(not to mention a quiet farm outside of a tiny town in Kansas) to retreat to at the end of the day, then yes you are most likely an introvert.

Moving right along, the book I just finished was all about introversion.  Quiet, by Susan Cain, was by all accounts a look into introversion and its role in society.  Especially in american(and basically european) society where extroversion is the expectation.  Where children are told “don’t be so shy” or to “speak up in class”.  Where in business, the only way to be recognized and listened to is by being an extrovert.  Susan, who is an introvert herself, wondered why are introverts still around if the ideal person is extroverted.  Wouldn’t we have bread that out of ourselves by now?

The easy answer is no.  Introverts have a power all their own.

This is where I find reviewing non-fiction like this is hard.  Susan Cain talks about many highly successful introverts and many experiments focused on introversion and reactions in the brain.  It’s all wildly interesting stuff, but I’d probably get it slightly wrong if I sat here and tried to get all in this blog.  So I won’t.  What I will say is this – the first half of the book I didn’t want to put down.  The second half I had trouble picking back up.  Not that the second half was that bad, I just lost a bit of that intrigue that there was from the beginning.

If the book had been a bit shorter I would say it should be something every quiet person should read.  But then again maybe you already have.