Saturday, March 31, 2012

March '12

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1) The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1) by J.R.R. Tolkien

Ebook, 480 Pages
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went into this reading with more of an eye towards "does it live up to the its fanboy hew and cry and my memories of over a decade ago?".

My first re-impression was how much like a history this was, as opposed to a modern/typical fantasy.
There are lots of songs, poems, characters declaiming whatever. I did not remember that.
History lessons kept interrupting the plot flow. You'd start down a rousing good path and then bam!, someone would start talking about something or somebody thousands of years ago that has a very tenuous connection to what is going on now. It might give greater depth to the world, but I felt like things like that could have been inserted a bit less jarringly.

Now, this book makes clear how much a wordsmith Tolkien was. Sentences, paragraphs, etc, flowed like water over stones. Tolkien used his words to great effect, in creating the underscored terror of the Nazghul, to the cheek and courage of the hobbits, to the weariness of Strider, to the overweening pride and lust of Boromir. What made Tolkien write those songs/poems mentioned above was what ennabled to him write these characters so that you BELIEVED they were real. You love them, you laughed at them, you groaned at them, you howled in outrage at them. But they were not cardboard and 2 dimensional.

Another aspect I liked was how Tolkien hints at a MUCH vaster history of the world but does not hint in such a way as to distract from the main plotline. And since I know about The Silmarillion, The Book of Lost Tales, Part OneThe Book of Lost Tales, Part Two, and Christopher Tolkien, if I so choose, I can go exploring Middle Earth another time, albiet in a much drier way.

I also found myself wishing I had a dictionary handy [I read it on my Sony 505, which has no built in dictionary] as Tolkien used words that were either out of style or 'english' [as opposed to 'american']. I was able to figure most things out by context, but his writing is getting old enough, and he was a lover of old languages anyway, that a dictionary would be helpful.

Compared to The Hobbit, this was definitely not as whimsical, as childlike nor as happy go lucky.

This book is definitely 2-3 steps above maturity-wise. And that is a good thing. We the reader are dealing with a much greater plot of import than in the Hobbit, and so the tone is appropriate.

So, while it doesn't live up to the ZOMG! hype, it lives up to my expectations as a serious, well written [most important in my book, hahahaa] fantasy story with defined lines of good and evil.

Wizard's HallWizard's Hall by Jane Yolen

Dtb, 133 Pages
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was completely charmed by this book. I know part of this was because I was a bit tired and jaded from some of the rather heavy tomes [physically and philosophically] I've gone through in the past couple of months.

This was just a breath of fresh, simple air after the heavy perfumes and extremely complicated "smells" of other books. A simple draught of clean spring water after a surfeit of wine, beer, ale and sparkling juices.

Henry is a poor schlup who just tries, and succeeds. No epic quests, no hidden evil cousin/father/son/mother/aunt, etc, etc hidden in the wings to pop out and extend the story.

A simplistic story about a boy that made me grin. I don't know if I'll ever read this again, but I am glad I came across this little gem.

The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

Ebook, 336 Pages
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where Fellowship of the Ring felt like a history in many respects, Two Towers just kicked butt.

Chases, battles, hoards of orcs, warriors, Gollum. It felt like a whirlwind of action. I especially enjoyed Strider, Legolas and Gimli's chase of the hobbits.

One thing I noticed. In the movie, the orcs blow a hole in the wall at Helm's Deep, and I was like "Yeah, whatever. Not in the book, but cool". Well blow me down, but it IS in the book. Very understated and all, but there none-the-less. [tip 'o the hat to Mr Jackson]

So my verdict on this book? Better than the previous and a jolly well written book!

Chapterhouse: Dune (Dune, #6)Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert

Dtb, 436 Pages
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ahh, Frank, to think this was your last book. The mysteries of Dune just beginning to truly unfold and you leave us.

So, this book delves even deeper into Herbert's sexual obsession. Everything in this story revolves around sex, or some sort of sexual perversion [addiction, child rape, etc].

If you can get past all that, there is actually a good story. Humanity has scattered into the great unknown after Leto II's stifling influence is removed. Now a part of that scattered humanity has returned, bent on conquest and domination: The Honored Matres.

But as the story unfolds, we learn that all is not as it seems. Do the Honored Matres return for pure dominance? Or is there another, a deeper, more chilling reason? One that the Million Worlds SHOULD be very afraid of?

Just as the tension ratchets up, the Bene Gesseret's plan for survival enacted, the book ends. And we are left hanging, wondering.

I can remember reading this in highschool, and feeling betrayed and wondering how an author could do such a thing as dying with a series unfinished. Ahh, the naivete of youth. Robert Jordan hadn't died, Rand Al'thor hadn't been in my mind yet. So this was my first experience with Story Interrupted.

And I stoically accepted it and let it scar my soul.

Percepliquis (The Riyria Revelations, #6)Percepliquis by Michael J. Sullivan

Ebook, 344 Pages
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everything wraps up nicely. A dramatic buildup AND a happy ending.

And none of this "I'm happy, so somebody somewhere must be getting a knife in the back to compensate" angst.

Percepliquis was exciting. It was tense. And while critics and others might have analyzed things and realized things before I did, I had a great trip of discovery.

Man, I am SO glad the SFBC carries these in hardcover. They are a story worth being in hardcover!

And I would like to thank Liviu for introducing me to this series with his review of the first book, the Crown Conspiracy.

So Michael J. Sullivan, Thanks! It has been a great ride and I hope to be privileged enough to read more stories by you in the future.

The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, #3)The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Ebook, 512 Pages
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This would have gotten a 5star except for the Appendices.

A great end fraught with danger, determination, steadfast loyalty, overwhelming odds and over it all the hero's tinge of melancholy.

Then I start in on the appendices. Tolkien let his History Buff streak break loose and I was so bored.

Star Wars: Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of OseonStar Wars: Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon by L. Neil Smith

Dtb, 181
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, this was more Lando and less Star Wars.
this book was written in '83. In what movie do we see Jabba the Hutt in all his ingloriousness and what year did that movie come out?
I am asking because one of the villians, while humaniod, really could have been almost a double for Jabba in how he was described.

So anyway, I am trying to figure out the plot of this story. From what I can gather, Lando gets invited to a super-casino, wins and is then double crossed somehow to help bring down a rich drug addict.
All the while trading english sounding banter with his robot friend.
This was not eye-rolling like say The Truce at Bakura, but you'd have to really like Lando a lot to recommend this to others.

I'll try to find the other 2 and see if the whole trilogy as a whole is blase, better or stinko!

And the ending? Can anyone say Han Solo Envy?

Monster Hunter International (MHI, #1)Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

Ebook, 478 Pages
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Urban fantasy with Cthulthuic overtones and gun porn.

The action is incredible. The first chapter had me from the get-go. Hand to claw fighting? In a skyscraper office? Bring it on!

Then we get introduced to a 100+ year old organization dedicated to bringing home the monster bacon. However, they don't really seem to have learned much, as most of their tactics are along the "grab them by the balls and pull, HARD" variety instead of strategic plans meant to outthink their opponents.

The characterization was 2D, and because of that, so was the little romance side story.

The writing was amateurish, without polish. But I did not have to re-read sentences several times to try to figure out what the author was saying.

Gun porn. In spades. I almost went catatonic with boredom several times. But if you like knowing the spec's of guns, you will love this. And Christmas even comes TWICE for the main character.

Baddies. Mainly seem to deal with variety's of undead, which seem to be all in the Vampirric family, from the zombie who wants to eat brains, to the master vamps, who can practically be incinerated and still regenerate.
The main baddie has the Cthulthu tentacle thing going on, and you found out more about a different dimension, and Ancient Evil Ones. " A cthulthu by any other name...."

So I enjoyed this, but I doubt I will ever re-read it. I will read the final 2 books in the trilogy, as I want to know about the In-laws and Lycanthropes.

The Skin MapThe Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead

Ebook, 342 Pages
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Leylines made this fantasy for me.

While I enjoyed this overall, it seemed like the main male character didn't change AT ALL, while his erstwhile lost girlfriend seemed to become a completely different character all together.

And what the heck is up with Great-X-Grandpa not telling our little hero what the blazes is going on or how to use his power? Seems Gramps might have lost a couple of brain cells with all his jumping around.

I wouldn't buy this in paper. Not worth the room it would take up. But a fun romp for an afternoon's read on your ereader.

The Wicked DayThe Wicked Day by Christopher Bunn

Ebook, 363 Pages
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A big battle, people becoming Anbeorun, it all came together kind of fast.

But I still enjoyed this as much as the first one. In a different way. Where as The Hawk and His Boy, was focused on small events, Jute, this focused on all of Tormay and the battle against the dark.

And as is common among dual'istic fantasy, there is no final victory, only a staving off. Which leaves the author plenty of room to tell more stories, should he choose.

Tsubasa: Sakura and Syaoran Return, Vol. 1 (Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, #1)Tsubasa: Sakura and Syaoran Return, Vol. 1 by CLAMP

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since the series is finished now, now I can read the whole thing without having to wait months or more for each book.

Having really enjoyed the CCS anime, seeing Sakura & Syaoran as young adults was great.

CLAMP does spectacular artwork here, even if it is a bit "line busy" for my taste.

And White Mokono makes me laugh almost as much as Black Mokono from XXXHoLiC Volume 1

OthersOthers by James Herbert

Dtb, 512 Pages
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I went into this expecting a horror story, as I had formed the impression that that was what Herbert wrote.

This was just sad. A mis-formed detective starts having dreams, visions about something horrible.

But it is so long leading up to that that I was bored. Then things get really rushed and then it ends.

There was nothing scary. There were some horrible things described, but nothing scary. So I am disappointed and doubt I'll read more by this author.

Monthly Summary
11 novels
1 graphic novel
4117 Pages