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Tim
06 November 2008 @ 12:57 am

Book Five

 

Airman by Eoin Colfer

 

Summary: Connor Broekhart is a boy. A very Special boy, one who was born in the air, and since then has always been looking skyward.

 

What I liked: I like Artermis Fowl. I like Eoin Colfer. I (overall) liked this book. Some of the dialogue and text was brilliant, and genuinely went in a few directions that I did not expect it to go. The Frenchman in particular had some winning lines. This regrettably is all I liked about it. But please read to the end Mr Colfer, it’s not your fault at all.

 

What I didn’t like: After the above I should probably say that the book itself was not bad. It was quite well written, and very nicely put together, BUT, I could see some plot twists coming a mile off. I also found Connor getting a Marty Stu as a teacher, who then turns HIM into a Marty Stu junior rather a bitter pill to swallow. The amount of parallels I could draw with other well known stories and plots were too numerous to list, but the most obvious one was the Count of Monte Christo by Dumas. I think it’d be easier to understand the whole thing if I moved onto the next point.

 

What I’d like to comment on: Firstly I should admit this: I read below my age with this one. My enjoyment was not as high as it could have been were I a few years younger (say 14/15). Because I was reading a book aimed at young teens with a full-critical eye, this caused me to think too much about an otherwise sound book. I also admit to skimming quite a few pages because for several chapters I found I could predict the general gist of events rather accurately, though the dialogue itself was very attractive at times, on the whole it was a tad slow and description heavy. (Though not Eragon levels...)

 

There were also several outcomes that I found rather obvious. A character with the word “villain” in his name turns out to be, well, the villain. The kid with the mind of a genius gets sent to this prison, what do you think he does? There’s one female character, a princess, who’s also Connor’s only childhood friend, yeah you can see were that goes....

 

Rating: This is not a bad book; this is just a bad book for a late-teen to read. I’d give it about a 7. Though I’d estimate the target audience would give it an 8.

 

 

 
 
 
Tim
06 November 2008 @ 12:56 am

Book Four

 

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

 

Summary: When a godmother dies, a new one is needed; this one however has been given a mission. To STOP the girl going to the ball, loosing her glass slipper, and marrying the prince.

 

What I liked: The Parodies of Fairytales & Bedtime stories are very cleverly done, both subtly and obviously. The ‘shattering’ of the stories too was always fun to watch as it happened. It also featured human-Greebo, who was an absolute scene stealer for me, particalry TP’s descriptions of him. “His smile would be the downfall of angels. The female ones.” Casanova also got parodied nicely, right down to the name. I also liked how we got to see what Granny Whetherwax would be like if she did try openly helping people instead of doing her grumpy, Victorian disciplinary godmother act all the time. The Hapy ending idea of how what we think is how a happy ending should be isn’t always a happy one for the involved. This theme came across both very unsubtlety in the text and rather nicely in the story itself.

 

What I didn’t like: Two things here, firstly there’s a personal gripe that’s the same as last time, where I found it bugging that the right thing must always be done even when it’s not pleasant. The second thing is that Granny won a little contest when I felt like she cheated, no it’s not the gambling (though that was nice to read, while loving the double standard at work there,) it was the Face-Off she has with another witch toward the end of the book, I just wanted it to turn out differently or be more satisfying, rather than so-&-so wins through the method they used. Again though this is a personal gripe not a ‘professional’ one. So props to TP for keeping his characters true to what they are.

 

What I’d like to comment on: My absolute favorite scene in the book was the ‘summoning’ of the metaphorical & semi-literal Force of Nature. This passage got my spine tingling, and proved that TP can write more than just parody comedy with hidden depths. (That is what he’s famous for though.) Seriously this scene evoked some very powerful images and is right up there with the “THIS IS NOT MY COW” scene in ‘Thud!’ in terms of sheer awesomeness.

 

Rating: If you know your folklore and fairytales, then nudge it up a bit to an 8.5. If you’re like me, (and know them (the fairytales) just not well,) then give it a nice even 8. If you’re an impulsive passionate person who believes in doing what you know in your heart it right, then bop it down to a 7.5. Generally though, it’s a good rating.

 
 
 
Tim
06 November 2008 @ 12:50 am

Yes this is a little late, and yes I have lost the reading challenge, so I'm just going to read the 10 books and see how long it takes me. My reason for failing is that Real-Life, that over-rated thing, threw alot of things at me that demanded immediate attention. Unfortuneately they took up too much of it. I've also fallen behind a bit with a few reviews, so I'm posting these three that I completed a while ago.

 

Book Three

 

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

 

Summary: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlik are the three witches of Lancre. One night the king of Lancre is killed, and this sets events into motion, what follows is a run-about adventure to Ahnk-Morpok and back, featuring more Shakespearean jokes than one would think possible.

 

What I liked: I like Shakespeare, I hate generic Shakespeare like what they teach in school (what are the themes in....). I loved the Shakespeare jokes, they nearly became too much for me, but they always seemed to be fresh and new each time, some were parodies of the text itself, others were mocking of stock Shakespearean tropes.

 

I also liked the two new main characters of Magrat and Nanny, one annoying factor of the previous book was that you only had Granny, who while an awesome character, is very entrenched in her Views, in this book you got one who’s in direct opposition to them, and a more rational character to take the middle ground. This is an example of the Ego, Super-Ego, ID relationship.

 

A third thing I liked was how Terry Pratchett shows the reader how doing what feels like the right thing often isn’t the right thing, and how just because someone’s on the other side doesn’t make them a bad person, this is the sort of thought provoking stuff that is in most of his Discworld books, they gently parody a culture or a social given, while making us the reader question our own stance on said topic.

 

What I didn’t like: While I know that doing what feels right often isn’t, I did find it frustrating that the characters kept sticking to their ways, (the fool was going to be loyal to a fault, granny was going to be granny to a fault, etc, etc). But this is a personal gripe, like when your shipping pairing doesn’t work out. Also the book seemed to drag on a bit, there were several times when I thought the solution would be just around the corner, but, no the time wasn’t quite right, and so it went on....

 

What I’d like to comment on: While reading this book I was convinced that the boy was actually Carrot from the City Watch, this, sadly, did not turn out to be the case. Though I was pleased to see the plot take a certain turn toward the end, as I had figured that was going to go “the usual route”, and not do anything too special. (I know, shame on me for thinking that about Pratchett...) I was also very happy with each character’s individual ending; I thought they fitted them well.

 

Rating: Personally, I’d give it an 8, though if you don’t know your Shakespeare, about one in every two jokes goes over your head, so take it down to a 7 if that’s you.

 

 
 
 
Tim
18 October 2008 @ 12:43 am

I finished this one slightly behind time, as real life decided to move up a gear, and I had to match pace. Oh well, this just means I'll be a very busy little bee over the next few days. On the plus side, I haven't read a Pratchett for a while, and reading this was very rewarding as it reminded me what I liked about them.

Book Two

 

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

 

Summary: Equal Rites follows the journey of a little girl called Esk, (who wants to be a wizard), and her Caretaker, Granny Weatherwax, a witch.

 

What I liked: What made me like it was that while the little girl had adventures she didn’t turn into a child full of adult reasoning and deduction; rather she stayed a child with a child-like mind who was thrust into several adult situations. In short the character stayed realistic and believable. Granny Weatherwax is a very cool character to follow as well, the amount of quotable one liners (particularly hers) in this book was astounding.

 

Special mention goes to Esk and her little squint, that was one of the book highlights.

 

What I didn’t like: Terry Pratchett books tend to have a moral, or a parody or have something as a centeral theme that really becomes crucial in the final few pages. Now this may have been me, but I feel as though I missed the big moral, or the big epiphany. I was able to gather some stuff about X, Y & Z, but I feel like I missed the big line.... This has happened to me more than once, but not always. I suspect it’s to do with the theme and the way it comes across. But the gist is, while I’m sure it was all deep and meaningful, I didn’t quite understand it.

 

What I’d like to comment on: Nothing in particular, it’s a very good book, very good Terry Pratchett book. What sets it aside is that it references real-world things like cars for comparisons and such. This may be because I’ve just come off reading Double Eagle whish was very fast action based, but I kept waiting for something cool or big to happen, and when it did I didn’t quite realise it had happened until it was over. I also was expecting a confrontation of the gender issue and for the title about Equal Rites/Rights to come into play more, the avoidance of tackling this head-on may have been a conscience decision though, and to be fair if I’d had to read a book that had equality for sexes as a central theme I’d tune out. (Not due to any opinions I have on it, but that it’s one of the topics that’s been done to death and I’m sick of reading about it.)

 

Rating: It’s good; I’d give it a 7.5 out of 10 overall.

Next book: Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

 
 
 
Tim
15 October 2008 @ 12:01 am

I finished this book on-time. Barely. I finished it at roughly 11:00pm on Tuesday on a bus home from the Theater, so I'm still on track, as I used most of Monday getting things like TAFE work out of the way. So without further ado, here's the first review/proof-of-reading:

(Some spoilers may apply, nothing major though)

Book One

 

Double Eagle by Dan Abnett

 

Summary: Double Eagle follows the numerous air-battles in the war for Enothis through the eyes of several characters involved.

 

What I liked: As a school-kid, I loved the Biggles books, and in a way this was basically a bigger version with new planes and different jargon. (Essentially it's The Battle of Britain IN SPACE!, thanks tvtropes) But in other’s it was very different, in Biggles you knew Mac, Mahoney & Biggles, (or Ginger, Algy, Bertie & Biggles for those of you who haven’t read them all) were going to come back from each sortie, or if they got shot down, they’d be seen sitting by their kite making a humorous gesture, in Double Eagle, characters are killed regardless of importance, but they are also spared in the same manner too. (Though this happens less frequently,) I liked this because I have a habit of really getting behind one or two minor characters and totally barracking for them to come good, in D.E. one of the two I got behind was shot down in flames (NOOO!) but managed to bail out and survive, (YAY!) the other got shifted out of character focus and didn’t show up again. Characters are realistic, and no matter how you may want them to be like a poster-image, they're not (this is not necesarily a bad thing). I also liked the awesome pacing and boxed in feel some of the air-combat had, there was one fight in particular where all the planes were cutting into each other’s combats and it made for an awesome scene to read & visualise, furthermore the cramped feel of the cockpit really came across during some of the skirmishes. My favourite character was Bree Jagdea.

 

What I didn’t like: Now, I personally do not like a high body count, but I realise it is essential, or you’d get what I mentioned before about Mac, Mahoney & Biggles all surviving. I also felt the ending, while appropriate, and very in tone with the rest of the book, was a downer. I realise it was realistic, but it still ticked me off, the epilogue could have expanded upon it, and therefore revealed more than what it did, but it didn’t.

 

What I’d like to comment on: There’s 40k fiction, then there’s Dan Abnett 40k fiction. While Abnett occasionally gets little details mixed up, like writing lasguns as more powerful then what they are, he is (in my opinion) the best writer for the 40k universe. Scratch that, he's an awesome writer ful stop. He’s very realistic, and you really get behind some of his characters, even when you think you know what’s going to happen. (One character seemed like it was only a matter of time till they died, thus making everything they did, like getting a little hope, all the sadder.) Now there are some of the 'stock war cliches' BUT there are some that are subverted very very nicely, I won't go into details for fear of spoiling.

 

Rating: While it’s a very good book, it’s very heavy on action and combat, so not for everyone. I give it 7 out of 10 to the general reader, 7.5 for a 40k reader, but 8 out of 10 for an Abnett reader.

Next up is Terry Pratchett's witches trilogy. (Well the first 3 anyway, I got lucky and found an omnibus that contains the first three, I'll do a review for each one individually though, rather than one bulk one.)

 
 
 
Tim
12 October 2008 @ 12:43 am

Well, I like to read, I like to read a lot, and I think I can read reasonably fast. I can sit down and finish a decent length book in a single sitting, and some of my friends (JDX mainly) think this is somewhat odd.

 

So, after some stupid late-night talking between me and said friend, I’ve decided to try to read 10 books in three weeks. Now when I first thought of that I thought it sounded easy, I’ve since given myself a reality check, so I am altering my task ever so slightly. I shall read 10 books in as close to three weeks as I can manage. To prove that I’ve read them, for each book I’ll do a little summary and/or review, containing my opinions about them etc etc...

 

So here is the list, with a brief summary of why I chose to read them. (This is also the reading order.)

 

Double Eagle by Dan Abnett

- I love Dan Abnett’s work, I had a brief venture into 40k gaming, and I found I rather liked the 40k fiction. (Well Abnett’s work specifically, Eisenhorn above all.) Double Eagle is a Spin-off in the Gaunts’ Ghosts’ series, with a side character who I grew strangely fond of as a main character. (Bree Jagdea.)

 

Equal Rights by Terry Pratchett

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

- I read these books quickly and religiously. As a rule, all Terry Pratchett books are a joy to read, and I've yet to be let down yet. I’ve read nearly all the City Watch ones, and these (The Granny Weatherwax ones) are next on the list. I can also finish a Pratchett book in a day if I sit down, so they’re a slightly strategic choice.

 

Airman by Eoin Colfer

I got into the Artermis Fowl books rather later than I should’ve (16/17) but I found them funny and generally rather good. I saw this book on the selves of bookstores awhile ago and thought about getting it then, but the library got a copy in recently and it seemed a shame not to try to read it. I also like the idea of a human who’s born and was raised in the sky never having set foot on the ground. (I think that’s the premise at least...)

 

The Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman

The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman

- These are JDX’s picks. The ‘His Dark Materials’ cycle, yes it’s a trilogy, but my borrowed copies say they’re a cycle, and calling something a trilogy almost detracts things from it these days. When I was talking to him about this idea it seemed fair that I let him suggest a couple of things so that I didn’t just fill it all up with Pratchett’s (not a bad idea though). He said that they were good books, and that they made an impression on him. Well I’m feeling impressionable, so why not. (Also they don’t appear to be too thick either; again; tactics coming into play here.....)

 

Sabbat Martyr by Dan Abnett

- This is the 4th and final book in “The Saint” cycle of Gaunt’s Ghosts. I read the first three nearly two months ago and getting hold of a copy of the final has been a very difficult task indeed. In the meantime I’ve picked up tid-bits here & there, and done some re-reading, all only served to make me want this more, more and more!!! This being in 9th place is to serve as an incentive of sorts.

 

Sasha by Joel Shepherd

This wasn’t originally on the list and got on here purely by chance. Originally I was to have the MtG tie-in Dissension by Cory J. Herdon at the top of the list, but I had that with me when I was at Uni with JDX and I finished the book prior to it. (Guildpact) I sat bored in a tutorial for about 50 minutes before JDX showed how kind he could be by telling me “No.” when I asked if I could read it. Thanks. About 10 minutes later he changed his mind and was very gracious and let me read it to kill time, provided I could find another book.

 

So, I needed a new book, I was probably going to go with another TP, but the author had to be different otherwise I’d be reading too much of the same. (I’m already reading multiples of 3 authors). I chose this book because I liked the cover art not on it, but on its sequel, the latter prompted me to have a look at the original, and I rather like that cover art too. Admittedly I don’t know much about it, and to be honest, the blurb does sound a tad cliché:

 

Princess runs away from royalty, becomes action girl, and then finds that everyone wants her to be a princess again. Lots of fancy fantasy names, oh and the group of people who raised her see her as a ‘chosen one’. She must find her palce in the world, and more than likely, mature & grow as a person. It’s also part one of “A Trial of Blood & Steel”. Hmmmmm....

 

I am going to read it though. I haven’t heard about it before, and I’d like to read something that under normal circumstances I wouldn’t pick up, this is not a slight against the author, but I normally read Pratchett, Salvatore, G.R.R.Martin, Abentt, this guy’s name is new to me, that’s all.

 

So, as of Sunday, 12 October 2008 I start this silly little idea of mine and do rather a lot of intensive reading for a bit. This should be fun..... Oh look, it’s Sunday now, first up, Double Eagle....

 
 
 
Tim

Book Review – A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

(Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire)


I’m friends with JDX and I got him reading this series, then he decided to do some reviews for them, so I’d better shape up and do something similar, lest my ego never let me forget.

 

A Game of Thrones is set in the mythical land of Westaros, a sort of Tudor-era England with a very strong ‘War of the Roses’ feel to it. There is a King of all of Westaros, and there are lords of the Major seats of power. The story (loosely) follows one of these lords, Eddard Stark, as the King arrives in his land complete with Entourage, and asks his old friend Eddard to become his “King’s Hand” (The man who manages and runs the kingdom while the king’s out having kingly fun). This starts the plot rolling.

 

The story interchanges between several ‘Point of Views’ as it progresses, and through this you see and awful lot of what’s going on. All of the POV’s are good to read, though individual preferences will vary. These vary from 4 of Eddard’s children, a dwarf (Stunted man, not Fantasy-style), Eddard, a young girl, and Eddard’s wife. At first glance these seem centred and leave not much room for story variation, but each of the POV’s have a unique plotline, and don’t leave you feeling like you’re doubling up or getting a scene redone in a different POV. The quality of writing is high, and very descriptive.

 

The pace moves along a little slowly at first, and indeed you wonder what the purpose of a couple of the POV’s are. (One’s on a separate continent and another’s a generic energetic boy) but as events start moving things get very interesting and at the end it’s very gripping indeed. Another important thing to note, these books are very real, very harsh, and as JDX said “Painfully unfair”. This is not to say that the ‘good guys’ have to struggle uphill on a mountain of excrement and enemies, but that it’s very easy to be a ‘loser’ in the Game of Thrones.

 

It is a long book. No two ways about it. You can finish it in one day if you do not stop for the necessities of real life, (food, water, sleep) but I do not recommend this. Fast Paced readers can finish it over a weekend, but the best way to read it is to take it at an ‘average’ pave and use up a week. That way you’ll be able to catch little bits and bobs that you might’ve missed, and through this gain an understanding of how deep and complex this world is.

 

Cersei Lannister - “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.

 

A very enjoyable book, that will leave you wanting to read the rest of the series.

8/10. If you don’t like the themes, maybe nudge it down to a 7.5, if you appreciate the realism, then 8.5.

 
 
 
Tim


Well this it the first of my little book reviews, so I'll start with my most recent read.

Death Star, by Micheal Reeves and Steve Parry.

3 Guesses what it's about.... It's about the lives of the people who live, work on & run the Death Star prior to its destruction. I first thought it'd be a giant info dump. But it wasn't. It had all sorts of little shout-outs, Easter eggs and references to plenty of other Original and Expanded Universe stories.

 

Your POV's are as Follows: A Storm trooper Sergent, A Twilek Bartender, A Humanoid street-rat, a Tie Pilot, an interior designer, a data archivist, Admiral Motti (The first Imp officer Vader force chokes), Tarkin, a conscripted Doctor, the guy who shoots the super-laser and Darth Vader.

 

The story is told from these POV’s who interchange and you get to see a lot of views on different events. This led to some sympathy on my part toward characters who I didn’t expect to feel sympathy for. It also felt a bit like watching Titanic. I have not sat down and seen said movie end to end, but whenever I do see the movie I can’t help thinking “It’s going to sink, they’re all going to die....”. I got the same feel here, as you KNOW the Death Star goes boom. Naturally this causes all sorts of ironic moments when the characters refer to the invincibility of the Death Star, “barely get chipped paintwork” etc....

 

At several points while reading this it overlapped with events from A New Hope, I wondered if they’d be able to keep the tension or the feel of the scene when we knew what was going to happen. They did this by in some scenes changing the mood and feel slightly, while in others (particularly the Trench Run) they re-created the tension and pacing by focusing on different events that where happening at the same time.

 

Naturally it can’t all be A New Hope told from different POV’s so plenty of original material is created. Sabotage, a pre-emptive (and quite sizable) rebel attack, and the Super Laser (among other things) tests all serve as plot points that move events along.

 

The characters while varied are interesting and reading about them is enjoyable. There were a few moments that felt a little heavy where-by a message came across a little too heavily, but they were few and far between.

 

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s not the greatest Star Wars book ever made, but it’s nowhere near the worst. As a book about a 7/10, but a Star Wars fan would nudge it up to an 8/10. I’m giving it an 8/10