Blue's Movie And Book Reviews

A small subsite where I can leave my thoughts on the books and movies which I read. It's more for my benefit than yours, but your welcome to contribute, agree or disagree as you see fit.

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Name: Blue
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Godslayer - Jacqueline Carey

Sequel to the Banewreaker.

ISBN: 978-0765350985
format: Paperback
pages: 416
publisher: Tor Fantasy
pub. date: 2006-06-27
started reading: 2009-03-28
finished reading: 2009-03-29

This concludes Carey's short forary into a Tolkien-esque work. More so than even the first book, the too obvious elements from The Lord Of The Rings becomes almost burdensome at times and I found myself skim reading sections with the thought of 'Oh yes... and this is where Frodo... er... Dani... must made a decision and... '. It is sad that a writer as gifted as Carey couldn't develop more originality in this story.
However, unlike Tolkien's work which was designed to be strictly a strugle of good vs. evil, Carey retells the classic battle... but from a multitude of shades of grey. The reader is drawn into understanding that the 'bad' people in the story were made that way as much by the choices of those who would profess to be good, as by their own hand.
Carey also begins to explore the idea that the counterbalance is needed in the world and that for all things to flow in order, with no chaos, is to lead to stagnation and eventually... death. It is the battle of wills, the cycle and flow of death and rebirth, that gives life its meaning.
So... if you're looking for a deep and unique tale... I would advise you look elsewhere. If you are looking for a well written retelling of a set of archtypes that adds more depth to the classic versions, this is a good read for you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Banewreaker - Jacqueline Carey

A battle about a wounded god, the multi-race forces aligned against him, and his own allies struggle against prophecy.

ISBN: 978-0765344298
format: Paperback
pages: 512
publisher: Tor Fantasy
pub. date: 2005-08-02
started reading: 2009-03-19
finished reading: 2009-03-27

Carey should have stuck to the Kushiel series. That series is one of my favourties, whereas this book is a retelling of the Lord Of The Rings. And while it is arguable that Carey is in someways a more enjoyable writer, even her deep and wonderful character development from the Kushiel series is only softly mirrored in this book where the characters seem at times almost too contrived.

I can only hope that this is a piece of writing that she did before Kushiel and that made its way to publication after she achieved some degree of success.

It's good enough to be enjoyable as a light read, but certainly not what I would expect.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The End Of The Alphabet - CS Richardson

Looking for a quick read, and a moralistic story, this title jumped off the shelf at me.

ISBN: 978-0385663410
format: Paperback
pages: 160
publisher: Anchor Canada
pub. date: 2008-01-08
started reading: 2009-02-27
finished reading: 2009-03-05

I enjoyed this book, though it didn't live up fully to my expectations. That said, given the awards it had won, my expectations were set abnomally high.
This is another first time author. Looking back through my recent month's reading and I have to admit that first time writers seem to be well worth it lately. Whether more people are writing, or there are better editors, I know that the books I've read by people new to the field are some of the best I have come across yet. Fantastic!

This book is writting in a different sort of style and occassionally it becomes hard to follow. Not in the same way that Blindness was hard, but rather in the way that you can lose yourself listening so someone else describe a conversation they had with someone. You know how it goes...

So I said to him How are you, and he said Good, so I said That's great and your wife. Who? Your wife, is she good. It's been a while. Yes it has. She is good then? Yes, though sometimes I wonder about her. It's hard. Who? My wife.

Odds are good that as I dropped the descriptions of who was talking you had to work to puzzle it out occassionally. Expect to do that a lot in this book.

The book is however well written and touching at points as it chronicles the dying days of a 50 year old man given a life sentence with illness and his wife who accompanies him on his last expedition to see the places that held value for him in his life. Though that makes it sound like the protagonist of the book is the 50 year old Ambrose, I felt in the end, that it is his wife - named Zipper - who is the real hero of the novel.

Though I found the book dragged a bit in the middle, it is a short read and most people could read it in a solid afternoon or over the course of a few days on the subway commute to work.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Beyond The Shadows - Brent Weeks

Another simply amazing trilogy completed. And room for the possibility of a follow up series.

ISBN: 978-0316033664
format: Paperback
pages: 720
publisher: Orbit
pub. date: 2008-12-01
started reading: 2009-02-22
finished reading: 2009-02-26

This was the action-packed conclusion to the Night Angel Trilogy, and perhaps the best thing about it that I can say, without simply repeating my praise for the previous two books is that, unlike many authors whose writing begins to drag towards the end, Beyond the Shadows picks up pace as you go.
By the end of the book the timeline seemingly whips by in a blur and yet, it is a controlled blur with Weeks nicely glossing over things that you don't need at that point (such as day by day character development of well established protagonists).
All in all, a satisfying read and a series I would recommend to anyone looking for a little light fantasy reading with good character development and a gripping plot.

Shadow's Edge - Brent Weeks

The perfect killer has no identity.

ISBN: 978-0316033657
format: Paperback
pages: 656
publisher: Orbit
pub. date: 2008-11-01
started reading: 2009-02-19
finished reading: 2009-02-22

Once again, Weeks writes a book that is hard to put down. Though some of the twists and turns you see coming, in general I found that he manages to catch you off guard just often enough to keep you guessing and engaged. This is the sort of book for people who like a read that you can't put down to go to sleep at the end of the day.
While this is very much a classic tale of Good vs. Evil, what makes it compelling is all the shades of grey inbetween... after all, our hero is a killer, his best friends a mixture of royalty and street vermin, and his idol the most feared man of all time... or maybe not.
Filled with fun characters, it is a good continuation of the first book in the series.

The Way Of Shadows - Brent Weeks

Who doesn't love assassins?

ISBN: 978-0316033671
format: Paperback
pages: 688
publisher: Orbit
pub. date: 2008-10-01
started reading: 2009-02-17
finished reading: 2009-02-19

Ooops... and by assassins, I mean wetboys. What's the difference you ask? Well, an assassin has targets, cause sometimes they miss. A wetboy has deaders... cause they don't.

This first book in the trilogy starts off as so many fantasy stories do, from the Hobbit to Star Wars, with a small and seemingly helpless protagonist that grows to become a hero. The classic rags to riches story, only the riches are not in gold - though sometimes they are, but are in the experience, strength and character of the hero.

This book, like the other two that follow it in the series, weighs in at a hefty 600+ pages. However, it does anything but drag, and one can only imagine that had Robert Jordan attempted the same story, we would have had a twelve volume series.

Weeks is a first time author and, as with many of the other first time authors I've read recently, it is an amazing first effort. While many of the characters are somewhat cliche at times, they never feel stagnant or like pale imitations of other stories but remain fresh and enjoyable.
Part coming of age, part romance, part adventure and all intrigue, this is a good read and sure to be enjoyed by anyone who loves those genres.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Tipping Point - Malcom Gladwell

Probably my least favorite of the Gladwell books, but also his first and the one that paved the way for the rest.

ISBN: 978-0316346627
format: Paperback
pages: 304
publisher: Back Bay Books
pub. date: 2002-01-07
started reading: 2009-01-28
finished reading: 2009-02-06

This is yet more pop sociology, but as with Galdwell's other books that I read, it is entertaining.
The entertainment stems mostly from the core premise of the book which is that little changes can have big effects; when small numbers of people start behaving differently, that behavior can ripple outward until a critical mass or "tipping point" is reached, changing the world.
When I was in Grade 9 I did an independent project on Chaos Theory. While there is a lot behind Chaos Theory that is quite interesting and unrelated to this, the 'pop' association with Chaos Theory is that if a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan, a tornado hits Kansas.
We've all heard of that, and some part of us loves the idea that a small thing can have huge effects. And why not? As our understanding of the scope and scale of the universe grows, and as there are more and more of us every year, it is a naturally human sort of sentiment to want to believe that something small - like ourselves - can have a huge impact in something large - like the world.
Gladwell's thesis that ideas, products, messages and behaviors "spread just like viruses do" remains a metaphor as he follows the growth of "word-of-mouth epidemics" triggered with the help of three pivotal types. These are Connectors, sociable personalities who bring people together; Mavens, who like to pass along knowledge; and Salesmen, adept at persuading the unenlightened.
This part of Gladwell's book, while a little restrictive for my liking, was the most enjoyable for me. When he breaks off to talk about Seasame Street and Blue's Clues, I will confess that I got largely bored. It is clearly an area that Gladwell had a passion for, but that section of the book felt like an attempt to take what could have been a small anecdote and turn it into a compendium of childhood psychology.
Given that Gladwell's background is really as a columnist, and this is his first book, I think the obvious conclusion one can draw is that he hadn't quite mastered the medium and made the change over from small his roots as writer of articles for the New Yorker, to his new and more prestigious role as the trendy author of popular sociology books.