Thursday, January 17, 2013

Welcome Back!

Welcome to 2013. It's funny: I've never thought that this blog would be any more than a personal indulgence. Alas, having recently received an e-mail on one of my older book reviews, I realise that more and more people are visiting this blog everyday. Therefore, I'm committing to delivering more news, more reviews and more book-related notices in the coming year. Thank you to everyone who does check back every now and again. In the coming days, I plan on posting some of the following projects. Some I hope to have posted shortly. Others I hope to work on more slowly as to properly inform anyone who reads this blog.
  • 2012 year in review: a detailed look at the 37 books I read last year.
  • New reviews of my favourite books of 2012.
  • More fantasy flashbacks, where I reflect on my favourite books.
So once again, thank you for your support. I leave you with this question: what was your favourite book of 2012 and why?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

REVIEW - The Omen Machine, Terry Goodkind

The Omen Machine is book number thirteen in Terry Goodkind's internationally best-selling series, The Sword of Truth. It is also the beginning of a brand new trilogy arch - that is, if Goodkind's three book deal from TOR has anything to say about it.  If you're in the process of reading this series, perilous waters full of spoilers lie ahead. So I strongly suggest that you turn back now. Otherwise, if curiosity to see if Goodkind delivers has gotten the better of you... well....

Blurb -
An accident leads to the discovery of a mysterious machine that has rested hidden deep underground for countless millennia. The machine awakens to begin issuing a series of increasingly alarming, if minor, omens. The omens turn out to be astonishingly accurate, and ever more ominous. 


As Zedd tries to figure out how to destroy the sinister device, the machine issues a cataclysmic omen involving Richard and Kahaln, foretelling an impending even beyond anyone's ability to stop. As catastrophe approaches, the machine then reveals that it is within its power to withdraw the omen... In exchange for an impossible demand. 


Plot -
I'll be the first to admit that Goodkind's last trilogy - Phantom, Chainfire and Confessor - were painful to read. To a degree. The Omen Machine is different. Goodkind can still be a tad preachy, but he tries not to overdo it this time. The story is rather interesting and I loved returning to the world and characters. New elements of magic is introduced this time around and the plot travels at a much faster pace than previous instalments. That said, this book is only half the size of a regular Goodkind novel. However, I felt very satisfied with the amount of time I spend reading this novel.

World - 
There isn't a lot to say about Goodkind's world, other than it is brilliant. If you've read Goodkind up to book thirteen, I am sure you'd agree. Goodkind sticks with the familiar, but also throws a lot of new elements into his safe-zones. I'm sorry to say that this book relies heavily on prophecy, which is in my own opinion, is a convenient scape-goat for any weak story (blame it on prophecy!). But Goodkind uses prophecy differently in this story. It is refreshing and unique, and I soon found myself eating my own opinion. Prophecy can be pulled off... if done well.

Characters -
Ah, the characters. This is the most contentious topic with the release of The Omen Machine. People have criticised Goodkind for delivering mere 'shadows' of the characters everyone has come to love or loath. It's true that Goodkind offers little on the background of the characters, but I don't think it detracts from the story. After all, the story is more about plot than character development - the story is more Stone of Tears than Faith of the Fallen. If I was being honest, I would say that, yes, the characters are not as fulfilling this time around. But I know these characters and I know their history. It's not so bad for something like this to happen in book thirteen.

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Goodkind remains one of my favourite authors. I cannot fault the man too much. If you're not a fan of Confessor, then give this one a try. If you haven't been a fan since Faith of the Fallen, this is not the redeeming title you've been waiting for.

7/10

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

IN THE SHADOWS - Madeleine Cleary

Guest Reviewer - Madeleine Cleary

Vampire Academy
By Richelle Mead

If you are looking for something light, fresh and amusing, pick up The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. The series comprises of six books following the exploits of the protagonist, Rose Hathaway and her best friend, Lissa Dragomir. The novel is set in the mysterious Vladmir’s Academy, a school for vampires (Moroi) and half-human and half-vampires (dhampirs). I know what you’re thinking, not another boring vampire Twilight-esque series that capitalizes on the hearts and minds of na├»ve fifteen-year-old girls! While The Vampire Academy series does in fact follow the complicated “love triangle” plot line reminiscent of Twilight, it defines itself through its quirky and often dark humour and its unique character profiles.

Mead’s female roles are refreshingly strong and powerful, quite a few steps away from the pitiful and weak Bella who drove us all nuts with her wailing and pining. Rose in particular is a captivating protagonist who drives the story with her determination and spirit. Also, watch out for the character of Sydney Sage. Sydney is an Alchemist whose secretive human organization works to prevent vampire exposure to their race. Mead has designed a follow-on series titled Bloodlines (first book released August 2011) which sees Sydney taking on the role of protagonist and continuing on with some other major characters.

The only thing I found disturbing is the major male lead and Rose’s love interest, Dimitri Belikov (who is 24 years old while Rose is 17). Plus he is her teacher. Isn’t that just a little creepy? Rose’s other love interest on the other hand, Adrian Ivashkov... now he is something special! Lucky for me (and other smitten girls and boys out there) he will be featuring in the upcoming Bloodlines series.

All in all: not Twilight. Murder, mystery, intrigue, love, romance and plenty of action and adventure. I had fun!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

FANTASY REWIND 3: The Sword of Truth Series, Terry Goodkind

Let's be honest, Terry Goodkind is brilliant. Needless to say that his books are brilliant too. Goodkind is a master storyteller, sculpting a sophisticated world entwined in intrigue, love, loss and above all else, magic. Oh yeah, and I shouldn't forget to mention prophecy either.


The Sword of Truth series follows the adventures of a lowly woodland guide named Richard. His days are spent exploring the forest and in his spare time, crafting items out of wood (I should mention that before becoming an author, Goodkind was a wood sculpture ((oh, and he is also dyslexic))). After Richard pricks his hand on a mysterious vine, the world around him changes and he becomes caught up in the politics of an ancient war. The first book, Wizard's First Rule is long and satisfying story. Read the blurb for yourself:  




Richard Cypher's decision to help a woman in the Upper Ven near the Boundary between the Midlands and Westland creates more trouble than first appears. The woman, Kahlan Amnell, seeks the help of a wizard in the Westland, and she brings with her dark news from the other side of the Boundary: Darken Rahl, Ruler of D'Hara, has brought down the Boundary between D'Hara and the Midlands. This menacing ruler continues his dead father's quest for control by pressing war on the now vulnerable Midlands. Kahlan is attempting to find the great wizard who had left the Midlands for the Magic free Westlands due to the corruption of the government in his eyes, so as to have him Name a Seeker of Truth. The great wizard turns out to be Zeddicus Zu'l Zorrander, Richard's longtime friend, who then proceeds to name Richard the Seeker.


Wizard's First Rule is the very first adult fantasy novel I ever read. I was thirteen years old and though I didn't understand every second word in the story - vocabulary is a killer - I managed to read the book cover to cover. Goodkind was still publishing a book every couple of years, so I grew up reading and constantly waiting for the next instalment. As I matured, so did my vocabulary and reading skills. I can attribute a lot of my love for fantasy because of Goodkind. He really did change my world. 


But now more about the story:


The characters are brilliant and unforgettable. I loved picking up a new novel and embarking on a new journey with Richard and Kahlan. In my own opinion, each novel was a good as the last - at least until the final 'wrap-up' trilogy. The world is as equally unforgettable, unique in its design and mind-blowing in its complexity. Goodkind's world is a believable place where I felt must exist somewhere... somehow.


Every emotion is genuine, every feeling believable. Goodkind's novels were 2am page turners in a desperate attempt to discover what happens next. But as Goodkind wrote more novels, I did become disappointed in how he was portraying his characters: it became a classic case of an author falling in love with his creations. He is definitely no Martin when it comes to eliminating characters.


However, this is only a small irk in my love for these stories. I have thoroughly enjoyed every Goodkind novel. I thought I'd do a FANTASY REWIND on Goodkind since I'm about half-way through newest novel, The Omen Machine. So stayed tuned, fantasy friends. Another review is on its way shortly. 


If you want to know anything about these stories, please feel free to leave comments and questions!







A quick note: a new fantasy rewind poll is up! Please vote as I always look forward to writing about my favourite authors.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review - Prince of Thorns, Mark Lawrence

Let's be honest. I'm not a fan of the inherently bad protagonist. My belief is that ambitions inspire motives and those motives inspire deeds; what is good or evil is but a matter of perspective. Yet something inside willed me to buy this book. Perhaps it was the want for a traditional fantasy novel or perhaps I was curious to see if the inherently bad could be pulled off. Whatever the reason, Prince of Thorns arrived on my doorstep in beautiful hardcover, begging me - or more appropriately, threatening me - to read the pages within.

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Plot -
Prince of Thorns has a satisfying balance between pace and plot. The story is easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable as you enter the thick of the tale. There are a few big moments that took me by surprise and the story remained relatively solid throughout. The relationship between the prince (the protagonist) and his father (the king) is epic. However, this is a story where readers should take note of the figures who lurk in the shadows. In essence, the tale is about the game of thrones, the ambitions of a kingdom and the fractured relationship between father and son.


World -
Prince of Thorns is set in your traditional fantasy world. Or so you think. Without spoiling anything, be on the lookout for a very surprising twist concerning the structure of the world. Whereas other fantasy novels exist with elements assumed and accepted as 'the norm', Prince of Thorns sets out to give a logical and clever explanation of why things are the way they are. This is a breath of fresh air, with some fantasy titles relying on readers to accept everything their world offers, just because they should. But do not fret, the world is everything you love about fantasy and more, but also expect the unexpected (to quote a cliched saying).

Characters -
The prince is inherently bad. But that's not the whole story. Lawrence provides you with reasons about why the prince does what he does, and not once did I feel that the prince was an immortal character doing bad things just because he can. There are many other memorable characters too and unlike some authors, Lawrence is not married to them. They can die just as easily as a nameless goon - and Lawrence does not linger on the details. I love this about fantasy novels.

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Prince of Thorns is the first fantasy title that I have enjoyed in a long while. I'm looking forward to reading the next two subsequent titles. If you love Robin Hobb, Joe Abercrombie or David Gemmell, you'll like Prince of Thorns. If you're looking for a fun read, light and enjoyable, Prince of Thorns is for you.

8/10

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review - Feed, Mira Grant.

Feed is a unique zombie novel down to its very foundations. Its an understatement to say that story that took me by surprise. Firstly, examine the cover: you see a cracked concrete background with the word 'Feed' smudged across the wall in blood. Above the word is a similarly stylised RSS logo (or RSS feed). What astounds me is how exact these images resonant with Mira Grant's story. It is approximately 30 years since the first zombie rose from the dead, and the world is a very different place.

If you're looking for a jam-packed story with relentless action, suspense and violence... you're reading the wrong novel. As expected, the story revolves around zombies but not as an in-your-face issue. Rather, the story is about the effects, fears and political agendas in a post-uprising world. The story is very slow - don't expect to be hooked until at least 400 pages into the story. But the final 200 pages justify this lack of excitement.

I have never read a zombie novel with so much meticulous detail. This isn't a story that merely says 'once upon a time everything was fine and then there were zombies.' Feed provides readers with a very realistic and well-reserached explanation of why the dead rise. The crux of the explanation is that everyone has the zombie gene: it is only with death that the gene is activated. I said before that the world is a very different place: since the uprising, people have become fearful of venturing outdoors. Thus, the rise of the bloggers have come about. This may sound stupid, but trust me, read this novel and it makes perfect sense.

My main disappointment is how slow the plot moved - it is literally a story about a news company following a presidential election... with zombies. However, I believe the end justifies the means. There is a slow reveal of something much larger than anything you could ever imagine - and confronts the reader with one of the biggest twists I have ever experienced in a novel. The characters are well-established, easy to like and if not a tad stereotypical, at least fun to read about.

Feed is well worth the trudge through the first 400 pages of exposition. I pulled a 2am-er just finishing the novel. It's that good!

4 out of 5

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review - King Rat, China Mieville

China Mieville is an author I've been willing myself to pick up and try. I was forever approached by people and lectured about how gritty and graphic, weird and wonderful Mieville's stories are. Having now completed King Rat, I can tell you that these descriptions are indeed true... with exceptions.

King Rat is probably the weirdest story I have read. It spins a tale about a man who discovers that he is half-human, half-rat. This entitles him to all the powers of a rat (whatever they are). In essence, the story follows the urbanised, shunned superhero: Ratman. The book is around 400 pages and could probably be knocked over in about a week of on-again-off-again reading. The language is descriptive, if not a tad strange, describing things in a way that I have never even considered, let alone read in a novel. However, there were moments in the story when I did question Mievillie's word usage. More often than not, it felt like Mieville was going to a Thesaurus and choosing words just because they looked sophisticated. Perhaps a read of Orwell's Politics and the English Language could have benefited Mieville here?

My biggest disappointment about this novel is how easily I guessed the plot and the ending (to an extent). Once I had guessed the major plot points, the reading of the novel was a little less enjoyable. There were some very interesting characters in this book and Mieville took them in directions I found fascinating. It was a certainly a change of pace from the traditional, classical fantasy that usually finds its way into my hands. But in saying this, they were characters I couldn't really associate with.

I still don't know what to think about this novel. I think I enjoyed it, but I feel like I didn't. I think it would definitely appeal to someone who is more into the gritty, punk-like way of life. For me, it's just not my thing. But would I read more China Mieville?

Probably. 

3 OUT OF 5