Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sunday Greetings and my plans for the week

Posted by Simcha 5:03 PM, under | 5 comments

Good week everyone! (Hmm.. that sounds a lot better in Hebrew)

Last week I did pretty well in the reading department, finishing off a few books and listening
to one audio book. This was actually my first experience with an audio book and it made me wonder if listening to a book actually counts as having read it, since the experience is so different. But I will talk about this more in a later post. The book I listened to was Storm Front, the first in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series. I had started reading this book a few times but could never get into it, but I found the audio version to be much more enjoyable.

I am also rereading an old favorite of mine, Villains by Necessity, and I have finally succumbed to temptation and started on The Desert Spear; Peter Brett's soon to be released sequel to The Warded Man (aka The Painted Man). I've been trying to put off reading this book because Peter asked me not to give too much away (or anything, really) about the plot, before the book's release in April. But it's so hard for me to read a book and not discuss it afterward that I have been trying to hold off on reading it, but I couldn't wait any longer. I'll tell you this much though- so far it's really, really good.

I probably won't be getting too much reading done this
week because most of my free time will be spent preparing for the Jewish holiday of Purim, which takes place this weekend. It's a one-day holiday in which we dress in costumes and deliver gifts of food to our friends and neighbors. We also have to have a festive meal and listen to the story of Purim being recited, twice (though it's an exciting story, so it's OK). But all of the preparations- including costumes, gift baskets and meals - are generally handled by the women because the men are often out carousing drunkenly (which, on this day, is actually encouraged). There is a lot of singing and dancing, and music playing in the streets; it's a pretty fun holiday- if you're aren't stuck in the kitchen. So to try to avoid that I'm going to make an attempt to begin my preparations early, which really goes against my nature, but would be worth it if I succeed.

But before I get started on all that...just a few more chapter of The Desert Spear...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Friday Quotes

Posted by Simcha 2:54 PM, under | 3 comments

Harry Dresden, Storm Front (Jim Butcher)

I'd made the vampire cry. Great. I felt like a real superhero. Harry Dresden, breaker of monsters' hearts.

Two wizards at the University,
Equal Rites (Terry Pratchett)

- "While I'm still confused and uncertain, it's on a much higher plane, d'you see, and at least I know I'm bewildered about the really fundamental and important facts of the universe." Treatle nodded. "I hadn't looked at it like that," he said, "But you're absolutely right. He's really pushed back the boundaries of ignorance."

- They both savored the strange warm glow of being much more ignorant than ordinary people, who were only ignorant of ordinary things.

Kelsier, Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson)

- My behavior is nonetheless, deplorable. Unfortunately, I'm quite prone to such bouts of deplorability--take for instance, my fondness for reading books at the dinner table.

- If you're always on time, it implies that you never have anything better you should be doing

Dani Zweig

Would someone please explain to me why the triumph of Evil is always accompanied by ugly, skimpy and non-functional clothing, an exponential increase in power, and a total failure of intellect?

Favorite Fictional Character: Henry Fitzroy

Posted by Simcha 2:01 PM, under | 3 comments

Favorite Fictional Character
Hosted by Ryan at Wordsmithonia

I never had any interest in vampires, or any of the various vampire related books, shows or movies, until I came across Blood Ties, a couple of years ago, which features vampire Henry Fitzroy- and I was hooked.

Henry, played by Kyle Schmidt, is the bastard son of Henry VIII, and in the present day works as a graphic novel artist in Toronto. He teams up with Private Eye, Vicki Nelson in chasing down practitioners of the dark arts and other evil creatures of the night.And, of course, some romance does develop between them (lucky Vicki) though it didn't come to refutation before the show got canceled (which I was devastated about[both the cancellation and the unfulfilled romance]).

Henry is intelligent and funny, dangerous but sensitive...and really hot. He is my favorite of any of the vampires that I have encountered since. In Tanya Huff's Blood series, which Blood Ties is based on, Henry is actually an author of romance novels, though I prefer the TV version of him. Since Blood Ties, I have watched some other vampire shows, such as True Blood and Being human, and read some books with vampires, but none of them has a character that I liked quite as much as Henry Fitzroy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Posted by Simcha 3:33 PM, under | 4 comments

The dying wizard, Drum Billet, travels to the town of Bad Ass in order to pass on his powers to a baby who is just being born; an eighth son of an eighth son. But, too late, it is discovered that the baby is actually a girl, and everyone knows that girls can't be wizards.

Esk is raised in ignorance of the wizarding powers that have been granted to her, in hopes that these powers will never actually manifest. When Esk begins expressing an interest in magic, Granny Weaterwax takes her in and begins training her as a witch. But Esk's powers have a decidedly wizard-like bent, which becomes apparent when she turns her brother into a pig. So it's decided that Esk must get admitted to the Unseen University, for wizards, where she can be properly trained, though this will be tricky since they don't accept female students.

The wizards at the university have no idea what they are up against, when Esk and Granny Weatherwax show up at the university gates. No mere refusal will turn this stubborn duo away and Esk manages to discover a way to get herself in undetected. But there are strange and frightening creatures lurking around the university, which only Esk seems able to see. And when these creatures manage to steal one of the university's brightest students, it will be up to Esk and Granny to save the day.

Equal Rites is a fun and enjoyable book, though it doesn't have quite the same humor and ingenuity as Pratchett's later books. Since the one-of-a-kind Granny Weatherwax is one of my favorite Pratchett characters, just her inclusion in the book was reason enough for me to read it. And the spirited Esk is a wonderful character as well. I've only read a few of Pratchett's Discworld books and I'm now curious to find out if Esk appears in any other books because I'd love to find out how she eventually turns out.

If you are new to Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, then this could be a good book to start with, even though it's the third in the series. Just be aware that the later books are even better. And if you are already a Pratchett fan, then you'll probably want to read it anyways, if you haven't already.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book Giveaway: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K Jemisin

Posted by Simcha 7:30 PM, under | 26 comments

I admit to being baffled by all of the rave reviews of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, a book that I enjoyed but didn't think was particularly remarkable (see review below). And so I've decided to pass on the book to someone who may appreciate it more then I did (which seems to be everyone).

If you would like the opportunity to provide a new home for my copy of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, please leave me your email address below. And to make me feel better for going against the majority opinion, tell me about a book that you didn't like but everyone else loved.

This giveaway is open internationally, but you must be a follower to enter (and it's never too late to become one)

I will select the lucky winner on March 1st.

Bonus Points:
+2 if you were already a follower
+1 for Tweeting the contest
+3 for blogging about it

Good luck!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K Jemisin

Posted by Simcha 4:01 PM, under | 7 comments

After finishing a book, I often like to see what other book reviews have to say about it and how their impressions compare to my own. I usually end up finding a mix of reviews, some of whose opinions agree with my own and some of which don’t. And so I was surprised to find nothing but rave reviews for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, a book that I had rather enjoyed but I didn't think was particularly remarkable.

Shortly after the mysterious death of her mother, Yeine is summoned by her grandfather to his palace in the city of Sky, where Yeine is informed that she has been selected as her grandfather’s heir. Considering that Yeine’s mother had been disinherited after she ran off with Yeine's father, Yeine is understandably surprised by the news, especially since her grandfather already has two other heirs. But soon Yeine learns the real reason that she has been brought to the palace and she realizes that her chances of ever getting out of this situation alive, are slim.

But Yeine is more interested in discovering the circumstances behind her mother’s disinheritance, and solving the mystery of her death, then pursuing the throne. As she goes about investigating her mother’s past, Yeine becomes acquainted with some of the palace’s residents, along with the captive deities who live among them.

There is also a rich back-story of religion and treachery, which is slowly relayed to the reader in pieces, throughout the book. In short, there had originally been three ruling gods, but two of them had rebelled against the third and were both defeated. The victor, Itempas, went on to enslave the two gods and all of their children, and he gave them to his human priests, as their slaves. Those priests became the most powerful family, unofficially ruling over the world as royalty. Yeine’s grandfather is the head of that family and it is his throne that Yeine is in contention for.

In my opinion,
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a book that will provide a few enjoyable hours of reading, but doesn’t really add anything new to the genre that makes it stand out, or even particularly memorable.

The world building is minimal, with most of the action taking place within the palace, and the concept of gods living among humans, although well conceived, wasn’t particularly original. I was actually reminded of Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker, which had some similar concepts, though Jemisin’s version seemed more watered down.

The book does begin with a strong start, with a powerful introduction followed by a fairytale-like narration. But the narrator’s tendency to frequently interrupt herself with information about the history and religion, soon began to irritate me. It also ruined the flow of the otherwise smooth narration.

There was also this mysterious, detached conversation that appears both before and in the middle of some of the chapters, that really got on my nerves. It doesn’t take long before you figure out who is participating in the dialogue, but I never figured what the purpose of it was. I think it was supposed to add mystery and depth to the story but instead it just seemed melodramatic, and often left me baffled.

    Once upon a time there was a
    Once upon a time there was a
    Once upon a time there was a
    Stop this. It's undignified

Nope, this doesn't make any more sense within the context of the story then it does here.

There were some interesting characters in
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, including Yein’s devious cousin, Scimina, the childlike deity, Sieh and the dark and dangerous god Nahadoth (who fans of Anne Bishop’s Daemon are sure to love). But unfortunately, Yeine herself wasn’t developed as fully as I would have liked. While we know very little about Yein at the start of the story, we soon find out that she was raised in a culture of women warriors, where the women are the hunters and protectors. This should have added an interesting dimensions to Yein’s personality, but for some reason, Yeins’s behavior was disappointingly mild, not at all reflecting the kind of background she was supposed to have. There was also very little information about Yein’s life prior to her arrival at Sky, which would have helped in fleshing out her character.

There were some other aspects of the story that I thought were strange, including Yein's choice to spend her limited time learning about her mother rather then finding a way to defeat her cousins, as well as the actual ending, of which I will say no more.

Despite my many criticisms of
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, I actually did enjoy reading it. It was a well written book that, for the most part, had me hooked. I just felt that it had the potential to be a much better book and therefore I was left feeling disappointed.


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