Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Quotes

Posted by Simcha 1:33 AM, under | 3 comments

I'm pleased to be able to report that this week I finally completed two of the books among the many that I am currently reading and I seem to be making some progress with the others as well. I finished First Among Sequels, which I will review next week, and Spellwright which I reviewed below.
And so here are some of the more memorable quotes that I came across in my reading this past week, including some from one of my favorite comics, Calvin and Hobbes (no day would be complete without a little Calvin)



Gardens of the Moon (Steven Erikson)

Every god falls to a mortal's hand, such is the end of immortality

The Witches of Eileanan (Kate Forsyth)

All dreams are visions of what may be. We ourselves choose whether or not to make dreams reality

First Among Sequels (Jasper Fforde)

Whereas story is processed in the mind in a straightforward manner, poetry bypasses rational thought and goes straight to the limbic system and lights it up like a brushfire. It's the crack cocaine of the literary world."

The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin)

  • The unknown, the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action. If it were proven that there is no God there would be no religion... But if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion.

  • Light is the left hand of darkness
    and darkness the right hand of light.
    Two are one, life and death, lying
    together like lovers in kemmer,
    like hands joined together,
    like the end and the way.

Spellwright (Blake Charlton)

  • There is more possible with language than can be imagined within your rules of spelling

  • Half the world will tell you that you're worthless and stupid; the other half will tell you that there's nothing wrong with you at all. A few might even say your disability is a gift...The truth is that you are neither broken nor gifted; you are only what you make yourself into

Calvin and Hobbes (Bill Watterson)

  • That’s the difference between me and the rest of the world! Happiness isn’t good enough for me! I demand euphoria!

  • "Well, remember what you said, because in a day or two, I'll have a witty and blistering retort! You'll be devastated THEN!”

  • Life is full of surprises, but never when you need one.

  • Calvin: I'm a genius, but I'm a misunderstood genius.
    Hobbes: What's misunderstood about you?
    Calvin: Nobody thinks I'm a genius.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Lawsuits lead to more scifi and Manipulated Photos

Posted by Simcha 5:47 PM, under | 4 comments

I came across a couple of interesting items recently, thanks to Twitter and StumbleUpon, and I enjoyed them so much that I had to share them with you:

There was an article in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago that made me laugh, about an author who is being sued for her use of a particular location as the setting in her crime thriller novel.
When Lalie Walker set about using the Marché Saint Pierre as the setting for her latest crime thriller she thought she was paying a nostalgic tribute to a much-loved Parisian landmark.

But, after reading her tale of a crazed killer who sews fear and loathing among the rolls of taffeta, the owners of the much-loved Montmartre fabric store have signaled that they do not appreciate her gesture.

Arguing that certain passages in her fictional depiction of a business rocked by threats, voodoo and staff abductions are defamatory, they are taking her to court and demanding €2m (£1.8m) in damages.

But it was the conclusion of the article that I particularly liked...

For Walker, the court case has come as a shock.

"I think this is serious. It means that every time you want to write a fiction you have to ask the permission of the owners or the place," she said. "Potentially it represents a big threat to our liberty."

She added, gloomily: "We will all have to end up writing science fiction instead."

So there you go! Just a few more lawsuits like this and there will be no dearth of science fiction literature, as authors will have no choice but to switch to genre writing. Though I actually think it will be the fantasy genre that will gain here because scifi novels are usually based on some reality, still leaving possible openings for lawsuits.

You can check out the full article here

I just stumbled across this website that included some really cool manipulated photographs by
Eric Johansonn. Unfortunately I can't understand anything the site says, because it's all in Russian, but the photos are definitely worth checking out.

The High Fantasy Bookworm Carnival

Posted by Simcha 3:17 PM, under | 1 comment

Jo at Ink and Paper is hosting the High Fantasy Bookworm Carnival this week, which I am participating in.

I sent Jo links to a few different fantasy book reviews that I've written, in the hope that she might figure out which one of them are actually high fantasy. I'll admit that I'm a bit fuzzy as to what exactly constitutes as a high fantasy, so I thought I'd be on the safe side by submitting my reviews for three different books:

Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward
Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L Wilson
Servant of a Dark God by John Brown

Though afterwards I did do a bit of web browsing and have come to the conclusion that a high fantasy is a story which takes place in an alternate world and generally involves a struggle between good and evil which eventually leads to a battle that determines the fate of the world.

The kind of books that come to mind, that match this description, would be David Eddings' Belgariad and Malloreon series, Terry Brooks Shannara books and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. These were also some of the first fantasy books I ever read and so I've always had a soft spot for them. But since I haven't written any reviews of these books, I think the ones listed above should do.

Jo also asked each participant in the Book Carnival to talk a bit about what they think makes a good high fantasy.

While I don't have a particular preference for high fantasy over other types of fantasy, I do think that it is particularly imperative for a high fantasy tale to have realistic and fully developed characters that readers can connect with. Stories in this genre are usually told in multi -volume series of books that can take many years to finish and I think it's largely due to the memorable characters that readers will remain loyal to a series of books, throughout the intervening years.

A good epic fantasy also has to be well paced, keeping the reader's attention and interest while providing the right dosage of action and drama mixed in with world building and character development. It's a difficult balance to maintain, but when done correctly the results can be quite wonderful.

To see which high fantasies other bloggers recommend, visit Ink and Paper's Bookworm Carnival.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spellwright by Blake Charlton

Posted by Simcha 5:20 PM, under | 8 comments

In a world where magic is wielded through the use of written words, there is no real place for a boy who can't spell. Nicodemus Weal can't even touch a magical spell without horribly corrupting it, which is why at the age of twenty five he is still an apprentice at the University, rather then a wizard, like his peers. And to make matters worse, Nicodemus will forever be plagued with the knowledge that he could have been the prophesied hero, the Halcyon, were it not for his disability. So instead of training to become a powerful wizard, Nicodemus's magic is limited to janitorial tasks and his adventures remain confined to the pages of the knightly romances that he reads in bed each evening.

The quiet pace of Nicodemus's life is suddenly shattered when wizards and students start turning up dead, murdered by corrupt spells. Suspicion immediately falls on Nicodemus and his mentor, the Wizard Shannon, for they are the most knowledgeable about this dangerous magic. Soon Nicodemus finds himself being hunted down as a possible murderer, though it's the rumors about his role in the prophesied war of Disjunction that have authorities wanting him dead.

Though amidst all the danger and chaos, a ray of hope suddenly appears for Nicodemus when a visiting dignitary offers him the chance to be rid of his disability, making it possible for him to become the hero he was meant to be.

I had been eager to read Spellwright ever since I first read about it on the Tor website, many months ago. I love fantasies that employ creative magic systems, and a system of magic based on words and writing sounded like something I would really enjoy. Plus, the idea of a dyslexic protagonist within such a magic system, immediately intrigued me.

In the opening scene of the book we are immediately treated to a demonstration of the dangerous power of words in this world, and successfully drawn into the story through this powerful introduction.

    The grammarian was choking to death on her own words. And they were long sharp words, written in a magical language and crushed into a small ball. Her legs faltered. She fell onto her knees…She tried to scream, but gagged on the words caught in her throat.

    He flicked the golden sentences into Nora's chest. She could do nothing but choke.

    "What's this?"he said with cold amusement."Seems my attack stopped that curse in your mouth."He paused before laughing, low and breathy. "I could make you eat your words."

    Pain ripped down her throat. She tried to gasp...

    With five small cracks, the sentences in her throat deconstructed and spilled into her mouth. She fell onto her hands and spat out the silver words. They shattered on the cobblestones.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is Charlton's deliciously vivid descriptions of the wizards' use of magic. Through his writing I could almost hear the sharp crackle of words being shaped and nearly see them flash in the air as they take form. While reading the paragraph above I could easily imagine the pain of sharp-edged words lodged within my own throat.
    By tensing his bicep, he forged several runes within his arm. He could see the silvery language shine through skin and sinew. Tensing his bicep again, he joined the letters into a sentence, which he let spill into his forearm.

    With a wrist flick he cast the simple spell into the air, where it twisted like a tendril of glittering smoke. He extended his arms and cast the sentence onto the nape of the monkey's neck.

The problem though is that right from the beginning Charlton starts throwing around magical terminology that the reader is not yet familiar with and so for a while I had trouble following what was going on. The magic is rather complex and detailed and much of the book involves familiarizing the reader with the magic, which can get a bit tiresome at times. Sometimes this information is given over thorough discussions between wizards, and once in a class given by Nicodemus, so it's not all dumped on the reader at one time, but it still caused the book to drag in some places.

Pacing was another issue that I had with the book. There were parts of Spellwright that had me completely hooked and then I would reach points in the story where I would put the book down and not pick it up for several days. I particularly recall this happening towards the end, when I would put the book down every couple of sentences and then wait until the next day to read a couple more sentences, until after a few pages when I finally reached a point where the story hooked me again and I was able to finish it easily. But because of this uneven pacing I wasn't able to really lose myself in the story.

There was one other aspect of the book that I was rather disappointed with, and that was the development of the main character, Nicodemus Weal. Charlton had provided Nicodemus with a rich array of materiel with which he could have become a strong and complex character. Nicodemus carries the weight of a disability and a failed prophecy, as well as being practically an orphan (always good material for a fantasy), but rather then becoming embittered by any of this, Nicodemus seems to have accepted these challenges and quietly gone on with his life. That is, until Nicodemus discovers that he may actually be able to cure his disability and be able to fulfill his prophecy, and for the first time we see him express some dissatisfaction with his current situation. But while these events could have been used to explore Nicodemus's inner struggles more deeply and help his character evolve and progress, he remains disappointingly mild and seems barely affected, despite the occasional angry outburst. I was particularly surprised by this since Charlton himself had struggled with severe dyslexia, as a child, and I had expected to see some of his own frustrations and struggles reflected in Nicodemus. And so, while I had enjoyed Nicodemus's character at the start of the book, towards the end I had grown rather impatient with him which lessened my overall enjoyment of the book.

While Spellwright had ended up falling short of the high expectations I had for it, there was enough good material here that I would not hesitate to pick up the sequel, when it comes out. Though I do hope that with all of the lengthy magical explanations out of the way, the next novel will have a smoother narration and a stronger focus on character development.

This review goes towards the Once Upon A Time Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Read for free: Rides a Dread Legion by Raymond E. Feist

Posted by Simcha 5:22 PM, under | 6 comments

For a limited amount of time you can download Rides a Dread Legion, by Raymond E. Feist, for free at Amazon. This is the first book in Feist's The Demonwar Saga and the download includes a bonus excerpt from At the Gates of Darkness.

Description: The last remnants of an ancient advanced race, the Clan of the Seven Stars, are returning at long last to their lost homeworld, Midkemia-not as friends, but as would-be conquerors. Led by the conjurer Laromendis, they are fleeing the relentless demon hordes that are sweeping through their galaxy and destroying the elves' vast empire planet by planet. Only by escaping to Midkemia and brutally overtaking the war-weary world can the last remnants of a mighty civilization hope to survive . . . if the Dread Legion does not pursue them through the rift. The magician Pug, Midkemia's brave and constant defender, is all too familiar with the Demon King Maarg and his minions and their foul capacity for savagery and horror, and he recognizes the even graver threat that is following on the heels of the elven invasion. The onslaught to come will dwarf every dire catastrophe his imperiled world has previously withstood, and there is no magical champion in all of Midkemia powerful enough to prevent it. Only one path remains for Pug and Midkemia's clandestine protectors, the Conclave of Shadows: forging an alliance of formidable magical talents, from the demon-dealing warlock Amirantha, brother of Pug's hated foe, and the demon-taming cleric Sandreena, to the elven Queen Miranda, to the warrior Tomas. However, uniting enemies and bitter, vengeful former lovers will be no easy task, and even together they may ultimately be unable to turn the death tide. But a failure to do so will most certainly ensure Midkemia's doom.This special free edition includes an excerpt from Raymond E. Feist's newest Demonwar Saga novel, At the Gates of Darkness.

My Awards!

Posted by Simcha 7:17 AM, under | 9 comments

I recently received a few different awards from some of my wonderful fellow bloggers, which I really appreciate so much. It really makes all the hard work worthwhile when you see that people really enjoy your blog. I'm usually terrible about posting about these awards and passing them on, so this time I'm making sure to do it right away.

First off, I just received the Super Comments award from one of my favorite bloggers, Melissa at My World.. in Words and Pages. This is rather appropriate since it's from Melissa that I learned the positive effects of leaving comments for other bloggers and how you can really develop relationships with bloggers and visitors through these comments. In addition to her great book reviews, Melissa's wonderful personality comes through clearly through her posts and comments and I always enjoy visiting her blog and reading about what she has been up to.

Thanks Melissa!

From Beth at Maybe Tomorrow I received this fun Over The Top award for which I have to answer the questions below with a single word answer and then pass it on to five other bloggers. Beth is a relatively new book blogger whose interesting book reviews I always enjoy reading.

Your cell phone? iPhone

Your hair? Covered

Your mother? Writer

Your father? Teacher

Your favorite food? Chocolate!

Your dream last night? Forgotten

Your favorite drink? Water

Your dream/goal? Bookstore

What room are you in? Living

Your hobby? Reading

Your fear? Aging

Where do you want to be in 6 years? Here

Where were you last night? Home

Something that you aren't? Planner

Muffins? Chocolate

Wish list item? House

Where did you grow up? Didn't

Last thing you did? Cooked

Your TV? None

Your pets? Dogs

Friends? Far

Your mood? Shifting

Missing someone? Family

Vehicle? None

Something you aren't wearing? Shoes

Your favorite store? Bookstore (any)

Your favorite color? violet

When was the last time you laughed? Today

Last time you cried? Unsure

Your best friend? None

One place you go to over and over again? Supermarket

Facebook? Occasionally

Favorite place to eat? Elsewhere

Thanks Beth for this great award! I enjoy these kind of blog awards because they give me the chance to learn a bit more about the bloggers themselves, so I'm going to pass it on to some of my favorite bloggers who I would enjoy getting to know a bit better:

Stephanie at Misfit Salon
Audrey at Brizmus Blogs Books
Wonderbunny at Cookies, Books and Bikes
Michelle and Leslie from Michelle and Leslie's Book Picks

And from Ramona at Alone in the Holy Land I received this pretty Sunshine Award.

Ramona was one of the first bloggers I met when I began blogging and also the only blogger I've met who resides in Israel, as well. While she does occasionally blog about books, she more frequently talks more about her own life and some of the struggles that she goes through while living in a foreign country and raising a young child.

This award is meant to be passed on to 12 of my favorite bloggers, though I'm actually going to only pass it on to five of the bloggers whose blogs I make a concerted effort to visit on a regular basis..

Melissa at My Words and Pages
Bryce at Seak's Stamp
Ryan at Wordsmithonia
TJ at Book Love Affair
Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings

Thanks again to Melissa, Beth and Ramona for these wonderful awards, and of course, to all the little people who made this all possible (you know...the little people who sneak in and write up my reviews and blog posts for me at night, when I'm too tired to do it myself)


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