4 & 5 Star SciFi and Fantasy Reads of 2016

Here is my annual post to list the top rated (by me) books I read each year.  For 2016, these include both books I read and listened to, as well as, novellas, short story's and re-reads.  I pulled this info from my Goodreads profile.  Needless to say, all of these are highly recommended.

5 Star:
The Last Mortal Bond (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #3) by Brian Staveley
The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Rook The Checquy Files #1) by Daniel O’Malley
A New Hope: The Princess, The Scoundrel and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken

4 Star:
Blood Song (Ravens Shadow #1) by Ryan Anthony
Tower Lord (Ravens Shadow #2) by Ryan Anthony
Queen of Fire (Ravens Shadow #3) by Ryan Anthony
Firstborn by Brandon Sanderson
Calamity (Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson
Marauder (The Shoal Sequence #4) by Gary Gibson
Shattered Spear (The Lost Starts #4) by Jack Campbell
Bold (Kris Longknife #14) by Mike Shepherd
At the Sign of Triumph (Safehold #9) by David Weber
De Oppresso Liber (Hayden War #6) by Evan Currie
The Bands of Morning (Mistborn #6) by Brandon Sanderson
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
Son of the Black Sword (Saga of the Forgotten Warrior #1) by Larry Correia
Secret History (Mistborn #3.5) by Brandon Sanderson
Into the Dark (Alexis Carew #1) by J.A. Sutherland
Warrior King (Odyssey One, #5) by Evan Currie
City of Blades (The Divine Cities #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett

What am I looking forward to in 2017? Same questions as last year: where is the Song of Ice and Fire #6 Winds of Winter, The Kingkiller Chronicle #3, Gentleman Bastard #4, and The Stormlight Archive #3?  Already finished and loved Babylon Ashes (The Expanse #6) on January 1, 2017.  Looking forward to The Lost Metal (Mistborn #7), City of Miracles (Devine Cities #3), and anything by Joe Abercrombie.

4 & 5 Star SciFi and Fantasy Reads of 2015

Here is my annual post to list the top rated (by me) books I read each year.  For 2015, these include both books I read and listened to, as well as, novellas, short story's and re-reads.  I pulled this info from my Goodreads profile.  Needless to say, all of these are highly recommended.

5 Star:

  • Nemesis Games (Expanse #5) by James S.A. Corey (Audible)
  • Half the World (Shattered Sea #2) by Joe Abercrobie (Audible)
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Audible)

4 Star:

  • Half a War (Shattered Sea #3) by Joe Abercrombie (Audible)
  • The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson (Audible)
  • Stonefather (Mither Mages # 0.5) by Orson Scott Card (Audible)
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Audible)
  • Leviathan (The Lost Fleet:Beyond the Frontier #5) by Jack Campbell (Audible)
  • Ruins (Pathfinder #2) by Orson Scott Card (Audible)
  • Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5) by Brandon Sanderson
  • Originator (Cassandra Kresnov #6) by Joel Shepherd
  • Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson
  • Hell's Foundation Quiver (Safehold #8) by David Weber
  • City of Stars by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Unrelenting (Kris Longknife #13) by Mike Shepherd
  • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

What am I looking forward to in 2016? Calamity (Reckoners #3), The Last Mortal Bond (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #3), The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn #6), Sharp Ends (First Law #7), Death's Bright Day (RCN Daniel Leary #11).   And where is the Song of Ice and Fire #6, The Kingkiller Chronicle #3, Gentleman Bastard #4, and The Stormlight Archive #3?

4 & 5 Star SciFi and Fantasy Reads of 2014

I forgot to post this last year.  So here it is.

 

Here is my annual post to list the top rated (by me) books I read each year.  For 2015, these include both books I read and listened to, as well as, novellas, short story's and re-reads.  I pulled this info from my Goodreads profile.  Needless to say, all of these are highly recommended.

5 Star:

  • Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card (Audible)
  • Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson (Audible)
  • The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson (Re-read) (Audible)
  • The Emperor's Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #1) by Brian Staveley (Audible) - My review here
  • Dorsai! (Dorsai Series #1) by Gordon R Dickson (re-read) (Audible)

4 Star:

  • Skin Deep (Legion #2) by Brandon Sanderson (Audible)
  • Coming Home (Alex Benedict #7) by Jack McDevitt (Audible)
  • Imperfect Sword (The Lost Stars #3) by Jack Campbell (Audible)
  • Half A King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie (Audible)
  • The Magician's Land (The Magicians #3) by Lev Grossman (Audible)
  • What Distand Deeps (Lt. Leary #8) David Drake (Audible)
  • The Thousand Emperors by Gary Gibson (Audible)
  • In the Stormy Red Sky (Lt. Leary #7) by David Drake (Audible)
  • The High Druid's Blade (Defenders of Shannara #1) by Terry Brooks (Audible)
  • Final Days by Gary Gibson (Audible)
  • Operation Shield (Cassandra Kresnov #5) by Joel Shepherd (Kindle)
  • Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman (Audible)
  • To Honor You Call Us (Man of War #1) by Paul H. Honsinger (Audible)
  • 23 Years on Fire (Cassandra Kresnov #4) by Joel Shepherd (Kindle)

 

What am I looking forward to in 2015?  Follow up to The Emperor's Blades, Defenders of Shannara #2, Cassandra Kresonov #4.

5 Stars for The Emperor's Blades

Wow.  This is really a good story and good start to a possible great series (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne).  It has the Wheel of Time + Game of Thrones + Malazan feel of greatness.  For me, the best new Fantasy since The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.

I can not recommend this book enough. The characters are well thought out, the world building is epic in scope, yet the details are clear and the story absorbing.  I have been wanting to find another Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, George RR Martin, and Robert Jordan.  And I have found him in Brian Staveley.

If you like your fantasy to have a vast world with a rich history, characters with real human flaws, excellent story arc and good old fashion action, you will love this.

Hurry up The Providence of Fire.

4 & 5 Star SciFi and Fantasy Reads of 2013

I am making this an annual post to list the top rated (by me) books I read each year.  For 2013, these include both books I read and listened to, as well as, novellas, short story's and re-reads.  I pulled this info from my Goodreads profile.  Needless to say, all of these are highly recommended.

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5 Star Reads of 2013

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (Reread) - Audible
Ringworld by Larry Niven (Reread) - Audible
A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time, #14) by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson - Audible (MY BOOK OF THE YEAR)
Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time, #13) by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (Reread) - Audible
The Sword of Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks (Reread) - Audible
Old Man's War by John Scalzi (Reread) - Audible

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4 Star Reads of 2013

The War God's Own (War God #2) by David Weber - Audible
Nova War (Shoal: Book 2) by Gary Gibson - Audible
The High Lord (The Black Magician Trilogy, #3) by Trudi Canavan - Audible
Stealing Light (Shoal: Book 1) by Gary Gibson - Audible
The Gate Thief (Mithermages, #2) by Orson Scott Card - Audible
Unfettered (Short Story Collection) by Shawn Speakman - Kindle
Straken (High Druid of Shannara, #3) by Terry Brooks- Audible
Empire of Light (Shoal: Book 3) by Gary Gibson - Audible
Oath of Swords (War God, #1) by David Weber - Audible
Shadow of Freedom (Honor Harrington, #14) by David Weber - Audible
The Six Directions of Space by Alastair Reynolds (Novella) - Kindle
War Maid's Choice (War God, #4) by David Weber - Audible
Empire (In Her Name: Redemption, #1) by Michael R. Hicks - Kindle
Steelheart (Reckoners, #1) by Brandon Sanderson - Audible
Red Country by Joe Abercrombie - Audible
The Human Division by John Scalzi  - Audible
The Last Dark (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, #4) by Stephen R. Donaldson - Audible
Skirmishes (Diving Universe, #4) by Kristine Katheryn Rush - Audible
Indomitable (Shannara, #3.25) by Terry Brooks (Short Story) - Kindle
Thousandth Night by Alastair Reynolds (Novella) - Kindle
The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card (Reread) - Audible

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So what am I looking forward to in 2015?  Well I did not get The Doors of Stone as promised in 2013, Words of Radiance, Like a Mighty Army, The High Druid's Blade, and many more!

The Black Magician Trilogy

Instead of reviewing each book in this trilogy individually, I decided to complete all 3 books and then do a single overall review.  It was the story itself that caused me to do this, as after reading the first book, I had mixed feelings and felt it was to soon to make a decision regarding.  Overall It was just OK.  I am not seeking out the second trilogy.

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<SPOILERS>

The series focuses on a Sonea, a young poor orphan slum girl from the wrong side of the tracks (walls) that learns she has magic and follows her as she develops into a young women thrown into the mechanizations of the Magicians Guild, higher society and higher magic.   


The first two books in the series seem to be more adolescent novels than adult.  The first half of the first book is about Sonea on the run from adults (Magicians) thinking they all want to kill her, and the second half is about bad adults trying to set her up for a fail to prove their superiority due to wealth & status.  It was an essay on the prejudices and bigotry of the rich and privileged against the poor.  Basically the moral of the story is that the rich and privileged will become worse than the underprivileged to prove their superiority.  Other than that, when I finished I thought "what is this really about?".  I had no idea, so no review because I committed to reading all three so I kept going.


The second book seems to be only about Sonea being teased and abused by other children while the adults do nothing.  It is stalking, harassment, physical and mental abuse driven by one (again) rich and privileged student.  That is really all their was for a majority of the book.  The secondary arc in this book is a story about the Magician Dannyl coming to grips about his sexuality.  Bringing this in as a plot point seems only for the purpose to provide more moral questions than just class war.  But does not seem to really help the overall story. Yes there are some developments in the two arcs that moves towards a darker and greater story involved, but it is very far in the background.  Again I finished this book and thought "why is this moving so slow?"


I knew there had to be more than just these teen angst and class/culture war stories.  Something else was going on and just hints are given in the first book and expanded in the second.  You finally get a slight view of darker things happening.  So I held off on my review.  That said, the first two books did have a lot of character development, but the plots were frustrating.


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Once I started Book 3, it explodes.  Really.  It takes two books to set up everything?  Would I say it was worth it?  Probably not (OK, no).  But the 3rd book takes off early.  The overall plot is revealed, a back story withheld is suddenly known, all of the tidbits slowly released in books 1 & 2 collapse into a stronger and more powerful plot.  What was hidden is revealed and we can finally get on with a worthwhile plot.  It is non-stop action which leads to a satisfying completion.  


That said, there are still annoyances.  The arc involving Dannyl really can be removed from the whole series as his personal struggle accounts to nothing in the 3rd book.   A lot of the books writing was devoted to this issue for no real reason other than adding more moral and ethical questions without plot affect.

I really loved the last book.  Really did not like the first two.

 

The Wheel of Time, Book 14, A Memory of Light, The End

This is not necessarily a book and author review, but a personal review of my reactions and thoughts after finishing the last book of The Wheel of Time. If you are looking for an intellectual book review or how great Robert Jordan is, go read the reviews at Tor.com.
 

About this book, A Memory of Light specifically: 
How bittersweet to finally end the series and to have no more Wheel of Time to come. It seems like the story would never end and I would be experiencing it forever.  Part of me wishes for that.
Wow. Wow. Wow. I have never read a book with so much happening so fast.  The first two books of A Memory of Light Trilogy (The Gathering Storm - book 12 and Towers of Midnight - book 13) both moved at a terrific pace vs. many of the other books in the series.  I seem to remember one 800 page book in the series that no one even moved. Maybe not.  But the final book was insane in pace & action.
What I found interesting as I read the final book is as I have been with many of these characters for over 20 years in my life watching them grow and change, I thought I had a good grasp on each character and how much they each meant to me.  But it was only while reading the last book that you learn truly how much they mean to you or whom.  In my case I was surprised.  I got a little emotional at 3-4 points through this book, and all of them where in relation to Lan.  I have always liked Lan's character, but did not feel he was the one I connected with the most until my reactions in reading this book.   I was surprised. I was amazed.
I am also astonished with how many of the loose threads (pardon the pun) are wrapped up.  It was a satisfying end to a great journey I began when Eye of the World was released.  The series had it's ups and downs, its beginnings and endings, its fast pace and miserably slow pace.  The amount of characters that we came to know and love (and literally grow up with).
<SPOILER> The only question I have is regarding the five original primary characters from The Two Rivers, is why the character that does not survive.  Why not let them all?  What not more of them dying in The Last Battle?  Why that one?<\SPOILER>
If you have "read" the series, I do say it is worth the money and time (about 1 billion hours) to "LISTEN" via Audible books as well. I have done this and highly recommend.  You will not regret it.  If you have not read the series, then listen. 

 

4 & 5 Star SciFi and Fantasy Reads of 2012

I thought it would be good to list the top rated (by me) books I read in 2012.  These include both books I read and listened to, as well as, novellas, short story's and re-reads.  I pulled this info from my Goodreads profile.  Needless to say, all of these are highly recommended.

 

5 Star Reads of 2012

Legion by Brandon Sanderson (novella) - Audible
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread) - Audio CD
The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson (novella) - Audible
Foundation by Isaac Asmimov (reread) - Audible
Firebird by Jack McDevitt - Audible
The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson - Audible (MY BOOK OF THE YEAR)
The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordon (reread) - Audible
Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordon (reread) - Audible
 

4 Star Reads of 2012

City of Ruins by Kristine Katheryn Rusch - Audible
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey - Kindle
The Magician King by Lev Grossman - Audible
Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno - Audible
Becalmed by Kristine Katheryn Rusch (short story) - Kindle
Polaris by Jack McDevitt - Kindle
Seeker by Jack McDevitt - Dead Tree
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch - Audible
Echo by Jack McDevitt - Audible
Invincible by Jack Campbell - Kindle
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay - Audible
Redshirts by John Scalzi - Audible
Gabriel: Zero Point by Steve Umstead - Kindle
The Blade Itself by Joe Ambercrombie - Audible
Before they are Hanged by Joe Ambercrombie - Audible
Last Argument of Kings by Joe Ambercrombie - Audible
Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey - Kindle
Gabriel's Return by Steve Umstead - Kindle
An Officer's Duty by Jean Johnson - Kindle
Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold - Audible
A Civial Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold - Audible
Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold - Audible
First King of Shannara by Terry Brooks - Dead Tree
Spin the Sky by Katy Stauber - Audible
Swarm by B.V. Larson - Audible
The First Confessor by Terry Goodkind - Kindle
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold - Audible
 

 Overall, my 2012 reading was fantastic.  Started and caught up on a lot of series, both those I started in the past and new ones.  I am really looking forward to 2013 with so many must reads coming out (A Memory of Light, The Republic of Thieves, The Human Division, Abaddon's Gate, The Doors of Stone, and many more!).

 

Plea to Audible Regarding iPhone App

I have been an Audible member since 2004 (prior to Amazon owning), I have listened to approximately 125 books.  I wish it was easy to pull that data (as well as the total time), but your library is listed by part, by book.  For example, Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordon & Brandon Sanderson is 5 parts.

 

I have been listening on my iPods since the iPod Mini in 2004.  Overtime the listening experience has improved from running software and connecting to iTunes, playing through music App, to the Audible App.

The Audible App allows you to download directly from your iPhone (wi-fi only), full access to your library, listening stats, badges, and most recently they have added Whispersync so you can listen and read on a Kindle the same book.

There are other features such as a “More Books” link in the toolbar that just takes you to a page that says you can buy books at Audible.com (really?) and a News link which I have found not to be useful.- WORTHLESS FEATURES.

The listening stats provides the number of titles in your library (mine says 170), total time listening in total, monthly, daily or today, a Badge collection (I have earned 7 of 15 badges), and your iPhone listening level from Newbie to Master (5 levels).  As good as all of this sounds, it is fundamentally flowed in how it is designed.  It stores this information on your phone, not the cloud.  Thus if you ever have an issue with the App (which you will as you will see later), one of the ways to correct is to uninstall and reinstall.  This process wipes all data (I am currently only at Novice listening level due to this).  Which means all the Stats are meaningless.  Especially to those that use it a lot since you are more likely to have an App bug/error that means reinstalling. – WORTHLESS FEATURE as is.

 

My first request to Audible is to sync the data to your profile online.  Provide the true ability to track your Library (problem in first paragraph) and listening.

As I noted earlier, books are broken up in parts to “make the download easier”  (Audible’s reasoning).  But what this does is makes the listening experience difficult.  Listening without issues should be Audible’s primary focus, not downloading easier (what does that even mean?).  How is it difficult?  When you come to the end of a part, it “sometimes” will automatically start the next.  That “has” been a feature, but one that seems to rarely work.  For a long time it was NOT a feature.  Now when I get to the end of a part it does not go on to the next, instead I get a screen that pops up that says …..


Of course I AM logged in.  I have even logged out and logged in and still the same message at the end of the next part.  It is SO FRUSTRATING.  If I was not logged in, I could not get another book and download.  And I have no problem with that.  From pas experience,  I am sure if I contact Audible regarding, I will get one of two responses:

  1. We are aware of the bug and are working on the fix as soon as possible.
  2. Please uninstall the application and reinstall.

As to number 1, I get this response to often.  My second request to Audible is to fix the bugs quickly, not quarterly as has been what I have seen.  But better testing = < bugs!

As to number 2, sure that sounds simple, except it breaks all of your STATs features!!!  Really?  Break another feature to fix a feature?  Really?

I have yet to use the most recent feature addition (whispersync between Audible book and Kindle book).  I typically do not spend the money to have a book both on Audible and Kindle (how many people actually do this?).  If the Kindle version came free with the Audible version, then maybe I would.  But to buy a book twice for this “convenience” seems useless. – WORTHLESS FEATURE

My third request is that Audible either fix these worthless features or pull them and focus on keeping a stable, user friendly experience.  It is about the Books, not the App.

I use this App because I WANT it to work!  The potential for me is great.  Much better than having to sync with iTunes and play with the Music app.  
Please Audible, your my only hope.

Return to Shannara Universe

I read the original Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks in the early eighties and immediately was captivated by the story and land.  I kept up with the series through the 90’s (read the original trilogy multiple times) and trailed off around The Voyage of Jerle Shannara books in the early 2000’s

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Now the series covers almost 2600 years of history beginning in 1997 in Illinois (see timeline at end of post), I decided it was time to read the series once again, chronologically.  Although the Shannara series actually begins with The Word & Void Novels,  I decided not to read those as they are contemporary fantasy and that is not a genre I really like (I reserve the right to change my mind).  I did read a detailed synopsis of these novels before embarking on The Genesis of Shannara post apocalyptic beginning of Shannara which takes place around the year 2070 in/around Washington state.

For a full list of the series (28 total: novel, novella, short story, graphic novel), I have created a spreadsheet:

https://1drv.ms/x/s!ApBbYfaBop8phGSJQoUDG5rOowMv

Probably the most interesting question of the series is how the Northwest US/Southwest Canada becomes the world of Shannara.  Speculation abounds on forums with people using Google Earth to try and find the hidden valley from Genesis of Shannara.  Regardless, I am looking forward seeing the transition happen even if I do not know specifically where it is on a map today.  Will I find out where Paranor (or the Four Lands) ends up related to the valley that Hawk led the people after the apocalypse?  I don’t know as yet.  Is the start of the Shannara line actually the union of the Knight of the Word Logan Tom and the elf Simralin?  What happens to Hawk when he returns to the valley?  I have so many questions after reading the Genesis of Shannara & the Legends of Shannara

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Will there be more coming after The Dark Legacy of Shannara?  The biggest gap in the history is between Legends of Shannara and First King of Shannara (about 1000 yrs).  That would seem a likely spot if Terry Brooks continues.  Graphing a timeline shows the pre-original series timeline is wide open for more.

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I can’t wait to finish and hope for more!

Update

on 2012-09-12 00:10 by Will Bostwick

After reading The Legends of Shannara, there is no return of the Hawk even though his return is discussed quite a bit.  What is missing between these novels and The First King of Shannara is the founding of the four lands, the first war of the races, the founding of The Druids and the building of Paranor.  This era is begging for a series of books or two.  Not sure why Terry Brooks has focused recently on the time at the end of the series in the future.

Deathstalker Space Opera

Back in the 1990's I read the Deathstalker series by Simon R Green.  There is also a prequel series and a sequel series as well. 

It is a classic Space Opera that takes place in a vast Empire led by a evil Empress with lots of different aliens. It is one of the most entertaining scifi series I have ever read.  It is not a serious Science Fiction series, but taking the best of space opera to the extreme.  It starts fast and never slows down.  Each character is larger than life with unbelievable battle skills. 

What makes it perfect sword and laser is that the the "laser" guns are powered by energy cells that need 2 mins to recharge (why is discussed in first book).  So one shot then you must fight with swords.  But this is only the beginning.

deathstalkerseries  

There are 3 types of enhanced soldiers (Wolflings (part man/part wolf), Haden Men (Cyborgs) and Dead humans with artificial blood (not zombies), large starships & space battles, Clones, ELF's (ESP'er Liberation Front), battle drugs, deadly aliens, deadly plants, deadly planets, a deadly Arena, and it goes on and on and on and on.  I can not express enough the insanity of this series.  It is so much fun!

I suggest starting with the Deathstalker series first, and then if you want some more background on a few characters, read the prequels.  And if you still love it and can't get enough (like me), then read the sequel series.

Prequel Series Twilight of the Empire:
    Mistworld (1992)
    Ghostworld (1993)
    Hellworld (1993)


Deathstalker Series:
    Deathstalker (1995)
    Deathstalker Rebellion (1996)
    Deathstalker War (1997)
    Deathstalker Honour (1998)
    Deathstalker Destiny (1999)


Sequel Series:
    Deathstalker Legacy (2002)
    Deathstalker Return (2004)
    Deathstalker Coda (2005)

Once you have read the series, yes, the name of my website is taken from these books.  Have fun!

The Omen Machine

Warning: Some spoilers

I have read all of the Sword of Truth books by Terry Goodkind as they have been released and was pleasantly surprised that a new book continuing the adventures of Richard and Kahlan was to be released.  I felt the series ended very well in the last book Confessor and felt it complete.  I have to say that after reading the new book The Omen Machine, I still feel the same.  It should have stopped.

 

I am not sure what specifically about this book that led me to feel this way.  My favorite characters are all back, but they seemed changed.  Is it that I am remembering them in a different light?  I do not know, but found myself thinking during the reading that I just want to get it done and over with.
The power of the previous books was the grandness of it all, the adventure, the travel, the new and exciting twists and turns and here in The Omen Machine you feel stuck in one place with a bunch of stupid characters.  Not stupid as in useless, but stupid as in brainless.  And the most sad is Zed.  He is reduced to either not believing what Richard says or repeating what Richard says back to Richard.  A smart, powerful character minimized to a shadow of who he use to be.  Everytime Zed spoke, my eyes rolled in my head.  Sad.
Another disappointment is that with 11 previous books, that there would be some reference to the experiences in which they have had to make decisions now.  We are but products of our past experiences.  However, it is like the previous adventures did not happen other than the "war is over".  With all that has happened to them previously, why would they ever not take something seriously, especially if they have a "feeling".  And all the conversations of doubt was mind numbing.  And it was really strange that the whole affair with Kahlan forgetting all and the aftermath of what happened in the 3 Chainfire series are not even hinted at.  This book takes place right after those books!  It is like it never happened to Kahlan.  
Overall I feel let down.  I will continue to read the series, but the excitement and grandness has been lost.
I gave The Omen Machine 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

 

Ice, Fire and Dragons (with Spoilers)

Beware, spoilers ahead!

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I read the George RR Martin's first 4 books of A Song of Ice and Fire as they were published, so it has been a long time since I have even thought of the books since the last book was released/read in 2005.  Not until both the new HBO series and news of the next book in the series (A Dance With Dragons) being released had me thinking once again about the Stark's and the Lannister's. Strange that I think of the series as the "Starks and the Lannister's" as they may have been the focus in the first book or two, but no longer.


My memory was a bit shady as the books are extensive and the number of characters is mind numbing, but I did remember the first book pretty well, Bran's fall, Jon Snow going to the Wall, and of course, Eddard's death.  But somewhere between the years and other 3 books, my brain added stories and lost some stories since 2005.  For some reason I thought Jon Snow left the Wall in search of his real mother in Dorne and that Lady Melisandre died by fire.  Those that have read the first four books obviously know neither are true, but somehow these crawled into my brain and remembrance from those books. Strange what the mind remembers and what it makes up.


So I decided to take a dive back into the series both to prepare for the TV show and the new book.  My avenue was to re-read via Audible books all four books before A Dance With Dragons was to be released in July.  Unfortunately, I did not take into account how many hours each book would be.   I fiinished the first book by the start of the TV show in April 2011 and the second book by the release of A Dance with Dragons, both of which books I seemed to remember the most accurately.   It was obvious that the 3rd and 4th books are the ones I was having trouble with (besides remembering the the Red Wedding) which is interesting since they are the most recent books.  One would think it would have been the other way around, that I remember the early books, but not the recent books.  That may say something about this series.

Asoiaf

Therefore I went to the web to find chapter by chapter synopsis of both A Storm of Swords and A Feast of Crows (I have since found a more detailed chapter by chapter synopsis).  While reading these summerized versions of each chapter, the "what has gone before" slowly returned, as well as the "why" I could not remember.  Less so for A Storm of Swords, A Feast of Crows was just not engaging to me.  I was not emotionally attached to most of these characters therefore not feeling connected with the decisions that the characters were making or the caring about the outcomes.  And I was missing so much of the other characters not included that are my favorites.

Adwd2Thus the newly released A Dance of Dragons would by my savior.  More of Daenerys whom I loved more as the series progressed, Tyrion and his honesty(yes, I said honesty), Jon at the Wall (I just can't get enough of this!),  and my favorite character of all, Arya.  Please, no Sansa (I just can't comprehend her) I prayed.


Now that I have finished A Dance of Dragons, did it re-ignite what I felt with A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings?  Or was it just a continuance of the A Feast of Crows and monotony of bad characters making stupid decisions and the ramifications of such (ie. Cersei).

Adwd3<sarcasm>

First, Let's focus on the title "A Dance of Dragons". I do not remember any dragon dancing but I do remember:

  • Theon is George RR Martins Bitch
  • The Taming of Daenerys
  • The Misadventures of Tyrion
  • The Fat Men Across the Narrow Sea
  • Weddings-R-Us (with more to come!)
  • The Storm of Lost Ships
  • The Knives at Night

</sarcasm>

Now on the book itself, what I immediately liked was the book began right after A Storm of Swords and caught up to the A Feast of Crows about two-thirds of the way through the book.  This may confuse some people and finding some of the earlier stories from a different perspective a bit confusing.  I enjoyed it as it went back to a time in the story that I was still somewhat engaged with the characters and this portion of the book really focused on the the big 3 (Daenerys, Jon and Tyrion). Please note, I realize that any criticisms coming may in fact be wrong as I do not know the future of the story.  All my opinions are based upon the books to date.


Cersei returns at the convergence point, but please George, just put her out of her misery.  She has become a characature of herself that I no longer care about in any way. Am I to have some emotion or connection with her now that she is humiliated and weak? I do not care about her any longer, or have cared for about 3 books.  This may be just me.


The emergence of long 'lost/supposed dead' characters that have not been in the series at all previously seems a way to make changes the "easy" way.  Although in most cases I did like the new characters, a part of me could not help but feel a bit let down.  It seems like the process is to kill off the old characters and bring in new to advance the story.  Fine.  I guess that is real life.  I just don't read fantasy for real life.  Unfortunately, the story did not reveal anything that I wanted revealed, and only left more threads unsolved with more mysteries.  The forums are ripe with peoples predictions and who they think is Jon's parents, Tyrion's parents, etc…


My favorite characters:

  • Jon - Although there was a good portion dedicated to Jon, not much moved or changed of significance that I did not expect other than the final scene.
  • Daenerys - All I can say is that she was the focus, even in other POV chapters, and her strength was taken from her and made weak in this book.  Made me sad.
  • Tyrion - I think everything but death happened to him during his romp across the narrow sea.  He was fun to follow, but it seemed like he did move forward in character, but in significance to story.
  • Arya - although she only had a few chapters, I was rivited.  I want a book of nothing but her story!  I am on the edge of my seat anticipating how her story will develop.
  • And thank you for a very little of Sansa.


In the prologue, bringing Varys back and exposing his spiders may be the only real reveal in the book.  Makes me wonder when Arya will join them.


I could give my thoughts a feelings chapter by chapter, but this blog post has gone on long enough.   To sum it up, I did give it 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, mostly because it reignited my love for the series, even with its weaknesses.  I look forward to the second series on HBO and the sixth book.  I must have an ending…. Even if it is in ice or fire.

My Weight Loss Experience

Wow, it has been a long time since I wrote a blog post.  Such is life in the world of Twitter, Foursquare, etc…

I have many weight and diet stories I could share, but will focus on the last 13-14 months since in that time I have lost 30 lbs, gained 20 lbs, and as of last week, lost 11.5 lbs.
This journey started at the end of December 2009 when I finally received my fitbit.  I was weighing in around 245, the largest I have ever been and was going to get serious about loosing weight.  So started immediately on my diet by doing what I know best: Eat better and less, exercise more.  I will call this the “starve and sweat” diet.   I tracked everything I ate and every bit of exercise using the fitbit website/application

fitbit

Over the next 4-5 months, I limited myself to under 1500 calories while burning over 3000 calories.  My exercise routine went from just weights 3-4 mornings a week, to adding about 15 miles of running and 10 miles of biking a week.  During this time I lost 30 lbs. and maintained that weight loss by running and biking more until mid September 2010.  That was when I injured my Achilles tendon and running/biking became impossible.
After a couple of weeks, the Achilles was not getting any better so I finally went to the doctor and said I must get back to running ASAP.  I started rehab near the end of October

 

Another day, another week, same old therapy.  on Twitpic

and by the beginning of December was back to running - except 20 lbs heavier than I was in September.  So back to the “starve and sweat” diet.  and through the beginning of February 2011 I have lost 11 of the 20 lbs.  Then I came across and read the book by Gary Taubes “Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It” (was an Audible.com pick on the podcast Windows Weekly).  To summarize, he suggests that getting fat has nothing to do with calories in/calories out, but what you eat.  Today’s obesity epidemic is due to the large quantities of easily digestible and cheap carbohydrates.  He uses the science of fat cells as the basis that our fat, just like our height, is determined by genes and hormones.  For the fat cell this is insulin.  Calories, Fat and other supposed causes of excess fat have no interaction with our fat, but insulin production and sugars have direct impact.  Thus refined and easily digestible carbohydrates that turn to sugar causes triglycerides in our fat cells to get to large so that they just store fat.  Mr. Taubes shows how science proves this and that you can eat all you like and still get lean as long as you are not eating these carbohydrates.  This has been known for over 100 years scientifically but in the 1960’s obesity turned to a physiological issue that we are just lazy and eat to much.  There is so much good stuff in this book that will make you think, agree, question, etc… that I could spend 100 blog posts explaining.  My success at recent weight loss according to this book is due to my “starve” part of my diet since I am limiting these bad carbs/sugar.  Of course, no one believes me when I explain this, so I will let you read the book yourself, but will provide my experience of trying this change in food consumption on me.

So what am I doing?  Well I have changed from a calorie limited intake to a carbohydrate & sugar limited intake.  Less concerned with calorie intake or the amount of food.  Will continue the “sweat” portion of my diet. 

Before starting the carb and sugar free diet, I was averaging 1.4 lbs loss per week.

Week 1 results: Removed any potatoes, pasta, rice, high-carb cereals, and most “sugars”. Maintained lower calorie intake.  Lost 4 lbs. (wow!)

Week 2 results: Changed to eating a lot of Chicken, beef, eggs, cheese, salads & nuts.  Increased total overall calorie intake, so no more “starve” in diet. Lost 3/4 of a lb..

I will update here as I go.  Preliminary thoughts are to combine my “starve & sweat” with “no carbs/sugar & sweat” to loose the weight fast, then switch to “no carbs/sugar & sweat” to maintain.  But before doing that, I will see if I can loose the weight with the “no carbs/sugar & sweat” with the higher calorie intake.

For the “sweat” part, you can follow my progress at either fitbit.com for steps and calories burned; at dailymile.com for my running.

Why Book Publishers are Morons

Yesterday was supposed to be a great day.  My favorite author, Alastair Reynolds, new book "Terminal World" was released.   I hopped onto the internets and searched for the eBook on Amazon.com, B&N.com, Borders.com, eReader.com, etc... trying to find to purchase and read.  Please, someone, take my money!  But everysite only had the hardback version.

My next stop was Google.  I searched and what did I find?  The third listing showed it at Amazon.

And 3 of the top 7 results are for Torrents!  When I went to the Amazon listing, I got the following:

 Good job publishers.  I am one of the authors biggest fans, will pay whatever is asked for the novel in eBook form, it is available in other countries, but not the US, and my only recourse is BITTORRENT!  Fine, don't take my money.  Morons.

Why I hate & Love eBooks

I love the idea of eBooks.  I have been an eBook reader for years since I had Microsoft Reader on my iPaq.  Now I have a Kindle and iPhone and this means I have more books to read than I really can handle.  But there is another dark side to eBooks beyond the quantity…. DRM. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_e-book_formats

My first choice right now is to buy a Kindle book so that I can read and sync on both the Kindle and the Kindle app on my iPhone or even a computer. 

kindle

Unfortunately, no all the books I like to read are on the Kindle.  Some are free and although can be sent to my Kindle, they can not be shared and synced with my other Kindle devices.  Also are books that I get at other eBook stores in which require their own eBook reader.  Thus I currently have 3 eBook readers on my iPhone.

ebookreaders

Stanza – For free and open eBooks (http://www.lexcycle.com/supported-formats)

Kindle – for Amazon Kindle eBooks (.AZW, .MOBI & .PRC – without DRM)

eReader – for Barnes & Noble/eReader/Fictionwise eBooks

Thus a book is stuck on one reader and can not be shared and synced to the Kindle.  This is frustrating.

Help me Apple, you are my only hope! 

iPad

Now we have the iPad and does it add to the complexity with it’s own iBook store?  It says it will support ePub, but I am sure it will be a DRM version. But what the iPad can solve, is due to having all of the ebook readers available on the device, I will no longer need the Kindle itself and can read any book from any format, all on one device.  The next question is… will they sink to the iPhone for on-the-go reading??

Pushing Ice

Every once in a while I come across a Science Fiction or Fantasy book with a tale that sticks with me far beyond the norm.  Usually I am not even aware of it until some time has passed.  It was this way with Alastair Reynolds book "Pushing Ice".  It has been over 3 years since I have read it and it still resonates with me.  I am typically a series reader for the depth and breath of epics novels versus a stand alone book reader, and Pushing Ice happens to be a stand alone book.

In all fairness, I love everything by Alastair Reynolds, and feel the Revelation Space universe is once of the best ever written.  However, Pushing Ice is an independent book outside of his normal writings, and yet, is written in such a way that is is as grand, vast and epic in scope as all of the Revelation Space series.  And that feat in one book is why this tale still stays with me.

The book starts out far in the future, and to explain the genesis of this future, it goes back to early in human space exploration when we are still within our own solar system.  It is here on Rockhopper, which is a spaceship that mines ice, that the real story begins.  While the Rockhopper is mining ice, one of Saturn's moons leaves orbit and heads out of the system.   Rockhopper is the closest ship to investigate and begins to pursue the moon towards the edge of our system....

I will not go further as I do not want to spoil the book for any who have not read.

The book has great character development and really explores human interactions and psychological issues under many types of situations.  And the vastness of the story in regards to time and space is very unexpected and how it deals with things that are sometimes difficult it imagine or grasp is excellent.  It left me wanting more from this universe, but well satisfied.

The Saga of the Seven Suns

One of the funnest Science Fiction series I have read in a long time is The Saga of Seven Suns by Kevin J Anderson.  I has all of the vastness and energy of a true Space Opera.  It has lovable hero's and easy to hate villains.  I highly recommend it if you want to dive into a seven book series with lots of twists and turns.  It is a great ride (read)!

Favorite SciFi and Fantasy Books

Recently,  the SF Signal posted a blog post on which Sci Fi books make up a perfect library.  While that is a tall order and up to much discussion, I thought I would give my "must reads" based upon what I have read and liked.  It is my opinion alone.

Since most of what I read are "series" or multiple volume books, I am keeping it to this vs. stand alone books.

Here are my Science Fiction Series: (In no particular order)

  • Revelation Space - Alastair Reynolds
  • Saga of Pliocene Exile - Julian May
  • Honor Harrington Series - David Weber
  • Deathstalker Series - Simon R Green
  • The Demon Princes -Jack Vance
  • Dorsai/Childe Cycle - Gordon R Dickson
  • Old Man's War series - John Scalzi
  • Foundation/Galactic Empire/Robot Series - Issac Asimov
  • Dune Series - Frank Herbert
  • Dragonriders of Pern Series - Anne McCaffrey
  • Vorkosigan Saga/Adventures - Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Saga of the Skolian Empire - Catherine Asaro
  • Heechee Saga - Frederik Pohl
  • Ringworld Saga - Larry Niven
  • Rama Series - Arthur C Clarke
  • Book of the New Sun - Gene Wolfe
  • Sunset Warrior Series - Eric Van Lustabader
  • Lensman Series - EE Doc Smith
  • Faded Sun Trilogy - CH Cherryh

Here are my Fantasy Series: (In no particular order)

  • Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
  • Earthsea Trilogy/Cycle - Ursula K LeGuin
  • The Wheel of Time - Robert Jordon
  • Sword of Truth - Terry Goodkind
  • A Song of Ice and Fire - George RR Martin
  • Elric Saga - Michael Moorcock
  • Xanth Series - Anthony Piers
  • Shannara Series - Terry Brooks
  • Lynoneese Series - Jack Vance
  • Deryni Series - Katherine Kurtz
  • Memory, Sorrow and Thorn - Tad Williams
  • Belgariad & Mallorean Series - David Eddings
  • Thomas Covenant Chronicals - Stephen R Donaldson
  • Chronicals of Narnia - CS Lewis
  • Horseclans - Robert Adams

I have to mention one more author with loosely connected books, Robert Heinlein. You can not miss with Heinlein.

There are many many more I love, but I tried to limit to under 20 for both.  I would provide this list to any who are interested in starting down a SciFi or Fantasy path.  As you can see from my list, there is one author on both lists - Jack Vance.

What are the series you love?