4 & 5 Star SciFi and Fantasy Reads of 2018

Here is my annual post to list the top rated (by me) books I read each year.  For 2018, these include both books I read and listened to, as well as, novellas and short stories.  I pulled this info from my Goodreads profile.  Needless to say, all of these are highly recommended.

5 Star:

  • Hand of Mars (Starship's Mage #2) by Glynn Stewart

  • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

  • Uncompromising Honor (Honor Harrington #14) by David Weber

  • The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3) by N.K. Jemison

  • Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3)

4 Star:

  • Children of the Nameless (Novella) by Brandon Sanderson

  • Cartwright's Cavaliers (The Revelations Cycle #1) by Mark Wandrey

  • Air Awakens (Air Awakens #1) by Elise Kova

  • Dominator (Vicky Peterwald #4) by Mike Shepherd

  • Kris Longknife's Relief: Grand Admiral Santiago on Alwa Station (Kris Longknife #15.6) by Mike Shepherd

  • Through Hell Should Bar the Way (Lt. Leary #12) by David Drake

  • Admiral (Kris Longknife #16) by Mike Shepherd

  • Persepolis Rising (The Expanse #7) by James S. A. Corey

What am I looking forward to in 2019? Same questions as the previous couple of years: where is the Song of Ice and Fire #6 Winds of Winter, The Kingkiller Chronicle #3,  and Gentleman Bastard #4?  Looking forward to Through Fiery Trials by David Weber, Tiamat's Wrath by James S.A. Corey, Siege of Stone by Terry Goodkind, and ANYTHING by Brandon Sanderson (Starsight?, Wax & Wayne #4).

Copy of 4 & 5 Star SciFi and Fantasy Reads of 2017

Here is my annual post to list the top rated (by me) books I read each year.  For 2017, 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:

  • Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz #1) by Brandon Sanderson

  • Gateway (Heechee Saga #1) by Frederick Pohl - reread

  • City of Miracles (The Divine Cities #3) by Robert Jackson Bennett

  • The Sunset Warrior (The Sunset Warrior Cycle #1) by Eric Van Lustbader - reread

4 Star:

  • The Little Ships ( Alexis Carew #3) by J.A. Sutherland

  • We Are Legion (Bobiverse #1) by Dennis E. Taylor

  • For We Are Many (Bobiverse #2) by Dennis E. Taylor

  • All These Worlds (Bobiverse #3) by Dennis E. Taylor

  • Starship Mage: Ominbus (Starship Mage #1) by Glynn Stewart

  • The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin

  • The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2) by N.K. Jemisin

  • The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman

  • A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Wayfarer's #1) by Becky Chambers

  • Death's Mistress (Sister of Darkness: The Nicci Chronicles #1) by Terry Goodkind

  • Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

  • Pilot X by Tom Merritt

  • Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection by Brandon Sanderson

  • The Tale of the Wicked (short story) by John Scalzi

What am I looking forward to in 2018? Same questions as last year: where is the Song of Ice and Fire #6 Winds of Winter, The Kingkiller Chronicle #3,  and Gentleman Bastard #4?  Already reading Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3).  Next is Persepolis Rising (The Expanse #7), Shroud of Eternity (Sister of Darkness: The Nicci Chronicles #2).

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.

Books.PNG

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

AMoL.jpg

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

Books2.PNG

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.

bmb1.jpg

<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.


bmb3.jpg

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.

 

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.

Garmin Swim

I recently started back to swimming (it has only been about 25 yrs) and I originally used my Garmin 910XT   for my weekly swim, but the result was not satisfactory.  See Blog post here
 

I recently purchased the Garmin Swim and wanted to provide the intial results of using it for the first time this morning.  Overall, I was satisfied with the Swim.  It is much smaller than my 910XT and you hardly notice you are wearing while swimming.  I was suprised by it's accuracy during my swim.  It only provided a mistake on my last 50 yrd backstroke "float" as 100 yrs.  It was correct at the turn as I looked, so it thought the last 25 yrds was 75 yrds.  So out of a 2500 yrd swim, it reported 2550 yrds and the only mistake happened at the very last lap. You can see my results here.
 

Starting and Stopping the watch during my 100 yrd and 50 yrd sprints was a bit cumbersome.  I thought I paused after one of the 100's, but did not catch it until it was time to start for the next.  The pausing and starting probably adds about 5 seconds per due to starting the watch before and pausing the watch after you touch the wall.  I would like it to recognize when you start and stop via an accellerometer.  But of course if you stop during a swim to adjust your googles, it would think you are stopping one swim and then starting another.  So I am unsure of the best way for this to work.
When I uploaded the data via Garmin Connect, it did provide the wrong day and time (August 28 vs. Sept 4). Not sure why this happened but I have seen others state the same.   I manually changed it after. 
Also I could not get the data to upload to other sites that connect to my Garmin (RunKeeper and Daily Mile)  even though both sites accept swim data. RunKeeper would only pull my Garmin 910XT data and Daily Mile allowed me to select the Garmin Swim, but stated that there was no new data.
So overall it has some minor issues that hopefully will be worked out.  I will post if the date and time issue continues after my next swim here.

 

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

Sword_of_shannara_hardcover.jpg

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

legends.png

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.

shannara timeline.png

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.

Best Burger in Orlando Area

Everyone has their own version of what they think is a perfect burger.  Mine is from my own grill.  But what you like is probably different that what I like.  

But what is there in Orlando regarding great burgers?  To me, a great burger is a thick burger, fresh made buns, flame grilled or flat top makes no difference, fresh greens and good cheese. 

Bacon never hurts.

Here are a list of the places that have potential and as I visit and eat, I will update on how good the burger was to me.

1 burger is poor and 5 burgers is excellent.

Order of top 4 so far: 1. Graffiti Junktion, 2. Fiddler's Green, 3. Crooked Spoon, 4. Pine Twenty2, 5. B&B Junction

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!

Adwd1
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 New Life with Microsoft OneNote

I know I am a late comer to Microsoft OneNote, and I can not say what has taken me so long.  Regardless, I do use it everyday now and wish I could also use on my Macbook Pro, iPhone & iPad.  But alas, no.

 

So I focus on my work life, since it is Windows based.  I keep all of my "Notebooks" on a network drive so that no matter which Windows computer I use, I have access to all my Notebooks.  And since it keeps a local copy, even if I have no network, I can still use.  And to be a little meta, I am writing this blog post in OneNote.   Integrate Windows Live Writer and it would be just that much better.



For work and business purposes, note taking during meetings is taken to a new level.  The ability to Tag enhances my workflow so much, I wonder how I lived without it.

 

 

It is very well integrated with Microsoft Office, especially Outlook.  It allows inserting and attaching supporting documents, pictures, audio, video, screen captures, etc… with each note.  You can also share the notebooks via SharePoint for collaboration purposes. 

 

My current "Notebooks" are Meetings, Personal, Projects, Conventions, Acquisitions, and HRIS.  I can drag and drop stuff from one Notebook to another.  Link items between them and add shortcuts.

 

As stated earlier, there is no real multi-platform analog that I have found.  Evernote is what comes to mind for most people, and is similar in many ways and is very workable. 

 

 

I use it, and I know people who rely on it as much as I rely on OneNote.  My perspective of Evernote is more a repository of miscellaneous stuff, pdfs, scans, receipts, etc… more a way to organize a junk pile than a productivity powerhouse.  I can only pray somehow Evernote will become OneNote compatible.  Not sure if Microsoft will allow such a thing, but the ability to use Evernote on my iPhone and have the info show up in OneNote could be a great solution.  Evernote does allow for a OneNote2007 import, but I am using 2010 and would miss to many of the OneNote features to use Evernote exclusively.  Maybe I will give it a try just to see…

 

Stay tuned for possible follow-up.

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.

My Favorite Holiday

When people ask me what my favorite holiday of the year is, I always answer “St. Patrick’s Day”!  I usually get a strange look and the question “are you Irish?”.  Well, no I am not.  I am mostly of Scottish and English heritage.  But not only does St. Patrick’s Day provide another legitimate reason to wear my kilt, it is a day I take off work every year and celebrate all day (vs night when you can’t get in anywhere).

Lisa & I on St. Patrick's Day 2009

Why St. Patrick’s Day?  For many reasons which include that it is the only day of the year (well maybe New Years) where everyone, stranger and alike, are friends and family.  Yet, it is not a holiday in which it is required to spend with friends and/or family.  Nor do you have the burden of gifts, cooking, traveling (unless you are going to Savannah, Boston or Chicago – the best St. Patrick’s Day cities in my opinion).

Lisa on St. Patrick's Day 2009

I start St. Patrick’s day with a Irish breakfast at the Irish Pub & Restaurant right by my house, and move on from there.  I think I counted in the Orlando area at least 25 Irish Pubs & Restaurants, so the day is full moving from one to another and meeting new friends!  This year my wife has the day off as well so she will be joining me.  I hope this becomes a holiday tradition for her as well as she does have Irish heritage!

 

St. Patrick’s Day blessing opun you!

Slainte.

Note Taking Applications

As part of my ongoing attempts at organization for life and work, I have tried to tackle To-Do List (see prior post from December 2008) and am now reviewing note taking applications, some of which also contain To-Do abilities.

The initial list of contenders I chose are:

My needs for this are an easy to use application no matter what computer I am using (Windows, Mac, Linux), not matter where I am, is secure, easy to manage the content, fast to access, and pleasing to the eye.  I do not necessarily need an application that installs on all clients, thus the cloud applications I have selected above, although Evernote does provide an native client.

 

evernote

Evernote is the most well known of the online note taking applications.  Notes are only the beginning of what Evernote can do.  It is a place for all of your ideas you come up with, things you like with access from any device you use.  Capture and Organize everything is Evernote’s rule.  It may be the only application in this that recognizes and indexes images and PDF’s.

Visually, Evernote is very mature and provides the ability to create notebooks for different needs.  You can keep everything private or you can share specific items & notebooks.  Tagging is key to Evernote  and successfully utilizing all of it’s potential.

Evernote restricts by the amount you may upload per month for free (40 MB).  You can add via Evernote plug-in for both IE and Firefox, emailing to a private email address they assign,  importing from Google Notebook, and via Twitter.

There is also a $5 month premium account that adds SSL transfers, priority image recognition, no ads, monthly upload to 500MB, access to notebooks offline for iPhone and iPod Touch users, and more.

Evernote also provides downloads for Windows, Mac, iPhone+iPod Touch, Android, Palm Pre, Windows Mobile and Blackberry.  All devices will sync and work together with one account (if you have that many phones and computers).

My only complaint is that my workflow and Evernote’s seem to not mesh well.  Thus the Evernote interface is not intuitive for my purposes for me.  I have been trying to use Evernote for over a year and it has just not caught on for me yet.

  4half

 

mynoteit

 

MyNoteit is an interesting application.  It is also a free offering, but does have Google Ads included on the pages.  It is set up specifically for those that are in school as it has Courses and Assignments by default.  They provide external links regarding Term Papers and Learning Management Software.  The site did render a bit slower than expected and the interface is not as intuitive as I would like.  It does provide a to-do list along with the note taking, assignments and bookmarks.  Messaging also looks to be within the MyNoteit environment to help with groups and collaboration.  I did not see anything regarding a storage cap.

Overall, MyNoteit does not look to be the best product for my needs, but may be good for students in school, especially if they are working in teams and like to share assignments.

2half

 

ubernote

UberNote reminds me of Evernote.   It seems to be a direct competitor, using much of the same types of interaction.  There is a Firefox toolbar you can install that allows clipping and bookmlarking, as well as, UberClip which adds entire web pages directly into UberNote.  There is also a Netvibes widget, iGoogle gadget and user specific email address you can send items directly to your UberNote. Other methods of getting info into UberNote includes Twitter and importing of your Google Notebook and exporting to a an HTML backup.

Similar to Evernote, tagging is a big componant of UberNote and it also provides a task management section.  There is a mobile version that you can use on your smartphone as well.  They are working on a premium version that will provide more file space (can not find how much they give you now), secure connections and encrypted notes.  Overall I like what I see in UberNote, but am unsure if it would replace Evernote for me.

3half

 

springnote

Springnote allows you to login using OpenID if you so desire.  Springnote provides a very clean interface, dashboard and 2GB for free.  You can have both Personal Notebooks as well as Group Notebooks for collaboration.  Springnote is interesting as it is based upon wiki technology.   When creating a Personal Notebook, Springnote creates a Bookshelf, Meeting Notes, Monthly Calendar, Monthly Schedule, Personal Profile, To Do List and Web Clippings by default.  You can create your own pages as well.   Bookshelf is an interesting addition for me as I am an avid reader.  You also have an Inbox and Comments section, both of which look to only be for within Springnote environment.  Within the setting section, you can turn off comments if you have a public page, back up your full notebook and change your profile image.  Exporting to your blog can also be configured here and they identify Typepad, Moveabletype, WordPress, and Blogger.   I run my blog on SquareSpace and it set up without issue.  They also have a plug-in page wiht all plug-ins developed by Springnote and not the community.  They also have what they call “Mashups” which include an iPhone App, a Messenger bot which allows you to add to your Springnote via Googletalk and MSN.  It uses XHTML and has Open API.  There is also an Open Source project for the Springnote editor at Xquared.

Overall I am very impressed with Springnote and can actually see myself using.  I looks like it could replace a number of specific apps I currently use.  All I would need is a paid version with more storage as well as secure usage.

4

 

google

Google Notebook was abandon by Google (stopped development and no new users), but if you are in the Google world already you may want to check it out.  It provides you with a barebones notebook application.  Similar to other Google applications, they make it simple.  You can creates different notebooks, use labels similar to tagging, and share for collaboration.

You may find Google Documents a better experience if you want stronger collaboration and tools. 

2half

 

fruitnotes

I can tell just from the logo, FruitNotes is very Web 1.0.  Not going to be high on the design and visual appeal.  But how is it to actually work in?  What it provides that is unique is the ability to record phone voice notes.  It provides you with a US or UK phone number to do so.  You can also upload photo and videos and tag your notes.

You can share your notes or publish to “your” blog.  However, “your” blog is a blog on their site and not really “your” blog.

What is amazing is that this is “beta” and the footer of every page says “2007 FruitNotes.com”

I struggle with this one.  It just never looks right on the screen, the fonts are awful, calendar seems to be from 1995 Microsoft Access.  Not for me.

1half

 

notefish

Notefish tagline says “Revolutionize your Web Research”.  You save information you find on the web into a Notefish page for organizing and/or sharing.  Similar to Google Notebook, Notefish has a simple interface with little advanced organization available.  You can color code your notes and tag notes. 

Plug-ins are available for both Internet Explorer (Windows only) and Firefox.  Very simple, very plain.

2half

 

zoho 

Zoho Notebook is apart of the Zoho office products which includes Zoho Writer, Zoho Sheet, Zoho Show, Zoho Wiki, and others.  You can sign up using your Google Account, Google Apps Account, Yahoo or Facebook. 

If you use any or all of the Zoho applications, it is well integrated and easy to switch between them.  They do provide plugins for both Firefox and Chrome and the ability to import your Google Notebook.  Zoho Notebook is the most like an application that happens to be online.  You can add new notebooks, spreadsheet pages, writer pages, web pages and others to notebooks.  It supports images, audio, video, RSS, etc… as well.  You choose which notebooks you share.  It is really focused on content creation more than the other notebooks reviewed here.

The forums for users look to be robust.  They are working on a mobile version, but none yet.  My big issue is the lack of subfolders for how my brain organizes.  It also does not have some of the advanced features from Evernote like OCR nor does it have task lists like Springnote.

And have I mentioned the Skype integration?  Yes, it has this.

3half

 

Let me know if you are using something I missed and I will check it out and update this post!