Reminder: The Eye of the World Read Along

Streak is far more interested in mealtime than in my reading selection.
Streak is far more interested in mealtime than in my reading selection.

My confession to you, dear readers, is that I read Books 1, 2 and part of 3 of The Wheel of Time series a little over a decade ago. Back then, I was young, in college, in my first serious relationship, and easily distracted by shiny books, so I didn’t go on with the series.

In Book 1, having recently read The Lords of the Rings by Tolkien, I felt there was a little too much cribbing from the man in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World. Remember, these were my thoughts of a 19 year old. But my man was really into these books, so I read on. Yet life, and other distracting books, got in the way of enjoying this series and it fell by the wayside. By the way, my man is extra excited to have me reading this series and he has even offered to  listen along (audio versions) and I will occasionally include his remarks in my posts.

Now, with the upcoming read along, I am thoroughly looking forward to enjoying this series with a group of people. In truth, as a Brandon Sanderson fan, I really, really want to see what he did with Jordan’s world and how he ended the series. Yes, I have heard how good this series is, how many serious-beyond-belief fans there are of Jordan’s works. But what I know is how good Sanderson’s works are. If Sanderson picked up the torch after Jordan’s death, there has got to be something really good about this series for him to build on. Or so is my hope.

I hope you’ll be joining us. Below is the schedule for posting, and also the sign up form. Don’t forget to check out On Starships and Dragonwings, my awesome cohost for this insanity. And you can always take the more casual approach by simply following our reading exploits and commenting here and there.

Chapters   Date of Post (Sundays)
Proglogue-7 post on December 16th
8-14 post on December 30th
15-20 post on January 6th
21-27 post on January 13th
28-33 post on January 20th
34-40 post on January 27th
41-47 post on February 3rd
48-END post on February 10th

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Smudge does not snuggle books, even really good ones.
Smudge does not snuggle books, even really good ones.

Why I Read It: Because I like riding on the tail of wagons. Oh, and this dude in line for Sanderson signatures at Bubonicon highly recommended the series.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To:
Epic fantasy freaks who love their characters grey and their plots twisted about each other.

Narrator: Roy Dotrice

Publisher: Books on Tape (2004)

Length:
28 CDs

Series: Book 1 Song of Ice and Fire

This is a very complex book. I suggest you check out this wikipedia article if you want a comprehensive summary of the book. I will simply tell you every little thing I loved about this book. First off, the characters are complicated; while there are some few that are more evil or more good than the rest, by and large they are all grey, each having a gentler side and a ruthless side. At first, the Starks of Winterfell seem driven by honor and therefore, will hold the bulk of the good deeds for the book, while the various competing families of the capital city King’s Landing appear to hold the lot of plotting, scheming, nefarious deeds. But the plots quickly become much more interesting, especially as the ‘heroes’ are forced into hard choices and the supposed villains show hints of decency (such as Tyrion Lannister)

Add to that a removed, but related, plot line occurring across the seas on the grassy plains of the wandering tribes of the Dothraki. The last remaining Targaryens live in exile among these horse nomads, dreaming of the day they will reclaim their throne. Daenerys became one of my favorite characters because she grows so much throughout this book. While I know her end goal could put my other favorite characters in jeopardy, I couldn’t help but root for her.

Much closer to home, the Wall north of Winterfell is manned by the Night’s Watch and they keep eyes on the forest and the possibility of The Others, a race thought to be mythological by most. Jon Snow, the bastard son of Ned Stark, joins this Watch along with his direwolf. I am really looking forward to see what George Martin does with Jon, the Night Watch, and the walled-out forest in the next book.

I loved Arya right away, the younger daughter of Ned Stark. She’s strong-willed and much more interested in being self-sufficient than her very lady-like Sansa. I found Sansa young and vapid, until the last bit of the book, where she is forced to grow up quicker than she wanted to. Tyrion Lannister is a dwarf and the younger son of the Lord Tywin, a hard man who has little use for his ‘deformed’ son. Tyrion had some of the best lines throughout the book and I always looked forward to the sections told in his voice.

The narration was excellent. The cast of characters in this book alone is HUGE and Roy Dotrice did an incredible job of making each one of them distinct and recognizable. He varied the accents and ages of each, as appropriate. If I have any criticism, it is that his feminine voices just aren’t really feminine. Distinct, but more like soft-spoken males. Still, I loved his narration and plan to continue the series with him, as I can’t imagine Tyrion’s voice any other way.

And no, I haven’t watched HBO’s series yet, and have been very diligent about avoiding any such spoilers.

readandreviewbuttonWhat I Liked: Direwolves; dragons; spies; traitors; death; the well thought out intricate plots; complex characters; Tyrion Lannister; plenty of sex; Martin world building includes these full-fledged varying cultures.

What I Disliked: The narrated voices for the ladies could benefit from a bit more femininity; alas, there are no maps with an audiobook.

This review is part of the Read&Review Hop hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to stop by there to see more great reviews.

The Man Who Murdered His Mother-In-Law by Jeffrey Hatcher

Why I Read It: Quite frankly, I wanted something humorous to fold my laundry to.

Where I Got It: From the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy audio theater, this would be a fun bit for a commute.

Performed By: Steven Hendrickson

Publisher: Audio-Visceral Productions (2012)

Length: 35 minutes

While this was a short piece (for me), it was very enjoyable. I listened to most of it while folding the daily laundry and it made the chore fly by. Gerald and Laura have been living together for a number of years, putting off the typical bout of marriage most couples go through. Laura’s widowed mother is very wealthy and when she receives some bad news, imminent kidney failure to be followed by death, she suggests something practical, yet gauche: Gerald should marry her so that he and Laura can inherit her wealth without the exorbitant death tax.

What follows is a humorous few weeks in the Florida for the listener, and a bit of hell on earth for Gerald. He’s separated from Laura and forced into a retired communities routine of naps, meals, and daytime TV. Jeffrey Hatcher gave us this bit of audio theater was put together of well-chosen words, turns of phrase, and use of voice and sound effects. This material was written especially to be performed, rather than read, and therefore is original; it cannot be found in book form, only as the recording. And it is definitely worth the time to listen to as it gave me many chuckles. The clever little ending was an appreciatively twisted.

The narration, or rather performance, was excellent. I could nearly see the performer rolling his eyes, or quirking a corner of his mouth, or hiding shock or dismay as the story required. The sound effects that accompanied the narration were well placed without being over powering.

What I Liked: An absurd circumstance made vivid; how society raises an eye at an older woman with a younger man is used for my amusement; unexpected twist to the ending; excellent judicious use of sound effects.

What I Disliked: There are two characters with very similar names (Gerald and Jerry) and in such a short piece, I felt that it was a little too easy to get these 2 mixed up.

Critical Threshold by Brian Stableford

Why I Read It: Book 1 was quite good and I wanted another adventure.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!)

Who Do I Recommend This To: This series is an example of classic scifi at it’s best, exploring the various difficulties of human colonization of the galaxy.

Publisher: Wildside Press (2011)

Length: 200 pages

Series: Book 2 Daedalus Mission

Alex and his crew made it off Floria (Book 1) after ~1 year and spent several weeks in space trekking to Dendra, a planet covered in one large forest. The previous check-in mission decades past had less-than-hopeful reports for Dendra. Unlike other colonies, this one was full of strictly volunteers that signed off on knowing the world was borderline habitable for humans. The initial scout mission was given very little time to catalog all the various dangers of the planet. The Daedalus doesn’t find what they expect (the barest traces of a failed human colony) nor what they hope (a thriving human civilization). Instead, a small group of left-over humans, staring daftly around, clothed in aging scraps of material and living in a rundown village gawk at the appearance of a spaceship in their midst. These humans have obviously lost Earth’s technology and science, but something more plagues them. Can the Daedalus crew discover what it is without succumbing to it themselves?

I am really enjoying this series because there is biology left and right; you can’t read these books without picking up some understanding of ecology and the possibilities and dangers inherent in colonizing the galaxy. Told through Alex’s viewpoint, he tries to unravel the mystery of this planet and what happened to the colony. Marial, the crews ‘reader’, is quite unsettled by what she sees, or doesn’t see, in the few humans left at the village. The bulk of the story happens in the forest with Alex, Marial, and Karen hiking around trying to find any other sign of human life. What they find, while human in appearance, is no longer human in mind.

Alex is intensely uncomfortable around Marial because she can read body language and facial expressions so well as to be nearly psychic. Alex has spent effort and time avoiding her and now he is on a close-quarters mission with her. Karen provides a bridge and a buffer for the poor man. She also hints that perhaps there is some sexual tension between the two. I am happy to say that nothing comes out of that, one of the reasons being Marial is 14 and Alex has a son 2 years older than her, making him, conservatively, in his mid-30s. Despite that one little jaunt down WTF Lane, this story is an excellent read. The women are key players, independent, get to handle the weapons, save the men as often as they get saved by the men or each other. Pretty freaking 21st century for a book originally published in 1977, making Brian Stableford a much appreciated author.

Each mission is in a unique world with it’s own ecological issues the humans have to acclimatize too, plus any human-made political problems. Book 2 wasn’t simply a rerun of Book 1 on a different planet. No, something strange, unique, and other-worldly truly happened on Dendra to the missing colonial descendants. A worthy and exciting series.

What I Liked: Flora and fauna play a big role; I like riding around in Alex’s head, always trying to make the connections to ever changing biological dots; the women are real human beings, fully capable and just as vulnerable as the men; was not expecting the ending; the cover is beautiful.

What I Don’t Like: Alex and Marial? really?

The Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World Read Along

eyeoftheworldbannerAnya of On Starships and Dragonwings and myself are teaming up to to tackle the fantasy legend of Robert Jordan. We’re going to be starting with The Eye of the World (Book 1) of The Wheel of Time series (15 books total) and taking it one book at a time. As long as we’re having fun, we’ll keep on going.

Picabuche - Just a smidge demon?
Picabuche – Just a smidge demon?

As many of you Fantasy fans know, The Eye of the World was first published in 1990. It wasn’t until after the 10th book (published in 2003) that New Spring (a prequel with serious spoilers) was published (2004). Hence we decided to go with publishing chronology instead of story chronology in our reading. Sadly, Robert Jordan passed in 2007 before completing his series. His wife chose Brandon Sanderson to pass the torch on to, who finished the series with 3 books, the last of which, A Memory of Light, is due out January 2013. Just FYI: The Eye of the World was republished at some point in two books (From the two Rivers and To the Blight).

We’ll be averaging around 100 pages per week (at least in my paperback) for the read along, skipping a week for the Winter Solstice holiday of your choice. If you’d like to join us, sign up at either of our sites. For those that do, we’ll be providing read along questions prior to each discussion post date so you have time to put up a blog post too. If you don’t have a blog, or do but want a more casual realm of play, feel free to join us weekly at our sites and let us know your thoughts in the comments. Feel free to jump in and out of the read along, as our pace may be a bit slow for some readers.

Chapters   Date of Post (Sundays)
Proglogue-7 post on December 16th
8-14 post on December 30th
15-20 post on January 6th
21-27 post on January 13th
28-33 post on January 20th
34-40 post on January 27th
41-47 post on February 3rd
48-END post on February 10th

Colony by Scott Reeves

Why I Read It: I play way too much of Sid Meier’s Civilization, but really only like the colony phase.

Where I Got It: From the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy short scifi on foreign planets.

Narrator: Martin Scott

Publisher: Self-published (available on Audible.com)

Length: 4 hours 12 minutes

Scott Reeves gave us a tale set in the far future,  where Earth is overpopulated and they have sent shiploads of humans to distant planets to colonize the galaxy. Jorge and Meesha are the last two survivors of a colony that was brutally hit by the natural elements and beasties of the world. They have been awaiting the next shipment of humans, looking forward to building a successful civilization. Once the new guests arrive, it readily becomes apparent that Bannock has designs on leadership of the colony, and not in any democratic sense.  Aria, mutant human with telepathic abilities, is shunned by the new colonists, but will prove to a key player in the new civilization.

Primarily told through Jorge’s voice, the tale starts off with his hope to found a thriving, peaceful civilization on this planet. The previous colonists paid dearly for knowledge of this new world, knowledge Jorge and Meesha mean to put to good use. The swarming, death-dealing insects are the first concern in the landing valley. The colonists must move out of the valley, carrying most of the dropped-off supplies. Straight off, there is tension between Bannock and Jorge, balanced for the reader by a tension between Aria and Jorge of a different sort.

This story was a mix of action and quieter moments intertwined. While the women did not get to take part in the physical action, they were still a key point in the resolution to the tale.  I liked how the native flora and fauna of the new world played into the tale. Bannock’s play for power has been in motion for years, and wasn’t simply something he acted upon once setting down planet-side. This made for a more complex plot, which enjoyed in a short audiobook.

The narration was evenly paced with good distinction between characters. Martin Scott imbued Jorge’s voice and thoughts with anger or fear or relief as the story called for. Occasionally, the break between the end of a chapter and the beginning of the next was incredibly short, throwing me into a slight stutter as my brain had to switch gears quickly.

What I Liked: I have a love of colonization stories and this didn’t let me down; Jorge and Meesha are both level headed survivalists; alien insects and avian creatures; Bannock wasn’t a simple brute.

What I Disliked: The men get to handle the weapons (not the women); the sexual attributes of the ladies are described on occasion but not of the men (Equality: tell me how those muscular hairy thighs made the ladies sigh).

Bringing Avalon Back by Lisa Lody

Picabuche checking my book out.

Why I Read It: I like the idea of recovering lost things, like ancient religions and cultures.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Perhaps someone doing metaphysical or religious studies might find it interesting.

Publisher: Virtual Bookworm Publishing (2012)

Length: 247 pages

Sage is a 16 year-old woman, in body, and far more ancient in spirit. Leaving home to escape her abusive father, she seeks solitude in the forests of England. There she meets a magician, Artos, who gifts her with a deck of cards that have the ability to transport her to different places and allows her to talk with various beings and animals and moss. As Sage learns about her spiritual past, she gains exponentially in ability and understanding. She has a destiny and that is to bring the ancient land and knowledge of Avalon back to her present time. The second half of the book bestows a similar destiny upon another woman, Axis, to bring Avalon to her future.

I really wanted to like this book. In the end, I could respect the underlying idea, but the story-telling execution was sloppy. There are no dates used in this book, so that made the timeline very murky. However, this was kind of explained in a psuedo-metaphysical sense – that all time is really a dot and everything is happening now. Maybe. Interesting concept to ponder; makes for a lousy storyline. The back of the book sets the beginning of this book at 1000 AD, England. So, if I use that as a starting point, I still have lots of issues.  Terms like ESP (yes, an actual acronym, set in 1000 AD), astral projection, force field, standard earth reality, & comprehensive global memory were used throughout this book. The vocabulary the author uses is really important in world building – make me believe we are in the forests of England in the year 1000 AD.

My guesstimated timeline.

Lisa Lody used real places that still exist int he UK today, like Glastonbury (which is tentatively linked to ancient Avalon) and Snowdonia. I really liked this aspect a lot, because I look this stuff up. Tidbits like this encourage me to explore my world a bit more. However, she has a group of ladies traveling between these 2 points on horseback in 3 days (no, they weren’t hurrying). By today’s roads, that trip is 192 miles. A good horse can usually do 20-30 miles per day walking. Readers also look this stuff up too, so back to that line about world building above.

Animals, especially cats, features heavily in this book, another bonus. There were also beavers, a fox, and various birds. However, some of these animals strayed outside of their known ancestral habitat for this book – such as the Great Blue Heron (uncommon in Europe) and the Blue Jay (native to North America). Reference the line about world building. There was also the use of red coral and an Indian tapestry is a ceremony that was set in 1000 AD (best guess since dates aren’t used). There just wasn’t a whole lot of trade world wide at that time. Then there are the rabbits. Now this isn’t the first author I have noted who misplaced rabbits, but the earliest recordings of rabbits in the UK come from the 12th century. So, plausible they were around in 1000 AD, but with all the other misfacts in the book, I tend to think the author didn’t research this tidbit either.

While I liked the inclusiveness of various religions, I found the tale a bit one sided; the focus was on the lost knowledge of Avalon and not a sharing between it and the existing religion of the land. Most of the characters are one dimensional and the plot was weak, making it difficult for me to suspend my disbelieve and enjoy this tale. Additionally, the ending was not satisfying (but I won’t spoil it here).

What I Liked: Lots of animals; respect for multiple religions; the cover; use of real places.

What I Disliked: This book felt like a rough 2nd draft instead of a finished product; no depth in characters or world building; weak ending.

Shadow Prowler by Alexey Pehov

Why I Read It: I like reading foreign fantasy, when I can get my hands on it.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: If you’re tired of the same old thieve-elf/troll/goblin-world calamity trope, this is very different and a lot of fun.

Narrator: MacLeod Andrews

Publisher: Brilliance Corporation (2010)

Length: 15 hours 22 minutes

Series: Book 1 Chronicles of Siala

Shadow Harold is a trained thief, if not always respected. His role starts off simple – thieving for a bit of money. But his abilities have not gone unnoticed and soon he is taken before the high and mighty and given a quest that threatens his life at every turn, and probably shaves a few years off his life. A great evil known as The Nameless One is threatening the great city of Avendoom and the peace of the known world. Harold must assist a band of Wild Hearts, the goblin court jester, and a sharp-toothed elfin princess in retrieving a magical horn that will beat back evil.

OK – that sounds pretty straight forward. Now throw in some Russian folk lore, elves of ash-colored hair and pointy teeth, orcs being the first children of the earth, a wise-ass goblin, and a most reluctant hero. This book was a joy to listen to. It was one of those random picks that I borrowed from the library based solely on the cover. Shallowness did not lead me astray this time; this book is excellent adventure. Alexey Pehov gave us a nitty gritty tale filled with grey-area characters full of mystery. I especially liked Harold’s sarcastic wit and practical take on events.

The narration was excellent. MacLeod Andrews provided this gruff voice for Harold, capturing his jaded point of view. The narrator’s fun, high voice for the goblin court jester was unexpected, but by the end of the book, it truly fit.

readandreviewbuttonWhat I Liked: Dark adventure; Harold’s deeply jaded take on life; the mystery behind….well, everything; the fight scenes.

What I Disliked: There really was only 1 female character and she had a minor role.

I’m including this in the Read & Review Hop hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings. Check her blog out to see other great reviews.

Shifted Perspective by J. Bridger

Why I Read It: Simply, it sounded quirky and I had to know how the author would pull this off.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: If you like shape-shifter tales, but are a little tired of the same story outline, check this out and be pleasantly surprised.

Publisher: Self-published

Length: 231 pages

Series: Book 1 Tails of Change

I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

This book is so not me: No sex, little violence, like 3 cuss words, high cuteness factor. And I LOVED every minute of it.

But I am not going to beat myself up over that. No, instead I am going to tell you all why J. Bridger is now on my watch list. If she is this good a writer now, imagine what she can do in the next few years.

Caleb Byrne, 18, lives with his father in a small town. His mother left him when he was young and so it’s just him, his dad, the family dog, and his aspiring journalist girlfriend. Life is already a bit tough at that age, but throw into the mix shape-shifting. Poor dude. One day he finally figures it out. He’s a cocker spaniel. Yep.

But luckily he has some California relatives on his mother’s side who know just what he’s going through. Caleb and his dad go out to sunny CA so that Caleb can learn the ways of the pack and the laws of the shifters. His cousin and aunt are cockers too, while his uncle and male cousins are wolves. There’s a variety of other shifters Caleb has to get used to, including the alpha’s wannabe dominant son. All this change and the world had to throw in some grisly murders that Caleb feels the need to investigate.

This book was a fast-paced, fun read full of humor and wit. I read it in three nights, the last night reading over half the book. I simply didn’t want to put my ‘little cocker’ book down. My man was amused. I simply found it fascinating to watch Caleb deal with this ridiculous situation; what would you do if you found out Senior year you were a shape shifter and that the shape you’re stuck with is a cocker spaniel? I loved how Caleb had to muddle through much of it on his own (that’s what coming of age is) but he still had the support of some caring adults and contemporary friends. Throw in the tension of relationship problems and male dominance pissing contests, and you have some real life scenarios that readers can relate to.

What I Liked: Caleb’s reactions to the various situations were realistic; the tension in the second half of the book is great; the family dog becomes a second parent to the cocker-Caleb; dog show competitions; murder mystery solved but the ending wasn’t expected.

What I Didn’t Like: The murder mystery didn’t rear it’s head until well into the second half of the book.

Check out On Starships & Dragonwings for other great reviews this week.

Dream Magic: Awakenings by Dawn Harshaw

Why I Read It: I like the idea that our dreamtime is not a waste.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Are you into lucid dreaming? You’d probably find this book interesting.

Publisher: Self-published

Length: 160 pages

Series: Book 1 Dream Magic

Eric, a young lad, has recurrent nightmares. But then one night his dreams lead him into a different place, a place of learning. The story centers around this shared lucid dream where more experienced dreamers teach the younger. Eric befriends several other kids, such as the brothers Lyle and Kyle (who are always up to some mischief) and two girls a bit older than him. The kids learn levitation, teleportation, air, earth, water, and fire magic. Some kids will go on to learn more serious magic, battle magic, to help hold nightmares at bay.

Most of this tale is G-rated and the bulk of it is world building and learning the magic systems. Nearly everyone in this story is a good guy and there is very little conflict. Part of me found that interesting, and part of me felt it made the story a little slow. Still, I enjoyed the whole concept that our necessary downtime, stuck in sleep and dreams, doesn’t have to be a waste of time. Dawn Harshaw built a very interesting beginning to a series.

By the end of the tale, Eric and two of his dream friends are ready to move on to the next stage and help fight nightmares. They shared several humorous missteps together, several triumphs, and several jokes by the brothers Lyle and Kyle. The book sometimes strayed into lots of lucid dream psychology or metaphysical jargon which was a bit over my head, but added to the world building. In short, I found this fantasy to be an interesting read and I look forward to seeing what the author does with the kids in the next installment.

What I Liked: Humor and learning go hand in hand; lucid dreaming concepts; whatever these dreamers do in waking life is not relevant to their dream lives.

What I Disliked: There was no real conflict; sometimes the jargon was a bit much.