Saturday, January 28, 2006

Three New Books as Stories Unfold

I said before starting Kushiel’s Dart that I would give it a chance. I think that 178 pages is enough of a chance.

Now, I like Fantasy novels, but they’re not supposed to be that sort of … ahem… fantasy.

This series is based on a woman who becomes a spy based on her enjoyment of pain. Apparently, once people hurt her and have their way with her, they’re that much more likely to give away state secrets or something.

You would think that a story based on this could only go so far. You would be wrong.

Jacqueline Carey wrote three books about Phedre, who is blessed with “Kushiel’s Dart”, hence the catchy title. This lands her in the hands of her master, some guy with a weird name.

French names abound in this book that had good characters, a decent amount of intrigue but way too much smut that went too far for this cowboy.

So, the masochist-spy goes by the wayside (all three books worth), being replaced by Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb and Wizard of the Grove by Tanya Huff. Wizard of the Grove is split into two books, Child of the Grove and The Last Wizard.

Tonight, I returned the second and third Kushiel books, without a receipt, and, combined with my Chapter’s card, a 15% discount and 5 dollars, I covered the price of Shaman's Crossing.

The funny thing about this is that the entire Kushiel series cost 5 dollars less than Shaman's Crossing would have been if I could have bought it the night I bought the Kushiel series. So basically, I got a book that I don't want (Kushiel's Avatar) for nothing.

So, the end of this very confusing tale is that, mathematical contradictions aside, my lack of willingness to read crap earned me a half a used book.

On to the minigoal!

Minigoal revision:

Getting rid of the book that I was in the middle of reading kinda hurts. Especially when I was a prodigious 178 pages in. Regardless, I soldier on. With the Soldier’s Son Trilogy. Or the first book of it, anyway.

Shaman's Crossing is 577 pages long, and, keeping with my 80-or-so pages per day, that works out to 7 days to read this book. Since it’s now Sunday, that means that Saturday is still the deadline for the completion of the book.

Two more in the bag:


I have to admit that I was more than a little disappointed with Eragon by Christopher Paolini. It was a modestly good book. The characters were okay, though nothing to scream about. The weakest point about the book was its dialogue. Throughout the book, Eragon, who is the “child of destiny” in this book, asks questions and receives answers like it’s a video game.

“Tell me more about .”
is ."
It was like this without variation for the first half of the book. The second half was better, if only just a little.

It probably doesn’t help that I listened to the audiobook and Saphira, the blue dragon, was done in a “Me Cookie Monster want cookie” kind of voice. Really, the voice actor did a pretty poor job overall, and I had a hard time gauging the quality of writing.

All that said, the plot is pretty strong for a rehashed old fantasy theme, and I’m looking a little forward to Eldest, as long as it’s not done by the same guy. There are supposed to be more dragons and I’m not sure I can take the story seriously with a dread army of muppets at Eragon’s command.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

I’ve pretty much said all I need to about The Chronicles of Narnia. I continue to be amazed by Nicholas’ listening skills and his comprehension level. He’s excited to learn more about Narnia and Aslan (even if he sometimes mixes up which is which).

My favourite part to read to him was the part after Aslan’s return, his playing with Susan and Lucy at the Stone Table. However, I think his favourite part was when Aslan breathed life back into the statues at the Witch’s castle. Especially the Lion. “Us lions. Did you hear that, everyone? Aslan said Us Lions!” And of course, the noble giant, Rumblebuffin.

Next up, The Horse and His Boy and Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Anansi Boys is read by a Brit, too. I can only hope he’s better than the guy that did Eragon.

42 books left to go!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Three years?!

Lost in the haze of goals, work, babies and Beavers, the third anniversary of my meeting Kim came and went with a small celebration.

For the first couple of months that Kim and I went out, we were continually saying, “I can’t believe it’s only been [insert time-period here]!” Honestly, it felt, all the way though, like we’d been together for years. There was very little transition, very little discomfort. We fit.

And now it’s been three years and all I can think is, “I can’t believe it’s only been three years!”

Happy anniversary, Kim.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Memories of Ice

Well, it’s five days past my original minigoal but one day ahead of the revised one. Without staying up way too late on any given day, I’ve finished Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson.

When people ask me to describe this series, my brain freezes up and I just say “It’s cool. Read it.” It’s hard to find the words in a conversation that will encompass the story that I’ve read so far.

But I’ll try:

The Malazan Book of the Fallen is a series that chronicles the expansion of the powerful Malazan Empire. Spanning across continents, the Malazans use brutal military efficiency, powerful magic and the mysterious Claw (assassins) to conquer people and bring peace to the lands.

At the beginning of the series, in Gardens of the Moon, you’re dropped in the middle of the action, and if you’re not willing to be confused for a couple hundred pages, you’re probably not going to enjoy them enough to go on. It’s worth it to struggle through, though, because the story picks up very quickly and there are a whole bunch of very interesting characters on both sides of the fence (and some right in the middle).

Deadhouse Gates is the second book and the best one I’ve read so far. It involves an uprising on one of the continents that the empire has already claimed and a desperate race for the Empire’s newest Fist, Coltaine, and an imperial historian, Duiker. They lead a horde of refugees across the continent, chased by rebels. But this is just one part of the story.

Memories of Ice is a continuation of Gardens of the Moon, with more plot development, new enemies and an actual bad guy! Some of the new characters are absolutely amazing and the development of some of the original characters is even better. Quick Ben and Ganoes Paran, in particular, are the characters I look forward to reading about in the future.

Hopefully, House of Chains will be as good as the rest of the series has been so far, but that’s to be read some time in the future.

Minigoal #3

For now, it’s on to Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. If it’s as good as I’ve heard, I should be able to whip right through it. However, since it’s over 800 pages as well, I’ll try to keep it realistic and say 10 days, which is 80 pages per day (which I believe is realistic). So, I will hope to have Kushiel’s Dart finished on February 4.

Also, there is just a sliver (maybe five pages) left in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, which I hope will get finished on Friday, if not before.

Finally, I’m about three-quarters of the way done Eragon. If I can finish these two by the end of January (which I feel is very possible), I’m looking at having finished eight books in January, projecting out at 96 books this year.

I don’t believe I’ll be able to keep that up. Things happen and I know how it goes. Still, 8 books in a month is nothing to sneeze at.

Until next time.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Welcome to "The Fold"

Given my ability to find such books, I have decided to incorporate Eragon by Christopher Paolini and Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman into the January-April portion of my Annual Goal.

I've started Eragon and, while I'll definitely finish it, there are some things that I'm not enjoying. More on this later.

Minigoal Update:

Well, the weekend has come and gone and, while I’m a little closer to the end of Memories of Ice, there’s still a long way to go.

I’m heartened, however, by the fact that I’ve only got a little more than a quarter of the book to go, I’ve finished five books already this year, this is the longest book remaining before the end of April, and as of right now, I’m only 3 days past my original minigoal.

Given these things, I will officially revise my minigoal to Thursday, January 26 (happy birthday, dad). I think this is reasonable, even generous, and I will have 6 books done by the end of January, which is two ahead of schedule. (I believe I can finish Eragon and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by then as well, which would actually make it 8 books, but whatever).

I’m trying to decide about the nature of my posts. Should I keep plot-points out to avoid ruining the books for people who haven’t yet read them or should I just state that I’m going to put the plot points in and have a section for them at the end of the post?

What do you think, bloggers?

If nothing comes up in the mean-time or in-between time, I’ll blog atcha on Thursday.

Friday, January 20, 2006

So, yeah, the car

Sung to the tune of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Picture yourself in a car on the highway
A dark green Corolla, as cars pass you by.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
“Thank you, yes, this car is mine.”

No need for taxis or buses or rides
No need for samaritaaaans
Under the hood’s an engine that will take you there.

Mom gave me her car yesterdaaaay
Mom gave me her car yesterdaaay
Mom gave me her car yesterdaaaay

And my imagination is gone. So yeah, my mom transferred ownership of the Corolla to me yesterday. Quite the New Year’s present. So I guess I’ll wash it, then.

I’d put up a picture but I don’t have one and the car’s too dirty right now for me to want to take a picture of it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Dark Tower

I just finished Book 7 of The Dark Tower, called The Dark Tower, by Stephen King. It’s been a long time since I’ve been as blown away by a book as I was by this one. I’m still trying to process it. I enjoyed the rest of the series. It’s really good, it’s really well-written. This one was miles above those. There are some who would say that the ending is a little schlocky, probably that they saw it coming, that it’s a cheesy cop-out.

I didn’t see it coming. It’s appropriate given Roland’s character. It’s appropriately miserable for the tone that King sets throughout the series. It’s heart-breaking and yet I was left with a tiny spark of hope for Roland. Hope that brighter days are ahead.

I’m writing this as vague as I can because, while I don’t claim to have a very large readership, and those that I know read In The Now either have read the series or don’t plan on it anytime soon, I know that I’ve given the URL to my brother and he’s very much intent on finishing the series without having it spoiled prematurely.

I think that the series is worth reading. It’s one of the few that I’ve actually finished (given how few of the series that I read are done being written) and I’d put the end of this series above most of them. I’d say it’s equivalent in quality to the ending of the Narnia Chronicles and it makes me very hungry and impatient for the end of The Wheel of Time series, A Song of Ice and Fire and The Sword of Truth series (although I sort of dread the end of that one with the direction the series has taken lately).

There are all kinds of holes that people could pick at in The Dark Tower – just as there are in every book – plot moves too slow for some, inconsistencies, I’m sure, that I haven’t picked up, too many coincidences… I don’t care. I don’t read a story to find the holes (unless they’re big and get in the way of the story – see The Sword of Truth) and what I got out of The Dark Tower surpasses any quibbling I might do about the fine points.

I can definitely see why it took Stephen King so long to write the series. He’s distracted himself throughout, by writing other books, making a name for himself (Richard Bachman, to be exact). Despite the disparity between publishing, productivity, quality of writing, all that kind of thing, I’ve struggled in the same way to get a story out of my head. It’s nothing on the level of The Dark Tower – it’s not fit to wipe Roland’s ass. Regardless, I can’t help but feel kindred to Stephen King. And I’ll guarantee that I’m not the only one. I just hope that I don’t have to nearly get killed and write myself into the story as an apology to the readers in order to get my own story out.

45 books to go!

Minigoal update: Life happens, and it laughs at the goals, mini or otherwise, of mortal men and women. I’ve broken the 400-page barrier on Memories of Ice but I’m still not at the halfway point in the 892-page behemoth. It’s a great story – everything’s coming together in Capustan and all Hell’s about to break loose – but between rediscovering my long-term non-sexual yet time-consuming love for John Madden, coupled with a bad week for Kim, a bad night or two for Nick, and the always-hard-on-reading work, I believe I will have to revise my minigoal yet again. I don’t mind this, since I’m looking at being done 8 books by the end of January, if all goes according to plan, which is way ahead of schedule, and I knew that I would need to factor in real life when I started this thing. Depending on how far I am by the end of the weekend, I will either post a new minigoal or revise my current one of Memories of Ice finished by the end of the weekend.

Blog atcha then!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Stupid Sprite!

Last night, Kim and I went to Millbourne Mall (I know, I know, why Millbourne?!) to hang out. Well, they have a used-book store and some other things of interest.

We went to the bookstore and made some purchases (The Prydain Chronicles, including The Black Cauldron; The Running Man by Stephen King; and Clash of the Titans, the novelization as well as a couple of movies for Nicholas). Hell of all Hells, I left a partially open bottle of sprite in the same bag as the books. I thought the Sprite was closed. Alas, the books were lost as were the movies. It put a bit of a damper on the rest of the evening. Very little pisses me off more than throwing away books (or wasting money). Of course, I could point the finger at myself for not closing the bottle properly but I blame the Sprite. If it hadn’t been so enticing, I would not have bought it. And if its openness had not been so easily concealed, the books would have been okay.

Stupid Sprite.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Minigoal #2

Well, having finished minigoal #1 (A Feast for Crows) in time, I am going to set another goal, keeping in mind that I don’t want to be up until 2am every time one of these things comes due.

The book I’m currently reading is Memories of Ice by Steven Erickson. Given that it is 892 pages, I will give myself 9 days to finish it. That’s January 20. I feel that this is a realistic goal that will also give me time with my family.

I’m pleased with my progress, so far, with Song for Susannah finished and creeping up on halfway through The Dark Tower. If I finish this soon, well, I’ve found Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman and Eragon by Christopher Paolini. I’ve been intrigued by Eragon for some time and I look forward to reading it – listening to it.

It could be that I will get through quite a few more books with Nicholas than just The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

So, by next Friday, I will hopefully be done Memories of Ice, (which is a sequel to Deadhouse Gates) and I will move on to the Kushiel series. I don’t know how much I’m going to like it but I’ll give it a fair shot.

Until next time.

A Feast for Crows

Well, I squeezed it in, just under the wire. Even if it took me until 2 in the morning.

I finished A Feast for Crows last night and I have to say, I’m a little disappointed.

The story was fantastic. The characters just keep improving. I think that adding the points of view that he did really added richness to the story. Everybody has a motivation and, right or wrong, you can see how they came to it.

My disappointment comes from the fact that it took Martin this long between A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows and even if he finishes A Dance with Dragons within the next two years, it’s likely going to be four years after that before the next one comes out. I think that some of my favourite storylines won’t be continued for six years.

Nothing that happened in this story surprised me. I didn’t see any of it coming but I never do. On the other hand, I’ve come to understand Martin’s writing style a little more and there were no shocks.

There wasn’t a real ending to this book. I mean, in A Game of Thrones, you had Ned, A Storm of Swords had the Red Wedding and Tywin Lannister on the crapper. (I don’t really remember A Clash of Kings and its ending very well but I think there was something with Jon Snow beyond the Wall). That said, what I’ve read has made me want to read A Dance with Dragons, very much.


46 to go!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Magician's Nephew

I don’t always know how much Nicholas is paying attention. He’s always preferred books that had pictures in them, whether they were comic books or just chapter-type books that had pictures every few pages, like The B.F.G., which I read to him a couple of months ago.

Nicholas and I were part of the way through The Magician’s Nephew, the first of the Narnia books. (First in author-preference and chronological order, sixth or seventh in publishing date) I couldn’t guarantee that he was paying attention to what I was reading but I was enjoying reading it anyway. He floored me this evening, however, when I was reading a scene at the end where it described a wondrous smell and how it smelled like greenery and life, Nicholas said, “That must be the garden.” Now, I knew there was a garden but I can’t say that I expected him to remember, if he’d known at the beginning. I guess his excitement over the Narnia books is more than just passing the time.

I wonder how much he really is picking up. It’s exciting.

The story is pretty much exactly the way I remember it. I read it once when I was a kid and once two years ago. I hope Nicholas got a lot out of this one because if he did, I have a feeling he’s really going to enjoy the next one… and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that…

47 to go!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Yesterday, I learned that one of my co-workers was fired because he showed a lack of respect to a co-worker.

On the face of it, that doesn’t really seem to be too good a reason to be let go. However, I have come to learn what happened.

My former co-worker, a male engineer (who nobody really liked, because of a lack of social skills or restraint – the guy just tried way too hard) asked a female engineer out. This woman keeps her personal life very far from her work. She’s nice in a very quiet way but most people she works with realize that she is here to work, not for a social life. Not that she’s a recluse – she’ll socialize within the work environment but aside form that, she keeps to herself.

The male engineer pressed his case on her until, one night, after hours, she was working and he buzzed at the door, unable to enter. She went to the door and let him in and he stood in her office afterward, harassing her about why she wouldn’t go out with him. There were other situations as well but none explains the situation as well as this one.

Gossip is all well and good but beyond being a story to tell people for the sake of itself, this situation leaves me to think about some things.

It was pretty easy to tell, a few seconds into meeting the male engineer, that his social skills were lacking and his arrogance would not let him believe he had some to learn about fitting into a team environment like we have. He would try to force his way into people’s lives with big words and faux-concern in the form of questions, the answers to which he did not know.

Several people at work were willing to write him off a couple days into his work term. He rubbed so many people the wrong way, myself included. I was willing to give him a chance, however, telling my co-workers, “He’ll learn. He’ll have to or he won’t last.” I’m not happy that I was right. I would much rather that he’d learned his lesson without having to lose his job but I can understand that he couldn’t continue to work here, given what happened.

Another co-worker told me that the fired engineer had said of his firing: “I was stupid.” I don’t know exactly what that means but I can’t say he’s wrong. The way it seemed that he said it, (using my best powers of hearsay) it didn’t sound like he’d learned anything from the experience. Granted, it will probably be some time before he gets over the fact that he was fired and takes anything from it but given his apparent self-image, I find it hard to believe he’ll get anything but bitterness from what happened.

Does this make me a cynic? Sure. I've never denied that, though.

Good bye, Engineer-boy. I hope you figure it out.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Song of Susannah

Well, the day after I set the goal, I finished one of the books on my list.

I didn’t realize how far I was into Song of Susannah by Stephen King until the end.

This installment, while not quite as good as Wizard and Glass or Drawing of the Three, is still impressive. Its cliffhanger, while not as intense as The Waste Lands, is subtle and compelling.

I don’t know if I’m the only person with this experience but I’m going through this series, only understanding half of what I’m being told. Granted, King does go back and explain most things but I always feel as if my head is just below the water during the story and I spend half the time trying to understand what's going on and the other half telling myself that it's okay, that all will come clear in time.

I hope that The Dark Tower has the answers I need. What the Hell does the turtle do? What the Hell is in the Dark Tower? Do Cuthbert and Alain come back into the story at some point?

These aren’t the only questions but they’re the most pressing.

Oh, and 48 more books to go!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Annual Goal

At the beginning of the year, it has been my tradition to set goals for myself. Finishing a writing project, programming something I need, losing weight, learning to skate, all kinds of personal development and accomplishments.

2004 was an overly hectic year, with the wedding, the new house and big adjustments.

2005 was no less hectic, with massive bouts of overtime, not enough sleep and, not least, a new baby.

2006 is the year I’ll be returning to my old ways, in somewhat the same way that I entered 2003.

The goal I have will be a dynamic goal, though. This way, I’ll hopefully keep things realistic. Each goal will have a mini-goal. If that mini-goal is reached, I’ll create a new mini-goal, and so on, until all of my mini-goals have been accomplished and the goal is, as well.

So, without much further ado, my goal for 2006 is to … read 50 books.

I know, I know, I already had that goal once. But I didn’t achieve it. And I think that’s because of a couple of factors and now, with a more stable life and lifestyle, I think that if I keep my mini-goals, and keep them realistic, I can make it through the year, 50 books behind me.

So, my first goal is the following books by the end of April.

A Feast For Crows – George R. R. Martin
Memories of Ice – Steven Erickson
Kushiel’s Dart – Jacqueline Carey
Kushiel’s Chosen – Jacqueline Carey
Kushiel’s Avatar – Jacqueline Carey
The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman
The Magician’s Nephew – C. S. Lewis
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis
Queen of Demons – David Drake
Prentice Alvin – Orson Scott Card
Song of Susannah – Steven King
The Dark Tower – Steven King
Jackal of Nar – John Marco
The Grand Design – John Marco
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams

I have already finished one book, Bloody Sunday by Mike Freeman, and this list will see me at 17, 1/3 of the way through the year. (and as we all know, 17 * 3 = 51, so I can take it easy on one of those 1/3s, reading only 16)

Now we come to the tricky part. Keeping a mini-goal realistic while still staying on pace. Also, finding the hours in the day to actually read all these books. Keeping to the scheduling, 16 books over 16 weeks and 5 days is going to require almost a book a week! I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not going to read all of these books on paper. I have audiobook versions of Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower and I plan on using that medium for those two books (as well as any others I can get my greedy hands on). And I will be reading the Chronicles of Narnia to Nicholas at bedtime and to pass time whenever. We’re already most of the way through The Magician’s Nephew, so we might even get into the third book by the time the end of April comes along. So, there are four books that I should easily meet without sacrificing family time. That leaves 12 books for lunch-hours, early mornings and evenings after Nicholas has gone to bed. Think I can do it? I don’t know either. Here’s the first mini-goal: A Feast for Crows by January 11. I know, I know, a lot of you out there could, and probably will have (or have) polished this book off in a couple of nights but I don’t work that way.

I will establish a new mini-goal once this one is reached. If I fail to read it by the 11th, it’ll probably be because I don’t care or can’t find the time, either one showing me that it’s not a priority. So we’ll see.


Goals are good.