Category Archive for 'Books'

Back to Darkover :-)

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Ah… Darkover. After having read eleven Darkover books, reading the next two (Stormqueen! and Hawkmistress! in the omnibus The Ages of Chaos) feels like returning home, albeit to a fantasy home. This was surprising since The Ages of Chaos takes place in early Darkovan chronology, before Darkovans meet with the Terrans. The previous Darkover books I read, with the exception of Darkover Landfall have the underlying theme of the clash of Darkover culture with Terran culture. In The Ages of Chaos, this underlying theme is missing. However, there are still aspects of Darkover culture that are familiar from previous novels (although the setting is an earlier time period). What makes the two novels in The Ages of Chaos stand out is the sacrifices that are being made in order to bred and keep laran (Darkovan psi powers) within the ruling families.

In the first novel of the omnibus, Stormqueen!, the story centers around a young woman (a pre-teen more accurately), Dorilys, with a special type of laran to call forth lightning and storms. Stubborn, willful, and terribly spoiled as the heir to her father’s domain, Dorilys has killed twice already before her father decides he needs more help training and controlling his daughter and her powers. From one of the Towers, a trained monitor is sent to help along with another who has his own laran to fear and to conquer as well as his own personal worries – worries that affect not just him, but the whole of Darkover. The story is told primarily through the viewpoints of the two who are sent to help Dorilys.

In the second novel, Hawkmistress!, the story is told through the main character, Romilly, who eventually runs away from home after being told she must marry a man she finds absolutely repulsive. Fed up with being told what she could and couldn’t do (as a ‘Lady’), she disguises herself as a boy as it is safer than to travel as a young woman alone (she is 14 in the beginning of the story) only to find that she rather enjoys the freedom she has disguised a boy – more freedom than she ever had as a girl. The story is set against the background of a civil war, and Romilly finds herself in the company of exiled men and others who are loyal to the exiled King Carolin. Romilly’s laran is the ability to share minds with hawks and horses (and other animals). As her father’s daughter, she learned to train hawks and horses, but at the age of 14 was being told it was “unseemly” to be doing such things (things she loved to do). Such is the impetus for her leaving her home (even her prospective husband would not let her continue training hawks and horses). Romilly’s only real desire is to be herself and to train hawks and horses. Her laran seems harmless enough, but there are consequences and side effects she hadn’t thought of. As time passes and as she сontinues to use her laran (without Tower training), she finds her powers aren’t really all that simple to deal with and that they could put her own life at risk.

Although I initially thought I wouldn’t enjoy these two stories as much as the previous Darkover stories, I was surprised to find I enjoyed them just as much. Part of this, I think, is how Bradley writes. I find her style engaging. As for the stories, you are hardly bored as something is always happening and the characters are always doing something (unlike other books I could name, but won’t since they are probably mentioned on this blog somewhere already). This makes for good pacing in a story. Need I say that there were a few twists here and there? How could there not be, these two stories are set in the ‘Ages of Chaos’ after all. 😉

Overall, a good read. The omnibus gets 5 out of 5 on my Goodreads account. 😀

P.S. I agree with Jo Walton’s review of Hawkmistress!. “Romilly’s rapport with animals is done brilliantly.”

Review: The Ulysses Quicksilver Omnibus

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

The Ulysses Quicksilver Omnibus
The Ulysses Quicksilver Omnibus by Jonathan Green
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I started this omnibus containing three books a while back (maybe over a year ago). It looked vaguely amusing, a mix of steampunk with a bit of Holmesian (not sure about the Bond influence, it feels more Holmesian to me). The book was entertaining through Act 1 of the first story, then the obvious references to modern day’s political issues (i.e., anti-terrorism acts) felt a tad trite.

Since I was also still in the midst of plowing through a few other series that were quite good, I put this book aside for later. I’m now in the mood for a bit of the Holmesian, so I’ll give this book another go. At the very least, I’ll try to finish reading the first book, Unnatural History. If this story proves to be more adventurous than political by the end, then I’ll decide whether or not to read the other two books in this omnibus.

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Review: Downbelow Station

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Downbelow Station
Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m still mulling the story over in my head. Worth reading at least once.

A few things though:

Josh Talley was the most interesting character to me in the novel.

Elene Quen reminded me of Princess Leia.

I empathized with Damon and Emilio Konstantin.

When I get a chance to, I’ll see about writing a longer review.

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About Spoilers

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Trying to understand this spoiler thing.

Some things are spoilers for me, but apparently not knowing who lives or dies in A Song of Ice and Fire because I read the books anyway even knowing certain characters were going to be dead by the end of book three (and certain not-my-favourite-characters are around in book four). Kind of hard to avoid knowing if you are reading book one and have book three lying around and there’s a list of characters in book three. Besides, I still had no clue what the “Red Wedding” was until I read the book. (“Red wedding”. Not a spoiler people, but a mystery for ya to figure out. :p Consider it a teaser.)

What does spoil things for me is knowing what happened – the exact details – before I read the book, and even then I might just read the book anyway. Frankly the end of the story isn’t always the most important for me but everything leading to the conclusion. A lot of the time, reading for me is just about enjoying how the words come together to form a picture of what’s happening. The same could be said about movies and shows – I simply enjoy how the story is put together. For videos, I enjoy seeing how well the visuals are put together.

Besides, who hasn’t re-read a favourite book or re-watched a favourite movie/show? Since you’ve already read/watched it once, you’ve ‘spoiled’ it so why re-read or re-watch? Arguably, there is some enjoyment to be had in experiencing the story over again (I’m assuming you haven’t forgotten everything that happened in the story.)

(And if you watched Game of Thrones before reading A Game of Thrones, you already spoiled the book for yourself.)

I think I might be delving into A Dance with Dragons very soon. 😉

~~~C

GoodReads: ‘Downbelow Station’ by C. J. Cherryh

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

I started reading a Star Wars novel a few months back, then got sidetracked. I felt like returning to this novel, Downbelow Station, which I started a while ago. I’m still not sure what I think of it so far, except for it reminding me of the remade Battlestar Galactica, which can be a good or bad comparison depending on how much you liked the remade BG (note that this novel was written in 1981, around the time of the original BG series). I have no complaints about the author’s writing at least – always a good thing.

“Pell’s Station, orbiting the alien world simply called Downbelow, had always managed to remain neutral in the ever escalating conflict between “The Company,” whose fleets from Earth had colonized space, and its increasingly independent and rebellious colony worlds. But Pell’s location—on the outer edge of Earth’s defensive perimeter— makes her the focal point in the titanic battle of colony worlds fighting for independence…” (See GoodReads link above.)

Sidenote: I tried reading David Farland’s The Runelords: The Sum of All Men again (see my previous blog containing a review of this book), but read another passage that annoyed me. Perhaps you can argue that he was writing in character and that’s what his character was thinking, but I have a problem with a character who’s supposed to be ‘good’ being prejudiced. “When Raj Ahten entered, he took the Sultan, determined to make an example of him. What happened next, Iome could not say. Such things were never discussed in civilized countries.” (Page 169, Tor paperback copy) I stopped reading the book again after that last sentence – “civilized countries” indeed. Who is to judge what is “civilized” and what isn’t? *silent rant; moving on*

~~~C

Review: Spike: Shadow Puppets

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Spike: Shadow Puppets
Spike: Shadow Puppets by Brian Lynch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Shortest review ever for me:

Ninja puppets!!!

‘Nuff said. 😀

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Books, Books, and More Books on GoodReads :)

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

I love social media. I think it’s an important aspect of the internet as it gives people a chance to connect with others they might never ever meet in ‘real life’. I’ve been considering GoodReads for a while now. On my old Facebook profile, I used to use weRead, but since I signed up for that on Facebook, that account got deleted with my old Facebook profile. I finally got around to setting up my GoodReads account (feyMorgaina). I find GoodReads nicely organized and streamlined. Strangely enough, I find the site’s colour scheme peaceful, which puts me in the frame of mind to read something.

A feature I like about GoodReads is the exporting of any new reviews I write on there to my WordPress. In fact, my last blog on here was a review imported from GoodReads. (See “Review: Brian Lumley’s Mythos Omnibus: “Burrowers Beneath”, “Transition of Titus Crow”, “Clock of Dreams” Vol 1”.)

Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve read lately (though of course you can now go to my GoodReads profile to see what’s on my bookshelves):

Knights of the Old Republic: Commencement (Star Wars graphic novel)
Angel: The Wolf, The Ram, and The Heart (graphic novel)
A Feast for Crows (book four of A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin
The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. LeGuin
Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn

And, my current ‘to read’ list:
The Last Command by Timothy Zahn
Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh
Priestess of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Stormqueen! (part of The Ages of Chaos omnibus) by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Circus of the Damned by Laurell K. Hamilton
Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
Moon of 3 Rings by Andre Norton

I enjoyed the first six issues of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) and will likely read more at some point. I think the series got off to a good start in the first little story arc. Like all Star Wars comics/graphic novels, KOTOR is published by Dark Horse. They have finished the run of KOTOR, so now is a good time to read the whole series. The series takes place before the setting for the new Star Wars video game The Old Republic. The new game is an MMORPG (if you’re a gamer you know what that is). 😀

IDW finally published Angel: The Wolf, The Ram, and The Heart and concludes their run of the Angel (Buffyverse) comics. I enjoyed IDW’s Angel: After the Fall series and the few stories after that, but I failed to see where they were going (or that they were going somewhere good) with the series when Bill Willingham took over in Immortality for Dummies. (I initially enjoyed Willingham’s Fables comics, but when he started dragging out the stories I lost interest after volume ten.) The Wolf, The Ram, and The Heart concluded Willingham’s storyline for Angel, and in my opinion brought the story back to what Angel is all about as a series. I think it’s for the best that the Angel title is moving back to Dark Horse. Dark Horse will be publishing a new series called Angel and Faith which will be running alongside Buffy Season 9. 😀

I finally finished A Feast for Crows, the fourth book of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. I found I didn’t enjoy A Feast for Crows as much as the previous three novels – likely because I didn’t care about the characters in this book as much as I did the characters in the first three novels. (I kind of think of the first three novels as a beginning trilogy in A Song of Ice and Fire.) I do not like Cersei – never did. I may feel a little pity for her, but she wins hands-down on the b-i-t-c-h award (considering that she’s probably sleeping with all the men who swear allegiance to her as queen, well… the b-word pretty much fits her). She’s conniving, manipulative, and paranoid. Sure, maybe she feels like she got the short end of the stick (not really though; in reality, she got things pretty good for a while) when she had to marry Robert Baratheon instead of Rhaegar Targaryen, but she still got to be queen in name (even if being Robert’s queen wasn’t exactly how she dreamed being queen would be). Basically her point of view chapters consisted of “Look how beautiful and smart I am” and “I deserve better than this!”

I have to commend Martin though for writing so well. Clearly, we are not supposed to like Cersei. Considering how much I dislike her, Martin did an awesome job writing her chapters.

Some high points of the novel were Arya’s chapters (who doesn’t love Arya??) and a new character in Dorne that I rather like, though it remains to be seen if I’ll like her later. There’s only a little bit about her in this novel. For those who have read A Feast for Crows, I am speaking of Princess Arianne Martell of Dorne, of course. She’s high-spirited, but not irrational. (Okay, maybe she reminds me of me, but at least I know my biases.) It will be interesting to see where Martin takes her character.

There’s more I could say about A Feast for Crows, but the previous points are really the most important things to note (at least, in my opinion). I do have to point out though that the Cersei chapters are important (annoying as she is) because as Queen Regent, her chapters provide important information as to what’s going on in Westeros and overseas (or at least they show how the Queen and her council think things are going). One last thing, Tommen seems to be a ‘normal’ boy – not at all like Joffrey. Instead of killing a mother cat to see the kittens inside, Tommen sleeps with three little kittens. Will wonders never cease.

I finished reading the third book of the Earthsea trilogy. I doubt I will be reading the remaining books in that series. The Farthest Shore just didn’t seem as fun as the first two novels in the trilogy. LeGuin is a good writer, but I think the next novels I’ll read by her will be some of her science fiction ones.

Speaking of science fiction, having caught up with The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire (in terms of hard copy books I have sitting around), I continued with the Star Wars trilogy written by Timothy Zahn, also known as the ‘Thrawn trilogy’. Dark Force Rising turns out to be pretty much a chase for some old, but very deadly and powerful starships that the New Republic could use in its battle against the remaining Empire loyalists. Some minor plot points get resolved in this novel, such as the “C’Baoth is crazy, Luke, run away!” storyline and the “Mara Jade wants to kill you, Luke, rescue her!” storyline. All in all, Zahn continues to please readers with a very Star Wars tradition of storytelling. The trilogy is worth reading if you like Star Wars. :)

~~~C

Review: Brian Lumley’s Mythos Omnibus: “Burrowers Beneath”, “Transition of Titus Crow”, “Clock of Dreams” Vol 1

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Brian Lumley's Mythos Omnibus:
Brian Lumley’s Mythos Omnibus: “Burrowers Beneath”, “Transition of Titus Crow”, “Clock of Dreams” Vol 1 by Brian Lumley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I liked The Burrowers Beneath (I’d give that 3 or 4 stars), but was disappointed with The Transition of Titus Crow. Maybe Lumley lost me somewhere (or maybe he got lost himself). All I know is suddenly I was reading science fiction and fantasy instead of horror (not that I don’t like sci-fi and fantasy, but I was expecting the book to lean towards more horror). While reading The Transition of Titus Crow, I kept waiting for the story to turn back to the CCD – it did so only vaguely. The elements of The Burrowers Beneath that I liked was the distinct Holmesian mood of it and was looking forward to more of that. Sadly, I was disappointed.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t read The Clock of Dreams. Though, maybe curiosity will bring me back to this series at a later date.

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Books, Novels, and Languages

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

The past month has been a bit crazy. I’ve just been trying to finish some things and then started working on others.

Here is some fiction that I’ve read recently:
Knife of Dreams (book 11 of The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan
Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton. (I had read the graphic novel first, then The Laughing Corpse novel. But I wanted to contrast the novel with the graphic novel, so I decided to read Guilty Pleasures before moving on in the series of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novels.)
Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (Season Eight) in comics is finally completed. :) I am waiting for the last Angel TPB from IDW. Then Buffy’s story and Angel’s story will continue under Dark Horse Comics. The new Angel series will be called Angel and Faith. (No, you aren’t imagining it, Faith’s last name was revealed to be ‘Lehane’ in the last issue of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (Season Eight) No, they never used a last name in the TV shows. Covers for the first issues of these two series are on Dark Horse Comics’ website already. See ‘Buffy Season Nine’ issue 1 Jo Chen cover and ‘Angel and Faith’ issue 1 Jo Chen cover’.

And now, my ‘to read’ list:
A Feast for Crows (book four of A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin
The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. LeGuin
Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh
Priestess of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Stormqueen! (part of The Ages of Chaos omnibus) by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Circus of the Damned by Laurell K. Hamilton
Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
Moon of 3 Rings by Andre Norton
Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn

I am currently reading A Feast for Crows now that HBO’s Game of Thrones is finished. It’s a bit confusing to be reading book four of A Song of Ice and Fire while watching the events of book one on-screen. I rather liked the adaptation to screen of the book, A Game of Thrones. They are preparing for season two of Game of Thrones, which is based on the second book in the series, A Clash of Kings. I seriously think HBO should rename the series, but whatever. Hopefully, they do just as good a job with book two as they did with book one. But yay! Back to A Feast for Crows. Book five, A Dance with Dragons, will be released soon, so I’m trying to catch up. At some point, I will re-watch all of Game of Thrones.

I’ve been in a bit of a studying mood. I decided to get back to studying languages.

I started studying Cantonese a few years back more out of a sense that I should know it, but tonal languages are hard if you don’t have a good ear for pitch. I am a native Taishanese speaker.  (Taishan is on the southern coast of China. Once a small town, it is now a city. Taishan was once called ‘Toisan’, so you may hear some Chinese people say they speak ‘Toisan’.) Taishanese is very similar to Cantonese which is why I decided to study Cantonese first and then Mandarin.

However, I don’t have much use for Cantonese or Mandarin right now. I can use Cantonese with my mom, but it often turns into Cantonese mixed with Toisan mixed with English – a very strange version of ‘Chinglish’. My mom does not speak Mandarin. I like the Chinese writing system though, but you really have to use that nearly every day to be even remotely good at it. So, I decided to put the Cantonese aside for a while. The written language for Cantonese is the same as they use for Mandarin, one of the reasons I like the Chinese writing system. Even if two Chinese people don’t speak the same language/dialect, the writing system would still allow them to communicate. If I ever get some more time, I think I will be more likely to get back to the Chinese writing than the Cantonese.

I studied French for eleven years continuously throughout school. A few years ago, I did a fairly thorough review of French grammar because there were a few things I hadn’t quite gotten the hang of yet. I was intending to increase my French vocabulary, but I’ve since decided that I don’t like the way French sounds all that much. I also don’t have much use for it, unless I visit France or somewhere else where they are speaking French. If that’s the case, it’s a bit of a review and adding some vocabulary – not too difficult to do.

There are other languages that I actually like and want to learn rather than Chinese or French. They are Korean (which I have been studying off and on for about a year or so), Spanish, Irish, and Dutch (which I did study consistently for a little bit – I need to do a review before moving on with it).

I like Korean because the language seems lively and fun without it feeling like a constant pop song as in Cantonese. I also like the writing system, called han’gul in Korean. Korean used to use the Chinese writing system, but then a new system was created to use with the language. The han’gul makes a whole lot of sense for Korean. Korean is however still a hard language to learn if English is your dominant language. (See “Language Learning Difficulty for English Speakers”.)

For a while, I was switching between studying Korean and Cantonese – two very hard languages for an English speaker to pick up (although I probably have a slight edge since I grew up speaking Taishanese with my parents; note that Korean does have some words that are cognate to Cantonese, for example, “chung gwok” in Cantonese and “chunguk” in Korean for ‘China’). There are different reasons why Korean and Cantonese are difficult. Korean uses the subject-object-verb (SOV) construction which is different than the subject-verb-object (SVO) construction in English. For example, in Korean you’d say “I (subject) school-to (object) go (verb)” while in English, you’d say “I (subject) go (verb) to school (object).” Also, Korean has their own writing system. Cantonese is hard simply because it’s a tonal language. Some grammar points are different than English and some things are done in Cantonese that aren’t in English, but Cantonese is pretty much SVO. You can learn to speak and understand Cantonese without learning to write Chinese.

Since Korean is a pretty hard language to learn, I decided that I should just start studying an easier language on top of Korean. Since I’m not studying Cantonese as much, I’m really only focused on one hard language (Korean, and I’m starting to get used to the writing system and the SOV construction!), so why not just start an easier language? Sometimes, you can get your fill of one language for a bit. For me, it takes a day or two for new vocabulary to settle in before I can move on in that language. You also don’t ever ‘finish’ studying a language (I still learn new words in English sometimes), so there’s no point in waiting to learn another language. Since I’ve been wanting to learn Spanish, I decided to do a little bit of Spanish the other day. I don’t think this will be too hard to do on top of the Korean since I spent years studying French. (French and Spanish are both Romance languages.) Of course, there’s vocabulary to learn, but some words are cognate between languages.

I really want to learn Irish, but it seems much harder than Spanish or Dutch, so I will wait until I have a firmer grasp on Korean before I start Irish. As I mentioned earlier, I need to do a review of Dutch before I move on in it. Once I have a better grasp of Korean, maybe I’ll review Dutch and then start studying Irish or vice versa.

There are two languages I’d like to study from a purely academic perspective – Sanskrit and Latin. I started the Sanskrit a while back. Got past the pronunciation and learning the writing system, but I need to review those before moving on. Also since I’m only studying Sanskrit from an academic perspective regarding languages, I’m in no real rush with it.

For now, I’ll be busy enough with Korean and Spanish – and trying to catch up on my reading list above. :)

안녕히 가세요!
(‘Annyǒnghi kaseyo!’ is the English romanization. It’s “Goodbye” for when someone is leaving.)

¡Adiós, chao!

~~~C