Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

It’s the beginning of a new year, so it’s a great time to enumerate the resolutions that I’ll start on in January and abandon by March. That might sound cynical but it let’s me set some really ambitious goals. For example, I plan to grow 5 inches. That isn’t to say that I’d be upset if I only grew 4, but I want to make sure I stretch myself. Before you say ‘that’s impossible’, just the other day I was at the doctor’s for a yearly physical and they measured me at 5’5”. A little over a week later I ended up back at the doctor’s office and I had grown a full inch – 5’6”. Admittedly the nurse didn’t measure me the second time, but when she asked how tall I was I said 5’5” or 5’6” and she smiled and said, ‘looks like 5’6” to me’. An inch in a week. My only concern is that if I top 11’ by the end of the year I’m not sure where I’ll find shoes.

My slightly less exciting resolutions include continuing to run 8-12 miles a week, acclimating to my new group at MS, doing some sort of home improvement project, read as much as possible, get back to MD at least once to meet Leonie (in person), update my phone apps and try not to wait until Dec. to use all my vacation. I also want my hair to grow back from my buzz cut. I’m throwing that one there because I want to make sure I can tick one off at the end of the year.

I feel like I read a lot over last year, but I didn’t have a system for keeping track of paper books that I finished. Luckily, for Kindle books, I can just look at what’s on my device since I always move them into a ‘year’ category when I finish them.

A memory of light charnel prince Desert Spear Daylight war Dragonwing Elven star Fire sea First shift - Legacy Firstborn Heir of Novron Infinity blade Into the labryinth Ready player one Rhitmatist Rise of Empire Second shift - order Serpent mage soul meaningSteelheart the briar king The emperor's soul  The hand of chaos The seventh gate The Wise Man's Fear Theft of swords Third shift - pactvodnik Warded man Wool Omnibus

I honestly liked almost every book I read this year. The biggest standout for me though was definitely Ready Player One. The book has been around for a couple of years but I only just got around to reading it a few months ago. I highly recommend it for anyone who nostalgically remembers 80s tech and video games. It also happens to be well written and clever.

I only recently read Vodnik and was pleasantly surprised. I read a lot of fantasy (a lot) and after a while the mythology of the stories blend together. There are thousands of books about dragons and elves and dwarves. I love a lot of those books as well, but every once in a while it’s nice to read something completely different. Vodnik is a story based on Slavic mythology and that alone would make it worth reading. The Vodnik is a water spirit that drowns children and stores their souls in porcelain tea-cups; not for any malevolent reason, but just because that’s his nature. The story that Moore weaves around the mythology is both mysterious and engaging. I would highly recommend this for any fantasy lover that’s tired of reading the 500th version of Lord of the Rings.

I read a bunch of Brandon Sanderson this year as well. I’ve mentioned him several times on Facebook and he’s currently my favorite author. He hasn’t written anything that I haven’t liked, and he’s written several things that I’ve loved. I think The Emperor’s Soul was probably my favorite short story that I read this year, with Steelheart and A Memory of Light both being equally good novels. I honestly can’t imagine A Memory of Light being better given the seemingly thousands of plot lines that were still outstanding and the sheer enormity of completing a 13 book series written over the course of 22 years. Obviously if you’ve been reading the Wheel of Time then you’ve read A Memory of Light, but if you haven’t started The Eye of the World yet I strongly recommend it as hugely engaging and of staggering enormity. I would only caution that the series could have been several books shorter and it’s likely that you’ll want to rip out certain people’s braids about half way through. The end of the series is awesome though! Steelheart was face paced and read a lot like a graphic novel. I could easily see a movie being made from the series at some point.

Wool was a recommendation from a friend that I hugely enjoyed. Unlike almost everything else I read this year it was closer to SciFi than Fantasy. As far as I can tell the story is being regularly expanded through various serial novellas (ala The Green Mile) and then being collected into larger works. Unfortunately this makes keeping and distinguishing between the most recent versions challenging, and sadly Amazon still sucks at being able to associate multiple books in a series. Regardless the first 5 books (the Wool Omnibus) were extremely good and I would definitely recommend them. I found the 6th, 7th, and 8th parts of the Silo series to drag on a bit and I haven’t read past that yet. The first 5 books are a complete story though so worth reading even if you don’t finish out the whole series.

The Riyria Revelations and The Demon Cycle were both fun reads, but eminently forgettable. I wouldn’t suggest them unless you want something relatively brainless and quick. The Death Gate Cycle is something I re-read every few years because I love the story and authors so much. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman were really the first Fantasy authors that I read (The Dragonlance Chronicles) so I find it hard not to go back and re-enjoy their stuff every once in a while.  The Death Gate Cycle is very good from a world-building (4 worlds actually) perspective and contains a pretty original mythology. I also give the authors a little bit more slack with respect to re-using all of the cliché monsters because, outside of Tolkien, they pretty much wrote the seminal works. Separately, I would definitely recommend the Dragonlance Chronicles for that reason alone. It’s basically the baseline for AD&D and there have been dozens if not hundreds of books based on the world and mythology that Tracy, Laura and Margaret started with that series. I find the writing style of the Chronicles (and the Death Gate Cycle for that matter) to be a little rudimentary, but the story makes up for it.

Soul Meaning was recommended by Good Reads and I would suggest skipping it. It reads like the screen play for the next Michael Bay movie with lots of gun fights and explosions without any character development. It’s the first book I’ve read in that style, and I don’t understand the appeal. It’s an extremely quick read though, and it’s not at all boring. Sadly you’ll likely have forgotten what it’s about by the time you finish reading it (assuming you can ever infer it from the endless action sequences).

I’m still reading The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone so I’ll reserve judgment. I very much enjoyed the first two books, though I also read them on our Hawaii cruise so that opinion may be somewhat colored.

Happy New Year!

Anson pointed out to me recently that I haven’t posted in a while. So, I thought I would write a quick post on what we have been up to 🙂

We’ve been working on getting achievements for xbox games. Anson has been playing a lot of Mass Effect while I have been working on Fable and CSI: Hard Evidence. CSI was pretty easy and only took a day. Fable is KILLING me. The game has many faults—the most annoying is that it makes your character fat. We looked this up and it takes about 20 minutes of having your character eat celery and then sleep to fix it. For some reason, it’s just not as much fun to play a fat character…and bald. The game also made me bald. ARGH! Anyway, I’m working on one more big achievement and then I’m giving up on it.

Aside from games, I’ve been reading book 8 in the Wheel of Time series. I’m halfway through and I can’t wait to get to the books Brandon Sanderson wrote/is writing (books 12-14). Anson just read a book by a new author he really likes. Unfortunately, that author hasn’t written anything else (yet!). 

The Easter Bunny was kind enough to give us some new books for Easter. Anson got The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. You see, the Easter Bunny saw an interview with Sarah Vowell on the Daily Show. She talked about this book and the EB thought it would be perfect for Anson. I got Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. It’s the same author who wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so I’m pretty excited to read it (both of those books are in my ‘to-read’ pile– I really hope the author is good). The EB also gave us a few seasons of 24, so we’ve been watching that in the evenings. Currently, we’re on season 5. Thus far, my favorite part of season 5 is when the CTU staff makes a statement about how the probable success rate of their plan goes down to less than 20% if Jack Bauer isn’t helping them. Hah!

I’ve been doing a bit of church stuff. I still play in the bell choir and our concert is coming up next month. Yay! I also teach a Sunday School class and am being trained to be an Assisting Minister. I guess I have technically already been trained, but they didn’t want to start the newbie out on the Easter services. I’m sure that I will eventually sign up to work some services 🙂

And, of course, I’ve been working on planning Angie’s baby shower, Mary’s bachelorette party, and Mary’s bridal shower (though Angie has been taking charge on the last one). I can’t give too many details here, since much of it is secret. I will say, however, that I have not yet been able to get photoshop to do what I want it to—but I will 🙂 MWA HA HA HA! <that comment was directed at YOU, Mary>

It’s approaching the end of the year so it seems like a good time to take stock of last year’s resolutions.  Sadly I can really only remember two of the ones that I made, so either I didn’t make any more, or they weren’t particularly compelling (or maybe it’s just because I got a whole decade older this year and can’t remember things anymore).  The two that I do remember were 1) get into decent shape and 2) read 50 books. 

I think 99% of people put the first one on their list pretty much every year, so I’m happy to say that I actually made some progress on it.  I’ve been running 5ks on my treadmill pretty regularly now; 30 mins at 7.2mph is my current average.  I haven’t been lifting as regularly as I want, but I’m roughly the same shape and size that I was in college so I think overall I can call this one good. 

It turns out that 50 books is a lot.  I didn’t think it was at the beginning of the year, but I read fairly regularly, at a decent pace, and overall I’ve only managed to get through 35 this year.  There are a couple weeks left and I imagine I’ll read one or two more in that time, but still not quite the 50 I was hoping for.  The whole point of the resolution was just to make sure that I found time to read between work, moving, chores, etc. and that went decently well.  If you’re curious this is the set that I’ve read this year:

 

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I think The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson was a definite favorite.  Sanderson was asked to finish the Wheel of Time series when Robert Jordan passed away.  The book is obviously a bit different from some of the previous ones, but two things make it excellent: 1) the character development is awesome; Egwene is probably the best written and 2) plot lines start to close down so progress is made on the overall story.  That’s something that Jordan had been missing in recent books, that tended to focus more on braid pulling and new characters.  Sanderson is definitely one of my favorite new authors – Mistborn and Elantris are amazing and I highly recommend them. 

Fooled by Randomness was different from what I generally read (as you can probably tell from above).  Overall I found the the author’s premise intriguing and tended to agree with his conclusions.  He basically states that whenever people see someone who is successful in the stock market they attribute that success to skill; however, what is attributed to skill can just as easily be attributed to ‘luck’ or ‘randomness’.  Imagine putting 100 people in a room and having them each flip a coin 100 times.  We know that on average those people will flip heads 50 times and tails 50 times; however, it’s entirely possible that someone in that room is going to flip a seemingly impossibly high number of tails and someone else may flip a seemingly high number of heads.  Neither event implies that those people are somehow better at flipping coins than the other folks in the room; it’s just random.  My takeaway is that “sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”  Though I think his point was really that the vast majority of people investing and day trading have little understanding of how the market actually works, and even if they are doing well now they are likely going to do poorly in the future.  His strategy is to search for the ‘black swan’ events; to lose small amounts of money in places where he might actually make money by following the general pattern everyone else is following but to make tons of money when the unexpected happens.  Sadly the author is extremely egoistical and it bleeds through his writing making it very difficult to read more than a few pages without throwing the book against the wall.

Phoenix Endsong had flat out amazing artwork.  I’ve rarely seen a graphic novel with such incredible detail.  The story is decent, though mostly average, but the artwork definitely makes this worth reading. 

Joe bought me the first book in the Dresden Files and I’ve been reading them for the past couple of weeks.  The plot is fantastic – sort of a mix between a detective story and a fantasy novel.  I’m already a huge fan.  I’ll be reading the rest of the series over the next few weeks.

I’m starting to put together my list of possible resolutions for next year – here’s what I have so far: 1) broader reading – more books outside of the fantasy genre, 2) start attending church regularly again, 3) do more home improvement projects, 4) increase my Xbox gamer score.  Any other ideas?