Archive for January, 2014
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.
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!