Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shadow's Edge

Title: Shadow's Edge
Author: Brent Weeks
Series: The Night Angel Trilogy, book 2
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2008

Recommendation: Worth reading if you enjoyed the first book in the series.
Rating: 7/10

Summary: Kylar rejects the life of an assassin and leaves Cenaria to start a new life with Elene. But it's easier to make a promise of leaving the old ways than to become a peaceful apothecary and the past has no intention of letting Kylar go. When Jarl comes to tell Kylar that Logan is still alive and imprisoned, Kylar has to go back to save his friend and maybe save Cenaria.

Reactions: I am not entirely sure why it took me so long after reading the first book in the series to pick up the sequel. The long wait between the two books actually makes it much harder for me to remember what happened in the first book of the series and while I do remember the main characters and the general plot, some of the details grew hazy with time. Weeks does a decent job of reminding the reader important details as the plot continues, so overall it wasn't too difficult to get into the book regardless.

Shadow's Edge turned out to be a pretty good yarn. The plot is well-paced and kept me reading. As with many middle-of-the-trilogy book there were a number of events that seemed to be staging the way for a final resolution that will happen in the third book. However, there was a decent book ending for the story arc within this particular book. Still lots of open questions remain.

One of the interesting parts of the book was Kylar's struggle to give up his criminal ways and start a new life with Elene. I think Weeks' view on the topic are presented in the book and somewhat foreshadowed in the following conversation between Kylar and Momma K at the beginning of the book:
"Momma K, do you think a man can change?"
She looked at him with profound sadness. "No. And he'll end up hating anyone who asks him to."
It's not a big surprise after that when Kylar ends up going back to his life as an assassin soon afterward.

All in all, it was an interesting read. There are fun characters, well-moving plot, and a good dose of conflict and politics. However, it doesn't stand out to me as a particularly innovative or brilliant work among other fantasy novels. I may finish the series at some point, but I think I'll move on to other reading for now.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book Shopping and Goals for 2011

I went out today and splurged a bit to buy some books. The first I've got is Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks. Since I enjoyed Against a Dark Background last year, I thought his first book in the Culture series would be worth checking out as well. I also picked up The Company by K.J. Parker, which had some all-around good reviews around in the past few years. Finally, I've got Old Man's War by John Scalzi. I enjoyed Agent to the Stars very much, so I hope this book would be a treat as well.

I've also been thinking about some reading goals for 2011. Here's what I decided to try for:
1. Read 48 books this year -- e.g. 4 books per month. I only hit 44 last year, so a stretch goal.
2. Read at least 20 books by authors I haven't read ever before
3. Finish at least 3 books in 7 different genres. I am thinking fantasy, sci-fi, urban fantasy, children, YA, mystery, historical fiction would likely to be the genres but I am not setting these particular ones as a goal necessarily.

I guess we'll see how that goes. I am reading Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks right now, so you are likely to see the review for that pretty soon.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Questionable Content

I did lots of reading during the holidays, so in January I found myself somewhat unmotivated to pick up a new book off a shelf. Instead, quite uncharacteristically, I found myself reading a web comic.

In general, I don't actually read comics. In fact, I think the only comic I've ever read on semi-regular basis is xkcd. But even though xkcd is a lot of fun and I really like it, it's a one-off jokes type of comic.

However, early this year, I encountered a random Questionable Content comic. Noticing that there was a story going, I started at the beginning and began following the lives of Martin, Steve, Faye and many others. There's a story and there's character development and I think this is the first time I've appreciated those in comic form. Lots of witty banter that makes me laugh out loud too. I've read all 1800-something strips in under a week and that's the strongest recommendation I can give for reading the comic. Start from the beginning!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games, book 3
Genre: YA fiction
Published: 2010

Recommendation: A wrap up of the story, worth reading as such.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: The Quarter Quell is over and Katniss is brought into District 13 for her new life as a rebel. There she is expected to become the symbol of the ongoing revolution of the districts against the Capitol. Still, Peeta is imprisoned by President Snow but kept alive as a way to control Katniss. The war escalates, but who will be the winner?

Reactions: This is the third and the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy. I was looking forward to seeing the resolution to all the plot lines started in book 2. The book does wrap up many of them, but at the end I finished the book somewhat disappointed. I think the resolution of the love triangle is what I'd want it to be, but at the same time seems to be too perfect given all the events of the book. In fact, my biggest criticism of the ending is how easily Katniss got out of her political troubles and that her actions made that much of a difference.

There are parts of the book I enjoyed though. The plot moved quite well and there were interesting character and relationship developments throughout. Lots of bleak scenes that set the mood very well and contrasting warmth of various friendships made them so much more touching. In particular, there's a scene in the book where Peeta and Gale discuss whom Katniss is going to choose with Katniss eavesdropping and the moment is captured really well by the author.

I also wish the author didn't feel the need to return to the Hunger Games type scenario for the third time. It just seemed like a little bit too much. Nevertheless, I am glad I got to finish the series -- it's been fun reading it, though I still like the first book best.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Darker Than Black

Taking a break from all the reading I've been doing lately, I spent yesterday watching anime instead. I took up a Netflix recommendation and ended up watching through all of the first season of Darker Than Black.

I ended up enjoying the series quite a bit, so I decided to take this chance to recommend this series in case someone is looking for an anime series to watch.

The premise of the show is that an area of Tokyo gets replaced by an area called Hell's Gate where abnormal activity abounds. At the same time a number of people acquired supernatural abilities -- think superhero style levitation, teleportation, body snatching, and so on. A person with such abilities is called a Contractor and their defining characteristic is that they are unemotional and completely logical. Their presence is kept secret by the government.

The series follows a Contractor named Hei, who works for a group called The Syndicate and assumes an undercover identity of a student from China. The catch is that Hei is known as "The Black Reaper" among the Contractors for his assassination work, while in his regular life we see him as a gentle and kind person. There are a number of colorful supporting characters -- some of them work with Hei for the Syndicate, others are contractors working for the government. There is also Misaki, a chief of foreign affairs division for dealing with contractors, a woman of strong morals and convictions.

The plot follows a number of missions that Hei undertakes and eventually a number of characters end up meeting each other as the season progresses. There is plenty of political intrigue, good fighting scenes, and some funny dialogue. The season's ending explains a number of mysteries that become apparent in earlier episodes, which is very satisfying. Overall, it's definitely a show I would recommend to those who like action and intrigue in their anime. I am looking forward to the second season coming out in English sometime in 2011.

Reading in 2011

The first day of 2011 has just ended and this blog has now been in business officially for 2 years and 1 day. I've found it to be pretty fun to write reviews here for the past couple of years and I am planning to continue in the same vein.

Today I spent quite a bit of time catching up on my sff-related feeds and looking through people's favorite reads of last year to figure out what I want to be reading. Here are some of the titles that caught my attention:
- Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi seems to be on many lists. Having enjoyed The Windup Girl last year, I would like to see more of his writing.
- Mind Games by Carolyn Crane is a first book in an urban fantasy series that sounds interesting.
- The Local News by Miriam Gershow was mentioned as "better than great", so I am considering picking it up even though this type of reading is not typical for me.

On a similar note, there's a bunch of books I am looking forward to reading because they are part of a series I've been following.
- Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is finally coming out in March and is probably one book I've been looking forward to longest. I am looking forward to it so much that I've already pre-ordered a copy from Amazon.
- Naamah's Blessing by Jacquline Carey is the final book in the series following Moirin and will be coming out at the end of June. Definitely going to be picking it up.
- The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett is a continuation of The Magicians and Mrs. Quent. It's out already and I am considering to pick it up when the mood is right.
- Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is the last book in The Hunger Game series and it probably comes as no surprise that I am already reading it now.

I still have four books in my reading pile from last year. I haven't been in the mood for epic fantasy in some time, but I think I'll find some time this year to give Acacia a try and maybe read the second Brent Weeks book since I already bought it. I've also been hearing nonstop about Guy Gavriel Kay and since I've never read any of his book, I'd like to pick one up this year.

I guess we'll see how all this reading turns out. I am certainly looking forward to enjoying many different books this year. I am also always up for more recommendations.