Archive for the ‘Losing Myself in a Book’ Category

And Then What?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

I wanted to not be a grenade, to not be a malevolent force in the lives of people I loved.

In May of 2012, my mate est passed on a new book he’d just read called “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green.

So I read it.

When I read a book, I often tear off pieces of the library receipt to use as markers for quotes or ideas within a book that I feel are worth writing down or investigating further.  There are usually three or four good quotes or ideas that make an impact on me when reading a book and often lead to me reading other books or novels that develop an idea further or build on something that caught my attention.

My copy of The Fault in Our Stars looked like this:

TFIOS The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenTFIOS quotes

I passed the book on to Byrd, and it quickly became her favorite book of all time.

Then they made the book into a movie.  And now the movie is out on DVD.

I still haven’t seen it.  Byrd says when she watches it, she just cries and cries.  Not the best endorsement in my opinion.

The book centers around two people and the impact cancer has on their lives.  Hazel Grace Lancaster, a terminally diagnosed cancer patient wanting to minimize the impact her eventual death will have on those around her, and Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor embracing every new moment he’s been given.  And while there are many other characters and themes throughout the book, and countless websites and forums that centre around John Green’s works (proof of the impact his writing has on his readers), these two themes are the ones that resonate with me most when I read The Fault in Our Stars.

Hazel, while trying to minimize the impact her death will have on her family and friends, still battles with the human desire to be of worth and valued and to be more than just a footnote:

Much of my life had been devoted to trying not to cry in front of people who loved me… You tell yourself that if they see you cry, it will hurt them, and you will be nothing but A Sadness in their lives, and you must not become a mere sadness, so you will not cry, and you say all of this to yourself while looking up at the ceiling, and then you swallow even though your throat does not want to close, and you look at the person who loves you and smile.

But what we want is to be noticed by the universe, to have the universe give a shit what happens to us – not the collective idea of sentient life but each of us, as individuals.

…it occurred to me that the voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again.

…depression is not a side effect of cancer.  Depression is a side effect of dying.

Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them.

What I like about Augustus’ character is his realization that our individual impact on the world, or the universe for that matter, might be absolutely unnoticeable in the eternal scheme of things, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to make SOME impact, or that our impact on individuals during our time here isn’t minimal:

I fear oblivion.

We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.

You realize that trying to keep your distance from me will not lessen my affection for you… All efforts to save me from you will fail…

All salvation is temporary…I bought them a minute.  Maybe that’s the minute that buys them an hour, which is the hour that buys them a year.  No one’s gonna buy them forever… but my life bought them a minute.  And that’s not nothing.

You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you.

The general underlying theme that I took from the book is the understanding of the impact we have on others regardless of whether or not that impact affects the world – it affects someone’s world:

There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything… we will not survive forever… And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it.

I’ve lost friends and family in the six years since I started this blog.  According to world statistics, someone dies every 12 seconds – 5 people a minute; 30 people in the time it takes you to read this blog post.

But harsh as it may seem, we don’t mourn every death, only those that relate to us.  A day of remembrance for those who have died, but it is emotionally impossible to grieve for every death in the world as it occurs.  But then, it’s the lives that have impact on OUR lives that result in such loss and grief when they’re gone.  We are generally a narcissistic people in our grief.

Eat Your Face

My father’s death was pretty sudden – diagnosed with Lymphoma in March, he was gone six weeks later.  But it wasn’t until I walked in to his house prior to the funeral that it really hit me that I would no longer be greeted by the smells of his cooking in the kitchen, nor would I find him reading a book in the living room.  I still see or hear or read things that I immediately think of passing on to him, and then realize he’s no longer there to share those moments.  A friend of mine who had recently been through a similar loss, losing a friend to cancer within a week of losing her grandmother, summed it up perfectly – one moment you’re singing and dancing with them to Abba in the lounge room, and the next moment they’re gone.

Hazel’s reaction is to minimize her impact on those around her.  Augustus’ is to grow his.

We plug through work and jobs and responsibilities to family that are a necessary part of life.  I get that.  But to say that that’s ALL there is…

To say that I should be happy that I have a paycheque and accept my lot…

Why not shoot for bigger things?  Why not try new adventures and experiences?  What’s so wrong about stepping outside my comfort zones with acting or building or creating?  Why not me?  Why not you?  Why not any of us?

Why not me?  Why not us?
~ Russell Wilson

And WHEN you try, don’t let anyone try and beat down your attempts!  All the Pinterest adages that are so popular exist because of exactly that – those around you who don’t (for whatever reason) want to see you succeed in changing.  It’s difficult not to drown in the daily status quo.

If I could make a living being an extra in television and movies that made an impact on people’s views, and still do so without giving up the current responsibilities in my life, I’d do it.  Not born from any incredibly desperate need for attention or accolades, but for the purely narcissistic reason that I LIKE being part of building impactful moments in people’s lives.  I want to make and create and build things that leave people feeling “That was pretty cool!” regardless of whether or not they associate that moment specifically with me.

I’d rather be an Augustus than a Hazel, even if I end up being a grenade in the lives of people I love as a result of creating moments that they miss when I’m gone.

jimmy Johns has the best motivational quotes

Speaker For The Sleep Deprived

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

I should be updating you on the build of the Train or The Big Top, but I haven’t, and I’m not doing so now… not yet, although I should.  It would fit in with the cadence and tempo of the events at this time, but instead, I wanted to read Orson Scott Card’s “Speaker for the Dead”.

Zombie Circus Big Top

I wanted to read it a while ago, but since Summit Entertainment started making their movie adaption of Ender’s Game (causing them to have my Valentine design pulled from Red Bubble – which reminds me that I need to repost thatonce again available on RedBubble), the Ender’s novels have had hold lists a mile long at the library, and I was 32nd in line when I put in the request for Speaker.  I was in the middle of Matt Mason’s “The Pirate’s Dilemma” (a good novel, but it felt slightly dated despite being published 5 years ago – some good insights but slow reading for me), and book two of Brent Weeks’ “Lightbringer” series had arrived a week earlier, but I hadn’t yet started to read it, when Speaker suddenly showed up for pickup.  I had to grab it or lose it back to the shuffle.

rainbow paint colours

And then I got involved in the Haunted House, and in general, I’m not a fast reader, so once the book came due to be returned, and then a week later I still had it, I thought it was pretty rude of me to be holding on to a book I wasn’t even reading, for which a long line of others were waiting, so I stayed up to read Speaker, start to finish, which is usually a pretty massive effort on my part, but happened quickly and easily once I got drawn back into Ender’s world.  Funny that… my apparent lack of setting priorities or organizing dates and events: I am the mechanic with the cars that don’t work; the gardener with the overgrown lawn; the project manager who realizes that often, the only control I have in my life is the ability to let a date or event slip by its scheduled time.

So now it’s four am’ish, and in another hour, I need to “get up” and start my work day, as training is in full swing and Gregory hasn’t replied to my offers of Little Burgers, leaving me still to battle on that front with a monolithically ponderous Training department, and it will be a hellish day.  But for just *one* little moment, I control my time and my life and my events, and I thoroughly enjoyed Speaker for the Dead, and I stretch out these last few moments of imaginary control by typing this entry which I will no doubt regret upon reading at some future time when my thoughts are more coherent and my body less prone to sleep-deprived activities.

weenis or weenus depending on your version of spelling

It makes me better understand why some people clean their houses while the world spins madly on…

Card’s ability to write relationships is still phenomenal, and I liked getting back to the brusque connections he made in Ender’s Game.  All the novels he wrote between Ender’s and Speaker were written years later in his career, and while their tone and story move along better, the back-and-forth quick-patter conversations almost drown out the characters he crafts so well, which is why it was nice to get back to the style of his originals.

Such great characters.
So well written.

I need sleep…  But this was worth it.

No human being, when you understand his desires, is worthless.  No one’s life is nothing.  Even the most evil of men and women, if you understand their hearts, had some generous act that redeems them, at least a little, from their sins.
~ Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (“Speaker for the Dead” by Orson Scott Card)

Mira Grant – The Newsflesh Trilogy

Friday, May 31st, 2013

I would be remiss if I let another May go by without introducing you to Mira Grant’s gripping Newsflesh Trilogy.

Here’s the problem:  My desire to write an exceptional review, and hook you on this series as deeply as I am doesn’t match my ability to do so – writing is a talent that I only get in short bursts, and most often it’s either when I’m beyond the point of sleep and have passed into the 2am realm of wakeful non-existence or tip-toeing along the line between sanity and my usual bipolar existence.

Luckily, writer’s block doesn’t seem to be a problem for Mira Grant.  Writing under her real name, Seanan McGuire, she has produced over 15 books and more than 20 short stories and novellas that fit into a genre similar to Simon Green’s “Nightside” series but with a bit less grit and a bit more fae, so more like Mercedes Lackey’s “Elves on the Road” novels.

But as Mira Grant, her work leaves the flitsy, lah-lah of elves and magic and enters into a darker realm of politics and science meets horror and suspense genre that I really appreciate – zombies.

McGuire’s inspiration to write the book was the combination of her interests in horror movies and virology, but she struggled with the plot until a friend suggested using an election as a framing device. The book has been praised for its detailed worldbuilding, including the characters’ awareness of previous zombie fiction; an element McGuire had found lacking in most horror works.
Wikipedia entry for Feed

Described by Mira as “Transmetropolitan meets West Wing meets Resident Evil”, the Newsflesh series is fast paced and action packed.  Her ideas for the causes, battles, and aftermath of the Zombie Apocalypse are not only well researched, but layered with multiple levels of credibility.  And except for Shaun of the Dead, I’m not familiar with any other Zombie Apocalypse storyline in which Humanity not only survives, but does so by NOT completely wiping out all the Zombies, resulting in a society that must evolve into a new level of living/understanding due to their new circumstances.

I read enough books on viruses to qualify for some kind of horrible extra-credit program, audited a bunch of courses at UC Berkeley and at the California Academy of Sciences, and then started phoning the CDC persistently and asking them horrible questions
~ Mira Grant, “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” podcast

Georgia Mason is an awesome blend of serious, gritty journalist and Zombie hunter, although the hunter part is more a necessity of her existence than an active role.  For that role, you need to look no further than her brother Shaun, professional Irwin.  Yes – Irwin.  Like Steve Irwin Crocodile Hunter, for whom they are named, Zombie Hunters of the Newsflesh timeline entertain the masses with their reality internet videos in which they hunt, tease, annoy, conflagrate and dance around the deadly Zombie population, all for the adrenalin rush and viewer ratings.

I would definitely classify Mira as one of the great up and coming suspense writers of this generation.  Her ability to realise existing trends in internet, media & entertainment, and medicine, and then build realities around them and populate them with likable and loathable inhabitants is addicting.

Be warned, though.  Ms Grant is a strict follower of the main rule of good writing – build characters with whom readers relate and love… and then kill them.  The body count rises higher than an issue/episode of The Walking Dead with the same irreverence for key characters as Joss Whedon.

I was infected immediately by Feed’s gruesome-yet-darkly-humorous take on the RSS Feed button on the cover, and the infection grew as I read the description on the back cover, to the teaser inside the front cover, to the opening chapter.  I have read few books so quickly, and the ending left me in shock – pissed off and angry and still wanting more.  I couldn’t get my hands on the second book, Deadline, quick enough.

The ending to that one wasn’t any nicer.

And then, unfortunately, I had to wait a year for Blackout as it wasn’t released until May 2012.  Luckily, you don’t.  The books of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh Trilogy are available for purchase or most likely available for free at your local library.

I just find it interesting that kids apparently used to cry when Bambi’s mother died.  George and I both held our breaths, and then cheered when she didn’t reanimate and try to eat her son.
~ Shaun Mason, “Deadline”

 

 

An Interesting Turn Of Events

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Too many books.
Too many movies.
Too many tv shows that have been trying, since Rod Serling used Alfred Hitchcock’s surprise endings and plot twists as the template for “The Twilight Zone”, to play with our heads, catch and turn a thought into something else, misdirect, miscue, or cause us to misstep.

It’s that moment when you’re watching/reading and you start to pick up that the direction you’ve been pointed isn’t the direction you’re going to end up going.  And in general, that’s what makes for a good story – the things that happen that you never saw coming.  But in today’s world, where the plot-twist-savvy live, it’s the job of the author/writer to be aware of our knowledge of plot twists and turn us again and again.

It’s the reason Jodi Picoult is such a popular author, even though you know every book she writes is going to end in sadness.  It’s trying to FIND the moment when you realize WHERE it’s going to turn, how it’s going to turn, who’s going to suffer the loss and who no longer has to suffer, and in doing so, you get to be in on the joke before everyone else.

It’s the dead guy in The Sixth Sense.
It’s discovering Aaron is Roy pretending to be Aaron.
It’s the supporting cast in Identity, A Beautiful Mind, Fight Club…
It’s Keyser Soze.

I’m reading Mark Ruff’sBad Monkeys”, and it starts off as a fast paced, easy read.  Whether or not you can judge a book by its cover, it’s usually the way I get sucked in to reading them, and Will Staehle’s explosive artwork for Bad Monkeys, with its toxic yellow cover and Rorschach splotch Mandrill got me to pick it up and read the back summary:

Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder.  She tells police that she is a member of a secret organization devoted to fighting evil; her division is called the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons – “Bad Monkeys” for short.

This confession earns Jane a trip to the jail’s psychiatric wing, where a doctor attempts to determine whether she is lying, crazy – or playing a different game altogether.  What follows is one of the most clever and gripping novels you’ll ever read.

Ruff’s storytelling style really is “clever and gripping”, moving the book at a good pace in short bursts that keep me turning to the next page.  I’d easily finish this book in one sitting if I took time to read anywhere other than on the bus, to and from work, and even then, I’m tempted to stay on the bus and finish the book (ala’ Harold Crick in Zach Helm’s fantastic “Stranger Than Fiction”).

So imagine my surprise when the “twist alarm” starts to go off in my head, and I start piecing things together that are too coincidental.  And suddenly, I see the plot twist coming and think “Oh no…” which is mental sign language for “we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

From this point on, the reading changes: I find myself actively looking for those moments, those pieces, that support my twist theory, to prove to myself that I’m smarter than the average reader, and I got the joke first!  Everyone likes being “in” on the joke.  And even though I think I see the twist coming, morbid as an oncoming crash, I still watch, fascinated, to see if I really am as clever as I thought.

Ruff throws shadows on Jane’s credibility from the start by placing her in a mental institution, but her bold personality and self-assuredness puts you immediately on her side.  As the story builds, however, it starts to twist and turn with possibilities, and thanks to the legacy of M. Night Shyamalan, you start to wonder if the real twist is whether or not Ruff is being “honest” with his audience – telling them exactly what he told them he would tell them – or if he’s steering you towards a twist that you’ve already figured out.

Think more Inception than The Matrix.

Give it a read.
It’ll grip you and move you and make you wonder and think and worry, right up to the very end.

Unless, of course,  you’re one of those “safe” readers/viewers who doesn’t try to figure an ending prior to getting there.  In that case, the journey passes through some barely-interesting suburbs and dark neighborhoods.  Just remember to keep the windows on your SUV tightly rolled up, and don’t look too closely at the edges of the street where the asphalt starts to curl up enough to see Oz’s green slippers peeking out from behind the scenes.

Bad Monkeys has wit and imagination by the bucketload.
Buy it, read it, memorize then destroy it.  There are eyes everywhere.
~ Christopher Moore

Speaking of misdirection, find Adele’s “Turning Tables” and let that loop on repeat in the background while you reread this entry…

Valentine

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

My mate, est, recently read Orson Scott Card’sEnder’s Game” for the first time.  I was a wee bit shocked since I always figured that if you liked Asimov, you’d read Ender, and since est is a pretty well-read Science Fiction kind of guy, I’d assumed he’d already read it once before.

So since we’d been talking about it, I picked it up from the library and read it again.

Wow.
What a different story from when I read it at the age of 14.

The story of Ender and the “buggers” and the war and the Battle Room were all still there.  But now there was the FULL realization (and impact!) of Ender’s age and the attitude of his parents and the purpose of the teachers & the fantasy game and the envy/fear/anger/jealousy of the other cadets and the utter malice of Peter…

And Valentine.

“They want me to encourage you to go on with your studies.”
“They aren’t studies, they’re games.  All games from beginning to end, only they change the rules whenever they feel like it.”  He held up a limp hand.  “See the strings?”
“But you can use them, too.”
“Only if they want to be used.  Only if they think they’re using you.”

She is the lynchpin of the story – without Valentine, there is no Ender’s Game.
While he is the mind that thinks with his heart.  She is the heart that leads with her head to make the tough, painful decisions that he’s unwilling to do on his own.

Valentine.
The gun to his heart rather than held to his head.

While I re-read the book two more times, I still found the ending to be mostly a setup for the next book – as if Card wrote the last chapter to be a prelude to “Speaker for the Dead”.  What I did appreciate is reading “Ender’s Shadow” and the interim books which did a much better job of storytelling (the 10 years of experience between Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow becoming apparent).

But while the story of Bean is better written, it lacks the outside motivation Valentine holds to Ender.  Bean’s motivations are (at their basest, Ayn Rand level) selfish.  Ender’s are (ultimately) external.

“My fear, your wish – both granted.”
~ Ender Wiggin

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Fighting For Control?

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Sooner or later, you find yourself in a situation over which you have very little or no control.  Actions or decisions being made by others either immediately affect you or will in some way determine your future.  And while you are merely a spectator in your own life at that moment, you wait for an opportunity to present itself in which you can either influence how things continue to play out or decide your next step.

Inevitable as these situations are, they suck.

Everything is politics.
~Mark Norman (unknowingly quoting Thomas Mann)

I’m in the process of finishing off 2 different trilogies, and though the settings and genre are very different, the main theme behind them is the same:  A protagonist fighting for the right to control their own lives.

Marianne de Pierres’ “Parrish Pless” series is a gritty, post-apocalyptic Australian twist on science fiction meets cyberpunk.  Parrish gives up a safe yet dead-end, hedonistic lifestyle in the elite metropolis of Vivacity for the danger of the ghettos of The Tert where she hopes to have more say in how she is to live her life.  Immediately embroiled in the power plays of others, she battles through a turf war, biological experimentation, slave trade and an alien invasion to gain the control of her life she originally sought.  Truthfully, I wanted the series to “pop” more than it did for me – I kept expecting… more.  However, the story moves at a quick pace with a wide range of freaks, both likeable and a few of whom you are unsure, flip-flopping back and forth in your opinion as the trilogy progresses, and I really liked the main characters, the dynamics between them and the world created by Marianne.

Parrish is another “accidental hero”, a theme with which I have an ongoing hate-love-hate relationship, but despite that, I’ve enjoyed the series and following her fight to regain her humanity (literally) while caught up in a bitter gangland turf war.  Worth the time if you can find these novels in your library, otherwise, you may have to hunt it down via Amazon.

 

Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” series is hoping to be the next big US Spring movie experience.  Although I believe it started off as “young adult fiction”, similar to the Harry Potter phenom, it’s morphed into something a bit older as the series has progressed, and I felt Suzanne really caught her stride with the final novel, “Mockingjay”.  The actual Hunger Games of the first two books are exciting, and I look forward to watching the battle playing out on the big-screen, but again, the final war of the third book is where the characters really came alive as more than just typecast teen fiction characters.

In this post revolutionary country of Panem, 13 districts are controlled by the central government in The Capitol, years after having lost a bitter civil war.  Katniss Everdeen of District 12 is chosen as one of two tributes selected annually from each district (ala’ Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”) to fight to the death in The Hunger Games, the massively successful reality show broadcast to entertain the citizens of The Capitol.   What starts off as a fight for survival evolves into Katniss’ battle for control of her life and the right to escape the control of not only The Capitol but the district rebels.  The pace was magnificent on all three books, enticing me to read “just one more chapter” rather than put them down.  Due to the upcoming movie, the hold list at your local library may be pretty long, but again, you can find them via Amazon, eBay or Glyde, and they’re well worth the time to find and read.

While we can’t always control what happens to us, we can determine how we will react, what we will do next, and sometimes, the moment at which we can once again take back the control of the path on which our life is travelling.

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
~ Carl Jung

The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive with passion, compassion, humor & style.
~ Maya Angelou

I See You Everywhere

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

I should have known better…

Julia Glass’ novel “I See You Everywhere” started off as the perfect novel for a Winter time read, sitting in front of the fireplace or brought out for the moments on the bus ride to work.  Her words stroll and wander along the pages, building visual tapestries of rough dirt trails that bisect tall grass fields on Summery days, leading to low cliff edges, breaking off to deep, wide rivers not so far below.

Julia’s tales of two sisters talk to the reader at an emotional level of experiences and adventures and life and living and conflict and rivalry that exists between siblings/best-friends, and I was swept up in the tales and the images drawn in my head of the various locations and characters reminiscent of Mark Twain’s tales of Huck and Tom when I was younger.

Clem and Louisa’s relationship that ties them together, drawing them closer as they grow older and live further apart from one another, isn’t my usual type of read.  But I was hooked from the first story of Great-Aunt Lucy and her passion for living even as the last days of her life were winding down, told in the back and forth banter-narration of the two sisters; annoyed when the tale ended all too soon.

Unfortunately, I lost myself in the individual stories, ignoring the warning bells that sounded in my head when I started to wonder how the overall tale would conclude.  Unlike the foreordained depression of a Jodi Picoult novel, where the reader knows from the start that the author is going to kill off a major character, I was completely unprepared for the ending to this tale – slamming against an emotional floor in a crumpled ‘whump!’ when the events of the story ripped the carpet out from under the chair on which I was sitting, comfortably tipped back against the wall.  “Pain…” as Clem says, “It’s like the bass in a good song.  At first you don’t feel it, but in the end it’s what you’re dancing to.”

And yet, despite the emotional hit of that revelation, her writing is such that I continue reading, allowing her to conclude the story and tie up the bits and pieces that still dangled, unanswered and open until she closed each one off.

Knowing now what I’m in for, I doubt I’ll dive into another one of Julia Glass’ novels, yet if you are a fan of Jodi Picoult, Sue Miller or Jacquelyn Mitchard then I recommend adding Julia Glass’ “I See You Everywhere” to your reading list.  Despite her ability to create colorful characters and bright mental tapestries, I like my books to be exciting or adventurous escapes from the mundane, not borrowed instances of sorrow.

I like living.  I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.
~ Agatha Christie

Laughing At Work

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Marko Kloos over at Munchkin Wrangler pointed me to Hyperbole and a Half, the website of Allie Brosh – I haven’t found a site with stories that made me laugh this hard since reading David Thorne’s now-famous Spider Story on 27b/6.  Allie’s stories don’t often start with a gut-busting chortle, but build intermittent giggles into a stream of eye-watering, suppressed laughter that has my co-workers wondering if I’m choking on something I ate at my desk.  Her “tragic attempts at drawing” do a magnificent job of illustrating key points of each story, often serving to add a “dramatic visual pause” at just the right moment, telling the story better than words could.

If the usual idiots at work or the nowhereness of your current choice of employment is starting to drag what’s left of your can-do attitude down into dark pits of cold chocolate tar, take a moment to read some of the stories at Allie’s site and return to the sunshine.  Her recent “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving” and “The God of Cake” are good examples of stories that slowly build to become silent laughter and distract you from the dreariness of your day.

For stories that are more “journals of well-deserved harassment” than rambling stories, yet still have me looking around to see if anyone has noticed my quiet fits of epilepsy as I try to stifle the laughs from reading them, David Thorne’s aforementioned 27b/6 site is worth the visit, although he would tend to disagree.

A Trial of Blood & Steel

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

The problem with Joel Shepherd’s “A Trial of Blood & Steel” series is having to wait for the next book to come out in paperback.  I just finished “Tracato” and thoroughly enjoyed the ongoing adventures within this world he’s created.  Medevial-type wars, swordplay and political science all combined into a great mix of peoples, characterizations and settings that interplay well with one another.

   

His work in the first novel, “Sasha”, set a great foundation, which he built on in “Petrodor”, and capitalised on in “Tracato”.  And even though the concluding book, “Haven”, comes out in September in hardback, it’s the Australian paperback cover that I’m waiting for, which means I have to wait until June of 2011 to read it.

If you like science fiction more than swordplay, his Cassandra Kresnov trilogy of books was another great series, however, I felt Joel’s social philosophies, which he likes to discuss in almost every book he has written, brought the third book, “Killswitch”, to a bit of stagnation, interrupting the flow of the action.  He’s overcome this problem in his “A Trial of Blood & Steel” series, finding the right balance of discussion, social commentary and action.

As for cover art, I highly prefer Jeremy Reston’s Australian covers (shown above) for the “Trial of Blood & Steel” series over the US versions, but the US versions of the Cassandra Kresnov novels by Stephan Martiniere (also shown above) have a better feel to them than the Aussie ones.  You may not want to judge a book by its cover, but once you’ve already read the book, a cover that conveys the feel of the book to you moreso than another is always a bonus.

Is This What You’re Reading Right Now?

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

 

I’m currently reading the second book, “The Girl Who Played With Fire”, and like it better than the first.  But maybe that’s because Salander’s character is more familiar to me in the second novel.  The first novel, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, is a great read and a must for learning the “origins” of the characters throughout the Millenium Trilogy.

The novels are darker and more violent than I was expecting, but I feel they fit the “crime psychological thriller” genre perfectly (so I wouldn’t recommend them to your typical “young adult fiction” reader). 

It ain’t Harry Potter.

There are reviews and summaries of these books all over the net, so go look at one of them if you want details of the plot.  What I liked about them was Larsson’s ability to create characters I was passionate about and others that I related to or who had personalities with pieces of people I knew.  Whether the characters survived, found success or died horribly, I cared about what happened to them.

Passion is a key motivator.  When we’re passionate about something, we want to share it with others.  It can transcend our work beyond mere competence to something fantastic!  And whether you’re a part of the creation process that spawned it or benefitting by the result, your better off than all the times of settling for status quo.