Keeping Busy With Books: A Long-Winded Update

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These last few weeks have been kind of crazy. Between keeping up with my exercise routine and filling in while my wife goes to class at night, blog posts have become an afterthought.

To add insult to injury, I’ve had one hell of a time actually coming up with things to write about. It seems like as soon as I sit down to write about something that feels fun and interesting, I hit a wall and can’t get past the first paragraph.

Since I’m back to reading on a regular basis, I thought it would be fun to do a handful of book reviews (much like I did in the past). I finished the first book and struggled with the review. I thought “No big deal, I’ll start reading this new book and get back to the review on such and such a day”. The next thing I knew, I was finished with the second book and hadn’t even started the review of the first.

I intend to play a little bit of catch-up with this post. I’m going to touch on the past few books I’ve read and plan on an actual review when I finish my current book (accountability – maybe since I’m telling you what my plans are I’ll be more inclined to actually follow through).

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Back in 2011 I was looking for something dark and gritty to read. I was asking around for suggestions that fit the bill and someone pointed me to the First Law Trilogy. That was my first experience with Joe Abercrombie and I have been hooked ever since.

Since First Law, I’ve read Best Served Cold, The Heroes, and Red Country. Some were better than others but one thing was certain, Aberbercrombie was producing fantastic stories with dark characters. In fact, his gritty characters are probably what I like most about his books.

When I got word that Joe Abercrombie’s next work was going to be YA (Young Adult), I didn’t know what to think. I’ve read a couple of YA books over the past few years and, not to sound insulting but, the storylines always struck me as being dumbed down a bit (too much black and white, not enough gray).

Regardless of my opinions on YA, I was going to read Half a King. Joe Abercrombie earned my trust with his previous works and I would buy and read his next novel even it didn’t excite me at first. When the Half a King Extract was released back in March, I was quick to download it to see what I was in for.

To my surprise, the story grabbed me and I practically shrieked when it ended with a massive cliffhanger. I pre-ordered the Kindle Edition via Amazon and begrudgingly awaited the official release. It was a long wait but I’m happy to say that it was well worth it.

I think Patrick Rothfuss said it best when he reviewed Half a King

Sometimes his books leave me feeling a little bleak. And honestly, someone that can make me feel that way is a fucking master. But at the same time, I’m not always up for reading bleak. That’s something I have to be in the mood for.

This book didn’t hit me that way. I got all the grit that I love in Abercrombie, and the craft, and the character. And the book was grim… but it never got so far as being bleak.

Half a King was every bit as good as his previous works while being toned down enough to suit a younger audience. I’m looking forward to future releases in the Shattered Sea Trilogy.

The Way of Kings & Words of Radiance

After reading the Mistborn Trilogy, a few years ago, I began following Brandon Sanderson’s Blog. It was on the blog that I learned about an upcoming Epic Fantasy project entitled The Stormlight Archives. Mistborn wasn’t my favorite series but this new series of novels really seemed like it was more my thing.

Eventually the first novel was released and I intended to read The Way of Kings. More and more time had passed and I still hadn’t gotten around to purchasing the novel. I wasn’t spurred to action until Brandon Sanderson posted on his blog about a deal his publisher was promoting. The eBook price for The Way of Kings was reduced considerably. I headed to Amazon, post-haste, and ordered the Kindle Edition (I didn’t even own a Kindle at the time – I just couldn’t pass up the low price).

Even though I made the purchase, quite a long time passed before I finally got around to reading the novel. A part of me put it off because I didn’t want to find Mistborn 2.0 and be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Mistborn but, the fight sequences felt overly detailed and had my interest waning.

As I began reading, the magic system was introduced and I thought “Oh No!” Fortunately, my concern faded as I read and eventually disappeared altogether. After finishing The Way of Kings I immediately purchased Words of Radiance and dove right back in.

The one common complaint I’ve run across with these novels is that they are long. I know “But it is epic fantasy, it is supposed to be long!” Even for epic fantasy these novels are long. Way of Kings flowed well but Words of Radiance felt bogged down at times. The story would be action-packed and I couldn’t tear myself away even if I wanted to. Then suddenly the next chapter would throw on the breaks and flashback to a few years ago. After the flashback sequence we would lurch back forward again.

Early on I only cared about one character but by the end I was invested in all of them and was eager to hear more from their point of view. These novels are long (and drawn out at times) but I thoroughly enjoyed them. I’m eagerly awaiting the next release, I just hope I can last until the projected 2015 / 2016 publication date.

Fool’s Assassin

Shortly after getting into reading Fantasy novels, I was introduced to Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice. Simply put, it was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire Farseer Trilogy (and later the Tawny Man Trilogy) and recommended to series to anyone looking for something to read.

After reading Tawny Man, I assumed that was the last we would see of Fitz. To my surprise, Robin Hobb started talking up a new Fitz Series (Fitz and the Fool, I believe it is called) on Facebook. I pre-ordered the first book, Fools Assassin, and eagerly awaited its release.

I’m in the process of reading the novel now and I’m in a weird place. On one hand I couldn’t wait to dive back into the word of Fitz but, on the other hand, it is a jarring change after having read hundreds of thousands of words from Stormlight Archive.

I suspect it will take a little time to feel comfortable with the transition between authors. For the time being I’ll enjoy, as best I can, getting reacquainted with Fitz.

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