Wednesday, December 31, 2014

To the Ends of the World - (Sojourn - Final)

When I finished Sojourn this evening I gently laid the book down and gazed ahead, the myriad story elements floating about my head like a cloud, and my first though was "Crap, I wonder if I still know how to write a review." It's been a little over a month now since the last time I wrote a review. Whatever my excuses I'll have to brush up fast because this post marks the final installation in the much celebrated Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore and my final post for the year. For anyone who missed the first post on Sojourn you can find it here: Internal Conflict or Bust.

If you'll recall I brought up a gripe last time about how our hero, Drizzt the dark elf, skilled swordsman, exile of his own race, somehow seemed immune to the daily trials and tribulations of survival. Well when I picked up where I had left off (I wasn't reading during that month long hiatus) the book saw fit to throw all that back in my face and then kick me for good measure. For the first time in three books Drizzt struggled. He was described hunting for fish in the cold autumn days leading into the winter.  He struggled to make a fire and keep warm as winter fell, the season phenomenon unfamiliar to one who had lived underground his whole life.  In reference to his time alone in Exile Drizzt recalled working in the kitchens as a young boy and burning dried mushroom stalks during his self-imposed exile. Well about damn time. If a bit late in the story, Drizzt pulled together previously undisclosed pieces of his past retro-actively shedding light on his survival up to this point and revealing a stint of illicit drug use. (He was burning giant mushrooms, how else should I interpret that?) Although I'm still skeptical that Drizzt lit fires in the tunnels during Exile without running into smoke issues, and I am still curious as to what he was eating during the early half of Sojourn, the details of Drizzt's first winter did much to alleviate my previous gripes. Teach me to open my big mouth.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

No Book Unread Project Update #1 - The Snare Strewn Path to Progress

Back in July of this year, as I scratched out the basic premise for No Book Unread while I sat in the shade of my garage, I had grand visions for the project. I imagined myself months from then, one leg perched upon a mountain of completed books while thousands of viewers flocked to my blog in an unending torrent. Flash forward a few months and here I am sheepishly nudging a stack of books that doesn't even come up to my knee. It dawns on me now too that I may have marginally over-estimated my crowd appeal. Considering that my total views are just under 300 at the time of writing I may have to admit that my inevitable internet fame has been postponed. In all seriousness though, I am immensely grateful for all of the the small group of visitors that somehow found their way here in these first few months. You were probably lost, but I'm glad you came by anyways.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Internal Conflict or Bust - (Sojourn)

So before I begin, this is just a warning that I will be going into more story details than I have in previous posts. If you don't want to spoil anything for yourself about Sojourn then now is your chance to stop. Again, as I mentioned at the end of my last post, I will still avoid major spoilers but from now I won't be pulling punches for the lesser spoilers in R.A. Salvatore's books.

These last two weeks have been rough, or at least fast. I thought it had only been a week since my last update, but here I am two weeks later and I'm barely a hundred pages into my newest book, Sojourn. I think I'll pull my get out of jail free card here and blame it on the upcoming holiday. So, in a return to form, this book, the last in the Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore, is also a New York Times Bestseller. Yet for all its glorious last-of-the-series goodness I've struggled to really get into it and make time for reading lately. Hopefully that will change as I get deeper in but for now the book is off to a slow start.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Elf on the Run - (Exile - Final)

This week has been a long one. For a while there I was afraid it wasn't going to end, but somehow I made it through and even managed to finish Exile along the way. Exile, to remind those who forgot and edify those who might be new, is the second book in a trilogy by R.A. Salvatore. (The first in the series being Homeland.) Exile picks up pretty much where Homeland leaves off, give or take a decade, which is pretty reasonable considering that the dark elf lead has the potential to live for centuries. Although given the protagonist Drizzt's current rates of dangerous encounters it might be a bit premature to call whether or not he'll make that that long. 

Despite the passage of over a decade, however, not much has really happened since Drizzt set out into the wilds of the massive underground cave system known as the Underdark (at the end of Homeland). Drizzt pretty much slums it on his own the whole time, slowly going mad from lack of social contact and the constant threats to his life in-between Homeland and Exile. When you start reading Exile Drizzt is just starting to consider the possibility that maybe his lack of social contact is starting to have some negative consequences. Considering that Drizzt's best friend is a silent magical panther from another dimension I'd be inclined to agree.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Manager's Special - (Managing When No One Wants to Work - Final)

A unique opportunity came my way this week in the form of some assigned reading. My boss gave me a book, Managing When No One Wants to Work by Ralph Peterson. I can't recall if I raised my eyebrows, a pleading look plastered across my face, as he handed the book to me. I feel like that's how I must have reacted. I did something because he felt the need to defend it before passing it my way. Granted, I'm in no position to refuse help, of any sort, having never worked a management position before. But, for some reason, the idea of management books has never sat well with me. At least I can try to make the best of the situation by adding the surprise reading to my list. Sure, it's not exactly non-fiction but I don't want to suffer alone so I figured I'd drag you along for the ride. Don't worry, I'll try and keep it fun. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Character With Character - (Homeland - Final)

I finished Homeland today, well, more like last night. I burned through the remaining 150 pages in a night. It's kind of nice to not be reading a monster like the Harry Potter books with 600+ pages or a Pern book in the area of 400 pages but with minuscule text. Despite Homeland's relatively short length I'm reminded that longer isn't necessarily better, a point that was also poignantly demonstrated (a while before I began this project) by Terry Pratchett's Eric, which, despite a mere 148 pages is the best Pratchett book I've read thus far. In Homeland's case the shorter length meant that the story was much richer in content and there wasn't much faffing about. Pausing briefly to think on that point, the focused and concise story-planning strikes me as how a good book should be. If a story element doesn't matter, or doesn't contribute to driving the story in a clear direction, or it muddles the message, then it really isn't worth including in the story is it? That's certainly something I should remember when I try and work on my own projects (although easier said/typed than done). 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Walk in the Dark - (Homeland)

After conquering the final book of the Harry Potter series last week I have moved on to another author with a penchant for using initials in place of a first name. Yes, this week I am reading R.A. Salvatore, perhaps one of the most widely recognized names in the fantasy genre. Now, for those of you who don't know R.A. Salvatore is a rather prolific writer who has over a dozen books to his name. He writes primarily in the Forgotten Realms universe, which was originally a world developed for a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. However, due to the popularity of the campaign world and the further popularization by Salvatore and a number of other talented writers, the Forgotten Realms world became increasingly more detailed and well-known. As far as fantasy worlds go there really aren't many series that can boast a more complex, intricate lore especially amongst so many contributors. With that said, you now know only slightly less than I knew about the Forgotten Realms before I started reading. (Aside from my advantage of having played Dungeons & Dragons before, which has lent me a cursory knowledge of some of the elements involved in the story.) 

Now, R.A. Salvatore happens to be one of my wife's favorite authors. (A fact that has no impact on my early inclusion of Salvatore's books and was certainly not encouraged by any manner of repeated pestering to read books by said author.) And as I mentioned previously, Salvatore has over a dozen books to his name, and my wife happens to own most of them. That fact made broaching his brand of the Forgotten Realm universe a bit overwhelming. I mean the man has multiple trilogies, a quartet, and even a quintet series. Where do you begin? Do you start in order of release? Or perhaps in chronological order? Do you start with the most popular series first and then branch out? These are important decisions here, as any avid book reader knows.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

All Things Come to An End - (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

There comes a time when every good story must come to an end. Sometimes a series ends without much fanfare, or in much the same way that it started, maybe even bringing the story full-circle. Some series end abruptly to the outcry and dismay of fans, while yet others are simply left hanging, the story perpetually suspended. Last, though not to dismiss the myriad variations and flavours of other endings, there are those stories that end in a cannon's roar or a shower of roses. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the latter. 

After such a long run you really can't blame the Harry Potter series though. This is a series that started in my elementary years and concluded after I left High School. For some people the series is so inexorably entwined in their associations of reading that they can scarcely imagine a world without it. So when I say that the Deathly Hallows ends with a flourish and a swell of brass I do not do so begrudgingly. In order to discuss the ending, however, we must first start from the beginning.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Riddle of a Man - (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince)

It has been close to a month since my last post, but I assure you I have been busy. I have since cracked open a beloved series, right where I left off years ago, and then subsequently closed it within two weeks time. Not bad really considering my last book took me closer to three weeks of on and off reading.

Now, the series in question is one that I'm sure a small handful of you might know. Some of you may recognize the Harry Potter series as having been mildly popular a few years back. I know, I know,  it's somewhat obscure now, but someone needs to review it!

Now, the Harry Potter series has had quite a rocky  history for me. My initial experiences with Harry Potter were reading the first book in middle school (at the time only the first two books were out) and watching the fourth movie (sometime during high school). So it's safe to say that I never really considered myself an authority on the Harry Potter universe. Not like my wife who can quote whole chapters of some of the books and who can place where I am  even with only a few out-of-context excerpts. Personally, I think she's just a few steps down from displaying the Hogwarts house colours in our living room, but I digress.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Aaaaaand It's Gone (Dragonsdawn - Final)

A map of Pern
I had an in-depth discussion planned...
 I expected to have a lot more to say about Dragonsdawn when I finished but I find myself grasping for words. There was actually a lot I wanted to discuss but somehow that words slipped out of my head when I wasn't paying attention. Over my long weekend, camping and going to an anime convention, I managed to finish the novel over the course of several early mornings. I had planned to do two separate posts but I've decided instead to combine the rest of the book into one final post focusing more on my final impressions and less on the gritty details of the book.

Dragonsdawn, like many good books I've read, strikes me as ideal material to create a movie from. It has a wide cast of bold, vibrant, and most importantly, human personalities that demand real acting. It has detailed reference material for creating scenes and props, an epic sprawling world, and events and catastrophes on a such a vast scale that it demands the viewer's attention. Considering that the book was written in the year I was born I'm surprised that no one has made a notable attempt at a big-screen adaptation. On the same note, however, it's probably also a good thing that it hasn't been done yet as CG technology has only recently gotten good enough to really do the world of Pern justice. Still, that said I'd really like to see a movie adaptation of Dragonsdawn, not because I think that a movie could do better, but because the story is already told so well that the only real way I can think of to improve upon it is to add a visual element.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Far Far Away - (Dragonsdawn)

This book has seen much abuse/love. 
What a crazy couple of weeks it has been since my last entry. I've been chiseling away at my latest book, Dragonsdawn, slowly, very slowly, but surely. I was very prepared to marathon my way through my current book but instead I've been tackling my first Pern novel five or so pages at a time whenever I can find a spare moment. In the past three weeks my sister stayed with me for a week on a visit from Las Vegas, I traveled to New York for a family reunion, attended a birthday party, made preparations to sell a number of my belongings in a garage sale, and somehow managed to avoid going crazy during my work week. Now I have a big convention/concert to go to starting tomorrow, but I figured I'd use my fleeting moment of time squeeze in a update. Whew! Needless to say but I've found it difficult to squeeze in many good reading sessions when I've had a hard time keeping up with routine stuff. Still, the project can and will continue! It just means that some of us might be centenarians by the time I near the end.

So, again, my newest novel is Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey, a book that comes highly recommended by my lovely wife Jennifer (read: pestered into submission). Dragonsdawn is apparently one of many set in a world called Pern and despite its rather tell-tale title I've found the book to surprisingly absent of fantasy and and traditional dragons. In fact, although it has been hinted that this changes, Dragonsdawn is quite easily sci-fi, which has been quite a pleasant discovery.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bring It On Home - (Dog On It - Final)

This is pretty much exactly how Chet is described in the book.

I finally finished the first book in my project. Actually, I finished it yesterday but I couldn't find the time to make a post the same day. So far though, finishing Dog On It doesn't feel so much like the first in a long project so much as just finishing another book that I'd been meaning to read. Perhaps once I have several under my belt I'll start to feel like I actually have a fully fledged project underway.

Anyways, final thoughts for Dog On It...well, it was good. If you've read my other posts by now you know my major gripes. The story moves fast, which might be a good thing for some people, many of the elements are cliche, which also happens to lend the story a sense of familiarity, and Chet, though constantly shifting his focus and drawing me away from the parts I wanted to know more about, is a like-able and upbeat character. That last part is really something of note. I haven't come across many characters that are as consistently upbeat and positive as Chet without also being a subject of dismay or dislike.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Yanking My Chain (Dog On It)

Dog On It as seen from our lovely counter (circa. 1970's)

This is my second entry for 'Dog On It', and the next will probably be my last as I am on page 279 if I recall correctly and this isn't a particularly long book. This also marks my third official post so off to a good start. (Yay!)

Anyways, now that I've had some time to digest this book and think it over my thoughts have changed a little. I still agree with my earlier opinion, that Chet, lovable though he may be, is frustrating to read thanks to his short and constantly shifting attention, inability to focus on pertinent information, and tendency to focus on things other than what the reader wants to know about. I also retract what I considered before, that Spencer Quinn may be just being a writer with a short attention span himself. Regardless of whether or not that is true Mr. Quinn has captured a convincing portrayal of how a dog's mind works. However, I still have my doubts as to whether making Chet the sole character from which to absorb the story was a sound idea.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gone to the Dogs (Dog On It)

No, the project hasn't started to fall apart already, I just started reading my first selection: Dog On It. I figured my first book selection might as well also be my most recent purchase. A week or so before I first decided I wanted to undertake this project I ran across 'Dog On It' at a small flea market for $1. You really can't beat that for a book save for maybe a garage sale so I snatched it up. My first encounter with 'Dog On It', however, was not on a sun-bleached table at a flea market but several years ago in Santa Rosa California. For those of you who frequent book stores you may remember this title; I remember it being featured prominently in the Barnes and Noble at the time.

The story itself is an interesting take on the familiar detective style, and is told from the point of view of the detective's dog, which is probably why the premise stuck with me all these years. Chet, a former K-9 unit police dog, serves as the furry protagonist and accompanies Bernie, the actual detective almost everywhere in the story. It's a sound premise that I look forward to seeing how it pans out. If I recall correctly the author's name is Spencer Quinn.

The Project Begins - How This All Started

Hello, my name is John and I am an amateur writer. I've actually been trying to make a habit of writing for years now but only in the past two have I actually made any progress in that respect. As I've delved deeper into the world of writing and slowly, very slowly, developed a daily writing practice I've begun to think more on ways to improve my writing.

Although it might seem like an obvious first step I realized that I don't read nearly enough, especially given that my writing pursuit of choice is fiction. I noted in a journal entry a while back that I should make a more concerted effort to correct such an egregious mistake on my part. As I penned in the entry my mind began to wander as I wondered where to begin. A year previous I had rediscovered my love for the library but I always seemed to come home with more non-fiction than anything else. I also wasn't too confident in my ability to resist that temptation as time went on, or where to start in the first place with such a large selection at my disposal so I began to consider alternatives.

One of my wife's cluttered bookshelves.