The Heart of Stone

31844202“You don’t realize how human you are. All of us. Alabast, Ellia, me, Huff, even you, with a mind made out of stone. We all walk around pretendin’ we’re not broken in some way…But we are broken. And you know what? That’s fine. In fact, it’s perfect because it’s imperfect. Each crack, each blemish, each scar, whether of the skin or in the mind, they make us whole.”  Continue reading

Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2)

9781101988886_GreySister_FCOmech.indd“Those novices are my friends and I would die for them. I would face a terror for them that I haven’t the courage to stand against on my own behalf.”

Author: Mark Lawrence
Category: High Fantasy, Grimdark
Pages: 400
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2018
Series: Book of the Ancestor #2

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for sending an ARC of this book!

Two years after the events of Red Sister, Nona Grey is entering Mystic Class.

In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder.

Honestly, I don’t have much to say that I didn’t already say about Red Sister. I found this to be a very successful second book in a series as it builds on not just the plot but also the world. There are so many questions that I have about this world from who the Missing are to how exactly the ancestors came to be on this planet. While a lot of the world-building was done in the first book, this book had a few more hints about the Missing that just really makes me want to know more.

I also continue to be amazed for some reason at how well-characterized this book is. I feel like most of the time that I run into a book that has predominantly female cast, the characterizations fall into stereotypes and flat characters. Not so at all with the Book of the Ancestor. Every character has depth and never once feels like a stereotype.

Speaking of characters, Abbess Glass got a little bit more character exploration in this book and OMG I LOVE HER. The only way I can think to describe her honestly is Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter only a little younger (not young, but younger) and a kickass nun. She is currently my favorite character in this series.

While Red Sister took place primarily at the Convent of Sweet Mercy, Grey Sister shifts gears about halfway through the book and we get to explore more of the world. Maybe I was just a little bit too much in Nona’s head but I found the sudden change a little bit jarring. I got used to the story taking place in one location in the same way that I’m sure Nona came to be comfortable living out her life at the convent. So to very quickly change from one location to characters being on the move to possibly anywhere I found a bit disorienting at the time but I really enjoy this world and the idea of all life having to exist within the Corridor as ice closes in around them.

Finally, I appreciate so much that Mark Lawrence included a “Story So Far” section at the start of the book. It has only been a year in between releases but that is still enough time for readers to forget a lot of the details in a story. I did not reread Red Sister before starting Grey Sister and I still wish that I had taken the time to re-read the first book but having that Story So Far at the beginning was an enormous help to getting me back into the story and the characters.

Rating:

9-loved it!

Ready Player One

9969571“I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life, right up until I knew it was ending.”

Author: Ernest Cline
Category: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Page: 375
Publication Date: August 16th, 2011

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A world where you can live the life you have always dreamed of, to escape a reality that is a crumbling away from neglect. With most of the world’s resources gone, humans have retreated into the virtual world of the OASIS. There, you can be who you want and do what you want. When the creator of OASIS, Halliday, passes away, he leaves behind clues to find his hidden Easter egg. The reward? All of his assets (a multi-billion dollar company) and ownership of the OASIS. Dripping in 1980’s nostalgia, this book follows Wade Watts on his search for the clues.

The world of OASIS is a fascinating a magical universe that just pulls you in from the get-go. Countless number of weird worlds where countless numbers of fantasy dreams.

The 80s nostalgia that is this book is perfectly fine… if you are nostalgic for the 80s. This nostalgia is absolutely a driving factor in the book, reminiscing author to character to reader, about beloved pop culture items is one the of more appealing factors of this story. So for someone that grew up after the 80s and therefore has no, or at least very few, memories of any of the things referenced, it felt like being on the outside of an exclusive club at times.  About 90% of the book is references and while they are central to the plot, (due to the fact that Halliday loved the 80s) there was a distinct disconnect for us at times in the story.

The story and puzzles can be a lot of fun. While again there was a disconnect at times, they still came across as challenging and exciting. Any action scenes are action packed and have the element of cool video game references. There were a few times where although the name of a game meant nothing to us, the idea of bringing these older games to life in a virtual reality was very intriguing.

On the character of Wade Watts is where we see one of our problems. Namely that he is not very likable. He is not a bad guy, but he comes across very high on himself. There is a scene about 50 pages in, where he and his best friend Aech tear into another character about how he wasn’t cool enough for not knowing 80’s trivia. While the other character was a jerk, this still did not look good on our main character at all. He says talks about how he is bullied but then proceeds to bully the other guy.

Furthermore, the whole idea that if you don’t know literally as much as it is possible to know about a thing then you are not a true fan is one of the more toxic things in gaming and fandom so the fact that the main character was perpetuating this was a major black mark against him.

Throughout the book he does good things, but there never comes a point where we connect with him. You may agree that what he does is right but that just makes him a protagonist, not a character.

Other characters, Art3mis, Aech, Daito,and Shato are all fleshed out and great charatcers. From their personalities to their motivations, they have good backstorys that make you care about them and who they are.

Greg’s Thoughts

Ready Player One is a good time, no alcohol required. The bad guys are your typical bad guys but they fit the vibe of this story. I never knew how much I wanted to see Mechagodzilla fight other video game characters. I know now how awesome it is. I did enjoy this book, but be warned if you are not a fan of nostalgic 80’s. Honestly, the movie did better at connecting with me on that front.

Rating:

7-liked it

Dani’s 2¢

Round Two was more of a charm for me. I am happy that I did finish this book and got through the things that made me stop the first time. More than anything else that impacts my rating for this book is simply the fact that I am not an 80s kid. I lived only a few months in the 80s and the movies and games from that decade were just not something that I grew up on so the nostalgia factor that I think this book relies on heavily to connect with its readers did nothing for me. I can’t hold that against the book or say that makes it a bad book, just that it was not the book for me.

There are some scenes and some themes that I absolutely enjoyed though. I really appreciated that one of the major messages of the book was that video games are great and all but you can’t ignore the real world in favor of them. Reality has to take precedence over an imaginary world.

Rating:

6-it was good

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Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1)

77197“Utter loneliness was planted in me then, and sent its deep roots down into me.”

Author: Robin Hobb
Category: High Fantasy
Pages: 448
Publication Date: March 1st, 1996

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In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

For those that haven’t had the fortune of coming across this, the band Within Temptation actually have a song about this series called Hand of Sorrow. Definitely check it out!

Fitz was born the bastard of Prince Chivalry, the firstborn son in line for the throne. At 6 years old, Fitz’s mother decides that she can no longer care for him and so he is deposited in the care of whatever soldier happens to be on guard duty.

The story itself is very slow-going. It basically just follows Fitz as he grows up at Buckkeep largely in the care of a man that once worked for Prince Chivalry. Through Fitz’s eyes, the reader gets a sense of the world that this story takes place in, the magic system, and who the main players are. Honestly, in some ways, this book was more an elaborate setup in world-building than an actual story. Most of it was setup for the future books in the trilogy.

That said, this works for this book though because it spent a lot of time exploring several concepts.

First of which is the idea of naming.

The royalty in this country are named after different traits. Fitz mentions that it isn’t known whether being given a certain name actually sets that person’s character or whether the person becomes that trait subconsciously. This is an interesting take on the nature v. nurture discussion.

A prime example is Fitz. When he is first asked what his name is when he is dropped off at 6 years old, he responds only “Boy.” The man that ends up taking care of him, Burrich, starts calling him Fitz and it sort of sticks. Some other characters made a comment about only Burrich would do that or something to that effect so I had to look up what Fitz means. Apparently it is a really old French word (I think? Correct me if I’m wrong!) meaning “son of…”

So even though he is called Fitz he still has no name and, in the tradition of naming those of royal blood, therefore no character trait attributed to him.

What does this mean for the character though? Does it mean he is a blank slate? Or is he…nothing?

I would actually love to have a discussion with others that have finished the series on this! Fitz is an intensely lonely person, the nature of his birth disconnecting him from so many people that he otherwise would have been close to. He is intelligent but not exceptionally so.

Continuing the tradition of naming, I felt that Shrewd and Regal were both worth being mentioned.

Shrewd, the current King, is exactly what his name suggests. The connotations for the name are somewhat negative but he isn’t a bad person. He doesn’t dance around people’s feelings and what is or is not morally acceptable but he is not a bad person.

King Shrewd’s youngest son is Regal. This name was intended to inspire a sense of the royalty that he is but the character is also just as pretentious as his name.

The continuing message among all of these is that no one person is ever just one thing. 

The story also had a lot to say on the topic of what leadership is or should be and how loyalty is earned. There was a ton of commentary on the responsibility of royals and what it looks like when someone (Regal, Galen, I am looking at you two…) disregards that responsibility and only wants to be “special” and also what the burden of leadership is supposed to be. And as for loyalty, I loved the message that all it takes sometimes is a kind word to inspire devotion.

Dani’s 2¢

Although this is not one of those stories that is jam-packed with action or that introduces some insanely original world-building, there is a subtle aspect to the quality of the writing and Fitz’s personal story that pulled me in. I actually read this series about 10 years ago and while I was surprised by how much I did remember of it, I had forgotten most. Coming back to it as a more experienced reader, I enjoyed this book more than I did originally. High recommended.

Rating:

9-loved it!

Greg’s Thoughts

This one was interesting. I enjoyed the magic and the mystery behind it. I enjoyed the story. The political intrigue that was brewing could be exciting. Seeing this world through Fitz’s eyes gave a cool perspective on leadership and that there is more than one way to be a leader.

My only criticism I have is that due to the writing style, things could be days forwarded through or glossed over. And example is with a character death early on in the book. At the start of a chapter it simply says, “The day I heard this person died…” and just moves on. There were some dramatic moments that do happen later on due to this event, but these typenof situations feel skipped at certain times.

Very fun read though, and I am looking for ward to the rest of the series.

Rating:

9-loved it!

 

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