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Soul of the Fire (Sword of Truth, Book 5)
Soul of the Fire (Sword of Truth, Book 5)
by Terry Goodkind
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $8.26
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Goodkind bites off more than he can chew., January 7, 2012
I read the first four books of this series when I was in high school, and found them to be high-octane, enjoyable fantasy, with strong elements of romance. They meshed together in the right way, and the characters were extremely well developed. I stopped reading the series because of time constraints, but recently a friend of mine had gone through [Soul of the Fire] and said that it was like a new arc for the series. I decided that it would be a fine time to jump back into the Sword of Truth.

[Soul of the Fire] wears down the interest of readers from the very beginning, with plotlines that radiate impressions of inconsequential events that are slow to build into a story with movement, much less a captivating one. The story involves Richard and Kahlan journeying to Anderith in order to guard the land against the Imperial Order, and to reverse a plague-like spell that threatens to end magic's existence. Unfortunately, this simple plot summary comes from story elements that aren't established until halfway through the book. The early part includes little more than meandering and arguments between Richard and Kahlan, whose personalities have become drab and grating.

The introduction of new arcs featuring the people of Anderith is one of the biggest failings of [Soul of the Fire]. These characters are given little development, and are quite frankly uninteresting. By the end of the book, these characters are rendered irrelevant to the series and the story at large, so it's hard to appreciate Goodkind's attempt to flesh out the world by exploring new areas of it. Sword of Truth is a series that has been built so powerfully upon the two main characters, it puzzles me why Goodkind thought it would be reasonable to take his series in this Wheel of Time-esque direction of carrying multiple plots of equal weight spread across the world. The gaps between character arcs are either too long (10 chapters with no Richard is too much) or too short (6 character arcs per chapter sometimes), thus rendering the usage of shifting POVs frustrating and poorly implemented.

The writing has always been simplistic in this series, and that has never been an issue, because the Sword of Truth's strengths lie within its characterization, pacing, and storytelling. With [Soul of the Fire]'s noted weakness in each of those categories, it's more difficult to forgive the most glaring flaw in the novel: the dialogue is atrocious. Multi-paragraph monologues that last multiple pages are redundant, and entire paragraphs in which every sentence ends with a question mark are laughable. How many times can a person read "Richard threw up his hands" before putting down the book in annoyance? Goodkind is testing readers to find the answer. I have only scratched the surface of the writing problems; there is much to take issue with.

One praiseworthy aspect of the first four novels is that each includes an ending that doesn't close the door, but leaves it ever so slightly ajar. The endings are conclusive, and yet leave room for a sequel in reasonable manners. [Soul of the Fire] breaks this trend with an ending that is distinctly unsatisfying. Many of the loose ends are tied up, but some are left hanging, and said cliffhangers are minor in stature, lacking the ability to get readers excited for the sequel. Indeed, I do not hold any intention to continue reading the Sword of Truth series.

[Soul of the Fire] is readable, but I burned through it mostly because I wanted to get to the action, seeking fulfillment that never arrived. Objectively, this is not a terrible book, but merely a terrible sequel that lacks most of the elements that made its predecessors exciting. All said, I regret going back to the Sword of Truth three years later, only to have my impression of the series tarnished by this failure of a sequel. Stick to the first four books the way Metallica fans steadfastly stick to the first four albums.


Crossroads of Twilight (The Wheel of Time, Book 10) (Jordan, Robert)
Crossroads of Twilight (The Wheel of Time, Book 10) (Jordan, Robert)
by Robert Jordan
Edition: Hardcover
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worst in the series, but it's just barely bearable., July 15, 2011
I enjoyed the first nine Wheel of Time books, for the most part (The Path of Daggers was a little weak), but I still stepped into [Crossroads of Twilight] with caution. How could I not? It's the worst reviewed book I've ever seen, with an average score of one-and-a-half stars, the second-lowest possible. I wouldn't say [Crossroads] is quite that bad, but there's a lot to dislike about it.

Reviewers often echo each other in their sentiments that nothing happens in Book 10. That's not accurate, but to say that little of importance occurs would be closer to the truth. Part of the problem is that instead of telling a worthwhile story arc for a few characters, as in novels past, Jordan shoves every character back into one book, and devotes insufficient time to each arc, leaving most of the long-standing conflicts and mysteries unresolved. I'll go through a brief summary, detailing what I liked and disliked, and how much plot really advances.

*SPOILERS*

The book gets off to a dreadful start, chronicling the doings of a war general who had never been previously mentioned in the series, in Arad Doman, a land never previously visited. This is in the midst of the 100-page prologue, which compiles the small plot threads of a myriad of minor characters. Whitecloaks, Aes Sedai bonded to Logain, random Aes Sedai in the White Tower, blah blah, Gawyn, Davram Bashere, minor characters hanging out in Cairhien. This is bound to frustrate readers who will have to slog through at least a hundred pages before getting the chance to read about one of the major characters. I understand that it's been a while since we've seen Gawyn and Loial, and I'm glad to see them return, but they are not handled in an interesting manner.

In this book, readers will witness the characters' reactions to the cleansing of Saidin. I said in my [Winter's Heart] review that Rand's story arc was the highlight of Book 9, and it's almost as if Jordan thought he moved Rand's story too fast, and has to scramble to get the other characters' stories up to speed, hence the return of so many minor plot threads. Even the major players (i.e. Mat, Perrin, Elayne, and Egwene) offer little in the way of interesting plot movement, however, which is the book's downfall. Each character is in roughly the same location at the novel's end as they are at its onset.

-Mat has kidnapped Tuon to prevent his own capture, and is hanging out at Valan Luca's traveling show while slowly figuring out how to proceed, meanwhile attempting to court Tuon. The scenes between Mat and Tuon are entertaining and at times hilarious, but the rest is largely inconsequential. There's a side chapter about the Seanchan calling a search party for Tuon, which the heroes never encounter. At the end, everyone's in the same spot.
-Perrin is searching for Faile (yes, still), while simultaneously trying to bring down the outlaw leader and "Prophet" Masema; Perrin comes closer to accomplishing both of these feats, but neither is finished by the book's conclusion. The conclusion of Perrin's arc is most notable scene in [Crossroads of Twilight], in which Perrin throws away his axe. This chilling scene is a turning point for Perrin's character, but not enough to salvage the irrelevance of the first three quarters of the book.
-Elayne talks politics with her advisors and other important figures. She is becoming more regal and gaining support in her conquest for the throne, but of course she hasn't accomplished anything major. Instead, we're treated to the infamous Elayne in a bathtub scene. There's a side chapter about Elayne's political rival, which couldn't be more boring, and her general, who we've known is a Darkfriend for what seems like forever, which takes away any dramatic irony that revelation may have held.
-Egwene, absent from Book 9, spends each one of her chapters talking to Aes Sedai, and nothing else. No exaggeration. She deliberates on attacking the White Tower, calling an alliance with the Black Tower, beginning peace talks with Elaida, but none of these actually occur. At the end, Egwewne is kidnapped by agents of the White Tower, making this the third straight Wheel of Time novel to end with a kidnapping. Oh, and the side chapters inside the White Tower are largely inconsequential.
-Rand discusses the aftermath of Saidin's cleansing with his adviser Cadsuane, and where to proceed from there. Logain also warns Rand that the Black Tower is led by Mazrim Taim's hand, and headed in a dark direction. Rand decides to work towards a truce with the Seanchan in order to face the more important conflicts at hand. This is by far the best arc, because all of what is discussed is relevant, an important decision is made, and it only takes the author two chapters to do it. This is also what makes it the most frustrating, because it leaves the reader begging for more, especially considering that the potentially fascinating Mazrim-Logain conflict has been all but ignored.

*END SPOILERS*

There are, of course, some high points, in which Jordan invokes his supreme writing talent, and readers can see sparks of the old flame that powered the early novels. These moments are few, and [Crossroads of Twilight] gets bogged down in a pile of irrelevant detail. All of the complaints I had about the previous novel, [Winter's Heart] are still present: not enough resolution, passages with an overabundance of description, conspicuous typos, an unhelpful glossary, a nearly unmanageable number of minor characters being featured. This book, however, is a step down because lacks the plot movement of its predecessor, and teases readers into thinking more will occur

I did not enjoy this book. I would have given it two stars, but I raised the score to three based on the following points:
-Although the plot is terrible, there is a lot of character development.
-The intricately designed world is still intact. Although little new territory is explored, it's a pleasure to return to the addictive settings that Jordan has fabricated.
-There is a strong theme of the breakdown of social boundaries and the rigid social structure that has defined the world in novels past, reflective of peoples' changing attitudes in the face of the approaching cataclysm.
-Enough is set up (thankfully) to make for a potentially interesting sequel in book 11 [Knife of Dreams].

Objectively, this is not a terrible book, although it is a very frustrating one. Many a reader hopped off the Wheel of Time because of this book, and I might have been tempted to, as well, if I did not know that the series (now almost complete) is all uphill from here. After [Crossroads of Twilight] comes the prequel novel [New Spring], book 11, and the posthumous Jordan/Sanderson trilogy, all of which were significantly better received that Book 10. This one is a misstep, but not a disaster; the series has plenty of room for redemption and fulfillment.


High Rhulain (Redwall)
High Rhulain (Redwall)
by Brian Jacques
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After a six year break from Redwall, I'm glad I came back., June 29, 2011
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I started reading Redwall at age 12, and for the next few years, I spent much free time reading through all of the series. By age 15, I had read every book that he had written at the time (it's a testament to the amount of book he pumped out, considering that it took me three years to read them all). Since then, I found myself engrossed in more complex fantasy, authors such as George R R Martin, Robert Jordan, and Patrick Rothfuss. After hearing news of the author's tragic death, I decided to look into what he'd been writing since I finished reading through his work in 2005. I was not surprised to see that he had written several more books, and was in the middle of writing another book while they sealed shut his coffin. In honor of his memory and all the great times I had reading Redwall when I was a teenager, I picked up where I left off with [High Rhulain].

I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to appreciate this world anymore, considering that I am now 21 and I read a myriad of longer, deeper novels now. Of course, it's one of those cases in which it feels great to be wrong. With only 300+ pages to work with, Brian Jacques moves the story along quickly, with very little of the plodding segments found in a longer novel. [High Rhulain] features the same types of quirky characters that fans of the series will expect to see, but this time with new species such as wildcats, dragons, and for the first time, birds fighting alongside the heroes. There are several overlapping points of view, and the characters from all sides frequently interact. Of course there's plenty of Redwall Abbey to be seen, and a brief stop at Salamandastron (long absent from the series), but a majority of the novel takes place on Green Isle. The plot involves a rebel uprising of a band of otters in order to free their enslaved families from the oppressive rule of dictator wildcats. The story is action packed and makes for an easy read.

I recommend this book to any fantasy fan who needs some fun, light reading to fill the multi-year gap between each new Song of Ice and Fire novel. [High Rhulain] is nothing too complex, but it's another successful addition to the Redwall saga, which is long and has very few low points to speak of. It's nice to have a series like this to fall back on, a comfort knowing that I'll always get what I expect, and sometimes my expectations are exceeded.


Winter's Heart (The Wheel of Time, Book 9)
Winter's Heart (The Wheel of Time, Book 9)
by Robert Jordan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A big step up from the last book, but still room to improve., June 27, 2011
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I wasn't wowed by Book 8 [The Path of Daggers], and neither did I revile it, as so many reviews did. I felt that it was somewhat rushed (due to its short length, and sometimes difficult-to-comprehend writing), and the least satisfying novel in the Wheel of Time series, but still a decent book in its own right, as a commentary on the aftermath effects of foreign invasion and the drawbacks of leadership positions; [The Path of Daggers] managed to move the larger story forward, though not as much as I wanted. It's for this reason that Book 9 [Winter's Heart] has exceeded my expectations, righting many of the wrongs I found in its predecessor.

[Winter's Heart] brings back Mat Cauthon, a move that many fans found to be a marked improvement, myself included. He is one of the saga's most important characters, and his presence was sorely missed. Now, I'm not against Jordan's decision to leave certain characters out of some of his books; this only makes it all the more exciting when they return, as evidenced here. With the sheer number of characters who contribute to the grand story as a whole, it's impossible to cram all of them into one novel and have everyone doing something interesting or useful. As such, Egwene al'Vere is absent from [Winter's Heart]; her character appears a couple times in the dream world, but her plot thread and point of view are both absent.

More elements that I found to be improved from Book 8 were that the writing was more cohesive and less confusing. Although there were a few very conspicuous typos, and Jordan does occasionally overindulge in descriptive details, the writing is mostly high-quality. I also didn't find myself having to look up who characters where as often as I did in the past couple books; I'm relieved to see that Jordan didn't overuse minor characters as he did in the past few novels. Instead, some characters return from previous books, and a few important ones are introduced, while the number of newer minor additions to the cast is small enough to keep track of. While some new story threads are introduced, a few of the novel's longstanding mysteries are beginning to be solved. Most importantly, I felt more satisfied at the conclusion of [Winter's Heart] than I did after [The Path of Daggers]. I felt like this book carried more enjoyment and momentum, and I had a good time tearing through it

The big plot point is Rand's attempt to cleanse Saidin, which is one of the most famous story arcs in the saga, and frequently cited by fans as one of the best. The book sets it up as the central event, with Rand announcing his intent to cleanse the source in the prologue, and the entire length of the book mounts tension, leaving fans to wonder if Rand will finish the job by the time the book concludes, or if he even has the power to do so. The arc culminates in an intense scene in which Rand's enemies amass against him, and his allies unite around him in order to protect him. Beyond that, a lot goes on in Rand's story: his character grows pessimistic and cold; the tension between him and his three lovers is finally put to rest; he begins to resolve some of his issues with Alanna; Cadsuane makes her best effort to restore some humanity in Rand; Rand embarks on a quest for vengeance against his would-be assassins from Book 8 and comes back with more than he bargained for. Rand's arc is by far the highlight of [Winter's Heart], and series fans should read the book for that alone.

However, [Winter's Heart] is still a distance away from the greatness of the series' early works. The pace is slow in the plot threads besides Rand's. Perrin and Faile show up for a short time at the beginning, and then are not mentioned for the rest of the book. Mat attempts to liberate some Aes Sedai prisoners and escape Ebou Dar; this is a good arc that reveals more about the Seanchan, but I felt that it could have been slightly shorter. Elayne begins to consolidate her power in Caemlyn, but not enough progress is made, and her arc doesn't end on a point of interest. A conflict between Logain and Mazrim Taim is hinted at, but Jordan doesn't explore this potentially interesting plot device. The problem here is that Jordan does not use cliffhangers; there's nothing to get readers excited and wondering where the characters will pick up in the next book.

Despite the flaws, I do maintain that I liked [Winter's Heart]. The problem is that it's good, but not good enough. It must be hard to avoid criticism when the early Wheel of Time books set such a high standard, so I will give Robert Jordan credit for soldiering on with his vision of the world he created. However, he is asking for a lot of patience from his readers, who have waited several books to see the series' mysteries solved. Each book has its strong points, and a strong underlying theme, but we must keep in mind the story at large. It may be no fault of the author's, and instead my own impatience, but I'm growing more eager to see the end of the wheel's turning. I'll continue to read and enjoy, and hope that the next book offers a little more of the resolution I've been waiting for. [Winter's Heart] is a worthy addition to the series, though, and possibly the strongest of the "middle" part of the series.


Portal 2 - Playstation 3
Portal 2 - Playstation 3
Offered by MOST WANTED
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the hype and the countless 5-star reviews, June 11, 2011
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
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The original [Portal] released in 2007, as part of the [Orange Box] compilation. It was a surprise hit and an instant classic thanks to its innovative gameplay, succinct length, superb atmosphere and storytelling, and perhaps most of all, its quirky sense of humor. This year, Valve has brought us a full-length sequel in [Portal 2], and it preserves all of these elements while offering a longer campaign, a deeper story with new characters, new gameplay elements, co-operative play, Steam integration, and PS3 trophies. While notably easier than the original game, [Portal 2] is a success in almost every way possible, and it will go down as one of the year's finest games, if not one of PS3's finest, overall.

Portal 2 once again puts you in the hands of Chell, attempting to escape Aperture Science's Testing Facility yet again, while GLaDOS reprises her role as the chief antagonist. A couple of new supporting characters join the cast: a small, clumsy robot named Wheatley, and Cave Johnson, the head of Aperture Science; both new characters offer plenty of laughs and deepen the thick storyline. As in the original [Portal], however, players are expected to look for background clues in order to piece together the various parts of the story. This method of storytelling rewards those who explore, and encourages thinking in players just as much as the gameplay does.

For the uninitiated, [Portal 2] looks like a first-person shooter, except your gun fires portals instead of bullets. Your blue portal and orange portal connect, and you use these to solve environmental puzzles and progress around obstacles. This new installment adds hard-light surfaces, tractor beams, and mobility gels into the mix, giving players new ways to manipulate the environment and solve puzzles. My only complaint is that some puzzles rely less on thinking and more on finding an obscure detail in the environment that is necessary to progress. However, these minor frustrations do not detract from the game overall, which never gets repetitive due in part to the constant introduction of new items to use, and partly due to its excellent atmosphere, humor, and story progression.

However, co-op is the real gem in [Portal 2]. Two players with two portals each must work together to solve even more difficult puzzles than those found in single-player. Four portals are better than two, aren't they?! There are five testing chambers, each with a different theme, such as "mobility gels" or "mass and velocity". These puzzles are immensely rewarding, offering a great deal of satisfaction after solving them. Fans of single-player will be happy to know that the co-operative mode retains the humor of the main game, as GLaDOS guides players through the test chambers, and players can perform humorous gestures, such as dancing and kung-fu. Co-op provides a different kind of thrill than single-player, but it is easily as demanding of players' time.

PS3 players can play with PC users via Valve's Steam service. Those PS3 users with Steam accounts can link their accounts to their consoles, as well. This method of cross-system play is the first of its kind, as far as I know, and is definitely to be applauded, for increasing the potential number of partners to work with. Thankfully, two players in the same room can player together via split-screen, which I am grateful for, as an increasing number of new games are neglecting split-screen play in favor of online-only multiplayer.

The single-player and co-op campaigns both clock in at around 8-10 hours each, while another 8-10 hours can be figured in for those players who want to earn all PS3 Trophies. More co-op testing chambers are to be added in the future via paid downloadable content, the first is which is scheduled for this summer. As a significantly lengthier game than its predecessor, [Portal 2] justifies itself in carrying price tag of a fully-featured game, and in terms of quality alone, few games can hope to match this particular opus. This is one of the year's must-play games, and if you pass up on it, you're going to be left out of a lot of conversations! There you have it: there's no reason not to play [Portal 2].


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Trilogy)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Trilogy)
by Stieg Larsson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.29
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and entertaining, but not perfect., June 11, 2011
I picked up [The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo] after seeing the movie trailer, with the intent to finish the book before the movie releases later this year. I tore through the novel quickly, and I did obtain quite a bit of enjoyment, although the writing is a little rough around the edges.

The plot involves a journalist named Mikael Blomqvist, convicted of libel and trying to clear his name; and Lisbeth Salander, a disturbed girl with a talent for research, teaming up to find Harriet Vanger, the missing daughter of a wealthy businessman. The story unfolds with the right combination of exposition and mounting tension, which is one of the most difficult aspects to nail down in a mystery story. The characters are full of personality, and offer plenty of laughs and shocks. This book definitely has what it takes to keep a reader interested.

The quality of the writing leaves a bit to be desired, which is admittedly no fault of the author's, since the novel is translated from his native Swedish language. However, there are numerous instances in which some unnecessary detail was added, and it seems to serve as only as padding for an already lengthy book.

Take note, this novel is not for the faint of heart, with explicit scenes detailing rape and torture. However, if you can stomach it, reading [The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo] is a worthwhile use of your time, even if the book isn't exactly a masterpiece as the hype would have you believe.


The Path of Daggers (The Wheel of Time, Book 8)
The Path of Daggers (The Wheel of Time, Book 8)
by Robert Jordan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but not fulfilling., May 22, 2011
Book 8 [The Path of Daggers] is the shortest book in the series, and though it may be ridiculous to claim that 672 pages is too short, I really wanted more. I am eager to know what happens next, to resolve the plots lines that have gone on for so long (as new ones appear, no less), that I could only get the same feeling I get from eating fast food. The book was quick, tasty, and lacking any true satisfaction.

That doesn't mean the book is bad, mind you. [The Path of Daggers] has more action and battles than any [Wheel of Time] novel since the early installments. This book is all about the Seanchan invasion, and while it feels that the saga isn't much closer to the end, there are many interesting developments concerning Rand and the Asha'man, Morgase's exile, Perrin's siege of the Prophet, Elayne's return to Andor, and Egwene's impending war with the White Tower. The story is growing grim, with more death and destruction than previously seen.

A few complaints: while the writing is still stellar, I found myself getting lost and confused while reading [The Path of Daggers] more often than I did while reading past books in the series. The glossary in the back is very unhelpful, and does not list the names and descriptions of the numerous minor characters who keep showing up. Also, absolutely no appearance from Mat Cauthon. Still, that's where the next book stands to improve, I suppose. While there was a lot to like about this book, I burned through it quickly, hoping for some more momentum, and instead got a whole bunch of setup. I'm a film believer in the saying "it's not about the destination, it's about the journey". I've enjoyed most of this journey so far, but I don't think it would be unreasonable to say this isn't the most exciting part of it.

I can understand the poor reviews; if I had to wait two years for this novel and another two years for the next, I would find myself immensely frustrated. I picked [The Path of Daggers] up right after I finished Book 7 [A Crown of Swords], and I'll be moving right on to Book 9 [Winter's Heart]. I'm hoping that the next book offers a step up from the somewhat decreased quality of [The Path of Daggers]. While [Path] may be one of the weaker novels in this sequence, it's one step on a long journey, and every step counts.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 21, 2011 3:04 AM PST


A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time, Book 7)
A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time, Book 7)
by Robert Jordan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another tasty slice of the wheel; development and setup abound., May 2, 2011
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This is the seventh book in the [Wheel of Time] series; this is already longer than most series get, and it's only halfway done. There are a lot of negative reviews from readers who grew frustrated with the series' length, and it's understandable. It's a serious time investment, and readers have to be willing to make the emotional investment in the characters as well. However, I will object to claims that the writing is any worse. The quality is very rich, with excellent descriptive writing and some very distinctive characters. Old characters develop in a very intriguing manner and new characters add layers to the story. As in the prior novel [Lord of Chaos], this is a fantasy novel that doesn't try to be "all action, all the time." However, if the central story element of [Lord] was political conflict in a world approaching cataclysm, [A Crown of Swords] is all about the people, who are beginning to feel malaise from wars past and fear of a cataclysm approaching. It's interesting to note how much the world changes from the first novel to this one, and the nature of the writing suggests that Jordan intended the [Wheel of Time] series to be about more than a few key characters; this series is about the ending of an era, of the world and the people who inhabit it.

Why is it that so many fans stop following the series at this pivotal point in the series? A mini-review on this novel from (co-author of the later Wheel of Time books) Brandon Sanderson's blog contains his theories, similar to my own. This quote sums it up:

"This series, as I've said before, is meant to be read straight through. I think, perhaps, that waiting two years for this book and then only getting a tiny slice of the overall story might be what caused complaints from readers. It's not that the writing quality went down (I think it goes up as the series continues) or that the pacing grew slower. I think that the problem is readers not grasping the entire vision of the story, which is difficult to do when you don't know how many books there will be or how long it will be until they are done."

The middle of any book or any series is naturally going to have a lot of setup for the approaching climax. By necessity, the series must technically get a little "slower," but that does not at all mean that [A Crown of Swords] does not have worthwhile writing to offer. After playing a relatively minor role in books 4-6, Mat Cauthon plays a very big part in [Crown], so fans of him will be overjoyed to follow the further exploits of this lovable rogue, and shocked when he begins to reform himself a tad bit. Lan makes his triumphant return after being almost completely absent from the previous installment. Readers will notice big changes in central characters like Rand, Min, Mat, Elayne, and Nyneave, for better or worse. And a few of the scenes in [Crown] are among my favorites in the series, particularly towards the end. I'd hate to spoil anything, so I'll end the review here: if you've read and enjoyed the [Wheel of Time] up to this point, I definitely recommend that you stick with it. While you may not love the new direction that this book takes, you have to respect that huge scope of things and appreciate the book for its own merits.


The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First
The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First
by Jonah Keri
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.74
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining read for those who enjoy baseball or business; a mandatory read for TBR fans., April 14, 2011
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Long story short, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays began play in 1998 and were the worst franchise in MLB baseball, finishing every season with a losing record until 2008 when they became the Tampa Bay Rays and advanced to the World Series. How could a team so terrible become winners so suddenly? [The Extra 2%] goes behind the scenes with former members of management and baseball executives to find out the cause behind the team's consistent failures, as well as interviews with current management and front office personnel, discussing the franchise's improvements and transformation into winners.

Though the Rays have been around less than 15 years, there's a lot to discuss. [The Extra 2%] details the manner in which lobbyists were able to convince the MLB to grant Tampa a baseball team, the myriad mistakes that management made in the early years, fan reaction to the new team, the key players who comprised the team since its inception, how draft picks allowed the Rays to compete, how modern strategies helped the new management win back Tampa residents' hearts, why the Rays have trouble competing with the other AL East teams, the team's 08 World Series run, and why the Rays' stadium limits their fanbase and income. So basically, everything you would want to know about Tampa Bay's worst-to-first baseball team.

This is a brief read, at about 250 pages; the pages fly, and [The Extra 2%] ends up being a quick yet fulfilling read for anyone who has at least a mild interest in business management or baseball (4 stars if you fall into those categories). For those who love the Tampa Bay Rays, this book is a must-read right now (5 stars).


A Song of Ice and Fire, (4 Vols.): A Game of Thrones / A Clash of Kings / A Storm of Swords / A Feast for Crows
A Song of Ice and Fire, (4 Vols.): A Game of Thrones / A Clash of Kings / A Storm of Swords / A Feast for Crows
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
67 used & new from $15.17

1,444 of 1,553 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paperback edition couldn't be better!, March 24, 2011
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I stumbled across this page and saw a handful of 1-star reviews that left me puzzled. Then I realized that all of them were regarding the supposedly-poor quality of the Kindle version. Well, I can't tell you anything about the Kindle version. I'm one of those old-school guys, so I bought the paperback set, and it's undoubtedly worth the money. Obviously, the content is 5-star worthy (see the reviews for each individual book), so I'm going to limit my review to the box set itself. This set contains each of the first four books in the Song of Ice and Fire Series (that's A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Feast for Crows), with all-new cover artwork. Out of all the versions released, this is the most visually enrapturing artwork yet. The novels are brightly colored and contain designs that are brilliant in their simplicity. The outer box contains some high-quality shots from the upcoming HBO series.

Highly recommended for:
-Someone who's never read A Song of Ice and Fire. This is the place to start, and a great value too (4 loooong books for $23).
-Longtime fans whose old paperback copies are worn from reading and re-reading in anticipation of A Dance With Dragons.
-Hardcore series collectors who want to own the best versions.

I lent my older copies of this series to my ex-girlfriend, and since I never got them back, I decided that this box set was a worthy purchase. I'm so satisfied with it, I can honestly say that I don't miss the books I lost, not even one bit. I've posted some pictures of the box set so you can decide for yourself if you like its look enough to drop the money.
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