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The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle)
The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle)
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $7.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great piece of writing that is comfortable with not being anything like anything!, October 31, 2014
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This was a short story that became a vignette that became a novella, and somewhere along the way became one of the most touching pieces of writing that I've read in a long time. I'm so glad I read and finished it on release day; I had it on pre-order on the Kindle and it magically appeared on my devices yesterday. It would've broken my heart to read it knowing what to expect.

It isn't a regular story. As the author admits, it doesn't do a lot of things stories are supposed to do. It has a character, and it has a gorgeous, mysterious, unsettling setting, but that's about all. If you're looking for exposition or plot or even logic, move along. As Auri would say though, it's shape is true.

So yes, this is a glimpse into the life of Auri, that denizen of the Underthing we've met before in The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear, the much-lauded first two parts of the King-killer trilogy. If you haven't read them, this book will make very little sense indeed - but then it isn't supposed to make sense-sense in the first place! It will let you understand Auri that much better, and she is easily one of the best things about the main trilogy of books.

I wont give anything else away, because everyone deserves to read this book through their own personal prisms and without a shade of another's opinion. If you approach it as a fairy tale, or a tale of wonder, or a tale about wonder and living happily in a world full of jagged edges and scary and hurtful things, I am sure you will love it.

A must-read for Rothfuss fans of course, I think this should also be mandatory reading for anyone (like me) who thinks they can write a wee bit of fiction. This, is a master-class in writing, and in characterization, and empathy. Then again, intellectualizing about this book is perhaps one of the most pretentious and counter-productive things I could do right now.

Just remember this - yes, it is a half-story, and yes it is raggedy, and if you're not a certain type of person it will leave you pissed (as the author fears)... but it's shape is true. It is right. It belongs.

Sixth of the Dusk (Cosmere)
Sixth of the Dusk (Cosmere)
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for fans, great entry point for those wanting to get a taste of Sanderson's work, October 31, 2014
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Brandon Sanderson proves (again) that when it comes to writing imaginative and original fantasy fiction, featuring fascinating, well-built worlds, he is currently peerless. I've not seen a book this short but as vivid, well-paced, or rich in concept and imagination as this one. The only ones that come close are perhaps The Emperor's Soul, and Legion, also by Sanderson, which I read and reviewed last year.

This novella in less than a hundred pages provides a tour de force of yet another, hitherto unseen world within the author's Cosmere tapestry. It can be read as a standalone work however. In fact this may be an excellent starting point if you love epic fantasy but have been living under a rock and haven't read anything by Sanderson yet!

The story features only two major characters - plus a tropical island setting that could well be counted as a third. I won't describe the plot except to say that it is surprisingly complex and layered and leaves you hungry for more. There is also a new "magic system" of sorts - as impeccably thought out and interesting as you'd expect from Sanderson. I do hope the author has plans to revisit this fascinating world in longer form. Certainly looks that way, from the ending...

Easily a must read for any fans or comers new!

Of Mice and Men (Penguin Modern Classics)
Of Mice and Men (Penguin Modern Classics)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The little novella that could! A must read, August 22, 2014
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I've been meaning to read John Steinbeck forever. My earliest memory of the name is an old copy of East of Eden in my parent's bookcase, which I often looked at but somehow never read. As part of my reading challenge he has always been one of the 'aspiration' authors I wanted to read. Of Mice And Men seemed the perfect amuse bouche to get a taste of his writing.

Suffice it to say, I loved it. This is the little novelette that could! Written like a play, it is one of the most evocative pieces of writing I've read recently. I could imagine every scene perfectly as I read; the sights, smells, and ambience were all vivid. The characters grew on me, and while the two protagonists - George and Lennie - were very effectively portrayed, the rest of the cast - the worldly Slim (who I immediately cast Sam Elliot as. Because.), the jaded Crooks, Curley and his unnamed wife, sensitive Candy - they were all just as powerful presences.

The leitmotif of loneliness and of dreams being shattered is a poignant one and the book is just soaked in it. This is the kind of book where you know from the beginning that 'something bad' is going to happen, and you cringe and hope against hope. Unlike most tragedies though, when the 'bad' does happen, it is almost a release.

I've been delving into short fiction a lot this year, and this alongside The Old Man and the Sea ranks as some of the best I've read to date. Onwards then, to The Grapes of Wrath!

Assail: A Novel of the Malazan Empire
Assail: A Novel of the Malazan Empire

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A somewhat flawed, but ultimately satisfying conclusion - one that leaves you hoping for more, continuing stories!, August 16, 2014
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Closure is an elusive thing! This book promised answers to questions that had been posed to/ by fans of all things Malazan, myself included, for perhaps a decade or more. All questions open since at least 2001, when "Memories of Ice" came out were howling for answers (being the third and perhaps the best Malazan book written by Steven Erikson). And what questions! The mysterious continent of Assail and its dread secrets, the ultimate fate of the Crimson Guard, the resolution of the stand-off between the undead T'lan Imass and Silverfox, their mortal Summoner... this slim volume (by Malazan standards, at a mere 550 pages) promised answers, at long last.

Does it deliver? To me, as a die-hard fan who is now nearly 20 books into this shared world, it mostly delivered. It isn't perfect, but it will do. Except for the rather anti-climactic appearance of a "big bad" at the end, I was quite satisfied that justice had been done with the stories of the characters that are Esselmont's to play with in this shared world. K'azz D'avore, some members of the Malazan Imperial Old Guard, the Crimson Guard, Fisher Tel Kath, Kyle, and Silverfox all get a fitting farewell.

As with any Malazan book it takes off slowly and builds up tension right until the final 100 pages - until you are left on tenterhooks wondering just how the author is going to resolve all that needs resolving in the remaining pages. For the most part the author does manage to deliver closure, although tellingly he resolves a couple of key items only in the epilogue, and closes on a whopper of a revelation that left me cursing, knowing that this was the last (planned) volume in his telling of the tale. Alas, if this is the end, Mr Esselmont has toyed with us one last time in parting. So be it!

I will not write a plot summary, because the jacket blurb for this book serves adequately for that, and I am loathe to reveal spoilers. Suffice it to say this was a breezy read that I could finish in a day and a half of reading.

I am left with only two overall complaints and one fervent hope - the foremost complaint is that this finale didn't quite leave me with the emotional wallop such as what I'd felt at the end of Erikson's main series - the two part finale that was Dust of Dreams and The Crippled God. Esselmont doesn't quite reach the depths that Erikson does when it comes to pulling my heartstrings, and that's that.

My other, rather pedantic complaint regards the tag-line for the book: "A novel of the Malazan Empire" it most certainly is not. It is only loosely related to events in that storied empire, much less so than Esselmont's early books, and on par with (or perhaps less than) his penultimate book Blood and Bone. These last two most certainly felt like outriggers, designed to wrap up the sprawling loose ends.

As for that fervent hope - ah, I only hope this is in fact, not the last story that is told by Mr Esselmont in the Malazan world. There are stories there yet, and while Mr Erikson works on his prequel trilogy, I'd request Mr Esselmont to push ahead on new quests in this wonderful world... not prequels, mind, for I know he is planning a trilogy set in the early empire period - I would want him to continue the threads he and Mr Erikson have not tied off...


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A readable book that's confused about whether it wants to describe or prescribe!, August 14, 2014
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This review is from: Stuffocation (Kindle Edition)
I read this book because I'd loved James Wallman's TED talk on the subject. I liked the central premise of this book: that materialism/ having too much stuff in our lives is a problem. I enjoyed the various anecdotes about people's ways of dealing with the 'Stuffocation'. I even enjoyed the scattering of research and data the author presents. I'll tell you where it lost me - I wasn't sure if the book wanted to be predictive or prescriptive!

To wit - the author describes the problem, Stuffocation, its root causes and history, and ill effects. He tells us he's a predictions guy. He describes three different ways people are dealing with the problem i.e. minimalism, simple living, and the 'medium chill'. He then rejects all these as not good enough and instead recommends experientialism. Then he shows how it's already catching on. The he talks about the developing world and the Church. Then he recaps. Um, OK!

It all felt a little loosely connected to me. Sometimes it felt like the author was being too glib about causation or in describing problems or solutions. Other times, he seemed more concerned with anecdotes and symptoms than causes and solutions. I guess the best way to say it is that the book lacked gravitas.

Still, it has some good ideas, and did make me think about the cupboards full of junk I need to sell or toss! It also made me realize I'm better off than most people I know, and while in some ways I'm stuffocated, in others I'm quite experiential! A readable, worthwhile book in the end.

Crack'd Pot Trail: A Malazan Tale of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach
Crack'd Pot Trail: A Malazan Tale of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach
by Steven Erikson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.49
56 used & new from $6.26

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A dense read, only for invested Malazan fans, August 6, 2014
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I really struggled with this one.

On one level it is a quest tale - a ragtag bunch of people crossing a desert have to eat to live, and therefore one of their number must die at regular intervals. Having decided that the Knights and thugs in the company (and the horses, and mules) are indispensable, they do the sensible thing and each night eat the poet who cannot spin a story or recite a poem to save their life. Literally!

On a deeper level though, this is a study of artists - in all their grandeur and all their venal viciousness, and of their fans, and of critics, and of those who have naught but a deaf ear and a dead eye to offer the artist. On this level it really works! What happens in the end? Read and find out!

As an unabashed fan of Steven Erikson's Malazan fantasy I reckon I've read almost everything he's written in that world (all but the fifth Bauchelain & Korbal Broach novella in fact!). This was easily the densest prose I've encountered in the 14 odd books I've read by him. The tale is entertaining, but there is an entry barrier for those unfamiliar with Mr Erikson's world or style. If you haven't read at least some Malazan literature, this book will be extremely hard to appreciate.

In this ~200 page book, the story really picks up only around the mid-point, when one artist (the narrator) rises above the milieu and reveals just how savvy and aware he is. The first 23 pages are literally introductions to the ragtag bunch though, and even in this short space, Mr Erikson indulges in his philosophical reveries. Several of these spoke to me as a geek/ fan, others as a wannabe writer myself.

In a few, clearly the voice of Adas Didion Flicker (the protagonist) was replaced by one Steven Erikson himself! I must admit at least a few of the allegories, and several of the monologues, I did not understand. Alas, that is par for the course if the course is a first reading of an Erikson volume, however long or short.

Not for the casual reader then, this book warrants your being a part of that discerning Entourage of Steven Erikson fans (see what I did there?). If I had understood more of it, I'd have given it more stars! (and there too!)

The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh
The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars First half of a Shakespearean tragedy! worth a read, August 6, 2014
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This book felt like act 1 of a Shakespearean tragedy. Alas, or fortunately, the tale ends in this book on the cusp of the mighty falling.

The author, Sanjaya Baru, a one time media adviser to Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh uses the tell all to (in his words) humanize Dr Singh and tells the tale of his (and the PM's) time in the PMO from roughly 2004 - 2008. I thought it was a good effort at storytelling, regardless of the political hay that has been made of it.

Mr Baru tells the tale as a set of professional and personal interactions between him and Dr Singh, which I thought was appropriate for this sort of book. There are a few instances near the end where he recounts events he could only have known about second hand/ from afar, but his commentary on events seems candid and honest. Has he aggrandized his own role in the key events he narrates? I suspect he might've done, but not overly. Has he given a good account of his time observing the PM? Absolutely!

To anyone who followed the political narrative in the heady days of the UPA 1 government, this book merely confirms what we all suspected rather than reveals anything new. I found it a riveting account and read it in a day, flat. The PM is revealed to be what everyone suspected, and I felt if anything that the book was far more generous to him on the subject of the failures of UPA 2 than he deserves.

History is brutal in the short term, but much kinder in the long term, and for all the savage press Mr Baru and Dr Singh have got, I suspect it will be kinder to both the book and the man.

As a candid account like this goes, whether it is forgotten or remembered in the long run is immaterial. India in general, and the Delhi 'durbaar' of the Gandhi family in particular are far too finicky about image and the repercussions of the truth to allow recent history to be accessible to us, the people. In giving us a peek into the echo chamber of 7 Race Course Road and Raisina Hill, I think the book has served well.

Flow (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
Flow (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine dessert wine; not a pint of beer! Heartily recommended for those looking for mental stimulation, July 27, 2014
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Some books are like a pint of beer. You guzzle it down in something of a hurry before it warms up, and before it's all done you're looking forward to the next, cold one. Others are like a really good dessert wine. You spend time sniffing it, taking in the floral notes, before you take the first hesitant sip. This book is the latter.

It took me a good long while to read it. This is the 35th book I've read in 2014, and it took me all of June and most of July to get through it. This is not because it is a bad book or badly written. It is because each page is filled with possibility; each concept, each story/ parable told makes you go off into a reverie of thought and memory.

At its core, the book is about "Flow" or that state of consciousness that one achieves when engaged in an "enjoyable" activity. Something difficult, but doable, with a clear goal, and that requires a specific set of skills to perform a specific set of actions to get there. This might be running a 5k, or bringing up a child, or deciding to rid the world of cancer - you decide! According to the author, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, as human beings we have an infinite variety of flow experiences available to us - various avenues that he delves into in some detail, that open up based on the possibilities of our body, our minds, our work/ workplaces, our families, communities, and so on. This is something I think we can all empathize with and was certainly a feeling that is familiar to me.

Then the author goes on to make a strong assertion - that to feel flow is to be happy. Nay, to be happy is to be in flow. The assertion is an ambitious one, but quite convincing. Most of what I consider to be happiness can indeed be defined as flow activities or their outcomes. Then he makes an even stronger assertion, one that took my breath away: flow, and the pursuit of flow, can give your otherwise chaotic life meaning.

I was blown away to read descriptions of what the author calls an "auto-telic" personality - people to whom their purpose in life is intrinsic to their identity/ self. These are people who have either settled on a life that affords them many flow experiences, or who actively seek out flow experiences and lead a negentropic life as a result.

This is breath-taking to me because this is the answer to the existential crisis. Not my existential crisis, however maudlin, but The Existential Crisis. The author is offering a competing worldview here in the same space as where the Buddha, most of organised religion, Neitszche, Kant, Plato and others operate. He is tackling ontological questions, universal questions, based on anecdotes and (while well researched and documented) basically life stories of fairly normal, "ordinary" people!

It was also breath-taking because I bought it. I knew I was falling for it hook, line, and sinker! I was reliving my life, reassessing my happy and sad moments in the context of flow, and of flow as a way to seek order amid chaos.

I think it will be some time before I internalize and synthesize everything I've thought up as I read this book. I like to think I'm auto-telic to a certain extent, and feel like I understand better how or why I've been as happy as I've been at certain points in my life. I'll almost certainly read this book again, but that is some time away. For now, it has proven a very thought-provoking read indeed.

Heartily recommended to anyone that likes a good bit of mental stimulation - whether you buy into it or not.

JBL Flip 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Red)
JBL Flip 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Red)
Offered by Huppins
Price: $76.99
14 used & new from $47.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing value, great sound, good battery life; only one pedantic complaint, June 6, 2014
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Absolutely love this portable pill - the fidelity is amazing, and from listening to classical music to enjoying some loud bass, it works perfectly. Battery life is as promised, and it's ridiculously easy to set up and use. I did a lot of research before buying this, and also used the original Flip a friend had, and I'm 100% satisfied on buying this. For the price ($99), it's a steal!

My one complaint (and it is a very minor one) is that the text printed on the accompanying charger is just unreadable. I need to find out if it is 110 - 220 v or only designed for American voltages, and just couldn't make out what is printed (I have 20/20 vision)

Nova Vol. 3: Secret Invasion: v. 2 (Nova (Marvel))
Nova Vol. 3: Secret Invasion: v. 2 (Nova (Marvel))
Price: $9.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Well this certainly proved a fun, breezy read!, May 30, 2014
When last we met Nova, he'd just finished helping liberate Kree space from the Phalanx/ Ultron infestation, and this volume, collecting Nova #13 - 18 has him diving headlong into yet another invasion - the Skrull 'Secret Invasion' of Earth. But first, he has to help an entire civilization escape while Galactus feeds, and has to contend with a very "Fallen" (the movie) like space serial killer!

As I said, a fun and breezy read :)

Dan Abnett continues to show his soap opera writing chops, as Nova progresses along what looks like a pretty consistently written character arc. Old friends and foes all make appearances in the two stories (although the second is unfinished and has a cliffhanger or sorts). The volume also proves, yet again, that "dead" is more a pit-stop for getting more awesome powers than a final state in the Marvel U. In terms of cool concepts, I really enjoyed the Worldmind-less issues, because they really put Nova in a corner. The art is consistent and fantastic, although some of the panels (as usual) had a bit too much going on for my taste.

This is another Cosmic Marvel story that hits close to home, as the Skrull Invasion quite understandably becomes a priority for Nova as soon as he finds out about it. I'm tempted to dip into the Earthbound 616 stories, as I was with Civil War - but I'm too engrossed in the Cosmic tales now (reading up to the release of Guardians of the Galaxy) to do that. For now.

Brilliant read, and given the name of the next volume (Nova Corps) I suppose it is not a spoiler to say I'm curious about these characters that have shown up at the end!

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