The Count of Monte Cristo (No Spoilers)

 

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This week’s book is The count of Monte Cristo. This might by my favourite book of all time. One of those rare stories that is stunning in its scope and execution, almost to perfection. It is a classic for a very good reason.

The book is a powerhouse of plot. It is the quintessential revenge story. It has spawned countless others, though few can hold a candle to the original. Like all good revenge tales, the Count is justified in his actions. More than justified really. No one could see what was done to him and think that they would have not done the same, or worse.

The book is a web of plots and intrigues but the reader never gets too lost in them to follow what is happening. And when the reveals happen they are breathtaking. The novel is at times very challenging but the engagement than Dumas manages to attain, keeps the reader hooked at all times.

The Count as a character has an ocean of depth. We get to see him changed from a hopeful young man to the formidable Count that he becomes. Dumas only allows you to catch glimpses of what is going on inside of his head, just enough to smell what it is that he’s cooking. Extremely complicated and nuanced, at times a walking talking contradiction. He is driven by hate, love, compassion, and vengeance all at once. In his essence, he is a man consumed.

I don’t want to get too deep into the nuts and bolts as to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it. Even though it came out in 1845! Though this is very interesting as is it gives a very authentic snapshot into the time.

Overall the book is amazing. Cover to cover it reads quickly and will blow your mind as it does mind every time I pick it up. I cannot recommend this book enough. The Count of Monte Cristo is a must read for anyone who loves plot, engaging characters, and enough intrigue to drown in.

 

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Prince of Thorns Review (No Spoilers)

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This week’s book is Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. This was a reread for me. Mark Lawrence is one of my favourite authors, and this was the book that hooked me on his writing. I remember hearing all the hype about PoT and being blown away when I finally got my hands on a copy.

Fantasy, and largely all fiction, is about making something that has already been done seem new and fresh. Broken Empire trilogy does this marvellously. It takes place is a Post apocalypse fantasy world. In this world there are numerous warring empires vying for the one throne. This is nothing new, and yet Lawrence pulls both off extremely well.

Yet Jorg as a character is where i fell in love with the book. Simply put he’s a jerk. He’s violent, kills and maims without remorse. Yet you find yourself rooting for him. The reader makes excuses for his actions and doesn’t hold him up to the same standard as other protagonists. He’s not a hero. but he’s my hero.

He’s like a forest fire that burns away deadwood. You wouldn’t want to come in contact with it but it’s good for the world in the long run.

Lawrence’s prose is very solid, engaging and at many times poetic. The book is a quick read, especially by fantasy standards, around 300 pages. The plot races ahead, easy to follow and extremely engaging.

I would recommend it to anyone that likes dark fantasy. There is a large amount of violence and other disturbing content, which may put some people off but if you can get through that then you are in for a seriously good read.

You can follow me on twitter at  JamesBee

Interesting Times Review (No Spoilers)

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This week’s novel is Terry Pratchett’s Interesting Times. Lately, I’ve been on a run of books that I didn’t particularly enjoy, so I went back to the Pratchett section on my to be read shelf. Interesting Times was great. Theres not much else I can say about it than that. That could be my whole critique and it would pretty much sum up my feelings.

The plot was engaging and easier to follow than some other disc world ones have been in the past. Pratchett tends to be ruthless in his parodying of cultures and civilizations and this book is no different. It takes place on the counterweight continent, the disc world analog for Asia. It’s full of funny little critiques and commentaries on their past ways of life.Throw the worst wizard on the and a band of the oldest barbarians on the disc world there and you have yourself a good time.

The jokes were plentiful and funny. The story zipped along quite quickly. There were also many moments to genuine emotion, that made me feel feels that I wasn’t ready for.

Honestly, there isn’t much I can say about this book that I haven’t already said in previous disc world novels. Interesting times is a very fine example of what makes people love Terry Pratchett’s work. This book is very much a standalone, though it does have call-backs to previous works. In fact, it would be a great introduction to someone looking to get into Pratchett.

 

The Last Wish Review (No Spoilers)

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This week’s book is The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski. This is the that introduces Geralt, the Witcher. The very popular Witcher video games are based off of these novels. I’ve played these games and really enjoyed them. Thus I was extremely excited to dive into this novel and delve further into the world.

Unfortunately I just couldn’t manage to like this novel. I suspect that many of it’s charms were lost in translation. This novel was translated from Polish to English. To my knowledge, I’ve never read a Polish novel before so perhaps my issues are a result of cultural difference. Certainly these books are very popular.

First off, I found the dialogue to be awkward and limited. It felt more like characters from a video game speaking at each other than true conversation. The plot line’s were also all over the place, with the Geralt flitting from place to place with no through line that really grabbed my attention. This combined with repeated clear info dumps constantly made reading a bit of a chore for me.

There were good aspects of course. The world building was extensive and interesting. Much of it I already was interested in, having already explored it in the video games. The character building was good, if not very straightforward. Certainly reading about Geralt dealing with the various monsters and such was the highlight of the novel.

Overall, I just couldn’t get into the story and hardly even bothered to finish. I can’t say that I would recommend it to anyone, even someone who is a fan of the games.

Blood Song Review (No Spoilers)

 

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Today’s novel is Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. Blood Song is epic fantasy, the first instalment of the Raven’s Shadow Trilogy. Sadly, this book was one that I really wanted to like but found myself struggling with throughout. Ultimately I finished and found that I was done, that I had no desire to seek out the rest of the series.

The main factor that put me off was how much was happening. The sheer amount of different plot lines that were weaved and introduced, some at very advanced stages of the novel, left me somewhat lost or apathetic. There was so many little things happening but I felt that the overall plot lacked.

The pacing was also problematic for me. The novel is often painstakingly slow at parts, describing days at a time, but then jumps in time. By the end, whole months of the final conflict are flying by.

This brought me to my final gripe, is that I found the ending to be extremely unsatisfying. I won’t get into spoilers but i found that all of the build up and tension came to very little. The characters, which were very interesting and well brought up. Weren’t given much to do by the end. Ultimately, Ryan did not deliver on a premise that is built up throughout the story. For a novel that is over 600 pages, this was disappointing.

However, that is not to say that it was all bad. As I mentioned, the characters are very good. The world is well developed and full. The writing itself is read able. Likely many people would, and do, really enjoy this novel. It’s just not for me. For people who enjoy dense novels, who like to reared or are looking for another epic fantasy series to get lost in. Blood Song would certainly be for you. 

You can follow me on Twitter at James Bee

The Fifth Elephant (No Spoilers)

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This week’s novel is the The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett. This is a Sam Vimes story. Vimesis one of my favourite characters from the Discworld and I’m always excited to read one of his books. This novel stands apart from the other’s because it takes Sam Vimes outside of Ankh-Morpork.

This is intriguing, because Vimes is Ankh-Morpork. The city is the core of his being. He’s comfortable in it, nearly unstoppable. He’s spent his whole life within it’s walls and he knows the streets like the soles of his feet. It’s always interesting to see a character taken out of their depth and put into an unfamiliar and unfriendly environment. That Vimes has to travel to a place that is as alien as the moon to him only makes things more interesting.

The novel is takes place largely in Uberwald where dwarves, vampires, werewolves and Igor’s all live together in uneasy harmony. Pratchett uses this to make some interesting points on race relations and traditions. Drawing parallels between the Discworld and our own is not difficult, and is relevant even to this day.  As usual, he hides his rather vicious deconstruction of society behind comedy.

The plot is intricate and engaging, with a number of clues and mysteries to solve. All the characters you would hope show up show up and grow and evolve. The novel hums along nicely with each chapter pushing the towards to the conclusion.

Overall the Fifth Elephant had all of the elements that lend the Discworld novels it’s charms without having some of the pitfalls that sometimes show up. The novel was well plotted, charming, and in many parts, hilarious. I would fully recommend this novel to any fantasy lover, even someone who hasn’t read much or any of Terry Pratchett’s novels before.

You can follow my writing adventures on Twitter At JamesBee

Stuff Matters Review

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Today’s book was Stuff Matters by Mark Midownik. This one was different that what I normally read. t’s a book about everyday materials and their stories of how they came to be and how they have evolved. materials such as paper, concrete, chocolate amongst others are explored.

Midownik masterfully blends history with science. It takes a special writer to keep me as engaged as he managed to. He skillfully keeps the reader interested mainly through the strength and colourfulness of his anecdotes. In today’s world effective science communicators are worth their weight in gold

While most of the information entered one ear and left through the other some stuck which is all I can ask for. The biggest take away was a different way of looking at the world around me. Everything has a story and can be interesting, if looked at the right way.

Not too much more to say about the book, other than it was interesting read. If you enjoy science then you should pick it up! If not you should still give it a go, you might find it interesting!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (No Spoilers)

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This week’s book was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. It’s celebrating it’s twentieth anniversary so now is as good as a time as ever. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this books and series in my life. This book sits alongside Fellowship of the Ring, as the novels that nurtured my love of reading. Like so many other people this book pulled me in and didn’t let me go for years.

I read and reread the books so many times when i was growing up. I wanted badly to go to Hogwarts, to live in J.K Rowling’s world. As such, it’s impossible for me to take off my nostalgia glasses and properly review this book.

I hadn’t read it in years and yet the magic inside was just as I remembered. The book is extremely charming and witty. It pulls you into the deep world, telling you just enough to give you little glimpses of it.

The characters feel real and you immediately root for them. Coming back and seeing how Harry, Ron, and Hermione all become friends was great. I always love the moments where great friendships are born and this is one of my favourites.

Pacing is a real strength of this novel, the plot speeds along at breakneck speed. At their core Harry Potter books are mysteries and this one is no different. Rowling leads the readers to ask certain questions and provides clues to keep them guessing.

I know people have issues with the series but I feel that they come along in later books when the plot becomes more complicated and the magic more involved.

Overall the Philosophers Stone is a great read, easy and addicting. If you haven’t read it yet I can’t recommend it enough. The magic that resides within it’s pages is too good to not be experienced.

You can follow my reading and writing adventures on Twitter at James Bee  

 

 

The Warded Man Review (No Spoilers)

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The Warded Man by Peter V Brett is this week’s novel. Well, It finally happened, I ran into a book that I didn’t like enough to finish. I almost always finish every book I start. Even if I dislike it initially, the though that it might get good drives me on. I made it 250 pages into this novel before I gave up.

Honestly, I’m unsure exactly what i didn’t like about. The setting was interesting, demons rising each night, humanity struggling to survive their relentless attacks. The magic was cool enough.

Yet I couldn’t get into it. More than that, I found myself annoyed, struggling to turn each page. I feel like two things mainly contributed to this. One was the age of the protagonists. I find it’s hit or miss with children protagonists for me. If they’re too smart, too perfect i find it hard to believe. Something about these children did that for me, though I can’t exactly say what it was. I just found them off putting.

The writing style, mainly dialogue also put me off of this book. Like the characters this is a personal grievance, it wasn’t bad by any means.  It just didn’t jive with me. It felt very on the nose, leaving nothing up to the reader to figure out.

It should be said that this is a highly regarded series, many people like it. It has a 4.27 rating on GoodReads and has a multitude of gushing reviews behind it. It just wasn’t the book for me, though I could see why many people would like it.

This reminded me of the Wheel of Time books, which I also couldn’t get into. Though if i’d found them when I was younger i’m sure I would have. It’s very likely that the Warded Man is similar. The book may have just come to me at the wrong time. Still, if you like horror fantasy you should give it a look. My opinion certainly seems to be in the minority.

You can follow my writing adventures on twitter at James Bee

 

 

The Price of Valor Review (Spoiler Free)

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This week’s book is The Price of Valor by Django Wexler. It’s the third instalment of his Shadow Campaigns series. This novel picks up the story where the second left off. In fact, I found that this one is even stronger that the second novel. The few complaints I did have were largely fixed.

The conflict in this novel comes from both outside and within. Both in terms of the characters struggles and the overarching conflicts. Moreso in this novel than the others I felt the fingerprint of history. I would hazard that Wexler took lessons learned from revolutions and social uprisings and brought them to bear. Certainly this novel echoes the French Revolution’s bloodthirstyness.

Overall the stakes are raised nicely, forcing the characters to develop and grow. My one grip with this book is a certain love situation grows repetitive and frustrating, though that very well may have been the goal.

The star of this series for me has been the battle scenes and this novel is no exception. The action is fast and vivid, both large scale set pieces and more intimate personal conflicts. Though I’ve found that the characters started to feel invincible. With so much combat this kind of plot armour can be problematic.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It carried and advanced the story ahead and made me really hungry for the next one. I would fully recommend this series to anyone who likes military fantasy, as this is one the greatest examples of it that I’ve read recently.