Friday, March 13, 2015

The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle #4) by Peter V. Brett - REVIEW

Goodreads synopsis can be found here.
I got to be one of the lucky ones to get an ARC for The Skull Throne, thus shortening my wait to continue the saga (if only by a few weeks).

I haven't reviewed the previous Demon Cycle books. In (not so) short... if you haven't read them, stop reading this, get in the car, drive to your local bookstore, purchase all the books (heck, get two copies and give one set to your friend who also (for some bizarre reason) hasn't read them yet), and get reading. Now. Right now.

FYI: In the US, The Painted Man = The Warded Man
Review: (fear not, no spoiler for the end of The Daylight War mentioned)

Growing up I happened to have quite the collection of Smurfs (as any child of the 80's should be able to confess to). I just loved the Smurfs and the world they inhabited. Gargamel and his insidious plans to capture the little blue guys, Smurfberries, Azrael (all bad guys need some comic relief), the clever naming scheme (good thing mom knew Brainy would be so smart). I had the toys, watched the cartoons, bought the clay kits to make your own Smurfs (though those were never the same as the store-bought ones). I was a Smurfs fan. It was all just Smurfin' Smurftastic.

The cartoon brought a lot of life to how I would play with my ever-growing collection of Smurfs. You see, there was the over-arching plot from the TV show of Gargamel and whatever nefarious deeds he deemed necessary to capture and use the magical miniatures. I would carry that ploy into my playtime, but that was just never enough for me. So, what did I do?  Well, there had to be some additional turmoil in Smurf Village as Brainy looked to remove Papa Smurf from his seat of power. There was backstabbing as the Smurfs vied for the attention of Smurfette or over control of the Smurfberry hoard. Fights and turf wars broke out. Smurfs died (I was a weird kid). But to me, having that extra story, that additional background and motivation for each of the Smurfs served to enhance the overall story of whatever Gargamel was doomed to fail at on the next week's episode.

My gut tells me Peter V. Brett (Pete? Peat?) may have had a similar childhood to mine (at least toy-wise anyway). Maybe not with Smurfs per se (maybe it was GI Joe? He-Man? Transformers? Voltron? Did that too. And brought them all together to take out the Ninja Turtles. But that's besides the point). But the belief that there needs to be more to the world than the basic plot set forth in the earlier novels is clearly evident in The Skull Throne. Hell (or maybe that should be "Night"), the role of demons in this Demon Cycle novel is significantly less prevalent than any of the other books (that's as close to a spoiler as you're going to get from me). So, while this may not be the book you were expecting (isn't life better that way anyway?), it certainly adds quite a lot of flavor to the Demon Cycle world. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll have a bunch of other typical review-mentioned emotions, you'll Smurfin' curse Pete's name (again) (I didn't really mean it Pete, but...  shakes fist).

The Skull Throne amps up the political intrigue and espionage, deep-dives into character development, and demonstrates that the decisions one makes can have lasting repercussions.

Pete takes Smurf Village, turns the mushroom kingdom on its head, dissects it, removes its organs, moves the bits around into new, bizarre formations, and puts it back together in a way that will make the end product something to behold. Book five can't come soon enough.

I give it...  the goblin ball.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

City of Stairs (City of Stairs #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett

Synopsis per Goodreads here.

When I was younger and Richard Trevithick was busy inventing the first railway steam locomotive (ok, maybe not that long ago), I was really into gum. Loved it. Violet Beauregarde had nothing on me. Juicy Fruit, Bubblicious, Bubble Yum, Fruit Stripe, Big League Chew. You name it. I chewed it all (sometimes at the same time). So, one day I am out and about and what I really want is a stick of gum. And alas, there is no gum to be found. Can you imagine it? No. Gum. Anywhere. But. What I did find was a Blowpop. Now, I don't know how you were raised, but where I come from we do not bite our lollipops. That's a big no-no. So, I took the blowpop and I played the patience game. It's like the tootsie pop commercials. How many licks does it take? If you are actually thinking about this as you try to get to the juicy gummy center, that number is infinite! It is eternal. That is not to say the lollipop is not enjoyable in and of itself. Let's face it. It's a lollipop. It's candy. It's delicious. It's just not exactly what I wanted. So. I licked. I sucked. I maybe even nibbled a little. And eventually. Gum.

With City of Stairs I ran into the same problem. I was feeling an epic fantasy kick. I needed some swords and armor and naughty language and blood and maybe a dragon or two. Or three. But I am nothing if not indecisive. I didn't know what to pick up, and City of Stairs happened to be sitting around the house (probably on the dining room table or something - books abound in the house, so long as they stay out of giant schnauzer reach). So, I picked it up and started reading. Urban Fantasy is probably the best way to describe it. Sort of. Maybe. Regardless, it wasn't exactly what I was after. But, I almost never stop reading something. I can only think of 2 books I DNF'ed (and one was primarily because it was due back to the library and I had something else I was waiting for to read). So, I licked. Sucked. The story got going. Hmmm. I maybe even nibbled a little. Sigrud. Oh, Sigrud, you amusing amusing man. Gods and monsters. Gum! In the end I found the book to be rather enjoyable despite my reluctance to pick up a non-epic fantasy. It just took me some getting into, but that was mostly due to my own gum prejudice. But this shows that a good writer can make it so you enjoy the lollipop even when all you want is the gum.

I give it... puny god.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson

Goodreads synopsis here.

Note (incase you didn't read the title): This is book two of the Reckoners series. Review for Steelheart (book one) here.

M. Night Shymalan (I know it's been a while since you read one of my reviews...  stick with me, this will make sense...  maybe). Who doesn't remember that first time they saw The Sixth Sense?  A great slow build-up of a movie.  Then BAM, Shymalan gives you a roundhouse kick to the face with a crazy plot twist (I should totally swap out that picture for Chuck Norris now...  /sigh). How long did you talk about it? How long did the "I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING!" last?  And then you bumped into that one friend or relative who didn't see it and you had to bite your tongue. We all have that person who wants to talk about it, but doesn't want to know anything. Or you're watching it again with someone who hasn't seen it yet, and you just kinda keep glancing over at them over and over again, bouncing with excitement, because you have to see their reaction! I just gotta capture the look on his face.  Man, that was fun times.  Kind of like what everyone is doing with Game of Thrones these days.  I watched for people's reactions before it was cool, but then I took a mixed metaphor to the knee.


Appropriate picture is appropriate
A few years pass and he puts out Unbreakable. Bruce Willis, but this time we get some Samuel L. Jackson. He can do no wrong. Snakes on a Plane. FANTASTIC! So. Another slow movie. Crazy twist. Signs. Slow movie. Crazy twist. The Village. Slow movie. Crazy twist. Ok. We get it. Crazy twists.  Lady in the Water. I don't think I stayed awake. The Happening. Didn't bother seeing it. The Last Airbender. Devil. After Earth. I don't think they're even mentioning his name anymore. It's become a stigma. I know what I'm getting in a Shamalamadingdong movie. Not fun anymore.

Steelheart had a total WOAH moment in it (or two). So, my hopes for Firefight was that Sanderson wouldn't use the same tricks again. When you start relying on the same tricks, you become boring. Like when you do your reviews over and over again through some long, obscure, metaphor about how you feel instead of how the book actually is, people may just skip through what you're typing...  ignore that.

There are certainly a few surprises in Firefight, but Sanderson's story isn't one long string of events that have a sole purpose of wowing you with the bright, shiny plot twist. The characters are well developed (even if some of them stay home this time). The new characters are entertaining.  The mythology around the Epics only gets more interesting. Sparks, this is just a fun series. Like early Shyguy movies.  Mmmm. Maybe not right. Like...  Die Hard (Bruce Willis was in The Sixth Sense, so that works...  I said so).

Yeah.  I give this "yippee ki yay, mot*#($&5(*@".

Ah, hell.  I'm posting one anyway.

Friday, January 16, 2015

On "what the hell have you been up to?" - An A to Z post

It's been - several - months since I've posted here. I always have these great plans about writing here, and then life finds a way to distract. So, as part recap of 2014, part what I'm looking forward to in 2015, part journal, part whatever I feel like calling it, I'm posting an A to Z list. We shall call it the What the Hell Have You Been Up To? Or WtHHYBUT? for short.

I will be the first to admit that when I heard that Arrow was going to be on CW my first thought was "teeny bopper drama, NEXT." But something (I honestly don't remember what) got me to sit through a few episodes, which turned into binge-watching seasons 1 and 2 and watching season 3 now live.  This is good stuff. They made him a little Batman-ish, but that's not so bad.

Brandon Sanderson
I try to write sometimes. And then I read Brandon Sanderson and feel a complete and utter failure. Man, this guy is good. I was behind so I read both The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance this year (as well as his YA books). Just read his books. All of them. Any of them. But particularly the Starlight Archives books.

Quiet year for the movies for me.  Seen a good number. Just nothing I feel worth talking about too much. Good movies were generally the ones you'd expect from me. The Hobbit, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America. I suppose John Wick was an unexpected surprise of a good, fun movie.

Dungeons & Dragons
Nerd card admission time. This is the first time I've ever played D&D. Just never seemed like it would be my thing. A friend in town wanted to start a new game and asked if I'd like to join and I finally just said "why not?" So. Much. Fun. And an excuse to write. I think I've written around 30 pages of backstory for my character. Dwarf Fighter incase you were wondering. And yes, my first act was to go to the bar and get a drink.

This gets two nods. 1) Cibola Burn came out (book... number...  four?). And it was one of the best of the series in my opinion. And 2) the TV show starts in 2015 on SyFy. Trailer is out now. Go look it up. Then sit and wait as impatiently as I am.

It needs to be said that way.  Got a few Ravens games on TV up here (I don't live in Baltimore). And they made it to the playoffs, only to lose to Evil Little Bill (as GRRM calls him) and the Pats. /grumble.

Game of Thrones
Continues to be on TV. I continue to watch it. And continue to wait while GRRM does everything but write the next book. I'm not buying that coffee table book. No way I'm supporting him stalling the next book even longer.  I'll think about it after Winds of Winter comes out though. I like big coffee table books.

Hunger Games
I was not a huge fan of the books. Just. Not. Thought the first one was ok. But from there, meh. Not that it was awful. Just wasn't for me. But the movie was good. And then the second movie was really good. I know the first part of the third movie (why do we keep splitting third movies into two?) is out, but I haven't seen it yet.  Looking forward to it though.

I should probably have used H to talk about The Hobbit. Oops.

Joe Abercrombie
Binge-read the First Law books. I don't know why I was so reluctant to read them. I had heard countless recommendations for him. Was already following him on Twitter. Just never felt the urge to pick up the books.  Did. Loved them. Third was my favorite, so worth sticking it out if you haven't read all of them.

Keep moving.

Lawrence, Mark
If I want to cheat and use last names for some and first names for others, I can. It's my blog. Bugger off. No, don't do that. I'm sorry.  Keep reading. (Deckard Cain voice) Stay awhile and listen. So, this was a year of Mark Lawrence. I was rather far behind with his books and read all four in 2014. Prince, King & Emperor of Thorns. Prince of Fools. All good stuff. Thorns if you like the bad guy anti-hero type. Fools if you like the humorous anti-hero type. And the next Fools book is out in 2015, so there's that to look forward to.  Pretty sure I reviewed the Thorns books on here. Not sure I did Fools. SO. FAR. BEHIND. on book reviewing.

Yeah. Insert something Marvel did here.  Awesome.  Next.

Binge watching TV shows? Check. Weird movies I'd never go to theaters to see? Check. Wasting huge chucks of time in front of the television? Why not? I watched Troll Hunter. Yeah. I don't think I can say anything else. I might be a TV addict. And it'll be worse in April with Daredevil (see M), Game of Thrones, ... ... ...

On to the next one.

Got a puppy.  Forgot how much work they are. But he's cute. And he's definitely not a Schnoodle. He's a Giant Schnauzer mix. What's he mixed with? A Standard Poodle. So, a Schnoodle? No. Be quiet you. Maybe a Giant Schnoodle. Speaking of... time to walk said pooch.

Just because.

Rothfuss, Patrick
While we wait for the third book of the Kingkiller Chronicles. And wait. And wait. And wait. *Looks at watch* Still waiting. Pat has released The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I'm not sure I need to mention this here. The book has been getting much praise. And for good reason. However, it's not for everyone. I just happen to like the playful language. Plot people shouldn't go for it.

So, I am going to take my PMP (Project Management Professional) in 2015 (goal is for June, but we will see). How not bloggy for me to talk about work stuff.  This is supposed to be my escape.  Oh well. So, once I get studying for that you'll likely get some radio silence from me (again). But the bills must be paid, so...  yeah.

Jumped on the Twitter thing. Don't use it too often. Follow / reply to people more than I post my own thoughts. Do put up some random comments or word counts or playing with the trending stuff. So, some activity. I use the Twitter under @DougCFisher. Think it might be time to remove the Szever name from this and just call it like it is.  Hi, I'm Doug. And I'm outta heeeeeere.  Maybe someone will get that.  Maybe Szever sticks around and the Doug name gets buried with this post.  We shall see.

2014. The year that U2 clogged our iDevices. Listened to it once. Yup. That's it. I think they apologized for that afterwards.

VNV Nation
A new album out for VNV. Transnational. Typical VNV album. Two or three really strong songs...  Retaliate...  Awesome. Then the rest on the slower end. Not that slow = bad. But, I just love a nice strong beat.

Very, very, very slowly. Currently at 9,100 words though and the story has barely begun, so shaping up to be something big.

Ok, so I saw the latest X-Men installment.  Meh. What I'm really looking forward to are X-Force and Deadpool. Thank you, Fox for FINALLY getting Deadpool going. Took long enough.

Yo Gabba Gabba
Kids are now 5 and 2 (almost 3). I think I've seen every episode of Yo Gabba Gabba 100 times over.  Been watching it since the older one was an infant.  Still going.

Z...  zebras? zoo? zodiac? zero... ZERO!  I got nothing for Z.

Now I know my A, B, C's...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On The Crimson Campaign (The Powder Mage Trilogy #2) by Brian McClellan - REVIEW

Synopsis for The Crimson Campaign can be found here

This is book two of the Powder Mage trilogy. Review for book one (Promise of Blood) can be found here.

When we were kids, our parents would have these ideas. They would have these ideas that they know what is good for us. They would talk to us, maybe we would listen contently, maybe we have a complete and utter melt down of catastrophic proportions. I was a member of the latter response group. I knew what I wanted. I knew what was good for me. I knew me. I wasn't about to listen to what anyone else had to said. Anything they wanted to give me would be unknown and the unknown is scary. And my response to scary was PANIC!

So, one day my parents took me out. We were walking down the lane, watching the passerby's, watching the lights and hearing the sounds. We treaded familiar ground, and I was the happy little kid smiling, running (not too far), jumping about. But, then it happened. Someone had gotten the idea that they knew what I would like. They knew me better than I knew me. And they pointed me in that direction, and the tantrum commenced - stomping, screaming, flailing. I knew what I liked, and if I didn't know it, well, I didn't like it. So, I screamed my tiny little head off. I was not about to go on the Runaway Mine Train at Six Flags Great Adventure.

Now, the runaway train is a roller coaster much like the water from my kitchen sink is a waterfall. I kicked and screamed and put up a fuss, and in the end, it was fun. I learned something about myself... I liked roller coasters (as long as they didn't go upside down). Several years later, and I became one of the older kids still too "scared" to get on a looping coaster (Psh, I'm not scared, I just know I don't like it). This time there wasn't so much kicking and screaming involved, however there were some false starts and delay of games (mixing metaphors a bit, oh well), but after some psyching myself up, I got myself on... I honestly don't remember which coaster it was. But forcing myself into something new caused me to learn a little something about myself. I love roller coasters. I was so set in my "change bad. unknown bad." ways that I might not have learned something new to like.

With Promise of Blood, I was getting myself on the runaway train; something new I hadn't tried - flintlock fantasy with a strong military setting. And I discovered that I like that. With The Crimson Campaign, I have ridden Batman or The Incredible Hulk (pictured - did they rebrand that now that Disney owns Marvel?), and I now love me some flintlock fantasy. McClellan weaves an intricate story of war, religion, and magic. The magic system - gunpowder magic - is interesting and fun as the powder mages deal with common soldiers and more traditional magic users. There is some ambiguity on who is right and wrong, good and bad. There are gods amongst men (I was afraid this wouldn't work - it works here). The pacing is incredibly fast and keeps you sucked in.

I am a little late to the game with McClellan's works. But on the bright side, book three comes out in February - so not too long a wait for me. I wasn't sure I'd be into flintlock / military fantasy. But now I know.

And knowing is half the battle.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

On Half a King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie - REVIEW

Synopsis can be found here.

I had this friend going up. A best friend. And being another male, we tended to get competitive about things. Thankfully, I suppose, we were both pretty sporty. Though during one tense game of beach volleyball, the taunts going back and forth, I think the two of us had enough. We fought. I didn't mention that he might have been twice my weight. Well, he was. And needless to say I was left with a bloody nose and he was left laughing. Laughing! I was angry. I was frustrated. I needed to do something, but what could I do? Nothing. And so it stewed. And days, weeks, months, years passed. Hockey became the sport du jour. And during an early afternoon roller hockey pick up game, the score never teetering overly far in one direction or the other, sweat dripping, swears and insults flying, I brought the ball up the middle, faked a direction, he bit, I pulled the other way, but he was too far. He reached. And reached. And split his pants down the middle, rear end exposed to the world. Embarrassment. Ah, sweet revenge.

Who doesn't love a good revenge story?

That's not really a good sell of this novel.

Half a King is a revenge story. And I love a good revenge story (I must have said that four or five times already on this blog). But it's more than my petty little revenge of embarrassment for embarrassment (but come on, his pants split! That's comedy gold right there). It is a coming of age story. It is the story about the broken and damaged individuals no one gives a second glance to or expects anything from. It is a story of political intrigue and family drama. It is a story of survival against a known foe, an unknown foe, the elements. It has twists that are both expected and unexpected. It's a fun read and is rather short in terms of fantasy (it's technically YA... I think. Not that there's anything wrong with that). So really, why not give it a try?

The characters in the story are interesting.

You know...  I think I'm just going to stop.

There's little I can say to sell this more than the publisher already put out there. Abercrombie has been blurbed for this novel by George RR Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Brent Weeks, Robin Hobb, etc. etc. etc. (the fantasy elite). I mean, this is the Justice League of fantasy fiction, in which Abercrombie himself has a seat at the table (Martian Manhunter, maybe?). They say you should read this book. And I don't disagree.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

On Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage Trilogy #1) by Brian McClellan - REVIEW

Synopsis can be found here.

I was hungry one afternoon, as I am almost always hungry, and decided to go out for lunch. After considering the many options, I went with my local Panera. It was crowded, which is not uncommon, and I stared blankly at the menu determining which of the two or three things I eat at Panera I should get that day. When it was my turn, I ordered the 1/2 a Smokehouse Turkey Panini with a 1/2 of a Baked Potato Soup (more or less my usual order). The woman behind the counter took my order and asked "would you like a free cookie with that?" I had to pause and think about this, not because I wasn't sure if I'd want the free cookie, but to consider why she would even need to ask? Am I really going to say "no, I don't want a free cookie. And I also don't like kittens, rainbows and Christopher Walken." I got my free cookie.

With Promise of Blood, Brian McClellan wrote a swords and sorcery Fantasy novel, but gave us a free cookie - gun magic. Yes, I want some free gun magic with my usual.

This is a really strong start to a trilogy that has nonstop action - none of this characters stopping to wax poetic for 50 pages - as the world deals with the overthrow of a king, creepy prophecy, and imminent war. It only took a few pages of Promise of Blood for me to add books two and three to my to read list.

I give it...  "not my gumdrop buttons!"