Posts Tagged ‘Reading’

h1

Read Lately: SWTOR: Annihilation

January 4, 2013

SWTOR AnnihilationI have to say Annihilation is probably one of the better Star Wars books by Drew Karpyshyn, which is quite a relief after the train wreck that I thought was Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan. It’s amazing what a good writer he can be when he’s not being rushed. Now that he is no longer at BioWare, I’m glad he left us with this before moving on to his future endeavors.

For a while we’ve known that Satele Shan, the Grand Master of the Jedi Order during this time in the Old Republic, has a “secret son.” We met Theron Shan when he first appeared in The Lost Suns comic. Now he stars in his own novel, which further explores his activities as an undercover agent and operative for the Republic, but the book also reveals a lot more about his parents’ history and his own mysterious past.

I could tell Karpyshyn had a lot of fun writing Theron’s story. It is my experience that characters in books based on movies/TV shows/video games, etc. very often read like caricatures and hardly ever feel like real people. However, I thought Theron had a clear personality right away, and even found myself taken in by his confidence and dry wit. I also enjoyed acquainting myself the supporting characters like Teff’ith the Twi’lek, whose weak grasp of Galactic Basic was a nice humorous touch, as well as finding out more about Master Gnost-Dural, whom fans of SWTOR will no doubt recognize as the keeper of the Jedi archives.

The story is pretty much your run-of-the-mill fare, but very entertaining nonetheless. There were of course the obligatory space combat and lightsaber battle scenes, but I was surprised at how well done they were. Drew Karpyshyn is extremely adept at writing good action, but I was even more surprised to see how skillfully he tackled some of the emotional issues in this book without making them sound overly contrived or sappy. Like I said, he can be very good when given enough time to develop his characters.

One last thing I should note: I listened to the audiobook of this, courtesy of my library’s digital collection. Though I’m confident to claim Annihilation as a solid entry to the world of Star Wars novels, in the interest of full disclosure I must also mention the possibility that the quality of the audio version may have influenced my opinion. For one thing, it was my first experience with a Star Wars audiobook, so I’ve only just discovered the talent of Marc Thompson, who is probably one of the best audiobook narrators I’ve ever come across. His voices are simply phenomenal, and together with the sound effects and music I was just blown away.

h1

My Top 5 Gaming Highlights Of 2012

January 1, 2013

Happy New Year! Here’s my first post of 2013, whose title I confess should really be “My Top 5 Gaming Highlights of 2012…And Then Some” because while 2012 was indeed a great year for games and gamers, admittedly I found myself struggling to come up with pure gaming-related entries for this list. It’s not that I haven’t been impressed with the industry’s offerings this year so much as I find myself with less gaming experiences to draw from, because the truth is I played less games these past twelve months than I have in recent years. Time has been so tight, there are so many games on my to-play list that I never even got a chance to go out and buy, let alone play. I can’t say that I’ve ever been so behind before.

Then again, so much has also changed in my life in 2012! Let’s take a look back at the memories:

5. Pet Battles and the Return of the Dynamic Duo

Pandaren

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria released on September 25th. I won’t go as far as to say it’s my favorite expansion so far, though I’m aware it is for many. Nevertheless, I’m still playing it more than three months later, which is already more than what I could say for its predecessor Cataclysm.

I will say that the new expansion has provided me more reasons to stick around, even after hitting the new level cap. For one, the companion pet battling and collecting system has me hooked — 431 pets to my name so far, and I’m still hunting, always hunting. Also, the mister and I have both taken a break from the endgame grind to work on a couple of Pandaren Monks. More than anything, I love playing MMOs with my husband. Leveling characters has always been our special way to bond, and nothing brings us closer than facerolling our enemies together with our Spinning Crane Kicks.

4. 122 Books

stats

I’ve always been one to go looking for challenges, which I have to say sometimes leads me to give myself some pretty random dumb goals.

As with most random dumb goals, I didn’t really have a reason for it, but a few years ago I just decided one day that I wanted to read 100 novels in a year.  I attempted several times, coming so close in 2011 at 83 books, and being pathetic I went and retroactively lowered my Goodreads challenge that year to 80 just so I could get the achievement badge. Well, no need to fudge the numbers for 2012; I kicked the challenge’s ass with a total of 122 novels and so you can even say I read enough to make up for last year.

Interestingly, the more I read the lower my average rating for books seem to get. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting more critical, or that more books under my belt just simply equals more mediocre ratings.

3. Mercy Gaming

Mercy Gaming

2012 was a rather turbulent year for Star Wars: The Old Republic to say the least, and neither has it really been smooth sailing for a lot of us who kept our subscriptions going until free-to-play. I think the most gut-wrenching part of it all the worrying I did about whether my Republic and Empire guilds will fall apart. After all, I got to meet and play with an amazing group of players, and I’ll always have SWTOR to thank for that.

I needn’t have stressed myself. The Republic Mercy Corps and Imperial Mercenary Corps may be shadows of what they once were in the game, but many of our members have kept in touch. Rebranded Mercy Gaming, the guild lives on, becoming a multi-gaming community that continues to adventure together in games like Guild Wars 2, Borderlands 2, The Secret World, Minecraft, World of Warcraft, PlanetSide 2, and many many more. It’s always a party with these folks, who have all become my very good friends.

2. The Secret World

TSW

Never have I ever played an MMO like TSW. The only other game that even came close to capturing my heart and blowing my mind this year was of course Guild Wars 2, but even that gets edged out, albeit just barely. For one thing, while my playtime in GW2 has tapered off until I can find more time in my schedule, I am still playing TSW regularly each week because I just can’t seem to get enough of this game! I suppose it does have a certain je ne sais quoi that made it stand out to me above the rest, and it’s not just the unique genre or playstyle.

For one, I like that it came out of nowhere and surprised me (in a good way). In fact, months after its release it’s still regularly doing that. While it’s far from perfect and definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, it does sometimes feel like with every issue update and TSW Monday, I fall hopelessly in love with this game all over again.

1. “Baby Mogsy”

MMOGC Jr

Welcoming our first child in February 2012 definitely made me and my husband a lot busier. While taking care of a baby has left me not as free to do a lot of my hobbies anymore, I’m loving motherhood and I cherish every single moment I spend with my little girl, even though she’s probably the biggest reason why my time spent gaming has dropped so dramatically in 2012! But you know what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Even from the moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew I’d gladly give up anything for her.

Our daughter has changed our lives, bringing us such joy and making us feel blessed each and every day. At 10 months old now, every moment with her is like an adventure. She is just full of surprises, and I don’t want to miss a single one!

h1

Read Lately: A Bit Of Everything…

December 21, 2012

Looking for something to read this holiday season? Here are some of the better books (3 stars and up) I’ve read since September, the last time I wrote one of these posts. 2012 has been a great year for reading, that’s for sure. As always, feel free to give me a holler over on Goodreads if you have a profile; I love talking books with fellow avid readers. These days I’m mostly reading fantasy and sci-fi, but in general I’m always up for trying anything.

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Daemon This was an interesting gem, reminiscent of Michael Crichton with a unique action/thriller take on the world of MMORPGs and video gaming. A caveat, though — this duology (its sequel is Freedom(TM)) is pretty dark, violent and depressing, and hardly paints the most positive or flattering picture of gamers. But can you really expect otherwise from a story about a legendary game developer gone psychotic from a fatal illness, triggering a virus with his online obituary that sets off a chain of murderous events threatening the world’s economy and society? A fun read, nonetheless, if you don’t take it too seriously. That goes especially for folks with extensive knowledge of programming and computer network systems, I suspect.

King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

King of ThornsIf you enjoyed the first book Prince of Thorns (which I highly recommend too, by the way) then you pretty much have to read this follow-up. The thing with this series is, if you’re familiar with fantasy, then many of the story elements and tropes will feel familiar…except just add a generous dollop of twisted and messed up.

Also, the main character is bit of an asshole. He’s older now, but that hasn’t really changed from the first book! But if you’re okay with that and are in general into the “dark and gritty” fantasy sub genre, then this is a great offering.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

casual vacancyYeah, J.K. Rowling, as in the author of the Harry Potter books. Though I have to say there’s nothing fantasy or child-friendly about this, so it’s probably not a surprise that most of the disappointed reviews I’ve seen so far seem to be from readers comparing it to HP. In fact, I would probably stay far, far away if you’re expecting the same kind of magic, either literally or figuratively, because you won’t find it here.

Casual Vacancy is a contemporary drama, and Rowling’s first novel for adults — and it’s as “adult” as you can get. But one thing that hasn’t changed is her propensity and talent for writing incredible characters. If you think you can tolerate the thought of the author of one of your favorite childhood series writing about sex, drugs, violence, racism, abuse, poverty and all other manner of depressing stuff, then I’d say go ahead and check this out. I’m glad I did, after all. I was so hooked by this book.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

snow crashAn oldie but a goodie, as they say, and I know damn well I’m about twenty years late to this party. Still, despite enjoying the hell out of this book, at times it was difficult for me to become fully immersed and it wasn’t until I finished it that it occurred to me — perhaps cyberpunk just isn’t my thing. It’s unfortunate to say the least, though I’m glad I finally got to read what is considered by most to be Stephenson’s greatest classic. I wish I had a little more interest in some of the philosophies and concepts in this book, but on the whole I can recognize and appreciate their merits. Worth reading for the experience alone.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

throne of the crescent moonMmm, good old delicious “Sword and Sorcery”, with a touch of Arabian Nights. Admittedly, this causes the plot line and all the characters to start to feel formulaic after a while, but the unique setting of the book went a long way in making up for this.

I also enjoyed the writing, though the formal and almost lyrical style of it had the unwanted effect of making the storytelling feel “flat” and seemingly uninspired at times. Regardless, I’m still impressed. Great fantasy debut from a new author.

Hard Magic by Larry Correia

hard magicThis book was fun. There’s really no other good way to put it. Granted, it may take a while for readers to get drawn in, but that’s because so much of the beginning was devoted to world building and character development. Still, patience pays off. This first book of the Grimnoir Chronicles takes place in probably one of the most awesome and unique fantasy worlds I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across in speculative fiction.

This story, about a secret magical society tasked to protect people, has a bit of everything — hard-boiled noir, alternate history, steampunk, science fiction, and urban fantasy. There’s magic and superpowers and sky pirates and gangsters and zeppelins and, oh hell, like I said, this book was fun.

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

cold daysLet’s face is, there are no bad Dresden Files books, just some that are better than others. Personally, I wouldn’t say Cold Days is one of the best, but it was still very good. If you like wizards and magic and action, then this series is definitely for you. At least in this latest installment, there’s so much of all that it’ll make your head spin. That said, I think there was a missed opportunity here for more meaningful and emotional moments.

Unfortunately, at this point, none of the Dresden books are standalone anymore, if they ever were. Part of me really misses Harry’s humble detective roots, when things in his life were less crazy and complicated (well, relatively) and didn’t involve as many end-of-the-world scenarios. Still, I loved the ending to this, and I’m looking forward to the next book more than ever.

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

red countryProbably the best book I’ve read all year. Too bad it came out so late in 2012, because in my view Red Country deserves way more attention and accolades than it has gotten so far. If you’re already a fan of Joe Abercrombie and haven’t read this yet, all I have to say is, do not wait. Especially if you enjoyed his First Law trilogy and especially if you love his characters and especially if you’re a fan of westerns.

Those familiar with the John Wayne Western film “The Searchers” will probably recognize the story immediately — our main character Shy South sets off on a journey with her adoptive father to find her little brother and sister who have been abducted by bandits. But Joe A adds his own brand of writing to the main conflict, his own dark style of gritty fantasy. Seems like I’ve been recommending a lot of dark fantasy lately, and maybe one day I’ll get back to reading more of the cheerier stuff, but still! I just loved this one — with all its shocks, twists, battles, humor, dialogue and characters — so, SO much.

h1

The Faults Of Theramore

September 20, 2012

I’ll admit it; before this week, I knew very little about the new World of Warcraft scenarios that will be introduced with the Mists of Pandaria expansion. All right, so I don’t deny that I’ve had my head way too far up in the pet battle system to give any other upcoming feature much thought…

This changed Monday when the game went live with Theramore’s Fall, and I discovered that “instanced three-person group quest” pretty much describes scenarios in a nutshell, and no particular need for tanks or healers. The only difference is, objectives are given to you in stages, so you’ll have to complete them in order to move the story forward.

Yes, you heard that right. Story. My excitement level rose when I learned this, mindful of the rich and colorful lore behind the Warcraft franchise and pondering the many ways Blizzard can now use this new mode of story-telling to their advantage.

But days later, it appears that the Fall of Theramore scenario has been showered with rather unanimously tepid reviews. Personally, I was tempted to agree, even though the joy of being back to playing with my old WoW guild pretty much trumped every complaint I had — the fact that it was too short, not very inventive, and just in general lacked the oomph I would have expected from an expansion pre-launch event.

Still, because I’ve read Tides of War, the WoW novel that provides all the details behind this event, I didn’t notice anything amiss about the story until I saw Green Armadillo’s post, and then I realized that he’s absolutely right — if you haven’t read the book, you’ll have absolutely no bloody clue what it’s all about. So a mana bomb hits Theramore, a bunch of ships are burning, and Jaina Proudmoore’s hair is now white and she’s being scary. Okay. Since I’m Alliance, I only did that faction’s version of the scenario, but I looked up some videos of the Horde side, and things look even more confusing over there if you don’t know what’s going on.

Actually, now that I’ve taken some time to think further about it, even I’m slightly peeved at how everything in the book was hastily boiled down to a short cutscene and a couple lines of dialogue. Selling us short with explosions and cheap destruction is what this is, as so much of what made this a poignant, momentous event for Azeroth was completely left out. This isn’t fluff I’m talking about either; this is the actual whys-and-hows behind what’s happening, which you’d think would be relevant to the understanding of the story.

Also, call me crazy, but while a tie-in novel should give players more background and context into the story, I don’t think the most important and exciting scenes should be locked and hidden away behind its covers. Not to mention how people, you know, tend to get irritated when they have to shell out more money for pertinent additional story to a game they’re already paying monthly to play. (And I say this even as someone who reads a lot of game books, and enjoy doing so a lot.)

A longer instance with more explanation and detail seems to be what most players wanted out of the scenario, so if being story-driven was their goal, it’s clear that the opportunity and potential was squandered with this one. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure Blizzard is well aware they missed the mark with FoT, and hopefully future scenarios (at least ones that don’t have anything to do with limited-time events) won’t be so cut-and-dry. WoW has plenty of material to work with and now they have real way to deliver context with content; they just need to beef up the execution especially since a good story component has recently become something many gamers expect from their MMOs.

And finally, not that I’m frustrated about my bad luck of not getting anything else in my reward bags or anything, but…fireworks? Considering Theramore was just wiped off the map, a little harsh, no? Well, pretty, at least!

h1

Read Lately: Jaina Proudmoore – Tides Of War

September 17, 2012

While I may play World of Warcraft off and on, one constant is my interest in the lore behind the game, an interest that extends to pretty much all MMOs I play, in fact. I’m always devouring every piece of lore and background information I can find, even if that means putting up with some not-so-well-written novels every once in a while. I’ve long discovered that looking for quality writing in most video game tie-in books is a lost cause.

Admittedly, I didn’t think Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War was going to pose much of problem on that front, because I’m generally well-disposed towards author Christie Golden’s works. The book’s eponymous heroine is also a major WoW character that I’ve always liked and followed with interest.

Indeed, if you’ve kept track with WoW lore and characters as closely as I have in recent years, I think some of the events in ToW will impact you in more profound ways than if you hadn’t. The story reaches back in time to touch upon several important points in Jaina Proudmoore’s history, just as it looks to the future and hints at upcoming changes in the expansion Mists of Pandaria. It lays the groundwork in explaining how the Alliance and Horde will end up discovering the new continent, and why the two factions will be battling when they do.

Unless indicated (and it’s mostly just the end of this post), I’m going to be keeping this book review relatively spoiler-free, though I suspect the majority of WoW players are already aware of much of the novel’s background. As we all know, Garrosh Hellscream is now the leader of the Orcs and the Warchief of the Horde, and he has decidedly chosen to walk a much darker path than his predecessor Thrall. The much talked-about complete and utter destruction of Theramore is his responsibility, as are many other terrible actions in this novel, so you’ll probably despise him. Still, not everyone in the Horde shares his views, and this has resulted in a clear split within the faction. Somehow, I have a feeling that this dissension in the ranks will play an important part in a future story line.

In any case, I’m aware that Blizzard has a history of altering their characters with every new expansion, but that’s not always a good thing. Female characters (e.g. Tyrande Whisperwind, Sylvanas Windrunner) especially always seem to receive the short end of the stick in this regard, so I was initially worried that they were going to change Jaina in the same way.

The new Jaina.

My concerns were unfounded. Yes, Jaina is changed, but in my opinion, for the better! I mean, she witnessed her entire city being destroyed and all of her closest friends brutally murdered; I would have been angrier and more frustrated if she’d remained the vapid and naive pacifist sitting up in her little tower sipping tea and twiddling her thumbs while waiting for the day Alliance and Horde will lay down their arms and sing Kumbaya around a campfire. Instead, she has finally taken a stand. She’s still the strong and independent woman she was before, but now with an edge.

In truth, it was actually Jaina’s reaction to the aftermath that saved this book for me. As much as I like Christie Golden, I admit her writing style can be hit or miss; sometimes she’s so over the top with her WoW novels that the prose can be so contrived to the point of being borderline insulting. ToW was like this. In my heart, I’d almost given up on the book until I reached the story’s climax. After that, I just couldn’t stop reading.

Like I said, it wasn’t the writing, nor was it really the story’s events because much of it was already public knowledge. In fact, the best part of the book was the description of Jaina’s emotions — the grief, the suffering, the guilt and the rage — all of which were very raw and believable. Though her desire for revenge was frightening and terrible, I couldn’t help but sympathize and a part of me actually rooted for her to go through with her desperate need for vengeance. I even found myself liking Jaina more when she was ruthless and cold, because that’s when I felt a real personality starting to come through. It made her more real, which also makes her more likeable (at least in my eyes).

Jaina also seems to have finally gotten over pining for Arthas. Speaking of which, there is a small aspect of romance in ToW, though I felt it sometimes got in the way of the story (like standing in the middle of the ruins of Theramore is where you choose to share your first kiss? Come on!) Regardless, I’m hoping that she’s finally found someone worthy of her, because we all know poor Jaina’s had pretty bad luck in the past when it comes to boyfriends.

In sum, writing-wise Christie Golden has delivered much better, but if you can put up with the mediocre writing that’s almost “fan-fic-y” in its hokeyness, I recommend this for fans of WoW especially if you plan on heading into MoP. I’m sure you can always get the whole story by looking up some two-line summary on some wiki page, but the canvas of emotions and feelings that you get from this novel is what makes it worth reading.

Scenarios (“short, instanced adventures for three players that directly follow the stories and events in the open world”) are also going to be a new feature in the expansion, and I’m personally looking forward to experiencing the Fall of Theramore scenario that will be available in-game starting today. I’m not sure what to expect, but after reading ToW, at least lore-wise I’m prepared.

Warning: Spoiler territory ahead
I leave some final random thoughts here because of spoilers, and also because I just don’t think I can wrap up a discussion about this book without admitting how upset I felt over Rhonin’s death; I was surprised that it affected me even more than Theramore being wiped off the map. I’ve never particularly liked the way his character was written by Richard A. Knaak, but at the same time he was always much more than just “that leader of Dalaran guy standing in the Violet Citadel.” He was a father and a husband, which makes me sad now, wondering would happen to his wife Vereesa Windrunner (and god knows that family has seen its fair share of heartbreaks) and their half-elven twin sons.
h1

Read Lately…

September 4, 2012

Instead of “Read Lately…” the title of this post should more accurately called “Read In The Last 15 Months” because it appears it has been that long since I last wrote a book post. It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized how long it has been, when some of my guildies and I started chatting about books over vent while playing Guild Wars 2. That’s right, conversations here at Knights of Mercy do occasionally revolve around intellectual topics. What? They do! Stop laughing!

No matter how busy I am with gaming, I always find time to read and I am never without at least one book in my currently-reading list. Since I didn’t quite make it last year, I’m still trying for my Goodreads Reading Challenge of reading 100 novels this year (currently up to 77 now, in case you’re wondering). By the way, if you’re an avid reader and still haven’t joined Goodreads, what are you waiting for? I practically live on there.

Needless to say, I’ve read a ton of great books in the last year or so, and I had a hard time picking only a handful to talk about for this post; that will teach me not to wait so long again. But since I love sci-fi and fantasy, those are the genres I mostly stuck with. The following is just a small sample of the books that have resonated with me, or have been memorable in one way or another, and that I would recommend.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Like the legions of people who have picked up this book lately, I was first intrigued by the trailer for the upcoming film based on it. Now that I’ve read it, I’m more curious than ever. It’s not particularly an ideal book to make an adaptation. It’s like six separate stories all nested within each other like a Russian matryoshka doll, its characters only having a tenuous link to each other. Like six novellas, the first five split in half, interrupted right in the middle, only to be continued after the sixth story is told to completion. Does this even make sense? Every time I try to explain it, I’m given arched eyebrows and the nod-and-smile-at-crazy-MMOGC expressions. You can see why I am curious how this will fly as a movie.

The stories are set in different times, different places, each has its own themes and even its own written style. As such, I don’t even really know how to classify this book — it is science fiction, it is fantasy; it is also historical fiction, and it is mystery. It also has a dash of romance and a bit of thriller. David Mitchell has done something amazing, giving each of his six protagonists a distinct voice and personality. The book is thematically quite heavy, with lots to think about during and after reading, but ultimately also very enjoyable to read.

Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

On the opposite of the spectrum, you have Monster Hunter International, which is what I like to call a “guilty pleasure book” or “popcorn book” because it’s so full of mindless fun. It’s full of cheese and cliches, but I would also recommend this series to fans of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, especially if you’re looking for a lighter, happier read because of how sort of dark and heavy Dresden has gotten lately. On the other hand, MHI is a bit goofier, but possesses the same kind of humor and action one would desire.

For example, the book begins with the following two sentences: “On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window.” And it just gets crazier from there.

Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey

In recommending this book, I am also actually recommending Leviathan Wakes, of which Caliban’s War is its sequel.

Both books start off kind of slow, but like a rollercoaster ride makes up for it in spades after a gradual and steady build up. Definitely read Leviathan Wakes first before taking on Caliban’s War, as the events of the latter relate to those of the former. If you’re looking for a good space opera, this series is shaping up to be a mighty fine one. Expect a horror element, but that’s all I can say without spoiling anything.

Redshirts by John Scalzi

No one does humorous sci-fi adventure action like John Scalzi, and over the past year I’ve become quite the fan of his with Fuzzy Nation and two books in the Old Man’s War series under my belt. He has a way of making me laugh, even when his characters are dying horrible, gruesome deaths.

Take the good old Star Trek gag about redshirts, give those poor disposable crewmen their own personalities and lives behind the scenes and you’ve got this book. It’s hilarious, but also be prepared for some mind-bending stuff. It can get pretty abstract. Pretty meta.

If I have one gripe about this book, is that I feel it wasn’t particularly well-written as a novel. As in, in some places it read more like a screenplay. It definitely does not have as much detail as his other books, like hardly any character development or any sort of descriptive writing at all, but it’s heavy on the dialogue. But perhaps this was intentional — this is a fun yet bizarre book. If you do read it, you’ll see what I mean.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Urban fantasy normally isn’t my thing; not that I don’t like reading this sub-genre, it’s just that it’s so bloated right now that finding a good series to stick to is like wading through a morass of confusion and despair. It’s especially difficult these days to find an urban fantasy series with a female protagonist who I don’t feel like strangling on sight. However, I’m quite happy I found the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, thanks to a bunch of people on my friends list who have read it and gave it good reviews on Goodreads.

Character development is superb, and so is the world building. Plot falters a little, especially in the next couple of books, but I have to admit this isn’t atypical when it comes to urban fantasy, and in any case I don’t read this genre for award winning story lines, just a good time.

Master of Crows by Grace Draven

Speaking of a good time, here is an indie for those looking a traditional sultry romance that takes place in a fantasy setting, like with mages, magic and all that good stuff. There aren’t too many of those out there, which was why Master of Crows was pretty much guaranteed a high rating from me. Yes, it’s a little cheesy (but if you ask me, all “good” romances kind of have to be, you know what I mean?) and the hero-as-the-master and heroine-as-the-apprentice love story is a theme that has been done to death, but the archetypal romance novel in a fantasy package was what I wanted and it was what I got.

Plus, the story was pretty good. And HOT too, by the way. So I really can’t complain.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

If you’ve even had a tiny glance at book news around Christmas time last year, you probably would have noticed the hype around this title. After reading it, however, I have to say all the praise, the accolades, the acclaim — they’re all well deserved.

I don’t want to say anything more about this novel. The less you know going in, the better this book is. Sure, go to Amazon or Goodreads or whatever to read the synopsis, but nothing else! Anything more will just spoil the experience, since so much of my enjoyment came from not knowing what was going to happen or where the story was going to take me next.

This is probably the best Stephen King novel I’ve read in a long time. Perhaps the biggest surprise — and the biggest treat — for me was the emotion and feeling he achieved in this book. The last few pages had me bawling my eyes out, and me being seven months pregnant at the time probably didn’t help; I was crying so hard my husband got alarmed and wondered what had happened. I told him that it was nothing, I was just on the last page of 11/22/63. Since he’d read it too, his response was, “Oh, yeah.”

Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno

Darth Plagueis is probably worth reading simply if for no other reason other than how “canon” it is. Like, if you’re a big Star Wars fan, this is pretty much a must-read. I’d heard somewhere that this book was highly anticipated and that the author worked really closely with LucasFilms to get it just right because it ties in with a lot of the events in the prequel movies. Indeed, now that I’ve read it, I feel I have a much better understanding of the backstory behind those films.

But I don’t want to make it sound like that’s the only reason to pick up this book, because there’s a lot more that makes it a worthwhile read. I was especially impressed by the quality of the writing; sorry to say, but it’s almost too good for a Star Wars novel. It’s obvious that the author put his full heart and soul into writing this. Unlike many other Star Wars books, Darth Plaguis is also less action oriented, and instead focuses more on subterfuge and political intrigue.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This is a novel any geek or gamer can appreciate, especially if you were a teen or in your twenties in the 80s. Hell, I was about a decade too late to understand all the references in this book and yet I still enjoyed it immensely. The entire novel reads like a geeky love letter to the era, quoting music, games, movies, TV, and other pop culture. When I first heard about it, I thought it was just a flimsy and self-indulgent excuse by the author to relive the nostalgia of his youth and spout off 80s trivia. But no, all those references actually tie together and have a purpose.

I think the biggest reason I found this book appealing is the virtual world that features in it, called the OASIS. The main story is actually quite simplistic and straightforward, but since much of it takes place in this massive virtual world, as an MMO player I was just a huge sucker for all of it. Definitely recommended for online gamers.

h1

Read Lately – Star Wars: The Old Repubic: Revan

November 28, 2011

I wanted to like this book, I really did. A month ago when I was so eagerly anticipating the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan, I didn’t expect I would be starting a review for it this way, and I really don’t like having to be negative, but what can you do.

Granted, it is possible that my high expectations may have clouded my judgment. For one thing, I’m a big fan of Drew Karpyshyn — he wrote the Star Wars Darth Bane trilogy and also the Mass Effect novels that I found I really enjoyed. But more importantly, I’m also a big fan of the character Revan, having been obsessed with and emotionally invested in his story from the Knights of the Old Republic games. Still, I have a feeling that even the most  casual of readers picking this up will find many problems with the writing and execution of this novel.

To be fair, I’ve been following Drew K’s blog for a while now, and on it he occasionally talks about the pressures of looming deadlines and the challenges of meeting them. His writing in Revan appears to be the latest victim of this restrictive time crunch, as it’s definitely not his best work. This is a shame for two reasons: 1) He’s usually capable of much better writing, and 2) I would have pegged him as the perfect author to tell Revan’s story, as he was intimately involved with the development and writing of the first KOTOR game.

Another reason why I think the book was a rush job is how well it started out in the first handful of chapters, versus how everything started unraveling and falling apart in the second half. I’d glimpsed some of the not-so-positive starred reviews prior to finishing the novel, and thought to myself, “Nah, this isn’t that bad.” But then I hit part II. And I began to understand.

First of all, in retrospect so much of the book felt like filler, lengthy exposition sequences and drawn-out descriptions. While I understand the need to bring readers up to speed with the events of KOTOR (for those who have never played the RPG or need a refresher — it’s been about 8 years since the game’s release, after all) I lamented the fact it came at the expense of scenes that actually required details and a more in-depth look. Instead, important action sequences and scenes that actually drove the plot forward or called for more emotion were completely glossed over.

Second, the book was so short. It’s not like there wasn’t enough to write about. Like I said, so much of the novel could have been fleshed out and made better. It just felt like the author needed it to be over and done with, fast.

Third, there was a very noticeable shift in focus by the end of the book. I thought I began by reading about Revan, but little by little, he started taking more of a background role, and by the final chapters it was clear the emphasis was more on the Sith character of the novel, Lord Scourge. I just found this odd, and I still don’t really understand the purpose.

Nonetheless, there is still plenty of Revan, which is one of the reasons why I couldn’t just toss this book aside. There will be answers to some big questions left behind by the ending of KOTOR and KOTOR II, and for this reason I don’t regret reading it at all. The Jedi Exile also plays a huge role, and it is in this book that she is finally identified and given a name — Meetra Surik.

However, speaking of characters, don’t expect many of the companions from the games to make an appearance. The three that get the honor are Canderous Ordo, T3-M4 and Bastila Shan. The rest like Mission Vao, Zaalbar or HK-47 are only mentioned in passing, or given some weak excuses why they couldn’t show up. Carth Onasi doesn’t even get a mention, and while admittedly he was one of my more whiny and annoying BioWare boyfriends, I couldn’t help but notice the snub. Ouch.

I don’t want to make it sound like Revan was all bad. I personally liked a lot of the dialogue, though I think I’m probably in the minority with regards to this. I definitely think dialogue-writing is Drew Karpyshyn’s forte, but while some lines might work well in a video game, I admit they don’t always translate well onto a page in a novel. Some plot points were predictable, but in general I enjoyed the story. And finally, like I said before, the book does manage to bring some form of closure. Sort of.

This does beg the question: Is closure — that is, a truly satisfying conclusion that emotionally invested KOTOR fans have been waiting almost a decade for — even possible for an epic story like Revan’s? Honestly, I believed the answer is yes. And I still do. Which is why I had such high hopes for Revan. Despite my biases, I still think it could have been the book to bring ultimate closure to the KOTOR series. If only Drew K had been given enough time.

So, to wrap this review up, you may find Revan interesting if you’re into Star Wars novels or game tie-ins in general. I say read this book if you’re fan of the character and the KOTOR games. You might end up disappointed, but you’ve come this far, so might as well finish up. Also read this book if you’re really into the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO. There will be quite a few mentions of Revan and his adventures in the game, so knowing the character’s background might enhance the story behind those quests for you, but it’s definitely not required knowledge.

But if you don’t know much about the lore behind SWTOR and the Old Republic era and are thinking of picking Revan up to get pumped for it, I would rethink that decision. For that, you’d probably be better off playing KOTOR instead of reading this.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,160 other followers