Posts tagged books
I just finished The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson, the third book in the Mistborn series.I really enjoyed it. It was a good conclusion to a good series. He paid off a lot of promises made throughout the series, and there was a great mix of “I knew it!” and “I didn’t see that coming!” reactions to his various reveals. Overall it was very satisfying and definitely epic.
I just finished The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson, the second book in the Mistborn series.I enjoyed it quite a bit. I feel the writing was a bit smoother than the first one — I didn’t have any POV issues like I did with Mistborn, for example — which makes sense as a later book in Sanderson’s writing career. I did think that some of the obstacles in the plot felt contrived and lacked weight. For example, the book opens with Elend agonizing over getting the Assembly to vote his way on some procedural issue, but there is no genuine opposition to what he’s trying to achieve so I didn’t feel any tension, and what he’s trying to achieve essentially amounts to a delaying tactic, so it doesn’t deliver action either. The main character conflict had elements of the romantic “if only they would talk to each other about how they really feel!” formula. On the one hand, I really hate that formula, but on the other can you really criticize an author for used a tried and tested technique? Overall it was pretty good. I enjoyed the development of the “magic system” and think Sanderson is doing a good job of balancing the explanations and the mystery, which is important for the kind of story I think he’s trying to tell. I’ve already started on the third book in the series, and have (dangerously?) high hopes that it will be even better.
Last week, I finished reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussI enjoyed it, although I had several issues with it. It read much more like a setup than a standalone story. The climax felt tacked on and didn’t really resolve much. The hero has a nigh endless list of virtues, and his flaws tend to be of the flaws-that-are-actually-strengths variety (he doesn’t actually say “I can’t adequately conceal how awesome I am, which insecure people find threatening” but you can tell he’s thinking it). The love interest is kind of a head-scratcher for me, too — she doesn’t really do anything that makes her appealing as a character, but the protagonist constantly drools over her, and the story-in-a-story structure is used to say that she’s literally indescribable. Despite those complaints, I did like the book. I think that, since I’m working on my own writing, I am becoming hypercritical. In some ways that’s making me feel better about my own work — if he can get published with “obvious” problems like these, maybe I have a shot, too!
Earlier today, I finished Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.I liked it a lot, although my hypercritical mind picked up on a few issues here, too. There are two primary viewpoint characters through the first part of the book, but I occasionally felt like the switches from one to another weren’t crisp enough — since both characters tend to interact a lot in the same locations you don’t have as many cues that something has changed, so on more than one occasion I didn’t pick up on the viewpoint shift until a few paragraphs into a new section, which I found jarring. He also turned a side character into a minor viewpoint character more than three quarters of the way into the book, which struck me as odd — I think I would have preferred to either have snippets of this viewpoint throughout or to never have this viewpoint at all, just to have a more consistent way to interact with the character as a reader. I also got lost and disoriented in a few of the action scenes because they focused heavily on the use of magical powers that don’t have strong frames of reference in normal human experience. In some ways they felt like modern quick-cut action movie scenes that neglect establishing shots — unless you know exactly what’s going on it’s easy to get lost. I also didn’t get a strong sense of geography in the story (there’s “the city” and “the mansion in the next town over”) but I found that reassuring rather than offputting since that’s one of the things I’m most worried about in my own writing, and if epic fantasy superstar Brandon Sanderson can get away with it… Despite my nit-picking I did enjoy Mistborn and I’ve already started reading the second book in the series.
I recently finished Linchpin by Seth Godin.It was a good read with a lot of interesting ideas. It’s largely a manifesto about the world no longer rewarding people for acting like cogs in a machine. I’m very sympathetic to that line of thinking (I’ve quit two jobs partially because I felt that my managers were more concerned with forcing me into their preconceived notions of what someone with my job should be rather than dealing with me as an individual with particular strengths and weaknesses). He also has some interesting things to say about “the resistance”, our subconscious attempt to sabotage ourselves and stay stagnant. However, I think he’s overestimating the willingness of bosses to allow employees to cast off their cog-like ways, and also underestimating the difficulty for some people of making meaningful connections with others (but maybe he’s right and these are just things I tell myself to keep myself in my rut…).
I think he does a little bit of handwaving over the actual “money changing hands” part of things. I’m simplifying a bit, but he says that “giving gifts” (such as creating art, or expending emotional labor on someone) is more emotionally connecting than engaging in transactions, and that de-focusing from a transactional business relationship will tend to result in more money in the long term. I sort of agree with that (it’s similar to the whole “people pay for Starbucks coffee because they enjoy the Starbucks experience” thing), but you do need some business transactions happening or the money doesn’t move. As someone who’s hoping to make a living based off of creative output, figuring this puzzle out is very important to me.
The most challenging idea in the book is that it may be a fool’s errand to find a way to make money with something you are passionate about, and it’s easier to find work that makes money that you can become passionate about. This makes a lot of sense, but it’s kind of a criticism of the approach I’m currently taking in my life…
Overall, a well-written and thought-provoking book.
I just finished Switch by Chip and Dan Heath.It’s about implementing change, whether in individuals, groups, or large organizations. It’s got some really interesting stuff in it, and it will take me a while to fully digest it and start incorporating the ideas into my life. The suggestions they make seem to resonate well with things I’ve figured out independently in my own life (such as some of the techniques I’ve been using to lose weight, which I plan to blog about more on Saturday), so I’m guessing that their other ideas are also going to work well. It’s definitely the most thought-provoking book I’ve read in a while.
I just finished the latest Wheel of Time book, The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.I really enjoyed it, but I was a bit lost at times because it’s been so long since I read the previous book. One criticism that I have to agree with about the Wheel of Time is that there are too many characters, and too many of their names are too similar. The most egregious example I noticed was that the end of one chapter talked about the character Shemerin in the rebel Aes Sedai camp and the next chapter featured the character Sheriam in the rebel Aes Sedai camp. Definitely not the same character, but it took me a few pages to catch on… Even with the problems, I enjoy this series and think this was a great addition to it.
Recently, I finished reading Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchet.I enjoyed it, but I think that is in large part because I love the Discworld series rather than the merits of this particular book. I found the “football” stuff had very little resonance for me (not being British or interested in organized sports probably contributes to that), and the character of Nutt was very thinly drawn. I did notice a tendency for the POV to wander from one character to another within a scene, which I had heard was more accepted in British fiction than in American, but hadn’t really observed in practice before.
I also finished The Wyrmling Horde by David Farland.I had been reading this series in hardcover, but after the shift in direction the story took with Worldbinder I’m glad I waited for paperback for this one. There was some interesting action, and it was interesting to read some of the character POV stuff as they were tempted by power, but the “romance” angle between Talon and Emir Tul Raa fell flat for me, and the “binding the shadow worlds” stuff is far less interesting than the ideas inherent in the basic Runelord magic that are falling by the wayside in the story. I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series or not.
I recently finished reading the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.As an aspiring author, I felt obligated to read the first one to at least have some familiarity with the series, but I was immediately hooked and ran through the entire series. I thought the beginning and middle were superior to the ending, and thought that the final book was a bit of a disappointment, but overall I really enjoyed it.
I saw the movies first, but I think the series works far better in book form because the point-of-view lets you get inside Harry’s head. For example, I really disliked the Goblet of Fire movie. It seemed like they were playing up the “mystery” of whether or not Harry put his name in the goblet, and the rift that caused between Harry and Ron. In the book, it’s made clear that Harry understands why Ron is acting the way he is, and Ron’s attitude makes a lot more sense than in the movie where he just seems like a petty jerk.
As well written as Harry Potter is, there are parts that frustrate me. For example, the “rules” of how magic works, and what problems can or can’t be solved with magic, are never really explained, and sometimes when they are explained they don’t make much sense (such as how the Elder Wand works in book 7). The characters are pretty well done, though (my favorites are probably stressed-out Hermione in book 3, and Luna Lovegood throughout).