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review 2017-12-16 20:10
Find a comfortable spot and settle in
The Dragonbone Chair - Tad Williams

Disclosure:  I obtained my copy of this book from my local public library.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with him about this book or any other matter.  I am an author.

 

(Trigger warning: Some animal cruelty.)

 

My house is cold this morning, cold enough that I had to turn on the heat for a while.  After making a couple of early trips to the studio -- 30 strides from my back door and 30 strides back -- I was so chilled I went right back to bed just to get warm again.  I used the time wisely: I finished the last 100 pages of The Dragonbone Chair.

 

As mentioned in previous status updates, I first read this series well more than two decades ago.  A few details remained in my memory along with the basic plotline, but 98% was as new as if I had never read it.

 

Had there been a decimal rating, I might have gone with 4.75 stars, but I backed it off to 4 1/2 because it wasn't quite up to the full five, for a couple of reasons.  And I'm going to hit those reasons first.

 

The saga is set in a medievalish earth-like world, with castles and kingdoms and kings and princesses. . . . and a medievalish church that too much resembles medieval christianity.  The monks and priests and bishops, churches and cathedrals, saints and relics, rites and writings are creepy and weak.  Pagans give lip service to "God" and "His son" the holy Usires Aedon (aka Jesus) who was martyred by hanging upside down on the "Execution Tree."  Instead of the sign of the cross, believers make "the sign of the Tree."  The whole Aedonite religion seemed forced and almost silly, right down to holidays called "mansas" like Christian "-mas" and the wearing of jeweled or golden or wooden "tree" symbols around the neck like a crucifix.  Williams offers no opinion of christianity in his creation, whether for good or ill, so it seems kind of pointless and lazy.

 

Other than that, the world-building is fine and relatively consistent in terms of the various kingdoms and rivalries and languages.  Some of the human groups/ethnicities are vaguely teutonic, some are vaguely celtic, some a little more original; none, however, seem to reflect Asian or African or other non-European groups.  The only exception is the "Black Rimmersmen," who seem to be bad guys, but they haven't played enough of a role in this first volume to determine what the designation really means.

 

The non-human races are kind of stock, though the use of the troll Binibek as one of the good guys is a nice change.  The Sithi and Norns are vaguely elvish on the Tolkien model; the giant Hunen are rather like hairy Middle-Earthling cave trolls.

 

The cast of characters is huge, and this makes keeping them straight a bit difficult, even with the full listing at the end of the book.  Where Tolkien introduced the various groups more or less one at a time as the Fellowship passed through their lands, Williams brings all of his onto the stage at once.  The ensuing war encompasses virtually all of the vast uber-kingdom of Osten Ard, so the action shifts between the Erkynlanders in Erchester, the Hernystirimen, the Nabbanai in Nabban, the Rimmersmen from Rimmergard, and so on.  As some of the main supporting characters change allegiance, the whole thing becomes a bit confusing, and I suspect that will continue through the succeeding volumes.

 

The main character, Simon, is your typical young male who has greatness thrust upon him.  Orphaned at birth, he's been raised by the chambermaids in the great castle of the Hayholt in Erchester.  Still in his teens, he gets swept up in the mighty and magical machinations of the High King Elias, whose quest for power is only thwarted by his brother Prince Josua . . . and mysterious bits of mythical lore.

 

By the end of The Dragonbone Chair, we've got lots of guys, one evil woman super villain, one possibly evil woman, and one princess who keeps disappearing.  Women aren't well represented.  This might not have bothered me nearly as much 25 years ago as it does now.

 

Okay, those are the negatives, the things that brought the rating down.  The positives were that the writing is delicious, and there's lots of it!  (There are also a surprising number of typesetting errors, but I've found that to be a frequent problem with paperbacks from the 1980s, and I don't know why.)

 

If you're a lover of the long, long, long epic fantasy, this is a pretty good example, with better world-building and stronger characterizations than others.  Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series had more and maybe better female characters, but I lost interest in that after about seven volumes.  I haven't tried the Game of Thrones books yet, though I have them.

 

I've only read the first few pages of the next book, Stone of Farewell, and I remember far less about it than I did about The Dragonbone Chair, so we'll see how it goes.  I think it's even longer.

 

 

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review 2017-12-16 01:01
The Power of Narrativium
The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

Murder by Death and BrokenTune have essentially summed up a lot of the points I'd want to make about The Science of Discworld.  (What a misnomer that title is, incidentally -- and not only because the science part is really concerned with "Roundworld," i.e., our world ... the science part in this book expressly negates what chiefly makes Discworld tick, namely narrativium, which is described here as the narrative imperative, but actually stands for so much more.  But I'll get to that in a minute.)  And there is quite a bit of more discussion in MbD's post here and in the comments sections of BT's posts here and here, so little remains for me to add. 

 

There is one point in particular that is bothering me about the assertions made by the scientist co-authors, though, and that is their constant poo-pooing of any- and everything that isn't scientifically quantifiable or measurable, even though (in one of their many contradictions) they do admit in the book's final chapters that the "How-to-Make-a-Human-Being" kit we have inherited and are, ourselves, passing on to future generations (both individually and collectively) includes "extelligence", which constitutes not only collectively shaped knowledge and experience, but also virtually every abstract concept known to mankind today ... as long as -- according to Stewart and Cohen -- a person's response to such a concept can be measured and recorded in some way, shape or form.  That, however, still doesn't stop them from talking down the concept of a soul (human or otherwise), or from insisting that narrativium doesn't exist in our world.  I disagree, and largely in lieu of a review I'm going to throw their co-author Terry Pratchett's own words right in their teeth (and incidentally, Pratchett was, for all I know, an atheist, so religion -- which seems to be a key part of Stewart and Cohen's objection to the notion of a soul -- doesn't even enter into the discussion here):

"I will give you a lift back, said Death, after a while.

'Thank you.  Now ... tell me ...'

What would have happened if you hadn't saved him?' [the Hogfather, Discworld's  version of Santa Claus.]

'Yes! The sun  would have risen just the same, yes?'

No.

'Oh, come on.  You can't expect me to believe that.  It's an astronomical fact.'

The sun would not have risen.

She turned on him.

'It's been a long night, Grandfather!  I'm tired and I need a bath!  I don't need silliness!'

The sun would not have risen.

'Really?  Then what would have happened, pray?'

A mere ball of flaming gas would have illuminated the world.

They walked in silence.

'Ah,' said Susan dully. 'Trickery with words.  I would have thought you'd have been more literal-minded than that.'

I am nothing if not literal-minded.  Trickery with words is where humans live.

'All right,' said Susan.  'I'm not stupid.  You're saying humans need ... fantasies to make life bearable.'

Really?  As if it was some kind of pink pill?  No.  Humans need fantasy to be human.  To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

'Tooth fairies?  Hogfathers? Little --'

Yes.  As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies.

'So we can believe the big ones?'

Yes.  Justice.  Mercy.  Duty.  That sort of thing.

'They're not the same at all?'

You think so?  Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy, and yet-- Death waved a hand.  And yet you act as if there is some ... some rightness in the universe by which it may be judged.

'Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point--'

My point exactly.

She tried to assemble her thoughts.

There is a place where thwo galaxies have been colliding for a million years, said Death, apropos of nothing.  Don't try to tell me that's right.

'Yes, but people don't think about that,' said Susan.  Somewhere there was a bed ...

Correct.  Stars explode, worlds collide, there's hardly anywhere in the universe where humans can live without being frozen or fried, and yet you believe that a ... a bed is a normal thing.  It is the most amazing talent.

'Talent?'

Oh, yes.  A very speccial kind of stupidity.  You think the whole universe is inside your heads.

'You make us sound mad,' said Susan.  A nice warm bed ...

No.  You need to believe in things that aren't true.  How else can they become?  said Death, helping her up on to Binky."

(Terry Pratchett: Hogfather)

So you see, Messrs. Stewart and Cohen, there is narrativium everywhere where there are humans.  It may not have been part of the universe from the time of its creation (however we attempt to pinpoint or define that time).  And we don't know whether any of the long-extinct creatures who populated our planet millions of years before we came along had it -- if they did, it seems they at any rate didn't have enough of it to create a lasting record beyond their fossilized physical remains.  But humans wouldn't be humans without narrativium.  Because that's how the rising ape becomes something more than a mammal (call it a falling angel or whatever you will).  Because that's why it is the sun we see rising every morning, not merely a ball of flaming gas.  Because that's why the stars are shining in the sky at night, not a collection of galactic nuclear reactors that just happen to be close enough so we can see them with our naked eye.  And because that's what enables us to hope, to dream, and to consequently make things come true that nobody previously even thought possible.

 

It's narrativium that got us where we are today.  Not alone -- science, technology, and a whole lot of parts of the "How-to-Make-a-Human-Being-Kit" helped.  A lot.  But narrativium is the glue that holds them all together.

 

And since as a species we also seem to be endowed with a fair share of bloodimindium, maybe -- just maybe -- that, combined with narrativium and scientific advance all together will even enable us to survive the next big global catastrophe, which in galactic terms would seem to be right around the corner (at least if our Earth's history to date is anything to go by).  If the sharks and a bunch of protozoons could, then one would hope so could we ... space elevator, starship Enterprise, or whatever else it takes, right?

 

P.S.  Like MbD's and BT's, my love of the Discworld wizards is unbroken.  And clearly there is no higher life form than a librarian.  (Ook.)

 

P.P.S.  I said elsewhere that I'd be replacing Val McDermid's Forensics with this book as my "16 Festive Tasks" Newtonmas read.  I'm still doing this: at least it does actually have a reasonable degree of actual scientific contents; even if highly contradictory in both approach and substance and even if I didn't much care for the two science writers' tone.

 

 

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review 2017-12-15 19:06
Giveaway & Review – Mermaid Fins, Winds & Rolling Pins by Erin Johnson @EJohnsonWrites @dollycas
Mermaid Fins, Winds & Rolling Pins: A Cozy Witch Mystery (Spells & Caramels) (Volume 3) - Erin Johnson

 I am so excited to be a part of the wonderful tour for Mermaid Fins, Winds & Rolling Pins, A Cozy Witch Mystery, by Erin Johnson. This is a bit different from my usual cozy reading and I loved every minute of it.

 

 

Mermaid Fins, Winds & Rolling Pins: A Cozy Witch Mystery
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Self Published (November 21, 2017)
Paperback: 286 pages
Paperback: 286 pages
Kindle ASIN: B077CHVX8N

MY REVIEW

 

I love mermaids and cozy mysteries, so to get my hands on Mermaid Fins, Winds & Rolling Pins by Erin Johnson was quite the treat.

 

Imogene is a Swallow. No, it is not an erotic thing, but a magical power and hunky Hank, the Prince is teaching her how to use it.

 

A trip to the Mermaid Kingdom and a murder will have Imogene, Hank and her band of merry bakers working the investigation.

 

I love all the magical creatures, some new to me, and we even have some rambunctious pirates. I love Iggy, but ya gotta be careful because ya might get burned.

 

How would you like to be able to swallow a sea bubble, grow fins and gills, changing into a mermaid and swimming the ocean blue? Oh man, I sure would.

 

The fabulous world building leads to an adventure I am so glad I didn’t miss. This light, humorous mystery is full of characters to laugh with, love with, and fear for. Even in this world of beauty, someone must die to create an undersea mystery of a fresh kind.

 

This is Book III, but I had no trouble following the mystery, and even though not all questions will be answered, this particular mystery is solved and it left me wanting to read more. I call that…a job well done.

 

I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of Mermaid Fins, Winds & Rolling Pins by Erin Johnson.

Animated Animals. Pictures, Images and Photos  4 Stars

 

Enter the giveaway here.

 

  • You can see my Giveaways HERE.
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  • Leave your link in the comments and I will drop by to see what’s shakin’.
  • Thanks for visiting!
Source: www.fundinmental.com/giveaway-review-mermaid-fins-winds-rolling-pins-by-erin-johnson-ejohnsonwrites-dollycas
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review 2017-12-15 18:12
One Dark Throne
One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns) - Kendare Blake
This was my most anticipated book of the year and it did not disappoint! Where the first book started a little slow and built up to that crazy cliffhanger, this sequel was packed with twists and turns throughout. 
 
In Three Dark Crowns, Katherine was my favorite and she still is. Without giving anything away, I'll just say that she survived the Breccia and came out of it a little....different. She is definitely more determined than ever to win that crown. She doesn't care who she has to take down to get it. Katherine is out for blood and I do not mean that figuratively.
 
Arsinoe is dealing with the revelation that she is a poisoner. She knows she is the least likely to come out of this Ascension alive but that doesn't mean she'll go down without a fight. Her relationship with Jules is one of my favorite things in this book. They are so devoted to each other and Jules will protect Arsinoe at all costs. We also find out something about Jules and it is a real game changer. I wouldn't be surprised if she took the crown for herself.
 
I don't think anyone can deny that Mirabella is the most powerful of the three sisters. Unfortunately, she is also the most sentimental and gentle. She does not want to kill her sisters and has to come to some distressing revelations. 
 
The character building was exceptional, especially for the secondary characters. - some of whom even had their own chapters. 
 
I have to say I enjoyed this book more than Three Dark Crowns. It is gritty, violent, and most of all, exciting. Of course it left us with another HUGE cliffhanger and I can't wait until the next one! 
 
 
-Bobbie
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review 2017-12-15 00:41
Thud! (Discworld #34, Watch #7)
Thud! (Discworld, #34) - Terry Pratchett

Whenever long bloody feud between dwarfs and trolls heats up the cry, “Koom Valley”, springs up just before both sides decide to fight the next one but now it looks like it’s in Ankh-Morpork but not on Sam Vimes watch.  Thud! is the 34th installment of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and seventh in the “Watch” subseries focusing Sam Vimes pursuing culprits across the Ankh-Morpork and beyond to bring them to justice, no matter the species.

 

A dwarf demagogue is killed and a troll is the only witness, all of this as the anniversary of the Battle of Koom Valley is approaching with tensions in Ankh-Morpork between dwarfs and trolls reaching a boiling point.  After Sam Vimes learns that the murder was supposed to be hidden from him, he leaps to action to solve the murder as well as not sending both species into war.  Unfortunately Vimes has to contend with a new vampire member of the Watch, an auditor, and always making it home by 6 to read to Young Sam.  And then the case begins to involve mystical elements, really annoying Vimes especially as they travel to Koom Valley in pursuit of justice.

 

Although the overall plot was well thought out, especially concerning Vimes there were problems.  The various secondary arc, the humor, and quality of writing were noticeably not up to Pratchett’s earlier standards and ranged from bad to passable.

 

Although Thud! isn’t the best of Pratchett’s work nor the best in the Watch series, it is still a good read for any fan.

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