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review 2018-07-17 04:11
The Eye of the World, The Wheel of Time #1
The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, #1) - Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time has become one of my absolute favorite series. I read 'The Eye of the World' many, many times and spent countless hours dreaming about this world that Robert Jordan had created. As the series went on (and on) it suffered by comparison with other books, reading the last five or six books only once, but I've found myself coming back to it and falling in love all over again. This time around I'm following the reread by Leigh Butler and discovered a new blog on Tor.com where a reader is discovering the series for the first time. I've never had much luck convincing friends to read what I'm loving at the moment/forever, so its fun to read along and discover the fandom attached to this particular series.

The world is driven by magic, two complementary sources of the One Power divided between men and women. The man's half was Tainted thousands of years ago, cursing all men born to channel it to be driven mad and must be hunted down before they can cause another Breaking of the World. Women have power in 'The Wheel of Time', and there are no shortage of strong female characters, complex villains, and a lot of moral grey areas for a story about a conflict between the Light and the Dark. There is a legend that a hero will come, The Dragon, a reincarnation of a powerful male channeller who will save the world from the Dark One - but not without a terrible price.

Some time ago I parted with my crumbling mass-markets, so I'm taking advantage of my bookstore connections (I couldn't convince my friends to pick up a book, but I make a living that way now, ha) and am buying the trade paperbacks with the new cover art.

'The Eye of the World' has many deliberate parallels with 'The Lord of the Rings', and so starts out in the remote community of the Two Rivers. Summarizing of 'The Wheel of Time' is something best left to professionals, so I'll just touch on the very beginning:

Rand al'Thor doesn't have much more on his mind then meeting his friends for the festival of Bel Tine and figuring out his feelings for pretty Egwene al'Vere. He sees a frightening figure in black on the road to Emond's Field and his life is changed after that. There is a deadly attack on the village by monsters thought to be mythical, and they were looking for someone. Rand finds himself, along with his friends the mischievous Mat Cauthon, the steady and faithful Perrin Aybara convinced by Moiraine, an Aes Sedai (a powerful magic user) and her bodyguard, or Warder, Lan, to leave their home immediately in order to protect it and themselves. Egwene discovers their plan and insists on coming so she can see the world outside. A traveling storyteller, a gleeman named Thom, joins the party, too. They are not too far out of the village before they are tracked down, literally, by the young village Wisdom Nynaeve al'Meara. She has been a mentor to Egwene and a leader in the village and feels responsible for the young people being dragged out into the world for dubious reasons.

The series is known for its length, roughly 11,000 pages altogether, and it's detailed world-building, but there is a lot of action in these first books. The story is almost completely from Rand's perspective with only as-needed POVs from Perrin and Nynaeve. Later books featured dozens of POVs - there must be a count somewhere, I would be surprised if it was well over 100 - but 'The Eye of the World' was about Rand's journey into the outside and his first steps on the road to his destiny. He explores a cursed and ruined city, meets a beautiful princess named Elayne, travels incognito on the ship of a collector of antiquities, 'plays for his supper' in taverns on the run, is hunted by darkfriends (people sworn to the shadow), witnesses ancient magic, travels to the decaying Blight and witnesses monsters firsthand. Along the way he befriends an ogier named Loial. Ogier are ten feet tall, live for centuries, and revere the written word. Loial is impetuous and set out on his own to explore the world, but is often confused by how different the world is from the old books he's written. He's wonderful.

It is amazing to read these characters all over again and see how far they come. They are altered forever by this journey, and this first quest ends up being only the beginning of a long road. There are flaws and regrettable errors in this series, but they came from Robert Jordan wanting to create this diverse, inclusive, complicated world, and he was from a background where certain possibilities didn't occur to him. He gets a lot of respect from me. These books are such an achievement and opened so many doors for me as a reader. I'm thrilled that I'm loving this book just as much now, without reservation, as I did when I was 13.

The Wheel of Time:

Next: 'The Great Hunt'

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review 2018-07-17 02:43
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
The End We Start From - Megan Hunter

This is a poetic novel about a natural disaster hitting London, and presumably the world, told from the perspective of a young woman and her family. Nothing is certain, and the future seems bleak indeed, but her focus is on her young baby.

It is beautifully written, and sparse. The narrative style of the book had a very different effect on me then many other readers it seems, I felt too far away from the events of the book by the prose style. There was a lot of terror and heartbreak and numbing hopelessness between the lines here, and I wanted to get inside the narrator's head. She kept me at a distance. I liked the naming of characters by single letters, but everything else about the book was cut down to its bare essentials. Aesthetically this is intriguing, but its not for me.

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review 2018-07-17 02:30
The Silver Spoon, Forsyte Chronicles #5
The Forsyte Saga: The Silver Spoon (A Modern Comedy #2) - John Galsworthy
A Modern Comedy - John Galsworthy

An American relative by marriage arrives pays a call in Westminster, a link to the more interesting, artistic, Forsytes in time to be present at a new scandal. Soames overhears a guest at one of his daughter's parties make a disparaging remark about Fleur and defends her. What should have only been some ruffled feathers turns into a major concern and underlines just how much society has changed since the Great War.

While I have come around a bit in regards to Fleur, I still find her irritating. The social nature of this plotline had little of the dramatic edge of 'The White Monkey' for me. Mont's attempts to make a name for himself in politics is interesting historically, but also didn't have the drama I loved in the first trilogy of Forsyte novels.

What made this book readable was Soames, of course. His own interior distress at the changing times and his attempts to do right by his daughter were sympathetic and made for good reading. Soames is still moving well in financial currents and has developed an understanding of fine art, but emotions and what makes people tick are still a mystery to him. The American cousin, Francis Wilmot, has his own struggles with his fascination for the lovely and modern girl who sparked Soames outrage.

This was an interesting social critique of London society and to an extent global politics of the 1920s. I would still only recommend this for Forsyte fans.

'A Modern Comedy'

Next: 'Swan Song'

Previous: 'The White Monkey'

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review 2018-07-17 01:55
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Moby Dick (Vintage Classics) - Herman Melville

I've been trying to read Moby-Dick for years, abandoning it many times since high school. When asked to set up a book club for those wanting to tackle the big classics, I couldn't do anything but pick the most large, 'uge, magnificent book ever written.

And, having finally finished it, it's OK. I see why people invest so much energy into this work and enjoy parsing it out, but in the end I would have preferred a little more sailing adventure and less arcane mythological references and asides. Melville had a plan and he followed through with his deconstruction of the novel by constructing an even larger novel around its architectural corpse.

There were passages of brilliant intensity and longing, rewarding humor, wide progressive streaks on race, relgion and sexuality, and romantic squeezes in the spermacetti, but the dull implacability of much of the novel was too intense for me. We were quite torn up about the book at the meeting, but we all agreed that the foreskin helmet was awesome.

'Moby-Dick' is something you have to read for yourself, if you want to. Like with everything, I suppose, your mileage may vary and you might not want to invest the energy needed to break into a novel like this, and that's OK. I gave it a solid 65% of my attention and appreciated it, but its not for everyone.

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review 2018-07-15 20:44
Literary horror novel 'The Grip of It' leaves me with too many questions...or does it?
The Grip of It: A Novel - Jac Jemc

This book was a pick for my Litsy horror postal book club, and the second in a row that had the theme of a haunted house (this came on the back of the classic 'The Haunting of Hill House', which almost isn't fair, since that book is so well-known, and it was hard not to think of it).
'The Grip of It' was on my radar for a while after I noticed its cover, which is covered in the 'drawings' that show up mysteriously inside the house that the young couple, Julie and James, buy when they move to a small town outside of the city. There are lots of things that mysteriously go on inside the house (or do they?), after they move in, and the couple learns of the family that used to live there (or was it next door?), and they have so many questions that they start to run together...and largely are unanswered. ALL the way through to the end of the book. That was ultimately my biggest problem with 'The Grip of It': not ever feeling like questions were answered. The two main characters were also so similar (and weak, in my opinion), that their perspectives ran together, so the storytelling device of different chapters being their alternating different voices was ineffective. Whether or not this was intentional or not as a device to show that they were becoming of 'one mind' as the house took over, it was very confusing to read as the book continued.
I mostly enjoyed the literary prose and new approach to a 'horror' novel but occasionally I was a annoyed with the short sentences, which broke up some very beautiful writing, and very quotable prose.
And like most horror stories, the couple, Julie and James do frustratingly keep going back to this house that is obviously causing them to drift apart and for Julie to become ill (ergot poisoning? seizures?), yet the house sells quickly, so even though it seems that in general we have a no-nonsense 'literary' horror novel, we still have these silly tropes that don't make sense after all.
And what on earth happened to Rolf? ?
Still, I read this quickly, and it was a page-turner, it kept me engaged. It just could've been so much better.

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