Book Review - The Traitor Baru Cormorant


The Traitor Baru Cormorant
by Seth Dickinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is going to be a tough one for me to review. I really liked this book quite a bit, but at the same time, certain elements of the narrative didn't seem to make sense to me. They seemed incongruous to the basic plot-lines or motivation of the character.

Perhaps I'll just bullet point out what I liked and what I didn't like about the book.

Liked

  • The world building was really well done. The cultures and tribes really felt unique and poignant.
  • Baru, our main character was generally well written. She was smart, arrogant and capable. Sometimes too capable.
  • The overall story of empire was extremely well handled. I can't recall any other books or authors who framed the power of an empire through economic and cultural tools in a better way. It made the story extremely unique and more believable. 



Disliked 

  • My biggest hangup with the story really came down to the maneuvering of our main character Baru. Her driving motivations are to save her homeland. She says this several times throughout the story, yet at the same time she or other characters state that her homeland is already gone. It can never be brought back to what it was.  I think I never fully was able to buy into the notion that she was going to sacrifice an entire nation, thousands, if not millions of people to the empire's culture, while at the same time striving to save her own. I think this could have worked a bit better if the author showed Baru with less emotion, as more of the autistic savant. The fact that she did appear to have very distinct emotional struggles and wants though made this decision on her part seem all the more monstrous. I see that is what the author was going for, and perhaps more of that will play itself out over future books, but it came across as a bit hard to digest simply due to the scale of it all.

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Ridelog: Demoing the BMW K1600B, the "Bagger"

My local dealership was doing a special demo ride event for the new BMW K1600B. This is BMW's new touring bike, built upon their K series engine. They have had the K1600GT and GTL in their lineup for years and those bikes have been known to be some of the best touring bikes out there, right up there with the Honda Goldwing. Last year BMW introduced the B or bagger series. As far as I can tell, the major difference with the B versus the GT series is the lower seat height and overall profile. It has a more "American" style cruiser seating profile. 

I was a bit surprised when I got to the dealership. This wasn't an organized test ride with a group leader and 12 bikes following. They had four bikes sitting outside. You walked up, said you wanted to ride, they got you on and then said "see you later". I was able to ride wherever I wanted and they didn't give me any stipulations. It worked out great since I was able to ride the bike how I wanted to. 

You can see my thoughts on the bike in the video below. In short, it is a very nice bike, but it clocks in at around $24,000 I think. It is super smooth, but also boring to ride. I don't feel any character to the bike at all. The engine, when I can hear it, feels like I am riding a semi-truck. You can pile the miles onto this bike though. It is super comfortable with a very easy riding position. 

The bike is unbelievably heavy, but at the same time surprisingly nimble while on the road. The seating and leg position is still upright enough that I think could really lean into turns if I was given the opportunity. I wasn't sitting so far leaned back and legs forward that my riding technique was compromised.  

I think ultimately the next bike for me would be an R1200RS or RT. Both still have that boxer engine that I really enjoy and they could give me more of that touring feel if I was really looking for it. For now though, I am going to stick with my 1200R. 

Book Review - Burial Rites

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a very well written book read by an extremely good narrator. The dialect and accent on the spoken passages in Icelandic seemed spot on in the audio-book and really brought the reader into this world.

This book is heavy and dark. The premise is depressing at best, and the entire mood is heightened by place, in the grey, cold reaches of Iceland. As a reader, you have an idea of where this book is going to end right when you come into it, but it is the journey through the final months of the main character's life that really drive this book home.

The characters were very well written, with the young priest being the exception. His place in the book was largely not necessary and I never felt he was critical to the story or the development of Agnes through her final days.

I would not consider this to be a light read, and in fact, was a difficult one to get through when the weather was so pleasant out in the spring and early summer. This is the type of book you read on a rainy October Sunday in front of a fire with hot tea and some cookies. You are going to need those tea and cookies because they are the only thing that are going to make you feel good while you read this. Agnes is almost the stereotype of a tragic character. Almost everything that could have possibly gone wrong in her life has, and there is a deep sense of depression painted around her. The reader receives only the briefest moment of melancholy relief when her story finally ends.

In some ways I am at a loss for how to wrap up this review. This book is written beautifully. The writing is almost poetic at times and the attention to detail with the use of the Icelandic language was masterfully done. That detailed use of language though is also what makes the book as deep and as heavy as it is. This isn't the type of book for everyone, but it has all the markings to become a "classic" that is still recognized decades from now.

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Ridelog: 2018-06-03


Nothing special on this particular ridelog. This is  your standard shot down towards Starved Rock. As you can imagine it was very crowded. There are some really great roads south of I-80 that you can take down to Starved Rock for a pleasant trip, most notably W Dupont, Pine Bluff and River Road.

Germany - Day 6

Alright, we are rested and refreshed any ready to take out a full day of Berlin. Breakfast at our hotel was nice and got us going for the day. 

Our first trip for the day was to walk the Eastside Gallerry, which is a section of the Berlin Wall, which was still up. From there we followed the wall route to the heart of the city where we checked out Check Point Charlie and some other attractions. Even by 9:00 am the heat was almost unbearable. I just couldn't believe how hot it was outside and being in the sun for any extended periods was really uncomfortable. 

It was on our walk of the wall that we came across a section of Berlin that we really felt uncomfortable in. I am unsure if it is a section of gypsies, refugees or just a poor area of foreigners, but we walked upon a two block area that appear to have some slum apartments. Lined up and down the street were RV's, just tons of them with people living in them. As we walked by there were two men on a bench who said "English". We continued on our way out of that area without lingering. 

We then made it to Check Point Charlie before continuing onto the Topographie des Terrors. I was surprised at how much a tourist trap the checkpoint was. The crowds were intense for a street that was still opened to traffic and there were actors dressed as American soldiers standing around the checkpoint who were willing to take a photo and "stamp your passport" for $5 or so. Sort of disappointed with that. 

The Topographie des Terrors though was something entirely different. A free museum, it is built upon the site where the SS headquarters used to be. A portion of the old foundation is excavated outside the building and with it were story boards explaining the rise of the Nazi party. Inside the museum there is a chronicle, in no hesitation, of the horrors that the Nazi party committed during their reign. It was an impressive museum and fairly sobering. 


After the downtown area we hopped on the subway and headed across the city to visit the Charlottenburg Palace. Another impressive estate from German royalty. Unfortunately our camera died part way through the tour. We hit up lunch across the street at an Italian cafe  for some pasta before heading back to explore the palace grounds. 

Our last major stop for the day was to head up to the Olympic stadium from the 1932 Olympics. It is the last major piece of Nazi architecture that has survived in the city. A major storm hit right when we arrived, but we were able to get some good photos in between the downpours. 
And that is it. We finished up the day back near our hotel. We grabbed some burgers on the street and watched one of the UEFA cup games on TV's set out on the sidewalk. Megan bailed on me when I needed her translation skills for the shop vendor. He was middle-eastern and was speaking german to me. My bill was $15.08 and I could not understand that I needed eight cents for him. 

There was also an uncomfortable incident next to us where a drunk man sat down next to some ladies on the sidewalk while watching the game and he was very loud. The staff pushed him away. Good burgers though. 

The next day we left Berlin. Our trip back to the US took almost 24 hours. Our flight to Newark was delayed five hours from Berlin. Our flight then from Newark to Chicago was also delayed almost two hours. We arrived back in Chicago at 1:30 AM the next day, which was Monday. Brutal couldn't even begin to describe that flight.  Overall a great trip though.