Book Review - The City of Brass

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For a first novel by S.A. Chakraborty, this is a fantastic first entry to a trilogy. City of Brass has a wonderful world set around it. The middle eastern and Islamic setting is wonderfully done. It was exotic and new for a fantasy setting, but grounded in our own world, all while not making me feel like it was too alien to me.

I was enthralled by the context of the deserts, the flying carpets, the Ifrit and more. I was perplexed though with the Djinn culture. At times it seemed wonderfully magical and exotic, at other times a bit too human. The call outs early on in the book to the morning prayers specially stuck out to me, mainly because we never did get a better understanding of what the Djinn religion was, why it mattered, or why Ali was considered devout. These things were all mentioned several times, but never explored, so they felt like they didn't really need to be there. Ali just as easily could have been chaste (which is alluded to) because he was the second born (again alluded to) as it had to due with his religious devotion. I felt Chakraborty, danced around the edges of all of these topics as justifications, but didn't explore any of them deep enough to have them mean anything.

Chakraborty's characters overall I felt were pretty compelling, especially the king and the rest of the actors in the political court. The writing there to show how adept the king was at managing the political balance and teetering civil war was well done. Overall the supporting cast was fantastic.

I had issues with the main three characters though. Nahri, Ali and Dara all frustrated me on how one dimensional their characters seemed to be, especially in light of more dynamic supporting characters around them who seemed to have more depth in their motivations and political acuity. All three main characters were "extremes", so harsh in their views and convictions that I felt them to be unbelievable. Nahri especially had several passages where her self-doubt and self-depreciation came to the point where I said "enough already, I get it". I understand the character has an internal struggle that she is dealing with, but Chakraborty kept driving the point home again and again that it began to detract from the overall story.

The middle section was slow, mostly because of the aforementioned main characters issues I mentioned above. It felt even slower because none of them seemed to really grow or move at all. Nahri still doubted everything she was doing, Ali was still stubborn with his convictions, despite evidence against them and Dara was still an egotistical, angry, zealot, despite several attempts by the story to show interjections of them all breaking those molds. All three inevitably fell back, with almost no change or growth.

The last arc of the book was nicely written. Pieces were set in motion for the upcoming sequel and there were several instances of surprise that genuinely put a smile on my face. Chakraborty did a delightful job in writing suspenseful action sequences and I am genuinely looking forward to the next book. I just hope I can read less of Nahri asking "What? I don't understand." about the events in the world happening around her. A bit less denial and more self-determination would be nice.

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My Year in Books - 2017

My Goodreads year in books is out. This is always fun to look at to see what I read this past year. Let's take a quick look. I found that I had a lot of trouble trying to read books this year, mostly due to time. The majority of whatI have read this year was either in audiobook form, or it was a comic book. 

Looking at my list I believe only Render, Children of Hurin, Cold and the Castle of Wolfenbach were actually "read" books. 

Music Listening: MP3 - Pittsburgh Symphony Brass - A Christmas Concert

It is Christmas time and that calls for some Christmas music. Normally, I am not a huge fan of Christmas music. Let me take that back. I am normally not a fan of "sung" Christmas music. I'm not quite sure why, but I find the lyrics in almost all Christmas songs to be too sappy. I do love some great orchestral Christmas music though and I have found an excellent album from the Pittsburgh Symphony Brass called "A Christmas Concert". 

It is an excellent arrangement of traditional Christmas songs and the brass ensemble really makes many of the songs shine. Unfortunately this one seems a bit hard to find online. It doesn't appear to be on iTunes, but it is on Amazon music. 

You can find a playlist of the tracks on Youtube though.


YouTube has become my go to destination to watch shows

Youtube has become my go to location for watching evening TV. Not Netflix. Not Amazon Prime. Youtube. 

I still receive a surprised look from people when I tell them that I do not have cable TV, but the truth is, I don'y really "watch" very much TV. More often than not, I will be playing some video games. When I do actually sit-down to watch something, I am typically too tired to really focus my attention on a show that is 45+ minutes. My ideal show tends to be something that I can play in the background and half watch. 

That is where YouTube fills that niche perfectly. Videos that range from 5-10 minutes long are ideal. I might be willing to hang in there for a 25 minute episode of something if it captures my attention for a long enough time.  Subscriptions are the best thing that YouTube has ever implemented, because I can roll through my subscription list through an evening and watch two things or twenty-five, and hey, if I don't see something tonight, it will still be in the exact location tomorrow. 

So let's take a look at some of my favorite channels. 

Book Review - Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book should have been called "Plymouth: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.

This was a well written narrative that chronicles the pilgrims, and their founding of the Plymouth colony through the first generation of settlers and King Phillp's War. This was an interesting interpretation of that moment in history. The story was written with enough intrigue and character development to keep you going through what amounts to be a very detailed description of the events. It is apparent that the English settlers did an excellent job of keeping diaries and other records of their struggles and trials.

It is important to note though that these accounts are largely from one perspective, and the book acknowledges that while even going so far as to try and provide logically explained reasons or alternatives to some actions.

Overall, a great read, especially if you are looking for an in-depth (sometimes too much so) description of the first decades of Plymouth and New England.


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