Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Road trips are great for audiobooks and I was able to listen to this one in the span of a single day. I discovered Hercule Poirot about a year ago while reading Murder on the Orient Express. I was completely in love with that book and I am obviously a fan of the old detective novels like this and Sherlock Holmes.

This is a solid entry in the series and is the first Poirot adventure. The story follows the similar formula, or perhaps establishes the formula for the Poirot series. Half the fun of these novels in my opinion is to try and catch the clues throughout the book to try and identify the murderer using the same methodology as the detective. There is a bit of narrative stretch that occurs sometimes. Characters seemingly pull out pieces of information from the world that you are not privy too, but overall Christie does put the pieces there for you as a read to draw upon.

I wasn't as enraptured as I was with Orient Express, but this was a solid and fun book in the series.

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Book Review: Sabriel

Sabriel by Garth Nix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. This books certainly came out of nowhere and surprised me. I started listening to this book a few weeks ago and it didn't catch me at first. I let the library rental expire and then I decided to give it another go a few weeks later. Once the story got going, it absolutely pulled me in.

This is labeled as a "Young Adult" book, but it is probably the most "adult" YA book I have read. The story is well put together. While it does cover many of the standard fantasy tropes, the world that Garth Nix has put together is incredibly well thought out. The magic system and world history is interesting. There are elements here that harken back to the John Carter or Narnia series in the way the world is constructed. It is tight and focused, keeping the world building isolated to the immediate land that the story is taking place in. We don't learn about the "whole planet", but that doesn't matter in the story telling.

I really liked the story arc that our main character, Sabriel went through. She was portrayed as a strong female lead character. She was capable where she needed to be, but knew that she was inexperienced. That inexperience was a primary plot device as it related to the Old Kingdom, but it was never used to victimize Sabriel. She didn't fall into the traps that are so commonly used with YA or genre fiction where her decisions were driven by teenage emotions. Sure, she is a young adult in this book, but her character showed the right amount of composure and emotion to make her believable. I really love that the other characters in the world held respect for her, for the Abhorsen, despite her age. It really showed a lot about the world.

Narratively I felt like this book was written as a result of Garth Nix playing D&D. Several of the plot points played out like D&D encounters in my opinion. They were satisfying though, nonetheless.

Overall, I loved the book. Any let me just put a final note in for that cover art. I absolutely love that artistic choice.

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Book Review: Dust of Dreams

Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me over a year of chipping away at this book to finally finish . Having spent the the past 7-8 years reading this series now I need to get through to the end. I would have to say that I do enjoy this series on the whole, but this book is the prime example of what is wrong with the series. This book clocks in at over eight hundred pages. We are 90% of our way through this series and Erickson continues to layer on an endless number of new characters and story arcs.

The book's structure is also quintessential of the series thus far, where the reader is dragged along for hundreds of pages with little concrete happening in terms of the story, only for a very impressive climax to finally occur in the last 150 pages or so. This book did have a fantastic ending battle, of which Erikson is known for, and I found myself emotionally distraught as we once again watched characters we came to love and enjoy get torn apart by the horrors of war. Truthfully, I don't know of many authors who can write large battle scenes as well as Erickson can. 

The difference for me this time around though is that the final battle felt a bit too "Deus Ex Machina". The enemy that our main characters encountered came from nowhere, and I did not have any pretense, as a reader, as to where they came from, why they were there or why they were attacking the Bonehunters. Because of this the weight of the scene was largely lost. To add to that whole feeling of "huh?", was the fact that Erikson threw another "Deus Ex Machina" element into the final scenes during a battle with the sky keeps. When we thought our heroe to be lost, a new player enters the field, seemingly out of nowhere. It all felt just a bit too convenient of a story telling mechanism for me with out the necessary guiding motivation for it to actually occur.

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August 2014: Book Check In

Work on my book from last year's Nanowrimo is still moving along and in some respects I have finally found a sort of groove. I am not working on the book everyday, but I am trying to get some editing in at least once a week. Most of the characters and places in the book now have names and I think I have successfully put in a first edit for the first couple of chapters. The books is still incredibly rough around the edges, but I think it is at least comprehensible in those sections now. I am going to continue to chip away at the book. 

I won't be doing Nanowrimo this year, but I am again hoping to have some form of a draft of this book finished before the end of this year.  

May 2014: Book Check In

So writing on my book sort of ground to a halt the past couple of months. I am literally on the edge of completing the book from a technical perspective, but as I get closer and closer to the proverbial finish line, each step gets heavier and harder. It is like the gravity of the whole thing is weighing me down and preventing me from finishing the book. What I think really is happening is that the lack of preparation for the end is really dragging me down and I don't have an internalized feeling for exactly how the book should conclude. For all intents and purposes though the book is finished in its first pass, so I think I am going to refocus my efforts here and go back to the beginning to work on fleshing out the story elements. God, knows that all sorts of things like character names need to be created and I need to established a more grounded foundation for the religious context in my world. 

March 2014: Book Check In

Well, it has been a while since a book check in. Progress is still moving along slowly, but I think at this point I am getting to the conclusion point in this point of my story arc. I am working through the climax point in the book and I am approaching the final plot point. I really hope I can knock that out over the next week or two and then begin the process of my first round of edits. As I have mentioned before, the book at this point is little more than a collection of words. Most of the characters still do not have names, and I still need to do some major editing to reincorporate the religious aspect of the book that I haven't done thus far. 

I was struggling for a long while on how to incorporate some of the religious tones that I wanted to do, but I have found some great inspiration actually from a book I just recently read. Nightbringer from the Warhammer 40,000 universe has really laid out an interesting world where the religion in the universe is the guiding point around the social and military structure. There are some interesting points in that world that I think I will borrow upon to bring in to my book.