Level up!

Three main types of books I'm into: -Fantasy (pure indulgence) -Childrens (also fun- none of this pretentious "YA" crap) -Classics (this is where I'm "leveling up" my intelligence stats. +1!)
The Face In The Frost - John Bellairs

Wizards!

 

This is my introduction to John Bellairs. I'm going to read his more well-known gothic horror stuff next.

 

,,,but first, wizards!

 

 

There is something ineffably '60s about this book, but in a light and fun way. Some passages are downright funny and remind me of Hitchhiker's guide.

 

Bellairs does a good job of writing emotion. He doesn't explain the mechanics of the world, or how spells work, or even really describe a scene, so much as the associated emotions.

 

This book was full of fear and dread, and I can see why he is known as a horror writer. Every time night fell, I was dreading what would happen next to our plucky heroes. They tended to stumble through their adventures and come out alright, although they never seemed to know what they were doing until it was over.

 

Anyway, it's an enjoyable read. I can see readers getting frustrated over the lack of detail or consistency in the magical world, but I think it's super fun and would highly recommend it.

The Hidden City - David Eddings

Again, not much to say other than this is book 6 of 6 of my favorite book series.

 

 

Bhlokw for the win.

The Shining Ones - David Eddings

My favorite book series.

 

I don't have much more to say, but I sure devoured these books again, and loved them as much as I always do.

Domes of Fire (Tamuli) - David Eddings

Book 4/6 of my favorite series.

 

You would think that after destroying an evil god, saving a princess, and generally kicking the forces of evil's collective butt, that Sparkhawk would be done. Instead, he's got strange new countries to visit and new adventures.

 

I'm so glad we get to spend time with Stragen, Mirtai, queen Betuana, Elron, Empress Elysoun, Caalador, and Princess Danae (just to name a few). Ulath hates sieges, yet

suggests one at every opportunity,

(show spoiler)

and they have

not one, but at least three great siege battles

(show spoiler)

in this book. The business at the end with

the rioting and the defending of the Elene Castle

(show spoiler)

is one of my favorite scenes in all these books.

 

Plus, we've got Elysoun vs. Berit, and Emperor Sarabian, who is a force unto himself.

 

If I ever have twin girls, I'll name them Danae and Aphrael. If it's triplets, Danae, Aphrael, and Flute.

The Sapphire Rose - David Eddings

Sparhawk-from-Elenia hunts! Now, go away!

 

I'll say it again: THIS IS MY FAVORITE BOOK SERIES.

 

So fun to spend time with these characters. It's especially good to have Queen Ehlana awake in this one. I remember being quite surprised at her personality and ...umm.. assertiveness the first time I read this.

 

I think that one could read the character of Ehlana as some sort of authorial wish-fulfillment or something, but as I reread these, Ehlana's got her own very distinct and interesting personality, and I can't help but wonder whether she's based on Eddings' wife Leigh. I can tell he's got a lot of love for this character, and I guess I project that on a cantankerous old author.

 

Well, the book ends more or less how you would expect, but the journey is half the fun...

 

Maybe except for the twist at the very end about Princess Danae (!) Onwards to the second trilogy!

The Ruby Knight - David Eddings

Following Sparhawk and company on the great adventure. Did I mention these books are my favorites? Don't expect much criticism here...

 

It's been just long enough since I've read this series that I can't remember all the details of what's going to happen next, but I sure remember the characters.

 

It's in this book where the character Flute goes from never speaking in one chapter to non-stop chatter for the rest of the series. I don't mind. She's one of my favorites.

 

 

The Diamond Throne - David Eddings

A reread of what is possibly my favorite fantasy series by my favorite fantasy author.

 

Eddings has his faults -- over description of the weather, a tendency to write himself into deus ex machina, and some overreliance on racial prejudices which would be truly awful if we weren't talking about fictional races here (you know-- the whole Tolkien all-orcs-are-evil trope).

 

But who am I kidding? The reason I love fantasy (and probably the reason you love fantasy as well) is the character drama and interaction. These are fun, funny characters embarking on a fantastical adventure, and I absolutely love every single one of them

 

List of folks I love:

 

Sparhawk

Kalten

Kurik

Talen

Berit

Vanion

Dolmant

Sephrenia

Flute

Ulath

Tynian

Bevier

Platime

Arasham

 

plus I love to hate Annias, Martel, Adus, and Krager as well.

 

plus plus all the folks (Ehlana, Mirtai, Stragen!, Kring, Danae, etc. etc.) that we encounter in books two through six

 

What I did not remember was the level of adult content in these books-- nothing shocking, but don't expect me to introduce this to my 9-year-old who is devouring Harry Potter just yet.

 

Anyways, don't expect anything beyond pure gushing from me over this series. It's like coming home to an old familiar friend. I am SO enjoying this.

 

King Lear (Folger Shakespeare Library Series) - William Shakespeare

My first time through King Lear. Some absolutely wonderful prose in there. The story was a touch hard to follow, but I managed okay. 

 

I think the moral of the story is: "Never never never give your kids their inheritance before you die." Lear certainly did this and earned the contempt and resentment from his two daughters while shafting Cordelia, who could have maybe had used some tact while trying to signal to her father that her older sisters were awful.

 

I did like that the good son of Gloucester was named Edgar (a certain family name)... Edgar was weird, though. Instead of protesting (or proving) his innocence, he just kinda rolled over too.

 

Maybe I just thought that the characters were too broad, too cartoonish. The pathos and emotion was good, but it's really all over the map.

 

But who am I to criticize the Bard, really?

Institutes of the Christian Religion - John Calvin, Henry Beveridge

Thankfully, I only read excerpts of "Institutes" as part of the huge Great Books set I got from my wife's grandmother: https://www.amazon.com/Foundation-readings-discussion-course-volumes/dp/B000N83EWU .. I've been slowly working through these classics and mostly enjoying every one, but John Calvin seemed to be one of the hardest to slog through. My general impression of Calvin is that he was very rigid and closed-minded. He acknowledges that there are smart and wise people on earth who aren't christian, but then goes ahead and says that you basically have to be a christian in order to gain any knowledge in this world and that everybody else is stupid... Maybe it was my attitude going into this, but I don't think I want to delve any deeper into Calvin's writings. I already knew I didn't like Hobbes. Who knew I would dislike both Calvin and Hobbes?

Navigators of Dune by Herbert, Brian, Anderson, Kevin J.(May 17, 2016) Hardcover - Kevin J. Herbert Brian & Anderson

Another of the ever-expanding books in the Dune universe.

 

First, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that all the plot lines, all the situations, themes, and everything in all these books sprang forth fully formed in the original book Dune. Dune is a masterpiece. That is all.

 

This one is no masterpiece, but it's fun. An interesting take on the Butlerian movement and a setup for the world of Dune. I think this second series (Great Schools, starting with Sisterhood of Dune) hews closer to the original intent of Frank Herbert's idea of a Butlerian Jihad (and the fundamental underpinnings of his universe) than the first series did.

 

The characters seem like unstoppable forces hurtling towards each other: Manford Torondo, Josef Venport, Norma Cenva, Valya Harkonnen, Anna Corrino, etcetera. I was excited to get to this book and see the denouement of how all these folks would interact.

 

Yes, the ultimate ending was predictable, as is usually the case with prequels, but some of the twists and turns weren't

 

 

in the very end, I actually even started to sympathize with Erasmus.

 

I understood Norma Cenva's motivations,and she was a major motive force for the other characters. Did a good job at answering my question why the Spacing Guild didn't just take over everything in the original Dune series.

 

I maybe even a little grieved for Josef Venport, and his stubbornness. I was surprised at the depths to which Valya Harkonnen sunk, and I really wasn't surprised at all that Vorian Atreides rode off into the sunset the way he did.

(show spoiler)

 

So anyway, that was a book. On to the next one.

Mentats of Dune - Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson

Another fun, engrossing read. I like the Brian Herbert prequels. I know not everyone agrees. There's thousands of years of space between these prequels and Dune proper, and I'm surprised at how many stories that can be told.

 

These books have a lot more in common with the Butlerian Jihad prequel series than any Dune books that come afterwards.

 

That being said, I'm now retroactively a little disappointed that they've already used the words "Machine Crusade" in the prequel series, because I think the events of this book are more of what Frank Herbert had in mind of the Butlerian Jihad. The dichotomy and balance between Manford Torondo and Josef Venport, with the Emperor right in the middle, is intriguing, and keeps me turning pages.

 

And yet, there's enough room for these books to surprise me. I certainly wasn't expecting the events that happened at the end of this book. On to the next one!

 

(again, this book is 4 stars only in deference to the original Dune, which is unapproachable)

So this is my first reread in my Goodreads / Booklikes era.

When I got this book, I broke my Robert Jordan rule (no unfinished series!) and read it. In hindsight, I wish I hadn't broken the rule.

Nevertheless, this was a good book to read while I was sick, and it didn't ask too much of me. It's been five years, so the characters are familiar without me remembering all the details of what happened to them. I wish I could reread every book I love every five years,

but life is long.

Now, on to the sequels!
Reblogged from Level up!:
Sisterhood of Dune - 'Brian Herbert',  'Kevin J. Anderson' Ahh, it felt good to just throw myself into a book again.

This one's quite good.

As an afficionado of the Dune series, especially the prequels, this was a good one-- I even broke my Robert Jordan rule (no unfinished series!) to read this one.

Turns out this is the first in a new series taking place after the Butlerian Jihad series of prequels, so chronologically book 4 in the Dune universe. Luckily, I read that series pretty recently, so the characters are still fresh in my mind.

Since this isn't the first of the prequels, this shouldn't be a starting point for anyone. If you read this, you should have at least read the 3 books in the Butlerian Jihad series. By that point, you should have an opinion as to whether you love or hate the Dune prequels.

For my money, the Brian Herbert/Kevin J Anderson Dune prequels do a LOT less damage to Frank Herbert's amazing universe and legacy than Frank Herbert's books 3-6. If you disagree, well, you're wrong, but you're entitled to your opinion. (Penny Arcade!) You are free to be disappointed in the prequels-- they're a lot shallower and more forumulaic than Frank Herbert's masterpiece, but they're fun adventure reads that certainly do no harm to the original ideas.

Anyway, this book is great for lovers of the Butlerian Jihad prequels. Only 3-4 characters remain from that series, but the world is similar. It's an interesting time-- the imperium is young and weak. People are still uncertain as to the lessons to learn from the fight against the thinking machines, and the universe isn't so static as the next several millenia-- until really the book Dune. There are interesting characters, etc. etc., and enough drama and unresolved tension that I'm not bored reading an (arguably) unnecessary series between familiar points. About the only thing I was disappointed in was I thought the Mentats could've been .... smarter. For being Mentats, they're surprisingly un-Mentat-like-- maybe that's because these guys are the first.

I read it in two days and thoroughly loved it. It's only not 5 stars in deference to the original Dune, which is, unfortunately, always a comparison

The Reluctant Dragon - Kenneth Grahame

Picked this up for a bit of light reading. I don't know if I put it on Booklikes (or if it was in the dark period), but our family LOVED Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows. It was so dreamlike and ....very English.

 

Anyway, for an american sorta-anglophile, and definitely a fan of old Disney, I was delighted to find out that the Reluctant Dragon was a Grahame book as well. (the rights were acquired in Disney's bid to get Wind in the Willows' rights)

 

Anyway, unless you're an old disney freak like I am, you may not have seen Disney's late 40s, not-quite-a-short, not-a-full-length-movie of The Reluctant Dragon.

 

For better or worse, the film version was what stuck with me as I read. I wish I could have enjoyed Ernest Shephard's illustrations more (He's the guy behind Winnie-ther-Pooh, if you don't remember your early 20th century english kid lit)

 

Anyway, Grahame's language was droll, and really enjoyable. The details of the story were very different from Disney's version, but the tone was the same. What a silly dragon.

 

It was a nice short read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it's not as essential as The Wind in the Willows, and I probably won't be reading it out loud to my kids, especially since I've already forced them to watch the movie...

Sometimes a Great Notion - Ken Kesey

The Great American Novel.

 

Full Stop.

This is it. I found it.

 

Simply the best book I've read since Midnight's Children, and possibly the best work of fiction I've read. Not my favorite book, that would probably be a David Eddings. But the Best.

 

Maybe it's just because I'm from Oregon, but this book resonated with me on so many levels. The great descriptions of the landscape, climate, culture, hardships, and contradictions of Oregon.

 

Sure, it's about some pretty unsavory people. They use bad language and make bad choices. Several of them are embarrasingly old-fashioned (read: racist as heck), but that's my family. These are my neighbors. This is the world in which I live.

 

I'm surprised that over the course of this (pretty long) book, I found myself identifying more with grumpy grandpa Henry Stamper, and almost equally grumpy near-superman Hank than with Lee, the educated outsider. Not what I would have expected. By the end of the book, I had a lot more sympathy for Hank's side of things than Lee's side of things. Nevertheless, the ending brought all those viewpoints together anyways.

 

And the ending... since the book was written in the 60s, I assumed it would have an unhappy ending, as most movies from the 60s and 70s do. As a child of the 80s and 90s, I like my happy endings and find the generation before me uncomfortably profound. This particular ending was like one of those movies that freezes the action right at the climax.(I'm thinking the old Italian Job, but I know there are more movies like that). So the 60s and 70s folks can imagine doom and gloom, and I can go on keeping the happy ending in my head where...

 

Hank and Lee ride the log booms into the mill victoriously down the river past the screaming hordes of townspeople. Where Viv leaves the both of them to head back east to find herself, and where Hank and Lee, with the assistance of Andy sneak old Henry out of the hospital (and off the drugs) and they go riding off with a fat paycheck and the animosity of the whole town into the sunset.

(show spoiler)

 

Anyways, it was a good book and one that every Oregonian should read.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet - Madeleine L'Engle

Wasn't expecting to like this one, but I did. It was a bit episodic, but a pretty complex woven-together plotline. Not as didactic and trippy-for-the-sake-of-trippiness as A Wind in the Door.

 

In fact, the story was so compelling, I found the Murry family and the present-day conflict to be the weakest part of the story. The layered past/genealogy/archetype thing was cool.

 

Also: I love me some 'corns.

A Star Over Bethlehem - Agatha Christie Mallowan

Star Over Bethlehem and Other Stories - Agatha Christie Mallowan, Agatha Christie

One of my christmas gifts last year-- a book of holiday-themed short stories and poems by Agatha Christie.

 

I particularly liked Agatha's short stories. She's a master of characterization and emotion, and it was good to escape the framework of finding a dead body in chapter 1 and having everything nicely wrapped up in 200 pages or so.

 

The Water Bus and The Island were my favorite of these. Obvs these stories are going to be Christian in setting and message, otherwise why are we talking about Christmas?

 

After the first third of the book, devoted to short stories, the rest is a collection of Agatha Christie poetry. While Agatha is not a bad poet, and certainly has a gift with words, she's also not a great poet, either. The poetry section of the book was dull and overlong, and I probably won't revisit it.

 

The prose, however, will probably be shared with family around the fireplace, as the kind of stories one shares with family around christmastime.