Site updates

As part of reinvigorating the website and getting back to adding content, I’m taking steps to make the site easier to maintain.  This means changing the theme and various plugins, and so over the next few days the site appearance will be in flux.  Some features may not work correctly for a short time until things settle down, but hopefully it won’t last long.

Thanks for your patience.

Why do I keep books I have read?

I was talking about my books the other day with a friend who asked what the point was of keeping a book I have already read. I said to re-read of course to which they asked me why?

Well this made me think a bit, why do I re-read books when I have so many other books still yet to read? For me the answer is twofold, firstly, when a new book in a series comes out it may have been a year since the last one so I will re-read the previous book. If it is a series I love I will read all the books before starting the new one – I am a very quick reader so this does not take as long as it sounds! The second reason is that sometimes I want to read something I know I will love, I might not be in the mood to read something new or be in an odd mood reading wise. For me then sometimes books are like comfort blankets, old friends into which I can escape.

Over the past few months I have re-read a number of series including the JD Robb In Death series, The Wallflowers by Lisa Kleypas, the entire Cynster series by Stephanie Laurens and Gaelen Foleys Knight Miscellany series. Clearly I have been primarily in a historical romance mood!

Ultimately you never know when you will want to re-read a book – with a kindle it is easy as they are always there but there is something wonderful about walking into a room and seeing shelves of books floor to ceiling. I can escape to anywhere I want to in the past, present, future and even to worlds that don’t exist – or do they!

Would love to know what other people do, do you keep books or once read do they go forever?

 

Merry Christmas!

It’s almost Christmas, and another year has flown by.  Long time readers may remember this post from last year, around the same time.

Everything I said then is true now, and it’s come to that time of year when Greté’s illness often gets on top of her and she isn’t able to give the site, reviewing or even reading the time she would like.

So we ask you to bear with us for the next month or two, and we’ll be back and posting content again in 2015.

Until then, I hope you all have a great Christmas, and a very happy start to 2015.

Day 2 of the Creepy Halloween Blog Crawl

Piatkus Halloween banner

Today is our stop on the Creepy Blog Crawl!!  The amazing Kate Ellis writes our piece and gives you your letter! Tomorrow head to Book Mood Reviews for the next stop and once you have all five letters, visit http://www.piatkusbooks.net/halloween-blog-tour/, submit that word and you’ll be entered into their competition to win a bundle of Piatkus books and special Halloween sweets.  Good luck!

ROOM TWO Kate Ellis

My heart thundered in my chest as I hesitated in the corridor. Which door next? I had to make some sort of decision so I stumbled towards the first door to my right. I turned the handle and when the door swung open all I could see beyond the threshold was a heavy darkness. But somewhere beyond that door I knew there’d be a second clue. I stepped forward and the door slammed behind me.

I stood there quite still, my legs weak with fear, and suddenly I realised I wasn’t alone. Something was in there with me. Breathing. Watching. The air felt dank and I could smell decay; the smell of the grave. There was a faint rustle, like dry dead leaves blown by a fetid breeze, and a light appeared in the far corner; the flickering flame of a tall candle lit by an unseen hand. Then I heard a sigh, like air expelled from the lungs of a corpse after death.

With a huge effort, I summoned the courage to take a step forward. Whatever was in there with me, I needed to find that clue.

In the dancing flame I could just make out a shifting shape in the darkest corner. And, as I stared, the candlelight reflected off dark, glossy plumage. Feathers. Crow black. Shining like wet blood.

It slithered slowly across the floor towards me and my body tensed. It was a thing of evil – half-bird, half-serpent – and I forced myself to watch as it glided over the splintery floorboards. It breathed. It moved. I couldn’t see its form but there was a sour odour of decay, growing stronger as it drew nearer.

As I backed away the candle guttered and in that moment of brightness I saw something terrible. It was a doll with staring eyes and rosebud lips, open to reveal a set of sharp white teeth. It wore a cloak of black feathers and it was standing a few feet away, watching me. I could hear its rasping breath and I knew it lived. Then I heard a voice, like a child singing softly to itself.

‘Here comes the candle to light you to bed. Here comes the chopper to chop off your head.’

The voice was brittle, sweet yet knowing. The thing had me trapped and it was gloating. The rhyme was repeated again. Then again. Each time a little louder than the last.

‘ To chop off your head.’

I tried to scream but no noise emerged. The candle was burning dimly now and the creature was still watching me with its cold glass eyes. I shuffled back and stooped to pick up the candle, hoping its feeble flame would guide me back to the corridor.

I could see a light beneath the door. If the thing didn’t strike at me I thought I could make it. As I clutched the candle I could hear it moving again, still singing, stalking like a predator.

I reached the door and fumbled desperately for the handle. To my relief it opened and I fell on my knees into the corridor, twisting round to slam it shut behind me. To shut out that evil thing and its terrible rhyme.

I was still holding the candle. The hot wax had dripped onto my hand but terror made me oblivious to the pain. Then I noticed something drawn near the candle’s base; a dark, malevolent bird – a raven with a human face. And just above it I saw the letter R carved into the wax. I had the second clue.

If you need a reminder of all the stops and dates, you can see them here.

Creepy Halloween Blog Crawl

Piatkus Halloween banner

This Halloween, follow five amazing authors through five fabulous book blogs for the chance to win a grand prize with Piatkus.

Christopher RiceKate EllisTim O’RourkeKristen Callihan and Darynda Jones have joined forces to write a spooky story. Every day from 27th to 31st October, each author’s section of the story will feature on a different blog. Each section of the story will contain a single highlighted letter. Follow the story through the blogs, collecting the highlighted letters as you go and on 31st October you will have enough letters to spell a single word!

The creepy blog crawl starts here (you don’t need to collect a letter from this section of the story):

You wake up at the end of a long, dark corridor. Someone slams and locks the door behind you. There’s no way to go but forwards. At the end of the corridor is a heavy wooden door.

In front of you is an envelope with your name on it. You open it with trembling hands. It says, ‘You have been brought here for a reason. Prove that you are worth saving. Work out the five clues if you want to live.’

You stand up, clutching the letter, and run for the end of the corridor. On the door is a keypad, containing all 26 letters of the alphabet. Knowing, deep down, that it won’t help, you try desperately to open the door. It’s firmly locked. Turning round, you see five doors in the side of the corridor. Three to the left and two to the right. Five doors, five clues. You know what you have to do.

Day 1, 27th October: Head on over to Chicks That Read to read the first installment of the story from Christopher Rice and to collect your first letter!

Day 2, 28th October: Go to Bookthing to read the second installment of the story from Kate Ellis and to collect your second letter!

Day 3, 29th October: Click through to Book Mood Reviews to read the third installment of the story from Tim O’Rourke and to collect your third letter!

Day 4th, 30th October: Head on over to Opinionated Cupcakes  to read the fourth installment of the story from Kristen Callihan and to collect your fourth letter!

Day 5th, 31st October: And finally go to Fiction Fascination to read the fifth installment of the story from Darynda Jones and to collect your fifth and final letter!

Visit http://www.piatkusbooks.net/halloween-blog-tour/, submit that word and you’ll be entered into our competition to win a bundle of Piatkus books and special Halloween sweets.

Good luck!

The Wheel of Time – Is It Worth Reading?

The Wheel of Time is epic fantasy like no other. It divides opinion, and it’s hugely variable in quality as the series progresses. It is though, one of the great pieces of art of our generation and it would be a shame not to at least give it a shot.

 The first book in the Wheel of Time (The Eye of the World) was published in 1990, the 14th and last book (A Memory of Light) was published in 2013.  Close to a full 23 years between the two books (it was 22 years, 11 months and 24 days).  If you include the short story / prequel ‘New Spring’, then there are 15 books, totalling 4.4 million words, and almost 12,000 paperback pages (all data from Wikipedia).

I can’t really remember when I read the first book.  I guess I might be able to find out if I dredged enough Internet history or e-mail, but if I had to take a stab, it would likely be between 1993 and 1995.  That feels right, and puts me around Fires of Heaven or Lord of Chaos as the last one published at the time I was reading them.  I probably had to wait therefore for either A Crown of Swords or The Path of Daggers, maybe both.

Waiting for new books isn’t anything new, and anyone who’s read a ‘live’ series will know the experience.  Waiting for a Wheel of Time book though, became a lottery.  It killed a lot of fans, because the ‘middle’ books were so slow, and made so little progress.  Some people didn’t mind, and obviously, it didn’t kill the series, but many, many people were put off and couldn’t go on.

I was one of them.

Waiting a few years to find out what your favourite characters were up to, only to find out they weren’t in the book because there wasn’t room, despite the 300,000 words, and you had to wait another two years was hard.  Finding out the main plot didn’t advance, but new characters and threads and complexity turned up, was hard.  Finding out that you didn’t find anything out was hard.  So I stopped reading them.  My wife still bought them, but even she gave up in the end.  I read some on-line summaries for one or two of the books and then put them out of my mind.

Sadly, Robert Jordan fell ill and passed away in 2007.  At that stage, I pretty much gave up hope of finding out how the story ended, which against the loss of another person’s life is a tiny inconvenience.

Eventually, news started to circulate that Robert and his wife Harriet had picked someone to continue and in fact complete the series after he passed away – Brandon Sanderson.  I’d never read anything of his, and I wondered honestly, how much of my problem with The Wheel of Time was Jordan and how much was just the source material.

Then more news – the single book was going to be three, the first one due in 2009 and the last one, well, sometime after that.  I refused to end up waiting to read another Wheel of Time book and I pretty much forgot all about them (or pretended to).

I made the occasional blog post, threatening to go back and read them all, and be ready for the new ones, or go back and read them all when the new ones were out, but I wasn’t reading fantasy really.  Or much at all.  So those plans never came to fruition.

Then, a few months into 2014, a friend on Facebook mentioned having just finishing listening to the series on audio-book and that the boring stretches weren’t as bad as he remembered.  Either audio book made them better, or the pain had eased with time.  I resolved then to re-read the whole series.  The final book was out, it had come out in 2013, so there was nothing stopping me reading them end-to-end and finally getting some answers.

It started out okay, like greeting old friends.  The Jordanisms weren’t too bad, and the first three books were enjoyable.  Then the rot set in.  Oh, not straight away, there are still some good moments after book 3, and in fact, some very good books by Jordan after book 3.  Knife of Dreams, the last he completed on his own is excellent in fact.  Sadly though, many of the middle books are dire in parts or their totality.

This is obviously my personal opinion, and different people will have different views about the books.  For me however, Jordan was too interested in telling us how the world looked, smelled, sounded and felt, and not interested enough in telling us what was going on and making progress.  Major plot threads stalled and vanished for entire books, we spent a lot of time being told what people were wearing and why it was or wasn’t appropriate, how men and women just couldn’t get along, with all men being stupid selfish children and all women being bitchy hags at heart.

It grated and it dragged.

But I knew there was some light ahead, because I knew no matter what happened, there would be a final battle and the good guys would win.  As I said in the review for A Memory of Light, the truth of epic fantasy is that the good guys always win, the only question is the cost.  So I knew Rand would beat the Dark One, somehow, and that the Wheel would continue to turn.  What I wanted to learn along the way, were the answers to questions Jordan had posed early on, and the cost of that victory.

All I had to do, was to keep reading.

Then something odd happened.  Book eleven, Knife of Dreams, was really quite good.  Jordan had recaptured the magic.  He drove the story forward, he wrote emotional character pieces.  He answered some questions, sure he posed a bunch more, as normal, but he actually answered a few.  I really enjoyed Knife of Dreams, and that made me even more angry.  Robert Jordan can write superb fantasy.  He can put down complex and detailed plot threads, weave lots of ideas together, deliver complex political and military situations, and make us feel like we know people through limited PoV writing.

He proved it in book eleven.  So where the hell was he in book 10, or the other dire books?

Anyway, with book eleven behind me, I read the first of the Brandon Sanderson books, and it was also excellent.  Book thirteen was good, and the finale, book fourteen, A Memory of Light is as good as you can expect given the constraints.

Books 12 and 14 were particularly emotional in parts.  Book 13 slightly less so for me, due to the nature of what is going on, but none-the-less it was very enjoyable.

I’d done it, in just over a month I managed to read all fourteen books, I’d pushed through the hard times and got my reward at the end.

Was it worth it?  Is it worth it?  I’ve you’ve tried before, or never read them, should you pick them up from book one and give them a shot?

My answer is, maybe.

 They’re very long books.  They’re very, very slow in places, even the good ones, and they have a lot of characters.  Despite his best efforts, Sanderson can’t close down every thread properly, and some are left hanging.  There’s no grand epilogue telling you how everything works out at the end (something I felt I might have enjoyed), and so you’re going to need to fill in some blanks if you get there.  Some of the characters are irritating beyond recognition, your gender may affect which you find more irritating.

Sometimes the characters are stupid.  Sometimes you wish they’d just sit down and tell each other what they were thinking or doing and everything would be a lot easier.  Sometimes you wish they would just jump off a cliff and let the Dark One win.

But.

You can’t deny the genius of Jordan at times.  The complexity of some of the plot threads, the groundwork laid down in early books come to fruition in later ones.  The complexity of the world, the colour, the depth of vision, and the varying political landscapes.  Despite their annoyances, the characters are often engaging and interesting.  Some are just superb, Lan for example.  It’s fantasy on a truly epic scale.  Sure, it draws on a lot of sources, but it blends them into a unique and ultimately engaging story.

I’m happier for having finished them, and if I had never read them at all, I’d be poorer for it.

The Wheel of Time is epic fantasy like no other.  It divides opinion, and it’s hugely variable in quality as the series progresses.  It is though, one of the great pieces of art of our generation and it would be a shame not to at least give it a shot.  There is an end in sight, you just have to keep your head above the water during the choppy bits and keep going.  I did it, you can too.


My reviews of the books (reviews are spoiler free, but the sections below the reviews are not, reviews for later books may spoil books before them).

  1. The Eye of the World
  2. The Great Hunt
  3. The Dragon Reborn
  4. The Shadow Rising
  5. The Fires of Heaven
  6. Lord of Chaos
  7. A Crown of Swords
  8. The Path of Daggers
  9. Winter’s Heart
  10. Crossroads of Twilight
  11. Knife of Dreams
  12. The Gathering Storm
  13. Towers of Midnight
  14. A Memory of Light

What did I get from The Wheel of Time?

Does someone, anyone, finally realise that if you don’t just talk openly and honestly with your allies, you don’t get anywhere? – No.

While I was reading the series, I made this blog post.  I made some kind of promise to go back and update it, which I didn’t really do.  I did post some questions that I hoped got answered.  There are major spoilers coming up for the series if you’ve not read it, so beware!


Here are the things I wanted answered, and whether we got them.

  • Does Moiraine survive, who rescues her if she does (does she rescue herself)?
    Answered.  Mat, Thom and Jain rescue her from the Snakes and Foxes.
  • What did Moiraine see in Rhuidean, and how much of that is ever revealed to us?
    Partially answered.  Not revealed to us in great detail, other than she saw her own rescue, and her fight with Lanfear.
  • Mat – just everything about Mat.  What does he end up doing, does he end up using the Horn? Does his death mean he’s no longer linked to it? Does anyone else realise that?
    Answered.  He died due to the balefire ‘incident’ and was brought back to life, and so is no longer linked to the horn.  Olver blows it.
  • Who is Olver, and is he Gaidal Cain?
    Strongly implied but never answered.
  • What is the taint on Saidin?  Does it ever get explained?
    Not really answered.
  • Just exactly what is going on with the seals?
    Not really answered, although there are implications.  Dark Ones touch, not quite in exactly the right place, etc.
  • How important was Herid Fel and which of the Forsaken did him in?
    Not really answered.  Min takes up Herid’s research.  We don’t really know who killed him.
  • What is going on with Lews Therin inside Rand’s head.  Are they really talking to each other?  Does Lews hear Rand in his own timeline?
    Answered.  Rand is Lews, Lews is Rand.  It’s a long story, but it works out beautifully.
  • What happens in general to the Aiel after it’s all done.
    Implied but not really answered.
  • Do the Tinkers ever find the song?
    Not answered.  Jordan said in interviews that they never will though.
  • Do the Tinkers and the Aiel ever forgive each other?
    Not answered.
  • Do Moiraine and Thom end up together?
    Answered.  Yes.
  • Does Elayne ever work out Mat’s fox-head medallion and does that play any role later?
    Answered.  Partially and yes, very much so.
  • Do they ever relearn the art of healing without having to use energy from the patient (i.e. can they heal with just the One Power, like in the Age of Legends)?
    Answered.  This is what Nynaeve has learned to do.
  • Just what the hell is Verin really up to?  Who is she, how old is she, and how long has she known about the events leading up to where we are in the books?
    Answered.  She’s accidentally Black Ajah.  It’s a long story.
  • Does Elayne ever work out how to make angreal and sa’angreal?
    Not answered.  However, Rand gives her an angreal seed, so she may be able to use that to learn.
  • Does someone, anyone, finally realise that if you don’t just talk openly and honestly with your allies, you don’t get anywhere?
    No.
  • Does someone, anyone, finally realise men and women must work together and trust each other to succeed both in the battle and in life afterwards?
    Partially answered.  Although I asked this in jest, there’s a clear implication that the cross Ashaman / Aes Sedai bonding that’s going on will lead to some kind of reconciliation at some stage.
  • What happens with Lan’s heritage, and does it play any role?
    Answered.  Yes, gloriously so.  Ahh Lan.
  • Do the Ways ever get cleansed?
    Not answered.  Implied that they don’t.
  • Does the taint get removed from Saidin (I’m cheating, I know the answer to this one already, one of the few things I remember from later books)?
    Answered.  Yes, Rand cleanses it with the help of Nynaeve.
  • What’s going on with Moridin (again, cheating, I’m not sure he’s been introduced yet)?
    Answered.  It’s Ishy innit.
  • Are some of the characters meant to be stupid for a reason?
    Not answered.
  • Is it ever explained that the ability to channel is genetic and hence killing male channellers before they have kids is the reason why fewer people in general can use the One Power, or is it only ever alluded to?
    Not answered.
  • Does someone chop Nynaeve’s braid off to save us all from ourselves?
    Answered.  No.
  • Does Elayne ever take up the Throne of Andor?
    Answered.  Yes.
  • Does Rand end up with all three girls or does that dream ever get abandoned / explained?
    Answered.  Yes, he gets the girls.
  • Does Perrin hold out and remain human?
    Answered.  Yes but it’s more complex than that, and his story is one of the best.
  • Does the Tower become whole? Do they stop using the Oath Rod? Is that ever fully explained?
    Answered.  Yes, and no, they continue to use it, even though they understand it’s side effects now.
  • Padan Fain – what happens to him?
    Answered.  Sanderson ran out of space, but Fain gets an ending.
  • Who does and doesn’t survive the last battle (people, nations, structures, cities, etc.)
    Kind of answered.  It’s a bloody mess by the end.
  • Does Rand fully seal the prison, so that it looks like the bore never existed, is this the age in which that happens, or is it just another patch?
    Answered.  Sealed, no patch.
  • Once again, who’s Moridin?
    Answered.  Still Ishy.
  • Who’s in the second mindtrap?
    Answered.  Moghedian and Lanfear.
  • What was going on with Liah in Shadar Logoth?  How did she survive so long?
    Not answered.
  • Do we ever know what happened when the two balefire beams touch?
    Not answered.  Implication that it brings Moridin and Rand somehow ‘closer together’ so that they can affect each other’s bodies or feel each other’s pain.

And there you have it.

 

Otherworld Nights Blog Tour

We are taking part in the Blog Tour for the release of Otherworld Nights by Kelley Armstrong.  This is a collection of short stories set in the Otherworld universe featuring some of our favourite characters.  While you may have read some already in their original anthologies, they are together for the first time along with some new material!  It’s released today but stop by tomorrow on the 8th to see our review!

Otherworld Nights Blog Tour