Book Review – Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings

2015-04-04 08.55.19Here is a quick book review of Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings. I’m keeping it short because I’ve recently read Pawn of Prophecy; the first of the series and this really is a continuation. I’m also progressing at fair pace with The Year of Reading Dangerously. I wouldn’t say quickly, as I have been side tracked with my book list, and I have been continually tweeting about various aspects of #tyord. Andy Miller hoped that the book would speak to me. It has and it is. Anyhoo, I really enjoyed Queen of Prophecy. I’m not going to rate it as highly as The Pawn of Prophecy, but it is none the less a very competent sequel.

This instalment of the quintet is more your quintessential fantasy travel diary than the last book. As you know, I liked David Eddings writing style, so the book remained readably even thought little of any import happened for most of it. In amongst the travel, bedding down, the feeling of being followed and the occasional intrusion of a king or a Grolim: tension built nicely. I spent quite a bit of the book wondering why it was called the Queen of Sorcery, hoping that I would find out. Suffice to say that the build up is worth it and Aunt Pol really is a queen of her particular art.

This second book sees the main character Garion in a more grown up role. There is a bit more sexual content in this book, but it is kept relevant to the characters wo fand is in no way too much for the target audience i.e. teenagers and not middle aged men… It is actually quite subtly written sexual tension and I thought it was perfectly balanced and well done.

There are a few further issues that I had with the book and I will end with them in a list; because that is easier and quicker than proper writing and I want a cup of tea:-

  1. In the first book, it annoyed me that names are sometimes very similar. By page 5 my whinge was usable again: Grolim = evil priests, The gorim of the ulgos = good. I’m pretty sure that these were mentioned in the first book as well, but I noticed it in this one, so that’s where my whinge is being applied.
  2. I struggled slightly with in the first book too. Even though David Eddings is capable of writing in empathy of the thoughts and actions of a young teenager, there is a very polar interaction with Garion from a lot of the other cast members.Everyone had treated Garion like a 10 year old until right at the end if the book when everyone switches their views and he is suddenly meant to be able to function as an adult, taking responsibility for actions that he was essentially forbidden to do a matter of pages before! This may be dodgy writing, or if the benefit of the doubt is given, it may be that these things are written from the perspective of Garion?
  3. To add to the slightly clunky “it wasn’t done on purpose” argument above:-
    • Poll is too prim
    • Garion is slightly too moody and not quite clever enough to see what is going on, but he is very well written as a teenager, confused in a confusing world.
    • Ce’Nedra is too volatile and flips from happy, playful and sexy to upset and offended too quickly.

In conclusion. I liked it. It has some flaws, but they are acceptable as the build up, story and characters are able to carry you through 🙂

Rating: 7/10

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Booklist complete… Almost

IMG_20150424_214824Yo, how are you lot today?? I am, as usual, a bit behind with this blog thingy, but I am doing a lot behind the scenes at the moment which should improve things. If you follow my twitter account (@pocobooc) then you will know that a large part of last weekend was taken up with the creation of a book list. This is ALL of the books that I own but have not read yet, all lined up and all in one massive list. I took the time to categorise them, broadly, into ones that I will read properly, ones that are reference and a couple of other groups that I will reveal later. I have catalogued all this fun with a huge number of photos, a spreadsheet and an evernote note. I now have to organise it all and (most importantly) work out the best way to show it on my book activity page. I also want to integrate the books on the loose info; again for future expansion plans. Queue evil laugh – BWAHAHAHAAAAaaa.

I took the categorised books and worked out the right IMG_20150424_224438order for series of books where applicable. I do have some gaps, for instance I own Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books numbers 2,3,6 and 10. I am therefore going to have to work out how to start that particular series from the first book. In this case I know I used to own the first one, but it is no longer with me. I either need to order it for a birthday or get it from the library. I will cross that bridge when I get to it… Once categories were ordered, I started the book list with a category, then interleaved the next and the next. I ended up with a very long line of books. The photo on the right is the line about 3/4 of the way through.

DSCF4632The most time consuming part of the process was working out what to do with the books that were left over! The main list of books went straight into my main bookcase and what didn’t fit went in the loft, but there are only so many other places to stuff books. Ultimately I managed to do it and I now have some order in my book world. BUT…

On the way home in the car I realised a major gap in my now perfect list. An imperfection of what may be gargantuan proportions. It is actually an issue in itself that I can not currently estimate the scale of the issue!! I haven’t included any of my e-books. I have books in Kobo. I have books in Kindle. I have some “independent” e-books that I “found” and I need to have an internal conversation about what to do with them!!! I therefore have to add all of my digital estate into the list, but I have a list to add them to, so that is good 🙂

One Book List to rule them all

Hello Sunday evening. Where did you creep up from?? Before I give up for the day, I wanted to update you all (or at least the Ether!) I have spent a lot of time with books this weekend and most of it wasn’t with my nose in one. Since I started the blog I have been gradually mining into my book backlog one at a time. Each time I do, I post a next book article, then I blog the review at the end. This double entry for each book takes much of my allocated blog time and I don’t get to blog the other amazing stuff I want to.

This weekend took a huge step towards resolving that. I got all of my unread books out, and I mean ALL. I organised them, then built a book list to beat all other book lists! I created one single list of all of the reading books I have left to read. I interleaved the various genres so that I get variety and I made sure that series were in order (if I have the series that is!) I *think* that there will be 160 books in the list. That’s from now, not from the start of my Quest! I also have some other books in what will become Libraries. Three main ones have been created so far: “Reference”, “Read Then Do” and “A little and Often” The names may change and I will explain all when I have my life back in order.

I’ve got loads of work still to go, including faffing around with pictures. Therefore, I think this is my first every picture-less blog post! The Horror!

I’m going to be getting the new structure in over the next few weeks, or more likely weekends. I will start with the first part of the list so we all know what is coming up, after all, that was the whole point. Then I will get funky with the book pictures I have taken. There will also need to be some updates to The Rules and stuff. It’s all going to be occurring right here, but not now. Now is bed time for Mr.Pocobooc.

Nighty night all.

The Journey – by me 1997(ish)

I wrote the following in 1997 when I was 20/21. I was at University at the time and could see my future stretching in front of me. This is a very personal piece of writing to me, mainly because I have come back to read it a few times over the years and it always rings true. I’m also not going to comment on it at all, I will save that for another time. Suffice to say that my current journey is underpinned by this sort of sentiment.

For now, here is the text with the original hand written version below. A 20 year old’s letter to the world at large and to his older self – me.

——————-
We all know what life is, but most of us don’t make of it what we want, it makes us what we are. This is wrong in the deepest sense of the word, although words do not express anything with enough power. The greatest writer in the world can merely point the way. We, our minds, must make the words mean something. This is one interpretation of individuality.

To make your life what you want, you must work at it and a perfect life is one where no boredom can be found. To truly experience life and all it can give one must experience every aspect and feeling possible. Even the negative ones. I suppose (contradicting myself) boredom is one of those feelings, but again life must be worked at to lose that boredom or pain or anguish or frustration. But it must all be experienced.

The fear of death, the only true fear, must be conquered, must be seen and lived and dealt with. I once read a quote that said “those who learn how to die have unlearned how to serve”. While this is very true, the fear of death should be maintained to keep a person living. If complacency sets in a full life will not be lived.

We must strive to achieve happiness and contentment.

I, and everyone, can only comment on life from one viewpoint. Later, I will stress my doubts about my life, but for those in other circumstances these issues don’t even get considered.

I worry that I am not going to do anything with my life. I see so much in this world that can be done, for myself and for others and I am worried that I will not do it. I could spend a life time striving to achieve  trivial goals, this idea is spawned from my past life. I have lived a life of relative achievement; succeeding through school, college and now university. If I am to continue along the same path, I will complete university and achieve a job and money. But in the long term this is not an achievement at all. Apart from the achievement of wasting my time on this planet. I see myself living a life of monotony. Waking, working, eating, sleeping and living in between.

True, work must be done to survive, not just to provide an income and a way to live. The multitudes live like this. I have said before like a lot of little bees in a big fucking hive. They don’t think of anything but making honey. They don’t consider their surroundings. They don’t dream. This is where humans differ. We do dream. But we don’t act on this information that is given/created by us. we just think “what if”. if we do have a purpose on this earth it is definitely not to do what we are doing. To fight to eat, to basically wait to die. We should be united. Racists fuck me up. They are so close sighted as to look at people from the outside. If you look at THEM from the inside they can be shallow hatred creatures. But every human is not just one emotion, one action.

I want to know everything
I want to know everything of importance.

The Journey 1 The Journey 2 The Journey 3 The Journey 4 The Journey 5 The Journey 6 The Journey 7

Next Book – The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

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So, those of you on Twitter might have noticed that I have already started this book?? Apart from an expectation that there was going to be quite a few parallels with what I’m doing and what Andy Miller did, I had no idea what to expect from this book. I’m about a fifth of the way in and finding it quite a surreal read for many reasons. I will save the commentary for my review of the book. Onwards…

Book review – Fated by Benedict Jacka

I’m going to start with a rather puerile confession: I tend to do word association, similarities, spoonerisms and silly things like that in my head just to pass the time. Whenever I look at the cover of Fated by Benedict Jacka, or if I write #fated on Twitter or anything like that; my eyes read farted instead of fated. This is stupid and childish and, well, quite funny. Now that you have an insight into how my brain works, lets get on with the actual review of the actual book…

2015-03-31 07.45.24I liked this book from the moment that I started reading it. It’s not often that this happens, but Fated really does have a wonderful feel to it. This comes, at least in part, from its setting in a hidden backwater of central London; a safe haven that for me evokes a mixture of a Black Books style magic shop with easy like Sunday morning city life (This Halifax advert has aged, but the end part is what I remember). A coffee and a good view somewhere safe. Even as the story unfolds and some peril is introduced, there is still a comfy feeling, it really is a nice place to be.

The book is the first in a series of Alex Verus stories. Alex is a strong lead character who is a modern day mage with the ability to see the future (I will come back to that later.) Even Alex  contributes to the comfortable feeling I got from the book. No matter what situation he finds himself in there are ways and means to get out of it; options to evaluate. The suspense is firmly directed towards how we will get out of the current predicament. I suppose that you could say this is true of most fiction books because you ultimately know that lead characters are the heroes who will survive. The subtle difference is that in most cases our protagonist doesn’t know they are going to survive, so suspense is built as we empathise with them. Alex is pretty sure he is going to survive, and it is only when the options get a bit thin on the ground that things get fun.

Alex is joined by a selection of other very well realised characters. There isn’t a cast of thousands, which keeps the story nice and tight, but there were quite a few characters who I would like to know more about. I suppose that also goes double for the hidden magical world. You are never going to find it easy to create a magical world that exists alongside the one we live in when creating in the shadow of J.K.Rowling, but Benedict’s world is realistic, well described and all his own.

Benedict has created a very clever way to describe Alex’s precognition. It feels extremely natural to be able to evaluate your options in the way that Alex does. It’s a shame that this isn’t the way that life actually works 😦 There were a few times when I though Alex should have been able to use his ability to see the future when he didn’t. I usually find that plot issues and plot holes really get under my skin, but in this case they were relatively minor and could easily have been a realistic part of the situation. They didn’t really bother me as much as it should have because:-

  1. When the ability was used, it was very good, well integrated and well written, so I might have been wanting Alex to see the future options a bit too much?
  2. I knew that Benedict had constructed the plot for a good reason; I trusted the author
  3. I liked the book enough to allow the story to out weigh the occasional teeny tiny “could have used it there” plot issue
  4. No one is perfect; Alex is a believable character

To conclude the description of a book well liked, I have a final reason why the book felt as comfortable and well realised as it did. Benedict has topped off a brilliantly imagined world with an equally agreeable modern, conversational writing style. We (the reader) are sitting in a comfy chair being told a story. The style, and Benedict’s control of his prose, allows the book to easily encompass tension and comedy in close quarters. I feel like I could quite happily read Benedict’s writing even if it was describing how to make custard and I would remain engaged and satisfied (bad example there, I really like custard, but you get what I mean?) I would love to write a book like this, but I think that if I tried Benedict’s style, my story would revert to my blog style and I would end up cracking too many jokes and putting too many side note (like this.) I suppose I will just have to try it if I get a chance…

To conclude some more! I think what I’m driving at is that this book ticks two boxes. It is a really really enjoyable book to read, and the story is brilliant too. If I wasn’t on my quest I would be seeking out more books by Benedict Jacka.

Rating 9/10

Post consumer problems

I generally wax and wane between two different consumer states. In one I don’t want any ‘stuff’ at all, I dream of a nomadic life with everything I need being carried with me. In the other extreme I build up a list of stuff that I want all at once. Now these two states are not opposites. I have very very rarely ever bought something on a whim without any thought at all. I have always been very conscious of what I am buying and why, but the reasons I make these choices has changed over the years. Even with this approach to consumerism I still have a lot of stuff!!

I currently have a list of things that I want to buy, so I thought I would break from book based posts and blog my current feelings and thoughts on what I want, why I want it and whether I should consume or not?

To consume, or not to consume: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to buy, or suffer The slings and arrows of outrageously complicated decision making, Or to take arms against a sea of advertising, And by opposing end them?

I have always flip flopped between being a minimalist and being a hoarder. As a teenager I once put almost everything I owned in the loft so that my bedroom wasn’t cluttered. I suppose this no clutter tendency coupled with an understanding of the impact that all that stuff has on the planet and other people is why I’m trying to consume less. When I started this blog I consciously decided that consuming less is what I want. I wanted to consciously decided, even more than before, what I bought and why. I always spend a lot of time reviewing and researching the things that I buy. I tend to look at price, functionality and the ultimate question of whether I will use whatever it is. I have tried to add the ethical consideration and where a thing is made to this list, but that is not always obvious or an option (can you but an ethically made mobile phone?) The upshot is that I spend a lot of time looking at what to buy. This feels like time well spent if I buy the best thing to suite my needs or if I decide not to buy something.

So, below I have written about what I am thinking of buying at the moment along with a sort of stream of consciousness about what I am thinking about it…

These things to travel light (it takes stuff to be the 21st Century)

I want to be able to use my mobile phone to do a lot more. I also have a work requirement as I can use a virtual desktop on my phone so I could basically have my full windows desktop running via my phone! To do this wizardry I will need:-

  • HDMI from phone to TV
  • Bluetooth keyboard
  • Bluetooth Mouse

But, I’m about to finish my mobile phone contact and although my current mobile (galaxy s4) is still a good phone, it’s battery has usually died by lunchtime and it has starred to get very hot in my pocket. N.B. this isn’t because I’m running the universe from my pocket 🙂

So, do I get a new mobile phone when my contract ends?? This is a dilemma that I have at the end of each contract and I am quite proud that the answer is not always a yes. My options are:-

  1. Keep what I have
  2. Get an older iPhone (5s)
  3. Replace with new (z3 compact or nexus 6)

Tent

So as you know I’m an adventurer… I really enjoyed the camping I did over the winter, but the pop-up tent I used was bought for the kids in the garden and I have already repaired it twice (make do and mend) that tent isn’t anywhere near the end of its life, but if I want to do more solo or “adventure” camping (note the obvious quote marks there) I need a tent that doesn’t let water in through the ground sheet when you kneel on it (yep, that actually happened.) We already have a 6 man tent for family holidays, and I own a good sized 3 man tent that I bought about 15 years ago before we had the kids. This is still used if the small people and I camp in the garden… I really feel that I can justify a smaller tent for single nights and expanding my camping experience, and if I get one it should be of a half decent quality to allow me to camp across a longer part of the year. I could keep what I have, but the two other tents are so big they won’t fit into some of the places I have in mind (the pop-up only just fitted in the garden I used in January!) And I want it to be as small as possible when packed. If I could fit my tent, bed and sleeping bag into a more or less standard sized rucksack I could sneak in a camp a lot more often! I have so far whittled it down to either the Vango Blade or Helix; that might change though?

So I’m planning to consume. I’m in a quandary because I don’t want to just buy because I can or because “I want”. I want to buy things I will genuinely use and that will last.

The End (of my thought process for now…)

p.s. In writing this post I think I have confirmed that I’m getting the tent and not the phone. Maybe a new battery is in order?? If I don’t upgrade the phone I can reduce my tariff and therefore justify “spare cash” for the tent; yes, I can actually swam extra minutes that I don’t use for a tent to go outside in 🙂

Oh the problems of the first world eh!

Book review – Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

2015-03-24 07.39.03For me, today was the last day of the Easter holiday. I have been off since Friday and today is Wednesday, so it wasn’t a long break, but nothing to be sniffed at 🙂 As usual, my aims for the holiday were high; I managed to some how finish Pawn of Prophecy really quite quickly and so optimistically lined up the next 3 books as well as a list of blog posts I needed to finish. To be honest, I managed to finish one book (Fated by Benedict Jacka) and got quite a few of the posts finished, so I didn’t do that badly really. With the exception of the Fated review that I now need to do, this review of Pawn of Prophecy brings me almost up to date.

I suppose the best way to review the Pawn of Prophecy is to say that my first thought on finishing the book was “I must read book 2 of the Belgariad!” As you know, I try to mix my genres as I read through my books. I therefore forced myself to read different book after Pawn of Prophecy, but I’m straight back into the series with Queen of Sorcery later this evening.

So it’s now a given that I really liked the book. “Why? Why PoCo? What did you like” I hear you… murmur a bit.

The quality of the writing was great. In stark contrast to some of the other fantasy that I have read both before and since starting this blog, David Edding’s prose was simple, direct, descriptive where required and a joy to read. The best way that I can describe David’s writing is “clean”. There is not anything that gets in the way, it is well polished and is one of the most direct, well implemented texts that I have read. The story arc moved between sections of history where centuries passed at a time and the intricate detail of the current situation; these changes were smooth and the various parts of the story were told very well. I was always kept interested to find out what the next part of the story was and that story was believable and engaging.

I also liked the way that the legends surrounding some of the characters (obviously Mr.Wolf and Aunt Poll) were well integrated with the other sub stories. This built understanding through the book as Garion (the main character) finds out himself. This not only built a good story, but also performed a fantastic job of setting up those epic characters that will live through a lot of David Eddings’ work. I know that I want to read a lot more about Belgarath the Sorcerer!

I must add that I was introduced to David’s books a very long time ago by my friend Mike. He suggested that I read one of the later books that David wrote called Belgarath the Sorcerer. This book was written after the Belgariad quintet and after the next series too! It is essentially a memoir that charts Belgarath’s life before the main books start. Chronologically speaking this was a good recommendation, but it didn’t sit well with me. I think these prequels will be good to read once I have developed a wonder for the characters, seen them wield their might a few times: without properly knowing who they were, the prequel was a bit dry to be honest. Maybe my previous experience can be seen as a reason why I liked the Pawn of Prophecy so much? I have put off reading David Eddings for a long time. I knew they should be good, but I didn’t quite trust them. I was almost scared to read the book because I wanted it to be good, but a large part of me thought that it wouldn’t be. Thankfully I was OK and to book was so good that I wanted to read the next one straight away 🙂

A thing that slightly annoyed me that was done for no apparent reason

My memory is really poor. For the odd, wierd thing it is the best, but for most things it is below par. Now, as you should know if you have read almost anything I have written on this blog (?), I have read a lot of fantasy, and fantasy usually has a lot of odd names that are hard to remember and harder to pronounce. That;s fine, I can deal with that: Drizzt Do’Urden’s cat in R.A Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms books is a case in point. Firstly, I never even tried to pronounce it for most of the books, I just mentally said “placeholder for the name of the cat.” I did eventually take the time to work out the pronunciation only to find that I pronounced it completely differently to my friend! (other friend, I have more than 2…) Anyway, my point is, picking names is important. I found 2 name based similarities in the book that could have tripped me up and I can’t see any reason for making the names so similar? If there is in future books, then I will take this back (I won’t) but check these out:-

  • The story started on Faldor’s farm, so called because it is owned my Faldor. The first Sendarian king was called Fundor and to make matters worse he was also a farmer!
  • Barak is one of the main characters and has quite bear like, especially in one important part of the story. Cherek Bear-shoulders was the last King of all Aloria.

So you see, there is some issue not just with the similarity of the names, but also the context in which they are to be remembered!

Details checked at the David Eddings Codex Wiki. Thanks a lot 🙂

A final note on politics  and religion (because why wouldn’t you if you could?)

I really wanted to talk about socialism a bit in the Bourne Identity review, but didn’t get the time to do it justice. In that case I wanted to cover quite a wide subject where as my comment on the Pawn of Prophecy is more of an observation:

Faldor’s Farm where we the story begins is essentially a depiction of socialism. There is a leader, but there are multiple descriptions of everyone contributing, of the communal good and the shared prosperity of the group. There is no real need for David to push the point, but he does with the introduction of Faldor;s Daughter and Son-in-Law. They live in the town and work to make money to buy “stuff” and see the farm as backwards. Not making the staff work for their money is seen as deficient. Faldor is obviously in charge, so nothing is going to change for a while.

Religion wise, Faldor is also adamant that everyone should observe the religious festival when it comes around. There is a huge slug of tradition intimated in this part of the book. I was surprised to see that the majority of characters bowed their heads, said the words and got on with their lives. Religion was more of a custom than a belief. I think this was true for many people 50 years ago and more??

I haven’t managed to blog as much as I would like about the ISMs and their related subjects, but I really do find it interesting that each book I read has it’s own take on the political spectrum, and I think that maybe more than some other aspects of writing, political views and ideology are a little more personal to the writer than characters or plot. The more subtle truisms leak through? I have always felt that fantasy as a genre was a way to return to our pagan nomadic routes; make the magic real and sit round a camp fire. Pawn of Prophecy managed to do that amazingly well 🙂

Rating 9/10

Next Book – Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings

2015-04-04 08.55.19This really is going to be a very quick next book post as I want to post it before the main book review. I’m not even sure it’s going to reach the end of the picture!!

I read the Pawn of Prophecy recently and needed to continue on with the next book in the series (The Belgariad.) In the immortal words of Michael Jackson – This is it.

I read Fated, now I’m reading this and My Book Activity page has another book listed for pudding too. I’m looking forward to this 🙂

 

Next Book – Fated by Benedict Jacka

Over the next few days I will be doing a few quick blog posts. This one announces my next book; Fated by Bendict Jacka. Now, as you may know if you read my twitter feed, I have already started this book. In fact, I’m about a third of the way through already!

After I finished Pawn of Prophecy I really wanted to just keep going straight into the second book, Queen of Sorcery. I didn’t do that as I always feel I need to break things up a bit, you know, keep it fresh.

Because it is Easter and I expect to get a bit of reading done while I am off, I have taken the unprecedented step of providing multiple next books. The choices just fell into place so easily and felt so right that I didn’t even think twice. My Book Activity shows what is coming up. I have the next book of the Belgariad lined up and another of my Christmas books, but this post is all about Fated.

2015-03-31 07.45.24I chose this book as I have had the stack of books I got for Christmas sitting staring at me since I got them. Having covered some significant ground book wise since Christmas (see My Book Activity for details) I felt that I could allow myself to start having a look at the new pile. Fated looked like a very intriguing book right from the start and it didn’t take me long to choose it as my next book. It was released in 2012 and seemed to me that a book about magic based in London would give a good contemporary and European contrast to the full on fantasy of David Eddings. So far I’m right, but I’m not allowed to say that yet… The cover also reminds me of Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich and that was a great book too.

So, that is pretty much the full detail of why I picked this as my next (now current) book.

See you in the next post 🙂