Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review

I am not quite sure where this year has gone: it hardly seems like two minutes that I was writing my 2012 in Review post. I can only assume that this is a factor of my increasing decrepitude . . . ho hum!

The year started with my unexpected and time-consuming voyage into employment at the local library. This had a severe impact on my blogging output for the first half of the year, which has significantly reduced the number of reviews that I have managed to write. I also took part in nearly twice as many Read Alongs, including the mammoth Wheel of Time Read Along, which is just entering its second year, so that had an impact as well. However, as you can see from the data below, I have written roughly the same number of posts. I am more disappointed that I have read so many fewer books this year, but I suppose that I can only do better in 2014.

Top Reads of 2013

You can get more details here, but here is my list:

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch – My Favorite
A Wheel of Time Series by Richard Jordan (Books 1 to 6)
The Tiffany Aching Series by Terry Pratchett
Midsummer Night and Grail of the Summer Stars by Freda Warrington
A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
A Season For The Dead by David Hewson
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

I also want to add these debuts (more details here):

Celtic Moon by Jan DeLima – My Favorite
Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant
The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schaffer

Most Anticipated Books of 2014

You can get more details here, but here is my list:

The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch – Most Anticipated
Cress by Marissa Meyer
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Title To Be Announced by Jan DeLima
Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Enemies At Home by Lindsey Davis
Raiders of the Nile by Steven Saylor

Top Films of 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – My Favorite
Pacific Rim
Star Trek Into Darkness

Most Disappointing Film of 2013

World War Z – Most Disappointing
Jack the Giant Slayer

New Year’s Resolutions

From last year:
1. This year I posted seventy-two reviews: next year I hope to get closer to a full one hundred. OK, so perhaps I was more than a little over-confident with this one: I can only try harder to keep to my present schedule of posting at least two reviews a week.

2. I will get around to writing some blurbs for the BookStore-BookBlogger Connection I really need to try to do this!

3. Reread and review some of my favorites from the Roman Mystery genre: I feel like I have neglected Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor terribly. I have made a start towards addressing this by launching my other blog, Veni, Vidi, Legi.

4. I will make a special effort to read SF&F books written by women. I was fairly successful in my efforts to honor this one by attempting the 2013 Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge. I have finished 10 of the 12 required as well as several others that do not qualify for this particular challenge either because I had already read works by a particular author or because the book itself was not included in their database.

Hopefully I can do better to fulfill these same resolutions in 2014.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan: Week 1

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 2

1) Elaida has a new office, plenty of schemes, and lots of confidence. What do you think of all this? Will she be successful? Should she be afraid of Bryne's approaching army? Will she be the woman to 'save humankind?' (Totally didn't snort while typing that.)

I think I might have mentioned before that I think Elaida is as dumb as a bag of hammers, but it is worth repeating, especially when she continues to display her total lack of intelligence. Her decision to build herself a huge palace whilst the Last Battle is approaching seems to be a good indication of how detached she is from reality. Could someone please slap an a’dam on this stupid woman ASAP?

If Elaida succeeds in even one of her plans then I will eat my own head! She is deluded about Rand and his powers; her assessment of the Salidar Aes Sedai is so wrong as to be laughable; and her predictions about Gareth Byrne’s army defy logic is such a staggering way that I was surprised that Alviarin did not burst out laughing. Even her own Foretelling did not offer any hope that she herself would be instrumental in anything worthwhile. It said ‘The Amyrlin Seat’, and Egwene seems far more likely to show the power and skill to unite the Tower than Elaida . . . and Egwene is a young country bumpkin with practically no experience.

Humankind is much more likely to be saved if Elaida is removed from her position. I assume that the Dark One wants her kept in place because she is such a useless joke.

2) Sevanna seems to be planning to make use of her little boxes. What do you think she's planning? What will she use them for? (Does anyone else want to put her and Elaida together in a really small room. Just to see what happens?)

Sevanna is planning something that will help her take over the world, but I have no idea what the details might be. I assume that she is in contact with one of the Forsaken and hopes that they will miraculously hand her Rand so that she can rule the world through him. However, she obviously has not even thought about why any of the Forsaken would want to help her with her scheme. Indeed, I am not really sure why she did not simply try to seduce the Forsaken and use him as her puppet as that would have been a much quicker route to ultimate power. Perhaps even she is not deluded enough to attempt to control a Forsaken with her boobs.

I cannot work out why the other Shaido Wise Ones put up with her: they know that she is not actually qualified to be a Wise One and yet they let her get away with pretending to be one. This seems to go against everything we have seen the Wise Ones doing elsewhere. Her attempts to make it seem as if she can channel are frankly pathetic, so I do not know what power she holds over them (other than making them complicit in murder).

Elaida would probably burn Sevanna to a crisp with the One Power, which would be a scene I would pay to see! :D

3) Pedron Niall is assassinated in his fortress, followed by the death of his dim-witted assassin, Omnera. What do you think the message he received said? What do you predict will happen in the wake of the assassination, both in general and more specifically concerning Morgase and her retinue?

I was stunned by the assassination. Of all the people who would attempt such a thing, Omnera was way down on my list and I can hardly believe that he was successful. However, it did seem that he had been influenced by Eamon Valda or Rhadam Asunawa to be the actual assassin so that they could keep their hands clean and be suitably horrified by his actions. Somehow I just cannot imagine that he could have decided to do this all by himself.

I think the message was a confirmation that the Seanchan invasion was a real threat that needed to be countered. We know that he had dismissed the reports earlier as exaggerated and unimportant, but this message seems to have contained conclusive proof. Unfortunately, the message was lost, but I am not sure that Valda would believe it anyway.

I hope that Morgase manages to get away from the Fortress of Light somehow, because it seems that Asunawa is quite determined to torture her and then kill her as a Tar Valon witch. I would not trust Valda with her either as he has proven himself to be totally corrupt and amoral. Perhaps she will get her chance to escape when the Seanchan come knocking at the gates.

I am intrigued to discover what path Balwer takes now that Niall is dead. Will he reveal his true role as the spymaster and serve Valda or will he keep quite and start to work against the new Lord Captain Commander? I think he will choose the second option because I am fairly certain that he does not trust Valda and also because I cannot see Valda and Asunawa believing him if he tries to reveal his position to them. He could be a very powerful ally to Rand if he turns away from the Whitecloaks.

4) Gawyn tries to get his bearings in the aftermath of the battle and seems to be aware of a plot against him and the Younglings, which we've already had hints of. Do you think this plot will ever reach fruition? Will he make it back to Tar Valon alive? And what do you think happened to the wounded sister who disappeared before he could rescue her?

Poor Gawyn, he is constantly working from outside the information loop. He always tries to do the right thing, but is hampered by his lack of knowledge or understanding of the truth of the situation. I wish that Egwene would have a really long dream-talk with him to fill him in on what is really going on!

I think the Younglings are reasonably safe now that the envoy is in disarray, so I think that they should be able to get back to Tar Valon relatively unscathed. However, I am not sure that Elaida will be happy to see them return, so I am worried about what might happen once he gets back to the city. I can see him being helpful to the Aes Sedai that escaped Rand’s allies and escorting them back to Tar Valon, but that injured Sister was probably taken by the Shaido, which might be rather uncomfortable for her.

5) Perrin and his companions observe all the bad blood between groups following the battle. Do you think all this animosity will blow up eventually, or will they work out their differences? What did you think of Rand's decision to hand the Aes Sedai over to the Wise Ones and send Taim back to the farm? And how about how he handled Alanna? The fact that Rand memorized the names of 151 dead Maidens? Anything stick out to you about Perrin's observations, or what are your other general impressions about this chapter?

I can understand why emotions would be running high after such a traumatic event. The fact that factions of the Aiel and Aes Sedai were fighting against each other will only add to the general atmosphere of uncertainty and distrust. Pretty much everyone there has had their world turned upside down, so it makes sense that they would be looking for someone to blame and that old issues would resurface. However, we have seen that the disparate groups can cooperate reasonably well in Cairhien, so I suspect that the grumbling will subside as they move away from the battlefield and return to something more like normal life.

The Wise Ones are the only female channelers that Rand trusts implicitly, so it makes sense that he would charge them with overseeing the Aes Sedai. They also have the mental strength and force of personality to stand up to the Sisters’ attempts at controlling their own destinies, so I look forward to seeing Aes Sedai running around the camp or digging piles of sand as punishments. A few weeks with Sorilea in charge and perhaps some of these Aes Sedai will come to realize that they are not actually in charge anymore and have to do as they are told.

I am increasingly of the opinion that Rand should probably kill Taim, but sending him back to the Black Tower will do for now. I am a little uneasy about the Asha’man left behind, especially the strongly absent one, Dashiva: I suspect that he is either going to try to kill Rand or prove to be a huge asset. In contrast to Taim, I thought that Rand’s treatment of Alanna was a little cruel, but perfectly understandable because of the forced nature of their link. I was somewhat surprised that Kiruna did not realize that Alanna had Bonded Rand as a Warder, as I thought Alanna’s suffering was a really obvious indicator that she was sharing his pain.

I was glad to hear a little more about the wolves that took part in the battle, though I was sad to learn that so many died. I can understand Rand’s grief about the dead Maidens, although I am not sure that his obsession is entirely healthy. Of course, he has just been through the most hellish experience so he is not likely to return to normal behavior for some time, if he ever does.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

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