Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Rithmatist

by Brandon Sanderson
378 pgs

I'm risking sounding like a broken record here but Brandon Sanderson's books are fantastic! All of them. I have yet to read the Wheel of Time series that he finished for the late Robert Jordan (I plan to now that it's done), but I've read almost everything else that he's written, and I'd say with one exception (all hail King), there's not another author alive whose books I look forward to reading more than Sanderson's.

The Rithmatist was written for a younger audience (12+), but adults will enjoy it just as much. It's about Joel, the son of a humble chalkmaker, who desperately wishes he had been selected to be a Rithmatist when he was younger. Joel is a student at Armedius Academy, where he struggles to concentrate in classes such a math and history, while on the other side of campus, those who had been chosen to become Rithmatists attend classes where they learn how to use its magical system where they are able to give temporary life to two-dimensional shapes and figures called Chalklings. They learn to draw intricate and mathematically precise defensive systems on the ground around them to protect themselves from their opponents' attacking Chalklings, all in training for the time when they're called upon to defend The United Isles from the Wild Chalklings.

Even though Joel wasn't chosen to be one himself, he has spent all his life learning as much about Rithmatism as he can. He can draw its defense systems as well as anyone, he just can't give life to any of the things he draws. But when the young Rithmatists at Armedius begin to disappear, leaving behind evidence of strange Chalkling attacks and trails of blood, Joel finally gets the chance to put his knowledge to use--assisting in the investigation.

It's truly a great book. Sanderson's exceptional world-building skills are once again on display as he creates a world that resembles our own, but with a highly-intelligent and fascinating system of magic within it. The story is extremely fun and it's a great beginning to yet another series by Sanderson that I'm excited to read.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Odyssey

by Homer
348 pgs

This was another bucket-list book for me--one that I think everybody should read during their lifetime. Having read part of it while in high school, and because I knew a lot of Odysseus's story, I was looking forward to reading The Odyssey.

It's the story of Odysseus and the twenty years it took him to return to his home and wife Penelope on the island of Ithaca following the Trojan War. It begins ten years after the war had ended. Odysseus has been the captive of Calypso who had fallen in love with Odysseus and refused to let him off her island. It takes the assistance of the goddess Athena, Odysseus's protectress, who takes the form of various people throughout The Odyssey, to help Odysseus finally get off Calypso's island and begin his journey home.

On his journey Odysseus deals with sirens, a cyclops, having half is men turned into pigs, losing most of his ships, an aggravated Poseidon, and other roadblocks on his path back to Ithaca. Once he arrive there he has a hundred or so suitors, who had been trying to convince Penelope to marry them for the past twenty years, to deal with as well.

It's a classic story, and again, one that everyone should read a some point in their life.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


by Warren Fahy
306 pgs

A couple of years ago Warren Fahy came on the scene with what I thought was a great book. Fragment had all of the elements I want in a good supernatural thriller. It was action packed, I liked the characters, and the plot leaned heavily towards the unbelievable. So I was excited when the sequel was finally published.

Pandemonium picks up a few months after the events of Fragment left off. Nell, Geoffrey, and a handful of others had barely escaped Hender's Island with their lives and the last five remaining hendros--the highly-intelligent and peaceful species they had discovered there and who had helped them survive. They had believed at the time that they had seen the last of the rest of the island's inhabitants--the menagerie of creatures that had evolved in isolation over millions of years, each of which could have led to the destruction of every other living thing on the planet if it had ever escaped the island. But of course there wouldn't be a sequel if that had been the case.
In Pandemonium Fahy brings back the spiglers, disk-ants, hender's rats and wasps, mega-mantises, and more. And this time he adds a whole host of new and imaginative creatures who have been evolving in isolation as well and who are equally capable of bringing about the end of the rest of life on earth if they ever escape their home--the subterranean caverns beneath the Ural Mountains. 
Unfortunately I didn't enjoy Pandemonium nearly as much as I did its predecessor. Fahy packed as much action into this one as it could contain, even more than he did in Fragment, but for some reason I found myself repeatedly distracted and irritated with his characters' dialogue. I don't know whether it was just as bad in Fragment but I had been having too much fun to notice it then, or whether it was noticeably worse in Pandemonium. Corny dialogue is one of my pet peeves when I read, especially when it takes place during the direst of circumstances. People running for their lives generally are not in the frame of mind to engage in witty banter with one another.
I liked the story enough that I'm sure I'll read whatever he writes next, but I'm hoping he branches out with his next book and offers something new and original, and not just a continuation of this same story.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


by Joe Hill
686 pgs

It's impossible not to compare Joe Hill to his father. When you're the son of the most famous author on the planet, and you become a published author yourself, it's going to happen. I'm pretty sure that's not what Joe Hill wants and it's why he doesn't put his last name on his books, but fortunately for him, he's a fantastic writer and the comparison is a very favorable one.

NOS4A2 is the vanity plate attached to a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, a car that is more an extension of a man than it is a machine. The man, Charles Talent Manx, uses the Wraith to take children to the happiest place not quite on earth--Christmasland. In Christmasland every morning is Christmas morning. Children are allowed to do whatever they want without a care in the world and without ever getting older. They're able to open presents anytime they wish, drink hot cocoa for every meal, and play games to their hearts' content. They're happy, never missing the families they've been removed from, and never realizing that they're changing.

Victoria McQueen, a young girl whose home life is far from perfect, has recently discovered something fantastic and inexplicable. When she rides her bike across the old condemned Shortway Bridge, instead of arriving at the other side of the gorge which it spans, she instead arrives anywhere she wants to go. She doesn't ride across the bridge often, because it takes a tremendous toll on her both physically and mentally, but sometimes, when something is lost or she's desperately in need of something, she does. One day, when things get especially difficult at home, Vic goes looking for trouble, and revenge on her parents, and the bridge takes her to Charlie Manx. She's able to escape from Manx, but that encounter leaves a permanent impression on both their lives. Both are unable to ever forget the other and their paths are destined to cross again.

NOS4A2 is the fourth in an increasingly-impressive bibliography by Joe Hill. It's a long book, but still a very fast read and I found myself taking extra-long lunch breaks while reading it because it was so hard to put down at times. His writing style is similar to that of his father's; his characters are fully fleshed out and Hill does an excellent job of getting you inside their heads. The Wraith is a little reminiscent of Christine and one of Manx's henchmen reminded me of the Trashcan Man from The Stand but those along with a few other apparent nods to his father were kind of like finding an Easter egg on a DVD.

One final thing, if you read the book, read every last page, seriously, even the ones many close the book without reading. There's a little post-credits scene snuck in there.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Sunday, June 2, 2013

I Travel by Night

by Robert McCammon
147 pgs

It's only been a month or so since I read The Providence Rider and I usually don't read another book by the same author this quickly, but I had been waiting for it to come in the mail for months, and it was so short that I made an exception to my self-imposed rule. Rebellious of me, I know.

I Travel by Night is only a novella, but it's a return for McCammon to the genre that he first made a name for himself in.

Trevor Lawson, a confederate soldier, was turned into a vampire one night after having been injured and left to die on the battlefield in Shiloh. But unlike the others of his kind, who embrace the dark gift when they receive it, Lawson never has, and doesn't intend to. He's been holding on to as much of his humanity as he's been able to for more than twenty years now as he's been searching for the vampire who turned him. He believes that if he's able to find her, and drain her of her vampiric blood, that he might be able to return to his life as a human.

I Travel by Night is a great story but it's too short. Lawson is an intriguing character and one with a lot of potential for additional tales down the road. Hopefully that's McCammon's intention and he's only teasing with this all-too-short introduction to him and the journey he's on.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆