Review: The Fires of Heaven (Wheel of Time #5) by Robert Jordan

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There were times that I believed I would never finish reading The Fires of Heaven.  It isn’t a bad book by any stretch of the imagination but it’s a dense high fantasy and this sometimes happens (in fact, I had the same feeling with A Feast for Crows in the Game of Thrones series).

The storyline has become so complicated that it is impossible (for me, at least) to give a synopsis without major spoilers.  However, I will tell you that with each book, we are closer to the showdown between Rand and the Dark Lord.  Rand is learning more of his power in Saidin and the three Accepted, Nynaeve, Egwene and Elayne, are growing in Saidar.  Rand is traveling with the Aiel and taking over different territories as The Lord Dragon / Car’a’carn.  It’s hard for our main characters to know who to trust as there are spies within the Aiel and the Aes Sedai (big happenings in the White Tower!)

I am fully invested in The Wheel of Time story and excited to see it through to the end.  And, I expect some reading bumps along the way.  This was one that I didn’t necessarily see coming.  In The Fires of Heaven, I feel that Jordan made some major mis-steps with his female characters.  I think he was trying to make them ‘strong’, ‘brave’ and ‘clever’.  Sometimes he succeeded.  Unfortunately, other times he failed miserably by his portrayal of their treatment of each other.  For example, each of our three main females – Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne – seem obsessed with being in charge.  They speak horribly to each other as a result and treat the others with a lack of respect that seems out of place for the mutual goals and foes that they have.  The result was that the reader is left to believe they are catty and petty females.  Not exactly the type of women we want leading the charge at the end of the world.

I’m hoping that book six will leave me with a different feeling.  (Maybe it was my mood when reading, maybe Jordan was in a mood himself when writing it.  Who knows?)

My rating is 4/5 and, for now, I will leave it there.  Honestly, it’s generous and I hope that the rest of the series picks up.

November 2016 Reading Wrap-Up

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I didn’t quite hit my reading goal for November but I’m okay with that.  When I decided to track my goals and results more closely, I had to make a deal with myself – missing a goal was no reason for self recrimination.  Instead I should look at it as an opportunity to do something different.

Going into the month, I planned to read 10 books with 8 chosen ahead of time.  Of those 8, I finished 6:

In addition, I finished:

  • Eeny Meeny by MJ Arlidge
  • Charlie the Choo Choo by Beryl Evans
  • Full of Briars by Seanan McGuire (not reviewed – this is a short story in the Toby Daye world that was a fun look at one of the secondary characters.  4/5 stars.)

Last night, I was making notes on my reading results.  One of the things I always ask myself is “what was my favorite book this month?”  It was a tough decision this time.  In the end, I chose Jade Dragon Mountain.  I didn’t rate it the highest and there were things that weren’t perfect with the reading experience.  But, what I loved was that it was different from my normal book selections and that kept me interested.

How did your reading go in November?  Any new favorites?

December 2016 Reading Goals and TBR

How can tomorrow be December 1?  It seems like 2016 just began.

I have high hopes that I will have a stellar reading month in December so I’ve set high goals for myself.  To keep up with things, I’ve broken the books into three categories.

First, well, is the ‘shame’ category.  There are two books that I didn’t finish in November.

  • The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan (currently reading – at 60%).  The truth is that I found my mind wandering a few times when I tried to read this.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great book but there are certain things I will need to tell you about in my review.
  • Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire.  I very much wanted to read this right after Thanksgiving but I told myself I had to finish The Fires of Heaven first.  C’est la vie.

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The next group includes my regular ‘to read’ books for the month.

  • The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
  • Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie
  • The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer (I borrowed this one from a friend a few months ago and MUST get it read this month so I can be a better friend and return it.)
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (I need a Sanderson fix.)
  • Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan (trying to work my way through the thousands of pages that are The Wheel of Time.)

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The final, and my favorite, category is my Christmas reads.  I plan to read these on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day while drinking coffee and relaxing with my husband and fur babies.

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles Schulz (funny story – I ordered this on Amazon to add to my Christmas list and let’s just say that I didn’t realize it was a mini.  At least it’s cute.)
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd (I read this every Christmas day; usually while watching the movie.)
  • Murder for Christmas by Agatha Christie
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

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What are you planning to read in December?  Let me know if you have any books that you read each Christmas.

Happy Holidays!!

Review: The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood #2) by NK Jemisin

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NK Jemisin is in a class of her own as a fantasy writer.  Her stories are exceptional and worth reading in and of themselves.  The world building and character development receive top marks as well.  But what knocks it out of the park is her ability to write so thoughtfully about issues like racial and gender equality, political maneuverings and the complicated thing that is love.  She does it in such a way that it becomes part of the story (which makes it so much more powerful versus those cases where you feel, as a reader, that you are being preached to or lectured).

The Shadowed Sun contains several of the same characters as The Killing Moon but focuses on Hanani, the first female Sharer in the Hetawa.  She is tasked with helping the exiled Prince, Wanahomen, free Gujaareh from Kisua rule.

I would love to have the room here to quote the entire book (it’s that good) but I’m going to choose one quote from the passage where Hanani realizes that what she’s been doing in the Hetawa isn’t working.  The wisdom comes from her new friend Yanassa.

“You will never be a man, Hanani, no matter how tightly you bind your breasts.  You don’t want to be a man.  And they may never accept you, no matter how well you follow their rules and ape their behavior.  So why shouldn’t you embrace what you are?  And serve in whatever damned way you want!”

Hanani faltered, thrown by the very idea.  Only then did it occur to her: what she did would be regarded as a precedent, if ever another woman sought to join the Hetawa.  Everything she did, all that she achieved, would set the pattern.

And Yanassa was right about something else.  She had tried, again and again, to do things the way her fellow Sharers had done them.  She had worked harder, trained longer, humbled and stifled herself in an effort to be perfect – and still Yehamwy had been afraid of her.  Still some of her fellows saw her, not as a Servant of Hananja, but as a woman pretending to be one.

There was no peace in continuing to do what had already proven unworkable.  Sometimes tradition itself disrupted peace, and only newness could smooth the way.

5/5 stars.

Mini-Review: Black Coffee (Hercule Poirot #7) by ???

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Well, that didn’t work out.

When I began working my way through the Hercule Poirot series, Black Coffee was added to the list just like any others that were indicated as part of the series. When I pulled it out to read in November, I realized that it wasn’t like the other books.  While Agatha Christie’s name is at the top in big, bold letters, you can see in the small print that it was “adapted as a novel by Charles Osborne”.  Christie wrote a play and after Christie’s death, her estate allowed Osborne to adapt it into a novel.  I have to say that this is a pet peeve of mine – I despise using a famous author’s name to sell a book that wasn’t truly written by them. And, I wish I wasn’t a completer (defined as someone who must finish all of a series no matter what).

Black Coffee, the novel, is not good.  It is an amateur’s attempt to write like a legend and – HER. ESTATE. ALLOWED. IT.  I know this word is overused but, truly, shame.

This is only getting the 2nd star because the story (imagined by Christie) is a good one.  It’s the execution that suffers.

2/5 stars.

Mini-Review: Eeny Meeny (Helen Grace #1) by MJ Arlidge

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I find new books through many different sources.  Goodreads, blog posts and random walks through the bookstore.  In the case of Eeny Meeny, I saw a Facebook post from Mike Greenberg (the ESPN host, of all people).  For some reason the premise seemed intriguing so I picked it up at the used bookstore.

The good:

  • Fast, easy read
  • Female main character
  • A decent start to what might be a promising series

 

The bad:

  • I figured out the big twist before the 50% mark.
  • Helen Grace, our female MC, is supposed to be a strong, tough female detective.  Here’s the problem – she is written, by a man, as a man’s version of a strong woman.  I’m not being clear enough so I’ll say it in a different way – she is written as a male fantasy of a strong woman.  She goes to a dom to be beaten.  She drives a motorcycle. She puts up walls and closes people off but then has sex with a coworker.  All of this is fine and can work if done well.  But, here, it’s presented in a fashion that is close to offensive.

Because it was a fairly enjoyable read, I plan to give the series another shot with book two. I’m hoping that the author will iron out the rough spots in Helen’s character development.

2.5/5 stars.