Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Ah, September, you come in like a lusty youth and leave like an aged hag.  Wait.  It's still August.  Erm...

Ah, August, your love is as unforgiving as an oven and a splash of grease from the griddle.  Like your nefarious cousin July, your vendetta against humans of the Northern Hemisphere is uncalled for and bothersome.  Would it be too much to ask for a reprieve?  No?  September, you say.  Bah.  If that's so, then I can wait another day.  I'm sure the battle 'twixt the two of you will be heated (pun alert!) and fierce, but there's no doubt that September will prove victorious.  And with her vict'ry comes Autumn.

Autumn, of course, brings about deep stirrings in the heart.  The rush of summer dies (there are no dog days, alas) and the calming, dying, beautiful season of Fall begins.  One cannot help but turn to books of a darker nature in these times, and this is where the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge comes in.  For the last five years, Carl has hosted this "challenge" for the purpose of enjoying the darker types of writing.  Mystery.  Suspense.  Thrillers.  Dark Fantasy.  Horror.  Gothic.  Supernatural.  The things that keep you up late at night, afraid to turn a page, but unable to stop.

Last year was the first time I participated in a RIP challenge, and it proved fun and contagious.  There was no doubt I would be signing up again.  Even without Carl's challenge, this is the season where this type of reading calls to me strongest.

I am officially signing up for Peril, the Second.  The challenge is to read two books that meet the classifications (of which are widely variable).  I intend on dipping into Poe or Lovecraft for some short stories, as well, and possibly some graphic novels, too.  (Carl, methinks there should be a Peril, the Graphica or something...)  With a new baby, I can't say for sure whether or not I'll meet the challenge, but I think it should be no problem.

To Be Read Imbibed
House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
The Walking Dead Volumes 11-14, by Robert Kirkman

House of Leaves has been on my TBR shelf for a double-plus long time.  I'm a sucker for unique formats, and idly flipping through the book a few years back I knew I'd have to read it at some point.  Likewise, Capote's In Cold Blood is such a defining work of art in the "true crime" genre that I've wanted to read it for a while.  I suspect this will be the most horrifying of all that I read, knowing that the accounts therein are true and could very well happen again.  I also hope to continue in Robert Kirkman's bleak-but-hopeful Walking Dead series, as it's been a while since I last dove into these waters.

If your heart has an affinity for the darker side and you'd like to join in the fun, you can check out Carl's post for a full set of instructions.  Or, if you'd rather just read people's reviews and get some more books for your TBR pile, you can do that to.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Way of Kings Group Read: Week Four

The questions this week come from Kailana (her blog here).  The main blog link is here.
Lord have mercy what an amazing read this part was.  It took everything in my power to stop at the beginning of Part Five and not look ahead.  Of course, I'll probably finish the book tonight, but that's okay...

One thing that I have thinking about during the course of this book is what Brandon Sanderson is trying to say about religion. Jasnah is an atheist. Shallan believes, but is still trying to find herself. Dalinar believes strongly in the ‘Old Ways’. What do you think of this idea?
Religion is a common theme in all of Sanderson's fantasy novels, and it seems like I remember hearing Brandon mention something about how this is an important topic to him in an interview of old.  For tWoK, I'm digging the religious tones.  I love how vague everything is.  The arguments between Jasnah and Shallan were both sound and logical, leaving the Almighty's existence up in the air.  But there is so much more than Vorinism in Roshar, and it seems that these other "religions" have some credence to them, too.  Our minds are inclined to thinking in absolutes and exclusions--there's either one thing or another, but not both--but this doesn't seem the case in Roshar.  And that makes for some excellent plot elements.
The relationship between siblings is an important part of this book. Adolin has always been at the forefront of Dalinar’s two sons, but Renarin is important, too. What did you think of the two brothers? Going back a generation, what do think of Dalinar and our glimpses of his brother? Then there is Kaladin who joins the war to protect his brother and fails. And Jasnah whose brother is King. Or Shallan who puts herself in a dangerous situation to help her brothers out following her fathers’ death. What do you think of these relationships? Did any stick out for you?
Renarin and Adolin are the two that stick out the most.  Both are young and malleable, and I'm intrigued at where they will end up.  Somehow I don't see Renarin staying a sickly, weak lad throughout the whole series.  (In honesty, for some reason I was expecting him to play a trump card after Dalinar's return and somehow be working with Sadeas, and I'm glad that didn't turn out.)  I do love the brothers theme this book has, though, because I have a younger brother, and our relationship is strong, but it could definitely be stronger.  So I enjoy reading the emotions and whatnot felt by these characters relating to their siblings.
Kaladin has been included in every section. Why do you think this was? Did you wish to have a break from him, or did you enjoy knowing he would be explored with every section?
I'm assuming it's because Kaladin is the central hero of the series(?), but it could just be that he had more ground he needed to cover in tWoK and won't be as prevalent in subsequent novels. Even so, his parts were definitely the most exciting, and I'm glad he's been in every section.
One of my favourite characters in the book is Syl. What do you think of her and her development throughout the course of this book?
Agreed.  Syl's development has been fascinating.  The fact that she knows so much stuff and yet cannot remember makes for good storytelling.  And there's no doubt that the spren are heavily involved in the magics and whatnot of Roshar.  It'll be cool to learn more about these quasi-visible creatures and how they fit into the big picture.
And, the big question, what do you think is going to happen in the last section? Any predictions?
This was why I stopped reading before the final section.  I enjoy postulating.  Looking back on the last two week's discussion, I assumed Dalinar would die.  Now I'm no longer certain of this.  Possibly some point down the road he will, but I was honestly expecting it here in the opening volume.  (I'm glad I'm wrong... so far.)  Even so, knowing that Szeth has a hit list of high names, Dalinar could very well be a target on that list, and I wouldn't be too shocked if he dies in the last part, especially since we know Szeth is in the final part.  
I'm hoping Shallan continues her stay with Jasnah, but who knows what'll happen there.  And as for Kaladin and his men, I don't think they'll be staying with Dalinar's troops for too long.  (Well, maybe some bridgemen will, but surely Kaladin will go off for some sort of adventure.)
I can't wait to finish the last forty pages or so and see what kind of cliffhanger Sanderson's gonna leave us with.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Things About Logan (Part 5)

It's been a long time since I've done one of these posts.

Part 1 is here.  Part 2 is here.  Part 3 is here.  Part 3 (again) is here.  Part 4 is here.

i.  I eat onions, though as a child I swore I never would.
iii.  There is a thing called Transcendental Folk music.  There is a band called Elephant Revival.  I now own their second album.
v.  I like my Kindle more than I ever imagined I would.
oneThe line is drawn, the curse it is cast...
vii.  Holding Avonlea and rocking her to sleep at night is one great joy that I cannot describe.
ix.  Imagine the grossest thing you've ever done/had done to you.  Now multiply that by around forty-six or so.  Now throw in a dog and, uhm, doggy byproduct.  Let's say that I win.
xi.  I abandoned Facebook.  My account's still open (for those that read Rememorandom there), but I'm not planning on coming back.
xiii.  My faith has been challenged more this year than any year ever before, like I'm being refined in a forge fire.  This is exciting, yet also un-fun.
twoThe slow one now will later be fast...
xv.  I'm pretty sure that there are no ugly characters in The Great Hunt.  Everybody is uncannily beautiful.
xvii.  A few weeks ago I took a razor blade to my head.  Since then, I've repeated this process weekly.  I love having a bald head.  (Keisha does not.)
xix.  I've got a stack of books to review from publishers/authors, and I don't have much time to devote to them at the moment.
three.  As the present now will later be past...
xxi.   Big meeting next week, kinda making me nervy, as they always do.
xxiii.  I'm still reading the Fables comics, and it's the only one I actually take time to go to the comic shop and purchase.
xxv.  Stella cut her cornea a while back, but it's mostly healed.
xxvii.  I make my own trail mix.  Holla.
fourThe order is rapidly fadin'...
xxix.  Currently reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, Bloodlines by John Piper, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door by Josh McDowell, the Book of Second Kings and Second Chronicles by God, and The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan.  I'm starting A Dance With Dragons tomorrow, methinks.
xxxi.  Sometimes I get emails from people asking me to review a book and I can tell that they've never spent any time on my blog.  The insincerity is easy to spot.  But sometimes I get respectful-and-sincere emails, where the sender at least pretends like they're trying.  I'm much more likely to say yes with the latter.
xxxiii.  That's a long Roman Numeral.
fiveAnd the first one now will later be last...
xxxv.  I love Monday Night Tennis league.
xxxvii.  I wish OBKY was a bike-friendly city.
xxxix.  Parentheses are definitely the best of the punctuation marks.
xli.  The word ampersand (&) originates from us having an open-ended alphabet, concluding with "...X, Y, Z and per se and."  This morphed to "...X, Y, and Z" somehow, and the & at the end dropped off.  Fascinating.
sixOh the times they are a-changin.
xliii.  I've memorized over fifty verses of Scripture so far for 2011, putting me at about the halfway mark.
xlv.  Skyrim is in the future, and so is the new Zelda game, but I shan't buy either, as gaming has practically ceased to exist.  I've still not beat New Vegas...
xlvii.  I make monstrous Excel sheets with lots of useful/useless information.
xlix.  Seems like a good stopping point.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Way of Kings Group Read: Week Three

Forgive me for the lack of introduction, but let's jump straight to the root of the matter.  If you'd like to read more responses to this week's questions, head to the main Group Read site (here).  This week's questions come from Memory.


"Books can store information better than we can--what we do that books cannot is interpret." (Page 462)

"He couldn't know how long it lasted; time had no meaning in this place of fury and tumult." (Page 520)

"Was it possible to do something horrible in the name of accomplishing something wonderful?" (Page 532)*

"It might be religion, but it still has to make sense." (Page 635)


Part III reunites us with Shallan, who we haven't seen for a few hundred pages, and separates us from Dalinar and Adolin for a few hundred more. How do you feel about leaving characters behind for such long stretches? Did you lose any of your connection to them during the break?
The splitting of the characters is slightly frustrating, but not to the point where it's detrimental to my enjoyment of the story.  I say frustrating because I'd like to stick with the characters longer and follow their story, but then at the same time, there's likely little-or-nothing going on with them at the times Sanderson gives us different POVs.  Maybe he's just cutting out the redundant fluff that doesn't really add to the main story when he omits POVs?
So far, how would you compare this to other epic fantasies you've read? Does it remind you of any other series?
Compared with other epic fantasies I've read, Sanderson's world and tale is definitely fresh and unique.  It defies many traditional cliches, but at the same time it resonates with the general "feeling" epic fantasy gives off.  Oddly enough, the other books it reminds me of are also by Brandon Sanderson: Mistborn, Elantris, and Warbreaker.  Nothing major really connects these, but the way Lashing works instantly brings to mind Vin Pushing and Pulling in Mistborn.  The Shardblades remind me of the fascinating sword Nightblood in Warbreaker.  And the glyphs (and symbolheads?) are bringing back imagery from Elantris and the language used there.  I think this is more than mere coincidence, but I can't say why exactly.
How do you feel about the masculine and feminine arts? If you're female, do you think you'd be content to stick to scholarly pursuits, or would you rather do something physical, like go to war? If you're male, would you be willing to forgo learning to read, even if there were women around to read to you? What about the food? Does the spicy for men and sweet for women restriction fit your own tastes?
I love this part of the Alethi culture.  It's reminiscent of our culture's history, but it's vastly different, too.  Sexism doesn't seem to exist for the people, and yet to our liberated 21st century American minds, the whole thing screams its wrongness. 

I say that I would be willing to shirk the soldiering life for a scholarly one, but I'm unsure whether or not I really would.  It would have to depend on which nahn I was in, whether or not I was a lighteyes or darkeyes, and whether or not I wanted glory (which I can't see myself wanting) or simplicity.  An ardent's life sounds appetizing, but I'm not sure how sinister these people are yet.  I do find the dissolution of the masculine/feminine arts in the ardentia an interesting fact.

I picture a lot of the food like Indian foods.  Curried, heavily spiced, and naan for bread.  As it just so happens, I love Indian food, so this works for me.  (Of course, I also love ice cream and chocolate chip cookies, and I would be sad not have these.)

Oh, I also think it's pretty clever that the women write their own subtext after a man's dictation.  This opens the doors for all kinds of disagreements in the texts.  (And I think it's obvious now that these opening bits of the chapters are coming from books Shallan/Jasnah/Someone is researching, and could very well be their own notes?  I'm not sure if the death-quotes fit this category, but they could... The letter for Part Two doesn't, though, unless it's something one of them read?)
What do you think of the flashbacks to Kaladin's childhood?
At first I didn't care too much for them, but as they've progressed, I grew more and more intrigued.  I love that Kaladin is a surgeon, trained in healing arts with a healer's mindset, and yet he's a renown warrior.

When I was reading the last few flashbacks, as time was drawing closer to the present, I kept waiting to see what would happen to Tien.  It's amazing that Sanderson's not told exactly what went down, but we've enough of an idea that Tien's death utterly changed the young healer-soldier.  And then when Kaladin faced down the Shardbearer!  Breathtaking.  I can't believe we've gone this long into the novel and just now found this out, but it's omission from Kaladin's thoughts imply truly how much he hates the lighteyes.
Do you have any theories yet as to where the story is headed? What do you most want to see in the last quarter of the book?
I've got theories a-plenty.  Dalinar will die.  I just don't see him living.  Adolin will step into his place, possibly, or the young Kholin will have to leave the Shattered Plains for some reason.  Dalinar's death could come by Szeth's hand (which seems possible), or it could come from Sadeas (which seems possible).  Kaladin and his men will rise up, but like the times before, many of them will die, but Kaladin will escape.  He may get some Shards by the end, and surely he'll end up working alongside Adolin at some point, where his opinions of lighteyes will have to change.  Shallan will tell Jasnah about her visions before she leaves and the woman will allow Shallan to stay on because of her sight into whatever the symbolheads are.  I have no clue about them, other than they're somehow connected to Soulcasting.

Odium reigns.  This Odium must be the series' main antagonist, but I don't see it as a Dark Lord archetype, though I could be wrong.  Odium may be using Szeth's new masters to accomplish its chaos and destruction of Roshar.

I am eager to see more Szeth, of course, but even more so eager to find out more about the symbolheads and about Kaladin's apparent use of Stormlight.  Sadly, I don't think we'll get much more of Shallan until possibly the final part of the book.  Kal, though.  That'll be fun.
Miscellaneous thoughts:  Kabsal's poisoning was an unexpected twist.  Who was he working with?  The deathspren are slightly terrifying.  And what the heck's going on with these bridgemen?  Teft and his mysterious knowledge of what Kaladin is.  Sigzil (I think that's who it was) and his aversion to Worldsingers?  And the one-armed crazy-happy Lopen?  Jeez!  Kaladin Stormblessed, indeed.  Oh, and Kal's surviving the storm was rather exciting, too, I might add.

I'm really enjoying The Way of Kings.  The book keeps me interested, and I really feel like we've only got the faintest notions of what's ahead of us.  I see nine more books of great storytelling and beautiful worldbuilding.

*I've noticed that this theme crops up in an awful lot of books and movies, and I suppose it's because it makes for compelling characters.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Deep Sorrow and a Hollow Heart

Maybe it's from having just finished Ecclesiastes this morning that I find myself so burdened.  The heaviness in my heart is real, and how to proceed is abstract.  It's easy to look around and see the Church--that is the Bride of Christ, not the local building--failing in so many ways.  In a sample of a hundred churches, one hundred of them will be filled with problems.  Strife among brothers and sisters.  Gossiping.  Hatred.  Pride.  Lust.  These are to be expected, as we're all still human and not yet made perfect, but the fact that there doesn't seem to be any desire to change is sickening.

Last night I was involved in a regional church meeting.  Between the two counties involved, there were 56 churches represented, with 266 voters present.  The issue was to decide whether or not to kick a church (Journey Fellowship) out of the association.  Why?  Because their building is used by the local PFLAG group.  That's it.  There is no relationship between the church and PFLAG other than the fact that the church allows their facility to be open and available.  In effect, this church is saying Welcome, we love you, and we don't judge.  In fact, the church goes on to profess "radical unconditional acceptance," something that many churches look down on.

Considering that the meeting even took place, I felt like the situation was already lose-lose.  Instead of brothers and sisters of Jesus standing up and loving on one another, there was a meeting to disfellowship a church because they were loving on people.  So in a crowd of 350+ people, displayed to media from here to far, I watched the Church fight*.  It was civil, yes, but it felt to me an underlying wave of hatred and judgment.  Speakers voiced their affirmation of the motion (to remove the church) and then speakers voiced their opposition (to keep the church in).  Back and forth this went, passionate words flying from both sides, maintaining rules of order, borderline chaos, people "Amen-ing" and shaking their heads.

The call to vote came.  Oddly, in order to vote we had to vote whether or not we could even commence with voting.  Once that passed, someone called for secret ballot.  This vote failed, and we then proceeded to stand up and cast our votes publicly.  Of the 266 voters, 242 voted to disfellowship this church.  The only ones that voted to keep them in was the representatives from the accused church and four of us from my church (so the other four from my church either didn't vote or voted in favor). 

Then, awkwardly, the order of the meeting called for ballot tabulating time, because I suppose it was thought the vote would be secret ballot.  So during this time, we sat uncomfortably aware of the results while pretending that we didn't know.  A man led the congregation in a song, singing "People Need the Lord," and the words sounded hollow and fake.  People need the Lord unless you're gay.  People need the Lord but not all.  People need the Lord but find Him outside the church.  People need the Lord let's pretend like we love each other.  People need the Lord let's all judge our brothers.  People need the Lord....

The meeting adjourned soon after, people spreading like ants funneling through a crack in the wall.  We talked to the reps from the now disfellowshipped church, telling them we appreciated what they were doing, offering prayer and encouragement. 

This whole things is deeply disappointing on so many levels.  It shows how fragile our Church is.  It shows how far we've fallen.  The fact that a church cannot have a support group is ridiculous.  How is PFLAG any different than AA or any other accountability group**?  I'm of the opinion that people don't like it when sins are public.  We prefer keeping them to ourselves, sitting comfortably in our pews and silently looking down on everybody else.  We're a white, middle-classed church, born to outdated traditions and indoctrinated with prejudices.  We don't like it when our customs are rocked or when our cultures change.  Thus, we're a dying, stagnant Church.  We fail at reaching the lost because we can't get over their sins, all the while ignoring our own.  We don't reach out and help people because we're lazy, uncaring, and satisfied with our own salvation.  Last I checked, Jesus spent most of His time on earth with the less-than-reputable people, the whores and liars, the outcasts and abused.  Instead, we want air-conditioned buildings, thirty-minute sermons, and clean and fake members.  We don't want real.  We want facades.

This is the state of Christianity today.  It's to a point where a new word needs to be used for those of us that follow Jesus Christ and His teachings.  The Church is called to love everyone, to reach the unsaved, to make disciples, to spread God's Gospel to the ends of the earth.  How can we do that when our church's doors are closed?  When the doors of the church are closed, the hearts of its members are, too.  And if Christians are a close-hearted people, we've removed Jesus from our beliefs, and if that's the case, then I guess I'm not a Christian.


*I imagine the Bride as an abused, delusional, schizophrenic, bi-polar bigot that spreads Her legs for anyone other than Her Husband.  She's married to a Savior that died for everyone--chiefly Her--and yet She spends Her time with the World and Its thinking.  She has a Husband that embodies love, but She prefers a world that spits on Her and slaps Her around.

**Just because a church building is used by a group does not mean that the church adheres to the group's philosophy.  However, perception is everything, and people perceive that since Journey is allowing PFLAG to use its building that they believe all of PFLAG's tenets, regardless whether that's the case or not. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Way of Kings Group Read: Week Two

Very little in the way of an intro for this week.  Carl, one of the best spoken gents on the internet, as well as proprietor of Stainless Steel Droppings, has taken helm of this week's questions.  You can follow his blog here.  Also feel free to check out the Read Along headquarters to see more responses.

"Kaladin was like a moldy crust on a starving man's plate; not the first bite, but still doomed." (Page 263)

"A man's emotions are what define him, and control is the hallmark of true strength.  To lack feeling is to be dead, but to act on every feeling s to be a child." (Page 377)

In a recent interview Brandon Sanderson mentioned that the interludes are meant to show us parts of the larger world since much of the action is focused in one or two places. What do you think of the first two sets of interludes? Any characters or situations stand out to you?
Szeth the Truthless is definitely one of the most interesting characters so far.  His powers are fascinating, but the mystery that surrounds him--what exactly is a Truthless?  why is he in the state he's in?  who's he gonna kill next?--is pure brilliant.  I feel quite sympathetic for him, but I'm not exactly sure why.

I'm equally fascinated by Hoid, a man who's only barely been mentioned thus far, during the first Interlude.  Hoid is a unique character in Sanderson's cosmere, as he (or a man named Hoid) has appeared in all of Sanderson's original fantasy novels so far.  Sanderson has hinted that his books all share the same universe, and I suppose that this Hoid is somehow more important than we currently know.
In small increments Brandon Sanderson is revealing the geology and ecology of Roshar. What are your thoughts on what has been revealed thus far?
The Shattered Plains are mesmerizing.  I love the plateaus and how the armies cross them (bridges, poles, or jumping).  The chasms make peril imminent for anyone forgetful or clumsy, even posing dangers to Shardbearers.  This is a brilliant setting for the novel, methinks.

In particular I'm intrigued by the highstorms and the crem that falls with the rain.  Professionally, I work with rainfall and flooding, and the fact that rain in Roshar is poisonous and heavily polluted is another brilliant world-feature of Way of Kings.  I can imagine the stalactites forming on unkempt houses, or worse, sticking to a condemned man forced to weather a highstorm. 

Other than that, there are so many minor tweaks that make Roshar what it is that I'm sure I keep forgetting things, picturing an Earth-like world as opposed to the one the story's actually in.  Multiple moons.  Rockbuds.  Strange grass.  Orange, blue, and purple wine!  Craziness.
This second section of The Way of Kings featured two distinct story lines, those of Dalinar and of Kaladin. How do you feel this section of the book compares with the first section and what are your thoughts on either or both of these story lines?
No cabe duda, the second section blew the first one out of the water.  The fight with the chasmfiend was thrilling (no pun intended).  The politics of the warcamp intriguing.  The visions of Dalinar baffling.  And Kaladin's renewed zeal encouraging.  Dalinar, and indirectly, Adolin, show one side of the war effort, and Kaladin shows the polar opposite.  This dichotomy is well played and very informative to the reader. 

In particular, Dalinar's visions make him another sympathetic character, though less so that Szeth.  Sadly, I don't see him lasting much longer.  His age (and his decision to abdicate to Adolin) all but beg someone to assassinate or duel him.

I also really liked Kal's flashback scenes.  I love that he's a trained surgeon and that he's a gifted warrior.  Again, the conflicting views and motives make for great storytelling.
In the interview set out earlier in the week Sanderson talked about the Stormlight Archive being a series about the return of magic. What are your thoughts on this, particularly in relation to the visions Dalinar is having during the highstorms?
I like this approach to fantasy.  Typically we see magic dying off and leaving the lands, often relegated to arcane sciences and superstition.  Here, magic definitely has birthed mythology, but also religion.  The Heralds and the Radiants and Voidbringers are definitely magical, but so are the Shards and Soulcasting.  People understand that these things are mystical, and while they're not prevalent, they're at least present.

Sanderson has an open door for where he can go with the return of magic.  Perhaps more and more people will start having visions (like Dalinar, though to me he seems chosen for a reason), or more Shards will be found or the plethora of gemhearts will lead to more Soulcasters.  Dalinar's visions must be foreshadowing, and if that's the shape of things to come, the rest of the book/series will be phenomenal.
There has been a change in this second section of the nature of the quotes prior to the beginning of each chapter. What are your thoughts on the opening lines featured in both sections of the book to this point?
I think everyone must have forgot about the pre-chapter quotes last week.  I meant to say something, but it slipped my mind.  Book One's quotes have me perplexed.  Who is keeping these things recorded?  Do all men and women get some sort of erratic "vision" when they die?  Are they somehow related to the spren?  Soulcasting?  This, coupled with Kaladin hearing a dying bridgeman's last words, have me eager to find out the importance of these quotes.

Book Two's pre-quotes were in the form of a letter.  I wasn't as intrigued by them, though they did offer some insight (albeit obfuscated and minuscule) to the world.  I particularly liked the section written to the immortal recipient.

These quotes and letter will undoubtedly be important to the Stormlight Archive, I'm just not sure if we'll find out their significance in The Way of Kings.
In the questions for these first two sections we've talked about characters and the story lines and the world that Sanderson has created, but there are a lot of interesting flourishes and touches to The Way of Kings thus far (shardplate, spren, the actual "Way of Kings" book, highstorms, etc.). Talk about some of the non-character/non-setting things that you are finding either fascinating or annoying (or both) in the book thus far.
Like last week, the spren are still holding my attention.  I cannot dismiss their importance in the grand scheme of things.  Syl's fluttering insights and fuzzy memories seem to point to something, but what that something is I can't grasp.

I'm also very curious to learn more about Dalinar's purging of his wife's memory from his mind.  How is this possible?  And what implications does this have for the rest of the world?  And, dang it, are the spren somehow involved here?

On spren, Axies the Collector and his hunt to find all the spren just whets my appetite.  Does this Axies know Hoid?  Are there beings that are charged to observe things throughout the worlds and archive them or something? 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On Language and Words

I have long been fascinated by language.  It's complexity is mind-shattering, and yet it's simplicity is something most babies learn early on.  Language is not confined to any one medium, and I'm of the opinion that anything that translates communication from one sender to a receiver makes use of language.

I suppose my love of language is in large part why I love to write (and read).  Words are powerful.  I mean, God created the cosmos with His Words.  Man has created kings and queens from their fealty.  Revolutions have sparked from concealed messages.  There's no doubt that words are powerful.  As a writer (I say that like I'm some sort of professional), I feel like I have a vast tapestry of words before me, waiting to be taken and abused.  Often we use these words in traditional formats, obeying common grammatical rules and syntax.  But personally, I prefer pushing the boundaries of what's deemed normal and play with the words I use.  It's a you have to know the rules before you can break them mentality.

The English language is extremely interesting.  A part of me loathes it with such a deep passion that at times I wish it did not exist.  This is rare, but it happens.  The majority of my thinking, though, is that I'm glad English is my native language, even if it is the American dialect.  So many of our idioms make no sense when you put a second's thought in them.  And the plethora of words that have multiple meanings is simply astounding.  Off the cuff I'm sure I could come up with a score of 'em.

But the more and more I think about the language, the more I wish I had taken some sort of linguistics class in college.  Studying etymology* and learning the down-and-dirty history of words would be of great benefit to the way my brain thinks.  (For that matter, I wish that I had taken some sort of creative writing class, or a class on European folklore or something.  Alas, the engineering school gave me no time for such trivialities.)  The way language has refined itself over the course of history just sounds interesting to me.

And then there's the slew of problems with language.  It's ultimately a flawed system, because humans are too complex, too intricate, for words to precisely portray our thoughts.  To understand what I'm thinking, consider the example of simply defining words**.
faith: Complete trust or confidence in someone or something
confidence: The feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust
belief:  An acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists
true: In accordance with fact or reality
fact: A thing that is indisputably the case
indisputable: Unable to be challenged or denied
I see these words and I think, okay, there are so many holes in the language here that we're really going out on a limb to even try and understand one another.  Someone may be talking about faith, which generally we define as mentioned above.  Biblically, faith is "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Heb 11:1)  However, as someone remarked on a blog*** I was reading yesterday, "Faith comes from the Greek word pistis which means “trusting in something for which you have seen the evidence.”  Now if I read it like that, I essentially read something like
"Faith is trusting in something that I have seen the evidence...[and] the conviction of things not seen."
So, if I'm reading that correctly, faith is mutually exclusive.  It's both somehow based on fact and visible evidence, and yet it's not.  (Dichotomy, in particular, is something I find immensely frustrating and fascinating.)  This is just one example of why language ultimately is untrustworthy.

Of course, there is no alternative.  Until we can communicate via telepathy--and then our telepathy must be able to convey emotion and color and imagery and words and songs and an infinite number of other things--we will always have misunderstandings.  It's the way of the world, I suppose.

I could go on and on here.  In fact, I had a 3 page outline for a few different essays I had on language, but I'm not sure if I'll ever get to those.  So I guess I'll just leave it here.  Any thoughts?
*I go to etymology sources often to get character names and/or creations when I write.  FYI.
**Taken from the Google define search tool.
***As I said, I've no education in language, so I'm taking this guy at his word.  Read that post if you want to read something to think about.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My First Hands-On Bible, a Review

I reviewed the original Hands-On Bible a while back.  In it, I concluded with this:
Overall, I really liked the Hands-On Bible.  It's sleek design is attractive and fun looking, perfect for kids.  The text is varying, using bold fonts and illustrations/side-boxes, which helps break up the monotonous look most bibles have (i.e. long blocks of unbroken text).  While this bible is not a beginner's bible, it's clearly the next step after, and I think most young readers would enjoy reading through God's Word in this way.  I also think the activities are a great asset to anyone working with kids, and I easily recommend this bible to anyone interested. [*Emphasis added and underlined.]
Basically, My First Hands-On Bible takes everything I loved in the original Hands-On Bible and changes it to the understanding of a preschooler.  Instead of using paraphrasing for stories, actual scripture is used, taken from the NLT.  In essence, this is a heavily abridged bible for preschoolers.

The illustrations are excellent and colorful, sure to attract young eyes looking for vibrant pictures.  The activities throughout the stories are fun and easy, and most of them involve the use of basic items laying around the house.  It's the combination of these two things that I like about My First Hands-On Bible.  I think the idea is right, that actively engaging children in bible stories will help build an early foundation for life.

I also like how at the end of each story there are discussion questions, a prayer guide, an activity, and a Jesus Connection.  The Jesus Connection relates how each story points to Christ, and this is another excellent thing for young minds to learn.

Overall, I'm just as impressed by My First Hands-On Bible as I was with the original.  While my daughter is too young to participate in any of the activities (or really even understand any of the words I'm saying), she's nevertheless looking at captivating pictures and listening to God's Word.  And when she's old enough to understand, I'm sure I'll still be using this very same bible.
FTC Thingy:  Tyndale House Publishers gave me this book for free on account of me writing an honest review.  Therefore, this review is honest.  (Why would anyone publish anything but an honest review?)  I received no monetary donations from this review, nor any other goods, like warm, gooey, home-baked cookies.  Now if I were offered these things, I would not hesitate to say sure, go on and send 'em my way.  Would that affect my review of the book?  Nope.   And that's honesty.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Way of Kings Group Read: Week One

I bought Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings the week it came out, nigh on a year ago.  The man writes excellent fantasy novels, with captivating characters, fascinating magic systems, and a well-paced plot.  But for some reason, I never started the tome.  Other books kept cropping up or something else came along that prevented me.

Now, though, with the help of a few other bloggers, I've joined in on a group read.  Together, we'll explore Sanderson's seminal volume of The Stormlight Archive, and each week those of us participating will discuss what we've read, as well as any thoughts/theories we may have.  If you want to get in on this group-read, it's not too late.  Just head here and get yourself started.

Ibeeeg (of Polishing Mud Balls) has put together this weeks round of questions.  The main group read-along blog, Polishing Mud Balls Read-Along Page, is here.  Follow it for the rest of the bloggers taking part of this epic undertaking.  Now, without further ado...
Before I started reading The Way of Kings, I did have some thoughts on how I would like this story; did you? If you did, how is The Way of Kings actually comparing to those thoughts?
I had no fears of Sanderson letting me down.  Everything of his that I've read--the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, and Elantris--has been highly enjoyable.  I remember Sanderson saying that The Stormlight Archive is his baby, that it's the story he's worked on the longest and has planned out for years.  I was also intrigued by the up-front clarification that this is a ten volume series.  If it's ten books each a thousand pages, that's quite an adventure that I could not afford to pass up.  Plus, with Sanderson's killer work ethic and expediency at book releases, the time expected to wait between novels isn't too long.  There was no way I'd miss this journey.
What do you think of the pace of this story? so far. And what do you think of the prose? Do you think the prose is too descriptive? Not descriptive enough? Give me your thoughts on the writing thus far.
The pacing has been quick.  Very quick.  The opening scene of the battle was breathtaking, and most of Kaladin's stuff has been so far, too.  Shallan's scenes are more like a pot that's simmering, a bit slower, but definitely filled with enough to keep me curious.

The prose is lean, but not too much.  Sanderson's descriptions are perfect for setting the tone that he's portraying.  In battle, there's little description.  In the lull times of traveling, there's more.  For me, it's a perfect balance of a high, epic fantasy with the brisk pace of something lower.
What was your favorite part of this first section?
My favorite part so far (I'm up to 14% complete on my Kindle, or around pg 150) is either Kaladin's labor of carrying the bridge or the curious breaking of the Oathpact at the "Prelude" of the book.  I felt like the bridge carrying ordeal was a grueling and horrifying experience, and the fact that Kaladin couldn't even see as he ran most of the way was wonderful.  And yet I keep thinking back to the Prelude, curious from the characters and the plethora of questions unanswered.
Which character(s) do you find most interesting and why?
I'm really digging the spren.  Fearspren.  Windspren.  Flamespren.  Creationspren.  Anticipationspren.  Logicspren.  So many different spren, and how they just appear at different events (whether seen or not) is just plain cool.

I'm also curious to see how Shallan will accomplish her goal of stealing the Soulcaster.  Surely she and Kaladin are on a destination to meet.  In all of Sanderson's works, his female protagonists are always characters I rally for.  As of yet, I'm not necessarily pulling for Shallan, but I'm intrigued by her ambition (and her Memory magic(?)).

I also hope to see more of Szeth-son-son-Vallano.  His assassination of the king in the prologue was awesome, and I don't think I fully understand the aftermath of the murder and the king's last words.

Kaladin, though, is definitely the most interesting person to read about right now.  He seems like a genuine, stand-up kind of guy, and I'm assuming he'll be the series' hero.  We'll see.
All right, what I really want to know is... what do you think of this book overall? so far. Are you finding the story easy to follow? Are you fascinated, interested? Is the book holding your attention? Are you Bored? Indifferent? Please share your overall thoughts.
Overall, I'm very pleased so far with the read.  The story is fascinating and complex, and I think it'll be a book that I can re-read as the series progresses through the years and take away completely different thoughts.  The unique environments and creatures are interesting; the magic, while currently vague, is nonetheless exciting.  I've stayed up late reading quite a few nights already.  I suppose the easiest way for me to say this is that I've put off reading GRRM's Dance with Dragons until September just so I could read Sanderson's work (and blog with a few others, too).  If I weren't enjoying the book, I'd pick up Dance without a second thought.  As it is, I've not even touched it.

Monday, August 01, 2011

J.R.R. Tolkien Christian Encounters, a Review

The Christian Encounter series is a biographical series from Thomas Nelson Publishing House.  The purpose of this series is to highlight the faith of each person presented.  I am not a fan of biographies, having only read one my entire life (Bob Dylan) and not planning to read another.  But then came along the chance to review the Christian Encounter book on J.R.R. Tolkien.  Since the book was small and about someone I had more than a passing interest in, I decided to give it a go.

Mark Horne does an admiral job of highlighting Tolkien's life in just over 120 pages.  The focus of the biography is to present readers with insight into Tolkien's life and the eventual development of his seminal works in the fantasy genre.  Horne is quick to remind us that Tolkien was a believer in the Faith, but he never ventures more than that.  Personally, I thought I would get to see more of Tolkien's faith in action, or at least some idea of how he believed.  Instead, I'm reminded (more than once) that Tolkien was a "sincere" Roman Catholic, that he forced his wife to convert from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism, and that he raised his children in the Catholic church.  One is left wondering what type of faith Tolkien really had.  No doubt he believed, and Horne includes how Tolkien shared his faith with C.S. Lewis in hopes of convincing Lewis to abandon skepticism, but this about as much of the action as we get to see.

Instead, this brief biography spends a handful of pages for each era of Tolkien's life and reads like a Wikipedia article.  We learn of his upbringing and his orphaning at an early age.  We then follow Tolkien's examination process to gain entrance to school, and then further studies to become a professor at Oxford.  We read about the Great War and its affects on Tolkien, and then suddenly we're diving through publishing and finishing his works.  All in all, if one is not looking for depth (and truly, I can't say that I was), then this little book is great for a casual Sunday afternoon read.  Its brevity is testament to that.  But if one is looking for a more thorough examination of Tolkien's life, there are definitely more available biographies of the man out there.  (Horne cites these quite often, and lists the books in the back of his work for further reading.)

All in all, it was an interesting experience to read about J.R.R. Tolkien.  I'm still not much of a fan of biographies, but I didn't expect to be won over by this, either.  If you're looking for some lite-Tolkien bio, Mark Horne's J.R.R. Tolkien in the Christian Encounter series is it.  Otherwise, look for something deeper.

*FTC Thingy: This book was provided free of charge.  Yep, I didn't have to pay for it.  All I had to do was read it and write an honest review.  I'm required by law to post this FTC Review Thingy for tax purposes or something.  So I like to change it up every time I tack it onto the books I receive.  I also like requesting baked goods, but as of yet, no one's obliged.