Looking Back at May 2014

May was a strange month for me. I had a lot of work that arrived on my desk very unexpectedly and it took me away from most of the time I would normally have spent reading. I also turned thirty in the middle of the month and for whatever reason that had a more adverse impact on my mood than I expected it would. Combine all of that with the usual routine of keeping up with the kids and being a functional adult with responsibilities and the end result is getting a lot less reading done. When I started the month I was right on track with my goal for reading 100 books by the end of the year. At the end of the month I found myself four books behind schedule.

Four books is not the end of the world. Spread out over the final seven months of the year I’m sure I can make up that many books if I pick the right ones, but I also really want to be on track again by the mid-point of 2014, which means 50 books completed by the end of this month. That’s a milestone I really want to hit. So, I’ve finished two books so far in June, and that makes 41 for the year. I need 9 more this month to hit my milestone. It’s going to be tough to make that happen, but my wife and kids will be on a vacation to California for a couple of weeks this month, which frees up my evenings a little bit. If I combine that with picking the right books I know will suck me in so I don’t put them down I might just pull it off. So, wish me luck.

In May I read not only full-length novels, but a handful of shorter works as well. Here is the list of full-length novels I finished in May:

As far as short fiction is concerned, I read a lot of short stories and novellas related to some of the other book series’ that I enjoy:

My favorite books of the month were The Enceladus Crisis and The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. Both of them were fantastically written and had some very compelling moments for me as a reader. I really didn’t know what to expect from The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. I knew it was a critically acclaimed book, but I had it sitting on my Kindle for a very long time. I know a book has done something special when it’s a science fiction or fantasy novel that I will heartily recommend to my wife as something she would be interested in reading, which is exactly what The Mad Scientist’s Daughter did for me while I was reading.

All of the short fiction was fantastic as well. I especially liked the additional depth I got for some of the characters in Promise of Blood that I read a few months ago. Going into the second book in that trilogy later this month will be much more interesting now.


Looking Back at March 2014

A fourth of the year has passed us by which means if I’m to stay on track with my reading goal I need to be at 25 books finished. It was close this month sneaking in a ninth book to stay on track, but I managed it. This month featured a new author or two, making progress on a series, and reading my favorite author’s newest book.

The books I read in March 2014:

Out of that list my favorites were Words of Radiance and Half Way Home. I was waiting nearly four years for the Brandon Sanderson book and it was fantastic. Half Way Home was a bit of a surprise. I was expecting it to be good because I like Hugh Howey as an author, but it ended up being my favorite book of his I’ve read to date. I was also very impressed by Michael J. Sullivan’s Hollow World, which he sent me an advance copy of in return for a review. I had a hard time putting it down after I got started.

The only book from March that really didn’t do much for me was Wolfheart by Richard A. Knaak. I just didn’t connect with it very well, but that’s okay, if I only have one book out of every eight or nine that I don’t connect with perfectly I think I’m doing pretty well. I also made it through books four and five of the Seafort Saga, which should allow me to finish up the series in April with little trouble.

Speaking of April, I’m looking to get the Seafort Saga finished by reading the last two books. I’m also going to read the two newest David Dalglish books I’ve been waiting for and I’m also going to drive through a few more random novels on my Kindle in my continuing quest to clean it out entirely.

Book Review: “Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects” by Christie Golden

Thrall: Twilight of the AspectsThrall: Twilight of the Aspects is a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time. Unlike a few of the other World of Warcraft novels I’ve read lately, this one deals specifically with a character I find to be very compelling and it deals with the dragon Aspects in the game, which I also find to be interesting, and I don’t know a lot about.

I’ve read books written by Christie Golden before, so I knew what kind of writing style I was going to get and I sort of knew how she was going to do things with the characters, but even then, I think this has been one of her better books as a complete package. She was given the chance to focus on just one or two characters instead of a massive cast of them and her writing was the better for it. She really managed to give Thrall, former Warchief of the Horde, newly instilled member of the Earthen Ring, some depth and emotion that is difficult to convey in a video game setting. I appreciated that as a fan of the game and as a fan of the game lore.

The book focuses on Thrall’s journey to discover who he really is and what his part is going to be in dealing with the various dangers that present themselves to Azeroth. Is he supposed to be leading the Horde? Is he supposed to give himself over fully to being a shaman of the Earthen Ring? Is he supposed to leave all of that behind and do something completely unexpected? Thrall simply does not know and he wants to find out, so he sets himself on a journey of discovery.

Guided through the early parts of his journey by the gentle prodding of Ysera, the Aspect of the green dragonflight, Thrall begins to understand the unity he must find between his former role as leader of the Horde and his new role as a guardian of the elements. He cannot be one or the other, he must be part of both. But, to be both he must learn some things as well as teach a few things to others, especially the powerful dragonflight Aspects who must band together to defeat an abomination that could spell doom for all of Azeroth if it remains alive.

Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects gave me a lot more to think about when I come across dragonflight characters inside the video game and it gave me a new appreciation for Thrall and what the game designers have been doing with him lately. These type of World of Warcraft novels do a lot of good for readers wanting to know more about the video game they are playing and I’m glad Christie Golden did a good job with this one.

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Book Review: “World of Warcraft: Wolfheart” by Richard A. Knaak

WolfheartWolfheart was a very interesting read for me. I really enjoy the World of Warcraft video game, and as I’ve mentioned before, I have enjoyed some of the other novels written in support of the game lore. This book, however, is very different from the other World of Warcraft novels I’ve read up to this point.

I was expecting a lot of action, especially action focused on Varian Wrynn, the King of Stormwind. As it turns out, Varian is in the book, and he does play a central part in the final scenes, but for most of the book he’s a bit of an afterthought. Instead, the plot focuses on characters like Malfurion Stormrage, Tyrande Whisperwind, and Jarod and Maiev Shadowsong. Those are characters I’ve seen in the game, but haven’t been exposed to in the novels.

All of the action in Wolfheart takes place in the Night Elf capital city of Darnassus and the forests of Ashenvale, another Night Elf territory. The Horde wants to strip mine Ashenvale for its immense lumber resources and in this book we see the first big push the Horde makes into trying to secure the area. Garrosh Hellscream has brought massive beasts from the frozen tundra of Northrend to aid his army, knowing full well that nothing the Night Elves, or the Alliance on the whole has will be able to stop them. As Malfurion and Tyrande host a massive summit of nations in Darnassus to bring the kingdoms of the Alliance together to deal with the threat of Deathwing, Garrosh begins his invasion into Ashenvale and because of his timing, it seems like nobody can come to the aid of the Night Elf sentinels there.

The other half of the plot revolves round a murder mystery situation in Darnassus itself. Highborne are turning up dead under strange circumstances. Malfurion Stormrage and Jarod Shadowsong spend the book attempting to find out why. The villain turns out to be a surprise, and I was not expecting it to turn out the way it did.

Varian Wrynn finally enters center stage in the final pages of Wolfheart as he is forced into a situation where he must decide if he is going to be the figurehead the Alliance needs in order to present a united front in the face of Garrosh Hellscream and to a greater extent, Deathwing, or if he’s going to remain merely the King of Stormwind. The final events of Wolfheart bring about his transformation into the true leader he needs to be moving forward. I’m just disappointed that the story of that transformation had to take a back seat to all the rest of the plot. It was the better story in my opinion.

Wolfheart was an average book for me. It did not do a particularly bad job of telling its story, but it also did not do a particularly good job of telling its story either. This is the first book by Richard A. Knaak I’ve read, so I’m not sure if my feelings about Wolfheart come from not enjoying his writing on a stylistic level, or if they come from just feeling like the story was misaligned compared to what I thought it should be. However, if you are a World of Warcraft lore junkie, Wolfheart is probably a book you should read.

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Up Next: “Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects” by Christie Golden

Thrall: Twilight of the AspectsThis book will be the last of the World of Warcraft books I need to catch up on. I’ve read the most recent one, and another comes out in May, but all of the ones I’m interested in from before I started playing the game or from before I started reading World of Warcraft novels I’ve now read. After this one I can just read the new ones that come out as they pertain to the game.

I don’t know much about Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects other than it’s written by Christie Golden who has done a decent enough job with a couple of others I’ve read and that it takes place during the timeline of the Cataclysm expansion. Thrall is a cool character in the game for me so I’m guessing a book focusing on him will hold my interest fairly well.

The Hour of Twilight. She’d spoken of it at the meeting, tried to warn the others of it, but the warning had gotten lost; a little bright fragment of . . . something . . . had been briskly swept away like a broken bit of pottery beneath an industrious broom. It was—

She gnawed her lower lip, thinking.

It was the greatest challenge the dragonflights would face, but she did not know against whom they would be fighting. It might come soon . . . or aeons from now. Could it have something to do with the return of Deathwing? Surely it had to . . . did it not? This breaking of the world was one of the worst things that had ever happened to Azeroth.

How could she persuade others of the direness of the situation when she herself could not articulate it? She uttered a little noise of annoyance and frustration.

One thing she knew for certain. There were many pieces missing from this puzzle, but there was one core piece that was necessary before any of the others could fall into place. It was a very strange piece, an unlikely one at best, and she was uncertain as to how he would fit in. She only knew that he had to.

Ysera had seen him, floating in and out of her dreaming. She had thought she understood his role in things, but now, peculiar as it seemed, something—some inner certainty that even she did not fully understand—was leading her to think she had not seen the full breadth of his contribution to Azeroth.

He was not a dragon. But he had the interests of the dragonflights in his heart—whether he knew it or not. He straddled worlds—but did not seek to rule or command or destroy them. He was unique.

She tilted her head, let the wind play with her long green hair. Perhaps that was why he fit in. Even the Aspects were not singular beings, although each had unique abilities. Not one but five there had been at the beginning, when the titans had come and shared their power for the good of Azeroth. Four there were now, but there would soon be five again, when the blues determined how to choose the one who would lead them.

But there was only one like this being.

There was only one Thrall.