Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year in Review

At the beginning of this year we challenged one another to read a book a week and thus this blog was born.  Did we make it?   Not quite, but we tried hard and read much more than we did the previous year! 
For those of you looking for excuses for not finishing our project on time, well you aren't going to get those here; but I will say it is interesting how one book can throw you off your book-loving game and another can re-ignite your passion for reading.  So here's the report card for the year:

Books read: 47 (not too far off target)
Books started and not finished: 2 (The Reader - yeah, not so much into the porn, Vanity Fair - still holding out hope in the bedside basket for books better left for tomorrow).
Books finished and not yet reviewed: 7 (yeah, that list is long, blame it on the baby growing in my tummy, so good to know I will always and ever have someone to blame things on - welcome to parenting 101)
Favorites of the year: The Road, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Books read; 43 - farther off target, but could count 44 as I didn't count The Jesus Manifesto. Meh
Books started and not finished: Towers of Sunset, The Passage, The Stand, and Wolves of Calla. It's not that I don't want to finish the books, but I have some background to finish. With WoC I needed to read The Stand first. I stopped reading The Stand b/c of the size and thought I should try to get to 52 books but then started a couple 1000 page books in it's stead. I'm currently reading ToS and The Passage before picking the stand back up
Books finished and not yet reviewed: 1 - No Country for Old Men
Favourites of the year: That's a tough one - The Road, Soldiers Live, and The Gathering Storm. 

I was thinking about the fact that I didn't finish up 52 books this year, but I was able to read a ton of pages! I have nearly 10,000 pages in Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, and Joe Abercrombie. That's eleven books only. That's 33 300 page books. =\ But our challenge wasn't to read the most pages, but to read 52 books in a year. 

It sounds like we're going to be a little busier next year so we might not get through the same amount of reading as this year. But we'll keep plugging along with Leah reading books that people are interested in and I'll live in my little fantasy world. 

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

American Gods

American Gods: A NovelAmerican Gods: A Novel happens to be my second Neil Gaiman novel and neither of those has been the novel I was planning to read of his. I've been meaning to pick up Coraline since purchasing and enjoying the movie. It was a cute but freaky kids story that shouldn't be shown to kids under a certain age unless they are incredibly morbid. The movie takes me back to a Grimm's Fairy Tales type of dark story. Anyways, the first reviewed book with Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch which was humorous and just a delightful story. American Gods falls into a different category.

In American Gods, a storm is brewing throughout America and somehow a seemingly normal ex-con has a pivotal role. You're greeted with plenty of mythology from the beginning that is carried on until the end. I found it amusing that you had a chance to see all types of different old god/s mythologies including Norse, American Indian, and other odd fairy tales to go along. What Gaiman didn't touch base on was Christianity, for the most part, and Santa. I'm not sure how he would have fared, but I'm assuming that he left those out so as not to alienate a good portion of his readers. The story is quite engaging and well written. He reminds me of a cross between Chuck Palahnuik and Stephen King. The way he writes dialogue was amusing.

I wasn't happy with the amount of smut that he decided to write about in the first hundred of so pages. There were three sex scenes and one was a homosexual scene. It didn't really bring the story along in any way. I felt that it took away from what could have been a story for multiple age groups. I was also happy that we weren't inundated throughout his book with the same type of imagery. I believe that I would have put the book down had that happened. It still affects my rating and recommendation in a not-so-good way.

Rating: 5 CBs - I can't recommend this b/c of the sex stuff at the beginning. If I wanted to read a romance novel then I'd go pick up one. I have a feeling that he was somewhat tamed by having a co-author with the first book I read of his. I will attempt to read a couple other books by Gaiman in the near future hopefully with better results. reader beware.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Now I know it's Christmas Eve, but I might not be up to writing tomorrow. We'll see. But I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and to enjoy the time with the family and your friends. While we have a good time opening presents and sharing a good conversation let's not forget that we have a Saviour that came to us so that we might be removed from our old life and given a new one.

“Behold , the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son , and they shall call His name Immanuel ,” which translated means, “God with us .”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

After Midnight, we're going to let it all hang down...

We had some big news happen in the world of Fantasy last month. TOR released the second to last Wheel of Time novel. Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time) is basically the first half of the last book, but Jordan (and now Sanderson) has been one to write incredibly long novels so this isn't to be unexpected. One of the nice items that's been picked up since Jordan's unfortunate death has been the expediency in releasing the final few books of the series through Sanderson. The last two books were a year apart..... we're all hoping that the final chapter will be released in a year. It's bittersweet to see the end of a series that's been going for two decades, but it's also created a ton of anticipation to find out what happens. But enough about the release of the book and onto the actual book.

Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time)Towers of Midnight is the latest chapter in The Wheel of Time epic. Brandon Sanderson brings his own feel to the story, but also leaves much of Robert Jordan in this next selection. It's a fast paced novel compared to the last few. Considering that we're one book away from the Final Battle, it would make sense that we can feel the pace quickening from one about the daily struggles(and fashion) of the realm and into the unpredictability of the Dark One's touch on the same continent. If you've been struggling to finish the series, continue to hammer through and you'll get to this point. It's worth the battle.

I do have a little concern about this book. It mostly hinges on the title. Now, any Robert Jordan fans out there that need to correct me may do so, but I believe I'm correct in this. The title would suggest that Rand, the main protagonist, would be going to Seanchan(another continent that's vital, somehow, to the end game) and fulfilling the prophecy of the Dragon. But, you won't find that story in this novel. The main plots surround two other key plots. You have Perrin and his decision of leading an army to the Last Battle, and Mat, Thom, and Noal going to the Tower of Ghenji to save Moraine(an character from the first few novels). Now, wouldn't it be nice to have a book title that matters to the story at hand? I would have preferred Towers of Ghenji over something that really isn't applicable. And Sanderson throwing in a few lines at the beginning of the story to attempt to tie in the title is just rubbish. There's also one other plot point in the book that feels pretty contrived, but I don't want to give away anything. It might have been major at some other point in the timeline, but it feels minor. Perhaps the final book will bring it more perspective.

Rating: 9 CBs - It's highly entertaining and action-filled. After midnight, were gonna chug-a-lug and shout.
Were gonna stimulate some action; Were gonna get some satisfaction. Were gonna find out what it is all about


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Modern Day Shakespeare?

So you know how there are many common words and phrases coined by the great Bard bandied about in everyday conversations, whilst those who utter them are oftentimes oblivious to their auspicious origins?  This was the thought in my mind as I read my most current book.  Many of the most "quotable" phrases that have followed me throughout childhood and into adulthood were written by a man I likely would have never heard of and barely know anything about.  Nonetheless, he wrote the most amazing lines!(e.g. "I do not think that means what you think it means;" "To the pain," "Inconceivable;" and "I'm not a witch, I'm your wife!")
The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High AdventureFor those of you who haven't gotten it by now (where have you been since the 80's?), the book I speak of is The Princess Bride.  The constant favorite since the day it premiered as an 80's movie with the guy from Robin Hood: Men in Tights, is based on a much older manuscript by one S. Morgenstern.  Apparently the only way a modern, American reader should take his masterpiece in is by reading the abridged version by William Goldman (screenwriter, egotist, Fred Savage doppelganger).  This shortened version (as we are constantly reminded by the editor) cuts out all the boring stuff and gets to the real adventure. 
But back to the reason for this post - I was shocked by the lines written by none other than S. Morgenstern.  I would think Mr. Goldman, being such a successful screenwriter, would have been the one to put all the words into the character's mouths.  I mean they got ALL the words right.  And what screenwriter wouldn't love to gets his hands on a great work of genius if only for the purpose of ruining it with his own ramblings.  But, no! Morgenstern had it all! 
Or did he?
Rating: The book: 7.5; Goldman's ego: 10

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Book Lovers Unite

Well, so much for trying to get some things done on this blog lately.  We have had quite the past couple of months and heading into the holiday season leaves little room for blogging, but I saw something today that I had to pass along to all our book loving readers. 

One Kings Lane (an entirely outrageous mostly home decor vendor) has a deal on books every once and again.  For the next 24 hours they are running a sale on Random House Classic Book Sets.  They have a lot of great book sets at decent discounts. 

If you are interested in checking out more of this sale, you have to sign up to receive their emails.  But wait, if you sign up under our account, you get $25 to spend however you like.  Please leave a comment (with a way to contact you through email) and I will send in a request for you to sign up and you will get $25! 

These are great gift ideas for the holiday season, if you can handle giving them away.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

the Icewind Dale Trilogy - oldie but goodie 2

Here we are, about December, and still a massive amount of reading to be done. I think it's achievable if I set my sights a little lower. I've been doing so the last few books - sticking with 300 pages rather than talking the big guys. Problem is, the next Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson book has hit the shelves. If you haven't purchased it yet, head on over to Amazon and pick it up - Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time). Let's just say that I'm almost 300 pages into that one so far. Fortunately, I've done some reading prior that I haven't blogged about.

The Icewind Dale Trilogy happens to be the books prior to my last blog in publication date, but happen after the timeline of Drizzt's beginnings. They follow Drizzt and his few friends through a few adventures starting with a barbarian raid. After that it continues down a path of remembrance and new challenges. It's pretty much the same writing that you would expect from R.A. Salvatore, but maybe a little more green. In the previous trilogy he was able to massage a character's back story to help give you an idea of how he got to where he is in this story. It doesn't all line up though. There are a few areas where you can tell that the books need to be edited to match with The Dark Elf trilogies origin stories. 

I was telling my wife that I consider this smut fantasy..... which makes it sound horribly gross and me incredibly creepy. These are fantasy books, without the copious descriptions of lust like a Fabio covered novel, and it's smut b/c it's just an easy-to-read good versus bad story. You aren't expecting a hundred twist and turns. The characters go through a few different tales, but you expect the same from them. It's a nice book to pick up when you're wanting to get lost, but only for a little while. 

Rating: 6 CBs... it's still a "D" favourite even though I have found better authors since then. I also don't think I have the time or the patience to read through every Drizzt story. I am sure there are 15+ at the moment. You can also pick these up pretty cheap through a used book store. They've been around for a long while.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Dark Elf Trilogy - oldie but goodie

I need to get back up to speed on our reviews, but I also dont want to bore our readers (and myself)  by giving a review of each book in a trilogy that im reading back to back. To help alleviate the problem I read through the entire trilogy and will do one review. The Dark Elf Trilogy was written by R. A. Salvatore. I'm not sure when I picked this series up, but it's one of my first Fantasy novels. You can purchase it as a singular book as the previous link will direct you to, or purchase them separately. I have them from years and years ago and ,while I would love to have a nice, new book, they'll do this way.

The Dark Elf Trilogy Gift Set (Homeland + Exile + Sojourn)The Dark Elf Trilogy Gift Set (Homeland + Exile + Sojourn) - This is probably the best way to pick up the origins story for one of my first fantasy trilogies. The story follows a dark elf by the name of Drizzt. You learn that he is far from a normal dark elf. His race is a malicious group that is really about killing just about anything and everything that gets in their way, including other dark elves. Salvatore takes you from Drizzt's birth to his escape from the oppression of the dark elf life.

R.A. Salvatore writes a good piece of fantasy, but isn't what I would say as one of the great Epic writers. He certainly has a huge number of books based on Drizzt, but they don't have the same cohesiveness that you would expect from Glen Cook or Robert Jordan. That's not to say that they aren't worth reading, but they are the type that you can pick up, read in a couple days, and move on to the next group. I always liked that I could get through about 9 or 10 of his books before getting bored and having to move on to something else. I'm also inclined to wonder if a conclusion will ever be had. I've seen Cook's story end(although I think that he's releasing another Black Company novel) and we're two more novels away from the conclusion of the Wheel of Time. As readers, do we expect to have a real ending? maybe... maybe not....

Rating: 6 CBs... 300 pages is easy to read through.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I am Not a Serial Killer

Additionally (spoiler alert), this was not a good book. 

I Am Not A Serial KillerI should have been tipped off by two things: 1. The book is published by TOR, the publishing company known for publishing my husband's brand of fantasy novel (not that there is anything wrong with that) and 2. The acknowledgments inside thank first and foremost, Brandon Sanderson, author extraordinaire of my husband's brand of fantasy novels.   I discovered both of these things quickly after opening the box in which the book was shipped to me.  What inspired me to go on is a novel of a completely different brand, so boring, I was desperate to read anything else (see previous post on Vanity Fair). 

Thus, I have learned a life lesson.  Do not get desperate to read anything else.  Avoid this with all your being.  The results will not surprise you. 

To be fair, the book might be good for the fantasy loving, teen market (however, I do have strong objections to some of the content for teenagers).  In fact, the more I think about I am not a Serial Killer, the more I wonder if I somehow got suckered into reading the unthinkable...YA!  Ohh the horror that definitely overshadows any of the suspense in this novel.  It wouldn't have been all bad, but then...he whipped out the fantasy elements.  Oh well, not my taste. 

I would like to say that the novel was well written despite my aversion to the subject matter.  I would also like to say that I am glad I spent the time out of my comfort zone.  Too bad I can't say either of those with a straight face. 

Given the fact that this book is the first in a series, I would like to note to the readers of this blog, you will not find further reviews of future incarnations of this series.  I have had enough, thank you!

Rating: 1 out of 7


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Good Omens: Good Book

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
"Archbishop James Usher (1580-1656) published Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti in 1654, which suggested that the Heaven and the Earth were created in 4004 B.C. One of his aides took the calculation further, and was able to announce triumphantly that the Earth was created on Sunday the 21st of October, 4004 B.C., at exactly 9:00 A.M, because God like to get work done early in the morning while he was feeling fresh.

This too was incorrect. By almost a quarter of an hour"

When Leah and I went to Phoenix for our anniversary we made a detour to a Border's to kill some time.... big surprise there. ( That reminds me that we need to post about the two small bookstores that we found on our trip - awesome stuff!) Leah picked up an auto-biography on the drummer from Guns'N'Roses and I went searching through the Sci-Fi/Fantasy for something that looked interesting. Now, rewind a couple months and at different Border's I noticed that the movie Coraline was also a book of the same name. Up to this point, I had never heard of Neil Gaiman and mentally added the book to my list of "read someday" books. Fast forward to September and I look past Coraline and notice Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Good Omens for short. After reading the book I was definitely interested. I added that to a small stack of novels - Sanderson, Good Omens, and some other book that was just meh - and went to sit on a step stool next to my wife that was sitting in a comfy chair.

As you can probably tell from the quote above, the book could be incredibly humorous in a slightly irreverent way. The book certainly delivers, but without much irreverence. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett come up with an apocalyptic story that doesn't leave you crying for the protagonist - like The Road (which I would highly recommend... one of the best books that I've read this year). The end of the world is coming and an angel and a demon aren't ready for what's about to happen. They've come to enjoy life among the humans and would prefer to forgo all the destruction and leave things just like they've been. Enter in a couple mistakes, a few wacky characters, and a very young anti-christ and you have Good Omens. They've done a great job at being fun with a serious subject. It does contain QUITE a bit of british humour that I don't always understand, but with a little Monty Python background you should be able to grab bits here and there. I also recommend reading the footnotes for pure enjoyment.

I don't want to spoil any of the book for you - it's just a great 300+ page read that you won't want to put down often. I know that we had a recommendation of Christopher Moore and, by my guess, this is probably as close as we might get.

"God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players*, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time."

Rating: 9 CBs - it'll make you want to read more from both authors. Gaiman seems to lean towards short stories, and Pratchett has a bunch of Fantasy Novels.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Shadows of Doom (Iron Tower Trilogy)
Shadows of Doom must be a rare book as it's buried 5+ pages in on Amazon's Dennis McKiernan list and priced at a whole cent! I'm assuming that it must be at least a wheat penny in worth. It's the second book in the Iron Tower Trilogy and exactly 300 pages. I found the series at a used book shop(or something similar) on a family trip. I vaguely remember a barn sized room with tons of books. It's been a long time and I'm hoping that my review on finding the first book will sync up with this telling. It might be worth saying that the journey to find the books was probably more interesting than the story itself.

In the first review, I mentioned that Dennis McKiernan is more of a classical fantasy author. He's not really treading any new ground with this series. But after reading the second book, I think I've moved on to a new assumption. It feels like Dennis had The Lord of the Rings open on his desk and was using it as a sort of fantasy story concordance. <---LORD OF THE RINGS SPOILER ALERT---> I imagined it went much like....."I need something interesting to happen" ::searching through LOTR:: "Here we go.... find entrance to lost dwarven kingdom, use magical word to open door, and have a kraken attack and bust up the door". In case you haven't read or seen LOTR... THAT HAPPENS! He'll throw in some other random bits throughout the book, but this felt like it was taken right out of Tolkien's books and pasted in. =\ We have a Fellowship of Four in this book. <---END OF SPOILER--->

Just a few quick items to take with you:

1. If you are slightly interested in reading The Lord of the Rings, but don't want to read so many pages then go watch the movie. If you can't watch the movies(specifically, the extended versions) then read these books. You have about 900 pages between the three which should be a few less than LOTR.

2. I learned a new word and also learned that using old spellings should sometimes be curbed for proper definition. The new word was fulgently. It's such an awesome word that Blogger believes it's misspelled. It means dazzlingly bright. Next, secret and secrete don't mean the same thing. Don't use secrete to attempt to sound more like Olde English!

3. Leading up to the LOTR cave rip-off, I'm assaulted by the knowledge of some ghastly beast that ran tens of thousands of Dwarves from their favourite home. The beast was imprisoned during the great war and the prison was forgotten. The Dwarves dug into the prison and released the evil within. It proceeded to kill many a dwarf, some elves, and probably a few rodents. Even one of the great Dwarven heroes made it as far as the second corner before dying. The Gargon, ghastly beast, could only be contained by the long-dead wizards, and the group didn't have any of those. Wouldn't you think that this monster was something special? Nah, the moment comes and it ends up being an eight foot tall bipedal lizard. =\ At that point, the lizard ends up being taken out by one elf, one dwarf, one human and a hobbit... err, Warrow. The bane of all cave dwelling existence... slayer of all kind... gets killed by four "heroes". 


Rating: 3CBs - becoming more disappointed as the series goes on.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Vanity of Vanities

I think it has been over a month since I have posted anything on this blog.  So what happened to a book a week? 

Do you ever put yourself on an unintended sabbatical from those things which you really enjoy?  You just slowly move away from that which brings you joy and then a little while later sense the distance by the small amount of empty space in your life.  Okay, maybe it's just me, but my unintended sabbatical (in the midst of a challenge to read a book a week for a year) has been from reading and then writing about it here.  Not that I haven't been reading at all, I just have not been reading everyday.   The thrill is gone. 

The culprit?  Vanity Fair! 

I just can't seem to propel myself through this one.  I know there must be some of you out there who will cry out (in horror), "It's such a good book."  Really?   I can't say I follow.  I have been reading this book for a month (A MONTH) and I am not even half way through it.  But, I insist on plodding through until the end, because I doubt I would pick it up again (and if I did, that I would remember ANY of the characters, because I only vaguely can point them out now).    At the moment it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I am pressing on. 

Have you read a book you thought would never end, but perservered?  Was it worth it?

Any encouragement would be appreciated.  There just may be a scathing review in it for you.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive)If you're new to the website you might not know that my wife was able to get me an advance reading copy of Brandon Sanderson's new novel The Way of Kings. That's the first time that I've received a book that wasn't ready or out for publication - pretty cool stuff. It's also my first Brandon Sanderson written story. The last Wheel of Time novel was written and finished by Brandon, but the story and notes were all based off of Robert Jordan's work. I was still impressed, but it's nice to get a feel for the author inside his own works. In saying that, I do believe that Sanderson is going to fill the role of epic fantasy author for the next few years.

The Way of Kings is the first novel in what appears to be a project on scale with The Wheel of Time or George R.R. Martin's epic. A good friend of mine assures me that Sanderson completes his stories much faster than the last two authors, and I do hope that's true. I'm not sure two decades of waiting for the story to finish is always a worthy cause. This is a new world with new rules. In a lot of ways, it has that in common with Jordan's or Tolkien's work. The creatures, landscape, magic system, and capabilities of it's inhabitants are fresh. You won't see a Trolloc roaming around in TWoK, or find yourself wondering where Galadriel might pop up. The world itself has an aquatic nature to it. Most flora and fauna are based off of sea life - think crabs, barnacles, shrimp, and sea sponges. The magic is innovative and imaginative.

The book travels across a world that's being torn by war, but otherwise pretty quiet. You follow four main characters with the book focused mostly on two of those. They seem to all be heading towards a central point but this book doesn't quite get you there. The Way of Kings is almost a taste of what's to come... or better yet, a thousand page prologue. You learn a little bit about the world, a little bit about the characters, and a little bit about the danger that the protagonists will face in the next book. If there was something that would take away from the story, it would be the lack of a true conclusion or climax. The revelation in the last 40 or so pages wasn't as awe inspiring as in other books, but wasn't necessary. It's an engaging book that should whet the appetite for the rest of the series. Robert Jordan was the same way with WoT and it's worked out quite well for him.

If you're looking for a new fantasy author to pick up, then definitely try out Brandon Sanderson. I might recommend reading through one of his other series for the sake of finishing up the whole story. With The Way of Kings you'll be stuck waiting a while before coming to a conclusion.... that'll be a big problem for those that don't re-read books like I tend to do.

Rating: 8 CBs - he'll be a worthy successor to the fantasy epic, or at least give some of the establishment a run for their money(that's you Tad Williams, Martin, and Cook)


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wholly unrelated to book reading - FOOD & DRINK!

Just a quick update - if you head by our other blogs(those little circular images on the right hand side) you can see where we ate and what I (L isn't drink adventurous) drank during our anniversary. We live in an area that doesn't have great food. =( In fact, we drove 30 miles yesterday just to get to a Chili's restaurant! That's how "meh" the Desert is when it comes to food.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow
We'll start with the good news. I'm back to more normal work hours and that's something to consider as a good thing with the way the economy has been lately. The bad news? It's cuts into my reading hours. Fortunately, there are a few classics that are pretty darn short. The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving happened to be one of them. I picked up this book on the nook and was able to read it using my phone. Pretty nifty when I have a couple minutes and don't have a real book to browse through. So over the last few work lunches I've been able to catch up a little on my book pace.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow ended up being quite brief and maybe not my type of book. It falls more into an old wives tale than a hashed out story worthy of doing a movie after. It's a very brief story that involves unrequited love and a possible ghost. Perhaps part of the appeal of this short story is the idea that you don't truly know what happened to the main character. Was there or wasn't there a ghost? Was he or wasn't he killed by the ghost and, either way, what happened to him?

If you're looking for a short quip or need something to read during lunch it's a worthy little tale. If you're looking for more gumption time then head over to one of the other classic authors.... James Fenimore Cooper will certainly put you to slee.... well, it's longer. ;-)


Rating: 4 CBs 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Something Changed

Hey Fellow Readers,

I finally got to changing the website. We'll maybe work in to having the books in background. I like the added flair but the wife isn't too fond and since we weren't making a decision I never followed through with adding the buttons to our other blogs on this website. Over on your left you'll find Seldom Made and The Reliquiarium. We started those separately and have now meshed them together... sorta. The Seldom Made is my wife's cooking blog where she'll regale you with stories of all the food adventures we have had since getting married. The Reliquiarium started off as a repository for my "too long for facebook" rants. It's since become a catch-all for travel, food, music, and movies...... and some rants.

I wanted to get the new look and the buttons up for our next few posts. We went out of town for our anniversary and we have something to share on all three blogs! I'm sure that the book bloggers might enjoy food and a good drink every once in a while so we'll link over there for their respective posts. We also have at least two new posts about some great bookstores that we saw on our vacation. Uber-exciting! I'm also hoping to get around to doing our Q&A on The Road movie to tie-in with reading the book. But, for the time being thanks for being patient while we've been lazy(500 pages into The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive), 400 pages into The Stand, and one finished The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow that will soon be reviewed) and out of town.

Let us know if you have any constructive criticism on the layout of the website. I'm not completely sold on the font or it's positioning on the header. I'm also thinking that I'll redo L's button for Seldom Made and use a picture of her food instead of a stock photo I found. Make it more personal.

Thanks again!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


"In Texas the truth is often too strange for fiction." - Edna Ferber

Full disclosure here: I am a proud Texan.  I have been all my life and continue to be, despite being displaced some eleven years ago.  My love for Texas runs deep in my blood, as my family can be traced back for well over 100 years to the diverse geographical expanse known as The Lone Star State.  But, that does not mean I can't be objective about Texas.  I realize Texans are a prideful people, they revel in the bigness that is Texas, they are fiercely independent; and though loyal to the United States, in most Texan hearts, Texas comes first. 

Giant (Perennial Classics)I picked up the novel Giant a couple months back and bought it solely because it (the movie incarnation, at least) is featured in my favorite song about Texas ("The Front Porch Song" - This old porch is a palace walk in on a main street in Texas. It ain't seen or heard the days of G and Rs and Xs and that '62 poster that's almost faded down and a screen without a picture since Giant came to town.).  The fact that Ferber won the Pulitzer led a little credence to the whole purchase as well. 

Ferber was lambasted for her portrayal of Texas within the confines of the state, but lauded for her realist depiction of the "new rich" of Texas in the rest of the 47 states.  I think Texans just needed a little perspective.  Though some of the scenarios and statements hit a little too close to home, it is an incredibly accurate portrait of the people of Texas (not just the rich).  But, I have the objectivity that comes with letting a book breathe for about 50 years. 

Overall, Ferber told an amazing story of the decline of the ranch life of Texas as the discovery of abundant resources of oil turned Texas from the cattle king to the oil oligarch.  She tells the story of the end of an era with less of a "good riddance" but more of a hopeful "here we go."  The closing line of dialogue of the book tells the reader, Ferber had kind intentions in her satire.  That said the satire is played up nicely by the over-the-top vocabulary she uses in the telling.  For the first 100 hundred pages, I strongly recommend having a dictionary by your side.  The words she puts into her character's mouths are often so esoteric, they strain believability.  I think it must be her way of pointing out the difference between the Texan and the rest of the country.  She overtly states later in the book that Texas was less than desirable on the education front.  Other gripes: racism, classism, ostentatious lifestyles, bull-headedness; the list goes on.  

The story is well told and the characters, though some would call them caricatures, are engaging.  I recommend this book, but I am Texan, so that might be because I "get it" more than others.   Ferber's inconsistent use of commas was a little maddening, as well as some errors in the text (come on this book is 50 years old, the manuscript should be edited by now!), but not enough to put the book down.

Rating: 5 out of 7


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Surprise Mail? AWESOMENESS!

I'm going to publicly thank my wife for signing up and getting awarded an advance copy of The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive, The) by Brandon Sanderson! He's the author that took over the Wheel of Time after Robert Jordan's passing. I wasn't expecting to see an advanced copy of anything, so that's very cool! This does mean that I'm putting The Stand again.... I'm 400 pages into that so maybe a mini-review is in order.

Thank you!


The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive, The)

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Sadness, In Particular

Since we started the book blog, we have a lot of suggestions for books to read from friends and acquaintances.  Rarely, someone will actually bring a book to me and say, please read this and let me know what you think.  Since this is so rare, I often take up the person on the offer.  It seems rude to do otherwise. 

I think I might start to be rude!  Here's the story:

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A NovelI am into cooking.  I am currently taking a professional baking course at a local cooking class.  One of my classmates asked me if I had read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.  I told her I had heard of it but I have not read it.  The next week, she brought the book and asked me to read and let her know what I thought of it.  Since the class is winding down, I put it on the top of my to read list. 

So, now that you have background on the reason for the read, here's what I think:

I didn't like it!  I thought the beginning was compelling enough, but then it just died on the vine.  It was all idea and no substance.  The premise suits foodies well enough (I guess): a girl who can taste a person's feelings by eating the food they prepare.  Yeah, imagine what that would be like, think about it for a good 4 minutes.  Now you can skip reading this book.  Apparently, that is how long Aimee Bender thought through the plot lines of this book. 

I kept comparing it to "Heroes" (without the really interesting superpowers) and The Lovely Bones (without all the murder and stuff).  I can't tell you very much else about the plot of this book, because, although, things happen, they happen without direction.  The story just meanders on, without any resolution, without any real point.  Does she use her superpower for good or for evil, or is it just a burden she lives with forever?  You will never know because the author really didn't care enough to tell you. 

I would skip this one.  I think Ms. Bender should have thought of a direction for the protagonist and then shortened the novel to a short story.  It would have made for a much more exciting 20 pages. 

Rating: 2 out of 7


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Does the blog need a change?

*UPDATE* - Added a plain white background, and a colorized version. The color is just conceptual and doesn't include the new blog picture links or the final color. The white gives me the added width but not the background. Maybe we'll rotate? =P

We both happen to like a lot of simplicity for the blog, but I'm wondering about spicing it up a bit. The wife doesn't want to change anything, and I'd like to add a background image and a little modification to the blog template we're using.

I like it that way.. gives a little more width. Are the books too busy? L thinks the books should be gone. Opinions greatly appreciated.. even if you don't agree with me.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Death of a Literary Giant

Well, maybe not a giant.  More like really small.  But really important! 

Have you noticed the "trend" (I am calling it this because I have read a few books like this lately) of modern authors to "forget" to use quotation marks?  I have.  And I am saddened by it.   Those little quotes help guide me along.  They tell me, "Wake up! Someone may say something important here."   Alternately, they tell me when one character stops talking and another picks up the conversation.  They also decorate pages of dialogue quite nicely (look at all the pretty commas!  It's like they are hanging themselves!). 

Why the infatuation with disregarding such an important literary piece of the puzzle?  I say bring them back and keep them FOREVER!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Boo, Stephen King, Boo!

Well, so much for getting back to the Dark Tower series. I was going to read through Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower, Book 5) so I could be that much closer to finishing the series, but the book has some ties to The Stand: Expanded Edition. It would appear that I wouldn't get the full experience out the Dark Tower if I didn't first finish The Stand. I'm only 160 pages in on a thousand page book. I'm sure you won't see much of me this week in regards to review unless I cheat and read something tiny to fill in. =\


Monday, August 16, 2010

I Laughed out Loud

A couple weeks ago, I posted a request to our lovely readers for suggestions on funny books.  I was in a rut and I thought a good laugh would do.  I received a lot of feedback - some laughable, some insightful.   The top suggestion was something about a Guide to the Galaxy.  I was thinking it was probably not for me, but we went to the bookstore to check it out anyway.  On the way to locating the book, another book caught my eye.  Undaunted, we went to the Guide and -D read the leaf for me.  I tuned out about two sentences in.  It is not a book for me - I just don't think I will "get it."  The point is to cry from laughter, not from boredom.  Sorry, lovers of the Guide - maybe some day.

The Bible of Unspeakable Truths The book I spotted on my way to the Guide was The Bible of Unspeakable Truths  by Greg Gutfeld.  Listen up those who are unacquainted and I will acquaint you. It all started a few years ago at 12AM.  I turned on my TV to find a short, somewhat portly man speaking heinous things while his repulsive sidekick, a hot FOX news lady, and a CIA operative watched.  This Gregalogue (it's a monologue with Greg) introduced me to what would become a household staple around here.  Sadly, last month, we decided to cut our ties to the extended world by getting rid of our cable, so Greg is no longer a household staple (oddly, enough this dovetailed quite nicely with my need of a humorous book, coincidence? ithinknot).   We no longer get to hear the misadventures of a post-operative, houseboy enthusiast and his preoperative, questionably coiffed sidekick. 

Naturally, when I spotted Greg's roundish face on my way to the guide, I immediately thought, "This is what I need!"...and it was.  This book is basically a collection of Gregalogues so it does not really find a cohesive theme...unless you consider his love of underground rooms, houseboys named Pablo, and fastidious research(of books not yet written) a theme.  It is more a book you read bits of at a time because his Gregalogues can be quite short (sometimes even one sentence).  There are some truths in here, some head scratchers and some overshares.  But, overall, it is like watching an episode of Red Eye, which I find cathartic.  Greg really seems to want to connect with his readers.  He even invites them to join him for various events (usually in a park, scantily clad, with only a birthmark as his true source of identification).   He wants his readers to be well-fed.  Thus, he includes what looks like a great recipe for lemon bars.  I had never considered the inclusion of a prostitute, but that might add a little something.  Oh, and he cares about his readers' safety.  His argument for guns is quite cogent. 

Overall, this book is a treat.   And for you, a treat:

Rating: 5.5 out of 7

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Neverending Story

The Neverending StoryThe Neverending Story, can we consider this one a classic? Written in 1979 by Michael Ende, it became an instant classic and the inspiration for three movies - one remembered as excellent and two with dubious results. I also found out, with a little research, that there was a short lived TV or Mini-series based on the book. From the reviews, it seemed best to stay very far away from that one. If you're interested in the movie, go ahead and click on this The Neverending Story [Blu-ray] link(Yes, I have a Blu-Ray player and use the power of my will to force readers to purchase one as well... you need it!). But, if you want to see a movie with an actor that committed suicide later in life click on this The NeverEnding Story / The NeverEnding Story II link. The sequel was one of the creepiest movies that I saw as a child. The actor, Jonathan Brandis, has really freaky eyes! But I've talked about that already - HERE.

Back to the book, The Neverending Story is about a child whose attempt to hide from the school bullies sends him on a journey through the alternate world of Fantastica. Bastian, the boy, steals a book out of the shop that he hid himself in and then hides up in the school attic. As he starts reading, the world seems magically alive and in dire need of help. I'm sure that everyone has seen the movie, so why give you the entire plot?

For those that have seen the movie and not read the book, let's just say the movie really takes place in about the first 120 pages of the novel. The rest of the Neverending story is a continuation of where the movie sort of left off. I guess you have to take certain liberties to create a movie from a book. For instance, Atreyu happens to be a green human-like creature and not just a tanned boy! I did learn that I've been spelling Falkor wrong all this time. My first and only cat was named Falcore, after the luckdragon in the movie. After 20+ years it's good to know that I had it wrong all this time.

But what a book! It's a little lengthy at points, but the story flows well. Think Arabian Nights meets Aesop's Fables meets Grimm's Fairy Tales. It's an adventure through one world with many themes. That happens to be the point of Fantastica - dreams of the human world make up the realm of Fantastica. It's not as dark as Grimm's, but there are some points that are eerie, some that are sad, and some that are life lessons (e.g. Aesop's Fables). It definitely reminded me of my childhood, but I would recommend to all ages. I'll be watching the movie soon to see how much they actually got right.

Rating: 7.5 CBs - I won't be reading it again soon, but it was a good novel to add to the list. I got the Penguin version of the paperback and like the look just a little more than the image on top. It also doesn't appear that Ende wrote a sequel to The Neverending Story or, if he did, it was never translated from the original German. And it's tough to write a review without giving the story and most of my opinions.... that are based on the differences between the book and the movie, or major plot points. =\


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

American Creation

So, I fully realize that this will not be one of the most popular posts on this blog; but I am an unabashed history buff, so bear with me. 

American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the RepublicMy most recent read was American Creation by Joseph J. Ellis.  Of course Ellis is the famous historian and author of Founding Brothers.  I haven't read Founding Brothers, but I may put it on the list for a much later read.  American Creation follows the major events of the American Revolution period (defined as the years of 1775-1803).  Thus the book is not what anyone would call exhaustive.  Rather, it skims the surface of the revolution, touching down on of the year 1776, the winter at Valley Forge, the Treaty of Paris, the Federalist/Anti-Federalist fights, and the Louisiana Purchase. 

From the outset, Ellis bothered me as a historian and a history writer.  In the prologue, he points out that our history has been boiled down to a fairy story of good vs. evil, heroes vs. villians.  That we have created demigods of the founders, the facades of which have only recently begun to crumble as historians have chipped away at the legends to reveal truth.  As such he introduces the reader to Douglass Adair, Gordon Wood, and Bernard Bailyn (as well as himself) - historians who have decided to analyze the mindset of the founders (through the extensive written records) to draw conclusions about their motivation, the impetus for their participation, and (to some degree) their success.  He argues these historians' various points of view "contribute to a discernably adult conversation about the sources and causes of the American founding as a significant political triumph." 

What bothers me about this is the psycho-analysis approach to history writing.  It smacks of judgment and not fact-telling.  As the reader later discovers in the book, Ellis uses the last half of the points of focus as a none-too-subtle attack on the character of Thomas Jefferson.  This approach to history writing leans heavily on hindsight as the "judge" instead of a just the facts ma'am approach I prefer.  Perhaps, it is easier to begin judging the subjects of one's  history when one is fully immersed in the time period. so to speak.  It is not the lack of facts and stories Ellis suffers, it is the over-abundance.  He has so reanimated these characters in his mind, it is almost as if he is living alongside them.  Thus the attacks Hamilton throws at Jefferson, are almost audibly followed by a hearty "here! here!" by Ellis. 

This type of history writing also feels disconnected.  The reader just gets to the "good stuff" and is snapped back to present day by the mention of "hindsight being 20/20" and lessons on what impact the events of the revolution had on the later American narrative.  I would have preferred a simple story-telling narrative, with any footnotes to history properly footnoted (I think that is why they call them that). 

Overall, interesting read.  Not a reread.

Rating: 3.5 out of 7