Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Year in Review: Books and Video Games and my future Hockey Work in 2017

2016 was not a great year for my productivity in posts on Hockey, but I managed to read an awful lot of books and play two video games (kind of one video game, I guess, but more on that below).  Since others have done a year in review post, I figured I might as well do one.

Books I Read:

The End of 2015 was really where I began to get back into reading Science Fiction and Fantasy again.  2016 continued that trend, and I managed to finish 90 books (as well as at least one short story collection) over the course of the year, some old and some new.  The list of books and some short ratings of them can be found at this link:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B51LtDi49GogUU9LRlJJb2ZfNlU/view?usp=sharing

I read more books that I liked or even loved than I hated (28 of the books I rated at 9 stars or better while only 9 of the books I read were under 6 stars, and only 4 were truly hated by me at 2 stars).  This is undoubtedly due to selection bias - I purchased books or borrowed them based upon recommendations and authors who I liked, and I didn't finish 5 books which I didn't rate where I just wasn't feeling into the book after ~100 pages.  I know at least one of the books I hated I wouldn't have finished except it was on the Hugo Nominee list so I wanted to give it a full shake.

11 series/book highlights I'd highly recommend in no particular order:
The Inheritance Trilogy by NK Jemisin (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods)
The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone (Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Full Fathom Five, Last First Snow, Four Roads Cross)
The Novels of the Jaran by Kate Elliott (Jaran, An Earthly Crown, His Conquering Sword, The Law of Becoming)
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (Warning: Gets pretty dark)
Parable of the Sower & Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler (Dark but important in today's political context)
The Dandelion Dynasty Series by Ken Liu (The Grace of Kings, The Wall of Storms)
The Thessaly Trilogy by Jo Walton (The Just City, The Philosopher Kings, Necessity)
Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman

These are not the only books I loved so please check my list if you're interested, but just 11 series/novels I felt could use extra love and highlighting (I also limited myself to one series per author above, but some authors had a LOT of good work).

I figure I should also highlight the books I did NOT like:
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson - 2 stars
Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig - 2 stars
Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman - 2 stars
The Worldbreaker Trilogy by Kameron Hurley (The Mirror Empire - 6.5 stars, Empire Ascendant - 2 stars)
Informocracy by Malka Older. (4.5 stars)

I liked some of these authors - Gilman is even on my list of books I loved actually.  But these books all didn't work at all for me.

One final note on books:   I read a lot of these books by taking them out of the library.  If you have a local library, PLEASE support it - they provide a lot of great material (and plenty of other non-book related benefits) that can entertain you for hours for basically free (you're paying taxes for living in that location anyhow, so anything you get out of the library is extra benefits added!).  Libraries may also have online books you can borrow, or online audiobooks.

I've also listened to about 7 audiobooks now.  It's a pretty enjoyable way to read books on a commute where your eyes are paying attention to the road.  I strongly recommend them.

Video Games:

My Book reading slowed in November as I downloaded two games:  The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky & The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter.  As the names suggest, these are kind of two parts of the same story, and you'd only buy the second game if you finished the first.  They're both JRPGs, very much in a classic vein (The first game came out in Japan in 2004, actually), so if you don't like the genre, they won't be for you.

But if you like the genre, I can't recommend them enough.  They're fantastic additions to the genre, and the second game gives you greater choices of options to play with to add extra replay value (as you very much may want to see how things play with using different characters).  And for Steam they cost only 19.99 and 29.99 respectively, but I've since seen that they're very often discounted.  Well worth a purchase.

For 2017:

For 2017, I want to get back on the hockey writing train a little bit.  Starting today I will be tracking dump and change plays to really try to see how effective they are league wide - I'm hoping in addition to the Isles to track several other teams for several games each to see really what the expected results of these plays are.  I also want to take the neutral zone tracking project forward in other ways as well - there's a lot of data that has again been untapped, and with Corey again tracking every team, we should have more data to play with.

Alas, I suspect I'll cut down to around 50 new books this year, but who knows?  I may find myself on another reading binge soon.....

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Spoilery Talk: Every Heart a Doorway

I reviewed Every Heart A Doorway tonight on twitter as so (Click on tweet to get the full review):


I mentioned the ending was a problem in this review, quick blurb about that after the break.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Spoilery Talk, Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt

I posted a quick review of Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt, the second in the "What happened after Return of the Jedi" books in the new canon that just came out this month.  See below.

As a former big fan of the original Star Wars Expanded Universe, now known as "Star Wars Legends", and having written about Star Wars for this blog, I can't help but discuss spoilers for the book after the jump.


Friday, July 22, 2016

SF/F Spoilery Review: Last Song Before Night

Tonight's spoilery review is Last Song Before Night by Ilana C Meyer.


My twitter review can by clicking the following tweet:



Spoilery Review below

Monday, July 18, 2016

SF/F Spoiler Review - Lightless

Tonight's review was Lightless - the review starts with this tweet (click to get the whole thread):



Spoilers below:
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Lightless is a hard book to describe without spoiling, which is presumably why the book jacket blatantly spoils one twist - Mattie still being on the ship instead of in the escape pod - and describes the plot like it's going to be a hannibal lector esque story with Ivan and Althea (which is not at all what happens, as Althea is tempted but still only has two interactions with Ivan while he's in captivity).  Mind you, Mattie not being in the escape pod is so obvious it's kind of laughable as a twist, which is why the book doesn't even dwell too much on it once it's revealed (as Mattie had already escaped).

But the twists aren't my real issue with the book (the AI twist is also fairly obvious the moment the book teases the fake AI on the thieves' ship).  The issue is with the book's middle, which is basically Ida examining Ivan while Althea finds more and more issues with the ship, which Ida ignores.  The problem is Ida is just awful.  This is obviously intentional, but well the whole middle of the book focuses so much on her, which is just a lot of an awful character.  Now this whole section is redeemed as Ivan's revelations in the interrogation become all relevant once the reveal of Constance as the Mallt-y-Nos is made.  But even that's kind of annoying since it makes Ida RIGHT when you kind of want her to be wrong to be taken down a peg.

I guess she's sort of taken down a peg since her interrogations are what enabled Constance to make her move in the first place, and because of her death, but it's kind of awful for her to have been right when she's such an awful character.  Again the ending makes everything worth it, dark as it kind of is, and the book would've been interesting and worth it if that ending was all there is, but apparently we're getting two more books following the Ananke, so this should be exciting.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

SF/F Spoiler Review - Roses and Rot

This is a new thing for me.  If you follow me on twitter, you'll know I about once or twice a week review SciFi and Fantasy books on my twitter feed.  And I enjoy doing these reviews even if I think like maybe 5 of my followers actually care.

Still, Frequently I find myself taking some points off of books for things that are kind of spoilers - for example, books very often fail to stick the landing they set up, which can be a bit disappointing and hurt my review.  But it's kind of hard to talk about those issues without spoiling things, and for some of the books I've liked the most, I really don't want to spoil them.  So I'm going to try to now actually use this blog space to put up occasional short spoiler review discussions so I can express my thoughts on the books where I feel twitter is slightly incomplete.

So tonight's review was Roses with Rot.  The Twitter review is as follows:
Now for a quick spoilery review.  If you haven't read the book yet, please don't read this:
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Spoilery Comments:  So I came really close to giving this a 10 out of 10 (or maybe a 9.5) as I loved Roses with Rot, but it kind of fell off slightly shortly before the ending.  The book isn't quite setup like many books with a plot structure that builds the whole book to a climax - the book seems to do that in building toward the ceremony where the tithe is chosen, only for the plot of directly saving Marin to suddenly become the new objective in the last part of the book.  This is totally fine - except then part of the solution to saving Marin in that final part of the book involves the use of some classic fairy tale anti-magic techniques (most significantly, running water).

Here's the thing: The book previously makes clear that faeries in this universe aren't like the ones in the tales so those rules in the old tales don't apply (Evan specifically rebuts Imogen's thoughts on his sculptures being a problem for faeries, for example) - and so it's just kind of odd that 80% of the way through the book, they suddenly do and the only good reason Imogen wouldn't have thought they might is because well....Evan tells her they don't apply earlier!  It's kind of a cheap part of the ending. I kind of wonder if this wouldn't have bothered me if this was setup before the need for Imogen to interrupt Marin's ride ever came up (for example, like the fact that the tithe could be stopped was setup in the very beginning).

Other than that, my quibbles were minor - Beth's willingness to help Imogen against the Fae despite having little development is kind of random given her thoughts that the tithe is worth it, but that's minor.  I thought Janet was so bitchy and obviously demented that Marin shouldn't have listened to her when she revealed the truth about the Tithe, but that can be handwaved by Marin being under the magical influence of the Fae at that point - same with Marin so quickly forgiving Imogen after she's saved (when presumably Gavin reveals the truth while Imogen is unconscious) - this makes a lot more sense if the Fae's been clouding her thoughts up to that point.  And the idea the pretty damn happy ending every good character gets - even Marin who seemingly was lost without the Fae's help about a hundred pages before - might be a little cheap, but well....all the characters really deserve it. Especially Ariel who is awesome.

In short it's an awesome book with an ending that still feels good, even if some of the plot elements that lead up to it are maybe not set up perfectly.  

Sunday, December 20, 2015