Assassin’s Apprentice

Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, #1)Last night, I finished reading Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1) by Robin Hobb. There were things I loved about this book, and things I hated.

First, a short blurb on the storyline (so skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t read the book, and don’t want it spoilt). Fitz is a royal bastard (as in born outside of wedlock). At age five his mother’s family deliver him to the royals and abandon him. The boy looks just like his King-in-Waiting father, but this doesn’t win Fitz any favours. His father, and his wife, abdicate and move away from the castle, leaving Fitz to be tended by the stable master. Over the years, Fitz is treated badly, but one day the king finds a use for little Fitz, and he is apprenticed to Chade, the king’s assassin. From here everything that can go wrong, does, but I’ll let you read the book to find out how it turns out.

I loved the characters and the plot. Both were deeply woven together. There were a number of surprises, some of them tear jerkers. It is written in first person, but Robin Hobb did a beautiful job with this. She allowed the reader to get right inside the main characters head, and this paid off, because I really felt connected with him – I felt his pain and loneliness. It was enough to shatter the heart.

As I said, Assassin’s Apprentice was written in first person, so the author felt she had to include a short passage at the beginning of each chapter (ranging from a few lines to one and a half pages), which explained the history and other characters. These were things that the main character didn’t know and was mostly “telling”. This is the main thing that I disliked about the book. I found it distracting and…well, boring. After reading the first few, I stopped reading them and I feel I didn’t miss anything. The story was just as rich without these “info dumps”.

There were places where the author also described too much. For example, it took something like five pages to describe a city. By the time I’d read 3 pages, I was well and truly over it and just wanted the story to continue – so skipped the rest of the description. Other sections were over described too, but not as bad as the section I just mentioned. These long descriptions were also distracting and managed to pull me out of the story I was thoroughly enjoying.

Taking these things away, this book is excellent. The story and characters are so real that the reader has no choice but to “get over” the bad things and move on. I did, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is the first book in a trilogy, but it is also a stand alone novel. I don’t have to read the next book, but I will because I want to see where the story will go (and how the author improves because, I believe, this was her first published novel).

Highly recommended; and, I think it will gain a place in my top ten books. 😀

Ice Age

Last night I watched Ice Age for the first time. I love animated movies and they are the only type of DVDs I will buy. (However, G buys all the action packed ones, so I don’t miss out.)

Briefly, Ice Age is about three mismatched creatures coming together, for their own reasons, to help a human child return to his tribe. Before the adventure is over, the group not only face boiling lava pits, and treacherous ice tunnels, but they discover emotions.

It’s a great story. I enjoyed it immensely. Now I can put it aside for when the (step) grandchildren grow up a little and will appreciate watching it. (Yes, that was my real reason for buying it – honest!) 😀

Weigh In and New Books

Today, being Saturday, is weigh-in day for our diet. Both of us are continuing to lose weight. G is down to about 86.7kg (he’s lost about 7kg) and I’m down to 67kg (I’ve lost almost 5kg). It’s only been three weeks so we are proud of ourselves. Water is becoming easier to consume, except on the weekend because my habits change then, but I’m getting there.

After the weigh-in, we went to The Warehouse. We saw a water filter advertised cheap, but they didn’t have any left. Never mind. While we were there, I dug deep into the bargain books and found two real…well, bargains! 😉

Dogsbody by Diana Wynn Jones. I bought this book purely because of the author. I’ve read some of her stuff before, and have really enjoyed them. Apparently, Dogsbody is quite old but that’s not a concern to me and upon reading the reviews I think I’m going to love it.

The second book is called The Pit by Ann Pilling. Now this book I bought purely because of the cover. That outfit the person is wearing on the front cover (follow the link to the book on Amazon to see what I’m talking about) was worn by doctors during medieval times, when the plague was in full force. That alone got my interest. There’s no reviews for the book, but I like to make up my own mind anyway.

Yes, I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve finished reading them, which might be a while so don’t hold your breath.

HP and the Goblet of Fire (Movie)

We finally saw the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire yesterday. I was scared that it would be taken away before I got to see it and these movies should be seen on the big screen, to be appreciated.

There were a lot of scenes cut out, and several long scenes in the book were cut right back (and believe me, this isn’t always a bad thing), but I felt the movie was great. It had everything needed to make sense and the graphics were superb. There’s no way they could have done justice to this movie twenty years ago. Everything felt and looked so real, that I can almost believe in dragons!

All Harry Potter fans will love the movie, and non-lovers of these books will have to admit that they’ve done a good job. It’s a must see for sure. I just hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next one.

Memoirs of a Geisha (Movie)

This was not a movie that I would have paid to see, because watching the DVD would have been good enough for me. However, I won three tickets so we invited my parents to join us (they only had to buy one ticket) and we saw Memoirs of a Geisha at the movies.

I’m glad we did.

This movie was really good. It was much better than I thought it would be. The story grabbed me from the start and took me through to the end (just like any story should). The acting was superb, the setting authentic (in my opinion) and the plot enthralling.

It’s definitely a girl’s movie, but the men had no complaints and they both enjoyed it too. There were a few parts that left a lump in my throat, and the ending brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t sob, but I couldn’t stop the tears welling.

I believe I’ll pick up on more things during a second sitting, so I will watch it again when it comes out on DVD. If you are not sure if you want to see this movie or not…see it. You won’t be disappointed.

Book Review: The Star of Kazan

The Star of KazanThe Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson is a young adult novel. The first chapter was excellent and pulled me right in, but I found the following few chapters a bit lacking. They all served a purpose but I felt it took too long to get to the point and my attention started to wonder. However, once the ‘set up’ was over and the real story began, I was drawn back into the characters and was held tight.

Warning: Spoilers may follow, so if you haven’t read the book but intend to do so, you may want to stop reading now.

Yet this post is to do with titles, and how they relate to the story. In the case of The Star of Kazan — which was a set of jewels left to a foundling who befriended an old, sick woman but naturally circumstances kept the girl and the jewel apart — I was greatly disappointed because the Star of Kazan played such a small role that I felt the title was misleading. Up to the very last page I expected the young foundling girl to end up with the jewel but she only ever set eyes on the thing once and she never saw it again. To me, this felt like a broken promise.

Sure, the title is catchy but I would have preferred the author to use a title that was fitted better, that didn’t leave me feeling cheated. Perhaps other readers don’t care about this type of thing, and to be perfectly honest I’ve never cared in the past, but on this occasion the title felt wrong. The title should have been connected with the foundling.

Overall, the title was misleading, but the story (after an extra long lead in) was captivating.

How Many Books

It’s difficult enough for an unpublished author to get one manuscript published, so trying to sell a trilogy is only weakening your chances. Once an author is established they can (almost) do as they please, but until then a writer must play by the rules. And this means that writing stand alone manuscript is the best option for you.

However, the publishing industry has many rules and it does become confusing. A publisher doesn’t want to risk lots of money on an unknown, so keeping the word count within the limits and writing a stand alone story goes in your favour. On the other hand, the publisher wants to know that the unknown is not a “one hit wonder” so they want to see evidence that you’ve got a sequel in the works. If the first book is a huge success, they want to follow that up with a (hopefully) successful sequel.

It’s all about money.

Yet this isn’t the reason for the post. I saw something today, that astonished me. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett is book 29 in the series. Book 29! Robert Jordan has been put down over his extremely long series – what’s he up to, book 10 or 11? So why haven’t I heard the same complaints about Terry Pratchett’s series?

Hmmm, even that isn’t the question I really want to ask, so I’d better get to the point.

How many books do you think is enough in a series? Do you really want to return to the same world time after time to read another story, or would you really prefer a new world and new characters?

Personally, I feel three or four books is enough. After that, I start getting sick and tired of the same old, same old, and I want something new and fresh. What about you?

Enchanted Forest Chronicles

I’ve been reading this series by Patricia C Wrede and must say that this writer is good. She’s taken all the old fairytale elements and crafted an interesting and funny series out of it. It’s so easy to read, and really entertaining.

The first book – Dealing with Dragons – is about a not so typical princess who runs away from home to live with the dragons. The second book – Searching for Dragons – is about the king of the enchanted forest, who with the help of the princess (well, that’s what he wants to believe anyway) is trying to find the King of the Dragons. The two have a great adventure and there’s a bit of romance blossoming too.

These books are perfect examples of how a writer can take what’s been done before and put a new spin on it. Patricia Wrede does an excellent job of doing just this.