Update on the wand I made for LDS General Conference

I decided to go with an ebony finish for the wand I carved whilst watching general conference. I expected it to be dark but this was actually darker than I had imagined it would be. Still, I like how it turned out so no complaints that way. My wife wants me to make one for her so we’ll see if I get around to finishing that one as well. I’ll post it if I do.

Happy Friday!

General Conference Project

I’m a self admitted Harry Potter nerd and I make no excuses for myself. During this years LDS General Conference, I decided to keep my hands busy and carved a wand for myself from a dowel using some wood carving tools my wife got me years ago. I carved a dragon on the handle and stylized flames moving upwards towards the top of the wand. I think the carving turned out alright and I’m currently waiting for the dark ebony stain to dry. I’ll post an update once it’s done.

Book Review - Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

I've been looking forward to Words of Radiance ever since I read The Way of Kings shortly after it's release in 2010.  It's been a long wait and I was super excited for this novel to come out.  I'll be discussing some of the plot lines for the book so if you haven't read it yet, you may want to stop now, spoilers are ahead.  You have been warned.  And now, without further ado, on to the critique.

The Critique

Words of Radiance is the second book in the Stormlight Archive.  I loved the magic system in the first book and that continued in this book as more of it was discussed.  The plot lines for each of the major characters progressed, culminating in the arrival of the first of the full Radiant Knights and an epic battle on the Shattered Plains that leads to a huge discovery and enormous revelations about the past and hints about the future.

What I liked

Kaliden is everything I want from a hero.  His character is both idealistic and jaded from terrible experiences.  His plot line  is the reason I keep reading the series.  I also enjoy the Adolin and Dalinar plot lines and find them both compelling.  I also liked how Sanderson weaved the plot lines into the story that would eventually lead to the next book in the series pretty early in this book, and did so in a more subtle way than some authors use.

What I didn't Like

I don't really care for the Shallan Davar plot line.  I understand that her character is important to the overall story so I read her chapters, but I don't really find them compelling.  I'm not really sure why I feel this way.  It could be the fact that she's an intellectual and I tend to be more interested in warrior types.  Her sections are the least action packed of the entire book.  Having said that however, I must admit that I liked her a lot more in this book than I did in The Way of Kings.

I also don't care for the interludes.  I find them harder to keep track of with so many new characters that are introduced, and then quickly run their course to later be forgotten about.  These characters kind of remind me of the Star Fleet officer who used to appear in Star Trek episodes only to be killed off five minutes into the episode.  They seem to me to be almost a prop more than a character in some respects.

Audio Critique

This is an audio book done right.  First of all, I prefer an audio book with few narrators.  I like one ideally but no more than two helps the work feel more unified.  In this case there were two and they are both very good.  What makes them so good is not just that they can affect several different characters convincingly, but also the timing and emphasis of the words they say make the story far more real and exciting.  This is particularly true of Michael Kramer.  I listen to tons of audio books, and in my estimation Michael Kramer is the best there is.


Although I think that I liked the first book in the series a bit more, I have to admit that I loved the book, it's as simple as that.  Some may disagree with me, but I'd give it five stars.

Book Review - Turned by Morgan Rice

I tend to get my books in many different ways. Sometimes I get them through my kindle, sometimes I buy a paperback at Barnes and Noble and sometimes I buy them through Amazon. In this case I saw the ebook advertised somewhere and I decided to give it a shot. It helped that the ebook was free, but I bought the audible version for cheap so that I could listen to it via Whyspersinc. By the way if you're not using Whyspersinc may I politely but forcefully recommend it? As a side note, I have decided to add an audio critique section to article that I listen to. Ok, on with the critique.

The Critique First off, Turned is a teen vampire book, which I must state at the beginning is not my typical fare and probably affects my opinion about the book so take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt. The book revolves around a girl named Caitlin Paine, a teenage girl who has just moved to New York from a town. That's all we know because the author always referred to the place from which the protagonist had moved as 'our last town.' This should have been a warning to me but I ignored it and blithely continued forward. Caitlin discovers at a certain point in the book that she is in fact a vampire, at which discovery she is 'shocked'. I use this word deliberately because it stuck in my craw after the author used it about ten times in a five page span.

What I liked Um, let's see. OOh, the cover! I really liked the image used for the cover. The typography was decent and it read as a vampire novel. It was really the thing that drew me to the book and reason I read it. Unfortunately there isn't much else to talk about here.

What I didn't like I found the book to be cliche, predictable, and trite. Full of teen vampire cliches and really lacked any kind of understandable romance. The main character falls in love with two different boys literally seconds after meeting them. Listen I'm all for fantasy but the romance portions should at least be believable. I found the writing weak and the character development non-existent. The main character's behavior is so inconsistent that I felt absolutely no connection to her at all. This book desperately needed a good editor, or at least a good writers group to go through and fix all the abundant plot inconsistencies and really add nuance to the story.

Audio Critique This may have been the worst part of the book. Having a good narrator is second only to having a good story when you consume books via someone else reading it to you. Listening to this narrator was like listening to a skit from the Kroll Show but without any humor. I just about lost it (not in a good way) when she pronounced condescension as "condensension," and cringed when she attempted to affect a mans voice.  Not a good performance.

Overall I understand that this was a self published book, and while I wholeheartedly support those brave and sometimes foolhearty souls who feel that they can go it alone, this book did not measure up to any kind of publishing standard at all. When I started the book, I really wanted to write a post about how an indie had done it right. I was practically itching to write that post, and based off of the cover I thought this might be my chance. My disappointment is practically palpable. Giving it more than one star is simply unthinkable.

Book Review - Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

After all my writing friends finally convinced me that I needed a blog I set about thinking of what I wanted to write about.  Instead of the seemingly obligitory hello world post, I decided that a better use of your time and mine would be a book review.  I chose Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson.  

First let me say that I'm a big fan of Brandon's.  His characters are engaging, his magic systems are unique, and his settings have very dystopian overtones which I dig.  Steelheart is no different.   It's set in a future world where powerful super villans known as 'epics' have taken control of the former United States, dividing it into small monarchy's headed by whichever epic has the power to hold the area.  

The story takes place in Chicago, renamed Newcago, (not sure if this is how Brandon spells it since I listened to the audio book) and follows a young man named David who joins 'The Reckoners,' the last remaining  group of human freedom fighters.  The group decides to target Steelheart, the god-like emperor of Newcago.  

What I liked

The story was interesting, the dialogue snappy, and wryly humorous, and the characters were engaging.  As usual for Sanderson novels, the magic system was very cool and unique.  In this case the powers of the epics were more unique than the typical comic book style characters which was refreshing for an old comic geek like me.  

What I didn't like

For fans of Sanderson, of which I am one the story line felt familiar.  Almost too familiar.  If you've read the Mistborn series (one of my favorites of all time) you'll instantly draw parallels between the two stories.  God-like, seemingly invincible tyrant rules over dystopic kingdom. Small group of unlikely heros commit themselves to hopeless battle against said ruler with no clear way of defeating him.  Unlikely heros work at plan, execute, and manage to succeed at the impossible.  To me it felt pretty formulaic in this way.  


Overall it's a great read, with really funny moments and great action.  I would recommend it for fans of dystopian fiction as well as especially if you love dystopian or comic books.  I give it four stars, knocking one off due to the close familiarity between Steelheart and some of Sanderson's previous works.