Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Regarding book reviews

I was told not to smile for this
picture, but I love this MINK Viking
photo too much not to use it.
"Welcome stranger. The paths are treacherous today." - Binabik

Evidently this humble blog has gained enough of a reputation that I am now getting requests to do book reviews with greater frequency. If you are one of those newly published and/or established authors or publishers who wish me to review your book(s), this post (and identical page) is for you and I have formatted it in an FAQ manner. Please read the ENTIRE page if you are thinking of contacting me. (I am only making a post out of this to make sure people see it.)

Will I answer emails?

If you want me to review an actual book and if I can find unimpeachable evidence online that the book exists and it is not a spam email, then yes. However, I might not if comic books is what you want me to look at and absolutely will not if you want me to watch a movie. (Someone wanted me to review a zombie-apocalypse style comic once and the cover alone made me ill).

Do I write book reviews?

Tough question. I suppose I end up writing a book review for everything I read yet, as was the case with the Monarchies of God by Paul Kearney, the Novels of Tiger and Del by Jennifer Roberson, The Bone Queen by Alison Croggon, George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, and even The Book of Dust by Sir Philip Pullman, I do the same for books I quit and am seldom complementary. I would feel terrible accepting a book to review only to find myself less than fond of it. So, in answer to the question "Do I write book reviews", the short answer is: possibly, but do not hold your breath. The long answer is that I love the freedom of reading and fear that knowing I was reading a book purely to review it would sap my enjoyment of it; so while you are welcome to send me book-review requests there is a strong possibility that I will say no and a better one that, in the event that I say yes, I will hold off until I finish my current book. (I only read one book at a time, as otherwise I would spread both my mind and concentration too thin.) Remember that Stars Uncounted was meant to be a public diary of sorts rather than a review site, so please do not take a "no" answer personally.

What books would I review?

Not Dark/Gothic Fantasy. Not Science Fiction. Not Grimdark. Not graphic novels and/or comic books. If you want to know why then read my Types of Fantasy page. I read high-minded High Fantasy as per the Spirit of Tolkien. In short, I would review books I would naturally pick off the shelf and buy at a bookstore. Best just look at the Bookshelf here to see what I like reading and/or the other pages on Stars Uncounted.


If I agreed to read and review a book, how long would it take me?

As long as it takes. I read at the my own pace and will not be rushed. If you need a quick review then do not bother asking me. Given my busy schedule and the other hobbies any well-rounded person has (such as Kung Fu), I can usually read a 400+ page book every month or so.

One last thing...

If you were not thinking of asking me to write a review and only got the idea from reading this page then please pretend you never read this page. The point of this was not to open the floodgates but rather lay out basic expectations and ground rules. Why? Because most of those who have asked me for a book review have clearly not read much of Stars Uncounted, asking me to read and review urban romances, Dark Fantasy Horror novels, or a mix of both – and write as if I was an active fan of such things. If you are one of those authors and/or publishers and are reading this page now then I apologize for what might be justly called uncharitable bluntness; I am merely trying to make a point, because I get no joy out of refusing people and thus wrote this page in hopes that those who do desire to contact me will do so knowing both their chances and what sort of books I might actually agree to read and review.

What about the red ship on the horizon?

If you are a publisher and are interested in looking at the Fantasy series I wrote then by all means contact me. (Forgive any perceived conceit, but did anyone really expect me to write a Contact Me page without including this question? Everyone knows how difficult it is getting published these days, so I will use every advantage I have to do so – this my not always entirely humble blog included.)

"There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after." - J.R.R. Tolkien

"Follow your bliss." - Joseph Campbell

"Each of you is a separate, individual you. You are a unique person, with wild ideas about what's truly important. Each of you has a gift that only you can bring to the world. A way you can help that others couldn't. And the way you express that gift is to hear this: trust yourself. Trust your gift." - Chandra Nalaar

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

My father and I just finished Juniper Wiles by Charles de Lint

My father and I just finished Juniper Wiles by Charles de Lint. 

I have learned to expect the unexpected, even by Fantasy standards, from de Lint, and a teenage former actress who once played a plucky teen detective being asked by a ghost to solve a real-life case certainly qualifies as such. A solid urban Fantasy that seamlessly blends the complications of personal life and past careers with magic that walks in plain sight everyday for all to see yet goes unseen, Juniper Wiles – both the woman and book – shows that the best way to take life is in stride, accepting past triumphs and failures while forging ahead even if you really have no idea where the road will end so long as true friends have your back every step of the way. And that life, regardless of how it came about, is always worth defending.

So long Juniper Wiles, Jilly Coppercorn, Gabi, Nick, Tam, Joe, Saskia, and all the many other quirky characters who call Bramleyhaugh home.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

I have again started The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin

I have again started The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin, the fifth and final book of her Earthsea Cycle. 

This is it. This is the book that is the crown jewel of Earthsea, showing Le Guin at the height of her skill. For now does the matter and mysteries of death and Dragons, of Kingship, power and its price, and peace come together. 

"Farther west than west
beyond the land
my people are dancing
on the other wind." - The Song of the Woman of Kemay

Monday, July 19, 2021

I have just finished Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

I have just finished Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, which I began for the very first time before deciding to reread the whole Earthsea Cycle in its proper, chronological, order; meaning I just finished the book's final novella, which was written as a dragon-bridge between volumes four and five of the main series. Twas a privilege and wonder to witness the founding of the School of Roke, see that love ranks higher than magery, how Ogion stilled the earthquake with his teacher and, at last, learning the origins of Orm Irian who journeys west of west. Frankly I cannot believe I never read this before.
“What goes too long unchanged destroys itself. The forest is forever because it dies and dies and so lives.” - Azver, the Master Patterner

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Golden Sun

 Stars Uncounted is a proud supporter and fierce advocate of Operation Sunrise, which is the effort to garner support for a reboot and fourth game of the Golden Sun gameboy game series. Golden Sun is, in my mind, the pinnacle of handheld RBG games, and not only because it was the first I ever played. Indeed, the game has a very special place in my heart and memories. When I was little I loved watching my older cousin playing video games as a rule, but my earliest recollections of such is of Golden Sun. We were all staying at our maternal grandparents house and he was always the first one up, and often I was the second; so I would tiptoe through that silent house, downstairs, through the dining room and kitchen to the Family Room where he would invariably be sitting with a Gameboy Advance in hand. I was lucky, for I joined him playing through the first dungeon, Sol Sanctum, and when I asked were he was he said "the Temple of the Sun," which is what I called the game for years afterwards. But even then, knowing next to nothing about the game, I was invested in it, for Kraden was my favorite character and him getting kidnapped mightily offended my young mind. I also loved watching him (my cousin) find and use the various Djinn and their Summons.

Eventually I was gifted the games and, with the Prima Official Strategy Guide in hand, I began playing myself. And fell in love. There is no other way to describe it, for the story was so utterly unique, personable, and gripping, all coupled and augmented by a brilliant role-playing-based battle system and puzzles which so inventive, brilliant and complex that even with the strategy guide I stumbled, occasionally having to ask my parents for help. Ask my mother about Air's Rock in Golden Sun: The Lost Age and she will remember how it took all we had not to get lost. Frankly, I could go on and on, for even now, with many and more games under my belt, I still rank Golden Sun as the crown jewel. I laughed and cried with the characters, for it was like a favorite book that just kept getting better and, to this day and despite never having played through it again, I still remember all characters' names and most of the conversations. I will not breathe a word more about the storyline, though, so as not to rob others of the chance to enter into the world of Weyard as I did, free of foreknowledge and ready for an epic adventure.

And yet, after two phenomenal games, no news ones came out until I was in high school - Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, which follows the children of the original heroes and was a solid game in its own right. But no new Golden Sun titles have come out since. Frankly, I still do not understand why nearly a decade passed between the first two games and Dark Dawn, much less why Nintendo has seemingly dropped the ball so completely since, because if we accept as true the aphorism that it is folly to change a winning game then it is doubly so for stopping one. Golden Sun still has a large and devoted fandom, and we want to see our dear friends again (and finally get a chance to fight Alex.) That is why I have made this a page as well as a post: to stand as undimmed reminder that Operation Sunrise must succeed.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Age of Legends - a The Wheel of Time movie trilogy

I will leave the dramatics aside this time. Along with Amazon’s The Wheel of Time T.V. series, there is to be three prequel movies set during the Second Age, the Age of Legends. As The Hollywood Reporter describes it, "Age of Legends will be set several millennia before the time of the books and in a futuristic utopia powered by a magical force shared by men and women known as the One Power. When an unspeakable evil is unleashed upon the world and men using the One Power become insane and destroy much of the planet, a small band of women unite under the White Tower and are humanity’s last hope of survival."

Not quite sure what to think of this, to put it bluntly, as the basic implication is that this triad of movies will feature the War of Shadow and the Breaking of the World leading up to the founding of the Tower by the surviving female Aes Sedai. Not that there is anything wrong with that from a lore prospective, but this will make for a harrowing set of films seeing that the Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon, did not have the happy ending his reincarnation did.

"And the Shadow fell upon the Land, and the World was riven stone from stone. The oceans fled, and the mountains were swallowed up, and the nations were scattered to the eight corners of the World. The moon was as blood, and the sun was as ashes. The seas boiled, and the living envied the dead. All was shattered, and all but memory lost, and one memory above all others, of him who brought the Shadow and the Breaking of the World. And him they named Dragon." ~  from Aleth nin Taerin alta Camora, The Breaking of the World. Author unknown, the Fourth Age.

I guess it depends on taste. Reading about it is one thing, but watching a whole utopian world-spanning civilization collapsing first into horrific war against the Shadow and then back into the stone age in what can in slight understatement be called an apocalypse would be rather distressing, though seeing the White Tower getting founded might indeed be worth a venture into what is called the Second Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

I have again finished Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin

I have again finished Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin, the fourth book of her Earthsea Cycle. 

I always had difficulty with this book before, yet now it shines bright and clear as the Sword of Erreth-Akbe atop the Tower of the Sword in Havnor where the King of All the Isles sits. For this book is about power and hurt, both its presence and lack, as Tenar helps a scarred child and the returned Ged against those who profited off greed, pain, and fear amid the farms and forests of Gont. The world recovers and is led out of the darkness, yet an overpowering mystery lingers... its answer spoken while the riddle is hidden. A matter of Dragons on the other wind.

“A wrong that cannot be repaired must be transcended." - Tenar

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Quote of the month

"It is marvelous to see them: the new lands rising from the sea as your boat comes toward them. The farmlands and forests, the cities with their harbors and palaces, the marketplaces where they sell everything in the world." - Ursula K. Le Guin

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Power of Names

 One of the most common theme in Fantasy literature is names and the Power they command. Sometimes they are magical True Names – such as in The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle, The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud, and the Books of Pellinor by Alison Croggon – to name a few, where to know a person or things True Name gives you great power over it.

"Who knows a man's name, holds that man's life in his keeping." - Ursula K. Le Guin

"To change this rock into a jewel, you must change its true name." - Ursula K. Le Guin

They are effectively the words in which spells are cast, the Truth behind the names being what gives the spells power, which means there is almost-invariably a language in which they are a part. In the Earthsea and Inheritance Cycles is it the Language of Making and the Ancient Language respectively, in the Pellinor Quartet tis the Speech, but no language at all in Bartimaeus (names simply have power here and that's the end of it). This theme occurs often enough that any inveterate Fantasy reader is familiar with it, for it reaches far beyond the four named series' above.

Then there are names in their other sense, bearing a different yet still potent power. Recall in Harry Potter how much fear in invested in Voldemort's name, how good wizards refereed to him as You-Know-Who and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, while the Death Eaters and their ilk called him simply the Dark Lord because their master forbade them call him Voldemort. 

"Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself." - Albus Dumbledore

Well, Voldemort did this on purpose for he knew the power names have and, ironically perhaps, hated his birth name to the extent that it gave Harry and Dumbledore an emotional edge over him. Perhaps the name Tom Riddle angered him because it reminded him of his past, his old fears and vulnerabilities, so he crafted a new name for his new self and them cloaked it in fear so it could never be used against him. Who knows? But those such as Voldemort who rule by fear and death as a rule fear death and the erosion of that fear more than anything in the world. Indeed, fear of death was Voldemort's undying fixation. More to the point, it was no accident that Voldemort's past as Tom Riddle proved so crucial in Harry and Dumbledore's efforts to defeat him for, as Terry Pratchett once said, "Before you can kill the monster you have to say its name." Indeed, characters with many and secret names is even more common than the True Name trope, and Voldemort is far from the first Evil to fall because the Heroes of Light dug deeply into their past. Perhaps that was another reason he took the name Voldemort, to cover his tracks. 

However, the importance of recognizing something's name and nature goes beyond fighting the Evil thing. "The wise man knows his own name," as said Patricia A. McKillip, and just as if not more often the main protagonists have to come to terms with a name that goes hand-in-glove with a destiny they never asked for or wanted. Morgon of Hed from McKillip's Riddle-Master Trilogy where the quotes above and below come from is a perfect example of this, but almost all Chosen Ones feel the same. Other beyond excellent examples are ta'verens Rand al'Thor, Mat Cauthon and Perrin Aybara from Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, and Maerad of Pellinor from Alison Croggon's Books of Pellinor.

"If you have no faith in yourself, then have faith in the things you call truth. You know what must be done. You may not have courage or trust or understanding or the will to do it, but you know what must be done. You can't turn back. There is now answer behind you. You fear what you cannot name. So look at it and find a name for it. Turn your face forward and learn. Do what must be done." - Patricia A. McKillip

These are of course FAR from the only poignant name-related quotes, so if you need more then I highly recommend ye look up Terry Pratchett since he created a small host of them. In the meantime, you can read the expanded version of this post on the page of the same name.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

I have again started Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin

I have again started Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin, the fourth book of her Earthsea Cycle. 

Thus do we return to Tenar and Gont Isle, for while the world is saved from Cob's breach aftereffects linger and the matter of Dragons and the mystery of a burned child is still in question. But are these things as separate as they seem? 

"I served them and I left them. I will not let them have you." - Tenar to Therru

Amazon’s The Wheel of Time will debut in this year

The title, this link, and the below image say it all. The COVID-19 Pandemic delayed it but, as said Verin Sedai, "The Pattern puts everything in its place precisely, and when we try to alter it, especially if ta'veren are involved, the weaving changes to put us back into the Pattern as we were meant to be."

Carai an Caldazar! Al Caldazar! (For the Honor of the Red Eagle! The Red Eagle!)