As many of you know, I took a little break from blogging. Surprisingly, in that time away, I picked up a few new followers. Well, I’m back now, new friends and old, and I’ve changed my look, as you might have noticed. I love it!
Here’s some interesting (at least to me) background info on the look: I was directly inspired by the art print, “Someday, You’re Gonna” by Jordan Crane, which hangs in my kitchen. I wish I could commission Crane to do the artwork for my header, but what can I do? Use silly pictures of myself and the covers of a few of my favorite books, I guess.
Anyways, back to the topic at hand. Since I have some new followers, and I’m returning after a long absence with a new drive, I thought I’d share some of my favorite posts that best reflect who I am as a blogger, and what you can expect to see here at Adventures in Borkdom. Many thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for providing the inspiration with today’s perfectly timed Top Ten Tuesday prompt!
1. Book Reviews
While I have been slacking in this area, a good chunk of Adventures in Borkdom is devoted to book reviews. When I put in the work, you can expect regular reviews on books of varying genres (I am a mood reader and like to read it all!) and I attempt to make these reviews as unbiased and professional as possible (when I might be biased, I make note of it in the review). I even created a rubric (feel free to use in your own reviews!) to make my methods of judgment transparent. Here are some examples of the positive review: Bleak House and The Waste Lands, the “meh” review: A Discovery of Witches, and the negative review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
When I don’t feel like putting in the work, you can expect posts full of mini-reviews: July Mini-Reviews
If you’re looking for more reviews, I post them up in the “Reviews” page at the top of the blog. *Coming Soon: Reviews organized by genre!*
2. Inspired Adventures
This is a new feature I started yesterday. It will appear twice a week (unless life gets in the way), and will center around a book I recently read, and an adventure or activity that I took part in that was directly inspired by the book. For example, after reading Hatchet, I took a hike in the mountains, and considered what aspects of the area would affect my survival if I were stranded there, à la Hatchet. Here is that post: Inspired Adventures: Hatchet and a Hike.
Upcoming Inspired Adventures include: Anne of Green Gables and Raspberry Cordial; The Return of the King and LARPing; and When You Are Engulfed in Flames and Quitting Smoking.
Check back on Thursday for this week’s second Inspired Adventure!
3. Bookish Featurettes
I enjoy writing posts on books that explore the various aspects of novels and reading in general. This is where I can really analyze certain literary/bookish areas without the limitations of a book review.
Some examples include:
- Spasmodic Benevolence: Charles Dickens and Philanthropy
- The Waste Lands: I Want My Picture Book!
- Banned Books Week: Rebel Without a Cause
- Catching Up with Old Friends
- “You Can Always Depend Upon Me for Two Things: Not to Cry and Not to Faint.”
4. Classic Authors: They’re Just Like Us!
These posts are biographical and discuss traits of a classic author that are surprisingly similar to either “us”, the everyday reader, or to the traits of modern-day popular authors. These ones are fun to read if you’re interested in a certain author, but don’t feel like getting bogged down by a long biography. I try to just give you the good stuff!
5. Fun Top Tens
Occasionally, I compile Top Ten lists that are connected to my reading preferences. I try to make these fun and somewhat informative. Typically, these directly derive from topics originating from the good folks at The Broke and the Bookish (like this post!).
A few of my favorites include:
The rest of my Top Tens can be found at the top of the blog in the page labeled “The Best”
6. Participation in Reading Challenges
This year, I signed up for a bunch of challenges. Not all of them have stuck (or, at least, I’m not attending to them right now), but I have seen a few of them through.
Two of these are
7. Writings on Current Blogging Issues and/or My Views on Blogging
I don’t often dabble in blogging politics, but on occasion, I’ll come across an issue that I think needs addressing. Here’s a sample of what it looks like when I do:
I have also created a blogging manifesto, which pretty much spells out my views on blogging, and still holds true today: My Blogging Manifesto
8. “Best of” Lists
This shall be an annual event, and since I am only just approaching my one-year anniversary, I only have examples for 2011. Yet, you can expect to see daily posts, during the last week of 2012, that list my favorite books of 2012, broken down into genres. Here are two examples from last year:
The rest of my “Best of” lists can be found at the top of my blog in the page labeled “The Best”
I am a nut for readathons, particularly the big ones. This year, I took part in both of Dewey’s annual 24-hour readathons (held in October and April). I also held personal, impromptu readathons, which I chronicled on the blog.
Here are two posts reflecting my readathon participation:
10. The Person away from the Book
Finally, you will get to know the person that is separate from the books I read. Sometimes I write about what’s going on in my life:
and sometimes I feature the other interests and hobbies in my life:
All of this, and writings I can’t foresee, will be featured here at Adventures in Borkdom. Obviously, if you want to know a bit more about me, the writer, check out my “About” page .
Thanks again for reading my blog and taking an interest in what I care about. I hope you enjoy what I put out there.
• Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
• Hardcover: 372 pages
• Publisher: Crown, 2011
• ISBN: 030788743X
• Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia
• Recommended For: Lovers of gaming, science fiction, pop culture, Dungeons and Dragons, ’80s music (but you don’t have to be fans of all to enjoy this book); particularly recommended for readers of the Generation X/Y variety.
Quick Review: Earns a 96 %, or 4.8 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment. Ready Player One Rubric
I am in love with this book! It was a blast to read and I read slowly so I could savor every single word of it! If you’re looking for a good time with a book, I highly recommend this one!
How I Got Here: It was recommended by my pal Amy at Insatiable Booksluts and it turns out many of my other reading buddies had read and loved it as well. Goes to show that I should always listen and pay attention to my friends’ book recommendations. They got this one right! I read it during my participation in Dewey’s Readathon.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune–and remarkable power–to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved–that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt–among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life–and love–in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?
My Analysis and Critique:
If any of you follow my tweets and were paying attention last Saturday when I was reading this book, you know how much I loved it. I was ga-ga in love. After the first 30 pages, when Wade, the protagonist and narrator, notes that he “would scan the lunchroom like a T-1000”, I finally tweeted “this book was written for ME!”. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought so.
SJ of Snobbery responded “No, me. x-( ”
and Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Kingkiller Chronicle series, blurbed “Completely fricking awesome. This book pleased every geeky bone in my geeky body. I felt like it was written just for me,” (book jacket of Ready Player One).
Ready Player One felt like a good friend. The kind of friend with whom you walk around, snickering and making inside jokes. The kind of friend who wouldn’t mind your constant Seinfeld references and would want to play “name the band and song” game when you listen to the radio. A really fun friend who totally gets you.
So, enough with the emotional connection. Let me break down why this book was excellent.
Cline was a genius in writing this book. If he was trying to create a book that would incite instant love with the geeks of the world, he succeeded. He used an always fun and engaging premise for a book: a contest, a quest, to find the Easter Egg (much like a golden ticket) in an MMORPG called OASIS. He has created a world, a future that is definitely dystopian, and yet the geeks rule the world. A world that is obsessed with an online game. Everyone wants to find the Easter Egg when the contest is announced online–the winner will receive all of the wealth of OASIS’s deceased creator, the Willy Wonka of the story, James Halliday. Our narrator, Wade, is the Charlie Bucket of Ready Player One, the unlikely contestant in the game as he is so poor that he can’t afford to level up his avatar past level 10. He can’t travel to the various worlds in the game, so how is he going to be able to search for this egg?
So, he spends his time obsessing over all of the things that Halliday was obsessed with–movies, TV, music, books, and games of the ’80s. Wade even takes Latin in school because Halliday took Latin (which definitely pays off for him). In short, to win Halliday’s contest, he must become Halliday.
Then begins Wade’s adventures in his quest for the egg. He makes friends along the way with other “gunters” (hunters of the egg) and quickly finds himself embattled with the “big bad” of the contest: IOI, a huge corporation that wants to find the egg so that they may take over OASIS and begin charging for its use. OASIS is the only good thing in this future, and no one wants to see it become a corporate machine. So, not only do Wade and his gunter pals want to win for themselves, they want to win to make sure that OASIS doesn’t fall into IOI’s hands.
I found none of the plot to be flat. In fact, I was savoring every single line in the book, and was stoked every time Wade found another clue and had to crack the code. Once he did, the trials he had to ace were so much fun and engaging! Ready Player One worked like every great adventure game I have ever played: solve the puzzle so you can see what conflicts arise next.
Many people complain about the constant dropping of ’80s pop culture references. For example, at one time, Wade notes that he has bought a DeLorean (the infamous Marty McFly-mobile) for flying around the OASIS galaxy. Reviewers complain that this reference and others serve no purpose in the plot. In some parts, they are right. Instead, they serve a purpose with characterization. As noted above, the only reason that Wade does so well in Halliday’s contest is because he becomes Halliday, a person who was known to fire his employees if they didn’t know the subsequent line to any particular random movie line he would quote at work. Everything in Halliday’s life was “geek” and ’80s, and so it must be for Wade to survive in this game. That’s all Wade knows, and it serves him well.
In the end, I will concede that I am very biased towards this book, because I am part of a generation that loves nostalgia and all things self-referential. I love inside jokes. I remember nearly everything from the 1980s. I was an early gamer as a daughter of a computer geek. I took a class in BASIC programming when I was in elementary school. I love ’80s pop and rock music. Real Genius is one of my all-time favorite movies. And, I know what a kobold is and spent much time leveling up by slaying kobolds (and skinning them!). So, this book was obviously right up my alley.
But, I’d like to think that anyone could enjoy it. In fact, I’m going to stop my raving now, remove all of my post-its from the book, and pass it along to my friend Pat (who agrees with Wade and also thinks Howard Jones was a poet). I’ll also probably buy a copy for my Dad, who will probably love the Rush references (my least favorite part!).
Read this book!
• A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
• Hardcover: 211 pages
• Publisher: Scribners, 1964 (first edition!)
• Genre: Memoir/Classic
• Recommended For: Anyone interested in descriptive memoirs, classic authors, “the Lost Generation”, and writing tips from one of America’s best authors.
An excellent quick read that inspires the aspiring writer and paints a lovely picture of Paris in the ’20s. Really brings Hemingway down-to-earth and makes me want to try to re-read some of his novels (never was a fan).
How I Got Here: My sister is currently on her belated honeymoon in Paris, and one of her goals was to see all the sights that she read about in this book. Before she left, she insisted that I also read the book, thinking that it would be inspiring as a writing book. This books satisfies tasks for A Classics Challenge, End of the World Challenge, and the Award-Winning Challenge. It’s also number 72 on my list for The Classics Club.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
– ERNEST HEMINGWAY, to a friend, 1950
Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway’s most beloved works. It is his classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s, filled with irreverent portraits of other expatriate luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein; tender memories of his first wife, Hadley; and insightful recollections of his own early experiments with his craft. It is a literary feast, brilliantly evoking the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the youthful spirit, unbridled creativity, and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized.
My Analysis and Critique:
I’ve written quite a bit about this book already, and I’m sure it’s obvious that I greatly enjoyed this book.
I was and am surprised that I enjoyed A Moveable Feast so much as I’ve never been a fan of Hemingway’s. I always considered myself in the Steinbeck camp–Hemingway’s style always felt cold to me. Maybe it’s his minimalist, lean style. However, A Moveable Feast was nothing but heart! I saw Paris through Hemingway’s eyes, I could hear every conversation he transcribed, and I could taste the delicious meals and wine he consumed.
The book is composed of the journal entries he recorded as a young man living in Paris in the ’20s, and this is apparent in his stream-of-consciousness style. It was very engaging. Hemingway reflects upon his favorite spots in the city, the start and dissolution of his friendship with Gertrude Stein, his true friends and his phony colleagues. He comes off as a jerk at times, but his writing reflects his youth, and is as forgivable as any youthful misbehavior.
A Moveable Feast is also full of writing tips from Hemingway, as he reflects quite a bit on his writing process, the obstacles that got in the way of his writing, and how he dealt with said obstacles. Any creative person would get something out of Hemingway’s tips. I would place this on the shelf next to my most-prized writing books.
Overall, I highly recommend this book for its wonderful descriptions of Paris, the lively characters that Hemingway reflects upon (including Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald), and the inspiration it stirs in my writer’s soul. A quick read and worth anyone’s time!
Check out my previous posts below to get a better feeling for the writing in the book!
• The Waste Lands by Stephen King
• Paperback: 588 pages
• Publisher: Signet, 2003 (originally published in 1991)
• ISBN: 0451210867
• Genre: Fantasy/Horror
• Recommended For: Any serious Stephen King fan who wants to truly understand the Stephen King universe via reading the Dark Tower series; fans of fantasy.
Quick Review: Earns a 98 %, or 4.9 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment. The Waste Lands Rubric
Simply put, this book (the third in the series) is amazing! If you have tried to read The Dark Tower series and couldn’t get into it, I’m guessing that you didn’t get this far. Keep going!
How I Got Here: It was next. It should be noted that this, and all of the Dark Tower series, is a re-read for me. I first read the series in 2004-2005. This book satisfies tasks for The Dark Tower Challenge and The Stephen King Project.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
Roland, the last gunslinger, moves ever closer to the Dark Tower of his dreams and nightmares as he travels through city and country in Mid-World – a macabre world that is a twisted image of our own. With him are those he has drawn to this world: street-smart Eddie and courageous, wheelchair-bound Susannah.
Ahead of him are mind-bending revelations about who and what is driving him. Against him is arrayed a swelling legion of foes-both more and less than human…
My Analysis and Critique:
When you love a book as much as I loved this one, the review is either very easy to write, or very hard. I’ll do my best to write well. Sometimes the best writing is simple, so I’ll keep it simple.
Simply put, this book (the third in the series) is amazing! If you have tried to read the Dark Tower series and couldn’t get into it, I’m guessing that you didn’t get this far. Keep going! Although I loved The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three, neither are as good as The Waste Lands. Yet, they are definitely essential for building the back story leading to this action-packed thriller/horror/fantasy novel.
So much happens in this book, and I don’t know how to discuss it without giving spoilers (ugh, I hate the limitations caused by spoilers!). The plot is quick, yet full, loaded with world-building, mystery, and suspense. The characters are fully-functioning and developed–I have completely fallen in love with the Ka-tet of Eddie, Roland, Jake, and, of course, the billy-bumbler Oy (Susannah still needs room to grow, but I remember loving her in book 5, so I’ll give it time). The themes have grown huge in this novel–I have questions about other dimensions, nuclear holocaust, time travel, cross-textual themes, and so much more that I can’t even explain. This book makes one think and question.
The Waste Lands is the point where my Dark Tower addiction begins. I can’t get enough of the connectivity between the Dark Tower series and King’s other novels, and this is where it really begins (fans of The Stand–if you want more Randall Flagg, you’ve gotta read this series!). I love the mystery of The Beams, the legends behind the Guardians of The Beams, the horrors of a world devastated by some sort of nuclear disaster (you know when King writes it, it results in some seriously frightening mutants), and the thrills I get when Jake is in danger (twice in this book). And then there’s Blaine. Blaine the pain.
Hopefully, I’ve sold you. Read the Dark Tower series. Read it so that you can read The Waste Lands. You won’t be sorry.
Review Bonus Features:
Soundtrack to the Book (the drums heard throughout the novel):
Setting is a huge part in any narrative work, be it fictional or memoir. Paris, in Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, is hugely significant– it could easily be considered the main character in this nonfiction work.
A Moveable Feast was published posthumously in 1964 and covers Hemingway’s time as a young expatriate in Paris from 1921 to 1926. As a young man in Paris, Hemingway spent his time writing, fretting over writing, and talking about books, writing, and art with his wife and circle of friends, which included Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He also spent quite a bit of time relishing in the cafes, bookstores, and streets of Paris. For a man famed for his to-the-point style of writing, Hemingway paints a vivid picture of what it was like to be in Paris in the ’20s.
I am halfway through A Moveable Feast, and would like to share some images and a short film that illustrates the setting of Hemingway’s life in Paris. All images have been taken from the wonderful blog Hemingway’s Paris and cover the pages which I have read thus far.
Closerie des Lilas
Hemingway loved to write for hours in the cafes of Paris, and the Closerie des Lilas was a particular favorite of his. So much so, that he became very territorial if an annoying peer happened to encounter him and disrupt his writing. Here is an amusing scene when such an interruption occured at the Lilas cafe:
“Hi, Hem. What are you trying to do? Write in a cafe?”
Your luck had run out and you shut the notebook. This was the worst thing that could happen. If you could keep your temper it would be better but I was not good at keeping mine then and said, “You rotten son of a bitch what are you doing in here off your filthy beat?”
“Don’t be insulting just because you want to act like an eccentric.”
“Take your dirty camping mouth out of here.”
“It’s a public cafe. I’ve just as much right here as you have.”
“Why don’t you go up to the Petite Chaumiere where you belong?”
“Oh dear. Don’t be so tiresome.”
Now you could get out and hope it was an accidental visit and the visitor had only come in by chance and there was not going to be an infestation. There were other good cafes to work in but they were a long walk away and this was my home cafe. It was bad to be driven out of the Closerie des Lilas. I had to make a stand or move.
Hemingway continues to insult the man, who is also a writer, and finally gets him to promise to never frequent the Closerie des Lilas again! Incidentally, this guy seems to be riding Hemingway’s coattails and reminds me of everyone’s favorite hack, Kenny Bania of Seinfeld…
Shakespeare and Company
In those days there was no money to buy books. I borrowed books from the rental library of Shakespeare and Company, which was a library and bookstore of Sylvia Beach at 12 rue de l’Odeon. On a cold windswept street, this was a warm, cheerful place with a big stove in winter, tables and shelves of books, new books in the window, and photographs on the wall of famous writers both dead and living.
Hemingway, along with many other expatriate writing greats, spent a good deal of time at this bookstore. He chatted with Ms. Beach, met with other writers, borrowed books, and even received his mail there.
Along the Seine
Across the branch of the Seine was the Ile St.-Louis with the narrow streets and the old, tall, beautiful houses, and you could go over there or you could turn left and walk along the quais with the length of the Ile St.-Louis and then Notre-Dame and Ile de la Cite opposite as you walked.
In the bookstalls along the quais you could sometimes find American books that had just been published for sale very cheap.
“Seeing Paris” in the 1920’s
This film clip was also featured on Hemingway’s Paris and offers viewers the chance to see live action of Hemingway’s Paris in the ’20s. Check it out!
Tonight’s the night! Season 5 of Mad Men premieres on AMC at 9:00! Two hours!
While I haven’t had to wait as long as other fans (I only just started watching seasons 1-4 in November), I am still very excited to see what’s happening to my favorite characters!
So, today I will be gearing up for the premiere by watching some of my favorite episodes from the past seasons (all previous seasons are streaming on Netflix). These favorite episodes include:
-Warning: Don’t Click on These if You Haven’t Watched the Show–Synopses Contain Spoilers!-
“A Night to Remember” Season 2: Episode 8
“Six-Month Leave” Season 2: Episode 9
“Meditations in an Emergency” Season 2: Episode 13
“Out of Town”: Season 3: Episode 1
“My Old Kentucky Home”: Season 3: Episode 3
“The Grown-Ups”: Season 3: Episode 12
“Shut the Door. Have a Seat.” Season 3: Episode 13
Other Mad Men Links That Have Me All Worked Up!
While watching the last two episodes of The Walking Dead (also on AMC), I loved these Mad Men trailers that link up my two favorite shows! Check ’em out!
and my personal favorite
“and drinks like Hershel used to…” my favorite line!
There’s a lot of reading being done on Mad Men. Flavorwire has compiled “The Definitive ‘Mad Men’ Reading List” for any fans who want to read along. Also, they’ve pulled together a 1966 playlist to act as soundtrack for this season. Check it out!
Then, for those of us planning to really celebrate the return of Mad Men, there’s tips and recipes for throwing a Mad Men premiere party. I think I might try out Joanie’s famous Ginger Snap and Roger Sterling’s Party Nuts!
Can you tell how excited I am? So excited! Just wait until you see how excited I am for the premiere of Game of Thrones—I’m gonna be nuts!
• The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2) by Patrick Rothfuss
• Hardcover: 994 pages
• Publisher: Daw, 2011
• ISBN: 0756404738
• Genre: Fantasy
• Recommended For: Fans of the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicle series, The Name of the Wind; fans of fantasy.
Quick Review: Earns an 90 %, or 4.5 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment.The Wise Man’s Fear Rubric
I definitely recommend this, my favorite of the two books in the Kingkiller Chronicle series. Well-paced, full of mystery, and lots of themes to ponder.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
Day Two: The Wise Man’s Fear.
“There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.”
An escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune abroad. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favor with a powerful noble, Kvothe discovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild, in an attempt to solve the mystery of who (or what) is waylaying travelers on the King’s road.
All the while, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived. Under her tutelage, Kvothe learns much about true magic and the ways of women.
In The Wise Man’s Fear Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time.
My Analysis and Critique:
There are a lot of lovers of this book. There’s also a lot of haters. I happen to be a lover. In fact, I liked this book a whole lot more than the first book in the series, The Name of the Wind, whereas most reviewers definitely saw this book as much weaker.
When reading the negative reviews on Goodreads, I couldn’t help but notice that many critiqued The Wise Man’s Fear for faults that I actually found in The Name of the Wind (they also hated the book because they were mad at Rothfuss, which is a very poor approach to a review, but I’ll discuss that elsewhere). Since reading The Wise Man’s Fear, I no longer find these faults in Rothfuss’ writing, as I believe there might be a purpose behind the seemingly trivial and dull points of the book. Actually, I am considering that there might be an even bigger purpose that has me leaning towards my conspiracy theorist side. But, that comes later in the review (warning: this will be a long one!). Since a lot of people have similar issues with Kvothe and The Wise Man’s Fear, in this review, I will share my initial reaction to the novel, and then my response to some of the criticism I found on Goodreads after finishing the novel.
My Initial Thoughts
This was an expansive novel, as Kvothe gets a lot done–both at the University and in his travels. He develops a lot as a character, learns a lot of new things (a few new languages, how to fight, how to make love like a fairy, how to call down lightning on bad guys, to name a few), and in search of answers to his many questions, he only finds more questions (close, but not quite as frustrating as a season of Lost). I loved the pacing of the plot, the new cultures and myths that were introduced, and the growing sense of mystery pervading throughout the tale. I had a lot of favorite quotes as well. Here are a few that stood out:
Kvothe on teaching: “It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers,” (556).
Vashet on why women are better fighters: Kvothe argues that men are bigger and stronger, which Vashet counters with: “that would matter if fighting were the same as splitting wood or hauling hay. That is like saying a sword is better the longer and heavier it is. Foolishness. Perhaps for thugs this is true.[…] the key is knowing when to fight. Men are full of anger, so they have trouble with this. Women less so,” (763).
Vashet on sparring before you’re ready: “That is like throwing two virgins into a bed. Enthusiasm, passion, and ignorance are not a good combination. Someone is likely to get hurt,” (767).
My only gripe with this book was the extended scenes of Kvothe in the land of Fae. He has a lot of fairy sex, and it felt eerily similar to Odysseus’ stay with Calypso in The Odyssey. However, I wish Rothfuss would have taken a lesson from Homer and skimmed over it–Odysseus was with Calypso for seven years, and yet Homer barely shows it. Unfortunately, Kvothe, and the reader, experience the fairy Felurian for months, which covers 80+ pages. Yet, this is a small gripe, because during these pages, we get a new plot twist with Kvothe’s encounter with the malicious oracle Cthaeh, and Kvothe got some new stories and a cool cloak out of it as well. Not too big a deal.
-“It’s offensive to women”: I completely disagree with this viewpoint. This was one of the most feminist books I’ve read since Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale last August. I mean really? Rothfuss has created what is supposed to be a superior society in the Adem, similar in their civilized ways to Swift’s Houyhnhnms in Gulliver’s Travels. The Adem society accepts that women make better fighters than men because they are more cool-headed (I might disagree with that occasionally, being a woman, and not always cool-headed) and considers men to be mainly useful for their Anger (penis).
Then, there’s the scene where Kvothe breaks the arm of a boy who calls two girls “whores” after they’ve been rescued from rapist bandits.
“I want you to look at these girls. And I want you to think about the hell they’ve been through in these past days, tied hand and foot in the back of the wagon. And I want you to ask yourself what’s worse. A broken arm, or getting kidnapped by a stranger and raped four times a night?”
The point which is considered to be offensive by some is when Kvothe compares sex with women to playing music. I just don’t see the offense. Apparently, Kvothe can, as he remarks
Some might take offense at this way of seeing things, not understanding how a trouper views his music. They might think I degrade women. They might consider me callous, or boorish, or crude.
But those people do not understand love, or music, or me.
I guess that means I do understand love, music, and Kvothe, because I could completely relate to his analogy.
– There’s a lot of slow, unnecessary parts: I really felt this way more often with The Name of the Wind, but not so much anymore. Each segment in the plot is clearly building Kvothe’s character as well as providing a framework for the overall story. I felt there was a purpose in all scenes (although, again, I could’ve done with less Felurian).
– “Look how awesome Kvothe is!” and Unbelievably, after each plot point, Kvothe is off on another adventure: Many reviewers gripe about a lack of plausibility in Kvothe’s character and numbers of adventures. Kvothe seems to be a genius at everything he attempts. He also seems to be involved in every crazy, over-the-top adventure possible, and these adventures are back-to-back-to-back (kind of goes against the above critique of slow, unnecessary parts, doesn’t it?).
I definitely see where these critics are coming from, but this is when I urge readers to remember that The Kingkiller Chronicle is a story about some dude telling a story–a dude named Kote, an innkeeper, who claims to be the legendary Kvothe. The majority of the two novels in the series are covering the story of Kvothe, and we only get little tidbits on the man telling the story. Who is this Kote, and is he reliable? Is he truly Kvothe? He’s certainly mysterious, and there are definitely little things about him that might cause the reader to question him.
Even if Kote truly is Kvothe, he’s still a master storyteller, and we’re hearing his story. He will make his hero out to be amazing, a genius, as it suits him. And, he’s telling the stories of Kvothe’s adventures, not the daily minutia of Kvothe’s day-to-day life. Thus, it will be action-packed because it is a story. A story within a story. We already know Kvothe likes to embellish his stories, so who’s to say he’s not embellishing his own “true” life story.
A final thought on this, coming from my conspiracy theorist side. Maybe, I’m too much of an X-Files fan, maybe I follow too closely the “Trust No One” creed, but sometimes I felt like Rothfuss was pulling a long con on me. I’m really not a hundred percent sure that I can believe everything the innkeeper Kote is telling the Chronicler. There is so much mystery–Bast, the innkeeper’s fae sidekick; random occurrences around the Inn; Kote/Kvothe’s lack of genius and ability in the present time. I feel like there is a lot more going on than meets the eye. I think I want to re-read all of the present-day scenes at the inn and see if I can pinpoint just what is making me second-guess.
Overall, I recommend this series highly. I will re-read it, I’ve bought copies for friends, and I think you should check it out too!
Man, this review is LITTERED with links! Click on a few, as they’re in context.