Monthly roundup culture consumed – October 2016

I’m a bit late with my October roundup – many apologies.


I finished the first book in Tansy Rayner Robert’s Mocklore series, Splashdance Silver – more detailed review to come for the Australian Women Writers reading challenge.

For anyone who has read and enjoyed Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, the latest book (Mistborn: A Secret History) is a fun read. No point reading this book by itself – it only really makes sense if you’ve read the other books (or at least the first trilogy). If you’re a fan of the other books, you’ll like this one. It runs parallel to the original trilogy, fills in a  few blanks and brings back a favourite character. However, I must admit it has been quite a while since I read the original story and I spent half of this book trying to remember how it all fit together.

And finally I started on Revenger by Alistair Reynolds – more to say next month once I’ve finished.


I finished Luke Cage on Netflix – an excellent series. It was very refreshing to watch a show that deals with themes of masculinity, but does it in a way that is respectful to women. I loved the nods to the seventies as well – even though it is set in the modern day, it had a 70s aesthetic which was cool. I kept expecting the theme song from Shaft to kick in. It was also good to see Rosario Dawson playing a larger role in this series. Clearly she’s going to be the person that pulls the heroes from Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist together, but she had a much bigger role in this series.

I just realised that The Expanse is also on Netflix. I’ll definitely be watching that one, the special effects and general look of it is amazing. Really liked the books, and keen to see a solar system sci fi series.


Got away to a movie in October – went to see Marvel’s Dr Strange. In some ways a very different Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, in other ways a lot of the same formula. I liked the way they brought magic in, some of the scenes were very trippy (a bit like Inception with buildings twisting and gravity going all weird). Enough humour to keep me interested as well.


A lot of family and work related activity in October, so not much more from me.

So, what have you been up to?

Monthly roundup culture consumed – February 2016

So, what did I do with February?



I started the Isobelle Carmody series The Obernewtyn Chronicle, making my way through the first book Obernewtyn. I’ll be reviewing the book for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, so I won’t say much here. I enjoyed the book, but didn’t love it. Will be interested to see where the series goes though.

Sorcerer to the Crown: Sorcerer Royal 1 by Zen Cho was an interesting read. Set in an alternate 1800s in Britain, the story focuses on a young African man who is the first black man to ascend to the position of Sorcerer Royal who finds himself championing the cause of equality for women and the poor to have equal access to magic. The book is witty and fun to read, with a great cast of characters. I admit I was expecting something more in the vein of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (and there are certainly some similarities), however the book was a lot more light hearted. An excellent read, well worth picking up.

I also read the final book in Brandon Sanderson’s young adult superhero series, Calamity. A good series if you like Sanderson’s work, with an interesting take on superheroes. If you were going to start, you’d start at the beginning of the series though – the book wouldn’t make much sense read by itself.


I’ve kept going with the sci fi series Killjoys on Foxtel about space based bounty hunters. Very gritty, with some good acting and interesting concepts/storylines. I read somewhere that it is produced by the same people as made Orphan Black, and the writing does have a similar feel to it.

The new Sherlock feature length The Abominable Bride was as excellent as always, with the 19th century plot cleverly worked into the modern BBC series. It reminded me of how good the series is, it’s a real shame the episodes are so few and far between. Compulsory viewing if you’re a fan of the series, but well worth having a look if you’re only a casual viewer. You’ll just have to ignore the brief tangents into the modern day.

I watched the end of The Shannara Chronicles, but I’m not sure I’ll be going back for the second series. The production values were excellent, but the acting didn’t really improve over the series and the plot didn’t really hold me. In the last few episodes, quite a few characters died and I didn’t really care – not a good sign!

Supergirl is continuing well. While not my favourite superhero franchise, it is something I can watch with the kids which is excellent. I can see that a few of the sub-plots (love triangles etc) are going to start to bug me more and more as time goes on, but on the whole it is very watchable TV.


I actually got out to see a movie in February. Deadpool, the Marvel movie in the X-Men universe (not, as I thought going in, the Marvel Cinematic Universe), was, in a word, excellent. Great writing, funny as all hell, convincing acting and with an adult sensibility that many of the superhero movies miss. If you don’t like sex, violence or bad language, best give it a miss. If you like the idea of a slightly more grown up superhero movie, don’t miss it. I suspect that a lot of the humour comes from comparing it with other superhero movies. Given that, if you haven’t watched much of the recent onslaught of MCU, DC and X-Men movies, this might not be one you have to rush out and watch. Still, excellent!

Coming Up

I’ve started on The House of Shattered Wings by Alienate de Bodard, based in an alternate Earth in a Paris shattered by magical war. Good reading so far, will let you know how it went next month!

Batman vs Superman is locked in for the end of March – looking forward to seeing how DC go with creating competition for the MCU.

Monthly roundup culture consumed – January 2016

So, what did I do with January?


Surprisingly not a lot of reading. The only two books I finished during the month were The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson.

The Lies of Locke Lamora was a interesting read. The Locke Lamora of the title is a thief and leader of The Gentlemen Bastards, a thieving band that uses mummery and deception to make their scores. After some initial origin story (which remains interwoven through the rest of the book), what follows is a twisted tale of deception and betrayal, populated with an array of characters that range from anti-heroes to outright villains. I enjoy the grimdark style of story, especially in books like this that maintain a better gender balance. I enjoyed the book and will probably get the next in the series eventually.

The Bands of Mourning is the next in the second era Mistborn novels by Brandon Sanderson. Set in a world that has started to mix technology with magic, the story combines elements of the American wild west, an almost steampunk vibe and fantasy. These books are very popular, and extremely readable.


I’ve started to watch The Shannara Chronicles, based on the books by Terry Brooks. The show has high production values and is beautifully shot, however I’m struggling with the acting, which is very wooden (including actors who I’ve seen give much better performances in other shows). I like fantasy enough that I’m giving this more of a chance, but it isn’t looking hopeful.

The sci fi series Killjoys has just started on Foxtel. Space based bounty hunters. I like the production values, but I’ve only seen the one episode so far so I’ll save commentary until a bit further in.

I started the second season of From Dusk Til Dawn, a horror series based loosely on the movie of the same name. I like what they’ve done to expand the world of the vampires, and seeing the guy that played the foreign exchange student in That 70s Show as a bad-arse vampire has a certain amount of comic value.

My 7 year old has started to watch Teen Titans, a cartoon about five superheroes (Robin, Starfire, Beast Boy, Raven and Cyborg). The story lines are pretty wacky, but in a sign of my enduring immaturity, I’m finding Teen Titans as funny as my daughter does. If you’ve got kids and you want them to like superheroes then I certainly recommend checking them out.

Regular readers of the blog will know that I’ve become somewhat addicted to superhero TV. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is the latest in the TV that brought us Arrow and The Flash. I’ve only watched the first two episodes, and it is OK so far. However, I must concede that I’m struggling to see how the central conceit can last for the next few episodes, let alone more than one season. I guess I’ll have to watch along to find out.

The latest season of Grimm caught us a bit by surprise, so we missed the first few episodes. I really like Grimm, they have been doing a great job building the world season by season. One of my concerns at the start, around the dearth of strong female characters, has been slowly addressed and while it is not a perfect show on that score, it has significantly improved. If you haven’t watched it though, I recommend starting from the beginning – jumping in on season 5 would be a little disorienting.


None! A few coming up in February, but my movie watching in January was severely limited.

Coming Up

During February I’ll be continuing to watch the TV shows above and work out which of the new shows I’ll continue with. I’m also planning to watch the new Sherlock feature length The Abominable Bride. I’ve started reading the Isobelle Carmody series The Obernewtyn Chronicles. I’m looking forward to Zoolander 2 and Deadpool at the movies.

Monthly Roundup – January & February 2015

Welcome to the first monthly roundup post for 2015. Can you believe it is March already? The pace of year scares the bejeesus out of me, I don’t mind telling you.

Earlier in the month I reviewed The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby, and what an excellent read it was. Go and check out the review. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Welcome back.

I also went back a bit in time I read Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy (plus bonus novella). I usually review Australian authors separately, however the trilogy is from a while ago and Garth Nix is popular enough that I very much doubt he needs my signal boost! The individual titles of the series are SabrielLirael and Abhorsen. I enjoyed the world building and background to the story, the late 19th-early 20th century feel of the non-magic land and the fantastic world “over the Wall”. The stories were interesting, but I must admit the head-hopping between characters was quite distracting and kept throwing me out of the story. I note that Nix has recently released a prequel Clariel – still deciding whether to purchase that one.

Brandon Sanderson’s latest YA novel Firefight was released and I had a quick read through. I enjoy Sanderson’s writing, and Firefight is another fast paced, interesting read with an interesting premise. Apart from the main character’s “bad metaphor” schtick (which was very distracting and felt quite forced) I enjoyed the ride. I also read his short novella Mitosis which is set between the two books in the series. I’ve probably succumbed to a shameless grab for cash from the hordes of Sanderson fans, but it was only a small amount of money and was a good read in and of itself. One of the things about Sanderson’s writing that I’m thinking a lot about is how he maintains a certain high octane pace through his books. It’s something that I think is missing from my own writing and reading these 1.5 books has given me a lot to think about.

My power drive through True Blood continued at lightening pace, and in late February we finished season 7, and therefore the whole series. I enjoyed True Blood more than I thought I would – the delivery of a few of the characters was hilarious (Eric, Pam and Jason in particular for those that have watched the show). The seventh season did feel like a bit of a clumsy add-on – I suspect it probably should have ended towards the end of season 6. Still, all up some great genre television.

I finally got the chance to listen to the sci-fi radio play series Night Terrace on a Sydney – Wollongong – Canberra – Sydney drive one weekend. My 6 year old daughter listened to it with me, and was quite taken by it all. “Is there any more of that Eddie show?” she asked me just the other week. If that’s not an endorsement for a second season, I don’t know what is. Very funny and clever writing, if you haven’t checked it out you should be very disappointed in yourself.

I’ve been to the movies more than normal over the last couple of months. Actually out to the cinema. I know, I was surprised too. I enjoyed the final instalment of The Hobbit although I don’t think I’ll need to see another CGI orc for quite some time. Penguins of Madagascar was hilarious – it is great that one of my kids has got old enough to justify me going to see goofy cartoons. Big Hero 6 was a surprisingly good super hero animation – Ms 6 loved it too. I definitely didn’t take her to see Kingsmen – that movie has a LOT of violence, but so over the top that it is hard to be too grossed out. Very much enjoyed that too. Most recently we saw The Imitation Game which is a very good bio-pic of Alan Turing’s life and well worth a look if you’re interested in the history of computing.

And it wouldn’t have been the holiday season without watching the Doctor Who Christmas special. I enjoyed it – some very funny Santa Claus action. But was it just me or did it seem like the ending was left open so Jemma Coleman could make up her mind about staying on with the show at the last minute? Probably just me.

I enjoyed Tansy Rayner Robert’s Musketeer Space prequel novella Seven Days of Joyeux, all about the lives of the three Musketeers pre-Dana. If you’re reading along with Musketeer Space, the novella adds some great depth to some of the main characters and fills in some interesting backstory. If you’ve been thinking of investing in this interesting experiment in serial novel writing, Seven Days of Joyeux is an excellent way of trying before you commit to a whole novel.

In preparation for watching the movie on Foxtel, I reread Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card during the holidays. It has been very many years since I read the book, and I was struck by the bleakness of the narrative and the extent to which Ender perpetrates such  atrocities in the name of survival. An interesting blast from the past, although I don’t feel particularly compelled to read any more of the series.

I’ve recently finished Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. I’ve read reviews that say “Pride and Prejudice with magic thrown in”, which about sums it up. Kowal is one of the presenters on the podcast Writing Excuses, and I’ve heard her talk about the series of books, in particular how she has combined the base characters with different styles of novels (e.g. regency “manners” novel, heist novel etc). I’m interested in reading more of them, to see how she does it. The writing was good and the story pulled me through – not normally my cup of tea but a refreshing change.

I also finished Cold Comfort & Other Tales by David McDonald, but I’ll write that up separately.

That’s all for now. What have you been reading/watching/listening to?

April 2014 – mini reviews

So, what have I read in April?

Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archives) by Brandon Sanderson is a great popcorn read. I liked the first book in the Stormlight Archives, and I kept coming back to this second book. I don’t often get so caught up in a book. These are huge fat fantasy novels, but ones that I really like.

Inspired  by the previous read, I also grabbed one of Sanderson’s first books, Elantris. It was interesting to go back and read such an early work, Sanderson has certainly honed his craft over the years. However, some of the elements that makes his later work so addictive were there – the multiple points of view, a logically developed magic system. Mostly I found it interesting to think about the journey Sanderson has made as an author though.

Traitor Queen by Trudi Canavan will be another one of my Australian Women Writers Reading Challenge reviews, so nothing about that here.

I forgot to mention in the previous post that I also read the latest Discworld novel Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett. I love the Discworld series, and the latest is as good as ever. If you have been reading the books, you’ll read this one whether I recommend it or not. If you haven’t, there are better jumping on points earlier in the series. But definitely a good book for the fans.

I started on King Rat by China Mieville but haven’t finished yet. More on that in May.

And that’s the month that was April 2014!

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – review

Steelheart cover

Brandon Sanderson is fast becoming one of my favourite “popcorn” authors. I first came across his work (like many others) when he was selected to finish the Wheel of Time series, but he has fast become a strong name in the genre in his own right. I find his books to be real page turners, if running somewhat long at times. It’s nice to have a more modern and sophisticated version of the big, fat fantasy’s I used to enjoy through my teenage years.

Given all this, I was interested to see what Sanderson would do in turning his attention to the young adult market. Steelheart is set in a world where a small percentage of the population has gained super powers, and the result has not been pretty. The super-powered (Epics) tend towards using their powers for evil instead of good, selfishly building little empires in the ruins of America.

The protagonist watched his father killed by one of the most powerful Epics of all, the Steelheart of the title. Fast forward several years, and the now 18 year old David is out for revenge and is attempting to join up with the Reckoners, a shadowy group leading a rebellion of sorts against the Epics.

The plotting and pace of the book is very good, and as is normally the case in Sanderson’s work the world-building is detailed, consistent and filled with cool ideas. In a lot of ways the Epics remind me of the Aces in the Wild Card series of books from the 80s/90s, with unique and interesting powers but much more structured/classified in Steelheart.

I had the same problem I have with a lot of YA novels – as I get older I find it harder and harder to sympathise/empathise with the teenage protagonists. Unsophisticated, black and white views of the world. Moral certainty. Boundless energy. All these things are reasonable representations of a teenage mindset, but they grate on me.

Along the same lines, the protagonist was just a little too perfect for my taste. Problems get resolved a little too easily. Insight into other character’s motivations come a little too effortlessly.  New skills are picked up a little too quickly.

But having said that, there are some really cool ideas in this book, excellent action scenes and fantastic use of foreshadowing so that the end, when it comes, leaves you with that good sense of “oh yes, I should have seen that coming”. There were enough clues (and red herrings) to make it an enjoyable read.

I won’t be lining up in front of any bookstores to get the sequel, but I will probably read it. Recommended to YA fans who love evil super heroes.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandan Sanderson – review

A Memory of Light cover

Like a lot of people I’ve been reading The Wheel of Time series for 20 years, so it was with a sense of great relief that I approached reading A Memory of Light, the last of 14 books. There must be at least between 2 and 3 million words in the series, and in my younger years I re-read quite a few of the earlier books, so I think it is fair to say that I’ve invested more reading effort into The Wheel of Time than any other fantasy series.

It is interesting looking at the books now – a lot of modern epic fantasy seems to have moved away from the clear “good vs evil” plots and characters, and show people in more shades of grey (I’m think of Joe Abercrombie, George RR Martin etc), so in some ways reading A Memory of Light (and the proceeding few books) is like stepping back in time to a younger, more idealistic version of myself.

I don’t really want to spoil anything, so I’ll restrict my comments on the plot to say that basically this is a 900 odd page description of the last battle between good and evil. There is a lot of heroic self sacrifice, huge battle scenes and general mayhem. If you haven’t read the proceeding 13 books, this is not the place to start. If you are thinking about reading the series, you better start at the very beginning. I’ll see you in about a year, then we can compare notes.

Interestingly in the first half of the book I actually found myself enjoying the thread associated with the Black Tower most of all, populated with relatively minor characters. I always wished the Black Tower storyline had been fleshed out a little more in the earlier books.

I suppose it was inevitable with so many story threads to wrap up, but the book switched between point of view characters at an extremely rapid rate. Some aspects of the plot resolution were expected, some surprising. Some threads seem to have been left by the wayside.

Sanderson has done a good job finishing off the series (even if he did turn one book into a very large trilogy). I hadn’t come across Sanderson before he took over the Jordan franchise, and I’ve enjoyed his other work (such as the Mistborn trilogy and more recently The Emperor’s Soul). While there is a detectable different in style between the first 11 books and the last 3, I don’t think the change was bad. In fact, I think it brought a freshness and energy to the end of the story which I quite enjoyed.

So to the main question: how do I feel about how the series wrapped up? I’m not sure. The finish was quite predictable in broad terms, but I was interested to see the specific endings for specific characters. It’s hard to say much more without spoiling, and the book is a bit too newly out for that. Once you’ve read the book, buy me a drink at a Con or something and we’ll hash it out.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson – review

  The Emperor's Soul cover

I read this novella on the basis that it was a) by Brandon Sanderson, a writer whose work I have enjoyed b) the subject of a recent episode of the Writing Excuses podcast (which features Sanderson) where they deconstructed the structure and writing choices and c) short.

Sanderson is famous for the rigour and inventiveness of his magic systems and this book is no different. Practitioners in this world are able to adjust the history of an item by the creation of a complicated stamp, and this gives rise to less than scrupulous people being able to create forgeries of famous and/or valuable items.

The story itself is quite engaging although (as is often the case in shorter works) based around a single theme. A master forger is forced to work to forge the soul of the Emperor who has been left as an alive but mindless shell after a botched assassination attempt. The motivations of the Forger as well as the political machinations of the people trying to restore the Emperor made for good context.

The pace was good and combined with the short length made for a quick read.

If you are an aspiring writer, I’d recommend listening to the podcast referenced above after reading. There is an excellent discussion on the technicalities of how the story was constructed, well worth the 15 minutes or so investment (Writing Excuses is a very short weekly podcast, see my Podcasts page for more detail).

A fun, short read. Recommended.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.

Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson – review

As mentioned in a previous review, I recently became a fan of the original Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. I liked the magic system and the world created, as well as the ability of the stories to surprise me. As such I have been looking forward to the Alloy of Law.

On top of this, the book does deal with one issue that has always bugged me about epic fantasy – why does epic fantasy seem to mostly mean that a society never progresses beyond a medieval stage of development? I’ve always been interested in what might happen to a society based on magic if technology was allowed to continue to develop. Well, Alloy of Law takes on this theme fairly directly. The world Sanderson has created has moved on and with the railroad and electricity just coming to the fore and the first skyscrapers being built, it resembles our world in the early 1800s. The interplay between the magic system and the technology was extremely interesting.

In the introduction, Mr Sanderson talks about his original intention to write a trilogy set in an urban fantasy setting, then another set in more of a science fiction setting. This book is not part of those imagined trilogies, rather it is a stand alone book set in the same world (although I must say that while the central plot was resolved the ending of the book did seem set to lead into another book, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see a sequel at some stage).

The book is based on the return of Lord Waxillium Ladrian (or Wax) to the grand city of Elendel from years of self imposed exile in the Roughs (a wild west style setting where Wax has been operating as a sheriff/marshall/law man). His uncle had died, leaving him as the head of one of the oldest, most honourable Houses in the aristocracy which is unfortunately almost terminally short of cash. The story revolves around Wax being pulled back into the criminal chasing business (as an aside, there was a lot about the Wax character that reminded me of Vimes from the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels – the copper finding himself unexpectedly in a position of authority in the biggest city in the world. Even his negotiated betrothal to a noblewomen with a lot of cash had hints of Vimes relationship with his wife Sybil).

This book was very readable, the characters were strong and the plot interesting. I was interested with the depiction of the main female character, Marasi. Generally she was fairly well realised but I couldn’t get a bead on how this evolving society actually treated women. The female characters were mostly shown as strong individuals, but the status of women in society seemed to vary. Of course, in a stand alone novel there isn’t as much time for world building but it was hard to determine whether Marasi was a maverick pushing against the bounds of society that expected less from women or someone struggling with self imposed limitations. I lean towards the later interpretation, given the description of other female characters and some of Marasi’s backstory.

I quite liked the minor characters, in particular the sidekick Wayne and the eccentric gunsmith Ranette. Wayne in particular provided enough comic relief and was a good foil for Wax’s upright man persona.

The plot was based around solving a conspiracy and heist mystery. The mystery to be solved was satisfying enough and worked well with elements of the world. Compared to some of Mr Sanderson’s latest books this was a relatively slim volume but that allowed the book to stay focused on the main plot and move at a good pace. As with the previous Mistborn novels, I really enjoyed the description of the fighting – especially how a magic system based on the manipulation of metal deals with guns, bullets and the general background of an industrial revolution.

You could read this as a stand alone novel if you haven’t read any of the other Mistborn novels, but I would recommend reading all the series to give you some important background. Highly recommended as a fun, caper based fantasy – especially if you like your fantasy with an industrial twist.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson – review

Like a lot of people I suspect, I first came across Brandon Sanderson because sheer bloody mindedness is driving me to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (14 books is ridiculous but I started reading them in my university days and feel an irrational need to get through to the end).

Sanderson was the author chosen to complete the series after Jordan’s passing. After reading The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight I decided to give his newest novel, The Way of Kings a go and really liked it. So I decided to go back and read some of his earlier work.

That is a long way to explain the reason why I’ve been reading the Mistborn trilogy of late – an epic fantasy series. I read The Final Empire earlier in the year and I’ve just finished The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages. The first thing I’ll get out of the way is the magic. Every review/article I’ve ever read about Sanderson’s books talks about the excellence and innovativeness of his magic systems. And they are right. I loved the description of the magic in The Way of Kings. I love it in the Mistborn books. It is consistent, well realised and lends itself to excellent action sequences.

I found the books to be very readable as well. I liked the characters, they had enough flaws to be relatable and I thought the stories were interesting. While it is in a lot of ways a “typical” fantasy series, all three books contained a bit of a twist at the end. I don’t really try to guess twists – I’m more of a “see where the story takes you” kind of guy – but I don’t like it when the kink in the road is so obvious that even I see it coming. Fortunately each of these books had a genuinely surprising element for me.

Look, it is probably very “bowing to the gods of the commercial author of the moment” of me but I’ve really liked all of Sanderson’s stuff so far. I’d recommend the Mistborn trilogy. I see on Amazon that he has a new Mistborn novel – The Alloy of Law – coming out later in the year. I’ll probably get that too.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.