What I Read – February 2016

This month I continue my Wheel of Time journey. Spoilers warning now for these books, as I am going to share my gut reactions to each one. I’m not going to hold back much.

Purple Cow

by Seth Godin

What do Starbucks and JetBlue and KrispyKreme and Apple and DutchBoy and Kensington and Zespri and Hard Candy have that you don’t? How do they continue to confound critics and achieve spectacular growth, leaving behind former tried-and true brands to gasp their last?

Face it, the checklist of tired ‘P’s marketers have used for decades to get their product noticed -Pricing, Promotion, Publicity, to name a few-aren’t working anymore. There’s an exceptionally important ‘P’ that has to be added to the list. It’s Purple Cow.

Cows, after you’ve seen one, or two, or ten, are boring. A Purple Cow, though…now that would be something. Purple Cow describes something phenomenal, something counterintuitive and exciting and flat out unbelievable. Every day, consumers come face to face with a lot of boring stuff-a lot of brown cows-but you can bet they won’t forget a Purple Cow. And it’s not a marketing function that you can slap on to your product or service. Purple Cow is inherent. It’s built right in, or it’s not there. Period.

In Purple Cow, Seth Godin urges you to put a Purple Cow into everything you build, and everything you do, to create something truly noticeable. It’s a manifesto for marketers who want to help create products that are worth marketing in the first place.

This is my personal development selection this month. I was recommended this book by a good friend. We both took an online course by Mr. Godin. I got quite a bit from this book, though creating something noticeable is quite a challenge. It’s definitely necessary in the indie game market.

I recommend this book. It’s a fast read with lots of great insights.

 

 

The Dragon Reborn (The Wheel of Time, Book 3)

by Robert Jordan

 

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Rand Al’Thor is the Dragon Reborn– able to touch the One Power, but unable to control it. Rand knows only that he must face the Dark One in a battle to the death. Ahead of him lies the next great test for…

The Dragon Reborn

The series really begins to pick up steam in this book, though it’s really where we start to see “Grumpy Rand” as I like to call him. The pressure of who he is finally explodes. He doesn’t want to get anyone hurt, so he’s gonna do it on his own. It’s also the first book where the point-of-view diverges from Rand for the majority of the book. Instead we get to spend some great time with the other characters while he does his own thing in the background. Mat has a great part in the rescue at the end of the book. The Aiel show up in a big way, and we get to see the reveal of the Black Ajah. This book moves fast, and is one of my favorites in the series.

 

 

The Shadow Rising (The Wheel of Time, Book 4)

by Robert Jordan

The seals of Shayol Ghul are weak now, and the Dark One reaches out. The Shadow is rising to cover humankind.

In Tar Valon, Min sees portents of hideous doom. Will the White Tower itself be broken?

In the Two Rivers, the Whitecloaks ride in pursuit of a man with golden eyes, and in pursuit of the Dragon Reborn.

In Cantorin, among the Sea Folk, High Lady Suroth plans the return of the Seanchan armies to the mainland.

In the Stone of Tear, the Lord Dragon considers his next move. It will be something no one expects, not the Black Ajah, not Tairen nobles, not Aes Sedai, not Egwene or Elayne or Nynaeve.

Against the Shadow rising stands the Dragon Reborn…..

I often forget what happens in this book, because I tend to remember the events as happening in the fifth book. This one was released well before I started the series, and I pretty much plowed through it onto book five as quickly as I could every time I read it. Still, it’s a great part of the story. The Aiel Waste features prominently, and some very big changes happen in this book that affect the rest of the series. Rand gets the dragon markings on his arms after entering Rhuidean. Mat is dies while inside another door ter’angreal and gains the Old Tongue, memories, and the ashandarei spear.  Elayne and Nynaeve challenge Moghedien and the Black Ajah in Tanchico, which had some very exciting moments. Perrin struggles in back in the Two Rivers against Trollocs and the Children of Light. It’s interesting here to see Verin’s and Alanna’s involvement so early in the series. Perrin’s relationship with Faile really grows in this book as well.

 

 

The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, Book 5)

by Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and go. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

This was my favorite book of the series when I was first getting into it. I’ve read it 4 or 5 times now, and each time is exciting as the last. I pick up so many new little details I never noticed before. I love this series, and this book encapsulates almost all of the reasons I love it.

The books opens with one army chasing another until reaching a fantastic battle that involves both real military strategy as well as large scale attacks with the One Power. I love that Mat finally comes into his own, reluctantly of course, as a leader, and we get to see the formation of the Band of the Red Hand.

Siuan, Min, and Leane’s escape from Tar Valon is an excellent moment in the series. I love to see how Siuan and Leane deal with not only losing their positions of power, but their ability with the One Power later. I love their stories in this series.

After the initial battle at Cairhien, Rand then invades Caemlyn in order to kill one of the Forsaken, Rahvin. Moiraine and Lanfear battle, which was a crushing moment in the series for me. We also get to see Nynaeve, one of my favorite characters at this point, outsmart Moghedien once again. Asmodean is killed by an unidentified figure, which still remains a mystery to me (though fans have narrowed this down to a pretty solid guess).

 

 

Lord of Chaos (Wheel of Time, Book 6)

by Robert Jordan

In this sequel to the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Fires of Heaven, we plunge again into Robert Jordan’s extraordinarily rich, totally unforgettable world:

On the slopes of Shayol Ghul, the Myrddraal swords are forged, and the sky is not the sky of this world;

In Salidar the White Tower in exile prepares an embassy to Caemlyn, where Rand Al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, holds the throne–and where an unexpected visitor may change the world….

In Emond’s Field, Perrin Goldeneyes, Lord of the Two Rivers, feels the pull of ta’veren to ta’veren and prepares to march….

Morgase of Caemlyn finds a most unexpected, and quite unwelcome, ally….And south lies Illian, where Sammael holds sway….

I was dreading reaching this book. This was my least favorite my first time around, and the second time I read through the series I skimmed through it in order to get me on to book 7. Some of the reasons are the way it is written.

According to the wikia stats, the book features 47 different points of view. The prologue alone is over 30,000 words long. There are so many subplots, characters, and perspectives that it was a struggle to continue with it during that first read. I just wanted to know what happened next where the previous book left off with our core characters, not what was happening in the various other parts of the world or side characters.

Still, I decided I needed to really give this read-through a solid effort. I hadn’t read it in so long, it should still be really fresh.

I was really surprised. After fighting with this book initially, I found myself really enjoying it. The different POVs weren’t a bad thing suddenly, but instead really fleshed out the world as well as revealed the actions which would have resounding effects later in the story.

Rand is in full jerk mode in this book, and awesomely proceeds to alienate many of his allies. The bond by Alanna was a great surprise, and I enjoyed a lot of his interactions with the Aes Sedia, though knowing about the coming trap made me wanted to scream at him. The moments in the chest are rough. These scenes build so much of the rest of the story/motivations in later books.

The ending battle at Dumai’s Wells was surprising and exciting. We get to see the real power of the Ashaman. I enjoyed Perrin’s chase with the Aiel to rescue Rand. The Aes Sedai swearing oaths of fealty was nearly jaw dropping.

Off to the side we get to spend more time with Mat, Nynaeve, and Elayne in Ebou Dar while they search for the Bowl of the Winds. Mat’s role and observations are great. Egwene becomes the Amyrlin Seat of the rebel Aes Sedai. I start liking her character more in these challenges, though she still has frustrating moments in the next few books.

 

 

A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time, Book 7)

by Robert Jordan

A Crown of Swords, the eagerly awaited sequel to Lord of Chaos, The New York Times bestseller that swept the nation like a firestorm.
In this seventh book of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, Elayne, Aviendha, and Mat come ever closer to the bowl ter’angreal that may reverse the world’s endless heat wave and restore natural weather. Egwene begins to gather all manner of women who can channel–Sea Folk, Windfinders, Wise Ones, and some surprising others. And above all, Rand faces the dread Forsaken Sammael, in the shadows of Shadar Logoth, where the blood-hungry mist, Mashadar, waits for prey.

Half way there! Yay! The speed of these books picks up again after Lord of Chaos, and I feel like for a while they are physically shorter as well.

I was a bit frustrated that Elayne, Mat, Aviendha, and Nynaeve are still looking for the Bowl of the Winds. I feel like there is so much cross-purposing happening in this series that could easily be sorted by a plain conversation. Sometimes I love it, but sometimes I feel like it slows everything down so much. Do people really have such a hard time understanding one another so often? Everyone’s preconceived notions and conceits get in the way so often.

Their escape with the bowl from the Seanchan invasion and the Gholam confrontation were great moments. Rand’s battle with Sammael over the Illian had a great setting in Shadar Logoth, but the whole thing felt a little disappointing.  I just wanted a little more “umph” or something more clever to happen I guess.

Lan’s rescue of Nynaeve in Ebou Dar was a surprise. It is so fulfilling to see him and Nynaeve back together again, though I feel like her POV in the rest of the books disappointingly diminishes from this point on. I have a clear memory of this scene from reading it the first. I had built such a specific mental model of the look and feel of the location of these events, that when I came to it this second time, I didn’t recognize the scene for a long time. It was entirely unfamiliar until nearly the end, when it suddenly hit me that it’s the same scene I remembered. I had just formed such a different image of it this second time that my brain didn’t reconcile the two. It was a very strange experience, but fun to see the different ways we can see things like this.

 

 

The Path of Daggers (The Wheel of Time, Book 8)

by Robert Jordan

For millions of fans around the globe, the wait is over. Sequel to the international blockbuster bestseller A Crown of Swords, The Path of Daggers continues one of history’s greatest fictional journeys and the most extraordinary work of American fantasy ever published–The New York Times,Wall Street Journal, and worldwide bestselling series–Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time.

The phenomenal tale that is mesmerizing a generation of readers now continues in Book Eight.

The Seanchan invasion force is in possession of Ebou Dar. Nynaeve, Elayne, and Aviendha head for Caemlyn and Elayne’s rightful throne, but on the way they discover an enemy much worse than the Seanchan.
In Illian, Rand vows to throw the Seanchan back as he did once before. But signs of madness are appearing among the Asha’man.
In Ghealdan, Perrin faces the intrigues of Whitecloaks, Seanchan invaders, the scattered Shaido Aiel, and the Prophet himself. Perrin’s beloved wife, Faile, may pay with her life, and Perrin himself may have to destroy his soul to save her.
Meanwhile the rebel Aes Sedai under their young Amyrlin, Egwene al’Vere, face an army that intends to keep them away from the White Tower. But Egwene is determined to unseat the usurper Elaida and reunite the Aes Sedai. She does not yet understand the price that others–and she herself–will pay.

Perrin’s arc through this book is my favorite part. He unknowingly rescues Morgase, confronts the Prophet of the Dragon, and gets an oath of fealty from the Queen of Ghealdan. Faile is kidnapped, and I hated it. I dreaded coming back to that bit. I get so involved in these books sometimes I can’t handle the risks and jeopardy some of the characters find themselves in. It’s like they are real people, and it’s tough when they suffer.

Mat is absent from this book which sucks even more because he was last seen in the middle of an invasion, trapped under a wall.

Rand’s story is also disappointing because it is essential a big failure. The Seanchan are stymied, but he didn’t really beat them, and his loss of control is a very big deal. You would think he would learn some humility at this point, but the tragedy is just beginning.

 

 

Winter’s Heart (The Wheel of Time, Book 9)

by Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

Rounded out the month with the ninth book in the series. I feel like I am running a mental marathon.

The Black Ajah intrigue inside Tar Valon in these later books is one of my favorite subplots of the series. The discovery of Talene as a Black Ajah was surprising. You always felt like the little group of Black Ajah hunters was going to be discovered any minute by the Black Ajah or even the rest of the Tower. It was a fun change of pace from some of the larger events and scenes that take place with the primary characters.

The first-sister ceremony between Elayne and Aviendha was great, as well as Rand’s reunion with all three women. I love Nynaeve here that she is just ready to go with Rand and kick butt beside him. The cleansing of saidin was an epic scene. After such a long string of fails in the Rand department, it was great to have such a huge win. Shadar Logoth is no more.

Tuon and Mat meet! I was giddy about this. I love their interactions.

Perrin gets no where in this book. Faile needs to punch Sevanna in the mouth. Galina is still a prisoner of the Aiel. 🙁

Diving into rest of the series next month. I will finish!