Soundtrack Review – The Rings of Power (season 1)

The legendarium of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth begins with music in the Ainulindalë, and songs and poems fill his entire mythos. It is fitting that the first substantial release of material from the new Amazon series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is the soundtrack. Scored by Bear McCreary (with the main title theme by Howard Shore), this is a spectacular and substantial album, featuring 37 songs and running 2 hours, 29 minutes. Read below for my full review. ***MINOR SPECULATIVE SPOILERS***

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Since I don’t usually review music on my blog, let me start with a little background on how I’m approaching this. I love soundtracks and I listen to a large number of fantasy-themed ones. I also love Tolkien. I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings more times than I can remember. I have read The Silmarillion multiple times, as well as Unfinished Tales, parts of The History of Middle Earth, The Atlas of Middle Earth, and more, and my copy of The Languages of Tolkien’s Middle Earth is in danger of falling apart.

This isn’t all of them. Note the four copies of The Lord of the Rings (two for reading, my red leather-bound precious, and one (gray) special edition signed by one of the Tolkien family. Gandalf guards them all.

I saw the Peter Jackson movies in the theater oh… dozens of times. They have their problems, but it was also amazing to see something of that scope on a screen for the first time. I can’t begin to guess at how many times I’ve listened to the Howard Shore scores. I’ve been listening to those even this week as I re-read the appendices to The Lord of the Rings and start again on The Silmarillion.

I’m also a classically trained flutist (albeit rather out of practice) and almost added a major in music to my college days. I’ve played solo, with band, with orchestra, and with small ensembles. I’ve even played a concert of soundtrack music. However, I know zero music theory so I’m not going to talk about any of that technical stuff.


Now on to the review….

I’ve listened to the entire thing twice now and I’ll repeat what I already mentioned in the intro: this is a spectacular soundtrack. If the rest of the show lives up to the music, I’ll be extremely happy. Bear McCreary captures exactly the right tone and atmosphere for what I imagine the story of The Rings of Power will entail.

My only criticism of the score is that I was a little underwhelmed by Howard Shore’s contribution of the main theme. It didn’t stand out, but perhaps this is because the other themes on the individual tracks are so strong.

The instrumentation is similar to what Howard Shore used – orchestra with vocal accompaniment. Some tracks feature heavier percussion and in one place (end of the Sauron track) the rhythm is the same one that I associate with Shore’s Uruk-hai music.

Other familiar themes are hinted at in a few select places. Chords and chanting reminiscent of a certain balrog feature near the end of In the Mines, while the final track, Where the Shadow Lie, evokes the sinister tones of Gollum’s Song from The Two Towers.

Bagpipes feature in a few places but are not intrusive (I like bagpipes anyway). And you’ll hear of singing in many of Tolkien’s languages.

You can find the full list of tracks here. I’m going to comment my favorites (slight spoilers):

Absolute favorites:

  • Númenor – the theme fits the gorgeous visuals of the island kingdom that I’ve already seen in the trailers. This is one of the best hooks on the soundtrack.
  • In the Beginning – this track starts calmly but is one of the longest ones, running 7:49. Just before the halfway point, it builds to a dramatic orchestral and choral crescendo, followed by the soaring strains of the Galadriel theme and a war march that accelerates and then finishes on sad notes. There are rumors that this accompanies a prologue depicting the corruption of Morgoth and the destruction of the two trees. There might even be something about Finrod’s demise in there.
  • This Wandering Day – this is a vocal track, presumably sung by Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot and is wonderful. I had a hard time picking out my favorite lines, but I chose some below. This also references the well-known “not all those who wander are lost” quote.

“Of drink I have little, and food I have less,

My strength tells me no, but the path demands yes,

My legs are so short and the way is so long,

I’ve no rest nor comfort, no comfort but song.”

Other favorites:

  • Galadriel – I almost put this one in my absolute favorites, but I think her theme is stronger when it appears on other tracks (like Cavalry below).
  • Khazad-dûm – perfect for what I imagine Moria looked like in its prime.
  • Harfoot Life – I imagine this is one of the themes for the not-quite-hobbit Harfoots.
  • White Leaves – perhaps this will accompany a Numenor scene and a certain white tree? This is a very pretty piece that finishes with a dazzling fanfare.
  • A Plea to the Rocks – when the vocals start, this just screams tragedy to me. Haunting and gorgeous. This was reminiscent of the music from The Fellowship of the Ring when the fellowship is regrouping after escaping Moria and seeing Gandalf fall to the Balrog.
  • Scherzo for Violin and Swords – how fun is this title?
  • Sailing into the Dawn – I don’t know what’s happening here, but this starts with the Numenor theme and is 4 minutes of something epic.
  • Cavalry – this is another action-filled track, presumably with… cavalry in it. The strings drive it forward relentlessly and Galadriel’s theme swirls over the top.

Amazon is also offering two bonus tracks (Find the Light; The Promised King) through Prime music which I also have heard. I didn’t think these added anything special beyond the main tracks.

I hope this gets you as excited to see The Rings of Power as I am. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be seeing the first two episodes in New York in a few days.

Have you listened to the soundtrack yet? What are your favorite tracks? Let me know in the comments (above).

Book Review – The Witch’s Heart

I picked this book up last year on a whim and I had meant to read it around Halloween because witches, but as always, I have too many books and not enough time. So it had to wait. The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec is the first book by this author and delves into Norse mythology and the life of the witch Angrboda.

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Here is the blurb:

When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse mythology.

Angrboda’s story begins where most witches’ tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.

Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.

With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.


I have to preface my review by saying that I am not very familiar with Norse mythology. Of course I know the names of some of the gods and figures in their stories, but I’ve never read these myths in the same way that I did for Greek mythology.

This was an enjoyable book and, although it does get a bit strange, I have to imagine that some of that comes from the original myths. Angrboda is a sympathetic character and even though she doesn’t physically do much in the beginning of the story, her relationships with Loki and Skadi that are integral to the later events are gradually built up.

This novel is also full of secrets with Angrboda keeping secrets from the gods and her friends, but at the same time being unable to understand her own mysterious background. The book comes to a satisfying conclusion that is both tragic and hopeful.

While the myths are different, this book reminded me of Circe by Madeleine Miller, which I was one of my favorite books I read in 2020 (which I never wrote a review on – sorry).

Have you read The Witch’s Heart or Circe? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – The Dragon Reborn

I’ve been a bit slower to complete my reading over the past few weeks, but maybe choosing books that are over 600 pages long is part of the reason why. The Dragon Reborn is the third book (of 14) in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I read this as an e-book.

For my reviews of earlier books in the series, look here:

  • Book 1 – The Eye of the World (oh, I skipped reviewing this one, might do it later)
  • Book 2 – The Great Hunt
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Here is the blurb:

The Dragon Reborn—the leader long prophesied who will save the world, but in the saving destroy it; the savior who will run mad and kill all those dearest to him—is on the run from his destiny.

Able to touch the One Power, but unable to control it, and with no one to teach him how—for no man has done it in three thousand years—Rand al’Thor knows only that he must face the Dark One. But how?

Winter has stopped the war—almost—yet men are dying, calling out for the Dragon. But where is he?

Perrin Aybara is in pursuit with Moiraine Sedai, her Warder Lan, and Loial the Ogier. Bedeviled by dreams, Perrin is grappling with another deadly problem—how is he to escape the loss of his own humanity?

Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve are approaching Tar Valon, where Mat will be healed—if he lives until they arrive. But who will tell the Amyrlin their news—that the Black Ajah, long thought only a hideous rumor, is all too real? They cannot know that in Tar Valon far worse awaits…

Ahead, for all of them, in the Heart of the Stone, lies the next great test of the Dragon reborn….

Even though this book’s title implies that it will be about Rand, it follows a lot more of the other characters’ stories. With the storyline split through several point-of-view characters, it makes the overall action move more slowly as well.

So while I enjoyed this book, it felt more simple than I remember. We do get to see some new important characters introduced and seeing ancient powers (like balefire) return and an expansion of Egwene’s dreamer powers add to the mythic character of this story.

I’ll probably take a week or two off from The Wheel of Time before I jump into book 4, The Shadow Rising, next month.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Harrow the Ninth

Harrow the Ninth is the second book in The Locked Tomb series by New Zealand author Tamsyn Muir. Like my read of the first book (Gideon the Ninth – review here), I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Moira Quirk.

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Here is the blurb:

She answered the Emperor’s call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?

I really wanted to like this book, but it was hard to follow and I found myself confused for much of it. The story is told in the present day, written in second person, and also has flashbacks that appear to be an alternate version of the events of Gideon the Ninth. The characters are superbly drawn and their interactions are fascinating, even if I didn’t understand the relevance of much of it.

The unique portrayal of necromancy continues in this volume with wonderfully creative descriptions of bone and blood magic. The narrator provides each character with a slightly different manner of speech and subtle differences in accent which helps to follow more complicated conversations.

I just wish more was cleared up by the end of this book. The confusion was the worst at the very beginning and then in the end. Don’t expect any resolution or explanations in this series yet. It looks like two more books are planned, with the next one (Nona the Ninth) releasing later this year.

Have you read anything by Tamsyn Muir? What did you think? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

March Reading and Writing Updates

Wow! Somehow it got to be March already! And of course I’m behind schedule from where I wanted to be on my reading, but I’m not surprised, given that I set a bit of an unrealistic goal.

Looking back at February, here is how it went: I managed to finish Magical Midlife Madness by K. F. Breene (review here) and All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (review here). I just finished Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert this past weekend (technically in March) and I have a review coming up on that book later this week. With some work-related projects and other obligations, I got bogged down and didn’t get through all the other books I wanted to.

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The other books I’m currently reading are The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan and Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. With a long drive this weekend, I’m making solid progress on Harrow the Ninth because I’m listening to that as an audiobook. I also pulled out The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett (my physical non-e-book read) after I finished Magical Midlife Madness, but then decided I needed to catch up on The Dragon Reborn before starting it.

I haven’t given any writing updates recently. I hardly made any progress in February, but I’m expecting that to improve in March. Current projects include the first draft of a hard sci-fi stand alone novel with a working title of East of the Sun, continued work on a stand along sword and sorcery novel called Daughter of the Sun, and a rewrite of a short story involving dream magic. I don’t know why both novel projects involve the sun, but I think East of the Sun will get renamed at some point.

Also, if you haven’t seen it already, Brandon Sanderson sort of shamed all writers out there in regards to productivity last week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out his video here. So clearly I need to up my writing game.

Are you reading as much as you had hoped this year? Are you a writer? Tell me about your projects in the comments above.

Book Review – Magical Midlife Madness

This book was gifted to me and I’ve had it sitting on my desk for a while now, taunting me with it’s pretty cover. Magical Midlife Madness is the first book in a paranormal romance series (Leveling Up) by K. F. Breene. It appears to be self-published, which isn’t necessarily a strike against it as I used to do book reviews for “indie” press books and am open to the idea of reading books that aren’t a product of a major publisher.

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Here is the blurb:

A woman starting over. A new house with an unexpected twist. A cape wearing butler acting as the world’s worst life coach.

“Happily Ever After” wasn’t supposed to come with a do-over option. But when my husband of twenty years packs up and heads for greener pastures and my son leaves for college, that’s exactly what my life becomes.

Do-over.

This time, though, I plan to do things differently. Age is just a number, after all, and at forty I’m ready to carve my own path.

Eager for a fresh start, I make a somewhat unorthodox decision and move to a tiny town in the Sierra foothills. I’ll be taking care of a centuries old house that called to me when I was a kid. It’s just temporary, I tell myself. It’ll just be for a while.

That is, until I learn what the house really is, something I never could’ve imagined.

Thankfully forty isn’t too old to start an adventure, because that’s exactly what I do. A very dangerous adventure that will change my life forever. I have a chance to start again, and this time, I make the rules.

This book had a fun premise and while parts at the beginning were a bit awkwardly written, it got better in the middle. Jessie is an entertaining character that takes a risk on a new chapter in her life and discovers strange magic in a small town and within herself.

There is a romance aspect to the story and a larger threat that is not fully explored in this book, so don’t expect any resolution to either of those parts of Jessie’s tale. I don’t know if I’ll keep reading this series or not. It was easy and fast to read, but didn’t grab me as much as some other books.

Have you read any books by K. F. Breene? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Reading Update – 6-ish Weeks In

I wanted to stop to check in on my reading progress, given that I set a rather ambitious reading goal for the year of 89 books. It felt like I wasn’t making any progress at all for much of January. But part of that was because I tend to read several books at once.

How do I sort out what I’m reading when I’m tackling multiple books at once? I actually don’t have a good system, but I’m trying to come up with one.

For this year, I’m trying to choose my books partly by how I’m reading them. So at any given time, I’m going to read one e-book on my Kindle, one e-book on my phone, one physical book, and one audiobook. This graphic above shows what I have already read for the year.

I’m also trying to be a little more intentional about my reading. What I mean by this is that I’m using Goodreads to create multiple shelves. I already have a 2022 books-to-read list (and a 2023 one, but that’s a separate problem). But now I’m dividing it out into monthly shelves as well. I’m hoping this will help keep me on track with longer series by seeing how long it will actually take me to get through those books. Look below to see what is on my February 2022 list:

So you can see from these books that I’m gradually working my way through several series. One goal I have is to read one book from The Wheel of Time every month, as well as one Dune book each month. That by itself will keep me busy! And then there’s this darn Demon Cycle (The Skull Throne) I really want to finish but have a hard time continuing.

I also have set this up to work with the different formats. I have The Wheel of Time as e-books on my Kindle and Dune is an e-book on my phone. Harrow the Ninth and Instinct are audiobooks, and Magical Midline Madness and The Skull Throne are physical books. If I finish up by the end of the month I’ll throw in another short book or start on my March list.

This plan still doesn’t get me to my goal of 89 books for the year, but that’s okay! I do have a lot of long books frontloaded in my plan for the year. I’ll have to add some shorter novels or graphic novels as I go. I also delete books from my list once I’ve read them so I feel like I’m checking them off.

How do you organize your reading? How is your reading year going? Let me know in the comments above.

Read some of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Neverwhere

This was the second time that I read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. One of my book clubs had decided to read it and since it had been quite a while since I read it the first time, I picked it up again.

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Here is the blurb:

Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

I found this to be an odd little book. Richard Mayhew is cast into a secret fantastical world beneath London after he stops to help an injured girl on the street. He encounters rat-speakers, a fierce bodyguard, and numerous other strange beings in his pursuit of the girl named Door. Trying to reclaim his former life, he is caught up in Door’s quest and the mystery surrounding the death of her family as they flee enemies with an ever-changing agenda. I enjoyed this book, but I felt like I never quite knew what was going on. It lacked tension until the end but was otherwise enjoyable to read.

I’m always torn on Gaiman’s books. I really didn’t like American Gods, but found this book readable and intriguing, despite its flaws. Many years ago I read some of the Sandman graphic novels, but I don’t remember them well. So, I’m going to try to read The Graveyard Book soon because that is one that’s been recommended to me a few times.

Have you read Neverwhere? Do you have other books by Neil Gaiman you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – The Great Hunt

With the recent television adaptation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, I’ve decided to finally read/re-read the entire series. Many years ago, I had read up through book 7 or 8, but then found myself forgetting key details of the story while waiting for the next book to be published. I told myself that someday I’d go back and read the entire 14-book series. I started this last year with the first book – The Eye of the World. I didn’t have time to write a review of that one (and I still may go back to do it), but here are my thoughts on book 2 – The Great Hunt.

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Here is the blurb:

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

For centuries, gleemen have told the tales of The Great Hunt of the Horn. So many tales about each of the Hunters, and so many Hunters to tell of…Now the Horn itself is found: the Horn of Valere long thought only legend, the Horn which will raise the dead heroes of the ages. And it is stolen.

So this blurb doesn’t really describe much of what this second book is about. Readers of the series will recognized that first paragraph as the repeating intro that starts each book, a reminder of the theme of a cycle to the events of the world that is integral to this story.

The Great Hunt follows our main character, Rand Al’Thor as he follows (and at times leads) a group of Shienaran soldiers in pursuit of the Horn of Valere after it is stolen by Darkfriends. His internal conflict about his newfound powers continues and ostracizes him from his friends who don’t know his secret.

The characters are introduced to several new enemies (Selene/Lanfear and the Seanchan), threatened by old ones (Padan Fain, the Children of Light), and betrayed by those once thought to be friends. This book splits up some of our characters as well, with Egwene and Nynaeve starting their training at Tar Valon. But this division doesn’t last and by the end, the story threads all converge, bringing the tale to another semi-conclusion.

I’ve already started the third book, The Dragon Reborn, and I’m hoping to get through one a month. Look for my next review soon!

Have you read the series? How far did you get? Are you watching the show? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Reading Goals for 2022

Looking ahead every year, it’s nice to set goals, right? I feel like I always want to be reading more, but it’s so hard to keep that to-be-read list under control.

For 2022, I have decided to let all self-control go in creating my books-to-be-read list. First I took all those books I had intended to read for 2021 but failed to get to and rolled them over to 2022. Then I added more books! I have a few series that I’m trying to finish so the list keeps growing. That leaves me with 89 books for 2022.

Can I actually read 89 books in a year? I don’t think I ever have. But why not try?

Here is the current list for 2022:

And here are the books I’m starting out the year with (already included in the list above):

How do you plan out your reading? What books are you most excited for in 2022? Let me know in the comments!

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