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Under the Dome

30 Oct

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Author: Stephen King

Genre: Horror

First Published: 2009

Page Count: 1072

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The size of this book will definitely seem intimidating to some, but the content makes every page of this hefty book worth the read.

__________________Positives__________________

*Consistent storytelling for over 1000 pages     *Meticulously detailed

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Beginning scope of story can be overwhelming

An idea is like a cold germ: sooner or later someone always catches it.” The town of Chester’s Mill was like any other small town in America. It was home to small town people with small town problems. However, when a glass-like force field known as the Dome mysteriously encases the town, its inhabitants are left to fend for themselves as the world watches and wonders about the fate of the town and the source of this otherworldly bubble. Life under the Dome turns into a game of survival of the fittest as the true nature of the citizens of Chester’s Mill surfaces under the pressure of confinement.

I was excited to read my first Stephen King book but was unsure whether Under the Dome would be a good choice. Afterall, it is over 1000 pages long, and what author can fill every page with an interesting story? I didn’t want to be disappointed but I shouldn’t have questioned the great King’s talent since he has given the world such treasures as The Shining and The Stand. Big mistake! That’s probably what I most admire about this book. It takes a lot of talent to develop a large cast of characters and a unique plot while making it last for over 1000 pages. King pulls it off with flying colors. The story isn’t just about the invisible force field imprisoning the town; it’s about the relationships of the townspeople and basic human morality. And  without the research and detail King puts into the story, such as the town’s setting and the effect the Dome would have on the natural environment, the story wouldn’t have such an eerie realism to it.

My only problem with the story was that the beginning was very difficult for me to get into. King introduces us to a whole towns worth of characters that the reader follows throughout the novel, and I applauded him for being able to develop each so well. However, the action starts on page one and so many different scenes are taking place with a multitude of characters that it felt as if I was thrown into this ocean of a world and I had to try to tread water. There was so much going on, it took me awhile to take in all that was happening while I tried to get used to all the names of the townsfolk and their relationships to each other.

But, once I got past the initial process of learning about Chester’s Mill, I was completely engrossed in the plot. It isn’t hard to root for the good guys and simmer in disgust at the bad guys because Stephen King develops great characters and stories that all compliment the greater story about the mysterious Dome. Under the Dome is the book to read if you want to experience writing at its finest.

*TV Adaptations: (Starring Mike Vogel 2013)

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Alice I Have Been: A Novel

28 Sep

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Author: Melanie Benjamin

Genre: Fantasy

First Published: 2010

Page Count: 345

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Though the subject is enchanting, the story falls disappointingly short.

__________________Positives__________________

*Interesting look into a classic character     *Accurate portrayal of subject

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Beginning and end are slow     *Doesn’t really have a strong “Aha!” moment

But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful? It is. Only I do get tired.” Everyone knows the story of Alice in Wonderland but few know the story of Alice Liddell, the woman who inspired this famous children’s story. Her life is anything but magical, and yet she must spend her life fighting against the assumption that she is exactly like the fictional Alice in Wonderland in every way. Along the way, however, she does experience moments of bliss including the birth of her children, the creation of her family home, and a royal fling that teaches her what love is.

I was excited to read this book because I had recently read my mother’s tattered copy of Alice in Wonderland  and Through the Looking Glass. I also knew next to nothing about the story’s history and its author, Lewis Carroll. Benjamin creates an interesting story about a charming and beloved character of classic literature, and learning more about this story is almost reason enough to check this book out. I also enjoyed the appearances of various historical figures and how they impacted the life of Alice Liddell. It seems as if the author stayed to true to the time period as well as to the actual historical events. The way she weaves together the story is obviously the result of much consultation and study which is what you want in a writer of historical fiction.

Unfortunately the story never finds its “Aha!” moment. It does have a scene that is clearly meant to define the story, but it gets lost in the shuffle and lacks punch. The beginning of the novel is very slow as the reader tries to get a handle on the main character’s background and what point of her life is taking place. From then on, the plot jumps around to different events, and while you can tell Alice’s relationship with the author of Wonderland is supposed to be the focus of the tale, it somehow falls short in the end. The author starts out well in developing that plot point but it just ends with a halt. Although for the sake of accuracy, the author couldn’t have gone any further with the relationship. The end also dragged because after the main plot point ends, the rest of the story just feels like one long epilogue.

I wanted so much to like this book. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and an intimate look into Alice in Wonderland’s life seemed right up my alley. While her life story was definitely interesting, I could have been just as fascinated reading it from a biography where its goal is to act like a timeline of the subject’s life. I want a little more passion and life from my historical novels. And while there were bursts of energy at some points that made me want to try to love this book again, in the end, I couldn’t.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

16 Sep

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Author: Patrick Suskind

Genre: Classics

First Published: 1985

Page Count: 255

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 4/5 Stars

This book is like a well made Thanksgiving dinner; each course is deliciously rich and it will leave you satisfactorily full.

__________________Positives__________________

*Unique main character/story     *Vivid writing style

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Main character can be difficult to relate to

The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.” Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was born without a scent of his own. However, he is also born with a superhuman sense of smell. Every scent is magnified and the natural aromas of 18th century France are the only thing that he values. He starts out his life collecting the scents but soon he decides to focus his energy on creating the greatest perfume in history. But his grisly plan leaves the young women of France fearing for their lives.

This story was unlike anything I have ever read. With such a heavy emphasis on the art of perfumery and the sense of smell in general, the author had the arduous task of describing his world through scent. Suskind goes above and beyond what is required of him, and, in doing so, he creates a lush world where every element comes to life through the vivid descriptions the author provides. The premise of the story is very unique but the way it is presented really brings the tale to life. And the descriptive imagery, thankfully, didn’t slow down the pace of the story.

Even though the main character is devilishly evil and very Silence of the Lambs meets the 18th century, his purely wicked soul can be off-putting. He does not value life and is only driven by his deranged goals, which menas Grenouille is a difficult person to relate to. Other characters come and go, but the reader is stuck with Grenouille as our only steady character. It’s hard to sit back and watch Grenouille’s plans unfold as he exults in his success, and not glower at the pain his success brings others. Having a psychopath as a main character makes for a dark, depressing read and that might be difficult for some readers to get past.

Nevertheless, this book is one of a kind. Though the main character is a bit loathsome, his life story is too fascinating to pass up. And this book had quite a shocking ending. Even the closing sentence of the book packs a powerful punch, which means from beginning to end, you’ve got yourself a good read.

*Film adaptation: (Starring Alan Rickman 2006)

Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid

3 Sep

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Author: Dr. Denis Leary

Genre: Biography

First Published: 2008

Page Count: 240

Type: Hardcover

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Whether you’re black, white, skinny, fat, rich, poor, young, old, or more importantly American, Denis Leary has a few choice words for you in this funny, take-no-prisoners self-help book.

__________________Positives__________________

*Personal anecdotes humanize the writer     *Observes the obvious/ not so obvious flaws in American society with humor

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Distracting grammatical errors     *Vague theme     *Tone at times seemed harsh

“I have never been fat. But I have been- and oftentimes continue to be- loud, lazy and stupid. So put down the Pop-Tarts and listen up a little. I’m trying to help us here.” If you’ve ever wondered why so many people, non-Americans and Americans alike, hate the United States of America, Denis Leary has compiled a list of reasons in his book Why We Suck. Loud, spoiled children, Dr. Phil, Lindsey Lohan’s parents, and Starbucks are all targets of Leary’s racy call to action against the type of people who are bringing down this once great nation.

Leary’s book points out the obvious flaws in society that we’ve all taken a mental note of but would never bring up outside of the confines of our noggin. I know my best friend will particularly enjoy the chapter entitled, “Your Kids are not Cute.” He also points out some not so obvious points about modern-day America such as the genius behind the empire known as Oprah. At the same time, the author breaks away from his ranting and raving to give the reader a look into his upbringing in a strict, and as he describes it, functional and dysfunctional Irish family. The flashbacks on his childhood take some heat off of the content in the book and give the reader a good look at where the author has come from and how he has formed his view on the world.

But Leary has a straight-to-the-point sense of humor that can sometimes seem harsh and against his own values. Hey, I’m always up for animated language and risqué opinions. I was one of the few people who thoroughly enjoyed the edgy hosting by Ricky Gervais for the Golden Globes earlier this year. However, Leary seemed to take things a bit far for the sake of comedy in some parts of his book. For instance, when he unrelentingly bashes parents who worship their children and think that the world is at their feet, I wondered if he would include himself in that group of parents because, throughout the book, there are a few mentions of his “gorgeous” daughter and “wonderful” son. Now his kids, his whole family in fact, look to be a perfectly beautiful group, but you’re telling me he never doted upon or dreamed up a picture perfect future for his offspring? I understand he was mostly dissing the ridiculous parents who fawn a little too much over their precious Mary Sue or Bobby Joe, but love between a parent and their child is a natural bond. I can’t believe that he was never one of “those” parents at one point in his life.

Within the book there were also a lot of grammatical errors including run-on sentences and incomplete sentences that could become more than a little distracting. The book is meant to come across as a personal look into Leary’s mind but a comma or period here or there wouldn’t take away from the casual tone; it might make it seem a little more professional though. I also was confused about the theme of the book. The cover and a couple of the chapters made it seem as if it was a book about what is wrong with American society today, but the other chapters that were filled with childhood stories made it seem more like a book promoting a proper Irish upbringing. The anecdotes did reveal why Leary feels the way he does about certain topics but it also made the book lean more towards the memoir department. The problems that Leary bemoans in the book also seem more like problems that any modern Western society might experience, even if America is usually at the forefront of some of the more embarrassing and idiotic trends. I think Leary started out wanting to talk about the problems with American society but that theme didn’t clearly translate throughout the whole book.

I did laugh out loud quite a few times, and some of the passages seemed like verbatim mental conversations I have had with myself on many of the topics. There were also many times I disagreed with Leary’s point a view but this is a comedy book. If you free up you mind and set yourself up for a good time, you’ll find something for yourself in this read. And if you can’t, then it’s probably best you skip this one. As Leary mentions in the opening of his book, “there are endless things you can buy in America- but a sense of humor isn’t one of them.”

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

31 Aug

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Author: Carrie Ryan

Genre: Science Fiction YA

First Published: 2009

Page Count: 308

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Note: Book 1 of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series

There’s no question that Ryan’s first novel will keep you up all night reading, even if the characters’ stories can’t match the adventure of the world the author has built.

__________________Positives__________________

*Haunting setting drives the story     *Action packed plot

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Character relationships are poorly developed

We forget that the rest of life can be just as dangerous. I think about how fragile we are here- like a fish in a glass bowl with the darkness pressing in on every side” Isolated from the world sits a village guarded by village soldiers, the guardians, and guided by the religious order known as the Sisterhood. For decades this village has existed  behind rusting fences that keep out the residents of the Forest of Hands and Teeth which surrounds the village for miles. The zombies known as the Unconsecrated threaten the villagers daily and one bite means infection and a zombie like existence for the victim. Yet one villager, Mary, is willing to risk everything she has to discover if there is more to the world then her village.

At the start of the book, I was instantly hooked. Everything from the secretive sisterhood, to the intense love triangle, to the mysterious and frightening setting kept me locked into the story. Every page was full of nonstop action and discovery. The premise of the story was simple enough and has been done before; it’s the good old zombie apocalypse tale. But the lives of the villagers and the idea of an orderly society with secrets was weaved in such a way that made it feel new and exciting. I couldn’t help but feel for the main character who is surrounded by death and a cold society only concerned with survival.

However as the story moved on, the relationships of the characters began to negatively impact the novel. The author throws in childhood flashbacks here and there but it’s not enough to give the reader a real look into the origins of these characters’ relationships. The author also spent a lot of time in the beginning building up the main character’s values but as the story continues the values become muddled and it leaves the reader confused and slightly annoyed with the main character. At some points of the story Mary is driven completely by love and just as quickly she will become obsessed with exploration and throw away everything that she has worked so hard to gain. She never seemed to be satisfied and with each flip-flop of her mind, the reader becomes more and more confused about what the real motives that drive the main character actually are.

Although the main character is at times piteous and at other times irritating in her selfishness, the setting alone makes the story worth reading. I will read the next book not because I care about what happens to Mary, but because I want to unravel the secrets of the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Hopefully the next book will delve into the background on the Unconsecrated and how this apocalypse has affected the world outside of Mary’s village. Even my apprehension about following Mary’s life through the next book won’t be enough to keep me from the dark, lonely world that is The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

26 Aug

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Author: Ransom Riggs

Genre: Fantasy YA

First Published: 2011

Page Count: 348

Type: Hardcover

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Note: Book 1 of the Miss Peregrine series

Riggs’ debut novel is a unique reading experience that is not to be missed!

__________________Positives__________________

*Vintage photographs add character     *Fast paced story with bits of humor, horror, and mystery

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Some of the pictures seemed forced into the story     *Writing style left something to be desired

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.” When tragedy strikes the family of sixteen year old Jacob, his world is turned upside down. Drawn to an isolated island in Wales, Jacob discovers the decrepit orphanage his grandfather had spent his childhood in during World War II in an attempt to escape Nazi persecution. However, the deeper Jacob digs, the more he learns about the disturbing  past of the orphanage and who it’s inhabitants were. Not all is as it seems, and danger still lingers decades after his grandfather’s stay in this strange childhood home.

The cover alone gives the reader an idea of what a unique reading experience is at their fingertips with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Sprinkled throughout the novel are creepy, quirky, or just plain strange vintage photos that Riggs has collected to help illustrate the story. Without a doubt, the photos add plenty of character to an already interesting story. It is fascinating to see how the author chose to make the pictures work with the story, but it’s even more fascinating to study these real life photos and wonder what their real story is.

Sample of bizarre photos from the book

However, the characters, setting, and plot are so engaging that the book could have gone without the photos and still have been a good read; it’s just a really nice bonus! The story is fast paced and the author creates a mysterious and haunting world that makes you want to keep reading to see what’s through that muddy bog, or lurking in that run down shack.

Although I enjoyed the story, the author’s writing style did leave something to be desired. At some points the writing seemed very simple which fit the story fine but at other points it felt as if the author was trying to find elaborate synonyms for words just to make everything sound more sophisticated. I also found that the way events happened in the book could have been explained in a different manner that would have made the story flow better. At one point, without giving too much away, let’s just say the main character manages to accept a cup of water even though his hands are restrictively bound. Peculiar indeed…..Some of those oversights bugged me a bit but not enough to put me completely off the story. I also felt that some of the pictures were sort of thrown into the book just to say “look, more pictures!” when it didn’t really seem to add anything to the plot the way the character portraits did. But even if I found a couple of the pictures unneccessary, they were still beautiful pieces of art themselves.

If anything, read this story because the reading experience will go beyond what you’re used to. And what’s even better is that the story doesn’t use the photos as a crutch to make it a novel read. There is actually an exciting adventure between these pages. Hopefully Riggs will be able to keep the same balance between good writing and photo art in the sequel. I’m looking forward to seeing what other queer photos the author will unearth for the readers.

*Film Adaptations: (Starring Eva Green 2016)

A Dance With Dragons

23 Aug

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Author: George R.R. Martin

Genre: Fantasy

First Published: 2011

Page Count: 959

Type: Hardcover

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Note: Book 5 of A Song of Ice and Fire series

After a disappointing 4th book, Martin steers readers back on track with another fine addition to his riveting series.

__________________Positives__________________

*Familiar faces take center stage once again    *Broader look at the setting and its inhabitants     *Cliffhanger chapter endings and another sucker punch finale

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Dare I say, none?

“The gods are blind. And men see only what they wish.” Where the fires of war had once raged across the fictional world of Westeros, a bitter chill creeps through the seven kingdoms. Even this icy reminder of the dark season to come is not enough to draw highborn lords, tradesmen, wandering children, and the protectors of the realm from the trials that present themselves. There are still plenty of players in the game of thrones, and each competitor strives for power. But with the scent of death still thick in the air, winning a throne means more than just dominance; it means survival.

From start to finish, fans of Martin’s thrilling A Song of Ice and Fire series can expect the type of storytelling that made us fall in love with Westeros from the beginning in A Dance With Dragons. Nearly all the major characters have returned (as I had fervently hoped) and they each have an unusually unique path for the reader to follow. In every corner of Westeros, there is a character hard-pressed to see out their journey. With so many characters in so many different parts of the realm, Martin succeeds in giving the reader a sense of completeness that was severely lacking in the last book. I didn’t feel as if I was chained to one part of the kingdom, straining to catch a glimpse of what was happening to the other characters of Westeros and the story I wanted to read.

As far as negatives go, I couldn’t think of any true problems with the book.  I could have complained about the hefty weight of this book, which made traveling with it a work out. Or how difficult it was to face another 900 page book after powering through the whole series this summer. But those struggles were nothing compared to the solid plot and the shocking close that readers know Martin is capable of from the first three books. And anything less than 500 pages would have undoubtedly been a disappointment after many fans had waited almost five years for the latest installment. So without trying to gush about this book and after much thought, I found no true problem with this book.

I was fully satisfied with this new addition to the series and at the end the only thing that I desired was the next book. This series hijacked my summer reading plans and just like that, it has come to an end. After each book was finished I had another to turn to, but I have finally caught up with the series. I waited for this book with a mixture of fear and excitement. On the one hand, it was all that I had hoped for in a sequel but on the other, I realize that I will now be  in a perpetual state of pause. This book was fantastic but I don’t need to look into the flames of R’hllor to know that there are many days of dizzying anticipation ahead until the next book is released.  A Dance with Dragons is, as the powerful sea lord Victarion would say, “a poisoned gift.”

*TV Adaptation: (Game of Thrones Season 5 HBO 2015)

A Feast for Crows

29 Jul

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Author: George R.R. Martin

Genre: Fantasy

First Published: 2005

Page Count: 976

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Note: Book 4 of A Song of Ice and Fire series

*Worst Book of 2011 on Without a Book

Compared to the three action packed books that came before, the story in book 4 feels more like a companion piece to the series rather than a true part of the epic adventure.

__________________Positives__________________

*Lays the groundwork for the next book

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Absence of major characters     *Plot lacks the shock and awe of the previous books

“I never wanted to see half the things I’ve seen, and I’ve never seen half the things I wanted to. I don’t think wanting comes into it.” I doubt I will ever be able to find a book containing a quote which summarizes its own story as perfectly as the one above from A Feast for Crows. Martin’s story takes a turn as the reader follows the lives of familiar characters who had played secondary roles within the previous books as they journey around the Seven Kingdoms pursuing one goal or another. Greed and a thirst for power still drive the citizens of Westeros to commit their heinous crimes and the innocent, as always, suffer the greatest blows.

About the only good thing I can say about this book is that it firmly lays the groundwork for the next book. That means that by book 5 in the series, we should be able to jump right into the action. I suppose it is also fair to say that as a standalone book it probably reads better than most of the dribble that is being published nowadays, even if it’s not as strong as its predecessors. Ultimately if you are a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire this book is worth reading so that you can have a well-rounded view of the events happening in Westeros, big and small.

Now the negatives. While reading this book I was shocked and more than a little disappointed to find that some seriously important characters were completely absent from the story. Instead, readers are left following the lives of secondary characters. Despite the fact that I have a special place in my heart for all of Martin’s characters, I don’t love some of them nearly enough to want to follow them through a 900 page book. I really could care less about some of the characters’ missions, and I was only motivated to read on because every once and awhile I could catch a glimpse of one of the main characters in the form of gossip or rumors.  There were some interesting developments for the characters in this book but compared to the last three books, there really was a lack of the drop-everything-and-keep-reading cliffhangers that give the other stories their punch.

This book was the chink in the armor of a nearly flawless fantasy series. And I had to question the necessity of this book after reading the explanation Martin gives for the absence of the major players in his series at the end of his book. However, this series has given me many hours of enjoyment and hopefully the story in this book will add something to the next book in the series. Though this book was a bit of a let down, it doesn’t tarnish my view of A Song of Ice and Fire as a whole. And I probably would have regretted skipping this book simply because I would have wondered what happened within its pages anyway. I just hope, in the future, Martin doesn’t force a 900 page book of secondary character stories on me again; I don’t think I could handle it.

*TV Adaptation: (Game of Thrones Season 5 HBO 2015)

A Storm of Swords

6 Jul

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Author: George R.R. Martin

Genre: Fantasy

First Published: 2000

Page Count: 1128

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Note: Book 3 of A Song of Ice and Fire series

*Best Book of 2011 on Without a Book

Over 1000 pages of quality storytelling await anyone brave enough to pick up the third installment in Martin’s celebrated series.

__________________Positives__________________

*Glimpse into the point of view of some more characters     *Completely unpredictable plot

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Second half of the book outshines the first half

“The best we can hope for is to die with swords in our hands.” Defeat is a bitter pill to swallow but it is one that the characters in Martin’s third book A Storm of Swords all must taste. Much of Westeros is unrecognizable as a result of the battles that have been waged in this tumultuous time. Every faction has had losses and it begs the question, who is really winning this game of thrones? But it is the personal struggles of individual characters and their families that gives this book its punch. When a battlefield, where rules of war are clearly drawn, is a safer place then one’s own bed, it becomes clear that the true enemies are not necessarily bearing a sword and shield.

While it was exciting to move through this book from new points of view from well-known characters from the first two books, it was the twists and turns within the plot that earn this book its five stars. As most people do when watching films or reading books, I try to predict how the story is going to end and where Martin is going to take us on this journey. However, that is virtually impossible in Martin’s books, and especially A Storm of Swords. I found myself blown away time after time and it all stems from the fact that in this book, no character is safe no matter where they are. It seems that Martin picks the most unlikely settings for some of the biggest scenes in the book that leave the reader wary of any location that might foster cheer or the feeling of safety. By the end of the book, it’s hard not to become suspicious of every character to the point of paranoia. But such knowledge still cannont emotionally defend the reader from scenes that rip out your very heart and pound it to a pulp.

Even with scene after scene of heart stopping twists and turns, the one problem with this third book is that you have to get past most of the first half of the book to get to the real action. The beginning does have enough of a story that keeps the reader going but once you get to a certain point in the book, you realize the first half of the book doesn’t hold a candle to the second half. Leaving all the action for the second half of the book can be an effective way to create a world shattering finale but it also makes reading this tome a bit more of a struggle compared to the other books. I realize fantasy books usually push the 1000 page mark often but as someone who is reading these books simultaneously one after the next, it can be tough to push forward. And with endings like the one in A Storm of Swords the reader really has no choice but to read the next book so that they can satisfy their curiosity about how their favorite characters are faring.

In the end, though, if a writer can make every chapter exciting I’m willing to work through any size book. And though this series has made me cry out in anger more often than cheer for joy, it says something if an author can make a reader care so completely for his characters and so easily become caught up in his world. I look forward to the next book with a mixture of fear and excitement.

*TV Adaptation: (Game of Thrones Season 3 HBO 2013)

A Clash of Kings

10 Jun

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Author: George R.R. Martin

Genre: Fantasy

First Published: 1998

Page Count: 969

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Note: Book 2 of A Song of Ice and Fire series

With the addition of new characters, settings, and conflict, the second book in Martin’s epic series fails to disappoint.

__________________Positives__________________

*New alternative views to conflict     *Character point-of-view chapters still effective     *Good flow between plot and sub-plots

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Too many sigils      *More minor character names to memorize (or ignore)

     “Crowns do queer things to the heads beneath them.” Within the Seven Kingdoms, beyond a seemingly invulnerable wall, and even across the sea, many are rising up to win themselves a crown. It seems that fear, gold, and family are worth the sacrifice if it means a chance at sovereignty in these troubled times. Characters, whether innocent or corrupt, live and die as a result of this “clash of kings.” And yet, the troubles of man are small compared to the darkness and power that is finding new life within the bodies of creatures thought to be extinct.

     A Clash of Kings seamlessly follows its predecessor, A Game of Thrones, with a book that does not deviate from the formula that made the first book so successful. What convinced me that this book had avoided the “curse of the sequal” was that Martin’s unique method of using different characters to give their perspective for each chapter still works in this novel. My fear was that one character’s story might become flat and this would make reading their chapter a trial each time it appeared. Luckily, that is not the case.  Each character has a distinct journey that gives the reader something to look forward to and, along the way, major plot points help link all the characters of the Seven Kingdoms together. I also enjoyed the fact that the magic and mysticism that was hinted at in the previous novel is fleshed out more in this book. However, the focus of this book is mainly war.

     The first book nicely lays out the groundwork for the readers so that we can understand the complex relationships between family members, lords, and the culture of the world Martin created. It is in A Clash of Kings that the conflicts take shape into an impressive battle between two warring houses. While the battle was well done, I found it difficult to keep track of the names of all the lords serving under the two main factions, as well as the name of boats and the symbols for each house. This is something that happens a lot in Martin’s series because he has so many characters and houses. While this does add to the depth of the world, it is more then a little confusing when you are trying to remember who is on whose side during the battle. And even though their is an appendix at the back of the book of the houses, I got tired of constantly flipping to the back during the first book. With even more new houses and characters, it’s not likely my lazy butt would choose to do that now or in the upcoming five books.

     However, negatives aside, A Clash of Kings is another triumph for Martin. It is difficult to write a book where every word has meaning, and every character a prescence. Fortunately, Martin wrote two.

*TV Adaptation: (Game of Thrones Season 2 HBO 2012)