A Clash of Kings... the second book in the series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. I must say if his July release date doesn't go through, I'm going to be super upset (as will a lot of other people!!), as I am enjoying this series more than I remember doing so in the past. This book is much like the first; epic in scale, character development, and battle scenes, it furthers the story that the first one began. Much of the book is used as a set up for some major battles. While I enjoy this book immensely, the first one was still better. However, here it is that we begin to see that some characters aren't really what they seem. Martin writes with such wonderful skill that I can't wait to start the third installment: A Storm of Swords. However, since we are still two and a half months (roughly) from the release date of the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, I may slow down a bit. I can gobble up these books quickly, as the detail is so rich and the story so complex!
Once again, you can find this title here, on Amazon, or at your local bookstore.
P.S. The HBO series, A Game of Thrones, is so far following the book closer than I had dared to believe. It has been a great treat so far to watch that amazing book come to life!
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Well, again, another book I didn't think to finish this week. Sarum was a buddy read over at Goodreads. I'm sorry it took me so long to read it, ladies!! I feel a bit bad giving this book a bad review, because I don't want to hurt the feelings of the person who suggested it to me. But I can't help it. O Edward Ruthefurd, where did you go wrong? Let me count the ways.
First, let me say this book is quite a beast. My version is 1000 some odd pages, some versions are 1400 pages (the print is a bit larger in those, it may have helped). Normally I really like bricks. I enjoy spending lots of time with characters. But this book spans about 10,000 years, so there really isn't one character to fall in love with. Ruthefurd wrote about five families located in Sarum, England. Sarum is located on the Salisbury Plain, the same one where Stonehenge is located (and yes, the building of Stonehenge is talked about in the first half of the book).
Reasons why I didn't like it: While he's writing about families that span generations, he uses the same character type over and over and over and over. If you are going to write a generational novel, you should make the characters similar, yes, but different enough so that they aren't interchangeable with each other. Also, not every generation has a family full of virile sons. Where were all the women in the families?? And when women did show up in his novel, why were they all obsessed with having oodles of children and religion??? I mean, c'mon!! Give the ladies some time in a thousand page novel, please. Only two women really stood out to me, and since this book slightly numbed my brain, I couldn't tell you what families they came from. But I can tell you that they were tomboyish, dressed like men, and wanted to be treated like men, and they were killed off quickly while the male parts of their family survived war and the Plague. Can you tell I wasn't happy with the female representation in this book? Usually I'm not so feministic, but this rubbed me the wrong way throughout this novel. Also, while reviews over on Amazon are full of people saying how awesome it is to learn about history through this novel, Ruthefurd really did a quick gloss of a lot of historical fact. And his biases in the Tudor chapter are still astounding to me.
Reasons why it was still an ok book: I LOVE reading about England, so I enjoyed watching Sarum build up throughout the ages. I liked the chapters about Stonehenge, the Cathedral in Sarum, and the Roman villas being designed. Ruthefurd has some skill in descriptions, and that was the only redeeming factor of this book.
It may seem like I am being harsh on Sarum. A lot of people really love this book, and I say good on them. I am not one of those people. I don't know if I'll read another Ruthefurd book or not. I have so many other authors that I love who write huge novels (anxiously awaiting Wolf Hall's sequel!), that I may put aside Ruthefurd and concentrate on them instead. Good for Ruthefurd for writing such a huge novel. I just wish the novel didn't make me fall asleep.
For reviews and buying purposes, the book can be found here.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Well, I thought I wasn't going to be finishing this book tonight, but lo and behold, once again I couldn't put it down. I think it speaks in favor of the book when you have read it four times and still can't put it down. I first picked up George R. R. Martin's masterpiece when I was a sophomore in high school. I didn't know then that there were more books to the series, and I didn't realize that most of them at that point hadn't been written. Nonetheless, I read it quickly and enjoyed it then, much like I did now. Unfortunately, the series is still not finished, with the fifth book slated to come out July 15th of this year. However, that being said, most books in the hopefully seven book series are 900+ pages, so I don't expect Martin to punch out a new one every year. In fact, I think I'd be a bit disappointed if he did. Martin creates a beautiful world, the Seven Kingdoms, Asshai beyond the Shadow, the Dothraki Lands, Pentos, Myr, Braavos, etc. This series is classified as fantasy, and it definitely is, with legends of dragons and the Others, dead beings who rise at night beyond the Wall. But it is a medieval fantasy, which is probably one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much. Roughly based off of The War of the Roses, the Hundred Years War, and a little bit of Tudor circa Henry VIII, it's no wonder why I love this book. Martin is a fantastic writer, and I wish I had a tenth of his skill with a pen. I'm waxing poetic on this author, I realize, but this book really is great. Probably one of the best things about him is that he actually writes believable women characters, something I find super rare even from some women authors. He manages to have a woman or two in power in a medieval world, which I love. And the others aren't so worried about getting married and having kids, and finding the "one" etc. Yes, there are girly girls in the novel, but thankfully, most are not so idealistic.
A word of caution to those with more delicate sensibilities: there is sex in this book, not always "nice" sex either. There is a huge secret, that I can't say here (no spoilers, I promise!!), but it might offend some. There is some swearing. And of course, since it's a medieval fantasy, there is a lot of violence and battle scenes. If you can see passed that, it is a great book! And watch for Tyrion's ever present humor. I am off, to be swept away in the second novel of this great series (the second book is A clash of Kings, the series is called A Song of Ice and Fire). HBO has turned this novel into a mini series starting this Sunday (the 17th), so this book will be available probably everywhere (and the cover is a picture of Sean Bean!). However, if you are like me and like to read reviews etc before buying the book, Amazon has it here. And remember, Winter Is Coming.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I'm currently reading several books that I hope to post up here by the end of the week. Two are rereads (one I haven't reviewed yet), and two are new reads. Three of them are what I lovingly categorize as "bricks." The ladies in my favorite group on Goodreads have determined that a brick is any book over five hundred pages. So, with that as a parameter, my plan is to read at least fifteen bricks by the end of the year. I'm excited to review these, as bricks tend to be my favorite reads. Notable ones from last year include The Crimson Petal and the White, Marie Antoinette; the Journey, and the Sunne in Splendour. Have a great week everyone, and I will post a new review by the weekend!!
Well, I succumbed to this particular series. Sometimes you just need a little bit of fluff to make your life fun. There are eight books in the Pretty Little Liars series; I have read five of them (I'm saving the other three for a rainy day). These are great, quick little reads. However, I got really sick of some the characters constantly getting crapped on by the universe. These books follow four girls, Aria, Spencer, Emily, and Hanna who live in Rosewood, PA. They were all best friends with a girl named Ali (great name!) who, unfortunately, disappeared in the summer after their seventh grade year. They all end up going their separate ways, Ali and the mysterious "Jenna Thing" having been really the only things that tied them together. Throughout the series they are dogged by a person who mysteriously calls themself "A." I can't say much of the plot of the series without giving a lot of spoilers, and I hate it when people spoil a series for me. Suffice it to say, they are fun to read, quick, and enjoyable. They are deemed YA (young adult), however with the sex, drug use, and language used throughout the series, I would recommend this to an older YA reader. Brand names abound, and a couple of the girls come from some ridiculous money. Great chick lit, but not on par with Bridget Jones (in my honest opinion). You can find all eight in a boxed set on Amazon, or you can buy them piecemeal also at Amazon or any store (Target sells them, as well as other places). And as with most of the books I review, they come in ebook format!
Well, I decided since the realm of historical fiction really angers me when it comes to Katherine Howard, I would read a non fiction book about her. I wasn't disappointed. This particular book is a reprint of a 1961 publication. While it is 49 years old, this book is actually still fairly current. We know about as much about her now as they did then. Perhaps a few new tidbits were discovered, but for the most part, it still holds true. Catherine Howard: The Queen Whose Adulteries Made a Fool of Henry VIII was a fantastic read. Smith's writing made me feel like I was reading a novel rather than a non fiction book. I really appreciated this approach (much like Fraser's approach to her biography on Marie Antoinette). The book is fairly small, only about 180 pages, but those pages are packed with great information. Katherine Howard was Henry VIII's fifth wife, and while we don't know for sure how old she was (some historians say as young as 16, others 21-22), we know that it must have been super overwhelming for a young woman to go to the court of the king, catch his eye, and become his wife within six months. A lot of this book is conjecture. We can't know anything for certain about certain areas of Katherine's life. Smith does a wonderful job trying to connect the dots of our limited knowledge. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to look into this young lady's life. All Tudorphiles should read this one!! You can find it on Amazon!
Ahhh, Dexter, how I enjoy your dreadful darkness!! So far this year, I have read the first four in the Dexter series, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Dearly Devoted Dexter, Dexter in the Dark, and Dexter by Design. Jeff Lindsay brings to life a villain that I had not thought to identify with. And yet, I found myself rooting for a serial killer, hoping that he would get his next victim and escape detection. Now you may think that makes me sound like a psychopath. Let me assure you, I have no intention of grabbing the nearest kitchen knife and going out on the town. However, the way Dexter is written you can't help but cheer for him. Yes, he is a serial killer. But he only kills people who "deserve" it. He reserves his knives for the dregs of society: the rapists, the child molesters, murderers (a bit ironic). Ok, justifications aside, let me review the books!
The first and second one I couldn't put down. I read them each in one night. They were super exciting! The third one is where I felt that Lindsay sort of jumped ship. In the previous two, you learn about Dexter, his "dark passenger," and about two new serial killers in the Miami area. The third one suddenly goes into the realm of the super natural. And then in the fourth, Dexter goes back to being good old Dexter without a mention of what occurred in the third book!! It was incredibly difficult to get over that little hump. That being said, I'm leaving the fifth book on my shelf for a bit before I delve back into the darkness that resides in Dexter's head. Lindsay writes with incredible wit, intelligence, and charm, and other than the plot of the third novel, I have really really enjoyed this series! The links to all the books are above!
Saturday, April 9, 2011
My break from HF didn't last long as I delved into yet another Tudor novel. This one happened to be about Katherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife. Katherine Howard led a tragic life. As the youngest of Henry's queens, she is often portrayed as silly, vain, and idiotic. This book really wasn't all that different. And unfortunately, it was fraught with errors that I just couldn't see passed. As per usual, I am reading this on my Kindle, so page numbers aren't available (they are on the new version of the Kindle however. Jealous!). From locations 3599-3606:
"THAT night Kathryn lay awake till late, waiting for the king, but the king did not come. She wondered if someone had her heard her talk with the duchess, and woke up feeling battered and bruised and weakened inside in a way that she couldn't describe."
The extra "her" in the above quote is not a typo of my own design. Also, Katherine's name was spelled at least three different ways throughout this book. While she herself didn't have a set spelling of her name, an author of a novel should be consistent. With so many different Katherines in this time period, having different spellings for the same one gets extremely confusing. All of the typos and name spelling changes aside, I couldn't understand why the author (Sarah A. Hoyt) felt the need to express herself in such overlong sentences. From location 2663:
"The silence stretched a little longer, and then someone said, in the kind of horribly bright voice people employ when they are saying something that they think might be reported and perhaps cost them their lives but which needs be said anyway." I reread that sentence at least four times. It still baffles me now as it did when I had first read it.
While this isn't the worst Tudor novel I have ever read, it certainly wasn't my favorite. Katherine Howard is my favorite of the six wives, and I feel that I have yet to come across a portrayal that I find flattering to her. Unfortunately, the one dimensional view is all that seems to exist. I give this particular one two and a half stars. You can find it here. Maybe some of you will enjoy it a bit more than me!
I needed a break from historical fiction, so I read this brief novel about the Mormon Church. Apparently this book is just one of several in a series by Stephen White. It was recommended to me by a friend's mom after she heard I was doing a research project on the Church. While this book was entertaining, I found the writing to be very elementary, the dialogue false, and the descriptions of action sequences a bit muddled. Even though this is a part of a series, I was able to jump right into the book without any background information on the characters. I don't have any favorite quotes, simply because the writing in this book wasn't that memorable for me. I would give it a solid two stars, maybe two and half. Like I mentioned above, entertaining, but really not memorable. You can find the book here.
While I haven't posted a review since December, I still have kept up the reading!! I'm currently in the middle of three books that I can't wait to review! I also have some from earlier this year that I'll be writing shorter reviews on.
Till I write again!