Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin - My, My, What a Tangled Web We Weave

Pros: So many startling twists and turns, you may even gasp aloud once or twice...
Cons: Why is no one smart enough to listen to their animal??

The Bottom Line: This book is the best so far (though I've still got two books to go and two to wait for). And yes, I did go, "Oooh!" aloud at one point.

Welcome to the third installment of George R.R. Martin’s series, A Song of Fire and Ice (no people, the series is not called A Game of Thrones. Just the first book). And I think this is the most intriguing one yet. I’m not even really sure I can do a summary because there’s just so much going on. But as Inigo Montoya once said, “Let me explain…no, there is too much. Let me sum up:”

Joffrey still sits on the throne. Daenerys seeks to build her army in order to march West. Lady Catelyn runs out of hope to see any of her children alive again, even as Robb continues to succeed against his enemies. Tyrion is about to discover certain things – including who now holds the office of Hand of the King. Arya seeks to return to her mother, but so many obstacles are still in her way. Bran travels north in hopes of finding the one thing that he believes can help him – the three-eyed crow. And Jon Snow must survive to return to Castle Black and stop the incoming hoard of Wildlings and perhaps even worse than them…

Just like in the last books, each chapter is given to a different character, and this time we are offered a new perspective:

~Lady Catelyn
~Sansa Stark
~Arya Stark
~Tyrion Lannister
~Davos Seaworth
~Jamie Lannister
~Bran Stark
~Jon Snow
~Daenerys Targaryen

This book is literally filled with shocks and surprises. Stuff that will make you go, “Oh man, that sucks,” and other things that will blow your mind, even if just a little bit. And the punches just kept coming, like watching a mixed martial arts fight and seeing the best fighter out there get hit over and over again by the fighter who was never supposed to win. I’d love to tell you some of them, but there’s just no way I’m willing to spoil any of these surprises. One of them actually made me say “Ohhh” out loud while in the break room at work. I managed to predict only one person’s death spot on. That one I saw coming, but it was still pretty awesome when it happened, mostly because I didn’t expect it to happen in quite such a fashion.

In the past I’d occasionally get engrossed in a particular character’s story and flip ahead to skim a few pages. Not the case here. Oh no. Instead, I’d want to know what happened too much I would skip ahead to their next chapter and freaking read it right then and there. No matter that I would have to backtrack 80 pages once I was done to get back on track. Sometimes I’d even skip ahead a few more chapters to poke around in a few characters’ futures. Maybe I ruined some surprises that way, but I really do not care. Ha! I was just having too much fun reading. I must say that this book is definitely my favorite so far. The battle at the end of Clash of Kings was the meat of the meal, but this was most definitely the dessert. And I freaking love dessert.

So eat up kids, it’s delicious. And we writers say, “Kill your darlings,” which means don’t be afraid to kill characters even if you love them. I don’t know how much Martin loves some of his characters, but hot damn if that man isn’t afraid to kill them off! I’m looking forward to diving into the next book. I can see why people were getting all impatient for the next book to come out. Initially I was fine with waiting, letting the library set me in a long line of 80 or more people to get the book….but this time I told my sister that when she came over for Christmas to bring A Feast for Crows because I needed to get in there and find out where everyone is going and where those paths will take them. And people are going interesting places. Every character leaves off on a highly interesting note.

Granted, this series still isn't for everyone, and I admit, there are times when I lose track of people and who they ought to be, but I'm not as mired in that issue as I used to be. Besides, if you've managed to make it this far in the series, I doubt you're going to turn back now. Not after this one anyway.

Let us end on some important bits: Always listen to your direwolves, never leave the house without dragonglass in the winter, guys who obey anything will obey anything, never underestimate anyone, and there are a lot more undead people walking around (and I’m not walking wights and the Others) that ought to be. My, oh my.


Originally posted on

Notes from the playlist: "To Hell and Back" by Brian Tyler

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Winter's Gift by Monroe Donovan - The Perfect Gift for Christmas Joy

Pros: An exquisitely touching story
Cons: None to be had

The Bottom Line: Where were these books when I was a kid?

I work at Barnes and Noble, sometimes I waltz in to find I’m placed in the children’s section which, more often than not, delights me. Yes, even when there’s a squalling baby in the background. Hey, their kids are in a bookstore, not Baby Gap. That baby can squall all it wants.

However, when I’m there and there’s no one to help, I get unbelievably curious about some of the kids books on the shelves. I want to flippin’ read everything for the simple fact that it looks like so much fun. So one day, when no one was around, I picked up Winter’s Gift by Jane Monroe Donovan and read it.

An old man remembers times when Christmas was a cheery affair. He was living comfortably with his wife and always believed that hope was possible. However, now his wife has passed and he faces Christmas alone. He has almost lost hope completely when he hears a faint horse whinny. It’s a mare who has been separated from her herd, so he leads her into his barn where he falls asleep and she rests. When he awakens Christmas morning, he finds a small surprise next to the mare, looking at him. I’ll let you guess what that surprise is.

This book is so cute and heartwarming it made me say, “Awww!” right there in the store (and then I looked around to make sure no one thought I was weird). The pictures in the book are very soft and beautiful; they convey the Christmas feeling very well, of snow and trees with gentle colors and a very cozy touch. The story, while the lesson of lost and regained hope isn’t foreign to us, this is by no means a dull or even preachy book. It’s simple but strong – any child reading this would see the little catches.

I don’t have kids, but if I did I would certainly read and show this book to my child. It is a little sad when you read about the man losing his wife, in fact, at first that sort of took me by surprise because I’ve never come across death, even in small doses, in a child’s picture book. At least, not that I can remember. But it is a part of life, so there’s nothing wrong with it, and in the end, you get a really good “everything is all right” feeling. It’s a very pleasant happily ever after finish that you can enjoy, as can your child.

Wonderful book – for children and adults alike. Something to look for during the holidays.


Originally posted on

Notes from the playlist: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Chrismas" by Michael Bublé

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Recommended for People with a Sense of Humor

Lamb by Christopher Moore

Christmas is coming - and that means Santa, decorated pine trees inside houses, and of course, Jesus! It's time to make your heart lighter, so why not read the Gospel of Biff, Jesus's childhood pal? Find out just what happened during all those years that aren't in the Bible. Turns out Jesus did a lot of things with Biff right alongside him. It's all fictional, of course, but it is a great deal of fun. Naturally, serious religious people are likely to take some sort of offense to this book, but if you have a sense of humor, you'll enjoy this hilarious bit of creativity. Actually, when I finished this book, I hoped that if Jesus was indeed walking around all those years ago that he had a best friend like Biff.

Notes from the playlist: "The Christmas Song" by Lifescapes

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...