Michelle’s Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted by Naomi Novik
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2015-05-19
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

I have only read the first book in the Temeraire series but it was enough to make Naomi Novik one of my ‘must read’ authors. His Majesty’s Dragon was such a fun fantasy and while I plan on reading the rest of the series eventually, when I heard about Uprooted, a standalone novel, I definitely wanted to read it.

Uprooted was such an intense read. Every time you think things are starting to get resolved, things get crazy again. It’s extremely action-packed. The fantasy world is that of an alternate historical Poland, a world that feels real given that it somehow resembles the fairy tales kids are fed on. Yet there’s a very dark layer to it that sticks with you.

Agnieszka is an unlikely heroine and the Dragon isn’t what you think. The Woods are an evil that stick with you even when you go to sleep. I definitely had a lot of Uprooted-tainted (or corrupted, haha) dreams while reading this. They even stick with me after finishing it.

My biggest complaint is that I felt like I was missing some details or sentences. It could have been that it was a review copy. But you know when you are reading something particularly exciting you may skip a few sentences to see what is going on? That’s how this book sometimes read, even though I would go back and see if I did skip a sentence or two. There were some scenes that could be hard to follow, but I was able to get through them with a good idea of the point and still thoroughly enjoy the book.

I would recommend it to someone who is looking for a good standalone fantasy novel with an ending that is completely satisfying.

pj - michelle

Christina on Dracula by Bram Stoker

Christina on Dracula by Bram StokerDracula by Bram Stoker
Published by J S Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 338
Format: Paperback
EDITORIAL REVIEW: *Dracula*, by **Bram Stoker**, is part of the *Barnes & Noble Classics** *series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of *Barnes & Noble Classics*: New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars Biographies of the authors Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events Footnotes and endnotes Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work Comments by other famous authors Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations Bibliographies for further reading Indices & Glossaries, when appropriateAll editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. *Barnes & Noble Classics *pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works. ** *Count Dracula* has inspired countless movies, books, and plays. But few, if any, have been fully faithful to **Bram Stoker**'s original, best-selling novel of mystery and horror, love and death, sin and redemption. *Dracula* chronicles the vampire's journey from Transylvania to the nighttime streets of London. There, he searches for the blood of strong men and beautiful women while his enemies plot to rid the world of his frightful power. Today's critics see *Dracula* as a virtual textbook on Victorian repression of the erotic and fear of female sexuality. In it, Stoker created a new word for terror, a new myth to feed our nightmares, and a character who will outlive us all. **Brooke Allen****** is a book critic whose work has appeared in numerous publications including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Criterion, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, and The Hudson Review. A collection of her essays, *Twentieth-Century Attitudes*, will be published in 2003.

The classic book Dracula has been on my to-read shelf for forever. I finally came across the book at a book sale in Fairfax County Public Libraries and read it this year… what an eye opener it was! Compared to Hollywood portrayals, I clearly did not know the whole story of Count Dracula.

To begin for those of you unfamiliar with the book and tale, Bran Stoker presented the story through a composition of letters, memoirs, telegrams and similar communications. His main characters he tells the story through are: Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray, Lucy Westenra, Dr Seward and Van Helsing. The tale begins with Jonathan Harker off to visit the Count on business in Transylvania. From there, the story progresses to the tale of Dracula some are familiar with: he travels to London, targets individuals in the town to give them the fateful bite on their necks, and has certain weaknesses such as the cross, garlic and other items. While Dracula’s presence affects the characters in Stoker’s story, they plot to banish him from London and destroy him once and for all.

Now, some may ask why Hollywood portrayals made the story different from what I expected?

  1. I did not know the book was written through a series of first-hand perspectives (letters, memoirs, etc) That was new and limiting to the story interpreted by others.
  2. I always thought there was something more sensual… more sexy about Dracula. I did not get that feeling reading the story. Instead, I felt the creep and danger in his character.
  3. His image when I first met Dracula in the book is FAR from the way Hollywood portrays Dracula… Stoker described him as:

a toll old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache, and clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of colour about him anywhere.”  (20)


Now, I understand Dracula does appear younger when he arrives in London. But seriously… a white mustache?  Later, when Dracula is in London, he was described as:

“a tall, thin man, with a beaky nose and black moustache and pointed beard…” (186)

Now that is more like it. Yes… he got younger, this description is one many of us our more familiar with. One of my FAVORITE TV series was NBC’s “Dracula” with Jonathan Rhys Myer. This description of the beard and mustache fit his character much better here. But see what I mean on some of the other favorite Dracula’s from the past?

Dracula 1

Jonathan Rhys Myer – NBC Dracula – Image from www.facebook.com/draculaatnbc

Dracula 2

Bela Lugosi – Dracula (1931) – Image from Wikipedia and in public domain

Dracula 3

Christopher Lee – Dracula (1958) – Image from Wikipedia and in public domain

Besides appearances (and praise to NBC’s portrayal from me… but shame on them for canceling my favorite series) … let’s face it: Dracula is still a terrifying concept. After years of watching Dracula movies and TV shows, dressing as a vampire for Halloween, and especially this whole vampire craze in literature and movies today, I am so glad I finally had the opportunity to read Bram Stoker’s classic.

As you can guess, I highly recommend this book simply because it is a classic and the writing style is unique. Pair with a glass of red wine (my choice: a Norton). Take it in and don’t forget to surround yourself with garlic before you sleep, and do not welcome in strangers. Oh yeah, and if you look in the mirror next to a friend and do not see their reflection next to yours… run.

pj - christina

Christina’s Review: A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin

Christina’s Review: A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. MartinA Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2011-07-12
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 1051
Format: Paperback
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NOW THE ACCLAIMED HBO SERIES GAME OF THRONESDon’t miss the thrilling sneak peek of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Six, The Winds of WinterDubbed “the American Tolkien” by Time magazine, George R. R. Martin has earned international acclaim for his monumental cycle of epic fantasy. Now the #1 New York Times bestselling author delivers the fifth book in his landmark series—as both familiar faces and surprising new forces vie for a foothold in a fragmented empire.  A DANCE WITH DRAGONSA SONG OF ICE AND FIRE: BOOK FIVE In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance—beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys’s claim to Westeros forever.Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone—a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.From all corners, bitter conflicts reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all.Praise for A Dance with Dragons   “Filled with vividly rendered set pieces, unexpected turnings, assorted cliffhangers and moments of appalling cruelty, A Dance with Dragons is epic fantasy as it should be written: passionate, compelling, convincingly detailed and thoroughly imagined.”—The Washington Post   “Long live George Martin . . . a literary dervish, enthralled by complicated characters and vivid language, and bursting with the wild vision of the very best tale tellers.”—The New York Times   “One of the best series in the history of fantasy.”—Los Angeles Times From the Trade Paperback edition.

I have finally done it… I have caught up on the Song of Ice and Fire series and finished the fifth book. Now I can reward myself by watching seasons four and five of the TV series on HBO and eagerly wait until Martin releases the sixth book, pre-ordering it when possible and eagerly awaiting its arrival with everyone else. Until then, I wanted to try something different in my review of this book by highlighting my initial reactions broken up throughout the book approximately every 250 pages. Enjoy, and please share your reactions and thoughts as well:

Going into the book:

  • I was not totally thrilled with the fourth book. I enjoyed it, but I felt there was less action and suspense compared to the previous three books which I had come to expect. Entering the fifth book, I was hoping Martin would make up from this lack of action.
  • Book five started with the events that were happening beyond King’s Landing with characters who were not in the fourth book, including: Daenerys, Tyrion, Jon, as well as others in the north and far south.

Through page 250

  • Some of the early chapters, particularly those with Jon at the beginning, were repetitive to chapters from book four. There were a couple of cross-events and repeated dialogues, such as one conversation between Jon and Sam that was almost word-for-word from the fourth book. I am sure this was meant to show the overlap of the events between the two books to bring the reader back to the time at the start of the fourth book and the different interpretations of conversations. However, I felt this made the start of book five long and dragged out. I was hoping the rest of the book would not continue this way.

Through page 500

  • At this point of book five, I felt it was more eventful than book four. (YAY!)
  • There were some new character perspectives introduced whom we had not read before. (For example, there is a chapter from Melisandre’s view) While it was unique, there were almost too many new character perspectives introduced compared to before. Was this to show the complexity of the “game”?
  • On this same point, there were chapters that were not titled directly with the person’s name so the reader had to figure out who the characters were. This was similar to what I started seeing in the fourth book, however, I was not a fan of this design change from the first three books. It almost felt misleading… (examples early in the book included chapters titled: “The Merchant’s Man,” “Reek,” and “The Lost Lord.”

Through page 750

  • The time covered in book four catches up through the overlap of time in book five. I was so excited when I started reading about characters who were in book four again, particularly the chapters on Cersei and Arya, which I found most interesting.

Through the book’s end

  • There was definitely more suspense at the end of book five compared to book four. Some shocking deaths and “what will happen… Martin release book six now!” reactions… The twists could have been predictable, but I still did not expect them and was stuck with my nose glued to the book the last 100 pages in suspense.
  • I think Cersei chapters were still some of my favorite to read because I always expected something dramatic to happen and was not disappointed
  • I wish there was more on Bran in book five… he felt forgotten. Same for Jaime, although I am sure Martin will bring them back with a bang in book six (at least that is what I hope will happen!)

Now that I am caught up on the series, I am eagerly awaiting the release of the sixth book. Martin did a nice job ending the book with suspense… in fact, he did too well of a job, it’s not fair! Book five ended in the same style as book three, with suspense, unfair events, and death. Stick to the series, and get excited. I sense A LOT of suspense and a big turn of events coming in book six, The Winds of Winter. And o yeah… winter is coming.

pj - christina

Christina’s Review: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

Christina’s Review: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. MartinA Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2005-11-08
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 978
Format: Paperback
THE BOOK BEHIND THE FOURTH SEASON OF THE ACCLAIMED HBO SERIES GAME OF THRONESFew books have captivated the imagination and won the devotion and praise of readers and critics everywhere as has George R. R. Martin’s monumental epic cycle of high fantasy. Now, in A Feast for Crows, Martin delivers the long-awaited fourth book of his landmark series, as a kingdom torn asunder finds itself at last on the brink of peace . . . only to be launched on an even more terrifying course of destruction.A FEAST FOR CROWSIt seems too good to be true. After centuries of bitter strife and fatal treachery, the seven powers dividing the land have decimated one another into an uneasy truce. Or so it appears. . . . With the death of the monstrous King Joffrey, Cersei is ruling as regent in King’s Landing. Robb Stark’s demise has broken the back of the Northern rebels, and his siblings are scattered throughout the kingdom like seeds on barren soil. Few legitimate claims to the once desperately sought Iron Throne still exist—or they are held in hands too weak or too distant to wield them effectively. The war, which raged out of control for so long, has burned itself out. But as in the aftermath of any climactic struggle, it is not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters start to gather, picking over the bones of the dead and fighting for the spoils of the soon-to-be dead. Now in the Seven Kingdoms, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed, while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—are seen emerging from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges ahead. It is a time when the wise and the ambitious, the deceitful and the strong will acquire the skills, the power, and the magic to survive the stark and terrible times that lie before them. It is a time for nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages to come together and stake their fortunes . . . and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.From the Hardcover edition.

Now that I have finished graduate school, I have more time to read the books on my to-read list. First up was to finish the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin and book four: A Feast for Crows. Before I started this book, I had a good friend warn me to not watch the series and to not get upset if I did not read about certain characters because Martin divided the characters amongst books four and five, which are supposed to take place about the same time. Book four, which I just completed, was set in King’s Landing and the surrounding region. Judging by the title, I was expecting war and death… leaving behind a “feast” of bodies for crows to gather and feed on.

Book four featured particular emphasis on the characters of Cersei and Brienne, as well as Jaime. Martin also incorporated chapters on characters such as “The Prophet” and “The Captain of Guards,” some of which I had met before in earlier readings and some new to the game. Martin plays on the series understanding of the “game of thrones” and explains this game and aspirations further in this fourth book. As mentioned, the book focuses on the events of King’s Landing primarily, as well as the surrounding region with emphasis on the Iron Islands, Dorne, and the Eyrie.

Compared to the other books, I felt that this book was uneventful in the end. Maybe this is because the third book featured climactic events like the Red Wedding? Either way, the first 500 to 600 pages of A Feast for Crows was building up the game and characters’ travels. There were deaths (like every Martin book to-date) but none that surprised me or caused my jaw to drop. In addition, there were a few new characters introduced that I did not fall in love with or was anxious to get back to their story. However, these new characters do show just how expansive and complex the game of throwns actually is. One feature I did enjoy in the book was the overlap of characters who crossed paths but did not know who the other was. This added for a little more thrill to see how close these characters were and if they would make that connection with each other or keep moving on along their personal journeys.

Keeping this short and sweet so I do not reveal any spoilers, this book was good. However, it felt like it was an entire book dedicated to setting the stage for events stewing. I am looking forward to reading A Dance with Dragons next… there were some hints to events that may take place in the north during the same time as the events throughout A Feast for Crows. I hope some are true, and others not what they seem… hopefully this next book features more shocking events than the last!

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Michelle’s Review: Landline by Rainbow RowellLandline by Rainbow Rowell
Published by Macmillan on 2014-07-08
Genres: Contemporary Women, Family Life, Fiction, General, Science Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: Audiobook
From New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell, comes a hilarious, heart-wrenching take on love, marriage, and magic phones. Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply—but that almost seems beside the point now.Maybe that was always beside the point.Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her—Neal is always a little upset with Georgie—but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go without her.When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. . . .Is that what she’s supposed to do?Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Everyone and their mother raves about Rainbow Rowell’s books. I have only ever read (or in this case, listened to) Landline, but even I can name more Rowell titles than I could for other authors (Attachments, Eleanor and Park, and Fangirl, right?).

Landline was perhaps both a scary and a relatable read for someone who has just gotten engaged in the past year. Marital boredom and disintegration is perhaps a theme most commonly seen on television, but Landline made it very real. The dialogue was very realistic and done well. Georgie decides not to go to Omaha for Christmas to work on a potential big break for her television idea. While separated from her family, she reflects on the beginning of her relationship with Neal and how they got to where they are today.

And then of course, there’s the magical phone.

That’s not a spoiler. The book is called Landline, there’s a picture of the phone, and the synopsis says that there is a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.

Was it an effective narrative tool? Perhaps. It was good that it made Georgie realize some things and remember some things. It definitely throws your mind through the time travel/continuum loop. But I think for me, it seemed just a little out of place. Everything else about the book was so realistic that something paranormal asked for a suspension of disbelief.

I appreciated its realism, despite the paranormal aspect. And while the end has bothered some, it didn’t bother me. It did just sort of end, but I was okay with that. By that point, I was glad that there was a conclusion. It was enjoyable and I understand both the negative and the positive reviews. My opinion is somewhere in the middle.

Edit: I was contacted by Macmillan Audio with the chance to give you a clip from the audiobook! This was how I read Landline, so it’s perfect for you to listen to! 

pj - michelle

Calvert’s Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Calvert’s Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo BacigalupiThe Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Published by Night Shade Books on 2009
Genres: Fiction, Hard Science Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 359
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

If I had to sum up the Windup Girl in one word it would be ‘disappointing.’ There is so much potential in the post-Contraction world that Bacigalupi created, but the story itself just falls so flat. The idea of a world destroyed by GMOs and mindless energy consumption having to fight for new strains of produce in order to feed itself, of genetically engineered plants, animals, and people becoming necessary for human survival but considered abominations is just so fascinating. I wanted to know more about how the end started, who thought to create seedbanks in the first place, what happened in the cryptically referenced incidents in other countries. I wanted to see Emiko, the genetically engineered New Person [derogatorily referred to as Windups and Heechy Keechy] become something: a revolutionary, a martyr, a messiah, an independent person. Instead I got 350+ pages of politics, wheeling and dealing, corporate machinations and greed, and rape.

Unfortunately, what promised great post-apocalyptic science fiction centered around a female POC instead delivered political fiction with slight fantasy flavoring focusing mainly on middle-aged white men [a feat given the setting of future closed bordered Thailand]. I am no stranger to slogging through politics heavy novels [I’m looking at you A Dance With Dragons], but I do like to know to expect that, and to have intervals of pretty much anything else to break the monotony. With the Windup Girl, not only did the titular character not appear until about a third of the way through, but she did not play a particularly important role either. In fact, the entire concept of the New People could have been removed from the novel with almost no effect.

I kept wanting the book to get more interesting. I wanted to love this book. But it just wasn’t what was promised, took too long to get any type of interesting [two thirds of the way through], and was simply all around disappointing. There are dozens of things I could pick apart and criticize, but I don’t want to write that and I’m sure you don’t want to read it.

pj - calvert

Christina’s Review: A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

Christina’s Review: A Storm of Swords by George R.R. MartinA Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2003-03-04
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 992
Format: Paperback
THE BOOK BEHIND THE THIRD SEASON OF GAME OF THRONES, AN ORIGINAL SERIES NOW ON HBO.Here is the third volume in George R. R. Martin’s magnificent cycle of novels that includes A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. As a whole, this series comprises a genuine masterpiece of modern fantasy, bringing together the best the genre has to offer. Magic, mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill these pages and transport us to a world unlike any we have ever experienced. Already hailed as a classic, George R. R. Martin’s stunning series is destined to stand as one of the great achievements of imaginative fiction.A STORM OF SWORDSOf the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King’s Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. . . .But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others--a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords. . . .From the Paperback edition.

Continuing on through the third book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, George R. R. Martin still does not disappoint. There are mouth-dropping, page-turning, “WHY?!” yelling’s, and tears throughout the book. As I continue through the series, I am learning to like characters I was not a fan of before, and I have found other characters I once liked to be weak and not my favorite reads as the series progresses. As with the previous two books in the series, Martin’s style of writing and story-telling is right down my ally and has continued to make this series one I recommend for those who enjoy the writings of Ken Follett, J.R.R. Tolkien, and similar epic-adventure series.

Some notes about A Storm of Swords: the action in this book was jam-packed, with major events stacked on top of each other, giving me a “book hangover” at times, as Michelle has called it. The book is a long and heavy read… definitely not one to casually pick up unless you are ready to commit (just as the others in the series). I have found I no longer have to look up characters relationships and houses in the back of the book anymore… Martin has done a great job carrying on characters’ identities and allowing the reader to relate and remain on-track with who is who. This is slightly surprising since there is a lot more on-the-go travels in this book as the reader follows characters through their journeys from castle to castle, along the roads, in the woods, and beyond the wall.

A few notes on character development: Catelyn became one of my least favorite characters when it came to reading her chapters. Martin made her appear to be a hopeless, woe-is-me character. She almost felt pathetic and lost some of that strength from the previous two books that I had admired. Jon became one of my favorite characters to follow during this third book. Before, I felt his chapters had adventure, but were not near the action I was entrapped with that other characters had experienced. In the third book, Martin followed Jon beyond the wall more and surrounded him with adventure, romance, and mystery. Arya is still one of my favorite characters, and her chapters left me on edge as I cheered for her to overcome the odds. Daenerys’ chapters became more adventurous and seductive in the third book, and I was happy to see the attention being drawn back to her more, including connections made in her chapters back to Westeros and previous events. The second book, you may recall in my review on this, I felt her chapters were weak and few between. Martin has done a great job keeping emotions going with highs and lows throughout the book for the characters. As many people who have watched the series and seen the “Red Wedding” may know… do not get too hooked on your favorites. I still stand by my assumption that everyone dies in this series…

On a side note, I have finally started watching the HBO series for the first time on DVD. I’m only half way through the second season, and intend to remain behind my readings with my viewing to keep the surprises to the book. Unfortunately, I will not be able to start the fourth book until I finish with my M.A. in December and have the time and attention to commit. However, as soon as I am able, I intend to jump into the fourth, fifth and sixth books in the series and read through. Can’t wait!

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Michelle’s Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott CardEnder's Game by Orson Scott Card
Published by Tom Doherty Associates on 1994-07-15
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Space Opera
Pages: 352
Format: Audiobook
The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Enter Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, the result of decades of genetic experimentation.

Is Ender the general Earth so desperately needs? The only way to find out is to throw him into ever-harsher training at Battle School, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when his training begins. He will grow up fast.

But Ender is not the only result of the experiment. His two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Among the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

This Special 20th Anniversary Edition of the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning classic is now digitally remastered with a full cast production. It also contains an exclusive bonus: an original postscript written and recorded by the author himself, Orson Scott Card!

This was a book I’ve always been aware of. Perhaps there were kids growing up who were reading this book around me. Perhaps its title was thrown around in conversations about books. Perhaps I was aware of the movie and some of its controversey regarding the author’s views. Regardless of how I knew about it, I had never read it and perhaps never really expressed a desire to. Until I was looking for audiobooks for a long road trip with my fiance and grabbed a young adult science fiction book in ho…moreThis was a book I’ve always been aware of. Perhaps there were kids growing up who were reading this book around me. Perhaps its title was thrown around in conversations about books. Perhaps I was aware of the movie and some of its controversey regarding the author’s views. Regardless of how I knew about it, I had never read it and perhaps never really expressed a desire to. Until I was looking for audiobooks for a long road trip with my fiance and grabbed a young adult science fiction book in hopes that it was something that we would both enjoy.

I was correct.

In fact, so much so that I had to ask my fiance if we could listen to the radio for a bit to take a little break from the audiobook. He wanted to keep binging on the story, to keep it going. That is saying quite a lot, considering that while he enjoys books, he can be a picky reader. I enjoyed listening to it, with the particular edition having multiple voice actors.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this story. I knew it had something to do with a child soldier, but the true breadth of the story caught me by surprise. It was a very deep story, with lots of layers and ideas. My favorite storyline was Ender’s, as I typically foudn myself bored or confused by Valentine’s.

It stands well enough by its own, without the other books in the series, though not everything gets solved. There were a few parts of the story that were a bit too abstract for me to fully grasp, but that might have had more to do with my own passing attention span.

I’m glad I finally read this book and look forward to watching the movie. However, I doubt if I will delve into the other books in the series. There is a reason why this is a classic and taught in a variety of schools.

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Christina’s Review: Delirium by Lauren OliverDelirium by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on 2012-02-06
Genres: Dystopian, Emotions & Feelings, General, Love & Romance, Science Fiction, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 480
Format: eBook
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didnt understand that once love - the deliria - blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love and the government demands that all citizens recieve the cure upon turning eightteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she will be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predicable and happy. But with ninety- five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: she falls in love.

Delirium was another book club book selected for June’s read based off popular vote. This book sounded more interesting than I thought it was. As I first started reading the book, I loved how it started. The book read quick and sparked my interest from the first few chapters. However, as I continued through Delirium, the book began to read tediously. It felt like the same content being repeated with little progression. The theme became old and the book felt longer than the start. This book is definitely meant for the young adult audience, however, I felt the basic concept behind the book was one that was tiresomely overdone.

The book sets place in a world where love is a disease that has a cure. Readings are designed to illuminate the terrible side effects this “disease” can have on individuals. People fear love and look forward to the disease, just like the main character of Delirium, Lena. Lena was counting down the days until she was cured from this disease, that was until she met a boy that captivated her emotions… The story goes on following through the encounters Lena has with this boy as she gets closer to receiving the cure. She has a best friend brought into the mix, whom she fights on and off with and carries on with. These two characters are relatable for many teenagers going through high school and preparing for college. As the book continues, Lena is faced with the struggle of what is real and what individuals are brainwashed to think is real. The question persists throughout the book, “What will Lena do when the time comes for her to receive her cure?”

My problem with the book was that it read like every other teenage heart-throb book. The subject is getting old… will love conquer all? One of the members of our book club mentioned she felt the characters were hard to connect with in the book… that their personality didn’t really shine through. After thinking about that, I agreed with what she said. The characters weren’t predictable in the sense that you really got to know them. They were predictable because they followed the persona of other characters in the same genre of books. This teenage first love fate is starting to get old and is not realistic… Delirium read like other books and movies of similar topic. I was hoping for something new, but this book did not finish meeting my expectations it started to produce.

Overall, I did not HATE this book. I give it three starts out of five because it was still written well. While the subject is old, unrealistic, and over-played, the author’s style is unique and well-composed. This would make a good beach or casual read if one had time to spare.

pj - christina