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
Goodreads
five-stars
“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’s Review: A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett


Christina’s Review: A Dangerous Fortune by Ken FollettA Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2010-07-21
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Sagas, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 576
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
four-half-stars
In 1866, tragedy strikes the exclusive Windfield School when a young student drowns in a mysterious accident. His death and its aftermath initiate a spiraling circle of treachery that will span three decades and entwine many lives.   From the exclusive men’s clubs and brothels that cater to every dark desire of London’s upper class to the dazzling ballrooms and mahogany-paneled suites of the manipulators of the world’s wealth, one family is splintered by a shared legacy. But greed, fed by the shocking truth of a boy’s death, must be stopped, or the dreams of a nation will die.   Praise for A Dangerous Fortune   “A terrific page-turner.”—Los Angeles Times   “Political and amorous intrigues, cold-blooded murder, and financial crises . . . old-fashioned entertainment.”—San Francisco Chronicle   “Breathlessly plotted . . . relentlessly suspenseful.”—The New York Times   “Gripping, complex plot . . . sexual intrigue . . . fascinating characters . . . You won’t be able to put down this exciting page-turner.”—Lexington Herald-LeaderFrom the Paperback edition.

Ken Follett never disappoints me… As I have repeated in numerous reviews, I love his writing style. His stories always captivate me and I feel connected to the characters. Follett’s A Dangerous Fortune was the 8th book on my “15 To-Read of 2015” list I have gotten to this year (tracking ahead of the game!) I came across this book in a library book sale and bought it because 1) It was Ken Follett and 2) It was set in Victorian England and had an intriguing synopsis.

A Dangerous Fortune began with the story of a group of boys away at school, one of whom was found dead in the nearby creek. It was unknown if the boy drowned on accident or was killed, but there were suspicions. However, the boy’s death was soon buried under the crash of a local bank and businesses associated with. An elite and powerful family looks to secure their future and prestige in the community, a boy in the family is taken in under charity by his relatives after the passing of his father… on the other side of town, another family affected by the crash as the father was laid off were separated, and a girl and boy were left to their own will as they leave to start new and separate lives.

The story continued crossing over years of time, and the wealthy Pilaster family continued to grow in prominence throughout the community. The family’s power was invested in the great Pilaster bank, one of the more powerful and stable banks in London. As their power grew, the concept of “a dangerous fortune” also grew with the control and wealth.  Follett drew the reader into a world of scandal, affairs, money, corruption, power, deception and defeat.  In the end, Follett tied together the story through a climactic finish.

One of my favorite things about Follett’s books is how he always brings the stories together so well in the end. There are no loose ends that leave my hanging, and I feel content after finishing his stories. The characters always have a purpose and are intertwined in an intricate network. There are always certain characters I end up siding with and routing for throughout the book, hoping the best will come to them. In this book, I sympathized for Hugh Pilaster and wished evil things would fall on Augusta Pilaster and Micky Miranda. At the same time, I found the manipulation and selfish doings of Augusta and Micky to be tantalizing and wanted more.

Side note on this book: A Dangerous Fortune featured a more sexual and mature environment than some of the others books of Follett’s I have read. There is scandal, adultery, brothels and more. Just a heads up for those going into this book! (Though I felt this added to the story and did not bother me)

One other side note: The edition I read needed better proofing. (Delacorte Press, hardcover, 1993) On a few different occasions, I came across sentence and grammatical errors. On at least one occasion, I also came across Augusta’s name missing the “a” in the end, spelling “August.” While this is not a big deal, it was distracting to me and I began to notice small errors like this. For example, one sentence on page 446 read:

“Edward, you cannot go the prizefight”

… missing the “to” … “Edward, you cannot go TO the prizefight.”

While this may seem nitpicky, there were a few minor errors similar to this I kept getting hung up on.

Overall, however, another great Follett book I am glad I found on the used book shelf. Whenever I start one of his books, I find it difficult to put down. At the same time, I never want to rush through them. Instead I want to take my time and picture the story playing out in my head. This book in particular would make an awesome movie.

I recommend this book for a wide-range of readers. It is great for the history lover, as well as the drama seeker. Anyone who likes George R. R. Martin will find Follett has a similar writing style and would probably enjoy his books. I recommend starting with his Pillars of the Earth series before proceeding to A Dangerous Fortune and other books of his. (Just to get you ready for his writing style and stories so you will fall in love like I did!)

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: Lucky Us by Amy Bloom


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: Lucky Us by Amy BloomLucky Us by Amy Bloom
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2014-07-29
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Literary, Sagas
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
three-stars
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND O: THE OPRAH MAGAZINE“My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.”So begins this remarkable novel by Amy Bloom, whose critically acclaimed Away was called “a literary triumph” (The New York Times). Lucky Us is a brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny novel of love, heartbreak, and luck.  Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star and Eva the sidekick, journey through 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take the pair across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, and to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.   With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine though a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life, conventional and otherwise. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species.

The beginning of this book left me with a smile and feeling like I could finish this book real fast.

The middle and end disproved my theory.

I did not finish it real fast. I don’t know whether to blame feeling tired or stressed or if it was really that I was losing interest in the book. The beginning seemed like it was a story about these two girls and their crazy antics. There was a connection there with the characters and while it felt a little far-fetched, it was okay.

But then I started getting confused as more characters were added to the story, and not just as secondary characters, but sometimes switching to their point of view. Time raced by and I started to feel a little more disconnected from most of the characters. When bad things happened, my emotional reaction was just ‘ok’, instead of actually experiencing it.

That’s not to say that the book wasn’t good–there is a certain art to the way it is written and type of slice of life (but with a definitive and conclusive ending) style that is atypical. My experience of the book was just that the middle to end was less tight at the beginning.

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay


Michelle’s Review: Defending Jacob by William LandayDefending Jacob by William Landay
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2012-01-31
Genres: Fiction, Legal, Psychological, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 432
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-stars
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe • Kansas City Star   “A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press   NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERAndy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life, his wife, Laurie, and teenage son, Jacob.Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son—shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family.It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.How far would you go?Praise for Defending Jacob   “Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—The New York Times   “Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post   “Gripping, emotional murder saga . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”—People   “The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”—The Washington Post   “Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale. This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”—The Boston Globe   “Yes, this book came out in January. No, we are not done talking about it.”—Entertainment WeeklyBONUS: This edition contains excerpts from William Landay's Mission Flats and The Strangler and a Defending Jacob discussion guide.

Defending Jacob was a book club read for me. I’m not sure I would have ever heard of it or read it if it had not been nominated and then selected by my club. A legal thriller is how many people describe it and I cannot think of any better way to label it.

There were periods of dialogue, whether it was between the different mothers at the school or between Andy and Laurie that had me cringing. It felt forced or I simply didn’t agree with either party in the conversation so it grew frustrating. But I don’t think any character in this book was supposed to be exactly ‘likable’.

I particularly enjoyed the excerpts from the transcript of the grand jury hearing that is sprinkled throughout. I like when plots braid a little bit and it definitely helped build intrigue.

I barely read the description of this book before going into and certainly stayed away from reviews. There was something about it that I knew had lead up a twist at the end and I wanted to be surprised.

But even by knowing that a twist was coming made me more alert to different clues left scattered throughout the novel. Whether it was a strange past tense or reflection with some hindsight, I would highlight phrases that I thought were suspicious. I even texted a fellow club member that had already finished the book that I was pretty sure that Andy was an unreliable narrator and some of my other suspicions.

And yet, I didn’t quite guess the actual twist. I was close, but didn’t guess right. So that’s quite something, I think.

The ending just felt a little…squashed somehow. All of a sudden all the ends were being tied up but not in the right order and without a real final moment for me. I wanted just like one or two more sentences at the end with some reflection or emotional confirmation.

But I definitely look forward to discussing this with my book club! I think there are lots of layers to this story that are great for that format and it was a quick/easy enough read to make for a great club pick. No wonder that ‘book club’ is the top genre for this book on Goodreads!

Christina reviewed this too!

pj - michelle

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
Goodreads
four-half-stars
#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: Defending Jacob by William Landay


Christina’s Review: Defending Jacob by William LandayDefending Jacob by William Landay
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2012-01-31
Genres: Fiction, Legal, Psychological, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 432
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe • Kansas City Star   “A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press   NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERAndy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life, his wife, Laurie, and teenage son, Jacob.Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son—shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family.It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.How far would you go?Praise for Defending Jacob   “Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—The New York Times   “Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post   “Gripping, emotional murder saga . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”—People   “The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”—The Washington Post   “Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale. This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”—The Boston Globe   “Yes, this book came out in January. No, we are not done talking about it.”—Entertainment WeeklyBONUS: This edition contains excerpts from William Landay's Mission Flats and The Strangler and a Defending Jacob discussion guide.

I had to put down one book to start Defending Jacob for book club. I was not thrilled because the book I had to put down was A Dance with Dragons, but as I read Defending Jacob I was pleasantly surprised and found myself enjoying the book throughout. The story is about a father who is a DA for a quiet town. A shocking crime takes place in this town and a little boy is dead. As the case is investigated, the evidence present points in the direction of the DA’s son, Jacob. The author, William Landay, tells the story of Jacob’s conviction and trial through the eyes of his father. This allows the reader to connect with the love of a father and his dedication to proving his son’s innocence. How could his teenage boy commit such a horrific crime? Defending Jacob was a fairly suspenseful novel depicting the trial that took the town by storm and the affects it had on a once happy family. I was anxious to get towards the end conclusion to find out what actually happened and how Jacob’s father and the jury would react.

It is shocking how you may think you know a person…but do you really? There were secrets revealed throughout the book that really tests this. How well can you truly know a person and what skeletons will come out of the closet when given the opportunity? I felt the author worked these twists in well and spaced them out throughout the book to keep the reader thinking about what turn of events may take place and how they may affect the case, if at all. For example, I found the genetic component to be new and an interesting topic of conversation in the book. For me, this set the story aside from the usual crime-solving novels. In addition, this story set itself apart from other crime novels because it followed the case of an individual once they were convicted of a crime more than the usual following of the investigation process. It was unique and added a different type of suspense.

I liked the intersecting of the conversation going out between the “Witness” (Jacob’s father) and Neal Logiudice. This conversation was a different type of break between the story Jacob’s father was telling looking back on the past and the present discussion taking place reflecting on it. Later in the story, the witness testimony and cross-examination details were interesting and allowed the reader to experience Jacob’s trial for themselves.

There were a couple of minor details I would have liked to have seen in the book. The first was the addition of a funeral for the little boy found dead. I know this sounds weird, but there was no funeral mentioned. For me, I wanted to see the reactions of the town at this event in comparison to the reactions at the school and other social scenarios. Who attended the funeral… how did they react? However, this detail was overlooked. (Which may have just made the book longer and was not what the author wanted to focus on) Another detail that held me up was in the last chapter, the last few pages. Without revealing too much or leaking any spoilers, the story up to this point was told from the father’s perspective. These last few pages were not… they were details from an event he was not present for. I felt this was unnecessary and would have preferred to finish the story from Jacob’s father’s perspective and no one else’s. This allowed for the imagination to flow and develop its own reaction to the told events.

Overall, Defending Jacob was a quick read. I found the dialogue going back-and-forth throughout allowed the story to flow well and kept the pages turning. I finished the book in less time than I anticipated, and I enjoyed it all the way through. I recommend this book for book club readers especially… I can’t wait for the discussion that will come from this book and the different perspectives I can see people developing from their interpretations of the evidence and dialogues. I also recommend this book for any general reader interested in crime novels. It was a different take to the usual murder-suspects-questioning novels, and it had a number of twists that fit the story well. I enjoyed the author’s writing style and story-line, and I am glad I took the time to read this book.

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
Goodreads
four-half-stars
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: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie


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: Half a King by Joe AbercrombieHalf a King by Joe Abercrombie
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2014-07-15
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Sagas
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
three-stars
“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

The book’s beginning does not set up Half a King’s true story. Because right away, things get turned on their head and the main character, Yarvi, is sent on quite the journey, literally and figuratively.

I have never read Joe Abercrombie before, but his reputation for the dark and gritty had reached my ears. Half a King is a young adult book though and despite some darker elements, it never strayed too far from material suitable for its intended audience.

My biggest complaint was the ending. I know that this is something that is perhaps stylistically typical of Abercrombie, but the end made me feel hopeless. It was not the type of happily ever ending that I would hope for after a long book.

Half a King is a grand journey fantasy novel, where Yarvi and his companions travel a great distance and undergo great hardships to reach their goals. Sometimes with journey novels I get bored, sick of the journey myself, but this did not happen with this book. I was excited to read it and read it at a very fast pace.

pj - michelle

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
Goodreads
five-stars
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