I wasn't totally sure what to expect going into The Ice Dragon. While its been marketed as taking place in the Westeros of Martin's A Song of Ice andI wasn't totally sure what to expect going into The Ice Dragon. While its been marketed as taking place in the Westeros of Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, in reality it bears only a fleeting resemblance to the Westeros we know and love. I was also a bit iffy as to how it would convert to a fully children's book, when my understanding of the original short story is that it includes a fairly brutal rape scene. That scene was obviously omitted from this text, and from what I can tell, the rest of it is almost word-to-word faithful to the original. As I was reading, I imagined this story being told in Winterfell by Old Nan to little Stark babies, which definitely added to the atmosphere. I think this would be a perfect Christmas read, tucked up under a blanket in front of a nice hot fire. I think any fan of Martin's will enjoy it, and it'd make a nice gift for little ones too. Plus the illustrations are just lovely. ...more
As with the companion book for seasons one and two, Inside HBO's Game of Thrones is absolutely gorgeous. It's a big, thick, heavy book that would lookAs with the companion book for seasons one and two, Inside HBO's Game of Thrones is absolutely gorgeous. It's a big, thick, heavy book that would look fantastic on any coffee table. The content felt a little more lacking than its predecessor, but I'm not sure if that's actually the case, or if I just wasn't quite as satisfied with it. Don't get me wrong, it made for marvellous company while I was tucked up ill in bed - disappearing to Westeros was a lovely escape. I just came away with the sense that we heard a lot more from the actors and about the creative process in the first book, whereas this one gives heavier focus to set-building, location scouting and costume designing. Those are all interesting things, and the amount and work and love that went into this series is staggering to behold - but there were a lot of times where I'd rather have been reading about creative decisions, for instance why Pyp and Grenn had to die, than how the top of the Wall set was assembled. Obviously there's more here for fans of the TV show alone than those who have read A Song of Ice and Fire, but that's only to be expected. It only took a few hours to read, and the quality alone makes it superb present material. It's not a must-have, but it's still an excellent companion....more
I'm a bit sad to only give this three stars. I'd been looking forward to it for ages, and the anticipation was high when it finally fell through my leI'm a bit sad to only give this three stars. I'd been looking forward to it for ages, and the anticipation was high when it finally fell through my letterbox. It just wasn't really what I was expecting - it wasn't very funny. There are plenty of humorous asides, and it definitely raised a few chuckles, but I'm not sure Yes Please really knew what it wanted it be. It certainly wasn't an in-depth autobiography. Poehler starts out by writing an entire introduction about how hard writing is. She reminds us at multiple points during the book that writing is super-hard-no-fun-boo. We get a little bit of background on her family life growing up (one thing I found particularly odd is that Poehler draws attention to how lucky she was to have such a stable and loving family, but also seems determined to draw attention to the fact that her father hit her once as a teenager. Is that laundry that really needs airing all these years later?) She talks a lot about the various improv groups she worked with and the venues they moved between, but we never really get more than surface details on anything. She point-blank refrains from discussing her marriage, which is entirely her prerogative, but then gives a lot of what feels like undue weight to an incident where she once made an offensive joke on SNL. Oddly, there are a lot of sections that feel more like a self-help guide than anything. Poehler's tone is warm throughout, and radiates positivity and kindness. Those are things I love about her public persona. But the book ends up a strange sort of mish-mash, and is ultimately, sadly, disappointing....more
Inside HBO'S Game of Thrones is a gorgeous coffee table book. The quality is just lovely, and the pages are so thick and glossy I often had to check IInside HBO'S Game of Thrones is a gorgeous coffee table book. The quality is just lovely, and the pages are so thick and glossy I often had to check I wasn't turning over two at once. I think this would make an excellent gift for any fan of the series. Content-wise, there's less here for fans of A Song and Ice and Fire - I absolutely enjoyed it, but there was very little information I didn't already know. Some of the production details are a bit dry, but no one topic ever lasts for more than a couple of pages at a time. The best sections are the character profiles - it's very interesting to read little insights from the relevent actors and crew, even if some of them are a bit off the mark (Jack Gleeson tries, bless his soul, but trying to pin all of Joffers' abuse of Sansa on the example set by Cersei and Robert... nope.) It's certainly not essential reading, but it's a lovely, high-quality companion to the show, and I'll definitely be reading the season 3-4 tie in book too....more
I've gotten out of the habit of having more than one book on the go at once, but when I came down sick last week, all I wanted to do was curl up in beI've gotten out of the habit of having more than one book on the go at once, but when I came down sick last week, all I wanted to do was curl up in bed with something by Uncle Steve. I basically played eeny meeny miny mo with the remaining shelf full of his books that I haven't read yet, and ended up picking The Regulators because I really dig the idea of a dual novel. I've never read any of the Bachman books before, and this doesn't have me in a hurry to read another, but it fulfilled its purpose and kept me company for a couple of days while I perked back up.
The Regulators follows events on an all-American suburban street one hot summer's day, when the afternoon bliss of blue skies and mellow times comes to a jarring end with a street-wide shootout. Carnage ensues, and the survivors band together to figure out why this is happening to them and how they might escape it.
For some reason, I found the narrative voice here a little harder to bed down with than usual, and ultimately I didn't care a great deal about most of the characters, who could have been lifted right out of any number of King's other books. I did really like the way each chapter opened with a different snippet though - postcards, scripts, letters etc, and I cared a lot about the fates of little Seth and Aunt Audrey. I'll definitely read the twin novel Desperation when I find the time for it, but I won't be in a huge rush to do so....more
Die Again is a pretty solid installment in Tess Gerritsen's 'Rizzoli and Isles' series, albeit one with a few issues. Gerritsen is one of those authorDie Again is a pretty solid installment in Tess Gerritsen's 'Rizzoli and Isles' series, albeit one with a few issues. Gerritsen is one of those authors whose new books I'll buy without question, to the extent that I started this one without even reading the blurb. We're thrown straight into a safari in Botswana, where English tourist Millie is growing apart from her boyfriend, and developing a crush on their enigmatic tour guide Johnny. It was only after the first chapter that I read the cover summary, and learned that all of Millie's companions would disappear never to be seen again, leaving her to stumble out of the bush weeks later on the point of death. Awesome, I thought, here we go. And the Botswana chapters really were exciting, as one by one her fellow travellers were picked off by an unseen killer. The problem is, I think I enjoyed these early chapters more than the ones set in Boston, following our protagonists, Detective Jane Rizzoli and forensic pathologist Maura Isles.
After five seasons of the Rizzoli and Isles TV series, it's becoming increasingly jarring to return to the books and remember that on paper, the friendship between these women is not that strong. We learn early on that they've barely even seen each other since their last case, and to me that's just a bit sad. As the book goes on, the recurring plots (Maura wondering whether she should leave Boston, Jane's mother's romantic struggles) get little more than a few pages of coverage, and by the end everything is still very much up in the air, albeit with a possible angle on the next book in the form of Maura's serial killer mother.
My biggest problem with Die Again is that I think most readers will guess the twist in the tale long before Jane does, which means there's a good fifty pages or so in there where she's treading water when she should be surging ahead. The realisation did make for a great aha moment, but leaving the detectives miles behind has the unfortunate effect of making them seem slow off the mark, which isn't ideal in the heroes we should be rooting for. In it's favour, I did appreciate that the crime in this novel was essentially ordinary - Gerritsen sometimes peppers her plots with secret cults and elements of the supernatural, which can spoil a book for me, so I was glad that for the most part here things stayed within the realm of the normal. All in all it was't my favourite in the series, but I enjoyed reading it, I know I'll be back for the twelfth installment, and I'm very excited to see Gerritsen speak on her upcoming UK book tour....more
This book is just gorgeous. When I started reading Game of Thrones this summer at the urging of a friend, I found myself peppering her with backgroundThis book is just gorgeous. When I started reading Game of Thrones this summer at the urging of a friend, I found myself peppering her with background questions. Who are the Rhoynar? What's a crannogman? Hey, tell me everything about these Children of the Forest... The World of Ice and Fire is precisely the book I hoped existed then. It's an in-depth look at the history of Westeros, and to a lesser extent, neighbouring continent Essos. The bulk of the book focuses on the many Targaryen kings, followed by a potted history of six of the seven 'kingdoms', plus the Iron Islands. We then travel over to many of the major cities in Essos, and towards the end go further afield, drifting towards the far east and mysterious Asshai.
The tone of the book is perhaps a little dry in places, but it's framed as being penned by a Maester of the Citadel, so for me that worked (although in later sections I think the editing could have been tighter, as small repetitions and spelling errors became more frequent). Certainly the histories we're presented with become vaguer, more rumour than fact, the further afield we travel, but as this is a world where few from Westeros dare to travel that far, it fit with the perspective the book took.
I think this is definitely more for the obsessive rather than casual fan, and I'd definitely recommend reading the Dunk and Egg stories first (I may or may not have got quite emotional during the history of Aegon V's reign, and had to put the book down a few times...). If you've read the history of the first Dance of Dragons, it's quite heavily condensed here, and there are other places where it definitely feels as though Martin has much longer histories waiting to be told when time permits. One of the biggest selling points of the book is the absolutely stunning artwork. I'm normally a 'nice picture, turn the page' kind of girl, but The World of Ice and Fire starts with a painting of Dragonstone so stunning you can all but taste the sea salt and hear the crash of the waves on rocks, and it only gets better from there. This is definitely a book you want to hold in your hands rather than flick through on a Kindle - the only problem being that it's so big and heavy, I did find it difficult to get comfortable with it.
I seriously, seriously love this book, and have already bought an extra copy to give as a Christmas present....more
I'm hopeful that The Pregnant Widow will be the worst book I read in 2014. It surely can't get more abysmal than this dire affair, that I only finisheI'm hopeful that The Pregnant Widow will be the worst book I read in 2014. It surely can't get more abysmal than this dire affair, that I only finished through sheer force of will. Our protagonist Keith, a posh twit who thinks far too much of himself, takes a summer's holiday to Italy with his girlfriend and other companions. He spends the whole holiday trying to get into other girls' knickers, and has a sexual encounter so epic it alters the course of his life. This summary doesn't really do the book justice, in that it sounds a lot more interesting than it actually is. This is a dry, dull, painfully long tome in which very little of interest happens for exceptionally long stretches. It's stuffed full of literary allusions that must have made Amis feel oh-so-clever but in actuality make it near unreadable in places. In case it's not obvious, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone but an insomniac....more
A Series of Unfortunate Events has pride of place on my shelves. I loved that series more than anything except Harry Potter in my teens, and even thenA Series of Unfortunate Events has pride of place on my shelves. I loved that series more than anything except Harry Potter in my teens, and even then it was a close tie. There was nothing like the excitement of picking up the newest book and pouring obsessively through it for clues, discussing them online for hours, and disappearing into Lemony Snicket's strange but wonderful world. So when All the Wrong Questions - a prequel series of four books - was announced, I was delighted. And then Who Could That Be at This Hour? was released, and... I was a little less so. Same again with When Did You See Her Last?.
I was still very fond of those books - I mean, Lemony Snicket! As a child! Solving mysteries! How could I not love them? But they weren't ASOUE and I didn't really feel like part of the intended audience. The thing is, these books are still largely aimed at children, even though the original ASOUE audience are all grown up now, and the disconnect made me a bit sad. But with Shouldn't You Be in School? the magic finally clicked for me again. Back was the breathless page turning, the complete absorption in this world, the grinning like an idiot and wanting to hug the book to me - and above all the staying up until 1am, propping my eyes open with matchsticks because I just. had. to. finish. It's been a long time since I've done that with any book, and I love this one all the more for it.
A few reviews mention that Shouldn't You Be in School? feels largely like set-up for the next and final installment, and in many ways that's true, but it really really works for me. It feels like we're gearing towards something big and important and all these strange little plot elements that were just a bit odd on their own are finally coming together into something cohesive and wonderful. I can't wait for the next book, and I can't wait to dive back into re-reading ASOUE - an endeavour that fell by the wayside seven books in a couple of years ago, that I just have to resume now. Simply put, I just loved it....more
As far as I'm concerned, Jeffery Deaver is the master of plot twists. His short story collections Twisted and More Twisted are packed with brilliantlyAs far as I'm concerned, Jeffery Deaver is the master of plot twists. His short story collections Twisted and More Twisted are packed with brilliantly crafted gems, and his on-going Lincoln Rhyme series has more stings in the tale than a rattlesnake. So I was excited to see what he'd do with The October List, a thriller told quite literally backwards. We open on chapter 36, with a frantic mother awaiting news of her kidnapped daughter. The door opens, revealing not her rescuers but the kidnapper himself, wielding a gun and a deranged grin. How did it come to this? We're about to find out, in reverse.
Although it takes a long time for the full picture to become clear (the game changes constantly, and the kaleidoscope doesn't come to rest as a fully-formed image until you've read all the way through to chapter one), the pace is never anything less than frenetic. I finished the book in around a day, and kept reading for several hours after I really should have been sleeping (when you physically can't hold the book open in bed, it's probably time to call it a night.)
Does the gimmick produce satisfying results? Yes and... hmm. The format does lend itself to some difficulties. You know the piece of proofreading advice, that if you read a document backwards you're more likely to catch mistakes? While there aren't mistakes here as such (ultimately, everything ties together beautifully), I think the problem with starting from a place of complete bewilderment is that I never really fully trusted anyone, nor took any information at face value. When the revelations come, they're more of the 'ah, that makes sense of that!' variety than the sudden sharp shock of being completely surprised.
When working with a regular chronology, Deaver is fully adept at misdirection and sleight of hand, techniques that I think this format fundamentally makes more difficult. I'm definitely not saying I guessed the resolution in advance, but I also wouldn't say I was miles from the ballpark. There are times Deaver's caught me from another continent entirely, so this wasn't necessarily in the same league.
That said, I think this will definitely bear a repeat reading, perhaps in reverse this time, to really catch all the subtle clues laid throughout. It's probably only a shade over half the length of most of his other books, so it wouldn't surprise me if this was the intention. I've quickly re-read the first (last?) chapter, and the additional depth and nuance once you know what's really going on is brilliant. As is the contents list at the back - I actually laughed out loud at how clever he'd been in places with the chapter illustrations.
Overall, while I wasn't completely blown away by The October List, I do think Deaver's writing here is very, very clever, and I'm looking forward to going through it again when it's not quite so fresh. For readers unfamiliar with JD, it does take a while to get in to - it was probably sixty pages or so before I stopped being completely bewildered, and maybe as much as another hundred before I was really rolling along - because of course, telling a story backwards does run the risk of making it choppy, disjointed and frustrating. My advice would be just to trust that he knows full-well what he's doing and that it will all pay off eventually. And enjoy!...more
Important upfront disclosure: The Shining is by far my least favourite Stephen King novel. (I got a touch grumpy about it in my review".) It's the onlImportant upfront disclosure: The Shining is by far my least favourite Stephen King novel. (I got a touch grumpy about it in my review".) It's the only King tale I've ever rated a solitary 1 out of 5, and as such I wasn't that excited about its sequel, Doctor Sleep. That said, some of his recent works have been really, truly excellent (11/22/63, Joyland) and so of course I still had it in my hands on publication day. While it's not one of my favourites, nor do I think it will prove to be especially memorable, it was still a serviceable 500 pages that I had fun delving through.
We meet up with Dan Torrence - The Shining's five-year-old protagonist and possessor of multiple supernatural abilities - several decades down the line. Now an alcoholic and all-round waste-of-space, Dan almost immediately hits rock bottom and spends the next several hundred pages engaged in a redemption arc I was initially dubious about, but which King ultimately managed to pull off.
Any quibbles I had with the novel are largely the same I have with many of King's works - chiefly that for a while, the whole thing turned into a bit of a boys-club romp (when there's a thirteen-year-old girl with her life on the line, it's not really excusable to cut her mother out for a hundred pages at a time while her dad, family doctor, psychic-shining-friend and random-train-driver have all the fun). Abra (said thirteen-year-old) lacked authenticity to me, and scenes in which she swapped bodies with Dan were especially bizarre.
There's a fairly substantial "twist" towards the home stretch which left me somewhat underwhelmed, and while King repeatedly has Dan brush aside the coincidence of it all, it felt unfortunately contrived to me. However, all this aside it was still a fast, well-paced read with villains as heinous as their backstory was complex. I enjoyed reading it despite my dislike of The Shining, and while the climax seemed over a little too swiftly, I was overall satisfied with the way things panned out.
(My biggest gripe is mainly that the US cover is way cooler than the UK one. Unfair!)...more