This book, the first in a series, is too big to easily sum up the plot and do it justice. Basically, Robert Baratheon led a revolt against the old kinThis book, the first in a series, is too big to easily sum up the plot and do it justice. Basically, Robert Baratheon led a revolt against the old king of the Seven Kingdoms when he was a young man. Now that he's middle-aged, he's found that he was more interested in fighting for the throne than he is in sitting on it. He calls on his oldest friend, Ned Stark, to take the office of the Hand of the King, and effectively leaves him to run the kingdom while Robert hunts, womanizes, drinks and has a good time. But people have noticed that Robert isn't truly a king, and his throne is vulnerable to vast conspiracies.
That synopsis does this no justice. There are so many different plots woven into this epic, it's incredible. The characters are wonderfully depicted and complicated. The story is told through the eyes of many different characters. From Ned's daughter, Sansa, an 11-year-old girl who is too romantic and prim and proper for her own good, to the cynical dwarf, Tyrion, who is the king's brother-in-law, each character has something to say and a unique voice to say it in. But it never gets confusing. Just in case, though, there's a "family tree" of characters at the end to help keep everyone straight, but I never had to use it.
For an 800+ page book, I really ripped through this. I picked it up to read just a little one night and I was over 60 pages into it before I realized it. For such a huge book, it really was hard to put down. I got sucked into each character's story and lost track of the time. And this happened every time I picked the book up. It's hard to maintain that kind of pace across a book this big.
I love fantasy, and I can't believe I've never picked this up before. In fact, I don't think I'd even heard of it. I just happened to pick it up at a library book sale. But now that I've found it, the other books are going on my wishlist. Fans of epic fantasy will love this, and I'm even tempted to say that fans of historical fiction will like it. So far the only thing "fantasy" about it is the fact that it's set in an imaginary world. But I can see where that will change in the following books, so that might not be a good idea. Your call. But I highly recommend it....more
Vida Winter is called the Charles Dickens of her age. No one has ever been able to find out the story of her life. Any reporter who tries gets a beautVida Winter is called the Charles Dickens of her age. No one has ever been able to find out the story of her life. Any reporter who tries gets a beautiful story, but still, it's only a story. But now Vida is old and sick and she must share her story with the world. She chooses Margarate Lea, amateur biographer, to write the final story that everyone has been waiting for.
I loved this! It has a very dark, gothic feel to it that reminded me of both Jane Eyre and Rebecca. Vida's story is full of twists and turns and is a delight to read. If you like the Bronte sisters, pick this one up. It's perfect for a dark and stormy day....more
Liesel Meminger is a ten-year-old girl living in Nazi Germany and being sent to live with foster parents when her younger brother dies. This is the fiLiesel Meminger is a ten-year-old girl living in Nazi Germany and being sent to live with foster parents when her younger brother dies. This is the first time she comes to the attention of Death, our narrator. This is also the first time she steals a book. It's entitled The Grave Digger's Handbook. She learns to read using this book, and she begins to feel the power of words. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll keep the rest of this vague. She continues to steal books, she lives, she loves, she endures more loss, and she somehow manages to surround herself with shining souls in a world that is being lost to the dark.
I would give this book more stars if I could. I was trying to tell my husband how fantastic this is and I was reduced to a stuttering mess of, "So good...power of words...just...you know... so good...I loved it...she just, you know...I mean...I loved Papa...did I mention that I loved this book? No, I mean, I really loved it." That's how I feel, staring at this big, empty review box, trying to find the words to say why everyone has to read this book that I loved. Just read it. Good enough?
Also, this is marketed as a YA book. In all honesty, this is a book that anyone could revisit time and again at different stages in his or her life and pull something different from it every time. Don't be put off by the YA label. I promise you, you'll regret it if you dismiss this as a book for teenagers. It probably actually gains something as readers gain more of their own life experiences.
I'll try to give a little more about why I actually loved this. Death is the narrator of the book. He's perfect for the role. He's completely outside the politics of WWII, he's just there to pick up the souls. Which is not to say that he's without compassion. He's fascinated by humans, but he's repulsed by us too. He can sometimes be judgmental. This line hit me hard, when he was picking up souls from a concentration camp: "They were French, they were Jews, and they were you."
Another theme throughout the book was that of missed opportunities. Don't put off doing something because you might not get another chance. This seemed to be especially true in WWII.
A big theme was the power of words. One character realizes that Hitler's power lies in his words, and slowly paints over every page of his copy of Mein Kampf. Liesel is trying to steal some of that power for herself by stealing the books.
I fell in love with these characters, even some who at first glance seem like they might be unloveable. They all have surprising depth to them. I loved Liesel; I loved her new Papa, who reminded me of an uneducated, blue collar Atticus Finch; and I loved Liesel's friend Rudy. You have to love a boy who is a legend in Nazi Germany for painting his skin black and impersonating Jesse Owens in a hero-worship kind of way.
Really, my feelings for this book are summed up by a line from the book itself. "I have to say that although it broke my heart, I was, and still am, glad I was there." Read it....more
Stephen King's short stories are always scarier to me than his novels. He leaves just enough unsaid for my imagination to take over and then I'm jumpyStephen King's short stories are always scarier to me than his novels. He leaves just enough unsaid for my imagination to take over and then I'm jumpy for days....more
Kvothe is an innkeeper in a little out-of-the-way village. Or is he? One day a story-gatherer finds him and guesses that there is more to the innkeepeKvothe is an innkeeper in a little out-of-the-way village. Or is he? One day a story-gatherer finds him and guesses that there is more to the innkeeper than meets the eye. He asks Kvothe to share his story. Kvothe agrees, but tells Chronicler that it will take three days to tell the story. This book is the first in a--can you guess?--trilogy telling Kvothe's story. This one tells of Kvothe's childhood and how he eventually made his way to the University to learn magic.
Really, I would probably have given this 4.5 stars, but it was good enough and original enough for me to round up.
Kvothe was a likeable character and the story was pretty original and entertaining. It moved at a good pace and I really found myself almost devouring it. I really lost myself in it a couple of times. In one scene when Kvothe was auditioning, I found myself with a pit in my stomach and sweaty hands. I just had to laugh at myself when I caught it!
For all that, there were a couple of things that bugged me.
First of all, Kvothe's name. I don't mind authors inventing names, but make it something pronounceable, please! It doesn't help to explain "It sounds like quothe." I stumbled over those consonants every time I read the name and it broke the flow of the book. Luckily the book is told in first person, so I didn't really have to read it that often.
Second, the pacing was great--until one part right at the end when the author got distracted by a giant lizard. This part dragged on and on and on. There was a point to the scene, but it wasn't such a huge payoff that it demanded over fifty pages of text.
I read somewhere (I think here on Goodreads) that this is like Harry Potter for grownups. Not so much. On a very superficial level, maybe. I don't think this ever achieved the magic that Harry Potter did. This probably won't ever appeal to a huge variety of fans the way Harry did. But for fantasy fans, I would say this is a must-read....more
Skeletons at the Feast is loosely based on a true story and set in the last few months of World War II. The Nazis were beaten but they hadn't admittedSkeletons at the Feast is loosely based on a true story and set in the last few months of World War II. The Nazis were beaten but they hadn't admitted it yet and the everyday German people had a feeling they were beaten so they started running from the advancing Russian armies. This book follows the Emmerich family and a Scottish POW who has been working on their farm as they set out to cross Germany ahead of the Russian army in the heart of the German winter. Other characters in the book include a young Jewish man who manages to escape the train heading for a concentration camp and a young French Jewish woman who wasn't so lucky.
This was absolutely amazing. I just grabbed this at the library because I remembered it was on my to-read list, but I had forgotten what it was about. Once I read the book jacket, I was so excited. I told my husband, "This sounds like a book I can sink my teeth into!" I wasn't disappointed.
The best part about the book was the way the lines were blurred and nothing was black and white. It seems like in most WWII novels, the Germans are all Nazis and therefore evil, and everyone else is the good guy. That's not the case here. Sure, the actual Nazis in the book were as horrific as they should be, but the German citizens are a mixed lot, the way it had to have been. The Russians were sort of the bad guys in this one, but even their behavior was explained. The Germans had heard rumors about the way their armies had treated the Russians, so they understood that this was some sort of retribution.
Parts of this were very hard to read, but that's the way any good WWII novel should be. If you think you can handle some fairly brutal concentration camp scenes, read this one. It was so good, I had goose bumps in the last few pages....more
Monte Becket is a postman in Minnesota in 1915. In his spare time, he wrote a swash-buckling adventure that somehow becomes something of a bestseller.Monte Becket is a postman in Minnesota in 1915. In his spare time, he wrote a swash-buckling adventure that somehow becomes something of a bestseller. No one is more surprised than Monte. As these things do, the success goes to Monte’s head and he quits his day job to become a fulltime author. And he hits a wall. There’s nothing there. He has written all the stories he has in him in this one story. We first encounter Monte when he has been fighting this writer’s block for about five years. He is sitting at his window one day, trying to meet his daily quota of 1000 words, when he glimpses a boatman row into view through the fog. The boatman is rowing standing up and facing forward as he laughs to himself like he has a delightful little secret. Who could resist that particular allure? Monte runs outside and invites the boatman in for coffee. The man just keeps rowing and laughing, but responds, “Some other time.” Eventually, Monte and his wife and young son have the opportunity to become friends with the boatman, whose name is Glendon Hale. As they become closer to Glen, they feel certain that the man has a past he is hiding. One day, Glen confesses to Monte that he was married to a young Mexican girl a long time ago. He left her for reasons of his own, but now he feels like he should find Blue, as he affectionately calls her, and apologize for leaving her the way that he did. He invites Monte to accompany him on his search. Upon his wife’s urging, Monte eventually agrees to go with Glen, and their adventure begins.
Okay, let’s just get it out there. This is not Peace Like a River. It’s just not. I missed Reuben and Swede. But--this is still a five star book. I love Leif Enger’s writing. Magic happens for me when he starts stringing words together. When I open one of his two books, I am lost in his world. When I was trying to describe Enger’s writing style to my husband, all I could say was, “It’s just--just--just perfect.” That’s the best I can do. It’s just perfect.
The characters are wonderfully complex. Monte is a scrupulously honest narrator. He doesn’t dwell on the moments when he might shine a little. He plays up the times when his cowardice gets the better of him. I don’t want to give away anything else, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that the other characters are well-developed also. I told my husband five minutes after finishing this book, “I miss those characters already.” I wasn’t really exaggerating.
The plot moved along at a good pace and the story was engaging. I never wished that we could just get on with it. The characters moved in and out at just the right time, within events that happened at just the right time, with just the right amount of foreshadowing.
The story is a good story in and of itself. But there are larger themes hidden within the pages, and I loved those too. We’ve all read the books about how family isn’t necessarily the people you’re related to, it’s the people you choose and who choose you who are always there for you. True. But Enger takes it a step farther. He seems to believe that family can be made up of the people you’re related to and the people you choose. A true family will always have room for more people, blood relatives or not. Love grows more love. I like it.
There are more of these, but this is getting long.
I was so nervous starting this book. I was afraid that I would be disappointed because Peace Like a River is one of my two absolute favorite books. So Brave, Young, and Handsome is a wonderful book in its own right. Don’t overlook it because it’s not as good as Peace Like a River. Peace was something like a seven star, once-in-a-lifetime book. This one is “just” a five star. But think about that. Everyone runs out to buy a five star book, so give this one a chance. You won’t be disappointed. I wasn’t. ...more
For those 2 people who don't know, The Arabian Nights is sort of a collection of short stories told in the Arabian world, as I'm told it should be calFor those 2 people who don't know, The Arabian Nights is sort of a collection of short stories told in the Arabian world, as I'm told it should be called, (which seems to include India and parts of China) waaaaaay back in the day. The framework of the story is about a sultan who caught his wife cheating on him. After he has her killed, he decides to take out his revenge on the entire sex, so he marries a different wife every day and has her killed the next morning. Scheherazade is the Grand Vizier's beautiful, intelligent daughter. She realizes that this can't go on, so she comes up with a plan. She asks to be the next wife of the sultan, and she starts telling him a story on their wedding night. But buried within that story is another story. The sultan is so intrigued by the story that he decides to let her live so he can find out how the story ends. She keeps stringing him along like this, theoretically for 1000 nights, until he relents and gives her a full pardon and takes her for his real wife. But that's only a very small part of the book. The biggest part of the book is the stories Scheherazade tells the sultan. Included are Aladdin, Ali Baba, Sinbad, and others that we've probably all heard in one form or another.
I just picked this up because I wanted to see what it was all about. This version was very readable. It was interesting to see a slice of Arabian life. I would catch myself thinking, "They treat women so badly over there" and then I would remember that when these stories were first told, women were treated badly pretty much everywhere. But then there would be some stories where the women had surprising freedom and I would catch myself wondering where things started going bad. I can't say that I know enough about the culture to comment on what's changed and what hasn't, but these stories do give you a little idea of what life is/was like in the Middle East and where they're coming from. And in these times, a little understanding can only be a good thing....more
Promises to Keep is a novella about everyone's favorite Newford artist, Jilly Coppercorn. But this time we're seeing Jilly wheThis is Charles de Lint.
Promises to Keep is a novella about everyone's favorite Newford artist, Jilly Coppercorn. But this time we're seeing Jilly when she's fresh off the streets and getting started as a student at Butler University. The transition isn't easy, especially when Jilly's best friend from her street days shows up with an offer Jilly finds hard to refuse.
Apparently this started out as a short story about Jilly, but it grew into this little book. I devoured it in a few hours.
I really enjoyed it. I liked seeing Jilly when she was so young and just learning to be "relentlessly cheerful" and how to open up and make new friends. I also liked reading about Jilly's first meetings with Geordie, Sophie, and Wendy.
If you like Charles de Lint, especially if you like his short stories (this little book does keep the feel of a short story), read this one for sure. If you're just looking for some fantasy that's not too out-of-this world, with some really good characterization as a bonus, read this one. You won't be disappointed....more