Winter is coming and all the things of the cold and dark have been unleashed before The Wall. On the precipice of the cold, war is ravaging Westeros.Winter is coming and all the things of the cold and dark have been unleashed before The Wall. On the precipice of the cold, war is ravaging Westeros. Crops have been burned and already people are starving. Wildlings have crossed the wall and are being supported by The Night Watch. Jon Snow is dancing delicately between the needs of the world, the needs of The Night Watch, and the edicts of King Stannis and his red priestess Melisandre.
Meanwhile, Daenarys Targaryen is struggling in Mereen to consolidate her power and end the terror of the Sons of the Harpy, despairing over the future of her dragons.
I have been eagerly awaiting this book for years. Years! I tore through the last books in record time, and re-read them all at least once (they are perfect for things like plane flights, when all you are able to do is pretend you are somewhere - anywhere! - else).
This book made me sad. Oh so very, very sad. Sad that I waited so long to find out so little.
The beginning of the book is a rehash of things from the last book, A Feast for Crows, but from the point of view of a different character. It was slightly confusing - the last I knew, Samwell Tarley and Gilly had left The Wall. All of a sudden, they appeared in the book talking to Jon Snow. It is only in the second half of the book that things really begin to move along. In the last 200 pages, I could not put the book down.
In my opinion, the 1100 page book could have been cut down to 300 pages and been far better for it. It's not that I don't want to read the point of view of characters that were not given much face time in A Feast for Crows, but rather that I wanted to move forward in the storyline. I would have happily bought the stories told in the beginning of A Dance With Dragons in a later anthology, when I had finished the story of Westeros and was looking to return for a brief visit or two. It was just too much information without enough progress for the series itself.
George R.R. Martin is an amazing storyteller. I find myself completely lost in the world he has created within a few pages of picking up any of his books. However, such talent doesn't come without its caveats. The amount of time it took for Martin to finish writing this book had me despairing that when I finished, I would need to wait five years to find out what happened next. As it turns out, I will probably have to wait that long to find out what happened after the last book, since it wasn't really fleshed out this time around.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor have a fascinating story, one that can be difficult to separate truth from myth for the layperson.
Martinez, with herThe Duke and Duchess of Windsor have a fascinating story, one that can be difficult to separate truth from myth for the layperson.
Martinez, with her trademarked down-to-earth and captivating writing style, does this admirably, devoting chapters to specific rumors - many of which have taken over the narrative and the truth. In truth, the book reads more like a discussion among friends than something describing events of historical significance. This is generally the case for Martinez's books, and one of the reasons I don't even bother trying the sample before purchasing what she has written.
Her evidence that Prince Edward was not the carefree and committed royal that the public assumed was fascinating, as was her explanations for Simpson's divorces. In today's world, Simpson might have been celebrated for leaving her first marriage - the times have truly changed.
As with other books by Martinez, again the only complaints I have are the number of "pre-chapters" of introductions, praise, more praise, acknowledgements, and whatnot before the book begins. With this book my Kindle calculated 12% devoted to things I just skipped over. As Martinez's books tend to be fairly short to begin with, it does leave me with a rather unfulfilled feeling at the end, sort of like eating a large marshmallow. It looks delicious and filling, but is surrounded by quite a bit of air one has to work through to get to the deliciousness. ...more
When the guardian of the bones of the Kuhina Nui believes she needs to pass on her responsibilities to one of her female descendants, she calls a meetWhen the guardian of the bones of the Kuhina Nui believes she needs to pass on her responsibilities to one of her female descendants, she calls a meeting of her five children and their families to discuss the issue.
Three of the five have moved to the mainland and haven't been back to the island they grew up on since the death of their father. One of the siblings has built a successful, if stressful, career managing one of the island's largest hotels. And one of the siblings has let her desperation for love tear down all reason.
When their mother's announcement of who will take over the responsibilities shocks and infuriates some of them, the first murder is set to happen. Is it one of the family? Or one of the outsiders who followed them as they came home?
Hawaii is a beautiful place to have a murder. The story in The Bones of the Kuhina Nui is well presented and holds the reader's interest, but it is the scenery of the story that truly shines. Michael A. Herr is very good at describing paradise, from the sites and smells to the feelings they invoke.
The storyline of the children who have left the island for the mainland is also a good one, and one anyone who has tried to juggle responsibilities to an aging parent with responsibilities to children and a job that may not be available in proximity to the parent will recognize. The brother is largely absent from the story, we never hear his point-of-view, but the daughters all struggle with this issue.
This would be a good, relaxing beach read. I read it while it was cold outside, though, and it was a perfect way to escape the cold of winter.
And Cormac O'Brien writes up gossip better than the Daily Mail, so the entertainment promised is delivered with exponents tacked onto the end. Delivered so well, in fact, that I immediately bought his Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents.
On a final note, I had no idea that Martin Van Buren neglected to even mention his wife in his memoirs. What a jerk....more
Josie is a lawyer, and a very good one. So good, in fact, that she even managed to get a not-guilty verdict for a guilty client... who then murdered hJosie is a lawyer, and a very good one. So good, in fact, that she even managed to get a not-guilty verdict for a guilty client... who then murdered her own children.
Josie decided not to practice criminal law ever again.
Until her best college-friend showed up desperate, needing Josie to represent her daughter Hannah - who has been accused of murdering her step-grandfather. And that step-grandfather just happens to be a famous and politically active California judge.
Hannah is not easy to represent - she has OCD and she cuts herself. She self-medicates with legal and illegal medication. And she's hiding something. Josie knows it, but she doesn't know what it is.
When she finds out, it's nearly too late.
This book grabbed me immediately, and kept me hooked. I'm supposed to be packing and painting our house for a move, but instead I blocked off a day to read this, it was that good (also, I'm really tired at this point, so I'm not a hard sale for resting with a book. But still. It was great).
Josie is a well-rounded character, portrayed well enough in all her human-ness that I didn't really like her that much. The character of Hannah is exceptionally well done, well enough that I alternated wanting to save her and wanting her to be locked away forever. In the end, I'm still not sure which alternative would be best for Hannah... and everyone else who comes in contact with her.
And Archer? What can I say. I have a soft spot for soft-spoken tough guys who don't wear their ability to kick ass on their sleeve and carry around inner-sadness and barely healed torment.
The only character I didn't feel was well-rounded (and there's always at LEAST one in every book, because it would be too boring to spend a chapter describing everyone's background, from main character to gardener) was Kip. Kip's motivations were discussed, but never really fleshed out. I understood his background, I just didn't really understand his present.
There's a good deal of action, and you are never quite sure how much is OCD and how much is psychosis - even when the book ends.
I've read several reviews of this book on Amazon which point out numerous grammatical deficiencies. I can honestly say that I didn't notice most of them while reading, as I was too caught up in the story. ...more
Oz Griffith was a bully. He didn't bully everyone, but he did bully one person in particular - Stevie, a boy with Downs Syndrome.
Oz's bullying droveOz Griffith was a bully. He didn't bully everyone, but he did bully one person in particular - Stevie, a boy with Downs Syndrome.
Oz's bullying drove Stevie to suicide and put in motion the end of the world. When the Takers appear, eating any human who notices them, Oz is passed out with mono. When he wakes up, it seems as though there's no one else left on Earth.
Gradually, he gathers a band of followers, human and animal - all dedicated to protecting the most unlikely member of the band, a newborn infant named Nate. But Nate is special, and if the world is to be saved, he needs to be protected at all costs. That is Oz's purpose.
The Takers is a gripping read, and one of the most unique stories I've read in a long time. The concept of disgusting creatures that swallow people whole and can only harm you if you notice them has shades of Stephen King, as does the revelation of how the Takers arrived and were created.
The author, R.W. Ridley, weaves the storyline together masterfully, creating suspense and tension without being heavy-handed in his scare tactics. The twists in the story are believable, and Ridley does not create "Red Shirt" characters - everyone in the story is in peril. Being a main character is no armor against the Takers.
Even the storyline with the gorilla, which sounds ridiculous if you try to explain it out-loud, works into the book seamlessly and without making the reader shake their head. In fact, the gorilla is one of my favorite characters - and was probably a lot of fun to write.
The Takers is not a difficult or long read - I finished it in one night. Granted, it was a night I was dealing with a bout of insomnia, but still. ...more
Allie Fox - Father - thinks America is focused on the wrong things and on the verge of annihilation. With no explanation to his family he moves them tAllie Fox - Father - thinks America is focused on the wrong things and on the verge of annihilation. With no explanation to his family he moves them to Honduras.
Not that anyone in his family knows where they are going - Father makes them leave everything in their snug house and puts them on a boat where they find out their destination from the other passengers.
Father doesn't believe in school education. Father thinks the best place for his family is in the middle of nowhere, building their own self-sufficient society. Father simultaneously preaches the nobility of the undeveloped societies while treating the local Indians he contacts with extreme contempt. Father believes the secret to a better world is ice.
Father is crazy and Mother is weak and the four children are caught in the grip of his insanity without any hope of being rescued.
I struggled with the rating for this book. On the one hand, I absolutely detested the story. It was too much like Heart of Darkness for my comfort, but told from the viewpoint of a child caught in the middle of the growing craziness. Father was a horrendous person, and I had absolutely no sympathy for him or for any of his wild schemes. The way he treated people throughout the book had me spending most of my reading time hoping someone would punch some sense into him.
Mother was weak. So weak that she only made token efforts to protect her children from her husband's growing insanity. Several times, even in the beginning of the book, various children were put into life threatening situations and she only rarely made even the smallest protest. She didn't even demand to know where the family was headed, just gave up everything she owned and headed off into the sunset without a fact or question.
The story was horrible and I could find nothing redeeming in it.
But Theroux's writing is absolutely brilliant. It takes a great writer to make a terrible story compelling enough that a person keeps reading to the end, which is exactly what happened with this book. I kept reading it, despite hating Father much more than is warranted for a fictional character. Despite wanting to shake Mother into stepping up to her parental responsibilities, I kept reading.
And, at the end, I was left wondering how everything really turned out - what happened to the children? Did they stay in Honduras? Go back to the US? Did Mother grow a spine?
The story was less than a one. The writing was more than a five. ...more
The second-and-a-half generation from the Holocaust...
Amir's extended family consists of family that is loosely tied by genetics, but strongly tied thThe second-and-a-half generation from the Holocaust...
Amir's extended family consists of family that is loosely tied by genetics, but strongly tied through experience and need. They are Holocaust survivors, who cope in different ways with their experiences. And as he grows, he knows something happened, knows of the Shoah, knows it was terrible beyond imaging. And yet, despite being surrounded by those who survived, he knows little of what happened to individuals. How did they survive? Why? What series of circumstances and events led to the late-in-life travels and mitzvahs of Grandpa Yosef vs. the ramblings of Hirsch, who would stop in various places in the neighborhood and and scream, "Only saints were gassed?!"
The book reveals to the reader as the stories were revealed to Amir. At first he knows something, but it is a tenuous knowing, one that is not-defined. It is merely a dark cloud of something bad. As he gets older - but still not "old enough"!- he and Effie search out something to understand, to place the actions of their elders in context and to understand.
And finally he is "old enough", and the stories come flowing out, with a twist that Amir was not expecting and which let him floundering.
Our Holocaust is illuminating, bringing out the story we rarely see, hear, or consider - how the children of the survivors were affected, and it is well written.
The only issue I had was separating truth from fiction, and in books of this sort, such a thing can be dangerous. This book is a novel, and two of the most colorful and shaping characters are fiction, along with a supporting character of great importance. Gutfreund takes great care to sort all this out in his afterword, but by using himself as a character, he blurs the line between fact and fiction.
Historical fiction is a powerful tool in relaying history, because it relates the feeling and essence of a time in more vivid color than the bare facts are capable of relaying themselves. This book succeeds marvelously in this effect. I just wish the fact/fiction line had been more clearly drawn, because the end effect is that the two are muddled together in my head, leaving me feeling that I don't have a firm grasp of either....more
In Born of the Sun, Peter Munford recreates the world of human ancestors. Although his timeline is never explicitly stated, the pre-humans whose lifeIn Born of the Sun, Peter Munford recreates the world of human ancestors. Although his timeline is never explicitly stated, the pre-humans whose life he is detailing seem to be australopithecines.
Munford paints a rich picture of his vision of australopithecine life, he obviously spent a lot of time researching the subject. Necessarily for anyone writing about extinct species of two million years ago, he makes many assumptions (such as the methods and abilities for communication), but those assumptions make sense and fit seamlessly into his narrative.
Overriding everything else is the need to eat and the need for safety. The small band of pre-humans finds themselves continually dealing with both issues, as their female leader makes several leaps of thought that illustrate the developing brain. Meanwhile, group dynamics between the males are straddling the line between animal pack and human thought. And while the pack is struggling to survive, they are confronted with the next step in human evolution....more