Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Song of Ice and Fire

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

This is the first book in the Game of Thrones series. Book 5 is scheduled to be released 12 July 2011. This is a long awaited book as it has been many years since book 4 was published. Fans of the series have been waiting not patiently. I have all 4 books published so far but I will try to drag out the reading of them in order to not have to wait so long to get book 5.

This book is set in a sort of medieval time but in a fictional world. This is a world where the seasons last for years. Summer has lasted seven years and the saying goes that a long summer brings an even longer winter. Winter is coming and with it comes a dark and cold world where sinister supernatural forces are amassing.

Meanwhile in the world of men, a deadly game of political chess is played. Children are betrothed to link families and gain power and property. Alliances are formed and broken for the benefit of the realm or the person, depending on the person. The seemingly central family, the Starks, come from the land of the north and are hard and unrelenting people bound by honor and the old religion. They must make their way through the political world of the south while protecting themselves and the realm against the forces of the north.

This book was very engaging and entertaining and it's a fast read even though the books are pretty hefty. This is a great fantasy series which is why HBO has picked it up and made it into a TV series. The HBO series seems to be sticking to the book (after 1 episode) with just a few changes. Most notable is that they have made the Stark children a few years older than they were in the book - probably for logistical reasons on finding kids who could actually pull off the intense rolls they needed to play. The one bummer is that the author ends up having to kill off a lot of characters in order to play out his massive game. I was really annoyed about one particular character's death but, really, I couldn't see any way around it in order for the story line to flow where it needs to go.

I highly recommend this book, and the series, just be patient for that 5th book. Book 4 was published in 2004 and the 5th has been a long time coming. According to the author's blog, "it's a monster."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

This was a fun light novel about love found by two people who had thought they were at the end of their lives.

Major Pettigrew is deeply anachronistic. The story is set in modern times but Major Pettigrew often seems like he is living during the time of World War II or before. He is very particular about duty and honor and manners and the proper way to behave or not to behave. He finds himself liking and then loving a woman whose life is also about duty and honor and the proper way to behave or not to behave but for very different reasons.

The Major's relationship with a shop-keeper of Pakistani descent rocks the boat in the small English village in which they both live. Many of the neighbors are up in arms about the fact that she is Pakistani yet others are more aghast that he would spend time with a shop-keeper.

The book looks at manners and the reasons behind them. It also looks at duty and honor and biases of many types. It paints many shortcomings in a very unbecoming light and even when the biases and prejudices of the Major are laid to bare, you can't but help liking him. He learns so well from his mistakes and does his best to make amends that we should all be like Major Pettigrew.

This was a fun in-between book that only took a couple of days to read. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a fast fun romance that doesn't feel like a romance.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Winter's Bone: A Novel

Winter's Bone: A Novel by Daniel Woodrell

This book came to my attention when the movie adaptation was nominated for several Academy Awards. I am now more interested to see the film than I was before.

This book is told from the voice of Ree Dolly, a 16 year old living in the Ozarks with her mother who has "gone crazy" in an almost catatonic way and her two younger brothers. Her father, Jessup, comes and goes in between time periods spent cooking crank, using or doing time in jail for said activites. This time, Jessup is due in court but can't be found. Ree must find him alive -or dead - or lose the house and land on which they live.

Ree wants nothing more than to escape in a year into the army but first she must fight the close-mouthed system of a large extended family whose history trails back to the first settlers of the area. Asking hard questions can get a person killed but Ree is forced to ask them and suffer the consequences. Meanwhile, she must also try to prepare her younger brothers for life without her. She is working to teach them to cook, fight, shoot and hunt as well as take care of their mother. She is reluctant to tell them of her plans to leave but feels the urgency of making sure they will survive without her.

Like I said, I am looking forward to seeing this movie in part because I really want to see how much of this hard life is portrayed and in what manner.

On a side note, I have not slowed down on my reading even though it seems that I have. I just decided to re-read a bunch of "junk food" books while I was on vacation. I figure it's about the same as reading People magazine. I tried to read my last book club book, The Idiot by Dostoyevksy but it just wasn't happening for me. I have been trying to plow through my latest book club book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. It is strange and difficult and I can't decide if it has anything to do with the fact that I'm reading it (trying) on a Kindle. I have been in a honeymoon period with my Kindle but that is waning and I am going to try to just read old-school books for awhile after I finish "Hedgehog". I am also about 3 1/2 months behind on The Sun so it's about time to play catch-up on that again. So much to read, so little time.....

The Passage

The Passage by Justin Cronin

This book was not what I was expecting. I was expecting a government conspiracy spy thriller - what I got was a government experiment gone wrong turning people into vampires horror.

Now I like vampire books as much as the next person (more, in some cases) but this was a little too creepy and horror for my tastes. I prefer my vampires to be more refined and human-like as opposed to mutated humans with rows of sword like teeth and a soft clicking of their jaws. The description of vampires was what creeped me out more than anything.

The basic premise is this: A team of scientists are working on an immunity-boosting drug based on a virus carried by some variety of bat found in South America. Of course things go wrong and the virus spreads and within a short period of time, the U.S. is in an apocalyptic state. The virus turns humans into vampiric creatures. The story begins in 2012 then skips ahead to 2018 when the virus gets loose. Then again, the story skips ahead 92 years to what is happening with a colony of human survivors and their struggle to battle the "virals".

The ending of the book was not satisfying. I was annoyed by the way the book ended but I have since found this was the first of a trilogy. The next books, The Twelve and the City of Mirrors are due to be published in 2012 and 2014. I may end up reading the next two so I can see how the story is resolved but at least this time I'll be prepared for the fact that it is horror.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Maximum Ride

Maximum Ride series by James Patterson

This series consists of Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, Maximum Ride: School's Out - Forever, Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, Maximum Ride: The Final Warning, Max, Fang and Angel.

This is a series that follows six genetically altered kids that have 2% avian DNA. Because of this, they have wings. They grew up in a lab living under horrible conditions. Now they are living on their own and taking care of themselves the best they can.

They end up having to save the world and each other. They deal with issues of environmental pollution and the general destruction of the planet by grownups. They do all this while dealing with life as a hormonal teenager (for a few) and just being kids (for the rest).

This is a fantastic young adult series that was a really fun read. I read it on vacation and it was perfect for vacation reading. I'm pretty sure there's one more book slated for the series but it won't be out until next year.