Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Kris's Mini Reviews

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
I decided to read this book because it sounds AWESOME but I was nervous about the content. Because I've heard that the show is pretty graphic, and I'm not really into that. 

Turns out the book is much more mild than the show. Sure, there's blood and sex and trauma, but surprisingly, this book is more mild than some other fantasy books I've read (I'm looking at you, Terry Goodkind/Sword of Truth.)  

The action is engrossing enough to keep you occupied throughout this massive novel. I got pretty frustrated with the chapters switching character POVs all the time. There's a LOT going on, and it does get tough to keep all the characters straight. But each chapter rewards you with more intrigue, action, etc. I'm VERY impressed with George RR Martin's writing ability. It's obvious his worldbuilding is super detailed and thought out. I'm just kind of in awe at the world he created and kept straight and everything. Wow. 

So anyway, if you can handle blood, guts, and ... "manhood," I'd recommend this book to fantasy readers. Honestly, if I'd read it as a 13 year old, the sex stuff would have gone totally over my head. So it's not soft-core porn like I thought it was going to be (yikes!)
Bellman & Black is a heart-thumpingly perfect ghost story, beautifully and irresistibly written, its ratcheting tension exquisitely calibrated line by line. Its hero is William Bellman, who, as a boy of 11, killed a shiny black rook with a catapult, and who grew up to be someone, his neighbours think, who "could go to the good or the bad." And indeed, although William Bellman's life at first seems blessed—he has a happy marriage to a beautiful woman, becomes father to a brood of bright, strong children, and thrives in business—one by one, people around him die. And at each funeral, he is startled to see a strange man in black, smiling at him. At first, the dead are distant relatives, but eventually his own children die, and then his wife, leaving behind only one child, his favourite, Dora. Unhinged by grief, William gets drunk and stumbles to his wife's fresh grave—and who should be there waiting, but the smiling stranger in black. The stranger has a proposition for William—a mysterious business called "Bellman & Black" . . .
After reading The Thirteenth Tale, I was rabid for another book by Diane Setterfield. She took her sweet time crafting this one, so I figured it would be incredible and unputdownable and I was so excited. 

I was so disappointed. 

Don't get me wrong. I couldn't put the book down while I was reading it. Setterfield still writes beautifully and I love her prosetry. But the story behind this book bothered me. When I finished the book, I thought "well... what was the point of that?"  

It was a creepy (good) read for October, but it was nowhere near the level of awesomeness that I found from The Thirteenth Tale. And that is a bummer. 
An extraordinary novel about a wife who disguises herself as a man and goes off to fight in the Civil War.

She calls herself Ash, but that's not her real name. She is a farmer's faithful wife, but she has left her husband to don the uniform of a Union soldier in the Civil War. Neverhome tells the harrowing story of Ash Thompson during the battle for the South. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause.

Laird Hunt's dazzling new novel throws a light on the adventurous women who chose to fight instead of stay behind. It is also a mystery story: why did Ash leave and her husband stay? Why can she not return? What will she have to go through to make it back home?

In gorgeous prose, Hunt's rebellious young heroine fights her way through history, and back home to her husband, and finally into our hearts.
I was reeeeeally digging this book, until the last 10 pages or so. Then things kind of exploded all over and the ending was whack, man. Totes whack.  

Things I Loved: The voice. Hunt NAILED "Gallant Ash"'s voice. It was fantastic. I also loved the whole story arc, minus the ending and one other part. The plot, the pacing, the everything. A++ super yes. 

Things I Did Not Love: The weird relationship with Neva Thatcher. Did we really need to have an odd bisexual moment? Not so much. It pulled me right out of the story and distracted me the whole time Neva was around, even though there was nothing graphic or anything. It just did not work for me.  

Also, the ending. I don't know if I missed something or just felt betrayed by the suddenness of the narrator becoming unreliable...? Or maybe I'm just weird and that didn't happen? Don't know. Didn't love it. 

So, three stars. This book doesn't suck, but it's not my favorite.

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