"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Dance with Dragons

TITLE: A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book Five
AUTHOR: George R.R. Martin

It's hard to review individual books in this series, because, really, they all form one story. A long, complex story. A long, complex, multi-layered story that hasn't been finished yet. Individual characters might have had their stories concluded, but the overall story continues. Or will continue, if Martin ever gets book six finished, and then book seven.

This one leaves a lot of loose ends. Most of the book, at least the first half if not a bit more, runs concurrently with book four, relating what's been going on with characters not seen in the fourth book. Then time moves forward once more, and we see some though not all of the characters who populated that fourth volume.

Winter is close now, very close. Blizzards make the business of war in the north difficult. New alliances are made, while others are shattered. And there are dragons. Dany's dragons grown bigger, wilder, independent. And that's pretty much all I can say, because now I'm a member of the legion of fans who are reading the books and watching the HBO series who know more than the fans of just the TV show know. And I will not spoil anything for those watching the show only. Suffice it to say there is bloodshed, new characters to root for and against, and WTF moments this series is known for. And if you're not reading the books, just watching the show, you're missing a lot. Though the show, after the first season, has deviated a bit from the books, I have no idea how much that will continue. The show has mostly collapsed or combined characters and scenes from the books, while adding in scenes only referenced in the books. They really do complement each other nicely.

Game of Ice and Fire

I now join the legions of fans eagerly awaiting the 6th book in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series: "The Winds of Winter." And that means I also join those fans watching the series who know more than the people watching HBO's "Game of Thrones" but haven't read the books. Which means, I need to be very, very careful about what I post or say so as to not spoil it. But.... WOW, those books are intense. And I discovered that the books are at times, more suspenseful than the show, because he takes so many pages describing what people are wearing or eating, what the room looks like, that slow down the moment you know must be coming, building on the feeling where you just know something's going to happen. In the show, the visuals are there before us and don't serve the story the same way. They have to set the stage in a moment, and of course, TV is very different than books, but I recommend, if you've got the time (for me, nearly a year), and you're watching the show, read the books, too. There are a lot of differences.

Review to follow as soon as I digest what I stayed up til 4 a.m. last night to finish reading.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Broken Harbor

TITLE: Broken Harbor
AUTHOR: Tana French

Fourth in a series now called the Dublin Murder Squad, this isn't a mystery as much as an exploration of human vulnerability, mental illness, and how the past can't really be escaped. This isn't a series in the traditional sense; French doesn't stick with one protagonist throughout. Instead, each book is seen through the eyes of a detective who appeared in the previous book. In this case, it's Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy who is investigating the murder of a man, his two children, and the near fatal attack on the man's wife. Scorcher has a rookie detective to train, a mentally unbalanced younger sister, and a past he has tried for years to keep buried. But the crime was committed in a housing development in what was once the beach resort where Scorcher and his family went every summer when he was a youth, and where his mother had died.

The investigation focuses on a few suspects only, and the relatively quick apprehension of the prime suspect leads to doubts despite the evidence. As Scorcher and his partner attempt to nail down the case, doubts grow about the man's guilt despite the overwhelming evidence and a confession, and all the while, Scorcher wrestles with his sister's explosive behavior and the memories of their mother's death. By the time the book ends, who killed the Spains won't matter nearly as much as what lead to their deaths and how the case has affected the men investigating it. This book is an emotional rollercoaster that might not keep you guessing, though there are a few ways the resolution could have gone. What it should do is make you feel for the characters. This is the sort of book that tends to linger with me for a while, because the characters feel so real.

I couldn't find any information on a next book. I hope French writes a new one soon.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Feast for Crows

TITLE: A Song of Ice and Fire: A Feast for Crows
AUTHOR: George R.R. Martin

Not quite as amazing as book 3 in the series, this 4th volume still has much to recommend. My main problem is that it follows only half the characters! They'll be seen in the next book, which I'm now reading. But this book finally gives us Cersei's point of view, and it was good seeing what makes this character tick.

Since you really can't start this series in the middle, and I don't want to post spoilers, all I'll say is that things start coming together on some fronts, new plots are set in motion, and repercussions from the previous book are felt and help move the story forward. There are no resolutions; those probably won't really come til the last volume of the series, but the fates of some characters seem resolved, while the direction for others are either made a bit clearer or take a sharp turn. Which is to say, nothing much changes from the previous volumes. And it's all so amazing and enthralling. The series might not be for everyone, but if you fall under its spell, it makes for compelling reading.