A Clash of Kings – Book Review

A Clash of Kings is the second novel in the truly epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. The series is now a successful television show on HBO called a Game of Thrones.

This is a brick of a book. I take an average amount of time to read a book and this took me the better part of two months. The softcover that I own is a thousand pages.

I’ll try to keep this spoiler free but there might be a few that sneak in.

Characters

Complex mythologies and huge casts of characters go hand in hand with fantasy. Clash of Kings isn’t an exception. There are more characters than I could possibly keep straight. There are nine point of view characters and a plethora of others.

It would be easy with nice point of view characters, and a gazillion others, to make them bland or similar. Not going to happen in this book. I believe that despite the terrible things that happen to the characters, they are the best part of this book. Each and every one of them make you feel for them. The emotions vary as much as the characters but they’re their and strong.

That characters are great but they do drop like flies. The body count is as high as the emotions. Often the most likeable characters are the ones that die.

For the strength and consistency of the characters I give this book a five out of five.

Writing Style

This isn’t a quirky or flowery writing style. Martin has a way of making every word count and make you want to keep reading. It’s also a very easy style to follow. That means you won’t spend ten minutes reading a page only to realize you can’t remember what you read.

That being said I like quirkiness, I like flowers, and most of all I like a witty turn of phrase. Martin does it but it’s always through dialogue. If the narrative weren’t so well calculated, it would be dry.
It’s not your typical sword and sorcery fantasy. This is a high fantasy with low magic. It’s gritty and bloody.

For its efficiency I give the writing style a four out of five.

Story

I’ll say this right away. This isn’t one book with one story. Its one book with nine main characters and three times that many stories. It could have been split into 3 books with 3 characters and there would be little difference. With the exception of the wonderful bicep muscles I’ve developed.

Each book in this series builds upon the stories and even adds some. It’s all interlinked and brilliant. The stories are great and plentiful.

That all said I found the twists, high points, and low points subdued in comparison to the first one. I guess the first had a lot farther for the characters to fall on their faces. When the world has already turned to shit, it can’t get much worse. It does just not as dramatically as the first book.

It’s the second book in a series that could be just one large book it does a great job at what it needs to do but isn’t as awesome as the first.

I give it a three out of five for story.

Fun

In its own way this series is a lot of fun. It’s well written, intelligent, and keeps you on your toes. Clash of Kings felt long though. It could be that I wasn’t in the right mood for it or that it didn’t have the dramatic twists of the first. I found myself longing for the next book I’d read.

In fun I give it a three out of five.

Overall

Overall, if you have the upper body strength, patience, stomach, and love of high fantasy you’ll truly enjoy this book as part of the series. If you’ve read the first one and liked, keep going.

I think it’s a solid book by a master writer with an amazing talent with characters. For that I give it a final score of 75%.

A Clash of Kings – Book Review

A Clash of Kings is the second novel in the truly epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. The series is now a successful television show on HBO called a Game of Thrones.

This is a brick of a book. I take an average amount of time to read a book and this took me the better part of two months. The softcover that I own is a thousand pages.

I’ll try to keep this spoiler free but there might be a few that sneak in.

Characters

Complex mythologies and huge casts of characters go hand in hand with fantasy. Clash of Kings isn’t an exception. There are more characters than I could possibly keep straight. There are nine point of view characters and a plethora of others.

It would be easy with nice point of view characters, and a gazillion others, to make them bland or similar. Not going to happen in this book. I believe that despite the terrible things that happen to the characters, they are the best part of this book. Each and every one of them make you feel for them. The emotions vary as much as the characters but they’re their and strong.

That characters are great but they do drop like flies. The body count is as high as the emotions. Often the most likeable characters are the ones that die.

For the strength and consistency of the characters I give this book a five out of five.

Writing Style

This isn’t a quirky or flowery writing style. Martin has a way of making every word count and make you want to keep reading. It’s also a very easy style to follow. That means you won’t spend ten minutes reading a page only to realize you can’t remember what you read.

That being said I like quirkiness, I like flowers, and most of all I like a witty turn of phrase. Martin does it but it’s always through dialogue. If the narrative weren’t so well calculated, it would be dry.
It’s not your typical sword and sorcery fantasy. This is a high fantasy with low magic. It’s gritty and bloody.

For its efficiency I give the writing style a four out of five.

Story

I’ll say this right away. This isn’t one book with one story. Its one book with nine main characters and three times that many stories. It could have been split into 3 books with 3 characters and there would be little difference. With the exception of the wonderful bicep muscles I’ve developed.

Each book in this series builds upon the stories and even adds some. It’s all interlinked and brilliant. The stories are great and plentiful.

That all said I found the twists, high points, and low points subdued in comparison to the first one. I guess the first had a lot farther for the characters to fall on their faces. When the world has already turned to shit, it can’t get much worse. It does just not as dramatically as the first book.

It’s the second book in a series that could be just one large book it does a great job at what it needs to do but isn’t as awesome as the first.

I give it a three out of five for story.

Fun

In its own way this series is a lot of fun. It’s well written, intelligent, and keeps you on your toes. Clash of Kings felt long though. It could be that I wasn’t in the right mood for it or that it didn’t have the dramatic twists of the first. I found myself longing for the next book I’d read.

In fun I give it a three out of five.

Overall

Overall, if you have the upper body strength, patience, stomach, and love of high fantasy you’ll truly enjoy this book as part of the series. If you’ve read the first one and liked, keep going.

I think it’s a solid book by a master writer with an amazing talent with characters. For that I give it a final score of 75%.

The Hunger Games Trilogy – Book Review

The Hunger games Trilogy is composed of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. It’s written by Suzanne Collins.

In late December, I saw a few trailers for The Hunger Games movie. It looked interesting, I showed the trailer to my wife, and she bought the first book for her birthday shopping spree. Being a mean husband, I read it before she did. I immediately wanted the next two.

It’s an almost standard Post Apocalyptic Utopian Science Fiction. Set in a not so distant future where humanity has almost destroyed itself. You can easily see influences from multiple sources in her books. A little Greek myth, a little fantasy, and a strong dose of war fiction.

I decided to review the series as a whole since it felt more like one large book rather than three and I would be saying the same in all of the reviews anyways.

Characters

There is a multitude of characters throughout the three books. Each with varying importance but the author gives you the impression that they have fully fleshed out backstories. Not only do you feel each character has their whole life written out, the author makes you wish you could follow them and see their stories.

That’s not to say that the main character, Katniss Everdeen, ever gets boring. She’s a strong but young girl thrown from one duplicitous situation to another. If there’s any criticism about Katniss, it’s that she’s too real. She’s not a hero, she’s just a girl. When Harry Potter, or Frodo would complain and bitch but keep going, Katniss breaks down and cries.

As much as I wanted Katniss to get up, grab a bow, and shoot everything evil, it was a nice change to have a character that was genuinely traumatized by the crap she’s survived. Possibly the most intense part of the series was being right there with her and feeling every single moment. There were times I put down the book and wanted to cry but never did I want to stop reading.

The secondary characters are all as engrossing and as much as I enjoyed the epilogue. I could have used another hundred pages telling me what happened to each minor character.

I give the series a 5 out of 5 for characters. When I wish I could know what happened to a character mentioned only once or twice in a book, I have to acknowledge the authors skill.

Writing Style

I have to start out by giving Suzanne Collins credit for writing in the First Person Present Tense. First person is hard enough when written in the past tense but written in the present tense it’s extremely challenging.(Remember all this is my opinion based off of my experience writing.)

One of the great advantages of the first person present tense is tension. If someone is speaking in the past tense then you can assume they are still alive but with the present tense, there’s more urgency and fear.

In order to allow the reader to make their own conclusions Collins let’s Katniss describe an event and then later draw conclusions. This often leads to the reader knowing something way before the protagonist has even considered it.

As far as story structure goes the books, and the series, follow a three act formula. I think this forces Collins to force the story into the mould. There are parts that drag a little and some that seem rushed in order to fit into the three acts.

Another criticism would be how rushed some of her actions scenes feel. There is one extremely important action scene at the end of the last book, which takes up two or three lines. The scene is so shocking that I had to reread it several time before I understood it.

For writing style, I give the series a 3 out of 5. It’s very good but has some structure weaknesses.

Story

I’ve heard every comparison about this series with other arena-style books or movies. They’re full of it. This has a lot more in common with Utopian/dystopian fiction. I see a little Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, etc. It also has many similarities to a standard hero’s journey. Despite the protagonist not being a true hero.

I keep asking myself was this a good story? And my answer is both yes and no. If your definition of a good story is something that both touches you and scars you for life, than yes. If your definition of a good story is something that touches you and makes you happy, than no.

This is a poignant and heartwrenching series that will stick with you long after you’ve read it.

I give it a 4 out of 5 for story.

Fun

As much as I wanted to keep reading this series, I can’t call it fun. It’s painful, sad, shocking, and depressing.

I posted that I just wanted to crawl into bed and cry after finishing it and I think many people reading it would agree.

This category’s score reflects my joy while reading. I really like being happy when I finish a book for this reason I give it a 2 out of 5 for fun. I would give it a 1 but the pain is essential to the story and not just there for its own sake.

Overall

It’s a great series that I admire the style and story but will most likely never read again.

I’d only recommend reading it to someone who is emotionally stable and with the warning that it will twist your heart and rip it out of your chest.

Overall, like I’ve said, great but it’s score is low from my emphasis on fun. I give it a 70%

A Princess of Mars – Book Review

A princess of Mars is the first of eleven books in the Barsoom series. I’ve also heard it called the John Carter of Mars series.

This is a classic Science-Fantasy, published in 1912. Like other Mars novels from that time, almost all its scientific assumptions about Mars have been disproved.

This novel created and still personifies the Sword and Planet Genre.

The author, Edgar Rice Burroughs, is best known for his Tarzan series. However, his science fiction has had an influence that can still be seen in newer authors. He had an amazing way of mixing science fiction and fantasy without making it feel forced. His influence can be seen in many of the “New Wave” science fiction authors like Laguin, Zelazny, or Moorcock.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

This book only has two main characters. John Carter is veteran of the American Civil war and possibly many others, he refers to himself as a Virginian Gentleman. He’s a fighter and an impressive one. He looks thirty and has lived at least a hundred years. Interestingly doesn’t remember his childhood.

Where John Carter is impressive, his character arc isn’t. The only thing that changes is his understanding of Mars and his relationship status. That being said, he is an interesting and entertaining narrator/character. There is no doubt that he is a hero and he’s an entertaining guide to Barsoom.

The second main character is Mars, or as the natives call it Barsoom. There is more ink dedicated to her than to anyone else in the novel. A dying world with interesting and detailed cultures, the real character arc is Mars’. She goes from a war torn, segregated, and dying world to a united(ish) kingdom, but still dying. It’s a beautifully described world. At some points I preferred the world building and Martian history more than the actual story.

There are plenty of secondary characters some of which are fun others are down right boring. Overall, they feel unimportant next to John Carter.

The weakest character, as in most adventure stories from this time, is Dejah Thoris. Or the love interest. She’s less of a person and more of a goal for the protagonist. He treats her well but she has all the personality of an inanimate object.

I give it a 3 out of 5 for characters. Even though most of the characters are uninteresting, they are also unimportant next to the awesome John Carter and the brilliant Barsoom.

Writing Style

The book is written in first person, John Carter is writing his memoirs in the form of a letter to a friend. With few exceptions we are always dealing with John Carter and the way he sees the world(s).

The style is dry and at times, a little disconnected. When I say dry, I mean it felt academic. It’s a feel and style that was used a lot in that time and he does make it interesting.

One of the things that kept the book from feeling like a long Barsoomian discourse on history was the fact that it was so disconnected. The story would get a little dry and suddenly we’d be learning the history behind the Green Martians firearms. I’d get bored with the history and suddenly John Carter is kicking someone’s ass. It was a nice way of keeping the reader interested and informed.

I give the style a 3 out of 5. I guess I’m just a sucker for a first person narrative.

Story

It’s difficult to tell which tropes the author is using and which he invented. At its base, this is an “Other World” novel, sometimes called “Portal Fantasy” or “Trapped in another world”. It’s a common story structure with immense customization. I’m not sure you can say it was influenced by The Time Machine or by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland but they are definitely pulling from the same source material. Most likely, whether the authors did it on purpose or not, these stories are heavily influenced by old fairy myths.

Once John Carter arrives on earth (after an extremely bad portrayal of Native Americans) the story becomes a loose narrative of his journey around Barsoom. The only story motivation is survival. In the third act he is moved to action and almost single-handedly changes the face of Mars.

There are a lot of coincidences throughout the book that stretch believability along with John Carter’s inability to make a mistake. Other than the typical “White is right” and “Women are only good at being pretty” this book does have a few interesting messages. It’s definitely championing emotion, especially love, as what makes us human and what makes the difference between right and wrong.

An interesting essay could be comparing the cruel, barbarity of the Green Martians with that of the Humans in Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World and trying to associate it with their similar reproductive methods.

It could change with the rest of the series but the weakest part of this book is the story. I give it a 2 out of 5.

Fun

Was this book fun? Yes, Yes and yes. Maybe it’s the little boy in me (I’ve been meaning to get that removed) or the adventure lover but this book was a joy to read. It helped that it was tiny by comparison to other books of it’s genre. It made the bare-bones plot and history lesson seem quick and move along without getting dull.

A few modern Authors could learn something about Story/world-building from Burroughs I give it a 5out of 5 for fun

Overall

Overall, if you like swashbuckling and classic science fiction than I’d recommend you read A Princess of Mars. However it does suffer from it’s age and wouldn’t make it into my top ten best books.

I’ll probably pick up The Gods of Mars at some point and see what happens to John Carter. Most of the novels are available from the Gutenberg Project for free, can’t go wrong there.

Overall it was enjoyable but not amazing. I give it a 65% enjoyability score.

Book Reviews

Why am I writing reviews

I love to read. I wouldn’t call myself a heavy reader. On average, I only read one or two books a month. Since I love reading and I love writing. I’ve decided if I can coherently assess the books I read, than maybe I can understand why I like or dislike them. Giving me insight for my own writing.

Why you should care

If you’ve read my blog and liked what you’ve seen than it’s logical that you’d like the same things I do.

As far as my qualifications, I have

  • a Bachelors degree in Media Communications from the University of Ottawa,
  • a second, mostly finished, Bachelors degree in English Literature and Film Studies from the University of Ottawa,
  • two completed novels and one almost finished (so far unpublished),
  • over four years experience writing and Game Mastering the same group of players,
  • my wife and I own over two thousand books, and
  • of those two thousand books, I’ve read at least a quarter

It’s not the greatest list of qualifications but I hope its enough to keep you reading.

How it’ll work

I’ll be reviewing four aspects of each book I read. These for aspects represent things that I find important in my books. I’ll give each aspect a rating out of five and at the end give the book a rating percentage.

I am not reviewing if a book is good literature, or social commentary, etc. I am reviewing whether I enjoyed the book. I might do some literary analysis but most of it will be personal not scientific.

Characters

To enjoy a book I have to care about the characters. That doesn’t mean they have to be nice, good, or awesome. I just need them to be interesting and relatable.

Writing Style

This is an extremely personal aspect of books. I have certain styles I can’t stand and some that I love. A writing style can elevate a mediocre story into a great read and vice versa.

Story

I’ll be honest. I don’t believe in an original story or idea. I do believe that there are original ways to put story elements together. There are themes, character arcs, plots and subplots, and multiple other elements that go into a story.

Fun

You could call it the X factor, but sometimes it makes all the difference. A novel could be bland in every other way but still fun to read.

Opinion

As my wife can tell you, I’m not always right. Everything I say here is my opinion. If you disagree or want to discuss my points, feel free to comment.

Crochet Cell Phone Cases

Crocheted Cell Phone Case shaped like a tardis

My wife has been making awesome crochet cell phone cases.

There’s a Tardis, a Jayne Hat, and soon star trek uniforms.

Check out her store at Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/JenEricDesigns

Crocheted Cell Phone Case shaped like a tardis  Crocheted Cell phone Case that looks like a Jayne Hat

We took awesome pictures this summer at Disney world of a large stuffed Tardis she made. It’s awesome and you can follow it at: http://crochettardis.blogspot.com/

A stuffed Tardis

Crochet Cell Phone Cases

My wife has been making awesome crochet cell phone cases.

There’s a Tardis, a Jayne Hat, and soon star trek uniforms.

Check out her store at Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/JenEricDesigns

Crocheted Cell Phone Case shaped like a tardis  Crocheted Cell phone Case that looks like a Jayne Hat

We took awesome pictures this summer at Disney world of a large stuffed Tardis she made. It’s awesome and you can follow it at: http://crochettardis.blogspot.com/

A stuffed Tardis

A glimpse forward…

Her fluorescent purple hair glowed in the dying evening light. It was a warm evening, sticky with the promise of rain. She wore a low cut top showing the silhouette of a bird tattooed on her collar bone. The tattoo calmly flapped its wings, vainly attempting to escape a prison of skin and digitized ink.
The buildings shine and glimmer in vibrant colours. A backdrop for ghost images appearing in the corner of her eye. Each advertised the store, service, or persons residing inside the building.
She smiled as she passed a young man dressed in a classic white t-shirt and jeans. As he walked his information appeared next to his head. Name, age, sexual preference, relationship status, favorite quote and a silly picture.
She winked at him, it served the double purpose of “Liking” his profile, and the more traditional way of showing him the same thing. She could have chosen any eye trigger to accomplish the same digital ends, it was the intentions that counted not the interface.
Reaching home she dimmed her hair with a thought and unlocked her door in the same way.
Interfacing with the house told her that she had mail, the old fashioned kind, the oven was pre-heated, and the tofu for dinner was de-frosted. She put supper together, she added real veggies from her miniature garden and in les then ten minutes, sat down to eat.
As she sat down to eat she interfaced with her home network and streamed a home repair show. During the commercial she thought, “I wonder want the future will be like?”

Awesome Juicy Burgers

500 g of Extra Lean Ground Beef (Unfrozen)
1 egg
1/8 cup Crushed Crackers or Bread Crumbs (I recommend Ritz Crackers, Rye bread, or Pumpernickel)
1 tbsp of BBQ Sauce
1 tsp of Thyme
1/2 tsp Crushed Pepper
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup of Finely Chopped Mushrooms
1/2 tbsp Soya Sauce or Worcestershire Sauce

First thing you should do is take the meat out of the fridge and place it in a big bowl. This way the meat will be less cold on your hands later. If you’re using medium or regular beef instead of
Extra lean, I recommend doubling the amount of Crackers or Bread Crumbs.

Finely Chop the Mushrooms. They should be around the size of a pea. Any bigger and they will fall out of the meat, any smaller and they’ll turn it into mush.

Put all the ingredients into the bowl with the meat. With clean hands, mush it all together. Make sure that everything is well mixed.

Once everything is mixed together, you’ll be tempted to stop working the meat. Don’t. The longer you work the meat the more it’ll stick together when you cook it. This should take a minute or two of extra time with the meat.

Roll the meat into a large ball and split it into two smaller balls. Take the Two smaller balls and split them into two even smaller balls. Finally take your four smaller balls and split each one in two for eight meatballs.

Roll your meatballs in the palm of your hand and flatten it in the same way you would dough. Make sure to flatten well. They’ll retract and try to become balls again when you cook them.

If you want thicker burgers, split your meat into six instead of eight.

Cook on a BBQ, Griddle, or in a pan for around 3-5 minutes per side until they’re brown throughout. Don’t squish them with your spatula, or you’ll have dry burgers.