Monday, 30 January 2012

Game of Thrones Readalong Post #2, #3, and #4 (full book review)

I didn't finish A Game of Thrones before the final hour of A Winter's Respite Read-a-thon, but if it hadn't had been for the extra push of the read-a-thon I wouldn't have finished it in time for the ending of the read-a-long! (Say that 3 times fast!)

A Game of Thrones is a novel about just what the title says. The story is about the kings (and queens) and how they complete for the Iron Throne. Marion Zimmer Bradley herself says, "It is perhaps the best of the epic fantasies." It is the first book in the series A Song of Ice and Fire. Amazon describes it as "George R.R. Martin's high fantasy weaves a spell sufficient to seduce even those who vowed never to start a doorstopper fantasy series again." This is certainly true because normally I hate this genre!

What makes this novel the best is that the story is told from two different perspectives simultaneously. The first is as a historical account and the second at an intimately personal level. We see what it is like to be a king, the king's hand, a knight, a warrior, a child, and most of all, an outcast. There are so many different points of view in this novel and there is a character in this story that everyone can fall in love with.

What I loved the most about the novel was Martin's stories about the females. Some were weak and forced to submit to their kings, but a few were not only strong, they were heroines. One of my favorite characters was Arya. She is a young princess that preferred wielding a sword over a sewing needle like was proper in her day. Catelyn was a queen who reminded me of Athena in that she wisely offered advice about battle to her son who became the child leader of their army. But the most fascinating woman of the tale, who learns the price of dark magic, is featured on the cover of the book in the photo. Her name is Daenerys. While Daenerys does pay a price for dark magic, it is because of this, the true magic that runs through her blood is awakened. If I were to tell you what kind of magic that was, it would spoil the book.

My only complaint about this incredible book is that since it is a series, the story isn't wrapped up and the loose ends tied neatly. Instead the ending leaves you hungry for more. A Game of Thrones isn't light reading either. At 807 pages (not including the Appendix detailing the family trees) it is truly epic in it's scope. The characters are hard to keep track of at first. Some of the characters you grow to care about do not live. At the middle it started to lag and I grew frustrated, even bored. But then one death comes suddenly and with that death many of the kingdoms spiral into chaos. I think that was what was most fascinating. How one person affected the fate of literally thousands.

The book is called A Game of Thrones, but it does not end with a winner. Instead, you are set up for the next book in the series. It is at the same time frustrating and exhilarating. I especially loved the ending of A Game of Thrones and it left me eager to read the next book in the series.

(For a partial review, see Game of Thrones Readalong Post #1 where I talk a more about the male characters and the tv show.)

My rating Photobucket

Friday, 27 January 2012

Using A Winter's Resprite Read-a-thon to Finish A Game of Thrones

I signed up for A Winter's Resprite Read-a-thon and completely forgot about it. However, I did not forget about A Game of Thrones. I have been reading the novel still, I just have been so overwhelmed with other things that I got behind. Well, there's still some time left in the read-a-thon. I'm going to use that time to finish A Game of Thrones!
This month has been really horrible for reading. I didn't reach my goals at all. Hopefully, I can finish A Game of Thrones and move on to the next book in my very large TBR pile! It's all about making reading a priority and daily activity!

The Tarot Cafe Vol. 1 by Sang-sun Park (book review)

This all started because my son loves graphic novels. I was at the library looking for a specific book my son wanted when I came across the series The Tarot Cafe. It had never occurred to me before to find some graphic novels related to witchcraft. I know many people laugh at the idea of a graphic novel and claim that they are just comic books. My own feeling is that anything that combines art with telling a story is pretty amazing. I decided to not to prejudge and take a look at a few graphic novels that I had found.

The Tarot Café is a manhwa by Sang-sun Park and is published by Sigongsa in Korea, and distributed by Tokyopop in the United States. There are seven books in the series. This review is of Vol. 1 only.

The art in this graphic novel is breathtaking. It involves gorgeous, androgynous characters that are very detailed. No character is alike. Some of them dress in Victorian style clothing while others in S & M clothing. The artwork is very feminine and girly. My only complaint is that the male characters are too androgynous. You won't find a man's man in this story.

The story is about a tarot card reader named Pamela who meets four different characters split up into four short stories. These include a wish-giving cat who is part human, a blind vampire, a fairy, and alchemist.

Each short story is about love and has the same plot line despite the differing characters. The character that has seeked Pamela for a tarot reading has fallen in love with someone forbidden. The story line gets repetitive and boring. What is interesting though is that three of the love struck characters are males.

The use of tarot cards in the story is brilliant. I have studied tarot reading for years and Sang-sun Park using their actual meaning in the readings. In fact, Sang-sun Park makes the tarot cards so intricate to the story that she wouldn't be able to tell it without them. Each story begins when the character comes to Pamela for a reading and it told using flash back. I never thought that you could use the method of flash back in a graphic novel but it works very well in this book.

While each story has the same plot, the details of the story are quite different. All the of the stories have the same theme of sacrificing for love and discovering something about oneself in the process. I wish I could give more details but the stories are so short that I would give away too many spoilers. The stories appear simple, but they really aren't. There is depth to them but it's really after reading the story that you realize how much was there.

Because of this, I have a new respect for the graphic novel. The writer/illustrator has to be able to tell a story using pictures with very little words. I can understand how this is easily done with action stories but to do it with a love story takes real skill.

I would like to read the rest of the series to see what other amazing and unique characters Sang-sun Park creates.

My rating Photobucket

I started to read the second graphic novel that I got but it was so horrible that I couldn't make it past the first chapter, so rather than write a whole new post I'll review it here. It's called Spell Checkers Vol. 1 and is by Jamie S. Rich, Nicholas Hitori De, and Joelle Jones. The book has been accurately described as Mean Girls meets The Craft. I do have to admit that much of the dialogue is kind of funny...if you lower your maturity to 13 years old. A few examples include "Sleep with one eye open and your legs closed, you slut!" and "Love the new do. What do you call that? 'My chemically treated romance?'"

The main characters are immature, extremely vulgar, and parodies of the meanest, most popular girl in school. In the book, they start to lose their powers and can no longer do things like cast spells to get 100% on a test. Maybe losing their powers helps them get more redeeming qualities but I hated the main characters with such a passion that I couldn't stomach the rest of the book.

I decided to look at the last few pages to see how they had changed. They blow up a building and one girl cries "We are the gods of hellfire!" Then another girls says, "You're more like the god of fire crotch, Cyn." Hmm...clearly they decided to become better people. Well, there's always Vol. 2!

As for artwork, the characters are drawn using very basic manga. The art is disappointing. The whole book is disappointing. You'd think between three authors, they could have created something better than this.

My rating Photobucket

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Game of Thrones Readalong Post #1

  • January 8: Progress post #1; Pages 1 (Prologue) - 189 (End of Jon)
I didn't quite make it to page 189. I have read up until page 119 but I think I have read enough to give a partial review. I have to admit I was so nervous about this book. I still have bad memories of trying to read Lord of the Rings and feeling so overwhelmed by all the characters, places, and battles that I just gave up.

This book is much easier to follow but not completely easy. I think there are too many characters and the constantly shifting points of view sometimes leaves me baffled. What is surprising though is despite so many characters, there is not a single cardboard, cliche character in the group. Each character is unique and likeable. What's also surprising is there are points of view from men, women, and even children of both genders. I think this is what makes the book so good. One chapter may be from a veteran warrior while the next is told from the point of view of a teenage princess. What can a bit jarring is how young many of the characters are. It's culture shock to read about a thirteen year old girl getting married or a fourteen year old boy preparing to dedicate himself to the life of a chaste warrior.

What surprises me more than anything is that the book is character driven, not plot driven. This is the first fantasy adventure book that I have truly read. I only read a few chapters of Lord of the Rings and since then I think it has been my stereotype of what fantasy adventures are like that has kept me from attempting to read this genre again. I don't want to read page after page describing different battles. It turns out Game of Thrones is nothing like that. While battles and royal politics are certainly part of the plot, Martin's style is the exact opposite of a dry history lesson.

My favorite part in the book so far, and it is probably because I am a girl, was the consummation of the marriage between Khal Drogo and Daenerys. Khal Drogo is a fierce king of a barbaric people that kill and rape without mercy. Daenerys has been betrothed to Khal Drogo by her brother in hopes that Khal Drogo's army will help him regain the throne that was taken from his family. Daenerys is a young innocent teenager and Khal Drogo speaks only one word of Common Tongue and that is the word "no." As a reader, I fully expected Kahl Drogo to just violently take her but instead it was a tender love scene that was better than any Harlequin novel I have ever read.

My biggest complaint is that I don't understand who's story this is. Who is the main character? I think there are two and they are Eddard Stark (Ned) and Jon Snow, but I could be wrong about that. I am truly excited to read the rest of this book and find out. I find myself rooting for Jon to be the hero of the entire book. I always love an underdog.

I am also anxious to watch the HBO series based on the book. I decided to watch the first episode as well. I didn't go any further because I didn't want the book to be spoiled. The first episode pretty much covered all that I had read so far. However, the pacing felt too rushed and there is very little character development. The book is by far better, but aren't they always?

The tv show was different plotwise only in minor ways, but since it's only an hour long so much had to be left out. Far fewer characters are in the show so it is easier to follow, but this actually kind of bored me. Or maybe I was bored because HBO reduces some of them to stereotypical cardboard characters. In the show, the character of the Imp wasn't cardboard but did come off as kind of gimmicky. The tv show also focused on Khal Drogo and Daenerys but completely ruined the love scene because he is violent not tender like in the book.

Sometimes I only understood what was happening because I had read the book. An example is when Daenerys is told "You don't want to unleash the dragon" by her brother. Without the context of the book, you have no clue what this means. I thought there were a few scenes that were more powerful in the show than in the book though. This included when Ned and Robert reunite and when Bran gets injured. Reading about a boy falling and seeing it happen are emotionally two very different things!

Here's more info if you would like to participate in the Game of Thrones readalong:

The December Wolf Hall readalong has inspired me to tackle another long book that I’m scared to start by myself: A Game of Thrones. I loved the show and Kwame loved the book so I asked for volunteers to read it with me this January. The awesome Jenn from Booksessed responded and we’ve decided to get more people involved by hosting a readalong! We’ve spread it over 4 weeks so hopefully we’ll get through it together.

How to Participate:

  • Enter your blog site on this post. (If you don’t have a blog, just add a comment and start reading!)
  • Optional: Write a post to drag more readers into the fray with us
  • Optional: Stick the button in your sidebar! :)


(Page numbers from my paperback copy, I’ve put the names down to help you find it in your book but it’s not too important to get it perfect)

  • January 1: Reading starts (or has started already)
  • January 8: Progress post #1; Pages 1 (Prologue) - 189 (End of Jon)
  • January 15: Progress post #2; Pages 190 (Eddard) - 395 (End of Daenerys)
  • January 22: Progress post #3; Pages (Bran) 396 - 617 (End of Tyrion)
  • January 29: Final progress post; Pages 618 (Sansa) - 807 (End of Daenerys)

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Follow Friday #3 (Belated)

Question of the Week: Go count the number of unread books sitting on your shelf. How many?

Answer: Dozens! I buy books all the time that I intend to read but never do. My bedroom is literally covered in bookshelves!

Featured blogs this week:
Pawing Through Books

Book Den

Want to be a part of Follow My Book Blog Friday?


To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:

  1. (Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
  2. (Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers
  3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say “hi” in your comments and that they are now following you.
  5. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don’t just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don’t say “HI”
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love…and the followers
  7. If you’re new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog.