A Storm of Swords

There is a point while reading novels, especially great ones, when your eyes are no longer seeing words on a page, but forming an image of that moment in time. You are transported to a faraway world, to the struggles of a little boy, to the pride of a championed cause. It’s brilliant. And once you’ve found your niche, that place you know you’re meant to be, you don’t want it to end.

George Martin’s ability to create such a place is surreal. The pain and sorrow of the characters are palpable. Every desire, resounding. Each small victory, triumphant. These stories he’s created accomplish what every book should make an audience feel. We’re no longer an audience. We’re citizens of Westeros, the King’s Road, the snow falling beyond the Wall that bears witness to the magnificent secrets of Sansa, Arya and Jon, Tyrion and Ygritte, Brienne and Jaime.

A-Storm-of-Swords-e1346603808470All the while, Martin so adeptly weaves life’s wisdom into his story. I decided to share some of my favorite…

‘In the world, as I have seen it, no man grows rich by kindness.’ – Ser Jorah Mormont

‘A man can own a woman or a man can own a knife,’ Ygritte told him, ‘but no man can own both. Every little girl learns that from her mother.’

…Pylos meant it kindly, but his assurances rang hollow….’A kingdom’s not a ship…and a good thing, or this kingdom would be sinking. I know wood and rope and water, yes, but how will that serve me now? Where do I find the wind to blow King Stannis to his throne?’
The master laughed at that. ‘And there you have it, my lord. Words are wind, you know, and you’ve blown mine away with your good sense. His Grace knows what he has in you, I think.’
– Davos Seaworth and Maester Pylos

‘An ant who hears the words of a king may not comprehend what he is saying,’ Melisandre said, ‘and all men are ants before the fiery face of god.’

‘No man goes hunting with only one arrow in his quiver,’ he said. – Mance Rayder

‘The gods made the earth for all men t’share. Only when the kings come with their crowns and steel swords, they claimed it was all theirs. My trees, they said, you can’t eat them apples. My stream, you can’t fish here. My wood, you’re not t’hunt. My earth, my water, my castle, my daughter, keep your hands away or I’ll chop ‘em off, but maybe if you kneel t’me I’ll let you have a sniff. You call us thieves, but at least a thief has t’be brave and clever and quick. A kneeler only has t’kneel.’ – Ygritte

If he survived this night, he would take Devan and sail home to Cape Wrath and his gentle Marya. We will grieve together for our dead sons, raise the living ones to be good men, and speak no more of kings. – Davos Seaworth

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New narrators, once again. Samwell Tarly. Jaime Lannister. As well as old acquaintances. Catelyn Stark and Jon Snow – among others. And in the preview of A Feast for Crows we find that readers will get a closer look into Cersei Lannister’s true feelings. However in A Storm of Swords, the third installment of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (a.k.a. A Game of Thrones) reveals that Robb Stark, ‘King in the North’, has yet to be beaten on the battlefield and Tywin Lannister has made his way to King’s Landing. Lord Tywin’s arrival temporarily leaves youngest son Tyrion void of responsibilities to the realm. As King Stannis so fortuitously slays his brother Renly Baratheon – the desparate scheming for the Iron Throne continues….

To Sansa Stark’s good luck, the Lannister’s find a more prosperous match between King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell from Highgarden. But the Lannister’s, or rather Lord Tywin, is not prepared to throw a chance at Winterfell to the wind. In the far North, Jon Snow is exploring life as a wildling following ‘The King Beyond the Wall’, Mance Rayder. Jon finds himself mixing pleasure in this ‘reconnaissance mission’ that he does not easily forget once the freefolk make their way back to the Wall.

Brandon ‘Bran’ Stark and younger brother Rickon are thought to be executed and are making their way north with two crannogmen. I find it easy to let them slip to the back of my mind, despite the mysterious powers of Bran’s dreaming. But I’m not about to disregard the Khaleesi, Daenerys Targaryen, ‘Mother of the Dragons’. The Queen is building her army, purchasing thousands of ‘Unsullied’ – fearsome eunuchs dulled to pain – proving the loyalty of her dragons. Although such loyalty cannot be said of everyone in her caravan. Her fate will be one I am eager to discover when I finally decide to open the cover of A Feast for Crows.

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A Clash of Kings

A friend of mine has also recently read through the second and third book of The Song of Ice and Fire series. He, among others, have been discussing the characters – which is their favorite, which they hate the most. As this friend was talking about his favorite character, he mentioned that if he was still living his old way of life and if he and Tyrion Lannister knew each other, they might go drinking together. Immediately I thought of Arya. By far and away, easily the character I relate to the most. A tough girl who wants anything but to sing and sew and give curtsies. In A Clash of Kings we get to see her take care of herself, be independent and even get others out of trouble.
martin_clash_kings_mmkt-360x560 That’s just it, Martin gives the audience someone to relate to – even in a fictitious world so long ago. We’re enthralled because we see ourselves. We have someone to root for. Martin reaches through the pages to grab you. He creates a vessel for the readers in his story. How would you be in a world full of crowns and dragons?

In the last book, I couldn’t stand Sansa Stark. At the very beginning of the sequel, I still found her annoying, but I began to sympathize with her. As my friend continued his thoughts on Tyrion, he added, “I want someone to stay good until the end.” It’s a hopeful sentiment, especially for a mythological tale. Then I realized: none of the characters will manage to stay ‘good’ for the whole series – it’s what makes Martin’s characters real. Arya has not been innocent by any means, but she is still my favorite fighting for what I perceive is the ‘good’ side of things. Is there ever a time when you’re always the good guy?
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But to sum up the sequel in this series, Martin introduces some new characters to take us through the narration. Theon Greyjoy and Davos the Smuggler. The readers follow Robb through his first battles and Bran and the ‘frogeaters’ surviving in Winterfell. I even developed a weak spot for Sandor Cleagane, “The Hound”. Even though he won’t admit it yet, Tyrion falls in love with Shae and Stannis Baratheon may become as much of a danger as Lord Tywinn Lannister. All I can say is that I’m more excited for A Storm of Swords than I was for this book. If Margaery Tyrell’s spunky grandmother has a profound presence I may have a contender for a new favorite character.
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Hopkins

Ellen Hopkins is quite the accomplished woman by my record. An award-winning author, journalist, avid gardener. A survivor of an abusive relationship. The founder of Ventana Sierra, Inc., which works to achieve the career goals of disadvantaged youths through a variety of avenues. I know Mrs. Hopkins because of her young adult novels. Ellen Hopkins evoked the most troubling stories of teenagers through her very unique writing style. Once you pick up one of her books, you can’t put it down.

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I’m eagerly looking forward to her next young adult novel, Smoke. Smoke is the sequel to my favorite of her books: Burned. Burned is the story of Pattyn, a girl who questions her family, faith and every form of love. In the midst of her abusive father, Pattyn moves to Nevada. By the end of the story I’m pretty sure I had screamed, clenched the book in my fists and had tears running down my face. You can imagine why I’m looking forward to the rest of Pattyn’s story.
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It wasn’t until I had looked further into this plot that I discovered two more of Hopkins’ books. I’ve read all of her young adult novels. Perfect and Tilt are two that are now on my list, and will hopefully read before Smoke releases. Because Hopkins’ original audience started in 2004, she has also begun to explore more mature works of fiction. You can bet I’ll be checking those out too.

To visit Ellen Hopkins’ website, click: http://ellenhopkins.com/

The Journey Continues…

I have complete confidence that the movie you’re about to preview will be far more outstanding than the last movie that was previewed on this blog. Granted the trailer was pretty good, Anna Karenina did horrible justice to the book it portrayed. I was fully expecting for much to be cut out, as it was a book that had the thickness of a sub sandwich. But the way it was put together and executed was so disappointing.
I doubt my hopes for this film can be squandered. Mostly because I was mesmerized by The Hunger Games in theatres. After reading the entire trilogy, to say the least, I’m giddy for Catching Fire.
Get stoked.

Black Sea Affair

This title, as well as others of Brown’s work, is great quick read – mainly because it was slightly below my reading level. The Navy Justice Series would make great books for any middle- to high-school age student. Of course if adults want something to burn through in a few days, I would recommend Don Brown’s novels. Black Sea Affair tracks political and military action as American and Russian leaders escalate situations to the brink of a modern-day Cold War.

black-sea-affair-250First, weapons-grade plutonium disappears from the hands of Russian government. The American administration stumbles upon information that leads them to believe the plutonium has fallen into the hands of terrorists, who are transporting it to a freighter on the Black Sea. The Russian defense minister and president are badly mistaken about the whereabouts of their plutonium. NATO becomes involved, pilots are killed, and a crew of American submariners is sent on a top secret mission. Submarine Commander Pete Miranda is hunting down the freighter they suspect has the plutonium, without knowledge that it also has a dozen orphans and their chaperone on board.

Nothing extra spectacular about this book, but it was good to read something from Zondervan. There was also a lot less action from Navy prosecutor Zach Brewer than I expected. It was somewhat of a letdown, but it never took away from the story. I’d say it is quite an accomplishment for a former Navy JAG Officer who has worked in the Pentagon. I’ll be on the lookout for more of Don Brown’s work in the future.

Winter Is Coming…

…so please forgive me. I know I have not been on here in forever. No excuses, but I’ve been relishing in my blessings – travelling to Indiana, Kansas City for the Agriculture Future of America Conference, and Sedalia for the Missouri PAS Conference. All with in the last month. Eeeek!! However, never failing the true bookworm that I am, I have managed to finish my first George RR Martin novel. My Sundays are another ‘thing’ all together, as the first chapter of Twelve Extraordinary Women has borne the most challenging piece of work I’ve been through, possibly in ever, but I will get to that when the times comes as well.

If you’re familiar with title of this post, or know that I have been reading the first book of the Song of Ice and Fire Series, you have probably caught on to the fact that I have completely read A Game of Thrones. Might I say that it is brilliant. George RR Martin is the type of author that makes me want to write a book. He manages to create a page-turning story, symmetrical to classics, without it revolving around sex. A theme that seems to be quite frequent with current authors (or maybe it’s just me). For those of you who are far ahead of me in the series, I apologize for being so behind. Even as I’m reading Anna Karenina, I can not help anticipating how A Feast for Crows will  play out!

If you’ve not seen the series on HBO – you know, the one with the brilliant cast – although somewhat vulgar it does a pretty decent job of portraying the story. For me to admit that is saying something, as I am always partial to the living, breathing pages of a book. To recap some of the story, Lord Stark of Winterfell is asked to be the hand of the King, Robert Baratheon. Martin follows members of the Stark family, and also of Daenerys Targaryen, ‘the blood of the dragon’, who is khaleesi of the Dothraki people. It may sound a little like jibberish and maybe somewhat confusing, but trust me, it’s entirely worth the non-existent struggle. Well into the book, King Baratheon dies and all heck breaks loose. Starks and Lannisters are at work, along with a majority of the rest of the kingdom, all fighting for some security of the Iron Throne. Martin’s characters are addicting and lovable and enraging. Well done sir. Well done.

I’ve missed you all. Please let me know what you think of the book! Have any questions, comments, suggestions? Try not to give away too much of the rest of the series please!

CROSS

I’m assuming that I’m not the only who gets just a little bit annoyed when I don’t start a series at the beginning. Good news; when I read Alex Cross (which was previously published as Cross) I couldn’t even tell that it was approximately the 10th or 11th book. While your work may be outstanding, Mr. Patterson, I’d have to say that this just didn’t come up to par. Granted the psychological bits of getting inside the mind of a cold-blooded killer are pretty great, this occurs in almost all of your bestsellers. Frankly, your readers need something more, and this plot was just a little disjointed and the climax was terribly underwhelming. I mean, who doesn’t like to finish with a bang? 😉

SPOILERS: Alex Cross is this cool, kick-butt FBI investigator turned psychologist after the death of his wife. Michael Sullivan is a hired gun for anyone willing to pay money, if they have enought of it. Oh, and he doesn’t mind doing the occasional raping/murdering thing on his own time either. So, yadahyadahyadah, in the end, both characters collide in a not-quite-so-escalated shootout. All let you draw some conclusions.

Regardless of quality, it still kept me turning pages. I will most likely seek out the other Alex Cross novels at some point. Don’t expect me to get excited for the movie though; especially when Tyler Perry is the starring role. I do have a couple of Patterson books that aren’t murder mystery thriller-types – we’ll see how those go. I still love the guy. Three words: Read Kiddo Read. He’s created a website designated to promoting reading in children and young adults (something that doesn’t seem that popular anymore). That and he’s sold over 240 million copies of his work worldwide. He must be doing something right.

What do you think of James Patterson? Read any Alex Cross novels? What are some of you favorite Patterson books? Do you also blog when you should be writing an Ag Law paper?

A Game of Thrones

This is a series that has been on my to do list for quite a few months now. It fits in so well with my nerdy side too, bringing to life my love for Renaissance. Turns out… I first discussed the books with my Aunt at the Renaissance Fair. Haven’t read the books yet, buuut, I started watching the tv show. Can I just say, “Holy vulgarity”? Heads up to anyone considering watching – it definitely should have an R rating, for just about anything you can think of. Not sure how the books compare (as far as content), but I can’t wait to find out! Hopefully, I can start the books alongside the show soon.

To give you a little recap, the story takes place in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, a mythical place based on the work of the author George RR Martin. This fantasy world brings to life the violent dynastic struggles among the kingdom’s noble families for control of the Iron Throne; as the series opens, additional threats from the snow and ice covered region north of Westeros and from the eastern continent, Essos, across a narrow sea are simultaneously beginning to rise. The plot highlights the Stark, Baratheon, and Lannister families, along with the Dothraki people, and many other players in this ‘game’.

Right away though, the characters are incredibly strong. There are major douches who I want to punch in the face the minute I see them on screen: the Crown Prince of the Seven Kingdoms, Joffrey Baratheon, his mother, Cersei Lannister, and his betrothed, Sansa Stark (seeing a pattern here?). And then there are the characters you fist punch the air for when they kick butt: Arya Stark, Tyrion Lannister, Khal Drogo and his super cool wife. You all are probably thinking, “I have no clue who these wizards are…” No worries! I’m gonna shed a little insight, at least to a couple characters.

Arya is the youngest daughter of the Stark family. Maybe I like her so much because I like to think that she completely embodies my personality. She’s already told her daddy that she’s not having any babies for a nobleman or prince – she’s going to be more than just a compliant house wife. Within the first four episodes, she’s already starting taking “dancing” lessons, where she practices sword fighting with a private trainer. I love it. 

Another of my favorite characters is Tyrion Lannister, the ‘imp’. He is a dwarf, and for all of you who are familiar with medieval times you know that little fact didn’t make him too popular. Sir Lannister is completely aware of this however, and knows he has to use his advantages whenever they come along. Hence, the wickedly awesome quote in the picture. I hope some of you might consider watching or reading soon! Follow along as I make my way through it as well, if you like – I’d be  delighted. 🙂

P.S. Ode to the wonderful author who wrote the series!! Props to you if you figured out he’s also the man who said the quote this blog is based on!

The Hunger Games

So very often,  movies are adopted to popular books and then never do them justice. When I first heard of The Hunger Games (the film), I had not even heard of the trilogy. It was then my brother who informed me that they were some of his favorite books. Turns out I actually bought him the third book for Christmas last year. Ha… Since I’m quite familiar with the disappointment of watching films that do hardly any justice to the books that inspire them, I decided to wait and read the first book, The Hunger Games, until after I had seen it in theaters. 

Maybe it’s because I watched it in theaters, but I absolutely loved the movie. I finished the book and quickly moved on to Catching Fire. While watching the movie, I easily predicted a crucial detail of the second. My foreshadowing didn’t make it any less exciting however. In the second book , I was also introduced to one of my favorite characters – Finnick Odair. Although he didn’t become one of my favorites – possibly even my favorite – until the third book, Mockingjay, which I finished just hours ago.

For those of you who haven’t finished the series, or may not even know the books (unlikely), let me catch you up to speed. You probably know the synopsis of the first book: Twelve different districts are controlled by the Capitol. Girl from District 12 volunteers in place of her sister for the annual hunger games, in which one victor emerges after killing the 23 other tributes. I won’t ruin the ending if you haven’t read/seen it yet.

Now for semi-spoilers. Here comes Catching Fire and Mockingjay without giving away too much detail.

In Catching Fire, Katniss and Peeta (victors from the previous hunger games) take their victory tour. Shortly after, they are selected to participate in the third Quarter Quell, or the 75th Hunger Games. At the end of the book, Katniss and some of her allies escape the arena and the rebellion against the Capitol is on. In Mockingjay, Katniss is thrown into a war she inspired whether she wants it or not.

It is in this third book, I believe Suzanne Collins ties together the entirety of her message. I have yet to meet a person who has read it that doesn’t hate it – myself being the exception. One can’t dispute the fact that the end of this trilogy is heartbreaking, but I think it’s what Collins needed to drive home the point she is trying to convey.

Easily a trilogy I recommend. Don’t stop at the first book or the second. Read to the end of Mockingjay, and tell me you aren’t affected (or at least feel a little something). Isn’t that what we read for anyway?

What did you think of the books? More opinions? Do your worst.