Book Review: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

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51toTzgHGXL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin  

Genre: Fantasy

Publishing Info: July 2011 by HarperVoyager (first published 1998)

Pages: 913

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Throughout Westeros, the cold winds are rising. From the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding lands of Winterfell, chaos reigns as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms stake their claims through tempest, turmoil and war. As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky – a comet the colour of blood and flame – five factions struggle for control of a divided land. Brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night.

 

Having read A Game of Thrones last year and being completely sucked in, it was no surprise that I picked up its sequel, A Clash of Kings. For contextualisation, this is my first time reading the book series A Song of Ice and Fire and I haven’t watched any of the TV series.

I wondered whether A Clash of Kings could live up to the high bar set by the first book, and while I think I enjoyed A Game of Thrones more, there was still plenty to love about A Clash of Kings. With Westeros divided, there are plenty of rivalries and tensions between the various houses to provide conflict. Many of the characters have now been well and truly separated, meaning it feels like there are more threads to try and keep track of. It does get a little confusing at times trying to remember who belongs to what house and who is allied with whom.

There was a lot of emphasis on the red comet blazing through the sky at the beginning of the book, but then allusions to it sort of disappeared. I’m guessing at some point it was no longer in the sky, but considering such emphasis was placed on it, it seemed odd that it was never referred to again later on.

Sadly Daenerys’s plotline was rather uneventful. I felt quite bored reading her chapters because nothing much was happening to drive her story forward. I’m hoping her plotline will pick up in the next book as she is an interesting character.

There was one rather boring chapter in the final battle which is one rather lengthy description of a sea battle. I was totally lost as to what was happening, and so many names of ships were mentioned that I totally lost track of who was fighting on what side. Aside from that, the rest of the book kept me as engaged as A Game of Thrones did. There were a few unexpected twists and turns which kept the book’s momentum going and made sure I was hooked. There’s plenty of mystery and intrigue, characters to root for (and characters to hate).

A Clash of Kings did not disappoint. It was just as thrilling and addictive as the first book. I’ve already bought a copy of the third book, A Storm of Swords, and am eager to continue reading the series.

 

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TV Review: The OA Part II

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mv5bmty5otkwndkzof5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdeynzi1nzm40._v1_Aired: Netflix

Created by: Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij

Starring: Brit Marling, Emory Cohen, Jason Isaacs, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Patrick Gibson

Genre: Science Fiction, Drama, Supernatural, Mystery

Rating: 4/5

When I watched the first series of The OA, I remember thinking it seemed rather bizarre, but somehow it still pulled me in. By the end of Part I I was invested, and eagerly awaited its return for Part II. I will be avoiding spoilers in this review where possible (to be honest, there are some pretty big and crazy concepts involved that I’m not sure I could explain properly anyway) as it’s best to go into this show without knowing anything.

The first episode left me feeling rather perplexed. The first series was complex and I struggled to remember what had happened. I’d recommend taking a look at a recap of Part I! Episode 1 starts off with new detective character called Karim searching for a missing girl. How this connected to the rest I had no idea. However the ending of the episode suggested things would be coming together. And they did in the second episode. While I wasn’t exactly sure how things were going to connect, I could see the beginnings of hints and foreshadowing that everything was going to come together.

In the third episode some of the characters from the first season finally made a return. Since they’d had such a big role in the first series, I was worried their story was over. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. I’d become invested in these characters so was relieved to see them continue to be part of the story.

Things got a bit weird in the middle of the series. I couldn’t see what the weird house and video game had to do with anything. Plus there was the simply plain weird scene with some kind of mind-speaking octopus that I still don’t understand. It’s like they were trying to throw too much at the show, making it overcomplicated.

The ending of Part II left me desperately wanting more. It opened up even more possibilities, and once again ended on a cliff-hanger. Hopefully we won’t have to wait so many years for Part III. I also liked that the second series didn’t feel repetitive. Some TV shows go through the same motions each series, but The OA feels like one long continuous story, which makes it more engaging because the storyline is anything but repetitive.

I would highly recommend giving this show a go, even if you think it’s not your kind of thing. Despite being baffling and at times hard to follow, The OA is somehow addictive. It draws you in. I like that it’s unique and doesn’t shy away from exploring big concepts.

Top 10 Tuesday: Books From My Favourite Genre

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My favourite genres are fantasy and science fiction so as they’re often grouped together, I’m going to do my top 10 favourite SFF books. It’s so hard to pick only ten!

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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1) Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A McKillip – This is my favourite book. It’s just so enchanting and mysterious, and a little strange, in a good way. It was the first McKillip book I read, and I’m so glad it introduced me to her work because she is one of my favourite authors.

2) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I usually put Catching Fire on these kind of lists, because it’s my favourite of the trilogy, but I’ve decided to put the first book on this list for a change. The Hunger Games kick-starts the series, and I love it just as much as Catching Fire.

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3) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – I read this recently and it has catapulted straight into my favourites. The world building is amazing, and I felt so drawn into the story and invested in the characters. I couldn’t put it down.

4) Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray – This book isn’t that well known, but it is so good. More people need to read it! Most YA science fiction tends to be dystopia or post-apocalyptic, so it made a change to read one set in space.

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5) Blood Red Road by Moira Young – I read this years ago now, but I’d still count it among my favourites. I remember not being able to put it down.

6) Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – I love Bardugo’s Grishaverse world. So far I’ve only read the Shadow and Bone trilogy, of which the first is my favourite.

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7) Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes – This is such a good and interesting book. Written in diary form, it follows a mentally disabled man who takes part in an experiment to try and increase his intelligence. It’s very thought provoking and moving.

8) Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – I have loved dragons for a long time, and remember getting this book out of the library as a kid. I really want to reread the series, as it’s been such a long time since I last read it.

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9) The Young Elites by Marie Lu – What I love about this book is how dark it is. The protagonists arc doesn’t follow the typical arc of a hero, which was really refreshing to read.

10) Eragon by Christopher Paolini – Another one I read quite a long time ago. I devoured this series, and would love to reread them again.

May Book Haul!

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I ended up having a bit of a book buying month in May. Having just finished the second book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (review coming soon), I went out and bought the third book, A Storm of Swords. It’s published in two volumes here in the UK because it’s so long! I’m quite glad they did it that way, as it would be rather heavy to hold!

I’m planning to go to the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) in London this July, so decided to do some reading in preparation. When I was looking through the list of authors attending, Rachel Burge’s The Twisted Tree really caught my attention. It sounds dark, mysterious and unique so I’m looking forward to reading that.

I’ve read a few verse novels and enjoyed reading a story told in a different form, so when I spotted The Poet X I made a bit of an impulse purchase. Verse can be a really effective way to tell a story when done well.

Having heard a lot about Internment, I just had to go out and buy it. I’m reading it right now, and so far it’s really good. It’s so relevant to current issues in our society and is actually a terrifying near-future dystopia. I’ll be posting a review when I’ve finished it!

Top 5 Wednesday: Books Featuring Mental Health

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This week’s topic is in honour of Mental Health Awareness Month. Awareness about mental health is something that is really important to me, and I’ve read many books about mental illness. Here are five that particularly stood out to me. T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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Speak by Laurie Halse AndersonSpeak explores the protagonist’s life following a traumatic incident. This is such a beautifully written book that really managed to capture the voice, experiences and emotions of the narrator. The depth and symbolism in it is just stunning.

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The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer – I found this a really emotional read, and gave it a rare 5 stars, because I found it so impactful.

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – This book has been seen as a little controversial, and the television adaptation especially so, but I thought the book was brilliant. It tells the story of a girl who is trying to understand why she feels the way she does, why life feels so hopeless, and how to come to terms with everything going on in her life and in her head. This book has an important message to tell.

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Crank by Ellen Hopkins – This book is written in a novel in verse form, which works really well with the subject matter. Hopkins explores drug addiction incredibly effectively through this style of writing.

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Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – Another book by Laurie Halse Anderson makes this list. While I felt Wintergirls didn’t have the same impact as Speak, it is still a very good book. It tells the story of two girls with bulimia and anorexia. As this is something I didn’t know much about before reading the book, it was interesting to see a story told from the perspective of someone with anorexia.

Top 10 Tuesday: Favourite Books Released In the Last Ten Years

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This topic was actually trickier than I thought it would be. Looking back at release dates, I realised I haven’t actually yet read any books from 2018 or 2019! I need to catch up! So my list spans the 10 years from 2008-2017.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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2008 – Brisingr by Christopher Paolini – I loved the Eragon series, and would really like to re-read them sometime. I remember the second book, Eldest, being a little boring in places, but thought the other books were great.

2009 – Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – The whole Hunger Games trilogy is brilliant, but of the three I think I’d have to say Catching Fire is my favourite.

2010 – If I Stay by Gayle Forman – Having read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, I am glad a realistic fiction book makes this list. I found If I Stay to be such a touching and emotional read.

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2011 – Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – I read this book this year and absolutely fell in love with Laini Taylor’s storytelling. Hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read.

2012 – Blood Red Road by Moira Young – It feels like such a long time since I read this book, but it remains high up on my list of favourites, and I’d like to revisit it sometime.

2013 – Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Mass – I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get round to reading this series. I read the first and second books last year, and want to read the rest when I can get my hands on them.

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2014 –City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare – The Mortal Instruments is one of my favourite series and this was such a great conclusion to it. Cassandra Clare has such an amazing way of bringing her characters and stories to life.

2015 – The Rose Society by Marie Lu – The darkness of this series is what drew me in. Seeing the dark inner conflict of the protagonist written in such a way was so fresh and exciting to read.

2016 – Replica by Lauren Oliver – Although I was disappointed by this book’s sequel, Ringer, at the time when I read Replica I was captivated by the unique format of the book and felt invested in the characters.

2017 – Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray – One of my favourite recent reads. This book blew me away. I thought it was absolutely brilliant and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Top 10 Tuesday: Page to Screen

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There are so many options for this freebie! I considered writing about the best film adaptations, or the worst, but ended up deciding to do something different. Here are my top 10 films or TV shows I’ve seen, but haven’t read the book they’re based on.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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1) The Expanse, based on the series by James S. A. Corey – I was so relieved when Amazon picked up this TV series because it is absolutely brilliant. I would be tempted to read the books, as I loved the TV show so much.

2) Ready Player One, based on the book by Ernest Cline – I loved the film but I’m not sure I want to read the book. I’d wanted to watch the film after I’d read it, but didn’t get round to it in time. Somehow I don’t think it would be the same reading it after seeing the movie.

3) To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on the book by Jenny Han – I really enjoyed this film, but when I read a sampler of the book I just couldn’t get into the writing style. As much as I enjoyed the story, I’m not sure the book is for me.

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4) The Shannara Chronicles, based on the books of Terry Brooks – I’ve only seen the first season so far but I enjoyed it. I’ve not read any of Terry Brooks’ novels before but heard they are good.

5) The Notebook, based on the book by Nicholas Sparks – This and many other films based on Nicholas Sparks novels would fit on this list. I’ve never read any of his books, but seen several films based on them.

6) Inkheart, based on the book by Cornelia Funke – This was one of my favourite fantasy films as a kid, but I never got round to reading the books.

7) The City of Ember, based on the book by Jeanne DuPrau– I’ve watched this film several times but never read the book. I really enjoyed the concept.

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8) Me Before You, based on the book by Jojo Moyes – This film had such a mix of comedy and sad moments, I’m not sure my heart can deal with the book!

9) The Host, based on the book by Stephanie Meyer – I have read Twilight but was not a fan of it. However, I got The Host on my Kindle thinking I’d maybe give it a go. I haven’t read it yet but I have seen the film, which was watchable if not amazing.

10) Warm Bodies, based on the book by Isaac Marion – It’s a while since I saw this film but remember thinking it was really good, so maybe I should pick up the book someday.

Film Review: Avengers Endgame

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ho00005997-lgFilm Review: Avengers Endgame

Release date: 25th April 2019

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner

Runtime: 182 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Avengers: Endgame is what the previous 21 films have been leading up to and makes an epic conclusion to ‘Phase 3’ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The fact they’ve managed to sustain such a long series of films is in itself a great achievement. It was so ambitious, but they did it. They created a massive number of much-loved characters and amassed a massive fan base.

Infinity War was brilliant, and I was hoping the sequel would live up to expectations. Without spoiling the film, I can say it went beyond what I expected. I couldn’t fathom how they’d solve the dilemma of the snap. Endgame took me on a journey of laughs and tears. There were plenty of twists that kept me hooked. The final battle was very well choreographed and full of suspense.

It is a very long film, clocking in at 3 hours, but it didn’t drag too much. With so many characters, and many of them not returning due to the end of actors’ contracts, there was a lot to fit in. The film focuses on a few of the characters, with many of the others getting smaller parts, almost cameos for some of them to be honest. That just goes to show the scale of what Marvel has achieved that they couldn’t spotlight all the amazing characters in one film.

I think it’s those who have seen most of, if not all, the previous films who will understand and love this film the most. There are so many references to previous films. Plus if you already know and love the characters, you’re so much more invested in the story and the fates of all your favourite characters. The ending of the film is emotional as it says goodbye to some characters who have been part of our lives for so long.

With so many characters, they couldn’t all have a main role, but I was disappointed to see Scarlet Witch have only a small part in the film. It was a missed opportunity to explore the emotional impact the events of Infinity War had on her. She’s a really compelling character and I’ve liked to have seen more of her. There were so many options open for them, they couldn’t do everything or explore every character in depth, so I can see why she didn’t end up with a bigger role though.

I’m looking forward to Phase 4, but also feel a sense of trepidation. How could they possibly soar even higher? How can what they do next possibly be as good as the extended infinity plot line that’s formed the last phases? Especially with some of the most loved characters no longer featuring. I hope the future MCU films continue to be amazing, but I can’t help but feel like it won’t quite be the same.

Top 10 Tuesday: Inspirational/Thought-Provoking Book Quotes

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I used to have a feature on my blog called Quote Mondays that I uploaded quite regularly, but tailed off a year or so ago. So I’ve decided to throwback and look through my old posts to find 10 inspiring book quotes.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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12406320Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Publishing Info: Kindle edition September 2011 by Hodder (first published 2011)

Pages: 448

Star Rating: 5/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

 

The first in a trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a phenomenal book. The world is so imaginative and captivating, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with it. I very rarely give 5 star ratings, because I usually have something to criticise, even something small, or it just doesn’t blow me away enough to warrant 5 stars. I had no hesitation giving that accolade to Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

I didn’t know what to expect from this book from the rather mysterious summary. It certainly piqued my curiosity. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, because it’s not knowing what’s really going on that kept me hooked, so I don’t want to spoil that for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. Karou lives in the human world, but the only family she has known seem to occupy an ‘Elsewhere’ place that they won’t explain to her, leaving her in the dark as to why Brimstone, her guardian, sends her on missions to buy teeth. Karou is so curious about what he uses these teeth for, and I was compelled to keep reading to find out why too. What’s great is that it wasn’t predictable.

Without giving anything away, all I can say is that Laini Taylor managed to use some elements that I would usually consider bad craftsmanship on the part of a writer, and actually made them work. The romance didn’t feel forced, even though it was quite quick. It felt natural and the author wrote it so well that I was totally into the romance aspect of this book. A large section towards the end is completely flashback, which is generally frowned upon, but Taylor did it so well. The flashback was necessary. It wasn’t thrown in for the hell of it. It formed part of the plot and was necessary for the reader’s understanding and empathy for the characters. Taylor turned a story element that is so often done badly, and showed how you can make flashbacks work in the right scenarios.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is unique, and that’s part of what makes it so good. Laini Taylor takes some elements we’re familiar with – magic, a human world unaware of some kind of other fantastical one, a forbidden romance, and so on – and makes it her own. This isn’t a cardboard cut-out YA paranormal fantasy.

I went through so many different emotions while reading this book. The characters are so easy to connect to, they’re written so well. They were at risk of falling into clichés but they didn’t. My heart broke more than once.

I fell completely in love with this book. The imagination, the creativity, the characters, it all just comes together so well. This is without a doubt one of the best YA books I’ve ever read. I don’t know what else to say about it without descending into rambling gushing about how amazing it is, so I will conclude. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series and hope it lives up to the very high standards set by Daughter of Smoke and Bone.