Tag Archives: George R.R Martin

What a Way to Go: The Best Fictional Deaths

DeathIn my scribblings, there always seems to be a lot of death. And, as we all know, writing about death is never a pleasant experience. It’s notoriously difficult to write about it without stepping in to the comical, caricature death scene, or making it so dismal it’s easily forgotten. So, as inspiration for that tragic death scene, here are some of the best death scenes in fiction… Continue reading

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Taking a Walk with Death

DeathIf I’m writing, Death usually shows up. It’s just the way we work together – he deals it and I write it. And, as a rule, we work quite well like this (I’m better at death scenes than love scenes – that’s why Cupid doesn’t hang around much). Now, in most cases if you’re writing about people (or animals or creatures of any kind), you’re going to have to get along with Death. Them’s the breaks. Continue reading

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Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Scholastic: Paperback published 2011: 472 pages

Katniss Everdeen survived the Hunger Game. Now the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are still alive. Katniss should be relieved, but now there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

As the nation watches Katniss and Peeta, the stakes are higher than ever. One false move and the consequences will be unimaginable.

 

 

I had to read something light after the trauma of finishing the last book from A Song of Ice and Fire. [On that note, apparently Mr R.R Martin is writing “at a good pace” which means, with his track record, we can expect his next book in 2015 – which is A LONG TIME… oh the horror]

The Hunger Games trilogy is a teenage fiction series, the first book of which – The Hunger Games – has been made into a film. A lot of it rings true with Twilight; the love triangle, the girl who doesn’t think much of herself but everyone loves her, the fact that our heroine is the catalyst for everything (i.e. Mary-Sue – and not the endearing type). If you can get past the egocentric-yet-adorably-flawed main character, these books are what could be described as a “ripping yarn”.

I read it in about 2 days, purely because it is deeply entertaining and very easy to read (so you don’t feel exhausted at the end of the chapter, which can happen). I will definitely read the third and final book, purely because I need to know what happens to Kat, Gale, Peeta and the team. My criticism (apart from the deeply irritating main character) is that there isn’t enough time in the arena for my liking – the build up is over half the book and then the arena is a short, sharp blast of brutality, and that’s it.

I think the beauty and creativity of the story from the first book was the arena scenes, and I wonder if Suzanne Collins has missed a trick here. I’m not very interested in the angst-ridden navel-gazing that all these teen books seem to be about nowadays… gone are the stories of mystery-solving and animal-rescuing of my formative years, now it’s all gooey eyes and brooding skinny boys who haven’t seen enough sunlight, and torturous and awkward love triangles that actually make very little sense. I think there should be more originality in these characters – forget the love story, show a character who does it all by herself for once. There is honestly not that much angst in the world.

Other than that, I think this is a nice, simple read that keeps me occupied for a couple of evenings.

Rating: 6/10

Next book: The wonderful Ana has promised me her copy of Blood Meridian, but until I get off my backside and give her my address to post it to, I will make do with Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. I’ve often been told to give Robin Hobb a try – she’s a fantasy-writing big-hitter, and a lot of fantasy fans who cut their teeth on the likes of Pratchett, Tolkien and Brooks (though I never liked the latter) rate Hobb amongst the better writers. Assassin’s Apprentice is the first in the Farseer trilogy… and the first of countless trilogies, so it’s a good place to start.

P.S. I also realised that I never posted my review of A Dance with Dragons: Dreams and Dust. I promise one to follow!

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A Dance with Dragons: After the Feast

WARNING: Spoilers ahead

A Dance with Dragons: After the Feast by George R.R Martin

HarperVoyager: Paperback published 2012: 493 pages

The Future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance.

In King’s Landing the Queen Regent, Cersei Lannister, awaits trial, abandoned by all those she trusted; while in the eastern city of Yunkai her brother Tyrion has been sold as a slave. From the Wall, having left his wife and the Red Priestess Melisandre under the protection of Jon Snow, Stannis Baratheon marches south to confront the Boltons at Winterfell. But beyond the Wall the wildling armies are massing for an assault…

On all sides bitter conflicts are reigniting, played out by grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves. The tides of destiny will inevitably lead to the greatest dance of all.

 

 

Okay. I can’t even review this book. This is all just a bit too much. Basically, all you need to know about this book is this:

It trundles along quite happily, not many people die and generally most people are plotting and/or getting their comeuppance (this is a good thing by the way). THEN… it goes completely arse about face and GOES COMPLETELY AND HORRIFYINGLY WRONG.

Honestly. I’m starting to have issue with Mr George R.R Martin. I’m not really sure why he insists on traumatising me like throughout every book. You know how I warned you not to get attached to anyone?

Honestly. Don’t.

Oh, and don’t take sides and start to think that the baddies will get their Just Deserts. Because I can pretty much guarantee they’re not going to. Ever.

I still love it though.

Rating: 10/10

Next book: I honestly have no idea. I’m so traumatised by this book, and so desperate for the next book (which doesn’t look to be out any time soon) that I feel I’m in a vortex of booklessness. Help!

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Concerning a Long Absence, a Book Review, and Some Running

Has it really been a month? I know people say “has it really been…” a lot, but honestly, has it REALLY been a month? It feels like days ago that I was rambling about what music I listen to and nosing around the Freshly Pressed stars. But no. It’s been a month. Or thereabouts. So I have abandoned you all to a dreary life without my shining beacon of blog posts to fill your grey days.

Or that’s what I like to think, anyway.

More likely is that you haven’t noticed my extended absence, and when this post appears in your feed, you’ll have an “oh yeeeeeaaaah” moment and then wonder what kind of flake writes a blog anyway if it’s been that long between posts. So all I can do, is apologise and hope that you will continue to read this post.

Firstly:

Concerning a Long Absence

Work has been overwhelming. Publishing is HARD. I love everything about it though. I love the madness, the creativity and the sweet, lovely authors who make me smile with their chirpy emails. But I’m working some ridiculous hours. I eat my lunches in front of the computer, and I’m usually the first in the office (though not often the last out, even when working late). I don’t complain because actually I really do love my job. It’s tacky and clichéd I know, but I feel rewarded from it. And that’s enough for me. But it does mean that I’m absolutely exhausted. And not just in the evenings. I mean, ALL. THE. TIME. But the crux of it is: I can’t get a lie-in. So I spend my whole time rushing around like a loon on little sleep. Which means, I haven’t even been on the computer in about – oh, three weeks. I just go to bed instead. Bed is probably my favourite place in the world right now. Before I was so busy, it was probably WordPress. See why I’ve been away so long? When it’s a choice between staring at another computer screen and going to bed, I’m afraid I’ve made the latter choice more often than not.

Concerning a Book Review

Since we last talked, I have finished the fabulous A Feast for Crows by George R.R Martin. Cue lots of gross cooing over its amazingness. I don’t really want to dwell on it except to say that it’s awesome. This is definitely one of the slower books in the series, and as George R.R Martin will tell you himself, this is only part of the story. It focuses on a few people of the cast – so fans of Jon Snow and Tyrion, you’re going to be disappointed with this particular book in the series. However, for fans of Cersei, she starts to really come in to her own (and by the way, “her own” is completely bonkers). In fact, I was so desperate to find out what was going on elsewhere in the GoT world that I had to start the next in the series – A Dance with Dragons: Dreams and Dust – to keep the story going. Be prepared to do the same, because you will be frustrated when you know you’re not getting the whole story!

Now I’d love to put the synopsis up, but it does have spoilers, so I won’t. Suffice to say – it’s good, and you should read it, no matter what the blurb says on the back cover.

Rating: 8/10

Concerning Some Running

As I have already mentioned, I am training for a half-marathon, to raise money for the Stroke Association. So far I’m running 3 times a week around the back roads. I love going out in the early mornings and running with the deer and hawks and woodpeckers. Plus, in the current heatwave (I seem to be only person in Britain NOT complaining about it) it’s a lot cooler at 5.30am than it is at 5.30pm. I’ve managed to get my running up to 6.5km, and I’m on for about a 2 hour time in total for the half marathon, so I think I’m doing okay.

However, the most important part is that I need to be fit enough to run a half marathon in October, so that I can do it and raise the money. Our family has been affected by a stroke, and it can be frightening and devastating. We were the lucky ones – my grandmother recovered and I still have her around. Others aren’t so lucky. For those that survive a stroke, life is altered dramatically. From speech to movement, many people have to relearn basic motor skills and words they used to use every day. Imagine knowing that you know how to do it, and yet not being able to anymore. It’s frightening, frustrating and a long process towards recovery. That’s where the Stroke Association come in. They offer support, rehabilitation and somewhere to go when the rest of the world gets too much. I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done to help my Granny, and I hope that the money I raise will go a little way towards doing the same for countless other families affected by strokes.

My running is something I enjoy doing, but it feels more satisfying knowing that I’m doing it for a worthy cause.

And there’s my post my lovely ones! I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long and I hope you enjoyed! Remember to drop by, and I will try to update more often!

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The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden

The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente

Spectra Books: paperback published 2006: 483 pages

Secreted away in a garden, a lonely girl spins stories to warm a curious prince: peculiar feats and unspeakable fates that loop through each other and back again to meet in the tapestry of her voice. Inked on her eyelids, each twisting, tattooed tale is a piece in the puzzle of the girl’s own hidden history. And what tales she tells! Tales of shape-shifting witches and wild horse-women, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars – each story more strange and fantastic than the one that came before. From ill-tempered “mermaid” to fastidious Beast, nothing is ever quite what it seems in these ever-shifting tales – even, and especially, their teller. Adorned with illustrations by the legendary Michael Kaluta, Valente’s enchanting lyrical fantasy offers a breathtaking reinvention of the untold myths and dark fairy tales that shape our dreams. And just when you think you’ve come to the end, you realize the adventure has only begun…

 

I was harangued into reading this by the ever-fabulous Lunameth. And I’m glad she did! I think the word “lyrical” is the best way to describe these stories – because, essentially, they are a lot of short stories bundled into one long thread. Which is what I quite enjoyed this book – little bite size pieces that were each enjoyable in themselves, but even better strung together. I really don’t have much more to say on the matter because it’s a book that has to be read, not talked about. If you’re a fantasy writer, you MUST READ THIS BOOK. It gave me more inspiration than any writing exercise book ever could. If you like fairy tales, fantasy novels, short stories or even lots and lots of description, this book is for you.

Downside? It felt like it took forever to read, because there were just SO MANY stories. And sometimes they got so insanely descriptive I had to re-read a few pages just to make sure I understood what was being said. Also, it ends on a cliffhanger.

Rating: 7/10

Next book: Well, what did you expect? The second season of Game of Thrones is on TV (massive addiction, and E at work is my geek-buddy so we talk GoT every Tuesday over tea) so it really just had to be another George R.R Martin book. This time it’s Book Four in the series (the fifth volume), A Feast for Crows. Seeing as the last book was so traumatic, I really hope he stops killing people in this one. Just for a bit. Maybe have a marriage or a cute baby or something. Or a unicorn galloping over a rainbow with glitter in its mane… y’know, just to lighten the mood a bit.

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It’s All A Question of Belief

What do the film Thor, visiting the Ashmolean in Oxford, SyFy’s The Almighty Johnsons and the book The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden all have in common?

They’ve had me thinking more and more about religion. Not in a “who am I, what am I and is there a God” naval-gazing way. No. In a “what religion do my characters have” sort of way.

As you are all aware, I’m sure, I’ve been working hard on researching my novel before actually writing it. Part of this means that I have to think about what my characters believe in. Is there one God or many? Do different races have different beliefs?

The Orphan’s Tales featured a story around a variety of religious houses – huge towers made from jewels or flowers or glass, each dedicated to a different religion. I sort of liked this idea – and asked myself where would my great religious philosophers, preachers and so on live? Would they have their own worshipping houses?

This posed another question (and perhaps the most fundamental question of all) – who were they worshipping? Mythical beings that were rumoured to live in the sky? Real Gods that lived amongst the mortals once… and do they still live among them?

Now, The Almighty Johnsons and Thor, they proved to me that the Norse Gods were actually pretty awesome … and that each deity would have to have its own story to tell (which is added work for me).

After all, every religion has a story – whether it be the bible or the myth of how each God came to be (look at the mythology of the Greeks, Vikings, Romans, Egyptians and Incans) – and an idea behind it. Gods looked and dressed certain ways, they could change form, or were the deity of a certain emotion or physical object. By far my favourite stories of them all are the Norse Gods – purely because they were astoundingly nuts, and Thor and The Almighty Johnsons show how brilliant they are …

Besides, if they all looked like this, I would certainly have a new-found religious passion…

[Bow down to me, petty mortals, and worship my Godliness]

My recent venture to Oxford (where I peered through the door at, but couldn’t actually enter, the Bodleian) to tour the colleges with Grandpa (Oxford graduate of 1947 thankee very much) took me in to the Ashmolean* and we had a swift stroll around the Egyptian exhibition. The beautiful, elaborate dedications to the various Gods had me also thinking about what would worship involve – would it be sparse and puritan, with a dash of brutality, or lavish and exciting, drowned in gold and jewels?

I have so many ideas in my head, I certainly think I have enough to create several different religions for my world. Look at George R.R Martin – he’s put several religions together and it’s created a whole new angle to the story. After all, belief is one of the biggest issues in the world. Why n0t in a pretend world too?

What do you think of having religion in fantasy stories? And what would you want to see from a fantastical religion?

 

*Grandpa’s story of this was that the Ashmolean would be where he used to study. There also used be a very lovely-looking girl there, and after weeks of plucking up the courage to speak to her, he asked her to join him for coffee across the road in a little café he knew. She told him she had far too much work to do, and that was the end of THAT romance.

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The Art of the Point of View

I am currently reading The Crimson Petal and the White and a hundred or so pages in, I’m still getting used to the point of view (second-person present). I am so comfortable with third-person and first-person that I’d almost forgotten about the little-used second. After, aren’t all books addressing the reader anyway? You’re taking them on the journey with you, and so why not talk to them?

When I began writing, I was a strictly first person kind of girl – I couldn’t imagine writing any other way. It could have been the egomaniac in me, or it could have simply been the fact that each character was someone I wanted to be, and therefore why not write in a way that comes across as Me? Whatever it was, each character was a “Me, Myself and I” type. Then I wrote a short story about a She… I wrote about something I hadn’t experienced myself and somehow it just felt right that it should happen to someone else. And thus it was that I discovered a whole new universe of writing.

I could change characters and write from several perspectives, I could write as a boy (which I had never attempted in first-person). The stories became more malleable and much more exciting – both to write and to read. How had I not realised this before? How had this third-person world been so ignored all this time?

So now I’m a third-person kind of girl. It’s much easier to kill someone off that way as well (which I have discovered I am fond of in a slightly upsetting George R.R Martin kind of way). This is why it’s a bit of a shock to the system when I open a book and find it talking directly to me. Is the second-person another undiscovered mine of possibility? Will I start writing in second and wonder why I ever bothered with anything else?

I wrote some poetry once… well, more than once…in a very misguided assumption that as a writer I should be able to write poetry with great ease (cue disgust at self and a great deal of respect for poets). Those, I found, were very much first- and second-person territory. But the idea of writing a novel from the second-person makes me nervous still. I even feel a little nervous reading second-person!

What’s your choice in Point of View?

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A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold

A Storm of Swords: 2: Blood and Gold by George R.R Martin

HarperVoyager: paperback published 2011: 554 pages

*SPOILERS*

Fear cuts deeper than swords

The Starks are scattered. Robb Stark may be King in the North, but he must bend to the will of the old tyrant Walder Frey if he is to hold his crown. And while his younger sister, Arya, has escaped the clutches of the depraved Cersei Lannister and her son, the capricious boy-king Joffrey, Sansa Stark remains their captive, trapped in marriage with Joffrey’s deformed uncle, the embittered dwarf Tyrion. Meanwhile, across the ocean, Daenerys Stormborn, the last heir of the Dragon king, delivers death to the slave-trading cities of Astapor and Yunkai as she approaches Westeros with vengeance in her heart.

 

First off, whoever writes these blurbs needs to step away from the adjectives (“depraved”, “capricious” and “embittered” all in one sentence is a bit much). Second of all, do NOT blame me if you read a spoiler in this review because it’s basically getting impossible to write them without giving anything away…

George R.R Martin has a fantastic ability to kill people off. I mean, seriously. To be able to write a series on this scale is impressive enough, so inevitably he’s got to kill a few characters off because there simply isn’t enough room for them all – but he keeps going with these story arcs and then just cutting them short. If you haven’t read this book, there is one chapter that will make you sob like a child. I’m not exaggerating – Mummaloo was horrified when her daughter started booing her eyes out over a character in a book to the point that she couldn’t speak.

I knew there was a reason I loved these books, and I think the brutality of it is kind of part of it. It’s as close to reality as you could suppose – sometimes, heroes die. Sometimes, you quite like the bad guy because he gets all the best lines and actually he’s not that bad (*ahem* Jaime Lannister). This book begins simply enough – Daenerys is freeing lots of slaves, (woo, go Dany!). But by the end you’re emotionally exhausted. To shamelessly quote my own Twitter: “Dear George R.R Martin, please stop killing people off, I can’t take any more! Yours sincerely, Heartbroken of Hants”. So just to warn you, this book gets brutal.

There’s a lot of character growth too – lesser characters become more formidable and bigger characters are fleshed out with emotions you never thought they could have. We’re three books (four volumes) in by now, and I find myself starting to really invest in the characters – really root for them and get that heart-in-throat feeling when it starts to go wrong. You can’t stop reading, because you’ve got to make sure they’re okay… by the way, has anyone done the skipping ahead to check whose names are on future chapters to make sure they’re still alive yet? And does anyone else find the Red Priestess FREAKY!?

I’m pretty sure I’ve predicted Jon Snow’s story arc though. This doesn’t make it boring, it just makes me very proud of him. When it comes to awesomeness, he pretty much IS.

But it must be getting boring to hear me go on about how brilliant these books are, so I have one criticism – in the Epilogue, a character should NOT be there. Giving it away would give away the sobbing bit. But suffice to say, as lovely as it is to read about this character again, I’m not sure what good it will do in the long run.

But the books are still brilliant.

Rating: 9/10

Next book: I am so exhausted by this one, that I am going for a change. A thin, light-hearted novellette, if you will – A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.

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A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow

A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow by George R.R Martin

HarperVoyager: paperback published 2011: 569 pages

Blood runs truer than oaths

The Seven Kingdoms are divided by war and blood feud as winter approaches like an angry beast. In the northern wastes a horde of hungry, savage people steeped in the dark magic of the wilderness is poised to invade the Kingdom of the North where Robb Stark wears his new-forged crown. And Robb’s defences are ranged against the South, the land of the cunning and cruel Lannisters, who have his young sisters in their power. Throughout Westeros the war for the Iron Throne rages more fiercely than ever, but if the Wall is breached, no king will live to claim it.

 

Be honest, if you were going to read the blurb on the back of any of these books, would you honestly pick them up? But it’s not the cover or the jacket blurb that makes the book – it’s not reviews or TV adaptations or even people telling you that you MUST READ THIS BOOK OR DIE OF IGNORANCE. It’s the characters, the intrigue, the absolute scandalousness of the whole thing. There are no “evil” characters just as there are no “good” characters – they each are a blend of both, and this makes it a complicated read. I say this every time I finish reading one of these books: I have no idea what’s going to happen next. The good guys could really be the bad guys and there are story arcs which look like they have so much potential, and yet the character is suddenly killed off (no spoilers, I promise). I read it with a sick feeling in my stomach sometimes because of the sheer brutality of the plotline. This is what makes these books so good. What was I doing at the strike of midnight? Reading the last few pages of this book, just to make sure that Jon Snow is still alive!

Rating: 9/10

Next Book: Well, technically it’s the same book as it’s part 2 of Book Three of a Song of Ice and Fire… A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold is next on the list.

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