Saturday, 22 June 2013

Fantasy Review: 'A Game of Thrones' by George R. R. Martin

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.


The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.

Review

I bought A Game of Thrones at about the same time as the series was coming out, I think. I'd been aware of it before but an impending dramatisation made me keen to get to it before the whole world knew the ending and I would be dodging spoilers all over the internet.  My plan was to read each book before the corresponding series was released and to generally stay ahead of the A Song of Ice and Fire curve.  Since the third series either has recently been on or still is on (I try to ignore all references to it!) and I've only just got round to writing about the first book, that plan obviously fell apart...

I love epic fantasy and have a lot of patience with first books. I almost expect to feel a few steps behind when I start out on a long series and am happy to spend a couple of hundred pages meandering through back stories, explanations of politics and hierarchies and world building.  I say that so that you know when I say that A Game of Thrones' start was slow, it isn't because I'm not used to the genre.  Because there are so many characters, introducing them all takes about half of the first book.  And I will personally make a gold star for anybody who can honestly say that they didn't have at least one moment later on in the novel where they went, "Who is this person again?!" (I should add that you don't get a gold star if you watched the TV series first because that's cheating).

I'm actually quite surprised that the books have been as widely popular as they have been.  Epic fantasy is always one of those genres that I feel gets a bad reputation for being "geeky" or whatever. And yet, with a dash of Sean Bean, A Song of Ice and Fire became almost mainstream and I saw people reading it about the train station all the time.  I guess that having seen the key characters and themes played out on screen must be a bonus to readers that would normally get frustrated experiencing the same thing on the page.  

There are a lot of reviews for this book that describe how much of a page-turner it is right from the start.  I'm sorry (really, because I know how much of a ruckus this might cause) but I just didn't see it.  Eventually I was completely hooked and swept through the pages but for the first half, reading A Game of Thrones was by no means a relaxing or absorbing reading experience.  There were characters I instantly loved (Lord Stark, Catelyn Stark and Arya Stark) and characters I HATED but mostly there were characters I grew to love (Jon Snow and maybe Daenerys but I haven't quite decided yet) and characters I still don't know what I think about and it took me forever to even draw those meagre conclusions.  There was political scheming, murder, incest, conspiracies, epic battles and family trauma.  It isn't perfect and it isn't an easy read but the later chapters do reward your efforts and there were moments that broke little pieces of my heart.

One thing that "everybody" says about this series is true, though.  Martin cares not for your feelings.  Expect to have at least one character you love killed off and to feel as though the world is a dark, dark place for quite some time.  It's very powerful writing and I did spend the final half of the novel willing my favourite characters to survive and beat their rivals and gripping my eReader ridiculously tightly.  I read it on the 9.30pm train from London to Leeds after a conference about procurement and didn't fall asleep once. It might take time but trust me when I say that, eventually, George R.R. Martin will get you.

Overall:  I will definitely be carrying on with A Song of Ice and Fire and have no doubt that it will become a series that I love.  This book is the literary equivalent of prepping early for a dinner party; it takes quite a long time and isn't always super fun but you know that when your guests arrive and you can chatter over a glass of wine instead of clamouring to catch up and fit in yet more prep, you'll appreciate it.  Think of A Game of Thrones as an investment and you'll be just fine.

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Date finished:  08 March 2013
Format:  eBook (Have you SEEN this book?!)
Source:  Bought
Genre:  Epic fantasy fiction
Pictured Edition Published: by HarperVoyager in January 2003

Friday, 21 June 2013

Blogger Meet-Up #1: Leeds

Image found here
I'm the last of our happy little troop to post but I couldn't let my recent book blogger meet-up go un-posted about!  If you follow Hanna or Ellie (and if you don't, what is wrong with you?!), you've possibly already read about when we met up in Leeds and rocked the socks off of anywhere that stocked books.  

Be warned: this post includes me rambling about how much I adore these women!

I met up with Ellie first.  There was a pretty awkward moment when I was stood waiting for her and a man started walking towards me quite purposefully and I was like, "Oh my gosh, I've been groomed through the medium of book blogging! I'm going to be on the news!" And then he perfectly innocently continued to walk into the shop behind me, utterly unaware of my having just pegged him as a potential groomer. To that man: I'm sorry.  ANYway, the happy ending to this particular story is...wait for it...ELLIE ISN'T A MAN!!  Obviously my momentary worry was utterly unnecessary because Hanna and Ellie have actually met before and I'm pretty sure that Hanna would have mentioned Ellie being a man but you never know.  

So we've set some boundaries about what Ellie isn't (a man) but what about setting the bar on what she is?  If you've read Ellie's blog, it is almost inevitable that you will also love the pithy way she talks about everything, how funny she is and how really warm and lovely she is with fellow bloggers and book enthusiasts.  She is JUST AS wonderful in person and I'm so, so glad that we've finally met in person.  She is one of my very favourite people.  I like her so much that I will even forgive her for pooping all over my image of what it's like to own a second-hand book shop while we had coffee in Starbucks.

Enter Hanna!

When Hanna texted me to say that she was on her way, she said something like, "Look for yellow...you can't miss me".  And that is why Hanna is so fantastic.  Everything about her is bright and fabulous.  Her blog, her yellow skirt and her book-pushing ways (because she is a DEMON at convincing everyone to buy everything!).  Much like Ellie's, if you put Hanna's blog in a line-up, everyone would be able to pick it out a mile off.  Rest assured that she's just as fun in "real life".  And I will be forever jealous of her hair.  But that's a point for another day...:)

We met, we chattered, we giggled, we ate (a LOT) and we shopped for books.  Yes, I know.  Big surprise.  I usually do my book shopping alone so it was so much fun to have not one but TWO people to wave books at and almost always hear something like, "Read it, loved it", "Own it, haven't read it but have heard good/bad things" or, my personal favourite, "How much is it?...£2?...*sigh* It's probably £1 good but it's not £2 good" (Thanks, Hanna!)  I can't really explain how nice it was to be with people who wouldn't throw a weird glance my way when I picked up book number 5 (or 6...or 7...).  Not least because one of my fellow book bloggers' sprees was interrupted by The Works' staff thrusting a basket upon her!  My favourite moment of the day (among MANY!).

Want to see what I bought?  Of course you do! (Unless you follow me on Twitter, in which case you've possibly already SEEN what I bought. You people pipe down for a moment...)


That is the most books that I have ever bought in a single stint in...well, YEARS probably!  I love my eReader but there was something so satisfying about staggering home with a bag stuffed full of glorious books.  And I might have bought The Psycopath TestAbraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and The Sisters Brothers of my own volition but having their own little advocates RIGHT THERE didn't hurt their chances :) I've actually already started The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (which is one I went out knowing I wanted) and it is GOOD!  Very good indeed.

In short:  Ellie and Hanna are both awesome.  BIG HUGS TO THEM BOTH!

Now, who's in for Blogger Meet-Up #2?!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Steampunk Review: 'The Osiris Ritual' by George Mann

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars


**This is the second in a loosely connected series - if you haven't read the first, The Affinity Bridge and want to avoid minor spoilers, you can pop over to my review of that book instead HERE**

A steampunk mystery adventure featuring immortality, artifacts, and intrepid sleuths Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes.

Sir Maurice Newbury, Gentleman Investigator for the Crown, imagines life will be a little quieter after his dual successes solving The Affinity Bridge affair. But he hasn't banked on his villainous predecessor, Knox, who is hell-bent on achieving immortality, not to mention a secret agent who isn't quite what he seems....

So continues an adventure quite unlike any other, a thrilling steampunk mystery and the second in the series of Newbury and Hobbes investigations.

Review

When I posted my thoughts on the first in Mann's Newbury and Hobbes series, The Affinity Bridge, I gave it three stars and said of the second instalment, "I might pick it up one day if I see a copy in a charity shop or something but I'm not exactly clawing at Waterstones' door to get it".  That still pretty much sums up how I feel about this series.  It's reasonable.  The books haven't had me clutching at them, desperate to know what's going to happen next, but they equally haven't had me throwing them across the room in frustration.

Even though I remain kind of ambivalent about the series, I do think that The Osiris Ritual is a massive improvement on its predecessor.  The writing was a lot stronger and the plot a lot more focussed.  One of my criticisms of The Affinity Bridge was that it had so many sub-plots that the ideas felt jumbled and as though they were all fighting to make themselves heard.  The Osiris Ritual felt...clearer.  As though Mann had more confidence in his plot and didn't feel the need to throw all of the extra elements at it.

This time around, Sir Newbury and Miss Hobbes are investigating a string of murders against a backdrop of archaeological discovery and Egyptian mythology.  I adore anything to do with Ancient Egypt (and Ancient Greece, for that matter) so the combination of that and the clear steampunk elements of this series was always going to be a tough one to ruin for me.  There are plenty of twists and turns in the story but far fewer seemingly random tangents that leave too much to be wrapped up at the end.  There are still a few threads wrapped up in neat discussions as the story comes to a close but it didn't annoy me too much this time.  

One thing I will give Mann is that he's created some brilliant characters and the dynamics between them are very well handled.  Sir Maurice Newbury is everything I imagined when I heard the title 'Gentleman Investigator for the Crown'. Debonair, able to battle in close quarters while sporting a good quality suit and charming but with some demons to give him a bit of a dark side.  Delicious!

I actually also like Miss Hobbes.  Too often, I find myself getting annoyed by female protagonists in fiction set in any historical periods that are so desperate to prove that women are equal to men that they're just a bit...irritating. I'm as much of a feminist as the next woman and yet I almost always way dresses/skirts. You don't have to scamper about town with cropped hair and trousers just to prove that women are capable.  Which is a long way round of saying that I'm a big fan of how Miss Hobbes gives Sir Maurice a run for his money in the investigating stakes while also managing to be attractive, elegant and not ashamed of her penchant for being well turned out.  Both characters are developed really well in this instalment and it is that more than anything that will make me likely to pick up the next in the series, The Immorality Engine.

Overall:  A step in the right direction for the Newbury and Hobbes series. A bit of a dark take on steampunk but a rollicking good story all the same. Definitely recommended if you read The Affinity Bridge and were about to give up on the series. Actually, I probably recommend reading this instead if you're thinking of reading The Affinity Bridge...

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Date finished:  18 February 2013
Format:  Paperback
Source:  Borrowed from my local library
Genre:  Fantasy fiction; Steampunk fiction
Pictured Edition Published: by Snowbooks in 2010

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Summer Ninja Book Swap!

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I have a summer birthday so I've never had to suffer too long between occasions that might invite bookish gifts BUT two super generous, lovely ladies (Hanna at Booking in Heels and Bex at An Armchair by the Sea) have taken pity on those of you who usually have to buy your own books during the summer months and set up the SUMMER NINJA BOOK SWAP!

I've actually never joined in a book swap because I've always felt a bit awkward joining a USA hosted book sharing extravaganza with the proviso that I'm not super keen on posting to the US!  Not because I wouldn't love exchanging gifts with those of you that live across the Atlantic but because I am not gifted with a good local Post Office and posting within the EU causes them enough problems!  All of which is a rambly way of saying that I'm very excited to be taking part in my first blogger book swap!

Want to sign up? Of course you do!  Here's how...

All you have to do is email Hanna and Bex a few details by June 17th and they will match you up with somebody! You will need to be able to send your parcel by July 7th. 

Your parcel should consist of a book or two (they don’t have to be brand new, just in nice condition – something you wouldn’t mind receiving yourself), and a little extra present or two plus a card or note if you feel so inclined.

To participate please email the following details to ninjabookswap(at)outlook(dot)com:
Your name and address details
Blog address
A link to your wishlist
A short list of some of your likes so that your sender can pick out an extra gift
Dislikes
Whether you are willing to send outside of your own country

Now what are you waiting for?  Go get writing your email now and in no time at all you'll have a wonderful midsummer gift hanging out on your doorstep!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

May: The Month the Sunshine Arrived

Summer is here!  At least for the past week or so, the sunshine has been putting in regular appearances and the world has been starting to warm up a bit.  I'm definitely looking back on May unnecessarily fondly because only about a fortnight ago I was ranting on Twitter about feeling the need to wear my hat in May.  Let's forget the persistent rain, though, and focus on the fact that it is currently lovely and is forecast to be for at least another week.  Win.  Also, I just realised that I pretty much always start my monthly recap posts by rambling about the local weather!  Next month, I'll do better. Promise.

Reading wise, I've had a pretty solid month!  Obviously, that is in no small way owing to Bout of Books.  And also my finally getting back to reading The Hunger Games trilogy because *damn* is that series addictive.  Let's talk numbers.  

Total books read in May   6

Total pages read in May   2,424




A YA splurge bookended by a little bit of romance and a little bit of historical fiction.  I haven't read as much YA this year as I have over the past couple of years.  Maybe partly because I've been reading a lot more of the books I already own and I own a lot less YA than I do anything else.  Actually, that's a load of rubbish because out of May's books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay were the only two that I actually had on my physical shelves.  I got The Perfume Garden for review and the other three were eBooks.  What do I know?!

Wherever they came from, they were a pretty good bunch.  The Hunger Games is a brilliant trilogy and I *loved* Catching Fire.  Mockingjay I liked, just not as much.  I'm glad I've finished a series too, since I was really racking up a hefty list of series that I'd started and not finished.  A Murder at Rosamund's Gate was a bit slow and...odd in places but not too much of a stinker.

May on the Blog

May at Lit Addicted Brit was mostly Bout of Books-related rambling:  I posted some goals; bumbled my way through the week; dawdled over Saturday and Sunday and got the whole she-bang wrapped up.  It was as fun as ever and I am GUTTED that I will be on holiday for the next one!  Maybe I'll have to do the next Dewey read-a-thon or something to get my fix...

Reviewed this month (click on the titles for reviews):

               

 I hope Spring has sprung for you all and that you're digging out the sunshine reads and generally having a super time.  Come across any terrific reads I really need to get into my summer pile?  Share! Because if there's one thing I need, it is more books to buy.