A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire)

5112sqppypl_sl160_A Storm of Swords continues George R. R. Martin’s epic series in full force. I liked the first book of the series because it introduced me to the rich world of Westeros. The second book, A Clash of Kings introduced more characters, but it’s this book, the third, which really brings everything and everyone together. The first two books felt epic while I read them thanks to the twisting, turning subplots as well as political drama, but they’re nothing compared to A Storm of Swords.

Reading this third book re-emphasized one important aspect of Martin’s writing: no one is safe. There were times where I wanted to throw the book down in frustration and just close the cover completely because so many of the characters I was rooting for were dying. Don’t come reading these books if you want a happy go-lucky ending.

Martin does an incredible job of setting up an incredible battle to come as well as tying together some loose strings to keep me satisfied, but there was also a lot of religious back and forth which I’m usually not a fan of. The Lord of Light versus the Lord of Darkness is an obvious parallel to Christianity. The northmen who worship the “old gods” could very well be another name for Pagans. I hope Martin doesn’t take the coward’s way out and have the Lord of Light triumph over the seven gods and the old gods and all the other gods in the end. So far, he’s been doing a decent job of portraying heroes and villains of all sides so let’s hope he sticks to it.

One of the best things that can be said about this third book is the characterization. I began feeling compassion or at least understanding for a lot of the characters whom I thought of as villains in the first book. By no means do they become heroic or anything so drastic, but character motivations come through in a natural and convincing manner thanks to the way Martin writes. It’s true that many more people seem to be varying shades of gray in this book, but there are still those who are quite obviously good or evil.

The only bad thing about this novel is that it’s so long and dense with drama that I had to take a break from reading it after some parts. The treachery, deaths, and general conflicts in the book never get tiresome, but I felt too tense sometimes — thus the break. This is definitely something I’m going to be keeping on my shelves for many more re-reads.

Book Review: Annie’s Ghosts

Part mystery, part investigative journalism, and part family history, Annie’s Ghosts is about the discovery of family secret. Details of the secret unfolds like a mystery with writing that’s easy to read thanks to Steve Luxenberg’s investigative journalism background.

Steve discovers that his mother, who always made the point of telling everyone she was an only child, had a sister that almost no one knew about. Unfortunately, this secret is only unearthed on his mother’s deathbed. With only a few details to hold onto, that this sister was disabled and lived in a mental institution, Steve starts his search for more information in order to understand why his mother would keep such a secret like this.

Annie’s Ghosts contains not only with Steve’s newly unearthed secret, but also the secrets of other family members weaved into a shared history. The journalist author manages to present the facts while conveying appropriate emotions to family events at the same time.

An underlying theme in the book is the roles Steve has to play as a journalist as well as a son. He does a delicate balancing act between the two, managing to draw the reader in without pulling on too many heartstrings.

The book reads as fiction not only because it’s full of recalled memories, but because some of the events Steve’s family members had to go through were so extraordinary. One aunt’s story is dramatic enough to make a movie out of. It’s hard to believe some of these things happened.

When I first picked up Annie’s Ghosts, I thought it was a book about the Holocaust. While parts of the Holocaust are in there, it’s never the main part of the story — more of a backdrop. In essence, it’s a story about a family and its struggle during the Depression.

All She Was Worth

I picked up All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe a few months ago because I liked Brave Story, a novel geared towards younger audiences. All She Was Worth was Miyabe’s first adult book that I’ve read and one of the few mystery novels I’ve read this year.

All She Was Worth starts off with the disappearance of a woman and follows an on-leave detective as he tries to find her and uncover the unusual circumstances in which she disappeared. Although that’s the main mystery flowing through the book, I didn’t find it that engaging. I already guessed what had happened to her and the characters of the book felt so distanced.
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