Monthly Archives: October 2013

KayKay #CRB5 Review #50 Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

Dance with Dragons

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers.  Continue on at your own risk!

I finished A Feast for Crows in January of 2012 (before I knew about Cannonball, so I can’t link to a review).  I read a lot and most books don’t stick with me, and it’s particularly hard to remember what happened in a book I finished almost two years ago with 100’s of characters and twice as many plot points.  I’m going to try to write this as a review/cheat sheet to review before I read book 6 (whenever it is comes) so I can remember the important story points.  Here is what I thought….

Plot / Characters

Daenarys- she drove me crazy, she was so weak in this book.  I wanted her to step up and be The Mother of Dragons, but all she did was compromise and lose ground.  She ends up riding off on Drogon and she have come upon on of the khals on her way back to Meereen.  I hope she is ready to kick butt when she gets back.  She needs to stop dilly dallying around- as obviously her ‘fire’ needs to fight the approaching winter.

Tyrion (aka Yollo, aka Hugor Hill)- he has been shuffled back and forth between escaping (with the help of Varys and Jamie) and being captured by Jorah and being enslaved.  Right now he is with the Second Sons (a company of sellswords).  I really wanted him to get with Daenarys and help her take over the world…he got close, but no contact.

Stannis/Melisandre- Stannis leaves the wall to chase down Roose Bolton, who has taken Winterfell.  It appears that he has lost (according to a note that is sent to John from Ramsay).  But, Ramsay doesn’t have Reek, so perhaps the note is a rouse.  I go back and forth on Melisandre, I wish Jon would have used her more- perhaps he would be in a better place…

Jon- Still at the wall, he ends up receiving that note from Ramsay and decides to forsake his oath and go and chase down Ramsay.  Before he can leave, he is stabbed by the men he commands.  Perhaps Melisandre can save him (lesson learned: integrity gets you killed).  We did also find out that Jon’s mom seems to be just a normal fisherwoman that helped Edark Stark cross a sea.  I was hoping she was some sort of goddess, or something special!  What a let down.  I’m holding out for a special twist here.

Ramsay- This guy is CRAZY.  It’s insinuated that he has beat Stannis and now wants his Reek back…perhaps he would be a good match for the crazy of Victarion (Theons uncle). He did marry Jayne (I’m not sure if he realizes that she is not Arya, or if only Theon and Roose realize that)

Reek/Theon- was tortured severely by Ramsay, but after being taken to Winterfell, he escapes trying to reach Stannis.  Stannis has captured his sister Asha.  His uncle Victarion has sailed to find Daenarys.

Bran- has found the ‘three eyed crow’- some old guy who is basically becoming one with the trees.  It also seems he can whisper at people through the god wood trees.

Arya- is trying to join the multi-faced group (not sure what to call them), and has become an apprentice.

Mance- Melisandre used her magic to create an illusion that Mance is Rattleshirt, and Rattleshirt is Mance, then proceeds to burn the real Rattleshirt.  However, in Ramsay’s note, it seems he has killed Mance.

Tommen is still King, and married to Margaery.  Cersei has been temporarily controlled (the septas made her confess, strip her naked, shaved all her hair and made her walk through Kings Landing).  Her uncle-Kevan was killed at the order of Varys (by his little ‘birds’).

Speaking of Varys, it seems his motivation to kill Kevan is to not let the realm be at peace with Tommen’s rule, to make a way for the Targaryens to return.

Prince Aegon-(aka Young Griff)- Previously thought dead, we find out he is alive and ready to take on Tommen.

Myrcella (Tommen’s sister) is still in Dorne, no word from her other than her ear has been cut off. (This happened in book 4)

Jamie is off with Brianne looking for one of the Stark girls (just a bare mention of them here)

Martells- I guess I should mention the silly subplot of Prince Quentyn of Dorne coming to marry Daenarys (did he really think that would work), then he tried to tame her chained dragons (since he has a ‘drop’ of Targaryen blood), and was burnt to a crisp.

Plot Score: 3/5  (how are we supposed to remember all the minor plot points in the three years between books?)

Characters Score: 4/5 (almost took more points off because of how much Dany sucked in this book)

World Building

The Wall- Jon has accepted many wildings south of the wall to keep them safe from the White Walkers and to gain people to help them defend the wall.  I did get the sense in this book, that the wall is more than just a huge ice sculpture, it is actually enforced with magic. “Great was the lore that raised it, and great the spells locked beneath its ice. We walk beneath one of the hinges of the world.”

The North- Winterfell is in ruin, but now the Bolton’s have taken over.

Kings Landing- other than Cersei’s naked walk of shame, not much happens at this location.

Meereen- A city of pyramids, in an area of dry dusty cities living on the slave trade.

World Building Score: 4/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

I gave a point here for the perspective on slavery.  I thought it was an accurate portrayal of ending a practice that is so ingrained into society.  Even some of the slaves didn’t appreciate freedom.  “The most insidious thing about bondage was how easy it was to grow accustomed to it.”

Life Lessons Score:  1/5

Style

It seems this entire story is a series of cliffhangers.  There is a cliffhanger and the end of each chapter, with an even bigger cliffhanger at the end of the book.

Style Score : 3/5

Final Thoughts?

-I think this story really benefits from the HBO series, as putting a face to the characters helps me to remember who they are.

-Seems I’m constantly waiting- waiting for Daenarys to grow a pair, waiting for the direwolves to play a bigger role, waiting for Arya to become the stealth fighter and master of revenge, waiting for Tyrion to get to a spot where he can really plot, waiting for Jamie to fall in love with Brianne (and Cersei to find out!), waiting to see the REAL lightbringer (since Stannis’s sword is cold, it doesn’t seem to be the real thing), waiting for Daenarys to fight the White Walkers- I mean this has to be the crux of the series, right?  A story of Fire and Ice.  Well, I guess it is more about the Game of Thrones…

-How many times does Jon think “You know nothing, Jon Snow”, and after this book, it’s obvious he hasn’t learned his lesson.

-White Walkers- are they mindless zombies, or intent on taking over the world?  I guess there are Others and there are wights…and perhaps the Others control the wights?  Jon was smart to try to keep two of them to learn more, but nothing came of it.

-Best comedic line: “Her own father got this child on her?” Stannis sounded shocked. “We are well rid of her, then.  I will not suffer such abominations here.  This is not King’s Landing.” BURN.

Total Score and Recommendation

15/25- I liked it better than book 4, but not as much as 1-3.

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KayKay #CRB5 Review #49 Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers.  Continue on at your own risk!

This book has been favorably reviewed several times on Cannonball, and I have downloaded the sample several times.  However, I always delete it without reading it.  I finally got around to reading the sample,and I also read the sample for ‘Attachments’ by Rainbow Read.  Both stories used emails in the style of writing.  I ended up buying the Bernadette book, and here is what I thought….

Plot

Bernadette Fox is out of her element.  She’s is an extraordinary character (genius architect, chic, cool mom, etc.) in the midst of average “Soccer Moms”.  She looks down on them, while they look down on her.  I loved the crescendo of events that end in a mud slide and chaos during a school presentation at a parents house.  Bernadette was on the brink of success in architecture, has a unfortunate run-in with a neighbor (who ends up destroying the house that she built) and runs off to Seattle.  After several miscarriages, she finally gets pregnant and gives birth to Bee (officially named Balakrishna because she was born blue and with a heart condition).  Bernadette makes a deal with God to stop creating if he saves Bee, Bee lives and Bernadette stops creating.  Although Bernadette tries to hold it together she eventually disappears (after the mud slide incident)- hence the name of the book.  Bee eventually finds her, and Bernadette finds her way back to creating.

Plot Score: 4/5

Characters and Relationships

Bernadette- “I never took them, because the one time I did, they left me nauseous and not feeling like myself. (I know, that should have been a selling point.  What can I say?  I’ve grown accustomed.))  I also grew accustomed to her character.  Delightfully quirky.  I shared her experience of people telling her “Tell us what you really think”.

The Gnats- This hilarious group of parents is overly concerned about appearances.  In the search to make their school a better place they were looking for the ‘right’ type of parent: “Judging from the contents of her shopping cart- imported cheese, organic raspberries, fruit wash spray- she is the exact quality of parent we need at Galer Street.”

Audrey (Head Gnat)- She starts out as an annoying protagonist to Bernadette’s slowly burning crazy.  But she redeems herself in the end and tries to better herself and her drug dealing son.  At one point there is a legal document “STATE OF WASHINGTON vs. Audrey Faith Griffin” and just the title of it made me giddy with anticipation of what Audrey had gotten herself into.  She had a wonderful revelation in the book and really turned herself around, helping Bernadette escape and improving herself.

Characters Score: 5/5

World Building

I enjoy it when someone is passionate about their work, and it defies current standards and raises the entire perception of the work to a higher level.  This is how Ayn Rands architect worked, and this is how Bernadette works.  I loved the descriptions of her buildings and her creative drive.  She builds two fantastic houses, and buys a third, but doesn’t fix it up:

“All day and night it cracks and groans, like it’s trying to get comfortable but can’t, which I’m sure has everything to do with the huge amount of water it absorbs any time it rains.”

“Once a week, the gardener weed-whacked under the rug”- when I first read a reference to gardening in the house, I thought I missed something, then I realized that the house was being taken over by nature.

Seattle also takes on a role in this book.  Bernadette hates Seattle the way Marcus loves San Francisco in Little Brother.  I like it when the author can make the city an integrated part of the book (not just a list of site seeing points- Shambling Guide, I’m thinking of you).

I also loved the look inside working at Microsoft.  One of the gnats becomes Elgie’s (Bernadette’s husband), assistant (and eventually his baby’s mama) – and she is sending emails to Audrey about Elgie and popular he is (due to his Ted presentation around AI).  Audrey’s response is hilarious- “I don’t give a fig about Ted.  I don’t know who he is and I don’t care what he says during this talk you refuse to shut up about”

World Building Score: 4/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

Individual Style- “Some people are extraordinary and should be treated as such” (Reminded me of the Ayn Rand themes of the importance of the individual)

Never stop creating

“The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be”

“I don’t know if community is something you do or don’t believe in”

Life Lessons Score:  3/5

Style

I really enjoyed the format of the book.  Various emails, letters and brief recollections (from Bee) make up this book.  As I mentioned in the intro, I had read the sample for Attachments, which also contains emails as part of the narrative.  I must say (without reading all of Attachments) that Semple did the better job of pulling off the formatting.

The style of the writing was delightful.  The dialog was smart and witty and I enjoyed reading it.  I felt like it had the hilarious rhythm of a David Sedaris book, but the undertones of Ayn Rand.

Style Score : 4/5

Final Thoughts?

– 1 Bonus Points for the cover

– Bernadette’s hilarious rants: Craftsman houses (“the walls will be thick, the windows tiny, the rooms dark, the ceilings low, and it will be poorly situated on the lot.”), Seattle intersections “Whoever laid out this city never meet a four way intersection they didn’t turn into a five-way intersection.”, Buca Di Beppo: “I hated my life enough without having to drive past a Buca di Beppo four times a day”

Total Score and Recommendation

21/25- I highly recommend this book, it is delightful.