GoT Update

When we last mentioned Game of Thrones, I (Holly) had mixed feelings about the first book in the Song of Fire and Ice series – mixed because, while I was into the story, I was not at all down with how all of the women in the story were presented. There was a bit too much gratuitous T&A and a lot too much raping, thankyouverymuch. However, I have continued the series, in part because of the people who urged me to continue, but mostly because J has been reading them and talking about them (minimally, since I won’t let him tell me any spoilers).

Since then, I’ve watched the first season of the TV show, finished book #2, and I’m 45% into book #3. And, Amanda is working on reading #1, A Game of Thrones, RIGHT NOW. So, we’ve decided to chat about what we’re thinking so far – mostly for our own entertainment, but hopefully for yours too!

So, here’s what’s been going on via text since Amanda started reading (perhaps edited a bit for clarity…and so we don’t sound like total weirdos)

Amanda: How in God’s name am I supposed to keep all these names straight?

Holly: That sounds like an excellent way to start our post!

Amanda: 10% in. Right where I gave up before. Meh.

Holly: Stick it out a little further! LIke 12 more hours if you’re me. So maybe 45 minutes?

Amanda: I lied. I read more last time. I do like Tyrion I think.

Holly: Tyrion is cool! And there are a fuckton of names. You won’t need them all…sometimes I use the search function on my Kindle.

Amanda: Ah – search function – genius!

Dragon Wedding pic via - tinyurl.com/d43y4yg

Dragon Wedding pic via – tinyurl.com/d43y4yg

Amanda: I far preferred my wedding to the dragon princess’s.

Holly: Yeah, the dragon wedding is about where George started to lose me. There are a lot of rapers.

Amanda: Exactly. I really lose a desire to read a book when it’s about rapers.

Holly: J pointed out that George maybe doesn’t like the men too much either, as evidenced by the army of eunuchs that comes up later (#3).

Amanda: And since he kills characters rampantly?

Holly: Funny on that…since I keep hearing that, I basically am reading every page waiting for someone else to die. So I’m actually more surprised at who is still alive.

Amanda: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I just realized I left my kindle at home! This is what I get for having alternating morning and evening commute reading right? I was just thinking I might get into this book now, despite the rapers.  And despite really really really not liking the Queen one bit.

Well, we’d post more, but clearly we both have to forge on through our reading. What are your thoughts on the series? Keep ‘em spoiler free, please!

 

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Review: The Cold Song

The Cold Song, Linn Ullman

Amanda

Published April 8 2014, by Other Press

328 pgs

Source:NetGalley

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From Goodreads…

Ullmann’s characters are complex and paradoxical: neither fully guilty nor fully innocent

Siri Brodal, a chef and restaurant owner, is married to Jon Dreyer, a famous novelist plagued by writer’s block. Siri and Jon have two daughters, and together they spend their summers on the coast of Norway, in a mansion belonging to Jenny Brodal, Siri’s stylish and unforgiving mother.

Siri and Jon’s marriage is loving but difficult, and troubled by painful secrets. They have a strained relationship with their elder daughter, Alma, who struggles to find her place in the family constellation. When Milla is hired as a nanny to allow Siri to work her long hours at the restaurant and Jon to supposedly meet the deadline on his book, life in the idyllic summer community takes a dire turn. One rainy July night, Milla disappears without a trace. After her remains are discovered and a suspect is identified, everyone who had any connection with her feels implicated in her tragedy and haunted by what they could have done to prevent it.

The Cold Song is a story about telling stories and about how life is continually invented and reinvented.

I just finished The Cold Song and I really don’t know what to say about it.  This book was intense and it made me feel tense while reading it.  From the goodreads description we know that Milla the nanny disappears and is killed, but I was expecting the plot to lead up that happening.  This is not the case, Milla’s death happens very early in the book and we even learn who the accused right away, but then we begin to flash back and forth in time.  This book is definitely not a mystery, but a story of a family that was ruptured before Milla’s disappearance and then tries to move forward after.

There were things about each of the characters that honestly made me shake my head and say WTF to myself throughout.  For example:

“Alma whispered so that nobody would hear her: ‘So Milla, what do you do when you go out at night?  Do you meet people you know?  Other kids your age?  Do boys come and see you here at Mailund after everyone’s asleep? Do you fuck them, one after the other?’

Alma, is I think age 11 at this point; so I ask you- WTF?  There are things like the above that seemed to be to be red flags about each character that aren’t delved into which was frustrating for me.  Why does she act like that?  Why is Jenny Brodal drinking after 25 years?  Why is Irma so odd?  I suppose if each character was studied in depth the book would be so long it would be unreadable, but I still wanted a bit more more.

I felt sad for this family because I think they were trying to be happy, despite their actions toward each other.  I was hopeful at the end that they were going to reinvent themselves going forward.

4 Stars

Thank you NetGalley and Other Press for this advanced read copy for review.

Book Pairings

Let’s talk about books that you should read together. No, not like series or books by the same author, but books that make more sense (or are more fun), if you read both.

This post is inspired by my recent reading of For Darkness Shows the Stars (futuristic/post-apocalyptic Jane Austen) and companion Across a Star Swept Sea (retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel), but I fully enjoyed those without (yet) reading the accompanying classics. So, here are some pairings where you must read both, in order for the magic to truly happen.

1. Jane Eyre + The Eyre Affair

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No one should be shocked that my sister demanded I read a book set in a bizarro 1985 London involving time travel and literary detectives. The Eyre Affair is about our heroine, Thursday Next’s, attempt to track down the villain who stole one Jane Eyre. As in, just plucked her, right out of the story! So, you see where I’m going with this – I had to first read Jane Eyre, then read this silly Jasper Fforde novel.

And, of course she was right. I loved Jane Eyre. I loved Thursday Next. I reference the Toast Marketing Board as often as possible. Amanda win.

 

2. The Great Gatsby + Great

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I’ve seen a few positive reviews of Great recently, and I’m intrigued. I loved The Great Gatsby in high school English. I read it again last year, and I wondered why I loved it so much since the characters are generally unlikeable, shallow, and vapid. Oh dear, what does that say about me? Don’t answer that.

Anyway, Great is a contemporary YA retelling where Nick has become Naomi and Gatsby is Jacinta. Scrolling through Goodreads, there are definitely some haters of this book, but whether people loved or hated, the consensus is that Great makes the most sense with the background of the original work. This is totally on my list to read soon.

 

3. Treasure Island + Treasure Island!!!

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You guys. Have you heard of Literary Disco, the amazing book podcast co-hosted by 90s teenage heartthrob Rider Strong? Yeah, I hadn’t either, until recently, but now I am totally hooked and working my way through 50+ episodes. It’s amazing. (Note, J may disagree as he had the pleasure of listening to several episodes on a recent drive to NC. However, I think his disdain was less about the show and more about my excitement over Shawn Hunter.)

Okay, so the show is actually really really funny. One of the books they covered was this goofy Treasure-Island-With-3-Exclamation-Points. It’s Episode 6: go listen, and then try and tell me that you don’t want to read this book. But I think we should read Treasure Island first, for maximum effectiveness. Agree?

 

What other book pairings do you suggest?

 

Review: You Had Me At Hello

You Had Me At Hello, Mhairi McFarlane

Amanda

Published February 24, 2014 by Harper Collins

464 pages

Source: Edelweiss

From Goodreads…

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What happens when the one that got away comes back? Find out in this sparkling debut from Mhairi McFarlane.

‘Think of the great duos of history. We’re just like them.’

‘You mean like Kylie and Jason? Torvill and Dean? Sonny and Cher?’

‘I think you’ve missed the point, Rachel.’

Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart. It’s been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.

They’d been partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on: Ben is married. Rachel is not. Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she’s never been able to mend.

Hilarious, heartbreaking and everything in between, you’ll be hooked from their first ‘hello’.

Its been awhile since I’ve read a really good chick-lit book (I miss you Bridget Jones, RIP Mark Darcy). That said, You Had Me At Hello was just what I needed!

You Had Me At Hello brings us Rachel right at the moment she realizes that her relationship with her fiance is not making either of them happy.  She is now single for the first time in years and she is learning to live on her own.  Rachel is trying to get over her relationship with the help of the friends she’s had since university; all her friends except for Ben.  We learn that Rachel and Ben lost contact after university, but not why this happened.

McFarlane then intersperses for us the past and present as Rachel and Ben meet for the first time as students and then when Rachel learns Ben has moved to Manchester and contrives to accidentally meet him again. She learns that Ben is married to the perfect wife and tries to pick up their friendship again.  I liked watching the new friendship try to move forward set up with the scenes of their history together.

I also enjoyed Rachel’s friends.  They were funny and were supportive and still made mistakes themselves.  I liked that they weren’t plastics, they felt real like girls -and a guy- I’d like to hang out with too!  Rachel’s problems felt real, like ones I could see my friends getting into after college and using the same copious amounts of alcohol to get out of. Sometimes you just want a light chick lit book and this was perfect for me.

Last, why is cursing just so much more fun when its British?  I really need to tell more people to sod off-not you reading this, don’t take that personally!

4 stars for a fun chick lit read.

Thank you Harper Collins and Edelweiss for this advanced read copy for review.

 

Review: Far Gone

Far Gone, Laura Griffin

Amanda

Published April 15th 2014 by Gallery Books

384 Pages

Source: Edelweiss

From Goodreads…

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To save her only brother, Andrea Finch must face down a criminal mastermind, the FBI, and her own demons in this thrilling novel from the author of the bestselling Tracers series.

Police detective Andrea Finch is a rising star in her department until a split-second decision derails her career. Disgraced and disillusioned, she’s on leave from her job when she gets an urgent call from her younger brother. She’d prefer to ignore his latest plea for cash, but this time instinct tells her something is very wrong. Andrea’s search for answers takes her to a dusty Texas border town where danger lurks in plain sight and nothing is quite what it seems.

FBI agent Jon North is working undercover in west Texas investigating an unsolved murder that may be linked to a broader plot. But when the evidence points to Andrea’s brother, Jon finds that persuading the stubborn cop to help will be harder than cracking his toughest case.

Andrea must find a way to do what’s right while protecting her only sibling. As the clock ticks down on a deadly plot, Andrea and Jon race to confront a heartless killer who will stop at nothing to deliver a final, terrifying message.

I really enjoy suspense/mystery novels from time to time and I especially enjoy books with strong female leads.  I was totally hoping for the next Lisbeth Salander here, but it was not quite to be.   I had high hopes for Andrea Finch after the dramatic beginning of this book in which she faces down a teenager holding hostages at gunpoint.  In the fall out from the drama Andrea is placed on administrative leave which gives her time to investigate what her younger brother is doing on a ranch in the middle of nowhere Texas.  

Andrea meets FBI agent Jon North, who is also looking into the ranch as part of a domestic terrorism investigation.  I liked that Andrea did not immediately fall into Jon’s plans and that she tried to continue her own investigation independent from Jon and the FBI. There’s definitely sexual tension, but they do not trust each other and are both trying to investigate without sharing too much.  

Without going into details of the investigation, I was intrigued by the suspense part of this book, and I thought the domestic terrorism plot was pretty good.  Griffin didn’t overly glamorize the details of the FBI investigation which I appreciated.  She didn’t make the reader sit through every hour of surveillance, but the book was not all non-stop silly action.  When the ending went down the action was right for the plot.  

I was less impressed by the romance.  I thought the scenes building the sexual tension were fairly awkward overall.  In the end this was a fast read and it kept me engaged throughout.  I still liked Andrea at the conclusion of Far Gone, even though she wasn’t quite the ass kicker I was looking for.

Last thought-covers don’t always matter a whole lot to me-but this cover makes absolutely zero sense to me with this book.  Where do we get from the exploding vase and rose to Texas and terrorism?

2.5 stars.

Thank you Gallery Books and edelweiss for this advanced copy for review.

Review: You Should Have Known

You Should Have Known, Jean Hanff Jorelitz

Amanda

Published March 18 2014 by Grand Central Publishing

448 Pages

Source, NetGalley

From Goodreads…

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Grace Reinhart Sachs is living the only life she ever wanted for herself. Devoted to her husband, a pediatric oncologist at a major cancer hospital, their young son Henry, and the patients she sees in her therapy practice, her days are full of familiar things: she lives in the very New York apartment in which she was raised, and sends Henry to the school she herself once attended. Dismayed by the ways in which women delude themselves, Grace is also the author of a book You Already Know, in which she cautions women to really hear what men are trying to tell them. But weeks before the book is published a chasm opens in her own life: a violent death, a missing husband, and, in the place of a man Grace thought she knew, only an ongoing chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster, and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and herself.

 

I think I expected this book to be something that it was not, and that was a failure on my part not the book.  I read this “a violent death, a missing husband, and, in the place of a man Grace thought she knew, only an ongoing chain of terrible revelations” and thought this was going to be a thriller.  You Should Have Known is not a thriller.  Once I figured that out, I did like the book better.

In this book Grace has to face some horrible truths about her own life and take steps to move forward.  Grace was not a totally likeable character for me in the beginning of this book, and maybe that was due in part to my expecting more action when things started happening in her life. I don’t want to say too much without giving away the plot-but let me tell you that I think you would have acted too!

As the book begins Grace is about to have her book published, which chastens women for choosing partners they know are wrong from them from the very beginning.  I thought this was a great juxtaposition to Grace reflecting on her own life throughout the story.  I liked being deep in Grace’s thoughts, but they didn’t always make Grace deeply likeable.  Its hard to root for a character that you don’t like too much, but I came around on Grace in the end.  I think that’s a sign of a well written character-that even when its someone you don’t like you still want to know what will happen.

I wanted more resolution at the conclusion of this book, but perhaps that goes back to my thinking I was reading a thriller.  Check this out and tell me what you thought of Grace!

3 Stars!

Thank you Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for this copy to review!

 

PS Goodreads has a giveaway of this! Ends 4/19 so enter today!

 

Details

Holly

Do you remember when I wrote about how much I love love loved Code Name Verity? (Hey, if you don’t click here!) The fact that the people in that book were not real still makes my heart hurt. (But, good news – the companion novel Rose Under Fire was also amazing.)

Anyway, one of the things I really loved about CNV was in the author’s notes at the end, where Elizabeth Wein outlined how she struggled to come up with a way in which her characters would have had enough ink to write their stories. She researched and came up with a plausible situation based on the circumstances in which the ballpoint pen was invented.

Now, truth be told, I would not have given a second (or a first) thought as to how the characters were writing, but I love that she worked that detail in. Some readers are really into well-developed characters, and some readers prioritize the plot over the characters, but I am a reader that can get really hung up on the details. (This spills over into my life outside of reading, for better and for worse.)

I read the terrible follow-up to The Nanny Diaries, Nanny Returns, and I was really turned off by the fact that the two main characters had supposedly spent years living abroad doing international development work in Sweden, Haiti, and throughout Africa…and had their golden retriever with them everywhere they went. Right.  I just finished Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, and I felt the narrator’s credibility was shot when, in describing a rural southeast Missouri town of 2000 people, she suggested that a Starbucks might be built there. Having lived in a rural southeast Kansas town 90 minutes from the nearest Starbucks, I found that to be a profoundly stupid unrealistic statement.

Anyway, I love meticulously researched historical fiction, such as Elizabeth Wein’s. I love when I end up learning something unexpected, and when I finish a book wanting to know more about that time and place. The part I sometimes hate about historical fiction is not knowing the true story. I love reading speculative stories, like The Girl with the Pearl Earring, and Alice I Have Been – but then I want to know what the full story is!

For that reason, I like reading meticulously researched non-fiction as well – I loved reading the personal accounts included in A History of the Wife. And, need I remind you again why I think Erik Larson is the bees knees for writing nonfiction that flows as smoothly as a novel – a really really gripping novel at that.

So, details. Am I the only one who gets hung up on the little things? Any amazing historical fiction recommendations?