Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Feast for Crows

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire #4)

I downloaded the ebook from the public library's OverDrive service.

My review:

A Feast for Crows is a major shift from the previous book in the series, A Storm of Swords. The most obvious difference is that the story is told from the point of view of characters who mostly played only supporting roles before, while previous main characters either do not appear or show up on the sidelines. Readers of an epic series like this one should be used to cliffhangers and having to wait for the next piece of each character's story line, but this book may put even patient readers to the test.

Most of the action is grim and grinding, too; where the previous books were full of kingdom-sized movements and plays for power, A Feast for Crows is filled with cool calculation and micro-moves. Brienne is one of the few characters who is actually going anywhere most of the time, and even her quest starts to feel circular by halfway through the book. We do, however, get a much deeper and piercing look at Jaime and Cersei. The chapters from their perspectives are by far the strengths of this volume. 

Stars: 3.5

I wanted more Arya, more Jon, and more Tyrion. Martin explains in the afterword that he divided books #4 and #5 into two volumes by geography; the action of the next book will take place at the edges and beyond the Seven Kingdoms. I can only hope that that is where Tyrion went off to, as I don't care for Daenerys and she and Jon are the only significant characters than I can think of out there.

I do look forward to A Dance With Dragons and the remaining books in the series. Martin is a brilliant and remarkable writer, and from the Goodreads ratings, it seems that A Feast for Crows is the weakest volume of the series. Since it was still really good-- just not quite as exciting or surprising as its predecessors-- that still says a lot for this series.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sea Swept

Sea Swept by Nora Roberts

I downloaded the audio book from the public library's OverDrive service.

My review:

Sea Swept is the first book in Nora Roberts' Quinn Brothers of Chesapeake Bay Saga. Cameron Quinn is abruptly called home from his racing, playboy lifestyle in Europe when his adoptive father is fatally injured in a car accident. Cam and his two (also adopted) brothers promise their father on his deathbed that they will keep the latest boy he had just taken in. Enter a hot case worker and some nasty rumors, and things get complicated.

The book itself is classic Roberts. She evokes the setting so well that it almost becomes another character underlying the whole story. Some of the characters felt flat, while others were unexpectedly intriguing. The heroine was actually not one of the most compelling characters. She came across as a mash-up of a couple of different stock types: a take-no-prisoners modern woman who has random princess tantrums. Some of the supporting cast, however-- particularly Ethan and Seth-- should reward further exploration in the following books of the series.

Stars: 3.5

Runability: 4

As with almost all of the Brilliance Audio productions of Nora Roberts' books, this one was well-done. Male narrators of romance novels always throw me off-balance at first, but I was able to acclimate quickly to this one.

The next book in the series, Rising Tides, focuses on Ethan, so I will probably listen to it at some point. He was  my favorite character in Sea Swept, even though he had only a supporting role. At this point I'm not sure that I will continue the series past that; Philip is just too stock-metrosexual for me to want to spend an entire book on him.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Quick update

We had an unexpected car crisis last week and we've been scrambling ever since to get the situation straightened out. I'm finally starting to regain equilibrium, but my reading has taken quite a hit. My typical reading time has been mostly devoted to AutoTrader and, and my driving time has been audiobookless because I had no way to listen to my Zune while driving the rental car.

My new-to-me car has an auxiliary input port, though, so I am back in listening business and I also got some reading done over my lunch break.

Stay tuned and keep reading. :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Wettest County in the World (Lawless)

The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Story by Matt Bondurant

I downloaded the audiobook from the public libary's OverDrive service.

My review:

This is the book upon which the movie Lawless is based, and the book has actually been re-released under that title. Three brothers run moonshine in southern Virginia during the later years of Prohibition and as the country grinds into the Great Depression. The Bondurant brothers are three young men with very different personalities but with a fierce family loyalty and a determination to live their lives on their own terms.

I may have enjoyed this one more if I had read it myself instead of listening to the audio version. Erik Steele does a fine job with the reading, but the book switches back and forth between two parallel chronologies and I had a hard time knowing "when" we were for the first half or so of the book. One timeline follows the Bondurants from childhood up through the height of their notoriety, and the other is more tightly clustered in the mid-30s, when an Ohio journalist is trying to dig up what happened between the Bondurant boys and the county law a few years earlier. The Bondurants don't make significant personal appearances in the latter timeline, but they are mentioned constantly and almost all of the secondary characters are there. Because of this, it actually took me quite a while to sort out what the author was doing and which brother was which. I think it would have been more apparent to me if I had seen the dates and names on a page and been able to flip back and forth a little.

The brothers were interesting characters who grew more compelling and sympathetic as the book progressed. The setting depicted also fascinated me; while western Pennsylvania had our Whiskey Rebellion quite a while before Prohibition, there is some shared mountain culture there. Still, the author could have strengthened the work by dropping the Sherwood Anderson story line and focusing instead on the mounting tension between the Bondurants and the law. The "big showdown" didn't have the emotional impact on me that it easily could have, probably because too much information about its aftermath had already been revealed throughout the Anderson parts of the book.

Stars: 3

Runability: 3

I haven't seen the movie Lawless yet, but if it comes to Netflix I will definitely give it a watch. The story and characters in the book were strong; the execution was just a little scattershot. Novels have to be tightened up for depiction on-screen, anyway, and I'm guessing that in the case of this book/movie combination it probably works to the movie's advantage.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Someday, Someday, Maybe

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (expected publication April 30th, 2013)

I received a digital review copy from Ballantine Books via NetGalley.

My review:

When an actor writes a book, there is always the possibility that the manuscript found a publisher based on the writer's established fame and not on the merit of the writing or plot of the book itself. Lauren Graham, thankfully, can really write. Even if she hadn't already made a name for herself as an actress, Someday, Someday, Maybe is proof that she could still have a very respectable career as a talented author.

The protagonist and narrator, Franny, is trying to break into the world of acting in NYC. She's set herself a rapidly-approaching deadline for when she needs to have made real progress before she lays her dream to rest and goes back home to get a "real job." The story focuses on her struggles and triumphs rather than on the consumerism that can easily become the actual focal point of some chick lit.

The book is very well-written. The style makes for an enjoyable read, Franny is a likeable and sympathetic main character, and the story is self-aware enough to keep the familiar themes (struggling actress, love triangle, family transitions) fresh. This novel should have appeal even to readers who don't typically read a great deal of chick-lit and who don't have a particular fascination with the world of acting. For an intelligent, easy, enjoyable read, Someday, Someday, Maybe will fit the bill.

Stars: 4

I confess that I did request this book because I am a huge Gilmore Girls fan and I couldn't not read something written by Lauren Graham. I'm sure many other fans of her work as an actress will do the same, but they will certainly be rewarded by a good read.

There are elements of Someday, Someday, Maybe that are reminiscent of Bridget Jones' Diary, but then, what chick lit isn't somewhat derivative of that? Graham takes tropes like diary entries with resolutions and makes them read entirely differently than Bridget's famous journal.

I can't wait to see more books from Lauren Graham.