Friday, September 16, 2011

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (CBR Book #25)

With the recent popularity of HBO's new series A Game of Thrones, based on Martin's books, it came as a surprise to me that Martin's first book was written 15 years ago. Although the book received numerous awards in the years after its release, it wasn't until July of this year that it reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. Of course, I never heard of the book until my friend started geeking out about it in the Spring. And since I'm cheap and prefer to Netflix HBO/Showtime series, rather than pay for the channels, I knew I'd have to read the books in order to understand what the hell she was talking about. Bandwagon jumped.

So what is it that makes A Game of Thrones so compelling? Well, I don't know if there's a magic formula that must involve midgets, swords, incestual twins, supernatural zombie like creatures, and barbarianism, but I guess they sound good to a Hollywood exec. And the public agrees. Granted, I haven't seen the series yet, so I'm going off of what's in the book, but I hear the two are pretty closely married. And I must admit, I enjoyed the first book and my husband literally spends all weekend reading the series (called A Song of Fire and Ice) which is pretty amazing.

I guess I should enlighten you on the plot. Basically, it's some kind of midevil time period where people live in castles and basically anyone can be King. You just have to kill whoever the current one is. Each chapter is titled with a person's name. So you get the story through that person's perspective. This means there are a lot of people with their own plot lines that intersect with everyone else's. It's an interesting dynamic.

The main family is the Stark family. Ned, the father, has gone south to serve as the King's advisor. The King's wife is one of those evil bitches you just love to read about. And her family is that power-hungry, conniving, new money kind of people that make for great reality show stars. But my favorite plot line has to be Daenerys'. Daenerys' family used to be the ruling family until they weren't. So she went into exile to a land where everyone is basically a barbarian. Like, if you don't have at least 10 people die at your wedding, then it wasn't a cool wedding kind of barbarian. Anyway, her story is really interesting, as she evolves from a meek young girl to a strong woman (you can actually read just Daenerys' story in the novella Blood of the Dragon).

Oh, and another thing, since this is midevil times or whatever, girls get married and have kids at 12, 13. It's weird at first to get used to but then you start thinking like everyone in the book, "wait, she's 20?! She'll never have a family! What will she DO with her life now that she's ANCIENT?!" Yeah, it gets like that.

I mentioned supernatural earlier. It's not a HUGE part of the book, but there are some bits and hints of more to come. Don't pick it up expecting unicorns and leprechauns though. But even without a blatant zombie plot, which seems to be the easy way to get a book sold, A Game of Thrones had some moments where I literally gasped. "Did he really just write that?" I'd think. Yes he did, and it was awesome. Really, kid characters shouldn't be immune to the atrocities of the day. And Martin acknowledges this. But you'll have to read the book to know what I'm talking about.

So a recommend from me. If you're into Lord of the Rings fantasy type books or epic novels, or just a good story, I'd pick it up.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blind Descent by James Tabor (CBR book #24)

Okay, I gotta admit, when the power went out for a big chunk of the southwest, crazy thoughts rushed into my mind. But at least I didn't go looney tunes and call radio stations, spouting things like terrorism, conspiracy, and yeah, even aliens. Several hours later, the crisis was over. And short of some spoiled food in the fridge and unruly wax candles, the damage was minimal.

So when I think about how I nearly panicked when things got a little dark for a couple hours, I can't begin to fathom what it would be like to be in complete isolation, without anyone around to help, in the deepest, darkest places on earth. I used to think such places were confined to alleys, corporate meetings, and my mind, but let's add one more to the list...supercaves. Exactly what makes a cave rise to the status of super, you ask? Well, my first mental picture was that of a beautiful cave with glowing kryptonite, but it's more the antithesis of that. Darkness, dirt, deep thin waterways, and isolation.

Blind Descent is a book about two men who have devoted their lives to finding this place, specifically, the deepest cave on earth. Tabor begins with the story of Bill Stone, an American caver who focuses on Cheve cave in Mexico. He also details the work of Alexander Klimchouk from the Ukraine, who explores Krubera cave in the Republic of Georgia. Besides giving a crash course in cave exploration, Tabor recounts expeditions by these men that will make you claustrophobic just reading about them. He also adds interesting tidbits about things like the phenomena of cave hallucinations and the fun fact that the ebola virus is believed to have originated in a cave.

If you're into caving, or like books like Into Thin Air, I'd definitely recommend this one. There is no shortage of drama and suspense here. And it even inspired me to do some cave exploration of my own! Coincidentally, shortly after I read this book, I went to Glenwood Springs Colorado, which boasts a healthy dose of cave tourism. So here are some pics from my own cave explorations for your viewing pleasure.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (CBR #23)

This is a book I "read" by audio tape. I have to admit, it was about a month or more ago and so I'm going to keep this review short and sweet. I'm also vegging out right now so my brain is on the cusp of checking I have any more excuses for this shoddy review?

Okay, on with it. Susie Salmon is a teenage girl who is murdered (not a spoiler). She narrates the book as a ghost, following the investigation into her murder as well as her family's lives after her death. The book isn't really a whodunnit, as Susie reveals the details of her murder (including the murderer) right away. The book is more about how both she and her family deal with the aftermath of her murder.

I felt like the book started with a lot of momentum but slowed significantly closer to the second half of the story. At first, Sebold focuses on the investigation, and we're still learning who all the characters are. The second half, however, is more about how everyone's lives progress, as Susie's murder investigation slowly fades from its initial prominence.

One thing I like about this book is that we get glimpses of Susie's heaven...what it's like, the people she meets there, and how she watches her family and friends on earth. Sebold's idea of heaven is an interesting one and I enjoyed reading about it.

Just some random information about the was written in 2002 and made into a movie in 2010. The book, I'd recommend. From what I hear about the movie...Peter Jackson should stick to elves and hobbits. But if you're interested, here's the trailer...The Lovely Bones Movie Trailer