Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin (CBR Book #28)

This is the second book of the Song of Fire and Ice series written by Martin. You really can't just jump into these books without starting at the beginning, so I'll assume you've read the first book already.

Martin picks up where he left off after book one, and he takes off running. The book is basically in the same format as the first, with a few new voices added in. Basically there are several men and a few boys fighting to be king. Namely Robb Stark from Winterfell, the heir apparent Joffrey Baratheon, and two of Robert Baratheon's brothers. In addition, Theon Greyjoy, Eddard Stark's ward, decides to throw his name in the hat and fight for his father's honor.

In addition to the wars and battles in the south, Jon Snow has traveled north of the wall to find his missing uncle. Although his story doesn't intersect with the main plot line, I hear it will by book three. Honestly, I was a bit bored by Jon Snow's chapters.

Of course, we can't forget Dany, in the East. Her story was my favorite from book I, but it slowed down considerably in the second book. She is still trying to build an army and secure ships for her return.

Overall, I think I liked book I better than book II, but I enjoyed both. I think the biggest obstacle in reading these books is the sheer length. At 969 pages, A Clash of Kings took me awhile to read. And I can't help but think I could have read 3 or four other books in that time. So while I may eventually read all the books in the series (there are seven planned), I might have to take a break for awhile and catch up on some of my other books.

Kind of a luke-warm review, I know. But if you've read their first book, I have a feeling you've already decided for yourself if you're going to keep going or not.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King (CBR book #27)

I have to make a confession...I'm not a Stephen King fan. I've tried reading a couple of his books (The Tommyknockers and IT) and couldn't get through them. Disappointingly, it's not because I'm a huge wimp and am just too terrified by his books. It's because I find them so BOOOOORING. Go ahead, feel free to mentally flog me if you disagree.

So now you're probably waiting for me to say how I've read The Dark Tower and I'm a changed women...sorry to disappoint again. But at least I got through the entire book!

In case you're still reading this review, The Dark Tower books are a 7 book series (with an eighth related short story as well). The series revolves around Roland, a gunslinger. The books are a kind of sci-fi western where the time and place are a bit vague. Things seem primitive at times, but then things seem other-worldly and even magical at times. Roland is pursuing a man in black and is also on a quest for the dark tower. You'd think I'd have another reference for "man in black" besides THE Mr. Cash after reading this book, but alas, I have no idea who he is in Mr. King's eye. And the dark tower? Not a clue.

I don't know if it's just that King gives more information than I'm retaining and I'm just too bored to absorb it. Or if he just likes to leave mystery and unanswered questions in his books so that you slowly...slooooowly learn bit by bit what the hell is going on after reading all of the books. But I really can't tell you what The Gunslinger is about. I know there's Roland, there's a kid from another time and place, and there's an underground cave with scary creatures, and there's a lot of wandering.

So...I think I'm done with this review. It's just going downhill. I warned you. Not a fan. Why'd I'd read the book then? A friend gave it to me so I thought I'd give it a shot. Oh well.

Hmmm...maybe I can offer you a consolation prize. I read Stephen King's Bag of Bones last year and it wasn't half bad. Just a good old fashioned ghost story. No giant spiders or aliens or anything silly like that. Read that one instead.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Twinkie Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger (CBR Book #26)

Show of hands...who has ever eaten a Twinkie? If you haven't, then you've probably had something similar to a Twinkie. And by similar, I mean something with a list of unreadable, mystery ingredients. If you haven't had this experience, congratulations, you're Omish.

Steve Ettlinger is one of those people who had a Twinkie and actually tried to decipher the ingredients list. The results of his quest are recorded in Twinkie Deconstructed.

I went into this book thinking I would be horrified by what I learned and never touch processed foods again. Strangely, the book almost had the opposite effect. Understanding what all the ingredients were made them more accesible. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of strange, scary, and downright head scratching details in this book.

Examples? Well, did you know the original flavor of Twinkies was banana? Ewwwwww. There are also plenty of ingredients that have more industrial uses than culinary ones. And I was amazed at how much acid was used to process some of these ingredients. And I'm talking strong, burn your face off acids. Then there are the ingredients that are mined. Yes, mined. It's amazing how minerals and rocks can be turned into Twinkies and Ding Dongs.

It's an eye-opening, educational, and at-times technical journey. I'm not sure it's a book for everyone but if you have an interest in food science or chemistry, it's probably up your alley.