Posts Tagged 'a song of ice and fire'

Top Ten Tuesday REWIND: The Top Ten Books I Recommend the Most

My apologies–I have been absent from the last few Top Ten Tuesdays, for absolutely no good reason! But this week was a great time to get back in the game.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created to share lists with other bookish folks! For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday list, we’ve got a rewind–we can choose any past Top Ten Tuesday subject that we missed! I chose March 26’s prompt: the top ten  books I recommend the most! (Fittingly, many of these are going to look familiar to you TTTers…)

1. Hyperion, by Dan Simmons
I will never stop talking about this book. It represents everything sci-fi should be: believable characters, fantastic technology, and timeless themes. I try to press this novel on everyone!

2. West with the Night, by Beryl Markham
Whenever the subject of memoirs comes up, I immediately recommend West with the Night. It’s one of the only memoirs I’ve read that is well-written, engaging, and impressive, while still being relatable and truthful. Seriously, read it!

3. A Song of Ice and Fire, by G.R.R. Martin
I successfully got my boyfriend and father to read these, and am now trying to force them on my brother. These are great for seasoned fantasy readers who can spot the tropes Martin gleefully butchers, as well as people who watch the HBO show but haven’t yet read the source material.

4. The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing
I recently wrote about The Golden Notebook being one of my heart books, and I meant every word! I passed on my recommendation to good friend J, who also very much enjoyed it, and I tend to want to pass it on to just about every female friend I have.

5. Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
UGH this book is so painfully good. I mention it in almost every TTT post I’ve done! But I can’t help myself. It’s just so well-written and interesting and chock-full of intrigue and pathos.

6. Passage, by Connie Willis
This is one of those books that I recommend and then get upset if the recommendee doesn’t like it, because it resonated so deeply with me. (Thanks, Dad.)

7. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
I could NOT stop recommending this book to friends once I finished it. Willis is great at getting you to care about characters who are marked for death. My boyfriend ripped the cover of my copy and it infuriated me, because now I can’t lend it out anymore.

8. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
This is a classic graphic novel that even non-comic book fans should read. It plays with many well-known superhero tropes and can inspire tons of passionate discussion between friends. A great example of the form.

9. The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russel
Not for everyone, this beautiful tale of a Jesuit mission to a newly-discovered planet is both harrowing and redemptive. And guaranteed to make you cry at least once.

10. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
This  is just a straight-up classic that everyone should read. I am continually surprised by how many people, even people who are fans of Steinbeck, haven’t read it. Don’t be intimidated by the length; it’s worth it.

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Recommended Reading, Courtesy of George R.R. Martin

For those of you who, like me, are absolutely dying to read the next installment of George R.R Martin’s epic deconstructed fantasy A Song of Ice and Fire, GRMM’s got a little something to tide you over!

The Huffington Post has created a slideshow out of GRMM’s suggested reads. It’s a great mix of fantasy classics and more contemporary novels. (There are even some fantasy novels that I’ve never heard of.)

Visit Martin’s list of recommendations here!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books for People who Like George R.R. Martin

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, they post a topic and encourage fellow bloggers to list their own top ten answers. This week’s prompt was to list the top ten books for people who like a certain author. Our challenge was to pick an author and give book recommendations based on that author! As you can see, I have chosen George R.R. Martin, AKA the bearded troll god, writer of A Song of Ice and Fire (ASoIaF).

So! If you like George R.R. Martin, you might also like:

1. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
Though there are some sci-fi elements (time travel!), much of this book focuses on the harsh realities of medieval life, including dirt, disease, and lack of scientific knowledge. Willis also has Martin’s same penchant for killing off your favorite characters, sympathetic and otherwise.

2. Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
To really appreciate Martin, you also need to appreciate the fantasy tropes he’s dismantling. For better or worse, many of these tropes originated with Tolkien’s massive fantasy epic. (Which isn’t to say they aren’t a good story, too!) Both also have massive casts of characters and impressively interwoven relationships.

3. The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan
Martin’s tales are filled with sex and violence, and thoroughly break down the idea of the good and noble knight. Duncan’s novel (first in a trilogy) reworks the werewolf–lately somewhat neutered by its depictions in Twilight and its ilk–into a savage beast that revels in killing. Both are pretty dark at times, but also give reasons for hope.

4. Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey
Carey’s world-building, like Martin’s, is fantastic. This series takes place in Terre D’Ange, a fictionalized version of France in a very different version of Europe. Her imaginative religions rival Martin’s for sure. (And her sex scenes are much better written.)

5. The Wolf Hall trilogy, by Hilary Mantel
Shifting alliances, gray morality, court politicking–the only difference is the lack of magic in Mantel’s world. Otherwise, you’re basically reading about Littlefinger.

6. Wild Seed, by Octavia Butler
Perhaps a bit of a leap, but I think Butler challenges sci-fi and fantasy conventions just as well as Martin does. A challenging and thought-provoking read.

7. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
This just has a lot of the same bleakness and same glimmers of hope that I think ASoIaF offers.

8. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
One of Martin’s great strengths is showing the cruelty, violence, and consequences of war. Haldeman does the same thing, albeit in a sci-fi setting.

9. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
I haven’t actually read this one yet, despite it being on my TBR list for ages, but a quick glance at its back cover and reviews makes me think that it would be a perfect follow-up to your time in Westeros.

10. Beyond the Wall, edited by James Lowder
In my review, I suggested this book for readers who are already fans of Martin’s series who want to delve a little deeper into its themes, motivations, and characters.

ASoIaF fans, got any other suggestions? Feel free to leave your thoughts–and your own TTT lists–in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Who Remind Me Of Myself Or Someone I Know In Real Life

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, they post a topic and encourage fellow bloggers to list their own top ten answers. This week’s prompt was to list the top ten characters who remind me of myself or someone I know in real life. What a challenge! I tried to go with my gut on this.

1. Katniss and Prim, from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I know some people felt that Prim was not a fully-realized character, but I always liked her and felt that the relationship between her and Katniss was a realistic depiction of a protective older sibling-innocent younger sibling dynamic. While I can relate to that–being the mad protective older sister to a sweet younger brother–this comparison is definitely a bit of wish fulfillment. I wish I was as awesome as Katniss!

2. Sarah, from Little Children by Tom Perrotta 
In our introduction to the character of Sarah, I cringed because I saw so much of myself in many of her thoughts and actions…especially upon just graduating from grad school and feeling pretty lost.

Applying to graduate school seemed like the perfect solution for escaping the rut she was in–a way to recapture the excitement of college while also making a recognizable version of adulthood…Within a couple of weeks of starting the Ph.D program, though, she discovered that she’d booked passage on a sinking ship.

She was a failure, a twenty-six-year old woman..who had just discovered that she wasn’t nearly as smart as she’d thought she was.

Here’s to hoping that my life turns out a little better than poor Sarah’s does.

3. Sansa, from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
My friend S and I have a theory that if you were raised as and continue to be a “good girl”–a girl who is obedient, who follows the rules, who doesn’t cause trouble–you will relate to Sansa, as we did. While some readers think  of her as weak or stupid, she is just a girl who doesn’t understand how the world really works. I may not be quite as naive as Sansa is, but I do follow the rules and probably feel far too entitled to certain things because of that.  (I’m actually really excited to see where her story arc ends. I hope it’s with her on the Iron Throne.)

4. Kristy, Mary Anne, Stacey, and Claudia from The Babysitters’ Club by Ann M. Martin
Slightly embarrassing, but…my three best friends from my hometown and I all grew up reading the Babysitters’ Club series (and watching the television show!) and realized that we fit some the four original characters pretty nicely. I was Mary Anne (nice, shy, unpierced ears, boyfriended up). My friend J was Kristy, being loud, boyish, and bossy. Friend C was Stacey, with blonde hair and love for New York City and singing. Finally, friend R was our Claudia, being very artistic and a very unconventional dresser! We may have even discussed creating our own babysitters’ club at one point…

5. Lena, Bridget, Carmen, and Tibby from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
Same group of friends, same deal!  Though this didn’t divide up as cleanly as Babysitters’ Club characters. I was a mix of Carmen and Lena, friend R is Lena/Bridget, and friends C and J are both Tibby. We actually sewed together a pair of pants (that were a hideous mix of four different fabrics) and sent them around one summer. I think I wore them in Mexico when it was my turn!

6. Felicity, from The American Girl Dolls series
This may be another case of wishful thinking, but I always identified the most with Felicity. (Note that this was in the old days when there were only five dolls: Kirsten, Felicity, Samantha, Addy, and Molly!) Like Felicity, I rode horses, got annoyed at my sibling, and considered myself a bit of a badass. I also coveted the life-sized version of her fancy blue dress.

7. Belgarath, from The Belgariad by David Eddings
Perhaps because he was the one who got me started reading fantasy novels and one of the first ones he gave me was The Belgariad, my dad and the character of Belgarath are very much linked in my  mind. Though he’s powerful and smart, Belgarath also has a fun and mischievous side. I don’t always get my dad’s humor, but he and this ancient wizard have a lot in common.

8. Richard Papen, from The Secret History by Donna Tartt 
What I see in Richard are the parts of myself that I don’t really like, reflected back at me. His desire to fit in, his ability to lie easily, his inability to ask for help, his insecurity, his longing to be “better”–I’m ashamed to admit that I experience all of these things. Pretty sure, however, that I’d never participate in and help cover up the murder of my friend. Like, 100% sure.

9. Taryn and Jimmy, from Fierce Moon by Kira Lerner
This one is sort of cheating: it’s one of those Books By You that you can personalize with your own name and information! This was a gift from evil, evil friend C (aka Stacey McGill), who knows both my love for werewolves and my awkwardness about reading romance. In this story, I was a lonely librarian (fairly accurate) sent to the past to help solve a mystery with my soon-to-be lover Jimmy, a Victorian werewolf detective (fairly inaccurate). It was equally hilarious and mortifying. Highly recommended.

10. Walter, from Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Like Richard Papen, Walter’s character highlights some of the tensions I see in myself. I do environmental nonprofit work, and have often grappled with the question of selling out myself–it’s common when huge projects are funded by the likes of Shell, BP, Toyota, and other companies. I have a lot of the same fears as Walter, though (thankfully) my relationship to my significant other is much better than Walter’s with Patti. We also both love birds! But I like people, too, and don’t consider overpopulation the end-all, be-all issue that Walter does.

Review: Beyond the Wall, edited by James Lowder

Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, From A Game of Thrones to A Dance with Dragons is a collection of essays that critically examine different aspects and themes of George R.R. Martin’s popular A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels. While the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, came out in 1996, it has recently experienced a resurgence in popularity due to the release of the fifth book in the series, A Dance With Dragons–and of course, with HBO’s highly-praised adaptation. With this expanded audience, the time was ripe for some solid critical writing.

I wanted to start off by saying that overall, the essays where I actually learned something new were my favorites. Some tended toward rehashes of plot points from the novels, and while that would be helpful for any ASoIaF newbies reading, I think that the audience for this book is more likely to be veteran fans (especially as there are some spoilers for later books and fan theories in Beyond the Wall!) There could probably have been a bit more editing done, with that audience in mind; each essay tended to start with some quick generalizations of Martin’s work, such as Westeros’s startling brutality, the many crimes committed against women, the serious nature of the text despite being a “genre” work, etc. If each piece were standing alone, those sorts of introductions would have been fine; however, coming one right after another, the repetition was somewhat unnecessary.

I also found that the chapters I enjoyed most were the ones coming from outside writers and critics (rather than writers or other artists within the fandom). A certain distance is helpful when trying to apply a critical lens to a popular series. I certainly don’t begrudge any of the writers their close involvement with different aspects of ASoIaF (such as helping to develop its tabletop gaming incarnations) or their personal friendships with Martin, but I think it makes it that much more difficult to provide deeper criticisms. However, the caliber of the writers assembled for this collection tended to be high, and their pedigrees–as writers, comic book artists, professors, and game creators–were impressive.

Continue reading ‘Review: Beyond the Wall, edited by James Lowder’

Top Ten Tuesday Rewind (Pick any past topic you want!): Character Names

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, they post a topic and encourage fellow bloggers to list their own top ten answers. This week’s prompt was to pick any past TTT topic you wanted! I chose to do the TTT from February 8, 2011, which was the Top Ten Characters (and Literary Figures) That I’d Name My Children After!

My list is below.

1. A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin 
Okay, I cheated. I couldn’t pick just one name from Martin’s renowned fantasy series! Some of my favorites include Arya, Nymeria, Brienne, Jaime, and Asha. And I’m not the only one: Martin has an entire section of his website dedicated to fans who’ve named their children/pets after his characters!

2. Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Predictable, I know. But Scout is such a great, classic character from such a great book, she deserves her place on the list.

3. Valentine, from Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
Though I find his politics repugnant, I can’t deny that Card’s original Ender series is excellent sci-fi writing. It was where I first heard the name Valentine used as a first name for a girl, and I’ve loved it ever since. (Unfortunately, it rhymes with my boyfriend’s last name, and I’m not evil enough to give any future kids rhyming names…)

4. Caleb, from East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
While I like atypical names for girls, my favorite names for boys tend to be a little more traditional. East of Eden introduced me to the name Caleb, which I’ve had on my shortlist for my future/hypothetical son for ages.

5. Eowyn, from The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien 
What can I say…I have a weakness for tough, independent, ass-kicking ladies. My hypothetical daughter could do much worse than to be named after Tolkien’s shield-maiden.

6. Lyra, from His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman
I tend to likes names with the letter ‘y’ in them (perhaps because my own first name has a ‘y’). Past the coolness of her name, though, Lyra distinguishes herself as a brave, clever, and loyal heroine.

7. Cormac, from No Country for Old Men, Blood Meridian, etc., by Cormac McCarthy
I just really like the name Cormac!

8. Lily, from The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton 
Whenever I wrote stories as a kid, I used flower names–Rose, Daisy, etc. Lily was (and still is) my favorite, though it now makes me think of Wharton’s doomed socialite.

9. Marlow, from The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan
I like this one for a girl or a boy. Hopefully the kid doesn’t grow up to be a werewolf, though.

10. Dean, from Supernatural
Okay, I’m cheating again (with a name from a television show rather than a book)! But I’ve always liked this name, and once I started watching Supernatural, I loved this name. Maybe it can be traced back to reading On the Road in high school?

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors on Television/Freebie Week

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, they post a topic and encourage fellow bloggers to list their own top ten answers. This week’s prompt was to either

a) name the authors that should be on reality shows/have their own television shows

or b) write about whatever you want!

I chose option b. Therefore, I decided to make my Top Ten Tuesday list my top ten Likable Books, Unlikable Characters. I defined this as when I found overall books to be enjoyable, despite of (or in some cases, because of!) mean, evil, or generally unpleasant characters.

1. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
I just finished this tale of murder and betrayal on a quiet Vermont college campus. Pretty much every character in it is awful in their own special way. There’s not one but two murders, abuse, incest, drug abuse, lying, backstabbing…really, anything you can think of.

2. A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin
It’s cheating a little bit to list all five of these books under one heading, but morality is such a central part of the entire’s series theme that I felt justified in lumping them all together. There are only a few unambiguously evil characters in Martin’s books (Gregor Clegane and Ramsay Bolton immediately jump to mind) but the characters with shifting moralities tend to the most interesting. Watching Jaime Lannister evolve from the selfish, misguided Kingslayer into a much more humble man, for example, is highly engaging.

3 & 4. The Last Werewolf and Talulla Rising, by Glen Duncan
Our heroes are werewolves who kill and eat people. And enjoy it. Enough said?

5. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
Cathy, Cathy, Cathy.  It’s rare to find a true female sociopath represented well, even in fiction, but Steinbeck’s prostitute/murderer/child abandoner is the pinnacle of the form.

6. No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy
No TTT of mine would be complete without a McCarthy novel. I chose NCfOM because Anton Chigurh is one of the most terrifying antagonists I’ve ever met: pitiless, emotionless, and completely incomprehensible, more like a natural disaster than an actual human being. His bizarre brand of morality served, to me, to heighten the book’s premise that life is random and often cruel.

7. Let the Right One In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Much like Duncan’s books above, we are asked to sympathize with a creature that is no longer human, and depends on killing humans to survive. The creepy thing is, we do.

8 & 9. The Magicians and The Magician King, by Lev Grossman
The Beast is terrifying. Reading about it swallowing a girl whole and biting off Penny’s hands sent pure, primordial fear through me, in a way that really doesn’t happen very often. Though Reynard is in the sequel far less than the Beast is in the first book, he is still a complete nightmare.

10. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
Based on a chilling true story, In Cold Blood is a fascinating character study of two murderers.


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