Review 5: George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Clash of Kings’

The second book in Martin’s famous fantasy series is ‘A Clash of Kings’. The form is the same as the first novel in the series, an interweaving, multi-perspective, chaotic, but somehow ordered narrative which is very easy to get lost in it. Personally, I love Martin’s writing style. I love having plenty of perspectives to read from, it’s as if he wrote the characters’ stories separately and managed to fit them all together in one big epic jigsaw puzzle.

This is the book in which things really start to get moving, civil war grips the Seven Kingdoms and other factions from across the sea look across with massive ambition. The sheer number of tense moments and instances of frighteningly well described action just seems to keep on increasing as the series goes on so far. Simply put, it’s an intense read.

However, it’s not all action in the fantasy world. A lot of thought has gone into the well written, intellectual dialogue. It’s not hard to see when one of the characters is under stress, is using sarcasm, or is just annoyed. Martin’s plethora of characters (and I don’t use the word plethora lightly) are so well-rounded and realistic that I sometimes find myself thinking things like this:

“Joffrey you bastard! What have you done?”

“Aww, poor Sansa.”

“I hope Dany pulls through this.”

Etc, etc….

The text also raises similar issues as before: whether one man has the right to rule a whole kingdom, whether women should be subjugated my men; whether money triumphs over honour; and whether your heritage gives you right to rule. The answer to all of the above, is no. Sometimes however, life isn’t fair, and that is what this book seems to drive home with every chapter. Some rulers aren’t fit to rule, women are subjugated in certain ways and in certain countries more than others, honour and love do not always win over money, and some people are born into power.

If you’re interested, I will be covering each book in the series over the next few weeks so make sure you come back next Monday, if you subscribe you’ll get an email every time I post so you won’t miss a thing. Thank you for reading.

Review 3: Henry James’ ‘The Turn of the Screw’

If you’re looking for a short story with a bit of ambiguity, read this book. On the face of it, it seems like a simple ghost story, but with a little digging, a whole world of interpretation becomes apparent. The ghosts for example, are they real or are they apparitions of the governess’ creation? How and why does the event involving Miles happen at the end? I won’t ruin it for you just in case you decide to give it a read. Seriously though, it’ll only take you two or three hours tops, and it’s right here for all the world to see (psst, click the link and read it…not that I’m forcing you or anything).

Being one of the few people who have written a 2500 word essay on the uncanny in Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw only yesterday, you would think that I would hate it by now, which I don’t. Now that has to be a good sign. I would give you all the link to read it but I don’t think many would so there’s not much point; if you do however feel a desperate urge to hear my thoughts on the uncanny in this novel, and Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus, you are more than welcome to ask and I will post it (be warned it is heavy reading).

Before you pass my rants of as the ramblings of a strange and lonely English student obsessed with obscure literature, consider this; I’m not the only one who likes this book. In fact, even if you’ve never heard of it, I would be willing to bet a lot of money that you already like it. It has been adapted into so many films it’s unbelievable. Obviously, The Turn of the Screw is one, but The Innocents, Presence of Mind, In a Dark Place, among many others the most famous is probably The Others.

So, in a nutshell, get reading!

Review 2: Suzanne Collins’ ‘The Hunger Games’

This week I thought I’d review The Hunger Games; the release of the film has created a lot of interest, although I don’t think it did the book as much justice as it should have done.

Have you ever read those books that you can’t put down? For me, those books are The Hunger Games series. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not my favourite piece of writing ever, that would probably be George Orwell’s 1984, but it’s interesting and enjoyable; simply put, it’s easy reading.

However, at times it can be poignant and accessible, while questioning society and our humanity. Within the book’s 1984-esq. political system of totalitarian capitalism, the rich are exuberant and comfortable as the poor work to make them richer. In this way Suzanne Collins warns against the dangers of this kind of system; she shows her readers what can happen because of these power hungry governments.

Moving on from politics, the books also indulge the ever so common young-adult reader with plenty of love interest. Mostly, the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. Though Katniss’ indecision renders her an unlikable character, (in my eyes) it certainly adds a new dimension of excitement to the novel.

The books appeal to readers looking for an easy read, and those looking for a political thriller. For me, this is the reason it’s become so popular so quickly.

Review 1: Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga Part 2

So last week I talked about the underlying themes of the Twilight Saga as I see them: anti-feminism and sexual restraint. It’s not just me who believes this by the way, arguments like mine are plastered all over the Internet on sites like WordPress and Wikipedia.

Moving on from that, I finished last time with a quote from Stephen King:

“Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”

This is an opinion I share in so many ways that if I listed them this post would take five years to read! Ok, I’m exaggerating, but still, King’s right. The description is lacking, the dialogue is unrealistic and repetitive, the characters aren’t well shaped at all, and the narrative voice is pathetically weak.

As the books are written from Bella’s perspective, it’s possible to argue that because Meyer may have intended Bella to be a ‘stripped-down’ character, she is incapable of describing the world around her in a well-formed manner. To be honest though, I think Meyer just isn’t very good at writing; she had never written anything before Twilight, that’s just not fair!

I’ll be truthful, I’m jealous and I wish my writing would be noticed in the same way. Although I would prefer to be noticed on the merit of my writing, not the possible popularity of my book due to underlying sexual themes which young teenage girls can relate to. Oh and the attractive actors who play the main characters in the film, which shouldn’t have been made in the first place.

In summary, Stephenie Meyer is a woman who can market herself very well considering that what she’s marketing goes against popular culture, and that her writing style is under-developed and downright shoddy. She should have gone into advertising…God I wish she’d gone into advertising…

Reading for University

As I have decided to attempt starting my book today, this post will be fairly short. I figured that because this segment is titled ‘literature’, I would share the literature I will be reading over the next few weeks, this picture on the right shows some of them (click to see in more detail), but I will also be reading some e-texts and extracts from larger novels.

The entire list consists of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations; Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey; Hari Kunzru’s Transmission; Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Caryl Phillips’ Cambridge; Ann Radcliife’s The Mysteries of Udolpho; Virginia Woolf’s The Mark On The Wall and Monday Or Tuesday; and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. That’s a fairly long list for someone with an exam on the 8th of May, but I’m sure I’ll manage.

A lot of these books will be reviewed in the Monday’s segment,  and seeing as how I’m already half way through Cambridge, I’ll probably start with that. If anyone has read these books, or even just one, feel free to comment and let me know what they’re like or suggest further reading; I like to know what I’m getting myself in for. Also I’m going to include my first poll in this post, vote for your favourite, or if you don’t have a favourite then vote for the ones you like (or think you’ll like, if you haven’t read any like me). May the best book win…

Review 1: Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga Part 1

Stephenie Meyer. We all know who she is, and we all know exactly what she did (if you’ve been under a rock for the past few years, to put it bluntly, she took a great big dump on the English language). The Twilight series is absolutely terrible, I tried to read it, but I failed; that’s very rare for me, I have only ever had to stop reading a novel a few times out of hundreds. Her crazy Mormon dream seems to about resisting sexual urges and, anti-feminism, two of the most ridiculous notions ever conceived of!

Sexual Urges are one of the many things that make us human, without them there would be slim chance of the human race surviving for very long.

Woman: I want a baby, what do you think Nick?

Man: Yes I think that’s a spiffing idea, shall we go upstairs?

Woman: What, now? Are you crazy? Countdown is on!

Man: Ah, my mistake, sorry dear. I wonder if I’ll guess any nine letters this time…

It just doesn’t work! This is not to say that that Stephenie Meyer is trying to destroy the human race through the impression of anti-sex views onto young girls, wielding a scythe made from her Mormon beliefs and using it to attack popular culture; just that she’s a bit naive when it comes to real world, modern problems.

As for the anti-feminism, she may as well have plastered a huge sign across the biggest building she could find in every city across the globe with the words ‘Women are completely helpless at leading their own lives, but don’t worry ladies, ignore your new-found equality with men and subject yourself to an abusive, hassle-free life with a man who can protect/give money to you!’. Whether this unprovoked attack on women-kind is intentional or not, we’ll never know. However, what we can know is that at least subconsciously, Meyer is anti-feminist.

Wikipedia (not the most reliable source I know) had this to say on the matter: “Meyer has been criticized by feminists who consider Meyer an anti-feminist writer, saying that the series romanticizes a physically abusive relationship, pointing to red flags that include Bella’s entire life revolving around Edward; never being in control of her own life; being absolutely dependent on Edward’s ability to protect her life, her virginity, and her humanity; and the physical injuries Bella suffers from finally consummating her relationship with Edward. Meyer has dismissed such criticisms, arguing both that the books center around Bella’s choice, and that her damsel in distress persona is due only to her humanity”

I feel I could rant on this for a lot longer than would be reasonable for a single blog post, so expect part 2 of this Trash segment next Monday. For now however I’ll give you a quote from the great Stephen King, who summed up Meyer better that I ever could:

“Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”

Thank you Stephen.