Exam Pressure

This week I decided to take a break from my review schedule (not least because my exam tomorrow has prevented me from reading the third Song of Ice and Fire novel) and use my spare time to suggest books that I think are great, and that I believe should be on everyone’s reading list.

George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Endgame

Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw

George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire

Paul Hoffman’s The Left Hand of God Trilogy

Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle

Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

I’ll leave it at ten due to the fact it’s a good, round number and I’m short on time. I’ll be back tomorrow with a much better post.

 

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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 4: George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Game of Thrones’

To celebrate my (not so) epic 50th follower and 200th like coming in the same week, I thought I would review George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. However, I have only read the first novel, ‘A Game of Thrones’ and will only be covering that this week. I will try my best to finish a new book in the series by Monday each week so that I can post my thoughts and opinions on each novel separately; though due to the looming shadow of an exam in a fortnight, I may be delayed by one week.

‘A Game of Thrones’ tells the interweaving story of many characters, all who have at least some power (be that magical or that which comes with status and ‘good breeding’). These characters all are aiming to achieve something: Robert wants to keep his throne; Eddard wants to protect his honour; Jon wants to earn a better place in the world; Dany and her brother want to regain the throne; etc, etc, etc… It is a dark and bitter tale, one which tells the reader more about the nature of humanity than most fantasy novels I have ever read. At times it discusses how the rulers of the world can live in such affluence while others starve, how diversity can lead to cruel prejudice, how our sexuality affects our judgement and morality, and whether we would rather help ourselves than save others.

Among all these uncertainties and questions however, the most prominent is this: are our rulers fit to rule us? Robert, the king at the beginning of the novel, “drinks and whores” himself while others do his work, he is almost an absentee king. Even worse however, when Robert dies and Joffrey, his son, takes over the throne, he is wicked, cruel, and detestable. It is revealed in the narrative that Joffrey is not the true heir which begs the question, is this why he is a bad ruler? Personally, think the novel is, in part at least, a frank discussion about the disadvantages of dictatorship over democracy. Battles, murder, subterfuge, anger, selfishness, and struggles centred around who rules the kingdom and why pay testament to this theme and though on the outside it may seem glorified and honourable, the blood, grief and strife begs to differ.

So, if you’re a fan of long, interweaving fantasy narratives (believe me there are a lot of them), give ‘A Game of Thrones’ a try. If not, give it a try anyway, you may be pleasantly surprised. If my persuasive argument has failed, and you really don’t want to waste money buying a book you don’t think you’ll like, try the TV series. It’s very close the novel itself, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Next week I will be reviewing ‘A Clash of Kings’, if you’re interested, subscribe and you’ll receive an email when I post next Monday, and one each day for my other segments. 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…