Archive for August, 2015

This is the third book in the series.

Here’s my review of the first book: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/book-review-we…hrones-5-stars/

And here’s my review of the second: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/book-review-we…martin-5-stars/

This is a giant book. It’s split into two parts, and each one of them is a hefty read by itself. Could you imagine it in hardback? Reading it could double as a workout.

Anyways, I enjoyed this book as much as the previous ones. Despite its size I was kept glued from start to finish. It is a big book, but you don’t notice that reading it. You just drop into the world, and zoom, time flies by along with the pages.

There are LOTS of different characters, and quite a few story lines. You might find it a bit of a mess trying to keep track of everyone, but it’s a beautiful mess. You might end up forgetting a minor character here or there, but the important ones are surprisingly easy to keep track of.

Everyone is fighting. Bodies pile up, and some of them are main characters. I won’t give away who.

There’s a lot of feelings in this book. Gah, like the way Robb is trying to be a brilliant leader, but he’s a teenager! So there’s this whole other side to him that’s just ‘I need an adult!’ And Cat just wants to hug and protect him, but knows she has to help him grow up.

I felt really sorry for Cat. She’s the smartest one, and she’s surrounded by idiots who think everything she says is wrong because of what’s between her legs. She’d be an epic war leader if she were allowed. And she goes through so many tragedies in these books.  She is not having a good year.

Dany is pretty kickass. She’s doing so much good, and she has an insane amount of determination in her. I like her a lot, but I also like a lot of people in the place she’s planning to invade. So, conflicts there.

Jaime goes through the most epic journey I have ever seen from ‘hate this guy’ to ‘actually he’s all right. A jerk, but he has a heart.’ He tried to kill Bran! How can I be liking him? But I do. I like him, and the relationship he develops with Brienne is the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. I’d be happy if G R R Martin released a dozen weightlifting sized books of just them two wandering around having adventures. I’d read them all.

Jon makes what everyone else is doing child’s play. You read their povs, and think the war is brutal, and I hope my side wins. Then you go to Jon who has real problems. He’s up against monsters! It makes the war look like a group of kids squabbling on the playground over who gets to play with a neat toy.

Sansa has gone through so much character development. By the end of this book she’s a completely different character to the one we met in the first book. Arya has hardened a lot too. She’s going to grow up to be a very scary person.

Theon. Yeah, let’s not talk about Theon. I spent most of his povs shaking my head in exasperation at him saying ‘Dude. No.’ Every bad decision made me want to yell ‘Bad Theon’ and spray him with some water, then sit him in a corner until he saw sense. Do you think that would take a long time? I think that would take a long time.

To me this book was every bit as good as the last one. So if you liked that one, you should like this one. You get incredibly invested with the characters (but we do lose some more – so be prepared). There are some povs like Davos that are a bit meh. But most of the characters are really fun to follow. Five stars. No question.

For more reviews of this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/768889.A_Storm_of_Swords

and: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/147915.A_Storm_of_Swords

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Be warned, this is not a finished story. It’s a serial novel, and it looks like we might never see how it ends.

Having said that, it has its interesting parts. This is about an editor in a publishing house who gets a letter from a very strange aspiring (and possibly crazy) author. The author sends a manuscript about magic, and some very scary photographs. Our responsible editor sends said photographs to the police and doesn’t publish the manuscript. Needless to say, our aspiring author doesn’t like that one bit, and he sends a strange plant to the office.

The most interesting part of this book is that it takes the format of letters, memos, and diary entries. That worked better than I thought it might. Usually I find those kind of things get boring after a while. Not all of them, but if you aren’t careful it can be difficult to keep the tension high.

The tension stayed pretty high throughout this story, so yay. The characters were interesting enough. Not particularly fascinating or deep, but I did like the range of different personalities. It made for good chemistry between them. Our main character and his boss were my favorites in that respect.

The plot is good, but not great. I was interested enough to keep reading, but it’s not something that will stick with me. While it is unfinished, it does come to an ending of sorts, so hopefully you won’t leave completely unsatisfied. The world wasn’t fascinating, but had a reassuring normality to it. The office with cooky co-workers, and the nice friendship between our main character and his boss.

Then in the middle of this normality, there’s this plant. And you’re wondering what it’s going to do. Whether it’s good or evil. It all has a classic Stephen King feel to it. Not his best work. The plot is a bit too loose for that. Still, entertaining enough if you like Stephen King, and feel the need to read through all his work like I’m doing.

If you’re looking for a good Stephen King horror, and don’t have the obsessive need to devour everything he writes, then go read one of his other works. There’s a lot better than this one. ‘It’ is great if you’re looking for a long read. ‘The girl who loved Tom Gordon’ or ‘The Mist’ are great short ones. ‘Cujo’ is great if you’re looking for more tension and less deaths. ‘The Pet Sematary’ is one that stuck with me for long afterward. ‘The Green Mile’ is a much better serial novel of his.

And I’m probably missing some great ones I’ve read. Search this site for Stephen King, I’ve reviewed a lot of them. In short, there’s tons of Stephen King out there better than this one. But if you’re a fan and have read all the good ones, or if you have this book lying around for some reason, then it’s not a bad read. Just an ok one.

Three stars from me. For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13609593-the-plant

 

 

This is another of my ‘how do we learn and become mega successful’ books.

I’ve read a few of them since Malcom Gladwell’s epic ‘outliers.’ I love that book so much. This book is very much along the same lines, but focuses more on sports. I’ve read a few books around the 10,000 hour rule (which for those who haven’t heard, is the researched idea that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a world class expert at something). But this book still had some interesting material related to sports that I hadn’t heard about.

The book starts off talking about the 10,000 hour rule and various people from all fields who became a world class expert, and how they line up with the idea. He debunks the natural talent myth well, and entertains us with tales of ‘innate talent’ that turn out to be products of hard work and more than a little luck.

Syed was a table tennis champion, so he understands well what it takes to succeed in sport. He weaves together his story with those of other champions, and those of the places that made them champions. It often took extraordinary luck to give them the circumstances they needed to succeed. A mentor, or several were needed. And more than anything else, an effort based mindset was needed, along with the resulting dedication to improve and practice.

An effort based mindset, for those not in the know, is the opposite of a fixed mindset. A person with a fixed mindset believes they are what they are and can’t change that. People are born good at maths, or music, or sports. People are naturally clever. Those who aren’t will never become so, no matter how much practice they put in, so they might as well not try.

A person with a fixed mindset is right that they’ll never become good at anything. Not because that’s their lot in life. But because they won’t try. Those who succeed in a skill at high levels tend to have a effort based mindset.

A person with a effort based mindset believes that with every hour of practice they put into a skill, they improve. They put in a lot of practice, they improve, and they become the successful people those with a fixed mindset wish they were born as.

All that stuff is wonderful, and I never get tired of reading about it, but the real special aspect of this book is the parts where he details how all of it relates to sport. Most of it is pretty similar, though he goes into more detail about what makes a good mentor than other books. Pretty obviously a good mentor uses language that promotes a effort based mindset. They praise efforts instead of results. They don’t punish failures, and do give constructive feedback. If the person is bothered by a failure they remind them to practice, and they’ll improve.

There’s an interesting study about one of the most successful sports coaches. They found that very little of his language was praise or negative talk. Most of what he said was feedback. Simple short sentences that only addressed how they could improve what they were doing. It worked very well. There are a lot of examples in this book of world class coaches and how they work.

It also covered things I haven’t read about before. Such as the science behind why world class athletes sometimes choke (seem to lose all their skill in a stressful moment). You see, we carry out complex tasks intrinsically or extrinsically. When we start learning a skill, we have to think about where to put every part of our body, what to move when. This is carried out through the extrinsic pathway.

When we learn a skill, the movements become second nature. We don’t have to think. We just do them, freeing up brain space to watch our opponent, or keep an eye on where a ball is coming from. This is carried out through the intrinsic pathway.

When a person chokes, their brain switches to extrinsic, and they’re back to monitoring their every body movement. All their skill goes, and they’re back to where they started. I hadn’t ever read about that before, and it made so much sense. You know how when you’re really nervous about something, and suddenly you turn into the most clumsy person on the planet? That links really well to that.

Anyway. This was a four star book for me. Sure, a lot of it is recycled from outliers, mindset, and other books like them, but there is some new material here that’s worth a look at. Worth a read if you’re interested in these types of books, or if you or your kid wants to be a champion at some kind of sport.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7845157-bounce

 

I’m enjoying this series greatly. To read my review of the first book in this series go to: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/book-review-we…hrones-5-stars/

I’m not the biggest fan of epic fantasies. I love all the pieces: dragons, quests, strange beasts, strange worlds. But I find a lot of the writing gets bogged down with all the details, or characters. I love the idea of epic fantasies. I just find it’s so easy to make them boring to read. While this book has a lot of characters, and a big, interesting world, it’s in no way boring.

Because I was analyzing it, the first book took months to get through. I enjoyed it enough that I figured if I wasn’t picking it apart I’d zoom through it. Since I made it through this one in four days, I think I was right. Putting it down to attend to life’s many demands was difficult.

I found it every bit as good as the first book. The characters were deep and wonderfully flawed. The action kept coming. The plot unfolds nicely, and never dawdled long enough for me to get bored.

We keep up with our various characters. Jon seeks the wildings beyond the wall. Dany tries to find allies for her quest to claim the iron throne. Tyrion (one of the most interesting characters in this book) is ordered by his father to become the new kings hand, and the Starks are everywhere. Bran and Rickon are on the run. Robb is a king of an army. Arya (now Arry) is a serving wrench in the middle of a world torn by battles. Sansa undergoes epic character development as she learns more about how brutal the world can be.

All their stories move forward. All the characters change in some way. They grow, some of them too quickly. The world in these books is rich, the plot engaging, but my favorite part of this series is rapidly becoming the character development. I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it. It’s beautiful.

They’ve all undergone harsh circumstances. They all react differently. They adapt and rise to the occasion – some sooner than others – but most lose something of themselves along the way. Some break, and eventually pull themselves together with jagged pieces all sticking out.

The hound, who I thought I’d hate forever after he killed Micah, shows a softer side in this book. I’m amazed at how Martin can make characters who do such horrible things, and still make you like at least part of them. So, good book. Five stars. If you’re wondering if this is as good as the first one, the answer is yes.

For more reviews on this book go to:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10572.A_Clash_of_Kings