Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

This is the third book in the series.

Here’s my review of the first book:…hrones-5-stars/

And here’s my review of the second:…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:



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:



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:


I’m enjoying this series greatly. To read my review of the first book in this series go to:…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:



The most common complaint I’ve heard about this book is people going into it expecting a little girl with some kind of superpowers. To be fair, the description is a little vague:

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Don’t think superpowers. Minor spoiler in brackets: (zombies).

It’s not that big a spoiler. The author lays on the hints thick pretty early. I twigged from the description (there is a hint in there if you look).

My favorite part of this book has to be the science. Many people have tried sciencing this condition before, but this author comes at it from an angle I haven’t seen before. Fungus. It was very interesting. Also very disturbing since the pov we get most of the science information from is a very nasty lady. Very very nasty. Do not like at all.

Our other povs are Melanie herself, her teacher Miss Justineau, a soldier Sergeant Parks who at first I hated, then he grew on me, and a younger soldier. I kind of wonder whether it would’ve been better with fewer povs. It worked as it is, but the structure seemed a bit odd. At first we have Melanie’s pov, and then a little from evil science lady, and then it’s like all the other povs just dropped in together. If they’d been spaced out better it would’ve seemed a bit less clunky.

Aside from sudden Pov overload, the story flowed well. Nice pacing which made for a thrilling read. Definitely a ‘must turn page to find out what happens next’ kind of book.

No sooner do we start to know our way around Melanie’s small world, than everything explodes. We find ourselves travelling across the desolate Britain, avoiding wild humans ‘Junkers’ and the infected ‘Hungries’ who earn their name.

The characters develop well. Melanie grows up fast in this new world. Her teacher finds her backbone and learns to stand up for what she believes. Other characters I started off hating, and ending up loving. Not evil science lady though. I hated her until the end, but by the end I understood why she believed so strongly in what she was doing. I even felt the teeny tinniest bit sorry for her.

The author remembers well that every villain is the hero in their own story. I rarely see that crafted so well into the characters. Here we have only heroes, each with their own agendas. Some of those agendas cross and make conflict. Others start off crossed and line up through the course of the story.

There’s this interesting theme of morality running through the book. Which course is the right one to take? What sacrifice is worth the goal you have in mind? It results in an ending that some people were mad about. And sure, it wasn’t the ending you might expect, but I think it fit the book well.

Good plot, great characters (with awesome development and lots of work put into motivations), edge of your seat pacing, fascinating world, good writing. Four stars. It would’ve been five, but there’s something about that pov onslaught at the beginning that unsettled me. Good book overall.

One warning. While this is a good book, it’s not a happy one. So don’t expect sunshine and rainbows.

For more reviews about this book go to:


Most people have heard this book mentioned somewhere. For those not in the know, it’s about a five year old called Danny with a gift called the shine. Basically he’s psychic. He hears and sees snatches of people’s thoughts, and he can see beyond things to events that might happen, and events that have happened.

Cue his deeply flawed, but loving father getting a job as caretaker for a remote hotel with a deeply bloody past. With the weather coming they’re going to be trapped up there for the whole winter. Not a problem, except of course this is stephen king, so there is a problem. The hotel starts coming alive, and dead things come to say hello, not just to Danny but to his parents too.

I’ve gone through quite a bit of stephen king by now, but this one is up there with the favorites. The characters are interesting. Danny’s pov was interesting. I do like how stephen king writes children. Danny’s thought patterns are childish at times, but he doesn’t come across as stupid like some writers portray children. He comes across as a very bright kid with unique access to knowledge about the world around him, which with his gifts he would be.

The father was one of the most interesting characters. He was oh so deeply flawed, but he loved his family. He knew he hadn’t always been good to them, and he wanted to do better. The mother was ok, but a bit more two dimensional than the male characters.

For those that have watched the film, there are some major changes compared to the book. I’m not sure which version I liked better.

There was plenty of tension in this book. Lots of chilling moments I’ve come to expect from this author. More than that, there was one moment near the end that was genuinely heartbreaking. That was more unexpected. His books always have tension, always elements of horror, but while you usually connect with the characters on some level, it’s not always so deep.

So definite five stars from me. Good story. Good characters. Good horror. Unexpected but excellent heartbreak bonus.

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This was actually suggested to me during one of my writing craft classes. As a kind of extra credit thing my teacher suggested I analyse this book looking at things such as pov character selection and scene layout.

So on the 9th of September 2013, I did just that. And on the 21st of January 2015 I finished.

What did I learn from this experience? A lot. This book is worth the hype. Not only is it fun and engrossing to read, on a structural level the scenes are so pretty. They stick exactly to the traditional scene structure. I found like two slightly convoluted elements to scene structure in the whole book. And this is a BIG book.

That made the logical side of my brain very happy. For the more emotional side of things, it was interesting looking at how the writer helped the reader connect with each character. In the first half of the book, every pov character choice was spot on. He tends to choose the most vulnerable character, the one who knows the least, or the one with the most to lose. I had some questions about one or two pov choices after that, but they were tiny little doubts. I still think he made the right choice.

‘I don’t want to analyse the thing,’ you say. ‘I just want to know whether I’ll enjoy reading it.’

The answer to this from my point of view is a resounding YES. Analyzing this was made difficult because I kept on wanting to read the next scene, not stop and analyse the one I’d just read. I ended up having to compromise with myself and read a few scenes before going back to analyse, read a few more, and so on. If I didn’t have to analyse I would’ve whizzed through this in a few days (as I did with the next books in the series).

If you like fantasy, go read this book. Even if you’re just curious, go read it. It’s awesome. Definite five stars from me.  The plot keeps pulling you forward, the characters are so flawed and engaging. The world they live in is rich and interesting. I don’t tend to like epic fantasies, but this one won me over.

For more reviews on this book go to:

Oh, and as a by the way. Did anyone else notice the parallels with roman britain? Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a fan of celtic britain and the two are often best studied together, but I kept having flashbacks to that wall the romans built in the north to keep the ‘barbarians’ out. Hadrian’s wall. Of course, that was nothing like the scale of the wall in the book, but it felt like it had the same essence to it.

Dweck is awesome, and here she’s written an awesome book.

If you’re a parent, an educator, or just someone who wants to be a success at something one day, you need to read this book. How’s that for a recommendation?

This book goes hand in hand with one of my favorite productivity / success books ever: Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.  In that book he talks about the idea that it takes about ten thousand hours of practice before we become a world class expert at a skill. Say for example you want to become a world class expert at playing the piano, you need to log ten thousand hours of practice. That’s about three hours a day for ten years.

Now, it’s not like every minute of practice up until then is going to be useless. Far from it. Somewhere between twenty to a hundred hours in you’ve gone from ‘I haven’t a clue’ to ‘I know the bare basics.’ Reach four thousand and to most people you’re an expert. You know about enough to teach about the skill. Eight thousand hours and you’re better than everyone except those few coveted world class experts.

What this tells us is that everyone can learn how to be good at something if they put enough work into it. So why are there so few world class experts around? Why are there people who reach adulthood and don’t seem to be skilled at much?

This is where Dweck’s book comes in. You see, to be motivated enough to put that work in, you need to have the right mindset.

There are two mindsets. The fixed mindset believes that everything comes from nature. That math genius is born a math genius. That athlete was just born that good. If I join a karate class and suck at it, I will always suck at it and might as well drop out now. Kids are either smart at something, or not smart. You can’t do anything to turn a dumb kid into a smart kid, and vice versa.

Children are told to go away and do their own thing. They’re not signed up for sports or music classes, and if they are they’re allowed to drop out the moment they start to struggle or get bored. It’s obviously not their thing. One day they’ll find that magical skill they have hidden inside them and they’ll become good at something. Until then, let them do as they want.

The second mindset is the growth mindset. This focuses on effort instead of innate skill. This one goes hand in hand with Gladwell’s findings. Every minute practicing something improves your skill in that area. Children are signed up for classes. Parents tend to take more of an interest in their progress at school and whatever other skills they’re working on.

The second group performs better, tends to be happier, and spends longer trying at hard tasks before giving up. They also tend to choose harder tasks to get more of challenge, and enjoy these tasks more than those with a fixed mindset. The difference is so extreme that in one experiment, the situations the two groups were put in differed by only one sentence. For one group the sentence was from a fixed mindset ‘you’re so smart’ the other from a growth mindset ‘you must’ve worked really hard.’

Needless to say, the growth mindset improved a lot more on further tests than the fixed mindset. They chose to take on a further more challenging test more often than the fixed mindset who opted for an easier test. And most surprising of all, when later given a test of the same level as the first one, the growth mindset performed better than they had before, while the fixed mindset children performed worse than their previous score.

I found this book really interesting.  There’s a lot in here I think everyone should know about. And it’s all very well written and easily accessible to a wide range of readers. The examples were equal amounts of entertaining and fascinating. This is a must read for anyone with any interest in the subject.

It would’ve got a five star rating from me, but by the end it got a little repetitive. Good. Definitely interesting and entertaining. But once the idea is explained and you’ve read a few examples, it’s a simple concept to grasp. And then there’s the rest of the book to get through, which is still entertaining, but you can pretty much guess what’s going to be said. So four stars. 

For more reviews on this book go to:

I loved reading this book. I found it so interesting, but I didn’t walk away from it with anything I can use.

I’d say if you’re a productivity junkie like me then this book is definitely worth a read. The writing style in engaging, the use of anecdotes kept me glued from start to finish. But the most I walked away with is ‘habits are really good. I need to make more of the things I need to do habits.’ And I already knew that.

So, four stars for interesting topic and engaging style. Not five stars because this is more a read for enjoyment book than something that will help you be more productive.

Still, enjoyment is good. Right?

The best productivity booster of a book is still ‘how to be an A star student’ (even for non students like me). But there are a few more on here I’ve researched, and most of them give you a bit more meat than this one.

So decide from this what you will. For more reviews on this book go to:

I admit it, I’m a tiny bit obsessed with world war two. I’m currently trudging my way through ‘The Coming of the Third Reich’ which is fascinating, though very very dense. It’s a hard read, but I’m hoping it’ll be a worthwhile one.

The Forgotten Soldier however is not a hard read. Not in the same way at least. It’s a very well written memoir about the experiences of a German foot-soldier during world war two. I’ve read a few memoirs from ww2, and none have illustrated the hardships of soldiers in the war quite as well as this one. He doesn’t deter from spilling everything down on the page. From his optimistic view as he entered the war, to all the visceral details of the emotional and physical realities of battle on him and his fellow soldiers.

He manages to get across all the pain and fear he felt. The agony of freezing Russian winters, the loneliness of being so far from home, the pain and noise of fighting. There are so many moments that will stay with me. Him huddling in a trench, terrified with enemy tanks around him. Him talking about the planes that would come to machine gun the civilians they were trying to get to safety. Russians sending their soldiers to march over fields set with bombs to clear the way for the tanks. When they captured some Russians and all the german soldiers decided to split their rations with them so they would have something to eat.

Or when he was forced to retreat from a horrible battle, and he and his fellow soldiers had no choice but to wait in the open for rescue while the planes flew over to fire at them. Then, when rescue finally came they forced to line up and give an inventory of their equipment, and if something was lost or damaged in battle they were reprimanded which made some of the exhausted men burst into tears.

He was treated so badly by so many, from doctors who ignored serious illness to send him back to fight, to  soldiers being killed for looting food, even though they were starving and hadn’t been given rations, and in many cases the food had been abandoned. We get a view from the inside as Germany’s resources diminish. He gets less equipment, and most shocking is the scene when they get new recruits. Half are elderly men, and the other half are children, some laughing with each other and swapping candy.

You see how his perspective changes over time. He starts off the eager young recruit fighting for the third Reich. Then after numerous hard battles and hearing some of the spreading rumors about what Hitler is doing to the Jews, he’s not fighting for the Reich anymore, nor his country. He’s fighting for his family. Then the war goes on, and all he’s fighting for is to keep him and his friends alive. Near the end they’re more than ready to stop fighting. All they’re concerned about is who they turn themselves in to.

I think it’s good for future generations to remind themselves of the impact of events like these so we don’t repeat them. This does a good job of showing a tiny proportion of that impact, and in doing so gives you another reminder of the scale of war and how many lives it ruins.

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