Friday, July 29, 2011

Now I Know I'm Being to Persnickety

I no longer know if I'm being too judgmental, or if I'm expecting too much from Martin.

One aspect of writing that I've heard is very hard is the ability to describe scene and setting from different character's points of view. For the most part Martin does this well. His books are built on multiple POV's. From Jaime, to Tyrion, to Jon and on and on and on. Each chapter is a different character's tale told from their viewpoint to make a larger tapestry. The past few posts have been about how confused I am by different characters have been using the same turns of phrase.

It happened again. One of the best transitions Martin has made in this story is when he tells Theon Greyjoy's story. Theon is in a horrible situation, slowly being flayed alive, being abused and tortured, and generally dying slowly at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. When I read Theon's chapters I feel depressed and downtrodden along with him. The things he sees and describes are directly related to his feeling and what he's experiencing.

Well, I got to Jaime's chapter (the first in this book) and stopped at one line of description. I stopped cause I realized that the character that Martin had developed would never describe something the way that Jaime describes it. He's looking at a tree's root system and compare it to veins on a crones legs. Sorry, not buying it.

There are many other characters who I believe would use this turn of phrase to describe the tree, but the wandering, somewhat vanquished, devil-may-care Jaime? Sorry.

Just one more to pile upon the heap. I'm looking forward to rereading the series next year to see if I have the same impression or if this is just this book.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Am I Becoming a Persnickety Old Coot? Or is There Something I’m Missing

To begin, I love the book I’m reading, and to a certain degree my friend Nate gave me a bit more info and a stronger defense regarding the “Fire an Blood” formulation, but do I have a better argument now that several different characters across different story lines are using an analogy that involves a pale horse?

Firstly, any Christian or Johnny Cash fan will get the reference to a pale horse, but it does beg the question that can a fantasy world with no Christians also have the same reference to death on a pale horse? I mean I get why Agatha Christie’s Pale Horse novel referenced this equine liturgical analogy, but can a Dragon Queen from Westeros living in Mereen think the same thing when she uses the reference?

Beyond that, should I now think that Jon at the wall who uses the analogy and Melisandre and Bran and Dany all see the same vision and that it shouldn’t be linked in some way. I can understand that Martin might be trying to show some interconnectivity, but why use a Christian verse to do it. Sloppy writing or sloppy reading?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It takes a village . . .

It might take a village, but in this case it takes a Nate. Nate commented on my “blood and fire” rant (read it again today, that makes seven), but still it doesn’t dismiss the problem. I still say it’s too often and is a sign of poor editing/writing.

I’ve just gotten to a point where “The Bastard of Bolton” (what a great name) and his father are using their hostage for their own Machiavellian political means. This is my favorite part of all the books in this series. It’s like reading the fourth Season of the wire. There are so many political mechanizations, so many political maneuverings, so many twists and turns. It’s really the best part of the books. In the first book it was Cersie and her father who were the impetus behind these twists. Book two centered around the Freys. Books three and four belonged to Tywin Lannister and Aerys. I see a lot developing between the Boltons and the Manderly’s in this book. It’s a refreshing change. Reminiscent of the first time I read the Count of Monte Cristo.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ugh - Heavy Handed or Bad Writing

I'm reading Dance with Dragons the fifth book by George R.R. Martin's series. I don't remember him being this heavy-handed before. I've read at least five instances where different characters at different times have used the words "Blood and Fire." Not either/or, but that phrase. It's a bit much.

If you're trying to tell me something, I got it. Good foreshadowing. If you're not then it's just bad writing and even worse editing. I get it that the book is a monster, but seriously, knock it off.

Otherwise it is highly recommended by this wanna be author.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Story from an Unlikely Source

The title alludes to the fact that I've never before linked a National Review article in this blog. I may read National Review, but rarely do they have an article that corresponds to the subject matter commonly covered here.

The article by Rich Lowry begins:
"You have to have a heart of stone not to feel a pang of sadness at the passing of the bookstore Borders. The retailer is liquidating its 399 remaining outlets and letting go nearly 11,000 employees. Gone will be the era when no shopping-mall parking lot in America seemed complete without an adjoining Borders, offering up its capacious aisles to browse for books you had no idea you needed."

A good pull at the heartstrings, and true to a point, but the most relevant section is this:
"Then it didn’t recognize quickly enough the new ways of delivering them. It had to rely on Amazon to sell its books online, a boost to the online retailer that would do so much to make the Borders model obsolete. It branched out into sales of CDs and DVDs, an initially profitable move that backfired when the music industry went digital. It missed out on e-books. Locked into leases at uneconomical locations, its voluminous real estate began to weigh it down. Barnes & Noble, in contrast, developed a website to sell its books online itself and marketed its own e-book reader, the Nook. It secured a prized partnership with Starbucks for the coffee at its caf├ęs. It lost $59 million last quarter, but it’s still standing."

Makes you wonder how much longer Barnes and Noble will be around. Personally I think it will still be around, but as I've argued here before, they will have to refine and redevelop their offering. More cafe space, fewer aisles? More kids toys, study furniture, pens and office wares perhaps.

Will be fun to see from this perspective. Terrifying if you work for Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sadly Inevitable

Borders will be the first major casualty in the e-reader wars. I didn't think it was all that big an event till I saw this map (here). This helped me understand the true and large impact that this will have. The map shows just how pervasive the store had become.

I heard a radio story about this the other day wherein a professor was interviewed. His take was that it would hurt rural America the most. He felt that folks outside of large urban areas came in and used these large, mega bookstores to shop and see the books available. Immediately I "poo-pooed" his thoughts. The map has me thinking different.

I liked Borders, but I told someone the other day, as he was running to the bookstore to buy the latest George R.R. Martin book, that I can't remember the last time I bought a book at either Borders or Barnes and Noble. I buy all my books through Amazon or Half-Price Books.

These two lose a cash stream like mine, they're bound to fail!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review - Twelve Sharp

I just finished Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich. Anyone who knows me or who has read this blog will know that I enjoy Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series if only cause they are light-hearted, fast, easy, and fun to read. Evanovich has successfully created a world of clever characters who are consistently and constantly pulled into somewhat believable and intrigueing mysteries. The story is fast paced, and the characters are fun to read about. Whenever I read one of these books I always imagine it as a movie and it turns out to be a really good movie. My favorite character is not the paramilitary love interest, but the huge, African American side kick. Whenever Lula is involved in a scene I find myself paying attention more if only because if you read to fast you’ll gloss over some of her quips or one liners. All in all, no great vocab, no great lines, but one great book and a terrific series, even if its read out of order.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Martin's First Line

“The night was rank with the smell of man.”
George R.R. Martin – Dance with Dragons

Not a bad first line, particularly if you’re a reader who has read the first four books, which I am. But, it gets more intriguing as the paragraph continues.

“The warg stopped beneath a tree and sniffed, his grey-brown fur dappled by shadow. A sigh of piney wind brought the man-scent to him, over fainter smells that spoke of fox and hare, seal and stag, even wolf. Those were man-smells too, the warg knew; the stink of old skins, dead and sour, near drowned beneath the stronger scents of smoke and blood and rot. Only man stripped the skins from other beasts and wore their hides and hair.”

Now, I won’t pretend I’m not a fan of Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, but one thing I like above all else, and in this I’m speaking as someone who once wrote a short story from the perspective of a dog, Martin does a fabulous job of taking himself and his characters, including the animals, seriously. Part of this may be that many of the animals he uses as characters are actually other characters inhabiting them, warg-like. Nevertheless, I’m not a huge fantasy writing fan, but I am an incredibly devout fan of Martin’s. Going to be a while before I pick up another book. Dance with Dragons is long and I intend to read it to enjoy it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tactical Error

I have told you how much I love my Kindle? Well, my Kindle not my wife's. I was on a trip this week, just when the long awaited 5th book in the George R.R. Martin, Song of Ice and Fire series came out. I was discussing this releases with a coworker of mine on Monday night. I had my copy pre-ordered. 12 AM comes and my Kindle account automatically gets the book. He has to wait in line at the bookstore. I love that about the Kindle.

What I don't like? I had the wrong Kindle. I was at the airport today, having just finished Twelve Sharp by Evanovich, when I decided to download and read my new book. Guess what? Lana's Kindle doesn't have 3G, just WiFi. As much as the airports like to tout it, their internet isn't really free. Guess who couldn't access the new book? This was the tactical error.

I could have read it on my cell phone but that would have been a bit draining on the battery. Still, love it and hate it alternately. Mostly love.

Now, I'm at home. I downloaded the book on both Kindles just to be on the safe side.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Review: Second Wind

UGH! Don't you just hate when your favorite author writes a horrible book? This is Second Wind. Easily the worst Dick Francis book I've ever read. The plot was ridiculous and was full of non sequiturs, the dialogue didn't seem natural, the characters were forgettable and the writing was bad. Throughout the story I kept thinking, "Wow, my novel is better than this." And I stand by that.

Thankfully, Dick Francis has alot of "political capital" with me. I'm not off him for life. The sad part is, while I was looking for my next book to read, I realized that there were only a couple of Francis book Kindle-ized. If they don't quickly Kindle more, I fear I'll be stuck with the dregs.

Book Review: Rain Storm

I just finished reading the third John Rain thriller, Rain Storm. I'm getting tired of saying this, but I love these books. They are terrific thrillers and I think I've said it before, its so rare to read a good thriller that's written in the first person.

In this story, John Rain is found in Brazil, by the CIA, and begin working for them again. He meets up with another assassin who is trying to get to the same target he is after, and she happens to be a beautiful blonde (how prosaic). This was a bit of a surprise from Barry Eisler. He's full of formulaic characters, but for the most part he avoids patently obvious formulas. The girl in this was a bit too obvious, particularly when the love interest in the past two have been so deeply fleshed out and different. Viva la difference, Barry!

Despite this, the story is a fast one to read and spectacularly engaging. There were a couple of terrific passages and vocabulary, as usual, which I marked, also as usual.

Atavism: Relating to or characterized by reversion to something ancient or ancestral.

Senescent: The condition or process of deterioration with age.

Like Goldfinger, a lot of the first part of the story is wrapped up in gambling. I found some of these intriguing.

"We moved with them, past gamblers flush with fresh winnings, whome the girls eyed with bold invitation, eager to retrieve a few floating scraps from the casino food chain; pas middle-aged men from Hong Kong and Taiwan with sagging bodies and febrile eyes, their postures rigid, caught in some grim purgatory between sexual urgency and commercial calculation; past security guards, inured to the charms of the girls' bare legs and bold decolletage and interested only in keeping them moving, circling, forever swimming through the murk of the endless Lisboa night."

When I got to this section of the story I actually went back and read some of Casino Royale for it's terrific description of baccarat.

"I played baccarat at the upscale Bellagio; roulette at the off-strip Rio; craps at the fading Riviera, whose attempts to match the gayness and glitter around her felt forced, artificial, like makeup layered on by a woman who recognizes that she was never beautiful to begin with and has now, in addition, grown colorless an old."

I liked the way he made the tide sound like a defeated army.

"The rain had stopped and we strolled down to the edge of the water. The tide was receding, giving up wet sand like a defeated army abandoning terrain it could no longer control."

I thought it was interesting that he referenced Ian Fleming in the book, and right after I used him as a reference.

"What did Ian Fleming say? Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. And I don't believe in waiting for even that much evidence. It was pas time to act."

Finally, I loved the metaphor using the umbrellas.

"From Narita, I took a Narita Express train to Tokyo station, where I emerged to find my former city hunched up against characteristically rainy and cold late autumn weather. I stood under the portico roof at the station's Marunouchi entrance and took in the scene. Waves of black umbrellas bobbed before me. Wet leaves were plastered to the pavement, ground in by the tires of oblivious cars and the soles of insensate pedestrians, by the weight of the entire, indifferent metropolis."

A strong and fun book, as fun as the last two. I look forward to the next.