Laughter and books make life a little easier

Posts tagged “book review

Book review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Here is my review of A Game of Thrones. Last week I asked if you would like me to review American Gods, AGoT or something else. Beth said she would like to read this one, so here goes.

Click to view on Goodreads.

A Game of Thrones is a huge novel and the first part of an even larger series (A Song of Ice and Fire). The HBO show is Game of Thrones, but I haven’t watched that yet, so I can’t say anything about it, except that what I’ve seen on Tumblr looks great. If you’ve read my blog during December and January, you probably already know that I loved this novel. So if that’s no secret, let’s get right down to the composition of this book. I tried to make this a proper review with headings and neat little paragraphs. I’ve got a reputation as a real English student to uphold these days, after all… 😉

(more…)


How to hit yourself through the face with your own hair

Dear me, things have been way too serious around here of late. Just look at all the serious topics we’ve dealt with: from job interviews to the future of little children to Hobbit movies… Something needs to be done. We need something a little more light-hearted, what do you say?

Cover (more…)


On Writing – Stephen King (book review)

Click to view on Goodreads

I can hardly call myself a fan of Stephen King. I read one of his books once and I wasn’t mightily impressed. I’m sure he’s a good writer, but his chosen genre just isn’t for me. If anyone call tell me which of his books aren’t gory or horror-y, I’d like to try them out. Anyway, I spotted this book on my uni library’s new books exhibition. I think it was mostly the cover that drew my attention (and the urge to procrastinate some research I had to do). So I started flipping through it and it looked really interesting. It is called a “memoir”, but King not only talks about his life, but also about writing. He talks about how he started writing, how he writes now and he gives some tips to write well.

I decided I really wanted to read this book, but I couldn’t have it because it was still on the library’s exhibition and they get a bit miffed if you want to decrease the amount of books they can display. So, I waited. And waited. And waited some more until the library finally stopped showing it off and put it one the normal shelves. I read it in three days during odd moments. It was that captivating.

In the first part of this book, King talks about his own life. He starts at his childhood (And what a crazy childhood! Seriously, if you want to read about insane childhoods, read this!) and works his way all the way up to the present. He also writes about how he wrote his first short story, about all the rejection slips he got and how he finally got published in a magazine.

In second part, he gives out some writing tips. He shows why he hates adverbs and proceeds to give some examples of other authors’ work that he finds good. He also shows copies of some of his own first drafts, with all the changes and crossings out, so that you can get some idea of how much gets changed in the revision process.

I think this is a great book, because King speaks about his life and writing so naturally (argh, an adverb!). He does use profanity, he is scatological, but it comes across so natural – it is so clearly just the way he talks normally – that it doesn’t distract. I consider myself pretty unshockable on the language front – I’m a language student after all, so I’ve seen it used in all extreme forms – but the all I have seen is often done so incompetently by authors who seem to be trying too hard to sound bad-ass. It is not so with King: he is in his natural environment.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m always interested in reading about an author’s journey to being published. Perhaps it is because I hope it will give me some clue as to what the heck I should do.

So, in terms of giving me what it promised (interesting biography, interesting commenting on writing, and useful tips) this book succeeded completely. I hereby rate it:

I recommend it to anyone who likes autobiographies or writing. Especially recommended if you like both!

I know that I picked up a few tips for my writing during NaNoWriMo (Yes, I have made my decision. I’m doing it this year. More below.), the most valuable of which was probably the question “Who do you write for?” Who is your ideal reader? You know this person well, right? So, write what you know they’ll love. You know what will make them laugh and what will make them continue reading. Put all these things in and then you will have their perfect book. When it’s of acceptable quality, show it to them. By their reaction, you will know what is good and what you need to change. In them, you will have the perfect soundboard and fan.
For King, this ideal reader is his wife, Tabitha. Well, I know who my ideal reader is. I think I’ve always known…

On Writing by Stephen King is a wonderful book and I wish I had a copy of my own.

***

So… about NaNoWriMo… After much, much agonising I decided to participate. What am I writing?

I know I’ll regret it if I don’t participate. But the thing is, I don’t compete if I can’t win. (In it to win it! as we always say) I’m not going to enter knowing that I won’t finish anyway. I will finish it. I don’t give in. I did it under the same circumstances last year. But you see, last year I went into it blind. I made a split second decision just days before it started. Before I could second-guess myself, the madness had already started. Now, I know exactly what I am getting myself in for. I know the mental pain that NaNo causes. I know how bad week 3 is going to be (for most people week 2 is apparently the worst, but week 3 is my death). I know how hard it is going to be to study for final exams while writing 1667 words in an hour every day. I write exams right until the very end of November this year, so there is no reprieve for me.

On the other hand, I have some advantages that not all NaNo-ers have. I am extremely writing fit – I’ve written 750 words every day for more than 600 days in a row now. I can do those 750 words easily in 15 minutes – I can do it in 10 if I have to, but that means no capitalisation and lots of typos. I am also a language student, which not only means that I have the world’s finest literature in my mind, ready to draw upon for inspiration, but that I have developed awesome (not really) note-taking skills over three years of English and also basically my own shorthand. Those lecturers don’t hang around for you to figure out how to spell Houyhnhnm (hate that word).
Well, actually I just meant to say I can write very fast. 😛

So, there are my advantages to NaNoWriMo. But I haven’t mentioned the most important one yet: if it wasn’t for NaNo pushing me, I would never have had 1 and a half novels to my name. I need this extra motivation to start writing again… So, who’s joining me for this ultimate challenge?


Book review: The Hunger Games, Pawn of Prophecy, and more.

Hey! 😀 (I never know how to start these things.)

 

So after my poll about starting to post book reviews (three posts ago, I think), I only got one negative answer, so I’ve decided to go ahead with this feature. Therefore, welcome to what I hope will be the first of many book reviews!

 

Some questions I’m anticipating you may have (because I’m cool like that): 😉

– Why are you now posting book reviews? This blog is called Cartoons & Creative Writing!
Do you want the long answer or the short answer? The short answer is that I want to be a more diverse blogger and so reach a wider audience. I don’t want to be boxed into one small topic. Besides, some of my favourite blogs are book-blogs and one of my favourite topics to talk about is also books, so that works. 😛

The long answer is that my stats have fallen through the floor. Of course, blogging is not all about the stats, but what is the point of writing if all of ten people are reading it? (Okay, not just 10 people. I’m exaggerating just a little bit.) If you must know, today this blog has got 8 views. A whole 8, and that in almost 24 hours. A few months ago, it was averaging in the eighties every day, and 100 was nothing strange. After Freshly Pressed happened in January, I thought that now was finally my chance to build up a readership, a community, whatever you want to call it, but I failed. I’m not blaming anyone but myself. Everyone keeps on telling you that the only way to build a successful blog is to post quality content regularly and I know I did not do that. For months, I posted filler. People move on and that’s fine. But now I’m left feeling like I have to build this blog up from the ground again. Basically, I’m back where I was this time last year. So I’m branching out, regular content, on a wider variety of topics, to appeal to a wider audience.
If you’re saying, “but I’m only here for the cartoons!”, don’t worry. These book review posts will not happen more than once a month. There will still be plenty of cartoons for you to look at.

– Will you do book reviews on request? Will you do a book review of a certain book if I ask you?
Yes. And no. I will probably agree to write you a small review if I have already read the book that you want to request. I don’t have the time or the money at this stage to search out and read books on request. You can check out my Goodreads. I would probably be happy to review any of the books of my “read” shelf, if you ask nicely. 🙂

– What do your ratings mean?
I place my stars next to each book and the maximum is 5 stars. I rate here much like I got used to on Goodreads. Three stars mean I enjoyed the book, though not necessarily enough to make me want to read it again. Four stars mean I really liked it. It’s probably an above average book and I’ll probably consider reading it again. Most of my ratings seem to be four stars these days. Five stars mean “Ah I love this book to pieces and its little white cotton socks!!! It was wonderful and I can’t find anything to complain about!” Yep. Let’s hope I won’t ever have to deal with one and two stars on here, but two stars mean that I didn’t actually like this book, but I probably managed to finish it. Usually it would have a redeeming factor to save it from one star’s “Urgh, I hate this book, sorry.” If a book has a half star attached to its rating, it probably just means that I’m being indecisive. 😛

 

So, after this overly long introduction, let’s get to the book reviews, shall we?

Today, I am reviewing some of that stack of books that I had along on holiday. I knew that it was probably too many books, but my problem is that I read according to mood and if I only have five books to choose from, I’m going to be in a very bad mood. 😉 Well, I read most of them, anyway. And acquired one or four more, “no new books”-vow or no vow…

 

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

This part of this post has spoilers. I can’t talk about The Hunger Games without mentioning spoilers.

1. The Hunger Games 

While I am not usually someone to get involved in the newest hype on the internet, I did decide to read The Hunger Games shortly before the movie came out. Which I did watch and enjoy, before someone asks. 😉
I think the appeal of The Hunger Games lies in the narrative. It’s a page-turner, plain and simple. It’s written in present tense and in a sort of stream of consciousness style which really builds the tension once our main character Katniss Everdeen is in danger. Also, I’ve seen lots of people complain that the book is full of grammatical mistakes. In the first place, this is completely correct: there are grammatical mistakes. In the second place, this is irrelevant and probably intentional. You always stop to consider your use of concord inside your head, especially when something is chasing you, right? This is what stream of consciousness is all about.
While Katniss is not my favourite character ever, I do think she is a good role model for teen girls and much better than many of the characters you get these days. I would have liked to learn more about the other characters, but I guess that is the disadvantage of a first person narrator. Katniss is also a bit self-centred and angsty. Not that I can honestly say I blame her. This is one of the attractions of this book: the characters are flawed and realistic.
I’d recommend The Hunger Games if you like dystopian fiction and can also recognise it as something hypothetical (with the added scare factor that it could be true), rather than freak about the moral consequences of teenagers getting forced to kill each other.

2. Catching Fire 

This was probably my favourite book out of the trilogy. It may be because it was the only one that I did not accidentally read spoilers for on the internet and so the only one where the tension could fully grip me.
I found the concept of the Quarter Quell arena extremely interesting. The piece in the Capitol with the party and things was the first scene to bring home to me that this trilogy is not just about entertainment. It’s goal is also to criticise and to warn. The whole idea of people drinking stuff so they could throw up and eat some more… yeah… It kind of hit me between the eyes, because during that time I read that I was visiting my aunt and my aunt is the kind of person who feeds you far too much. My father tends to just grin and bear it though afterwards he would constantly complain about eating too much. I refuse to let her dish me up seconds, while I know it hurts her because she sees it as rejection, I don’t want to eat too much. Reading a scene so reminiscent of that in Catching Fire just reminded me of one of the hugest flaws in today’s society: how too much food is a status symbol for some while so many others don’t have anything to eat.
Let it suffice to say that this book is just such a page-turner as the first one, which had me racing to the end. I was also really glad at the end that I had the third book to hand, because the cliffhanger at the end would have killed me otherwise. 😉 Can I also just say that I saw through Plutarch Heavensbee in an instant… The man really could have been more subtle. 😛

3. Mockingjay 

I had extremely mixed feelings about this final book in the trilogy once I finished it. All the time while reading it, I was expecting Katniss to step up and be a hero and stop the freakin’ wallowing. I couldn’t understand what this book wanted from me, because it was so unexpected. When I finally realised that I was expecting the wrong things from this book, I started to like it much more. Mockingjay is not about the glory of war and revolution, it is about the price thereof. We have been raised with the idea of the glory of standing up to cruel authority and dying for your country firmly in our minds, therefore we have been so conditioned to expect it that we do not know the other side of this. Katniss is not a hero, as I finally realised. She is not hero-material: she is too moral for that. To be a hero you need to be able to do “bad guy things” and say it is okay, because you are a good guy. Katniss cannot do this – she knows that if you do that, then there is no difference between you and the authority that you are trying to beat. It is exactly the same situation that Frantz Fanon warned against in The Wretched of the Earth. When Katniss turned her arrow away from President Snow… it was a glorious moment – she struck a blow for morality, though it probably wasn’t the blow any of us expected. This is a really great review (not mine, though I agree with everything).
It wasn’t what I expected, it wasn’t the epic firebomb that I’ve been conditioned to expect, but it still struck a blow. Once I could get through my preconceptions, Mockingjay was a great book, with a really powerful message. I recommend sticking to it. 🙂

 

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

Oh dear, this book doesn’t deserve that rating. I’m so, so sorry. It’s a good book. No, actually, it is great book. It’s just that… I’ve read the “innocent farm boy discovers that he has a Destiny (the capital D is important)” plot so many times by now that I couldn’t enjoy this book as much as I should have. I know that the other books with this plot was copying David Eddings and not the other way round, it is just a pity I read the more modern ones first. His version is actually better. He is a great writer. Argh, I’m running out of words here.
This is not to say I didn’t enjoy certain elements of this book. I really enjoyed the sign language they used, because I have never met anything quite like that before. I also enjoyed hearing about the different characters and their countries, though I have to admit the map at the beginning of the book just confused me. It’s not very reader-friendly. 😛
I can still recommend this book, especially if you’re not as tired of farm boys as I am. I’ll probably see if the library has the rest of this series, though I’m in no rush. And, I also saw through Aunt Pol in an instant, though that was probably the author’s intention.

 

Wintersmith by Terry Prachett

Oh, I love this book! Yes, I’m biased. I just love Tiffany Aching and if a single reader of my blog doesn’t know yet how much I love Terry Pratchett’s books, then I don’t know where you’ve been hiding. 😉
This book deals with Tiffany’s most dangerous adventure yet. The spirit of winter has fallen in love with her and if she doesn’t manage to put him off, summer will never come again. This is a lot to deal with for a thirteen-year-old. Actually, this would be a lot to deal with for anyone, but Tiffany has to cope. You see, the winter is killing the lambs and she is a shepherd’s daughter. If that happens, there is nothing that can hold back her fury. Tiffany is also a witch and this gives her the ability to deal with things.
I also loved the other characters in this book. Miss Treason was an absolute treat and so were the other witches. I liked that Roland was less of a pompous… err… donkey. I always like the Nac Mac Feegle. They’re just so irrepressible!
This would be a very appropriate Christmas read. Great plot, great characters, awesome writer – what more can you ask for? 😀
Now I have to read I Shall Wear Midnight, the next and final Tiffany Aching book, I suppose.

 

Emma by Jane Austen

I don’t actually have a review for this book. I just included it in this list because I believe someone said in that first post that they hoped to hear my opinion on it.
I’m afraid I haven’t finished it, but I haven’t forgotten about it. I should have finished it long ago, but I gave up. I just can’t be interested in people’s relationships and I only made it about a third through. However, I will finish it! I am determined and anyway, I need to read it for class. Also, I want know what happens and review it! 🙂

 

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

I don’t really know what to rate this book. While I liked it, I’m really on the fence here. It wasn’t an easy read.
I loved the children’s version as a kid and while I was expecting the unabridged version to be quite different, I wasn’t quite prepared. To say that this book is about sex and excrement wouldn’t be far wrong, I think. But that is what satire is all about, isn’t it?
While there are some very funny pieces, there are also some scenes that are shocking and horrifying. Swift mocks everyone and everything. You won’t escape his tongue. 😛
A cautionary note: this book would be even more difficult to read if you don’t know English history well. Though I’ve taken a lot of history classes in my time, I struggled. I know a lot more about France or Italy or Germany’s history than I do about England. Sure, I can tell you the Great Fire of London happened in 1666, but I seriously don’t know what Prime Minister was in charge at the beginning of the 18th century, nor do know what the underlying political and social issues of the day were. If you try this book, I recommend getting an annotated version. Swift’s satire is very specific to certain people and if you don’t know it, you’re missing a lot.

 

 

And that’s everything for today! When I do reviews again, they will be longer and more detailed. It’s just because I added so many today that I cut them so short. This post is already over 2000 words long!

 

Talk soon,