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A Clash of Kings

A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky. And from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns. Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. It is a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy, a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress, and wild men descend from the Mountain of the Moon to ravage the countryside. Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel … and the coldest hearts. For when kings clash, the whole land trembles.

The sequel to A Game of Thrones picks up right where it left off, and continues what it started. That is to say, there’s a lot more fighting.

And there’s a few new vignettes. Theon, the ward of Winterfell, emerges with his own story. The other new vignette is that of Davos Seaworth, the “Onion Knight” of Stannis Baratheon. Through Davos, we learn more about Robert Baratheon’s older brother, who is also one of the men vying for the throne. Mainly, the fact that instead of Multiple gods, Stannis worships the one god his wife believes in, referred to as the Lord of Light.

Plot can be thought of in terms of a bell curve. The left side of it is usually the rising action – the events that lead to the climax, or the highest point of dramatic tension. The right side of the bell curve is usually the falling action, or the resolution to the dramatic tension.

A Clash of Kings, however, has a plateau. The action continues to build, and then it hits the ground running, keeping the same pace of events until the very last pages.

And even the end of the book isn’t really a resolution to any of the action – it only signals more to come.

This sequel definitely doesn’t disappoint!

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Books

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Roaming through New York City at three A.M., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship – like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing samurai armor – April and her best friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world – from Beijing to Buenos Aires – and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. All eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

Hank Green may have published his debut novel in 2018, but it’s just as relevant now as it was then. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it ended up being timeless.

It’s not just a sci-fi mystery, although it’s definitely a good book as far as genre is concerned. It’s a commentary on fame and the pursuit of it.

In the beginning of the novel, April May is a normal person just like the rest of us. However, as her fame begins to grow, it changes her. Eventually, it gets to the point where she’s consumed by what her audience thinks about the Carls, and about her. She’s almost constantly on social media, producing new content because she feels like she has to or else she won’t matter anymore because people will just move on to other headline making news. Obviously, this puts a strain on her personal relationships.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is also a commentary on how divided America – and maybe the world at large – is today. When April starts to go on television to talk about the Carls and how she believes they are a force for good, another group – people who call themselves the Defenders because they want to defend humanity from the Carls because no one knows what they are – arises in opposition. It’s eerily similar to what’s happening in politics today.

So much of Hank Green’s humor is in this book it’s hard not to laugh. He uses a lot of exclamation points though, some where it doesn’t seem necessary to do so. But that might just be they way April talks and tells the story. His disclaimers in the book are unique. April, as the narrator, tells the reader they can skip over some parts if they don’t want to read them. All in all, the sci-fi parts are a bit complex, but An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is worth reading.

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Trashy Romance Novel

Delaney Brooks is the author of The Queen’s Surrogate, the “sinfully satisfactory” romance novel that swept readers around the world off their feet and into the fictional embrace of His Majesty, King Malcolm.

When her book is adapted into an eight-part miniseries, Delaney and her best friend, Gemma, fly to Scotland for what promises to be two months of lush green mountains, historic castles, and hot celebrity co-workers, including the gorgeous Matthew Kent, British playboy Benjamin Wyndham, and Hollywood’s hottest reformed rebel, Colin Ward.

Even though “trashy” is the first word in the title, this book is anything but trashy. In a word, this book is impressive. Jacqueline E. Smith wrote excerpts from books with in a book, and she made everything up. If memory serves, all John Green did when he wrote The Fault in Our Stars was make the up the title of a book and and the author.

It also reads like a daydream, but it’s not necessarily something specific to the author. Everyone has daydreams about what they’d do if they met and got to hang out with their favorite celebrities, right?

All this to say, this is Smith’s best book so far. Just the right amount of fantasy and daydreaming within realistic fiction.

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Books

A Game of Thrones

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are amassing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a take of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no man-made metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne, and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win the deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

A Song of Ice and Fire – in which A Game of Thrones is the first book – doesn’t have chapters so much as it has characters. It has so many different characters that it can be confusing at times, but one might say that A Game of Thrones is comprised of vignettes featuring Jon Snow, Bran Stark, Eddard (aka Ned) Stark, Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, Catelyn Stark, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen.

It takes awhile to get to the meat of the story, but this book very much sets up future books in the series. George R.R. Martin does take his time describing things, but he doesn’t waste words. As long as they might be at times, the descriptions are necessary to contextualize the story.

With quite a few cliffhangers, it’s an easy book to get sucked into. And it doesn’t let go.