A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin | Book Review

Series: A Song of Ice and Fire (Book #5)
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 1019
First Published: July 12, 2011

★★★★☆

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Here I am, done with the last published A Song of Ice and Fire book, which definitely feels bittersweet. A Dance with Dragons left me with more questions than answers, and definitely set up a lot of future things in the series. In general, I really liked the book but it had its slow parts just like A Feast for Crows. Of course, it was all worth it in the end, and there were some really exciting (and terrifying) things that happened throughout the story. 

First of all, a lot of what happens in A Dance with Dragons takes place at the same time as A Feast for Crows. This is important to remember, and sometimes you may have to think twice to place the events chronologically (however, it's not as confusing as it sounds). Eventually, the events of this book surpass the timeline from A Feast for Crows, and we even get to see some characters from book 4 towards the end. I loved observing the snowball-effect in A Dance with Dragons, with seemingly small decisions and details slowly becoming more significant. I also really enjoy the slow-building aura of magic and mystery—while we started with mostly politics and relationships in the first book, by book 5 we are also knee-deep in prophecies, visions, magical creatures, artifacts, and a general sense of unknown. 

There is a huge overall theme of transformation that comes through particularly well in this book. This is something that's present throughout the entire series, but it definitely stood out the most to me in A Dance with Dragons. George R.R. Martin crafts his world beautifully, and there are so many details to put together and theorize about. You can see this theme of transformation everywhere: from major events effecting characters, to unconfirmed kills that turn out to be more important than they seem at first, to power shifts, to subtle changes in descriptions of lands and weather. Speaking of weather... winter is here, my friends, and it really feels like we are gearing up for another Long Night. Who is ready from some White Walker action? I know I am!

As for the characters and individual storylines—this is where A Dance with Dragons lost a star for me. I'm not going to attempt to describe every single PoV because there are 18 in total, and we would be here until tomorrow if I tried. The majority of chapters belong to Jon, Tyrion, and Daenerys. Jon is probably the character I was most interested in throughout this book, and the events surrounding him kept me reading. Let's just say, if I thought I was going to be done reading for the day after the chapter I was on ended, and I saw that next chapter was Jon's—I wasn't done reading for the day. Daenerys was hit or miss for me, but her storyline actually had some interesting developments in this book, and I'm very interested where the author takes things from here. Tyrion on the other hand ended up disappointing me for the most part. He is meaner, more cynical, and generally less pleasant in A Dance with Dragons. While the change in his character makes sense because of the final events of A Storm of Swords, it doesn't mean I welcomed it. In addition, I'm not the biggest fan of "on the road" type of storylines.

The people I really wanted to hear more from are Bran and Melisandre. Bran has three chapters in this book, but the path that his character is on is so drastically different from anything else in the books that I can't help wanting more. Melisandre appeals to my love for the magical elements, and I loved reading about what's going on in her mind. Too bad she only has one (!!!) chapter in A Dance with Dragons—I really hope she appears more often in the next book. There is also a character I can't really talk about whose story I'm very interested in and need more from because it seems like a game-changing development. 

Though there are a lot of interesting things that happened in this book, I was getting overwhelmed by all of the smaller characters, especially at Meereen. The fact that the chapters involving these characters were mostly focused on politics and scheming didn’t help my confusion. Lastly, I was still bored with Greyjoys who weren't Asha, and I was pretty annoyed by the chapters that had to do with Martells. I was surprised (not in a good way) by where George R.R. Martin took that storyline, and frankly, I would have rather read more about Arianne and Dorne. 

Overall, I obviously still really enjoyed A Dance with Dragons, and I cannot wait until the next book. George R.R. Martin's writing is excellent, as always, and there were plenty of things in this book to keep me interested and intrigued. The epilogue left me speechless—THAT came out of nowhere for me, and now I HAVE to know what happens next. 

Have you read A Dance with Dragons? What did you think?

P.S. If you want to know my overall thoughts and speculations about the A Song of Ice and Fire series—check out the video below, and don't forget to take a look at my Game of Thrones + ASoIaF playlist.

TV Show Tag!

Though I haven't technically been tagged to do this, there was no way I was going to pass on this epic TV Show Tag. We all know how much TV I watch. I've seen this tag going around for a while now, but most recently on my friend Lindsay's blog and on Harini's blog. Of course, I loved reading their answers, and today I thought I would share mine. Apologies for so many Game of Thrones mentions—I tried to have a variety of shows in here, but this one is my favorite so I'm just keeping it real. I'm not going to tag anyone in particular, but if you love TV shows—please do this tag and leave me a link below so I can check it out! Now, let's do this...

Best TV Pilot?

LOST - there have been a few TV shows that had me hooked from the first episode, but LOST was the first show I was glued to (at least for the first 4 seasons) because of the jaw-dropping pilot. Too bad the show couldn't sustain its quality in the later seasons.

Worst TV Pilot?

Reign - it was so bad, I didn't even give the show my usual 3-episode trial. There are few things that bother me on screen as much as historical/cultural inaccuracies, but when the dialogue and acting aren't that great either I have to quit. I do not understand why so many people love this show.

Best Series Finale?

Sadly, I can't come up with one. I am yet to see a finale that leaves me satisfied.

Worst Series Finale?

Dexter - though it had other problems, I will never forgive the writers for what they did to Deb.

Favorite TV Actress?

Robin Wright - from Princess Bride to Santa Barbara (remember that? lol) to Forrest Gump to House of Cards, and numerous roles in between... There is no other like Robin Wright. I love watching her on House of Cards!

Favorite TV Actor?

Kevin Spacey - OK, so I wouldn't actually call him a TV actor, but since he's on House of Cards (do you see a trend here?) this is who I'm going with. He is fantastic, and very intense as Frank Underwood.

Most Disappointing Cancellation?

Smash - I was so sad to hear it was cancelled! I'm assuming the topic of Broadway had a limited audience, but still, this show was awesome with its characters and music.

Best Opening Titles?

Game of Thrones - I mean, come on! It's not just the theme song, it's also the creative way to show the map of that world. There are only two opening titles sequences I never skip, with Dexter coming in a close second.

Favorite Female Character?

Claire Underwood - sorry to sound like a broken record, but I love Robin Wright's character on House of Cards. This lady is unstoppable, I want to be Claire Underwood when I grow up.

Favorite Male Character?

This is way too difficult... I'm somewhere between Sherlock, Frank Underwood, and Tyrion Lannister. Please, don't make me choose. Also, I feel like this is an alarming favorites list—what does this say about me as a person?

Least Favorite Character?

Ramsay Bolton - do I even need to explain?  I mean... gross.

TV Crush?

Ragnar Lothbrook - sexy rough Viking man? Yes, please!

Favorite Childhood TV Show?

Xena: The Warrior Princess - I used to be a huge fan of this show when I was growing up. Granted, I was about 11 when it started, but I honestly can't remember any favorites from earlier childhood.

Favorite Teen TV Show?

I'm not going to lie, I don't have a teen TV show I absolutely love... But if I had to pick I'd go with Glee - I love all of the singing in that show, and the story was actually really good during the first few seasons.

Fastest Binge Watch?

Vikings - I started watching this show with the intentions to slowly get through it and ended up binging two seasons in a week. I'm actually considering buying it on blu-ray and binging it again.

Favorite Show of All Time?

Game of Thrones - is anyone surprised?

Show I Regret Watching?

American Horror Story - though I liked the first season, everything after that was not my cup of tea. I watched almost the entire second season despite not liking it (and later about three episodes of the third), in hopes of it getting better. It never did—I just felt like they were trying way too hard to shock me, regardless of whether or not it worked for the plot. This obviously felt like a huge waste of time. 

Favorite Animated Show?

I have NO idea, I haven't watched one consistently since Duck Tales

Guilty Pleasure Show?

The Vampire Diaries - yes, I still watch it. In my defense, it was not bad when it started. Now I watch it because I've spent all this time on it and I want to know how it ends.

Favorite Mini Series?

Sherlock - I think the creators did a fantastic job adapting this to a modern setting. Obviously, Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as John Watson are amazing.

Most Embarrassing Watch?

Pretty Little Liars - OK, I don't actually watch this anymore but I cannot believe I willingly got through four seasons of it. I don't think I'm ever going to attempt catching up.

Character Whose Wardrobe I'd Most Like To Steal?

Katherine Pierce from The Vampire Diaries - I love wearing dark colors and fitted clothing, so this whole sexy villain look definitely appeals to me. Plus, she has been alive for a loooooong time—I'm sure she has some gorgeous vintage clothes and accessories somewhere as well.

Show I'd Most Like To Be On?

Game of Thrones or Vikings would be great. Somebody call my agent!

Looking for Alaska by John Green | Book Review

Genre: Young Adult,  Contemporary
Page Count: 221
First Published: March 3, 2005

★★☆☆☆

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Ever since reading and loving John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, I've been hoping to feel the same way about another one of his books. Sadly, it hasn't happened yet. Don't get me wrong, I love John Green's writing—I just wish his older books had the same kind of complexity and emotional punch The Fault in Our Stars had, where I feel his writing talent really blossomed. It's possible that if I read his novels in order of publication I would enjoy the older stuff more, but that's not how things worked out for me.

Looking for Alaska is a coming-of-age story set at a boarding school where Miles "Pudge" Halter is making new friends and experiencing new things. Of course, he meets a girl named Alaska by whom he is completely smitten. The novel's chapters are split into "Before" and "After", which lets you know something dramatic is going to go down (and by the time it happens, you can easily guess what it's going to be). If you've read other John Green books, you know exactly how this book works. Quirky protagonist? Check. Profound lessons learned? Check. Awesome friendships? Check. Cool girl? Check...

Speaking of the "cool girl", let's talk about the characters and start with Alaska. Whenever I read a John Green book, I think back to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and that concept of the "cool girl" who doesn't actually exist. It's spot on, and John Green always has that "cool girl" in his novels (at least in the ones I read). Alaska is such a character—she is a teenage boy's fantasy, complete with opinions about everything and some bad girl flare. Of course, she has a darker side that she later reveals to our protagonist, but she makes sure everyone sees her the way she wants to be seen.

As for Pudge—he's the inexperienced, honest, "nice guy" type. He is the YA contemporary protagonist you have seen over and over again, and of course he has a unique quirk so we can find him adorable (in this case, he is obsessed with famous last words). Then, there are loyal lovable friends, and wise and understanding adults... Do you see where I'm going with this? I have a problem with Looking for Alaska being similar to books I've read before, and don't get me started on Paper Towns déjà vu when it comes to the actual plot.

Of course, there are good things about this novel—like I said, I love John Green's writing. The way he uses the language, the metaphors he writes, the lessons he wants you to learn... this is all great. The message at the end of Looking for Alaska is actually something I really appreciated. However, I just couldn't really make myself care about any of these characters, or the plot for that matter. I know a lot of people love this novel, and I know this is John Green's first book (which I think is very impressive), but I just can't help comparing it to his other works. Maybe YA contemporary just isn't for me. In the end, if this wasn't a John Green book it's possible that I wouldn't have finished it. I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but I couldn't help feeling bored with the same old teenage drama that took up the majority of this book. 

Overall, if you enjoy YA contemporary literature and you've somehow skipped this book—I think you will find Looking for Alaska enjoyable. As for me, I don't think I'll be checking out any more of John Green's books until he writes something new. This one just wasn't my cup of tea.

Have you read Looking for Alaska? What did you think?

The Mid-Year Reading Update | 2015

Somehow, we are halfway through 2015 already! I can't believe how quickly the time flies... Today I thought I would  do a little recap of what's been happening in my reading life for the past six months, and check in with the reading goals I talked about in this post at the beginning of the year.

I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with how well I'm doing this year. First of all, I already upped my Goodreads Reading Challenge to 75 books, since it quickly became obvious that 55 wasn't going to be much of a challenge. I may end up bumping it up even higher because I keep getting ahead, and as of right now I've read 41 books in 2015. I've also been doing pretty good on my POPSUGAR Reading Challenge with about half of the categories checked off. Here is a quick snapshot of my reading/rating stats:

At first, I was a little surprised by the amount of 5 star ratings I've given this year. However, after taking a closer look I realized that six of those belong to comics, and one to a novella. Still, my reading year is looking pretty good considering that I am yet to give 1 star to anything, and that most of my ratings are in the 3-4 star range. Taking the comics out of the equation (because I think I will end up with separate favorites videos for books and comics at the end of the year), here are my top 5 reads of 2015 as of right now:

I have reviewed all of these, so check out the links below to hear and read about why I think they're so awesome:

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3) by George R.R. Martin
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

As for my author goals, I only have one person left on my list to try out—Patrick Ness (for some reason, I'm saving his books for autumn). I fell in love with Neil Gaiman's writing, and I can't wait to read more of his work. I'm sad to say I'm on the last published book of A Song of Ice and Fire, so I've clearly been having a good time reading George R.R. Martin (I really hope The Winds of Winter comes out before season 6 of Game of Thrones airs). Though I didn't love Fangirl, I still appreciated Rainbow Rowell's writing style, and I'm going to be checking out her adult novels. As for the much recommended Brandon Sanderson—he definitely has my attention as well. Basically, this has been a good reading year so far!

What have you been reading during the past six months? Any favorites?

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell | Book Review

Genre: Young Adult,  Contemporary, Romance
Page Count: 433
First Published: September 10, 2013

★★★½☆

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I finally did it guys, I read Fangirl—my first Rainbow Rowell book. Now, I know my rating is raising some eyebrows right now because this is a book with a huge following, but hear me out on this one. I thought it was a very enjoyable book, which is why I gave it the rating I did, but it's also not the kind of book I gravitate towards and some of it had me rolling my eyes. While I remember the anxiety that comes with your first year of college and meeting new people, I'm at a very different point in my life at the moment, so some of the struggles described in this book just didn't work for me.

This coming-of-age story revolves around Cath, who is starting her first year of college and having a bit of a rough time with it. She is a very lovable, introverted  girl who writes fan fiction, but she is pretty dependent on her twin sister Wren. Because Wren wants to go her own way in college and doesn't even want to be roommates with her sister, Cath has to try to put her social anxiety and awkwardness behind, and survive college on her own.

Fangirl was a really quick and easy read for me, and Rainbow Rowell's writing had a lot to do with it. The way she writes dialogue and characters is very natural, and feels effortless—it's so easy to just keep on reading! My favorite characters were Reagan (Cath's roommate) and Levi (Reagan's friend): I loved Reagan's personality and her attitude towards life, and as for Levi—he was charming, funny, and sweet, but not in an unrealistic way. I liked Cath for the most part, but I occasionally wanted to shake her for being so stubbornly awkward.  What I loved about her character arc was that despite having some growing up to do, she didn't have to change the essence of who she was. Yes, she learned to adapt to her situation and life without Wren at her side, but she didn't lose herself in the process, which I think is a very important message.

Some of the romance and drama in Fangirl seemed a little "chick lit" (I really dislike that expression, but I don't know what else to call this) to me, so there were points when I thought things got a little ridiculous. I also didn't care for the amount of the fan fiction excerpts that were included—I liked the idea of them, and I liked the role fan fiction ended up playing in the overall story, but there was a little too much of it for my taste. However, I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority here because I was never a hardcore Harry Potter fan (no, I don't hate Harry Potter—I'm just not #obsessed), so I suspect that's why the Simon Snow parts weren't as interesting to me.

Overall, I enjoyed Fangirl for what it was, and I am definitely looking forward to checking out Rainbow Rowell's adult fiction. I think if you like young adult and/or new adult contemporary literature (and you somehow haven't read this book yet)—you should definitely give this book a try.

What is your favorite book by Rainbow Rowell?