Series Spotlight: Gone Series

By Michael Grant

Last week, I finished reading the sixth and final book in the Gone series. This has truly been one of my favorite young adult series. It’s The Hunger Games meets Lord of the Flies x10.

The series starts when every person over the age of fifteen vanishes from the town of Perdido Beach, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. Not only are the adults all gone, but they’re trapped inside an impenetrable barrier. Everything inside the dome if you will, comes to be known as the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone). Even stranger, some of the kids have inexplicably developed super powers.

The Gone series is the story of their fight to survive, not only against each other, but against the mysterious entity known as the Darkness or the Gaiaphage.

These books are action-packed. Every time I would pick one up, I’d end up flying through it. There aren’t any lulls, just breakneck action. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get to know, love, and hate a wide variety of characters.

Like The Hunger Games (I keep comparing them to The Hunger Games, but Gone actually came first), these books are incredibly violent. They’re kids killing each other, fighting each other, committing suicide, and being attacked by strange creatures inside the FAYZ. It’s violent, gruesome, frightening, and horrible.

I’m a big proponent of giving books to teenagers that aren’t sugar-coated or dumbed down. The world is a dark and violent place and policing what they read isn’t doing them any favors. They only need to read the news to see what kind of world we live in. Therefore, this is yet another Shannon-approved series that goes deep, goes dark, and tells it like it is.

In spite of all this, this series is full of hope and resiliency. Even in the darkest of times, these characters form strong bonds of friendship and love. And that’s what really keeps you rooting for the characters throughout the series.

The series is six books long, but what I really liked is that Grant kept the story manageable. I often take long breaks in between books and the twists and turns that a typical series covers from beginning to end, can sometimes confuse me. Grant has his story well under control and keeps reminding you (subtlety) of events gone by so that even if it’s been a year or more since you’ve read the last book, you feel like you’ve got the story fresh.

I whole-heartedly recommend checking this series out. Pure adrenaline from start to finish.

A Feast For Crows

A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin

After centuries of bitter strife, the seven powers dividing the land have beaten one another into an uneasy truce. But it’s not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters of the Seven Kingdoms gather. Now, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—emerge from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges of the terrible times ahead. Nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages, are coming together to stake their fortunes…and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.

Many, many people have said this was their least favorite GoT book. I can understand why, but I also really enjoyed it, as I have all the other books. Note to self: don’t attempt to read this book when you’re not planning to have at least several days of nothing to do, but read. Otherwise it might take you nearly two months to read it…

Dany and Tyrion and Jon aren’t viewpoint characters in this book, which makes it a little sad I suppose. But I enjoyed having Cersei as a new viewpoint character, even if I was only convinced that unlike Jamie, there’s really nothing to like about her. She’s about as kind and good as her son, Joffrey.

I would love to have Loras and/or Margaery Tyrell as viewpoint characters at some point. I hope this happens.

I found the Brienne storyline and the Dorne storylines less exciting, but necessary.

All in all, this was a good addition to the series, but I’m looking forward to the next book, which has a large focus on Dany, Tyrion, and John. Unfortunately, I need a little break. I don’t think I can stand to read the same book for another two months again. Plus, then that’s the end of the series as it is now. Got to break up my wait time to the next installment…

 

A Storm of Swords

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, victim of the sorceress who holds him in her thrall. Young Robb still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. And as opposing forces maneuver for the final showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost limits of civilization, accompanied by a horde of mythical Others—a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords…

Many people say this is their favorite of the entire series….I would say this is the most shocking of the series. If you’ve seen the television series you know…it sucks to be a Stark.

This book manages to be more violent and more shocking than even the others. The world expands still further as Daenerys continues her travels, John presses northward towards Mance Rayder, and the people of Dorne to the south put in an appearance.

I loved having Jamie Lannister as a viewpoint character…such a good choice. Again, we have the awesome Tyrion, Dany, and John as viewpoint characters. I also liked Ser Davos and Sam.

As always, Martin astounds me with his skill at weaving a story, the complexity of the narrative, the deviousness of the characters, and the perfect delivery of dialogue and events.

The series does a great job adapting this book. It covers so much incredible and important material, the book was split into two seasons. The first half just finished airing. It was as well-done as the other, minus the Theon Greyjoy stuff. Random liberties that aren’t exactly advancing the series, but merely just making everything uncomfortable. Torture porn? Ew.

All in all, it’s a good season for a Red Wedding.

Since I’m not talking much about the events of this book, leave me a comment down below about how you liked it. If you don’t want spoilers, I would avoid the comments!

A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over and age of enforced peace are dead…victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war.

As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky—a comet the color of blood and flame—six factions struggle for control of a divided land. Eddard’s son Robb has declared himself King in the North. In the south, Joffrey, the heir apparent, rules in name only, victim of the scheming courtiers who teem over King’s Landing. Robert’s two brothers each seek their own dominion, while a disfavored house turns once more to conquest. And a continent away, an exiled queen, the Mother of Dragons, risks everything to lead her precious brood across a hard hot desert to win back the crown that is rightfully hers.

A Clash of Kings transports us into a magnificent, forgotten land of revelry and revenge, wizardry and wartime. It is a tale in which maidens cavort with madmen, 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 Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside.

Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, the price of glory may be measured in blood. And the spoils of victory may just go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel…and the coldest hearts. For when rulers clash, all of the land feels the tremors.

I eagerly started this sequel to A Game of Thrones….and wasn’t disappointed. This novel enriches the story, while complicating it still further.

Tyrion and Dany remained my favorite characters. Other viewpoint characters I enjoyed: Theon Greyjoy, John Snow, and Ser Davos. I enjoyed Arya’s storyline, but I find her rather annoying as a character. I know a lot of people love her, but I just don’t.

I loved seeing Tyrion in his new role as Hand of the King and following Dany and John, as they explore the East and the North, respectively. Jaqen H’ghar was another great character introduced in this book. As always, I enjoyed the scheming of the Lannisters.

The tv series also makes a good run of this…the Battle of the Blackwater was amazing.

I don’t want to give away too much, but if you’ve read the first book in the series, you should definitely continue on with this one!

Since I’m not talking much about the events of this book, leave me a comment down below about how you liked it. If you don’t want spoilers, I would avoid the comments!

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (Book 1 in A Song of Ice and Fire)

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.

It’s been a couple years since I actually read this book, but as I’m attempting to read book 4 (big book, little time=very slow progress), I decided to go back and write a review. I had originally planned to review the series all at once, but plans change.

I first began this book on audiotape. My boyfriend at the time and I were going camping in Big Bear and we started playing it in the car to pass the hours.

I was immediately intrigued by the opening passages about the white walkers. My interest grew from there. Once we got back home, I drove to the bookstore and bought the book because I had to read the rest. We’d only gotten about a hundred or so pages in, so I still had a lot to read.

And yes, the audio book is also good.

This book introduces you to a huge cast of characters, a sprawling world, a complex history, a war of religions, and almost anything else you can think of. Tyrion was my favorite character in this book, a spot he still retains. I also love Daenerys.

Despite the immense size of the book and the steep learning curve of the world-building, this first entry in the spectacular series is engaging, accessible, and immensely entertaining. George R.R. Martin is quite a writer. Always, I found my jaw literally dropping at the perfection of the placement of some particular phrases or events. Yes, the series is raw, bloody, horrifying, and full of sex. But isn’t life?

After I finished the book, I moved on to the show. Also, so perfect. Peter Dinklage is the most perfect Tyrion. He somehow made the character even better, improving on perfection.

Seriously guys, if you haven’t managed to read the books or watch the show, get on it. Pronto.

Series Spotlight: The Strain Trilogy

The Strain Trilogy (The Strain, The Fall, The Night Eternal) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

If you saw my vampire post on last week‘s Top Ten Tuesday, you know this series is on my top list of vampire books. Guillermo del Toro is the award-winning director of such films as Pan’s Labyrinth (love!), Blade II, and the Hellboy movies. Chuck Hogan is otherwise known for writing novels, among them The Town, which became a film of the same name.

I’m not a big fan of horror. I don’t like horror movies. I don’t like being scared. I especially don’t like being scared while reading. However, I sucked it up and read these books. I knew I would be scared, but I was too intrigued to let it go. Plus my mom read them and we had them in my house so I gave it a shot. Also probably helps that I read the first one over my winter break when I was recovering from a break-up (cue break-up horror jokes). A funny thing happened. Yes I was scared for maybe the first half of The Strain. And then I got acclimated. Or used to the brand of horror. Or something that required further meditation. But I stopped being scared and started just really enjoying myself.

I read the first half of The Fall when I was hanging out at the hospital one day over spring break, essentially convinced I had a brain tumor or meningitis or something (none of which was actually the case and yes, I’m fine now). I grabbed it on my way out because I was reading a pretty deep book at the time with small type and I wanted something with larger type (I had the headache to end all headaches), something fun, and most importantly, something that would distract me. It worked. I was actually a little bit sad when we got to the part of the day where they knocked me out with painkillers and other assorted drugs and I couldn’t stay awake to keep reading my book.

I read The Night Eternal this weekend under less-auspicious circumstances. No break-ups, no hospitals, just an airplane. Which, ironically, is where the first part of The Strain takes place.

All three were great books. I don’t think any one in particular was better or worse than the others. The Strain hit the ground running and the breakneck pace continued up to the final pages of The Night Eternal. Fun, thrilling, mysterious, historical, pretty much everything I love in a pleasure read (you know, because I NEVER read for pleasure or anything). I loved that vampirism was taken on in a disease format. In these days of superbugs and novels and films about superbugs (Books: The Hot Zone, The Andromeda Strain Movies: Contagion, 28 Days Later), it’s great to read more things adding to the space. Especially in the horror genre, since the worst horror comes from our own lives and our own world.

I’m not really sure where to classify this series. Thriller. Horror. Sci-Fi. Mish-mash is maybe more like it. Of these genres, I would say I’m most well-versed in thrillers. And this is a great contribution to the thriller genre.

On an interesting side note, I was driving on the freeway today when I saw a guy on a motorcycle in my rearview mirror with something strapped across his back. It wasn’t until he came up beside me that I saw it was a bow. Of course, having recently finished this series, I couldn’t help, but have a flash of Ephraim Goodweather riding a motorcycle with a silver sword strapped to his back, ready to do battle with some vampires. Of course he doesn’t ride a motorcycle in the books, but he’s still badass enough that, had one been available, he would have been on it.

Follow to Amazon for a synopsis of The Strain, The Fall, and The Night Eternal. All three books are now available in paperback as well.

Have any of you read this series?

Series Spotlight: The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

At the risk of sounding redundant, I’m going to discuss The Hunger Games. Everyone on Earth is discussing these books. When they’re not discussing Twilight. Not that I’m categorizing, just that the same crowd seems pretty down with both series. But then they like Harry Potter too, so maybe they have more good judgment than bad. (I sense that one day I may have to do a post about Twilight. It’s kind of de rigeuer for a blog about books. Even though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them.)

But we’re talking about Katniss and Gale and Peeta. Let’s just start with the perfection of names- odd enough in their own right, unique amongst literary characters, inappropriate for dogs, and still pronounceable in English. Suzanne Collins, 1.

This is a pretty violent series for young adults. But I’m glad. If there’s anything children need, it’s toughening. Especially the group these books are aimed for. Not all parents may approve (the blood! the gore! the murder! the implied sex!), but then their children are always more grown-up than they want to admit. These books land solidly in the category of dystopian futures. That means the Hunger Games is sharing shelf space with 1984 and Brave New World. Not bad for a contemporary series of young adult novels. Suzanne Collins, 2.

As main characters go, Katniss Everdeen is pretty likeable. I’m not a huge fan of central characters myself. I always find myself drawn to the side characters who steal the show (*cough* Haymitch *cough*). But Katniss is very much aware of her own shortcomings as a human beings. At times, a little too aware. But not like she has much else to contemplate. Her life fairly sucks all around. I particularly enjoyed Katniss in the third book. Her demons, frailties, and guilt all contribute to making her tough as Tungsten. Suzanne Collins, 3.

I have high hopes for the upcoming films. It has to be better than the Twilight films. It has to. If it’s not, I’m going to stand back and let my writing major and film studies minor work it out in a cage fight.