Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

I find it hard to believe that twelve months ago my blog was a small and rather unloved thing, followed by a number of my friends, but not really doing what I wanted. I started it in October if 2011, but it was in early February 2012 that I attended a seminar on blogging at my local library run by two established bloggers who happen to live in the area. Jessica who was writing Read React Review at the time and Kristen from Fantasy Cafe shared a load of advice with us and made me realize that I could find a way into the blogging world.

In March I made a major break through when I saw a Twitter advert for the Little Red Reviewer’s Read Along for The Lies of Locke Lamora. Not only did this introduce me to a great author, but also to other bloggers who were interested in the same types of books as me . . . and the whole world of blogging opened up dramatically. This year I have taken part in a grand total of ten Read Alongs and introduced me to two more brilliant authors: Brandon Sanderson and Neil Gaiman. I have recently started a truly epic Read Along that should take me through the entire series of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson . . . assuming that we have the determination to keep going for the next few years! :D

At the beginning of April I committed myself to A Challenge of Ice and Fire, with the aim of completing Mr Martin’s epic series before the end of the year, and here I am with the last post published earlier today. It took me thirty-eight weeks, but was one of the most enjoyable aspects of my blogging this year. I had been toying with the idea of doing a similar challenge for The Wheel of Time, but the Read Along seems like a better idea. At the same time I signed up for the Once Upon A Time VI Challenge at Stainless Steel Droppings, since then I have completed a second Challenge through Carl’s site and have signed up for another. I think these Challenges are going to be regular fixtures of my blogging year for the foreseeable future. One thing I like about Challenges is that they make me look outside my comfort zone to find new authors and titles to enjoy, which is always a delight. With the New Year approaching I have been signing up for Challenges that I think will encourage me to read new things and take risks in my book selections, as well as getting books off my TBR list and also completing some of the series that I have started.

In June, I took part in the Armchair BEA 2012 event, which was exhausting but led me to lots of new and interesting blogs. I also launched my Sue’s Saturday Suggestions feature, which I have used to highlight posts that I have enjoyed reading and books that sound interesting.

By the end of the year I have received a mention on a SF Signal Podcast and am starting to feel a little less like a complete newbie in the blogosphere. I am a little disappointed that my most heavily read post is my (not very thorough and totally off the cuff) review of The Simon’s Cat Quadrilogy . . . and there is no need to link to it because I am quite sure that it will remain on the top of my ‘Popular Posts’ widget forever! :D

Top Reads of 2012

You can get more details here, but here is my list:

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin – My Favorite
The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
The Gentleman Bastard Series by Scott Lynch
World War Z by Max Brooks
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Most Anticipated Books of 2013

You can get more details here, but here is my list:

Celtic Moon by Jan DeLima – Most Anticpated
Wake Up! by Simon Tofield
Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter by Richard Parks
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear
A Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
The Ides of April by Lindsey Davis
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Top Films of 2012

The Hobbit – My Favorite
Django Unchained
The Avengers
The Hunger Games

Most Disappointing Film of 2012

The Dark Knight Rises
Prometheus - Most Disappointing

New Year’s Resolutions

1. This year I posted seventy-two reviews: next year I hope to get closer to a full one hundred.

2. I will get around to writing some blurbs for the BookStore-BookBlogger Connection

3. Reread and review some of my favorites from the Roman Mystery genre: I feel like I have neglected Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor terribly.

4. I will make a special effort to read SF&F books written by women.


I need to thank my long suffering husband, Ian, for his patience and encouragement this year . . . and for not getting too angry when I spent many hours ignoring him whilst reading, writing or thinking about the blog! I would also like to say a huge “Thank you!” to all of you who have read my posts and encouraged me to join in the fun by commenting on my random musings. I no longer feel as if I am shouting in the dark! :D 

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 38

A Dance with Dragons: Cersei II to the end of the book

My previous posts on A Dance with Dragons:   week 31   week 32   week 33   week 34   week 35   week 36   week 37

65. Cersei II

I never really thought that this walk of shame would actually go ahead, but it did! I know I should not take so much joy from another person’s discomfort, but, firstly, she is not actually real, and, secondly, she is Cersei Lannister! If there was ever a character that I wanted to see forced to walk naked through a busy city: it is Cersei Lannister. You might expect me to have some sympathy for a woman who has been used as a political breeding machine, but we see that almost all of the other highborn ladies were treated in the same way, and yet she is fairly unique in her stupidly brutal way of dealing with other people. Plus she hates Tyrion, which is reason enough to dislike her.

I was intrigued, and surprised, by the need to shave her completely bald. I can understand that removing her head hair would remove her vanity, but I do not really see the need to remove her body hair: how does her underarm hair help to hide her shame? Anyway, I am sure that Lena Headey is really looking forward to filming this scene . . .

This was a powerful chapter to read, as it showed Cersei gradually breaking down. As she steps out of the Great Sept she is sure that nothing can harm her and she will be unchanged by this punishment, but by the end she is crawling and in tears, seeing visions of Ned Stark, her father, Tyrion and, finally, Maggie the Frog foretelling her downfall. She is a truly broken person by the time she reaches the Red Keep, which I found surprising.

There is a definite suggestion that Ser Robert Strong is Gregor Clegane, though how that is possible, I do not know. It would seem that Gregor’s head was sent to Dorne, so we do not even know if Ser Robert has a head, which is even more worrying . . . I really do not know how Qyburn ‘acquired’ the new Kingsguard.

66. Tyrion XII

Thank goodness! Our last view of The Mighty Tyrion is of him signing on as a member of the Second Sons. How ironic, that a son of Tywin Lannister would become a sellsword, and that it would be Tyrion. It would seem that Tyrion is handing over promises for most of the wealth of Casterly Rock in the process, which would infuriate Lord Tywin even more!

It would seem that he wants to persuade Brown Ben Plumm to switch sides and desert the Yunkai. This might seem like a poor idea, considering that Plumm had already abandoned Meereen, but it might work, especially now that Daenerys is missing. We leave our hero trying to find suitable armor for himself and Penny so that they can hide amongst the company.

67. The Kingbreaker

Inside Meereen, mutiny is in the air as Ser Barristan and the Shavepate plan to seize Hizdahr and accuse him of attempting to poison the Queen. I love the way that we follow Barristan during the way as he tries to wait for the right time to act. It is great to follow a character’s rambling thoughts as they reveal so much about their personality. Terrific writing again from Mr Martin, showing how these books are driven by the characters that inhabit them.

Obviously, Ser Barristan has no problem outfighting the pit fighter guarding the King and takes Hizdahr into custody. The King’s attitude to this shows how different he is from the other rulers we have seen, suggesting that he is almost useless as the leader of the city.

Then we hear that someone has released the dragons: oopsie!

68. The Dragontamer

Poor Quentyn, he really is an idiot. His plan to capture one, or both, of the dragons is laughable and doomed to certain failure. If nobody had seen one of them rampaging through the city this might have been understandable, but Drogon’s appearance at the fighting pit would surely have dissuaded anyone from contemplating this plan. I love the fact that they have some chains and a cage . . . and have completely forgotten the whole ‘fire-breathing’ aspect of the dragons . . . doh!

So they arrive at the pit after a bit of fighting, and open the door. I would have thought that one look at the broken chains all over the floor and the huge cave that Viserion has carved out of one wall would have changed everyone’s minds and made them slam that door and forget the whole thing . . . but, no. The image of Quentyn trying to shout down Viserion like the dragon is a badly behaved dog is horrifically hilarious, as are the shouts of “Behind you!” from the others.

At this point I can only hope that the poor lad dies quickly.

69. Jon XIII

What the @#$%??!????!???!!!

Dear Mr Martin,

I am officially VERY angry with you. Not because you had Bowen Marsh and some other traitors stab Jon, but because I must now wait for at least two more years to find out what happened!

If you have killed Jon I will cry . . . a lot.

Yours, in total disbelief and distress,


PS I know that Ramsay Bolton is lying about Stannis being dead, because he asks Jon to return Reek . . . and we all know that he is with Stannis’ army

PPS I hope that Ghost rips out the throats of all the nasty traitors that stabbed Jon.

70. The Queen's Hand

Quentyn took three days to die of his injuries . . . poor lad. But that’s what you get when you play with dragons. I particularly liked the added detail that they had arranged a ship to transport the beasts back to Dorne. Dragons on a ship . . . that is made of wood . . . and they breath fire . . . how could anyone not see the problem with this???

It is interesting that Ser Barristan is trying to get the sellswords to desert the Yunkai, so Tyrion’s idea might be met with a much better reaction than I had hoped. His decision to use the two surviving Dornishmen to approach the Windblown seems like a pretty good move, as we have seen that he is already willing to work with them to do outrageously stupid things.

I am still not convinced that the Green Grace is not part of the Sons of the Harpy plot to remove Daenerys, so I do not trust her to have worked very hard to persuade the Yunkai. I am intrigued that everyone is demanding that Barristan kills the dragons . . . how exactly do they expect him to do that? It will be interesting to discover what corpses are being thrown over the walls. I assume that they are those who have died of the Pale Mare, as this was a common tactic in sieges. it seems unlikely that it is the hostages are there were only a few of them left.

71. Daenerys X

In a strange parallel to Cersei’s walk of shame, we follow Daenerys as she tries to find her way back to Meereen from Drogon’s lair. She is also bald, having lost her hair to his fire, and she also suffers from hallucinations, although hers are probably caused by eating poisonous berries, dehydration and lack of food.

It is interesting that Drogon appears when she is afraid of being discovered by a Dothraki scout, which suggests that he is attuned to her emotions or thoughts somehow. I wonder if he will allow her to escape from Khal Jhaqo’s khalasar? Somehow, she does not seem to be in much immediate danger because she has the dragon beside her.

72. Epilogue

A new POV for the epilogue does not bode well for Kevan Lannister, as the previous epilogues and prologues have not ended well for most of their narrators.

I was surprised to read that Cersei has taken a back seat since returning to the Red Keep, and is apparently a new woman. Being the cynical person that I am, I find it hard to believe that she has actually changed, but we shall see.

Kevan is coming to realize what a nuisance Mace Tyrell is, especially now that he is the Hand, and actually expresses some sympathy for Cersei’s annoyance with the man. Mace seems to be totally incompetent, and is very dismissive of the reports of Sir Jon Connigton’s return to Westeros with the Golden Company. He is wildly over confident about Paxter Redwyne’s ability to defeat the Ironborn menace in the West and Roose Bolton’s to remove the threat of Stannis. In many ways he sounds a lot like Cersei in his inability to see the big picture and his fixation with less important details, which for him is his daughter’s trial. It would seem that the Small Council’s options are dramatically reduced by Cersei’s refusal to treat with the Iron Bank. They cannot raise the cash they need to try to defeat Connington as well as the other threats.

There is some discussion of Ser Robert Strong and, while nobody actually says a name, it is pretty obvious that they all believe that he is Gregor Clegane. The reports that he does not eat or even use the privy are very disturbing, while Qyburn’s claim that he has taken a vow of silence is simply too convenient. However, I am not sure that I really want to believe that Ser Robert is a headless zombie.

After a delightful dinner with the newly pleasant Cersei, Kevan is called to Pycelle’s quarters, where he finds the maester dead and gets a crossbow bolt in his chest. We then get a strange bit of monologue as Varys apologizes to Kevan but explains why he had to die. This was a truly shocking end to the book, especially as Kevan seemed like such a good man. Of course, Varys explains that Kevan’s competence is the reason why he has to die: his death will tear the Tyrell-Lannister alliance apart and allow Aegon to claim the throne with far less opposition. I feel sorry for Kevan because he has shown himself to be a decent, competent man who always does his duty.

A Final Word

So, here I am. Thirty-Eight weeks after I began this Challenge and five wonderful books devoured. I have the HBO series discs to look back through and the third series abut to start very soon, but it will be a very long time until The Winds of Winter lands in my mailbox. I know that Mr Martin will need to write a little faster now that he has the pressure of the adaptation catching up to him, but I am not sure that  we will see book six earlier than advertised, never mind book seven . . . sob! :(

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan Read Along: Week 2

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? You can find links to everyone else’s thoughts at On Starships & Dragon Wings.

This week we read the prologue through to the end of Chapter 14.

1. The stories of Moraine and her sisters don't seem to always match up with who she is, but other times they do (the whirlpool). How do you think these two versions of Moraine compare?

It seems to me that powerful people are always treated with distrust, especially by those who have no personal experience of them, so I can understand why the stories about the Aes Sedai are fairly negative. Also, many of these tales are based upon accounts that have been passed through a succession of other people, and so they are likely to have been warped by that, just like a message is mangled in a game of Chinese Whispers. I can also believe that governments and the leaders in various societies would be unhappy with a very powerful group that is obstinate about remaining separate from any of them and so their resentment will build and pollute their opinions.

However, I am not convinced that Moiraine is being totally honest with the Two Rivers folk. I feel that she has a much larger view of the world than they can imagine, and so she is much more pragmatic about their survival than they might suspect. Her comment about destroying the boys rather than letting them fall into enemy hands was very telling and showed that she is not driven by sentiment.

2. Rand has now had two dreams that seem to be more than dreams. What do you think they mean?

I think it is fairly obvious that Rand is the Dragon Reborn, and that these dreams are either memories from his previous incarnation(s) or are real connections to the Dark One. This second one certainly seems to be a real conversation, especially as the Dark One refers to the incidents that we saw in the Prologue, which were only witnessed by two individuals. The link to the Dark One is very troubling, but the length of this series makes me doubt that Rand will die any time soon!

3. There are two other boys that could be significant to the Trollocs, but Moraine seems to be paying special attention to Rand. How do you think all of them are involved? Also why do you think all of this is happening now all of a sudden, instead of when the boys were younger?

It would appear that there is something very significant about a baby born at about the same time as Rand, Mat and Perrin: I am guessing that a prophecy pinpointed the Dragon Reborn’s birth at that time. Unless Moiraine can sense something about Rand, it might simply be his obvious difference from the other Two Rivers folk that makes her single him out for special attention. It could be that the prophecy mentions his ancestry, which we know could be from outside the Two Rivers because of Tam’s ramblings. Moiraine does mutter something about it being unusual to find ‘two’ in a small village, which I have to assume is Egwene and another woman, so it could be that all three lads have special powers of some sort.

As for why this is happening now . . . we know that Egwene is about to come into her powers, so perhaps Rand is now approaching the age at which his power would manifest. Of course, this does not explain why anyone who suspected where he was would wait for years before retrieving him. He could have been snatched years ago and raised to manhood by either ‘side’ while they trained him. I suppose that the prophecy might have only just been revealed, or that some other piece of information has been revealed and hinted at his location.

4. Thom has hinted at an interesting past and reacted to Moraine's presence when she first appeared. What do you think of this mysterious gleeman?

He seems to know a great deal about the Aes Sedai and other matters, suggesting that he has had access to the courts of kings and other leaders. This seems unlikely for a common gleeman, but it is a great cover for a travelling spy or someone who wants to be able to pass unnoticed and yet has access to all places.

5. We've been learning more about the Aes Sedai, but also about the lack of male counterparts. What do you think of this? Is it somehow related to the prologue?

Lews Therin, the man in the Prologue, was obviously a man who could touch saidin. As we learn, all such men eventually go mad because of the taint that the Dark One has placed upon this half of the One Power. I can understand why someone with that kind of power who was unstable would be a huge danger to the world, so it makes sense that the Aes Sedai try to track them down and prevent them from doing any damage. However, I am not sure if that is the entire truth, and perhaps these male Aes Sedai are not as dangerous as they are said to be.

6. Lan noticed Rand's sword and commented on how Rand's father taught him to concentrate. How do you think these coincidences are related?

As I said last week, I do not think that Tam bought the sword. It seems increasingly likely that he was a master swordsman of some type, and so bears the heron mark on his blade. The technique of ‘the flame and the void’ is likely to be a concentration or meditation technique taught by a certain order of warriors. Lan was obviously surprised to hear that Rand had heard of the technique.

Finally, I just wanted to mention that my copy has a map before chapter 13 for the new areas that our adventurers have moved into and I was wondering if anyone else had noticed this map and what people thought of "maps as you go."

I like the idea of getting more detailed maps as we go along, however, I was a little annoyed by this particular map did not show Baerlon or the Two Rivers, so it was not obvious how it related to what we were reading. It almost seems like it should have been included later in the book.

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