Sunday, March 30, 2014

Direwolves, Honor, and Death..lots of Death......REVIEWING: A Game of Thrones

Hello and welcome to The Real World According To Sam! 

Today's review is for the book that started it all....the book series that's still going, the tv show so many people are in love with, the graphic novels that are just being made (adapted from the BOOK not show)....that's right. I'm reviewing Book One of A Song of Ice and Fire. 


A Game of Thrones
Author: George R. R. Martin
Genre: Fantasy
Year of Publication: 1996

Ok. So I never planned on reading this book. Sorry to all the die hards and fans of it out there, but it is true and I'm just being honest. Now you're probably wondering why in the world I'm reviewing it then.....obviously my mind about reading it changed somewhere down the line. I didn't watch the show or anything. My dad did. He borrowed the first season from a friend of his and then found the second one at the library he's hooked. One thing you gotta know about my dad is that he's not really into reading fiction. He prefers non-fiction biographical books, usually about major sports figures or musicians from bands that he really likes...if he's not reading true crime books. He came home one day with Game of Thrones (THE BOOK) with the plan of reading it. This is most likely how the thought process went: he likes the show, he'll try the book....and if he doesn't get to the book then Samantha will probably read it anyway!!! It's a win-win. There you go. That's why I read it. My dad brought it home and basically just tossed it into my possession, with me not knowing what I was getting into, albeit I did possess a bit of curiosity. 

This is a pretty big book. I don't read very many large books, because there are so many books in general that I want to read and it gets to be too much of a hassle sometimes. Although, I have read quite a few "thickies" in my reading history (the Inheritance Cycle, Harry Potter [when I was in 3rd grade or so and super tiny], the Inkheart books are pretty big, to name a few). Lately though, I've been sticking to shorter books, usually no more than 300 or so pages. This book is, NO JOKE, 780 pages long, and they don't get any shorter the further in the series you go. Luckily I was able to read it during winter break. I don't know how long it took me. Probably a few weeks or so. But it was time WELL WORTH IT!!!

I've read reviews where people say that it's nothing special or that the characters aren't very well developed and its like every other fantasy novel out there. I largely disagree. Sure, this is my first real fantasy book that is targeted for an adult audience (yay I'm growing up!!), but I've read plenty of fantasy in general. While the idea is pretty basic (there are 7 kingdoms and one king who sits on the Iron Throne and there's lots of medieval politics involved, with swords and bloodshed), I thought the execution was rather good! And as for the characters being undeveloped, that's a huge lie. The book is structured with chapters (unnumbered) that are told by focusing on a select few characters (Daenerys, Arya, Sansa, Cersei, Catelyn, Eddard, Tyrion, Jon, Bran...I might be missing one or two, not fully certain). Each character IS different. They have their own ways of reacting to the various situations they find themselves in. It's fascinating to see how things play out.

What I REALLY like about this book is that you read not only about WHAT happens, but HOW it happens. You know exactly why things are turning out the way they are based on your knowledge of how the kingdom is run and the nature of each player in this game of thrones. The whole story basically revolves around the Iron Throne and the politics of the royals and houses that pledge allegiance to the king. I recently completed my Political Science requirements...they weren't my favorite classes by any means (I'm not a huge fan of politics PERIOD). However, because of them, I was better able to follow along with the story and its events. 

I also really like the setting. Martin does a wonderful job of creating a world and bringing it to life on the pages. Sure, he's no Tolkien, but he's still doing a rather good job. I could easily visualize Winterfell and the rest of Westeros. Honestly, I can't wait to return to it and see what befalls the characters next. 

Speaking of characters, I really loved them, minus the ones that I hate with a passion. I won't name names but I'm sure anyone who has read the books or is following the TV series can easily guess the precise TWO that I'm talking about. They're so obnoxious that I wish they would have just died. My favorites however were Tyrion the Imp, Daenerys, and Eddard. As I was warned however, getting attached to ANYONE in the story is very risky. Eddard Stark is the lord of Winterfell. His family is awesome and he's a very honorable man in comparison to many of the supporting characters throughout the book. Tyrion I loved because of his perspective and humor on life with whatever comes his way. He isn't the pride of his family, yet he makes the best of his situation by just enjoying himself in his favorite ways (drinking and visiting brothels). His humor is what really makes him shine. He takes no smack from ANYONE, regardless of his less-than-impressive stature. Daenerys is just a simple girl whose brother wants to take back the Iron Throne. They are a family associated with dragons (which are now extinct). They are the only two people left in the bloodline, their brother and father having died before the book even begins. Viserys (the brother) gives Daenerys to Khal Drogo (the ruler of a group of people across the sea) to wed. Daenerys has a whole journey separate from that of the other characters. I really felt for Daenerys, because she's thrown into the situations at first, with no regard to what she personally wants. Gradually, she begins to take charge of her life and that's when things begin to get really good. 

I could go on and on about how much I liked the characters, but it would take a really long time. The one thing you should know is that, like the title of this review suggests, there is quite a bit of death. What else would you expect from a medieval tale full of swords and high testosterone levels?? Within the prologue, about two or three men are dead!! There are many more to come. The one piece of advice my dad gave me before I began reading was: "Don't get attached to any of the characters." Now I know why. If you have a super intolerance to any kind of violence, just don't even bother. You won't last and it'd be unfortunate to have your stomach unsettled. If you are of the kind that can handle it, then I welcome you to give it a go. 

I mentioned Direwolves in the title so I'll slip them in here real quick. At the beginning, Eddard and a couple of his sons come across some orphaned wolf pups. They aren't just any kind of wolf though. They're direwolves! Basically, they're bigger, fiercer and just overall better than regular wolves. They're also supposed to be totally extinct. However, they find some...and there is actually one for each Stark child. So all the kids (Jon, Robb, Bran, Rickon, Sansa and Arya) have their own. The direwolves are incredibly cool and add an extra something to the book overall. I really loved the direwolves. I kind of want one for my own, truth be told. 

I don't wanna go too into the plot, because it gets pretty intricate and I would hate to give things away. Mostly its just Eddard Stark becoming Hand. This position is basically the King's right hand man in charge of keeping peace in the kingdom. The king, Robert Baratheon, grew up with Eddard. The queen is a bit of a pain in the rear end, and their son is no joyful thing to read about either. He's a brat. That's me being nice and incredibly lenient, and he sooo doesn't deserve that, but there you have it. Daenerys and Viserys want to regain the Throne so they can return to what was once their home. Plots thicken and people die and there are great battles and sneakiness all wrapped up in a book that has a thick chill hanging over it. 

As they like to say in Winterfell, "Winter is coming."  

I give A Game of Thrones, Book one of the series A Song of Ice and Fire, a 4 out of 5. It's not the greatest book in the world, but it's still really enjoyable. I'm going to get back to watching the first season (each season is ONE book). I'm definitely going to be reading the second some point in time (probably this next December so I can have the winter chill back for the proper mood). I will eventually get around to reading the whole series. I also plan on picking up the first graphic novel, so keep an eye out for that if this is all something you're really into or are curious about. Thanks for joining me for this review, hope to see you next time!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Crime, Mystery, and LIFE DEBTS: Reviewing Secrets and Lies

Hello, this is Sam!!!

If you all joined me last week then you might have noticed the review I did for the book Cassie Scot Paranormal Detective. If not, then before you read this, I HIGHLY suggest you read that review. Just follow this link: Cassie Scot Book 1: Review

This week's review, as I mentioned in last week's, is the sequel to Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective. Again, I received this book by mail, and it was offered to me by a woman who I believe is the author's agent. This is a purely HONEST review. That just basically means I've read it, and this is what I honestly have to say and I have not in any way been paid off by the author to just speak good about it. I don't operate that way.


Secrets and Lies
Author: Christine Amsden
Genre: Paranormal Mystery/ Romance
Year of Publication: 2013

Secrets and Lies is the second book in the Cassie Scot series. Cassie is a girl in her 20's who was born into a family of very powerful sorcerers, but has no magical powers herself. As if this wasn't enough, her parents have now disowned her and she owes a life debt to her friend Evan. Also, two young girls have gone missing from a camp and Cassie has been hired to locate them which is a whole other mess of trouble. Add in the fact that Cassie's family is having major issues and is falling apart and you get one crazy ride. 

If you are interested in book one I seriously recommend purchasing it and reading it before reading this review unless you don't mind knowing that umm.....stuff has happened since the last book!! So stop here and go pick it up, read it and come back. For those who are still on the iffy train of whether to read it or not and want to see this review, then fine, stick around, but don't blame me if you read anything you don't want to know before reading the first book.

Like usual, let's take a quick pause to reflect on this cover, shall we? I'm going to be the first to admit that I really loved the first cover a lot more. Allow me to explain why. I loved the blue tones and how Cassie's clothes were color juxtaposed against it. It was awesome. I love the purpley tones here, and the sunset, the green and the lake....however, Cassie and Evan in the's cute. For sure!! But I'm not sure the placement is how I would love it best. This cover is great and mostly captures the way the characters feel in the book and major aspects of it, but I don't feel like it captures enough of the actual conflicts. While on the first cover you see Cassie alone (which can reflect her feeling a bit isolated and also trying to be independent), this one kind of looks like its supposed to be a cheesy romance novel. In all actuality, it isn't. There is romance yes, but it isn't the WHOLE book. I like this cover, but I don't love it and I would've liked to see some more aspects of the conflict come out onto the cover (maybe even the camp in the background or a stable, totally setting appropriate). Again, I don't hate this one, I just prefer the other one. This is still really well drawn though and I do like it quite a bit. It just could've been so much more awesome with a different approach to layout. The colors are still gorgeous though. 

I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was significantly more gripping than the first. I loved book one, but I was really upset when I couldn't find time to get in another chapter of this second one. I had a lot of school work to get through and that really upset me because it kept me from reading. Yes I know, school comes first and I will continue to put my schoolwork first. It's the ultimate test of how good a book is. How sane can I remain until I can return to the book? Well, I did maintain my sanity while I was away, but I did constantly want to keep reading instead of doing whatever else I had to do. Luckily I have some self control and can manage these bookish problems. 

I honestly preferred this book, simply because the tension is way higher than it has been thus far. Sure Cassie has been in life or death scenarios, but it has never seemed so intense as it does in this book. There is so much more of Cassie's family and many more interactions between her and Evan (which I absolutely love and wish I could have even more!!!!). Secrets and Lies fills in a lot of gaps that I didn't even notice existed, but that make complete sense. I can't say any without giving away major spoilers, so I will refrain from specifics and will simply say that after reading Secrets and Lies, the first book has actually been improved, as well as the series as a whole thus far. Things I hadn't considered came up and I was constantly being surprised by each new unveiled development. I also love the conflicts that arise and that not all of them are immediately wrapped up by the end. Seriously, the ending KILLED me. I finished the last chapter, then read the epilogue and afterwards I just sat quietly unsure of what to do next. It was so frustrating, but understandable. I'm not satisfied yet. This CANNOT be how it ends (obviously not since there will be a third book coming out in just a few months!! {yes I will be getting my hands on that one too and reviewing it for anyone curious, more news on that later}). I really liked the conflicts here, the girls being missing and everything connected to their disappearance, as well as the way all the obstacles to finding out what happened are presented. These are numerable and varied, from other characters, to their motives, to other's really a big web of things, but amazingly it isn't too much or overdone. 

So overall, Cassie Scot #2: Secrets and Lies is an excellently written book with interesting characters that have become much more developed since the last time we saw them and gripping conflicts that will keep you reading and not wanting to stop. I will definitely be reading this one again (I've already read the epilogue over ten times) and am extremely excited for the next book to see if things will play out the way I really want them to. I still love the interactions between Evan and Cassie, the tension is even higher than it was before. I can't wait to get more of them, if I can......the thing I love most about the epilogues of these books is that they're written from Evan's perspective instead of Cassie's, so for about four short pages I get really excited to see what has been hidden by the first person perspective that centers on Cassie. 

Read these books, I highly recommend them both. Not gonna lie, when I finished this book I was almost in tears, although I'm not telling why. The point is that it got a major rise out of me in a positive way, which only some books have been able to achieve. I cared and want more. Therefore, I give Secrets and Lies a 5 out of 5, due to getting me so excited, having intricate characters and conflicts, deeper relationships, as well as being well written and very enjoyable. It went beyond the first book and showed that there was lots of improvement made between the two.   

This concludes my review for today, please come back again soon for the next one!!!

Buy this book!!! Secrets and Lies on Amazon
See what others are saying about it!! Secrets and Lies on Goodreads
Find out more about the author and her books!! Christine Amsden's Website

Also, be sure to leave a comment below, letting me know:
  • What you think of this book if you've read it
  • If you haven't read it, are you planning to?
  • What else you want to see me review
  • What you like about my blog and what can be improved

Monday, March 10, 2014

Detectives, Sorcerers, and Vampires REVIEWING: Cassie Scot Paranormal Detective

Hi everyone!! Sam here with another book review for you!

Today's book was given to me in exchange for an honest review by the author's agent. I took a long time to get to read this one because of school and for that I apologize, but I can honestly say that is was ultimately worth the wait. Next week I'll put up a review to its sequel, but for now let's stick to book 1 shall we?

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective
Author: Christine Amsden
Genre: Paranormal Mystery/New Adult
Publication Year: 2013

Cassie Scot is the daughter of a powerful family of sorcerers. The problem is, she has no magic whatsoever. She starts up her own detective business, calling herself a normal detective. However, things are sure to get messy in a town like Eagle Rock.

Eagle Rock is located near a lake, with a node that means tons of magical power boost to the local magic practitioners. There are also several paranormal happenings and beings coming in and out of town. I'm going to say it already, in this book there are vampires. However, these aren't your Twilight vampires causing everyone to go nuts over ridiculousness, no siree! These vamps are the genuine article and I seriously wouldn't want to run into them at any point in time. If you want well written vampires and a story full of magic, this is the book to read.

Cassie Scot is a really interesting character. This book is told in first person narration, from Cassie's perspective. This perspective really helps you to care about what's happening throughout the book to all the characters and it also limits your knowledge so you feel just as confused and driven to find out what's happening as Cassie is. Because you get everything from her perspective, you start to make connections and start seeing how she thinks and quite frankly, I'm hooked on this book. I don't tend to read a lot of mysteries but this book seriously had me trying to figure out who was the one causing trouble, trying to piece together clues.

Can we just talk about this cover for a minute? I mean, personally I love it. I like the blue tones and the way the moon glows over the lake (that's Table Rock Lake) and the magical swirly swirl pry indicates where the node is. I also really like the mountains in the background and the amount of depth the cover has and the coloring. I like the way the greens pop against the blues but still blend in a moody way. I would put this on a coffee table, just saying. It's a really pretty cover. 

This is the basic plot: Two people are dead and they have magical ties. Cassie is hired to deliver a legal document but ends up with a lot more than she might be able to handle. People are dying, there's drama at home, Cassie is trying to keep things all good with her friends, you know, the usual stuff you handle in life.  Trouble brews throughout this book, but that's not what holds it all together. The thing I love most about this book is the way all the character relationships are developed. Its not about the murders, but the way that Cassie handles it, the way that others handle it. Its the way that the communication works and that things get even messier as typical life problems start weaving themselves into what's already happening. This book is more than just a paranormal mystery, its a book about family, friends, community and relationships......which is where Cassie starts frustrating me just a little bit. She feels really inadequate at times since she has no magic, but she lets it enter into every decision she has to make. Sure this makes sense, but sometimes I want to hit her and tell her to just do something. She isn't a character that wallows or anything, but her guy relationships.....don't even get me started. She's involved in a non-exclusive relationship with a guy named Braden, who loves her. Her childhood best friend may or may not have feelings for her, but who can tell? (Me...I can....) She has to balance everything and deal with all sorts of crazy issues in her life that are so stressing. I'm amazed that she didn't faint halfway through the story from sheer exhaustion. There are rumors that her childhood friend casts love spells and that's a whole other issue on its own, as well as the fact that their families absolutely hate each other for reasons we just don't quite know yet. She doesn't jump from guy to guy or anything like that, I just think she needs to take a step back to figure what she really needs or just let things happen the way that they're meant to. This however, is nothing but a character flaw and not at all a problem with the book itself.

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective is a roller-coaster of a ride kind of book that I had a hard time putting down. I anxiously gobbled up the second book (both of which were given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review) which I will have a review posted up next week, so be sure to come back for that. There is magic, romance, major conflicts, family issues, a question of community and who is there for who, that all together make for a thrilling story. I loved it, but Cassie seriously frustrated me in her exchanges with Evan because I, as a reader, have an idea of what I want out of that area of the book that I'm not getting quite yet. The tension between them is so high, so often and I love it. I wish Cassie loved it too, but that's another matter entirely. This is the first book in a series and therefore a lot of it is a setup for what is coming up next in book 2, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good book on its own, because it really is!! It's an awesome book and you'll just get a whole lot more out of it if you read both because conflict created in this book leads into the major conflicts of the next one and its all just really really awesome fun. I give this book a 4 out of 5 and HIGHLY recommend it.

Also, a quick note, this book is what is known as a NA, or New Adult, book. This simply means that Cassie is 21 and therefore is not in high school but isn't a completely adult character either. This book is a nice in between YA and Adult novel that is perfect for someone in college or around the same age because it tackles issues that aren't high school related or too over our heads yet. I think this makes for an awesome read because its much more relatable for me in general. Down below will be a link to the book on Goodreads and Amazon, I say buy it and give it a shot, because it is super worth it. I'm glad I was given the opportunity to read and review this book. Just reading it to see how Evan and Cassie interact makes it worthwhile in my opinion. That's my favorite part, their interactions and the situations they find themselves having to handle together. Seriously, this is one of the best paranormal books I've read so far. None of the characters or beings are too far off or over the top. They all just mesh together really well.

Thanks for reading another review here at The Real World According To Sam. Hope to see you back again next week!! If you enjoyed this post, be sure to say so!!! Have you read this book? Do you want to? Is there anything else you'd like for me to read and review? Comment and let me know!