Thursday, September 29, 2011

Song of Ice and Fire

I began my journey into Westeros on July 19th and now 73 days and 3,882 pages later I have caught up on the first 4 books of the series by George RR Martin.  I have not been this caught up and addicted to a series of books since the first time I read through the Stephen King's Dark Tower series or watching the first few seasons of LOST.   There is really nothing I can say about the plot and story because telling anything will give away too much. 
The only thing I will write here is for people like me that enjoyed the HBO TV show and are worried that the remaining books/seasons of the show can't be as good as that first one I will say that after reading the rest book 1 really was just set-up and the tip of the iceberg for what comes next.

I'm impressed by how the books are written because Martin has a way of writing that almost makes every chapter a cliff-hanger with enormous cliff-hangers at the end of each novel.  I know I've also mentioned this before on this blog, but I love how I cannot predict anything.  Everytime I think I have an idea of the direction the story is headed something happens that makes the story go in the complete other way.

These are some of the most fleshed-out characters of anything I've ever read (I know they better be after almost 4,000 pages), but no one is really a villain or a hero.  In fact, after four books, I still am not sure who the overall VILLAIN of the series is going to be (like Sauron is in LOTR or the Crimson King is in Dark Tower), or how the story can ever end. Some of my favorite characters were introduced midway through book 2 and didn't even last until the end because of one of the other reasons I love this series: No one seems to be safe.  The main characters change from chapter to chapter and they are not lacking interesting people.

I am ecstatic that there is a fifth book already available, while at the same time I am already dreading the waiting that will come between book 5 and book 6, especially since there was a 6 year hiatus between book 4 and book 5.  What will this mean for me over the next few years?   Besides disappointment, I think there may be a chance I will have to read other fantasy series that I've stayed away from in the past due a) being overwhelmed and b) thinking I wouldn't enjoy it.   If anyone has any recommendations of things I should be reading, please pass it on.

Next up, getting back to my goal of finishing 52 books this year.  I am now up to 28 books.  So that means I have 12 weeks to read 14 books.  I know I can do it if I cheat and read some short books (and I probably will), but I really like my way of picking up books as they come to me and there are some great, long books coming out soon including Stephen King's new 1000 page tome.  That along with Book 5 of this series, it's going to be tight.  Wish me luck, but in the meantime please read these books.  I need more people to discuss this with.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Best of the Week Mid-September

Best Movie I Saw: Now that summer is ending and Netflix is super-expensive and quickly shrinking my portfolio, I have decided to get back to using it again.  Over the last few weeks I've been watching a movie a week on Neflix and most have been pretty good.  My two newest additions to my personal library has been Paul  and Super.
Much like how Shaun of the Dead was a love-letter to Zombie films, and Hot Fuzz was dedicated to the buddy-cop flicks of the 1980s, this one was an homage to the two types of films: The early films of Steven Spielberg and the alien movies of the 1980s.  This had many shout-outs to some classic movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Aliens and (of course) E.T.  Paul is a silly alien movie, but if you're looking for something funny you could do much worse.

Both Paul and Super are "comic book movies", but neither have ever been comic books, but they will both be loved by people that enjoy that genre.  Paul even had the beginning and ending of the movie take place at the comic book Mecca that is San Diego's Comicon.  While Super takes a concept that is becoming popular of someone with no training, or powers deciding to become a superhero for all the wrong reasons.  The thing that makes Super different is its realistic violence.  Rainn Wilson stars as a guy that has some serious problems, and after a traumatic event decides to become a Batman type of superhero but with literally no means or skill.  It leads to some pretty sick outcomes, but you should not expect anything else from a writer-director that got started with the Troma studio. 
Best TV Show I Saw: Since I cannot think of anything off the top of my head that I've seen lately, I can only assume the best thing I saw on TV was the return of the NFL.  I'm so happy you're back football.  I missed you.
Best Thing I Read:  Once again I'm on a reading kick.  This week the best thing I read though was easily the newest collection of Locke & Key entitled Keys to the Kingdom.   Joe Hill continues the story of the Locke kids and their struggle against the Dark Lady.  This issue really was probably the best one yet since the stakes get even higher especially with the latest cliff-hanger where this story ends.  The highlight though (besides the amazing conclusion) was the one chapter showing the month of February where each page correlated to one day of the 28 days that hath February.  I'm surprised no one has ever done this in a comic book before since comic books have 30 pages normally.  In the thousands of comics I've read in my life I can't believe I never thought of that and no one else had done it either.

I also read: No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.  I guess he's not a writer for me.  I read The Road a few years ago and I know that people love it, but I didn't get it.  I thought it was a badly written post-apocalyptic story that I've read hundreds of times before.  No Country was a little better, but I really do not like his writing style.  McCarthy writes in a very simplistic was that must be nice for people that don't read much, but there is no description.  McCarthy just writes "He did this and He did that...."  it gets very repetitious and I found it boring.  Then he also chooses to not write with any quotation marks when his characters are talking.  It makes for a confusing read at times when you're not sure who is speaking or if it is dialogue or just narration.
The story itself is fine and I really liked the ending of the book which was different than the movie.  But the writing style was such a turn off that I've basically decided no matter how good people say any of this other books may be, I will just figure like his other books, it's just not for me.

Best Thing I Heard:  Aubrey did a great thing the other day.  She bought tickets to the band The National.  We both were pretty huge fans of their previous CD and especially the song Fake Empire.   We saw that the band was going to be playing The Beacon Theater in December and before going to that show we figured we should have their most recent CD, High Violet, which was released last year.  We listened to the CD on a road-trip this weekend about 3 times.  It is surprisingly great.  I am not good about explaining style of music, but lately I'm most interested in music that has songs that build.  Songs that start slow or deconstructed that build up until they reach an apex of sound.  Other bands that I love that seem to have this style are Muse, Radiohead, Airborne Toxic Event and Secret Machines Songs like this one really make me happy and now I'm even more excited for this show in December.  As always:  My recommendation is to play this VERY LOUD:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Best of the Week - First Week of September

Constant Reader.
It has been  a few weeks since my last update, but so I will catch you up on what I've been enjoying these past few weeks.
I survived the Hurricane and loved every second of it, and with summer winding down, I'm looking forward to football and hopefully some better TV.  Although, for more of an update into what has been taking up most of my time, be sure to check out my other blog chronicling the adventures of the house Aubrey and I are still renovating here

Best TV show I saw:
This season of Louie has been absolutely extraordinary.  The episode where he went to Afghanistan was a great tribute to our soldiers as well as a fun little reminder of how animals can bring people together.  If you're not watching this show, you made an error.
Also, while I was waiting out the storm of Hurricane Irene at my friends Bridget and Chris's apartment I got to talking about Game of Thrones.  Since they had never seen it and we really had no where to go and nothing else to do, we turned on the first episode which was available on HBO On Demand.  Long story short - we watched all ten episodes together back to back.  What a great series this was and as you all know I've been reading the books and was able to understand everything much better this time around as well as see some seeds planted in the show that I did not catch the first time through.
Other shows I've been enjoying:  True Blood, and Weeds  are still not great, but have been better this season.  Curb Your Enthusiasm has also been particularly solid this year as well with yesterday's Bill Buckner episode being my favorite over the past few weeks.

Best Movie I saw:  No contest here.   I watched a movie that I knew nothing about and was absolutely overjoyed with.  The Adjustment Bureau with Matt Damon was a fun Science Fiction story that was really well acted and crafted.  Some additional reasons I loved this movie:  It takes place in New York City and really uses the city better than most movies.  Additionally, I loved that they were accurate as to where the people were.  For example, if someone is walking up 24th street, the come to Madison Square Park right after that.  Then if they turn downtown, the next street is 23rd and then 22nd.  I can't tell you how many times I watch a movie and places don't line up and I hate it.  The only negative was knowing that the building Matt Damon lives in is the office building I actually work in on 24th and Madison, so I know for sure that there are no apartments in there.  But because it made sense for the story, I allowed that minor "adjustment" to the story.    

I also watched:  Cedar Rapids which had some funny parts.

Also, and as I type this I am finishing up the Star Trek movie marathon that Cinemax played today during labor day.  I watched almost all of the following movies today (with some omissions for running and eating): Star Trek II, III, IV, V, VI and VIII (First Contact) - which is just ending now.

Best Book I read:  I knew my herculean task of reading The Song of Ice and Fire would slow me up and consume my life, and I was right.  I am currently on page 800/1150 of book three of that series entitled A Storm of Swords.  This is so far the best of the books with so much happening that I could never have predicted.  I have heard that the series loses a bit of its luster after this book, but I am so enraptured by these characters that I don't care.  Just keep telling me their story and I will keep reading.  Again, I will not give anything away about these books, but if anyone is planning on being stranded on a deserted island for a while, it would be a smart idea to bring these books along.  They will keep you entertained for a long time.

Best thing I heard: I'm going to cheat here, but I went to a friend's house and watched the documentary Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story.   For those that don't know, Andrew Wood was a major player in the Seattle music scene (that I am a huge fan of) in the 80s into the 90s.  He was the lead singer of the band Malfunkshun as well as Mother Love Bone.  He tragically died in 1990 and the key song-writers in his band went on to form Pearl Jam.   This documentary compiles old footage as well as recent interviews with such people as Chris Cornell from Soundgarden (who was Wood's roommate), his brothers, mother and friends.  The documentary was put together with love and honors his memory while telling his fans about Wood's battles with addiction.  The movie was great and it really almost made me fall in love with his voice all over again.  A tragic tale about a tragic soul and if you were a fan of Mother Love Bone, a necessary addition to your DVD collection.  The Disc also comes with two CDs of B-Sides and older demos by Andrew Wood and his various bands throughout the years.