A Reading of George R.R. Martin’s FeastDance

As some of you may or may not know, after A Storm of Swords George R.R. Martin planned on a five-year gap between where the story left off and where it would be picked up again.  However after a year or so of writing he came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to work and scrapped what he had written and started over again.  Yet this to had complications as well resulting in Martin dividing his next installment into two books, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, with the former set south of the Neck exclusively and the latter set in the North and in Essos.  As it took 5 years for AFFC to be written and 5 years for ADWD to be written this meant that the storylines of Dany, Jon, and Tyrion were on hold for a decade.

After the publication of A Dance with Dragons, readers realized two things.  First, many events in one book were hinted at in the other or the effects were felt showing the shared time frame the two books shared up to a certain point.  And second, that AFFC and ADWD shared the same time only through 2/3 of ADWD and the last third saw POVs from AFFC appearing along with those that had been only in ADWD up to that point.

Soon after this, long time fans started re-reading the series and once they had finished A Storm of Swords many debates started to spring up about how to deal with existence of both AFFC and ADWD especially knowing that both books overlap in chronology a lot.  Some were of the opinion to read each separately as published, but others started contemplating and creating a reading order combining both books.

Among the latter group was Sean T. Collins, of the All Leather Must Be Boiled Podcast, who has created the most well-known (among fandom) merged reading order as well as a new reader variant.  It is Sean’s reading order that I’ll be going by during my simultaneous re-reading of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons over the next few weeks.

While waiting for my next review, check out my reviews and chapter-by-chapter ratings for previous A Song of Ice and Fire books:

A Game of Thrones (chapter-by-chapter)
A Clash of Kings (chapter-by-chapter)
A Storm of Swords (chapter-by-chapter)

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Carpe Jugulum (Discworld #23, Witches #6)

Carpe Jugulum (Discworld, #23)Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Once again the kingdom of Lancre is in a tough spot and it’s up to Granny, Nanny, and Agnes to face-off with an enemy whose motto is Carpe Jugulum. In the 23rd installment, sixth in the Witches subseries, of Terry Pratchett’s fantasy-humor series sees vampires, sorry vampyrs, from the country of Uberwald take center stage as they are invited to invade Lancre only to get invaded back.

Lancre is celebrating the birth of Princess Esmerelda Margaret, her father has invited everyone to join the celebration including many foreign dignitaries including the ruling Count of Uberwald. Unfortunately the Count is a vampire, sorry vampyr, which means he gets to come in and take over the place. Of course, Nanny and Agnes instantly know they need to stop this and when they go to get Granny they discover an even worse problem, she’s packed up and left because the Count’s mental barrier is really strong. However after Nanny, Agnes, and their new trio member Queen Magrat herself rejoins the coven and confronts the Count leading to bad results, Granny comes in and seemingly gets defeated by the vampires. However, sometimes a defeat is a victory in disguise.

Unlike some previous Discworld books, Pratchett keeps this one tight with subplots and secondary characters being closely connected with the main story and characters. Mightily Oats, a priest of Om whose been having a crises of faith his entire life, and the blue pixie clan the “Wee Free Men” are some of the highlights of this tightened plot and subplot connection as they are both integral yet separate at the same time to the overall story. While I do not know if Mightily Oats makes a return appearance, I do know that the blue pixie clan’s time in the series I just beginning and I’m looking forward to seeing how their story will develop.

Carpe Jugulum is a very good book, but because of the feeling that it is just Lords and Ladies it falls short of being a great installment in the Discworld series.

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Catching Fire (THG #2)

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The aftermath of Katniss Everdeen’s rebellious performance at the end of the 74th Hunger Games has consequences far beyond what happens to Peeta and herself in Catching Fire. Suzanne Collins’ middle installment of The Hunger Games trilogy is all about how a dictatorial government responds to rebellion.

The story Katniss Everdeen begins just as she’s about to begin her Victory Tour with Peeta to the other Districts and the Capitol when President Snow expectantly shows up at her new home and threatens her to perform well or else. Katniss fails to stop the growing unrest in other Districts and the Capitol cracks down everywhere, including District 12 which makes Katniss realizes that while her life was bad before now it would have been impossible. Then the stipulations for the 75th Hunger Games sends both Katniss and Peeta into the arena with 22 other previous victors. And in the arena, Katniss begins to realize that there is more than one game going on.

Unlike its predecessor, Catching Fire is more about the aftereffects of decisions than fighting to survive. Throughout the entire book, there seems to be more going on behind the scenes than Katniss knows and the reader is able to connect things a little ahead of her at some points. The twist and turns inside the arena might have been meant to surprise the reader, but an astute reader will realize that they are being set up for another book and the realization that the threat to Katniss and Peeta is very small clamps down on the dramatic tension gets closer to the end.

While I enjoyed Catching Fire, there was not the same quality or tension as there was in The Hunger Games though while I’m intrigued to know what is going to happen in the final book of the trilogy my enthusiasm is not at the same level it was after the first book.

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Seventh-day Adventists Believe

Seventh Day Adventists BelieveSeventh Day Adventists Believe by General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has traditionally shied away from formulating creeds for a variety of reasons. Yet, even from its founding the church has had to release answers to doctrinal questions or to challenge false statements about what its actual beliefs were. At the 1980 General Conference session, the church decided on a statement of 27 Fundamental Beliefs that described the church’s official positions, but were not criteria for membership. An additional Belief was added at the 2005 General Conference session, just like after 1980 the General Conference expanded upon the statements in Seventh-day Adventists Believe: A Biblical Exposition of Fundamental Doctrines.

As stated in the subtitle states, the 28 Fundamental Beliefs are based on and explained through numerous passages in the Bible. In fact, the Fundamental Belief “Holy Scripture” begins the book and is the basis for the rest of the book. The 28 Beliefs are grouped into 6 doctrines: God, Humanity, Salvation, The Church, Christian Life, and The Restoration; with each Belief and doctrinal group leading into one another. With this structure, the reader is given better understanding to Seventh-day Adventist theology.

Seventh-day Adventists Believe services a dual purpose of helping Adventists–both longtime and new–learn about their beliefs better and to answer questions as well as misconceptions from non-Adventists. Amongst the questions answered are the Trinity, sola scriptura, and the experience of salvation. Also answered are those beliefs that are seemingly unique to Adventism: the Seventh-day Sabbath, the Great Controversy, Jesus’ work in the Heavenly Sanctuary, and the Gift of Prophecy amongst others.

If you have ever wondered what Seventh-day Adventists really believe then this book is highly recommended to answer your questions.

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The Poetry of Robert Frost

The Poetry of Robert FrostThe Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Poetry of Robert Frost is the entirety of the great American poet’s published work, an authoritative volume that is structured to show his progression from his earliest work to his last—with a little exception at the end. However for those who have only read Frost in school, like me, you will be in for a surprise because the poems in English and/or Literature class are a deceptive selection of his complete works. While this complete book of Robert Frost’s work is wonderful for poetry enthusiasts, for the more general reader I would suggest you look through this volume and decide if you want a smaller, more select volume of his work.

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Marlborough: His Life and Times (Book Two)

Marlborough: His Life and Times, Book TwoMarlborough: His Life and Times, Book Two by Winston S. Churchill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The political and military life of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, reached both its zenith and low in some of the most turbulent times of both Great Britain and Europe. Marlborough: His Life and Times, Book Two combines the third and fourth volumes of Sir Winston Churchill’s much heralded biography of his ancestor covering the last 17 years of his life, but focusing mostly on the decade between 1706-16.

From the beginning of the book, Marlborough’s approach to both his military and political zenith is fairly short, but the long slow decline towards political exile began to slowly eat away at his authority on the battlefield and gave encouragement to French court of Louis XIV. Churchill throughout the book, details the remaining six campaigns that Marlborough lead the Allies in Flanders during the War of the Spanish Succession with truly amazing detail to the battles of Ramillies, Oudenarde, and Malpalquet and their aftermaths. However, Churchill does not keep his biography in a bubble around Marlborough during the war as other theaters as well as actors–Prince Eugene, other British generals, and the various French marshals.

While Marlborough fought to unparalleled success, his power was undone not by military defeat but by the political forces–including his wife Sarah–at home that first undermined his trust friend Godolphin and later his relationship with Queen Anne. Churchill gives the reader a detailed account of the political climate and intrigue in London during the 10 years saw Marlborough’s political clout slowly begin to ebb then fall precariously after the fall of the Whig Junto to Harley’s Tory administration that used Marlborough has a tool on the battlefield to short shift the rest of the Grand Alliance with secret negotiations with France that lead to the undoing of years of Marlborough’s military success after his dismissal as Commander-in-Chief. Yet, upon the ascension of the Hanoverian George I, Marlborough returned to high political position after traveling to the continent in political exile but let a younger generation deal with the day-to-day details and policies while he enjoyed a restful existence as an elder statesman.

Written during the time of his own political exile, Winston Churchill gives the reader a thorough education of the late-Stuart political upheavals in Britain while at the same time giving them the political landscape of Europe at the beginning of the very turbulent 18th Century, especially the influence of Louis XIV and the dynastic politics of the Hapsburgs and republican Dutch. While a length of 1040 pages of text, not counting 40 pages containing a bibliography and index, may seem daunting to the any reader I can tell you that by the end you’ll have enjoyed learning so much.

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