A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 973 pages.
Read from March 27 to April 24, 2014.

My God, nothing in this world could have prepared me for the last 100 pages of this book. This novel is by far the best in the series so far. In this book, every man claiming to be a king collides and they collide hard. What you expect or want to happen, doesn’t, and it makes you want to throw the book against the wall in disbelief. My boyfriend gave me some funny looks when I screamed out in protest  to numerous scenes while reading this book. Oh and just when you think you have it sorted out and you’ve come to terms with the madness that’s ensued you read the epilogue and your mind is blown once again. Seriously, this was my face:

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It’s so hard to discuss this novel without giving away all of the essential twists and plot-changers! It is however impressive that Martin continues to remember so many details and have the story flow so well between one character’s chapter to another. Even more impressive, is the amount of growth that each and everyone one of the characters (that are still freaking alive, that is) go through in this book. You learn that Jamie Lannister is actually a good man, that you can sympathize with Cersei and hate her at the same time and how little Tywin really thinks of his dwarf son Tyrion. You watch Jon become a man and learn about a world outside of the Watch, that it is possible for Sansa and Catelyn to tolerate even more grief, that Dany and Robb have to make a few very difficult decisions and you get to see Arya becoming vicious and Sam become brave. Well, I suppose the exception being Joffery, he doesn’t change. He’s still a twat.

What this novel makes me ask now, is where is the series going? There were times where I felt I should have seen certain twists coming and yet, I didn’t, because Martin doesn’t do anything ordinary in terms of character investment and plot. Which leads me to ask: What is the outcome that Martin see with these characters? Who does he want sitting on the Iron Throne?  I can’t even fathom what it going to happen in the coming books with the shit-storm that Martin put in this book.

Well I have to read the fourth book now! I have actually already purchased it and will tackle it as soon as I can get over the emotional turmoil that Martin put me through.

Stupid Children by Lenore Zion

4/5 stars.
ebook, 176 pages.
Read from March 09 to 12, 2014.

This book, if you’re looking for something different, is it. Stupid Children is a dark-humoured book that focuses on the psychological traumas of a girl named Jane. After her mother died, her father was never quite the same. At a very young age her father was placed in a mental institution and she into the foster care system. Her tragedy continues as the home that she is placed into is a part of a cult called the “Second Day Believers”. The cult focuses on cleansing out the “mental impurities” of children and then it throws in some farm animal organs, drugs, sex and a weird ranking system of its members.

The book is written from the perspective of Jane as an adult, accounting her experiences and relationships to a psychologist and as well to the reader. This unique psychologist-narrative provides a potent perspective and, based on the mixed reviews this book has received, didn’t work for every reader. I felt however, that the style was pulled off very well.

Fast paced and quirky, the story focus on how non-nonchalantly Jane discusses her not-so-normal upbringing, the experiences she gets into with her friends and father-daughter relationships.  The characters are immensely likeable. There are some scenes that are so well described in the book that at first glance may not be directly related to the story but they allow the reader to gain entry into the emotional state of the characters. There are some amazing scenes that really give the reader a full extent of some of the psychological damage Jane endures and how she handles it. The scenes aren’t funny and they’re not tragic but they’re very raw.

I really couldn’t put this book down and I can say that it’s been the best read of 2014 for me so far. I actually had the privilege of participating in an author/reader discussion with Lenore Zion on this book. What I was able to learn is that Lenore herself is a psychologist and her influences for the book came from her dreams and a desire to let readers know what it’s like to be a therapist in a way.

The influence came from my dreams. I have a very rich dream world (and fantasy world) and I’ve been keeping a dream journal for years. It’s a bit egomaniacal, but my unconscious is fascinating to me – as is the unconscious of all human beings. We are brilliant and bizarre creatures. I wanted to write a book that allowed the reader to feel what it is sometimes like to be a therapist. Questioning things like “why is my client smiling while telling me this horrible, traumatic memory?” and “why does my client keep coming up with rationalizations to defend her abusers?” I work with a lot of trauma in my field, so these are things I have dissected psychologically for quite some time.” –  Lenore Zion, in a TNBBC Author/Reader Discussion

Lenore’s work as a psychologist is blatant in this novel and it adds such a fantastic and unique perspective that I don’t think readers will find anywhere elsewhere.  A highly recommended read for those who are looking for a something a little off-beat and awesome!

Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl

4/5 stars.
ebook, 100 pages.
Read from February 18 to 22, 2014.

If you’re like most people, you know Roald Dahl for his wonder contributions to children’s literature. What most people don’t know is that he published quite a bit adult content and there is nothing child-friendly about these pieces. The stories in Switch Bitch were actually written for Playboy and published separately in 1965. Also, on a complete side note, did you know that Roald Dahl wrote two scripts based off the works of Ian Flemming, the author of the notorious James Bond series. One was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the other was the Bond film, You Only Live Twice . With the Bond film, it was the one Bond movie that was the furthest away from the plot and story line of the actual book by Flemming. So there you have it, now you know that Dahl was a successful bad-ass adult writer as well. You were just likely too young to know that before. I know I was.

Knowing that these stories were written for Playboy really gives me a better understanding as to why these stories were so graphic. Yes all of the stories were about sex but that isn’t what made them graphic. It was that each one of the stories in this collaboration had a the undertones of a horror story. Like his other works of short stories, these continue to emphasize just how awful adults are and with this collaboration, specifically men.

In the story The Visitor, the main character of Oswald, whose womanizing adventures Dahl would eventually write a full length novel on called My Uncle Oswald, is one of the few stories in which by the time you finish the story you are satisfied and a bit less horrified with the outcome as Oswald is not a likeable character. Oswald is travelling in the middle east, where he has been bedding a lot of women and ditching them as soon as he can. In an effort to disappear from his last one night stand,  he finds himself stranded at a gas station in the middle of no where. The circumstances of the stranding are in themselves suspicious as the gas attendant appears to be physically suffering from a condition and is overly attentive to the weary Oswald who is terrified of catching whatever it is this man has. However, it appears to be Oswald’s lucky day as a rich man drives by shortly and offers for him to come and stay up in his mansion for the night while his car gets repaired. The man has a gorgeous wife and daughter. Outwardly, Oswald promises to be decent but inwardly he is already scheming to get one or both of the women into his bed. The events that follow are indeed maniacal and comical.

The Last Act, is by far the most cruel story in the book. I know that I felt particularly horrified and disgusted with the presumed ending of this story.  Anna Cooper finds herself widowed and it was like half of her soul was taken from her. She moves on but not willingly. After finding some moderate success in life after her husbands death she encounters the man who she was dating in high school before she met her late husband. What initially appears to be a promising romance turns into one of long held grudges and cruelty.

Honestly, there is something addicting about Dahl’s writing as I’ve devoured a few books of his short stories now. He is able to make his stories entertaining, funny and dark all at the same time. I believe he also has a great understanding of the human condition, both the good and the bad spectrum’s and he uses them to his advantage. If you are ready to shake up your childhood then I would highly recommend reading some of Dahl’s short stories and adult work. You can find one collection that compromises of the core of his short stories in, Twenty-Nine Kisses.