Looking for a good book to read this summer? These are the two I’ve read so far this summer, and I highly recommend both of them. First of all, 11/22/63, Stephen King’s tour de force about a high-school-English teacher who goes back in time to attempt to stop the assassination of JFK and falls in love, is, simply put, a masterpiece. King is an American treasure, and he is getting better with age. To enjoy a King novel, however, you’ll have to get past the profanity. It is plentiful in his books, but King has fun with it, like a teenager who doesn’t know any better and doesn’t mean any harm by it would. I believe he also uses profanity to make the utterances of characters more pointed when they are angry. It peppers his writing, in other words. That said, without giving too much away, the book is poignant, touching, and kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. Because it’s so interesting, and because King’s writing flows so well (words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and parts ease effortlessly into one another), I read it very quickly. I give this one five out of five stars and eagerly await his next novel.
A Dance With Dragons is a hurly-burly fantasy novel, filled with knights and rogues, intrigue and politics, battles, and romance. Taking place in the land of Westeros and beyond, the crux of the book, the fifth in the saga called A Song of Ice and Fire, lies in the attempt of many contenders to become King of the Iron Throne and rule all seven kingdoms in the land. It is high adventure, done on a grand scale, and much of it’s charm and readability lies in how author George R.R. Martin has created distinctive characters and storylines that keep the reader wanting more and wanting to know what will happen next. It stands apart from other fantasy novels because Martin has stepped away from the straightforward heroine-rescued-by-hero story that many of them contain. Be forewarned, though: Many of Martin’s characters swear like drunken sailors (but then, many of them are drunken sailors or have lived life on the sea or in other locales where such language is commonplace). To enjoy the book you just have to let that go. After finishing this book I felt as though I had been on an adventure—sometimes at sea—in a faraway land with macho men, drinking ale and eating stew out of trenchers (a trencher is a bowl made from bread) and wondering who the next King of the Iron Throne will be. Enjoy. (Oh, by the way, the series has been turned into a tv show on HBO named after the first book, A Game of Thrones. Two seasons have been completed.)
Right now I am reading The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman. So far it’s very good. What follows is a synopsis of the first part of the book. A little girl named Lyra lives at Jordan College—one of the colleges at Oxford College—and her uncle, Lord Asriel, comes to the college to give a presentation about what he discovered on his journey north to Lapland. While there he took some photos of the northern lights using a new technology (the book takes place in about 1908 by my estimation). The photograph shows what appears to be the outline of a city in the sky.
Also during these first pages, it was mentioned that the Papacy was discontinued; instead, a hodgepodge of councils and committees have sprung up in its place, the most important of which are the Oblation Board and the Consistorial Court. The master of Jordan has to keep a balance between the two groups. In years past there were two renegade theologians that postulated that there are many tangible worlds like ours that we can see and experience, in addition to the spiritual and non-visible worlds of heaven and hell. The church, however, does not support this theory, believing only in one visible world: the one in which we live. Jordan funded Lord Asriel’s expedition, and he found proof of another visible world. Therefore, to avoid the holy church coming down on him for letting his college be a haven for heresy, the master and the librarian conspired to murder Lord Asriel, but were unsuccessful (boo, a bad librarian as a character!). Many humans in the book have what are called “daemons,” which remind me of fairies and can take different animal forms. What has become of Lyra’s parents, I don’t know. It has been mentioned that she has a very important part to play in what will ensue from the discovery of this new world.
The book is fast paced—as much children’s literature is—and so far, I’m riveted! This is one of those books that I’m sure appeals to as many adults as it does to young adults and children, and it is on the favorites lists of many readers. I’m also a particular fan of the cover of the copy I have, which is the cover pictured above; it is one of my favorite covers of any book. Watch for information on the artist to appear here soon.