Dreamsongs, Volume 1

47. Dreamsongs, Volume 1 by George R.R. Martin. 683 p. Published October 2007.

Dreamsongs is composed of the collected early works and short stories of Author George R.R. Martin. As such, this book is some heavy reading, taking me two and a  half weeks to finish, though this is due more to style and content than complexity.

Divided into sections, this first volume of Dreamsongs takes us first chronologically and then thematically through Martin’s career. Each section is forewarded by Martin himself as he reminisces on his youth and the early days of modern Sci-Fi/Fantasy. As such, Dreamsongs provides an uparralleled insight into the process and development of a budding bestselling author. We progress through Martin’s early works finding familiar settings and hints of more contemporary material in a barren ice fort, a fantastic dragon, enchanting children, and dire responsiblities. Further in, Martin’s stories turn to science fiction and horror, providing a backdrop for experiments with characters and suspense.

While Dreamsongs’ tales don’t dance and shimmer effortlessly across the mind’s eye, and may not be spun of angeldust or purest gossamer, they do possess an element of the fantastic. Within this volume lies hope and dream, joy and sorrow, failure and victory. And in them we find the innocence and passion of youth, and follow along as it begins to age, darken, and mature into storytelling of the finest vintage.

However, keep in mind that reading anthologies and collections like Dreamsongs takes longer than a normal book of comparative size (at least for me). With characters, scenery, and even the laws of reality being reshaped in each chapter, the reader must constantly break from their flow. That being said, I feel this book was worth it.

If you so wish, you may find a synopsis of each story in Fyrefly’s review of the audiobook version. However, please note that there are some stories missing, as the audiobooks are composed of three parts, while print copies of Dreamsongs have 2 volumes.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Other reviews of Dreamsongs Volume 1: Fyrefly’s Book Blog

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How I Live Now

33. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. 194 p. Published August 2004.

In order to escape her troubled life in New York, 15-yr. old Daisy visits her cousins and aunt in England. As Daisy’s aunt travels out of the country on business, her cousins Edmond, Isaac, Osbert, and their younger sister Piper welcome Daisy into life on their small farm. Romance soon develops between Daisy and Edmond, and as war envelops the country, the two lose themselves in each other. The children band together, developing a unique relationship, and work to become self-sufficient as the rest of the country is steeped in chaos.

Soon enough, however, military intervention separates Daisy and Piper from the others and find themselves helping with the daily chores of life as an occupied population. As they learn details of the war that has changed their lives, Daisy and Piper find themselves working to reconnect with their lost relatives. When a sudden tragedy triggers armed conflict in the area, Daisy and Piper take their chance and run, hoping to reconnect with their loved ones and return to their pre-war eden. But Daisy soon realizes that the war has changed everything, and only her love of Piper and Edmond keep her going.

How I Live Now is a touching tale of love in wartime. While the novel starts off a little awkward, and Rosoff’s style takes a little getting used to, the story and characters soon develop enough to ensnare the reader. Rosoff uses Daisy to provide a unique vision of coming-of-age in a war-torn world – one filled with innocence, sorrow, and compassion.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Other Reviews of How I Live Now: Dewey Monster, Gretchen’s Reading Journal, BCF, Bold. Blue. Adventure.

The Thirteenth Tale

7. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. 406p. Published September 2006 / October 2007 (TP).

The Thirteenth Tale

I picked up a copy of this because, frankly, it was everywhere. Turned out it was well worth it. Setterfield’s flowing prose paint a marvelous story to pull at the heart of every book-lover. Add a dash of intrigue and a pinch of romance, and The Thirteenth Tale takes you on a marvelous trip through the history of an overly eccentric English family.

Margaret Lea is the daughter of a rare-books vendor. She’s spent her entire life plundering the treasures of his store, devouring classics as if they were the sweetest ambrosia. She herself is not short on accomplishment, having researched and published a few biographies on the long dead. You see, modern literature holds nothing for Margaret. At least not until she finds a strange book hidden away by her father. This tome, entitled The Thirteen Tales, is the first work of world renowned author Vida Winter, and retells classic children’s tales in a new, morbidly fascinating way. But there is a mystery here – The Thirteen Tales only contains twelve. Where is the 13th tale? Turns out this copy is the rarest of finds – the last remaining of the original mis-published title. You see, Winter never published the thirteenth tale, leaving the world to twist in the wind. Furthermore, no one knows anything about Winter – it was as if she suddenly popped into the world a literary genius.

Yet a shocking summons from none other than Miss Winter herself draws Margaret closer than any before her have come. Winter, feeling her death is imminent, requests Margaret join her at her secluded manor and write her biography. And not just any biography – for someone has written one of those almost every year – but her real life story.

The Thirteenth Tale is the story of Ms. Winter’s past. It is the story of her family – her philandering mother, possessive grandfather and uncle, and eccentric twin sister. It is a story of twisted hearts and corrupted minds. It is the story of two inseparable sisters who were forcibly parted.

But this novel is also a tale of the present. Of Margaret and her own family’s dark secret. Of the investigation into the truth of Winter’s tale. In the consequences of the past. In the hope for the future.

Setterfield has authored a truly wonderful book. The Thirteenth Tale is a story reminiscent of the classics, yet modern in its telling. The colorful characters and captivating plot capture the reader in a world so like ours yet so captivatingly unique. Margaret is the personification of the reader in all of us and Winter the writer. This is a book I’d recommend to anyone with a passion for either.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Other Reviews of The Thirteenth Tale: A Garden Carried in the Pocket, A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore, Mog’s Book Blog, Valentina’s Room, Stuff as Dreams Are Made Of