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A Dance with Dragons, By George RR Martin

It is hard to accept that something that enormous and that popular can be as good as people tell you it is. A Song of Ice and Fire, George RR Martin's vast fantasy epic – simply reading that phrase will close some minds instantly – has been appearing at irregular intervals since 1996. It is now being adapted as a television series. The first season, A Game of Thrones, recently aired on HBO and Sky Atlantic.

Councils 'are turning blind eye' to rise of slum landlords

Children sleep within inches of fungi growing through walls. Immigrants live illegally in sheds in other people's back gardens. These are just two examples of the rise of slum housing in Britain, as individuals and local authorities struggle to cope with a 21st-century housing crisis which has led to unscrupulous "slum landlords" profiteering from society's most vulnerable.