I agree the books are terrific. It takes a courageous writer to kill off one of the leading characters in his first book, and a talented one to retain his readers' interest.
The Lannisters, hmm? Well, there is one in particular that has actually been my favorite character of the series (keep in mind I haven't read the last book - waiting for my husband to finish it.) Tyrion. Jaime is growing on me, but that little incident with Bran is hard to forget... unless you have chosen different set of Lannisters... ? If he, however, happens upon a very disfigured maiden and rescues her from what's left of Catelyn.... well.... that would certainly boost his reputation with me.
I agree with your earlier comment that the relationship between Dany and Drogo was so much better in the book than in the HBO series.
I'm hoping Arya will be the connection that prevents Dany from taking revenge against what is left of the Stark family. Or maybe it will be Jon?
As I wait (impatiently) for my turn at the book, it is a great conversation topic for me right now...
Don't be dissuaded from reading Game of Thrones by Lord of the Rings! The books are absolutely amazing, but it will take some time to get into them and to keep the characters straight. There are SO many characters, that's been the biggest complaint I've heard from those I've given the book to. But once you keep the who's who straight, you won't be able to put it down. (There's a character cheat sheet in the back of most editions, too!)
He's clearly learned from Tolkien, and completely avoids a lot of the downfalls I found in the book versions of Lord of the Rings. Even though the series is about a war that spans the globe, there are almost no fight scenes -- battles are always told from the point of view of a character on the fringes. (One in particular is told from the point of view of the mother of one battle commanders -- she's been shuffled off to safety with a guard, but she can still hear what's going on. Good stuff.) It's not as much about what's going on in the world -- there's no long, dry lists or summaries -- but about the characters. Very few are "good" or "bad".... even the good ones make questionable decisions and you come to understand the bad ones. Those who have only read or seen the first book/series are always distraught when I throw my allegiance to the Lannisters =)