The second book (which I just finished) opens right after the events of the first book (and series), so closure isn't really what they are going for in the books. I was reading the first book in tandem with the series but could not wait and finished the first book about 10 days ago and then moved onto A Clash of Kings. BTW, the HBO presentation has been incredibly faithful to the first book of the series. There are a few changes, as others have mentioned, but I am struck by the series' fidelity to the source material. - Walter.