Wednesday, May 25, 2016

City of the Lost



City of the Lost is a suspenseful thriller (a genre I don't read a lot of) about two women who go off the grid to escape secrets in their past. Casey is a cop with a dark secret and her friend Diana is trying to escape from an abusive marriage- but when Casey's past returns and Diana's ex-husband shows up, they take an extreme measure to get away. Diana hears about a town in the far north of Canada where people can get away- for a price. Naturally it's hard to get in, but they manage to do so and that's when things get interesting.

Turns out the town needs a detective to solve several murders that have occurred- there's a lot of stuff going on in this town and the sheriff has his hands full. Him and Casey get off to a rough start and this story is at least as much about their relationship as it is about the murders. This is a straight up thriller mystery with a strong romance element- I wasn't expecting the romance to be such a part of the book, but it mostly works. I did get a bit annoyed towards the end as it threatened to take over the story- but readers who enjoy romance probably will have no problem with that. Even though it's handled well it seems a bit trope- ish.

The story itself started out a bit slow and I thought it took off at about the twenty percent mark. Once they got to Rockton (the town) the story picked up and became quite compelling. There were hints that a scifi element might be introduced but that didn't really happen, and I was a little disappointed in that. Characterization is strong and I enjoyed all the interplay in the town- the web of relationships, the secrets and lies you would find in a place like that. It's perhaps a little implausible that a place like that could remain undetected, but it's way out in the middle of nowhere and the author does a good job of setting it up.

This story would have worked a lot more for me if there were a paranormal or scifi element- that's why I don't usually read straight thrillers. I'm always looking for that out there element. In spite of that this was a good read with a flawed and broken character (several, actually) and if you like strong characterization mixed with secrets this would be a good pick.


COYER Sign Up

ChallengeSUMMERSignUpNow

Hard to believe summer is finally here and along with summer comes COYER. You can get all the details here or at coyerchallenge.com (yes COYER has it's own website now- how cool is that?) The nice thing about this challenge is that there are few rules- you can read practically anything for this one. So... why not? It's all fun and no downside.

I'm not really setting a goal this time out- I'm hoping to get a fair bit of reading this summer but who knows?

The 100 3x16



Well here we are- the final episode of The 100. All throughout this third season we've dealt with the aftermath of the Mt. Weather story from last time, and the rift between Clarke and her fellow survivors. Clarke has been carrying around a lot of guilt for her actions, and her angst only increased this season with the loss of Lexa. Bellamy, for his part, resented Clarke for leaving and now carries his own regret and shame for his part in the Pike massacre. Meanwhile the City of Light storyline has taken over the show, and here we are- the end of the line for that story (hopefully).

So... how did it end? Well to be honest I have mixed feelings. For most of the episode I was not that impressed- I just think the City of Light storyline has been subpar. I thought last weeks episode was so intense that this one was a bit anticlimactic by comparison. But the last few minutes were a nailbiter- I kept thinking come on Clarke, just pull the $%^ kill switch! She sure waited until the last minute which just seemed like a cheap way to drag out the suspense. I did enjoy the last stand of the unchipped though- Bellamy and Octavia and a few others fighting to the end.


Octavia did some tripped out stuff. First she cut Pike and was letting the Grounders have their way with him when Bellamy showed up- and then of course that ending. Was Pike nuts- no matter how high the stakes were and how valiantly they fought, did he think they had some kind of understanding now? Um, no- Octavia took care of THAT piece of business. Dang she's hard now- but Pike did kill Lincoln so it's hard to feel sorry for him. And he never did seem to realize that what he did was wrong.

I liked that we got a HEA- in fact, this being The 100 I kept waiting for another shoe to drop- surely SOMEONE is going to betray them but other than O's business, everyone survived. That's the other thing- I was SURE someone would bite it and no one did. Not even Jaha! Screw Pike, someone should have wasted Jaha. And is it awful that I was kinda hoping Jasper would die? I mean come on, yeah he had pain- but all these people do, for cryin out loud. Imagine what Clarke and Bellamy are living with. So Jasper needs to suck it up... or just go away. I'm over him.


 The Lexa stuff was okay- it was nice to see her again, and Clarke professed her love. I thought her final charge was a little silly, but whatever. I did like that Clarke made it to the spaceship and then had to make an impossible choice AGAIN! So I guess things are going to get worse with the radiation and they're going to have a mess now. To be honest I'd rather have a plotline like that then this COL stuff- we did get some characterization but as a whole I have to say S3 was disappointing to me. S2 with the Mt. Weather story is the high water mark for me.

So what do you think? Anyone else wonder why all the people in the COL wore business clothes if they were Grounders and Ark folks? And did they really do that with Ontari's heart? I'm sorry they lost me there- that was just ridiculous. Again it's hard to believe we're done- this show is consistently entertaining, and it's always on the move- so many shows plod along but an hour of The 100 flies by. I wish more shows were like this one.

Best line of the night goes to Clarke.

"Human beings have free will. We get to decide how we should live."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Favorite Houses of Westeros

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As fans of Game of Thrones know the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros are ruled by the great Houses, with the lesser noble houses swearing loyalty to them. One of the greatest aspects of the show (and especially the books) is the detail we are given on the great Houses- their heraldry, their words, their relationships and histories. There's a lot there to like and I got to thinking- which Houses are my favorite? So I thought I would take a look and explore that a bit.

Alliances shift and betrayals happen with rather alarming frequency in this world, and lesser houses who are not players in the game of thrones sometimes become prominent through their actions. For that reason I'm going to explore the lesser houses as well as the great Houses, since some of the lesser ones are the most fascinating!

So... here are my picks.



House Stark- the rulers of the North. The books start with and will probably end with the Starks, although they go through a lot of heartache. The House is split up and scattered to the four winds, but I think there's a good chance their fortunes will rebound and they'll be standing, in some form, at the end.

Ned Stark with the great sword Ice at Winterfell. Art of Michael Komarck.






House Baratheon. Robert wasn't a very good king but he was best friend to Ned Stark. The two of them reshaped the Seven Kingdoms and for that alone they deserve a mention. There's a pivotal moment where Renly, the younger brother of Robert, offers to help Stark and essentially take over the kingdom. Stark refuses and pays with his life. Many a fan has wondered how different things could have been if Renly and Stark had worked out a deal.



House Greyjoy is a wild card in this story and Pyke is their ancestral home.



Art by Ted Nasmith.




House Manderly is an important Stark supporter and there is a debt of gratitude that binds the families together.


House Blackwood.png

House Blackwood is interesting for the enormous weirwood tree that attracts a huge flock of crows every night. Since we know that the greenseers can see and hear through both weirwoods and crows it stands to reason that a greenseer could be well aware of events of interest at Raventee. We also get a glimpse when Jaime stops there to parley with Lord Blackwood. They come to terms and it's interesting to me that Blackwood was one of the last holdouts for the Starks.

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House Connington comes to prominence when exiled Jon Connington returns to Westeros at the head of the Golden Company, the finest mercenary group in the world and a brotherhood of former Westerosi exiles.






House Dayne is noteworthy mainly due to Ser Arthur Dayne, the so- called Sword of the Morning who was a member of the Kingsguard and considered the greatest knight in Westeros. He was killed at the Tower of Joy when Ned Stark and his companions came there to find Lyanna Stark. Ned told Bran that Dayne would have killed him if not for Howland Reed, who intervened in some way. Afterwards Ned took Dayne's greatsword Dawn back to Starfall, the seat of House Dayne, to show his respect.

An interesting thing about all this is that some believe Ned was in love with Ashara Dayne, the sister of Ser Arthur. It is said that Ashara killed herself by jumping from a tower into the sea when she received the news of Arthur's death.




House Karstark is interesting for several reasons. An offshoot of House Stark, they are one of the far northern Houses and the men are described as bearded and long haired, with cloaks made of pelts. Sounds like a wild bunch. They split from House Stark and their loyalty is now questionable, although Alys Karstark fled to Castle Black to escape being married to her cousin and Jon Snow helps her. She ends up marrying a wildling and will inherit Karhold if Harrion Karstark were to die. We don't know much of Harrion but Alys is fiery and determined, and could be a valuable ally of the Starks in the future.



Art by Michael Komarck.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Game of Thrones



Wow! That's all I can say after this episode of Game of Thrones. For a show I have criticized in the past, and still have mixed feelings about, I am blown away by this. This was a strong episode, although I have a few issues with it, but the ending was so powerful everything else just pales in comparison. And not only that- but we have book spoilers, and I mean HUGE book spoilers, in this episode. This may be one of the most important episodes in the entire show.

Spoilers from here on out.

We started off again with Sansa in the north, and she meets with Littlefinger, who if you remember last week was just setting out for the north. Well he's there already- and not just in the north, but at Castle Black! The north is immense, as book readers know, so a trip from the Vale to Winterfell should take weeks. Has Sansa been there for weeks already? Well no matter, this is the show. Littlefinger informs her that her uncle, Brynden Blackfish, has retaken Riverrun. Huh? That's a possible book spoiler! He urges her to ally with Brynden. Interesting.

Sansa

I like how Sansa didn't take any shit from Littlefinger- she put him on notice that she's a player now. Later when she plots strategy with Jon and Davos she lies to Jon about how she found out about Riverrun- and she also says that the north will follow a Stark, kinda making it sound like she's taking the lead. Will a rift open up between Sansa and Jon? I hope not. I did like that she made him that cloak or whatever it was with the Stark insignia on it- that seemed to show she considered him a Stark. And he seemed genuinely moved. Which way is this going to go?

Let's talk Arya for a minute. This week is big for her too- she's still getting beat up by the Waif and she gets her first assignment as a Faceless Man (Woman)? She's sent off on a test- to kill someone performing at a play where her father is mocked. Lady Crane seems nice, she thinks, and gets a rude awakening. She has to come to grips with the fact that she will be asked to kill innocent people- can she do that? And should she do that? I think either she does it, and that makes me afraid for her, or she doesn't and gets booted from the Faceless Men, which might be better for her soul but leaves her without resources again. Either way she's headed to Westeros soon, I think.

 We also get a kingsmoot this week. The ironborn need a new ruler and it's between Yara and Euron. Theon throws his support to Yara and it's looking good until Euron blows it all up- unlike the books he's not coy here about killing Balon. He doesn't care who knows, and not only that he also openly proposes going to Daenerys. It's a very streamlined version of the kingsmoot and that's good for the shows purposes- Yara and Theon get out quick and none too soon as Euron's first order of business is to kill them. They take the best ships apparently (how many men do they have? Not many) but Euron says just build more. Euron by the way was not very impressive here, not like the one eyed badass from the books, and no horn either.

We check in with Dany really quick just to see her marching out with her new Dothraki khalasar- heading to Westeros, if not imminently then before long I'll wager. And Tyrion meets the Red Priestess of Volantis, who says that Dany is the one who was promised- and when Varys questions her reliability she stuns him by knowing all about his past. Interesting, but nothing compared to what comes next. The big news this week is Bran.

Two big things happen in Bran's story. First he and the Three Eyed Raven (aka Bloodraven) go to a weirwood tree and see Children of the Forest- the scenery here is beautiful by the way- and they watch as one of the Children (was that Leaf?) sacrifices a man- and turns him into a wight. This is also a huge book spoiler potentially. Did the Children of the Forest create the white walkers? Apparently so. Leaf tells Bran they did it to protect themselves- from man. Obviously something went wrong down the line. It looked like obsidian was used to kill/ turn the man, and we know obsidian is deadly to walkers. Does it have dual effects?

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And then that ending. It was electrifying. Bran goes rogue, attracts the attention of the Night King, and it all goes bad. The Night King can now enter the cave and does so, and a horde of walkers assail the weirwood. We lose Summer- nooooo- and Leaf as well, and the Night King kills Bloodraven. Bran only escapes because of Hodor- and that's the most shocking thing of the night. We now know what Hodor means.

Bran is effectively time traveling in the past when he wargs Hodor- who immediately starts thrashing around and saying "Hold the door." Yes Hodor gives his life holding the door so Bran and Meera can escape. Just think about that. Hodor's mind was destroyed all those years ago- as a young Ned Stark was going off to the Eyrie for his fostering- so that he could save Bran's life in the future. And for the rest of his life the only word he ever says is Hodor- a mangled version of hold the door. Powerful stuff.

I've been critical of this show for its poor taste at times but I have to say- that was very emotional and powerfully done. Hodor has been one of the mysteries of the series, and we not only know his story now- plus he's gone- but we also lost Summer and found out the Children of the Forest created the walkers. Biggest episode ever? And the book spoilers are here, people, whether we like it or not.

Quick Hits:

Since when do the walkers move that fast?

We've lost wolves before- but to lose Bran's wolf? Bran and his wolf have been very important since the beginning of the first book, and to be honest I was shocked by this.

Did you notice how they had Old Nan come up to Hodor and put  hand on his arm just before that all happened? Nice touch.

In the aftershow the showrunners confirmed that they learned what Hodor means from George RR Martin. In a hotel room as they were discussing the series. So even though Martin may write it differently, it looks like this is going to happen- and is official.

Cover Characteristics



Cover Characteristics is a meme by Sugar and Snark- every week a characteristic is selected and we post 5 books with that week's theme.  

This week's pick- The Backs of People   


Okay I wasn't sure I was going to like this one very much but then I came across these redesigned Bond covers and remembered using some for Bookcover Spotlights a few months ago. So that helped jumpstart my search  and I ended up happy with what I found. Like silhouettes last time I think there's a lot you can do with different poses- so this week turned out not so bad after all. 







I like the green tint  





This one might be my favorite- love the earring. 



This one is pretty good too. 



I rather like this one with the red hair and the lettering. 



I like the knife, I think that's a nice touch. Otherwise this one's just okay. 



Another favorite - this might be my runner up. I like the purple tint and the green ring. 



This one's almost more of a side view but who's counting? 



This one's not bad but it's not a favorite- I do like the reflection 

BONUS - this is the German cover of Thunderball.