Friday, December 19, 2014

Discussion: Favorite Game of Thrones characters


A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)


As the long wait continues for The Winds of Winter, the next book in A Song of Ice and Fire, I thought it would be fun to explore some of the lesser known characters of the saga.  Arya and Jon are probably my favorite characters- I've said before that if at the end of the story, Arya and Jon are alive and more or less happy- I would be good with that. There are no shortage of great characters but I thought it would be fun to shine a light on some of the secondary characters. In some cases they play an important role, and in others they are fairly minor. But in no particular order, here are some of my favorites.

This post does have minor spoilers for A Dance with Dragons, so just a heads up. Let me know what you think, and who your favorite characters are (secondary or otherwise).

Davos Seaworth - I like Davos-  he's a regular guy, loyal and decent and he tries to do the right thing. He risks his life to save Edric Storm and I really root for him to get back to his home and be reunited with his wife, who he obviously loves. I admire his loyalty even as part of me wishes he would ditch Stannis- but then where would he be? And I'm fond of his pirate friend Salladhoor Saan- I was intrigued when Saan invited him to leave Stannis and sail with the pirates- but again he would have lost everything he loved if he did that.

"Our maester chuckled at me and told us that Prince Rhaegar was certain to defeat this rebel. That was when Stark said, 'In this world only winter is certain. We may lose our heads, it's true... but what if we should prevail?' My father sent him on his way with his head still on his shoulders. 'If you lose,' he told Lord Eddard, 'you were never here'". 
"No more than I was," said Davos Seaworth. 

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)

Melisandre- such an enigma. Ruthless and amoral perhaps, but I'm curious about her. We have hints of a tragic past (a slave child?) and it appears she has a flawed interpretation of her visions (and the big prophecy, for that matter), but she tried to help Jon Snow. I have a feeling she's going to play a BIG role in the next phase of Jon's life.

"All your questions shall be answered. Look to the skies, Lord Snow. And when you have your answers, send to me. Winter is almost upon us now. I am your only hope."

Val the wildling princess- she's an interesting character too, and I think there's more going on with her than is immediately obvious. Jon trust her to find Tormund, and she delivers- and after what happens at the end of A Dance with Dragons, it will be fascinating to see what she does next.

"Let me help."
"You have. You brought me Tormund.
I can do more."
Why not? thought Jon. They are all convinced she is a princess. Val looked the part and rode as if she had been born on horseback. A warrior princess, he decided, not some willowy creature who sits up in a tower, brushing her hair and waiting for some knight to rescue her.

Tormund Giantsbane on the show is nothing like the character from the books- he is much more charismatic in the books, and a hoot frankly. He has a bluff respect and affection for Jon Snow, and I really enjoy the scenes they share, especially in A Storm of Swords.

"Beside the brazier, a short but immensely broad man sat on a stool, eating a hen off a skewer. Hot grease was running down his chin into his snow- white beard, but he smiled happily all the same. Thick gold bands graven with runes bound his massive arms, and he wore a heavy shirt of black ringmail that could only have come from a dead ranger." 

Jaqen H'ghar. An assassin who helps Arya after she saves his life, and who she tricks into helping her release the northmen. On the show she tricked Jaqen into helping her escape. In the books she and Jaqen use hot soup to release Robett Glover (who becomes important later). Jaqen is also one of the few characters who I think the show actually improved on.

"Speak the names, and a man will do the rest."

Mya Stone, a bastard of King Robert We don't know much about Mya, but I liked her and hope she plays a larger role at some point. She shows up in A Clash of Kings and is with Sansa at the Eyrie- I can see those two causing all KINDS of trouble.

The spearwives. A favorite chapter in A Dance With Dragons was when the spearwives helped rescue Jeyne Poole. They are tough as nails and I hope we see more of them. I loved it when Frenya held off half a dozen guardsmen in the snow to enable their escape. The most stirring chapter in the book to my mind.

Jeyne Poole let out a shrill, high scream. 
"Oh, bloody shit," said Holly. "That will bring the kneelers down on us, and no mistake. Run!"

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

Lord Tytos Blackwood - I'm not sure why, but I liked this guy. His parley with Jaime was another highlight of A Dance with Dragons for me.

"We agree on that much." Blackwood's voice gave nothing away. "What have you done with Ser Brynden, if I may ask?"
"I offered to let him take the black. Instead he fled." Jaime smiled. "Do you have him here, perchance?"
"No."
"Would you tell me if you did?"
It was Tytos Blackwood's turn to smile.

And of course no discussion would be complete without Dolorous Edd.

"We will defend the Wall to the last man!" said Cotter Pyke.
"Probably me." said Dolorous Edd, in a resigned voice.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review: Ravencliffe

Ravencliffe (Blythewood, #2)

Ravencliffe by Carol Goodman is the sequel to Blythewood and a book I was highly anticipating. I read Blythewood last year and enjoyed it a great deal. It tells the story of a girl on the run who joins a mysterious academy- a place where young ladies are taught to protect humanity from supernatural threats. Ava was a great character, and the story was atmospheric and gripping. It was set in the early 1900's and used real world events to deepen the story. So there were a lot of things to like about Blythewood, to my mind. Unfortunately, Ravencliffe did not impress me nearly as much as its predecessor.

Ava has spent the summer since the events of the last book working in New York City with impoverished girls and the less fortunate, and has been debating whether to return to Blythewood for the fall term. She misses her friends but she has a big secret- the wings that have manifested and are straining to be free but which must remain hidden. For if anyone sees her wings, they will know she is akin to that race of beings who ferry human souls to the afterlife- the same beings the Order of Blythewood considers dangerous. Not only that, but her relationship with Raven is also a secret- but how can she keep her true nature a secret from those she trusts the most?

I quickly realized how much of Blythewood I had forgotten- this is not a book to pick up if you haven't read the first one. The author does a good job recapping prior events, but I really think you need to read the first one to get the most out of this. I saw a review that called this melodramatic, and I have to agree. I liked Ava more before she had wings, I guess the whole girl-has-wings-but-must-hide-them-from-her-friends, and-is-in-love-with-a-winged-boy thing just isn't for me- of course this element was present in the first book but here it took center stage and I just wasn't invested. Everything just seems less wondrous and mysterious than in the first book.

PArt of the problem is the school itself- the Order is compromised pretty easily, they're not very formidable and that made me wonder how they've lasted this long. I thought things got frequently silly, and I never really felt that way about Blythewood- maybe a year since the last book just dulled my interest in the story. I think it's more than that though- I just don't think this one is as good. It has its moments, like when Ava and her friends go to Coney Island and encounter other beings who are, like her, more than they appear. The author clearly did her research on early Coney Island and it shows- and the characters are interesting. Kid Marvel and Omar are great additions to the cast, and Ava's friends Helen and Daiy are fun, but it's not enough to save a tale that just doesn't match the first book. There is also a love triangle of sorts, it's not particularly obnoxious, but are these ever going to go away?

I was disappointed with Ravencliffe - it's not a bad book, it just didn't work for me. There is a third book in the works, Hawthorn, and I may read it and I may not- we'll see at the time I guess. This one makes me less likely to read it though, which is too bad- but if you enjoyed Blythewood or like the premise, you may want to give this a try as you may enjoy seeing Ava's story continue to unfold.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: Mistletoe and Mayhem

Mistletoe and Mayhem (Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery, #18)

Mistletoe and Mayhem is a Pennyfoot Hotel Christmas story. Cecily Sinclair Baxter runs the Pennyfoot hotel on the coast of England. It seems that every year there is a murder (or two, or more) on or near the property, and Cecily has become rather adept at solving them. Her husband Baxter, of course, frowns on this but that does little to deter her.As this story opens Christmas is fast approaching and Cecily and the staff are busy making their last minute preparations. A new housemaid named Ellie has come on staff, and while she seems sweet, several of the servants realize there is more to her than meets the eye. She is heard arguing with someone and when her and the footman she was seen kissing under the kissing bough turn up dead, the place descends into chaos. Cecily is determined to solve the mystery before Christmas is ruined, but when the body count rises she may find that she has more than she bargained for.

The story is told from the viewpoints of Cecily as well as several of the servants, including the maids Gertie and  Pansy. Cecily has a support network of friends who help her parse the clues, and of course the servants are the ones who hear and see all sorts of things. The characters are likable and, for the most part, realistic. There are romantic subplots and a touching scene or two. This year there is even a special mystery guest in attendance, although the servants of course don't like him due to his reclusive nature.

I read this mainly because I read the latest book, Mulled Murder, last year around the holidays, and this year I felt like revisiting this cozy world. As others have pointed out, it's very unrealistic that there would be so many murders at the same place, every year- but then I'm reading these primarily for the characters and the setting. The nice thing about this series is that the recurring characters are charming and have problems and issues of their own- it's nice to share their triumphs and sorrows and get a taste of an old world Christmas at the same time. So it's definitely a comfort read and a chance to enjoy some down time in a charming setting.

This is a light cozy with a fun cast of characters and a nice setting. We have the ditzy, inept policeman and a few other predictable elements, but by and large this is an enjoyable read and I will probably get more of these. They're comfortable and there's something to be said for that- and this time of year, they're a great little read.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sunday Post #74 It's Friday Night



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

It's Friday night and I'm relaxing and watching The Amazing Race. It's been an interesting week but I did manage to get through a few reads. I read Ravencliffe, the sequel to Blythewood, and also finished up Mistletoe and Murder- both reviews will be up this week. My next reads are up in the air a bit... I'm not sure what I will read next. Maybe this weekend I'll pick up something new. 

The holidays are fast approaching and I enjoy everything about this time of year- the lights, the music, the hustle and bustle, picking out just the right present. Spending time with loved ones and revisiting old traditions. The lights are twinkling and it feels great to take time and reflect and savor the moments. It is truly a special time of year, and I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays as well. 

I've been thinking of reading challenges and have decided to do the Cloak and Dagger . I've been reading a lot of mysteries so this will work out well. I think this and the Vintage Science Fiction Month in January will keep me busy. And I did my COYER sign up this week too. 

reading challenge banner

It's nice to relax after a long week. I love Friday nights

LAST WEEK: 

Revie: Tarzan the Invincible- a good read about a lost city, a priestess on the run and two unlikely lover. 
COYER Sign Up
Review: All New X- Men One Down - continuing the new X-Men story, this was good

THIS WEEK: 

TUESDAY - Review: Mistletoe and Murder 
THURSDAY - Review: Ravencliffe
FRIDAY - Discussion: Favorite Game of Thrones Characters 


BLOGOSPHERE: 

Captivated Reader reviews Dashing Through The Snow, and also spotlights Compass Books in the San Francisco Airport. 

Bronze Age Babies talks about that band you hated in high school... 

The new Insurgent trailer is here, and it looks good. 



A Kurt Russell appreciation.  WARNING for language...  




Marvel did something interesting this week. Avengers fans know that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver will be in Avengers 2 this May- well this week Marvel appeared to reveal that Magneto is not the father of SW and Quickie -something that has been established for years (actually, decades). 



The speculation is that since Fox owns the right to the mutants, Marvel is distancing SW and Quicksilver from that history... and their parentage as well. You know. There was a time when the editors at Marvel took their rich history seriously and didn't chuck it over the side every 5 minutes. It's ironic that even as Marvel takes the movie world by storm, the actual comics themselves are just... bad for the most part.  It's all about gimmicks now- I know that kids don't read them anymore so the readership isn't going to grow, but it's still sad to see. 

Some fun cosplay this week- Princess Leia and Bioshock girl. 

My celebration of a Peanuts Christmas continues as I leave you with this. 


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review: All New X-Men Vol. 5 One Down

All-New X-Men, Vol. 5: One Down

All New X- Men Vol. 5 One Down is a collection of issues 25-30 of the All new X- Men. It takes place after the events of The Trial of Jean Grey (which I reviewed here). The premise is that the original X- Men of the 1960's have been brought forward in time to the present day, in order to prevent calamity. The problem is now that they're here, no one knows how to send them back- and to make matters worse, a band of mutants from the future, calling themselves The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, have come back in time to kill the original X- Men. Make sense? Well, it's X- Men so of course there is time travel and convoluted plotlines.

The original X- Men, accompanied by their mentor Kitty Pryde, have taken refuge with the outlaw band of X- Men led by present day Cyclops. His band have set up shop in the old weapon X facility, and the original X- Men are settling in after the events of The Trial of Jean Grey, but trouble finds them again. The Brotherhood from the future come calling and cut the power to the complex, and then use shapeshifting to impersonate various members of the group. The assault is interspersed with snippets of the future, where we learn more about the Brotherhood and what their goals are. Most of this book deals with the Brotherhood's assault and the aftermath, and then the last issue switches gears and tells a more intimate story. Jean and Emma come to an  understanding after a psychic showdown, and Kitty has a date of sorts (via hologram) with Star Lord of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Readers of the Trial of Jean Grey will remember that Kitty and Peter Quill met in that story and hit it off pretty well. This was a nice touch and I hope they continue to develop their long distance relationship. Fun stuff.

I liked that present day Cyclops and the young Jean had a conversation- finally! And afterwards Kitty warned Scott not to be alone with her again. That was done very well. Brian Bendis can write good dialogue, although it's often too wordy, but here he presents a very nice conversation that gets at several of the issues facing these characters. They have so much history between them, after all. I also like how this series, even though we're thirty issues in now, is taking its time with the story- will the original X- Men go back to the past? Are they stuck here? If so, does this change all the continuity- is everything new or possible now because of this de facto reboot? It's such a fascinating idea. Time travel and the consequences of it are at the heart of this story.

I thought this was a good collection, for the most part. The first issue is shaky- it deals with Hank McCoy (the present day Beast) wracked with guilt about bringing the original X- Men to the present, and learning that doing so may have screwed up the timestream. This is the weakest issue of the lot, and is further marred by some atrocious art. There is a sequence drawn by a bevy of guest artists, and the results are not good- it looks like a schoolkid drew the scene. Mind boggling, especially since comics are $3.99 a pop now. Other than that hiccup, the rest of the art throughout is good, and the story is good as well. A good read, and worth a look if you like the X- Men or just want a good story.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

COYER Sign Up



It's that time again- time for COYER (Clean Out Your E- Reader) for winter 2014/2015. Hosted by Michelle at Because Reading and Berls at fantasy Is More Fun. You can check out the rules and all the details here.

I'm not a huge e- reader but I have a Nook and am slowly filling it up, so this will help me to actually read some of that stuff. The only problem is I may add more than I read! I did COYER summer vacation and it was a lot of fun, and I think this will be too.

As for goals, I'm thinking of at least 5 ebooks, only because most of my reading is print.  Or maybe I'll just play a lot of Templ Run. OK just kidding.

                                                               THE RULES


Read! Must be an ebook or an audiobook.
The books must be FREE or nearly free.
Link your reviews- two links will be randomly selected to win a $10 gift card.
Visit, chat and most of all- have fun!


                                                                  GOALS

Read at least 5 ebooks.
Visit and comment on 5 reviews a week
Do as many of the mini challenges as I can.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: Tarzan the Invincible

Tarzan the Invincible (Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan, #14)

Tarzan the Invincible is the fourteenth Tarzan book by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It's not really necessary to read these in order, they all stand alone pretty well, to the best of my knowledge. I had many of these books as a kid, although I didn't read all of them- to be honest, I was drawn more to the cover art by Neal Adams than the idea of Tarzan itself. So when I decided to re- read some ERB recently, I was of course attracted to the artwork again- and this being a good example of Neal Adams' work, I chose this one.

The other thing that attracted me to the story was the lost city of Opar. The Tarzan tales have no shortage of lost cities and ancient civilizations, but Opar- that glorious ruin, long lost outpost of Atlantis- has always fired my imagination. When I read the blurb and saw that Opar, along with the beautiful La, high priestess of the Flaming god, played a prominent role in the story, I was in.

In this volume Tarzan learns that a party of communist agents (this was written in the 1930's) is out to loot the treasure vaults of ruined Opar. Wishing to warn La, the queen of Opar, he goes there only to discover that La has been deposed, and replaced as high priestess. He is quicky captured and thrown into a cell, to be sacrificed to the Flaming God- but ever resourceful, he soon escapes and flees with La. They are soon separated, in typical Burroughs fashion, and La is captured by slave traders working with the communists. The story unfold from there with lots of hair raising escapes, coincidences, and encounters with wild animals. The perspective changes as we see through the eyes of Tarzan, La, a Russian agent named Zora, and an enigmatic American who may or may not be a traitor to his country. We even get the perspective of little Nkima, a nervous monkey who idolizes Tarzan but is easily distracted, getting himself into all kinds of trouble.

I wasn't sure how a story like this would hold up for me as an adult, but I was surprised how much I liked it and I stayed up late to read it. The sequences in Opar, not surprisingly, were my favorites- the imagery of the ruined city, with its subhuman inhabitants and wailing cries, the beautiful priestesses and colorful domes, made me want to go there and walk the rubble choked streets, and glimpse the wonders of ancient Atlantis. I have to admit the story would have been less compelling for me without this element and the plight of La. Still, this was a fun read with a lot to recommend it. There's a touching moment when a young priestess helps the American escape, after he too is captured by the inhabitants of Opar. And there is some comic relief with little Nkima as well, who is very brave when Tarzan is around but otherwise flees in terror from the jungle dwellers who don't appreciate his sens e of humor.

The only real drawback here, other than the old fashioned style of writing, is the attitude of the times. It's not politically correct by today's standards, and while I realize it is a product of its time, it can be a bit jarring for modern readers. However, it is a fun story and a good way to spend a few hours if you want a good adventure.

The girl rose angrily from her throne. "Know, man of the outer world, that I am high priestess. I, Oah, am high priestess of the Flaming God." 
Tarzan ignored her. "Where is La?" he demanded again of Dooth. 
Oah flew into a frenzy of rage. "She is dead!" she screamed, advancing to the edge of the dais as though to leap upon Tarzan, the jeweled handle of her sacrificial knife gleaming in the sunlight, which poured through a great aperture where a portion of the ancient roof of the throne room had fallen in.