Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Dance with Dragons

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

Welcome to my A Dance with Dragons re- read. I am covering two chapters a week, roughly, and this week we are looking in on Tyrion and Jon Snow.

Tyrion VII

Tyrion and Jorah Mormont arrive in Volantis. Tyrion of course is Jorah's prisoner, as detailed the last time we checked in with these two. Tyrion notes that most men they see are slaves, and have tattoos on their faces denoting their status. they come upon a temple of the Red God and hear Benerro, the High Priest, speaking. The priest says that Daenerys is in danger and Tyrion thinks that the red priests will not react well a second Targaryen claimant.

They cross the Long Bridge connecting the two parts of Volantis, and stay at the Merchant's House (the same place where Quentyn and his companions stayed when they were here). It's described as having a hundred private alcoves and hidden nooks. Jorah tells Tyrion that when he was sent into exile, he and his wife went to Lys because she wanted a warmer climate. He had wanted to go to Braavos, but ended up fighting the Braavosi as a mercenary, and his wife spent more than he made. She took a lover who threatened him with debt slavery, so Jorah had to leave and that's how his marriage ended.  He ended up in Volantis which is how he knows the city.

They hear that some lord has hired the Golden Company to win back his lands, and Tyrion is astonished. He wonders if Aegon really took his advice, and decided to sail west instead of east, forsaking Dany and her dragons. They meet the widow of the waterfront, an old woman who knows the docks, and Jorah surprises Tyrion by asking for passage to Meereen. Tyrion thought he was taking him to Cersei, and he thinks Griff is an idiot for going west because they're going east- to Dany. 

The widow predicts that Volantis will join the war against Dany- it's all about the slave trade, and shutting down the slave trade has made an enemy of Volantis for her. We also learn that Malaquo, one of the triarchs of Volantis, tried to hire the Golden Company to kill Benerro, the high priest of the Red God, for supporting Dany. She says that there are more supporters of the Red God in the city than other gods, and that Benerro can see the future in his flames. The implication is that Benerro (and the slaves?) could support Dany, throwing Volantis into chaos. 

As the meeting with the widow concludes Tyrion is almost stabbed by another dwarf- a girl named Penny. her and her brother were the dwarfs who jousted at Joffrey's wedding, but some sailors thought her brother was Tyrion and beheaded him for Cersei's reward.  The widow agrees to help them, for Tyrion more than Jorah, and tells them to be on the Selaesori Qhoran  in two days. The ship will take them to Meereen.  The widow also tells them to give Dany a message. She tells them to have Dany come soon... the slaves are waiting for her. 


Here we see again that magic seems to have returned now that there are dragons in the world. As the red priest Benerro speaks he draws fiery letters in the air with his hands- could he do that before? We don't know, but it's been theorized that Daenerys and her dragons are responsible for a resurgence of magic.

Jon VI

Jon sends Ser Alliser Thorne on a ranging with Dywen, the most seasoned of the rangers. Kedge Whiteye and Black Jack Bulwer will also lead rangings. He gets reports that more and more wildlings are being seen on the shore north and east - they are seeing camps, half built rafts and even the hull of a cog they seem to be repairing. Jon spars with some of his men and is challenged by Rattleshirt- when he takes him on he gets beaten pretty good, which startles him. How is Rattleshirt such a good fighter?

Jon runs into Melisandre while out for a walk, and she tells him that Arya is on her way to him, fleeing from her impending marriage to the Boltons. A girl in grey on a dying horse... she has foreseen it. She touches the direwolf and when Jon calls to him, he looks at Jon as if he is a stranger. She tells Jon there is power at the Wall, and in his bond with his wolf... if he would only use it. She also predicts that some of the rangers he sent out will come back but will be dead, and that when that happens maybe he will believe her and come to her for help. Help to save Arya...

In the shadow of the Wall, the direwolf brushed up against his fingers. For half a heartbeat the night came alive with a thousand smells, and Jon Snow heard the crackle of the crust breaking on a patch of old snow. Someone was behind him, he realized suddenly. Someone who smelled warm as a summer day. 

When he turned he saw Ygritte. 

She stood beneath the scorched stones of the Lord Commander's Tower, cloaked in darkness and in memory. The light of the moon was in her hair, her red hair kissed by fire. When he saw that, Jon's heart leapt into his mouth. "Ygritte," he said. 

"Lord Snow." The voice was Melisandre's. 


I like the idea of an alliance between Jon and Melisandre- if he would only listen to her, things might turn out better for him. He keeps her at arms' length though, not trusting her. Which maybe is wise, to a certain point. Still... we get some intriguing hints here especially about Arya coming north. We know, of course, that Arya is in Braavos... so who is the girl in grey on a dying horse?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases

This week's topic is Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2016. Some of these were on my Top Ten post a few weeks ago but there's some new ones on here too, so it's all good.

The Incident on the BridgeDeath Sits Down to Dinner (Lady Montfort Mystery #2)Vicarious (Vicarious, #1)Into the DimThe Lifeboat CliqueBloodline: New RepublicSummer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love StoriesTime Siege (Time Salvager #2)The ImmortalsRebel Bully Geek Pariah

Friday, December 25, 2015

Bookcover Spotlight #28

Murder at the Brightwell (Amory Ames Mystery, #1)

I love this cover- so elegant and it has that vintage travel poster look that I'm fond of. Doesn't hurt that it was a good book too, I liked this one a lot.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Star Wars The Force Awakens

The new Star Wars movie is here and as expected it's big on excitement. For the first time in many years- a new Star Wars film. But is it a good movie? Well that depends on what you're looking for. I've seen it and honestly, I was disappointed. I went in with my expectations firmly in check and I was still disappointed.  It felt like Star Wars in a way, but it's also hard to recapture that lightning in a bottle. It's fine, I suppose, but the plot holes are pretty big and it feels... forced. They tried so hard to make this feel like Star Wars, and for me it only marginally worked.  

First the good news. There's lots of action, humor and character moments and the new leads do a great job. The franchise seems in good hands with them at the helm (and let's face it, as nice as it was to see the Big three again, they're not getting any younger). It's time to pass the torch... and I think that was done. The pace is frenetic with a ton of action scenes, and lots of call-outs to the original trilogy (maybe too many?). It's a fine line between nostalgia and blazing a new trail in an established and much loved world- and that leads me to my problem with the film. 

This movie is set thirty years after Return of the Jedi, and it just seems like the status quo is the same as it was thirty years ago. Leia is still fighting (a general now instead of a princess) and instead of a rebellion we have a Resistance. What happened in the intervening years? We don't get any information on that. 

Not only that, but this film is just like the original movie. Same story beats. Loner living on a desert planet, finds droid with secret info, flees bad guys, goes to good guys, fights super weapon. It's Star Wars (1977) all over again. There's nothing new. I was excited to hear that J.J. Abrams and Larry Kasdan were collaborating on the script- Kasdan after all wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi- it was in good hands right? Well it's basically a remix/ mash-up of the original three movies. Many reviews have noted this but I was shocked how derivative it really is. 

It's a little shocking to me that they couldn't come up with anything better, more original. But didn't Abrams do the same thing with Star Trek? He rebooted that franchise with younger actors but revisited many original series points (Khan anyone?). I was skeptical of Abrams taking on Star Wars for that very reason, but in interviews he said The Force Awakens was not a nostalgia trip. Well, considering how similar it is to Star Wars I'm not sure I agree. It feels like Star Wars 2.0. 

The other problem I have is the Big Three. I think it's outrageous, frankly, that Luke Skywalker doesn't show up until the end. I was afraid of this, as that story point has been leaked months ago, but I was hoping it was wrong. Nope. Star Wars is the story of the Skywalker family, primarily Luke- he defeated the Emperor and redeemed his father, after all- and it would be nice to see Luke again. Instead he is introduced at the last minute and we have to wait for the next movie. I still can't believe they did that. Is it staged effectively? Sure- cool scene. But I hate that story choice. 

Lastly, Han and Leia. One can be forgiven for assuming that they would be together after Return of the Jedi, right? And apparently they were, for a time. But seriously- Han has been gone all this time? Harrison Ford was fine I guess but he just seemed crotchety, for want of a better term. Again it just feels forced. And Leia has nothing to do here. Threepio and Artoo are hardly in the movie, and BB8- while cute- is obviously the droid of the hour, relegating the other two to basically cameo roles. I think it's interesting that when Threepio speaks for the first time the crowd cheered- too bad he's hardly there. 

So this movie could have been so much more. It could have had a better story, frankly. All my concerns proved justified, based on the leaks, and I was so hoping to be wrong. My fears about Abrams taking over the franchise came true. So disappointing... now we move on to Rian Johnson, a director I don't know much about, and Episode VIII. Hopefully that movie will be somewhat original based on what Abrams did here. 

Star Wars The Force Awakens is a welcome return to the galaxy far, far away but it could have been so, so much more. 

A Dance with Dragons The Windblown/ The Wayward Bride

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

Quentyn and his companions are with the Windblown, one of the mercenary companies that has traveled to Slavers Bay to fight Daenerys. The Windblown go back thirty years and are commanded by a man known as the Tattered Prince, a former Pentoshi nobleman. Quentyn is posing as Arch's squire and they've nicknamed him Frog. Nice. He's thinking about his impending meeting with Dany and is dreading it- they've heard stories about her promiscuity and her atrocities, that she's bloodthirsty. One of the Volantenes in the company says she's mad like Aerys was mad, and that it runs in the blood.

The mercenaries were in Astapor, and things are not good there. The city has been sacked, there are dead and dying everywhere and the city is aflame. They march north towards Meereen, to take on Dany next. There are other companies with them, and the Yunkish as well. Quentyn thinks back to the battle under Astapor's wall, and how it was a slaughter. His first taste of battle and it was a bloody affair. He knows the battle against Dany will be tougher, and knows they need to slip away and go to her before they face her on the field.

The plan is to abandon the mercenaries now that they've gotten this far, and they're just waiting for the right chance. They know that if they're caught as deserters it won't be good. Before they can do anything though they are summoned to the command tent, and told that they are part of a group that is going to defect to the other side, as spies for the Tattered Prince.

"You think Queen Daenerys will take us in..."
"I do."
"...but if she does, what then? Are we spies? Assassins? Envoys? Are you thinking to change sides?"

The group is led by Pretty Meris, a particularly dangerous member of Tattered's inner circle. So... Quentyn and is boys get to head to Dany... but not how they intended.


This chapter is kinda weird because we get detailed descriptions of the Yunkish leaders and their followers, and they're pretty bizarre. This is again a sign to me that Martin got a little carried away with this whole storyline- the Meereen/ Dany/ Quentyn thing. We get chapters of description and the plot advances slowly. We get a glimpse of life in the Windblown, which is interesting, especially after seeing the Golden Company in the previous chapter, but still... this doesn't feel like an essential chapter.


Here we check in with Asha Greyjoy, the sister of Theon. She is at Deepwood Motte which she took from Galbart Glover, a bannerman of Stark who went away to war with him. Glover's maester brings her a letter from Barrowton- it's from the Boltons, and there's a piece of flayed skin with it. The letter advises Asha to get out of the north and that Moat Cailin has fallen. She thinks that her father would have understood the importance of Moat Cailin, but Euron is chasing dragons and cares not for the ironmen he has abandoned in the north. She knows they stand alone against whoever comes.

Asha thinks about how hopeless her situation is- she has about two hundred men but knows that the northmen will come to take back Deepwood Motte. She thinks back to what happened at the kingsmoot, when Euron was selected as the head of the Iron Islands. She fled rather than be killed and found out that in her absence Euron married her off to Erik Ironmaker a formerly fierce reaver who was now old and fat. She had offended Erik and was not in a hurry to go home to him...

Tris Botley tries to convince her to sail east with him, to make their fortune, but she declines. Tris is in love with her but she doesn't love him. They discuss the kingsmoot and the futility of resisting Euron, but then Tris says something that gets Asha thinking. There was a kingsmoot long ago where an eldest son was gone when the meeting was held, and came back later to retake his rightful throne from the one who had been elected- and inspiration strikes Asha. But then a horn sounds and there's no more time- the northmen are there.

Asha decides to make for the sea, where she has ships waiting, but before they get far the northmen are on them. A fierce battle ensues and Asha kills many, but eventually she is about to fall when trumpets sound and more men arrive.

Hagen's daughter burst naked from beneath the trees with two wolves at her heels. Asha wrenched loose a throwing axe and sent it flying end over end to take one of them in the back. When he fell, Hagen's daughter stumbled to her knees, snatched up his sword, stabbed the second man, then rose again, smeared with blood and mud, her long red hair unbound, and plunged into the fight. 

Her arm ached, her mouth tasted of blood, her legs were trembling, and shafts of pale dawn light were slanting through the trees. Has it been so long? How long have we been fighting? 


The trumpets are Stannis and his army, the northern clans that he won to his side after taking Jon's advice. Looks like Deepwood Motte is back in the hands of northmen... and Asha is going to be a prisoner of Stannis. The idea she got from Tris beforehand though- is she thinking of Theon? He is Balon's son. Maybe she intends to rescue him and take him back to challenge Euron's rule?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top Ten Books You Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving

Here are the Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind seeing under the tree this year.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (The Tales of Dunk and Egg, #1-3)

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1)

The Aeronaut's Windlass

A Sliver of Stardust (A Sliver of Stardust #1)

A Sliver of Stardust

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)

The Hitchhiker's Guide I've never read this and I've been meaning to, so the new year seems like a great time to do it.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhiker's Guide, #2)

The Restaurant at the end of the Universe because I'm pretty sure that after reading the first one I may want to jump right into the next one.

Insurgent - Blu-ray + Digital HD

This isn't a book (well it is, but...) but I liked this movie and wouldn't mind having the DVD.

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)

I've heard good things about this one.

Black Widow: Forever Red

Black Widow Forever Red

Death Wears a Mask (Amory Ames Mystery, #2)

Death Wears A Mask

Alex + Ada, Vol. 1Alex + Ada, Vol. 2Alex + Ada, Vol. 3

Alex and Ada

Monday, December 21, 2015

Cover Characteristics #10

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 theme- Best Covers of Books 

Sugar and Snark are on break for the next two weeks so we're doing a freebie. So... below are the covers I liked the most this year, or I just thought were really effective. As I went through my books I realized there weren't a TON of covers I liked, many were just okay, and some of these already showed up on my Top Ten books of the year post- but having said that, some of these I'm quite fond of.  

Big Little LiesEight Hundred GrapesThe Deep EndThe Blue: A NovelTime Salvager (Time Salvager #1)Deadfall (Blackbird, #2)All We Have Is NowA School for Unusual Girls (Stranje House, #1)Pines (Wayward Pines, #1)Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, #1)Cash Crash Jubilee: Book One of the Jubilee CycleNeed

So... which is my favorite? Tough call. I think these three might be my faves... and if I had to go with one, I'd say Time Salvager. Maybe. Or The Blue... depending on when you ask me. :)  

The Deep EndThe Blue: A NovelTime Salvager (Time Salvager #1)

Honorable mention goes to this one- I like this one because it's a rainy, neon- drenched dystopian scene- it makes me want to know more. 

Cash Crash Jubilee: Book One of the Jubilee Cycle

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sunday Post #122

This week wasn't bad, I didn't do a ton of reading but I got some in. I did a guest post on Michelle's blog Because Reading for her Holiday Tradition and a Book and talked about one of my favorite traditions- that was a lot of fun. Thanks to Michelle for having me. I enjoyed all of the other guest bloggers' posts as well and encourage you to go check 'em out!

I'm caught up (mostly) on my Netflix shows now although I haven't been watching the current seasons of anything too much. So more binging in the future! The 100 comes back in January (trailer below) and that's probably the one I'm looking forward to the most. I still miss Continuum and have not found a show to replace it yet. 

The big news this week of course is... Star Wars. Yes it's out, and yes I saw it. On opening day! Not something I expected to do, but Thursday night there I was. There were several Rebel pilots, someone in Jedi robes, and even a Rey in attendance. No droids though. The atmosphere was festive, as one might expect, and it was a surreal experience to see the words come up on the screen...

And last week... the always fun Cover Characteristics continues, and I reviewed Iron Fist which is coming to Netflix soon. I also posted my Top Ten Books of the year and some other stuff, including a look at a particularly fascinating chapter of A Dance with Dragons. Whew- what a week! 


Books of Amber, Lady Knight Reads and The Overstuffed Bookcase are hosting a rewatch of The 100. The event is already underway and runs until Jan. 21- which is when S3 premieres. They're watching about 3 episodes a week plus a livewatch on Twitter. The 100 is available on Netflix and you can go here for all the info. 

Me On Books reviews A School for Unusual Girls.  

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bookcover Spotlight #27

I stumbled on these new covers a while back and I think the style is interesting. I haven't read any of these but I think this one is about a secret cult of assassins. Or something. I guess I knew the films were based on books but I have no idea how closely they follow the books, if at all. I like the octopus earring- must be that cult thing again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Dance with Dragons Daenerys IV/ The Lost Lord

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

This week we're checking in with Daenerys. She continues to struggle with how to restore order to Meereen, and how to deal with the Sons of the Harpy. She meets with Galazza Galare, also known as the Green Grace, a sort of high priestess of the city, and is advised to marry in order to bring the city together. Galazza tells her the city will never accept a "barbarian" queen ruling alone. I'm thinking at this point just leave and get to Westeros- but apparently that's not an option yet.  

Things are pretty grim as three Qartheen galleys have slipped up the river and are blockading it. Her request for alliance with Tolos was rejected, they called her a whore and demanded she return the city to the previous masters. The killings in the streets continue, but Dany refuses to kill her hostages, which Shavepate recommends. We find out that the king of Astapor has been killed, and so was his successor- the killer sits the throne, and Yunkai's forces are outside the walls. 

Galazza's advice is for Dany to marry Hizdahr zo Loraq. Dany meets with him and he proposes that if she allows Yunkai to continue slaving unmolested, he thinks Yunkai will agree to peace. She tells him that if he gives her ninety days without a killing, she will marry him. Barristan of course doesn't approve, and tells her there is another way... she could go to Westeros. She feels she must fix Meereen first, and they discuss Rhaegar and her parents. The old knight tells her that her parents didn't wed for love, but rather her grandfather demanded it, because a woods witch had foretold that the prince was promised would be from their line.

The woods witch came to court with Jenny of Oldstones, who claimed she was a child of the forest. Dany asks what happened to her and Barristan replies "Summerhall." 

Daario Naharis has returned, and advises her to go on the attack against her enemies- including killing all the Great Masters. Dany is appalled and angered when he is insolent with her, and orders Barristan to keep Naharis and the Stormcrows in the field. She thinks he is a monster, but then thinks of her dragons getting more unruly all the time and thinks she is a monster too. 


 I think this woods witch may be the child of the forest from the Bran chapter, who claimed to have wandered the world for two hundred years. 

Dany is determined to fix the mess in Meereen, but doesn't have a lot of good options. I was dismayed to see her marrying Hizdahr before going to Westeros- the reason this story keeps getting stretched out is precisely because this Meereen story never ends. She wants to bed Naharis on his return but he pisses her off with his boldness, so she sends him away. 


Here's where the book really starts to get interesting, I think. We now know that Griff is Jon Connington, best friend of Rhaegar Targaryen and former Hand of the King, who was exiled when he lost to Robert in the rebellion years ago. Everyone thinks he's dead, but of course he's not. And he is raising Young griff, who is really Aegon Targaryen. Or is he? 

Here Connington and company reach the Golden Company, said to be the finest in the world. They're in Volon Therys and Griff is angry that Tyrion is gone. He is tired of caution, tired of waiting- he feels it is time for the Golden company to meet Aegon. Lemore advises caution but Griff won't hear it. The Golden Company is ten thousand strong, led by Harry Strickland and it's been years since Griff rode with them. He was close with the previous leader, Blackheart Miles Toyne, but Strickland is a different sort- more cautious, not as bold. 

They reach the mercenary camp and Griff is pleased to see it is orderly and well organized. The mercs have two dozen elephants and Griff thinks warhorses will not stand against them. They first meet Franklyn Flowers, a big scarred veteran who greets them warmly. Griff wonders how many men remember him, and thinks back to how they faked his death- claiming he had drank himself to death after being caught  stealing from the war chest. Varys had insisted it was necessary. 

We meet the captains of the Golden Company- some notables are Black Balaq (head of the archers), Gorys Edoryon (the paymaster) and Lysono Maar (the spymaster). Griff announces Aegon but they already know who he is- Strickland told them. He turned down a lucrative contract from the Yunkish to go fight Daenerys, and had to tell the men something. He tells Griff that three other mercenary companies have already gone off to fight Dany, and they would have been the fourth. They debate what to do, how to reach Dany, and Aegon steps forward and proposes that they march on Westeros without Dany.  
And then Prince Aegon spoke. "Then put your hopes on me," he said. "Daenerys is Prince Rhaegar's sister, but I am Rhaegar's son. I am the only dragon that you need."

They debate their course of action and eventually agree, over Strickland's objections. 

"Prince Aegon," said Tristan Rivers, "we are your men. Is this your wish, that we sail west instead of east?"

"It is," Aegon replied eagerly. "If my aunt wants Meereen, she's welcome to it. I will claim the Iron Throne by myself, with your swords and your allegiance. Move fast and strike hard, and we can win some easy victories before the Lannisters even know that we have landed. That will bring others to our cause." 

The deal is done and Griff thinks that Aegon has shown a side he had not seen before. Alone in his tent he reflects on going back to Westeros, and thinks he has time to see his home again, and Aegon on the throne, before he dies- of greyscale, which he apparently caught fishing Tyrion out of the river. No  one must know... 

It's interesting that we get this chapter right after the Daenerys chapter, as Griff reflects on their plans. They intended to keep Aegon's identity a secret until they met up with Dany, but with her staying in Meereen that's shot, so he decides now to throw caution to the wind and declare Aegon before the Golden Company.  And it's striking to think how much influence Tyrion had on Young griff/ Aegon- his advice to go to Westeros will change the game dramatically. 

Also we see that Varys and Illyrio have been plotting for the return of Dany and Aegon for a long time... a very long game indeed. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top Ten Best Books 2015

This week we're looking at the Top Ten Best Books of 2015. It's striking to me how many contemporaries are on this list. In fact my usual kind of reads are not represented much at all. I'm not sure what that means, but a good book is a good book, and while last year was a heavy YA year for me, I guess this year was more the year of the contemporary. Or something.

At any rate, here are my picks for best of the year- or more accurately, the books I enjoyed the most. In no particular order- although Big Little Lies was my favorite book this year, hands down.

Big Little Lies

Eight Hundred Grapes

Heir to the Jedi

The Deep End

Guaranteed to Bleed (The Country Club Murders #2)

The Blue: A Novel

Time Salvager (Time Salvager #1)

Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman (Lady Montfort Mystery #1)

Deadfall (Blackbird, #2)