Thursday, June 30, 2016
Summer Days and Summer Nights
Summer Days and Summer Nights is a book I was anxious for mainly for the cover but also because I had read the Christmas themed anthology that preceded it. And while that was hit or miss (as most anthologies are) I was very curious to see how a summer themed one would hold up. I was lucky enough to win this book in a giveaway from Shannon at It Starts At Midnight so I've been enjoying it for a few weeks, reading a story here and there interspersed with the other stuff I was reading. What did I think? Well, let's take a look.
There were stories in this one that didn't work for me, so I'll just share my thoughts on the stories I liked. More or less.
I thought Nina LaCour's The End of Love was touching, an F/F romance and an exploration of how devastating divorce can be to teens. 4 stars.
Sick Pleasure was different, a story about growing up and being confused. Not sure how else to word it. About life, love and being a teen, regrets and consequences. Not exactly bright and cheery, but interesting. 3 stars.
In Ninety Minutes, Turn North was a revisit to two characters from the Christmas edition. It picks up the summer after the events in the Christmas story with Marigold coming home from college to see North. Their relationship has changed and while I was unsure of this one at first, I liked it a lot better as it went; Great ending. 4 stars.
Inertia by Veronica Roth I was very curious to see what Roth was up to after the Divergent series, and I'm happy to report that this was solid. Granted it's just a short story, but she seems to be doing fine and after some hesitation initially I got into this story as it progressed. It's about hope- both lost and found- and while on one hand I thought it was trying a little too hard to be message-y, it was a good message. Hope usually is. 4 stars.
Love Is The Last Resort by Jon Skovron might be my favorite of the stories. It's about an upscale resort and the intertwined love lives (or lack thereof) of various employees- primarily Lena (who I thought was great) and Arlo the new hire. Arlo's kind of a player but he meets his match in Lena, and together they discover there's a whole lot of love going on at the resort- or would be if people would just get together! Funny and smart- and a hedge maze. The only thing is it's ridiculously rushed at the end- this might have made a fun full length book- but I had a lot of fun with this one.
So on balance there were four or five stories here I really liked and the rest were okay or meh. Lev Grossman's The List of Tiny Perfect Things was nice too, about two people who live the same day over and over after time stops, but they're the only ones conscious of it- it was different but not bad. Touching at the very end and a nice way to close out the anthology. As with most short story collections I found it varying in quality, but there are a few gems here.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Weekly Round Up #5
Where to start with this show? It just gets more and more compelling all the time. We're in the final stages of season two now and everything is coming to a head- Cole and Ramse are at cross purposes, each has a mission they feel should take priority and neither is willing or able to compromise. The red storms are close and time is running out- it's time for a resurrection on 12 Monkeys. Spoilers ahead.
"There are many endings." And the right one is "The one that you'll choose." That is the heart and theme of this one. Most of the episode concerns the shifting alliances within the facility, and Ramse and Cassie escape confinement and try to take over, so they can take on the Witness. Cole and Jones of course are fixated on getting Cole to 1957 so he can stop the final Paradox. Neither side wants to budge- and Deacon ends up being the tiebreaker as he helps Cole get help- from Jennifer and the Daughters.
I'm not entirely convinced by the back and forth between Cole and Ramse- it seems like all season we've had Ramse play hardball against Cole, then they reconcile, then Ramse goes hardcase again- for best friends they're sure pointing guns at each other a lot! I liked the tense atmosphere in the building and Deac was a hoot as he kept singing "Don't You Forget About Me" from the breakfast Club. He even does a John Bender fist pump as he saves the day for Cole.
The ending was smashing- when Cassie went back for Cole, and joined him in '57- I was like yess. It's about time they get together- even if they're together together yet- but it's a start.
I like seeing the turtle in the beginning- sharp eyed viewers may remember Jennifer adopting a turtle in 2016. Well apparently it's still alive- and quite large!
Did Jones really headbutt Ramse? Yes she did. I love her.
I was worried something was going to happen to Hannah- I was like no, after her and Jones finding each other, please don't go there. I really want them to have some happiness.
Jennifer from the present arriving in 2044 and shrieking with joy. "Again! Again! Whoa, there is gonna be a long line for this one next year. Got to be at least this tall, no heart conditions, and definitely no preggers." The writers must have a blast writing her stuff.
Jennifer meets Jennifer. A powerful moment, well done. What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Never know on this show!
Zoo is back and I was actually waiting for this one with some anticipation. The last season ended on a cliffhanger and finally tonight we get to see what happens with people vs. animals. Largely though I was disappointed with this two hour premiere- it just wasn't grabbing me. Kristen Connolly as Jamie is probably the most compelling character of the bunch, but she spends the entire episode alone and on the run. The other members of the team do the usual jetsetting as they try to track down an animal with a secondary phase of the mutation- or whatever. Turns out the mutation is now turning people into vicious predators- because of course. This felt like a lot of setup for wherever the second season is going, but mainly I'll be watching for Connolly and Nora Arnezeder as Chloe- they're easily the most interesting members of the team. I liked Jackson last season but he irritated me for some reason this time out- and the subplot of him harboring the virus did not really work for me.
A Dance with Dragons The Discarded Knight
This week we look in on Barristan who is adjusting to life in Meereen without Dany, and then we see what Quentyn and his Dornish companions are up to. So this week is all Meereen. Chaos reigns in the city, the pale mare sickness is running rampant and plots are in motion- and Ser Barristan is in a perilous place. Quentyn meanwhile has a plot of his own- a rather daring one at that and things are about to come to a head in the city of slavers.
THE DISCARDED KNIGHT
Barristan is at court and sees the Martell party, and thinks they should not have come. Quentyn doesn't understand his danger. He thinks that Dany wants someone fiery and Quentyn is too dull. Then the Wise Masters from Yunkai come, along with Bloodbeard, and the merc captain dumps a severed head before the king- the head of admiral Groleo. The Masters say they will keep the three remaining hostages until the dragons are destroyed.
Barristan advises the Dornishmen to leave, but Quentyn resists.
It's interesting to see things from Barristan's perspective- he thinks Quentyn and the Martells may be scapegoated for Dany's disappearance or death and thinks they should leave post haste, and he's a little frustrated they're still there. They don't understand the danger they're in. He also thinks he'd like a crack at Bloodbeard and mainly this chapter serves as a window onto the state of things post- Dany.
THE SPURNED SUITOR:
Quentyn sets up a meeting with the Tattered Prince. He has a plan- a pretty audacious plan actually. Ser Drinkwater is skeptical. "We should be heeding Selmy. When Barristan the Bold tells you to run, a wise man laces up his boots." But Quentyn persists and Tatters is not too happt with him after they deserted and lied to him. Quentyn wants to hire the Windblown to steal a dragon, and offers to pay double what the Yunkishmen are paying the mercenaries. Tatters says he wants something else... Pentos.
This is an interesting chapter where we see Quentyn's next move. He thinks about the disappointment, and yes scorn, he would find back in Dorne if he returns empty handed. This may be pushing him into a foolish action as with Dany now married he thinks the goal is no longer to get her, but to get the dragons. I also think this is an example of the story getting a bit bloated- while I find the mercenaries interesting, the last thing we need is another plot, and Tatters wanting to take Pentos seems like a lot. Not that it will happen, but still.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
The Gods of A Game of Thrones
The world of a Game of Thrones is not the kind of world where the gods step in and save the day, or dictate to humanity, like in some high fantasy settings. In fact the gods of this world seem pretty aloof, for the most part- the Faith of the Seven, the red god R'hllor, or the old gods of the north. However, as with magic and mystical creatures, we see an upsurge in supernatural activity as the books move along- it's acknowledged that the birth of Dany's dragons has reawakened magic to some degree. Does this apply to the gods as well?
Spoilers for the books and the show.
Let's look at the old gods of the north. For much of the story we're told that the men of the north, including the wildlings, hold to the old gods- the spirits of tree and stream, of earth and sky. However in A Dance with Dragons we learn that the weirwood trees are inhabited by the spirits of departed greenseers- those rare skinchangers who can see through the weirwood faces and also through ravens. So are there "old gods" as we think of gods, or are the gods of the north just Children of the Forest living on in their sacred trees?
To be honest I was a little disconcerted by this. The Starks hold to the old gods, the traditions of the north, as do many other houses, and they seem to have a mystical bond with their direwolves as well. It just seems weird to think that the north worships dead, precognitive elves basically rather than a deity or deities- and they don't have a clue. Imagine the consternation if they find out!
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one. The singers of the forest had no books. No ink, no parchment, no written language. Instead they had the trees, and the weirwoods above all. When they died, they went into the wood, into leaf and limb and root, and the trees remembered. All their songs and spells, their histories and prayers, everything they knew about this world. Maesters will tell you that the weirwoods are sacred to the old gods. The singers believe they are the old gods. When singers die they become part of that godhood."
R'hllor is a different thing entirely. The red god of the priestess Melisandre, we don't learn much about this faith other than its affinity for fire until, again, in A Dance with Dragons we see their temples in Essos and learn that Benerro, the high priest in Volantis, is opportunistically siding with Daenerys in her crusade against slavery, leading to strife in that ancient city. And we meet another priest, Moqorro, who uses sorcery or some kind of power to survive and "heal" Victarion Greyjoy. Is R'hllor a god in the usual sense, or a fire being of some sort that uses the mortals who worship it for its own purposes?
The Seven of Westeros are a little more abstract, or aloof. We don't get any sense that they are interfering in affairs- greenseers can apparently act to some extent through their trees or ravens, R'hlor's priests are causing all kinds of mischief, but septons of the Seven do not seem to be manifesting any powers. The Faith militant does take power in Kings Landing, but that's clearly ambitious people at work, not divine intervention. At least that we know of. So this does seem to be more of a case of fantasy gods being kept at arms length, not impacting the story in a serious way.
The Many Faced God in Braavos, or the Drowned God of the Greyjoys, are similar. The Faceless Men talk about serving the Many Faced God, but from all acccounts they are running a well-oiled death cult with procedures in place- there is no indication the Many Faced God is actually doing anything. And the Drowned God certainly doesn't seem to be doing much, although one could argue the point since Aeron "Damphair" Greyjoy sometimes hears things in the waves, and the men they drown are brought back to life. But I just think Aeron's crazy and the rescuscitation is a rather unorthodox (and unrealistic) case of CPR.
One interesting wrinkle is the theory that the Drowned God is not a god at all, but a monster from the depths that will rise in the story when Euron Greyjoy sounds a great horn or makes a blood sacrifice of his fleet. This is the eldritch apocalypse theory by Poor Quentyn and it's very compelling- worth a read if you're interested. Aeron may indeed see his "god" arise, this theory says, although it's not a god he's expecting to see!
So... we could run through other examples but these are by far the most prominent religious figures we see in the story. What do you think? Are the "gods" of Westeros/ Essos real? Or are they just aloof and unknowable and maybe certain creatures are using religious affiliation for their own ends? And what do you think of the eldritch apocalypse theory?
Monday, June 27, 2016
Game of Thrones The Winds of Winter
"Winter is here."
The most important words spoken in the season finale of Game of Thrones. The white raven has gone forth signifying winter has arrived. Aptly named, this episode- The Winds of Winter- leaves no doubt that after all the waiting, we are getting to the endgame. This may be the biggest and best episode the show has had- every storyline has a twist and the landscape has entirely changed by the end of the episode. There are three forces now that matter in Westeros- the North, the crown in Kings Landing, and the forces of Daenerys across the sea.
Spoilers for books and show.
The white ravens have gone forth, and winter has been officially named. Jon and Sansa get the news at Winterfell just as Jon is sending Melisandre away- is that a wise decision?- and we have a nice moment between the two of them. I thought in some ways the scene with Melisandre and Davos was the most impactful scene - there was real emotion there, and Jon was put in a tough spot. Just as he is learning to trust Mel, he is faced with the horrible truth of something she did -and this decision may have consequences. Where will the red priestess go? She is certainly not done playing a role- will she end up with the Brotherhood without Banners? Or perhaps she will also ally with Dany?
We start though with Kings Landing, and another very important decision. This decision is made by Cersei and changes both Kings Landing and perhaps the Seven Kingdoms forever. As many expected she uses a wildfire cache beneath the city to rid herself of the Faith and her Tyrell enemies at the same time. It's crazy even by her standards- and what is most intersting to me is how Jaime will respond. Consider that Jaime killed Aerys to prevent just such a conflagration- and he was disgraced and called the Kingslayer for it. He has shared the knowledge that he saved the city with few, perhaps only one- Brienne- and now he returns to find that his sister has done the very thing he dreaded.
Cersei's children are gone, and now she has nothing holding her back. The show has had a tendency to paint her as a more sympathetic figure than the Cersei of the books, but that's done with. After this we see her as she truly is. And we have a large array of players swept from the board- Margaery and Loras, as well as Kevan Lannister and Mace Tyrell. In the books Varys uses his "little birds" - children- to kill Kevan so as to remove any moderating influence on Cersei. Here they riff on that by using the "birds" to kill Pycelle and set off the conflagration. I thought it was a great- and chilling sequence- and the music upped the suspense even as I wondered why Loras would be so dumb. I'm going to miss Margaery on the show, and Mace Tyrell is still alive and not such a buffoon in the books- but they're streamlining the plot big time so they don't need him.
"Fire and blood."
These words are spoken by Varys as he arrives in Dorne to meet with Lady Olenna and the Sand Snakes. As expected the alliance between Daenerys and Dorne seems to be in effect. These same words are spoken in the books when Dany discusses a possible alliance with the Dornish- and with the Tyrell family decimated by the events in Kings Landing, Olenna is out for blood. This should be interesting- all the players are lining up now. Dany dismissed Daario from her life- book Daario is so different and I don't see him going quietly like that- and then Dany makes Tyrion the Hand of the Queen. They're getting along just swimmingly, aren't they?
Frey pies! We get to see Frey pies- didn't think that would happen. Readers of the books know that the Manderlys "prepared" some Freys for a feast and fed them to their own kin, as well as the Boltons- here Arya does it and presents it to Lord Frey before offing him. What a moment- and I loved that the serving girl Arya was pretending to be flirted with Jaime. Maybe she was going to snuff him? Never mind the passage of time or distance on this show- as satisfying as it was to see Arya do her thing, I had to laugh that she is in the Riverlands now. Teleport!
"Promise me Ned."
Those words have hovered over this show (and especially the books) since the whole saga began, and tonight we got confirmation that Jon Snow is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna. When you think about it, the first book was published twenty years ago, so a twenty year old theory was pretty much confirmed tonight. That's a big moment- as is the return of a King in the North as the northern houses fall in behind Jon Snow. I thought Sansa looked proud until she exchanged a look with Littlefinger- you could see him calculating the shifting winds as the northern houses swore fealty. He's going to be a wild card- and they named Jon a king, not Sansa a queen. How will that play?
Finally- the conclusion. The Greyjoys are allied with Dany and they're sailing for Westeros- another big moment that has been long in the coming. I thought that was a great shot at the end with the fleet sailing and the three dragons whirling overhead- very nice. Varys was on deck- Teleport- after just being in Dorne, but whatever. It might be a fun drinking game to take a swig every time someone teleports on this show- but I digress. Bottom line is, for a show that has been hit or miss for me all along, I thought this episode was effective, brought everything together and managed to juggle a lot of storylines pretty well. A great end to an eventful season.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
Sunday Post #148
The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer
It's been hot and sunny around here- a nice week. I've been enjoying the warm days and the nights have been nice too- still warm but comfortably so. There were some nights this week where the moon was out and the clouds were scudding by and it was great to be out- nice to be able to see the stars too without freezing! Lots of blue sky- now if only I were up north to enjoy it. Maybe in July...
Last week HBO NOW famously went down just as Game of Thrones was about to start. As I use HBO NOW to watch I was of course irritated, but it was entertaining to watch Twitter and see everyone go berserk. It took almost an hour to come up...
The showrunner of 12 Monkeys took note of one of my tweets and that was kinda cool- the great thing about Twitter is that of all the social media platforms it seems to be the one best able to connect fans and creators. This show is one that flies under the radar a bit and so there is a real question as to whether it will be renewed for S3. I hope it is...
PULP COVER OF THE WEEK:
NEW ARRIVAL/ UPCOMING REVIEWS:
Here's a possible Star Wars Episode VIII leak
The Eater of Books reviews Vicarious, which is one I'm looking forward to.
Cait at Paper Fury asks What Does A Book Blogger Actually Do?
Here's a possible Star Wars Episode VIII leak
The Eater of Books reviews Vicarious, which is one I'm looking forward to.
Cait at Paper Fury asks What Does A Book Blogger Actually Do?
Friday, June 24, 2016
Bookcover Spotlight #54
This week I'm showcasing some sun and whitewashed buildings- and the beach too! Not my kind of read but I love the cover.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Exile for Dreamers
Last year I read A School For Unusual Girls and liked it a lot- the premise being a boarding school for wayward young ladies in reality is an academy training the women to be spies for the Crown. Sounds like a pretty standard YA plot, right? And it is- but the book was good and I liked that the five young women who live and train there each had their own distinct personality and skill set. The plan for this series is to showcase a different POV each time- in the first one it was Georgianna and in this one it's Tess.
Tess has prophetic dreams that terrify her- she comes from a line of women who eventually succumb to madness or tragedy due to these visions. She's afraid to sleep, terrified of what she might see. She has a lot of guilt in her past and also struggles with a forbidden attraction to a lord whose personal history is intertwined with the ladies due to events in the first book. We saw this relationship develop in Unusual Girls and here it takes center stage.
This book was very readable and I found it flew by like the first one did. This is an alternate history of sorts exploring what might have happened if Napoleon had been more successful and regained the French throne. I like how all five students bring something to the table, they all have a role to play, and unlike the first book most of the action takes place at the school, with its secret passages and sea cliffs.
The book delves into the relationship between Tess and Daneska as well. Daneska is the former student and current nemesis who now works for Napoleon. They were close before the betrayal and their scenes are handled well. The only thing I didn't like were the occasional secrets that were held from other characters- that's always a pet peeve of mine when the protagonist doesn't share valuable info. Sure it might move the plot but it's dumb, although to be fair there are good reasons for it here. And the conclusion is thrilling and builds on the setting nicely. I would definitely read the first book however before this one as all the relationships are established there
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Weekly Round Up #4
An AMAZING end to S4. And Delphine is alive! Krystal of all people (unwittingly) saved her life and Delphine is now with the mysterious island people led by the Messenger. Whoever he is. There's some kind of conection between therm and Neolution since Van Lier has her taken there for treatment? Anyway what a beginning to an episode- in fact the whole thing was great . I loved it when Krystal is introduced to Sarah and is so not impressed.
"Cause this girl looks nothing like me. Like, first of all, my tits are way bigger. And secondly, even if you could drag a comb through that hair, she's like a seven on a good day and I've been told I'm a ten." Ah Krystal- you'll do just fine in clone club.
True to the show you never know who's going to betray whom- and there's plenty of that going along. Susan plans to restart human cloning, revealing that she's not so good after all, but Rachel is even worse. After reupping with Ferdinand she's on the move- wresting Neolution away from Susan. Rachel wants to combine the cloning with the implanted tech to change human genetics- oh and she doesn't want play nice with the clones either. Man is she a piece of work.
So it all goes down on the island. A pretty tense conclusion, and Sarah gets the crap beat out of her (and stabbed) by Rachel who surprises her (come on Sarah, you knew she was in the building). Cosima and Charlotte meanwhile are trying to reach the boat but don't make it- and the mysterious Messenger saves them and take them to the village whatever it is. Who are all those people? But Delphine is there- reunion! Cosima says she has the cure- but Rachel thinks she does. Did Cosima switch it out before leaving? I think she might have.
Talk about cliffhangers. Ferdinand has S and Kira at gunpoint, Sarah is frickin messed up, and what's the deal with the village? This has been a phenomenal season- the focus is back on Neolution and the mysterious board are pulling strings, the island stuff is great and I can't wait to see where this goes next.
This show is amazing. Every week they manage to tell a stirring, nail biting time travel episode while keeping the overarching storyline relevant- and this week was no exception. Things come to a head in this one though, as Ramse and Cassie square off against Cole and have a different agenda. they want to take out the Witness, whereas Cole and Jones want to stop the Paradox from happening in 1957- the big one that could unravel time. Unfortunately for Cole, Dr. Adler helps Ramse and Cassie and they end up in Cold War 1961. Cross purposes- and as usual, things go to shit.
Agent Gale is back! And he and Cole swoop in to save things when Ramse and Cassie eff it up. They snag their ex- Nazi doctor out from under the Israelis and get to his lab- to find that he has made a child with help from the Witness. And guess who the child is- Olivia aka the Striking woman. Hmmm... turns out the doctor created the Messengers and they come for him. It goes bad (again) and Jones pulls them all back- but not before Vivian the Messenger gets away with young Olivia, and not before Ramse gets a scrap of intel on Titan.
Back in 2044 Cole is furious and orders Cassie and Ramse taken into custody. You can't really blame him- Cole wanted to get the girl and Ramse went for the intel- plus they drugged him, lied to him and are just at cross purposes. Cassie is actually surprised he's pissed? Hello! Whether he's right or wrong no one knows- but the way they're working together (or not) they couldn't do much worse. Oh and the temporal storms are about to engulf the facility. Time (ha ha) is short.
We find out (finally) that Cassie and Deacon were together. Out in the wild they apparently hooked up, but Cassie says she can't go there, the mission is all. Deac takes it hard and is drinking at the end as the storm approaches. You almost feel sorry for the guy. A wild card there.
Sad to see Agent Gale go, but a noble sacrifice. He turned into a pretty good character. Another reason Cole's pissed- they gave up Gale and still failed. Although maybe Ramse's intel will still save the day?
Again we hear that the Witness speaks often of Cole.Whatever the endgame here, Cole is obviously very important to the whole big picture.
Olivia can walk again- since she was "made" she is stronger, heals faster, etc than a normal human. But she's fed up at the end and says she's done- will she turn on the Witness? She'd be a powerful ally for Cole and the group.
A Dance with Dragons - Tyrion XI/ Jon XII
Welcome back to my A Dance with Dragons readthrough. This week we're continuing to barrel along towards the end of the book- we're checking in with Tyrion and Jon this time. Tyrion you may recall is in Slavers Bay, trying to get to Daenerys, but the small matter of him being a slave is getting in the way. It's somewhat ironic that he gets to Slavers Bay... and is trapped in the army that is besieging Meereen. So close to her, and yet so far. And then Jon's chapter is going to look at his precarious hold on the Nights Watch as things get grimmer in the north...
Spoilers for the books!
Things are not looking good in the tent of Tyrion's master. The master is dying of the flux and Tyrion knows he and Penny need to get away or they're going to die too. The healer says to give the master fresh water so Tyrion and Penny go to get water- but Tyrion goes instead to the tents of the Second Sons, to try and get Brown Ben Plumm to help.
The interesting thing for me here is Tyrion talking to Brown Ben Plumm and knows that Dany's dragons took to Ben. Apparently Brown Ben has some Targaryen blood?
This is the day that Jon lets the wildlings through the Wall. The hostages go first, one hundred boys between eight and sixteen and then the warriors, anywhere between five hundred to a thousand. A skinchanger comes to, Borroq with a monstrous boar. Afterwards Bowen Marsh tells Jon that 3,119 wildlings passed the Wall. Jon then gets a letter from Cotter Pyke.
At Hardhome, with six ships. Wild seas. Blackbird lost with all hands, two Lyseni ships driven aground on Skane, Talon taking water. Very bad here. Wildlings eating their own dead. Dead things in the woods. Braavosi captains will only take women, children on their ships. Witch women call us slavers. Attempt to take Storm Crow defeated, six crew dead, many wildlings. Eight ravens left. Dead things in the water. Send help by land, seas wracked by storms.
Mormont's raven at one point says "King" and "Snow, Jon Snow, Jon Snow." Jon thinks it strange. I can't help but wonder if Bran or Bloodraven are watching Jon through that raven, perhaps communicating with him? And the mystery of Joramun's Horn (aka the Horn of Winter) comes up as well.
"Would that I had the Horn of Joramun. I'd give it a nice toot and we'd climb through the rubble."
"Melisandre burned the Horn of Joramun."
"Did she?" Tormund slapped his thigh and hooted. "She burned that big fine horn, aye. A bloody sin, I call it. A thousand years old, that was. We found it in a giant's grave, and no man o' us had ever seen a horn so big. That must have been why Mance got the notion to tell you it were Joramun's."
And Joramun blew the Horn of Winter and woke giants from the earth. That huge horn with its bands of old gold, incised with ancient runes...had Mance Rayder lied to him, or was Tormund lying now? If Mance's horn was just a feint, where is the true horn?
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Game of Thrones Discussion- Is Skinchanging Bad?
One of the more interesting things about A Song of Ice and Fire is the concept of warging, or skinchanging. There are several characters in the books who can do this, among them Jon Snow and Arya Stark- but also Bran Stark, and I think his situation is in some ways the most interesting- and perhaps the most chilling. This post will contain spoilers for A Song of Ice and Fire.
Bran is of course crippled in the books early on, and travels north to seek the Three Eyed Crow to awaken his greenseeing abilities. He wargs not only into his direwolf Summer, but also into Hodor, the simpleminded stableboy from Winterfell. It's noted several times that this makes Hodor uncomfortable, he retreats deep into himself while Bran is in control of him. This alone is alarming. But there are other problems. At one point Bran is in Summer and eats the remains of dead humans- and we won't even touch on the theory that Bran may have been fed Jojen's blood by the Children of the Forest. That's a whole other discussion.
The most information we get about warging is from the Prologue to A Dance with Dragons. It's told from the POV of Varamyr Sixskins, a wildling who is a skinchanger and has several animals who accompany him. Varamyr's perspective shows us a bit of wildling culture and especially how warging is viewed north of the Wall. There is a way things are done and some things, such as a warg eating human flesh, are considered blasphemous.
To eat of human meat was abomination, to mate as wolf with wolf was abomination, and to seize the body of another man was the worst abomination of all.
Varamyr recalls the teachings he was given by his mentor- we don't know if all wildling skinchangers accept these precepts- but the implication is certain things are anathema. So then later in the book when Bran does some of these things, it makes one wonder... should Bran know better? Or is he excused because he's had no warg training? Are some things morally wrong even if no one has explicitly told him not to? It's telling that in one of his chapters he thinks to himself "no one must know" when he uses Hodor.
It's interesting the insights we get from Varamyr. He does note that not all skinchangers agree on everything- his mentor Haggon took him to a gathering of skinchangers once and he met others with differing views about which animals to meld with. He recalls that his bear would rage whenever he took control of him, but his wolves were much more accepting. All of this is foreshadowing for Bran's story as he makes his way through the north, and perhaps it's foreshadowing for Jon as well. After all Jon dies at the end of the book, and many speculate that he will live in his direwolf at least for a time before coming back.
"You will die a dozen deaths, boy, and every one will hurt... but when your true death comes, you will live again. The second life is simpler and sweeter, they say."
"Some skins you never want to wear, boy. You won't like what you'd become."
"They say you forget," Haggon had told him, a few weeks before his own death. "When the man's flesh dies, his spirit lives on inside the beast, but every day his memory fades, and the beast becomes a little less a warg, a little more a wolf, until nothing of the man is left and only the beast remains."
Monday, June 20, 2016
High Summer Read -a-Thon
It's time for another High Summer Read-a-Thon, hosted by Michelle over at Seasons of Reading. The dates are July 18-24 and it's a very relaxed read-a-thon- you can find all the details at Michelle's site- and I'm looking forward to it after missing last year.
Game of Thrones Battle of the Bastards
Episode nine- it's funny how fast the season is going for Game of Thrones. In many ways one could argue that there has been a lot of plot movement this season- after all Arya is free of the Faceless Men, Sansa is with Jon, and Dany has a khalasar and is back in Meereen. On the other hand, you could argue that everyone is sort of back where they started- maybe a season or two ago. Arya will be in the same situation upon returning to Westeros that she was when she left- alone and friendless. Sansa and Jon will have to fight just to stay alive, let alone rule the north. And Dany has a khalasar- but she did, sort of, in the first season too. So...moving forward, moving back. Of course the endgame is almost on us now, and things should start happening...
Spoilers for books and show.
So... this episode was a mixed bag. Anticipation was of course sky high, the penultimate episode of the season and much hyped. Did it live up to it? Well... yes and no, from my perspective. We have two battles looming in both the show and the books- the battles for Winterfell and Meereen. Neither has happened yet in the books, but the next book starts off with them according to the author. In the show, we get them... tonight. First to Meereen. This one was shorter but so much more effective for me. Daenerys is back and she has... dragons. And have they grown up!
Daenerys and Tyrion are interesting together, and the dragons were amazing. The sequence where they fly over the fleet and set several ships afire is probably one of the best dragon sequences I've seen, in a TV show or movie. For a show that has famously had trouble affording expensive CGI for the direwolves and dragons, they knocked it out of the park with this one. Again, the dragons were amazeballs. Highlight of the episode, no question. And later when Tyrion and Dany meet with Yara and Theon- was the dynamic between Dany and Yara fun or what?
"I never demand but I'm up for anything, really" says Yara when Dany asks her if her request for alliance includes marriage. I laughed at that, I'm liking Yara a lot.
So just like that Dany wins Meereen, just so she can leave. she has her ships, she has fully grown (or near to it) dragons, and she's ready to rock in Westeros. That story is moving. So let's move to the other battle that has been brewing. This one was a little more problematic for me. First of all Jon's war council was pathetic. It's like he Davos and Tormund don't know what they're doing, Sansa is a non- factor (which she calls him on), and then when battle is joined Jon seems unprepared. He's not ready for Ramsay's cruelty and he gets goaded into charging- alone!!!- when Ramsay predictably kills Rickon. I've often thought Jon's not the brightest bulb on this show, but he sure proved it tonight.
The battle itself seemed disjointed, somehow, they were going for an epic feel obviously and it succeeded in showing the chaos of battle, how luck can determine whether you survive, but the whole shield wall thing left me cold. I was like seriously? Did they watch too much Rome? In all the chaos how did the shield guys encircle the wildlings so quickly and easily- and the wildlings stood there while they did it? They forgot to include Wun Wun in the first part of the fight, then he looked like he could break through the shield wall pretty easily but didn't. It was all very odd.
And the piled up bodies were ridiculous. It just didn't work for me- but things looked grim until Littlefinger arrived with the Arryn forces. Nice to see Sansa smile as the Valemen smashed the Boltons. Jon and Wun Wun pursue Ramsay to Winterfell, and of course Ramsay gets the final shot on the giant. Sigh. And then we finally get some vicarious payback as Jon takes it to Ramsay. After way too long it's nice to see this part of the story end, frankly. And Sansa gets to finish Ramsay, as expected.
So... where do we go from here? The final episode is next week and it looks... well it's hard to tell from their brief preview what's going to occur, but it should be big. I think they poured a lot of time, effort and budget into this one and while it's very ambitious, the much ballyhooed battle for Winterfell didn't entirely work for me. But the hour plus spent on this episode was more than rewarded by some seriously awesome dragon stuff. Phenomenal.
Melisandre has nothing to offer, either on the eve of battle or at all really. Does she have no power, no glamor or wisdom she can offer to help turn the tide of battle? What exactly did she do for Stannis, then? Disappointing. I feel like in the books she will be more useful.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Sunday Post #147
The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer
Another nice week, other than a bit of rain the weather has been nice. Lots of sun. I've been cruising through books to start off the summer and most of them have been pretty good, and I'm feeling like reading some fantasy- summer always puts me in the mood for that though. I'd like to read some urban fantasy as well.
Trust Issues Part 3 went up this week and it was nice to bring it to a place where I can continue the story, or move on to something else. It was intended to be an exercise in flash fiction and I never expected to do a part two or three, but it's been nice to get writing again. Maybe I'll share a fantasy story next. And Bookstore Spotlight may come back in July, if I can just get up north to visit a few.
I reviewed a fun novella Date Night on Union Station this week (and it's free on Amazon, although check first) and I received the book I won from the Goodreads giveaway. Tuesday I'll be discussing skinchanging and if it's bad in the context of the Game of Thrones books, and will be reviewing Exile for Dreamers as well. And I'll have a sign up post for the High Summer Read-a-thon coming up in July. And the usual thoughts on some show finales and various episodes.
And I'm listening to...
PULP COVER OF THE WEEK:
NEW ARRIVAL/ UPCOMING REVIEWS:
Boats Against the Current talks about What To Do When You Think Your Writing Sucks
Fine Print asks What Is The Most Important Part of a Book?
Friday, June 17, 2016
Bookcover Spotlight #53
Love the cover art on this one- and the Greek angle
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Date Night on Union Station
Date Night on Union Station is a novella set on a space station sometime in the future. And don't judge this by the cover- the cover doesn't reflect the story at all, actually. It's a quick, breezy read with a surprising amount of depth and a lot of great humor. I actually laughed quite a bit and the best part- it's free on Amazon (as always check to make sure before clicking). I saw this on a blog somewhere and the premise seemed fun so I gave it a try.
Kelly is paid very poorly for her job and has trouble making rent- and the story follows her as she navigates a dating service membership she has won. The artificial intelligence that runs the station doesn't seem to be very good at coming up with matches and all kinds of fun things happen, both on and off the job. We also spend time with Joe who used to be a mercenary but now lives on the station. He has the good fortune (?) to also utilize the station dating service, with interesting results.
It's funny and for the number of pages there's a lot of imagination here. I'm definitely interested in reading more about Kelly and Joe. There's a whole slew of sequels as well, all cheap on Amazon, and I'll be reading more of these. A lot of fun.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Weekly Round Up #3
Last weeks episode was quite good- we found out that Jones's daughter Hannah survived thanks to Cole and Cassie changing the timestream. A very emotional moment. This week in "Hyena" we're taking a different tack- this is about Jennifer forming a group called the Hyenas to take down the 12 Monkeys. The opening, as always, is snappy with the Pallid Man appearing and getting a surprise- Jennifer is on the move. "I've got credit cards and the 2nd Amendment on my side," she says in a voiceover as we get a montage of her breaking out other "crazies" from an institution. And the doctor who incarcerated her- he gets his throat cut in spectacular fashion. Jennifer has just declared war on the Monkeys. I love this show.
"I'm free like a virus in a preschool and paying it forward to all the other crazies"
So in 2044 the gang are discussing the chaos of the timestorms and the havoc they're wreaking, and Jones says there is one Primary left to save- they know there is one more Paradox they have to stop. Sometime between 1951 and 73. Cole goes to see Jennifer and she tells him that the answer is with the Pallid Man- and that her and Cole in 2016 have to find him. Jennifer has so many lines in this one- "Crazy is as crazy does, and this crazy is getting shit done" she tells Cole when he finds her and her Hyenas in 2016. "You want to start an antisocial organization, you need antisocial personalities right?"
I'm still not fond of Cassie's hostility towards Cole but they're going for dramatic tension and I get that. We see The Striking Woman again, now in a wheelchair, and get some clarity on why Cassie and Ramse hate each other. Each thinks Cole picked the other over them. Eve Harlow by the way as Vanessa (sorta Jennifer's #2) is a nice debut here, would like to see more of her. Although it looks like that's not happening? And we get a big revelation- Titan was started by the Pallid Man and Jones' husband? Wow. So did Jones' husband build the time machine- the one that Jones made work, and is using to try and fix time- to start all this in the first place?
One episode left! This one The Mitigation of Competition had a bit of everything- Sarah working to find a missing woman before murderous Neolution does, Alison and Donnie having their issues and the return of Helena! In the nick of time, too, apparently. Helena's been gone almost the whole season and she's a breath of fresh air- as much as I've liked Alison and Donnie in the past, I'm a little over them. They're funny but the show works best with the dark elements- the clone conspiracy, the wheels within wheels. And here we have a little darkness- Neolution euthanizing babies that are born deformed thanks to their horrific gene therapy experiments. This kinda stuff, like the weird body mod stuff happening earlier, are what makes the storyline so compelling.
It was nice too to see see Sarah and Art working together. Somehow they beat Neolution to the missing woman, and her baby, only to have her whisked out from under their nose by... Rachel. Who seems to have betrayed them, before we see that she played Evie like a harp. Not bad... although the preview for next episode makes me wonder if she doesn't become the enemy again.
A solid episode. A little drama with Adele too, as she meets Helena (those two sparring were a highlight) and next time... the return of Delphine? Woop!
A Dance with Dragons The Queensguard
After a hiatus I am back for the home stretch of my A Dance with Dragons readthrough. This is my second or third time through the book since it came out (5 years ago!) and it seems like there is always more nuance to be found, more plot points. Amazing really. Anyway the books and show are so different that it's nice to re- enter the world of the books after watching- so here I'm going to examine another couple chapters and there's less than twenty left so I'm getting close to the end.
Spoilers for the books!
Barristan finds out he's being replaced by Hizdahr, who now rules Meereen alone with Dany gone. The Shavepate has been replaced as well and the Unsullied had withdrawn to their barracks. Hizdahr still wants Barristan to command his forces if need be, but he is surrounding himself with pit fighters for his personal guard. And the dragon casualties- 214 people were killed, three times as many wounded by the dragon fire. Missandei informs him that the Shavepate wants to meet with him.
Barristan meets the Shavepate and finds out that the man still controls the Brazen Beasts. The Shavepate says he found the poisoner, the one the Sons of the Harpy used to poison the locusts. They were supposed to kill Daenerys and now that she's gone, their fear of her is as well. Volantis has launched its fleet against Meereen and he says the king will open the gates for them. Shavepate says they must attack the Yunkai'i, before the Volantenes arrive, but they need the Unsullied. Selmy reluctantly agrees, under condition that Hiadahr is not harmed until there is proof he tried poison Dany.
Barristan is alone and has to make a call here as to what the best course of action is. Dare he trust the Shavepate? He decides to after insisting that he wants to question the poisoner himself. It's pretty straightforward as chapters go, we get a status update on Daenerys' people and what the state of the city is, and we're setting up for Barristan's big move.
THE IRON SUITOR
Victarion's ships have been scattered they were 93 when they sailed and 54 have showed up near Slavers Bay. He's been waiting for more to show up but has decided it's time to sail before the Volantenes arrive. When they laid over in Volantis he could see the fleets preparing to sail, and the city was celebratory as people anticipated the influx of gold and slaves once Daenerys is dead. He thinks the Volantenes may have as many as 300-500 ships. The maester aboard the ship tells Vic that his hand is not healing and he may have to take it, but Victarion refuses.
After he gets his hand tended to he is presented with a prisoner they fished out of the sea. It's Moqorro, the red priest who was swept overboard when Tyrion's ship was in the storm. Victarion decides to spare him since he seems to know things, but when the dusky woman sees the priest she hisses and this has led to some fan theories that there must be meaning for her reaction. Moqorro tells Vic he can heal him and when Vic comes back on deck his hand is smoking. He tells his crew to throw the maester in the sea and the winds will favor them to Meereen.
Victarion is probably my least favorite character in this entire series, or at least the most loathsome one with a POV. Not only does he not seem very developed to me, but he's an asshole too. But some interesting things happen here. Moqorro does something to Victarion that changes him, heals his hand, but at what cost? What's up with the smoking hand that Vic now has?
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Trust Issues Part 3
"Hi yourself," replied Nick.
"Thank you for answering. I've been trying, but... I understand. I'm so sorry, Nick. I just... I didn't know. It was just a job, but once we met... there was just something there. Wasn't there?"
"Yeah. There was. I'm sorry too Kay. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I wanted to. I was going to... that night. Obviously. But... I was so afraid you'd bolt, and of course I couldn't blame you. I just kept putting it off... it never seemed right."
"Yeah well those guys showing up might have got the point across."
"I'm sorry, Nick. I wasn't going to let that happen. I was scared... and yeah I waited too long. I fucked up. Can we... is there any chance we can... you know, start over? Or see each other?"
"And have your friends show up? That's a party I don't need."
"No!" Not like that. You and me... get together and talk. Figure this out, I... want to see you Nick. I won't lead anyone to you. I promise. Just meet me. Let's work it out."
"Kayla. I liked you too. Seriously... I was a little crazy about you. But this..."
"I know. Let's just meet."
"I know a place."
I must be crazy. Nick looked out the window as the ships came and went- a particularly large spaceliner was coming in for a landing and he marveled again at the size of those things. Maybe I should get on one of those and get out of here. But nah I'd never make it. They're watching. He sighed and signaled the bartender to refill his drink. He swirled the bourbon around and thought about his options. None of them good. He knew when he said the words that he'd regret it- you don't just let slip corporate secrets like that and not expect repercussions. Especially with the NDA's in place. But... he didn't think he could live with himself if he said nothing. Well now he was on the run and he was going to pay- one way or another- for his fine sensibilities. And Kayla... he wondered again why she'd want to meet. Yeah they had fun, and to be truthful he'd been falling for her- hard- had she been as well? He wanted to think so. But he also knew he was worth a lot of money right now. And she was a bounty hunter- was he really stupid enough to meet her? Well, he'd done dumb things before. This might be it though.
I hope I know what I'm doing. Kayla was aware she was taking a big risk- if she met Nick without telling the agency that was it. She'd have made her choice. She didn't know how that would go- they didn't have nearly enough money to pay things off. Speaking of money... a girl still has to work. She was on a lower level following a lead. This place made Mac's look like a luxury joint. There was a smoky haze and the floor was sticky, it smelled like vomit and spilled beer- and the music was so loud she could barely think. She was looking for Jimmy. One of her contacts said he liked to hang out at this pisshole, so here she was. She wended her way through the crowd, aware she was drawing attention by being alone, but she was feeling pissed off and reckless. She almost hoped someone would mess with her. She approached the bar and scanned the area but no one looked like Jimmy. Still, not a total loss.
She went to the back of the bar and squeezed in next to a guy with spiky magenta hair. He didn't look at her even though she made sure to make physical contact.
"Buy me a drink?"
He looked then. "Piss off."
"Nice," she purred, putting a hand on his arm. "But I'd really like to have a drink with you... especially if Jimmy's not around."
She had his attention now, along with the two guys behind them.
"Relax, boys," she said as she flashed her ID. "Just here to talk." She turned back to the guy.
"What the fuck do you want? I don't know where Jimmy is. "
She smiled and ordered a drink.
On the way out she kept her eyes open, expecting trouble, and she got it. Halfway to the door two guys blocked her way- one a big ox and the other a skankish looking thing. Of the two she judged the smaller guy the more dangerous- he looked like he'd stick a shiv in your back while you were preoccupied with Ox. She kept an eye on him as the big guy put his hand on her shoulder.
"Come on now, honey, just play nice and everyone is happy."
She grabbed his wrist and pivoted, spinning on the balls of her feet, and he went down to one knee with a cry. She applied a little pressure as bones crunched in his forearm.
Skank considered it, looked at the big guy, and turned away, disappearing into the crowd.
She let go and Ox sank down. She left without further delay, watching for Skank but he was gone. Enhancements have their uses, she thought as she stepped out into the cool air and left the din behind.
They stared at each other for a moment, and then Kayla came up and took his hands.
"Thank you. For trusting me. I know that must have been hard."
"This is awkward." He gave a nervous laugh. "So... now what?"
"I don't know," she sighed. "We're in the shit good, aren't we?"
"I am," he said. "I don't know about you. If you turn me in you're probably sitting pretty."
"I'm not turning you in, Nick. No way. You have to believe me. Even if they..."
"What? What happens if you don't?"
"Well... let's just say we're in the same boat then."
"You'd take that risk for me? Why?"
"I don't know, Nick. I like you. I can't just turn you in, we had something special. I thought. Or we might have. I don't know."
He put his arm around her and pulled her in, and for a moment they didn't say anything. He could smell her hair, how he'd missed that. They stayed that way for a bit until finally she looked up at him. Her eyes were a little red.
"You know what I did, right?" he asked.
"Yeah. They tell us enough so we're prepared."
"What do you think?"
"Well I don't know all the details, but... pretty gutsy. Or stupid, depending how you look at it. I think you did the right thing. You must have known they'd come after you."
"Yeah, I did. I actually sat on it for a while, but I couldn't... " He sighed. "If no one does anything, says anything, it doesn't change. And those are people they're messing with. Are they doing it to kids too? It's wrong, Kayla."
"I know. I just wish... why does it have to be us?"
"If it wasn't, we wouldn't have met."
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Game of Thrones No One
This episode- where to begin? A LOT happens in this one- and yet with the breakneck pace of this season I'm almost surprised MORE didn't happen. But the big news tonight is- Arya. The daughter of Ned Stark had a character defining moment.
Spoilers for books and show.
We start off at the theater. The show, eager to showcase the theatrical troupe that has been such a delight, again shows us Lady Crane and her skill. She takes in Arya and we immediately see that, contrary to speculation, Arya was not playing a game with the Waif. She really was taken by surprise and was dumb enough to flaunt her gold and think she could leave Braavos without the reckoning of the Faceless Men. I have a hard time with that, but whatever. Her plight opens and closes the episode, appropriately enough given the title, and it lives up to the hype. It was a thrilling sequence when she and the Waif inevitably face off again, although I'm sorry jumping from a second story window, running through Braavos and then that second jump! Not buying that, not when you've just been stabbed repeatedly in the stomach a day ago.
I mean it's ridiculous, but for all that it was thrilling to see her extinguish the candle. Okay little Waif, you wanna play? Let's play in the dark- which Arya can do. And this is kinda exciting because a theory I saw earlier this week- that Arya was playing the Waif and drawing her in so she could take advantage of darkness- was partly right. She may not have been luring her, but when it came time, she chose darkness and had the advantage. Nicely done.
A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell. And I'm going home.
And just like that Arya's time with the Faceless Men is done. And did Jaqen look pleased or what with her decision? He may be No One but you can't tell me he wasn't rooting for Arya, like they mentioned in the aftershow. That may be THE moment of the season, so far.
So let's talk about Cersei. She got some bad news tonight- Tommen threw her under the bus with his outlawing trial by combat. But wait- what "rumor" is Qyburn referring to? He has a habit of providing her an ace for her sleeve does anyone know what this about? I'm thinking maybe we'll get a resolution of Cersei's story by the end of the season? Or maybe not... hard to say. The Mountain's usefulness may be limited if there's no trial by combat- but I'm not sure the books are going this way.
Daenerys is back! Apparently the problems in Meereen, which are such a huge part of A Dance with Dragons, are swept away here and Tyrtion has time to drink with Grey Worm and Missandei. It was a fun scene- "Anyone not drinking is disrespecting our queen"- but it is short lived as the navy of- someone- shows up. Was that the Volantene fleet or Yunkai's? Anyway the initial shot of their attack was impressive, but then Dany returns. With her back and a fleet close by, does she have the ships she'll need to sail to Westeros? Man are they condensing the book or what? This is called forward plot movement on speed.
Which brings us to Riverrun. A lot of time was spent here and I have mixed feelings. I thought the Edmure/ Jaime exchange was done well, and a highlight was the baby in a catapult ploy used by Jaime- straight out of the books. I always wonder in the books- would Jaime really have done it? Here you almost think he would since show Jaime is not book Jaime. His reason for being in such a hurry- to get back to Cersei- is maddening though given his book arc. The other thing that bothered me was the portrayal of the Blackfish- instead of escaping like he does in the books, to fight on, here he stubbornly refuses to yield, which means Sansa doesn't get Tully help and will be forced to rely on Littlefinger?
In my opinion they've never handled the Blackfish properly, even though the actor does a fine job. But is he really dead? We never see a body, and it seems weird they would use him and then just kill him off. So... who knows? And by doing it this way they make Edmure willing t give his uncle to the Freys, which I don't buy. It also doesn't ring true that Jaime would (or could) make that deal with Brienne- to let the Tully forces all march north to fight Freys and Boltons. But whatever, it's the show.
Lastly we have Sandor. He's on the rampage here and it's kind of a shame- this feels like a redemption arc for him, but in the book he finds redemption in peace. Not in indiscriminately killing. This is a typical approach from the writers, unfortunately. Now it's possible he'll go back to violence in the book if provoked somehow, but I can guarantee it'll be handled with more sensitivity. Time will tell.
Cover Characteristics- Arrows
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- Arrows
Arrows- a staple of fantasy. And that's where most of my picks come from this week. From the rogues and highwaymen who prowl the forest lanes to the assassin or green cloaked rangers, fantasy has all kinds of archery going on. So this was a fun topic this week.
I like this cover of all the Hunger Games variants I've seen. Simple yet effective, and the black and gold works nicely.
A quintessential ranger in the woods image.
Kind of a silly fantasy cover but it has that old school feel.
The audiobook cover of The Two Towers. No shortage of arrows in this one.
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