Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 2015 Recap

Goodbye, March! Wow. It's already gotten ridiculously hot here in Florida, and it doesn't look like we'll have very much of a spring.

Ally and I went to an Elvis Costello concert on St. Patrick's Day (we both proudly wore some green!). We saw him last summer in Nashville while we were there for the UtopYA con, but this show was much, much closer to home with only a 30 minute drive to Downtown Orlando instead of a nearly 700 mile drive across three states, lol. We had a spectacular view from the 5th row; this was the closest I've ever sat to the stage at any concert, and I like to think that Elvis and I made eye contact at some point in the evening, lol. He sang "Alison" once again, which made our Allison very, very happy.

My project to recap Seasons 1 and 2 of Game of Thrones before Season 5 premieres in a few weeks is officially underway. Translation: LOTS of upcoming GoT posts scheduled for the blog because I have 20 episodes to fit in before April 12, LOL.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Discussing Game of Thrones: The Wolf and the Lion

* Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “The Wolf and the Lion.”

Fetch the Breastplate Stretcher!

Ned goes snooping into the death of Ser Hugh of the Vale. King Robert bellows his intention to participate in the tourney but can't fit into his armor and focuses his bellowing on his harried squire, Lancel.

The Mountain Is a Sore Loser

Loras Tyrell is up against the Mountain in the joust. Littlefinger not so subtly hints that there's something going on between Loras and Renly Baratheon. When Loras defeats the Mountain after the latter's horse goes batty, the Mountain kills the horse and then goes after Loras. The Hound steps in at this point, and the Clegane brothers make it personal until Robert commands them to stop.


Tyrion realizes that Catelyn is hauling him to the Vale. One of the hill tribes attacks their party, and Bronn displays some serious badassery.

Housing Around

At Winterfell, Bran and Maester Luwin are having a lesson on the houses of Westeros. Bran is being rather difficult with Luwin, purposely matching the wrong words to the wrong house. When Bran recites "Family, Duty, Honor," the words of his mother's house, Tully, he does so with an edge. Luwin tries to explain Catelyn's absence, but Bran is clearly upset that she's seemingly left him.

Always Listen to Varys

Because he's usually right! Varys warns Ned that the King's life is in danger, and he also divulges the name of the poison that killed Jon Arryn: the tears of Lys.

Dungeons Make the Best Places to Plot

Chasing a cat, Arya ends up in the dungeons, where she's not alone. After concealing herself (Syrio would be proud!), she overhears Varys and Illyrio Mopatis plotting. I remember reading this part in book one, and it wasn't as obvious whom Varys is conversing with. When I saw this scene on the show, I was very proud of myself for guessing correctly that the mystery speaker was, in fact, Illyrio, lol.

Varys & Littlefinger, Round 1

These two. They're constantly trying to one-up each other in the intelligence gathering game. This is the first of a number of discussions in the throne room. They're interrupted by Renly, who announces that Robert is actually attending a Small Council meeting.

Ned Gets Some Bad News

Arya's adventure in the dungeons has landed her outside the castle, and the guards give her a hard time when she attempts to get back in. Fortunately for her, Ned finds her. Yoren arrives from the Wall and delivers the news about what Catelyn has done.

Not Quite the Welcome We Were Expecting

A group of knights from the Vale ride out to meet Catelyn, and despite her sister being Lady of the Eyrie, the knights are rather hostile toward Lady Stark.

More Troubling News from Abroad

Ned arrives for the Small Council meeting and requests to speak to the King alone, but Robert is already in a rage over word that Daenerys is pregnant. He wants mother and child plus Viserys dead. Ned gets angry upon learning that Jorah Mormont is the Crown's spy and information source, and he's appalled by Robert's proposed murders. Robert retorts that Ned is being ludicrously honorable; the rest of the council is for Robert's plan. This is the last straw for Ned, who hands over his, um, Hand of the King pin. He's packing up to leave when that damn Littlefinger drops a tantalizing morsel that's too attractive to resist: he'll take Ned to the last person Jon Arryn spoke to before his death.

And the Audience Collectively Goes, "EWWWWWWWW!"

Catelyn and her party have been granted entrance to the Eyrie, and everyone is horrified to witness young Robin Arryn in the middle of being fed. Um, he's not young enough to still be doing that. Tyrion is thrown into one of the super scary sky cells, which, all things considered, might still be preferable to having to look at Robin Arryn's milk mustache. *shudder*

In Case You Missed It

Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell are a couple! Their relationship on the show is much more obvious than it was in the books, where it was only implied. Like seriously, I didn't catch on until the Red Viper himself, Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne, made a comment about them in, I think it was the third book, A Storm of Swords.

Marriage Thoughts

Cersei and Robert have a very deep, insightful conversation. He accuses her of sounding just like her father, Lord Tywin, who arranged the marriage between the two. Both realize that it was one born of politics, but Cersei, in a rare candid moment, admits she tried to love Robert. He, in turn, admits he never could have loved anyone but Ned's sister, Lyanna Stark.

Jon Arryn's Unfinished Business Is Now Ned's Business

Ned meets another of Robert's bastard children, this one only a baby, and quizzes Littlefinger as to why Jon Arryn was seeking out the King's illegitimate offspring. Oh Ned. You're thisclose to putting it all together!

Aaaand the Sh*t Hits the Fan

Ned steps out into the street to be met by an angry Jaime and a number of armed men. The Kingslayer demands Tyrion's release and ends up stabbing poor Jory right through the eye. Jaime then faces off one-on-one against Ned. Their sparring is cut short when one of Jaime's men puts a spear in Ned's leg, which royally pisses off Jaime and Jaime's ego—the Kingslayer does NOT need any help in a sword fight!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Discussing Game of Thrones: Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things

* Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things.”

What's Up with That Crow?

Bran dreams of a crow with a freaky third eye, the first of many such dreams. He wakes up to find that he's been summoned by Robb, who, in their parents' absence, is receiving a visiting Tyrion. With hostility. Despite Robb's downright arctic treatment, Tyrion has brought a design for a special saddle for Bran so that the boy can ride a horse again. Robb softens his stance toward his Lannister visitor, but it's too little too late. Tyrion notes that Catelyn is nowhere to be seen around Winterfell and gets in some verbal jabs at Theon before continuing his journey south.

The New Arrival at the Wall

It's Samwell Tarly! Poor Sam doesn't exactly receive a warm welcome from his new brothers, and Rast whales on him until Jon steps in. Grenn expresses his concern that being associated with Sam will only bring trouble.

Something About Dragons

The khalasar arrives in Vaes Dothrak, and Viserys's reaction is of one who is not impressed. Viserys and Doreah later have a super chatty conversation in the bathtub about dragons. In what is practically a signature GoT storytelling technique, the scene's talkiness is offset by what else is going on: these two in a bathtub.

Now It's Sansa's Turn to Look at the Iron Throne

Viewing the Iron Throne in person for yourself is like a GoT rite of passage. Sansa and Septa Mordane visit the throne room, and Sansa is already worried about her future, at this point about what will happen if she doesn't give Joffrey any sons. Honey, if you only knew the horrors on the horizon courtesy of quite possibly the most despised character on TV.

That Was a Really Interesting Book Jon Arryn Was Reading

Janos Slynt, commander of the City Watch, complains about the trouble that's been cropping up in King's Landing lately because of the rabble flocking to the capital for the tournament. Afterwards, Ned finds himself alone with Pycelle and quizzes him about Jon Arryn. Pycelle whips out the book Jon Arryn seemed to have taken a particular interest in, all about the history of the houses of Westeros. Ned brings up the topic of poison and Pycelle is quick to throw suspicion on Varys.

But I Don't Want to Be a Lady When I Grow Up!

Gotta love Arya. She'd make an amazing knight. Gotta also love scenes like this one between Ned and his children. Cherish them now because . . . you know . . . .

Future Besties!

Jon has a new watch partner—Sam! Best friends in the making! Jon, rather tactlessly, notes that Sam really isn't good at anything and asks him why he's at the Wall. Sam then reveals what an awful, awful, awful human being his father is.

Ned Gets Some Clues

Littlefinger, obviously with the intent of furthering his own agenda, provides Ned with two very important leads. He suggests that Ser Hugh of the Vale, Jon Arryn's former squire who's suddenly been jumped up to a knight, might know something important. Ned is also advised to pay a visit to a King's Landing blacksmith. Ned dispatches Jory to talk to Ser Hugh, who turns out to be more interested in measuring the length of the jousting field than conversing with Jory. Ned looks in on the blacksmith and is surprised to find how much the blacksmith's apprentice, Gendry, resembles a certain king.

When Being Kingsguard Sucks

Jaime has to stand guard outside Robert's door while the king cheats on Cersei. Nice. Jory arrives, and he and Jaime reminisce about fighting against the Ironborn.

Ghost Is a Badass

Jon tries to get Pyp and Grenn to not hassle Sam. Rast, unfortunately, overhears the conversation, so at night, Jon takes Ghost to scare Rast into leaving Sam alone. The next day, no one will fight Sam, and an angry Thorne knows Jon is responsible.

Viserys: Worst Dinner Guest Ever

Daenerys invites her brother for a nice meal together, and he's his usual snarling self. She stands up for herself this time, though, and the two get into a pretty nasty brawl. His sister's newfound independence comes as a shock to Viserys; better get used to it, buddy.

Jon Snow Prefers Redheads

Jon and Sam are scrubbing tables in the mess hall and having a guy talk. Jon mentions Ros, quite possibly the most famous prostitute in Westeros, who's a redhead like a certain other character who will play a significant role in our favorite brooding bastard's life, haha. Thorne walks in and the mood turns all depressing when he tells the lads they have NO idea what a real winter is like. Plus Mance Rayder, the self-proclaimed King Beyond the Wall is lurking somewhere out there.

Don't Feel Bad, Daenerys

Talking to Jorah, Daenerys feels remorse about hitting her brother. She also realizes that he's not fit to lead a trail of ants.

The Hand's Tourney

The tournament gets underway. In the first of several creepy interactions, Littlefinger introduces himself to Sansa. Shudder. The Mountain pulverizes Ser Hugh of the Vale in the joust. Shudder. Littlefinger enlightens Sansa to the animosity between the Mountain and his brother, the Hound.

Beware the Lion, Ned

Cersei goes to see Ned, ostensibly to make peace over the direwolf business. But, like pretty much any conversation that involves the Queen, there's a threat underlying the visit.

Catelyn's Fateful Decision

Catelyn and Ser Rodrik are at an inn when Tyrion walks in. Among the patrons is Bronn, who'll be very important very soon. Tyrion recognizes Catelyn, who accuses him of trying to kill Bran and orders him seized. And a dragon-sized load of trouble is about to start.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Discussing Game of Thrones: Lord Snow

* Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “Lord Snow.”

It's the Throne That Everyone's Talking About

Ned arrives in the capital and is immediately summoned to a Small Council meeting. He enters the famous/infamous throne room to find Jaime, who, may I say, is resplendent in his gold Kingsguard armor. They reminisce about Ned finding Jaime and the body of the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen, whom Jaime killed, thus earning Jaime the moniker "Kingslayer." Ah, the first of many serious conversations in the throne room.

Meet the Small Council

It's our first look at Varys, Grand Maester Pycelle, Renly Baratheon (Robert's brother), and Lord Petyr Baelish, AKA Littlefinger. Ned is presented with the official Hand of the King pin. Robert, the ever diligent ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, is skipping the meeting. A tournament is to be held in Ned's honor, but the ever humble Lord Stark is outraged by the expense.

Whine, Whine, Whine

Cersei coddles Joffrey, who moans and complains about not wanting to marry Sansa. We get a glimpse of the kind of king Westeros is in for: tyrannical. We also get a feel for Cersei's view of the world: "Everyone who isn't us is an enemy."

Dad: The Only Job Tougher Than Hand of the King

The Stark girls continue to fight, and Ned tries to smooth things over with both of them. Arya gets busted by her father for having Needle, but in the end, she gets to keep her trusty weapon.

Old Nan's Fun Bedtimes Stories

Her tales of the White Walkers are just lovely, as in they scare the sh*t out of you. Bran, however, is intrigued, until Robb interrupts. In an utterly heartbreaking moment, Bran tells his older brother that he would rather be dead than paralyzed.

Littlefinger Stirs the Pot

Newly arrived Catelyn and Ser Rodrik are skulking around King's Landing and are intercepted by one of Littlefinger's minions. The subject of the nasty looking dagger that the assassin tried to kill Catelyn and Bran with is discussed. Varys claims he doesn't know who owns it, but Littlefinger surprises everyone by saying that the dagger was once his until he lost it in a bet to . . . Tyrion.

Let the Haranguing Begin!

At the Wall, Ser Alliser Thorne, master-at-arms for the Night's Watch, is acting like an a-hole of the first order, especially to Jon Snow, as Lord Commander Mormont and Tyrion look on. Tyrion, just stay put at the Wall because Littlefinger is totally setting you up!

My Wife Is Where Now?!

Ned finds out that Catelyn is in King's Landing, of all places. Oh Ned, you should have strangled Littlefinger when you had the chance.

Second Thoughts About the Whole Wall Thing

Jon is about to get his ass kicked when Tyrion walks in, interrupting the attempted ass-kicking. Jon expresses doubts about his decision to join the Night's Watch. Life at the Wall is, like, hard and stuff.

Nothing to Worry About Here

Cersei is panicking about Bran waking up and what the boy might say. Jaime is all like, so what? I'll kill 'em all to be with you, dear sister!

A Most Bittersweet Farewell

Catelyn is departing King's Landing, and she and Ned make their goodbyes. Super sad face for many reasons.

Happy Memories of Killing

It's Barristan the Bold himself—Ser Barristan Selmy! He and Robert have a jolly ole time recalling their first kills. Robert makes fun of his squire, young Lancel Lannister. Jaime gets called in to join the conversation, and Robert wants to know what Aerys Targaryen said before Jaime drove a sword in him. Jaime replies that the Mad King's last words were, "Burn them all." Class, please memorize that significant line for future episodes.

No Horse for You!

In another piece of foreshadowing, Daenerys and Jorah are talking about slaves. She orders the khalasar to stop, which pisses off her brother. Royally. Rakharo is ready to kill him for being such an arse to the khaleesi. Viserys gets to keep his life for another day, but Rakharo takes his horse and the dragon is forced to, gasp, walk.

But I Wanna Be a Ranger!

Jon takes the elevator up to the top of the Wall, and we're treated to a very beautiful view of it. Benjen Stark is going out ranging, and Jon thinks he should be going, too. Dude, you haven't even taken your vows yet! Benjen is like sorry, you gotta earn that right. And then we meet another cool dude of the Night's Watch—Yoren! Love him! He and Tyrion make a great pair and it's all hearty guffaws until serious Benjen arrives to kill the buzz. Yoren is bound for King's Landing to recruit for the Night's Watch, which means that he's going to divest the capital of some of its prisoners.

Irri: Even More Accurate Than a Home Pregnancy Test

Irri, one of Daenerys's handmaidens, deduces that the khaleesi is going to have a baby. Irri shares the wonderful news with Jorah and Rakharo, who are just hangin'. Suddenly, Jorah has an urgent matter to attend to, i.e. he's going to send off a letter to King's Landing as fast as his tattling hand can manage it.

Tyrion Makes Good on His Promise

. . . to pee from the top of the Wall. His stay at Castle Black has reached an end, and he's heading back south. Mormont implores Tyrion, as the Queen's brother, to ask King Robert for help in shoring up the Night's Watch's numbers. Jon also requests Tyrion to deliver a message to Bran if he passes through Winterfell on his journey home.

Dancing Lessons

With Syrio Forel, the most badass "dancing" instructor ever! Ned watches Arya and her new teacher for a bit, and at first it appears that he's smiling, but then his expression suddenly turns more than a little concerned. Hmmm.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Discussing Game of Thrones: The Kingsroad

* Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “The Kingsroad.”

On the Road with the Khalasar

Daenerys is quickly learning that life with the Dothraki isn't like getting to hang around Illyrio's nice house back in Pentos. Jorah is sympathetic toward her and treats her with kindness. Viserys, however, can't help but broach the topic of Jorah's troubles with Ned Stark and the reason why Jorah is traveling with the Dothraki as opposed to being back in Westeros.

Are Those the Dogs Yelping, or Is That Just Joffrey?

Tyrion wakes up in the kennels to the sound of Joffrey's voice. Tyrion orders his nephew to pay his respects to the Starks in light of Bran's fall, but the little sh*t acts like, well, a little sh*t at the suggestion. Tyrion bitch slaps Joffrey not once, not twice, but thrice. The Hound, who's been a witness to all of this, warns Tyrion that his repellent charge won't forget this incident.

Beloved Siblings

Here's another rare tableau: all three Lannister siblings assembled together. Though she tries to mask it, Cersei is not pleased to hear that Bran may pull through because that means her crazy love for her twin brother could be exposed. Jaime suggests that the boy's death would be preferable to being crippled for life, a comment that is apparently overheard because of what happens later in this episode.

Is This for Reals?

Catelyn has not left an unconscious Bran's bedside, and Cersei pays her a visit. The Queen offers her sympathy and actually comes across as quite sincere, but then again, you never know with that crazy biatch.

Needle Time

Jon is waiting for the Winterfell blacksmith to finish up with what turns out to be a goodbye gift for Arya. But first Jaime does some needling of his own, seeming to mock Jon for joining the Night's Watch. Jaime is such an insufferable arse at this point, lol. Arya is packing for King's Landing with some help from her direwolf, Nymeria—cue the "AWWW"s and save some for the moment when Jon presents Arya with her very own sword, which she names Needle.

The Jon Snow Goodbye Tour Continues

Jon visits Bran's room to say goodbye and gets nothing but hostility from Catelyn. Ned walks in, and the whole vibe in the room is A-W-K-W-A-R-D. Outside, Jon lies to Robb that Catelyn was kind to him when he bid adieu to Bran, and then Jon and Robb share a nice bro hug.

The Road Splits Here

This scene where Ned and Jon go their separate ways is like a knife to the heart, especially when Ned promises to tell Jon about his mother the next time they meet. *sobs* On a pit stop, Robert quizzes Ned about Jon's mother and tells him he's been too hard on himself about his lapse in fidelity. Robert also brings up the news that Daenerys has been married, and he wants to assassinate her before she and the Dothraki become a threat. Ned dismisses the idea, but Robert insists that a war is coming.

Tyrion Hearts Books

Tyrion is part of the group headed to the Wall, and in a conversation with Jon Snow, Tyrion delivers the amazing "A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone" line. YES!

Intruder Alert!

While Robb tries to have a heart-to-heart with his mother, they hear the direwolves howling outside. Robb then spots a fire outside the window and rushes off to investigate. The fire turns out to be a distraction, meant to lure everyone away from Bran's room so an assassin can slip in. Instead he comes face-to-face with Catelyn, who puts up one hell of a fight but is still no match for the would-be killer and his wicked looking blade. Both she and Bran are saved, however, by Bran's direwolf, who jumps in seemingly out of nowhere and rips out the assassin's throat.

When a Dragon Egg is Not Just an Egg

Daenerys has taken a very keen interest in her dragon eggs, and even though they're supposed to be merely fossils, it's as though she instinctively knows there's something special about them.

Cat Stark: CSI

Catelyn visits the tower where Bran fell from and finds a very long, very blond hair. She then consults with Robb, Theon, Ser Rodrik, and Luwin about her forensic discovery. She (rightly) suspects that Bran's fall was not an accident, and that the Lannisters were involved. Luwin advises alerting Ned. Robb volunteers to go to King's Landing but his mother reminds him that there must always be a Stark in Winterfell.

Poor Lady

Joffrey and Sansa go for a stroll that quickly ends in disaster. He tries to act all valiant and impressive in a princely manner. Ha. The two run into Arya and Mycah, the butcher's boy, who are play sword fighting. Sansa is embarrassed by Arya's behavior, but Joffrey can't help but act like an arse and draws his very real sword and turns it on Mycah. Arya goes after Joffrey, and the whole thing really goes south when Nymeria comes to Arya's aid and chomps down on Joffrey's arm. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Arya has to throw rocks at Nymeria to get her to run away. Arya takes off, too, but is later found and brought before the King and Queen. Cersei is beyond livid and determined to have revenge. Robert, aware that Joffrey is a sh*t, is less inclined to dole out a severe punishment, but Cersei won't have it. Since Nymeria is missing, Cersei suggests that Lady be put down instead. Both Stark girls are horrifed, but Ned carries out the deed himself. And then the scene cuts to Bran waking up!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (77): What Would Your Patronus Be?

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
What Would Your Patronus Be?

I don't even have to think about what Melissa's Patronus would be; she LOVES octopuses, so hers would be an octopus. I guessed Ally's would be a wolf, specifically a direwolf in honor of Game of Thrones, and when I texted her to ask before starting this post, she replied with direwolf, lol. I think mine would be an eagle, especially since Pottermore sorted me into Ravenclaw. :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Loot (14)

It's an itty bitty book haul for March, but that's good because it means I've been good about not buying books! :D

I absolutely had to have a copy of Gail Carriger's Prudence, the first book in her brand new Parasol Protectorate spin-off series. I've been sneaking glances at the first few pages and then forcing myself to put the book down because I'm in the middle of reading Carriger's YA Finishing School series right now and want to, er, finish that first before moving on to Prudence, lol.


Prudence by Gail Carriger

eBooks Bought:

Hunting Season by Nikki Jefford

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Discussing Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming

* Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “Winter Is Coming.”

Hello there, fellow Game of Thrones fans! It's almost that time again—a brand new season of GoT is about to premiere! Can you tell by all of the exclamation points that I'm a a little bit excited?!!!!

Something that I've wanted to do for ages is recap the first two seasons for the blog. See, back when the show made its debut in 2011, I was all, "What is this thing you call a blog?" I began posting recaps at the start of Season 3, with the intention of digging out my DVDs of the previous seasons and writing up some summaries for the earlier episodes. Me being me, of course, here were are approaching the beginning of the fifth season and I'm just getting around to this much-delayed project. Soooo, to squeeze in 20 episodes before April 12, sometimes I'll post two recaps in a day so that we're all caught up for Season 5. Now let's get started!

Lesson #1 for Watching Game of Thrones: Do NOT Get Too Attached to the Characters!

And so our TV watching begins. The opening scene of the Night's Watch out on a mission to track Wildlings follows the book very closely. OMG, I remember reading this part in the book and committing to memory all of the characters' names. The joke was totally on me because . . . most of them die nearly straightaway! The White Walkers mean business when they're out and about killing, in case there was any doubt.

Opening Credits of Awesomeness!

This show does everything, including the opening credits, on a scale of epicness. The credits cleverly give you a sense of the locations that you're about to visit and how they're situated geographically. And it's nice to return to a time when Winterfell wasn't shown burning. :/

Take a Mental Photograph

Because this loving look at the Stark family at home in Winterfell isn't going to last. No, not long at all. The Stark kids all look so young here. And hey—it's Sean Bean as Ned Stark! He says the classic line: "Winter is coming." Indeed it is, Ned. Indeed it is.

Those Two Are Up to What?

In King's Landing, mourning bells are ringing in the sept for Jon Arryn, Hand of the King. Cersei and Jaime Lannister's twin blond heads make their first appearance as they discuss some secret or other that Jon Arryn may or may not have known. Hmmmm . . . .

Dark Wings, Dark Words

A raven has brought the news of Jon Arryn's death to Winterfell as well as word that King Robert Baratheon, the queen, and the rest of their party are headed north. Lord and Lady Stark know that the king is going to ask Ned to be the new Hand of the King. Ah, if only we could rewind time so that Ned could be all like, "Hell. NO!" I love how beautiful the godswood at Winterfell looks.

Always Listen to Your Mother

Catelyn catches Bran scaling a wall and gives him a good scolding. Some serious foreshadowing here!

They're Here!

Arya is running around trying to get a good view as the King's party arrives at Winterfell. And she's doing this wearing a guard's helmet, which is hilarious. Here's our first look at Prince Charming himself, Joffrey Baratheon! I say that, of course, with all the irony in the world. King Robert wants to go straight to the crypt to pay his respects to Ned's sister, Lyanna, who was also Robert's betrothed. Queen Cersei is not pleased. In the crypt, Robert officially asks Ned to be Hand of the King and proposes that Joffrey marry Sansa. Doubly bad idea.

Jaime Locates a Missing Lannister

And it's Tyrion! In a whorehouse. Jaime requests that Tyrion be present for dinner so he's not left alone with all of the northern crowd.

It's Targaryen Time

Viserys and Daenerys are camping out in Illyrio Mopatis's pad in Pentos, where Viserys is plotting to claim his rightful place as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Viserys is also a total creeper and deranged, probably because of all that Targaryen inbreeding over the years. Daenerys is to marry Dothraki horse lord Khal Drogo, creating an alliance that will aid Viserys in his quest for the Iron Throne.

Partying it Up at Winterfell

Sansa is all moony about the prospect of marrying Joffrey while her mother is rightfully skittish about the arrangement. At the feast, Robert is making a spectacle of himself and embarrassing the hell out of Cersei. Bastard Jon Snow has been banished out of sight by Lady Catelyn, and when Ned's brother Benjen rides up to Winterfell, Jon asks him to take him back with him to the Wall. Back inside, Catelyn tries to make polite conversation with Cersei, and in a scene that still cracks me up, Robb has to remove Arya after she flings food across the table at Sansa.

A Most Troubling Missive

Ned and Catelyn's quiet time is interrupted by the arrival of a letter from her sister, Lysa, claiming that her husband, Jon Arryn, was murdered by the Lannisters. Lysa and her son have fled King's Landing, and she warns that the King is in danger. Maester Luwin urges Ned to accept Robert's offer to become Hand of the King because Robert needs someone he can trust, while Catelyn opposes the idea.

Partying It Up with the Dothraki

It's Daenerys and Drogo's wedding day, and things are pretty crazy. Ser Jorah Mormont, he of the sexy, growly voice, introduces himself to Daenerys and presents her with books as a wedding gift. I love this guy already. Illyrio's presents are dragon eggs that are supposed to be fossilized. The key word being "fossilized." We'll see about that.

Mom Was Right

A hunting party departs Winterfell as Bran, ignoring his mother's warning, climbs a tower. The poor lad happens upon a most disturbing scene involving some blond twins and gets shoved out the tower window. And that's the end of Episode 1!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead

* This review contains spoilers for the previous books in the Bloodlines series.

The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead
The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6)
By Richelle Mead
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Sydney and Adrian have been granted sanctuary at the Moroi Court, but while this means that Sydney is relatively safe from the wrath of the Alchemists, neither she nor Adrian can do much to assist in the search for a missing Jill. Sydney may be forced to venture outside of Court, however, when it appears that Jill’s abductor is a past enemy of Sydney’s and out for revenge. While Adrian worries about Sydney falling back into the Alchemists’ hands, she in turns fears the consequences of his continued use of spirit.

Review: It’s time to say goodbye to another favorite series of mine—Bloodlines. I feel especially sentimental about this one coming to an end because the first Bloodlines novel was the very first book that I reviewed on the blog almost three years ago. Ah, the memories.

When I began reading this series, I remember being a tad skeptical of Sydney’s ability to anchor the series as the protagonist. Following in the thunderous footsteps of Vampire Academy’s Rose Hathaway isn’t easy, but Sydney quickly grew on me. Of course I’d already fallen in love with Adrian back in VA, so seeing him with a prominent role in Bloodlines instantly won my heart over to this series. Watching both characters develop tremendously over six books, as well as watching the relationship between the two of them blossom, has been the highlight of the series for me.

I just had to gush about Sydrian for a minute, but now I’ll attempt to gather some focus and home in on the particulars of The Ruby Circle. Something I noticed when I plucked my copy from the shelf was that it seemed on the slim side for a series ender. It’s just under 350 pages, and although I try not to judge books by their page counts, I was still a little surprised. Were all of the plotlines going to be wrapped up by the end? In response to that question, I would say—mostly.

While I was very happy with the conclusion of The Ruby Circle and I think longtime fans will be, too, the book also drops a revelation that leads me to believe we haven’t seen the last of these characters. So I’d call this an ending that isn’t quite an ending because it leaves at least one door ajar for a spin-off of a spin-off. And obviously, I would totally read that.

This has turned out to be a bit of a tricky review to write, because despite enjoying reading this, it didn’t wow me as much as the previous novel, Silver Shadows, did. There was a definite comfort in being in the company of Sydney, Adrian, Eddie and their friends one last time, but the plot of this one, which centered around the search for Jill, wasn’t as compelling as the search for Sydney in Silver Shadows (no offense meant to Jill). Perhaps it was because in the latter, we knew exactly what was happening to Sydney firsthand in that horrible Alchemist re-education hellhole. This is my best effort at explaining my feelings toward The Ruby Circle: it hit some very sweet spots that reaffirmed my love for the series as a whole but wasn’t quite the page-turner that some of the other Bloodlines books have been.

All in All: Although I’d expected a little more from The Ruby Circle—more suspense, more tension, and maybe even a few more pages, the series wrapped up very nicely.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (76): What Would Your Amortentia Smell Like?

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
What Would Your Amortentia Smell Like?

I definitely have to go with the scent of paper in a brand new book—that's one reason why I'll never stop reading print books. I'd also say, chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, coffee brewing, and fresh cut roses. :)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder

Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder
Shadow Study (Soulfinders #1)
By Maria V. Snyder
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Yelena’s powers as a Soulfinder are renowned throughout Sitia and even in Ixia, where magic is forbidden, so when a would-be assassin’s attack robs Yelena of her magic, she is devastated. Yelena knows that she cannot keep her loss quiet for long, and once word spreads, the many enemies she’s made over the years are certain to exploit her vulnerability. Meanwhile, back in Ixia, Valek is tied up investigating a smuggling operation as well as assessing his possible replacement on the Commander’s staff, and he’s completely unaware that Yelena is without her formidable magical protection.

Review: Some characters have a way of entwining themselves around your heart so that even after a significant amount of time has passed since the end of their adventures, you still think about them often. And so it is with Yelena and Valek, Poison Study’s power couple extraordinaire. These two—I just love them. Yelena and Valek forever! Obviously, I greeted the news that they were returning in a brand new series with euphoria.

Not only does Shadow Study reunite readers with Yelena and Valek, but it also brings back a host of familiar faces, including the awesome power twins extraordinare, Ari and Janco. I love these two guys, too, and, wait for it—Janco has a POV! The slightly odd aspect of this is that it’s in the third person, while Yelena’s chapters remain in the first. This was minor to me, however, as Janco’s chapters were hilarious! Adding his POV was a brilliant move on Maria V. Snyder’s part, changing up the singular narration from both the Study and Glass series. Plus, Janco’s wit is very, very entertaining.

Speaking of the Glass books, which were a spin-off of Study and featured glass artist Opal Cowan as the protagonist, she and some other characters from Glass turn up in Shadow Study. This novel actually brings both series together a little more than I’d anticipated. I reread the three Study books but not the Glass trilogy before starting Shadow Study, and there were a few times when I felt that a refresher on the people and events from Glass would have been helpful to jog my memory. I also wish that I’d read the Study short stories because I’m pretty sure that this book alludes to those as well. Although Shadow Study does a good enough job of recapping plotlines from the previous books that might need a few further details, I do think that being up to speed on all that’s happened in this world up to this point yields the best reading experience from Shadow Study.

Without a doubt, the best thing about the novel is Valek’s POV. That’s right—Valek. POV! Like Janco’s chapters, Valek’s are written in the third person, but again—Valek. POV! I freaked out when I discovered this because gaining access to the thoughts of Ixia’s most feared assassin is just priceless. Snyder does not disappoint Valek’s many admirers, as we learn much about his past, from the assassin training he received in his youth to his initial meeting with Ambrose, the future Commander of Ixia. It’s all incredibly insightful and riveting to read; fans are sure to be extremely pleased with this look into the backstory of this beloved character.

Political intrigue has been a constant throughout the books, and there’s no shortage of it here. Unraveling the complex web of espionage to figure out allegiances and motives is a lot of fun, and Snyder continues to be a pro at keeping the reader guessing. Nearly every chapter ends with a mini-cliffhanger, which means you’ll find yourself unable to put this down. Maria V. Snyder has presented her readers with a very lovely gift in the form of this book. If you already loved Yelena, Valek, Ari, Janco, and the rest of the gang, prepare to fall in love with them all over again. I know I did, and it was a most wonderful feeling, indeed.

All in All: Study fans (and Glass fans): you need to read this NOW!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Anything Sunday (4): 80's Childhood Treasures

I don't know about anyone else, but I loved growing up in the 80's. OK, so some (all right—most, if not all) of the fashions and hairstyles from that decade haven't held up well over time, but I have so many fond memories from my childhood.

I was doing some organizing around the house last weekend and went through some of the childhood relics I've held on to. (I promise that I'm not a hoarder.) I was curious to see if anybody else remembers things like . . . .

Strawberry Shortcake! I know that she and her friends have been brought back, complete with a modern makeover, in recent years, but these are the original mini figures from the 80's. And they still have a faint scent to them! I did have a few of the bigger dolls and the trolley that was shaped like a berry, but those are long gone.

I know that Lego isn't a strictly 80's thing, but I still have the sets (and the case) that I received as Christmas and birthday gifts when I was a kid. I spent countless hours building with Lego bricks and built a model of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre out of Lego for a high school English project. I very stupidly failed to take a picture of it at the time—d'oh!

I don't have my NES or the games anymore, but I still have The Official Nintendo Player's Guide, lol. I'll never forget how proud I was the day that I completed The Legend of Zelda!

My co-worker and I were just talking about the sticker albums we had as kids. I wasn't into sticker collecting all that much, but I do love how the albums have almost become like scrapbooks because the stickers are very much 80's themed with the likes of Pac-Man and Rainbow Brite!

If you're a fellow 80's child like me, do any of these ring a bell?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (75): Best Hogwarts Teacher

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
Best Hogwarts Teacher

Hogwarts is lucky to have many amazing teachers, but I think the best teacher will always be Professor Lupin. I am slightly biased because Remus is one of my favorite characters, but I really do think he made a great teacher. He taught his students a lot of valuable things and was one of the most qualified people to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. Remus showed that he cared about his students and allowed his students to study DADA in a safe, practical setting. I’ll never forget the boggart scene, lol. I also credit Professor Lupin for being the best teacher because of the fact that he was the only professor who actually resigned from the DADA position during that terrible unlucky streak, rather than being fired, injured, or killed.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder
Fire Study (Study #3)
By Maria V. Snyder
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: As a Soulfinder, Yelena’s powers are stronger than those of most magicians, much to the concern of Sitian leadership. Sitia is on the brink of war with Ixia, and Yelena’s loyalties are caught in the middle. She’s also up against one of the most intimidating foes she’s ever faced, and not even Yelena’s magic may be able to stop the Fire Warper.

Review: We have arrived at the end of the original Study trilogy, and I’m feeling rather conflicted. It’s not as though I wasn’t expecting the things that still, after a reread, didn’t quite work for me about Fire Study. I mean, I still love the series, but a lot of that love stems from how amazing the first book, Poison Study, was and my attachment to some of the characters, including the equine ones (love you, Kiki!). I also just have really warm, fuzzy memories of reading all three books way back in my pre-blogging days, and sometimes it’s tough to turn a critical eye toward this series.

I will say that neither Magic Study nor Fire Study surpasses the superb Poison Study, and I think Fire Study lags behind the most, especially in terms of pacing. Magic Study seemed a little long to me; Fire Study definitely felt too long. Yelena makes several pit stops as she criss-crosses her way through Sitia, Ixia, and Sitia again in her quest to save Sitia and Ixia and everybody and everyone.

Yelena takes it upon herself to do all of the rescuing in this one, which, being one person against a slew of evil Daviian Vermin, Warpers, and one extremely troublesome Fire Warper, leads to a host of headaches for our heroine. It’s unnecessary trouble at times. Yelena has dedicated allies who are more than willing and capable of lending a hand, but her determination to protect them means she gets into a couple of avoidable scrapes that don’t really add much to the story. Don’t get me wrong, I love Yelena and how far her character has come since we first met her, but some of her decisions and actions here are frustrating.

Once again, Valek is absent for a good deal of the book, and again, it’s not an easy absence to ignore. Yes, I love Valek, but I don’t miss him for purely selfish reasons alone. His presence demands your attention, and when he’s not there, the books simply aren’t the same. I savored every scene he was in, as well as every page that featured the spin-off-worthy duo of Ari and Janco.

Yelena’s brother, Leif, lightens up considerably in Fire Study, making him considerably more pleasant than the dour Leif of Magic Study. The siblings banter often with each other, which is very welcome amidst the perilous situations they frequently find themselves encountering in Fire Study. The action in the first two-thirds of the book isn’t as exciting as what happens in the last third, when it all gets real. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the novel and how the sequence of events unfolded, and it reminded me why I fell in love with the series in the first place. While I had some issues with Fire Study, its strong finish closed out the trilogy in a very satisfying manner.

All in All: Your feelings toward Fire Study will likely depend on your overall investment in the series. By the time I read this, I was madly in love with the books (and Valek, of course) and admittedly viewed this novel with a more subjective eye than usual. Although Poison Study is easily my favorite book out of the three, staying with this series was absolutely worthwhile for me, as was reading the Glass spin-off series. Yelena and Valek have so firmly taken hold of my heart that obviously I’ll be following their continued adventures in their brand new series of novels.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Harry Potter Moment of the Week (74): Best Neville Moment

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a meme hosted by Uncorked Thoughts. The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/films/J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! A list of upcoming topics can be found here.

This week's topic is:
Best Neville Moment

Neville was a total badass in Deathly Hallows: helping to keep Dumbldore's Army going under Snape's rule as headmaster, standing up to Voldemort, killing Nagini, etc. I think my all-time favorite Neville moment, though is from the DH2 film—the bridge scene, of course. His "Yeah! You and whose army?" line is a classic. :D

Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
Magic Study (Study #2)
By Maria V. Snyder
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: With magic forbidden in Ixia and anyone with the ability to use it marked for death, Yelena has very little choice but to seek refuge in her homeland of Sitia. Although she is reunited with the family she was taken from as a child, she also finds herself separated from her Ixian friends—and from Valek. Sitia is the only place where Yelena can learn to control her magic before its power overwhelms her, though, plus it appears that only she may be able to stop a killer from claiming another victim.

Review: My feelings toward Magic Study, as well as the next book in the series, Fire Study, are a little jumbled. On the one hand, I didn’t think either of them quite captured the brilliance of Poison Study when I initially read them three years ago, and I’m still of that opinion regarding Magic Study. I will say that I did enjoy reading it again, and knowing what to expect actually made me appreciate the book a bit more the second time around, just not to the degree that I love Poison Study.

One of the most noteworthy changes from the first book is the setting. Since being a magician in Ixia carries a death sentence, Yelena returns to her birthplace of Sitia, where she’s reunited with the family she’s been separated from for years. Here’s a perfect example of the advantage of having read this before: I couldn’t stand Yelena’s brother, Leif, when I first met him. He’s so mean to Yelena! Fortunately for Leif, I know that he moves past acting like a jerk to his sister and becomes a rather affable character down the road.

While I did yearn for the good old days in Ixia as I reread Magic Study, I also had to give Maria V. Snyder a lot of credit for expanding the world and really delving into the magic that was touched upon in Poison Study. I do miss Yelena the food taster, but there’s something compelling about Yelena the Soulfinder as well. Snyder is such an adept storyteller, and even though I think this chapter in Yelena’s adventures could have been chronicled in a few less pages, I nonetheless found myself immersed in the details of Sitian politics and life at the Citadel, where young magicians learn to master their skills.

Magic Study introduces several new characters in addition to Yelena’s parents and brother, including the other three Master Magicians (Fourth Magician Irys Jewelrose having been introduced in Poison Study), the very annoying Cahil, who claims to be the heir to the Ixian throne, Yelena’s beloved horse, Kiki, and the mysterious but cool Moon Man. The newcomers were welcome (well, except for Cahil), but it was impossible not to miss Yelena’s Ixian buddies Ari and Janco and, to me, the most important figure from book one: Valek.

Valek and Yelena’s slow burn of a romance was everything in Poison Study, and his absence for most of Magic Study is fiercely felt. He’s just so integral to the series, and his scaled down presence here is my biggest quibble with the book. While there’s enough novelty to Magic Study, like the new locale and the deeper exploration of magic, to move the story forward and keep it interesting, at the same time, it’s tough to ignore the lack of Valek awesomeness for almost three hundred pages. Then again, it was the promise of Valek’s reappearance, even during a reread, that kept me turning the pages with gusto.

All in All: Magic Study delivers on the magic part of its title as we follow Yelena’s training and witness the breadth of her powers. This novel would have been even better with more Valek, obviously, but I suppose some Valek is preferable to no Valek at all.