Sunday, May 19, 2019

Discussing Game of Thrones: The Bells

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

It's been a week since "The Bells," the next-to-last episode of Game of Thrones ever, aired, and I'm still extremely upset about it. I really didn't want to rewatch it so I could take some notes to write this recap, but my nerdiness for having a complete episode recap archive won out over not enduring this 80 minute cringefest again.

What made the episode so bad? The same annoyances that have been plaguing this last season— frenetic pacing, inconsistent characters, and bad writing.

I think it's easier to start with the things I did like about this episode, since there are so few of them:

  1. The montage of voiceovers before the start of the episode. We hear quotes from different characters about the Targaryens. I thought the most powerful one, which was also the last one before the opening credits began rolling, was from Viserys about waking the dragon. Daenerys's inner dragon has definitely been awakened and as angry as if she had been in the middle of a really nice nap.
  2. Varys still looking out for the realm. The Spider has always said that he does what he does to protect the people, and he maintains that until the very end, one of the few times on this show when a character hasn't done a complete 180. Varys almost made it to the end, but his treasonous talk in last week's episode sends Tyrion to Daenerys before the latter slips up one more time with his queen. From the interaction with one of his little birds in the beginning of the episode, it appears that Varys was trying to have Daenerys poisoned. Before Varys gets Dracarys-ed by Drogon, Tyrion confesses to Varys that he was the one who snitched to Daenerys.
  3. Jaime and Tyrion's goodbye. I almost teared up when Tyrion told Jaime, who was caught trying to get past Daenerys's army and back to King's Landing/Cersei, that he wouldn't have survived his childhood without him, and Jaime was the only one in the family who didn't treat Tyrion like a monster. One of the standout moments of this season, and definitely a callback to Jaime helping Tyrion escape execution after the disastrous trial by combat.

And now on to the rest of the episode, about which I have many gripes:

Jon Has Suddenly Lost the Ability to Say More Than Two Lines

Like, for real. There have been some great memes going around illustrating the two lines that Jon Snow, Abandoner of Pets (yeah, still very bitter about that), has pretty much been reduced to: "You are my Queen" and "I don't want it." ("It" referring to the Iron Throne, of course.) When Daenerys starts lighting up King's Landing and everyone and everything in it, Jon looks like a freaking extra because he's doing very little, except for a futile attempt to get Daenerys's army to stop fighting after the Lannister men throw down their swords in surrender.

Let It Be Fear

Much, much, much post-episode discussion has focused on Daenerys becoming The Mad Queen and how long it's been in the making. Personally, I think the books, which of course are nowhere near caught up to the show's timeline, have done a better job of showing Daenerys's flaws. My issue with the transformation of her character on the show is that while she's shown moments of ruthlessness, she's also been shown in a very heroic light. I'm thinking particularly of scenes like in the third season finale, when the freed slaves of Yunkai start calling her "Mhysa" (mother) and sweep her up onto their shoulders. And yes, she's now lost two of her dragons and her beloved friend. So she's had it. But her going loco in the coconut is symptomatic of what's been happening with this whole season: it's like D & D have a to-do list of story lines to knock out in six episodes, and they're checking things off just to get them checked off. Night King and White Walkers defeated? Check. Daenerys goes all-out crazy Targaryen? Check.

And Suddenly, Daenerys Remembers the Iron Fleet

One of my complaints about the previous episode that saw Rhaegal taken out by one of the Iron Fleet's scorpion crossbow things was how no one on Daenerys's side even thought about the possibility of the Iron Fleet waiting for them at Dragonstone. Euron and his ships are stationed in Blackwater Bay for this battle, and whaddya know, Daenerys makes them her first target, destroying them instantly. Then she and Drogon take out all of the scorpions lining the walls of King's Landing. Then they just start taking out whatever and whoever are in their path. The Golden Company sees zero fighting because they're all ablaze.

Meanwhile, in Cersei's Head . . . .

Cersei watches all of the annhilation from the Red Keep and tells Qyburn that the Red Keep's never fallen and won't today. Hmm. She might want to get a second, rational opinion on that. She also tells her Hand that the Lannister troops will fight to the last. Soon after, we see the Lannister men drop their weapons. Shouts can be heard in the streets for the bells to be rung in surrender. Someone rings the bells, but Daenerys decides to fly straight for the Red Keep, continuing to burn a path of destruction. Back in the streets, Grey Worm attacks a Lannister soldier, and fighting on the ground begins between the Unsullied, the Dothraki, and the Northerners on one side, and the Lannister troops on the other. Didn't most, like 99.9%, of the Dothraki die in the Battle of Winterfell? Where did all of these Dothraki in King's Landing come from?

Oh, Jaime

After getting locked out of the gates of the Red Keep, Jaime has been trying to find another way inside. Unfortunately, he runs into Euron, possibly the most tiresome character on the show with his cringeworthy dialogue and cringeworthy bravado. The two fight, as Euron spews his usual riduclous lines. King's Landing is burning, and these two have to have a fight right now? Gimme a break. Euron gets in two nasty stabs before Jaime delivers a fatal stab wound of his own. Aaaand Euron still manages to have something to say before dying.

Commence Cleganebowl

Qyburn finally convinces Cersei that they need to move and suggests they head to Maegor's Holdfast. Around the city, the signature green of wildfire explosions can be seen.

Arya and The Hound have survived the carnage thus far and are standing on Cersei's map. The Hound tells Arya to go home. Cersei is going to die today somehow, and Arya will too if she follows him. Arya calls him "Sandor" for the first time ever; it's also the last time as Cleganebowl gets underway.

The Hound finds Cersei, Qyburn, and The Mountain heading for safer ground. Both Cersei and Qyburn order The Mountain to protect the queen, but The Mountain picks up Qyburn and hurls him into some debris, in a scene that's llike Frankenstein's monster turning on his creator. For a second it looks like Cersei is worried The Hound is going to kill her, but he only has eyes for his brother. So she slinks off, and the Clegane brothers go at it.

No matter how much The Hound stabs his brother, The Mountain's zombie-like state seems to have made him invincible. We finally see The Mountain's face after his helmet gets knocked off during the fighting, and he looks like Anakin Skywalker post-Mustafar duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Foreshadowing, maybe this is? The Mountain seems like he's about to smash his brother's skull in like Oberyn Martell's, but The Hound manages to break free. Even stabbing this undead dude in the eye doesn't do anything, so The Hound takes The Mountain with him for a plunge over the wall and into the fire below.

Really?

Jaime finds Cersei—HOW is this guy still standing after the fight with Euron? The twins make their way down to where the dragon skulls are kept, but the exit has been blocked by rubble. They're trapped. So: Jaime doesn't kill Cersei, Arya doesn't kill Cersei, a bunch of rocks collapsing kills Cersei. And Jaime. I'm so done with this show.

What the Actual Fuck Is This Ending?

Since parting ways with The Hound, Arya has been trying to help people escape the King's Landing bloodbath and has barely been able to stay alive herself. Covered in ash and blood, she sees a white horse, hops on, and they ride away. The End.

In the Next Episode

I'm not really sure I actually care about the last episode ever.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Review: The 5th Gender by G.L. Carriger

The 5th Gender by G.L. Carriger
The 5th Gender (Tinkered Stars Mystery #1)
By G.L. Carriger
Publisher:
Gail Carriger
Format: eARC
Source: Author

To Sum It Up: Tristol is a galoi, an alien species that mistrusts outsiders and has very little contact with them. Having made a life-altering choice that meant exile from his people, Tris lives on a space station among humans. There’s one human in particular whom Tris would absolutely love to get to know better, and when a galoi ship suddenly requires the help of space station personnel, Tris finds himself working alongside his longtime crush, Detective Drey Hastion, to solve a murder mystery.

Review: Gail Carriger forays into sci-fi romance with The 5th Gender, a deftly plotted and written novel that immediately drew me into life on board a space station.

Tristol, one of our MCs, is a galoi, a lavender alien with hair that almost functions like an appendage. His species is xenophobic, and Tris lives in exile, having chosen not to follow the course that other loga galoi like him are expected to on his home world. Although he has become invisible to his own people, Tris is very welcome among the denizens of the space station, where his effervescent, easygoing personality makes him impossible not to like. I especially loved his ongoing education in the nuances of human language and behavior and how seriously he took his responsibilities cat-sitting for some human friends.

Detective Drey Hastion is our other protagonist, and where Tris wears his happy heart on his sleeve, Drey is gruff and growly. He harbors a tender spot for Tris, though, and the feeling is very much mutual. When Tris’s cat-sitting charge gets into some mischief, Drey finds himself wrapped up in the feline drama. This provides the perfect opportunity for the sparks to ignite between the human security officer and our adorable galoi. Things get torrid between the two; if you like your romance scorching, you won’t be disappointed. It’s also very sweet—this pair truly complements each other, and their openness towards learning about their respective customs inspires many an “awww!”

The 5th Gender also features a murder mystery. A galoi ship suddenly contacts the space station in need of help to find whoever killed one of their crew. Drey is of course assigned to the case, with Tris accompanying him to assist in navigating the tricky communications with the galoi. The investigation develops into so much more—it’s a fascinating look inside galoi culture, which is hardly known to those outside of it. The search for the culprit becomes just as focused on the motive, as the galoi do not even have a word for murder. As Drey and Tris dig deeper and deeper for answers, the picture that emerges hits very close to home for Tris. It’s heartbreaking to fully realize what he went through in arriving at his decision to choose exile over conforming to the galoi’s expected gender roles. The truth that Tris and Drey finally uncover on board the galoi ship leaves shock and sadness in its wake, but from the tragedy there is also a glint of hope for change.

Overall, I loved how multi-layered the story was and how smoothly it shifted between humor and a more serious tone. I also loved the diverse cast of characters on board the space station and definitely hope to get to know them better in the future. This is a great start to a new series!

All in All: The 5th Gender delivers in so many ways: it’s sweet, it’s romantic, it’s funny, and most importantly, it tells a very impactful and very timely story.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Discussing Game of Thrones: The Last of the Starks

* Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “The Last of the Starks”

It's getting down to the wire for GoT—"The Last of the Starks" is the episode before the penultimate episode and follows the intense battle of "The Long Night." In typical GoT fashion, we get a super talky episode after an action-packed one. Spoiler alert for my opinion of Episode 4: I thought it sucked.

Remembering the Fallen

The episode opens in a very somber manner, with all of those who died during the battle against the Night King laid out on pyres. There are some private goodbyes between Daenerys and Jorah, and Sansa and Theon. Sansa removing her direwolf pin and putting it on Theon is especially poignant. Jon gives a moving speech about never forgetting those who gave their lives; he looks and sounds rather kingly here, something that Daenerys in particular takes note of several times during this episode.

Gendry Gets Bumped Up

There's a subdued feast in the Great Hall, from which Arya is noticeably absent. Gendry notices, and after getting razzed by The Hound, stands up to leave and go find her. Daenerys unexpectedly acknowledges him, and things seem a little dicey as she also mentions how Robert Baratheon tried to have her killed. Awkward. It's good news, REALLY good news for Gendry, though—not only does he end up legitimized, but he's named the Lord of Storm's End!

Daenerys is quite pleased with herself for making a strategic move: not holding Gendry's parentage against him as well as making him a lord in front of all of the Northerners. We'll see in a few minutes that as smart as that was, she just can't compete in the North's popularity contest.

The Feast Lightens Up . . . for Some

The mood in the Great Hall and around Winterfell shifts to a lighter one after Daenerys's pronouncement, with Tormund wasting no time filling up his drinking horn. When he sings Jon's praises, Daenerys keenly feels how much Jon is loved in the North, where she's an outsider. Varys catches the whole thing and follows her out of the feast.

Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne, and Pod are playing a drinking game that gets super awkward when Tyrion directs a super personal question/statement at Brienne. I feel like even drunk Tyrion wouldn't be that mean-spirited, but welcome to Season 8, where the characters you've known for 7 seasons do and say uncharacteristic things. We all know what happens a few scenes later with Brienne and Jaime, and as much as I've shipped them since reading A Storm of Swords, I think the show does a rushed, clumsy job of putting them together.

Not a Lady

Newly minted Lord Gendry finds Arya practicing her archery. He excitedly tells her all about his new title, and now that he's a lord, he asks her to be his lady. Echoing a conversation she had with Ned back in Season 1, Arya replies that she's not a lady. Proposal rejected, Gendry.

Just Keep Your Mouth Shut, Jon

It's back to that thorny We're Aunt and Nephew and Jon Has a Better Claim to the Iron Throne issue for Jon and Daenerys. If words gets out about Jon's true parentage, the Northerners will press him into pressing his claim, no matter how much he insists that he doesn't want to rule the Seven Kingdoms. Daenerys says they can live happily ever after if he swears Bran and Sam to secrecy. Despite not being Ned Stark's son, Jon sure has inherited Ned's penchant for being honest to a fault. Jon insists that he must tell Sansa and Arya. Daenerys begs him not to and gets pissed off when he balks.

On to the Next Battle

It's time for another war strategy meeting, this time preparing, if you want to call it that, for the battle against Cersei. Rather than a full on assault of King's Landing that would result in innocent lives being lost, Tyrion suggests the best strategy is to get the people to turn against Cersei. If they get hungry enough, they'll blame her and abandon her. Team Daenerys's army took a huge blow during the fight with the White Walkers, and as Sansa rightly points out, those who are left are exhausted/injured and need time to recover. Daenerys takes this personally, as just another instance of Sansa disrespecting her. Jon steps in and tries to smooth things over with Daenerys, which doesn't go over well with Sansa and Arya. Arya holds Jon back after the others leave for a private word with her and Sansa.

No, Really, You Need to Shut Up, Jon!

In the godswood, Arya tells Jon that they don't trust Daenerys. When Arya says that she, Sansa, Jon, and Bran are the last of the Starks, you can see the gears turning inside of Jon's brain, like he HAS to tell them about his parentage. Jon is still half-Stark, but it's like he's forgotten that? Which annoys me immensely. I was mentally screaming at the TV for Jon NOT to say anything, but of course he does. Except we don't get to see that part.

WTF Is Bronn Doing Here?!

Seriously! Since when does Bronn do anything above what he minimally has to do in order to get paid? He travels ALL THE WAY TO WINTERFELL to threaten Tyrion and Jaime with the freaking crossbow. What a waste of a scene, especially with only 2 episodes left.

Has Cleganebowl Been Scheduled?

The Hound is hitting the road, apparently with Arya. It seems they both have "unfinished business" in King's Landing, and it's going to be a one-way trip. The Hound's business seems pretty easy to guess, but what about Arya? Going to cross Cersei's name off The List?

And So The News Starts Travelling

Tyrion tries to convince Sansa that Daenerys will be a good queen and they should be allies, but Sansa's not having it. Sansa really has learned a lot from Cersei and Littlefinger, hasn't she? She asks Tyrion what if there's someone better fit to rule than Daenerys, and you know Sansa's about to fill him in on Jon's "secret."

UNACCEPTABLE AND UNFORGIVABLE, JON SNOW

Jon says goodbye to Tormund, who's taking the Wildlings further up North. I'm going to miss Tormund and his magnificent beard and bawdy tales. Jon also bids farewell to Sam and Gilly. You know who doesn't get a fucking goodbye? That's right—Ghost! Jon asks Tormund to take Ghost with him. What. Excuse me? Your loyal direwolf, who's fought by your side, doesn't get so much as a pet goodbye? Ghost looks SO SAD!!!!!! :'( Apparently there was not enough in the CGI budget for Jon to give Ghost one last pet. Maybe cut a few seconds off one of the dragon sequences? I'm sorry, but this is GHOST! Are you only all about the dragons now, Jon Snow? Sad Ghost broke my heart, and this will go down as one of my least favorite GoT episodes ever.

Surprise! No, Not Really

Daenerys, Drogon, and her remaining ships are headed back to Dragonstone, where Euron and the Iron Fleet are waiting for them—with a whole lot more of those dragon-killing crossbow gizmos. Sooooo, there was money in the production budget for that, but not enough for Ghost's goodbye? Still not over it.

Rhaegal is shot and killed, so now Daenerys only has Drogon. Definitely not the way I pictured her taking the Iron Throne. Her ships are also destroyed, and Missandei is captured. Did no one on Team D really think they would sail right onto Dragonstone's shores without a hitch? Tyrion and/or Varys didn't think it might be wise to send a scout ahead to make sure the coast was clear? Again, I feel this season is going for all of the dramatic moments and throwing everything else out the window.

Maybe Cersei Will Win This Thing After All

Cersei has offered to "protect" the people of King's Landing by opening up the doors of the Red Keep to them. Please. What she's really doing is protecting herself and forcing Daenerys to kill the very people she's trying to win over to get to Cersei.

Cersei also has the Golden Company, who haven't just fought an exhausting battle against zombies. And she has Euron and his ships, if you want to call Euron an asset. I think he's just an ass, haha. Seriously, though, his shtick is very tiring, and I hope he finds out Cersei lied to him about Jaime's baby being his.

The T Word

Daenerys, having suffered the loss of another dragon and knowing that Missandei is Cersei's prisoner, is really being pushed to the edge. Varys has a very tough time trying to talk her out of going full Dracarys on King's Landing. Tyrion advises Daenerys to spare Cersei's life in exchange for giving up the throne. Really, Tyrion? I thought you were smarter than that. Remember back at the beginning of this season when Cersei failed to send her army north? I do. Another example of crappy writing/character development/consistency this season.

Alone, Tyrion and Varys talk treason. Varys reminds Tyrion that he's going to do what's best for the realm, and he no longer thinks that Daenerys is what's best for the realm. Tyrion is all like, I believe in our queen! Again, Tyrion, I thought you were smarter than this.

Just No, Jaime

In an episode filled with frustrating character actions, here's another gem. Jaime finds out about Euron's attack and tries to sneak off in the middle of the night. Brienne catches him and is heartbroken that he's going back to Cersei. I really, really, really, really, really, hope he's going to King's Landing to kill her, and not help her. 1) I need to know the outcome of the Valonqar theory and 2) I really don't want the show to end with him being such an asshole. Dude has been written very inconsistently over the years; can we please get it right for the end?

Showdown at the Gates

Daenerys, Grey Worm, and Tyrion are outside the gates to King's Landing, with Cersei, Euron, and The Mountain looking down at them. Cersei also has Missandei, in chains and perched dangerously close to the edge of the rampart. First Tyrion has to deal with Qyburn, who's such a psycho and blindly loyal to Cersei. Tyrion then tries to appeal directly to Cersei. Again, Tyrion, your sister IS a monster! There's no reasoning with her! She just sent Bronn to kill you and Jaime! When are you going to wake up? ARGHHHHHHH—so frustrated with everyone on this damn show!

Of course Cersei won't surrender, and there are dragon crossbows lined all around the castle ramparts. When did they have time to build all of them? It reminds me of when Yara and Theon stole Euron's ships and Euron magically had a shiny new fleet built in a snap of a moment. But still not enough money for Ghost. I'll *never* be over that.

Cersei orders The Mountain to kill Missandei, whose last word is, "Dracarys!" And that's what it looks like Daenerys is going to do to all of her enemies: burn them.

In the Next Episode

Maybe more battle and less talking?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Discussing Game of Thrones: The Long Night

* Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “The Long Night”

This recap of "The Long Night" is long overdue, hahaha. Episode 3 features the much anticipated and much hyped Battle of Winterfell, where the Night King and his icy minions have finally arrived. Assembled on the side of the living are pretty much everyone except Cersei and Euron, who are presumably just chillin' in Kings Landing, perhaps sipping some wine and awaiting the battle's outcome.

Meanwhile, everyone at Winterfell is about to experience what an episode of The Walking Dead must be like, as they're about to face a seemingly endless onslaught of undead wights.

"The Long Night" Is Dark and Full of . . . Darkness

As the episode opened on Sam's shaking hands and shuddering breath, the first thing I noticed was how freaking dark everything seemed. I even asked my cousin, "Is it me, or is it really dark?" She agreed with me, and many viewers also complained on social media. Granted, the battle takes place at night amid icy/snowy winds, but The Battle of the Blackwater and the Night's Watch vs. the Wildlings were also both night battles, and I had no problems figuring out who was who. Apparently the episode's cinematographer responded that viewers needed to adjust their TVs. Um, I've watched the ep on 2 different TVs and still couldn't see shit. I could really only positively ID Beric by his flaming sword, Tormund by his magnificent beard, the Hound by his height, and Jon and Daenerys because they had dragons.

The Build-Up

We see shots of everyone preparing for the battle. Theon and the Ironborn escort Bran to the godswood. Sansa and Arya survey the battlefield below. Brienne is flanked by Pod and Jaime. Dolorous Edd manages to get in a lighthearted moment when he chastises Sam for taking his time joining the line of troops. It was probably the only humor in the whole hour and 20-something minutes of this episode.

Melisandre's Light Show

Everybody is still waiting for the White Walkers to show up when a single horse with a rider comes into view. It's Melisandre, arriving just in time to use her magic to light up the Dothraki's arakhs. Not only was it an impressive display, but a very welcome one because it was one of the rare times I could actually see something.

Now that the Dothraki, leading the charge with Jorah (and there's Ghost, too!), are armed with fire, maybe the odds have tipped a little in their favor? Not so fast! The Dothraki ride to meet the dead and are immediately overwhelmed. The army of wights is just MASSIVE. Their creepy screeches get louder and louder as they press forward towards Winterfell.

Zero Visibility

Daenerys and Jon have taken to the sky with Drogon and Rhaegal, but not even dragonfire is powerful enough to withstand whatever icy magic the White Walkers are throwing down. The dragonfire extinguishes almost instantly, and Daenerys and Jon can barely see what's going on down on the ground (and thus joining everyone who watched this episode). Despite having all that fire power, it's almost useless in this fight.

When I rewatched the episode, I kind of laughed at the Graphic Violence advisory that appeared before the episode started because for the most part, I couldn't make out much of the fighting. I did, however, see poor Edd get killed saving Sam. I lost count of how many times Sam almost bit it in this ep.

Retreat!

It's not long before the living are falling back inside the Winterfell gates. The poor Unsullied, led by Grey Worm, have to protect the retreat. From up on one of the ramparts, Davos tries to signal to Daenerys to light the trenches around the castle, but of course she can't see. The archers try shooting flaming arrows, but it's just too cold. So here comes Mel to provide some more fire power. She seems to be out of magic when her repeated attempts to produce flames do nothing, and at the very last second, just as a wight is about to reach her, the trenches ignite, and a ring of fire surrounds Winterfell. Like every other strategy that the living have employed, this one doesn't last long either because the wights just start throwing themselves on the flames, effectively putting out the fire and creating a path for them to pass through until they can scale the castle walls.

Bran Out

In the godswood, Theon tries to apologize to Bran. In that mellifluous robo-voice of his, Bran tells Theon if he hadn't done the things he's done, he wouldn't be where he is today. Then Bran peaces out and goes Three-Eyed Raven.

Fierce Ladies Who Fight Ferociously

After telling Sansa to go down to the crypt, Arya has jumped full throttle into the fray against the wights. Wielding the weapon Gendry made for her, she's slashing wights with a grace Syrio Forel would be proud of. Davos catches sight of her and the expression on his face at witnessing her mad wight killing skills is like, "WTF??!! Where'd she learn to do THAT??!!"

Lyanna Mormont's fight with a giant-turned-wight has a much sadder ending. :( The giant grabs her and is about to crush her in its hand when she fatally stabs it in the eye. Both fall to the ground, another two lost in the battle.

Fire Meets Ice

Jon and Daenerys have taken the dragons above the clouds, where they're finally free of the icy storm raging below. There's about a nanosecond of calm before the Night King turns up with Viserion. I have to say—Viserion's icy flames actually scare me more than regular dragonfire! It just looks eerie and otherworldly and somehow more dangerous.

Arya Stark, Slayer of Wights

Arya is now inside Winterfell's walls, and so are the wights. They're literally everywhere. Arya is doing a great job of staying absolutely silent as she moves around until blood from one of her wounds drips onto the floor. The wights are all over the sound, and although Arya tries to throw them off her trail by hurling a book in the opposite direction, there are just too many dead roaming around for her to make a clean escape. The wights nearly overpower her when Beric and the Hound find her. Sadly, the wights kill Beric. Arya and the Hound barely make it into a wight-free room and bar the door. Melisandre just so happens to be hanging out, and Arya remembers the previous time they met, when Melisandre predicted that Arya would shut many eyes forever: brown, green, blue. That seems to stir something in Arya, and she goes running off.

The Night King Does His Thing

Rhaegal and Viserion are locked in a vicious fight. Rhaegal does a kind of crash landing, grounding Jon. Daenerys and Drogon are still airborne, and after staring down the Night King, Daenerys has Drogon release a torrent of dragonfire. When the flames die down, guess who's still standing, completely unharmed, with a smug expression on his face to boot? That's right—the Night King. He grabs one of his ice javelins, the same kind that took down Viserion, and hurls it at Drogon. Daenerys and her dragon are forced to take off to avoid the attack, and the Night King continues his leisurely night stroll to the godswood to wipe out Bran's memory.

Jon follows the Night King, and once the latter spots Jon, he does what the Night King does best: raises his hands and in doing so, raises all of the dead that are everywhere, including down in the crypt. Remember what a *great* idea sending Sansa, Tyrion, Varys, Missandei, Gilly, Little Sam, and the women and children down there seemed? Oh wait—it was NEVER a great idea because they're surrounded by potential wights! Make that actual wights, because the dead Starks buried there suddenly find themselves reanimated. I was hoping we'd see Zombie Ned, but alas, I don't think he appeared.

11th Hour for the Living

Things are looking desperate for our heroes and heroines. The wights swarm Drogon, and Daenerys gets dropped/thrown off as Drogon tries to take off to shake the wights off. Daenerys is now on the field, weaponless and completely vulnerable. It's Jorah who saves her from near death-by-wight. Daenerys picks up a sword and does her best to fend off the dead.

Jon is *still* trying to race to the godswood, but it's not looking like he's going to get there in time as a rampaging Viserion blocks his way. In the godswood, Theon is out of flaming arrows and seemingly out of time as the Night King and his squad approach. In a poignant scene, Bran tells Theon he's a good man and thanks him. The Night King kills Theon, and with that smug expression on his face once again, takes his sweet ass time approaching Bran, and then takes his sweet ass time drawing his blade. Nothing like milking the tension here.

Just as the Night King is about to do the deed, Arya comes FLYING at him! Like, legit flying! He grabs her and is about to kill her when she catches her falling weapon and STABS THE NIGHT KING IN THE HEART!!!!!! He shatters, as do his cronies, as do all of the wights. The Long Night finally ends, but not without another casualty—Ser Jorah.

Melisandre Necklace Drop

This insane episode wouldn't be complete without Melisandre's departure. We see her walking away from Winterfell, and as she does, she removes her necklace and drops it. Without it, she's just a really, really, really, really, really old, withered lady, and off in the distance, we see her fall to the ground, her purpose apparently served.

In the Next Episode

Time to take out Cersei!

And Now My Griping Begins

OK, so I have some feelings about this episode:

  • I felt like some of the scenes favored going for artsy, cinematic shots or whatever over moving the story along. For example, I thought it was ridiculous how long it took the Night King to walk up to Bran, then draw his weapon. Sure, that bought Arya time to come flying in like the queen she is, but I half expected the Night King to also twirl his horns like a villain would twirl a mustache.
  • I don't know how I feel about the Night King and the White Walkers being defeated. I'd always pictured that battle being the final one, since the series is called A Song of Ice and Fire, after all. Jon spent so much time rallying allies with the argument that the battle between the living and the dead was more important than the battle for who sat on the Iron Throne, and now it looks like the series is going to end focusing on the battle for the Iron Throne.
  • I expected the dragons to do more in this episode? Or was the episode trying to show that having dragons doesn't mean an automatic victory?
  • When did this show become all about saving Bran Stark? Now that he's safe, is he going to play any other role, or will he just continue staring creepily at people?
  • Did I mention that this episode was really, really, really, really dark?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Discussing Game of Thrones: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

* Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

Woohoo—I'm actually posting this recap before the next episode airs!

I have . . . mixed feelings about "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms." As much as I LOVED some scenes (*ahem* Brienne and Jaime *ahem*), I wasn't entirely crazy about the way the ep was structured. We all know the epic, battle-to-end-all-battles between the living and the dead is nigh (next week?), and this episode focuses, almost painstakingly so, on the characters gearing up for that battle. I get it's the calm before the storm, but after all the characters' chatter and occasional banter, I'm feeling even more anxious about how this mammoth of a show is going to wrap everything up with now only 3 episodes remaining. "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" takes place entirely at Winterfell, which isn't a bad thing at all, but Cersei and Euron are still out there (sans elephants) and players in the game. But enough of my griping, on with the recap!

A Reminder of Why Jaime is Called the Kingslayer

The episode opens with a tense scene in Winterfell's Great Hall: for the first time, Daenerys confronts the man who killed her father. Although she's never tried to sugarcoat how horrible her father was, she's still looking right at Jaime, a knight of the Kingsguard who killed his king. The situation becomes even dicier when Jamie says that Cersei isn't sending her army, as she had promised. Tyrion tries to defend his brother, but Daenerys turns her anger towards Tyrion for making a giant mistake in believing that Cersei would help fight the White Walkers.

Sansa brings up how Jaime attacked Ned in the streets of King's Landing, and a defiant Jaime won't apologize for fighting for his family. It's time for a Bran Stare! Bran interrupts by blurting out a slightly modified version of what Jaime said back in Season 1 before pushing Bran out the window: "The things we do for love."

Thankfully ending the Bran awkwardness, Brienne stands up and vouches for Jaime. I LOVE BRIENNE!!!!!!!! For Sansa, Brienne's word is good enough, and Jon tells Daenerys that they need every man who can fight. So Jaime gets to stay, but Tyrion is most definitely on Daenerys's shit list.

Where's the Weapon?

Last week, Arya gave Gendry a sketch of a weapon she wanted him to make for her. This week, she wants to know why her rush order hasn't been completed yet.

Soooo, I'll just jump ahead to That Arya and Gendry Scene since it caused such a stir on social media and inspired some very bawdy memes, lol. So, it's maybe the end of the world and Arya, under all of that Faceless (Wo)Man training and killing, is still a human being looking to make the most of what might be her last night alive. Personally, I wasn't all that invested in what Arya, Gendry, the Hound, Beric, Winterfell soldier #34, or whomever had planned for the evening. I was much more interested in the pre-battle strategy meeting with all of the major characters and when the hell Jon was planning to tell Daenerys that BTW, he's the true heir to the Iron Throne. More on that later . . . .

More Bran Stares

In the godswood, Jaime apologizes to Bran for pushing him out the window and asks why Bran didn't tell his family what Jaime did. Bran says that he wouldn't have gone down the path he has (to becoming a robot, I mean, becoming the Three-Eyed Raven) if Jaime hadn't pushed him that day. Jaime asks what's going to happen after the battle, and Bran is like, how do you know there's going to be an afterwards? Yikes!

An Insult-Free Conversation

Tyrion and Jaime are together again, in the most unlikely of places. Jaime asks what Daenerys is like but gets distracted while Tyrion is talking by Brienne watching Pod spar. Jaime heads down there, and his civility actually alarms Brienne, lol. The scene gets serious when Jaime says he's not the fighter he once was, but if Brienne will have him, it would be an honor to serve under her command. *FLAILS AND SCREAMS*

Mormont Still Calls Daenerys "Khaleesi"

I thought that was very sweet! Jorah admits that he was bitter when Daenerys named Tyrion as her Hand, but he also admits that Tyrion is a very smart man and advises Daenerys to forgive Tyrion's mistakes.

Daenerys Turns on the Charm

After her conversation with Jorah, Daenerys goes to see Sansa in private. Daenerys really makes an effort to try to thaw the iciness between the two ladies, and it seems like they're finding some common ground when Sansa asks what's going to happen to the North after the battle with the White Walkers. The cold returns as Daenerys is like, duh, I'll be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, and Sansa is like, um, no, the North will never bow to anyone again. Fortunately, the arrival of Theon prevents further escalation for the moment.

Daenerys asks about Yara, and Theon tells her that his sister has returned to the Iron Islands. He then turns to Sansa and asks if he can fight for Winterfell. Extremely interesting that he asked Sansa, not Daenerys.

Is the Crypt Really That Safe?

Davos is serving food and meets a little girl who reminds him of Shireen. She asks where she should go when the battle starts—she's prepared to fight. Gilly comes over and says that she and Little Sam will be down in the crypt with the other women and children, and she'd feel safer with the girl protecting them.

Later in the episode, Daenerys orders Tyrion down to the crypt during the battle. Does anyone else have a bad feeling about this? There's too much mentioning of the crypt in this episode, so you know shit is gonna go down, er, down there. Isn't it also a bad idea to take shelter in a crypt surrounded by the dead when we've seen plenty of dead turned into wights?

Some Welcome Faces

After their disturbing discovery at Last Hearth, Tormund, Edd, and Beric make it back to Winterfell. Tormund grimly informs Jon that the White Walkers will be there before the sun comes up the next day. In some much needed comic relief, Tormund asks if "The Big Woman" (Brienne) is still at Winterfell, hahahaha.

It's War

Just about every major character who's made it this far is present for the battle strategy meeting. Jon proposes trying to take out the Night King, hoping that everyone else under his command will fall. Bran says that the Night King might leave himself vulnerable if he goes after Bran to destroy him and all that he knows. Bran says he'll wait for the Night King in the godswood, and Theon volunteers to stay with him, along with the Ironborn. Tormund observes that they're all going to die, but at least they'll die together.

And Now Our Watch Begins

Up on a rampart, Sam asks Jon if he's dropped the parentage bomb on Daenerys yet. And who's that hanging out in the corner of the screen? IT'S GHOST!!!!!!! YASSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!! Dolorous Edd joins them, and I got chills thinking of them preparing to defend the Wall against the Wildlings in Season 4's "The Watchers on the Wall." Sam even mentions their fallen brothers Pyp and Grenn.

Rise, SER Brienne of Tarth!

Tyrion jokes to Jaime that he wishes their father were alive to see both brothers die defending Winterfell. They're joined by Brienne and Pod, then Davos, and then Tormund, who's brought his own tasty beverage. And now it's officially a party! Tormund then regales everyone with the story of how he earned the name "Giantsbane." It was both ewwwww and funny at the same time.

Later, Tormund is surprised to learn that Brienne isn't a knight. Jaime jumps on that, and says that a knight can make another knight. In a scene that I could rewatch a million times, Jaime knights Brienne!!!!!!!!!! Pod looks proud, and the sheer joy on Brienne's face when she rises as the titular Knight of the Seven Kingdoms almost made me bawl. So of course now I'm EXTREMELY worried that Brienne won't survive the battle because the moment you find happiness on GoT, you die. It is known.

This Is Right

Outside, Sam walks in on Jorah trying to convince his cousin Lyanna not to fight. Ever the firecracker, Lyanna insists she's going to, and wishes him good fortune before walking away. Sam gives Heartsbane to Jorah, telling him that Jorah's father taught Sam how to be a man and to do what's right, and giving Jorah the sword is right. Obviously touched by the gesture, Jorah says he'll wield Heartsbane in The Old Bear's memory. Now I'm super scared for Sam's fate in the next episode and moderately scared for Jorah's.

My Name Is Really Aegon

Down in the crypt where he first learned the truth about his parents, Jon finally gets around to telling all to Daenerys. She doesn't believe him, pointing out quite rightly that Jon himself only has it on the word of his brother (well, cousin really, I suppose?) and best friend. They don't have much time to get into it because outside, there's a commotion and the horn is sounding, which means . . . THE WHITE WALKERS ARE HERRRRRRRREEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

In the Next Episode

Beloved characters are gonna die. The question is: who?

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Discussing Game of Thrones: Winterfell

* Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “Winterfell”

GAME OF THRONES IS BACK—WOOHOO! Well, it came back a week ago and the second episode just aired, but me being me and always running behind recapping, here I am running behind recapping the final season hahaha.

The Opening Credits Get a Makeover

Yup— there's now a hole in the Wall where the Night King and ice dragon Viserion blasted through at the end of Season 7. We also see super detailed renderings of Winterfell and King's Landing, including interior locations like Winterfell's Great Hall and crypt.

If This Seems Familiar . . . .

This episode features a lot of callbacks to the very first episode of the show, including this first scene of the Season 8 premiere. Instead of Robert Baratheon, Cersei, and their entourage rolling into Winterfell, we have Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion, Varys, et al arriving as the very wary Northerners look on. It's an incredibly impactful scene. Who would've thought we'd see Tyrion and the Hound return to Winterfell?

So many things have changed since the pilot episode—here stands Sansa as the Lady of Winterfell. Arya has done a lot of "needlework." And Bran has turned into a robot. There have been some awesome Bran Stare memes going around since last week. It's like, no matter where you go, you turn around, and there's Bran, staring creepily at you.

It's Really Cold Up Here

Daenerys quickly learns how cold it is up North, from Sansa's icy reception to another scene-stealing speech by Lyanna Mormont in the Great Hall. There was some great side-eye going on between Sansa and Daenerys throughout the episode as well that I'm sure somebody has already created a montage of and posted on YouTube. But Daenerys can also throw shade, and she gets in some fiery one-liners that make it clear who the Queen is, even in the North.

BEST REUNION EVER!

Jon is in the Godswood, and suddenly so is Arya! This was my favorite scene of the episode, and such a long time in the making. There's a bit of a chill to the scene, though, too, when Arya actually sticks up for Sansa and reminds Jon not to forget about family.

But What About the Elephants?

We now check in on the happenings in King's Landing, where Qyburn informs Cersei that the White Walkers have broken through the Wall. Her response? "Good." Her concern for Westeros is truly touching.

Ugh . . . Euron is back. And he's brought the sellsword Golden Company with him. Cersei is very much disappointed that they do not have elephants, thus sparking another GoT meme.

That F**king Family

Qyburn interrupts Bronn at a rather inopportune moment with a job offer from Cersei—to kill Tyrion and Jaime. With a crossbow, of course. Bronn has always done what's best for Bronn and he's never pretended to be other than a sellsword, so it'll be interesting to see how this story line turns out.

Rescue Redux

Yara is still Euron's prisoner, but not for much longer! Theon, who jumped overboard during the battle with Euron, has returned to rescue his sister! Yara's first reaction once cut free is to headbutt Theon. With that over and done with, they discuss their next move, which is to return to the Iron Islands, where the White Walkers can't reach. Yara senses, however, that Theon wants to go fight for the Starks, and she lets him take leave.

When Your Dragons Don't Approve of Your BF

Back in the North, Jon goes flying around on Rhaegal in a pretty impressive CGI sequence. Or more like Rhaegal lets Jon fly around because he's really a Targaryen. The best part of this scene, though, is the closeup of Drogon giving Jon a look that says, "If you ever hurt my mom, I'm going to barbecue your brooding little face off."

Arya Reunites with Her Old Crew. Sort Of.

Gendry is making a mean looking axe for the Hound when Arya walks in. The Hound is like, you left me to die, and Arya is like, first I robbed you. Man, Arya's as sharp with her words as she is with her sword. She asks Gendry to make a weapon for her, and I'm still trying to figure out what that drawing is supposed to be?

Where's Your Crown, Jon?

Sansa shares the news with Jon that House Glover will be sitting tight instead of assembling at Winterfell like the other Northern houses. She's upset that after rallying the North, he's abandoned his crown to Daenerys. Sansa straight out asks him if he bent the knee to save the North from the White Walkers, or because he loves Daenerys. Fortunately, he's spared from answering that question by cutting to . . . .

Sam Gets Bad News. REALLY Bad News.

Daenerys and Jorah surprise Sam with a visit so she can thank Sam for curing Jorah's greyscale. A flustered Sam mentions that he might need a pardon for borrowing a few books from the Citadel's library and also for swiping his father's sword. When Daenerys finds out who Sam's father is, or rather, was, the truth comes out that Randyll Tarly wouldn't bend the knee, and so he was executed. A shaken Sam tries to make the best of the news and says at least he can go home now where his brother will be lord . . . . Oh wait. Dickon Tarly stood with his father and was toasted, too. Yikes!

Poor Sam asks for a moment and flees outside to collect himself only to be met with a Bran Stare. Bran says it's time to tell Jon the truth about his parentage, and Sam, Jon's BFF, must be the one to do it. Wow does Sam's life suck in this episode.

Jon Snow, These Are Your Real Parents

The ever dutiful Samwell meets Jon down in the crypt, where of course the camera can zoom in on the tombs of Ned, who Jon thought was his father, and Lyanna, whom Jon is about to find out is really his mother. But first Sam asks Jon if he knew what Daenerys did to Sam's father and brother. Awkward.

Those Artistic White Walkers

It's Tormund and Beric! They survived the collapse of the Wall! Who's that around the corner? Dolorous Edd survived, too! Best exchange of the episode, even more than Arya and the Hound's and Sansa and Daenerys's salty little convo about what dragons eat, was Edd yelling that Tormund had been turned because his eyes were blue, and Tormund screaming back that he's always had blue eyes. I'm still chuckling at that!

Not so funny: the discovery of little Lord Ned Umber's body at Last Hearth. Early on in the episode, Sansa had sent him home to gather everyone and bring them to Winterfell. The White Walkers have left another one of their freaky messages. Even less funny: when Ned's eyes suddenly open and they're the blue Edd was afraid of. It's flame on for Beric's sword.

Don't They Check IDs at the Gate?

Back at Winterfell, there's a hooded figure approaching. Of course it's Jaime, and of course there's a Bran Stare waiting for him, too!

In the Next Episode

Jaime looks rather uncomfortable standing before the assembled crowd in the Great Hall. More side-eye. The White Walkers are about to knock on Winterfell's door.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Book Loot (35)

It's already April and I've only read 3 books so far this year, but I continue to hoard them, lol. Some of these were pre-orders for must-have new releases, like Defy Me.

I binge watched You a couple of months ago, breaking my typical rule of reading the book before seeing the movie/TV adaptation, lol. It was ridiculously addictive TV, and so I had to pick up the book.

I also picked up a mini haul on impulse at Books a Million. Their bargain books section is just a trove of temptation that I really should know better by now to avoid, hahaha. Most of the time I can walk through the aisles with my wallet unscathed, but this time, I caved, especially since I've been wanting to read Illuminae for the longest time.



Bought:

You by Caroline Kepnes
The Last Life of Prince Alastor by Alexandra Bracken
Defy Me by Tahereh Mafi
The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

eBooks:

Shadow Me by Tahereh Mafi
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Monday, April 15, 2019

Discussing Game of Thrones: Endgame

* THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE SHOW! *

Game of Thrones finally, FINALLY returned last night, after signing off way back in 2017 (!). I could have rewatched the series from the beginning multiple times during its sad hiatus from my TV AND reread the books, but as usual, neither of those things ever materialized, lol. I meant to post this sort of look back/look ahead before last night's Season 8 premiere, but yeah, that didn't happen either. See, my intentions are good, it's just the follow through that's a bit lacking, lol.

Getting back on topic—GoT—how's it going to end? How is everything going to wrap up in just 6 episodes?! Who will still be alive at the end of those 6 episodes? Will fire prevail over ice? Will Jon Snow finally know something?

There is A LOT to wind down over 6 measly episodes. Here are a few of the things that I'm especially keen to see resolved (or, maybe not, because you know how this show goes: every character is expendable):

  • The Secret Annulment: Last season, we learned that Jon's real parents are indeed Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, confirming a long-standing fan theory. But there was even more to this huge reveal: Jon isn't a bastard. Rhaegar's marriage to Elia Martell was annulled, and he then married Lyanna. While R + L = J wasn't a surprise, I need some more backstory on the annulment part. Like, the whole, how did this happen? part. I'm not overly optimistic that we'll get the lowdown this season with the fate of Westeros up in the air, but this fangirl can hope.
  • The Valonqar: I do really, really, really hope this one gets some screen time. "Valonqar" means "little brother" and was part of Maggy the Frog's prophecy to young Cersei in the books. The Valonqar is supposed to kill Cersei, and she assumes the little brother in question is Tyrion. Jaime, however, is also her younger brother. Or maybe The Valonqar, if this person exists in the world of the show, isn't even one of Cersei's own brothers?
  • Where's Melisandre? In her Season 7 convo with Varys, she made it sound like Westeros hadn't seen the last of her. It'll be interesting to see if/when/where she pops up again.
  • So Who Will Rule Westeros in the End? Daenerys? Jon? The Night King? White Walker #27? No one? (That was my lame attempt at a Jaqen H'ghar joke haha.) There are still quite a few players left in the game, and although I'm very invested in the answer to this question, I'm even more concerned about:
  • Who Will Be Alive at the End? Jon and Arya have been two of my favorite characters ever since I read the books back in 2011, so they'd better not die! I'm also pulling for Brienne—when she first appeared in A Clash of Kings, I thought her being a lady knight in a male-dominated world was the coolest thing ever. Still do.

What are you most excited to see during the final season? Any theories as to what's going to happen? Which characters are you rooting for to survive lol?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Seven Years of Blogging!

So today is officially Blogoversary Number Seven, which seems impossible, and I've been here for all seven years, hahaha! In all seriousness, that number still seems unreal, especially to someone like me who struggles with sticking with anything. I've sort of become unstuck with both blogging and reading over the past two years and this post almost didn't happen, but I really am proud of how long the blog has been around, even if I'm not around it as much as when it first started.

I say this in every blogoversary post, but I don't think it ever gets old: I really do appreciate every one of you who stops by and every one of you who takes the time to leave a comment. Thinking about the wonderful bookish chats I've had here, on Twitter, etc. is what still motivates me to pick up a book or hit that New Post button. So thank you for an amazing seven years in the book blogosphere!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Review: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Rule by Ellen Goodlett
Rule (Rule #1)
By Ellen Goodlett
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

To Sum It Up: Zofi, Akeylah, and Florencia are strangers to each other until King Andros of Kolonya summons them all to court. Upon their arrival, they learn that the ailing king is their father, and they are all potential heirs to his throne. Each sister, however, carries an explosive secret that, if discovered, could result in execution. When the girls start receiving threatening messages, it seems that someone already knows what they’re hiding, and the sisters must band together to find their blackmailer.

Review: It’s been a while since a fantasy blew me away, and unfortunately, Rule left me less than awed. The premise sounds promising: three young women who would otherwise continue leading disparate lives suddenly discover that they’re daughters of the ailing king. Only one of them can inherit his crown, and each sister is hiding a secret that could get her executed. Zofi, Akeylah, and Florencia are all naturally wary of each other since only one of them can rule Kolonya, but the sisters may have no choice but to work together after all three begin receiving messages threatening to expose their secrets.

My biggest issue with the book was how thinly sketched everything was: the plot, the characters, and especially the world building. War figures heavily in Kolonya’s past and present, but the details are sparse and delivered through telling instead of showing. Despite a magic system based on tithing one’s blood to temporarily gain enhanced abilities, there isn’t much of a fantasy feel here. The story focuses more on the girls’ efforts to stop their blackmailer amidst a treacherous court where no one can be trusted.

The book is also repetitive, as we’re constantly reminded that the girls must do whatever it takes to keep their secrets safe, even from each other. A plot point that could have used some hashing out instead of belaboring the secrets thing was the big reveal of the sisters’ paternity. All three accept the news that their father is the king with relative ease. The girls then move swiftly on to resuming their worries over what they’re hiding.

As much as I’d hoped that Rule would be an engrossing fantasy read, it spent too much time on its non-fantasy plot as well as went down the YA trope road with some insta-love and a potential love triangle. I considered DNF-ing this, but there was something about the pacing that still made Rule compulsive to read. As much as I’d also hoped that there would be some resolution to the girls’ blackmail situation, alas the book ended on a giant cliffhanger which I’m not invested enough in to see the outcome of in a sequel.

All in All: Rule has some really good pacing, which spurred me on to read what otherwise would have been a DNF. The other aspects of the book, however, are not as strong. The plot is all about the sisters keeping their misdeeds hidden in a world that isn’t fully fleshed out.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Review: The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
The Afterlife of Holly Chase
By Cynthia Hand
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Holly Chase is a failed Scrooge. After receiving a visit from three ghosts on Christmas Eve warning her to change her ways, Holly completely ignores them and a few days later, she dies. Then begins Holly’s afterlife as an employee of Project Scrooge, the company that tried to reform her. Holly is Project Scrooge’s Ghost of Christmas Past, a job that she’s not entirely keen on until the team begins planning for this year’s assignment: Ethan Winters, a Scrooge whom Holly takes a particular interest in when she starts to realize how much his life experiences mirror her own. As Christmas Eve approaches, Holly’s duties as the Ghost of Christmas Past increasingly take a backseat to what her heart wants.

Review: I’m a huge fan of Cynthia Hand’s angel series Unearthly, so I was very excited to read her modern take on A Christmas Carol. Hand’s version tells the story of Holly Chase, who failed to be swayed by the efforts of Project Scrooge, a secret company that tries to save one Scrooge-like individual every Christmas. After being visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future à la Dickens’s classic tale, Holly ignores all of the ghosts’ warnings and subsequently dies. Her afterlife consists of being a Project Scrooge employee, as its current Ghost of Christmas Past. Holly is less than thrilled about this purgatory/hell she’s landed in and hasn’t changed much, if at all, from her days as a mortal.

It doesn’t take long to realize why Holly was selected as a Scrooge: she’s selfish, materialistic, and mean. A good portion of the novel sees Holly put her responsibilities as the GCP on the backburner as she falls for the current Scrooge, Ethan Winters. Holly’s recklessness is sometimes cringe-worthy, yet it also builds suspense. Will Project Scrooge discover what she’s up to? Will she put Ethan’s future in jeopardy by not doing her job?

I found the middle section of the book, which focuses on Holly meeting Ethan in secret when she should be carrying out her GCP duties kind of slow moving. I wasn’t really sold on the romance here. My investment was in whether or not Ethan would be another failed Scrooge thanks in large part to Holly’s egregious breaking of Project Scrooge protocol.

I admit that I was prepared to be a bit disappointed with this one until—and I must squeeze in a bad Christmas pun here—things started wrapping up. I loved the book’s conclusion; it was extremely satisfying with just the right amount of closure, yet without being hokey. Although I would have enjoyed the book even more if the middle part had been as strong as the finish, overall this was a solid retelling as well as a solid holiday read.

All in All: I struggled some reading through the romance bits, but the ending was totally worth hanging in there for.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Book Loot (34)

Welcome to the first book haul post of 2019, in which I spotlight books that I accumulated back in 2018, lol. I feel like "book hoarding" is more accurate here because while I'm still not reading very much, I'm continuing to buy books. XD

Most of these were highly anticipated 2018 releases that I had pre-ordered. I also received this nifty Mr. Darcy mug as a gift. One can never have enough book-related mugs, I say!



Bought:

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Vengeful by V.E. Schwab
What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
The Dark Days Deceit by Alison Goodman
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
The Disasters by M.K. England
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Sadie by Courtney Summers

Have you read any of these or are planning to read them?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Review: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
All the Crooked Saints
By Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher:
Scholastic Press
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Pilgrims flock to Bicho Raro, Colorado, home of the Soria family, in search of a miracle. While the Sorias can perform miracles, they are forbidden from helping the pilgrims permanently banish their darkness, lest the Sorias bring the darkness onto themselves. Cousins Beatriz, Daniel, and Joaquin know this rule as well as any Soria, but when Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, finds himself battling the very thing all the Sorias fear, it’s up to Beatriz and Joaquin to find a way to save their beloved cousin.

Review: Soooo, according to Goodreads, I began reading All the Crooked Saints on July 31, 2018, and finished it on December 9, 2018. And this review is posting in January of 2019. Yikes!

So, what happened here? I did read a few self-help books for work during that stretch but . . . what happened here?! Maggie Stiefvater is one of my all-time favorite authors!

Looking back at how long it took me to read All the Crooked Saints, I’d say that 90% of it taking forever was due to life and necessary adulting usurping reading time. The remaining 10% was due to just not finding my groove with this book. There was nothing really concrete that I disliked about it. Stiefvater’s prose is as beautiful as ever, and once again, she has assembled a cast of finely crafted characters. I think my struggle here was the same as it was with another Stiefvater standalone, The Scorpio Races. Both novels moved very slowly for me, and I found it challenging to get invested.

I did manage to find more investment in All the Crooked Saints than I did in The Scorpio Races thanks to the compelling backstories of the members of the Soria family and the miracle-seeking pilgrims who still haven’t left the Sorias’ home in Bicho Raro, Colorado. I also loved the contagious charisma of Diablo Diablo, AKA Joaquin Soria, pirate radio DJ extraordinaire, and the role that his rogue broadcast, engineered by Joaquin’s clever cousin, Beatriz, played throughout the novel.

The last 70 pages really picked up for me, and when, after reading this book in fits and starts for about four months, I reached the last page, I realized that I’d quite enjoyed the book. Maggie Stiefvater is brilliant at threading magic through reality. Pilgrims with coyote heads or nonstop rain falling over them are entirely the norm in Bicho Raro.

My rating does reflect the difficulty I encountered with the book’s overall pacing, but the strong finish left an impression deep enough to bump the rating up by another half star. No ravens or quests to find sleeping kings to be found in this one, but there are owls and an atmosphere infused with magic that makes Bicho Raro much more than just a setting for a story about saints and pilgrims.

All in All: Although it took me quite a while to get into All the Crooked Saints, it ended up being the type of read that grew on me the more I thought about it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Reading and Blogging Resolutions for 2019

Happy New Year! All right, 2019: let's do this!

Yesterday I started writing a post to look back at 2018, but since it was another meh year for me reading and blogging, I just wasn't feeling it and scrapped the post. Not dwelling on what I didn't accomplish last year and instead making a fresh start for 2019 seemed like a better idea.

My overall goal for 2019 is to keep my goals simple, lol. As in not make them so ridiculously unreachable that I'm just going to end up a soggy mess of tears at the end of the year, sobbing over all that I failed to accomplish. XD So on that note:

  • Read 25 books. This was my number for last year's Goodreads challenge. I only made it to 17, same as 2017. If I can read just 2 books a month and squeeze 1 more in at some point during the year, it's totally doable.
  • Scheduled blogging time. Blogging was practically nonexistent on my radar last year because I let it be that way. I've been reading Ryder Carroll's The Bullet Journal Method, and it's been an eye-opener as far as thinking about how I manage, or more accurately, don't manage, my time. I'm switching over to bullet journaling for 2019 from the Passion Planner, and regular, consistent blogging time is a priority task for this year.
  • Move to WordPress/new blog design. I've wanted to move to WordPress for literally years now, lol, and I'm at the point where I realize this is one of those "just do it even though you have no idea what you're doing" type of things. So if you stop by the blog one day and it's acting all wonky, it probably means I finally took the WordPress plunge.

I hope everyone has an incredible 2019! Good luck with all of your reading/blogging challenges!

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