Jon Snow Levels Up! (Game of Thrones recap 5×02: “The House of Black and White”)

GoTtitlescreenWarning: This episode contains a whooooole lotta talking. I mean, put it this way: the character who arguably sees the most action is Podrick. Yes. Podrick. But hey, in the Game of Thrones, deliberation and discussion is what you need to do to pass the time in between the fight for the chair.

In this episode’s opening scene, we catch up with Arya who has made her way to Braavos to find Jaqen H’ghar a.k.a. Assassin Dude Who Refers to Himself in the Third Person. Surprise surprise, she’s rejected entry into the ‘House of Black and White,’ even when she uses the secret password. With nothing else to do and nowhere else to go, Arya just takes a little breather in the city: beheading birds, threatening men twice her size, reciting her bedtime death list. The usual. Though I must say how gratifying it feels that her list has seemed to be half the amount of names it used to be. Girl has been to work, and I wonder how long it’ll be before that bucket list is complete. Anyway, Jaqen finally decides to show his face—literally, and a girl finally gets to go inside the house where I’m guessing a girl will finally learn how to become one of the faceless warriors of death.

On the other side of the Narrow Sea, Cersei receives a special package in the form of half of the mother/daughter bff necklace she shares with her daughter Myrcella. Although Myrcella is a sweet, innocent, yet-to-be-tainted child, Cersei’s so sure that her only daughter is doomed to die down south in Dorne where she’s been betrothed to one of the princes. As if her life doesn’t suck enough, Tyrion is still running around free, her youngest son has fallen victim to her worst enemy Maragery, and the king’s council won’t stop questioning her actions as the Queen Mom. The only person she can really depend on is Jaime. Being Myrcella’s uncle/father, he decides to travel to Dorne for a “peaceful discussion.” Right, and that’s totally why he decides to ask Bronn to come along, right? Riiight.

AND NOW A NEVER BEFORE SCENE FROM DORNE. We may have not have been graced with an official introduction to the Sand Snakes just yet, but we finally get a look into life in the South… and it doesn’t look that much greater than the rest of Westeros, to be honest. Unless you’re Trystane and Myrcella who seem to be blissfully unaware in their courtship. (See, Cersei? NOTHING to worry about.) Prince Doran… of Dorne (yes, that’s really his name) is eternally chair-bound and seems super blah on the subject of seeking vengeance for his brother who was killed slaughtered in last season’s trial-by-combat. The late Oberyn Martell’s paramour Ellaria is appalled by his potato couch status. She isn’t the only one, as we will soon find out… (Or will we? I can hardly keep up with which characters have been cast and which have been erased from existence anymore.)

Onto to Brienne and Podrick , who have been this season’s reigning “odd couple” so far. After all of the misses, something has to go right. And as fate allows, it does! Brienne and Podrick legit spot Sansa along with her Uncle/Fake Father/Whatever-He-Is Petyr Baelish. Yay! I mean, finally, right? Wrong. Because Sansa doesn’t want to go with Brienne, nor would Littlefinger even let her anyway. Brienne accepts this rejection and leaves the inn… only to release all of the horses in the stable and go all beast mode on everyone. Podrick comes perilously close to dying several times, but is somehow saved (probably because death by swordsman would be far too simple and not gruesome enough for a death on this show). So there’s that in what I’m going to refer to as “Ughhh: The Sequel.”

White Walkers seem to back to their M.I.A. status, but life at The Wall hasn’t necessarily returned to normal with Stannis and co still taking up rooms at Le Chateau-Noir (that sounds so much more enticing than Castle Black, doesn’t it?) Another noticeable tremor in the North is that the population of females in this supposedly all-male zone currently stands at 3 thanks to the Baratheon ladies and a super random Gilly. No, seriously, why is she there? The same can be asked about Selyse Baratheon, but maybe I’m just bitter about how flipping rude she is to her precious daughter Shireen. Woman, you’re going to question your daughter’s intelligence while also dissing the fact that she loves books!? I mean, Cersei may not be Mother of the Year, but at least she’s supportive of her children. Anyway, with his brothers murdered and gone, Stannis Baratheon now gets to put his full sassiness on display with Jon as the main audience member. Stan wants the North, and even though Jon’s not officially in charge of Winterfell, he’s willing to make him a deal: Winterfell for an upgrade from Snow to Stark. Before Jon can make that decision, first all of the men must participate in the voting ceremony to determine who will be the next Commander of the Night’s Watch. Naturally, two of the oldest, most popular guys are chosen: Thorne (ugh) and other guy who I’m sure is also important, but not as important as Thorne because I can’t recall his name. But then Sam nominates Jon, listing off all of his virtuous deeds. Jon wins, and that’s not a miscount. So while Jon Snow doesn’t get to become a Stark (yet), he does get to add a new title to his name: LORD COMMANDER. Whaaat!

In keeping with tradition, Daenerys continues to lose control of her subjects, and this is the main topic of discussion at the Rejected Knights of the Round Table meeting. Grey Worm 2.0—oops I’m sorry, Mossador attempts to take justice into his own hands and kills one of the murderous “sons of the harpy” even after Dany orders against it. Justice needs to be served, so Dany ends up holding a public execution anyway much to the people’s protests. Mossador’s head is sliced off by her current flame Daario and everyone suddenly switches dialects to Parseltongue and hisses their rage away in what’s a pretty dang creepy turn of events. Dany is escorted away to safety and naturally vexed by this, but then the prodigal dragon returns to check in on mommy dearest. Alas, Drogon’s trip is a short one as he flies off once again. *Insert witty “How to Train Your Dragon” joke here*

Final thoughts on this episode: Bronn wearing clothes fit for a prince? Jon voted as Lord Commander? Arya being initiated into the face-shifting assassins’ club? Gilly learning to READ?  I’m declaring the unofficial theme of this episode, “STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM, NOW THEY’RE HERE.” And hopefully soon the rest of the team will be there, too.

Everyone in Westeros is Basically 110% DONE (Game of Thrones recap 5×01: “The Wars to Come”)

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Hiii, Game of Thrones. Welcome back! Last year I wrote super detailed recaps for every episode in season four. With a show as dramatic and complicated as this one, you can only imagine how arduous Sunday nights/Monday mornings were. So this year, I’ve decided that instead of detailing EVERY. LITTLE. THING. that happens in each episode, I’m going to lose a little of the formality and just highlight the highlights, freak out about the inevitable heartbreak and facepalmy moments, and enjoy the hot (but still good) mess that this not so little series has become.

As has become the tradition, season four’s finale ended with a bunch of characters getting killed off. Well actually, that’s become the tradition of pretty much every episode at this point. Season 5 is no exception, but as far as season openers go, this year’s first was sliiightly on the underwhelming side. Thankfully a few precious gems scattered throughout still have me excited enough for the rest of the season.

5×01: The Wars to Come

Season 5 opens with something super rare in this series: a flashback. YAY for it being a flashback that actually takes place in the book series, and one that really digs into the whys and hows of everyone’s favourite evil queen Cersei Lannister. Preteen Cersei and her friend are shown visiting the forest witch who of course has psychic powers. She tells Cersei stuff that we already pretty much already know, but doesn’t go into specifics. Most of it has basically already happened, but the ~younger queen taking her place… Margaery, right? Or is it Sansa? Dany? Arya? SHIREEN?! (That’s Stannis’ daughter, in case you didn’t know, ‘cuz you know, everyone forgets about her). Fast forward to the present and Cersei is at Tywin’s funeral/reception, probably realizing that the high was not worth the pain. Cut to her dear brother Jaime, who stands guard at their dad’s body and cue me SCREAMING over the painted coins over Tywin’s eyes because holy stuff of nightmares. Cersei and Jaime exchange some angry words about Tyrion and all the Lannister fam drama which is sad, but way better than what happened the last time they stood before a dead body. Ahem.

Cersei’s Worst Day Ever continues as she’s forced to mingle with all of her father’s mourners a.k.a. people she hates. Resident pretty boy Loras a.k.a. her fiancé tries his best to console her, but she’s not having it. Enter some young eunuch who turns out to be Lancel (dude, what happened to you?) who also attempts to make her feel better. Nice try, but better luck next time Lance because Cersei is just about DONE with you peasants.

On the other side of the Narrow Sea, Tyrion the kinslayer has escaped from Westeros with the help of Jaime and Varys. The words “all talk, no action” have never rang more true than in Tyrion’s scenes because ALL HE DOES IS TALK TALK TALK. It’s Tyrion, though, so what do you expect? Seriously, all you need to know is that he, like his sister, is over this drama. “The future is shit. Just like the past,” he states, and is it ever true. Varys suggests that maybe it’s not time to throw in the towel just yet because hey, there’s someone not too far away from Pentos who maybe has the makings of a ruler and the secret support of many! Someone of the female variety…

Yup, he’s talking about Daenerys Targaryen who is still in Meereen, living in the penthouse suite of a pyramid. (The promo poster makes sense now, huh?) Along with her five dozen titles, she’s still also known as the slave liberator and dragon mama. Not surprisingly, it’s here in a brothel we get our first nude scene of what will probably be a billion unnecessary shots of a female sans brassiere on this show. Oh, but don’t fear—it’s not a sex scene. This Unsullied solider isn’t visiting the brothel for sex, but just for someone to sing him to sleep (OMG AWWW). Too bad he gets his freaking throat sliced by the angry, bitter slaves who want their old lives back. R.I.P. White Rat :(. Dany’s pissed about this and demands once again that justice prevail. She’s also concerned about Drogon who is still M.I.A. Or wait, is it Jorah she’s worried about? I honestly can’t remember… Other stuff that I can’t remember happening: Dany and Daario hooking up. Oh yeah, because it didn’t happen on screen. It just is now. Way to pull a fast one on us.

Somewhere in between, Sansa is still well into her teenage goth phase, dressed in dark colours and looking as disillusioned as ever. She and her now-fake father Littlefinger (um, ew) are the humble audience of what appears to be a parrying match between knights, but is actually just her cousin Robin Arryn pathetically getting beaten by another boy-in-training. Secondhand embarrassment galore, and the cringing only continues when Littlefinger continues to be the ultimate creeper, stealing glances at Sansa. You think this scene can’t get any worse. It does. The House Arryn traveling party get into their carriages and pass RIGHT BY an unaware Brienne and Podrick, who are looking for Sansa (and have already lost Arya). Ughhhhh.

Now onto my favourite parts of the episode: THE WALL. Saddened as I am over the loss of Pyp and Grenn, life goes on at the Wall. Jon is summoned to the top and Melisandre totally hits on him on the ride up in the wooden elevator (“Are you a virgin?” she asks. “No,” he says. “Good,” is her reply. Geez, Mel. You already seduced one bastard, please spare this one). On top of the wall await Stannis and Davos (#bros4lyfe) who are epically staring out into the wintery abyss. Stannis wants the wildings to join his army; Jon’s like “Um, okay, I’ll ask, but they’re probs gonna say no.” Mance Rayder, the king beyond the wall, says no, and he’s sentenced to burn at the stake (uh oh, that *kind of* wasn’t in the books..?). Everyone watches because that’s how they roll in the North. And bless Jon Snow who decides to take an arrow and shoot Mance through the heart, sparing him the death by burning inferno. *insert a billion heart eyes emojis here*

All in all, the episode actually sets up quite nicely what I’m guessing are going to be some of the major plot lines of the season. Cersei’s downward spiral, actual Westerosi in support of Dany (or at least the Targaryen name…), Jon’s rise to the top, and probably more reaching and striving and murdering for the Iron Throne. The so-called wars to come. At least players are legit moving around the gameboard now. With that said… yo, where is Arya?!

(Cross-posted to Up and Comers)

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Play On by Michelle Smith

Play On CoverBook Review: Play On by Michelle Smith
Release Date: 4/21/15
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Source: ARC provided
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In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.

Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma’s flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius; she’s also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there’s something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek — he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.

As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa’s pain, it forces him to look beyond the façade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn’t everything—maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.

 

Here’s your get-in-the-mood music:

Friday Night Lights with baseball!! (The coach’s name is Coach Taylor! I mean…) I’m such a sports romance girl, even though… I don’t like watching or playing sports (I’m Katie, and I do marathons… on Netflix). And, I’m a sucker for a Good Southern Boy. Play On provided all of these and more. There was so much more than just a sports romance and all of it was so, so good.

Unexpected things I loved in Play On:

1. Male narrator. You don’t usually see things from a (solely) male POV in a coming-of-age + romance story. Austin is such a compelling MC, I was hooked on him right away.2. Baseball. I’m normally a swoon-over-football-guys kind of girl, but okay, Michelle, you won me over with baseball!

2. Baseball. I’m normally a swoon-over-football-guys kind of girl, but okay, Michelle, you won me over with baseball!

Thing I didn’t love: All the talk about Southern food made me hungry! I don’t even know what “barbecue” is, but I wanted it.

While each dealing with heavy, emotional stuff from the past, Austin and Marisa find each other and they were honey sweet, oh my god. The beginning of their romance was so adorable, with Austin bumbling around her, trying desperately to flirt. Those scenes were so honest and made me realize that in most of the YA I’ve read, there’s always an effortless flirting and banter in the beginning, which is SO NOT TRUE in real life! Don’t I wish.

There was a secondary storyline that was just so good, I have to mention it. Two of Austin’s friends are in the closet and seeing each other…in a small Southern town. These two characters are super cute together. Austin is one of the only people who knows and is so supportive of his friends and this storyline as a whole made me super emotional.

Weird (very me) thing to fixate on but the amount of times “y’all” was thrown into Play On gives me life. I swear, I giggle in delight anytime someone (especially Southern) says ‘y’all,’ sooo there was A LOT of giggling.

 

Michelle Smith Author PhotoAbout the author:

Michelle Smith was born and raised in North Carolina, where she developed a healthy appreciation for college football, sweet tea, front porches, and a well-placed “y’all.” She’s a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and fully believes that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.

Michelle lives near the Carolina coast with her family

Website | Twitter

Giveaway!
Enter to win a paperback copy of Play On (you want it, trust!). US Only.

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This Song Will Save Your Life paperback blog tour: Interview with Leila Sales

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We are so, so pleased to be a part of the This Song Will Save Your Life blog tour! You guys, last year, when I first read This Song Will Save Your Life, I very nearly cried. I said then and I believe now that before This Song Will Save Your Life, “I didn’t know it was possible to connect this strongly with a book. To see myself in its pages so vividly.”

My thoughts were echoed throughout the blogosphere. So many of us could relate to shy, awkward Elise who didn’t quite fit in, who is both her own best friend and worst enemy. I wanted to push this book on any teenager I met. I wanted to time-travel back to 2004 and give This Song Will Save Your Life to sixteen year-old Jen and promise her that the low times would get better.

So I’m very honored to welcome Leila Sales, author of This Song Will Save Your Life, to The Bevy Bibiliotheque today for an interview.

Interview

Jen: First of all, and I’m sure you get this all the time, but could you share a “song that saved your life” or perhaps one that just helps you get out of a funk?

Leila: “A Murder of One,” by the Counting Crows. To me, this is the quintessential song about making the most of your life and not letting other people hold you down. It has a powerful guitar and a great build, and in my experience you can never go wrong driving a car and playing this really really loudly with your windows rolled down.

Jen: This Song Will Save Your Life describes the art of DJ-ing so well. Did you have prior experience with it, or was it something that you had to research? If so, how did you go about it?

Leila: I myself am not a DJ, but I’ve spent many years in nightlife. I’m close to a number of DJs, so I had built-in resources to answer my technical questions. I also read the book How to DJ Right: The Art and Science of Playing Records. It did not turn me into a DJ, but now when I’m out I’ll sometimes holler things like, “Check your EQ levels!” or “We need more BPMs!” as if I am some sort of expert. (Hint: don’t do this. DJs hate it.)

Jen: Along the lines of DJ-ing and music, what song would you love to remix?

Leila: Maybe “Come On,” by the Jesus and Mary Chain. Also I would kill for a good a cappella rendition of Spiritualized “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.” If you ever hear of one, please send it my way.

Jen: I loved how unconventional the resolution of the “romantic” storyline was in The Song Will Save Your Life; it’s so different from what we often see in YA. Did that develop organically or was it something you planned going in?

Leila: A little of both. In my book Mostly Good Girls, it was really important to me that the protagonist not get together with the guy she had a crush on. I felt like that was integral to the theme of that book. In This Song Will Save Your Life, I could have gone either way, but I always knew Char wasn’t going to be Elise’s forever-love. Sometimes the people we date turn out to be our soul mates for the rest of our lives, but the vast majority of the time, they are people whom we date for some period of time, and they help us learn things about ourselves, and we help them learn things about themselves, too. It doesn’t make the relationship any less real just because it has an end date.

Jen: What was your first inspiration for This Song Will Save Your Life?

Leila: As I said earlier, I’ve spent a lot of time in nightlife. It’s such a fascinating, vibrant community, and I’ve long wanted to set a story in that world. For years I’d been toying with a story about a girl who became a DJ, sort of like “Pump Up the Volume,” but I didn’t know who that girl would be or what her conflict was. When I came up with the first two chapters of This Song Will Save Your Life, I wasn’t immediately sure what to do with them, and then one day I put two and two together and thought, “Hey, what if these chapters are actually the start of that DJ book?” That’s how a lot of my books come together, actually: I have two disparate stories, and then I realize that they actually fit together into one complete narrative.

Jen: What do you hope for Elise’s future?

Leila: I hope she gets to keep being a kickass DJ, and being friends with Vicky, and making new friends with people who appreciate her. I hope she finds even more activities and people that bring joy into her life. That’s pretty much what I hope for everyone, real or fictional: that they do the things and spend time with the people who make them feel happy, and don’t spend any time on the people or things that make them feel worthless.

Jen: Thank you, Leila!

The paperback edition of This Song Will Save Your Life will be available April 14, 2015.

About This Song Will Save Your Life

thissongpaperbackThis Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Paperback Release Date: 4/14/15
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Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, Leila Sales’ THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.

About Leila Sales

 

leilasalesLeila Sales was born in 1984 and grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in psychology in 2006.

Now she lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in the mostly glamorous world of children’s book publishing. Leila spends most of her time thinking about sleeping, kittens, dance parties, and stories that she wants to write.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Giveaway

Macmillan has generously offered to let us have two giveaways: one for an ARC of Leila’s upcoming novel Tonight, The Streets Are Ours and another for a “Songs That Will Save Your Life” mixed CD. Enter below (US/Canada only) and don’t forget to let us know on Twitter about songs that saved your life with the hashtag #SongsThatSavedMe.

One of mine is Here’s to Us by Halestorm.

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Book Review: The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6) by Richelle Mead


ruby circleBook Review:
 The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6) by Richelle Mead
Release Date: 2/10/15
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Purchased
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The epic conclusion to Richelle Mead’s New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series is finally here…

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

After their secret romance is exposed, Sydney and Adrian find themselves facing the wrath of both the Alchemists and the Moroi in this electrifying conclusion to Richelle Mead’s New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series. When the life of someone they both love is put on the line, Sydney risks everything to hunt down a deadly former nemesis. Meanwhile, Adrian becomes enmeshed in a puzzle that could hold the key to a shocking secret about spirit magic, a secret that could shake the entire Moroi world.

Review:
If you recall, last year, I finally succumbed to peer pressure and binge-read the Vampire Academy series. But not ready to give up that world, I moved on to binge read The Bloodlines series. What I’m saying here is that these books are bingeable, I guess, and I was pretty psyched for a new one to come my way.

Quick note: The Ruby Circle is the 6th in a series, so this review contains definite spoilers for books 1-5. If you’re not cool with that, well… I’d turn back if I were you!

id turn back

There were many questions for Richelle Mead to answer in The Ruby Circle. Would the center hold? Would we ever find out who Dimka’s padre is? Could two crazy kids who just happen to also be a vampire and a witch née Alchemist make a marriage work? Where the eff is Jill and why is vampire government as slow-moving to change as our actual government?

Right, so yes, a little recap: Adrian (aforementioned vampire) and Sydney (aforementioned witch née Alchemist) are in lurrrrve, and have consummated said lurrrrve but this is… not exactly agreeable to the Alchemist society that raised her. So, naturally, said society tries to “reeducate” in a pretty chilling facility. She’s rescued and Adrian decides that the best way to protect her is…

Mawwiage

And just when they think they have everything worked out, the universe– or someone, anyway– throws them a curveball. Jill, the Moroi vampire princess and person who, because of a stupid law, needs to be in working order for the current Moroi queen to keep her throne, is kidnapped.

The bulk of the storyline in The Ruby Circle deals with the mystery of Jill. She’s their friend and they’re going to find her. I enjoyed everyone getting to be a little smart and bad-ass in this rescue mission and the solving of this mystery, including our old favorite bad-asses, Rose and Dimitri. I also quite enjoyed a couple of ~revelations about them.

But another common theme: Sydrian and their relationship. Their fears over whether or not they can work long-term, when often it seems like the universe conspires against them, or, in Adrian’s case, with his Spirit abilities, it sometimes seems like they work against themselves. But while they worry about how to manage that obstacle, it was refreshing that neither of them doubted the love at the root of the ‘ship.

One thing I have noticed before about Richelle Mead’s writing and something that I quite admire: she doesn’t mess around on plot. Every now and then it almost seemed like the plot of The Ruby Circle could become a little meandering and it’s as though Mead  went “well, that won’t do” and mixed it up, making for a plot that keeps moving. Often, these plot moves and changes in direction are done simply. Sometimes, it was just this side of too easy, but as a reader, Mead has me trusting enough to take the ride and willfully suspend my skepticism.

Okay, and now we talk a major spoiler, SO:

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

To sum up: I enjoyed the Ruby Circle, but it’s not my favorite in the series. Still, I definitely hope to see more of this world and get further glimpses of the characters I have come to love.

The center held, and the circle closed. But only for now, I hope.