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A Clash of Kings

A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky. And from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns. Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. It is a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy, a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress, and wild men descend from the Mountain of the Moon to ravage the countryside. Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel … and the coldest hearts. For when kings clash, the whole land trembles.

The sequel to A Game of Thrones picks up right where it left off, and continues what it started. That is to say, there’s a lot more fighting.

And there’s a few new vignettes. Theon, the ward of Winterfell, emerges with his own story. The other new vignette is that of Davos Seaworth, the “Onion Knight” of Stannis Baratheon. Through Davos, we learn more about Robert Baratheon’s older brother, who is also one of the men vying for the throne. Mainly, the fact that instead of Multiple gods, Stannis worships the one god his wife believes in, referred to as the Lord of Light.

Plot can be thought of in terms of a bell curve. The left side of it is usually the rising action – the events that lead to the climax, or the highest point of dramatic tension. The right side of the bell curve is usually the falling action, or the resolution to the dramatic tension.

A Clash of Kings, however, has a plateau. The action continues to build, and then it hits the ground running, keeping the same pace of events until the very last pages.

And even the end of the book isn’t really a resolution to any of the action – it only signals more to come.

This sequel definitely doesn’t disappoint!

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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Roaming through New York City at three A.M., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship – like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing samurai armor – April and her best friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world – from Beijing to Buenos Aires – and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. All eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

Hank Green may have published his debut novel in 2018, but it’s just as relevant now as it was then. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it ended up being timeless.

It’s not just a sci-fi mystery, although it’s definitely a good book as far as genre is concerned. It’s a commentary on fame and the pursuit of it.

In the beginning of the novel, April May is a normal person just like the rest of us. However, as her fame begins to grow, it changes her. Eventually, it gets to the point where she’s consumed by what her audience thinks about the Carls, and about her. She’s almost constantly on social media, producing new content because she feels like she has to or else she won’t matter anymore because people will just move on to other headline making news. Obviously, this puts a strain on her personal relationships.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is also a commentary on how divided America – and maybe the world at large – is today. When April starts to go on television to talk about the Carls and how she believes they are a force for good, another group – people who call themselves the Defenders because they want to defend humanity from the Carls because no one knows what they are – arises in opposition. It’s eerily similar to what’s happening in politics today.

So much of Hank Green’s humor is in this book it’s hard not to laugh. He uses a lot of exclamation points though, some where it doesn’t seem necessary to do so. But that might just be they way April talks and tells the story. His disclaimers in the book are unique. April, as the narrator, tells the reader they can skip over some parts if they don’t want to read them. All in all, the sci-fi parts are a bit complex, but An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is worth reading.

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Trashy Romance Novel

Delaney Brooks is the author of The Queen’s Surrogate, the “sinfully satisfactory” romance novel that swept readers around the world off their feet and into the fictional embrace of His Majesty, King Malcolm.

When her book is adapted into an eight-part miniseries, Delaney and her best friend, Gemma, fly to Scotland for what promises to be two months of lush green mountains, historic castles, and hot celebrity co-workers, including the gorgeous Matthew Kent, British playboy Benjamin Wyndham, and Hollywood’s hottest reformed rebel, Colin Ward.

Even though “trashy” is the first word in the title, this book is anything but trashy. In a word, this book is impressive. Jacqueline E. Smith wrote excerpts from books with in a book, and she made everything up. If memory serves, all John Green did when he wrote The Fault in Our Stars was make the up the title of a book and and the author.

It also reads like a daydream, but it’s not necessarily something specific to the author. Everyone has daydreams about what they’d do if they met and got to hang out with their favorite celebrities, right?

All this to say, this is Smith’s best book so far. Just the right amount of fantasy and daydreaming within realistic fiction.

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A Game of Thrones

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are amassing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a take of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no man-made metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne, and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win the deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

A Song of Ice and Fire – in which A Game of Thrones is the first book – doesn’t have chapters so much as it has characters. It has so many different characters that it can be confusing at times, but one might say that A Game of Thrones is comprised of vignettes featuring Jon Snow, Bran Stark, Eddard (aka Ned) Stark, Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, Catelyn Stark, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen.

It takes awhile to get to the meat of the story, but this book very much sets up future books in the series. George R.R. Martin does take his time describing things, but he doesn’t waste words. As long as they might be at times, the descriptions are necessary to contextualize the story.

With quite a few cliffhangers, it’s an easy book to get sucked into. And it doesn’t let go.

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Queen of Air and Darkness

What if damnation is the price of true love?

Innocent blood has been spilled on the steps of the Council Hall, the sacred stronghold of the Shadowhunters. In the wake of the tragic death of Livia Blackthorn, the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. One fragment of the Blackthorn family flees to Los Angeles, seeking to discover the source of the disease that is destroying the race of warlocks. Meanwhile, Julian and Emma take desperate measures to put their forbidden love aside and undertake a perilous mission to Faerie to retrieve the Black Volume of the Dead. What they find in the Courts is a secret that may tear the Shadow World asunder and open a dark path into a future they never could have imagined. Caught in a race against time, Emma and Julian must save the world of Shadowhunters before the parabatai curse destroys them and everyone they love.

At the end of Lord of Shadows, there’s a deleted scene. If that scene had not been deleted, this book would not exist.

Like its predecessor in The Dark Artifices series, this is politically topical, at least as far as what is currently going on in the United States. It’s almost scary how much it mirrors reality in the respect. However, it’s balanced out by occasional humor and family dynamics that tug at the heartstrings when it’s least expected. And of course, there’s plenty of adventure and will-they-won’t-they love drama.

One thing that seems to be unique to this book is the world building. The other books in the Shadowhunters franchise. Realistic fiction with magic and demons thrown in. Queen of Air and Darkness travels to another dimension, essentially a parallel universe in which almost everything is opposite than how it exists in the normal world. It’s interesting, to say the least, but it would have been nice to spend more time there and explore. Maybe Clare can work it into future books somehow.

This book definitely doesn’t disappoint, but it doesn’t exactly tie everything together with a pretty bow. There’s more storylines just waiting to be written.

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Spotlight

Wedding bells are ringing, but not for Melissa Parker. Months after shocking The Kind of September’s friends, family, and fandom with news of their engagement, Cory Foreman and Tara Meeks are ready to walk down the aisle, and Mel couldn’t be happier for them. At least, that’s what she’s supposed to think, especially now that she’s been recruited as a bridesmaid.

While Septemberists around the world are bracing themselves for the upcoming nuptials, Mel, Sam, and the rest of the guys are celebrating a new album, embracing new romances, and trying their best to avoid new rumors … Particularly those claiming that Mel and Sam are on the verge of ending their relationship.

The fourth book in the Boyband series by Jacqueline E. Smith might just be the best. The characters feel like family at this point, and the books where readers can connect with and relate to the characters are always excellent.

This book – as has come to be expected – had well timed humor and references that will make readers laugh out loud. And of course, there’s drama. There’s always loads of drama in the entertainment world of course, but this fictional drama is a whole other level. And don’t forget the plot twists. A good book and/or series always has a few, but readers won’t see these coming. At all.

Makes this book sound like something worth reading, doesn’t it?

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Spain seems to be confused

image: cascadellibro.com

I’m still working my way through Harry Potter y el prisoner de Azkaban. It’s actually my New Year’s resolution to finish it. However, there seems to be a translation faux pas.

Let’s break it down, shall we? Here’s a passage from the book in Spanish:

POR ORDEN DEL MINISTERIO DE MAGIA

Si recuerda a los clientes que hasta nuevo adviso los dementores patrullarán las calles cada noche después de la puesta de sol. Se ha tomado esta medida pensando en la seguridad de los habitantes de Hogsmeade y se levantará tras la captura de Sirius Black. Es aconsejable, por lo tanto, que los ciudadanos finalicen las compras mucho antes de que se haga de noche.

Felices Pascuas!

This is the same passage in English:

BY ORDER OF THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC

Customers are reminded that until further notice, dementors will be patrolling the streets of Hogsmeade every night after sundown. This measure has been put in place for the safety of Hogsmeade residents and will be lifted upon the recapture of Sirius Black. It is therefore advisable that you complete your shopping well before nightfall.

Merry Christmas!

The difference between the two is that “Pascuas” means Easter, not Christmas. And at other points in the Spanish version, it mentions “arboles de Navidad”, or Christmas trees. But then in the dialogue, Harry, Ron, and Hermione say “Felices Pascuas”. How did the two holidays get mixed up in the translation, and why does it switch from talking about Easter to talking about Christmas? The only thing I can think of is that someone had a bit too much “cerveza de mantequilla”, or butterbeer, while they were translating.

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Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I Am One.

Before becoming America’s first ever network chief meteorologist or appearing on Dancing with the Stars, ABC News’s Ginger Zee checked herself into a mental health hospital.

Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I Am One. is Ginger’s heartbreaking, hilarious, and harshly honest life story – from Dickhead’s (you won’t soon forget that name) deck on Lake Michigan to her storm-chasing dream at ABC News.

Ginger opens up about her lifelong battle with crippling depression, her romances that ranged from misguided to dangerous, and her tumultuous professional path. This cyclone of stories may sound familiar to some – it’s just that Ginger’s personal tempests happened while she was covering some of the most devastating storms in recent history, including a ferocious tornado that killed a legend in the meteorology field.

She also canceled her first wedding – twice – because she finally listened to her inner voice, which was saying This isn’t right, but then she happened to fall in love with her gay best friend. Yes, twice. Yes, gay.

On the sunny side, this book is for all the mistake makers who have learned to forgive others and themselves – even in the aftermath of man-made, or in this case, Ginger-made disasters. It’s a story that every young woman should read, a story about finding love in the world, and finding it in yourself.

I’m sorry, but I have to break a rule here, because I can’t be objective with this one.

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Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy

Simon Lewis has been a human, a vampire, and now he is becoming a Shadowhunter.  But the events of City of Heavenly Fire left him stripped of his memories, and Simon isn’t sure who he is anymore.  He knows he was friends with Clary, and that he convinced the total goddess Isabelle Lightwood to go out with him … but he doesn’t know how.  And when Clary and Isabelle look at him, expecting him to be a man he doesn’t remember, he can’t take it.

So when the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again.  His new self.  Whomever this new Simon might be.

But the Academy is a Shadowhunter institution, which means it has some problems.  Like the fact that non-Shadowhunter students have to live in the basement.  And that differences – like being a former vampire – are greatly looked down upon.  At least Simon is trained in weaponry – even if it’s only from hours of playing D&D.

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Everybody’s Got Something

In Mississippi, where I’m from, there’s an understanding that hard times do not discriminate.  My mother used to say “Everybody’s got something.”  This is the story of my something and my road to something better.

So begins beloved Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts’s new memoir in which she recounts the incredible journey that’s been her life so far, and the lessons she’s learned along the way.  With grace, heart, and humor, she writes about overcoming breast cancer only to learn five years later that she would need a bone marrow transplant to combat a rare blood disorder, the grief and heartbreak she suffered when her mother passed away, her triumphant return to GMA after her medical leave, and the tremendous support and love of her family and friends that saw her through difficult times.