A Storm of Swords Journal – Part 10 (SPOILERS)

Pages 528 – 573 – These journal entries are getting shorter and shorter because the plot is moving so quickly now that I read WAY AHEAD.  And now I can’t remember all the little details of each chapter, but the high points are all still there.

Samwell:

In the fallout of the chaos at Craster’s, the decent brothers have left to flee back to the Wall.  Sam and Gilly were among them, but Sam fell behind and the others left him.  Now just he and Gilly (well, and her babe) are very slowly making their way somewhere.  They are pretty much lost.

They stop in an empty Wildling village to warm up, eat, and sleep.  In the night, Sam awakens with a bad feeling just before Small Paul arrives at their door – a very dead Small Paul with a raven eating his face.  Sam orders Gilly outside and attacks the zombie!Paul with the dragonglass to no avail.  Then he destroys him with fire only to walk outside and see Gilly surrounded by more of his dead brothers – their horse gutted.  Ravens come down in huge numbers to distract the white walkers and a brother wearing the black arrives on an Elk.  He swoops up Gilly and Sam.  Sam notices he has a black hand with fingers of stone.  Is this Benjen?  A great scene!

Arya:

Arya and the Hound are journeying somewhere.  Arya believes it to be Kings Landing.  They come across a river they must ford, but the damn thing is too flooded.  They find some men with a makeshift ferry and promise to pay their way once they are safely deposited on the other side.  These men are stupid and believe them.  During the crossing, Arya almost jumps over the side, but just as she’s about to try escaping AGAIN, one of the men falls into the current and is immediately washed away to his death.  So much for that idea.

On the other side, the Hound pays his way with an IOU parchment.  The men are pissed, but the Hound rides off before anything can be done about it.  Sandor informs Arya that now her would-be saviors (Beric and his men) won’t be able to cross because they only have IOU parchment as well.  Arya is so pissed.

Clegane informs her that she’s not being taken back to Kings Landing and that they just crossed the Trident.  They are practically right on top of The Twins.  The Hound hopes to ransom Arya and perhaps join Robb’s cause.  That’s about his only option at this time.

I love that Arya’s been constantly plotting her escape or the Hound’s death.

Jon:

With his leg about to fall off and his horse dying of exhaustion, Jon reaches the small village outside the Wall.  He tells the people to pack their things and head to Castle Black b/c the Wildlings are coming.  On a new horse, Jon quickly makes his way to the Wall.  He quickly learns that they know he’s been riding with the Wildlings because some of the brothers spotted him.  He explains Qhorin’s plan and they take him to Maester Aemon to see about his leg.

He learns that Commander Mormont has been killed by his own men, that Winterfell has been destroyed by Theon, and that Bran and Rickon are supposedly dead.

We learn that Grenn made it back to Castle Black safely, but left Sam behind (which doesn’t make Jon happy).

Jon warns everyone of the approaching Wildling party.  There’s hardly anyone left at Castle Black and no real leadership. A new Commander has not been voted in yet – I hope they vote in Jon.

Catelyn:

They finally arrive at The Twins – very late due to the weather which is already a bad sign.  Upon arrival, some of the Freys ride out to meet their party only to be attacked (but not harmed) by Grey Wind.  Oh no, Robb.  Go home right now!

Lord Frey receives them and is his normal charming self.  This man is utterly disgusting and hardly trustworthy.  This whole chapter was filled with tension and foreshadowing.  Anyway, Robb apologizes to everyone and Catelyn makes sure to ask for food which should protect them under the guest’s rights/laws.  I think the Starks are in trouble.  All of the Freys that Robb liked, who had been with him before he married Jeyne, are nowhere to be found.

Edmure meets his new bride and she is rather comely, but tiny (she also cries a lot).  He’s quite pleased.  Catelyn visits the maester to see if the child is fertile.  The maester assures her she will give Edmure many sons, just as her mother did.

Roose Bolton and his men arrive and there are more war discussions.  I am terrified to keep reading.

Arya:

The Hound and Arya sneak their way into The Twins wedding feast by pretending to bring food and supplies to the wedding.  When Arya can finally see the feast tents, she immediately begins searching for a familiar face or anyone wearing her family’s sigil.  She finds no one – oh dear.  Sandor wants to find her ‘bloody brother’ and get this show on the road.

Nothing much happened, but dammit, I’m terrified.  It’s also ass o’clock in the morning, but I can’t stop reading.  MUST. KNOW. WHAT. HAPPENS.

College Football

I do love it so, especially my beloved SEC and UGA Bulldogs!  Just reminds of some of my favorite things – Fall, college, friends, red and black, Sanford Stadium, and some of the most amazing memories a girl can have.  And now for a little photographic nostalgia – forgive my sentimentality.

Is there anything cuter than a bulldog puppy?  I think not.

Or a packed Sanford Stadium?

Even UGA’s beloved Arch is gorgeous – curse and all!

And while Athens, Greece might consider itself the best – a Georgian knows which Athens truly captures the heart!

GO DAWGS! SIC ‘EM! WOOF! WOOF!

North and South Read-A-Long: Week Four – The Grand Finale

Y’all, I’m sitting here trying to find something to say about the ending of the story and I got nothin’.

Pa Hale’s death was so sudden and random.  I kind of wanted him to get hit by a train or something at the end, ya know?

And then Mags goes back to London to have all of the BORING times.  Seriously, the worst part of the novel for me.  Nothing happens in the hustle and bustle of London.  She begins to miss Milton.

Edith was such a little twit – ‘Oh, you don’t love me as much as I love you, Mags!’ – as she proceeds to pout on the sofa for the remainder of the day.

Also, Mr. Bell felt like a creeper to me.  Like he wanted him some Mags in all the wrong kind of ways.  The mini-series amplifies this.  Their trip back to Helstone was uneventful.  Mags just sees how imperfect Helstone is and misses Milton again.  Absence = heart fonder and all that jazz.

Then poor Mr. Thornton loses the mill!  But wait!  His landlady is Mags thanks to Mr. Bell’s demise.  She’ll cut him a deal and let him stay on as master – of her and the mill, kinky!  The End.  The finale felt anti-climactic, no?

As for the mini-series, I’m fairly certain I just drooled over Richard Armitage while somewhere in my subconscious knowing that the BBC had done an amazing job.  Mr. Bates as Higgins!  Cinematography was also superb – especially the scenes in the mill with all the cotton fluff flying around – gorgeous and deadly.  The music was hypnotically beautiful as well…but maybe I’m confusing it with ol’ Richard.  I liked the girl who played Mags and I think I liked her character more in the mini-series.  And the train station scene at the end, YES. PLEASE.  So much better than the book’s ending, but that’s to be expected.

Overall, North and South was a very enjoyable reading experience.  I must admit, however, that Wives and Daughters is still my favorite Gaskell so far.  I’ve year to read Cranford or any of her other works.  Still, I’d recommend Mags’s story to anyone who enjoys Victorian literature or really wants a great depiction of how England was affected by the Industrial Revolution.  Gaskell has a real knack for dialogue and killing nearly all of her characters.  This book would have been a better zombie re-write than P&P.

Ok – I’m still half asleep and have rambled long enough.  None of the above thoughts really showcase any sort of intellectual reading of North and South.  It’s just too much of a Monday for all that!  Now for some lovely imagery:

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Another Classics Club title finished! To see the first three posts on North and South, head to these links:

(Week One)(Week Two)(Week Three)

Personal Post Wherein I Worry…

Just got back from running some errands only to find Jimmy on his way out the door.  For Chinese school.  Seriously worried.   Why?

See, Jimmy’s parents have a very productive method of parenting called ‘bribery’.  That’s right – just calling it like I see it. If they want Jimmy or his sister to accomplish something they provide a prize that is unbeatable at the end.  Let me explain a little further – an accomplishment isn’t merely something they should do; it is something well beyond that – something great.  Here are some examples:

Make good grades and graduate high school – not bribe worthy

Test into the top high school in Manhattan – bribe = most expensive computer 1998 could buy (Jimmy)

Graduate college – not bribe worthy

Graduate college on time with awesome degree and amazing job – bribe = brand new $40K BMW (Vivian)

Pass CPA exam – not bribe worthy

Pass all 4 parts on first try – bribe = down pmt on first home (Jimmy and Vivian)

See how it works?  Hell, they even gave me $400 for passing my CPA first time out of the box.  Not exactly down pmt money, but more than my parents offered up.

So, again, why am I worried?  One of the biggest bribery tools they have ever discussed involves getting Jimmy back into Chinese school so he can learn to read and write Mandarin.  Jimmy’s from Taiwan, but only speaks about 2nd grade level Taiwanese and understands very little Mandarin or Cantonese.  If he can learn to read and write Mandarin (one of the biggest up and coming business languages in the world), he’ll be quite the commodity, especially for the company his parents work for.  Sounds all well and good, but Jimmy has always wholeheartedly refused citing nightmares from Chinese school when he was a kid.

What’s the deal now?  What have they offered him?  A job in their company making butt tons of cash?  To pay our mortgage?  I mean, this is serious stuff.  I’m terrified of what they are holding over his head to make him so cheerful about this new turn of events.  And why hasn’t he mentioned anything to be about it?  Oh dear.

He even asked if I wanted to go with him.  Something is up; I can smell it, people!

Before anyone freaks out on me, the overall tone of this post is jokey.  I’m more than fine with Jimmy getting in touch with his Asian roots and culture.  Anything that makes him more attractive as an employee is fantastic as well.  I just hope he’s doing it for himself and not because of something his parents are dangling by a string in front of him.

For your viewing pleasure, the parties playing this precarious game of chess:

 

Happy Saturday!

A Storm of Swords Journal – Part 9 (SPOILERS)

Page 461 – 527

Jon:

I was right!  The men Bran sees are the Wildlings with Jon Snow!  But before they arrive at Queenstower, Jon and Ygritte have many interesting conversations that really highlight the differences between those beyond the Wall and those of the Realm – also the similarities.  Jon is growing increasingly bothered by his betrayal, but also, as his feelings deepen for Ygritte and the men he’s coming to know, he worries about them as well.

Once at Queenstower, they come across the one man Bran first saw with his fire.  He’s old and not bothering anyone, but the Wildlings demand that Jon slay him – mostly as an act of loyalty.  Jon refuses and Ygritte gets pissed so she slits his throat herself (the old man, not Jon).  Jon knows he’s in deep shit, but Summer comes to the rescue slaughtering many Wildlings and Jon sees his only chance of escape.  He begins to slaughter as well, eventually hopping on a horse and riding for hours.  When he dismounts he discovers that the has a nasty arrow wound in his leg.

This scene should be spectacular on the show, don’t you think?  I wonder what will happen with Ygritte?  Will they ever find each other again?  Was she the one who shot him?  Exciting times!

Danaerys:

Speaking of exciting, Dany has discovered a taste for war, victory, and ultimately, blood.  Along with her new army (who she’s freed, essentially) and many of the citizens of Ghris (who are weighing her down, but she won’t abandon them), she arrives at Yunkai and hopes to overtake this city as well – mostly to free the slaves and give her men some practice in actual battle.  A little good with the bad.

The three different peoples of the city are invited (well, their leaders are invited) to join her cause peacefully.  She gives them until the next morning, or in one case, three days, to acquiesce or she will attack.  Despite these promises, she sneak attacks in the middle of the night and wins.  One of the leaders actually pledges his allegiance to her before the attack and helps sack the other tribes.  When Dany marches into the city three days later, the freed slaves come out, shouting at her lovingly, touching her, and devotedly calling her ‘Mother’.  Dany is pleased with herself.  She only lost 12 men.

Dany is GANGSTA.

Arya:

Poor Arya – AGAIN.  Will this child never get a break?  Seriously.  I almost dread her chapters now.  There’s more red priest stuff.  She discovers that Jon Snow’s mother, Wylla, was wetnurse to fellow outlaw child Ned, also a high born lad.  He also informs her that her Lord Father also was in love with Lady Ashara a high born Dornish woman before he was married to Catelyn.  Arya gets mad at Ned for these stories because she believes they cheapen her father’s honor.

They also find out from the crazy old lady who always wants a song in payment for her information that Riverrun is to be attacked and taken by the Lannisters.  Apparently, Catelyn and Robb and many others will have moved on to The Twin’s for Edmure’s wedding, so they’ll be safe.  Still, a crippling defeat.  Arya gets upset and runs away when they suggest not taking her back to her mother if it’s not possible.  Guess who catches her?  Sandor Clegane, the Hound himself.  DAMMIT. But he was so nice to Sansa – so maybe there’s hope.

Jaime:

Happily making his way back to Kings Landing,  Jaime finds himself reminiscing of past journeys in these same woods.  Happier times, at least for him.  He’s still quite feverish and they give him dreamwine to help him sleep.  He has a nightmare that’s he’s been abandoned in the dark belly of Casterly Rock to await some sort of DOOM!  Who should arrive to help him?  That’s right, Brienne.  Feeling guilty much, Jaime?

When he awakes, Jaime bribes his guardsmen to take him back to Harrenhal, saying he forgot something.  Of course, he’s speaking of Brienne!  When they get back, Jaime finds Brienne in the fighting pit with a huge ass bear of the non-teddy variety.  They’ve also given her only a fake sword and no armor.  Vargo is a sicko.  Jaime jumps in to save her valiantly and Bolton’s other men take the bear out with some arrows.  When asked why he came back for her, Jaime says “I dreamed of you.”  Love their relationship so freakin’ much.

Catelyn:

The Stark/Tully party is making their way down to The Twins for Edmure’s party.  The weather is dismal and all the rivers are flooded.  Edmure hopes his new bride will be attractive.  Catelyn chastises everyone.  Her mother hen routine gets annoying at times.  She keeps reminding Robb about how kiss-ass he needs to be.  Robb knows – he doesn’t need her hounding.

Robb knows he needs to name an heir in his place until Queen Jeyne provides one.  He can’t have Tyrion taking Winterfell and the North.  He informs his mother that Jon Snow is who he intends to name.  Catelyn is livid.  King Robb doesn’t care.

Balon Greyjoy is dead.  Oh no.  That Melisandre bitch’s spell is starting to come true.  I smell bad things for Robb.

Robb’s new battle plan involves hopping on some boats and taking the Iron Islands and the North.  He’s sending his mother to another friendly castle as prisoner…err…I mean, guest.

He has all his men sign his ‘this is who will be my heir’ document at the end of the chapter, but we never see who is named.  This is just some scary ass foreshadowing.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Quick confession:  I mostly reread The Scarlet Letter so that I could be better prepared for Hillary Jordan’s modern adaptation, When She Woke.  I should have also reread some Atwood as Jordan’s novel is an almost perfect mixture of Hawthorne and Atwood’s most famous novels.

Hannah Payne’s world exists in a not too distant dystopian future where the United States has become something of a theocracy.  A scourge has plagued the land making women briefly infertile until a cure is discovered.  During this scourge, abortion becomes illegal and sanctity of life laws rule the day.  A new justice system is created where criminals are melachromed different colors to represent their crimes.  Hannah has just been turned Red to implicate her in the murder of her unborn child as an abortionist.  She must reenter society shackled in her shame and deal with the violence, prejudice, and uncertainty that is unavoidable.

Jordan’s update of Hawthorne’s classic is topical, relevant, and intelligently woven.  Hannah’s world is complex, well-build, and grounded in realities we can see poking through the cracks of modern society.  Hanna’s world is intensely frightening because it’s entirely believable and perhaps Jordan’s greatest conquest in this retelling.  I don’t want to get too political here, but newly named VP candidate Paul Ryan has consistently voted in favor of sanctity of life laws and abhors abortion no matter the circumstances.

The melachorming of criminals really intrigued me.  With the prison system being so overrun with petty criminals and costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, this colorful solution seems almost valid enough to consider.  Only the most violent of prisoners remains locked up in Hannah’s world with everyone else forced to display their crimes on a daily basis and deal with the ramifications – namely, extreme prejudice.  The moral questions raised are deeply layered and not easily argued one way or the other.  Violent hate groups pop up which put melachromes in danger on a daily basis.  On the other hand, melachroming creates some very strong individuals who gather enough courage and strength to begin fighting the disastrous turn the country has taken.  I loved the lack of black and white resolutions proposed by When She Woke.

As far as plot and story are concerned, the novel’s first half is fantastic.  Swiftly plotted, well-written, and with enough twists and turns to hold anyone’s attention.  The prose is concise and straight-forward, almost bleak which creates the perfect environment for Hannah’s predicaments and perilous journey.  Hannah herself is likable, smart, and someone you can really get behind.  Unfortunately, the second half kind of falls apart.  The novel becomes less Hawthorne, more Civil War Underground Railroad, which could have been really interesting.  But the novel’s plot becomes a bit too unhinged from reality and Hannah jumps the shark personality-wise.  I believe Jordan’s intent in some of Hannah’s actions was to show her taking back her freedom and sexual liberation, but the execution was just off the mark for me.  I no longer recognized Hannah as the same person anymore and thus, didn’t care as much about her ending.

As for the ending – way too rushed!  And anti-climactic.  I’d have appreciated an additional 50 pages to better end Hannah’s story.  Hell, I’d even welcome a sequel at this point because I was left just so unsatisfied.

Overall, When She Woke is a great story with much to recommend it.  The moral enigmas, well-crafted dystopian society, and general creativeness of the story help overcome the second half’s deficiencies.  Pair it with The Scarlet Letter and you have a wonderful lesson plan for any high school or college classroom.  Hillary Jordan is a truly gifted writer with an amazing imagination.  Mudbound and When She Woke handle difficult issues such as racism and prejudice in wonderfully nuanced ways that set her apart from other authors.  Her books would make great discussions between both parent and child as her writing straddles the line between young adult and adult fiction.  Enjoy!

North and South Read-A-Long: Week Three

Week three has come to an end and we only have one more week ’til the grand finale!  Let’s begin by discussing Frederick, shall we?

The great and wondrous long, lost (criminal) brother has returned to England and his mother’s bedside.  If Frederick is found by the wrong peeps, straight to jail and certain death he goes.  In the meantime, his family reunion initially pissed me off.  Within mere moments of seeing Margaret after 8 years, he criticizes her for being clumsy.  She’s trying to bring him refreshments and the only thing he can do is make her feel even more awkward and silly?  I wanted to strangle him.  Then Ma Hale dies and it gets worse.  The whole house breaks down with Pa Hale and Frederick bawling non-stop and being no help whatsoever to Mags.  They all inform her that she is the strong one and must take care of everything – all the funeral arrangements because they can’t handle their sorrow.  I almost stopped reading.

Her family is nuts.

Anyway, eventually Frederick gets over himself and gives Mags a rest.  Thank God.  And I started to like him a bit better. Perhaps he was just boat-lagged or something?  Then he kills the man who knows his identity by accidentally/intentionally pushing him off the train depot’s ledge.  I liked him even more despite the fact that murder wasn’t his intention.  And Mags lies to the Police!  Go Mags!  But Mr. Thornton saves her from having to deal with the Police further – ah, love!   Oh, and Mags sends Frederick to see her jilted Mr. Lennox to see about solving his mutiny problems.  I should probably say something smart about Frederick’s mutiny mimicing the recent uprising and labor strike in Milton, but my head hurts.

And what about Mr. Thornton?  What’s he been up to?  Not much.  He attends Ma Hale’s funeral, but Mags doesn’t even know it!  It’s that perfect rom-com moment where they just miss each other – except that it’s at a funeral.  Thornton then spies her with her brother in the bushes?  Am I wrong about the bushes part because that was saucy?  He suspects she’s with a lover and gets all jealous.  Doesn’t he?  Sometimes I interpret the situation in my own way.

Boucher the douche is dead!  He’s committed suicide by drowning in a couple of inches of dirty water.  Lovely way to go, Boucher.  Mr. Higgins, who I’ve come to admire, has decided to help Boucher’s widow and children and take care of them in the wake of Boucher’s untimely demise.  Boucher couldn’t handle the pressure of being King Douche and trying to play both sides – support the Union, deny the Union.  Side note:  the description of his dead body was disturbing as was Mags putting her handkerchief over his bloated face.

What else, what else?  I enjoyed the discussion between the Hales and Mr. Higgins when he explains to them he wants to go South and find work.  The idea that the South could possibly have just as many hardships for non-Southerners as the North does for non-Northerners was insightful for Mags.  I believe this is a breakthrough in her prejudice.  I see her walls crumbling.  She also craved attention from Mr. Thornton and missed him just a smidge – all progress.

So, despite lots of things happening this section still felt peculiarly devoid of major progress.  I’m looking forward to the finale 30% of the novel and seeing where our characters end up.  I’m liking Mags a bit more now and hope everything comes together for her.  And for Mr. Higgins too!  He’s got a big discussion with Mr. Thornton coming up that will probably be a MAJOR deal for our plot progression.  Can’t wait!

Edit: I didn’t finish reading the section!  And I didn’t realize it until now!  I only read through Chapter 37, not 39.  Dammit.