Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday Confessions

I confess...I probably shouldn't have watched Divergent last night. I thought I'd hate it, but though it definitely has its issues, I actually enjoyed it. And now I want to read the books. And figure out which faction I am. (I would say candor, but I took the official movie quiz and got divergent with my highest scores in amity and dauntless...umm okay. And now I'm babbling. Oops.)

I confess...I finally caught up on some Yelp reviews today! Go me. Now if only someone would nominate me for Elite status... ;)

I confess...this past weekend was kind of a "treat yo'self" weekend for me, and it was worth every minute.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tara's ASOIAF Re-Read: AGOT, Eddard XI - Eddard XIV


Things are really getting crazy at this point in AGOT, but that doesn't quite make up for the fact that of these seven chapters, four of them were in Ned's POV. Yes, they're some of his better ones - I mean, at least he finally figures out that Cersei's children aren't Robert's (with Sansa's help, mind you! unwitting it may have been, but still).

Oh, Ned. Oh, Robert. And Oh, TYWIN. (And as much as I hate to say it, yes, even "Oh, Sansa".) So much frustration in this section; honestly, it's hard for me to even figure out what to say about all of it. I mean, yeah, Robert goes off hunting and the realm falls to pieces, but as always with GRRM it's really not that simple. Tywin is at fault for sending Gregor Clegane to raid villages; Edmure Tully is at fault for acting before thinking (not the first time he's done something like this, I'd wager - not with the way both Catelyn and Ned talk about him - nor will it be the last). Cersei connives, Sansa makes a grave mistake, Varys and Pycelle don't help much at all, and Littlefinger is a traitorous bastard. And Ned...Ned, Ned, Ned.

I mean seriously. He pisses off Loras Tyrell, apparently Ilyn Payne, and then Renly as well. Not to mention Cersei, though let's be honest, he was well in his rights, there. I'm torn between being proud of Ned for handling that situation the way he did - trying to give her a chance, I mean, because as much as Cersei is crazy I can't help but love her - and being frustrated because he should have known better than to give her that chance.

Obligatory Cerseis & Robert picture!

Speaking of feeling Cersei's wrath, it's interesting to be re-introduced to her and see her from others' points of view again. It's been a while, and having more recently re-read the last three books in the series, it makes for an interesting comparison. Her POV chapters in AFFC and ADWD show her basically going off the deep end, and it's nice to be reminded that while she may never have been totally sane, she wasn't always that much of a mess...and at the same time, it's difficult to be reminded that there are so many reasons for her eventual down spiral.

But first, of course, she orchestrates Ned's downfall - though not without help. Littlefinger's, mainly, though of course we later find out that Sansa had a hand in it too. Yes, I love Sansa, and I understand her reasons for doing what she did, but I'll admit that it still sucks. That said, it wasn't Sansa alone who ruined things, people. Keep that in mind. Littlefinger is an ass - a smart one, yeah, but an ass nonetheless, working only for himself and his own good. And Cersei will do anything - anything - to protect her children (and, admittedly, her power). Robert is doing what he normally does and running away from the problem; only this time, his drunkenness and general demeanor lead to his death.

Combine all of those factors (and more - let's not forget Ned's sheer stupidity in handling the situation with Cersei in the first place), and you get the perfect recipe for Ned ending up with a dagger at his throat, courtesy of one Petyr Baelish.

Meanwhile, Daenerys is over in Essos eating horse hearts and watching her brother get himself killed. Poor Viserys - he was such a mess and really just doomed from the start. Honestly I've never really felt much of anything about his death, though this time around there was a twinge of pity for him at the very end. Maybe I'm going soft. (Which makes no sense as I'm reading this series for the fourth time, now.)

And last but not least, Jon Snow is finally a sworn brother of the Night's Watch...and pretty pissed about his appointment to the stewards. When I first read AGOT, of course I was as surprised as Jon about this outcome, but now that the element of surprise is removed, it's hard for me to not be annoyed at his reaction. Of course all of that is easily forgettable in the face of Ghost showing up with a rotted hand just after Jon and Sam take their vows in the weirwood grove just beyond the Wall.

With that I move into even deeper territory, because next up Catelyn meets up with Robb, Tyrion meets up with Tywin, and Jon [finally] begins to prove his worth. Until next time, remember: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."

Thank you, Cersei Lannister, for that lesson in Westerosi politics. Pin It

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Confessions

I confess...I'm extremely behind on Christmas this year. I'm having to rush ship packages and I haven't wrapped a single thing. Oops.

I confess...SDCC is seriously messing with travel plans I'd rather make next summer. The things I do for The Geekiary... ;)

I confess...I sliced open my finger doing something stupid while trying to finish making a friend's Christmas present, today. Way to go me. Just hoping it doesn't need stitches, at this point.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Tara's ASOIAF Re-Read: AGOT, Eddard IX - Jon V


Yes, I fully realize that it's been a while since my last re-read post...what can I say other than, who has time to read during the holidays? ;) (Especially since my birthday was just last weekend, too!)

Actually, I finished reading these chapters days and days ago, it's the writing that's the real issue. For the first time in this re-read, I'm simply stuck on what to say. Perhaps it's because in this particular chunk of AGOT, Catelyn annoyed me, Tyrion annoyed me, and one of my favorite characters (Jaime) was painted in a pretty terrible light.

As for Ned, well, his whole search for the truth has always been a bit maddening for me (and surely for other readers as well). Not that it's really all his fault - as readers, we know about Jaime and Cersei's "twincest", but Ned doesn't.
Black of hair, blue of eye...the seed is strong...come on Ned...come on...

And he still hasn't figured it out when he gets attacked by Jaime (on account of Catelyn "kidnapping" Tyrion). Funny that this also immediately follows a conversation with Littlefinger in which Ned learns that Robert fathered twins with a servant girl from Casterly Rock, and that Cersei had the babies murdered and the mother sold into slavery. Then we see Jaime killing Ned's innocent guards, and, well, the Lannisters aren't exactly gaining popularity points here. Or at least they certainly weren't with me, and reading all of this again now reminds me why it took me so long to warm up to them the first time I read ASOIAF.

We're certainly learning a lot more about Robert as well, though, and not much of that is good either. Lyanna knew that he would never be true to her. Robert hits Cersei in front of Ned. And then he threatens to make Jaime Hand of the King if Ned leaves...after Jaime just attacked Ned! Between this and all of Robert's raving about killing Dany, it admittedly surprises me how many people defend him as being a good guy, maybe just misunderstood, blah blah blah.

To wrap up the two Ned chapters in this section, I suppose I should talk about his fever dreams. But as it's likely that we won't know more about what happened at the Tower of Joy unless we eventually meet Howland Reed, most of what occurs in Ned's dreams is pretty self-explanatory. We know that it was Ned and eight men against the three Kingsguard, and that only Ned and Howland lived. We know that Lyanna died there in her "bed of blood". What caught me this time around, though, was the fact that she was screaming "Eddard!" from inside the Tower as he began fighting her guards. Was she just screaming because she heard him and wanted him to come to her, or was she screaming because she didn't want him to fight the Kingsguard members? And if it was the latter, did she not want him to fight them because she was worried he would lose...or because she knew he would win, and she didn't want him to kill men who were only following orders?

Elsewhere in the Known World, Dany finally reaches Vaes Dothrak with Drogo and his khalasar, Viserys is a huge jerk, but also so is Drogo's bloodrider, Qotho. It bothered me more on this re-read that the way he treated Dany's handmaidens was brushed over as if it was nothing. I get that because of who he is, who she is, where she is, Dany can't really do anything about him leaving "bruises on Doreah's soft white skin whenever he touched her" and sometimes making "Irri sob in the night", but honestly, Dany's thoughts about him are almost detached, despite the harm that he's causing to people she supposedly cares for. And that just bothers me.

Anyway, speaking of being bothered, is it just me or was Robb almost overly obnoxious about Theon shooting the Night's Watch deserter who was threatening Bran? I think when I first read AGOT I was kind of on Robb's side, and yeah, Theon's simpering smiles don't exactly do it for me, but at the same time...I don't know, he was just trying to help? Additionally, I'd somehow totally forgotten that the group who attacked Bran included two Night's Watch deserters. Who were these men? How did they end up with the wildlings? I don't recall ever hearing about them again, although Robb says he's going to send their heads to the Wall, so I guess the only point of having them be deserters was to show how much that's happening and/or show how many Night's Watch men suck these days?

Speaking of the Night's Watch, man is Jon Snow pretty decent at making buddies of his fellow trainees...and enemies of the older brothers. First Ser Alliser and now Chett (and Clydas?). I'm not sure I ever really thought about it before, though of course many of the men Jon pisses off are dead before he's attacked in ADWD. Still, I'm about to start keeping a tally or something...haha.

And now, finally, we come to the Eyrie. As much as Tyrion isn't really a favorite of mine, I do love his thoughts about his siblings...

"Tyrion Lannister sighed. His sister was not without a certain low cunning, but her pride blinded her. She would see the insult in this, not the opportunity. And Jaime was even worse, rash and headstrong and quick to anger. His brother never untied a knot when he could slash it in two with his sword."
And yeah yeah yeah, Tyrion is smart. One of the thing she considers is that someone is trying to start a feud between the Starks and the Lannisters...oh, how little he really knows, right?

He does know enough to have gotten himself "in" with Bronn, though, and we all know what happens next. Bronn wins, Tyrion lives, and Lysa has to set them free. Meanwhile Catelyn is confused about Maester Coleman's insistence that Robert Arryn was supposed to be fostered at Dragonstone and daydreaming about the time Littlefinger fought Brandon Stark for her hand. Yawn.

No seriously, I don't know why, but this entire set of chapters just dragged me down, and that's probably at least part of the reason why it's taken me so long to write this recap. Hopefully I'll have more interesting things to say the next time around ;)
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My 32nd Birthday...Pajama Party Style!

So my birthday is in December, which sucks because it's close to Christmas and most of the time people are busy. Plus it's cold.

Usually I combat that by traveling. Seriously, in the previous five years I spent three of my birthdays out of town (with the other two being spent out and about in Greenville). But this year I decided to try something different - a pajama party at home, complete with adult versions of beloved childhood foods ;)

Of course, the night before my party I had to give one of my two themed drinks a test run. It's a good thing I did, too, because the look on my face in this picture says it all...I wasn't too fond of the original mix. But I messed with it a bit before making these again on Saturday!

Birthday Cake Martini

1 ounce Amaretto

1 oz vodka
1/2 oz whipped cream vodka (you can substitute straight vodka if you really want or need to)

1 1/2 ounces creme de cacao

2 ounces heavy cream

Vanilla frosting


- Put some sprinkles on a small plate. Using your finger, coat the rim of your glass with frosting. Press the rim of the glass into the sprinkles.

- Combine all other ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for about 30 seconds. Strain into your glass and drink :) 

While I did have some cute PJs on underneath, I ended up wearing my Gizmo Kigurumi all night! I was comfortable and warm and got to hang out and catch up with some good friends. Overall I'd say it was a great success!

My niece and I hanging out...she was a trooper

Shots with Dana!

Leigh and I in our official Kigurumis

We also had some special late-night snacks, including some pretty awesome grilled cheeses with tomato soup :) I cooked the first two, but I have to give LeighI'm going to call these ones "Tina-age" Grilled Cheeses...get it? Heh. Heh. Heh. (Yes, I realize it's not that funny. Bear with me here; it's been a rough week.)

"Tina-age" Grilled Cheeses

Italian bread, sliced thin
Fontina cheese
Sage leaves, torn into several pieces
Heirloom tomatoes, sliced

- Layer a couple pieces of cheese, a couple slices of tomatoes, and 1 to 1.5 torn-up sage leaves between two slices of bread.

- Melt a generous pat of butter in a pan over medium/medium-high heat (depends on the stove!).

- Cook first side of sandwich for about 4 minutes; remove from pan and melt another generous pat of butter, then replace on uncooked side and cook for about 3 more minutes.

 - Serve with tomato soup on the side! I tried a zesty tomato bisque and it was perfect :)

I even got a few birthday gifts :) I got to do shots with my friend Dana, who I hadn't seen in forever, and my lovely friend Bekah brought me the perfect mug...

(Please don't mind my dumb face or my bathroom selfie)

Honestly, 31 was a rough year, but I started 32 off okay, and at this point I feel like things can only get better. Now if 2014 could just go the eff away... ;) Pin It

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Confessions

I may have been a bit of a rough weekend, but I at least had fun at my birthday party Saturday. Hopefully I'll get around to posting a separate entry about it sometime soon...

I confess...I've been putting off writing my next GoT recap because they're admittedly a bit time consuming...but be on the lookout for one coming soon!

I confesss...I'm ready for this year and everything that happened in it to be over, over, over.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Confessions

I confess...that the only thing I have to confess today is that I am tired, defeated, and sad. More than sad, really. I'm literally sick with disappointment, in so many people - one in particular, and then also, myself.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Tara's ASOIAF Re-Read: AGOT, Catelyn V - Catelyn VI


And now come the chapters that are facepalm-inducing!

Let's get one thing straight...I don't subscribe to the idea that Catelyn started the War of the Five Kings by taking Tyrion captive, and neither should anyone else. That said, I'm very much aware that it's doubtful anything I say will change your opinion if you're really set in that belief; I just figured I'd put it out there that while I found myself sighing over Catelyn's actions in her fifth and sixth POV chapters, she really didn't do anything more or worse than anyone else. (Seriously. Several other characters come to mind here. And half of them aren't even Starks...heh.)

Thankfully there was a bit of a respite after Catelyn's chapter. The Tourney of the Hand has always been one of my favorite parts of A Game of Thrones - in fact, probably of ASOIAF on the whole, really. Yes, this is partly because so much of it takes place in a Sansa chapter, and it features a lot of Sandor as well...but it also dredges up quite a bit more intrigue, even on top of what previously existed.

But before I get into all of that, I have to talk about how Sansa handled the first day of the tournament. When Ser Hugh of the Vale died by way of Gregor's lance, she felt bad, but couldn't cry. She knew she should, and she points out that Jeyne Poole was a mess, but she can't. And she specifically thinks about not just Lady, but BRAN - how she must have cried all her tears for them. She also understands that she would have cried for someone she knew - Jory, Ser Rodrik, her father - and she still understands that Ser Hugh's death is sad. To me this shows so much of the strength that many readers don't credit her with.

Later, when Sandor "escorts" her back to the Red Keep, the moment between them is poignant on both sides. Though Sandor later tempers this by threatening Sansa, the fact that he opened up to her the way he did - and that she's likely the only person in the ASOIAF universe who would have reacted with such pure kindness - really speaks volumes for her character.

Of course the tournament wraps up in the following chapter, which is in Ned's POV. And needless to say, Ned's got a lot on his mind. If this was your first time reading ASOIAF, you'd probably already have a fairly negative view of the Lannisters - I mean, let's not forget that Jaime pushed Bran out of a window and Cersei insisted that poor innocent Lady be killed in place of Nymeria. But at the same time, reading it again I found Ned to be almost overly concerned about Lannister involvement at court, especially considering he still hadn't figured out that Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella weren't Robert's children. I mean, he pretty much has an internal rant about Robert having two Lannister squires, when at the time he has no reason to believe they're anything but innocent boys. Ned specifically muses that the Lannisters are an "ambitious family", and that their "...appetite for offices and honors seemed to know no bounds."

Now, Ned did witness the aftermath of Jaime stabbing Mad King Aerys in the back, of course he knew about Tywin's betrayal, and Cersei certainly isn't the nicest woman in the world. But reading this now and understanding more about where the Lannisters come from, I can't help but think that Ned's feelings are very strongly judgmental for these particular circumstances.

The same certainly can't be said for his thoughts on Gregor, though. That's actually something I'd forgotten - Gregor does so many awful things throughout the books that the passage regarding his two dead wives and the questionable circumstances surrounding the deaths of his sister and father (not to mention Sandor's "accident") went, so they say, in one ear and out the other, the previous times that I read it. Not so this time; I'm not likely to forget those two wives, especially.

I feel like I'm expending far too many words on this Ned chapter, but before I move on, I wanted to note that I found it amusing when Anguy wins the archery portion of the tournament and Ned sends Alyn to offer Anguy a position with the Hand's guard. Anguy refuses (Ned blames it on his being "flush with wine and vicotry and riches undreamed of")...but then later Anguy ends up with the Brotherhood without Banners. Along with several of Ned's men, of course (those who went searching for Gregor).

Anyway, in the meantime Tyrion is pissed off because Catelyn outsmarted him (again, he's snarky and nasty about it, but she outsmarted him - don't hate that #StarTully swagger just because you're a Tyrion stan, people). Yeah, there's some stuff going on with the mountain clans and all that, Tyrion gets an axe and all, but let's move on to the more important things...Arya chasing cats!

I can tell you right now that I didn't really put too much thought into this chapter the first time I read it. Arya's point of view was already jaded for me - she seemed less the fun little tomboy who I felt slightly bad for, and more the outcast little girl who reminded me too much of myself many many years ago. However, upon reading it again, I was reminded of all the hilarious theories about the black tom cat that she chases (some of which I wrote about in great detail...all in good fun, of course). That, and knowing that the men she overhears are Varys and Illyrio, make this chapter a much more interesting read than I first gave it credit for. Unfortunately, its ending is quite frustrating - I had to remind myself that Arya is only about eight, and it actually wouldn't make sense for her to remember - let alone understand - everything she overheard in the tunnels under the Red Keep.

Another amusing "am I reading into this too much" moment came up at the end of Arya's chapter. She is asking Ned's guards if they will protect her father, even against wizards; Desmond draws his longsword and says, "wizards die the same as other men, once you cut their heads off." A hint at Varys's fate, perhaps? (See, this is what waiting years and years for these books does to people. Not that I'm complaining. Martin does what he wawnts and the more I actually write, the more I understand where he's coming from.)

This section of chapters began and ended with Catelyn, who is finally beginning to question her decision to capture Tyrion (and yes, I'll admit, rightfully so - trust me, I never said Catelyn was perfect; that's the best part about these books, no one is). One of the most interesting things about this particular chapter was her conversation with the Blackfish:
"A woman can rule as wisely as a man," Catelyn said.
"The right woman can," her uncle said with a sideways glance. "Make no mistake, Cat. Lysa is not you."
Not only does she believe that women can rule as well as men, but her uncle agrees with her. This is some pretty progressive thinking for Westeros, guys.

Too bad Lysa is a mess.

I also enjoyed reading about Catelyn's encounter with Mya Stone - well, after she quieted her judgments about the girl being a bastard, anyway. (Again, I never said Catelyn was perfect. Just that she has her reasons.) Anyway, she and Mya spend a good bit of time together, and it's always said that Sansa looks very much like her mother (though supposedly even prettier than Catelyn ever was). Now that I've read this again, I'm very interested to see whether Mya ever puts two and two together...

So yup, a lot of silly fan conjecture was spawned from these chapters (on my part, I mean). I've been a couple days in writing this, too...possibly because I published a novel on Thursday ;) So I can't wait to move on to what happens next, especially as I'm now about halfway through the book!

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Way of Reckoning: A Novel by Yours Truly!

This story was a long time in the telling. Over two years after I started writing it (during National Novel Writing Month in 2012, in fact), I've finally published my debut novel via Amazon Kindle Direct!

Former Texas outlaw William Walker thought that he'd done a good job of walking away from his life of thievery, kidnapping, and murder - until two Bureau of Investigation agents caught him and brought him east to rot in jail. Three years later, they offer him a deal - hunt down the members of the gang he'd once been a part of, and he can go home. He has just a few months to find four of the most notorious men in Texas - all the while attempting to stay alive himself - but if he doesn't comply with the agents' request, he'll never see home again.

From bustling St. Louis to growing Amarillo, from sleepy Eagle Pass to Monclova, a hotbed of the Mexican Revolution, William does his best to keep to his own shaky moral code and still complete his task. But if he does in fact accomplish what he's been sent to do, what will he find waiting for him back on his meager ranch?

They say it takes an army to raise a child...well, it takes one to finish a novel, too. At least if you're me. With that said, I have to say thank you to those who helped me most with this one - to Steve, for giving me theme ideas and putting up with me being glued to my computer for 30 days straight back in 2012. To fellow author and NaNo 2012 participant Tyffani, who was the first person to beta The Way of Reckoning and who helped me with the little grammar and spelling mistakes that I didn't catch. To Eliott, for being my content beta and helping me take this story to the next level. 

The Way of Reckoning is just $2.99 (the lowest price point through ADP), and you can also read the first 30 pages (approximately) via the "look inside" feature. I mean hey, you're not losing anything by checking out the free sample, right? ;) Pin It

Monday, December 1, 2014

Monday Confessions

I confess...I think I'm getting to be a hard nut for The Walking Dead to crack. While I was shocked over last night's midseason finale (and admittedly, I even cried a bit), the more I think about it the easier it's becoming to just shrug it off. I seriously think that the only way they could really get me nowadays is if Rick, Michonne, or Daryl died.

I confess...I officially 'gave up' on NaNoWriMo yesterday afternoon. I was still over 15,000 words short and there were other things I needed to do yesterday. Oh well...I guess there's always next year :-/

I confess...I used to think that Cyber Monday was *way* better than Black Friday...but nope. Last year *and* this year, the deals are nowhere near as good as they were on Friday. ::sigh::

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Book Review: The Swiss Affair by Emylia Hall

(I received a free copy of this novel via Amazon Vine, in exchange for an unbiased review.)


The most important thing for me to note here is that Emylia Hall is very, very talented at writing prose and at "world-building" - her words truly allowed me to picture Lausanne and the other places she described throughout The Swiss Affair.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for her character-building. The main character, Hadley, was flat and unbelievable. Her love interest, Joel, seemed like half a joke - he was supposed to be a 40-something professor but was described as looking and acting like a 20-something college student (or someone just out of college). Kristina and what happened to her was predictable at best, not to mention the fact that she was a horrible friend, annoying as a person (in the way that she was portrayed), and therefore I didn't understand why Hadley liked her so much.

That said, if you're looking for a light read, perhaps something to drum up excitement for a trip to Europe or to peruse while on vacation elsewhere, The Swiss Affair should grab your attention. The characters, the events, and their reactions may be on the predictable side, but Ms. Hall's prose does bump this novel up a notch in my book. (Pardon the pun.) 3/5 stars.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Tara's ASOIAF Re-Read: AGOT, Tyrion III - Eddard VI


And just like that, we go from *action action action* to seven chapters that seemed to consist of posturing more than anything else. Tyrion's chapter focuses quite a bit on the bad position that the Night's Watch is in, and as we've already seen that through both his and Jon's eyes, the conversation between Tyrion and Mormont didn't really have much draw for me.

That said, I *did* latch on a bit to Tyrion and Jon's interaction in Tyrion III. Though Tyrion isn't exactly obliging when he asks if he can do anything for Jon and Jon actually makes some requests, I think the fact that they shake hands and part as "friends" is worth pointing out. Even with everything that's happened since, I wonder if perhaps this will come back to haunt - or maybe even somehow help - both of them.

(And yes, I realize that there's a [small] chance that Jon is dead, but I'm pretty firmly entrenched in the theory that he's not.)

I also liked this hint about Jon Snow's future, which of course only makes sense after you've read through most of A Storm of Swords...

"If he doesn't come back," Jon Snow promised, "Ghost and I will go find him." He put his hand on the direwolf's head.
"I believe you," Tyrion said, but what he thought was, And who will go find you? He shivered.
Of course none of that was as interesting as some of what I read in Arya and Ned's POV chapters. With Arya, it's already becoming clear how much she's separating herself from her old family and "friends" - she's pretty pissed that the men from Winterfell (Harwin, Alyn, Jory, even her father) didn't do anything about Mycah's violent end. And not just that, but also because "they'd let the queen kill Lady". Despite the [very understandable] fact that she and Sansa aren't getting along (or actually, perhaps because of that), it's no small thing that Arya has such pointed thoughts about Lady's death.

Now, Ned may insist that if Arya is going to hate people, she should hate the ones "who would truly do us harm" - and she certainly shouldn't hate Sansa. They're sisters, and though they "may be as different as the sun and the moon" the same blood flows through their hearts...they need each other, and Ned needs both of them.

That seemed a pretty sentimental thing for Ned to say, as up until now he'd seemed pretty distant in his relationships, but then in Eddard V there's another passage that sheds more light on how he feels about his children. When he received word that Bran had woken up, he took Sansa and Arya to the godswood in the Red Keep for an all-night vigil. The girls fell asleep, but Ned didn't, and he even remembered Sansa waking up and telling him that she'd "dreamed of Bran...[and] saw him smiling."

Speaking of Bran, he may not want to know the end of Old Nan's story about the hero who was trying to fight the Others, but I do! Dang. Other than that, I got a good chuckle out of the direwolves' reactions to Tyrion (yeah, I know, I'm terrible)...and then I got a little choked up over Robb and Bran's conversation at the end of the chapter, especially when Bran realized that Robb was crying. I don't dislike Robb, but this may have been the only time I've really, truly liked him (and felt for him)...if only for a moment.

Meanwhile Daenerys, who is at least a little bit younger than Robb, is a Dothraki khaleesi and pregnant at 14. Obviously their childhoods were quite different, so I don't want to outright compare them - it's just interesting to note the ages of some of the main characters in this series and note how they are often close in age but miles apart in terms of development (or lack of it).

In fact, Jon and Sam are another good example of two characters close in age who are extremely different, and of course the fact that they actually know each other (now, anyway) makes them a much better example of it, as well...especially, I think, because Jon did a lot of growing up in the short time he was with the Night's Watch before Sam arrived. You really see him taking what he must have learned from Ned and just in general from being raised at Winterfell, combining it with the "lessons" he had from Donal Noye and Tyrion, and using all of that to improve relations with his fellow trainees - not just for himself, but for all of them - most importantly Sam, whose declarations of cowardice may be a bit frustrating, but whose life story (especially the part about how/why he ended up at Castle Black, and the somewhat detached way he admits that) bothers me more every time I read about it.

While certainly not action-packed, there's a lot of backstory and even some more foreshadowing in this part of AGOT...and hey, Gendry even appeared for the first time! Of course the novel is already moving in a darker direction at this point, and even though I know what comes next, it's hard to put it down (clearly, as this is my third update in four days). Pin It

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tara's ASOIAF Re-Read: AGOT, Catelyn III - Eddard IV


And all of a sudden A Game of Thrones is full of action!

I think because I didn't realize just how hooked I was on this book/series until Ned died (obviously much later on in AGOT), I forgot just how much happens so early on. Seriously, in these seven chapters we get the attack on Bran (well, more so Catelyn), Arya and Joffrey's fight by the Trident, Cersei (well, and Robert, really) forcing Ned to kill Lady, Bran's crazy symbolic dream, Littlefinger telling Cat that the dagger used in the attack is Tyrion's, Ned's arrival in King's Landing...needless to say, that's a lot to pack into seven chapters. First I'll leave you with this awesome Paint "drawing" that I did, though...

(Yes, that's Robert, Sansa, and Lynna. I'm aware the females are not properly dressed. I was lazy.)
There's honestly so much to say about all of this that I don't even know where to start. First though, harkening back to my earlier thoughts on Catelyn - don't tell me she isn't pretty bad ass, grabbing hold of that Valyrian steel blade with her BARE HANDS and then BITING the attacker. Talk about a mother protecting her cub! She really shows both her Tully side (family, mostly) and her wolfish Stark side in this chapter. Earlier on she may think about how she doesn't truly belong in the North, but if anything proves that she does, it's this.

And then finally...Sansa's first chapter! Oh Sansa my I love her. The way she handles her encounter with Ser Barristan and Renly, not to mention Ilyn Payne and The Hound, is the first real sign of how awesome she is, because we're finally seeing things through her eyes. And I gotta say, she handles that situation like a boss.

Later in Sansa's chapter, during Joffrey's fight with Arya, she's obviously conflicted, and who can blame her? She's upset with her sister but Sansa also understands that Joffrey is drunk, and even though she's frightened and upset, Sansa does what she can to try to stop their fight. And when things go badly, she notes the way Joffrey reacts and his attitude toward her. She may try to overlook it later, but the North remembers...and so does Sansa. Just something for all those Sansa haters to keep in mind...

Unfortunately what happens in the following chapter doesn't paint Sansa or Sandor - two of my favorite ASOIAF characters - in a very good light. I get that. But as I've gone on and on about Sansa (and what happened in this particular scene) before, let's just leave it as, SHE LOST HER DAMN DIREWOLF PEOPLE. I think she's suffered enough.

As for Sandor, well, he was doing what he had to - obeying orders. That doesn't mean that I agree with his actions (um, of course I don't), but remember that obedience is the only thing that has gotten him anywhere in his life.

When we finally hear from Bran again, the majority of his chapter is one long, insanely symbolic dream. But reading it yet again has left me with quite a few questions, not the least of which is about him seeing "dragons stirring" Asshai?! I'm not sure why this never jumped out at me before, but if anyone has thoughts on it I'd love to hear them!

I finally had my first moment of confusion regarding the show versus the books in Jon III. I had to read the passage where Benjen is going off on a ranging and tells Jon they will speak when he returns twice, and thought to compare it to Ned telling Jon something similar (that they would talk about his mother 'soon', or something like that)...and then later I realized that only happens in the show! Damn, too, because my mind was going some interesting places when I was thinking about comparing those two conversations...

Anyway, earlier in his chapter Jon mentions that Ser Alliser doesn't hate him as much as he hates the other trainees; this is something I'd forgotten about, and at first I was questioning it, because all I remembered was how much Ser Alliser despises Jon. But then Jon made a joke at Ser Alliser's expense...something that gained him respect from his fellow trainees, but cost him that little bit of an edge he supposedly had with Ser Alliser, which obviously costs him later on.

Back in King's Landing, was Ned scaling the same cliff/wall that Sansa climbs down when she escapes the Red Keep in A Storm of Swords? That's the first time I've put two and two together on that one! And considering that soon after, Ned does quite a lot of thinking about Sansa...well, I may be reading too much into it (don't we all do that from time to time, with this series?), but I really loved the parallel there. And yes, Ned, killing Lady and leaving Sansa without her direwolf was folly!

Now I'll finally get back to the silly picture I included in this entry. At the end of this, his fourth POV chapter, Ned thinks about Robert turning away from the body of baby Aegon, and how he did something similar when Cersei demanded that Lady be killed in Nymeria's place. And then Ned compares Sansa's pleading to Lyanna's! "He could still hear Sansa pleading, as Lyanna had pleaded once." I really can't believe that this was just a stray thought, especially as it adds more (albeit, pretty minor) credence to the R+L=J theory.

Hopefully I'll be able to continue steamrolling through these updates over the long weekend! Yay holidays...sort of. ;)
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tara's ASOIAF Re-Read: AGOT, Arya I - Tyrion II


This second set of chapters was a lot more difficult for me to read because it featured several of my least favorite characters - Jon, Eddard, and Tyrion among them. Not that I outright *hate* Jon or Ned, but I've got several bones to pick with Tyrion, and having all three of them featured in this chunk of reading was just a bit rough.

Especially on the heels of the opening chapter - Arya's first POV chapter, and also our first real introduction to my beloved Sansa...and, amusingly enough, to another favorite of mine, as well: Sandor Clegane. Unfortunately Arya doesn't really introduce either one of them in the best light, and I especially remember reading her thoughts on Sansa the first time around and wanting to just pat little "outsider" Arya on the head. Later, though - including on this re-read - it really stuck out that Arya actually wasn't hating on Sansa so much as she was hating on herself. Do the two of them get along perfectly? Certainly not, but then, what sisters do?

Of course, I've said most of that before, but I guess I'll just always feel the need to remind people that Sansa is awesome and that even though she and Arya are different, liking Arya doesn't mean you have to dislike Sansa. Does it suck that Arya is jealous of Sansa? Yeah. But how much of that is really Sansa's fault? Even Arya admits that her older sister is too well-mannered to smirk at her misfortunes.

Clearly I could go on and on about Arya and Sansa (more so Sansa, let's not lie), but a lot of other things happened in these seven chapters. One thing I've noted several times since I started reading A Game of Thrones again is how many times they talk about Joffrey's height! Of course he's only twelve, but he's noted as being taller than quite a few other characters. Honestly I never really pictured him as being tall, and I'm not sure if that's the show version of Joffrey taking over in my mind or due to the fact that I pushed the comments on his height out of my mind because that simply wasn't how I saw him throughout any of my previous readings.

Again, though, my sudden obsession with Joffrey's height is nothing compared to other occurrences, such as Bran's fall...but I also found myself paying a lot more attention to Bran describing Winterfell and how well he knows it thanks to all of his climbing. He may not be climbing again anytime soon (or, okay, ever), but that doesn't mean he won't be able to tell others where to go...even if he ends up having to do it via Weirwood-Net.

One thing that seriously confused me, though, is the bit in Ned's chapter when he and Robert are talking about who gets to be Warden of the East. I suppose I get that it's possible for Jaime to hold the title, but why does Ned go on to mention that Jaime will inherit the position of Warden of the West? And on top of that, Robert responds that "Lord Tywin looms eternal as Casterly Rock, so I doubt that Jaime will be succeeding anytime soon." If Jaime gave up his inheritance when he joined the Kingsguard and Casterly Rock must pass to someone else, how can he still end up as Warden of the West? (I'm seriously asking here, because I can't see this as anything but a slip, or perhaps just a "forgotten" conversation.)

All of the above was of course brought up along with the news of Daenerys Targaryen's marriage to Khal Drogo. To be honest I've always thought that the end of her wedding chapter was a bit, well, cheesy, it's still one of very few "sweet" things that happens in this series. But in this case, it's a bit harder to savor the "present" when I know what happens later - at least for me.

As for Jon, it feels like we get more information from Tyrion's chapter than from his own. While Jon's goodbyes do a lot to bring his character to life (particularly with Bran and Arya), most of the real information that we get about him is from Tyrion, as they travel to the Wall. And along with his insights about Jon, we learn quite a bit about Tyrion's obsession with dragons. As someone who isn't a big fan of the "Tyrion is a secret Targ" theory, reading this chapter again kind of made me cringe a little inside.

I hope to have another re-read installment up soon, as the Thanksgiving holiday should free up quite a bit of my time for reading and writing...after all, "a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge."
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Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Confessions

I usual I'm insanely far behind on everything I need to do. I'm beginning to think that it's all sort of like can't ever really catch up. ::sigh::

I confess...I got to plan our work Christmas party and I'm actually pretty excited about it, because we're going bowling on a Friday night instead of just doing some fancy dinner out (or nothing at all, like in previous years).

I's actually really hard to re-read A Game of Thrones and take the time to write about it, because that slows up my reading pace a LOT! Haha.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tara's ASOIAF Re-Read: AGOT, Prologue - Catelyn II


With the release of The World of Ice & Fire, I realized just how long it had been since I'd re-read the Song of Ice and Fire fact, I'm almost embarrassed to admit how long it's been ;) But [I think] I'm rectifying that now by not only re-reading the series but deciding to write about my, err, "adventures" in doing so, as well!

Due to the series' strong focus on the numbers seven and three, I've decided to block the books out in sets of either 7 or 3 chapters (or as close as I can, anyway). Therefore, this first post focuses on the Prologue and first six chapters of A Game of Thrones...

Yes, I've read these books several times already, and I definitely needed a lengthy break after cramming many of those times into the same year-long period. Perhaps I hoped that waiting a while would also make a positive difference in how I feel about the show, but sadly, that was not to be.

Still, the books have been my one true love from the beginning, and not three chapters into this re-read I remembered why that's the case. Which is funny, because the first time I ever read A Game of Thrones, it took me quite a bit longer to really get into it; in fact, I didn't care for the Prologue at all and found Bran's first chapter insipid. Needless to say, that's no longer the case.

The thing about reading these books over and over again is that there's really so much information, and every time I read, things jump out at me differently than they did any previous time. For example: the dead direwolf with the antler in her throat. If you go in not having watched the show or knowing much at all about the books, this likely seems like a trivial detail. Of course during subsequent readings I took note of the glaring symbolism; this time around, though, I'm also paying more attention to the characters' reactions to that symbolism. Catelyn, for instance, is especially bothered by it, which brings me to another observation...

If there's such a thing as women's intuition, Catelyn possesses it in droves. She worries about Ned going beyond the Wall, though he assures her that the dangers are minimal as the Others disappeared long ago. She knows when to fight against Ned (insisting that he must go to King's Landing) and when to acquiesce (agreeing that he needs to bring Bran along to hopefully become a companion to the princes). I may not be a *huge* Catelyn fan, but you can't deny the woman has an intelligence and grace that is lacking in many characters in this series. If you doubt me, just read her second chapter in A Game of Thrones...and hopefully you'll get a good chuckle out of her comment about "false modesty", just like I did :)

I know that one problem fans have with Catelyn is her treatment of Jon Snow, which I agree looks bad at first glance...but think about it. You marry a person who is supposed to be the epitome of honor, and then he or she is forced to go away for some time. When your spouse returns, so far as you know he or she has had an affair. The fact that Catelyn is so understanding about a "man's needs" makes me cringe a bit, but I suppose it also shows a depth of character that we living in the real, modern world would find hard to comprehend.

But then imagine that this person brings home the son that is a product of said affair, and raises that child in your home, alongside your children. Yes, this is Westeros, yes, things are different, but can you really not look at Catelyn's situation in this light and think, "Maybe she didn't handle it as well as she could have, but she handled it better than she needed to." Or at least something along those lines!

Of course, I don't think it helps that in this same set of chapters we meet Ned and Jon, and not in the best lights, either. Again, neither of these characters is a favorite of mine, and while I understand why others prefer them, it amused me that this time I found Ned sort of morose and boring, and Jon Snow was a bit, well, whiny. Now that I know what eventually happens to both of them - the decisions Ned makes and what befalls him, as well as how much Jon really grows up in the Night's Watch - it's easier to look at these first, somewhat frustrating chapters in a different light.

I feel there's also an interesting parallel between Jon's first POV chapter and those of Bran and Daenerys. Jon is twice Bran's age but only a year older than Daenerys, and while he may have a lot of growing up to do, he doesn't seem to have their innate innocence. Reading that very first chapter of Bran's was especially difficult, knowing what befalls him so soon, as well as all that comes later - including some of the important, and not altogether good, decisions he eventually makes. (I'm speaking of him warging into Hodor, here. Not good. Not good at all. But more on that much, much later.)

Daenerys had certainly seen some hard times, and the fact that she is essentially being sold into a sort of "slavery" is not lost on her or, hopefully, the readers. But her chapter still reads like that of a child, and I think I see that even more this time than any time before. Of course as we know she has to grow up very, very fast - as soon as she marries Khal Drogo, really, though she *does* end up facing far worse things.

I love how I've read these books several times already and yet don't want to put this one down right now. On to the next chapters! Pin It

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Confessions

I confess...after a chilly but SUNNY weekend, this morning's cold rain is a crappy way to start off the week :-/

I confess...I am having a really difficult time understanding people today. Oh, perhaps because they keep sending me half-stories and random nonsensical text messages! (Seriously though it's been happening all morning, several people have done it, and it's starting to drive me crazy.)

I confess...I'm pretty sure my niece CC would love me more if I chewed gum, because she's pretty much ALWAYS asking me for it. Must get on that.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The Unfortunate Side Effects of Bullying

I suppose that it's a combination of my current circle of friends and my side job that has recently led to me having a lot more exposure to articles about bullying - both reading and writing them. (See "Hey, Female Gamers: Don't let #gamergate stop you!" and "How the 'True Fan' Phenomenon is Destroying Geek Culture".)

This week especially, my Facebook and Twitter feeds have been inundated with articles such as "17 Things Former Bullied Kids Do a Little Bit Differently as Adults" (though terribly written, a lot of that one does ring true)  and "Whipping Boy" (a bit meandering and somewhat creepy at times, but a decent story with a good conclusion). One thing that I can't ignore about all of this - both the articles that I wrote/participated in and the ones I've read, as well as the people who've shared them in my news feeds - is how many people were bullied when they were younger...and to be completely honest, at times I've found myself cocking my head and thinking, "Really? S/he was bullied? I don't know..."

But that's not fair of me. First, most people out there had to deal with some crappy experience or another when they were young, and God knows bullying has always been far more prevalent than society would like to admit (at least in the past). Second, it's pretty likely that people who have only known me for, say, ten years or less, probably side-eye me when I mention that I was bullied. (Though that's probably because they've never seen pictures of me from middle school.)

Some years ago - not long after I first started this blog - I wrote about my experiences with bullying. It was a largely positive entry; I was in a really good place in my life at that time. I knew who I was, and I was happy with that.

Sadly, it wasn't meant to last, and recently I'm in the opposite of a 'good place'...but in some ways, I think that's actually okay. It's the difficult times that mold us into better people, isn't it? As my beloved Andrea from The Walking Dead (comics!) says, though...
"'The things we've makes us stronger.
'Not that it makes those things worth enduring.'"
It's not just the things we lose, though, but the things we experience - especially (sadly) the negative things - that make us today I wanted to write about the negative side effects of bullying. Because yeah, it can make you a stronger person. It can make you less likely to intentionally hurt others' feelings. It can make you less likely to "take crap" from others.

But that doesn't mean that it's worth enduring. Because it can also leave you scared shitless about opening up and exposing your vulnerable side to people. It can leave you afraid to talk about any personal issues you may have, and if you do talk about them you're far more likely to be defensive if others don't respond the way you want or expect them to. And I don't know about anyone else (though I'm guessing I'm not alone in this), but when I've been subjected to bullying as an adult (mostly online), it's had a much more negative effect on me than I've let on.

When I was younger, the bullying I experienced often made me question the usual things women question - my weight, my looks, and all that those encompass. I may not worry about those things as much these days (really not much at all, in fact), but that doesn't mean that there aren't other lasting side effects. Mainly that I still crave acceptance more than I would like, and unfortunately I can't let go of how much, especially in today's society, acceptance hinges on how you look.

Worse than that, though, is the fact that the bullying I've experienced has made me so wary and cautious when meeting new people and trying to make new friends. Yes, I'm outgoing, friendly, gregarious, even - but letting you into my 'inner circle'? Good luck with that; it can take years at the very least, and likely it won't ever happen at all, even if you prove nothing short of trustworthy the entire time that I know you.

And my absolute biggest regret is how much bullying - especially the truly nasty stuff that has come at the hands of acquaintances, supposed 'friends', and sometimes even family members - has made me question other friendships and relationships. How it has caused me to shut down when I should have opened up. How it has made me ever suspicious, constantly questioning the way people feel about me and their intentions toward me - and I'm not only talking about strangers. I feel this way even about those who, deep down, I *know* care about me. I identify far too much with the adage attributed to House Lannister: "Everyone who isn't us, is the enemy."

That's right - even as a self-sufficient adult who has a lot going for me, thinking about the bullying I've experienced (both as a child/teenager and as a result of a few shitty people who have gone out of their way to hurt me these past several years) is painful, and at times has made me far more bitter than any person needs to be. It has also caused me to have what are probably ridiculously high expectations of others in terms of how they treat me - I don't forgive easily (I rarely do so at all), and I sure as hell never forget. There's that old cliche, "an elephant never forgets" - well, I'm inclined to believe (not just from my own experience, but from things others have told me and things I've read) that a bullied person never forgets, either.

But hey, if you've been bullied and you've learned how to forget - or, for that matter, forgive - my ears and mind are open. I'm trying. I want to try. I need to try. Yes, over time I've learned a lot, and I've healed some, as well...but I'm only human, and there's always work to be done. Pin It

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Confessions

I much for being on track with NaNo :-/ Ten days in and I'm over 7,000 words behind. ::sigh::

I confess...I think I'm about done with beer festivals. I go, and I try to have fun, but mostly they're just pretty boring and miserable. I love beer but I don't care to guzzle it, and it's rare that these festivals offer much that's all that different or better than beers I've already tasted, anyway.

I confess...I have a headache and I'm just going to blame it on Monday as a whole.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Two Nieces & a Nephew...

Here's the hard truth: I've never been one for kids. I've always leaned toward the idea of not having any of my own, and the older I get, the more the idea of bringing children into this world scares me.

But I certainly don't hate children, and there are three in particular who have brought me a lot of joy - my 8-year-old niece Savannah, 5-year-old nephew Spencer, and 3-year-old niece CC.

So in honor of the fact that my sister Jenni (Savannah and Spencer's mom) recently announced that she was pregnant again, and because just a couple of days ago we found out it was a boy, I thought I'd share some photos from Fall 2011...the first fall when we had all three of these awesome kids in our lives :)

Savannah and I
Spencie (on the right) with his buddy Jordan
Christy with CC...I can't believe how big she's gotten since this picture!

Hard to believe that this time next year I'll be an aunt to FOUR kids! Holidays just keep getting crazier and crazier ;) Pin It

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Confessions

I confess...for the first time since I began participating in NaNoWriMo (back in 2012), I *actually* got a decent amount of writing done during the first two days...though not as much as I was supposed to. Of course. ;)

I confess...I'm a bit concerned about the ventless gas fireplace in my home, but so far I'm enjoying it - and assuming that they wouldn't have installed it if it wasn't safe...)

I confess...I usually miss out on the after-Halloween sales, but I didn't yesterday and I'm happy about that, because I got some great items that we can use as decorations at Ice & Fire Con!

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy [belated] Halloween!

I've always loved Halloween, though to be fair it's a bit less exciting now that I go to so many conventions and get to wear costumes several times a year...but hey, Halloween also means getting to participate in 'regular' activities in costume! (Okay, so I do a lot of that as well...)

But it also means pumpkins...and roast pumpkin seeds! I had quite the time FINDING a pumpkin just a couple of days ago (it being so close to Halloween was probably the issue...that's what I get for being away from home for half the month), and the one I *did* find had a few, err, imperfections...but I did my best and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Unfortunately...I had no candles. And then I forgot to buy them. Ohhhh well...

Halloween also means getting to go to work in "costume" (at least this year, it being on a work day)...which for me was a Mad Men outfit! (I was in a rush this morning and literally just did my hair, on top of a dress that I wear on a regular basis...thankfully my new glasses - yes, those are my actual glasses - made it work).

This is actually the first time I've been home on Halloween - in my own home, I mean, and able to receive trick-or-treaters - since 2007. Despite having a giant bowl of candy and making sure everyone only took a single piece (yeah I know, I'm mean, but I wanted it to last)...I still ran out in about 30 minutes. Guess I should have bought $20-25 worth of candy instead of like $10. Oops :-/

I will say that the highlight of my night were the two girls - who arrived with totally separate parties/at completely different times - who asked what I was reading. (It was The World of Ice & Fire, of course.) They literally looked at me expectantly for the answer!

I think that the most prevalent costumes were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Captain America, and Spiderman. Like...for every single other costume, there were two of the above. Which to be honest was really, really cool. I don't care what anyone says, we have the Marvel Cinematic Universe to thank for that. Of course I do hope that these children are getting exposed to the comic books as well, but regardless I think it's great that these beloved characters from my childhood are enjoying so much popularity again.

And speaking of beloved characters...last night I did *not* dress up as one of mine, but I had fun with this costume and I was excited to wear it. The dress was made based on a basic Game of Thrones wrap dress, though I went the lazy route and bought the choker and cloak (and the wig, actually) from Spirit Halloween. (Listen, sometimes my time is more precious than my money...and these were pretty cheap, on sale, anyway.)

Needless to say, it was a late night last night, and I'm still recovering this afternoon :) I can't believe another Halloween has come and gone...but I do know that next year I'll probably make sure to be traveling for the holiday as per the usual ;)
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