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

* PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL RE-READ POSTS WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS FOR ALL PUBLISHED WORKS IN THE SONG OF ICE & FIRE UNIVERSE. *

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

* PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL RE-READ POSTS WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS FOR ALL PUBLISHED WORKS IN THE SONG OF ICE & FIRE UNIVERSE. *

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

Nonpareils

- 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 confess...it 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

* PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL RE-READ POSTS WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS FOR ALL PUBLISHED WORKS IN THE SONG OF ICE & FIRE UNIVERSE. *

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!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QKSKQXM

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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