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  • Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick 4:00 pm on 2014/12/15 Permalink
    Tags: a game of thrones, , , , , , , , , ,   

    10 Bookish Gifts for Your Favorite College Kids 

    Moleskine Voyageur NotebookThe holiday season is here again, and while most of our friends are asking for new gadgets and designer gear, we college-aged book lovers are writing a slightly different Christmas list. Sure, we all love a new iPad, but when it comes down to it all we really want is something reading-related. This can make shopping for us a little bit tricky for our family and friends who aren’t literary fanatics, but never fear! I’m here to help make your book-themed Christmas list simple. Here are some awesome gift ideas for the collegiate book nerd, whether that’s you or someone you know. As someone who spent five years of her undergrad and graduate career pretty much exclusively reading and talking about books, I can say I would have been crazy excited to receive any of these (and still would be, in case anyone is looking for a last-minute present for me).

    Moleskine Voyageur Traveller’s Nutmeg Brown Hardcover Notebook
    The perfect gift for anyone getting ready to study abroad. It has spaces for tickets, maps, and itineraries (aka, the things most important to your trip and the things most likely to get lost), as well as pages for you to write. So if you’re sitting under the Eiffel Tower or looking out a train window at the Tuscan countryside and start to feel inspired, you have a place to jot down your thoughts. Plus, there’s just something about a Moleskine notebook that makes you feel like a real writer.

    Jeff Fisher Lincoln/Erasmus Quotes Tote
    When it comes to expressing your love of books while on the go, let your bag do your talking. This tote is perfect for hauling your stuff to and from class. Plus, it lets the world know exactly what type of person you’re interested in: the kind that will give you more books.

    Pen is Mightier Than the Sword Resin Pen Cup
    It’s no real contest between the two, is it? We know the pen wins every time! So keep your favorite battle gear sheathed in this awesome pen cup. Putting it on your desk sends a pretty clear message: don’t mess with me, because I have a pen and I know how to use it.

    Doctor Who Clip-on TARDIS Book Light with UV Pen
    Raise your hand it you’re not a Doctor Who fan. To the one person who raised their hand: you can show yourself out now. For all us normal people who are are dangerously obsessed with the Doctor, let’s talk about this beautiful marriage of two of the best things in the world: Doctor Who and reading. You’ll never have to worry about keeping your roommate up while you finish “just one last chapter” ever again. Instead, just use this adorable Tardis reading light and read for as long as you want!

    Scholar Composition Book Folio Case for iPad
    Technology is great and helpful and the internet is not just a passing fad, despite my father’s continued insistence. But sometimes you want to kick it old school (or, more specifically, middle school). Combine your bygone school-days method of writing notes in your black-and-white composition book with your new tech-savvy style of taking down information with this awesome iPad case.

    642 Things to Write About Journal
    Every aspiring novelist/poet knows the feeling: you want to write, but you don’t know what to write about. This journal is full of prompts to get your creative juices flowing and provide some much-needed inspiration. Who knows, these fun exercises might just turn into the seeds of the next great American novel!

    Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck
    One of the most important lessons you learn in college happens outside the classroom and inside the kitchen. Unless you’re living exclusively on dining hall meals and takeout (ew), you should probably learn a few go-to recipes. Thug Kitchen gives you easy ways to incorporate veggies into your diet and step up your cooking game. As they say, “Sh*t is about to get real.”

    Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist, by Tim Federle
    This one’s for the college student 21 and over, of course, so all you underage folks will have to wait a bit for this one. But for the legal crowd: are you a fan of cocktails but wish they could be more literary? Learn how to make such classics as the title’s “Tequila Mockingbird” or “The Pitcher of Dorian Grey Goose.” Because who doesn’t love alcohol and book puns?

    Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler
    Everyone tries to give you life advice when you’re in college, but Amy Poehler is one of the few people you might actually want to listen to. Combine her fabulous new book with copies of books by fellow funny ladies Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling for a real trifecta.

    Game of Thrones 5-Book Boxed Set (A Song of Ice and Fire series), by George R.R. Martin
    We know you have a ton of reading to do for school, but sometimes it’s nice to take a break and fit some pleasure reading into your busy schedule. Relax with a boxed set of your favorite new series, like the uber popular Song of Ice and Fire series. Nothing will take your mind off your upcoming paper faster than the saga of the Starks. If you were really good this year, maybe you’ll even get a couple seasons of the hit TV show to go with it.

    What are you giving to the college kid in your life?

  • John Bardinelli 4:30 pm on 2014/11/06 Permalink
    Tags: , a game of thrones, , arthur machen, , , fictional languages, , invented worlds, , , the white people   

    5 Sinister Fictional Languages Best Kept That Way 

    STK651032Need an extra shot of realism in your carefully constructed world? Time to invent a language! Authors have been creating fictional languages for decades, making it much more exciting when characters start screaming at each other. Some of these fictional languages are simple substitutes for naughty words, but others have entire vocabularies you can memorize and speak fluently. Once you start digging into a constructed language, you pull a little piece of that fictional realm out into the real world—but with the sinister constructed languages below, that might not be such a good idea.

    First used in 1899, this fictional language is said to have mystical powers. As in, real world mystical powers, the kind that can sneak into your kitchen at night and replace all your coffee with decaf. Aklo was first mentioned by Arthur Machen in The White People, a fantasy horror short story that is perfectly sinister in its own right. Since then, several authors have used Aklo in their own tales, including H. P. Lovecraft. The thing about Aklo is that the writers who use it are purposefully vague about its construction and vocabulary. You know, just in case some hapless reader accidentally summons a world-devouring demon of destruction.

    High Valyrian
    A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin professed he wasn’t much of a linguist, but that didn’t stop him from seeding several unique languages throughout his fantasy series. High Valyrian is sort of like Westeros’ version of Latin. No one speaks it when they’re out buying groceries or walking the dog; it’s reserved for those moments when you really need to drive a point home. The most bone-chilling phrase in the books is valar morghulis, which translates to “all men must die.” (It’s the warm and fuzzy phrase Arya Stark says when she recites her list of people she wants to kill.) Valar morghulis is usually answered with valar dohaeris, or “all men must serve.” One reminds you that death is inevitable, the other enforces the fact that the only reason you’re alive is to serve death. Have a nice day!

    Reading Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange is a lot like paging through a creepy dictionary melded with a great novel. Its teen protagonists favor a pseudo-language called Nadsat, a loose collection of words and phrases that allow them to talk in code about all the terrible things they do. It isn’t a complete language—more like glorified slang—but it has a profound impact on how you experience the story. At first, reading about rivers of red, red kroovy pouring out of a flesh wound separates you from the horror with a wall of linguistics. Kroovy doesn’t sound so bad, right? Once you look the word up, realize it means blood, see it again and recognize it, your brain is instantly dropped cortex-first into a violent dystopian world. Not even linguistic ignorance can save you now.

    Another product of A Song of Ice and Fire, the Dothraki tongue isn’t necessarily evil in its own right. If you happen to hear it being spoken, though, you know something bad is about to go down. The Dothraki people are warlike nomads who wander the steppes and deserts raiding and pillaging whoever and whatever happens to be in the way. They fight, they insult, and they do both with almost no provocation. Not exactly the kind of folks you’d meet at the opera. Just like High Valyrian, the Dothraki language only exists as a few words in the original novels. When the television show took off, a linguist swooped in and created a whole vocabulary for the actors to use. Now, Dothraki contains around 3,100 words—enough that you can learn to speak it, thanks to Living Language Dothraki, a language course that even includes a pronunciation CD. The most recognizable of which is khaleesi, which means “wife of a ruler,” a word so popular that in the last few years nearly 200 people named their daughters Khaleesi. That’s kind of sweet, but let’s wait and see what bullies turn it into when they need an easy insult on the playground.

    The Dark Tongue of Mordor
    The Dark Tongue of Mordor, also known as The Black Speech, is one of the least complete constructed languages in The Lord of the Rings. Don’t worry, there’s a very good reason for that: J.R.R. Tolkien found it utterly unpleasant to work with. Think about that for a second: the Dark Tongue is so malevolent that even its creator thought it was a little too powerful. Apart from Sauron and his servants, no one in Middle Earth speaks it, as they’re afraid it’ll draw attention from Mordor. But that avoidance goes two ways. Elves, who are basically the embodiment of all that is good and pure, are fond of the letter E.  The Dark Tongue, therefore, doesn’t use that letter, ever. Relatedly, what do photographers say when they want you to smile? Cheese! That E sound in the middle naturally produces a smile. Unsurprising that the Dark Tongue ignores it entirely.

    What fictional language would you study?

  • Joel Cunningham 3:30 pm on 2014/07/31 Permalink
    Tags: , a game of thrones, a people's history of the united states, america: imagine a world without her, brilliance, , danielle trussoni, , dinesh d'souza, , , , marcus sakey, , paul malmont, , the astounding the amazing and the unknown, the dagger and the coin, , ,   

    What to Read Next if You Liked A Discovery of Witches, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Insurgent, A Game of Thrones, or America 

    What to read this week

    A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness, offers readers many pleasures, not the least among them a plot-driving quest to discover ancient hidden secrets and historical artifacts that are of great consequence to a modern world that includes witches, vampires, and various and sundry other beasties. If you’re looking for another book about a modern day heroine who takes a deep dive into the past to discover dark secrets lurking, Angelology, by Danielle Trussoni, stars a young historian who learns that the Nephilim, human-angel hybrids of the Old Testament, are real, and have been manipulating all of human history to their own ends. Also, one of them is kinda cute.

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon, is a singular work, on one hand a deeply personal story of love, friendship, and heartbreak; on the other, an excursion into the arcana of comic book history, an examination of why we’re all still so fascinated by weird guys running around in long underwear and capes. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown, by Paul Malmont, can’t quote match Chabon’s heart (or his prose), but it gets the geeky part right, building an inventive and slightly fantastical mystery story around the true-life involvement of some of history’s most famous pulp sci-fi authors (including Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and L. Ron Hubbard) in World War II-era weapons research.

    Insurgent, the middle volume in Veronica Roth’s dystopian Divergent trilogy, was where I bailed. It wasn’t the book (it was every bit as pulse-poundingly readable as the first book); it was me. After reading about countless post-apocalyptic scenarios that twisted the world in weird ways (and even trying to write one myself), I just needed a break. If you’re feeling similarly, Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey, might be just the palate cleanser you need. It hits some of the same beats while building an entirely new future, one in which a small percentage of all children born in the U.S. begin to develop superpowers, with world-altering results. Call it a dystopia in the making.

    Let’s face it, it is going to be a long, long winter or two before George R.R. Martin gets around to releasing the next book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. If you’ve already digested all 5,000 pages of A Game of Thrones and its sequels, The Dagger and the Coin series, by Daniel Abraham (a protégée and friend of Martin’s), will more than sate you while you wait. It has all the strengths of Martin’s work, from complex characters, to intricate point-of-view plotting, to a richly imagined world, all while lacking its one great weakness: the books are actually coming out on schedule, year-by-year. Start with The Dragon’s Path; book four, The Widow’s House, releases in August.

    I realize I am treading on thin ice here. If America: Imagine a World Without Her, by Dinesh D’Souza, and A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, were any more ideologically opposed to one another, they would be magnetically repelled to opposite sections of the bookstore. Yet the former was written almost as a direct response to the latter, with D’Souza lionizing the U.S. for its role the same historical events for which Zinn criticizes it (starting with whether the country itself was “stolen” from Native Americans). Trying to imagine a person who would naturally gravitate toward each of these books independently is too great a cognitive dissonance for my brain, but I think reading both and letting them bounce off one another would be a fascinating experiment.
    Are you interested in checking out any of the recommendations above?
  • Joel Cunningham 8:00 pm on 2014/06/13 Permalink
    Tags: a game of thrones, , , dark tower, , epic series, epics, , , , , , the clan of the cave bear   

    Love Outlander? 5 More Epic Series to Get Lost In 

    Tower of Gabaldon

    Thump. What was that? The whole house shook!

    If you’re a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s epic Outlander series, that was probably the sound of your copy of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood dropping onto your porch. The massive volume—over 800 pages of teeny-tiny print, adding up to around 420,000 words—mean it will surely be one of the longest books to top best-seller lists this year.

    But that’s what fans love about Outlander: the ability to fully immerse themselves in the misty Scottish moors alongside Claire and Jamie, and stay there for a long, long time. “MOBY,” as fans affectionately call it, isn’t even the longest book in the series (book five, The Fiery Cross, tops half a million words, by the author’s own estimate), and the saga has grown more popular with each book as new fans pick up the story of a 20th-century woman mysteriously cast back in time to Scotland in the 1700s.

    Of course, for the right kind of reader, an intimidatingly lengthy series is a feature, not a bug. We don’t want to leave the worlds we love. We polish off a few million words and ask for more. We look at that towering stack of matching paperbacks like starving orphans who have just wandered into a fully stocked supermarket, finally convinced our hunger will be sated.

    If this describes you, here are 5 more door-stopping series to lose yourself inside:

    Series: Earth’s Children, by Jean M. Auel
    Start with: The Clan of the Cave Bear
    Total word count: 1.5 million
    Published between 1980 and 2011, this six-book series hits many of the same buttons as Outlander, transporting readers into the past (way, way into the past) and building an enduring story on the solid foundation of a strong, captivating female protagonist—in this case, Ayla, a modern “Cro-Magnon” human living among a tribe of Neanderthals around 30,000 years ago. Though fans debate the merits of the later books, each hefty installment topped the sales charts, proving that sometimes readers just want to visit their old haunts one more time.

    Series: A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin
    Start with: A Game of Thrones
    Total word count: 1.8 million and growing
    The series that, these days, needs no introduction, though not long ago it was only faithful readers of fantasy (no strangers to hefty tomes, as you’ll see below) who knew about the transporting qualities of Martin’s exhaustive exploration of the various schemers, heroes, despots, victims, and dragons that populate the magic-tinged world of Westeros. Already one of the longest series ever published, only five of a projected seven books have been released, and we’ve probably got at least a million more words to go before all is said and done.

    Series: The Malazan Book of the Fallen, by Steven Erikson
    Start with: Gardens of the Moon
    Total word count: 3.3 million
    If The Lord of the Rings is Fantasy 101, then the Malazan series is a 400-level master class. Packed with thousands of named characters and intricately woven plot threads that span continents and decades, with amoral heroes and fallen gods and every action colored in shades of gray, it’s a series you won’t want to tackle until a host of other books have trained you how to read the genre. And even then, experienced genre buffs insist that you won’t really start to grasp it until your second (or third!) read-through.

    Series: Kushiel’s Legacy, by Jacqueline Carey
    Start with: Kushiel’s Dart
    Total word count: 1.5 million
    Carey’s six-book series is wonderfully hard to classify, a potent mix of romance, magic, sex, fantasy, and alternate history with a fan base that spans typical genre divides. The first three books explore the political machinations that shape the destiny of Phèdre nó Delaunay, a gifted courtesan in Terre d’Ange, an alternate version of France where religious prostitution is one of the foundations of the culture. Much of the story focuses on the push and pull of her romance with Joscelin Verreuil, her taciturn bodyguard, setting the stage for the next three books, which jump ahead to focus on the couple’s son. Though not officially a part of the Kushiel series, the three books in the slightly shorter Moirin Trilogypick up the tale 100 years later.

    Series: The Dark Tower, by Stephen King
    Start with: The Gunslinger
    Total word count: 1.4 million (at minimum)
    The eight books that chronicle the quest of Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger of Gilead, to reach the mystical Dark Tower and confront the mystery of his world’s unraveling is surely Stephen King’s magnum opus. Not only is it back with some of the most memorable characters and set-pieces of the writer’s storied career (you’ll certainly never look at The Little Engine that Could the same way after reading The Waste Lands), it also builds a mythology that suggests that the series encompasses, often explicitly, not just many of King’s other novels, but every book ever written. Get reading.

    What’s your favorite epic series?

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