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  • Tara Sonin 2:00 pm on 2019/10/09 Permalink
    Tags: a song of ice and fire, , , family sagas, , , from screen to page, , , , , , queens of innis lear, rich people problems, ross poldark, , the dinner, the divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood, , , , the next, , the stationary shop   

    21 Books to Read for Fans of HBO’s Succession 

    The second season of HBO’s Succession is in full swing, and I’m absolutely obsessed. The Roy family saga is one of constant undermining, financial deceit, cozying up to power, and lots and lots of secrets. But who would expect anything less from a story about a media mogul’s duplicitous attempts to secure his family dynasty and the ill-advised actions of his three children? If you love the show, here are twenty-one books full of family drama across all genres you might want to check out.

    Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane
    Which moment was it, that defined the Gleeson and Stanhope families? Was it when they moved to the same neighborhood? When their children, Kate and Peter, became friends? Was it when Anne, Peter’s mother, started to suffer from mental illness, or when his father struggled with alcoholism? Or was it what came after, when a devastating incident of violence forces the two families apart and only the next generation can start to heal the wounds that came before? A triumphant novel about how individual people often are lost in the claustrophobia of family, and how the mistakes of the past can either condemn or liberate the next generation.

    The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
    When they were children, the Golds visited a psychic who claimed she could pinpoint the day they would die. It is the end of the 60’s and their entire lives are in front of them. After hearing the prophecies of their eventual demises, each of the children responds in differing extremes: Simon comes out as gay and finds love in San Francisco; Klara finds solace in magic and a family; Daniel joins the military; and Varya becomes a scientist determined to outsmart time itself. The novel follows each child on their journey, wrestling with whether the fate they were given is one they deserve, one that was destined, or one they should have attempted to escape.

    Flowers in the Attic, by VC Andrews
    After a terrible tragedy, four children are locked in an attic, presumably for their own protection—and that of their inheritance. Alone in their grandmother’s house with infrequent visits from their mother, the children must turn to one another in order to survive—even if the consequences are a forbidden love. Money, secrets, scandal and romance combine in this classic start to the Dollanganger series. If you didn’t read this family drama as a teenager when your parents thought you were asleep, then you should definitely try to emulate that experience when the 40th anniversary edition publishes this fall!

    Ross Poldark, by Winston Graham
    Ok, fans of another TV show should be familiar with this one, but there are so many similar elements to Succession in Poldark that I had to include it! Sure, it takes place after the Revolutionary War in Cornwall, Britain and not modern-day America, but— there’s a family feud that ends in bloodshed, new money vs. old money, forbidden love, and one man holding onto hope that he can make a better life for his family in an era that seems poised to make him falter. Money is largely the enemy, because it is what enables the Warleggans, the primary villains, to enact their spite and hatred on the Poldark family.

    One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    A multi-generational epic about the Buendía family, beginning with their founder, José Arcadio Buendía, who founded the fictional town of Macondo in Colombia. Lush descriptions infused with magical realism makes this one an intimidating selection for high schoolers (which is when I read it the first time), but it deserves returning to again and again. The story begins, and is punctuated throughout, with violence: a man and his wife flee their home after a murder, and everything that happens after seems rooted in the haunting lack of justice for that original sin. History repeats itself over and over throughout seven generations, and the ghosts of Buendías past watch as their descendants perpetuate their own mistakes.

    Fleishman is In Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
    Toby Fleishman is getting a divorce. He thinks. It’s not super clear right now, because his wife may have gone completely off the grid, leaving him to raise their two kids alone. This sharp examination of marriage, masculinity, and motherhood written from the perspective of one of Toby’s friends from high school as she watches him try to juggle single parenthood and her own marriage teeters on the edge of imploding. It is less of a sweeping an epic and more of an intimate drama, where every single line of dialogue and observation serves a purpose, leading to a fitting ending.

    Commonwealth, by Anne Patchett
    When Bert shows up at Franny Keating’s christening and unexpectedly kisses her mother, the ramifications spiral throughout two marriages and the generation that follows. The story eventually jumps forward in time to Franny’s twenties, when she makes a decision that, like that kiss, will also have unforeseen consequences: she tells a famous writer the story of her blended family, and he decides to profit from it. I love how this story directly confronts not only how a single action can reverberate through the ages, but how a story itself can do the same.

    The Leavers, by Lisa Ko
    Another inter-generational story where a single action has a lifetime of consequences, this time about a Chinese American boy and his mother, Polly, who suddenly vanishes without a trace. Deming is only eleven when this happens, and he spends the rest of his childhood and early adulthood in a state of looming and receding turmoil. Even though he is adopted by two white middle-class academics and has what most would describe as a “good life”, the scars of his mother’s abandonment never fade. As the novel traces his journey, it follows Polly’s as well, crossing the ocean to China, where her story began.

    The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
    Succession is about the legacy of a domineering, abusive father on his two sons and daughter—but mothers leave an indelible imprint on their children as well, a dynamic explored in this by-now classic story of friendship, family, and how the fractures in those relationships can alter the future. When Siddalee and her mother, Vivi, get into a fight over the differences in their perception of events from when Sidda was young, Vivi’s friends (aka, the Ya-Yas) intervene to reunite them.

    The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
    Perhaps the most similar to the show that inspired this list (they even share a scandal in common), this novel features a wealthy family fighting over an inheritance. Leo Plumb was just released from rehab after a devastating tragedy when, under the influence, he caused an accident with an innocent passenger. His actions means that he, and his siblings Melody, Beatrice, and Jack might not receive their  trust fund after years of waiting for it. It’s money that everyone needs with varying levels of desperation, believing that it can rewrite the past and protect the future. Sweeney’s characters are inherently flawed and entirely relatable, with prose that is both effervescent with humor and laden with dread.

    The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
    Four women—four sisters—struggle to come into their own in the looming shadow of their parents’ seemingly epic romance. Set in Chicago and its suburbs, this uniquely American saga spans almost fifty years and culminates when a long-buried secret shows up to unsettle their already trembling definition of family.

    A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin
    How could I not include the ultimate family succession drama on this list? Even if you take away the dragons and the blood magic (though why would you want to?) Game of Thrones is about feuding families, plain and simple. Combine torrid love affairs, secret alliances, hidden heirs and surprise deaths, and the saga of Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, and Targaryens could look like something ripped from the headlines. (Also, since the last season wasn’t everyone’s favorite, now is the perfect time to re-read the books in case Martin finishes the next one!)

    Queens of Innis Lear, by Tessa Gratton
    A fantasy inspired by King Lear puts his daughters center stage: the ruthless and strong Gaela, seductress and political manipulator Regan, and the sweet priestess Elia. Each of them believes they have a part to play in the future of their father’s kingdom, even if it means rebelling against one another and turning towards dangerous magic in order to achieve their aims. Lear’s daughters were always the most fascinating part of Shakespeare’s play to me, and this inventive, impeccably-written novel explores each of them with depth, making even their most horrific choices relatable.

    Rich People Problems, by Kevin Kwan
    [Spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books!]
    In the third book in Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians series, an elderly relative on her deathbed inspires family to descend upon her in the hopes of claiming some of her riches for their own. Nick and Rachel are happily married in New York City when their lives are uprooted with the news of his grandmother, Su Yi’s illness. When he married Rachel, he forfeited his inheritance but now his mother believes that if he returns home to make amends, he might be able to get it back. But Nick isn’t the only one with a financial scheme against Su Yi. Different in tone to many of the other books on this list, this romcom features flawed characters with hearts of gold, and is as gilded in humor as it is in fun.

    Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
    The trailer for the new movie has me in a mood to re-read this classic about four sisters and their mother living in Concord during the Civil War. With Mr. March away, Marmee must make do with what little they have to support the girls—unless, of course, they can be married off into better circumstances and gain some financial footing. It always comes down to money and marriage in the end—but each girl has their own beliefs about what kind of life that would mean for them. Most opinionated on the matter is Jo, who wants to pursue a career as a writer (unheard of at the time), and while she falls for two men over the course of the novel (and does marry one of them), she does it on her own terms. Alcott’s novel remains so loved today because the themes and characters ring true no matter the century or decade, as all young people (and women) wrestle with coming of age, family obligation, and love.

    The Stationery Shop, by Marjan Kamali
    Roya lives in Tehran, Iran in 1953, where she falls in love with Bahman, a budding revolutionary. They are engaged to be married when disaster strikes and instead of the life she had planned, Roya and her sister emigrate to America. She marries someone else, and has a family. But sixty years later, Bahman shows up with a stunning story to share about why they couldn’t be together, and the family secret that kept them apart. Told in alternating chapters between past and present, this beautiful novel about lost love is about the sacrifices we make for the people we love, that often wind up hurting them just the same.

    Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
    This coming-of-age novel infused with magical realism follows “Milkman” Dead III, the first African-American child to be born in his Michigan town. As he learns about his origins and grows into his destiny, he learns the jagged edges of family and the dark underbelly of love. How can a boy become a man and learn to love who he is, when he is born into a legacy of violence and anger?

    Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
    A teenage girl falling in love is a simple story. A girl in 1900’s Japan falling for a married man, and then getting pregnant…isn’t simple at all. The saga in Pachinko is tragic and hopeful; Sunja decides to marry a traveling minister, turning away from what her family believes is honorable and the powerful influence of her son’s father. Her choice has an impact on generations to come, turning a not-so-simple story into a beloved, award-winning epic.

    The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
    Two sisters engage with the trauma of World War II in different ways: Vianne works to save Jewish children in occupied France, even adopting a little boy she isn’t sure she will be able to save, and suffering severe consequences for her bravery; while her younger sister Isabelle joins the French Resistance and becomes a soldier for the cause. While war tears them apart, a secret unites them both that can only be revealed by the narrator, whose identity remains unknown until the end. If you’re tired of stories about sibling rivalry and betrayal, this is the antidote to Succession: a story of war where people fight for one another, in addition to against their enemies.

    King Lear, by William Shakespeare
    How could I not include this classic play about a larger-than-life King who destroys his family by using his kingdom as a bargaining chip? Lear is a play about family, greed, and what love looks like without any ornaments or jewels to make it shine. It’s also about how power can pollute the mind, and as his daughters watch Lear’s sanity unravel, they each have differing reactions including rejecting him, manipulating him, and trying at any cost to save him.

    The Dinner, by Herman Koch
    In this suspenseful thriller, two families meet for dinner to discuss the terrible thing that involved both of their fifteen-year-old sons, and the police. The catch? The two fathers are also brothers. Double catch? One of the brothers is running for prime minister, and has a lot to lose politically if the wrong decision is made over dinner. I love this story for doing what Succession does so well: examining how the actions of parents impact children, which then cause them to act in ways that impact parents—and on and on the cycle of family goes, until someone is brave enough (or angry enough) to stop it.

    What books would you recommend to fans of Succession?

    The post 21 Books to Read for Fans of HBO’s <i>Succession</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Lindsey Lewis Smithson 2:00 pm on 2016/06/06 Permalink
    Tags: a song of ice and fire, , , , for your listening pleasure, , road trip etiquette, ,   

    7 Awesome Audiobooks that Make for Awkward Road Trip Listening 

    Audiobooks are a great way to pass the time on a long drive or to make your commute a little more entertaining, but not every book is the best choice for every road trip. Whether you are out exploring with family, friends, or a caravan of adventure-seeking souls, carefully consider which books to load on your listening device. For example, each of the books below are fun and thought provoking stories worthy of the time spent reading them, but they might not make a great road trip audio fodder. Instead of listening to these with your kids, or sensitive friends and family, plug in your headphones and enjoy the thrill of hearing a good book alone. Maybe grab some jazzy soundtracks to sing along with on your trip with Grandma; that’s usually a safe bet.

    Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades Trilogy #1), by E L James
    While this is probably an obvious no-go for a trip with kids, also consider the adults in the car too. True story, my husband and I tried to listen to this while driving across the country…and we just couldn’t. We felt at turns silly, awkward, and extremely interested in the world outside the car. The book is a fun read, and the audio is super entertaining for a solo listener, but it might not be the group share you thought it was.

    Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer, Ilyana Kadushin, and Matt Walters
    While the Twilight series is a fun supernatural YA read, it gets darker as it goes along, and fourth (and final) installment Breaking Dawn might be a little blush-worthy with the kids in the backseat. So, although we totally understand your desire to the the “cool” parent who is into all the books that the kids are reading these days, spare your tweens the urgent need to avoid eye contact with you for the next few hours and instead let them enjoy this book with their headphones on. Then you can listen to new Justin Timberlake single by yourself without their judging. Win-win!

    A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1), by George R. R. Martin and Roy Dotrice
    The TV adaptation is of course insanely popular, so it makes sense that fans of the show might be interested in discovering the books it is based on during a long road trip. And if all of your passengers are already familiar with the sex, violence, and dragons involved, then go for it! But if not, maybe spare that one rider who isn’t into all things Stark from a group listening session. Alternatively, send your outlier friend the books beforehand so they can prepare, or listen to the soundtrack on the road to make the ride seem more epic (and then binge watch every episode on the hotel’s free HBO channel).

    American Gods, by Neil Gaiman and George Guidall
    At turns thought-provoking, funny, dark, and unexpected, this unique book is a great reflection of American culture. But (or because of this), there are also some rather graphic sex scenes and a fair amount of profanity. A group of tight-knit, like-minded buddies will probably enjoy listening to this on a funky, soul searching kind of road trip, but American Gods probably isn’t your best bet for a family jaunt to see the grandparents. For younger kids, and some impressionable teens, not all of the characters are great role models, and a lot of the philosophy may be little overwhelming.

    Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed
    You might think that a book about soul-searching travel would be an amazing audiobook for a road trip. Well, if you’re on a solo excursion, definitely listen to this book; twice if you have the time. But since it depicts a struggle with depression and addiction, the passing of a beloved figure, and a bit of sex, this memoir might make an uncomfortable companion for a family trip. For a more all-ages appropriate chronicle of a long, life-changing walk, check out The Lord of the Rings (or A Walk in the Woods)and maybe save Wild for one of your own personal journeys.

    Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume and Laura Hamilton
    This a YA masterpiece, but it is one of those important, find-it-yourself kinds of YA; not one that you listen to with your parents. Judy Blume is the queen of books that every teenager should read (and that maybe parents of teenagers should reread along the way, too). The main character’s self exploration, the talk of bras and puberty, the general teenage-ness of it, just oozes awkward family listening. Instead of spending quality time trying not to look at each other in the car while listening, leave the book (or a download of the audio) for your budding teenager as a summer gift. Later in life your kids will thank you for sharing, and for not listening to it in the car with you this summer.

    The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike Series #1), by Robert Galbraith, J. K. Rowling, and Robert Glenister
    Yes, this is the other fantastic J.K. Rowling series—but just because your family loved listening to the entire Harry Potter canon during your last road trip, does not mean that you should pick up the Cormoran Strike series next. Written as a classic crime thriller full of well-drawn characters and Britishisms, it involves is a fair amount of violence, profanity, sex, and discussions about all of the above. Like most of the other books mentioned here, a group of adult friends would probably enjoy trying to solve the murder of Lula Landry, but leave this one on the shelf when you head to Disneyland with the kids in the car.

    Does your family have any favorite audiobooks for road trips?

  • Nicole Hill 3:00 pm on 2015/05/26 Permalink
    Tags: a song of ice and fire, , , , hoist your sigil, ,   

    Which Game of Thrones House Do You Belong To? 

    There are few fates worse than belonging to a noble family in Westeros. The odds of dying in your sleep at a ripe old age are slimmer than Dolorous Edd gaining the Iron Throne—it’s not entirely inconceivable, but it would be gobsmacking.

    Still, people keep dying to marry into the highborn clans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. (I mean that literally: no wedding goes off without a hitch or a fatality in these parts.) Each family is its own rich tapestry of triumph and tragedy, of the powerful and the power-hungry, of the haves and the have-not-yets.

    Curious about whether you’d be a Lannister lion or a part of the Starks’s wolf pack? Let’s see where you sort out.

    1) What’s your ideal home look like?
    a) Impregnable to storm or siege
    b) I have only one true home and it is atop a throne
    c) A desert labyrinth
    d) A fixer-upper on a cliff near the sea
    e) Picture the same décor as the Mines of Moria, after everyone was dead
    f) A patchwork winter fortress
    g) A castle built into the side of a literal rock
    h) A prototypical castle with lush, verdant gardens

    2) What’s the first thing you’d do if you gained the Iron Throne?
    a) Nip into one of Littlefinger’s brothels
    b) Burn them all
    c) Who cares? This realm is full of worthless scum.
    d) Relocate it nearer to a coast
    e) Somethin’ nasty
    f) Invite the smallfolk to court at once to hear their needs and complaints
    g) Luxuriate in my own power
    h) Spritz some Febreze around this dump

    3) Which family pet would you prefer?
    a) Stags, or something I can ride
    b) Dragons
    c) Sand steeds
    d) Squid
    e) Do dead enemies count?
    f) Direwolves
    g) Kitties
    h) Honestly, I’m more into flora than fauna

    4) Which famed ancestor sounds most like you?
    a) The Laughing Storm
    b) Aegon the Conqueror
    c) The Yellow Toad
    d) The Old Kraken
    e) Rogar the Hunstman
    f) King Edrick Snowbeard
    g) Lann the Clever
    h) Garth Greenhand

    5) What trait would you like your house motto to evoke?
    a) Wrath
    b) Doom
    c) Resilience
    d) Stubbornness
    e) Creepiness
    f) Foreboding
    g) Pride
    h) Prosperity

    6) Give me a crazy family anecdote.
    a) One of my ancestors kept near his deathbed the rotting hands and feet of his enemies.
    b) I guess we have to talk about the whole “history of incest” thing.
    c) There was that time one of our troubled marriages sparked a power coup that upended an entire dynasty.
    d) My very great-grandfather married a mermaid.
    e) Like everyone else, I’ve got someone in the family tree who had a habit of plunging his arm into the bellies of his foes and pulling out their entrails with his bare hands.
    f) One of my relatives was burned alive in court for being relentlessly noble.
    g) My father might be my uncle.
    h) One of my great-grandmothers had three husbands—and none of them knew it.

    And the results are …

    Mostly A’s: Congratulations, you belong to House Baratheon! As a Baratheon, your mercurial and forceful nature both intimidates potential foes and turns them into loyal subjects. Confidence is key, and you’ve got it in spades. Perhaps that’s what comes when you grow up in a brick house like Storm’s End, an edifice as unyielding as Stannis Baratheon’s furrowed brow. While your bold action carried the day in ousting a terrible king, a word of caution, dear Baratheon: don’t get too wrapped up in your family squabbles, or you’ll lose sight of the bigger picture. Your brothers can wait, because the throne beckons.

    Mostly B’s: Congratulations, you belong to House Targaryen! And probably in more ways than one. The Targaryens have a long history of inbreeding, but only because you’re the greatest house this side of Old Valyria. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. After all, if they do, you can sic one of your freakin’ dragons on them. With your platinum hair and purple eyes, not only are you striking, but you are the O.G.’s of Westerosi power struggles. Robert’s Rebellion? Psh, that’s a bump in the road, and it doesn’t sound nearly as cool as the Dance of Dragons.

    Mostly C’s: Congratulations, you belong to House Martell! It’s unlikely many people are clamoring for your rocky, arid real estate—no matter how nice the water gardens are—but you’re still the envy of everyone’s eyes. That’s what happens when you trace your lineage back to a warrior queen like Nymeria. Talk about leaning in: Nymeria led 10,000 ships to Dorne to escape oppression then became one half of one heck of a power couple, spawning the current House Martell in the process. That’s a fine pedigree, and to this day, the women of House Martell are still women of action, and that’s what should be the envy of the realm.

    Mostly D’s: Congratulations, you belong to House Greyjoy! Pour one out for the clandestine seaside family. The Greyjoys have a proud history of self-rule, even if they’ve now been constrained by the various machinations of the realm’s other great houses. While you can never count out a rebellion from the ironborn, even the Drowned God would admit you can become insular when you feel cornered. It doesn’t take a kingsmoot, however, to divine you’re more than capable of rising to a challenge, whether it comes from the sea or from enemy landlubbers.

    Mostly E’s: Please stay away from me, you belong to House Bolton! Y’all got problems, but the good thing about House Bolton is you wear that fact on your sleeve. Or your sigil, as the case may be. The imaged of the flayed man sets the tone for how you conduct your business, which is admirably efficient if grotesque. After all, a flayed man keeps no secrets, and a visitor to the Dreadfort holds none of his lunch. But maybe your sinister reputation is a product of jealousy. You’ve been killing Starks since before Joffrey was a twinkle in his daddy-uncle’s eye.

    Mostly F’s: Congratulations, you belong to House Stark! You should be applauded on your quest to be good to the last drop. Instead, in your generational efforts to conduct yourselves with dignity and honor, you’re more often gruesomely ended. It seems unfair for a house whose motto, unlike so many others, is a safety warning, not a boast. You just want people to recognize the true threats to peace and security come from beyond the Wall, not from within it. Someday they’ll realize that. In the meantime, you just keep doing you—because Winter is Coming.

    Mostly G’s: Congratulations, you belong to House Lannister! Casterly Rock isn’t the only thing around here that’s a brick house. As a Lannister, you are cool, cunning, and coming for the rest of the world. Sure, you want the world to hear you roar, but it’s what the world’s not noticing that’s important. A Lannister always pays his debts, and he always collects on them too. As it’s been pretty well proven, the wheels of the kingdom pretty well come to a standstill when you’re not around. Now just don’t get too caught up in your own cleverness, and things should be golden.

    Mostly H’s: Congratulations, you belong to House Tyrell! When someone thinks chivalry and merriment, it’s a Tyrell they think of first. Why wouldn’t you have fun when you’re powerful, wealthy, and residents of the most Edenic seat in Westeros? Other houses might mutter about upjumped stewards, but you are the flower in an otherwise barren garden of muck. And just as a blossom reaches toward the Sun, you reach toward the Iron Throne. But be careful: just like a rose, the Iron Throne has thorns.

  • Joel Cunningham 8:39 pm on 2015/04/28 Permalink
    Tags: a song of ice and fire, , ,   

    Books That Take You Deeper Inside the World of Game of Thrones 

    Over the past five years, our friends have had to learn a hard truth, lest they face our dragon-fire rage: don’t call us when a new episode of Game of Thrones is on. The show presents an immersive fantasy world that envelops you like no other, and the last thing we want is to be unexpectedly jolted out of it and back into the modern world. But what to do after the episode ends? Here are books from the world of Westeros that will help you stay under the spell a little bit longer.

    A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin
    If you haven’t read the books because you’ve been following the show, now is the time to jump in. The fifth season of the HBO series is ostensibly based on A Dance with Dragons, the fifth entry in George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire. Most major plot points match up: Tyrion Lannister is on the run and wanted for murder, young Arya Stark sheds the last of her childhood innocence as she trains to be a ruthless assassin, Jon Snow holds wavering command over the men of the Night’s Watch at the Wall, and across the sea, Daenerys sits uneasily upon the throne in the newly freed slave city of Meereen. But more than ever before, the show has started to depart from (and even move beyond) the novels. If you want to experience everything, you really need to experience both.

    The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros, by George R.R. Martin, Elio Garcia, and Linda Antonsson
    On screen and on the page, Martin’s fictional world is darkly beautiful, intricate, and deep. In this lavish compendium, the author cranks up the backstory to 11, providing the most comprehensive (and illustrated) view yet of the history of the Seven Kingdoms. Produced with the founders of the fan site Westeros.org, this is the battle-filled, rivalry-stuffed, usurper-heavy hardcover your coffee table has been waiting for, revealing secrets that can’t be found in the books or on the show.

    The Lands of Ice & Fire, by George R.R. Martin
    With a story that spans the Seven Kingdoms and multiple other continents besides, A Song of Ice and Fire puts the “epic” in “epic fantasy.” This collection of lavishly illustrated maps goes way beyond the famous 3-D cartography of the opening sequence of the HBO adaptation, and will help readers and viewers alike orient themselves in a rich invented world. From tundra to desert, the lands of Westeros (and beyond) are vast, and here is a passport to it all.

    A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, by George R.R. Martin and Gary Gianni (illustrator)
    So you’ve caught up on the show and read through five fat novels. What next? This collection of three novellas, set 100 years before the start of the series, is exactly what you’re looking for. In following the adventures of knight-for-hire Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire (and unlikely future king) Aegon V “Egg” Targaryen traipsing through the Westeros countryside, Martin provides a glimpse at a (slightly) happier time in the history of the war-torn nation, while doling out essential revelations that remind us, yes,winter is coming. This new edition collects all three stories for the first time, along with over 160 new illustrations.

    Shop our Game of Thrones store >
  • Nicole Hill 3:30 pm on 2014/12/29 Permalink
    Tags: a song of ice and fire, , , charlotte's web, , , , , , , , minerva mcgonagall, , , , , , ,   

    9 Characters We Resolve to Be More Like in 2015 

    Ms. FrizzleConsidering the sheer quantity of baked goods that has traveled coast to coast this holiday season, it would be easy to peg weight loss or fitness as a New Year’s resolution. But let’s be real: same story, different chapter. You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darlings. In fact, you can easily draw inspiration from some literary favorites. Here are but a few of the characters we resolve to be more like in 2015.

    Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee)
    As S Club 7 once said, “Reach for the stars.” Discounting the biblical, there are few more wholly, purely good characters than Atticus. The saintly Maycomb lawyer doesn’t let his children, Scout and Jem, backslide, and holds himself to an equally high standard, in more ways than just his heroic representation of Tom Robinson. For 2015, a nice mantra would be Atticus’s wise words: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

    Minerva McGonagall (Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling)
    Minerva McGonagall takes no ish, and she is glorious. Our resolution to act more like Atticus Finch does not extend to dealing with the likes of Dolores Umbridge, who is so artfully treated to McGonagall’s pitch-perfect passive (and outright) aggression: “May I offer you a cough drop, Dolores?” She is as skilled at transfiguration as she is at zingers: “I generally do not permit people to talk when I am talking.” She is wise: “Well, I’m glad you listen to Hermione Granger, at any rate.” And though she’s a strict disciplinarian, she knows how to let her hair down: see Ball, Yule. Basically, she’s perfect.

    Elrond Half-elven (The Lord of the Rings, et al, by J.R.R. Tolkien)
    The saga of Middle-earth could very well have been called Elrond and the Unending Parade of Undesired Houseguests. And he is nothing if not an obliging host, even when Boromir gets sassy at his Council or when a gaggle of hobbits are eating him out of his Last Homely House. Maybe that sense of patience and hospitality comes with being 6,000 years old, or maybe he’s got access to something better than Old Toby. However the Lord of Rivendell does it, his elvish flexibility is something to emulate.

    Arthur Dent (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams)
    Acting like Arthur Dent is a wonderful resolution simply because it seems so achievable. An ordinary (if civic-minded) man is thrust into the middle of repeated intergalactic hijinks and, if somewhat grumpily, rises to the challenge and adapts. The man just wants a cup of tea in his own house, and instead he winds up on a cross-galactic joyride to hell with history’s most dysfunctional Scooby gang (former crush, not-human-after-all best friend, manic two-headed despot, depressed robot, and all). Of course he’s a bit irritable. But overall, he handles the time-traveling, planet-exploding, and temporal-state-shifting with poise. So by Magrathea, you can make it through whatever obstacles are thrown at you.

    Hodor (A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R.R. Martin)
    Gentle giant Hodor is, I’d wager, the most overall contented person in Westeros. I grant you, this is not a high bar to set, but that should not diminish Hodor’s loyalty, genial nature, or empathy. Bran is not always a peach to serve, but Hodor never treats the little lordling like a royal pain in the Hodor. He just keeps on plugging. He is a national treasure of endurance and goodwill.

    Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)
    A modern woman way ahead of her restrictive time, Lizzy has a lot to teach us about being comfortable in your own skin. Unlike others around her *coughLydiacough*, Elizabeth is sharp as a tack with a quicker sense of humor and suffers little in the way of foolishness. She’s not perfect (sometimes being headstrong can be a flaw), but she’s an attainable version of confidence and clarity, which is apparently catnip to swoony country gentry.

    Templeton (Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White)
    Charlotte gets all the (admittedly, deserved) praise, but the rat is admirable in his own “carpe diem” sort of way. Life is too short, so eat the danged cake…and the cheese, and the grapes, and the corn dogs, and the whole watermelons…

    The Lorax (The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss)
    Unlike that masochistic martyr The Giving Tree, this voice of the woodlands sets nothing but a healthy example. A tree-hugger with a fabulous mustache, the Lorax is a portrait of stewardship and activism. It should be everyone’s goal this year to plant a Truffula Tree and watch it grow.

    Ms. Frizzle (The Magic School Bus series, by Joanna Cole)
    Because sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is how maintain your joie de vivre. Look to Valerie Frizzle, the world’s most reckless and popular science teacher, when you need some inspiration to make each and every day fun and educational. Forget the waivers and safety training—just dive right into life.

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