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  • 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.

  • Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick 4:00 pm on 2014/12/15 Permalink
    Tags: , a song of ice and fire, , , , , , , , ,   

    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?

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