The Coziest Fantasy Novels When You’re Snowed In.

The snow is falling, it’s too early to shovel, and you’re stuck in the house. The perfect time to go to a whole other world. I mean, that’s what fantasy novels are for, right?

Maybe you’re cold, tucked under layers of clothes and blankets, and sitting around your heater. You’re in that state that comes with blizzards, halfway between wakefulness and cozy relaxation. You’re awake but if you laid down now it might be the best nap you’ve ever taken.

Perhaps you’re not in the mood for the bleakness of certain fantasy novels such as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law series. Fantasy’s not known for its coziness but it has its moments.

Before it becomes darker in the later volumes, Harry Potter’s first three books The Philosopher’s Stone (or The Sorcerer’s Stone), The Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban lean more towards children’s novels then the latter. Before Harry discovers the dark side of the Wizarding World and his past he gets to see the light side like a cup of warm hot chocolate.

But you’re all grown up, and you’ve already read through those enough times that you need something new. While Brandon Sandersons’s Mistborn and Stormlight Archives are much more intense, his debut novel Elantris unravels the mystery of its world more slowly. The story crecendos with the right amount of action perfect for reading with a single lamp with a blanket wraped around you.

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods seems like it was written for getting snowed in. It’s a road trip across America and across the mytholigical landscape of the past. With Norse mythology involved you know they’ll be snow.

Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind can be harsh, but not intense the same way grimdark novels can be. It’s more melancholic than grim. There’s a sadness to it that you can appreciate sitting down at your kitchen table after shedding your snow boots and warm your hands back to normal temperature.

Maybe you want a bit more adventure and a lot more snark. After shovelling your driveway you can laugh at Sam Sykes’ characters constant quips. The pacing is slow, but the story never bores you. It’s part of what’s great about Sam Sykes’ style of writing, he takes in time developing his plot and letting his characters breathe like real people.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings always felt like the perfect for books to read during a snow storm.  It has that feel of a classic novel or of a story being read to you by a parent.

Then when you’re done, if you’re shivering in your home, then you can pick up A Game of Thrones and start reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Should Book Readers Watch Game of Thrones’ Sixth Season?

On April 24th, for the first time since the show premiered, readers of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series will be completely in the dark about the fate of Westeros and its characters.

Martin recently announced that The Winds of Winter is not finished nor will it be in time for release before the premier of season six. As far as whether the next season will spoil the books Martin answers “Maybe. Yes and No.”

Season five saw the biggest divergence of the stories yet with the death of major characters that still live on within the books. Not only that but budgetary and time restraints has certain characters from the books completely absent from the show. So no, their stories will not be spoiled.

The bottom line is that all the most beloved characters will have their stories spoiled for readers of the series. That includes Tyrion, Jaime, and Cersei Lannister, Arya, Sansa, and Bran Stark (Maybe Rickon too?), Daenerys, her dragons, and all of Meereen. The Greyjoys, the Martells, the Boltons, the Baratheons, the Tyrells, the Night’s Watch, the Brothers Without Banners, The Wildlings, and even the Others will all have their stories spoiled. The amount of characters free of being spoiled is negligent compared to this amount.

Readers are then left with a decision, to continue or stop watching Game of Thrones. With HBO looking to renew Game of Thrones for up to eight seasons that leaves those on the fence with some math to consider. It is likely that within those three years The Winds of Winter will be released, but what of the final book in the series A Dream of Spring? That might likely not be released until after the series has ended, based on the time the sixth book has taken to release.

So are you, dear A Song of Ice and Fire readers, able to resist not only spoilers for three years as the show airs but also five years and change for the release of the next two books?

Let’s be clear, A Song of Ice and Fire has a huge audience but the show’s is even larger. It’s not simply a series you watch but a social event that you discuss. To avoid spoilers for five years plus may ostracise you socially unless you fill that void by talking about other shows, events, and sports that take up pop culture. That’s an extreme view of it, you may go about your life avoiding spoilers all the times like it’s no big deal. It’s not like Game of Thrones is always publically discussed

It’s not like Game of Thrones is always publically discussed, covered constantly by the media, or posted about across social media. It’s not as if HBO releases a string of trailers and preview for seasons that recap the previous ones while discussing upcoming ones. It’s not as if the amount of spoilers released between the time of the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser and the time of its release are any indication of the difficulty it will be avoiding spoilers.

That’s one year. One year between the teaser and the release of Episode VII. In that time, it had two localized trailers, an international trailer, a teaser, and television footage. It’s actually quite remarkable how we collectively agreed as a fandom not to spoil the movie for each other.  Can your recall Game of Thrones viewers

Can you recall Game of Thrones viewers being that kind? Were you one of those who lorded over your knowledge from the book to your friends? Did you record their reactions to the Red Wedding? Do you think they may be petty enough to get their revenge? Seeing videos of people reading books while their friends cackle in the background doesn’t sound as exciting.

Still, this may be an opportunity for the showrunners to completely diverge from the direction of the books. They may have no choice with the elimination and death of certain characters. HBO may get their wish, in the end, to have a season nine happen giving Martin more time to release the next two books. Even less likely, but not impossible, is Martin may have A Dream of Spring better planned out in his head as he envisioned the series ending after three books, then five, and now seven (and even contemplated an eighth book.)

No matter the outcome, some spoilers are inevitable. You’ll have to decide if you will remain unsullied or not from them.

 

Goodreads | Joshua’s Year in Books

via Goodreads | Joshua’s Year in Books.

My favorite new books I read:

  1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  2. The Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
  3. Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
  4. Sage by Brian K. Vaughn
  5. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
  6. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
  7. Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe
  8. Half the World by Joe Abercrombie
  9. The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
  10. Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K Jemisin
  11. The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Age by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  12. The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes
  13. Super You by Emily V. Gordon
  14. A Dark Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

In no particular order.

Biggest disappointments

  1. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
  3. Wildwood by Colin Meloy
  4. Half A War by Joe Abercrombie
  5. The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien

A Muppet Family Christmas Blew My Mind As A Kid.

Still my absolute favorite Christmas special. When I was a kid and saw it the first time I couldn’t believe. This was before  I ever saw comic book crossovers, Flintstones Meet the Jetsons, or Who Framed Roger Rabbit? so when the Muppets walk into Emily Bear’s farmhouse and meet Doc and Sprocket from Fraggle Rock I had a lot of questions.

“So, wait, Fozzie’s mom knows Doc? Does that mean…” I didn’t have time to process when carolers soon showed up at the Farmhouse door. The Sesame Street gang? Wait, THEY  ALL KNOW EACHOTHER? Even as a kid I remember thinking “Oh yeah, Kermit is on Sesame Street. That makes sense he’d know them.”

So the Muppets and Sesame Street are all together with Doc and Sprocket. Does that mean Fraggles are part of this world too? Soon enough, Kermit and his nephew Robin meet the Fraggle gang. Then they all meet to carol at the end. All my favorite characters together at Christmas? All this needed for me as a kid was the Ninja Turtles and I would have passed out.

Before fanboy was even a word. Before Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Doctor Who, or anything else I currently am obsessed with it was Jim Henson’s creations, Disney movies, and Ninja Turtles.

I still watch this every year.

When Star Wars: Episode I Came Out I Didn’t Hate It, I Was Bored By It.

With Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens four days away I was trying to remember how I felt after I saw The Phantom Menace. As evidenced by this video, a lot of people thought they liked it.

The thing is, when The Phantom Menace came out I liked Star Wars, but I was not the fan I am now. As a kid, I had watched A New Hope, back when it was just called Star Wars, repeatedly on channel 11 movie night. I mean, it felt like they played it every month, but that’s probably an exaggeration. I knew the other two movies existed, but it wasn’t until a shocked friend lent me his Original Trilogy box set on VHS that I finally saw Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Even then I had thought Empire Strikes Back was an amazing movie but Star Wars to me were just good movies.

So when I saw The Phantom Menace opening week with a group of my friends I had no horse in that race. It was me, Brian (who had lent me the tapes, Mike, Chris, and one other person though who that was I can’t decide between two people.

Here is what I remember: I thought the movie was boring. I remember eating my popcorn intently just for there to be something to do to make time go by faster. I didn’t care about little orphan Anakin, the political landscape of Naboo, or the silly antic of Jar Jar Binks. I didn’t think he was funny, but I wasn’t immediately like “Oh god, he’s the worst character ever.” That came years later. I was interested when characters I knew came on like R2D2 and C-3PO, but the pod racing sequence nearly put me to sleep. I wasn’t outraged by the introduction of midichlorians  because I wasn’t paying attention. Oh look, Yoda, I know him. Oh, Padme’s really the handmaiden, that’s a twist. The lightsaber fight was cool, probably the only part of the movie  that caught my interest,

The movies end and my first reaction were that I didn’t care.  I remember Mike being obsessed with the movie. He thought the pod racing scene was the best part, even buying the terrible Star Wars Episode I Racer game. I remember him convincing me to rent from Blockbuster and being annoyed I had wasted my five dollars on such a boring game.

I don’t remember Chris and Brian’s reaction, but I believe Brian was the first to turn to The Dark Side of the Force, hating the movie as most do today. I just wanted to get back to Brian’s house to play more Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64 and trade Pokemon to evolve my Haunter into Gengar. I didn’t care about Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I probably told my friends I liked it, wanting to fit in, but I really had initially thought it was just okay.  I would feel that way initially about the other two also.

Most dislike the prequels because it waters down the mythology of Star Wars. The unstoppable villain, whose presence of unlimited powers has us scared for our heroes in the original trilogy is now a whiny brat and dumb teenager. The mysticism of the flow is now midichlorians in the blood stream. The Order of the Jedi was like an ancient order of knights long since gone turned into a bunch of ninjas who jump around that can’t sense a clone trooper about to shoot  them in the head.

I don’t like those things either but what really makes me angry with the prequels is how damn boring they are. Where’s the snark? Where’s the fun? Where are the jokes?

For my Shakspeare nerds, we go from having Bendick and Beatrice to Claudio and Hero. No one likes Claudio and Hero. There just part of the plot for the real romance of Much Ado About Nothing. Han and Leia’s sexual tension is fun, lovable, and full of insults. Anakin and Padme are just gross. Hopefully, and judging from the trailers it does, the new trilogy balance that fun and seriousness like the originals do. Having the original cast certainly helps.

I’m far too used to Doctor Who and Comic Books to angry with screw ups in the     mythology. With science fiction, there’s always a way to make new continuity that fixes the mistakes. There already starting to do with what we know of The Force Awakens. The prequels made Darth Vader a joke, so how do you counter react that? You make him a myth. That is what he has become to Kyle Ren and his new order, or, at least, that’s the theory.

The problem I have, in hindsight, with the Star Wars prequels is the problem I always pretended not to have when they were being released. I didn’t have any fun watching them.

A Problem: “It’s Game of Thrones. They’ve got to kill someone.”

Recently, Ian McElhinney voiced his disappointment about the fate of his character, Barristan Selmy in season five of Game of Thrones. One of the top comments I saw on social media stated “It’s Game of Thrones. They’ve got to kill someone.”

That might be a problem. After watching season five, you could imagine that same comment coming from the writer’s rooms. “Well, it’s Game of Thrones. We’ve got to kill someone.”

Let’s leave the differences from the books out of it for now. Focus on that perception of the show. If you’re constantly trying to raise the stakes and shock the viewers by eliminating characters, you’re entirely missing the point. What you want to do is put your characters is more dire consequences.

Okay, I lied, I’m going to talk about the books. This is exactly what happens to Barristan Selmy towards the end of the A Dance with Dragons. Daenerys is missing  and as the Lord Commander of the Queensguard he left not only to uncover a conspiracy by her husband Hizdahr zo Loraq (Also killed off) but prepare for oncoming armies head for Meereen.

The show should be building tension and not desperately trying to shock. That is what felt off about season five of Game of Thrones. They’re are, in a sense, desensitising us all to the shock that shook us in all when Ned Stark and Khal Drogo died in season one. No one is going to care anymore if all you do is kill off characters.

Featured image: Ser Barristan – by Mike Capprotti ©

Author Sam Sykes Tweets About Writing, Characters, and Emotions (Plus My Two Cents).

You should read Sam Sykes’ The City Stained Red, Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles Series, and Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy.

You Should Watch Jessica Jones Even If You’re Suffering From Superhero Fatigue.

Jessica Jones, the second Netflix series leading up to The Defenders premiered on Friday, November 20th, starring Krysten Ritter as a super-powered private detective with a penchant for drinking whiskey, swearing, barging in without asking, and wearing the same jeans, boots, and leather jacket throughout the thirteen episodes.

She’s complicated and she’s not alone. She’s rounded out with a slew of side characters with their own complications and what may be Marvel’s most compelling and scariest villain.

That’s right. David Tennant, who might be yours and is my favorite iteration of the Doctor from Doctor Who take Zebediah Killgrave a.k.a. The Purple Man and makes your skin crawl with his mind controlling powers. He’s a killer, a rapist, and under it all he believes he’s the nice guy with impeccable taste.  Like any good villain, he believes he’s doing the ring thing but what makes Tennant’s Killgrave interesting is that he’s clueless to what right and wrong are. He’s been using his powers for so long he’s only figured out now as an adult that getting what you want all the time isn’t as satisfying as earning it. He’s a petulant child in a man’s body who can control minds. This has made him a complete and utter monster.

Luke Cage, on the other hand, I can’t get enough of. When is the Luke Cage series premiering? Not until after Daredevil season two? Jesus, I can’t wait that long. Mike Colter’s Cage complements Jessica Jones’ brash, blunt and snarky attitude with a quiet stoicism. While Jessica says exactly what she wants when she wants to Luke says  so much with his body language that he can be careful with his word choice. I need that Luke Cage series now.

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones romance, relationship, fling or whatever you want to call it played well. You want it to happen. You want to find out if you’re in the know about his character if this takes place before Cage gets his powers or after. Then when you find out he does, you want Cage and Jones to get together but it gets complicated. These complications are part of the story without overtaking Jessica’s plot. Their relationship is part of Jessica’s life. That part of her life does not consume the entire story. It remains just a part and the series is better off for it.

Jessica’s line, speaking about her powers, about not hiding them but not advertising them either perfectly sums up the approach to powers in this street level. There’s no complicated retelling of her backstory. We just get bits and pieces of it as the story moves forward which is how exposition should be delivered. Over food, Jessica says she got her powers in an accident and Luke explains he got it in an experiment. Done and done. Killgrave’s origins are used as a motivating factor for his behavior, but he’s not constantly bringing it up.

The cast is filled out by Trish “Patsy” Walker, Jeri Hogarth, Will Simpson, Hope Schlottman, and Malcolm Ducasse all going through their own stories that spread out to introduce minor characters and wind up interconnected with Jessica’s. Not every character makes out of this first season alive. Jessica Jones has a high body and two deaths, in particular, are incredibly troubling, choice wise.

Do you remember Ben Urich in Daredevil’s first season? One of the best non-superhero characters in the Marvel Universe played by the brilliant actor Vondie Curtis-Hall and they killed him off. A waste and one of the biggest missteps of Daredevil’s first season. As a result, it is a bit strange that Jessica Jones has a similarly grizzled old black man, a detective this time, killed off for not a fucking good reason whatsoever. Played by Clarke Peters, whose character Lester Freamon on The Wire was one of the best, should have been a mainstay, just like Ben Urich, but is used as a plot device to further Will Simpson’s subplot involving a different kind of morality in regards to how Killgrave should be handled. Again, what a fucking waste.

Speaking of more waste, why does Marvel kill off all of its villains? Is it trying to tell us in the “real world” the only choice when dealing with these kinds of characters is death? That’s ridiculous. Obadiah Stane, Laufey, Whiplash, Red Skull, Malekith, Baron Von Strucker, Yellowjacket, Ronan the Accuser, Dr. Arnim Zola, Ultron, Alexander Pierce, John Garret, Daniel Whitehall, Jiaying, and now Zebediah Stane have all been killed off. For a company trying to build a cinematic universe that’s going to last for years killing off all your villains isn’t going to work well moving forward.

That being said, I’ll take season one of Daredevil and Jessica Jones over The Avengers: Age of Ultron any day. Jessica Jones is a mish-mash of the superhero genre, detective noir, and horror. It has mental health issues, relationship issues, knock-down drag-out fight scenes, women’s issues, drug issues, alcoholism, superheroes, supervillains, superpowers, sex, love, and most importantly of all complex characters and stories. What are you doing reading this? Go watch it now.

Why does Warner Bros. and DC Comics Think Their Audience Are Idiots?

It’s been happening for years ever since Christopher Nolan began working on Batman Begins, but Warner Bros. thinks its audience are not nuanced enough to get multiple iterations of their characters.

It started with the Bat-Embargo that was placed on the cartoon Justice League Unlimted. The creators of that show were no longer allowed to use any ancillary characters from Batman including Renee Montoya and Harley Quinn, two characters that were created in their animated universe. Their reasoning was that children would become confused by too many different versions of Batman characters in Justice League Unlimited, Batman Begins, and their developing cartoon The Batman.

First of all, this is highly underestimating the intelligence of children. Speaking from my own experience, I had no problem differentiating Mark Hamill’s Joker with Jack Nicholson’s Joker. It was very clear there was a difference between the animated Batman that appeared on Fox and the version that appeared on the WB network. Let’s take it outside of superheroes. It was clear there was something different about Dan Castellaneta’s Genie in Aladdin: The Series and Robin William’s version in Aladdin: The Movie. This was at an age where there was no internet and I only learned why the Genie’s voice was different by reading the back of Return of Jafar’s case. Kids now have information at their fingers. There would be no confusion.

Oh no, my head. There are way too many Batman's!

Oh no, my head. There are way too many Batman’s!

Warner Bros. still doesn’t see it that way and now they’ve spread this idea to not only children but adults as well. Deadshot, a character slated to appear in the Suicide Squad film and played by Will Smith has already appeared in on Arrow as a member of their version of Suicide Squad. Once the movie was firmly into production suddenly the character had to be removed so there was no “brand confusion.” In other words, sorry audience but you’re too dumb to tell the difference between these:

Clearly they are the same, therefore I am confused on how to take in the media. Sorry Warner Bros.

Clearly they are the same, therefore I am confused on how to take in the media. Sorry Warner Bros.

This spreads out to other obvious characters such as Batman, Superman, and Wonder down to characters like Harley Quinn. It even goes as far as to spread to characters that haven’t even be slated for a film yet. In season three of Arrow, we are introduced to Ray Palmer a.k.a. The Atom. This was originally intended to be Ted Kord a.k.a Blue Beetle but because Warner Bros. might have plans to use him in a film he was not permitted to appear on the show.

Now, with the premiere of Supergirl, Warner Bros. is sticking to their plan of avoiding all “brand confusion” by only mentioning Kara Zor-El’s cousin and vaguely showing Superman blocked by sunlight. Obviously, whoever plays  Superman on the new CBS show would be confusing to those watching Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The audience might say “Hey, wait this guy look different from this other guy,” because no one else has played Superman before. Oh wait:

I'm so confused.

I’m so confused.

The worst part is that they’re not even consistent. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold both appeared in Smallville with the latter also having a prominent role on Justice League Unlimited. Development for a Suicide Squad film began as far back as 2009 yet they allowed Deadshot not only to appear in Arrow, which wouldn’t premiere for three more years after, but also in Batman: Assault on Arkham along with Harley. Harley appears in all three of Arkham games developed by Rocksteady along with the Joker. The first game in that series came out the year after Heath Ledger appeared as the Joker in The Dark Knight. No brand confusion there.

The most prominent example of this is CW’s The Flash premiering while they’re simultaneously announcing Ezra Miller being cast as The Flash for the movies. How is this not an example of “brand confusion?” Warner Bros. makes the announcement just as their Flash TV series is beginning.  You might be asking, “what if this is DC learning their lesson?” but you have to remember that this announcement was made before Arrow was forced to kill off their version of Deadshot because of the Suicide Squad film.

Marvel, on the other hand, has no problem having multiple version of their characters in film and television. They seem to be doing just fine. For writers of fiction, one of the basic rules of storytelling that is taught is never to treat your audience like their idiots. Warner Bros. needs to learn this lesson before their audience gets tired of being talked down to.