A D&D Giveaway from @theFranconian archives

Every now and then even a bookish fellow like myself needs to make room on my shelves. And where I still have many of my original Dungeons & Dragons manuals and modules, I also still have some samples that had been sent to me while an acquiring editor at the ol' SFBC. 

This set of three: Monster Manual, Players Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide, all version 3.5 have been sitting on my shelves for a number of years, untouched, if not a bit dusty. They are in excellent condition and I was planning to sell them but thought it would make for a better giveaway, or 3 giveaways, for any gamer who might have been looking for the 3.5 editions to add to their reference library.

The rules are simple, in the comments section simply retell a brief D&D encounter, adventure or battle, or simply share an image of a miniature that you painted, with a little background about it. Its that simple. Have fun with it. Only open to U.S. Residents. I'll choose 1 to 3 winners that are my favorite to be announced April 20th, wherein there I will contact said winner[s] for mailing information.


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys on-sale today!

On-sale today is the amazing story of courage and survival, SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys. At Penguin Random House, where I work, my colleagues on the sales teams across the company selected this new release from Philomel as our #TitleWave, a book we were all super excited to share with the world.

The novel is set in 1945 and was inspired by one of the greatest tragedies in naval history. It follows four teenagers as they desperately try to escape the harsh theater of war. It is a great read for both young or old, especially if you're looking for an incredible story of survival in the closing days of World War II.


2016 is here and the reading carries on.

First post of 2016, as as I commute into work for the first time in almost two weeks, I'm getting back in the groove and have a trusty book nearby. I had started reading William Gibson's NEUROMANCER (I know, finally) in December, but hadn't finished and after a week plus of vegging out, I'm on the bus and back in the thick of it. 

Only half way through and amazed that this book was written in 1984. It is clear that NEUROMANCER influenced an entire genre within science fiction and I'm humbled as I glide through the story. Sure my eleven year old self would not have likely picked this up when first published, it would have been way over my head, but it also somehow elluded me while I was working at the SFBC like so many other master works. Although I like to look at it as every new year presents the opportunity to read something old as well as find new works to enjoy. So here is to 2016, may it be filled with great reading adventures in this world and beyond.


I've finished A LITTLE LIFE and it was quite a journey

After picking it up, putting it down for a while, then picking it up again; I've finally finished A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara. It may be the saddest, most beautiful novel I've ever read.

At work (I work at Penguin Random House, specifically for DK), my colleagues in the sales department starting talking about this book, about how it spoke to them, it moved them, and how sad it was--and my curiosity was peaked. 

It was a substantial novel, the hardcover coming in just over 700 pages. I started reading it, but due to my habit of picking up more than one book at the same time, it sat for a while.

Back in May of 2015, I got the opportunity to meet the author as she was in the Random House midtown office, where a small group of us got the chance to discuss the novel with the author and her editor. 

They spoke like an old married couple, arguing about everything from the cover choice, which Hanya advocated for, even if it was a topic of strong opposing points of view. It is an photo by photographer Peter Hujar, entitled The Orgasmic Man, and the close-up, the squinting of pleasure or is it pain? It is definitely a conversation starter. 

When I had the chance to talk with the author briefly as she signed a copy for me, I told her how excited I was to read it, and mentioned our enthusiasm across the sales department. She was gracious, and echoed the sentiment on the title page, "Dear Jay, Thank you so much for your support. I so appreciate it," along with her signature. She was very inspiring. Also, I follow her on instagram where she posts great photos with accompanying text.

But it wound up taking a train ride down to Baltimore earlier this month that allowed me the time to finally sit with the novel and plow through it and get emotionally attached in the process.

When a colleague recently asked me why, why would I want to read something so sad I tried to explain, paraphrasing here. Sometimes the journey is something you can't turn away from. As sad as it can be, you get attached to the characters, in this case: JB, Malcolm, Willem and of course, Jude. You follow the four friends over the years and want to see them get through it, want to see how it all turns out. 

This was a tough one, but well worth the trip and investment, the characters will stay with me for some time.


"Out there, past them trees..." A short review of CALIFORNIA by Edan Lepucki

A subtle tale of life in the post-apocalyptic; in California by Edan Lepucki, a couple survives in isolation in the wilds of a broken world, fearful of what remains of civilization just beyond their reach.

Then the novel shifts as Cal and Frida discover then attempt to become part of a  community called The Land, which is somehow connected to their lives before the fall.

The novel is about the strength of a marriage at the edge of the world, the twisted bonds of family and the question of what one must do to survive and somehow retain some civility.

I marvel that this is a first novel, the author clearly had worked her way through revisions, honing her skills to create a beautiful and enthralling read.

There was something wonderful about the pacing of the novel, it really fit well with the story, discovering bits of backstory and what was really going on in The Land. I really enjoyed it.


Game of Thrones, Season 5 product showcase: Get Your Drink On

In my continued attempt to cover cool products related to HBO's GAME OF THRONES adaptation of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, let's act civilized and have a drink. And if you're a fan, there are some very cool products available now.

Also, as shown here, available from Calhoun Sportswear, are the house banners from GoT, so you can show your Stark or Baratheon, or other affiliation. Many of the popular houses are available. The banners run 30 by 50 inches, and have three grommet holes so you can hang wherever you please.

When at the HBO headquarters on April 13, for the product review, there were many cool items on display. Here are a few related to Dornish wines, and the like.

And on to the drinks accouterments table, where featured were various glasses, steins, coasters and wine stoppers. See detailed photos below, there are so many great gift ideas for your banner-men. 

The table display of most, if not all of the "barware" which included mugs, pint glasses, coasters and other collectables for those with the drinking appetites of King Robert, or perhaps Tyrion.

A coaster set from Dark Horse features the bold house sigils, a crowd pleaser for Sunday night GoT viewings. They add a hint of color and affiliation to any gathering with drinks. Not pictured are wax seal coasters available from Think Geek, inspired by the gratuitous wax stamping which runs rampant on the show. 
 The large stein mugs with sigil and house slogans are a favorite, whether you decide to actually drink out of them, or use them to hold the pens on your desk. They are a statement piece, even the Greyjoys get their moment, although I am particular to House Baratheon. They do have the best slogan of all the families. They just do.
I wouldn't have put the House Lannister pint glass front and center, but perhaps this is Casterly Rock we're looking at here. Anyway, a good pint glass or set of them goes a long way.

And last but not least, and perhaps the best photo I took that day, are the Dragon Egg wine stoppers from Olga Ganoudis. The eggs reflect the very ones given to Daenerys on her wedding day, and go a long way in stopping your wine from spoiling.

There you have it, more next time on jewelry, I think. I will check through my remaining photos, and see what we have next. Then after all of this, I'll get back to the books. And maybe a notebook feature as well.


Game of Thrones Season 5 Product Showcase, part 1: Upcoming Game of Thrones Monopoly Set

Greetings to all fans of HBO's amazing GAME OF THRONES series, meticulously adapted from the spectacular book series by George R.R. Martin. After tuning in to the first new episode on Sunday, I know that fans around the globe just can't get enough of Westeros and the amazing action that takes place there.

As a blogger who talks about books and popular culture, I was thrilled when I was invited to the HBO offices in midtown Manhattan to see the collection of upcoming licensed products tied to the HBO series, and they had many of the current and coming soon products on display. I plan to post a few times to focus on each of the product categories, but felt the premiere post should feature the new GoT Monopoly set which will be coming next month, in May, and which looks amazing.

All products are or will be available the online HBO shop in the US (store.hbo.com) and EU (hboshopeu.com), and the HBO shop in NYC on 6th Avenue & 42nd Street, and at retail outlets around the world. Get them while you can.

Here are a few product pictures of the upcoming Game of Thrones Monopoly set coming in May 2015. There are some very cool game pieces, which I've tried to get a few close ups of, see pictures below.

Stay tuned for more in the following days. 

The complete Game of Thrones Monopoly board with other gaming products lined up on the left and back. It looks like a very cool set.

A close-up of the game board reveals map details, some of the space details, such as Luxury Tax's aptly named, "Master of Coin" and hot (although dangerous) property "The Iron Throne"

In this second close-up photo shows the star of the game pieces, the Stark direwolf game piece. There's also a raven, an Iron Throne, a Dragon Egg, a crown and the last figure I can't quite make out but could be Dany or another character.

Stay tuned for more posts about other items at the showcase, such as GoT jewelry, home decor, house pennants, adult beverage items and more.

Jay of House Baratheon

Ours is the Fury

Disclosure: Although this blog is personal and all books selected and all topics are my own choice and reflect my personal opinions, I must mention that in my day job, I work at DK Publishing, and imprint of Penguin Random House, which also happens to be the parent company which publishes GRRM's books.