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The Hobbit

Book #2 (of 2012): The Hobbit
by JRR Tolkien (Fantasy)

This is my second time reading this book (yes only my second!) I first read it when I was twelve and read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy all in one month in order to be allowed to watch the movies…

I like this book; it’s the easiest of JRR’s books to read in my opinion. This may be because it was originally written to be a children’s book, or it may be because it’s a one-book story instead of a three-book story… either way I find there’s less beating around the bush and more doing in this story.

I love watching Bilbo grow from a timid little hobbit, to running a group of dwarves, it’s quite amusing! And of course this round of reading I couldn’t help but picture Martin Freeman (Dr Watson from BBC’s Sherlock) as Bilbo, and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes from BBC’s Sherlock) as Smaug the dragon. They’re both going to be brilliant in The Hobbit movie that’s coming out in December. Benedict’s voice is perfect to be the sly dragon and Martin really looks very Hobbitish when you think about it!

I like that this book is an adventure story and a well laid out one. It’s exciting – you want to know what’s going to happen next! To be honest, I prefer the story line and pace of this book to the LOTR books. I love the story of the LOTR books, don’t get me wrong, but the three-book pace makes them a bit of a trial to get through and jumping back and forth from story-line to story-line (in the last two books in particular) means that they’re nothing like easy reading – you have to work at keeping stories and timing straight. The Hobbit is a gentler book with one storyline to keep straight and is fun and well written. I’ve got a thing for kids/teen books so maybe that’s why I like this one so much =D

The descriptions in this book are also very good – lots of descriptions about the Mirkwood forest, Beorn, the trolls, the Hobbit’s hole, the Lonely Mountain and surrounding area etc… it makes it very easy to picture what’s going on which, I believe, helps the reader to get into the story more. In LOTR (from what I remember when last reading the books six years ago) the descriptions are a lot longer and although the imagery is great, it can get boring.

*BASIC summary with SPOILERS*

Bilbo Baggins is a very respectable hobbit living in Hobbiton, who doesn’t have adventures and who associates with al the right people. One day Gandalf, a wizard he remembers from when he visited Hobbiton when Bilbo was a boy, visits Bilbo. He arranges for Bilbo to go on an adventure with thirteen dwarves led by none other than Thorin Oakenshield, to the Lonely Mountain to recover the gold of their forefathers, stolen from them by Smaug the dragon. Mr Baggins takes some convincing but agrees to the journey for the reward of one fourteenth of any profits. Gandalf travels with them a way as they go through to Rivendell, visiting with the Elves, and over the Misty Mountains where they fight the goblins and where Bilbo meets Gollum. In his adventure with Gollum Bilbo also find a magic ring that belonged to Gollum for a while and which allows him to disappear and walk unseen, except in strong daylight where a faint shadow can be seen.  Once he escapes Gollum and finds his friends down in the forest past the mountains, Mr. Baggins, Gandalf and the Dwarves are fenced in by wild wargs and goblins, then to be rescued by the eagles. From there they go to Carrock and stay with Beorn the skin-changer. At the entrance to the Mirkwood forest Gandalf leaves the dwarves and the Hobbit to go on alone. In the forest they deal with disappearing feasts, giant spiders, enchanted streams, and a suspicious Elf king. It is in the forest that Bilbo steps up to the plate and truly begins to prove his worth. Once they escape the make it down to Lake Town where they are hailed with great excitement as warriors who will defeat the dragon and make the rivers run with gold.  They make their way to the Lonely Mountain and mostly thanks to Bilbo find the secret entrance onto the mountain and then Bilbo gets Smaug, the dragon’s attention and eventually irks him into coming out of his cavern and trying to find “the burglar”. Smaug flies off to lake town where he believes the thief (Bilbo) to have come from. At Lake Town Bard, a decedent from the Lord of Dale of old, takes control and begins to organize a fight against the dragon. He ends up killing Smaug and helping to organize the aftermath of the dragon’s attack. The Elfking comes to help with the temporary rebuilding of the town and then the men of Laketown led by Dale and the Elvish company with the Elfking go to see what’s become of the dwarves, Bilbo, and of the dragon’s rumored gold hoard. The title of “King under the Mountain” has gone a bit to Thorin’s head and he has a bit of a hissy fit when Bard and the Elfking ask for what the dragon took from them and added to their stores. Thorin has sent news calling his cousin Dalin to come to his aid but unbeknownst to any of them (except perhaps Gandalf, who it turns out is with the company of Elves and Men come to speak with Thorin at the Lonely Mountain) the goblins with the wargs are coming for revenge against the dwarves. A battle ensues, known later as the battle of the five armies, for Dalin arrives with his dwarf warriors and fights with the Elves, the men of Laketown, and Thorin and company against the goblins and wargs. Beorn comes part way through to aid against the goblins.
In the end, Thorin is mortally wounded but makes peace with Bilbo before dying. Kili and Fili, his nephews and part of the original thirteen dwarves who travelled with Bilbo, also die defending Thorin in battle. Bilbo gets his share of the treasure, as does Bard of Laketown and the Elfking. Gandalf, Beorn, and Bilbo finally head off in the direction of home. After parting with Beorn at Carrock Gandalf and Bilbo make to Rivendell and then on to Hobbiton where they arrive in the middle of an auction. But not just any auction…! It is the auction of the property of the late Bilbo Baggins. The arrival of a quite alive Bilbo Baggins rather upsets this event and he ends up having to buy a number of his own things back from people. After his yearlong departure and abrupt return Bilbo is never quite the same, he is no longer deemed respectable, but “queer”. He is an elf-friend, he entertains dwarves, he writes poetry, and he tells alarming tales of adventures he’s been on. One thing he never tells of though, is his golden ring, his magic ring, his precious…

Overall: Nice out of Ten stars. I didn’t cry ;D

DFTBA!
– Becky

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The Fault in Our Stars

Book #1 (of 2012): The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green (Young Adult fiction)

How can John write such fantastically, yet terribly sad books? He must cry writing these, I don’t care that guys want girls to think they don’t cry. A guy would be INHUMAN not to cry reading this book.

My head aches from crying. Normally when I cry reading I just have tears silently streaming down my face, I exaggerate and say I bawled. This book, I don’t need to exaggerate. For the last third of the book I had to put it down every few pages to cry, to crunch my body into a tight little ball and cry and cry. But then I had to pick it up again, you can’t put it down until you’re more composed because the tears, the sadness, they are all part of the experience, part of the book; they add to it, they make it real.

The characters aren’t all depressing though, they’re not what make the book sad. They’re funny, they have brilliant personalities, they have hilarious humours and they’re fun. This is the kind of book where one page you’re bawling and the next you’re laughing through your tears =)

John writes such believable characters with Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac; they’re so human, so humany-wumany. They’re people that I would love to meet, to hang out with, to know. John has written a story about kids with cancer, but never once did I find myself pitying them because of their cancer. I felt bad for them because of the normal events that happened but not once did I think, “Oh poor Hazel, she has cancer”. It’s made them people, not their disease. This is not a book about kids with cancer, this is a book about friendship, about love, about life, oh-and-by-the-way, the main characters have cancer.

I finished the book and turned on my camera to try and record my immediate reaction. I opened my mouth and no sound came out. There is nothing to be said. This is the best book I’ve ever read. I suspect I said something similar about Paper Towns, but you see, I hadn’t read The Fault in Our Stars yet at that point.

I was unsure about buying this book, unsure if it would be a book I’d want to own. I didn’t know the basic plotline, the reason I bought it was because the bookstore near my workplace had signed copies and I wanted one.
I’m really glad I bought that pink J-scribbled book.  I feel like people who haven’t read it are robbing themselves of a wonderful experience, but like Hazel says, “There are books like [The Fault in Our Stars], which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.” (TFIOS Page 33) That is why I will impersonally advertise the book, through text on a website, it will keep the special feeling of TFIOS being my book, not to be shared.

PLOTLINE WITH SPOILERS! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT YET READ THE BOOK! SPOILERS ALERT!

Hazel Grace Lancaster is sixteen and has cancer. It means she has to be hooked up to an oxygen tank all the time to keep enough oxygen in her infected lungs. For now she’s stable, cancer is controlled and she can live a more or less normal life. Well, for a cancer-patient. Under the recommendation of her doctor and the insistence of her mother she attends a weekly support group that meets in a nearby church. She has one friend here, Isaac. He only has one eye, the cancer took the other. One day Hazel is again forced to attend support group but comes to find Isaac has brought a friend who is a cancer survivor (although it took one of his legs), Augustus Waters, a long, lean, hott seventeen year old with a smooth sexy voice. After support group they’re introduced and Hazel ends up going to Augustus’ house to watch V for Vendetta, as he thinks she looks like Natalie Portman.  They talk about books, Hazel tells him her favourite is An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten, his favourite book is The Price of Dawn, based off of his favourite video game. He agrees to read her favourite on the condition she read his, which he lends her then and there. They’re both true to their word and end up enjoying each other’s books.
Hazel and Augustus begin dating, Isaac’s cancer returns and he ends up loosing his other eye and being left blind. His girlfriend dumps him before the surgery though, which really, really cuts him up. Hazel and Gus stick by him though and try and help him through.
The two of them both write to Peter Van Houten (the author of An Imperial affliction) about his “unfinished” books and Augustus (who emailed) gets a reply. He decides to use his cancer-Wish to take Hazel to Amsterdam, where they’ve been invited to meet Van Houten where he’s living in seclusion.  It’s all being planned when Hazel has a relapse. Things look pretty bleak but she recovers and they manage to take the trip and go (with Hazel’s mum) to meet the one and only Peter Van Houten, Hazel’s favourite author (who *SPOILER* ends up being an alcoholic jerk). While in Amsterdam Augustus tells Hazel that around the time she had her relapse, he found out his cancer had returned. Everywhere. His whole body was an inflamed mass of cancer. (This is about halfway/two-thirds through the book and, warning, this is where I started to cry. I didn’t stop until the book finished, even a little bit after it finished…)
They return home and gradually Gus’ cancer gets worse and worse. He’s dying and there’s no way around it. Hazel visits everyday, she still loves him, he loves her and he wants to write her a sequel to An Imperial Affliction after Van Houten refuses to explain the unfinished ending to them. He can’t though, he’s too weak. They both agree they want each other to write their eulogy for their funerals.
One evening Augustus calls Hazel and asks her to write a eulogy and meet him at the church where they had the support meetings. She does and finds him and Isaac there. Gus has arranged a prefuneral so he can hear his best friends’ eulogies for him. (This scene is heart-wrenching, the kind of crying where you scrunch your body up trying to make the pain go away as you’re crying in gasping breaths, trying to blink back the tears because you can’t stop reading).
Eight days later, he dies.
His funeral happens, Hazel writes a different eulogy to read, less personal. Then a while later she visits Isaac and they try to distract themselves playing video games. At some point Isaac mentions that Gus was writing something for her and she immediately thinks of the promised An Imperial Affliction sequel. She tries to find it, asks his parents about it, looks in his room, on his computer, doesn’t find anything. His parents eventually find a notebook that was by his hospital bed but the first four pages are torn out and can’t be found. When Hazel’s friend Kaitlyne calls, she suggests that he mailed the to her, or, perhaps, they weren’t for Hazel at all.
With the idea that the pages weren’t for her in mind Hazel contacts Van Houten’s (former) assistant in Amsterdam and she goes to Van Houten’s house and finds, sure enough, Augustus has sent the pages to Van Houten. Van Houten, reads them and says to send them to Hazel.
It’s a eulogy.
Augustus wrote her the eulogy she wanted. The gorgeous heartfelt, personal eulogy from her boyfriend. Gus had mailed it to Van Houten with the hope that he could turn his notes into a well versed eulogy, but he didn’t change anything, he just sent it straight to Hazel and it’s beautiful.

Overall: Ten out of Ten. So sad, and I wish Gus hadn’t had to die, but he did or the story would have been all wrong. It’s beautiful. John Green, I salute you.

DFTBA
– Becky

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Filed under Book Review, Fiction, Young Adult