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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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Paper Towns

Book #6: Paper Towns
by John Green (Young Adult)

I want to review this book, I really do, I just, words, where are they? I’m in tears. It was sad! I didn’t think it would be sad. But I cried, I love books that make me cry. My heart hurts. I have an ache inside. My eyelashes are still wet, but I must write this while I still remember the shining glory, the fantastic sad ache I feel and why I feel it. So here it goes. Paper Towns.

This is the first John Green book I have ever read. I am a subscriber to John’s youtube channel that he runs with his brother Hank, vlogbrothers. I’ve had the book out of the library since August 3 and I had made it to page 62 as of August 18. Now this is odd, because normally I am a very fast reader. On the 18th I decided to restart and try to get back into it. I couldn’t. But tonight…tonight was different. At 8:25 I sat down to read and at 11:49 I was finished and in tears but had also painted my nails blue. (Don’t worry I didn’t get any on the book!).

This book is written in three parts and the first part was what I was dragging my feet through. I don’t know why but I couldn’t get into it. Once I hit part two tonight though, any thought of procrastination was gone. I was gonna finish this book and I was gonna finish it in one sitting. And that wasn’t because I mentally said “I can do this” it was because mentally I was saying “You need another coat on your nails? Forget it, finish the chapter! Oh you just did? Well finish the next chapter then! Screw your nails…” (I did a four coat nail painting job with my brain screaming that at me, congratulate me now if you will)

The characters are, they’re just so real. You can imagine them as real people, living real lives. They’re not romantic characters, in the sense of being unrealistically good or bad, they’re not a perfect ideal, they’re people, flesh and blood people. Not paper people.

The ending (which I will spoil after warning you in caps later) is brilliant. So sad, so heart wrenchingly sad, but perfect. It is just what you would expect after getting to know the characters, but that doesn’t make it any easier to see in print. Print makes things so much more final. You knew it would happen, you hoped it wouldn’t, but you saw it written there and John Green just killed all hope of the ending you wanted but knew would never come. But you don’t mind. In fact now you’re remembering that you saved a book store gift card for eight months until you had the perfect book to buy and you’re pretty sure that this sad story is going to be on your shelf before long with your name written inside the cover. It will be yours. Your paper book about paper towns and paper people because you can feel the pain that is written in that last chapter, and you want to keep it, and savour it, and have it on your shelf when you need to remember that not everything ends the way you wanted, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

My eyelashes are dry now, so I will attempt to summarize this story. If you are going to read this book please don’t read my spoiler-ridden dry summary. I don’t want to destroy this beautiful piece of literature for you.

**SPOILERS** (It’s so much better than this summary can try to prove!)

The prologue starts with Quentin (Q) remembering when he was nine years old and when he and his neighbour playdate Margo Roth Spiegelman found a dead man in the park near their house. Kid-Margo does some investigating and finds that the man killed himself after a divorce. She pops up at Q’s window in the middle of the night to tell him about it and wonders aloud if maybe all the strings inside of him broke…
Back to real time, Q and  Margo are in senior year of high school and no longer friends. Margo is “cool” and Q hangs out with the “band nerds”. One night Q turns around from his computer to see Margo Roth Spiegelman opening in his window in black clothes and facepaint. She convinces him to come on a mission with her. She has eleven things to do during the night and needs Q to be her getaway man/driver. Reluctantly he allows himself to be convinced and agrees. Thus begins the most exciting night of his life as of yet. The eleven things are completed along with breaking and entering (though not together), and vandalizing. Q keeps needing to be reconvinced but he’s been in love with Margo since they were kids so he does it. They end up having a ton of fun and when they’re done and finally go home, Q wonders if maybe things will change and Margo will start hanging out with him now that she’s ditched all her old friends (those eleven things…ya). Things do change, but not the way Q imagined. Margo doesn’t come to school the next day, which isn’t that unusual, but it turns out she’s run away. Q learns from her parents that she usually leave clues behind for them to find and try to track her down with, so he starts hunting. He finds a poster, a record, does research, finds a poetry book, finds a note, hunts through numerous pseudovisions and eventually ends up pintpointing Margo’s location 23 days after her disappearance, on the day of his graduation. Some things are important, so he, and his buddies Radar and Ben, and Ben’s girlfriend Lacey (One of Margo’s ex-friends) take off in Q’s grad gift, a minivan, to find Margo Roth Spiegelman. They have 21 hours and 45 minutes until she moves on and they have to drive a distance that should take 23 hours and 9 minutes. So they start driving. By timing out 6 minute pit stops, urinating in beer bottles, and avoiding cow-blocks (as in like cows, that are road-blocks…) they manage to make it to the “paper town” that Margo has lead them to, Agloe. Once there they find the general store and spot Margo’s car parked nearby. They find her inside the building writing in a notebook. She’s quite surprised to see them all and not very pleased either. They’re all surprised, Margo is acting like she doesn’t know what the clues were. After the other three storm out Q starts talking to her and realizes that that she didn’t leave the clues on purpose. She starts getting really upset and so does he but he manages to explain how they tracked her down and Margo admits that honestly, they just really scared her. Lacey and Margo make up and are friends again but Q wants to know what Margo’s going do now. Turns out she’s headed for New York. She has planned and planned her whole trip, she planned to do it later but got some news that spurred the “eleven things night” with Q and then decided to leave town right away without warning anyone. Margo takes out the black notebook that she’s carried around since about fourth grade and begins to tell Q of the story she wrote in it and the plans she made in it writing over the story. Q convinces Margo to start caring about the people she’s left behind, especially her younger sister so she phones home and lets her family know where she is for the first time in 23 days. Q and Margo dig a grave for the Little Margo and Little Quentin of her story and bury the notebook. Q tries to convince Margo to come back home, Margo tries to convince him to come to New York. Both come to realize that now is when their paths separate (gosh I’m writing the driest summary ever and I’m still tearing up again…). They promise to stay in contact this time as Margo goes her way, and because I can’t do it justice I’ll just quote you the last paragraph (written from Q’s perspective) and be done with it:
“I feel her hands on my back. And it is dark as I kiss her, but I have my eyes open and so does Margo. She is close enough to me that I can see her, because even now there is the outward sign of invisible light, even at night in this parking lot on the outskirts of Algoe. After we kiss, our foreheads touch as we stare at each other. Yes, I can see her almost perfectly in this cracked darkness” (Page 305)

Overall: 10 out of 10 stars. I think this is my all time favourite book. Better than LOTR and that’s saying something…

My eyelashes are dry again. I’m going to go get my book store gift card ready for tomorrow’s venture.
– Becky

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Muddle Earth

I’m having to work really hard to remember to post about every book I read, I may be boring you but I want to force myself to do this, I’m curious what this blog will look like after a year or so =D

Book #3: Muddle Earth
By Paul Stewart, Illustrated by Chris Riddell (Teen Fantasy. Okay tween, but it’s REALLY a good book!)

No, I didn’t spell it wrong, this isn’t actually a fact book about Middle Earth, it’s a 447 page book about Muddle Earth, the place where anything can happen.

I’ve read this book before, probably when I was 14 or so and I loved it, so when I saw it at a used bookstore while on holiday this year I bought it. Yes, i bought it. Don’t just go to the library for this one, it’s worth a purchase. If you’re into silliness, fantasy, and wizards who can’t perform spells that is…

I like this book because it’s so nice and silly. It’s a bit of a play on Lord of the Rings, but it’s not really that obvious and it’s not like a parody or anything. Okay so Frodo and Joe rhyme and so do Gandalf and Randalf, but Doctor Cuddles and Sauron DO NOT ryhme! (Just in case you missed the rhyming class in grade 2 there…)

The message of the story is also really good, it’s about bravery and heroism coming from within, not being something you earn, or buy. It’s about an ordinary kid becoming a hero (in a fantastical world yes, but still!) and the silliness if it really fun and keeps you entertained as you read.

Another big highlight for me is Chris Riddell’s illustrations, I LOVE this guy’s illustrations. He’s a really good artist and I’m a sucker for pictures in books so his stuff is really a win-win for me.

I’m not sure if this book comes in a paperback, but I know that in the hardcover, just like the LOTR books, theres a map of the story’s world. I love this because I can follow along with where the characters are going and gage distances and stuff and I’m a nerd so I like that.

Oh and do note, LOTR is a bit of a tough read. Don’t get me wrong, great books but they can be a little hard to get through and they’re very long. Muddle Earth is long but it’s a very light read, it doesn’t take long to get through, don’t worry!

**SPOILERS** (A Quick and Basic Summary)

Joe Jefferson is a normal kid in normal Earth struggling to write that dreaded essay on “My Amazing Adventure”. Frustrated he takes his dog Henry for a walk and finds himself suddenly transported into a houseboat in the middle of a floating lake facing a not-very-big ogre and a wizard with a budgie in his hat. The wizard, Randalf, has called Joe to Muddle Earth to become its new Warrior Hero. Joe the Barbarian, a very reluctant warrior hero is taken about Muddle Earth by Norbert (the not-very-big ogre), Randalf (the wizard who is really only an apprentice, but shh! don’t tell!), and Veronica (the sarcastic budgie). He saves Muddle Earth from an angry Ogre (who really just lost his snuggly-wuggly), a greedy Dragon (who turns out to be very nice and gives Joe a lovely warrior-hero outfit from her treasure), and ultimately, from the evil villain, Doctor Cuddles (who, SPOILER, is really just a teddy bear that the apprentice Randalf tried a spell on). Joe saves all the wizards of Muddle Earth and finally get returned home by one of the wizards he saved (because Randalf was just an apprentice and shouldn’t have known how to call Joe there in the first place but he stole the written-down-copy of the spell, unfortunately any hero he called was stuck in Muddle Earth because he didn’t steal the returning-warrior-hero spell. Turns out it was just “Home”).

Overall: 9 out of 10 stars. I like this book, even if it is a bit young for me ;D

So ya, that’s Muddle Earth. Muddlingly clear?

Talk to ya soon!
– Becky

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