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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

– Becky



Filed under Book Review, Fantasy

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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Filed under Book Review, Fiction, Young Adult

The Vanishing Sculptor

Book #5: The Vanishing Sculptor
by Donita K. Paul (Fantasy)
(republished as The Dragons of Chiril)

So Donita Paul is the author of one of my favourite book series, The DragonKeeper Chronicles so when I saw this book in the library yesterday (yes, yesterday) I didn’t hesitate a moment before taking it out (on my mum’s library card, I have unpaid fines on mine… ;D). I wasn’t disappointed, although I am glad that this is a first of a new series by Donita Paul because the ending wasn’t quite satisfactory for me…but more on that later! Donita is a great writer and I always love her stuff and her ability to make you love the characters she creates (the good characters that is!)

This is a fantasy book so it, obviously, takes place in a fictional world. It takes place in the same world as the DragonKeeper books but in a different country (Chiril, rather than Amara). It does have some names DragonKeeper fans will recognize though, I squealed with delight upon discovering this, yes, literally squealed, I’m cool okay!

Now I just wanna point out, the few random illustrations in the copy I read are, well, they don’t relate to the book at all… I’m an idiot, I just re-looked at the illustrations. There are four illustrations in the book and each of them is the statue that is mentioned in that chapter. Okay, they’re a little crudely drawn, but they DO relate to the book =D My bad…

The book could be looked upon as allegorical, Donita Paul is a Christian author and if you choose to look at it as such, this book documents the spreading of the gospel to a land that’s never heard it and how it can change and save lives. I look at it from that perspective, but even if you choose not to, the plot is great.

There is sort of a romantic subplot but it doesn’t get resolved in this book which is why I’m going to read the sequel soon. I need this to be resolved!!!! =D

Also I like these books because they don’t have humans. There’s the seven high races and the seven low races. If my memory serves my right from the DragonKeeper books, the seven high races (emerlindians, kimens, mariones, o’rants, tumanhofers, doneels, and urohms) were created by Wulder (“God”, the world’s creator). The seven low races (bisonbecks, blimmets, grawligs, mordakleeps, quiss’, rompas, and schoergs) were created by an evil guy, I think he was a wizard, and he made them to try and prove he was as powerful as Wulder. He failed and his creations were twisted and evil. O’rants would be the closest you can get to a human. Emerlindians are like elves and the main character in this book, Tipper, is a young emerlindian woman.

Ready? Let’s go…

**SPOILERS** (One of those summaries that makes watching paint dry look exciting, jk =D I hope…)

Tipper’s father has been gone for years. He was an incredibly skilled sculptor but they don’t know where he is and they don’t know why he left. Her mother, who is the banished daughter of the King and Queen of Chiril, seems to have gone slightly mad and appears to be living in an imaginary world where she is still in communication with her husband. Tipper is watched over by Sir Beccaroon, the local magistrate and a family friend. Sir Beccaroon is also a Grand Parrot, and magnificent speaking bird reaching about to Tipper’s waist. Tipper has been forced to sell most of her father’s sculptures to pay for family expenses in his absence. One day an aspiring tumanhofer artist arrives at the house demanding to see the famed artist Verrin Schope. Tipper manages to get rid of him and a couple days later her father suddenly appears with two guests. Tipper learns that Verrin has somehow contracted a condition that causes him to come apart into particles and then reform next to a certain “gateway” (a sort of doorway that goes from place to place, country to country, etc depending on how it’s built). With him have come the Wizard Fenworth and his librarian, Librettowit from Amara. They were the ones to build the gateway in the first place and are now trying to find a way to untangle Verrin’s connection to it. While away with the wizard and librarian (the gateway went from Verrin’s house to Fenworth’s, it was built before the Schope’s house) Verrin Schope has learned about Wulder and is eager to share the news with his friends back in Chirul. The wizard and his librarian have determined that to cure Verrin Schope’s problem with coming apart and reconstructing, they need to join three of his sculptures together because they were originally of one stone, one of Wulder’s foundation stones. The problem is all three of the sculptures have been sold over the years. Thus begins a quest to find the three sculptures. The tumanhofer artist, Bealomondore, is asked to join the party because, having studied all of Verrin Schope’s work he has the best idea of where to find each sculpture. Along with the party come four minor dragons (minor dragons are small, about the size of a kitten usually, they only communicate through mindspeaking and only certain people can hear them, and they each have gifts, like music or healing or hope). Wizard Fenworth quickly decides it would be much more convenient to have some riding dragons so they go to the Sunset Mountains. Here they find dragons, but they also find a Dragon Keeper. Under the advice of his mentor  the Dragon Keeper, Prince Jayrus, agrees to lend the company riding dragons, but he will accompany them on their quest. Prince Jayrus is a young emerlindian man and it’s later discovered by Fenworth and Librettowit that he is the Paladin of Chiril, “the educator, encourager, exhorter, spokesman for Wulder, interpreter of the principles, leader” (Page 321). In the process of getting the final sculptures the questers are kidnapped and Lady Peg (Tipper’s mother, who has joined them after visiting her sister) is to be forced to the throne and used as a pawn for the villain to rule Chiril. They use a gateway to enter the palace and overthrow the King and Queen but thankfully Fenworth is able to defeat the villain (evil wizard) in time and save everyone. The three sculptures are all gained and placed together correctly, fixing both the gateway and Verrin Schope. Paladin (Prince Jayrus) helps Lady Peg and her mother reunite and we are left with a happy family, but knowing that Tipper quite fancies the prince going so far as to ask her father is Paladin’s are allowed to marry. This is way the ending is unsatisfactory but also a good ending because it makes you want to read the sequel. I am going to request it at my library ASAP because my brain is screaming “DO TIPPER AND JAYRUS GET TOGETHER?” and it’s getting kinda annoying listening to that so…

Overall: 8 out of 10 stars (I still like the DragonKeeper Chronicles better, though I guess I haven’t read the rest of this series… =D)
Unrelated sidenote: I have another blog on which I publish poetry I’ve written, so if you care to check that out, please, by all means, go ahead! http://random-orange-juice.blogspot.com

Hope to see you soon!
– Becky

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Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, Youth/Children's